THANK YOU TO ALL MY PATIENT AND AWESOME READERS (AND REVIEWERS)! yoU GUYS ROCK!
(chapter betaed by La Tigra)
Success! This one has been betaed!
Okay, so, really late in the say. Sorry. Was busy earlier with babysitting and then did editing last minute.
So. We get the keys to the new house on the 1st, and will be moving in over the course of March. You probably won't see anything until April, maybe May, if I really need that much time. Not much of part 5 has been written, and then I'm going to be busy. I won't post again after this until the next part is done.
So I'll apologize now in case it takes too long, but I PROMISE this story won't be abandoned.
Unless I die… Or something.
Anyways, this chapter gave me so much damned trouble! If this is my kid, I was damned near ready to disown it, especially when I got to the end and was like 'how is this not longer?'.
But I digress.
I like it, no matter how much trouble it was, and I hope you like it too.
Harry was forced to duck almost at once as Loki swiped at him with the dagger. He tried to strike the god's stomach, not even hesitating at the opportunity to wound him, but Loki spun out of his reach. Harry raised his arm and cast a banishing charm as the god came back, hoping to give himself some distance between them, but the trickster batted it away like a cat with a ball of yarn and was on him again. The spell hit the floor violently, and Harry heard some of the windows on the floors below them shatter. He stumbled somewhat, wondered when his banishers had gotten so strong and opted not to use that spell again. He put a hand on its' hilt, but didn't have time to draw his sword before the liesmith was upon him once more. Loki managed to hit him in the stomach with a fist, pushing him back with a grunt; the air going out of him. He winced and brought up an arm to block the next strike, thankful for his armor's bracers and the basic padding they allowed him.
Loki, he soon learned, was fast. Faster than he was, certainly, and much more skilled. He had been alive for a very long time, and hadn't wasted it. Harry, for his part, was barely able to hold his own with only the small bit of physical and magical training he had, managing to hold Loki off only through the use of his claws and quickly-cast magic; neither of which were particularly effective in dealing any damage to the god, but which at least allowed Harry the occasional breathing room to keep from getting his ass kicked. Not that either of them were giving it their all just yet, and it was unlikely they would. Neither wanted to lose, but neither wanted to kill the other either, and not holding back meant going for the kill; with the very real possibility of success.
The trickster managed to cut Harry's hand with his dagger, and the animagus' claws sliced through the side of his coat in response, entirely unhindered by his glamours, tearing the leathery material but not quite managing to hit skin. The god's next hit, though blocked, pushed him backwards and made his arm throb.
"Diffindo!" This one Loki didn't cast off, but dodged instead, the curse flying over his head and slicing a metal beam in two; it snapped and slid, but didn't separate entirely. Harry had no chance to cast another before the god was on him again. There was a worrisome groan from the metal floor beneath them, but not yet any danger of them falling. He grew steadily more and more frustrated with his lack of progress, not helped at all by his suspicion that the trickster was holding back even more than he initially suspected. His brawl with Logan came to his mind, and the next time Loki came at him, and he blocked, he whipped his tail up and wrapped it tight around the god's wrist. Loki's eyes widened in shock, but it was too late for him to avoid it. Harry's tail flung him to the side, and he crashed through one of the tower's windows. Harry allowed himself a moment to smirk. He would need to keep in mind how effective using his tail (especially while it was still glamoured, and generally invisible to most) really was.
Harry followed after him, and found Loki standing, crouched slightly, in what he recognized as the penthouse. The god didn't attempt to begin the fight again right away, instead eyeing him warily. He couldn't see beneath the young man's glamours, not like Moody, and so had not known to watch out for his tail. They were silent for a moment, Harry breathing a little slower than usual in an effort to keep himself calm, Mitera helping with the gentle feeling of water lapping at his ankles (he couldn't risk losing himself like he had against Voldemort, not when Loki needed to survive); and Loki breathing a little more quickly, whether that was because Harry was actually pushing him, or he wanted him to think so, was unknown.
"Why are you doing this?" Loki asked him. "Why are you fighting against me? I could be a benevolent ruler. I could bring this world to greatness!" He yelled passionately. Harry wondered if he really believed that, or if it was part of the control's delusion.
"But not like this." Loki flinched as though Harry had hit him, and again, the blue flickered. "As long as you have lived, as intelligent and powerful as you are, I've no doubt you could be an excellent king if you put your mind to it." The blue flickered more noticeably, green flashing for a moment. Harry saw doubt. "But not like this. This isn't the way to go about it; not all this death and destruction. Even if you won, there would hardly be anything left at the end worth ruling, and it would be a thrown built on fear and terror, not respect." Loki sneered at him, blue back in full, and attacked again.
Harry had to bring up both hands to block Loki's next fist. The strength of the blow made him cry out, causing as it did, a sharp shock of pain down to his bones, and when the god tried to follow it through with the dagger in his other hand Harry brought up his tail to stop his wrist. He noted that each time the god struck him, he put more strength behind his blows, as though slowly testing Harry's limits. The trickster tried to pull his hand from the animagus' grip, but Harry's tail was stronger than any other part of his body. It was, after all, nearly all muscle. He pulled, grabbing onto Loki's other wrist with a hand, and punched him in the face with the other. He let go of both his wrists just as he did so, and the god went flying, landing on, and destroying, a rather nice-looking glass table. Harry winced. Hopefully Tony wouldn't be too upset with him for the damage they were doing to what was clearly his home (though, rich as he was, he could probably just replace it all anyways).
Before Loki could get back up, Harry pulled out his scimitar, now that he had the chance, hoping the blade could put them on a more even footing; given that the god had only a dagger, rather than a sword. The weight of the black blade in his hand was a comfort in and of itself, and Harry felt more confident.
"Pohai!" He yelled, and the Chinese bone-breaker bent and tore the broken table's metal frame as Loki rolled and leapt out of the way. The god sent a streak of blue light his way, and without knowledge of what it did, Harry ducked out of the way. When he came back up, Loki was there, and he only just managed to bring his sword up in time to block the god's dagger. There was a small streak of sparks that hit them both as the two metals slid together with a screech like an angry owl.
He learned quickly that whatever he had hoped about gaining the upper hand had been pointless. Loki was skilled enough with his smaller blade that the length of Harry's own was no hindrance to him, especially as, for the first time in the fight, he began really using magic as well. Harry found himself forced to twist and duck and never once stop moving to keep from being hit, and even then, one of Loki's spells singed his hair, and he wound up with a shallow cut up along one arm.
He began to become overwhelmed, and it was only his tail that kept him from being beaten in those moments. Then an instinct had him bringing up a leg, smashing his boot into Loki's gut and pushing the god back far enough to create a small break in the fighting; during which he was able to send a few bonebreakers in succession with a reducto and then a cutting curse. The last spell managed to connect with Loki, the first one that had, he having dodged and spun out of the way of the others, and the god snarled as a shallow wound appeared in his side. The blood was darker a red than a humans, and the animagus' eyes slit beneath his illusions at the sight of it. The feeling of water grew more prominent, just short of distracting.
Loki kicked Harry in the stomach, as payback for the wound, in copy of Harry's move. It startled him, since the god hadn't used his feet before now (just as Harry hadn't), and the force of the blow threw him back farther than his own attack had done to the other, his sword falling from his grasp. He skidded along the floor, across broken glass. He wasn't in the penthouse anymore. He scrambled, knowing the ledge was near, and slicing his claws into the tile and metal, but couldn't stop the movement.
He went over with a yelp, grabbing desperately onto to the edge and only just managing to keep himself from falling; claws digging deeply into the structure, and hurting as they were forced to take on the weight of his body. He looked up with wide eyes, his hands, slick with blood from the small wounds he had so far sustained, were not enough to keep him up, no matter his strength. He slipped, claws losing purchase and fingertips scrambling on the edge as he began to fall. He had a moment of weightlessness, in which he became absolutely certain he would be seeing Hel again.
But then Loki was there, grabbing onto him and pulling, eyes wide and frightened and just as violently green as his daughter's. He tugged until Harry's torso was up, and then he was ripped away, as something huge slammed into him and knocked him back into the penthouse. Harry was up enough to pull himself the rest of the way, no longer in danger of falling to his death. He wound up on his knees, shaking, not with fear so much as the shock of how close he had come just now to death. Something shifted in his magic, but he barely took notice of it, more concerned with the situation. He looked up.
Hulk was about to punch Loki, and the god stood and screamed at him, his eyes, once again, disgustingly blue.
"Enough!" He screeched. "You are, all of you, beneath me! I am a god, you dull creature, and I will not be bullied by-" He was cut off as the Hulk grabbed him by a leg and slammed him into the ground. He flipped him and did it again, and then again. He paused, looking at Loki, and then did it four more times. Harry winced in sympathy as he heard Loki's hissing groan when the being finally let go, leaving him in a crater in the floor created by his own body. The god didn't move, but his eyes were open, staring blankly up at the ceiling. Harry didn't think he'd be going anywhere for a while. Hulk scoffed.
"Puny god." He grunted, and turned back towards Harry, his expression softening. "Kitty okay?" Harry nodded dumbly. Hulk nodded sharply. "Good." Harry blinked repeatedly as the being gently patted him on the head, and then leapt away, presumably to go back to the battle. Harry stared after him open-mouthed for a few moments, before shaking his head. He was very glad Bruce loved him, given how easily he could defeat someone Harry had been struggling against. He glanced at the dazed Loki, and then looked out at the city, standing as he did so and gathering his scimitar, placing it back in its sheath.
He could see buildings that had been destroyed. Everywhere there were fires and smoke, and in the distance he saw a huge, vaguely dolphin-like creature made of the same grey muscled flesh and cold, twisted metal as the Chitauri. It moved through the air as though it were swimming in water. It was huge. Harry swallowed, and, looking up, could see there were more of them inside the portal, one already beginning to come out. Even as he watched, the Hulk and Tony took the one down together, seemingly with ease. His eyes flicked from them to Loki, who groaned quietly, still unmoving. He bit his lip in indecision.
He might not get the chance later...
He would hurry, and then join in the battle. He nodded to himself, firm in his decision, and walked over to Loki. The blue eyes stared up at the ceiling, blinking occasionally, but taking no notice of him when he leaned over the god. He was too out of it. Harry took a deep breath, and hoped that Loki wouldn't be too angry with him for this later. He didn't think the control was weak enough to be broken by any potions (which he didn't have on him) or a magical flush (which he didn't have time for).
"Legilimens." He whispered, and dived in.
Lights and colors, shapes and sounds, snippets of smells and images all flicked and swirled around him. He did his best to ignore them, and looked about for blue. They were everywhere, strings and lights and cords of them crossed haphazardly over all of Loki's mind like tangled bits of yarn. He was hardly an expert at this, but he knew enough to know what to do. Harry reached out with a mental hand, grasping as many of them in a single grip as he could, and tore. They snapped viciously apart, the backlash smacking into him and sending him backwards into one of Loki's memories.
He clung desperately to the edge of the broken bifrost, staring up with shining eyes at the Allfather, at his father. He searched that single blue eye.
"I could have done it, Father! I could have done it! For you! For all of us!" He cried. That cold blue eye stared down at him, and he was filled with despair as he saw nothing but disappointment there.
"No, Loki." His father said, quietly. The singular, lowly spoken word breaking him in ways no physical blow could manage. He saw Thor running across the bridge, trying to reach him. He couldn't bear to face this. To face that disappointment and the ridicule he had borne for all these years. He let go. Shock and horror flashed across that eye as Loki began the fall.
"Loki! NO!" Thor screamed, and the last thing he saw before the darkness consumed him was Odin grabbing Thor by the shoulders, stopping him from leaping after himself.
Harry pulled from the memory with a gasp, and shuddered mentally. He looked warily up at the many blue threads still left. He wanted to break them without breaking Loki's trust, without invading his privacy, but if they were going to do that every time... There was no helping it. He needed to break them. That was most important right now. He gathered more, and tugged. Again, as they snapped back at him when they broke, he was flung into another memory.
Loki watched the blue disappear from his skin as he let go of the casket, leaving behind the normal peach coloring he was familiar with. Dread, disgust, and terror began to fill him, thoughts and realizations working their terrible ways through his mind. His breath came more quickly, and he looked up at his father. Was he his father?
"The casket wasn't the only thing you took from Jotunheim that day, was it?" He spoke, voice barely more than a whisper. Odin's face was made of hard lines of sorrow.
"No." He admitted, and Loki began to feel his world crumble even as the Allfather continued. "In the aftermath of the battle I went into the temple and I found a baby." He told him. "Small for a Giant's offspring, abandoned, suffering, left to die. Laufey's son." Loki shuddered unnoticably.
"Laufeyson?" He whispered, thinking of the cruel old giant king, who had looked down upon him with an expression he had never, and still could not, put a name to. He was the son of Laufey? Of the giant he had killed?
"Why?" Loki hissed, anger beginning to seep in where fear and sadness had been. In ignorance of his heritage, he had committed patricide. Because of the Allfather. "You were knee-deep in Jotun blood. Why would you take me?" Odin took a weak step forwards.
"You were an innocent child." His words didn't taste of lies, but there was a secret there; something hidden.
"No." He snarled. "You took me for a purpose. What was it?" Odin did not answer right away, and Loki screamed at him, enraged and self-hating. "TELL ME!" The Allfather sighed, and then coughed.
"I thought we could unite our kingdoms one day. Bring about an alliance, bring about permanent peace... Through you." Loki took a disbelieving step backwards, feeling betrayal within each of his bones.
Harry pulled himself from the memory without it finishing, and slashed at more of the threads. He was tossed into another.
Thor brought his hammer down on Loki's sword with a laugh. He looked young. The force of the blow made sparks fly, and the trickster smiled as he spun around under the next blow, Thor dodging with ease. Not that it mattered. The one fighting him directly was only a shade. He had just learned the spell for them. Behind Thor, the real god of mischief readied his spell. Oh, his brother would look just dashing with green hair-
He was able to pull out more quickly this time, and looked up at the rest of the blue. Nearly half of it was gone now. He slashed again. He was barely immersed in the next memory, one of a place with snow and ice and huge crystalline buildings, before he pulled himself from it. It was getting easier each time. He barely saw the next few (a flickering image of a smiling young man with six arms, his expression approval-seeking, and a flash of a painfully small body, broken and splattered with blood), and, when he surveyed his handiwork, he was pleased to find Loki's mind fully cleared of outside influence. He pulled himself from the god's mind, careful not to touch anything else.
He took a deep breath to steady himself as he was let back into reality, and, before Loki's eyes closed and he fell unconscious, he was pleased to see they were entirely green and glowing ever so softly with the hint of healing magic. He looked around himself. No one was there, and he could still hear the sounds of battle outside. He walked back onto the balcony. He could see the strange giant creatures that had been exiting the portal earlier were now only just flying near street-level.
Good. It hadn't taken him very long then; only a few seconds. One never knew when it came to the mind arts. They could take moments or hours. He looked over his shoulder at Loki. The god wasn't going anywhere. He pulled his broom back out and enlarged it.
It wasn't over yet.
Nothing he had experienced had prepared him for this. The shear chaos of it all made him think a little of the battle at Hogwarts. But that had been different. All the innocents had been locked up in the castle, protected by the Order members, and D. A. members, older students, and all the wards and various tricks of the castle. Everyone out on that field had chosen to be there, had been trained, and were fully capable of defending themselves.
Everywhere he looked, people were running and screaming, terrified. The police were shooting at the Chitauri with almost no results (the bullets took them down where they could meet soft flesh, but were all but worthless against the metal and armor), and above the sounds of explosions and fear, he could hear the sirens of fire trucks and ambulances, as people tried to contain the damage even as more was made.
Harry threw spell after spell after spell, taking down monster after monster. For each one he killed, three more were there, shooting at him. One got close enough to strike at him with its weapon (they used them like clubs when they were too close to fire). It caught against his sword, and the creature opened its maw and roared at him; grey spittle flying at his face and making his stomach churn. He got a close look at its face, like an animal skull with leathery and slimy dead skin stretched too tightly over it, sickly yellow eyes, and incisor teeth, surrounding a lavender colored tongue, with no canines.
He snarled at it, and jerked his blade, throwing it away from him and taking a step backwards. He found himself backed against a wall, and with a roar he pushed out his magic in a pulse, killing a number of them as his magic short-circuited the metal parts of their bodies, which they seemed to be dependent upon. More came at him, and he prepared himself.
Tony flew above him, blasting them before they ever reached him, and, though he wasn't sure the genius could hear, he yelled his thanks up to him with a grin. A woman's scream seemed to hit his ears louder than the others, and when he looked up, he saw a dark haired mother pushing her child behind her, placing herself between her young son and an advancing Chitauri. She looked a little like his own mother, her expression a contrast between terror and determination. It raised its' gun to shoot, and Harry's scimitar cut off its' head before it could. The woman looked up at him with grateful eyes.
"Get underground!" He yelled at her. "Into the subway tunnels!" She nodded frantically, turned and picked up her boy, and ran. She was quicker than he thought she would be, and he threw himself back into the fray, covering her retreat and hoping there wouldn't be more around the corner to get her.
He found himself unable to stop moving, and, where with Loki he had held back some so that he wouldn't kill him, he had no such compunction in regards to the Chitauri. He threw everything but the killing curse at them. Before he knew it, there were no more coming at him, and as he looked about, he realized he had defeated this group. Nearby he heard yelling and a boom, and ran in that direction. There would be plenty more to fight.
There was an enormous blast of sound as he ran, and his eyes flicked upwards to see that one of those monstrous alien dolphins had clipped a building. A huge piece of rubble fell as he watched, headed straight for him. He looked sharply around himself, and cast a banishing charm to force the few people near out of the way. They were thrown backwards, were likely hurt, but would not be crushed.
It was, as the Patil sisters knew, not a great way to go.
He prepared to apparate away, when something slammed into him. The air went out of him, and he saw a flash of red as he was swung away. There was a moment where his stomach lurched as he felt the same weightlessness of flying downwards on a broom, and of falling, before he was set down atop the roof of a fairly small building.
"You should be more careful. We don't need any human pancakes you know." He blinked. The man in front of him was masked, and dressed in a skintight suit of red and navy, with an emblem of, what appeared to be a spider, across his chest. Harry had... Never seen anyone dressed quite so oddly.
"I could have gotten away."
"Sure you could have, flashlight." Flashlight? What kind of nickname... A chitauri on a craft appeared over the red-costumed man's shoulder, and Harry killed it quickly with a bonecrusher curse, the purple light being sent over his 'savior's' head. "Woah! Thanks for that." His voice was very young.
"Thanks to you too." With a jaunty wave from the strange (young?) man, and a nod from Harry, they went their separate ways, each getting back into the fight. Harry found himself running along the ground again, headed towards an older brick building. He caught a scent as he turned the corner of it, leaping over a half-destroyed car, that he recognized. Animal in nature, it took him several moments to figure out where he knew it from, and he remembered just as his eyes fell on the source.
"Logan!" He yelled, joyous in spite of himself. And it was him, dressed in dark jeans and a shirt, and a leather jacket, rather than the flannels Harry associated with the lumberjack. But he was more focused with the huge, blade-like claws coming out of the man's knuckles in groups of three, and the ease with which he was using them to cut through Chitauri after Chitauri. There was something very familiar about the sight, though he hadn't seen physical proof of the logger's being a mutant beforehand.
Brown eyes glanced over his shoulder at Harry, and the Canadian smirked at him before turning back to his fight. Harry saw one of the aliens coming up behind the man, and he pounced, his sword cleaving it nearly in two. He had to tug hard to pull the blade out of the metal and bone it had lodged in, and then he wound up literally back-to-back with Logan as they fought off this group of the monsters.
Cutting curses and pure, unfocused magic seemed to work the best, since the former destroyed them, and the latter killed off the metal parts of them that kept them alive. For anything that got too close, he had his sword and his tail, to kill them or throw them farther off to deal with later, if they survived impacting with whatever they hit. It hadn't occurred to him before, since it wasn't something he really kept track of, but his tail had grown longer than it had originally been; which he was grateful for at the moment.
It took them only a few minutes to deal with this group, and then they both stopped to catch their breath. Logan put his claws away for a moment, the motion accompanied by a sort of 'shlick' noise, and then looked up at Harry.
"Hey!" Harry grinned at him, and the lumberjack smiled back. "I wondered if I'd ever see you again." Logan shrugged.
"It's a small world, bound to run into people every now and again."
"I didn't get to say goodbye last time."
"Sorry 'bout that. Something came up." He didn't explain, and Harry accepted the answer as it was. So Logan had left town before they did then? Had he been in New York all this time?
"You going to stick around long enough for a proper farewell this time?" Harry asked him.
"You with Shield?" Logan countered, and Harry shrugged.
"I'm consulting, sort of." The logger nodded.
"I'll come back with Storm then."
"Storm?" The man flicked a thumb upwards, towards the dark-skinned woman floating several stories above them, blasting wind at the flying Chitauri and making them crash. "Oh!" Munroe. Was Logan part of that Institute thing then? Harry still wondered what that was about. It seemed to have something to do with mutants, if nothing else. "Okay." Harry looked up at the fighting going on in the air. The female mutant in question seemed to be doing quite well in her fight, the flying monsters not even having a chance when the weather itself was against them. Harry looked back at the logger. "You better survive this." He told the man. Logan smirked.
"You better too." It was almost like an order, and one Harry felt a deep need to follow. They went their separate ways, both going off to fight groups of their own. Harry hoped the man lived through it. He didn't want his, wait, were they friends or acquaintances? Whatever. He cared enough about the man to want him to survive this.
He ran past the Captain and Romanoff, fighting together the way he and Logan had been, and kept going. They had that group well in hand. It didn't take him long to find another pack of them he could deal with, and as he started fighting, there was a huge flash of lightning above them. He hoped that meant Thor and Munroe were still managing alright. For a moment he was distracted by the sight of a man shooting lights from his eyes (that were very effective in the damage they dealt) and what looked like a man who was blue with a tail, both fighting together with great efficiency as the blue man apparated about very quickly.
But before he could think much on the odd sight, he was lost in the fighting again, too concerned with what he was doing to think on, or notice, much else, and his daze was broken only by a serpentine arrival.
"Brother!" The hiss made him turn, and he saw Metis snap her jaws around the body of a Chitauri that had snuck up behind him. She lashed her tail, crushing and tossing the rest that were nearest him, and bared her fangs in an angry hiss. Harry looked up at her with wide eyes. He hadn't disabled the size-adjuster since they had begun their travels, and so hadn't realized how big she had truly gotten. He swallowed. His little Metis was bigger than the basilisk had been. She leaned down to touch her nose to him in the moment of calm they'd been given, and her head was larger than his entire body.
Gods above, she was enormous.
"I told you I would protect you, little brother." He snorted and rubbed her chin.
"So you did."
"Hey!" They both turned as Barton came running up. He leaned his hands against his knees for a moment, panting. "I was wondering if you were still alive."
"I seem to be. How you holding up?" Barton grinned.
"I'm good. Out of arrows." He pointed a thumb at Metis' gigantic form. "This pet of yours has kept me alive. Thanks for that."
"You're welcome. But she's my friend, not my pet." He corrected gently, and Barton nodded. "Any idea how the others are?"
"Hold on." The archer put a hand to his ear. "Sound off, guys? How we doin'?" He listened for a moment, and Harry heard a faint buzzing. He had a second to wonder why no one had given him an earpiece of his own, to keep track of everyone, and then disregard it (because his magic would probably have just shorted it out anyways). Barton looked up. "Everybody's good." He said with a grin. Then his expression faltered. "Then do it!" He yelled into the earpiece, sounding anxious and excited. There was a hesitation, and Barton looked up, pale.
"What is it?"
"The council." He said, voice shaky. "They've sent a nuke." Harry went white, his heart skipping a beat in his chest. He was well aware of what a nuke was. No one who had spent any kind of time in the muggle world was ignorant of that horror. "Stark's gonna send it up the portal." He looked up, and Harry followed his example. He saw Tony fly up, something cylindrical on his back. He flew into the portal. They watched, waiting. Harry's breath quickened. He watched the hole start to close, but the billionaire didn't come out. Just as he began to worry, and the portal was nearly gone, something that glinted red and gold in the light fell out. Relief washed through him; but even as he watched, Tony was still falling.
"Something's wrong." Barton said. Harry worried Tony would die while they watched. But then Hulk was there, bounding through the air to catch him. He really could jump high. He heard a booming in the distance, but he was more concerned with the fate of the resident genius mechanic. He looked around, unsure, and then his eyes moved up to Metis.
"Can you take us to where they landed?" He asked her, and she nodded her huge head. Harry climbed up her back, scrambling a bit to get all the way on. "Come on!" He reached a hand out for Barton, helping him up, and then Metis was speeding along the ground and they were clinging to her for dear life. Large in size or no, like the basilisk, Metis was surprisingly quick. Harry looked around them as they went.
Everywhere, dead Chitauri lay in the street, and they passed one of those strange metal/flesh dolphin-ish creatures, allowing them to appreciate the size of the beast. Barton whistled, impressed. Harry frowned. Not all of them had discernible wounds, but they were all down for the count. What the hell?
Harry's eyes flicked upwards, to the sky and the place where the portal had been. The nuke had gone up, likely destroying all the Chitauri yet to come to Earth. Had it killed the ones here too somehow? But how? How did that work? His eyes narrowed, and he looked away. There would be time to look into it later. They turned a corner, and there was Hulk. As they approached, he roared, and Tony, who lay on the ground, flinched. He groaned, and they arrived in time to hear the first words from his mouth:
"What just happened?" His eyes flicked around, bewildered. "Please tell me nobody kissed me." Rogers and Romanoff, who both stood nearby, chuckled. The Captain's shoulders seemed to sag for a moment.
"We won." He stated, in an almost disbelieving manner, and then grinned. Tony blinked.
"Alright." He said softly, then louder. "Hey, alright." He raised a fist in victory. "Good job, guys. Let's just... Not come in tomorrow." Harry snorted. "Let's just take a day. Have you ever tried shawarma?" He asked randomly. "There's a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don't know what it is, but I wanna try it." Harry laughed.
The moment was broken, as Thor landed near them, the concrete crunching under his feet. He looked at them with wild eyes.
"Where is Loki?" Harry's gaze moved skywards, towards the tower.
He was just starting to move when they got there. Harry stood back awkwardly as they all raised their weapons at him, ready to attack if he tried anything. He noted, with great discomfort, that Romanoff had the scepter. She couldn't use it beyond its' abilities as a physical weapon (as she had no magic)... But she was an agent of Shield. That she had it at all, meant that Shield would take custody of it, and, given the actions of the council just a few moments beforehand...
Harry was not at all comfortable with them having it.
That the council would even consider, let alone put into action, the plan of stopping the invasion by nuking a city of innocent people, not only disgusted him, but enraged him. He supposed it was just as well that he didn't know who they were, because if he did, he was likely to hunt them down and kill them. No one had a right to authorize something like that; to play god with other people's lives.
Loki opened his eyes, and pushed himself up on his arms to look at them. He seemed bewildered for a moment, and Harry opened his mouth, planning to defend him. But then the god seemed to come back to himself, and, for an instant, his eyes met Harry's, and the young man's mouth closed with a snap. He didn't know for sure what he had seen there, but, in that split-second it was clear to him that Loki wanted his silence on the matter. Behind the backs of the others, Harry glowered at him. But the trickster wasn't looking at him anymore, instead, his eyes seemed to fall on Tony.
"If it's all the same to you," Harry noted that his voice sounded calmer than it had before. "I'll take that drink now." Harry didn't really know what he was talking about, but Tony seemed to, because he snorted. Loki's eyes fell on him again, and he frowned. What the hell was he playing at?
What was the liesmith up to now?
He may not have understood it (not the why of it, or even how he had known what Loki wanted), and he didn't have the opportunity to ask, but he kept his silence on everything just like Loki seemingly desired.
Gathering at the circular table was beginning to feel repetitive, though Harry could hardly deny that it was a decent place to meet. He was relieved to see everyone alive, and, relatively, well. They were all a bit worse for wear, but no one looked to have any serious injuries. He pulled Muhammad up in a hug the Arab grumbled at, but allowed, and Severus pulled them both close when he saw them, further irritating Moo, who had never been one for physical affection.
Harry clung to them all the more when he realized his father's hands were shaking. The physical sign of his worry was startling for Harry, who was so used to depending on the potion master, it hadn't occurred to him that Severus depended upon him in turn. He sighed into his father's robes, and gave the man the chance to get himself back together. When he had, Harry looked upon the room's occupants.
Loki had been taken off to a new cell, and Harry had watched them snap a metal gag of some sort around his mouth, and shackles on his wrists. Neither of them would really do much, given that Loki still had his magic, and they wouldn't interfere with that, but Harry still felt righteous indignation at the sight of the gag. Did they think of Loki as some animal that needed such things? Were they that afraid he would talk his way out of it all? The god, for his part, seemed amused by it all, and let himself be led away without a fuss, only casting one more look at Harry, who nodded discretely at him.
Everyone else was there, even Thor, who had initially looked like he wanted to follow after Loki and speak to him. Harry eyed him. The thunderer looked so defeated right then, as though he had given up all hope, and Harry wished he could tell him the truth of the matter. He didn't though, and didn't understand why he wasn't. He didn't know why Loki didn't want to defend himself, and already that lack of knowledge was driving him up the wall. Tony had taken off the suit, and one of Shield's medical personnel was poking and prodding at him, attempting to ensure his trip into the portal hadn't knocked something loose in his brain or something of the sort. The billionaire was looking more irritated by the second, his complaints growing louder and louder. He would get especially upset if they tried to look at (or touch) the glowing thing in his chest.
It was the only real sound in the room, everyone else silent and exhausted. Logan had, as promised, returned to the helicarrier with Munroe, and was leaned up against the wall behind her seat. Harry smiled at him, and he nodded back. It wasn't really the time to talk right now. Especially with Fury's eyes flicking constantly in the lumberjack's direction with a suspicious, and slightly irritated, expression. He seemed to be familiar with him in an unfortunate sort of way.
Harry would talk to him later, when he could get the man alone.
He waited quietly for several minutes, sitting down and resting his head tiredly atop his crossed arms, until Tony successfully scared off his doctor, and Bruce, who had gone to get dressed, appeared fully clothed, and sat next to Severus, looking very tired, and shifting as though he ached (which he probably did). Fury cleared his throat, and they all looked up at him.
"I wanted to thank you all, for the service you've done for this country. For this world. Without your help, we might have been lost." The gratitude in his voice was real, and Harry, for the first time, realized that they had just saved the world. He blinked, his mouth parting slightly with that realization. He didn't feel like he had done a whole lot today, even though his body's cries for sleep said otherwise, and yet...
The world wasn't ending, wasn't taken over by a madman under another's control and commanding an army of monsters, because the people in this room had fought to stop it.
He felt more proud of himself when he made that realization than he ever had about defeating Voldemort.
"I know you're all tired, but right now we need to debrief. Let's try to keep this short, so you can all leave, and rest. Mr. Stark has been kind enough to offer the undamaged parts of his tower up for the night for you all to stay in. In a few days, we can reconvene for a more thorough debriefing." Everyone nodded. No one really wanted to do this now, but at least they wouldn't have to discuss everything all at once.
The debrief, was, as promised, relatively quick. It was the first time Harry had experienced such a thing. True that the headmaster had sometimes asked for the events after one of his escapades, but usually not in a great amount of detail, and usually only with the two of them. This, with everyone giving a basic account of their actions throughout the last few hours, was a little different.
There were no real details discussed today, and, when it came to his turn, Harry summed his actions up in only a couple of sentences. Then Fury dismissed them, and Harry wound up squeezed into a seat between his father, and Munroe, on the way to Stark Tower. There would be a lot to do over the next few days, but when they arrived, Harry was more concerned with falling face-first into a pillow, than with anything else. He only had enough energy to happily note that Logan had come back with them too, and so would hopefully be there in the morning.
He would deal with the rest when he'd had a full-night's sleep.
When he first awoke, it took him several minutes to remember everything that had happened, and to realize where he was. While he picked the wool from his mind, he laid on the bed in silence, breathing slowly. He groaned as he sat up, and didn't need to look, or take off his armor, to know of the bruises and cuts that littered his body; still in the process of healing, and as yet untreated by any magical remedies.
All in all, he wasn't in too bad of a shape. He was sore, and tender, but there were no fractures or breaks, no cracked ribs or torn muscles or tendons, no serious wounds. The small injuries he did have would be gone in a week without potions or spells, and in moments with them. His biggest problem at the moment was the dried blood stuck to his body, and the lingering smell of dead Chitauri that was not unlike the scent of rotting fruit. His nose wrinkled. He desperately needed a shower.
He stood up and looked about himself. Tony, no matter his flaws, certainly knew how to treat his guests. Harry had been too tired to look at the room the night before, but now that he was, he could see how nice it was. It was spacious, modernly furnished in shades of brown and white, and the bed was bigger than his old bed at Hogwarts had been, though it didn't have any posts or hangings. There were three doors in the room, and he checked them all, finding which one led to the hall, which to a closet, and which to the bathroom.
He was never more thankful for muggle plumbing.
He revelled in the feeling of the water, and grimaced at all the grime washing down into the drain. Some of it was grey, some red, some a worrying shade of green. He didn't even want to know where that came from. When he was clean, he scourgified his armor, and took stock of the damage in it. Some of the metal-dipped scales on the bracers and chestpiece were bent, and there were a handful of small tears in the fabric. Nothing he couldn't fix by himself. He went about the repairs, knowing enough now about how the runes in it worked to repair the thing without botching it all up.
It took him half an hour, and he put it back on once he was done. He thought he should probably meditate for a bit, but first...
"Kreacher." True to his species, no matter that the elf had been on the other side of the world, he suddenly appeared before Harry in a bow.
"Master has called Kreacher?"
"I have a couple tasks for you." The elf looked up, waiting patiently. Harry wondered at what point he had begun to appear so sane.
"Firstly, there is a scepter," He described the weapon in detail, Kreacher nodding along until he was sure the elf wouldn't mistake anything else for it. "It'll likely be in a muggle airship a bit off the coast from here, above the water. I want you to take it to Bogdon. Lock it up in the dungeon. Make sure no one sees you take it. After that..." He paused. "I might be... Leaving to another place for a bit. I want you to choose another of the elves to take over the maintenance at the Stronghold, and then come to the New York townhouse. Take care of Severus and Muhammad and any guests they might invite into the house. Follow Severus' orders like they are my own, unless they interfere with orders I've already given you." Kreacher nodded.
"As Master wishes. Will that be all?"
"Yes. Thank you Kreacher." The house-elf nodded, and vanished with another pop.
Harry settled himself on the bed with a sigh, happy that was taken care of. Now onto this. It had been a few days since he had been able to meditate and occlude, and he wanted to take the chance to put his mind back in order before he dealt with anything else. He breathed in deep, and kept back from Mitera. His meditation with her was for relaxation. It was something he could do later, when he had the time to spare. Right now was about necessity.
His thoughts were wild, and it took him a bit to sort through them and organize everything, taking care to look more closely at certain things, and to separate out his memories of Loki's memories. He didn't watch them again. That he had them at all bothered him immensely, but he might need to take a closer look at them later. They might hold something that could help him figure Loki out later on. For right now, however, he would lock them up.
He turned to his magic, smoothing out the rocky seas and calming push and pull of a magical tide. He felt immensely better once he had done so. With his nerves on edge and his thoughts going crazy, his magic had been surging chaotically; only making things work. It would be better if he could take a trip into the water, because that would sooth everything out, and be longer lasting, but he didn't have the time, or know when next he would.
He was nearly done, and moving to pull out from his meditation, when he noted something odd in his magic. He tugged at the thread of connection, confused. He had several of them, each from various oaths or promises or bindings; but this one, he didn't remember. It was half-formed, and incomplete, as though something had gone wrong when it had been made. He poked and prodded at it, slowly getting a feel for what it was. It took him several moments to understand. His eyes snapped open, pulled from his meditation as sharply and suddenly as if someone had poured ice on his head.
His mind raced as he tried to determine the how. The only time he could think of-
But they'd been fighting. His actions had been what caused-
But the control.
Harry groaned, his face falling into his hands.
Loki had saved Harry's life when he pulled him from the ledge of the building. Though he had put him there in the first place, through their fighting, he hadn't been in full control of himself while they were fighting. He had been under the influence of the scepter. But in that moment he had saved Harry's life, he had fought through the control. His eyes had been green, and his actions hadn't been connected to the scepter. And no matter that Harry would not have stayed dead, he still would have died.
And now, Harry owed Loki a life-debt.
Or sort of.
He frowned. Maybe it was because Hel would simply have sent him back, and because he would not have been permanently dead. Perhaps that was why it was... Messed up. All the same, that any bond at all (no matter how frail or frayed) had been formed, was worrying, and it being the way it was could make it easier or harder to deal with, at the end of the day.
He sighed, running his hands through his hair.
His life just couldn't be easy for once, could it?
You have no idea how close I came to ending right after saying he owes a life debt. I almost did, but I thought that was just a bit too evil. As a reader, I hate ciff hangers, but as a writer, I love them. They make me all giddy and high on power.
So, goodbye for now, when we return, there will be much more to happen.
P. S. One of my reviewers suggested making summaries of previous chapters to add at the beginnings of each new ones, and a sort of 'the story thus far' type thing at the beginning of each part. I didn't do it here, but I think I'll start that from part 5 onward, and, when the story is done I can go back and delete them all.
I'd like some extensive reviews this time, from anyone willing to give them, both on this chapter, and on the story as a whole up to this point.