A/N: Takes place some time after the last ficlet.
There was a Drone in the waiting room that Loki had never seen before. "Can I help you?"
Loki hesitated. "I'm... looking for someone."
"Staff or subject?"
"Staff. I don't know his name."
The Drone shrugged. "You wouldn't. What's your name?"
"Mine? I am Loki, of Asgard." He drew himself up a little as he said it. "The one I'm looking for has worked here at least ten years, and attended Asgard's last New Years party. He's about your height, but a little-"
"Your name is enough." The Drone brushed its hand over the wall and a grate hissed into view. A communication device? It spoke into it. "I need the contact for a Loki of Asgard, please." After a moment of silence, the speaker crackled and a discordant chattering issued forth.
The Drone frowned. "Oh." It turned to Loki. "Your contact's a Director now."
"Excuse me? What does that mean?"
"It means he doesn't interact with subjects or clients directly. Directors pass their files on to more junior staff, but for some reason in your case he hasn't done so. We're speaking to him right now and he'll assign someone. Have a seat – someone will be with you shortly."
Loki sat. Serenely. He and Drone Three had gotten drunk together; surely that would entitle him to a face-to-face meeting no matter how important the creature was now.
Before long the door hissed open and Loki surged to his feet. Habit; the sound still made his heart beat a little faster.
"Loki! Good morning!" There was real pleasure in the voice, and even though Three was in his work outfit Loki made himself smile back and shake hands.
"And you – whose name I still don't know!" he enthused, teasing. "Good morning to you as well."
The greeter Drone was looking extremely impressed by all this – clearly Drone Three had become somebody very important. Loki gave a bow. "Director now, I hear? Congratulations. You're looking... er..." Imposing? Would that be an insult?
Three narrowed his eyes. "You're hunting for a polite way to say I've gotten fat, aren't you."
It was only a matter of time before the Drone found a way to remind him that it had once broken him open and rifled through his mind like a messy cupboard. Might as well beat it to the punch, no?
"Oooh." Loki gave an overblown sympathetic wince. "Lost your touch? I'm afraid I was thinking nothing of the kind."
Three made a face. "Yes of course, Loki, feel free to twist the knife."
Loki cocked his head.
He sighed and explained: "I likely have lost my touch, to some degree at least. I don't get to do fieldwork any more. But of course, I'm happy to serve however I am needed," he added primly. Then shrugged. "Oh, well. It's only a matter of time before I break some rule significant enough to get thrown back to the front lines."
The Drone wanted to be back in the dungeons. Loki tried not to feel uneasy. "Ah, I see. Well, if your superiors take a dim view of stealing equipment, I might be able to help you with that." He took out his binding rod to show. "I came here because this is broken. Or perhaps its power has simply depleted? I've had no luck with the mechanics or sorcerers of Asgard, so I was wondering if you could help. Fix it, recharge it, give me a new one?"
Three whistled softly as he took the device and examined it. "This? Goodness, this is... old," he said, clicking it a few times.
"Your people gave it to me when-... when I left here. It was for splinting."
"Mm." Three's deadpan was perfect. "And those poor shoulders still can't bear weight after all this time. What a shame."
Loki opened his mouth and closed it. It hadn't even been a question... but still, somehow, he felt a little nervous not answering it. Certainly much too nervous to lie. "I've been using the thing to annoy people," he admitted. "As well as to bind myself, sometimes, to test my nerves. Well..." He hadn't done that in a while, actually, so he frowned and revised himself. "These days, mostly to annoy people."
"Well." Three nodded and gestured the doors open. "We wouldn't want you unable to annoy people, would we? Please: this way." He paused. "You are comfortable going downstairs now, are you not?"
Downstairs. The euphemisms just got better and better. "As long as you have no plans to do something terrifying, I am fine."
"You wound me." With a hand over his heart. Three gestured Loki through the doors and led him down the hall.
Loki's mouth was a little dry, but he was all right. Conversation would probably help, so he asked: "Where are we going – an equipment room? I suppose you must have them."
"We do. But that's not where we are going; we're going to go get you a... floor model. It's not permitted to give these away," he explained. "It can be hard to account for something vanishing from an equipment room, but no one will notice it gone from a dungeon. Things get damaged or lost during sessions all the time."
Eventually Three stopped in front of a wide door. "This one's fine. No cameras; we can rob it with impunity. Coming in?"
Loki shook his head at first, but once the door was open and the torture chamber fully lit, and the Drone was calling small-talk to him from inside, he felt too ridiculous and at last managed to step over the threshold.
He held his breath and waited for terror, but terror didn't come. Three was rummaging in a closet and in the meantime Loki walked around the room slowly, touching some of the equipment he recognized.
He pulled out a drawer under a counter and it was full of little jars. Someone had labeled them, in handwriting. ITCH. BURN. EXTRA BURN. OH MOMMY. He chuckled, and somehow – barely – resisted the urge to open one up and see what it was.
But when he went to close the drawer there was a heavy metallic clunk at the back. Suddenly the jars were not nearly so funny; when he reached back in and felt around... yes, it was a pear. His grip tightened for a moment; he could feel the seams under his hand, they would open, with the key he could feel pressing into his wrist. Breathe.
"Careful," Drone Three said, from behind him. "You shouldn't touch that. After direct contact it'll remember you – and crave your flesh."
Loki yanked his hand out of the drawer so fast he cut himself, and began wiping frantically against his clothes. Then he saw that the drawer was still partway open. With his heart in his throat he slammed it and held it closed with both hands. He stayed there frozen. If he backed away in horror, which he wanted to do, then he would have to let go, and then it might-...
Drone Three was laughing at him, laughing hard, doubled up and laughing almost too hard to breathe. "Loki," he finally wheezed. "Really?" He couldn't stop.
Loki's mind caught up with him then and he relaxed so suddenly he almost fell over. Oh, hell: he was falling over. He put his hands on his knees and waited for the dizziness to pass.
"You all right?" Still through laughter.
"That is- sick," Loki gasped at last. He thought he was fine, but for some reason even as the terror drained out of him his lungs didn't want to inhale properly. "Your sense of humor is... is sick."
"Maybe. Funny, though." The Drone's chuckles were more controlled... but ongoing. "Did you imagine it was going to, to leap out at you and-?" He pantomimed with his hands, clap-clap-clapping his way through the air like a snapping beast.
How dare you, he wanted to say, how dare you mock me for this. But his voice wasn't yet under control and he did not want to speak in a hoarse raw mess, so he took a moment to gather himself. By the time he was able to fill his lungs and let it out slowly, he had calmed down enough that the urge to snarl had passed. Instead he just put his nose in the air and pointed out: "Fuck off; it's easy to laugh at when you've never felt that thing ripping at your innards."
"I'm sure it is." Loki frowned, but before he could puzzle that out Three went on, with authority: "Now stop scowling; you only looked foolish for a moment. And it absolutely is funny."
Loki noticed that he was clinging to the drawer again, and let go of it with determination. … And then he waited a second to be sure that all was still and that the tool had not in fact come to life.
Well, now he had looked decidedly foolish for two moments. At that thought he had to smile – a little bitterly. "All right," he conceded, because it was true. "But don't do it again. You said you wouldn't terrify me." But when he thought more carefully he realized that the Drone had actually never said anything of the kind.
Fortunately Three didn't call him a liar. "I promise I won't terrify you again," he purred instead. "Fair enough? Now, I found you a sticker stick. Are you ready to go?"
Loki nodded, and moved away from the counter with quite a bit of speed. The Drone deftly positioned himself at Loki's back, squarely between Loki and the imaginary sentient attacking pear, and steered him out of the room with a cool hand on his arm.
Let me know what you think! As of now I don't have any more ideas for this collection, except potentially a Sif/Helblindi date at some point down the line.