AN: LONGEST CHAPTER EVER SO FAR.
Ugh. UGH. This chapter did NOT want to cooperate with me. The italicized bits screwed themselves up, fanfiction thinks I've made up like twenty new words, random bits are missing-UGH. I think I edited it all out, but let me know if something obvious is gone.
Guys, I saw Thor 2. Pretty sure I've told you all this, but-geez, my Loki feels. I couldn't stop them from shining through a bit in this chapter. Sorry but not sorry. :3
Oh, Happy (Horribly Late) Years! And sorry to all Bronco's fans out there. That game sucked butt.
I couldn't fit in all the things that I had originally wanted in this chapter. :[ so Coulson, Hawkeye, and ink are PROBABLY appearing in the next.
Do you know, what I mean, when I say, "I don't want to be alone"?
what I mean, when I say, "I don't want to be alone"
alone, alone, I don't want to be alone.
I have no fear of drowning
It's the breathing that's taking all this work.
-Jars of Clay, "Work"
"Can your magic form a barrier around the device?" Loki asks after a long silence, when his hands have given up their vindictive searching. He leans back, tracing a finger down his own defined jaw in puzzlement, eye gleaming.
Harry meets his gaze, eyes burning a bright feverish blue.
"Warding?" Harry clarifies unsurely. Tom did that. Harry remembers from Tom's memories. But remembering and doing are two different things, and Harry doesn't even have his wand. He hasn't even cast a spell since his awakening.
The blue fog rolls about his mind-encompasses it, dulls the distant edge of panic and alarm. It's like cold water trickling over a burn. All of the stressful emotions of gaining a body, the hyper-reactive senses, Bruce… the robin's-egg-blue just eases the prickling with soothing complacency.
Loki dips his head in a quick nod, turning; his eyes are trained on the horizon, broken by the sky-piercing buildings, hands folded impassively behind his back, squaring his lithe shoulders and throwing his chest forward. He looks like a king, what with his regal posture and ornamental battle armor glinting softly beneath the green depths of the jade trench-coat. Harry is vaguely surprised that there isn't a jagged crown nestled in the inky black locks.
Harry looks down, sees his diminutive outstretched fingers through the roiling haze of blue, and feels inexplicably small.
"... I don't have my wand," he admits, clenching those childlike fingers briefly. Even with his mind so suppressed, the faint thrill of flexing his tendons, bending the joints and casting shadows with his fingers, leaks through to his subconscious. He feels an urge to smile but knows that Loki would probably misinterpret that as disrespectful flippancy, so he keeps his expression blessedly slack. "I've never done magic without it."
Well, okay, that might be a slight lie. Harry's thoughts skip back, bypassing the flipping pages of the diary, faintly grasping the before time. He changed his instructor's hair color once as a child, hadn't he? He can't quite recall which color exactly, as the details had been decanted by age, but he remembers the pointed emotions that tagged the event-shock, surprise, fear of his teacher's reaction, wonder, fear of his relatives…
"A wand is not necessary to conduct one's magic. Humor me," Loki dismisses, and pivots on one heel, the molded sole of his boot scraping along the ground. He pulls a dagger from the folds of his cloak-it's a small, wicked thing, with a pressed silver blade and an intricately carved pommel. There are Norse runes wrapped around the fitted hilt like inlaid vines. Loki grabs his hand- Harry's heart stutters in bliss, skipping a beat at the unfamiliar feeling of another's cool skin brushing his own-and lays the dagger's hilt in his palm. It had seemed so innocent and unimposing in Loki's spidery, long-fingered hands, but encased in Harry's small fingers, it feels like a short sword.
Vaguely, he wonders how many lives it has claimed.
Harry closes his fingers around the pommel. He doesn't know a thing about swords, but even he can tell that the dagger is expert craftsmanship, and the whole thing is perfectly balanced-a throwing knife, then.
"Levitate it," Loki commands, briskly tapping a finger on the edge of the sharp blade. Harry's eyes zero in on the digits in concern, but the man's pale skin remains unbroken. His dagger won't harm him. How interesting. "I have time to spare… I'd like for a demonstration of your skills. Impress me."
Normally, Harry would have bristled at the unassuming arrogance, at the stark parallels in personality between Loki and Tom. He would have crossed his arms, glared, and raised hell in protest.
But that would be the reaction of Normal-Harry, and Harry is most decidedly not normal at the moment. Instead, the blue cube softly smooths away the unease and his defiance, like an artist smoothing lumps (discrepancies) from a piece of wet clay, a master running a calming hand through a dog's ruffled fur. It tucks away the bitterness, the helpless frustration, and, parting innumerable curtains and shields with ease- a hot knife slipping through butter- teases out Harry's childlike core of thinking.
Harry smiles shyly, cupping his hands around the dagger as a guileless urge to please, to gain favor, uncurls within him. "Okay," he promised dimly, "I'll try."
"Levitation is the bare minimum of spellwork and magic," Loki explains unnecessarily. "If you have any magical ability at all, then this should be accomplished with ease."
Something in Harry lurches at Loki's condescending tone, but the blue cube is quick to pull it away.
"Okay," he repeats.
He focuses his stare on the malevolent weapon, flickering out a small pink tongue to dart a wet path along his lower lip in concentration. For once, he doesn't need Tom's memories to assist him in remembering-he recalls a brown-haired girl, (Hermione?), pompously repeating, "Swish and flick, Harry! Wingardium Leviosa! Pronunciation is crucial!"
But swish and flick… what, exactly? It's not like he has his wand anymore.
His fingertips pet the blade absently, restless as his mind is preoccupied with intense pondering. It almost hums under his fingertips-he can sort of feel the dark enchantment surrounding the pale silver metal, clinging to it like oil and creating a slick barrier between Harry's skin and the actual dagger.
'Perhaps will and intent will make up for the absence of a medium?'
He memorizes the feel of invisible magic emanating from the item, trains himself to remember the feel of it, and then looks inward, searching from the same aura within himself. The blue fog, which had receded temporarily, loosening its blue fingers from the nooks and crannies of his mind, surges forth, snapping at his mental heels like a playful wolf.
Harry realizes with a start that his eyes have slipped shut. The darkness makes it easier to concentrate. The azure mist creeps into his subconscious, trailing lightly around the complex contours of his whirring mind, and Harry knows that it is assisting him, tugging the power from his core to the surface. His entire body is pulsing happily, little thrums that make his toes curl, scraping against the worn soles of his shoes.
Harry's magic is not as vile as he had dreamily predicted it to be. It's certainly tainted, that's for sure, darkened by cloying bitterness and other sticky, negative emotions, but there's a sort of electrical good-natured will eclipsing the smeary inked stains.
"Wingardium Leviosa," he whispers when he feels like he's gotten a good handle on the slippery, warm, lovely magic.
The dagger is buoyed up from his hands, pillowed by a soft swell of Harry's magic, spinning lazy circles as it rises a good foot into the air. The sun gleams along its reflective length. Harry smiles, blue eyes slitting open to drink in his achievement.
"Fascinating," Loki muses aloud, his hands coming up and plucking the floating dagger from Harry's magic. "I have never heard that particular incantation before-perhaps you harness a different brand of magic, as all magical creatures possess their own unique talents. I'm sure other magical techniques are available to you as well…"
Loki slips the dagger into an inside pocket; Harry's concentration wavers for a moment, and his magic slips from his grasping hands, speeding back into the depths of Harry's being. But it's different now. Having tasted his magic without the aid of a wand, having sampled its power flooding through his veins like a tumbling wave, Harry finds himself more aware of its presence within him. It's in him and around him and out of him, it's in his fingers and under his eyelashes and in his calves and everywhere else, dormant, but not gone.
It's a comforting feeling. Somehow Harry doesn't feel so lonely anymore.
Harry's attention is suddenly recaptured by the feeling of his clothes shifting against his skin. He looks down in surprise. In a whirl of color twirling around his legs and climbing to his waist, his ragged clothes ripple, colors switching themselves, the design and material transforming. The magic tousles his hair as it reaches the top of his head. Harry blinks slowly. The blueness hums in approval.
Where had once been raggedy blue jeans five sizes too big for him, held up by a frayed, tightly cinched belt, are fine silk black trousers, like duckfluff against his skin. His disgusting tennis shoes have molded into supple black dress shoes, allowing his previously suffocating toes some room to breathe.
Instead of the gray T-shirt, ("Here," Petunia sneers, and shoves a small bundle into Harry's thin arms. "Dudley's hand-me-downs. We're not wasting our money on new clothes for you and your…. freakishness.") Harry is now wearing a white, collared button-up dress shirt, the hem tucked into his waist, and the sleeves folded at his elbows. The texture change is incredible- Harry feels as if he's been wearing sheets of sandpaper compared to this liquid softness.
His standard black Hogwarts cloak has compressed itself into a handsome jacket, the coal edges outlined in silver. The weather is warm, but their present altitude lays them bare before the skittering breezes, and Harry is thankful for the protection that the light coat offers.
A strange emotion writhes in Harry's chest, vibrating against his rib cage incessantly. It makes his insides feel warm and tingly and apprehensive all at once.
He looks up, thumbs absently brushing against the inside of his jacket's soft sleeves. It's so soft.
Loki had changed as well. His battle armor has vanished, his outfit switching to something more modern and conventional. Pricey as anything, but still normal enough to blend. He expertly spins the scepter through his fingers, and it shrinks as it cuts through the air, reduced in moments to the size of a pen that he tucks inside his coat.
Loki bestows him with a mischievous smile, but there are gray whirlwinds in his blue (green?) eyes, hiding his intentions behind an icy wall.
"...Why?" Harry forces out after a moment. The blue fog is like thick soup, drowning him, but it cannot quench his curiosity, or prevent him from channeling it. But it does do its best to crush it. His tongue is thick and unwieldy, padded by cotton. Unused to having a tongue, Harry can't quite recall how to stop it from being so restless in his mouth as it explores every inch of the cavity over and over again, gliding over his molars and scrubbing at his gum lines.
Again, Loki seems irritated for a moment, the blue glint in his eyes pulsing as he takes Harry's chin captive, tilting his youthful face every which way for a proper examination.
"The subtle defiance," he articulates slowly, his Old English accent lending him a posh sort of intelligence. "You don't even know it, but you defy the Tesseract in such small ways… ways that not even Barton, for all his training, can accomplish." The pale lips hook into an intrigued smile. "How interesting. Never, in all my travels, have I come across magic such as yours."
The hands drop from his chin, busying themselves with fixing Harry's slightly lopsided collar. Loki doesn't seem to be aware of the casual action.
"I can see why Banner is so enthralled with you."
"Bruce," Harry whispers. The Tesseract makes no move to erase his knowledge of the man, but with the ease of a child playing with blocks, it dampens his emotions, his intentions concerning the scientist, all without being detected.
Harry remembers the scientist. He remembers the long talks, the sketch sessions, the horrible horrible cleaving of their friendship. He remembers how he looked up to the man, practically worshiped him, how he could be as sarcastic and unfriendly as he wanted and Bruce would never leave him for it.
He just doesn't care anymore.
Bruce doesn't matter anymore, the Tesseract croons to him. Loki does. Loki freed you. Loki destroyed your prison.
'...He did, didn't he? I- I owe him….'
The Tesseract hums lowly, stroking mental fingers across his mind in a placating, lulling gesture.
Something in Harry folds silently, buckling, just weary of fighting, of clinging to someone who probably hates him right now anyway. A needling voice that has been screaming at Harry to wake up! chokes, cutting off, sinking beneath blue waves.
Loki glances up at the sky, as if checking the time. Harry watches him make an idle circuit around the rooftop, conversing quietly with Dr. Selvig, nodding every once in a while as the old man enthusiastically rushes about to get the machine operational.
"Well," Loki says, striding back to him when he is finished, smirking. "It seems our heroes are a bit late. And you must be starving."
Harry tries to contemplate the taste of food on his tongue and fails miserably. He can't remember. But there is a hollow feeling in his belly, like it's crumpling in on itself, and he thinks that it must be hunger. Has to be.
It's an uncomfortable sensation. Harry doesn't like it.
"So why not have a last meal before I revolutionize Midgard?"
Loki guides the boy into the random small street bistro, hand lightly pushing him forward. With the Tesseract heavily influencing the child's mind, Loki knows that he won't run away, but still, the power trip from having a powerful young sorcerer obey him is nearly heady.
The interior of the little shop is cramped, but surprisingly warm and cozy. For a moment, Loki is reminded of Asgard, of the candle-lit taverns and thick mugs of ale and roaring laughter-
-a gentle flash of blue in his mind's eye-
-festivities that you were never included in, a little voice reminds him. Loki bats the clinging thoughts of his old life away, banishing them to the dusty cellars of his mind, where they belong in chains.
Even though Midguardians are weak, pathetic little simpering creatures, Loki is forced to acknowledge that their so called technology is vast and impressive for such a weak, stupid race. What strange little creatures. Running around frantically, blind to the problems of others as they mindlessly indulge themselves in every way they can, for as long as their pitiful lifespans allow. Disgusting.
But the surprisingly innovative ways they seek to improve their lives, unable to harness magic, and the complex empires they have built… even though Asgard will, in instances of attack, utilize far more experienced technology, they waste it on enhancing their combat. The rough life is the life for an Asgardian. Technology for the purpose of comfort is nearly considered wasteful.
These humans? Not so. Simply take away from them their foolish little cell-phones (or iPhones-Loki isn't quite sure which is the correct term for the slim handheld device that is seemingly everywhere) and they'll figuratively melt into a dysfunctional puddle.
A species easy enough to subjugate, but amusing enough to keep around. The perfect future kingdom, and a prime place for Loki to prove his fath- prove Odin wrong, prove that he is fit to rule.
A small bell tinkles when Loki gracefully pushes it open, crossing the threshold with the young boy tagging along at his side. Loki glances at his brainwashed companion as he selects a table; a two-seater booth, tucked away in the very corner of the shop, where Loki can watch the door.
Loki knows (courtesy of Barton-he really should get the man some dog treats and then order him to consume them) that SHIELD can hack any device with a camera around the world. It's how they tracked him down in Germany.
But honestly, Loki doesn't care at this point. The plan is in motion, nearing completion without a flaw. They can't stop him anymore. They don't even know that Loki is having the portal built right on top of the building that symbolizes a cleaner future energy industry, STARK Tower.
Helpless, a mouse skittering frantically beneath a cat's locked claws.
Loki can't wait to see the look on Stark's face.
"So," Loki begins, flicking one of the paper menus across the garishly yellow table. Harry automatically traps it under his thumb, neatly pinning the corner of the laminated paper. 'Good reflexes.' "I know I said previously that I would like to know more about you in the future, but I must admit-we are all prone to weaknesses in character, and I simply cannot be patient any longer."
He laces his fingers under his chin, smiling affably. He's got time. The machine won't be ready for another hour, at the least, and with Loki's teleportation abilities, travel time is nonexistent.
"What would you like to know?" Harry asks blandly. Loki's eyebrows jump in surprise. The dark little enigma's speech has drastically improved since his summoning from the cursed diary. At first, it was nothing more than slurred syllables and hard consonants, but now his tongue seems to have awoken properly, articulating the correct words with more accustomed ease.
Not for the first time, Loki wonders how long the child must have been imprisoned to have forgotten how to speak.
"Everything that you can remember correlating to your imprisonment in the diary, the duration of the time spent in there, and how you came to know our dear Dr. Banner on such personal terms."
Settling back, Loki raises an arm and crisply snaps his fingers, sending off a spark of magic. The bored brunette behind the counter jerks rigidly, as if electrically shocked, as Loki plants a suggestion in her mind. He's not as proficient in the mind arts as he would like to be-that is one of the reasons he has the Tesseract, after all-but to such a young, weak-willed being such as her, it's easy enough.
She approaches their table, a detached smile quirking her lips as she withdraws a notepad from a dark green apron tied around her waist.
"Hi, welcome to Cory's Coffee House," she rattles off, uncapping the pen and pressing the tip to the blank page. "What can I get for you, today?"
Another mental prod.
"My King?" She adds, bowing lightly at the waist. If any of the other customers see it, they don't comment. Manhattan is such a funny little place. Loki hides a grin behind his menu as he humors the girl, pretending to overlook their cuisine samples.
"Coffee, for me. Black, no sugar," he orders, neatly folding the menu and sliding it aside. He's reluctant to admit it, but he's become quite partial to the caffeinated beverage during his time on Midgard. He smiles kindly at the young boy sitting opposite him, who looks vaguely uncomfortable in the fashionable outfit. No matter. Loki refuses to allow his future pawn to be seen at his side in grubby clothing. A quick wardrobe change had been necessary.
"You may order whatever you like," he offers to the boy, drumming his fingertips lightly against the table. "Money is no issue for one such as myself."
An expression of dumbfounded surprise flits across the boy's face, present in the slightly slack jaw and widened eyes, before it closes off once more. Loki smirks. The Tesseract might have wrested control of his actions and mesmerized his mind somewhat, but the emotions, however dampened, are all genuine.
Having a subject that can be controlled, but not without putting up a fight, sounds awfully exciting after the long, boring months that Loki has spent prodding his pawns into place across the proverbial checkerboard.
The child takes a few moments while he peruses the selection. Loki waits perfectly, content to simply watch the subtle changes in the fellow magic-user's expression as he reads. How is it that something as complex as a living human being could simply be constructed from a mass of writhing ink?
Would the child suffer any consequences of long-term magical imprisonment? Would the fact that he was formed from ink do anything to his physiology?
"I-could I have the Full House Breakfast, ma'am?" Harry asks haltingly, fumbling a bit over the request. Obviously not acquainted with giving orders. Good. The brunette coos over the boy, sending him a vacant, beaming smile.
"Absolutely, sweetheart. And to drink?"
"Milk," Harry requests immediately.
"Sure thing, I'll be back in a moment with your drinks." The waitress heads straight to the kitchen to deliver the order, bypassing several customers looking for her attention without sparing them the slightest bit of care. Perhaps Loki poured more power into the influencing spell than he intended.
"You may begin now," Loki graciously permits, referring to their earlier discussion as he settles back in his chair, eyes fixed on the child across from him.
Harry's mouth opens and the words tumble from his jaw in clipped, succinct tones, monotonous and lacking personal emotion. Delivered in such a detached manner, they sound more like biographical facts than someone's life story.
"When I was twelve, I found an enchanted diary. It held within its pages a persona that went by the name of T-Tom," Harry grinds momentarily, as if unwilling to force out the name, "and I could write to him. He wrote back. Over the course of a few months, he became my confidant. I told him everything. I let him in. I thought we were friends."
As he speaks, Loki leisurely absorbs in the sight, combative mind picking out small details. Harry can't seem to stop himself from fidgeting. His fingers rub little circles into the smooth tabletop, his feet tapping underneath the table, as if constantly searching for the floor. The amount of movement is highly conspicuous, and a bit distracting.
A shadow that even the Tesseract's influence cannot efface darkens the child's countenance. Suddenly, backlit by the weak orange light of the cafe, the boy seems centuries older. It's in the shadows wreathing his lower lids, in the messy head of raven hair, in the paleness of his skin. His shoulders hunch in on himself, rigid in confusion and sorrow and bitter rage.
Emotions that Loki himself is all too familiar with.
The parallel disturbs him. He motions with a flick of his fingers for Harry to move on.
"I trusted him, like a blind fool. I didn't know that he had been secretly draining my life source, strengthening himself. The moment he was strong enough, he turned on me; just tore himself right out of the diary, and threw me in it to take his place. He kept me for several years, I think, just taunting me, never writing frequently enough for me to recover. I was still so upset and the diary was so awful. I could barely focus."
Harry's blue irises fog over in quiet melancholy. 'A shame that the Tesseract changed his eyes,' Loki thinks. The ink-black irises, like a shark's, had been quite entertaining.
"And then Tom created a ritual that could banish an item to another dimension. I was his first test."
There were Nine Realms, but infinite alternate realities for each one. Hopping between them was not only nigh impossible, but it had never even been done successfully before.
"And why didn't he simply destroy the diary with you inside?" Loki asks, but a shadow falls over their table before the boy can reply. The waitress is back, still smiling dreamily as she carefully sets a thick mug of steaming coffee and a tall glass of milk before the booth's occupants.
"Your food will be ready in a moment," she says, and then, to Harry, "Would you like a bendy straw?"
Like a candle being extinguished, the weariness surrounding the boy disappears in a blink.
A bit of embarrassed anger dusts a light blush across his face. Loki looks away to hide his smirk, but he can practically hear Harry's scowl.
"Do I look like I want a bendy straw?"
"Of course not sweetheart," the girl agrees compliantly, compulsed to obey whatever order, however indirect it may be, from the two. Loki doesn't bother gracing her with a reply as she leaves, too enraptured with the way Harry's attention is suddenly snagged by the cold glass placed before him. He quietly watches as Harry tenderly stretches forth a hand, brushing his knuckles against a bead of condensation clinging to the glass's curved surface, a look of silent marvel on his face.
He spends the next few moments curling his hands around the glass, dragging it slowly to himself across the table. Loki arches an elegant brow, and picks up his own mug, drawing in a shallow sip of hot coffee.
Harry lifts the glass and places it awkwardly against his lips, obviously unused to holding a cup. Loki chuckles when his eyes widen to the size of plates with the first sip of milk. Harry seems to hold it in his mouth for a moment, as if unsure of how to proceed next, but muscle memory snaps into place a moment later and his Adam's apple bobs from the swallow.
"It's so good!" The boy gasps innocently between gulps. He abandons trying to speak and ends up draining the entire glass, tongue slipping out to catch a driblet leaking sluggishly from the corner of his mouth.
"I assume you haven't had anything to drink for a very long time," Loki infers, waving the waitress back over for a refill. Harry chugs it down once more, slower this time, but no less enthusiastically.
"I'd forgotten what it tasted like," Harry says, as if far away, rotating the glass in his hands. "And I suppose I was really thirsty."
"'Suppose'?" Loki quips in a deadpan, but prods the filled glass closer to the boy once again, silently gesturing for him to keep drinking. (It wouldn't do for this boy who admittedly almost looks exactly like Loki at that age to faint of thirst, now would it?)
Then the food arrives, and Loki is stunned as he watches the boy take small bites, his pale hand trembling so badly that the forkful of scrambled eggs nearly rolls off and under the the table. The amount of emotions overtaking the boy's face is stunning, and the occasion must be so momentous that Harry shakes off most of the Tesseract for a second, the soft, unnatural blue irises bleeding to black. They're shiny from a film of unshed tears.
"Nor food, I think," Loki adds softly to his earlier observation, but there is nothing mocking in his tone, because strangely there is nothing funny about watching a malnourished child taking his first few bites of food in what must have been decades, looking at the simple fare as if it was made of gold rather than cheap grocery items.
The small, timid bites eventually grow in size and speed, until Harry is shoveling eggs and toast and bacon so quickly into his mouth that he can barely spare the time to breathe.
Feeling off-kilter by the sight, Loki snatches the thin wrist, forcing him to wait for a minute. His long pianist fingers easily wrap around the child's arm with room to spare. "Keep eating like that and you'll get sick," Loki scolds, and unwillingly remembers Thor as a child eating so much candied fruits that he vomited everything up later.
Harry glares at his feast's impeder, but Loki's fingers sweep over the gem embedded in his scepter, and the blue glow creeps once more into his companion's eyes, unraveling the black once more.
"Okay," he says, and puts the fork down, dabbing his mouth with a napkin. Almost disappointed at the lack of fire, (after all, it's no fun taunting someone if their mind is a pile of subservient mush, is it?), Loki takes another draught of his rapidly cooling drink. It doesn't help that his glamour is failing now, allowing for the natural cold that his body exudes to radiate off his skin. Loki wordlessly reapplies the illusion to himself, and feels a touch of weariness.
He hates his true appearance, hates the heritage that it blatantly boasts, and all the lies that it symbolizes, but still, he cannot help but feel shame that he must hide what he is. His wintry blue skin, the tribal markings, the cold-as-death chill that wraps his corded arms.
A monster raised to believe that he is normal by a blind king.
("He's a freak, Thor!" Sif hisses, her words sword-sharp and just as lethal. Loki's heart pounds in his chest as he eavesdrops from a shadowy alcove in between two pillars.)
The coffee freezes with a muted crackle, like solid brown sludge, and the white porcelain mug splinters down one side.
He curses Odin bitterly and vanishes the shards with deep disgust, but whether the feeling is spiked outwards at his enemies or pointed inwards at himself is difficult to determine.
Harry sips his milk, oblivious, eyes dulled by the weighty blue, and rambles.
AN: This is embarrassing to admit, but I've had this account for probably three years, and I never figured out how to insert a linebreak until now.
._. Back to my cardboard box, with my tinfoil hat and laptop.
Do not disturb under threat of death by Keurig Coffee machine.