It all began when the Avengers Tower lost power.
This happened quite naturally. Of course, they checked later on whether some villain or other had cut the power lines, but for all appearances, it was just a spare lightning bolt in a thunderstorm. No one was to blame except chance.
Of course, Tony being Tony, he decided to blame Thor anyways.
"Man of Iron," Thor said cheerfully, as Tony glared at him from across the breakfast table. "Why does your face look so thunderous?"
"Thunder! That's exactly our problem," Tony cried out. "A thunderstorm just decides to knock out our power! How could you do this to us, Thor?"
Thor lifted an eyebrow.
"Oh, don't give me that innocent look. I've heard all about you. God of thunder, right? So why, Thor?" His voice had become plaintive. "Why didn't you stop this?"
Clint cleared his throat. "Tony, don't you think you're being a little harsh? I'm pretty sure Thor didn't mean to blow out the power of this entire section of the city. And really, I'm surprised you don't have your own generator, being a famous millionaire inventor and all."
Tony glared at Clint, too. "Thor can answer for himself. He's a big boy."
Thor said, in response to the questioning looks he was now receiving from all the Avengers, "I do not have as much power as you seem to think, my friends. I can summon lightning, it is true, but when it is naturally produced by a storm I cannot control where it chooses to go. I don't really see why it's a problem. No one was hurt, right?"
Tony looked close to hyperventilating. "The problem? It's about ninety degrees today and we have no air conditioning!"
Thor blinked. "What's air conditioning?"
Tony looked about ready to swear. Clint and Natasha looked amused. Banner sighed and continued eating his breakfast (toast). He was too zen to listen to all of Tony's rants, and didn't really care about Thor having trouble fitting in with his fellow mortals.
Steve tried to explain. "Well, Thor, you've probably noticed how even though it's the middle of July, the inside of our buildings are still cool, right?"
Thor nodded. It was curious how their buildings were cool even when the outdoors was hot, but many things were strange on Midgard.
"Well, we keep our buildings' air fresh and cool with air conditioning. It brings new, cool air in and…stuff."
Thor paused in his eating. "Ah. Genius! I imagine it is something like the spell we have placed on the royal palace in Asgard. There, too, the air is always fresh and clean."
"Uh, maybe. Anyways, we need electricity for air conditioning to work, and we don't have any right now. So it's going to be really hot."
"Exactly!" Tony interjected, now that he didn't need to explain anything. "What are we supposed to do? I suppose we could take a helicopter to the mountains but my house there isn't big enough for all of us."
"You have a house in the mountains?" Clint asked curiously.
"I have houses everywhere," Tony said. "But I don't have them built to contain six people, particularly not when one of them is an Asgardian, one could turn into a green rage monster any minute, and one is me."
Natasha shrugged. "I don't think it's such a big deal. We could go to a beach. Get some ice cream. Battery powered fans?"
Tony paused. "Hm, you're right, actually. Beaches are nice. Very nice. I wonder if I could get Pepper to come too."
"Pepper's at a meeting," Banner reminded him. "Can't come."
Tony smiled. "Bruce, you make a very good substitute Jarvis. Have you ever considered being a butler? No? Oh, well."
Steve said, "I don't know about a beach, but when I was a kid, I used to go to the library on days like this. It's far enough away that it would probably still have air conditioning. It could be like a field trip." He looked at the other Avengers hopefully.
Tony snorted. "Boring. Everyone else wants to go to the beach, right?"
Clint and Natasha looked at each other.
Clint said, "Or…we could all go down to the SHIELD headquarters and hang out at the shooting range!"
Natasha sighed. "No, thank you. I'd rather do something relaxing on a day like this."
"Not when it's at SHIELD headquarters!"
Dr. Banner let out a long, frustrated sigh. "Well, decide what you're going to do already," he grumbled. "Only don't make it the beach. It's always so loud, and I don't really want the other guy to freak out with a bunch of people around."
"Yes," Steve said quickly. "That would be bad. But libraries are cool, relaxing…" He looked at the other Avengers pleadingly.
Tony grimaced. "How about you, Thor? What do you do when the weather's hot?"
Thor grinned. "Go adventuring to other realms. Hold competitions. Dueling is more difficult in hard weather, and you need to be more of a man to succeed. Of course, when I was a child, it was different…" He trailed off, and then chuckled. "I would coax Loki into conjuring up mountains of ice."
Clint raised an eyebrow. "And he actually agreed to that?" The Loki he knew would never consent to just doing tricks to satisfy Thor.
"Of course, Barton. He didn't do favors for just anyone, but I was his brother and he liked to show off. Sometimes I could even get him to create enough ice for all of my friends to cool off with. We could lean against it, make sculptures out of it, eat it…If we broke it up enough with Volstagg's axe and Mjolnir, it was a bit like your mortal snow. Of course Loki thought that ruined it, but once the ice was there we never listened to him." Thor grew quieter. "He was always better at conjuring ice than anything else. That should have been a clue that he was really a frost giant, but I never saw…"
Steve looked at Thor, who had gone silent and looked regretful, with pity. "Look, Thor, it's not your…"
"That settles it!" Tony said loudly, springing to his feet. "I know what we're going to do today."
All the Avengers blinked. "Um," Dr. Banner said. "What?"
"We're going to get Loki to make ice for us!"
And the Avengers all looked at each other.
"I doubt my brother would agree to such a thing anymore," Thor said sadly. "He refuses to even acknowledge me as his brother, and he's been so hostile."
"Um, yeah," Dr. Banner said. "How about we do something that doesn't end with all of us getting half killed?"
"But the ice," Tony said. "It would be worth it."
Clint shook his head. "It's just not going to happen. Maybe he would have done it back when he and Thor were kids and all buddy-buddy, but times have changed. These days, he's a maniacal evil supervillain with plans of world domination, not a kid who makes ice cubes as a favor."
Tony narrowed his eyes. "True. True. And that, my sharp eyed friend, is why we need a plan."
Loki hated hot days with an abiding passion. This was not least because they were Thor's favorite kind of day, but mostly because he was a frost giant and it was just uncomfortable. If it weren't for his growing up on Asgard and having his magic to protect him, he was pretty sure he would have fainted by now. He kind of wanted to make it snow all over New York, but he'd fought the Avengers in an epic battle the other day and did not have enough magic left for a feat like that.
This said, the one advantage to it being so hot was that it meant he was less likely to be attacked. On days like this, most supervillains and superheroes and just criminals in general took the day off. Who wanted to work in weather like this? The Avengers would have to be insane to seek him out in ninety degree weather.
Note to self: Never underestimate the Avengers' insanity.
With a sigh, he turned to face the entire team of Avengers. Somehow, they had tracked him down, even though he was wearing normal clothing in the middle of a crowd in the middle of the city (he'd been getting ice cream before he was interrupted). And it was, indeed, the entire team. Captain America was wearing full gear and looking awkward (really, holding a shield in such weather!), the doctor was wiping sweat off his face with his bare hands and muttering, the Black Widow was acting pretty much the way she always did, like an assassin, the hawk Loki had adopted for a short time was holding a gun instead of a bow, though who knew why, and Thor was standing in front of them all grinning like an idiot. A nervous idiot.
And then there was Stark, looking even more like an idiot than Loki's brother because he wasn't wearing any of his normal armor and was, therefore, leaving himself completely vulnerable. Idiot.
He felt like teleporting to a place very far away and preferably air conditioned, but there was tradition to be served, so instead he teleported in front of the woman and kicked out at her while calling her names. It probably could have been a pretty good fight, but Thor interrupted it.
"Brother! We do not come to fight you."
Loki rolled his eyes. "Do you ever, Thor?" Thor always, always tried to make peace with Loki, always telling him to come home to Asgard or some such nonsense. Someday he would learn that no matter how peaceful the message is, hitting someone with Mjolnir was not a peaceful way to deliver it.
"Um, actually we do a lot," Stark pitches in. "But this time we are quite actually not here to fight."
Loki frowns. Well, Stark has never made any pretence of being peacemaker, so maybe what he's saying is true. And Loki doesn't really feel like dueling it out today anyways, so "Why are you here then?"
And Stark's face lights up into a truly remarkable grin. Even more remarkable than Thor's; it looks more idiotic, too, because he looks confident instead of nervous. "Ice, my friend! We have come to ask you for ice!"
Loki's eyes widened. "What-Oh. Thor told you about the old days, didn't he."
"Yes," said Stark. "So, how about it, hmm? Create some ice for your favorite mortals?"
Loki smirked. "Thor, aren't you offended at being called a mortal? And you, Stark, are hardly my favorite mortal." He considered for a moment. "Though I am quite fond of my hawk."
"Oy!" Clint shouted from somewhere behind Stark and Thor. "Not your hawk!"
Loki waved a hand dismissively. "Fine, fine, I am quite fond of the mortal that was formerly my hawk and is currently your hawk." His eyes glinted. "How about a trade? Give me the hawk back and I'll make as much ice as you want."
"I'm not bargaining material here, Tony!" Clint shouted as Stark appeared to consider it.
Finally Stark shook his head. "Nah. How about a contest instead? If I win, you have to make ice for us."
"And if I win?" Loki asked, raising an eyebrow.
Stark shrugged casually. "I dunno. What do you want?" He raised a hand preemptively. "Not the world, revenge on your brother, Clint as your servant, any of the other Avengers, actually any human, period, or, ya know, supervillain stuff."
"What a long list," Loki sighed gustily. "Since what you ask of me is a small feat, I'll take two of your best suits when I win."
Thor smiled approvingly.
Stark rolled his eyes. "You mean if you win, Reindeer Games. And you will not."
"So confident," Loki murmured. "What contest do you propose, Stark? I hope for your sake it's something like flipping a coin, because otherwise you don't stand a chance."
Stark smirked. "No, I propose a contest of…poker."
Loki raised an eyebrow. "Really, Stark? I allowed you to choose the contest. You should pick something in which you have an obscenely large advantage, not something where you're already doomed."
"It's my game," Stark argued. "Seriously, I can win against card sharks half drunk. And a Norse god who spends most of his time on Earth plotting world domination? I'm surprised you even know what the game is."
"I just lost the game," Clint deadpanned.
Everyone ignored him.
"Come to the Avengers' tower," Stark said. "I have some cards there and a table."
After that the Avengers walked away, leaving Loki with something of a dilemma. Should he meet them at the tower or not? It could very possibly be an elaborate trap, in which case it would be stupid of him to walk into it. But Loki really hated to back down from challenges.
And it was entirely too hot for it to be a trap anyways.
"Your loss, Stark," Loki yawned as he revealed his cards.
Tony's eyes bulged and all the other watching Avengers groaned. "But-But how is that possible? That really isn't possible! You must be cheating!"
"Don't be ridiculous, Stark," Loki admonished him. "I just have a very good lying face. I don't blame you for reading it wrong, though really, your own poker face could use some work. When you think you have some good cards, your face just lights up like a baby's."
"Yeah, well," Tony muttered. "If you knew I had good cards, why didn't you fold?"
Loki smirked as he put the cards remaining on the table back in their deck. "If you'd had cards good enough to beat mine, you wouldn't have looked happy. You would have been in shock."
Tony's face darkened. "Yeah. Well. I still think you cheated. Getting a hand like that…"
"I'm the god of liars," Loki pointed out as he slid all the cards into the box again. "With me, cheating is just an occupational hazard."
Tony stared at the man who wasn't even denying the accusation. "You did cheat!"
"Our deal did not preclude the possibility of cheating; it only dealt with who won," Loki said smoothly. "You owe me two suits."
"Playing a game of poker at all 'precludes the possibility of cheating'!" Tony shouted righteously. "Otherwise there is no point."
"Yeah, Loki," Natashi purred angrily from behind Tony. "Play fair. You can't win against him fairly, we get ice."
Loki eyed the red haired woman with annoyance. "This deal is between me and Stark, woman, so keep out." He wanted to say something like 'stay in the kitchen' just because he could, but it wasn't topical and besides, he didn't really want to fight an enraged assassin right now.
Thor told Tony, "I'm sorry for my brother's disgraceful cheating, but it was to be expected." He sounded resigned, almost cheerful, and he met Loki's eyes over the table with a slight smirk.
"Only to be expected?"
"Haven't you read any Norse myths?" Clint added. "I mean, pretty much any time Loki makes a deal with anyone he cheats or tricks them. There was this one time where he wagered his head to these dwarves and…Hey, did that actually happen?"
"My hawk is talking to me again," Loki said happily. His eyes glinted dangerously with the air of a child who has found a lost toy.
"Never mind," Clint said hastily. "The fact is, Loki is a complete trickster and cheater. His cheating is pretty much a given. And really, you should have known he wouldn't play fair from experience. Who trusts the guy who threw him out a window?"
"Um, not me?" Tony said. "Anyways. No way I'm giving this guy one of my suits. He'd use it for evil."
"I'm not talking about an Iron Man suit," Loki broke in. "Just a normal suit. Preferably gray or black."
"I know that's what you're talking about and you'd still use it for evil. Anyways, give us ice!" Tony shouted.
"Look who's backing out of the deal now," Loki said disgustedly. He sighed and stood up. "I'm sorry, but you'll just have to accept your loss, Stark. Now I'll just be on my way…"
And then, just as Loki was about to teleport away, Steve grabbed his arm. "No way. After we've been through all this trouble, you are giving us ice or else."
"Or else what?" Loki asked, trying to tug his arm away from Steve. "Really, getting so worked up just about ice. This is actually getting to be quite amusing."
"Or else we set the Hulk on you," Steve said firmly.
Loki stared at the man. "But…you can't even control that beast. You wouldn't do something like that for something so frivolous."
Tony smirked. "So you are afraid of Bruce after all. I wondered after the beating he gave you last time. Hey, Bruce!" He called out. The doctor was sitting in the other room reading a book, since he apparently was uninterested in poker. "Come over here and help us intimidate Loki with your green rage monster powers!"
"Tony," Bruce said calmly. "I'm not going to Hulk out just so you can get ice. Figure out a different way to intimidate him. I'm reading."
"But Bruuuuce!" Tony cried out. Bruce ignored him.
Loki smiled smugly, relieved. "So, Stark, who are you going to threaten me with next, hm? Thor?"
"Don't worry, brother," Thor boomed. "I would never hurt you over a trivial matter like this."
"Running out of options, aren't you?" Loki purred to Tony. "Just give up and hand over the suit. Unless you think I can be intimidated by a man who's useless without his armor or…that man holding my arm. Really," he added to Steve. "I have to start thinking up some better insults to use on you if I'm going to be fighting you a lot."
Tony and Steve looked at each other for a minute. Then Tony snapped his fingers. "Oy, Natasha."
Loki frowned. "She doesn't frighten me either. After all she is only a woman."
The Black Widow, who had at some point ended up standing directly next to Loki, kneed him in the stomach. He leaned forward with a gasp.
"Say that again," Natasha demanded.
Loki smiled a little breathily. "I don't think I will."
Thor clicked his tongue, showing a precision that Tony had never believed he had. "Really, brother. You know Sif. You should know better than to doubt that a woman can be a warrior."
"True, but she's still a human," Loki pointed out. "I'm not afraid of her, just properly wary."
Natasha snorted. "How about we have a contest instead of you and Tony? I can tell you that whatever the price is I won't back out if I lose."
"Sounds interesting," Loki said. "What is the challenge? More poker?"
She narrowed her eyes. "Not against you. How about a round of Russian roulette?" she asked with a devilish smile.
Loki sighed. "For ice? Not worth it. I'd just block the bullet with magic anyways. And if I was dead I couldn't make ice for you, now could I?"
"Good point. I was going to cheat anyways," Natasha said with resignation. "Well, you choose the method then. And choose what you would win, because I am not giving you my dresses."
"Oh, such a pity," Loki purred. "Well then, I choose a match of riddles. When you lose, give me a lock of your hair and we're even."
Natasha raised an eyebrow. "Challenge accepted. A lock of my hair? Didn't think you were the romantic type, Loki."
"Hair can be used in many spells, particularly mind control," Thor said from the corner where he was watching the proceedings.
"What? Loki, there's no way I'm going to…"
"You accepted my challenge," Loki said with a smirk. "If you don't like my stakes, you will just have to win."
Natasha narrowed her eyes. "Fine. Then, give me a riddle, any riddle."
Loki made a mock-pondering face. "Hm…What changes shape without changing shape, shines without producing light, and by all accounts must be made of some quite indigestible cheese?"
Natasha groaned. "It would have been a good riddle, but you made it too obvious. The moon."
"Well, it's just that I find your ridiculous mortal ideas of the moon's composition to be fascinating."
"You know," Tony cut in. "No one actually thinks the moon is made of cheese anymore. I'm pretty sure no one ever did."
"You know," Loki shot back. "No one actually asked for your imput, Stark. Your turn, Widow."
"What's 562 times 678?"
"I am not at all sure that counts as a riddle," Loki observed with a level of detachment. To Thor, however, it was obvious that he was actually thinking like mad.
"Well what is the definition of a riddle, anyways?" Natasha retorted.
Loki shrugged. "The answer to your question is 34726."
Natasha paused. "How did you get that without paper?"
"I'm a god. I can most certainly do simple calculations," Loki said haughtily.
She shrugged. "Whatever. Your next riddle, oh mighty god of tricksters?"
Loki grinned. "So you accept my answer just like that? How idiotic. How utterly like a mortal. I was bluffing, of course, but since you don't even know the answer to your own riddle I feel entirely justified."
Natasha's face flushed. She growled lowly, "Next. Riddle."
"Of course," Loki said easily. "What is cold and burns, kills mercilessly and yet can be easily slaughtered, and for some reason has fallen under Thor's protection?"
Natasha blinked once. Well, that riddle was somewhat grimmer than the last, but she was somewhat relieved that he was sticking with traditional riddles instead of jumping to math like her. She was pretty sure she could not do long multiplication in her head, and since Loki had bluffed last time, he would be sure to check her answer if she had just guessed. Anyways, back to the matter at hand. She was pretty sure that only one race was under Thor's protection and that was "Humans."
"Wrong," Loki said with a sigh. "You're actually quite hard to slaughter. That was one reason it would have been so interesting to rule you. The correct answer is frost giants. Or Jotuns if you prefer to be politically correct."
"I've never even heard of Jotuns!" Natasha hissed angrily.
"I have," said Clint from next to Thor. "Norse mythology. Wouldn't have guessed it for this, though."
Loki smiled. "Point to hawk. And if Thor doesn't choose to tell you about what other realms he has saved from my wanton destruction that is hardly my fault."
"Just how many realms have you attacked with wanton destruction anyways?" Steve asked with narrowed eyes.
"Can't tell all my secrets," Loki said. "Wench, give me your hair."
Cursing, Natasha cut off a lock of her hair and handed it to Loki, who placed it carefully in his pocket and, with a bright nod, said, "Well, I'll just be on my way then."
"Hold!" Tony shouted. "I'm still hot. You aren't going anywhere."
Thor frowned. "My brother has won both of your contests, Man of Iron. It seems to me that he should be allowed to leave as pleases him."
"He's won against me and Natasha," Tony argued. "Steve and Clint have yet to challenge him. Steve!"
"Um," said the blond nervously to Loki. "Wrestling match?"
Loki shook his head. "There is nothing I wish to win from you, and it is far too hot today for such sport as wrestling. I seek cooler abodes. But, if my hawk wishes to challenge me…"
Clint backed away and hid behind Thor.
"What do you say, hawk?" Loki called out. "A match of wits? Ice if you win, eternal servitude if you lose?"
Tony frowned. "I'm pretty sure I said deals like that were out of the question."
"I'm not going to have a contest with you!" Clint shouted from behind Thor. "Just not happening! I don't really care about the ice anyways."
Loki narrowed his eyes. "Very well. I suppose I will see you all in melee next time, then."
With that, the Liesmith disappeared in a flash of blue and green sparks. Tony moaned in disappointment, Natasha and Steve blinked in shock, and Thor sighed with disappointment as well. Clint and Bruce were the happiest to see him go, Clint because he really hated being around Loki and Bruce because all the tension was ruining his Zen.
"So close…" Tony muttered. "So, so close…Thor, why didn't you tell us more about Jotuns?"
"I saw no reason," Thor said calmly.
"Hate you," Tony said even more calmly. "Hate you so much."
A few minutes late Clint returned to his room in the Avengers' tower to find a quiet book to read.
Here he discovered a mound of ice that almost touched the ceiling sitting in the direct center of the room. Next to it was a note that read, "My dear hawk, I am most grieved that you still don't want to join me on the dark side. In memory of the days when we were comrades in arms, I give to you this ice for free without the need for eternal servitude. Please do not share it with Stark."
Clint stared at the ice.
He stared at the note.
Then he ripped the note into many small pieces, threw the small pieces in the trash and headed out to find Natasha, Thor, Steve and Bruce. Maybe it freaked him out, but that didn't mean he wasn't going to take advantage of it.
Tony never noticed them sneaking off to Clint's room together because he was too busy calling up the electric company on his cell phone and resorting to bribery and blackmail to get them to get the power back as soon as possible. Eventually Pepper got back and took him out to get ice cream.
AN: I just really love playing around with Loki's rather hostile and awkward relationship with the Avengers. Particularly Clint. I know none of them would be this okay with hanging out with Loki in canon, but that's what crack fics are for.