Title: Rough Edges
Chapter: 1 of 7
Fandom: Marvel (movie 'verse)
Beta: Shara Lunison
Pairings: Tony Stark/Loki Odinson(Laufeyson), Clint Barton/Phil Coulson, Natasha Romanoff/Clint Barton, Thor Odinson/Jane Foster
Warnings: Spoilers for The Avengers (2012) and prequel films, angst, off-screen torture, implied character death, kidnapping
Summary: Sequel to Like So Much Shattered Glass. Loki has found a place amongst the Avengers as a member of their team, but he's made a great many enemies in the process and life is never easy.
Disclaim Her: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Marvel. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
A/N: As a reminder, this is a sequel to my fic, Like So Much Shattered Glass, wherein Loki plots to kill all the Avengers and ends up joining them instead. You should be able to follow along knowing just that, but I very much suggest reading Shattered Glass before this one.
This chapter picks up the day after the last chapter of Shattered Glass.
Because this story focuses more on Loki and Tony's growing relationship, there's gonna be more about their kids. For Loki that's going to involve a bastardised pairing of the comics and the mythos, and for Tony that's his robots (which I blame almost entirely on scifigrl47, who has this awesome Steve/Tony series about Tony's bots. And so some of their personalities might be slightly borrowed from her).
I can't say how much of Loki's kids we'll be seeing, but Dummy has a habit of popping in, and JARVIS is everywhere. (And You and Butterfingers might get a scene or two, but they're both in Malibu – Tony only had Dummy shipped cross-country – so don't hold your breath.)
I mostly bring all this up because it features fairly heavily in the beginning/middle of this chapter.
Loki had no idea who'd made the decision, because Coulson had announced it after an hour-long meeting with Fury, but he suspected it to have been the director; he was pretty sure, out of the two of them, Coulson was less inclined to make trouble for Loki and the Avengers. (Although, Coulson was not an easy man to read, beyond the 'I will kill you with this eating utensil' glares he shot at Stark and Barton when they started acting more childish than necessary at meals.)
Still, he didn't think Coulson was quite the sort inclined to decide, "Loki will have to remain a woman on the field while an acting Avenger."
Everyone was still for a moment, then Stark said, "I have zero problem with this."
"You wouldn't," Barton muttered.
"Is there a particular reason?" Rogers enquired. "I mean, I understand why we were doing so previously, but if Loki is acting as a member of the team, he should be free to do so in his own, natural skin."
"That would go over well," Stark muttered, but he smiled at Loki to show he meant no harm.
"And what is that supposed to mean?" Rogers demanded. Loki wasn't sure he'd ever become used to Captain America defending him. Having officially joined the team, he supposed the man's immediate leap to his defence was a natural next step, but it still seemed odd and occasionally left him with the urge to throttle the human. (Loki was hardly a blushing maid in need of a knight.)
Stark's eyes flickered for a moment, almost seeming trapped, but then he was all easy smiles and relaxing into a slouch. "It means, Cap, that just because someone's decided to bat for the home team doesn't mean people are going to suddenly start cheering for them at the ball games or wait in line for autographs. People don't know Loki's switched sides, that he's willing to go head-to-head over an innocent intending to save said innocent. They know him as the guy who called down an army on Manhattan, who waged a war that claimed nearly as many lives as 9-11, and caused significantly more damage, and they're not so likely to forgive him that.
"On the flip side, there's this chick claiming the same name who's in good with the Avengers and who stood next to us against bullets yesterday without flinching. You told those kids she'd helped us in D.C., and they'll have seen her magic, will have connected it to the green shield that kept them safe. They're almost certainly singing her praises already. We turn around and say, 'By the way, the hot chick was really Thor's baby brother, who tried to destroy the world', people aren't going to take it so well."
"Not everyone believes in second chances," Banner murmured, tone heavy with bitter experience.
Rogers deflated. "It just doesn't seem fair," he said quietly.
"Life isn't fair," Romanoff remarked and bitter smiles touched the lips of the humans.
"Okay, so if Loki Friggadottir is going to be our ally and we're trying to keep her separate from Loki Odinson, we should probably fix her up a life and separate her in SHIELD's files," Stark commented, straightening in his seat. "Childhood in England, family and friends who are willing to claim to know her, birth certificate and passport, maybe some sort of school certificate, the works."
"And a code name for the comms," Barton agreed, looking more than a little excited about the chance to bequeath a name unto Loki.
"You don't get a vote, or to make any suggestions," Romanoff cut in before Barton could get any further.
"SHIELD can sort out Loki's background," Coulson said, electing to ignore the two assassins sitting on the couch with him. He looked at the dark-haired god and said, "If you have anything specific you want, tell us now."
Loki shrugged. "I told the children my mother's favourite Norse deity was myself, but otherwise there were no falsities spoken yesterday to which I held any attachment."
"Good." Coulson nodded. "What job were you spreading around?"
"Uh... Secretary, nurse, store assistant, actress, show girl..." Stark listed.
"Scientist, amateur magician, and computer analyst," Loki finished amongst the laughter of most of the humans and Thor.
"Jack of all trades, then," Coulson commented drily, humour in his eyes. "Stark, I leave it to you to get Loki outfitted with a cell phone and, once we've got everything sorted in our systems, a Facebook profile."
"Yeah, I can do that," Stark agreed as he pushed against the arms of his chair to get up. "Anything else? Or can I steal Loki to customise his phone?"
"Think about code names," Rogers suggested.
"Green Ice," Stark said without pausing. "Emerald Ice, maybe."
"I understand the green reference," Rogers said, "and I know Loki caught that one guy with ice, but–"
"I am Jötun," Loki said drily as he stood. "You call my species Frost Giants."
"Emerald Frost," Jane said lightly, smiling. "It has a nice ring to it."
"We can work that name," Coulson announced, looking down at his tablet and bringing up the email application. "Go. Get Loki a phone. Teach him how to use it."
"Do you need help?" Banner asked, looking a little worried.
"I am capable enough with your technology," Loki said with a shrug. "If Stark proves incomprehensible, I will return for your assistance."
"I am never incomprehensible!" Stark declared with a wide grin.
"Pull the other one, it's got bells on it," Barton said and Stark raised his middle finger at the archer before leading the way to the lift.
They got off at Stark's floor, and he explained, "I don't keep the components for custom Stark Phones in the main lab because, well. I trust Bruce and Jane, but they're not the only people who have access to that floor, and I've had a design leaked to one of my opponents before. SHIELD flunky, he got his ass fired so fast. But still. So, yeah, I keep everything down in this lab, since only Pep and I have regular access."
"And whichever – what was it Barton called them? Bimbo? – you bring home that night," Loki replied drily.
Stark grinned. "That's why the door locks," he said as they stopped next to a surprisingly organised table. There came a whir from a far side of the lab and Loki noticed Dummy moving towards the coffee machine. "Okay," Stark interrupted, a holographic screen appearing over the table. "Let's talk phones. They always come with the ability to call people – basic function – and, these days, you tend to get looked at oddly if you can't send and receive texts, so you're getting the messaging client. Uhm, there's a SHIELD specific app that's supposed to help them track your phone, make sure they know where you are. Steve is always forgetting his phone, though, so it never works for him and I disabled it 'cause he kept accidentally hitting the 'Send Backup' button. Which, funny as fuck, but it got old pretty damn fast.
"I'll disable the SHIELD stuff if it's a bother, but I'm not knocking heads with Fury over a phone app. So. Other things." He motioned to the screen with one hand, the other collecting tiny pieces of technology from the drawers that held them. Dummy rolled over and set a mug next to Stark's elbow, chirping inquisitively. "Thanks, buddy. Want something, Loki?"
Loki glanced down at the bot. "Hot chocolate would not be unappreciated," he decided and Dummy let out an excited chirp before zooming away.
"He'll be bringing you that any time you're in here, now," Stark warned him, but there was a sort of fond warmth in his voice. He shook himself and took a sip of his coffee before setting it back down and asking, "Do you want a camera? Take pictures of us making fools of ourselves or the sunset or whatever."
Loki shrugged. "It may prove humorous."
"Uh-huh." Stark pulled out some other pieces, then asked, "How about a slide-out keyboard? I think they're a bit bulky, but I can't say how the touch screen will react to you, since it tends to react more to heat than to pressure. And you're, well..."
"Naturally colder than a human or Æsir," Loki suggested drily.
"I would have put it a bit more...well, not diplomatically, per say, but...yeah."
Loki sighed and glanced down at his fingers, curling and uncurling them a couple times. "A second keyboard which doesn't rely on body temperature would not be remiss."
"Consider it done. I'll see if I can't lower the temperature the sensors register, too," Stark decided as he pulled yet more small objects out of their storage spaces. "Dunno what sorts of information gathering you might wanna do," he continued. "I can hook it up to just surf the web, or I can hook you directly into JARVIS. Which, JARVIS is awesome, but sometimes it's faster to search for these things on your own."
Loki couldn't help but remember the grocery shopping trip, where Stark's connection to JARVIS had been an enormous help. "Recalling my poor familiarity with your realm, I would be best served, I believe, by a connection to JARVIS. Thank you, Dummy," he added as the bot held out a mug to him with a chirp.
"Sure, that makes sense. No, Dummy," Stark added as the bot reached out to grab a slightly curved piece of plastic. "You're not helping. Dummy," he said a little more sharply when the bot didn't put the plastic back immediately. He grabbed for the plastic and tugged on it, but Dummy refused to let go, letting out a series of clicks and whirs that seemed to be his version of communication.
Loki set down his mug and carefully pried the plastic from the bot's claw, taking care to keep from damaging either robot or plastic. "Dummy," he said in the same voice he'd used on Sleipnir when he'd misbehaved as a colt, "desist."
Dummy let out a pitiful whine and lowered his claw, rather like a chastised child ducking their head.
Stark let out a breath and knelt next to the bot, resting a gentle hand along his mechanical arm. "Hey. What have I told you about stealing my stuff while I'm working?" Dummy whined again, claw lowering further. "We don't," Stark agreed and ran his fingers over the bot's edges in a familiar motion. "JARVIS?"
"I...believe Dummy wishes to assist, Sir," the AI offered, oddly uncertain.
"Dummy, I don't need help making a phone. Could do this in my sleep," Stark said, voice gentle, more gentle than Loki had ever heard him be previously. And Loki felt a little bit like he was intruding, which was an oddly unfamiliar sensation.
Dummy reached out with his claw and took a hold of Stark's shirt, gently tugging on it.
Stark wrapped one hand around the claw, the other running along the bot's arm. "I know. I'm sorry. I don't mean to abandon you, I've just been busy."
"Why–" Loki started and Stark jumped, having likely forgotten his existence. "Apologies. Why not let Dummy roam the tower? He appears capable of using the elevator."
"He is," Stark agreed, looking back at the bot and tugging pointedly against his shirt, which Dummy refused to let go of. "Brat," he said fondly before explaining, "I've always tried to keep them in the workshop – Dummy and You and Butterfingers – because sometimes people get a little weird about them. Ob–" Stark coughed, something tight in the lines at the corner of his eye, which was all Loki could see of his face, turned towards his bot as he was. "I knew someone, once, who complained. And, well, they're not really social, per say."
"You wish to protect them from harm," Loki deduced. "They are your children."
"After a fashion," Stark agreed, finally prying his shirt from Dummy's grip and standing. "Dummy's the special one, though," he added, grinning, and the robot chirped at him before grabbing for the plastic piece he'd had before. "Dummy."
"There is no way he can help?" Loki enquired.
Stark looked over the pieces of plastic and metal with a faint frown before glancing at Loki, then Dummy, who chirped hopefully. "Yeah, okay. Green. Go."
Dummy let out an excited, extended chirp as he wheeled away, the plastic piece held carefully in his claw.
"The nice green!" Stark called after him. "If you paint it lime, I will lock you to your charging station!"
Dummy chirped in response and Loki chuckled.
Stark's lips curled fondly and he turned back to collecting pieces for the mobile. "There's a blue-billon applications now. Uh, games, software to make notes with, things to connect to Facebook or whatever, something to turn your camera light into a flashlight... You name it, it probably exists."
Loki glanced through the scrolling list that had appeared on the holographic display as Stark had spoken, uncertain. "I...do not know," he admitted as Dummy rolled back over.
Stark traded plastic pieces with Dummy absently as he said, "Well, I can give you the memory for things and you can decide later. There's a store you can download things from, and you can always remove anything you decide you don't like." He started fitting pieces together, the motions familiar and unhurried. "Steve really is crap with his phone, but there's this stupid game he's a little addicted to: Angry Birds. I don't get the premise – something about shooting birds at pigs – but it's pretty much the only thing he uses the phone for. Clint's the one who got him into it."
"Birds, yes, I see the connection," Loki said drily.
Stark laughed and set his work down as Dummy rolled back over. "Okay, this one should be gold, I think," he told the bot as he traded plastic pieces. "Careful, it's small."
Dummy chirped in understanding and rolled away, the small plastic piece held carefully in his claw.
"What's wrong?" Stark asked, and Loki realised he'd been watching after the bot, feeling unusually wistful.
Loki's first thought was to brush it off, to pretend it was nothing to concern the mortal, or to violently refuse any interest in explaining, as he would have done with Thor, but he acknowledged that this human had shared his family with Loki, and were they not a team now? (As odd as that concept seemed to Loki; he had gone to war many times with Thor, working as a team, but to share a burden with more than his brother was...nearly inconceivable.)
"You don't– Really, no, forget I asked," Stark rambled, turning back to his work. "It's really not–"
"I miss my children," Loki interrupted quietly. "I have not seen all but Sleipnir in many centuries."
Stark blinked, his hands pausing in their familiar dance. "You have–? No, wait, of course you have kids. Centuries. Right. So, wait, our mythology – yeah, shut up," he snarked when Loki let out a snort of amusement, "I looked you and Pikachu up after the Chitauri debacle – says you've got, what? Six kids?"
"I have only four," Loki informed him. "Your mythology says many things which are untrue of us gods."
"Frost Giant," Stark reminded him, not unkindly, as he returned to his work.
Loki grimaced. "Invariably, you humans will get some things correct, no matter how well hidden a secret may be."
"The context was still wrong," Stark offered and Loki shrugged, resigned to the painful truth he had to live with. "So, four. Which ones? 'Cause now I'm damn curious."
"Sleipnir, Fenrir, Jörmungand, and Hela," Loki informed him, smiling as Dummy placed the now-gold plastic on the work table carefully.
"Okay, no, wait. I think..." Stark frowned in contemplation for a moment, then said, "Okay. Uhm, so, Fenrir is...a wolf?"
"Correct," Loki agreed, amused.
"And Jord– Jordm–"
"Him. Jordan," Stark decided, grinning at Loki's frown. "Sorry, not tripping over his name. He's, what? Some sort of snake?"
"He is the largest serpent known to the Nine Realms," Loki replied, deciding it was too much effort to be irritated at Stark for his little nicknames; at least this one wasn't obviously insulting in any way. (That Loki knew of, though he could still claim no true familiarity with Midgardian culture.) "He resides in your oceans, so it is, perhaps, my own fault that I have not seen him of late." He grimaced at the admittance.
"You've sort of been trying to behave well," Stark reminded him. "Popping out to visit a giant snake would not be the way to get you in any of our good graces, especially not Fury's."
"Thor would have travelled with me," Loki said with certainty. "His fondness for his niece and nephews is less in regards to Jördmungand, but he yet loves my son. That, I must believe, would have been accepted by all."
"Maybe," Stark allowed. "Still would have freaked Fury out. Which? Awesome. You should go out there with Thor next week or something and see Jordan. Take videos so I can send them to Fury."
"Perhaps I shall refrain from that last," Loki returned drily, having no interest in discovering what the director might do upon learning of his son's residence on Midgard. "You have guessed two, would you care to try for Sleipnir and Hela?"
"I'm not– wait, no." Stark paused as he focussed for a moment on the mobile, which looked almost like the machines Loki had seen Banner, Pepper, and Coulson with on occasion, though not at all like Stark's see-through mobile. "Okay, wait, one of them's a horse, right? Or did I totally screw that one?"
"Sleipnir is a stallion, yes," Loki agreed.
Stark pointed at him with the strip of painted gold plastic. "Our myth says you were a mare–" he started, deadpan.
Stark just sort of stared for a long moment before shaking his head and turning back to his work. "This should disturb me more than it does," he muttered and Loki snorted. "So, no. I dunno. Tell me about Hela."
"She is the mistress of Niflhel, which you will best know as Hel," Loki explained.
Stark nodded, tapping his fingers against the mostly-completed mobile as he pulled open a drawer for a clear piece of plastic. "So you don't get to see them much. Sucks," he said with true feeling, one hand reaching out to touch Dummy where the bot had stopped to watch just behind him, the other fitting the clear plastic in place. "You and Butterfingers are in California, keeping an eye on things out there, in case I might need to make a stop in. Dummy was there, but then I decided I wanted one of them here and, well..." He smiled, just a little broken. "Dummy was the first, before JARVIS, even, so it made sense I'd bring him. Even if he is a bit special."
"He suits you," Loki returned, only half teasing; it had not taken him long to become fond of the robot, and for all his faults, he enjoyed Stark's company.
Stark rolled his eyes and brushed a hand along Dummy's mechanical arm before moving to snap the two pieces of painted green plastic into place, protecting the insides. "Here," he said, holding it out to Loki, "hold that for a moment while I find a charging station... Dummy? Do you know where–?"
Loki watched with some amusement as human and robot moved away, glancing over messy worktables for the object they were seeking. While they were occupied, he turned the mobile around in his hands, brushing his fingers over the green cover and the bright gold buttons along the bottom. It took him only a moment to discover how to flick open the keyboard and he blinked for a moment at the small buttons before shrugging and sliding it closed. It was an interesting shape, he thought, though a familiar one, after so long on Midgard.
Dummy let out a loud whir and Stark called, "Found them?" When Dummy chirped in response, Stark laughed and said, "Good boy, Dummy. Take one over to Loki, won't you?"
Dummy chirped again, then wheeled back over to Loki, carrying a cord that he recognised from a night spent in front of the television, where Barton had plugged the larger end into the wall and the smaller end into his mobile.
"The phone's got a battery, an energy source, let's say," Stark explained as he returned to Loki's side. "It can't recharge on its own, though, but it can use the energy running through the building, plugging it into the charger and the charger into a plug. This–" he tapped the larger part of the charger, where two metal prongs stuck out, "–converts the building's energy into something the phone can use, like how you have to change energy on Asgard or here on Earth to form spells, see?"
"I do," Loki agreed, slipping the charger into one of his pockets.
Stark grinned. "The battery should be fully charged, since I keep them in a charging station, so you can turn it on. This button, here," he added, pointing to one of the gold buttons. "Hold it down for a moment– There. You turn it off the same way, by holding it down for an extended period of time, but I don't know that you'll be turning it off too often – most people don't bother unless they're going to leave it without charging it for days at a time."
"If I were to be required to spend many days in Asgard, then," Loki deduced.
Stark grimaced. "Yeah, then. That's not likely to happen, though, is it?"
"It depends on what troubles might arise that require Thor to see to them."
"Fingers crossed," Stark muttered before shaking his head and proceeding to run Loki through the basics of using his new mobile. He did have to steal it back briefly to fight with the temperature sensors, but that was the only problem. Stark managed to explain everything in such a manner that Loki – who had always been a fast learner and was well acquainted with mortal technology after a week and a half in Stark's home – was able to figure the basic systems out with little trouble. He was a little bemused by the 'app market', but Stark assured him that he didn't have to use it if he didn't want to.
Stark showed him how to put people's numbers into the mobile, then gave him the numbers for everyone who lived in Avenger Tower – except Thor, who no one had ever considered giving a mobile, and had never asked about one – and Fury, saying, "Phil's the only one who calls Director Hook, but I always like to know when he's trying to reach me so I can answer in the most obnoxious manner possible."
"A promising idea. Assuming Director Fury would ever have interest in contacting me in any way other than through Coulson."
"Yeah, see, I thought he'd be most likely to call Phil or Steve if he needed to pass his criticism down the line, but he gets a weird pleasure out of telling whoever fucked up to their face. Or over the phone. And, well–" Stark shrugged, "–he calls Bruce and me sometimes to pester us about whatever we're working on. As if we're going to tell him things that we won't put on the SHIELD server." He snorted. "Please. Like hearing his growling is really going to make us hand our research over."
Loki's lips twitched with a smile, but he managed to suppress it, for the most part. "He but lives in hope."
"I'm not sure 'hope' and 'Fury' should be in the same sentence," Stark returned, motioning for Loki to follow him out of the lab. "He doesn't hope, he glares the universe into submission. Disturbingly, it works more often than not. Dummy, hold down the fort while I'm gone!"
"And yet his glares are ineffectual on yourself and Dr Banner?" Loki wondered with a hint of amusement while Dummy chirped in understanding and grabbed his and Stark's abandoned mugs to put by the sink.
"Not even Fury is suicidal enough to glare at Bruce," Stark pointed out, and Loki inclined his head in understanding. "Fury's glares tend not to affect most of us, really. I mean, Steve will bow to Fury's logic sometimes, and Phil backs down when Fury gets out his 'I sign off on your paychecks, so shut the fuck up and follow my orders, bitch' face, but the rest of us usually ignore him unless he makes a lot of sense. Or his orders come through Phil or Steve."
"Which he most assuredly knows."
"He knows, yeah. But, you know how if you use a particular technique against the same opponent often enough, it stops working?"
Loki nodded. "You'll eventually find a defence against his tactics."
"Or Steve and Phil will stop falling for his logic and Bitch Face," Stark agreed. "I'm hedging on the latter, especially with Cap, because he can only fall for the 'you're new to this time and things are a little different now' line so many times. Honestly, I think he's mostly humouring Fury, any more, but I don't have any evidence. Beyond, you know, an occasional change to the orders he hands down. He always insists he didn't fully understand the original directions when Fury calls him on it, but I swear he's pulling Fury's leg."
"It's a well-played trick, if so," Loki allowed.
"I'm not saying there's some truth to it, because he honestly doesn't get a lot of cultural references, and does have a very old-fashioned mentality about a lot of shit, but he was in a war, leading his own troops before he went on ice, and JARVIS told me he likes to read military hand books and history texts in his free time. So I think he knows more of the lingo than he pretends to and he's mostly just humouring Fury because the pirate's an ass, but he does occasionally have good points and his plans work often enough, even if they sort of go sideways in the middle, like that whole 'let's keep a crazy, over-powered, wanna-be god intent on destroying the human race on a giant hunk of flying metal with a bunch of mentally unstable super-humans and his desperate brother'. That one was awesome."
The rest of the day was spent continuing Culture Week – or Culture All the Time, as Stark has re-dubbed it – and arguing over the last eggroll when Banner ordered Chinese food. When Coulson finally ordered the television off, the humans let out a round of groans of complaint, but obediently pushed out of their seats.
"Hey, Loki?" Jane called as Loki prepared to teleport down to his room, disinclined to wait for the lift. He turned to her expectantly, so she said, "You're going back to Asgard tomorrow, right?"
Loki inclined his head. "I am. Did you wish me to transport you to the Bifröst site?" he asked as realisation flashed across the faces of the various humans, apparently having forgotten he was still required to leave their realm every six days.
"Yeah, if you could? JARVIS can wake me when you get up and we can meet up here."
"Certainly. If that's all?" he glanced over the other humans.
"You wanna take the Gay Detector again?" Stark asked. "I know we sort of got everything we needed from it, but it was awesome. And Jane's always going on about running tests two and three times, right?" He glanced at her and Jane nodded.
"I am not adverse to the idea," Loki decided. "If it remains in the main lab, Lady Jane can collect it before we leave."
"Or I'll bring it up in the morning. Whatever," Stark replied. "Right. Shoo, go. Elevator's here and I've got evil genius things to do in my lab. Move," he said to the crowd in front of the open lift.
Loki left them to their herding and teleported down to his rooms. He had JARVIS bring up a copy of the first book in a fiction series that Jane had mentioned in conjunction with a film series she wanted to watch sometime in the coming week, and settled in to read that before falling asleep.
Stark and Banner were both in the kitchen when Loki made it up there the next morning, resplendent in his Asgardian clothing, which he'd already changed to match Thor's preferred colours. They traded greetings and Loki turned to make himself and Jane both some breakfast, considering it to be the polite thing to do, as he'd arrived first. (And he was feeling more inclined towards politeness since making the choice to not seek his revenge on the humans.)
"Thank you, Loki," Jane said when she stepped into the kitchen and he motioned at the unclaimed plate next to him.
"You know, it's never a good sign when people start making meals for you," Stark informed them. "My experience says that means bad news is about to happen."
"Your experiences are severely skewed," Banner muttered into his mug. "Also, shut up."
"Keep on the calm, Buddha," Stark returned before pulling out the Gay Detector and sliding it down the breakfast bar to Loki, who caught it without pausing in bringing his fork to his mouth. "I–" Banner coughed. "Sorry, we upgraded it a bit; should be able to see if there's that same energy that's here on Earth on Asgard or in the workings of the Gay Bridge. Because I know you said you hadn't noticed it before, but you weren't really looking, right? Also, it should record any other odd energy signatures that fall between your Jötun magic, the Asgard equivalent, and our special brand."
"You intend to discover further power sources?" Loki enquired as he slipped the chain over his head and tucked the bauble away.
"I'm always looking for more ways to make people look at me with awe," Stark said with a grin. "Also, adoration and an inclination towards my bed. And if I can discover a renewable energy source like the arc reactors – something more people can afford – we can maybe clean this planet up a bit. Warm light for all mankind sort of stuff, but without the opening-portals-to-other-universes bit. Also, saving the world. We are all about that in this tower. There's something wrong with us."
"There's something wrong with you," Banner muttered. "And I'm revoking your coffee privileges for medical reasons."
"What? No! Brucy, you can't do that! My tower, my rules!"
"I'll call Pepper."
Stark slumped in his seat, clutching his mug against his chest. "Cheat."
Loki snorted and stood, motioning his empty plate towards the sink. "Stark, go sleep."
Stark scowled at him for a moment, then his expression cleared and he grinned. "Okay, yeah, totally. Go Thor. Do the Thor thing, because the Thor thing was cool on the Gay Detector and now I wanna see it in real colour. Like, with real eyes. My eyes. Doooooooo iiiiiiiit..."
Banner groaned and rubbed at his forehead. "I am shoving sleeping pills down your throat and leaving you for dead in the middle of the kitchen floor. I really will."
Stark waved a hand at him, staring intently at Loki.
Loki rolled his eyes and smoothly changed into Thor. He motioned for his magical space and pulled out one of his sceptres, which he then formed into the copy of Mjölnir, taking care to add the geas symbol. "Is this acceptable, Man of Iron?" he asked in Thor's deep voice.
"Holy fuck," Stark breathed, grinning. "I need to learn this trick. You are so totally teaching me this trick. Because this? Fucking. Awesome."
"No," Banner said as Jane carried her plate to the sink, muffling her laughter behind her hand. "Go to bed."
"Not tired," Stark informed him. "I can get at least another four hours out of this cup of coffee, and you can't take it away from me, because you're the one that gave it to me. No Indian Givers. Not coo–"
Loki caught Stark as he fell over, asleep.
"Now that is a magic trick I'd like to learn," Banner said with a tired smile. "Thank you, Loki. I can get him to his bed, if you two want to head out."
"Very well," Loki agreed, transferring the dozing human to Banner, who looked a little awkward, but well-familiar with the act of manoeuvring Stark's dead weight. "He will remain asleep for eight hours, but will awaken if you are called to assemble."
"Good. That is most appreciated," Banner replied. "I mean, we can probably manage without him if we have to, but it helps to have him in the sky. Steve!" he called as Rogers stepped into the kitchen. "Help me get Tony to bed?"
"Loki put him to sleep again?" Rogers asked as he relieved Banner of his burden.
"Loki did," Loki said drily in Thor's voice before holding out his hand for Jane. "Lady Jane, if you would?" As soon as she'd taken his hand, Loki teleported them to the Bifröst site, taking significant pleasure in the flash of surprise in Rogers' eyes before they'd vanished.
"Safe trip," Jane offered once they were again on steady ground. "And try not to spend all day in Asgard this time? The food here is terrible."
"I shall endeavour to avoid any suffering on your part," Loki promised with Thor's easy smile.
Jane crooked her finger at him and Loki leaned down, a little confused. She kissed his cheek with a smile, then turned and walked towards the tents, where a couple of people had appeared to look out towards them.
Loki waited until she was clear, smiling faintly with fondness, before calling, "Heimdall!" and standing with the ease of long practise for the Bifröst to surround and transport him.
"Loki," Heimdall said once the Bifröst had fallen silent, and there was an easing of the distrust in his golden eyes, one that Loki had not expected, and it gave him pause.
After a moment, Loki shook his head and stalked past Heimdall, telling himself he was best not to linger on these changes. Heimdall would see and interpret as he pleased, and if he thought Loki more deserving of his trust after his recent adventures in Midgard, it was all to the better for Loki. Because Loki might have forgiven the mortals, might have again accepted Thor as his brother, but there had never been any love between Heimdall and himself, and he was less likely to forgive the man for raising a sword against him or bringing Thor back from Midgard.
Loki was again given pause when he reached the small stable, as Sif stood next to two saddled horses. "Lady Sif," he said in a near a match to Thor's friendly tone as he could manage.
"I know you to be Loki," Sif told him.
Loki narrowed his eyes, all allusions to their being friends dropping away. "Then that begs the question: Why have you come?" he said, Thor's stolen voice too harsh to even pretend to be as he appeared. "You would think to see yourself, again, in my good graces?"
"You have no good graces," Sif spat. "And I shouldn't care to play friends with you but for the fact that the Allfather requested it of us, and I was the only one willing to come. So long as you play Thor, we are expected to treat you as thus. Do not mistake following orders as pity."
"You have no more pity than I good graces," Loki retorted and pulled himself up into the saddle of the nearest horse. "As the Allfather wishes, then, but don't expect any poor jokes to speed the journey." Then he touched his heels to the horse's sides and started off at a steady trot, leaving Sif to scramble onto her own horse and hurry to catch up.
The journey was tense, neither inclined to find a way to ease their passage. Once they reached the limits of the city, however, Loki straightened on his horse and plastered a stupid grin over his face. "We made battle with dragons last week," he announced in a cheerful tone.
Sif jumped, then seemed to realise how close they were to the city and followed Loki's lead of false camaraderie. "Dragons? In Midgard?"
Loki nodded. "They were most sporting opponents. You recall those lizards of Muspelheim the Vanir led in the War?"
"They called those dragons," Sif agreed. "Were they much like those you did battle with on Midgard?"
"In the ways of elements, but the size of the Midgardian creatures was at least thrice those!"
Sif blinked in surprise. "I don't imagine they were simple to see dead."
"Not in the least," Loki agreed cheerfully, a glint of cold amusement in his eyes that he took care to hide from those they passed during their short trip to the palace stables, but not from Sif. "We were nearly overrun when who but Loki should point out the large body of water near enough to lead the beasts to."
"You lie," Sif hissed, eyes glinting darkly, as they reached the stables.
Loki flashed her a smile all his own and dismounted. "Do I?" he murmured, brushing a hand over his steed.
Odin strode out to meet them, then, putting an end to any further discussion of the matter between them. He greeted Loki much as he had the last time and bade him to follow to his study, leaving Sif to assist in seeing to the horses and returning to the Warriors Three with the tidings of 'Thor's' return.
Odin held Loki with business until the feast, whereupon he was forced to sit with Sif and the Warriors Three, laughing loudly at the tales of their recent exploits in Svartálfaheim. All five of them were noticeably uncomfortable in the others' presence, but they were loud enough to keep attention away from the stiff way they held themselves, or how little Loki ate, when Thor would have been stuffing his face and getting shamefully drunk.
When the feast let out, Loki hurried to follow his mother, desperate for a few hours to be himself with her, which she provided with a gentle smile. She had no reason to disbelieve Loki's stories of Midgard, and while he daren't share his forgotten plans for revenge, he saw no harm in telling her of his inclusion in the Avengers and saving Barton's life with a show of magic to delight the children.
He also told her how he missed his children – a sensation they could share, with Thor and Loki both so often on Midgard – and she dragged him out to the pastures where Sleipnir stretched his many legs when not serving as a steed for Odin. (And Loki was torn over that decision, because he held no love for the Allfather, but he knew Odin would see no harm befall Loki's son, couldn't help but trust that the safest place for Sleipnir in any battle was with his not-grandfather.) Loki ran for a bit with his son, in the form of a mare, while Frigga watched on with a fond smile.
When they returned to the palace, Loki again as Thor for the journey, Frigga asked, "Will you dine with us again?"
Loki shook his head. "I fear not, Mother. I made a promise to the Lady Jane that I wouldn't leave her over-long at the Midgardian Bifröst site." He sighed. "I should return to her now, truly."
Frigga smiled sadly, but didn't pause in turning toward the stables. "We mustn't leave a lady to wait," she said and Loki drew her into a slightly awkward hug as they continued on.
They were met by Sif and the Warriors Three at the stables, all four carrying bags for a journey. Loki tensed to see them, a foreboding sensation settling heavy against his heart.
"We have procured permission from the Allfather to join you on Midgard," Sif informed him with a turn of her lips that could have made good competition for Loki's meanest smile.
"We wish to join in grand battles and glorious feasts!" Volstagg boomed in agreement.
"Midgardians don't believe in glorious feasts," Loki informed the overweight warrior with a hint of a snarl, his mask of Thor's personality slipping for a moment before he dragged it back into place with an iron grip. He smiled at them, then, and said, "We would be glad to have you."
And it was a lie, such a bitter lie, because Loki didn't want these buffoons in Avengers Tower, in the space where he felt safe, where he'd only just begun feeling like he could belong, like the humans didn't hate him for the terrible things he'd done but a year ago. And now these four would come, and they would spread tales of Loki as he was, they would tell the humans how much a monster Loki was and he would be again an unwanted guest in their home. Loki didn't want them there.
But to disobey the Allfather was suicide, and Loki was not suicidal, for all he hated what he was and had thought so happily on killing those Midgardians and his brother, knowing he would face a most terrible punishment. He could not refuse Odin's acquiesce, could not bring himself to deny Thor some time spent with his oldest friends, now he was trapped by his word on Midgard. Loki would be miserable for his brother's sake, forever in his shadow, and he hated it as much as he loved Thor.
Frigga hugged Loki as the Warriors Three and Sif picked their mounts, whispering, "You'll always be welcome home."
Loki tightened his arms around her, so very grateful that she didn't ignore his upset at this burden that had been placed upon his shoulders. "Thank you, Mother," he whispered into her hair before pulling away to collect his own mount.
It was a tense journey to the Bifröst, Loki leading the way with his back held straight against the heavy stares of his unwelcome companions. At the terminal, Loki brushed past a surprised Heimdall, Thor's form melting back into his normal form and the colours of his clothing returning to the comforting green and gold – because he needed that comfort, needed it like he needed the four idiots following him to stay in Asgard. Loki took his position as Fandral explained, pompously, what they were all doing there and handed over the note of permission Odin had given them to allow their passage.
"Behave as is befitting of the warriors of Asgard," Heimdall suggested as the Warriors Three and Sif took up their positions.
"No need to remind the Jötun how to act," Fandral said with a taste of the hatred long aimed at Loki's blood-kin.
Monsters, Loki whispered in his mind, willing himself not to react to the acid from someone he'd once counted a friend.
"Loki well wears his mantle of 'Prince of Asgard' on Midgard," Heimdall returned without inflection.
Loki felt as though his heart had frozen over with the ice of his birth; had Heimdall just defended him?
Heimdall slid his sword home before another word could be uttered and they were shot through the Bifröst with all speed.
"What was that about?" Volstagg demanded once they'd landed, looking at Loki with dislike. "Have you learned how to control Heimdall as you controlled these Midgardians?"
"You are a fool to think I would even attempt such when I am so little trusted," Loki snarled, turning a glare on the man.
"The Lady Jane," Sif murmured and they all turned to face the approaching human.
Jane offered them an uncertain smile and stopped next to Loki. "Hi. You brought guests?"
Loki grabbed for manners he didn't feel and forced a smile. "They had wish to visit at a less troubling time, and as my brother is bound by his word to remain on Mid–Earth," he corrected, reminding himself that he was best served returning to the terms the humans used while on their planet, "this is the only way they might visit with him."
"I suppose that makes sense," Jane allowed, glancing at the confused smiles of the four Asgardians. "We'll have to warn the others," she decided, pulling out her mobile. "Can you teleport all of us?"
Loki glanced back at the Warriors Three and Sif, pleased by the grimaces of dislike on their faces. "I might, but I don't believe it will be welcomed."
Jane sighed. "Okay. Do you have your phone? Or did you leave it at the tower?"
Loki motioned and drew his mobile from his magic space. "You would have me inform the Avengers while you collect transportation?" he guessed.
Jane grinned. "That exactly! Call Mr Stark, though, since Steve's never got his phone. And it's still Mr Stark's tower, even if he does let us live there."
Loki nodded in understanding and pulled up Stark's number to dial as Jane took a few steps away, her own mobile held to her ear.
"Tony Stark, Sex God," Stark answered promptly.
Loki let out a startled laugh. "You are no god, Stark," he informed the human, "and you should do well not to claim the title."
Stark laughed. "I'll have you know I've got a plaque in my other house that says I am, in fact, a sex god. Huge contest, I won, hands down. So there."
"Your judges had never met a true god, then."
"True enough," Stark agreed. "Not that I don't appreciate the call letting me know you're back on planet, but was there a reason for it? I mean, we're mostly used to you popping around, and JARVIS said you appeared on the balcony last time, which shouldn't freak anyone out too much."
"The Allfather granted permission for the Warriors Three and Lady Sif to accompany me back to Earth. Lady Jane is procuring transportation for all of us, but we believed it best to send a warning ahead."
"Ho! Shakespeare in my tower all night long. Cool. Hey, can your magical spaces hold living creatures?"
"Not if you wish them living when you remove them. Why?"
Stark let out an amused cough. "Right. Plan B. Trying to figure out where we're gonna store the Stooges and Xena while they're here."
Loki really hoped those nicknames were as insulting as the ones Stark usually doled out and determined to look them up as soon as he was safely in his rooms. "Thor will likely volunteer to give the Warriors Three floor space, and Lady Sif may join them, unless Romanoff wishes to offer her rooms."
"Yeah, I'll ask around. We'll have it all sorted by the time you all get here. Also, more food. Lots of food. Fuck."
"Volstagg would see no harm in losing some stones," Loki said cheerfully, watching the Æsir as he did so. Volstagg puffed up angrily while Sif and Hogun narrowed their eyes and Fandral frowned in disapproval.
"Uh-oh," Stark said, and the humour was gone from his voice. "How much do we not want them here?"
"The transportation is here," Loki said instead of responding to Stark's question, looking up at where a large helicopter was coming in for a landing.
"Loki," Stark said, voice sharp, and Loki hung up before Stark could pretend like he cared.
They all climbed into the helicopter, Loki sitting as far away from the four Æsir as he could. Jane spoke with them for a moment, trading pleasantries, then settled in next to Loki, smiling at his faint surprise. "Thor's really the only thing I have in common with them," she told him over the microphones in the helmets they'd been supplied with when they boarded. As Loki could not hear the conversation of the other four or the two men in the pilot seats, he assumed they were on different channels.
"Thor is all you have in common with me," Loki replied.
"And Mr Stark, and Bruce, and Steve, and–"
"Your point is well made."
Jane smiled. "And I've got science where you've got magic. They have, what? Head-bashing?" Loki chuckled and Jane's smile widened. "Not that head-bashing is bad, 'cause, you know, Thor enjoys it, but it's really all they talk about."
"Volstagg will happily speak of food, and Fandral is never tired of speaking of himself," Loki told her.
"Oh, yeah, that's attractive," Jane returned drily and Loki had to look out a window to keep from seeing the Æsir out of the corner of his eyes and laughing at their expense. "Do we know where they're bunking?" she asked quietly, as if to keep the others from hearing.
Loki shrugged and chanced looking back at her. "I believe Thor will be most welcoming of the Warriors Three, and Lady Sif will either join them on the floor, or Romanoff might be willing to share."
Jane frowned a bit, glancing over at the four laughing companions. "Yeah..." she murmured, sounding uncertain, before looking back at Loki and asking, "Could I stay on your floor? Knowing Thor, he's going to want to stay up all night and get drunk. And that's fine sometimes, but I'd like to get some sleep tonight. And Sif can have my room, if she wants."
Loki blinked. "I...do not find issue in sharing my space with you. If it is truly your wish." And he really didn't mind, he discovered; he had grown used to sharing the tower with the humans, and he genuinely enjoyed Jane's company, as he did Stark and Banner's. He would be sorry to see Sif and the Warrior Three's vitriol turning those three, most of all, against him.
Jane smiled gratefully. "Thank you."
The rest of the journey was spent in an easy silence, Jane eventually falling into a doze against Loki's side. He cast a quiet warming spell on her jacket and draped an arm around her absently, as though to keep her warm and protected. He felt the other four's eyes on him, but determined to ignore them, having no interest in starting yet another war of words with them when he was so close to the solitude of his rooms. (Or not so much solitude, if Jane intended to stay with him for the night, but peace, at the least.)
The helicopter landed on the top of Avengers Tower, next to the quinjet most of the team took to their objectives when they got the call to assemble. All of the humans who resided in the tower – sans Jane and Pepper – and Thor were standing by the lift access when Loki, Jane, Sif, and the Warriors Three jumped out of the helicopter, which had fallen still. Thor was grinning at his friends, who grinned back, but he stayed back and let Stark and Rogers step forward to meet their guests, to Loki's surprise.
"Right," Stark said as he reached the incoming group, eyes flickering over the empty space between Loki and Jane, and the four Æsir. "Welcome to Avengers Tower. I don't care if you're gods or not, you start talking nasty about anyone else in my tower, I'm booting your overpowered asses back to the Gay Bridge and the pervert in the stars can help you home. Capiche?"
"I'm not sure I understand your meaning," Fandral said with an easy smile.
"I'm saying the first time I hear one of you idiots talking down to anyone in my tower – Loki included, because I've heard there's some history there – you're going home. Allfather's okay or not, you're polite or you're out of my house. And this, kiddies," Stark said, motioning to the building they were standing on, "is all mine. You wanna hang with Thor, cool. I'm good with that, I really am, but you're guests and the rest of us live here, so you're gonna be real nice."
"You are unaware of what Loki–" Sif started, Jane and Rogers both tensing while Loki was left with a sense of, here it comes.
"Xena, shut up," Stark snapped, eyes flashing with anger. "I know what Loki's capable of on the bad spectrum, and I know what he's capable of on the good spectrum, which is more than I can say for you and the boy band. Loki's my teammate and my friend, and if you can't handle that, well. Helicopter's right behind you, feel free to leave."
Sif's cheeks flushed. "I was going to say, mortal, you are unaware of what Loki is. He is Jö–"
"Jötun, I know," Stark cut in, unamused. "So what? I fly around in a metal suit, Bruce turns green and smashes everything in sight when he gets angry, Clint likes really weird arrows, Natasha can kill someone with a piece of hair, and Thor likes everything extra crispy. Frankly, you're all aliens on my planet, and as long as you're not blowing shit up during my day off, I'm good." He looked the group over for a moment, then nodded and turned to Loki and Jane. "Frosty, Astro, let's go play with the Gay Detector for a bit while Cap lays out his ground rules. We've got about a half hour before dinner's ready, and I've been itching to play since I woke up from my nap. Which, by the way, still not cool."
"I am always cool, Stark," Loki retorted, oddly giddy with relief; he would never learn to foresee the actions of these humans. "It's in my nature."
"Way to learn the lingo," Stark said, grinning, and the three of them moved towards the rest of the humans and Thor.
Thor stepped forward to meet them. He shared a brief, gentlemanly hug with Jane, then pulled Loki into a crushing grip. "Welcome home, Brother," he murmured.
Loki gripped at the back of Thor's Midgardian shirt and whispered, "Thanks," voice tight. Because this was his home. Because Thor had stood back with the humans and let Stark lay down his defence of Loki, instead of running forward and welcoming the Warriors Three and Sif without pause. Because all of these humans – this odd little family that Loki had fallen into by accident – had stood in his defence, unwilling to hear even a word against him.
And Loki didn't know how much discussion had occurred, how many people had been okay with Stark stepping forward with his no-nonsense demands, how long this camaraderie would last before Sif or one of the Warriors Three said the right thing to the right person and they remembered Loki was an absolute monster, but he was glad for their friendship now, when he had most needed it.
A/N: We're not going to talk about how much trouble this chapter gave me, or how much I sort of want to kill Tony right now. (Not the ending part – that went beautifully – but earlier, when he was holding everything up. Loki was a bit, too, but it was mostly Tony.)
Poor Loki. The baby hasn't quite figured out yet that the Avengers aren't going to just turn their back on him because of a few naughty pranks. Now, if he attempts to take out another city... XD
THIS FIC IS COMPLETED. IT WILL BE UPDATED EVERY SUNDAY/MONDAY, SAME AS Like So Much Shattered Glass.