AN: Trying to write Loki makes my soul cry from frustration and angst.

Stress.

Ugh.

Don't do school, guys. Just drop out and we'll form a federation. We'll make a living selling unique origami structures. :3

Many thanks for the reviews, favorites, follows, and everything else. I adore all of you-your reviews give me the inspiration to write.

Fanart is also like the most amazing-est thing ever, so if you ever feel the urge to doodle, I'd absolutely love to see it. :)

Enjoy! I'll see you all the next time I have to procrastinate on my studies! (*uses AP History textbook as tent for tinfoil hat, slowly pets stuffed dog because I have honestly lost my marbles at this point. If you find them, please PM me of their location and ransom price.*)


Welcome to your life
There's no turning back
Even while we sleep
We will find you
Acting on your best behavior
Turn your back on mother nature
Everybody wants to rule the world

It's my own design
It's my own remorse
Help me to decide
Help me make the most
Of freedom and of pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever
Everybody wants to rule the world

-"Everybody Wants to Rule the World" Tears for Fears


Loki slipped into the Vault, a simple deflection of light with a touch of magic concealing him from view. It was all too easy to distract the on-duty guard by nudging a vase over just down the hall. The door was noiseless on its hinges when he sneaked through the gap after the guard had departed. He shut it behind him and dropped the swath of deceptive spells.

The room's very temperature seemed to plummet, a tangible presence permeating every crack and cranny with dry, frozen chill, despite the guttering torches fixed to the walls in their decorated brackets.

The Casket of Ancient Winters looked so innocent lying there on its pedestal, but Loki knew better-he could feel something stirring in his veins, an eager awakening, like a cat languidly shaking off a deep slumber.

Entranced, he scaled the terraced steps and lifted the artifact, supporting it with his forearms. A sick feeling twisted in his gut-nausea licked at his insides uncomfortably, and dread of the impending future coalesced into a rock in his stomach, waiting, waiting and hoping that he was wrong-

The hue of his arms' skin-formerly so pale and pristinely white-began to darken without any conceivable direction or prompt, veins misting over as if clogged by ice. He gave a stuttering inhale-it felt so strange, but so right too, as if he had spent his entire life missing a vital limb-

It spread silently, a frosted wash of blue scrubbing his skin, strengthening his bones and soothing his chest with comforting pulses of chill.

Loki wanted to throw up.

"STOP!"

Loki turned, and saw his father rushing into the room, a look of panicked dismay aging the man's kingly visage. The realizations and repercussions pounded him mercilessly, like a drum, and Loki could not properly express the writhing in his heart as it convulsed in his chest-

"Am I cursed?" Was the only thing he could whimper in an emotionally-wracked voice, and he felt laid open, more vulnerable than he had been in centuries. A child running to his father for safety from the storm.

In a very basic partition of his mind, with a child's firm belief in their parent's ability to fix wrongs, he wanted, desperately, for Odin to make it right.

"No," Odin said, leaning wearily on his staff. "Put the Casket down."

Lok gently rested it once more on the pedestal, blinking furiously-those were not tears-

As if a broken spell, the blue tint faded, receding beneath his skin, taking with it the uncomfortably-comfortable feeling of cold and winter and frosted stone. He felt grotesquely abnormal, as if suddenly his skin did not fit him properly.

"What am I?" He asked, forcing the words out with each shallow inhalation, severely confused and horrified that he had to even ask that-how-why-?

"You're my son."

Lie. He wasn't his son. He was a worthless freak. Sif and the others were right all along.

"What more than that?" He pressed. He needed to hear this, hear Odin say it-but at the same time, he was gravely hoping that he wouldn't.

Odin didn't answer. The silence hurt. But he needed him to say it- SAY IT-

"The Casket wasn't the only thing you took from Jotunheim that day, was it?" He dug relentlessly, near frenzied. A wet sheen over his eyes blurred Odin's outline.

Odin lifted his great head, met Loki's heaving gaze.

"No," he admitted plainly, and a part of Loki was simultaneously disgusted and wounded by how unwavering Odin's voice was-as if he didn't even care!- "In the aftermath of the battle, I went into the Temple, and I found a baby. Small, for a giant's offspring-abandoned, suffering, left to die. Laufey's son."

Loki reeled, staggering back, hand knocking against the corner of the Casket- almost immediately, he felt it beckon the traitorous blood in his veins-Loki yanked it away, cradling it to his side as if he had been bitten by a poisonous viper.

"Laufey's son," he reiterated numbly, struggling to comprehend, to understand. It didn't make sense-but it did, it made awful perfect sense. The nausea swirled in his stomach, intensifying. Loki scrabbled a shaking hand over it briefly as if to dispel the sick feeling of having a carpet jerked out from underneath his feet.

"Why? You were knee-deep in Jotun blood- why take me?"

"You were an innocent child," Odin said, but there was a shifty gleam in his eye- Loki nearly gagged on the emotions clogging his throat.

"You took me for a purpose, what was it?" He growled quickly, rushing to get the words out-normally so silver-tongued, so gracefully witty- reduced to this heaving mess…

Odin didn't answer. A great surge of betrayal swelled in Loki's heart. It was so intense it blotted out all other emotions, all other mental faculties. He could only feel, and due to the situation, that meant he could only hurt, writhe and beat and shriek at the agony of it all, helpless, played like a fool-

"TELL ME!" He screamed, spittle flying from his lips, but his voice cracked pathetically. His lip was shaking. Wet warmth spilled over his lids, dripping down his cheeks. His father. His own father.

He never loved him. It explained everything. why he adored Thor, why he never seemed to want to be in the same room as Loki-why his praise, when it came, was so transparently disinterested, why his scoldings, always with many to spare, were so biting-

Fathers were supposed to love you and care for you and protect you-

- and instead, his birth father abandoned him to die a a mere baby, and his adoptive father- nay, his abductor- only saved his skin for political purposes.

Loki had never been loved.

He thought he had been, but it was an act… really, he should applaud his fath- Odin's acting skills.

Was Thor in on it too? Did everyone know? Was that why he was so hated?

"I thought we could unite our kingdoms- "

- our?! So now they weren't even in the same kingdom?-

"- to bring about an alliance, a permanent peace… through you." Hastily, Odin tacked on, "But those plans no longer matter."

But Loki was still transfixed, still gripped by the horrible shock. "So I am no more than a stolen relic, locked up here until you might have use of me?"

(So I am no more than an abandoned, unwanted runt?)

(So I am not your son?)

(So you never loved me?)

"Why do you twist my words so?"

"YOU COULD HAVE TOLD ME! TOLD ME, RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING!" Loki screamed again, desperate to see the same pain reciprocated on Odin's face, desperate to simply inflict hurt, make him see it Loki's way.

"You are my son. My blood."

(-LIAR-)

"-I wanted only to protect you from the truth."

Protect him? From the horrible, despicable truth? Truly then, Odin believed him to be a beast- most likely expected it, even.

"Because I am the monster parents tell their children about at night?" He questioned in a shuddering breath, voice splintering like an old board, trembling- his world was falling apart right beneath his grasping fingertips, unraveling like old string.

He didn't wa-

He didn't want to be a monster-

He wasn't.

He wasn't.

Odin was a liar.

"Don't…" Odin pleaded softly. a bit of pity swimming in his pupil- Loki absolutely detested it.

"It all makes sense now," Loki snarled, ruthlessly gripping the hurricane in his chest and compartmentalizing it, tucking it away to be digested further. The ache in his chest was too raw to even begin comprehending now. "Why you favored Thor."

He hoped that the accusation would hurt dearly.

"Listen- "

"Because no matter how much you claim to 'love me' you could never have a Frost Giant- " he spat the words "- sitting on the throne of Asgard!"

He spun, digging his heel into the ground, wanting to break something, to hurt something-

"Listen to me!" Odin commanded in a rapidly fading voice.

Loki hunched his shoulders, dashed away the tracks on his face with the back of his hand, struggling to breathe past the lump in his throat.

What could Odin possibly say to repair the situation? The harm had been done. The dust was settling. Loki's feet, though rocked violently, had found far more solid, honest ground.

He knew his place now.

He knew his calling.

Revenge.

And by the Fathers, would he make Odin dearly regret ever using him, playing with his allegiances and heart like a child tampering with string, entangling him in his delicate web of deceit.


"How old are you?" Loki questions, when Harry is finished eating and the plate (almost quite literally licked clean) has been cleared from the table.

Harry rubs the side of his thumb against the surface of the table, smudging the skin with eerie interest. His left hand worries at a clenched bit of napkin-the fingers run almost frenetically across its dimpled, crinkled planes, folding and bending and soothing it. His blunt nail slices the fibers neatly, creating little rips in between the transparent layers. Without even knowing it, he changes simply crumpling up a napkin into a meaningful and ponderous action.

"I don't know," Harry says slowly. "I was born July 31st. I think. The details are a bit hazy."

"And the year you were captured in the diary?"

Harry's nose crinkles. The hand jerks, goes still, the limp, tattered napkin draped over frozen fingers. "1997," he murmurs, far away again, the Tesseract making it hard for him to drudge through old dilapidated memories. "I- Tom kept me for a couple years- see, he would only tell me the date when he wanted to emotionally hurt me, for fun." He pauses, haunted and disturbed. "But I don't even know if he was telling the truth. I could've been in there for minutes or decades; it wouldn't have mattered. There was no sense of time passing. One second outside could have been like a millisecond or a thousand years to me inside."

"I see," Loki murmurs. A hesitation, and then- "What was it like, then? In the diary?"

Harry's whole body twitches from head to toe, a spasm of primal, debased fear chasing itself up his spine. "I'd rather die," he whimpers, and his arms reflexively curl into his chest, nails digging into his skin. The blue fogging his eyes brightens and dims alternately, as if struggling for control, alternately feeding off of his emotions and struggling to dampen them into submission. "It was worse than being dead- because you didn't exist, not really. But you knew it. You were aware of it. Of not being alive. You didn't have a body, you couldn't move or run or walk and- there was no noise, so you couldn't distract yourself by singing or talking. No color really, nothing to see visually. I could sense, not really feel, but I knew there was this intuition of being minimized and packed horribly into a tiny box, with pages hemming you in, but it was awful because I couldn't see any walls so it was like being in a colorless void feeling like you're about to be crushed but not seeing the how or when-"

Loki, having noticed the pronoun switch halfway through the hysteric flow, waves his hand. Harry's jaw forcibly clicks shut for a moment, nudged by a brand of magic, briefly stemming the fumbling flow in a warning not to continue that path of conversation anymore.

The boy stares fixedly at the tabletop, eyes shining suspiciously. The soft blue radiance flickers, flashing the inky black that Loki had glimpsed before. Loki looks at the boy's malnourished frame, his bony hands and arms, short stature and messy hair. This child was never well taken care of, was he?

"I-I want my mum," Harry chokes out, and then briefly coughs as the Tesseract finally overpowers him.

(Frigga holds a young Loki close when he cries bitterly into her shoulder, ranting through his mess of sobs about how Thor and his friends treated him- )

Loki can tell by the awkward tone of the phrasing that the boy doesn't really mean it. Likely doesn't remember his mother, or maybe even never knew her, so it would be useless pining after someone he has never accustomed himself to.

No, rather, it is a simple psychological plea for help-a plea for someone in authority or power to make the situation go away, or improve.

That brings another riddle to Loki's mind. Already, summed through his short interactions with the magical child, he has recognized two very distinct personalities: One, a cold, distant, calculative and analytic persona, a brave front darkened by undesirable memories. Second, perhaps a baser, older self, that showed its face when the Tesseract stripped away his mental guards and shields. This one is more emotional, more compartmentalized, a core personality, perhaps?

But which one is the dominant? The distrusting, icy identity, or the more childlike, sentimental image?

Loki feels horribly off-kilter. He presses a hand to his forehead, wondering if he has somehow developed a fever, something, anything that would explain this unbalanced sense. He doesn't like it.

"We all want things," he counters, not unkindly, "but some are harder to reach than others."

Harry doesn't sniffle, or wipe at his eyes and nose. He just stares at the tabletop. That single sentence, it seems, has cost him quite a lot of energy. The boy looks drained, and the Tesseract-blue glow igniting his pupils only deepens the shadows lining the contours of his face.

Loki laces his fingers together, sensing that further conversation would require forceful mental prodding. Seeing as any information held by the child would not be relevant in any current matter, it's not exactly a pressing issue-and Loki would like to avoid driving the curious bo- creature out of his control through insistent interrogation.

Ten minutes pass in silence. Loki checks the time and curses. He's behind schedule. Even so, as he stands, regally retrieving his folded coat from where he had draped it over the back of the seat, a flutter of excitement pulses in his chest. It's showtime.

"Put your coat on," he directs, for lack of something to say, a wicked smirk twisting his lips as Harry is mentally prompted to stand. "It's showtime."

(He doesn't pay, of course.)


The further Bruce rides into the damaged city, the more the wind kicks up, invisible fingers pawing at his hair and misfitting clothes. The lustrous cobalt beam, intermixed with glowing, undulating white-blue whips and stars of pure energy, pierces the heavens and tears it asunder like a questing needle ripping through flesh.

It's an awe-inspiring sight, and it inspires a certain measure of dread in Bruce's chest that all the calm breathing techniques in the world can't quench.

For some reason- and he really can't explain it- he thinks Harry- the diary- is somewhere in the city, and considering Banner's screwed up life, it's probably near that portal.

Fan-tastic.

'Out,' a primal voice rasps in his ears, sliding and curling and beating against the flexible walls of his mind, 'Smash. Protect book-child.'

His grip on the handlebars of the motorcycle tightens, chest contracting as he forcibly repels the impatient beast stirring in the darkened folds of his conscious.

'Not yet,' he promises in a strained sort of reply, 'but soon. Soon, okay?'

He hits a gigantic pile-up on the highway only half a minute later, but he's still miles from Stark Tower. It's absolute chaos. Armed forces in neon traffic vests attempt to safely direct the mass exodus, but people are slamming their horns and screaming and yelling, and car alarms are blaring and children are crying-

Hulk, disliking the raucous cacophony, digs blunt green fingers into his containment, snarling horribly low in his chest, deep reverberating rumbles that almost escape Bruce's own lips before he can snatch them back.

One officer steps into the path of his bike. Bruce skids to a stop, bracing himself against the ground with his left leg. The throttle rumbles under his thumb.

"Turn around!" The official screams firmly, waving his arms as if to intimidate Bruce into fleeing.

"You don't understand," Bruce tries to reason, motorcycle still humming beneath him, and Hulk fills him with a longing to simply backhand the nuisance out of his way. "I need to get in the city- my name is Br- "

"I said, turn around!" The man goes to grab him by the scruff of his neck and spin him around, and Bruce vaguely senses Hulk smiling in bloodthirsty delight, but the officer halts as the radio clipped to his waist buzzes. Confused, but keeping one eye on Bruce, the traffic director unhooks the communicator and clicks the receiver button.

"This is Officer Ge- " he begins formally, but a cold, dry voice cuts him off.

"I know who you are, George Demwell, and I don't care. You're going to step aside and allow that man passage into the city, or you will lose your badge and be dishonorably discharged from service."

Bruce almost starts laughing, recognizing the deep, no-nonsense tone of voice.

Good old Fury.

An expression of embarrassed incredulity twists Demwell's face. "This is a private channel," he snarls severely.

"And the fact that I'm on it is a big hint that you should do what I say," Fury deadpans scathingly. "Five seconds, Officer, before I lose my temper."

Demwell laughs shortly, looking up to flash Bruce an angry eye, channeling his aggression. "And what? Have me "dishonorably discharged?"" He mocks dryly. "is this some type of prank? At this time? You should be ashamed."

For a moment, Bruce is struck mute by the inconceivable hilarity of the situation. He's 100 percent sure he's the only hero who ever got held up on his way to save the city (and a little boy) by a traffic officer, of all things, all the while an alien invasion is ongoing just miles behind them.

Steve would have been let through immediately. Stark would probably have bribed the man. Natasha would have knocked him out.

And Bruce, well… Bruce could try to edge around him with the motorcycle while he's distracted?

"Or I have a quinjet come pick you up to be detained for impeding government action," Fury retaliates snappishly, and both Bruce and Demwell look up as a high-pitched whir resonates through the air. A fleet of sleek, armed jets tears away overhead, trailing perfectly straight plumes of exhaust.

Demwell's mouth works noiselessly, a round 'o' of surprise.

"Oh," he says, and steps aside.

Bruce nods at him awkwardly, and hits the throttle once more, carefully driving in the thin line of space between the clogged lanes.


Harry moves his hands slowly, dipping and flexing his fingers as if holding slender threads looped around his fingertips. Little fluttery pulses of magic, weak but present, drop from his graceful movements like silken spiderwebs, sinking into the ground. He casts the magic in a broad circle around the Tesseract-fueled device, leaving Dr. Selvig entrapped inside it.

It's a muggle-repelling ward. Tom used to place them around his various hideouts in muggle London. Harry's go at the spell is weak, like rusted links in a chain, but he makes up for inexperience with enthusiasm, pouring out double the amount of magic required to form an ordinary version of the spell.

The spell can work both ways- as in, it can keep muggles out, or, when drawn around a non-magical target, keep them contained within. Harry knows in the back of his mind that Loki probably would have liked for him to use both, but he refuses to trap another being inside something- it just rubs the wrong way against his consciousness and disrupts his thinking, like sandpaper being ground into raw nerves. The blueness snoozing in his brain always soothes away the psychological pain quickly, gently directing him back to his orders, but it still makes him skittish.

What should also make him skittish, but doesn't, are the hunched, large alien life forms pouring from the gargantuan portal in the sky. He can feel the wind from the passage of their flying, one-man ships, like jet-skis that can reach speeds over one hundred miles per hour, and float. He can hear the crackle of energy flickering around the edge of their blades, hear their rasping roars as the descend like incensed flies upon a carcass.

He asked Loki about them when the invasion first began. Loki assured him it was a part of the plan, so it must be okay.

(Harry doesn't really like them, though. Manhattan doesn't seem to particularly enjoy their presence either.)

The magic has just finished falling into place when Harry hears the sound of an engine.

Both he and the observing Loki twist.

A red-and-gold plated figure, masculine and streamlined, hovers twenty feet over their heads, short jets of fire emitting from the palms/soles of the gloves and boots. Fighting is raging all around him, and yet, he seems to stare straight at Loki, body tense and defiant.

Loki grins and wordlessly crosses the roof to the architecturally unique steps winding down from the side of the building, circling around to deposit on the deck of the top floor. A predatory confidence oozes from his posture.

He calls out as he walks, "Ah, Stark. I hope you don't mind the location? It's a rather beautiful building, after all," and he gestures all around them.

The ominously silent, armored-man likewise descends.

"Who's the kid?" He growls roughly after a dark pause, the helmeted head somehow pivoting, and Harry finds himself staring into two white slits. He rubs his thumbs and pointer fingers together, hidden in the sleeves of his jacket, nervous. He was never good with people, even before the diar-

Sensing a dangerous train of thought, the blue cube takes ahold of his unsuspecting mind and jerks it away, diverting the flood.

Harry sways for a second, a round of tingly vertigo clenching his stomach.

What was he thinking, again?

"An ally," Loki smirks, stopping with one foot in the air. His crescent-shaped grin is like a claw of white moon against the night sky, and just as cold and distant. Harry briefly remembers, in short synapses, Loki sitting across from him, a brooding expression on his face, tight lines relaxed and even somewhat vulnerable. He can't connect the picture in his head with the cruel, sharp-cut sight before his eyes.

"Don't know if you were aware of this, but child labor was first outlawed in 1938," The armored man retorts without skipping a beat. His voice is human, bearing inflections and changes in speed, but it's overlaid by a mechanical tone, almost like a speaker system. The grim downwards hook of the faceplate's flat mouth doesn't move with the voice. Someone has to be inside the armor shell.

"But he wants to help. And what kind of person would I be if I refused his kind offer?" Loki purrs, and his lithe form is briefly obscured by a puff of sickly green mist. He reappears behind Harry, resting one lazy arm on his small shoulder. The weight of his arm alone would almost be enough to drive him to the ground, but Harry notices that Loki balances himself so that his full weight is not solely pressing on Harry's shoulders. How considerate.

The sensation of pressure, of fabric just barely touching the skin of his neck, and even Loki's natural warm, living scent, is enough to cement Harry into place, even if the Tesseract hasn't possessed him.

"After all," Loki continues, and then slowly (absentmindedly, even, if it wasn't for the knowing shark-like grin) draws his long-fingered hand through Harry's messy black hair, "as a fellow magical being, I can't help but feel a sort of kinship with Banner's diary companion."

A beat of intense, shocked silence. Harry, from his content position, senses eyes behind the blank white eye-holes in that iron mask suddenly zeroing in on him in hyper detail, lingering on his burning blue eyes.

"Oh, f- " The man starts to say, but is drowned out by the sound of a helicopter's blades spinning overhead. He angles his jets to spin him around, metal-encased head tipping back to take in the view of a black SHIELD helicopter approaching them at a steady clip.

Harry's ears pick up the faint noise of Stark's inquiring voice, but it is muffled, as if being transmitted through a private comm. link. The silent reply to Stark's puzzled question is the helicopter turning its flank to him. The compartment door slides open, and Harry sees a backlit figure kneeling on the edge, muscled arms pulling back the hyper-strengthened string of a bow, and then-

With a resounding thwack, a black arrow embeds its razor thin head in the very small crack between the section of chest and shoulder armor, piercing the interface technology stretching underneath it. The aim is superb; with one shot, the armored figure is jerked to the side by the impact, a rough cry of pain leaping from behind his faceplate. A gauntleted hand goes up to clench at the steel shaft, balance broken. He spins uselessly to the rooftop, landing harshly on his uninjured shoulder and throwing up a spray of brilliant sparks along with a horrendous screech of metal.

Another arrow streaks from the helicopter, this time anchoring itself to the roof, and a figure slides down it on his bow, dropping the last thirteen feet and landing in a smooth shoulder roll to disperse the impact.

The grim sight of the man's face jolts Harry's brain. He remembers waking up, remembers his panic attack, the walls closing in on him, too solid, too tight, too real-he remembers this face peering down at him, remembers a calloused hand guiding him out of the cell…

Before the Tesseract can rush in like a frenzied parent, the thoughts are assaulting him-

(- gasping for breath, how do I breathe? I can't remember- )

(- up- down- up- )

(- there's something underneath me- )

(- I can feel- )

(- Bruce- )

(- the walls are shrinking!- )

(- I can't move- )

(- help me- )

"B... arton," Harry mutters softly, slowly, struggling to speak around the figurative cotton in his mouth. "Barton."


AN: So hey it's been a while since what I deem one of MY cliffhangers. ;)

This chapter ran away from me again, and not even NSA could find it. Can I even possibly convey how much I want Coulson to show up?! D:

Also: SEQUEL NEWS-

-So I'm not planning on waiting until 2015 for Avengers 2, and I'm hoping (fingers crossed!) that this story is finished before October. I'd like to get the sequel up and going.

At this point, the sequel will involve an original villain of mine that I already adore, possibly more Loki, Bruce-Harry bonding and little squabbles (because no friendship is perfect), and MAYBE MAYBE MAYBE Spider-man. I love him. NOTHING is definite at this point however, so just focus on this story. I am planning on a sequel, however.

P.S.-For all who, like me, had no idea previously how to insert line breaks, there's now a horizontal little line icon in fanfiction's doc manager. Clicking on it will summon one on the screen.

P.S.S. I like George Demwell. :3 He was very fun to get annoyed at. I always wondered how Bruce got past all of the mass panic that had undoubtedly gripped Manhattan. xD