"...and we have no idea of how this guy works, what are his powers, his allies, or anything. We only know he's an otherwordly threat that we should really take seriously. Well, thanks for the insight, Thor, it's really helpful" Stark said, sarcastically.
"There is much mystery surrounding that man. He has even shielded himself from our gatekeeper's watch. Not even the Allfather knows much about him. I regret not being able to provide more help than this, friends." Thor sai, with that super-low voice of his.
"And you guys had never had this sort of problem with him? He never threatened... what was it... Asgard like he has threatened the Earth?" Steve asked, curious. That alien seemed to be against everything and everyone, only in it for the joy of destruction. It seemed odd that he would leave out a challenge as sweet as conquering a world of warrior gods.
"He did but... we managed him. A deal was struck." Thor said, seeming somehow more uncomfortable, which was something new in him (he was always so outspoken).
"So, you talked to him, then?" Bruce asked, not understanding. Hadn't he just said that they knew nothing about this guy? How could they make a deal with him if they knew nothing about him?
"What kind of deal was it?" Steve asked almost immediately, always the strategist. "You think we could do it here too, or was it a one time thing?"
"I do not know... It was not my doing, it was... Loki's" A wave of regret washed over the blonde god as he spoke his brother's name "After some attacks on our land, my father and I saw that warfare was useless, so the Allfather sent Loki alone to see if he could trick him into surrendering. I know not what Loki told him, but the next day this man swore before everyone he would not attack, and he did not. Sadly, I never asked my brother the nature of his victory. Our father dismissed it saying it had probably been some low trick and decided he would rather not know, so the matter was soon forgotten."
"And he didn't tell anyone? No one was interested? You never heard how he did it?"
"Loki's arts are generally disliked and frowned upon in Asgard. No one gave the issue much import until we learned of this man's destruction in other realm's, and even then it was hardly discussed. I believe Odin was a bit ashamed because he could not protect the land and had to trust Loki the safety of the realm. It was him and me who were supposed to be skilled in war matters, not my brother."
"Not nice." Stark said. "If you had given Loki some credit maybe he wouldn't be so messed in the head and we could have a clue of how to go against this guy. And again, not helpful. "
"What authority do you think you have to question the actions of the Allfather?" Said Thor, obviously pissed.
Even if Steve thought Stark had a point, this was not the time for a quarrel among team mates. They had to focus.
"We're not here to judge alien royalty, Stark, we're here to deal with this threat. Any way you could contact Loki and ask him to tell you what he did, Thor?"
"...but we need Thor with us! We're already outpowered, if he goes away we'll be helpless!" Complained Clint, who had received a good beating from some enemy minions only days ago. "And there could be problems with his travels, or they could take too long. We don't even know how time works in this interdimensional travels. We cannot risk losing him and his hammer over some clue Loki may or may not be willing to share."
After a moment of silence, Steve's voice came again.
"What about bringing him here? Bound and chained, with no support and after being defeated once I highly doubt he will try anything villanous again, and he could give us some insight on how to deal with this guy. Like you said, warfare is useless and the man seems immune to all our attempts on outsmarting him. Right now, Loki is all we have. He defeated him without any massive loss of lives or resources... I'd say that's a pretty good start. And if we have him here enough time, I'm sure we'll be able to figure him out. Agent Romanoff did it once, didn't she?"
There was a moment of silence. The thought of bringing Loki back was not a pleasant one, for any Avenger. He had confronted them all and caused great damage to the city. Many people had been victims of antics. But many more people were dying now, at the hands of someone who didn't want to rule them (like Loki did) but simply destroy them. And all of their efforts to thwart him had been wasted.
"And Loki single-handedly made this guy surrender?" This was Bruce, incredulity etched in his features. "Seems a bit unbelievable."
"Many of Loki's feats may sound unbelievable but are true. His wit is unparalleled and capable of the most unlikely victories. But usually his skill was not needed or used because no one trusted him much. This intelligence of his was more often feared than was what made him such a good partner... he had the knowledge to get out of any situation while I had the strength to face it. He had what I lacked and I had what he lacked."
"Yeah, yeah, you guys were the A-Team. But can you bring him or not?"
"I could, indeed, inter-dimensional travel has been perfected since the Bifrost was destroyed... I do not think the All-Father would object but... I have to warn you. Loki is not exactly functional lately."
"What do you mean?" Clint asked, subconsciously wishing to hear something terrible had happened to his enemy and former captor. With details.
"It is called the prisoner's disease. The illness has affected him greatly, and I don't know how is he faring now, as great time has passed since the last I saw him...I would've been informed of his death, but not of his agony."
"Great." Stark mumbled "Our best lead could be in a coma for all we know. This is all so very helpful! Thanks so much!"
"Don't be insensitive, Stark." Steve said, darkly "Just try to bring him, we'll see how he is and get him to help. We've done much more difficult things. This is indeed our best lead, we have to try at least."
"Understood." Thor added. "I have to go to an open space for the summon. I will return as swiftly as possible."
And with that, Thor left.
The tension was almost palpable in the room while the Avengers waited for the thunderer to come back. This plan had too many flaws, there were too many things that could go wrong. They were using a psycho to catch another psycho. And Loki could play them. Just grin happily and watch them struggle. Ignore their request, feed them false information... Anything. They had nothing to convince him and there was no reason for him to cooperate. Yeah, with time they could be able to find what made him tick, but in that moment they had nothing. Absolutely nothing.
There were different opinions of the plan among the Avengers themselves. Tony and Steve thought this be a good angle, and that were hopeful about the Asgardian villain. Bruce was still doubtful... bringing back Loki could lead to a lot of problems. Yeah, the situation was already bad, but Loki could make things so much worse. And why he help them? He was already a prisoner, no home, no friends, he had nothing. Nothing left to lose. It could be really dangerous. Clint, predictably, was the one who hated this plan the most. Loki should be rotting in his cell, for all eternity. For the rest of his lifetime, at least. And they were going to him for help. To the god of mindfuck. Nothing that came out of the guy's mouth was trustworthy, how could the rest of them giving this a chance? A waste of time, Clint kept thinking, this is nothing but a waste of time. Natasha saw their chances better. She'd been able to figure out Loki once, she could do it again. And with intel she got about Loki since the last time... yes, this was going to be easy.
"Mr Odinson is an Dr Banner are back and already on the elevator." Came JARVIS' voice, interrupting everyone's thoughts, only a couple of hours later.
"Tell them where we are." Tony commanded and the machine obeyed immediately.
Shortly after, Bruce and Thor appeared in the doorway, apparently shaken. Thor was carrying someone in his arms, someone who bounced limply with each of his mighty steps, lifeless. A further inspection revealed that the unmoving form was, indeed, Loki. The God of Mischief reduced to an unconscious figure, white skin under black rags. No wonder they hadn't recognised him at first.
"Is that Loki?" Steve asked, voicing everyone's silent question.
"I fear the travel has strained my brother's fragile health."
There was no questioning that. The man looked like he'd been through hell and back. Maybe he had, one could never know with these aliens and their weird customs. There was nothing left of the supervillain Loki once had been without the armour and the disturbing smile. In fact, clad only in those black rags and with some old metal in his hands, he looked ridiculously vulnerable. A man who would never hurt a fly. A man who could no longer hurt a fly because even a fly was stronger than him.
"Is he even alive?" Asked Steve again, dubious.
"Yeah," answered Bruce "he was awake when he arrived. He wasn't exactly coherent, but he recognized Thor before passing out."
"Where should I place him, Stark?" Thor asked, and his tone of voice was remarkably softer.
"Let's go to the white room, you can put him in the sofa there, we'll try to wake him up."
Clint wanted to complain, tell everyone that he should only be put in a cell but he knew his complaints would be useless. The state of Loki was quite bad and if they wanted the intel they would need to get him better.
"I'll go check the weapons" he said instead, not wanting to be part of "the Loki show". If this was going to be a waste of time (as he knew it would be) it was better to use the time they had to try and make a plan B. But not only that. Clint couldn't honestly trust himself near Loki. Ill or not, that man had put him through hell, and it would be a pity if he had an arrow lodged in his skull before he could tell them something. A real tragedy.
"I'll go with you. Inform if he starts talking." Natasha said and left in silence.
The rest of them went to the very illuminated white room, where Thor put his brother in the spacious sofa with a level of gentleness unseen in him. Bruce went to fetch his medical devices and returned shortly. He examined Loki carefully, checking for any injuries or abnormalities.
"102 degrees... is he supposed to be this hot, Thor?"
"No... I noticed how strangely warm he was while we arrived here. He usually is cooler than both Asgardians and humans."
Bruce sighed, frantically searching in his messy doctor's bag for some antipyretic.
Thor approached Loki and caressed his too-hot cheek, looking sadly at his brother and carefully pulling the loose strands of black hair behind his ear. This was not the Loki he knew. The Loki he knew, his brother, was strong. A warrior and joker and a man who smiled in front of adversity. As strong as he was clever. But this... this was only a shell of a man. A blurred shadow of the brother he once had. And their father had seen Loki decline like this and done nothing? They would have some words, once this man was sorted out.
"Do all prisoners get this sick?" Asked Bruce, curious, while he injected the unconscious man with some transparent meds.
No, they don' illness is caused by a spell. It was thrown by the previous warden of the prison, to prevent the prisoners from escaping by weakening them... but it got a bit out of hand and became deadly. The citizens thought it unfair to be punished with death for minor offenses, so it was lifted, but the energy of the spell lingers on, feeding on the most powerful prisoners. As you may imagine, Loki was one such prisoner. I knew he had gotten ill but not to what extent... "
"You couldn't visit?" said Stark's voice behind him. If Pepper or Rhodey were in prison, he would visit, no matter how guilty they were.
"Isolation is part of the punishment and Odin was afraid that he could trick his visitors or cellmates into doing his bidding. No one has seen Loki since his imprisonment except Heimdall, our gatekeeper, because he sees all, and Odin himself, to make sure he was still there and the chains still in place."
Bruce continued working on the unconscious man before him. This had not been what he had expected. When he saw a green flash of light in the park and then Loki standing in front of him, he had been ready to fight. To outsmart all of his lies, tricks, pun, anything and everything. He'd been 110% ready. But Loki had only frowned, said an array of unconnected syllables, looked around with unfocused eyes and half smiled when he saw Thor. When he tried to walk he just swayed and fell down. No fight, no anger, no need for the other guy. Bruce was glad that there had been no fight, but he was also confused. And part of him was concerned he wouldn't be able to do anything to wake him from his feverish sleep. (This illness was caused by a spell, of all things).
"Well, I've done all I could think of. He's been pumped full of drugs to counteract the symptoms. If the sickness was environmental, as you said, he should be get better now that he's no longer in contact with the...uhm... 's just a matter of time."
"I am truly grateful for your help, Doctor Banner." Thor said, standing up to shake his hand. Thor marveled at the fact that such a small man could become such a fear-inspiring monster.
"Well, if you don't need me anymore, I'm going to see what Clint and Natasha are doing."
"Yeah, me too." Tony added "Tell us if Sleeping Beauty awakes, will ya?"
"Sure." The Captain answered while Thor went back to his place next to Loki.
Steve Rogers was probably the only Avenger who had some hope for this plan left. Loki was a doubtful asset in usual circumstances and unconscious he was just useless. But he'd only arrived a couple of hours ago, he needed time to recover. And seeing the conditions in which he was being held in Asgard Steve knew they had something to negotiate. Hell, just offering clean clothing in exchange of information could make Loki talk. They only needed time.
"Years have passed since the last time I saw my brother." Thor was speaking remarkably low, very uncharacteristically "At first, I was glad that I could not see him again because I was furious at him. I could even think about him. When Heimdall told me of his sickness I thought he deserved it for all his crimes... and when the Allfather told me he was getting worse I thought it would be good to humble him. I thought about the fights we would have if we ver met again. But this... This is not Loki. He was happy to see me when he arrived. Not hostile, not angry, not murderous. Just happy to see me. I am starting to regret abandoning him all this time."
"You were following orders, Thor, you don't have to blame yourself. You did what you and your father thought best. And who knows, maybe this little trip will help him, maybe if he help us you'll be able to convince your father to let you visit, get him some medical attention. There's time to improve things."
"I certainly hope so, Captain."
A/N: Did you like it? I know, I should be updating my started stories and starting new ones. But those require time, and this was just something I scribbled in queues, in breaks from work, before meeting my friends. The villain doesn't have a name because I'm horrible with those, any suggestions? Hope you liked it!
Reviews are love ^^