I... have no freaking clue quite what this is. But it started with me waking one morning with the mental image of Loki all scuffed up, his outfit held tenuously together by silver duct tape.

So, I started writing this thinking it was going to be a humor fic, and there are some moments of humor, but then it also got kind of dark and serious during some parts, and then it just kept rolling away from me and growing and turning kind of strange and I didn't plan any of it it just happened.

But I definitely enjoyed writing it, and I hope you enjoy reading it as well! :3

Really, Tony couldn't be blamed for shrieking—a manly shriek, of course—when the God of Mischief suddenly climbed in through a window in Stark Tower, leaping from the ledge to the plush white carpet with a certain grace that always made the hair on the back of the billionaire's neck stand on end.

There was just something about the way he moved that was... not human. More like a predator, a wild animal. The kind of grace that made one want to back away slowly, and then turn heel and run.

Loki glanced around the room, noting the kitchen on one side, and the dining table seated with six chairs, before turning his green gaze back to the genius who had dropped his cup of coffee in shock.

"Is Thor in the vicinity?" he asked nonchalantly, as if he'd simply knocked on the front door.

"No..." Tony said, bending down to pick up his cup, which was luckily intact, and cursing under his breath at the new coffee stain on his carpet. "He just left earlier this morning to return to Asgard for a time. Which," he said pointedly, "if I recall correctly, is where you should be also."

Loki snorted. "No doubt Thor neglected to mention that I escaped several months ago, in order to not alarm you," he said, before pursing his thin lips in thought. "Did Thor say when he would return?"

"Nope," Tony shrugged. "I believe his exact words were: 'I will return soon.' Whatever that means. But considering what he's told me about you Asgardians and your comprehension of time, 'soon' could mean anything from a few days to a few years."

Now recovered from the surprise of the god who'd destroyed New York and tried to take over the world not even a year ago, who was supposed to be locked up in an entirely different realm altogether, dropping in through his window like everything was perfectly normal, Tony took a moment to scrutinize the god, looking for any signs of hostility.

Loki looked very similar to the last time the billionaire had seen him in that he came off as like he'd had a very bad day, with dark circles under his eyes and his general appearance overall ruffled and banged up.

His hair was shorter though, gel or whatever Loki used to slick it back seemed to be wearing away and strands fell into the pale, sharp visage.

It was the trickster's outfit, though, that really gave Tony pause.

He was wearing his more casual armor, the black leather one with green and gold edgings, and all those crazy straps and buckles—only the outfit was extremely tattered and torn up, and was now almost completely covered in silver duct tape, which seemed to be the only thing holding it from completely falling apart.

Even as Tony watched, one of Loki's coattails dropped from the coat and fell to the floor with a soft flutter.

The god turned his head to glance at it, hissing a breath through his teeth in annoyance, before turning back to the billionaire.

"I will stay in Thor's chambers until he returns," he declared, making to move around the mortal and head for the stairs.

"Whoa whoa whoa!" Tony said, jumping in front of the god and holding his hands up as a gesture to stop right where he was. "MY tower. You can't just say you're going to stay here, especially not with you being like our enemy."

Loki smirked. "I just did."

"You know I can blast you out of here, right?" Tony pointed out, crossing his arms and glaring. "But I'd rather not break anything in the process, so I suggest you leave now and we can pretend this never happened." He tilted his head to the side slightly before adding "I can even throw in that drink if you'd like. As long as you promise to leave immediately afterwards."

"I think I'll pass on the drink," Loki said, looking down at the mortal in what could be considered amusement. "But you have my word that I will not attack you nor any of your kind unless provoked, and I will do my best not to destroy anything needlessly."

Tony opened his mouth to say something, but Loki cut him off. "And you needn't worry about me doing any magic, as my power is currently confined to my own body, and isn't accessible for external use."

"Liar," Tony said with narrowed eyes. "How did you escape Asgard if you can't use your magic? Or get in through my window, for that matter?"

"I was able to use my magic when I escaped," Loki supplied with a roll of his shoulders, the emerald of his eyes seeming to intensify slightly, the only sign he was any degree irked. "As for the window—do you really think magic is the only way to do that?"

Tony's brown eyebrows came together suspiciously. "Don't tell me you scaled several flights of skyscraper to get up here."

"Of course not. I used the fire escape."

"I have a fire escape?" Tony asked, taken aback. "When did that happen?"

Loki just smirked, before reaching into a duck tape covered pouch slung at his hips beneath his coat and pulling something out, shoving it into Tony's hands before continuing around him.

Tony looked down at the roll of duct tape in his hands, patterned with his red and gold Iron Man helmet. "They make Iron Man duct tape now?" He weakly managed, turning just in time to see the elevator door open and Natasha step out right in front of the god.

Seeing Loki she immediately pulled a gun from somewhere under her jacket and made to point it at him, only to find his fingers closed in a metallic grip around her wrist.

"It's impolite to shoot a guest," Loki said urbanely, lips turned up at the corners as she tried fruitlessly to free herself.

He let her go and continued on to the stairs.

Natasha stared after him furiously. "What is he doing here?" She demanded, whirling around to face Tony.

"Waiting for his brother to return," Tony answered casually, crossing over to the drink counter and pouring himself a glass of liquor, taking a good gulp before continuing "Honestly I'm more interested in why the hell he's covered in duct tape."

After covering all the security cameras with pieces of various colored tape, Loki sat cross-legged on the red sheets of Thor's bed, staring morosely at his severed coattails. Sighing, he swung his legs off the bed and stood up, letting the pieces of leather fall to the floor as he slipped off his dilapidated coat and held it up for inspection, his right sleeve tearing partway off in his hands.

Tossing it down with a huff, he paced the room in his scuffed up leather pants and tunic, silver tape spiderwebbing the close-fitting outfit.

Exiting the room he wandered around the tower for a bit until he came upon Tony's rooms, rifling through the closet to see if there was a suit he could possibly borrow.

But they were all too small, and none of them met his standards as it were.

He should have figured.

If he could use his magic, all he would have had to do was snap his fingers, and he could fix or change is outfit as he pleased.

He frowned, glancing down at the duct tape pouch he carried with him, before heading back to Thor's room.

When he got there, he found to his annoyance that the door didn't lock.

Well, he didn't care to be disturbed, so he pulled out a roll of duct tape and taped the door shut. Satisfied, he turned back to the bed and, pulling from his pouch a few rolls of black, green, and gold duct tape, stared at them for a moment thoughtfully.

Seriously, the mortals called that gold? He snorted, putting the strange brownish almost-metallic looking tape back.

He pulled out the silver instead.

Thor's color. But he didn't have that much of a choice, seeing as that the silver actually looked acceptable, and the gold decidedly did not.

"Guys," Tony said conversationally, with a suspicious amount of blitheness as the Avengers gathered in the kitchen for lunch, "We have a guest at Stark Tower who will be staying for an indefinite period of time, and I want you all to promise me that no matter how angry you get or how much of a grudge you're holding, you won't start a fight and so much as even scratch a tile of my tower."

Steve looked up questioningly from where he stood at the counter, spreading peanut butter and raspberry jam onto a couple slices of bread, and Bruce looked at the billionaire over the magazine he was currently hiding behind, as Clint sat on the counter and tossed blueberries at people.

"Who is this person?" Bruce asked, raising the magazine to block a berry aimed at his face.

"Not telling," Tony said with an infuriating smile, taking a sip from his scotch. "Not until you promise me you won't smash him into my floor again."

The doctor widened his eyes behind his glasses, and Clint stopped throwing blueberries, all three of them staring at Tony with open mouths.

"Loki is in the tower?!" Clint said, voice a couple pitches higher than normal.

Tony winced. "Please tell me you promised."

"As long as he doesn't make me angry, I won't hurt him," Bruce shrugged, going back to reading his magazine.

"What?!" Clint exclaimed, leaping to his feet and grabbing his bow and quiver from the table, only to whirl around as a hand is placed on his shoulder.

Natasha stared at him warningly.

"Did you know about this?" he demanded.


A look of utter betrayal passed across the archer's face.

Natasha kept her face carefully expressionless as she continued "He only arrived an hour or so ago, and has showed no hostile intentions."

"But," Clint spluttered, glancing around at them wildly. "How can you all be so calm about this? Not even a year ago he tried to take over the world!"

"And took over your mind, yes, I know," Tony said, pouring glasses of alcohol for all five of them and handing them out. "And I didn't go through that, so I don't know. But we're still dealing with a crazy powerful demigod here, and I'd rather not give him any excuses to try and kill us. And besides, he came here for his brother's help with something," he pointed out. "So I assume he's not in the best situation at the moment, and he therefore won't do anything rash and stupid and blow what little security he has. Also, he looked like shit. He's probably just napping or something."

Clint stared at him indignantly while Steve frowned slightly. "I have to agree with Clint here, that I think you're being a bit too lax about the situation," the supersoldier said, passing the peanut butter and jelly along the counter to Natasha at her gesture, and placing his sandwiches on a plate. "Shouldn't we at least tell Fury?"

"And have all of Shield come banging on my door with guns, and possibly military tanks?" Tony asks with a scoff. "I'd rather not deal with even more crazy shit and drama."

"Then what do you suggest we do about him?" Clint ground out challengingly.

"Be civil," Tony said like it was obvious, taking another swig of alcohol and gesturing in a way of suggesting the others do the same. "Keep an eye on him, make sure he isn't up to anything, and yell at Hamdoll or whatever that gatekeeper's name is for him to hurry up and send Thor down to earth already so that he can deal with his insane little brother before he gets bored and covers my entire tower in duct tape."

"Tape," Clint said disbelievingly. "That's what you're worried about."

"He's got a lot of tape," Tony nodded, reaching to pour himself more scotch. "He's already covered a few mirrors and several security cameras in white with black mustaches. And he can't use his magic at the moment."

Natasha pulled the bottle of alcohol away from him, giving him a pointed look. He pouted and reached for it again, but she slapped his hand away like a mother would a pesky child, and, recognizing that she wasn't going to falter in her resolve to keep the spirits away from him, he resorted to grumbling under his breath and draining the last few drops from his glass.

"Loki is a liar," Natasha said, as she drank the rest of the scotch. "Just because he said he can't use his magic doesn't mean—"

"He can't," Tony cut her off with certainty. "Jarvis can't sense his energy signature. It's muted."

The billionaire stared at them all, raising his eyebrows, daring them to doubt Jarvis' competence or protest his tactic of handling things. My tower, my rules.

There was a collection of resigned sighs.

An hour later, Loki stood in front of Thor's mirror, turning this way and that as he critically examined his handiwork.

It would have to do, he decided, before taking out a roll of CAUTION duct tape and proceeding to cover the mirror with it so he didn't have to constantly see his reflection.

That face was starting fray his nerves.

Turning on his heel so that his new coattails crackled around his calves, he ignored the comfortable looking bed and strode to the door, removing the tape and crumpling it into a ball that he repeatedly tossed up in the air and caught as he walked down the hallway.

"Well speak of the devil," Tony commented as Loki entered the kitchen, met by scalding gazes he answered with a smirk.

"A pleasure to make your acquaintances once again," Loki said smoothly, giving a shallow, respectful bow. "I hope that this time we can converse under considerably less trying circumstances, and that our interactions won't degrade into a belligerent nature."

The Avengers blinked at him, taken off guard by the unexpected reaction, faces betraying emotions between impressed, bewildered and apprehensive.

"You're the one who started that war," Clint shot at him, regaining his cold composure.

Loki inclined his head. "That I did. And I would confess to being genuinely remorseful of my prior actions, though I'm afraid it would be a falsity."

"Hell, you tried to take over the world, and almost completely destroyed New York in the process!" Clint shouted, tightening his grip on his bow. "You're a monster! Don't think we're going to forgive you if you pretend to show a drop of humanity!"

Loki stiffened, the guarded look in his eyes quickly covered over with an imperious amusement. "I am far from human," he acknowledged with a laugh, short, breathy and humorless. "And it is true," he admitted with a wry smile, "that I regret not my own actions."

The statement was met with cold, contemptuous glares. And a thoughtful glance.

"And how many were your own?" Natasha interrogated, meeting the green gaze unflinchingly, his colored orbs an unfamiliar shade. Hadn't they been blue?

Loki hummed to himself, watching the ball of duct tape as he rolled it between his hands in such a way it appeared to remain floating in the air. "They were all my own," he answered. "I will admit however to not being in the soundest state of mind during the invasion."

There was an awkward pause, the tension in the air practically buzzing.

"Dude," Tony cut in, peering at Loki's coat, black, green, silver, and looking shiny and new and not at all like it was falling apart. "Your coat was in tatters..." he reached out and Loki had to suppress the urge to flinch away as the mortal touched his leave, fingering the material.

Tony's dark eyes widened. "Did you make this out of duct tape?!"

"I did," Loki answered, sounding pleased. "My other one was hardly serviceable, and without my magic at my disposal I could neither fix it nor magic myself a new one."

The billionaire whistled in appreciation. "Damn, it looks almost exactly like your original one," he remarked. "Well, besides being made of duct tape, and having silver instead of gold."

Steve's blond eyebrows drew together as he tried to remember something. "Wasn't there some modern saying about duct tape...?"

"Silence is golden but duct tape is silver," Loki nodded.

"Although I guess duct tape is now also mustached and Iron Man'd," Tony said, throwing the god a rebuking look.

Loki responded by throwing his ball of multi-colored duct tape at the man, bouncing it off the arc reactor. "But never gold," he said with pontification.

"What, no gold duct tape?" Tony picked the ball off the ground and threw it back at Loki, who caught it easily.

"Not unless you call this gold," Loki snorted, taking a roll of duct tape out from the pouch hidden beneath his coat, tossing it onto the counter with a disapproving scowl. "Which I certainly do not."

The genius picked up the roll, which looked more like a dull, dirty bronze. He turned it over in his hands, seeing the cardboard on the inside did indeed state the color being gold.

"How ugly," Tony said, wrinkling his nose.

"My thoughts exactly."

Tony tossed it back to the trickster, saying "Here, you can have it back."

"Fine," Loki shrugged, pocketing it. "But I'm gilding your room with it."

"Hey! Don't you dare!" Tony exclaimed, eyes nearly popping out of his head, before he addressed the AI, saying "Jarvis, make sure my room is locked at all times!"

"Done sir," the British-sounding AI answered.

Loki just chuckled lightheartedly, seemingly unperturbed by the disembodied voice.

Steve stared at the god like he'd never seen him before. He clenched his eyes shut, the reopened them, then did it again, as if this was all some crazy dream and he would wake up to find Loki standing over them all with his scepter glistening red with blood the shade of dark cherry juice.

Bruce took his glasses off, cleaning them off, before setting them back on his nose, looking to make sure that was actually an unadulterated content smile splayed across the god's face.

"You're different," Natasha stated, scrutinizing him.

"Really?" Loki asked, tossing the ball of duct tape into the air, beginning again to roll it around his hand. "Whatever gave you that notion?"

Clint growled, pulling his arm back, arrow nocked, aimed at Loki's eye socket. "That's it," he snapped. "I've had enough of your games."

He let it the arrow loose, but Loki's hand shot up, catching it mere inches from his face, sending the archer a look. Really? "Please don't make me incapacitate you."

The agent moved in, taking an arrow and attempting to use it as a dagger, but Loki caught his wrist, almost boredly.

"You should in punishment!" Clint growled, unable to twist out of the god's grasp. Instead he grabbed the ball of duct tape, hurling it at the Loki's face, but the trickster ducked, the ball instead smacking into the window with enough force to crack it.

"Oh, I can assure you that I was duly punished for my crimes," Loki hissed, green eyes flashing, flickering, the color seeming to vacillate, green, red and blue. "Were you?" he breathed.

"You're a monst—" the archer was cut off by a piece of 'gold' duct tape over his mouth.

"What is it you mortals say?" Loki asked, lips curling in a sneer. "Oh yes: Shut up." He then proceeded to drag the struggling Clint over to a kitchen chair, taping him to it so that he couldn't move.

As the other Avengers watched, Loki crossed over to the window, frowning at the cracks, before fishing through his pouch and pulling out a roll of clear duct tape, which he then used to repair the window.

Completely ignoring the mortals' strange looks, he pulled out a kitchen chair and sat down, taking out a few rolls of different colored tape and tearing and folding them, pulling out some wire as well, using his teeth instead of wire cutters.

A few minutes later he was twirling a duct tape rose between his long fingers. He set in Tony's abandoned liquor glass.

He'd made an entire bouquet of them by the time any of the Avengers spoke.

"So..." Tony said finally, hesitantly. "You like flowers?"

Loki looked at him blankly. "Normally I would amuse myself with illusions," he intoned calmly. "But since that pastime is currently unavailable to me, this is the next best thing." He got up then, stating "I hope you won't think it rude if I retire to my chambers."

"You mean Thor's chambers," Steve corrected, from where he was leaning against the counter.

"Thor is not occupying them at the moment," Loki said, even as he crossed to the stairway, not turning to look at them. "Thus I have no qualms claiming it as my own until he returns."

The door shut behind him with a click.

"He never uses the elevator," Tony remarked.


They all turned to see Clint still taped to the chair, glaring at them as he struggled uselessly.

Natasha allowed a small sigh past her lips as she went over to free him. "Don't look at me like that," she scolded the archer. "It's not my fault you thought it wise to piss off the God of Mischief."

They didn't see Loki again until after they'd just finished eating dinner.

Or rather, Steve, Bruce and Tony saw him after they finished dinner. The two assassins had chosen to go eat out that night, for diplomatic reasons.

"I require more duct tape," the trickster said bluntly, as he swept into the room. "I've found myself with an inadequate amount of silver."

"I'll have Pepper bring some back tomorrow," Tony said distractedly, waving his hand in a 'yeah yeah whatever' motion, as he dug through a cabinet under the TV for some gaming console.

There was a soft metallic clinking, and he glanced up to see Loki holding his car keys, an eyebrow raised. "Would you like me to drive?"

"Give me those!" Tony cried, jumping to his feet and grabbing them from the god's hands. "Fine, fine, I'll drive you."

Loki smirked triumphantly.

"Wait, we're coming too!" Steve said, grabbing Bruce and dragging the doctor after the other two. "Don't think we're letting you alone with a war criminal, especially out around the civilian population!"

The god's only comment to that was "I call shotgun."

So Steve and Bruce found themselves sitting in the back of one of the billionaire's sports cars, listening to the banter coming from the front.

"So what do you need this duct tape for anyway?"

"An alleviation to my boredom."

"Working on a project?"


"What is it?"

"Why exactly would you expect me to tell you?"

"A secret project, then?"

"No. A vainglorious one."

"Even better. Whoa hey, don't touch my rear view mirror! I've got it just where I—"

As Tony slowed down to come to a stop behind a car at a stoplight, there was a sudden jarring as the car behind them rammed into the rear bumper.

The occupants of the car were thrown forward, Steve hitting his head on the seat in front of him as Loki's hand, which had been fiddling with the rear view mirror, tensed at the motion, breaking the mirror clean off.

"Damn motherfucker!" Tony cursed the driver, sticking his hand out the window with his middle finger held up as he moved his eyes to the rear view—"Hey! I told you not to touch it!" he reprimanded the trickster god, seeing the mirror now held in a pale, spidery hand. "Now look what you've done!"

"My apologies," Loki said, frowning at the thing for a moment. He tended to forget how fragile mortal stuff was. "Allow me to fix it for you," he offered, taking out a roll of neon orange duct tape, and using it to reattach the rear view mirror to its proper place.

"There," he announced, turning his head to grin at the vexed mortal.

Tony frowned at him. "And you just had to choose a color that clashed with that of my car."

"Is there something wrong with orange and violet together?" Loki asked, twirling the roll of tape absently around a finger, as he tilted his head to the side quizzically.


"Then why," the god asked, eyebrows pulling together slightly in bemusement, "Are the taillights of this vehicle orange?"

The genius didn't have an answer.

Instead, he called back "Yo Bruce buddy, you doing alright back there? Not going to Hulk out or anything? Because if you are I'd like a warning so I can pull over and let you out of my car so it doesn't suffer further abuse."

"I'm fine, Tony," Bruce said, with a roll of his brown eyes. "I wouldn't have agreed to live in New York if I couldn't handle getting rear-ended."


"However I will Hulk out if you continue to play that atrocious radio," the doctor said, leaning back in his seat and drumming his fingers on the side of the car. "The constant commercials are grating on my nerves."

"I agree with that sentiment," Loki nodded, tresses of his black hair drifting into his face. He brushed them behind his ear with a small frown, making a mental note to steal someone's comb later on, and maybe a bottle of hair gel as well.

"What, you going to Hulk out on me too?" Tony snorted.

Loki smirked, as he spun a roll of duct tape around a bony wrist. "No. But I will duct tape a radio to your ceiling while you're sleeping that switches channels so that it always plays commercials, and you won't be able to change it, and then have it play at full blast and wake you up, so you stumble around your dark room looking for it, only to find that all your light switches are duct taped down, and Jarvis will not answer your desperate pleas. Also, all your paraphernalia will be moved locations around your chamber so that you don't know where anything is and consistently crash into the furniture as you stumble around in the pitch dark."

The mortal quickly turned off the radio.

"You've really got the whole threatening thing down, don't you?" Steve remarked, voice with a cold, disapproving edge.

Loki laughed. "I've had a lot of practice, admittedly." He shook his head, lips twitching. "You know, having to deal with my idiotic brother for thousands of years."

There was a silence.

"But then," the god said thoughtfully, "None of you have had siblings, am I correct? And you certainly haven't lived for a fraction of the time I have."

He began humming softly, idly to himself then, letting the roll of duct tape roll down his leg and then flicking up his toe so that it went airborne, and he caught it, before repeating the motion.

Glancing around the chair in front of him to see what the god was doing, Bruce noticed that the black boots were actually wrapped with duct tape, all the way around, soles and all, in what looked to be several layers.

He must have worn them nearly all the way down, to need to use that much tape.

The doctor had often wondered, if Loki was so crazy, why Thor hadn't given up on him already—the thunderer had near constantly talked about his little brother, sometimes nostalgically, often sadly. And none of the Avengers could understand it how he still seemed to love the trickster, after all he'd done, against Midgard, and against Thor himself.

But contemplating what he remembered Thor saying, and what Loki had just said, Bruce found himself starting to realize that their relationship had to be far deeper than any of them could comprehend.

The duration of the remaining drive was relatively silent, except for the mischief god's quiet humming, a dark, lilting tune that sent shivers scurrying down the mortals backs like frightened mice, and prickling the hairs along their arms as if the air spilling through the open windows was wintry and frigid, instead of warm and stinking of exhaust.

When they finally pulled into a parking spot by an apartment store, Tony stepped out, circling to the back of his car to examine the damage. "Shit," he cursed, finding that his bumper was dented and nearly falling off the back.

There was a soft tap on his shoulder, and he turned to see Loki holding out a roll of clear duct tape in a long-fingered hand, head tilted, expression almost questioning.

Tony took it, and the god inclined his head, before turning and entering the store, Steve hurrying after him.

The billionaire glanced at Bruce, who stood leaned against the pole of a parking sign, watching him. Bruce gave a nod, and Tony sighed, beginning to fix his bumper with the tape.

In the store, Steve had to practically jog to catch up with the god's long strides. "You got money?" the supersoldier asked, as Loki found the duct tape and grabbed a few rolls of silver.

"No, but I can easily obtain some," Loki answered, examining the other colors being sold.

Steve blinked. "Wait, you mean like, stealing it?" he said, alarmed. "No way—I'll pay for it."

The trickster just smiled at him, showing a sliver of white teeth, as he picked up a few more assorted rolls: highlighter yellow, camouflage, black with white skulls and crossbones, and one with red, white and blue stars and strips, the last of which he handed the Captain as he brushed by and headed for the checkout counter.

Somewhat nonplussed, Steve followed him, paying for the rolls with a wad of cash, and then the two of them were stepping back outside, the soldier still with his own roll of tape as well.

They found Stark standing beside his car, the back bumper secured with clear duct tape. Steve figured it probably wouldn't be noticeable from more than a few feet away.

"Useful stuff," Tony admitted, handing the tape back to the mischief god. He widened his eyes at the many rolls already piled in the lean arms. "Dude, what are you going to do with all that?!"

"Nothing detrimental to your possessions," Loki answered, beginning to place the tape in the pouch around his hips.

Tony watched in fascination as all seven rolls of duct tape disappeared into the small mouth of silver material. "How does all of that fit?"

"The pouch is enchanted," Loki said, flipping it closed and buttoning it shut. "It carries far more than its outward appearance would suggest."

"How much does it hold?" Bruce asked curiously.

"I have never reached its limitations," the god said, as he tapped his fingers on his lightly muscled thigh thoughtfully. "So I could potentially fit Stark Tower into it if I so desired."

Steve blanched at the thought of a skyscraper fitting into a bag that couldn't have been more than five by seven inches, but the billionaire appeared relatively unphased. "Well, if I wake up one morning and my tower is gone, I'll know whose door to knock on."

"Well, if you're actually polite enough to knock, I might even consider giving it back," Loki smirked, before diving headfirst through the open car window to avoid Tony's punch that was aimed for his shoulder. His feet coming to rest just behind his hands, he landed neatly on the passenger seat in a compact crouch, before unfolding like a cat, stretching his legs out behind him and reclining his chair slightly, hands behind his head, completely casual as the mortals stared at him with open mouths.

"What even are you?" Bruce asked.

Loki's gaze tightened almost imperceptibly, and for a split second it appeared as if the shadow of a cloud passed across his face, but it was gone just as quickly as it came. "I am a god, you dull creature," he said, mistaking the doctor's curiosity for scorn, lips parting to show a glint of teeth, nearly a snarl.

Bruce blinked, having a moment of inexplicable deja vu. He rubbed his eyes behind his glasses.

"Yeah yeah, go ahead and be conceited about it," Tony said sarcastically, as he opened his door and slipped into the driver's seat.

The other two piled into the back, and Tony shot into the heavy traffic to a cacophony of honking.

Upon returning to the tower, Loki once more barricaded himself in Thor's chamber, mumbling an excuse about being tired.

Soon Steve and Bruce dispatched for their beds as well, and it was just Tony awake in his workshop, tinkering around with a new Iron Man suit he was working on.

Sometime around two in the morning he came upstairs for a midnight snack, pulling a box of pizza from the fridge and removing a slice, beginning to eat it cold.

It was then that Loki wandered into the room, eyes bright and dark-rimmed and holding absolutely no trace of bleariness to suggest that he'd actually slept a wink.

"You hungry?" Tony asked, prodding the pizza box on the table. "I hope you don't mind it isn't warmed up."

Loki blinked at him, his eyes scanning the room, locking onto something beyond the billionaire. He crossed around the table and over to a square mirror on the wall, bordered with a frame of colored glass mosaic. He took something silver from where it was tucked under his arm and placed it upon his head.

Tony did a double-take, as he saw that it was nearly an exact replica of Loki's horned helmet—just made out of silver duct tape.

The god turned his head from side to side, shaking his head, then nodding it, the helmet hugging close to his face and accentuating his sharp cheek bones. He ran a pale hand over a one of the horns, all the way from the base to the very tip, arm sweeping up and back.

Satisfied that the helmet fit correctly, Loki turned on his heel, sweeping back over to the table. "This Midgardian food is known as 'pizza,' am I correct?" he said, picking up a slice and looking at the tomato sauce, cheese and meat covered bread curiously.

"You aren't seriously telling me you've never had pizza," Tony said dubiously. He kept glancing at Loki's new helmet, and the god, noticing, smirked.

"I rather found myself missing it," Loki admitted, gesturing to his horns. "And though it certainly wouldn't provide adequate protection in battle in the slightest, I have found that the helmet inspires a certain amount of fear in my foes, likely because of the demonic appearance of it—that it's actually made of duct tape should be of no consequence to the impression it evokes, seeing as I made sure it would not be easy to ascertain its material nature."

Tony had to agree—silently—that it was an impressive headpiece. And had he not known the trickster's penchant for duct tape, he would have initially thought it was made out of metal, and he figured that if one didn't look closely they wouldn't figure it out.

The god took a small, delicate bite of the pizza, chewing thoughtfully. "Not bad," he said, sounding almost surprised.

"Hey, have a little faith in the human race," Tony huffed, taking another slice of pizza from the box. "We actually make some descent cuisine. Have you ever tried shawarma? Or waffles?"

Loki shook his head, helmet remaining steady.

"How strong is duct tape anyway?" Tony asked curiously, mouth full of food.

The god gave him a disgusted look, and he quickly swallowed, repeating the question.

"Maye we should test it," Loki answered, tilting his head slightly, a wicked grin blooming on his lips.

Tony's eyes lit with an idea, and he jumped to his feet, exclaiming "I've got the perfect thing!" before dashing out of the room.
When he returned carrying something made of cloth, he found that Loki had polished off the rest of the pizza, and found the second box in the fridge, already over halfway done with that one as well.

Tony noticed however that the god picked off all the olives.

"Yes, make yourself quite at home," the billionaire said somewhat sarcastically, as he set the bundle of cloth on the table.

Loki carefully wiped his mouth with a napkin, hiding a smirk. "And that is...?" he gestured at the fabric.

"A hammock," Tony answered, looking incredibly pleased with himself. "I thought we could hang it from the ceiling with duct tape."

"Why not?" Loki grinned, standing and pulling out a roll of neon pink, tossing it to the mortal.

Tony caught the tape, glancing down at it, then glaring at the god. "Really, Reindeer Games? Really?"

The trickster just threw another one at him, this time black with skulls and crossbones. Deal with it, his smirk implied.

Tony huffed.

"You know Loki," Tony said, as they both admired their handiwork, the hammock hanging from duct tape loops from the ceiling with long pieces twisted into duct tape ropes.

Loki turned his head to regard the genius curiously.

"When you're not trying to take over the world, you're actually an alright guy."

Emotions flickered across the god's pale face like shadows cast by flames, there and gone so fast as to be inscrutable, before sliding into a crafted apathy that cracked in those green eyes and let light through.

Tony was almost unsure he noticed anything, but he placed a hand on a bony, duct tape clad arm, continuing "You're alright."

The intense gaze dropped to Tony's hand, the calloused fingers stained with oil grease, then back up to the mortal's face, shadows crossing in the depths of the emerald orbs, lost.

Tony gave him a close-lipped smile, before turning, clapping his hands together as he announced "Right! I call first dibs on trying out the hammock."

Loki's lips parted slightly, then closed, eyebrows furrowing in thought before he shook his head like a dog dislodging droplets of water.

A book on human psychology held in his thin fingers, the mischief god sat sideways on the leather couch, leaning back against the armrest, legs sprawled out in front of him. Turning the last page, he glanced up at the cause of quiet snoring—Stark fast asleep in the hammock that now hung from the gathering room ceiling.

Loki shook his head before leaning it back, helmet set on the couch by his feet, and he placed the now-finished book on his face to block the light that was beginning to hurt his eyes, making them throb and blurring his vision like waves of heat, shimmering.

"Shall I kill the lights, sir?" Jarvis offered.


The lights switch off, and the room fell into a soft, dusky darkness.

Even as the rise and fall of the god's chest slowed and evened out, only one set of breathing could be heard.

When Tony first woke up, he blinked, bleary brown eyes looking about in confusion.

He was...? Right. Lying in a hammock hung from the ceiling with pink and pirate duct tape, that he and the God of Mischief had set up the night before—wait! Now fully awake he sat up with a bit of difficulty, and glanced around in panic, only to take a deep breath as he saw Loki sprawled across his couch, a book covering his face.

Sleeping? Tony thought in disbelief.

As he watched, the trickster twitched, jerked, a keening moan coming from thin lips as the book slipped to the floor, revealing the sharp features pulled in discontent—or was it pain?

Tony jumped as the god abruptly and without warning bolted into a sitting position, emerald eyes wild as they flicked around the room like hummingbirds before alighting upon the billionaire, color pulsing disconcertingly in a myriad of green shades, occasionally crossing over to nearly yellow or violet. "What have you done?" Loki breathed, and Tony felt shivers ripple through his body at the of the god's voice, dry and raspy as skeleton leaves crumbling to dust.

"Um..." Tony stammered, praising himself sarcastically for his eloquence.

Loki was on his feet and streaking from the room before Tony could even ask what the hell was going on.

Nearly falling to the floor in the process, the genius managed to untangle himself from the hammock, stumbling over and catching himself on the wall as sleep continued to percolate his veins and render his limbs and reflexes sluggish.

Even as he stared out the window, the hair on his arms and neck stood up inexplicably, and a moment later there was a beam of blue light right outside the tower.

"Well shit," he said, glancing down and recognizing Thor's figure on the street below, as well as some other people in ridiculous armor that he didn't recognize.

Apparently Heimdall had listened after all.

He rushed to the elevator and hit the button for the ground floor, hoping to intercept them as they entered. "Jarvis, drop it," he ordered.

"Yes sir."

The elevator increased speed by tenfold, and for a moment Tony was suspended in weightlessness, before it slowed slightly and came to a jarring stop.

He staggered out, clutching his head, just as the Asgardians came in through the doors.

"Father, stop—" Thor started, stepping forward as an old man dressed all in gold armor—even his eye patch was made out of the metal—strode up to Tony with an air of someone who thought himself superior to, well, everyone.

And if he was Thor's father... that made him the King of Asgard, right?

"Where is Loki?" the old man demanded of Tony.

"He isn't here right now," Tony said in his best offhanded tone, glancing at his fingernails, before glancing up at the irate god before him. "May I take a message?"

The old man glared at him with his one blue eye, a few shades lighter and colder than Thor's. "Insolent mortal," he growled, stalking up to Tony, seeming almost confused when the billionaire didn't seem the least bit intimidated.

"ODIN!" Thor bellowed, grabbing his father's shoulder. "Loki is not a criminal—"

"SILENCE!" Odin roared, whirling around to glare down at his son, even though the thunderer was almost a head taller than him, and certainly more brawny. "Do you not realize what you did, allowing Loki's escape?!"

"I couldn't let you punish my brother and condemn him—and us—to such a cruel fate!" Thor defended furiously, his grip tightening on Mjolnir as he and his father faced off. "It wasn't Loki's choice—"

Odin banged his spear against the ground for emphasis as he interrupted "How dare you defend his horrid actions—"

"LOKI WAS BEING MIND CONTROLLED BY THE CHITAURI!" Thor thundered, his voice practically making the ground beneath their feet and the building around them shake, Tony's hands flying over his ears as he winced.


If Tony hadn't designed the tower himself, he would have worried it would collapse down on them all, crushing them like ants under a boot.

The other Avengers rushed in, to find the two gods, one with blond hair and one with white but both with the same shaped beard and hair cut, glaring at each other, sparks practically leaping between their eyes.

"What's going on here?" Steve asked, holding his shield and glancing around, seeming to mentally evaluate the seven gods—four others stood a few paces behind Thor, one woman and three men, all of them hefting various weapons—swords, a double-headed ax, and some sort of metal ball on a metal stick.

Clint had his bow in his hand, and Natasha had her hand on her gun, both of them tense and ready to shoot at a split second notice.

Bruce shuffled nervously, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"We came to retrieve Loki," Odin said, breaking gaze with his son and turning to look at the mortals coldly. "But," he shot a glare back at Thor, "with his magic he could be anywhere by now."

"I thought he couldn't use his magic," Clint said with a slight sneer, almost pointedly, and Tony had the sudden urge to hit the archer over the head with something.

Odin turned sharply, pinning the mortal with his eye. "Is that so?" he said slowly. He then turned to the other Asgardians. "Search the building for him—in that case he couldn't have gotten far."

They all shared glances, then looked at the thunder god, a seeming silent understanding between them, as at the same time they all bolted off, probably to see who could find the trickster first.

The Avengers just stood there a moment, before all dashing off as well—whether to help or hinder, none of them could be completely sure where they all stood.

"Jarvis! Where's Loki?" Tony asked, as he lunged for the elevator, the doors closing with a snap uncharacteristically fast for elevator doors, nearly taking off Steve's hand before the soldier yanked it back.

Good thing Asgardians always took the stairs, he thought, before turning around and freezing, discovering he wasn't the only one in the elevator after all.

"Man of Iron," Thor nodded in acknowledgment. He stood against the wall in his full armor regalia, cape and all, muscled arms crossed in front of him, blond hair reaching down just past his shoulders.

Tony recovered quickly, saying "What the hell are you doing in an elevator?"

"I knew my fellow Aesir would not enter this metal box," Thor admitted with a slight smile as they sped upwards. "And I know that your invisible butler can get me up to the top faster than running up stairs."

Brown eyebrows were raised in startled appreciation, and Tony shrugged slightly in way of accepting the compliment. "Your father pisses me off," he remarked.

Thor nodded soberly.

"So I'm taking Loki's side in this one."

Thor brightened eagerly, blue eyes lighting up as he uncrossed his arms. "Do you really?"

"Sure thing," Tony smirked, patting the god's large arm. "So, um, Jarvis? Where is Loki?"

There was a moment's pause before the AI made a chuckling sound. "He is above you, sirs."

"Well that's helpful," Tony said sarcastically, frowning. "What's with you, Jarvis? Has he gotten you in on his tricks or something?"

"I can neither confirm nor deny that accusation."

Tony cursed, growling in annoyance. "Well I'll be damned if this isn't some sort of game of hide-and-seek-tag or some other crazy shit."

Loki crouched low on the top of the elevator as it shot upwards, tilting his head so his right ear hovered just above the metal, listening to the conversation of the two beings within.

He smirked.

As the elevator pulled to a jarring stop and the doors began to open, he opened the secret hatch, allowing him to drop silently into the elevator behind them, closing the hatch even as he did so and slipping out between the doors as they began to slide shut.

Stepping out onto the very top of his tower, Stark was reminded of his encounters with Loki here, and found himself reevaluating it now that he'd heard Thor say Loki had been mind controlled, replaying it over in his head and analyzing it.

Yes, there seemed to be a few bugs in the system—

"Since everyone else is starting from the bottom up, we'll start from the top down," Thor announced, already beginning to scour the room.

Well no duh, Tony thought.

"Or maybe you should start by looking right behind you."

They both whirled around to see Loki standing there, right in front of the elevator even as the doors slid completely closed.

The left side of the bastard's lips were tilted up infuriatingly.

Before Tony could even open his mouth to say anything, Thor rushed forward, engulfing Loki in his huge arms. "Brother!" he exclaimed, before pulling back and grinning at his glaring little brother. "It's so good to—" he paused, taking in the pallid face and sunken, dark rimmed eyes, the telltale signs of bruises and gashes just beginning to fade. "What happened to you?!" He asked, concerned, anger lacing his voice.

"Ha, you should have seen him when he first arrived," Tony said with a snort, crossing over to his counter and fiddling around the cabinets as he looked for something.

Coffee. He needed some coffee.

"He was such a mess he had to make himself his another coat out of duck tape because the leather one was falling apart." Finding a coffee maker hiding behind a few bottles of liquor, Tony pulled it out and set it on the counter. Now if only there were coffee beans...

Thor stared at Loki's coat, noticing finally the strange sheen of the material, and the silver replacing the gold. He frowned, looking up, confusion written in his furrowed brow and pursed lips. "Loki—"

"I have a favor to ask," the mischief god interrupted, pulling something out of his pouch and throwing it at his brother. "I'd appreciate it if you smashed this with Mjolnir for me."

Catching it, Thor turned the object over in his hands. It appeared to be a metal cube about the size of the tesseract, strange runes chiseled in the gleaming, iron-colored surface.

But instead of the crackling energy he felt around the tesseract, this gave off something entirely different—a distinct lack of energy, a stifling stillness he felt fall over him, heavy as night.

"What is it?" he asked, lifting his gaze up to the younger god, seeing the obvious contempt in Loki's gaze that was directed at the object.

"A cosmic cube," he answered casually. "Except the exact negative of the tesseract—where the tesseract is power, this is... void." for a moment there was something haunted in those green eyes, before shields seemed to pull up behind them, guarded and emotionless. "It absorbs power. Leaches it; consumes it."

Tony blinked. "So that's why you've been so drained and weary and can't use your magic," he realized, adding a "Well shit," in answer to Loki's blunt "Indeed."

With a sudden conviction Thor placed the cube down, raising his hammer—

"Not in my tower!" Tony shrieked, waving his arms. "Who knows what the hell it will do!"

But Thor's hammer was already humming through the air as he brought it down on the cube with all his thunder-thewed might.

As Mjolnir collided with the anti-tesseract, there was the distinct sound of metal fracturing—then nothing.

Tony let out a huge breath of relief that he hadn't even realized he'd been holding.

The thunder god frowned, nudging the cracked cube with his boot, and suddenly Loki was yelling "Get down!" and Tony found himself thrown by those thin and strangely strong hands all the way across the room behind the couch, and a tremendous wave of energy exploded outwards from the cube, an invisible force expanding outwards like a supernova and completely destroying the top of Stark Tower.

Covering his head with his arms Tony curled up, expecting any moment to be blown to smithereens.

Several seconds later and he realized that he was still alive and fully intact.

A child sat at the street cafe with his his mother, his short legs swinging back and forth above the ground.

Absently he picked at his chocolate chip muffin and put pieces in his mouth, his large hazel eyes intent on Stark Tower as he practically vibrated with excitement.

"Do you think we'll see him?" the child asked eagerly, tugging on his shirt, the black fabric emblazoned with a red and gold faceplate.

"See who?" the mother asked, taking a sip of her coffee as she flipped through the daily paper.

"Iron Man!" the boy said, voice brimming with hope.

The mother looked up tenderly, a smile on her lips as she brushed a lock of mousy brown hair from her face, the same shade as that of the boy sitting across from her. She opened her mouth to say something, only to pause, following her son's widened gaze to Stark Tower as the entire top part blew outwards, shattered glass glinting in the sunlight as it fell.

But even as they, and everyone else on the streets, watched, the exploding pieces of building suddenly froze midair, seeming to hover there a moment, before the whole thing imploded back into place, piecing itself back together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Muffin crumbs fell from the boy's open mouth, his hazel eyes saucers in his face.

There was a moment of silence where even the constant honking of cars seemed to have stopped.

"That was epic!" he exclaimed finally, turning to his mother with his face alight with glee. "Mom, did you see that?! Did you see that?!"

She nodded slowly, blinking. "Yes, yes I did."

As the cube exploded, Loki grabbed Stark and tossed him across the room even as the god launched himself at the cube, pale fingers closing around the shattered pieces and the swirling silver mass within.

Taking the roiling silver mass of energy that pulsed like a heart, radiating waves that spread outwards, flowing over him like a riptide and tossing Thor backwards like he was naught but a gnat caught in a hurricane, Loki shoved it in his mouth and swallowed, eyes watering as he doubled over, looking like he was going to wretch.

His body wracked with violent convulsions, dark gray smoke trickling from his nostrils and through his bared teeth, spiraling into the air as he raised a hand, freezing the outward explosion.

Clenching his jaw Loki rolled his fingers into his palm from his little finger to his pointer finger, and as he did so the shattered remnants of building came flying back into place, the excess energy waves filling his lungs as he breathed in.

Falling forward onto his hands and knees, Loki panted, gasping, ribcage flexing.

"Loki!" Thor cried, hurrying over and kneeling by his brother, placing a brawny hand on the dark god's shoulder. "Are you alright?!"

Loki's onyx hair fell into his face, effectively blocking it from view. As he looked up, however, Thor sat back in shock to see Loki's eyes shining silver. Yet even as he watched they slowly transitioned to a minty metallic, and then finally to a luminous emerald shade that was more or less normal.

"What," Tony said, rising to his feet and dusting off his clothes. He looked at the two gods kneeling on the floor, then around at his intact tower, then back at the two gods. "The hell was that?!"

Sif and the Warriors Three had split up to search the tower, but has somehow managed to accidentally congregate together into one search party, sweeping upwards through the levels of the tour and scouring each nook and cranny of every chamber.

"This is so stupid," Sif growled, slamming a closet door shut with a splintering bang, the door luckily remaining intact. "This human fortress has what, ninety something floors? He could be anywhere!"

"We won't find him," Hogunn said gravely, keen eyes scanning what seemed to be a lab of sorts, tools and scraps of metal and electronics scattered around the room and over every available surface. He fingered the handle of his weapon.

"Lucky us then," Fandral shrugged, dutifully checking behind a curtain. None of them knew enough about Midgardian customs to wonder why a lab would have white floral curtains. "I don't fancy encountering him myself."

Volstagg pilfered through the cabinets, sighing in loud disappointment. "Do they not have any sustenance in this realm?!" He tossed some gadget across the room, and it sparked, making him jump and eye it warily, before continuing in a indignant tone "Not even a keg of mead?!"

Pointedly ignoring the redheaded bottomless pit, Sif addressed Fandral. "What, too afraid to fight a cowardly seidr user? And one who can't even use his magic?" she smirked, beginning up the stairs to the next level, the others hurrying after her.

"Of course not," Fandral laughed, giving the large Volstagg in front of him a push to hurry up. "But did you not see him, back in Asgard? He looked absolutely feral. And besides, why should we care if he's running around on Midgard? It's not our problem—"

Suddenly the entire tower shook violently, spasms seeming to travel from the top down, and the Asgardians grabbed the handrails to keep from tumbling into each other, though Hogun found himself unfortunate enough to be crushed against the wall by Volstagg's bulk.

"What in Midgard was that?!" Fandral exclaimed.

Sif's eyes narrowed. "Loki," she hissed, before shooting up the stairs, the Warriors Three right behind her.

Bruce was sitting in his own suite, cross-legged on the green couch with a cup of tea in his hands when Steve came upon him. The brunette took a sip, letting the hot liquid slip down his throat, relishing the taste of chamomile.

"Anyone found Loki yet?" he asked conversationally.

Steve shook his head. "Not that I know of. And I get the feeling it will be pretty apparent when someone does—even without using his magic the guy packs a wallop." The corners of his mouth twitched cynically as he remembered his fight with the god in Stuttgart, how easily Loki had knocked his shield aside, landed and defended blows. It had been a bit embarrassing—he was supposed to be Captain America, for God's sake! Though he supposed that if Thor was anything to go on, than Loki had had no small amount of practice fighting those with strong but blunt fighting styles.

They've lived for thousands of years, Steve reminded himself. There's no shame in being beaten by someone like that.

"But you're not looking for him," Steve remarked, as the man sitting in front of him took another sip of tea.

Bruce laughed dryly. "Scouring Stark Tower for an obdurate demigod so he can be locked up? Now that is something I actively try to avoid." He glanced up at the supersoldier. "I might Hulk out... and the thing is," he said, pursing his lips slightly before he glanced down, almost flustered. "I don't know whose side I'm on—whose side the Other Guy is on. I mean, yeah, Loki tried to take over the world." He snorted, smirking. "And Hulk enjoyed beating him into the floor. But there's something about those other Asgardians—especially Thor's father—that really bothers me."

Steve gave an empathetic nod. "I know what you mean, Bruce," he said, before he frowned and admitted "And I'm not sure whose side I'm on either."

"What are you going to do if you find him?" Bruce inquired, voice passive.

Steve scuffed a shoe against the floor. "I don't know, honestly. I'm just looking 'cause I feel like I sh—"

There was a rumble, a shudder, reverberating through the building like it got a case of fever chills, the walls seeming to expand like the tower was taking a breath, about to sneeze so violently its head would roll off.

The chamomile tea sloshed, spilling onto Bruce's pant legs.

Steve was immediately on alert, body tense, eyes flicking upwards. "I think they found him," he muttered.

Blue eyes met brown, and in silent agreement they both bounded for the stairs.

(After all, the Hulk didn't like elevators, and if one thing hadn't changed since before Steve had gotten the serum, it was that elevators still made his head feel light and dizzy, a sensation he didn't appreciate, especially in situations like this.)

The pair of assassins, searching the tower methodically, had made their way to Clint's quarters.

Tony had had the walls painted lavender—probably in mockery of the archer's purple and black uniform, but oh well.

It was a pleasant enough color.

"The bastard better not be in here," Clint growled, as he dug all the way to the back of his closet.

Natasha sighed, rolling her eyes as she glanced around a few corners, not really trying. "I don't think Loki would degrade himself by hiding in your closet like a child playing hide-and-seek. Or even stay in your rooms, for that matter. We already checked Thor's, and that's the only of our suites I would bet he would hide in." Crossing her arms, she waited, standing to one side of the room as Clint continued to check his bedroom, then his bathroom, then his kitchen.

"I really don't see the point of this," Natasha continued unbidden. "I doubt he's actually hiding—and if he is, I don't think we'd find him."

"And how would you know?!" Clint snapped, coming to a stop in front of her, having finally searched his rooms to his satisfaction.

The woman tilted her head slightly at him, fiery hair curling around her face. "Because Loki is obviously a creature of pride and cunning," she explained. "Someone who likes to be in control. And ones like that do not allow themselves to be hunted." A knowing smirk. "I was once on the run too, you know."

Quelling his anger, Clint breathed in through his nose, turning his bow over in his hands as he stared down at it. He tried to pinpoint where the austere and boiling emotion was rising from, chasing it down to the shadowed recesses of his mind, still faintly tinged with blue.

"Clint," Natasha said softly, her hand coming to rest on his shoulder, pressure comforting. "What are you afraid of?"

His frame tensed, and he slowly raised his head to look at her, gray eyes threaded with resentment. "I'm not—"

Natasha gave him a reproving look, an orange eyebrow raised. She wasn't buying it.

He hissed, glancing back down at his bow. "I..." he shook his head. "In his eyes—things I remember from being under his control—I can't... I can't help but feel empathy for him. Empathy, for the megalomaniacal lunatic!" he snorted bitterly. "And if I don't have loathing for him, if I can't blame him for the invasion..." his voice nearly choked off, but he continued, still not looking at Natasha. "If I don't have thoughts of revenge on him to ease the... pain... of the experience... what do I have?"

Small hands he knew to nevertheless be deadly grabbed gentle hold of his shoulders, turning him to face her. "Clint," Natasha murmured. "Clint, look at me."

He lifted his gray eyes reluctantly.

Her full lips turned upwards at the corners, reassuring. "You have me," she said. "You know you always have me."

She let go then, taking a step back, smile turning to teasing smirk. "Besides, I still owe you a debt."

"You still believe that?" Clint said dubiously, slinging his bow over his shoulder. "Because that's st—"

He would have been thrown off his feet had he not placed a hand against the wall, and Natasha for her part grabbed hold of the counter, as the tower shook around them, trying to toss them around like dice.

It was really more of a tremor, though, than a quake—shock waves shimmying down the metal frame from the top of the building, rather than it being undermined from its foundation.

It was gone as suddenly as it had been there, and the two assassins raced for the elevator, having complete faith in Stark's tech to be both swift and still functional.

They didn't even need to voice the word going through both of their heads.


Being King of Asgard, Odin couldn't very well waste time on Midgard looking for his wayward son. He had business to attend to. The kingdom wouldn't run itself, after all.

So after the bottommost floor had been cleared by all matter of humanoid species, Odin Allfather strode back outside and called for Heimdall to bring him up.

A beam of blue light shot down from the sky for the second time in several minutes, but he payed no thought to the energy expenditure.

Why should he? The tesseract's power was unlimited.

Arriving back on the bifrost, Odin inclined his head to the gatekeeper, before mounting his horse and galloping back to the palace.

But even so, he couldn't help but marvel at the new bifrost.

The bridge itself started out rainbow at the edge of the city, but where it had shattered it transitioned to blue, the rest of the bridge a stretch of what looked to be cerulean ice, till it met the bifrost mechanism at its end.

Asgard was not a realm of change, and the new structure looked almost exactly like the old; except for the metal was a dark steel instead of bronze, and the runes embellishing its surface, if one payed any attention to the swirling symbols, that might as well be meaningless for all the merit it evoked from nearly all who passed, were an entirely different language.

And then of course there was the matter of the bifrost's power source.

The original device had been built so long ago, in the very beginning of Asgard, that not even Odin could remember quite from whence it came, or wherefore, or even why.

All they were able to conclude was that it was linked to the world tree, Yggdrasil herself.

But now, with the cosmic cube set within it, the bifrost was powered by the tesseract, which tapped into Yggdrasil and her magic like the mortals harvested sap from maple trees, a trickle that was not so much a trillionth of her energy and yet held no potential limits, so immense, so colossal was her being.

Loki, despite his madness, was a genius, and his design proved flawless despite the blood spilt in order to wrench such mechanizations from his steel trap of a mind, imbued with such galaxies of his own imaginings that alit and unrestrained could be flint and steel to the tinder of the ordered universe, degenerating it into a tangled, convoluted mass of unadulterated chaos.

It was almost a pity that such a mind was not a genius to be allowed to roam unrestrained, but a genius to be locked away, to be controlled and coveted.

At least in Asgard the boy would be safe from others who wished to use him.

Loki's eyes fluttered closed.

He could see, dancing behind his eyelids, the silver of the void, a mix of utter darkness and lurid color, swirling in a sickening wheel of mayhem, like prey and predator both running for their life—one to, the other from, all other options scattered in the dust kicked up by their whirring heels.

But he could hear, still, the many footsteps, the eight pairs of footsteps wheeling from the stairwell and skittering from the mortals' metal box of vertical transportation.

They surrounded him, wolves around a deer, and he heard the air being sliced by many a weapon drawn, swinging to face him, then each other, hesitant, confused.

All those shuffling footsteps, a drumbeat on the floor, a cry for war in all its inane justifications, simply because incisors were made to cut and so cut they shall, and tear and rip the more for their intrinsic natures that so crave to be bathed in scarlet—scarlet for blood, scarlet for glory.

One could dance to it, the keening song of battle not yet realized.

Fear drizzled over the beings in saturating mists, stirring up violence in its opaque and shadowed centers, where all means of monsters were manifested and harbored for their born malevolent purposes, in all their horns and claws and cobalt skins and harsh glowing eyes.

Because nobody can stand mystery when it stifles their footsteps till they know not where in lands them or places them in the universe like pawns on a chess board, opponents placed before them unseen and set to fight blindly, and fight they do because to think would be to see and to see would be to fall victim to doubt—for perhaps none quite know the workings of the universe.

And were is the shame in that? To know all would be to embody all, and that would surely lead to an insanity so pure and exhaustive one would burst into flames from the agony, the unfairness of truth and hopelessness that comes from retching out twisted insides.

"Is he catatonic?" Tony's voice.

Loki's eyes opened, appearing to have gone nova.

Blurry shapes made of varying shades of gray step backwards from him, their footfalls echoing.

Footfall, waterfall, crashing down towards jagged toothed rocks.

There didn't seem to be any colors, like when it gets so dark one's eyes simply give up seeing color in favor of making out shapes and a certain level of depth.

He blinked, and his eyelashes tickled his cheek, leaving streaks of silver in his vision.

His body thrummed. Glancing down at his hands, Loki could see his veins tracing black rivers through his pallid and ghostly flesh, his bones a whisper gray.

Well that wasn't the least bit disconcerting.

"Loki? Brother?" Thor. The oaf. "Can you hear me?"

Loki's lips moved, but all that spilled from them was silence, and it trickled from his tongue like venom and curled like smoke in his vision, wisps of gold.


That was a color, wasn't it?

He watched it spiral and dance with a morbid fascination.

The vague gray shapes, veiled in the gold now, wavered in place uneasily, as if the silence was a disturbance like wind through dead leaves, rattling things rather left alone and untouched.

A blade sung, its voice quickly stopped by the brash scream of a hammer, and the muffled moans of a leather boot.

"Dude—or rather, dudette—you can't just kill him! First of all, that's immoral." Tony again. "And second of all, I get the feeling that if you cut his head off the world will spontaneously end in a tempestuous and unpredictable manner, that will be most unpleasant for all of us. I mean, just look at the guy! He swallowed the contents of a void cube, and his system is either short circuiting, in hyper drive, crashing, or all three at once."

Shhhh, Loki's mind screamed, the gold drifting through his lips with each silent breath.

The mortal's words waved through the smoke like glistening silver starlings, beating it with wingbeats into a fine film.

"What—" Steve.

"Shut up!" Natasha. "See how he convulses whenever we talk? Let him be."

Was he really? His vision did seem to waver slightly, like he was but seeing the reflection of what was in front of him in a reflective pool somewhere laying at the backs of his eyes, and somebody was throwing stones into the smooth surface and making it ripple.

Such soft, soft lack of color.

Except for the gold, which was welling now, filling his vision so he could no longer see his hands and the darkness flowing within himself.

It was akin, he thought, to falling asleep, this drifting feeling of slowly losing what matter of coherent thought he'd managed to scratch up.

Another weapon's metallic cry, and his hand shot up on his own accord, fingers melting and bending and leaving its voice choked into knots.

His lips twisted. It felt wolfish on his face.

His tongue darted over his teeth, tasting silver.

Slowly and imperceptibly as coming dawn his vision sharpened, blurry shapes being chiseled features, grays slowly filling with colored hues, and faces solidifying.

Oh. How awkward.

Thor felt his chest constrict painfully as he watched his brother kneeling beside him, panting, eyes blazing green. But when Thor gazed into their depths, he couldn't recognize Loki behind them.

The assembled group of mortals and immortals had lapsed into silence, and he was glad of it, for it seemed to calm his troubled brother down, the pale hands no longer digging into the concrete floor.

There was hum, then, and Thor saw too late Hogun's weapon, with its spikes out, swinging around—

And suddenly Loki was grabbing it, wrenching it from the Grim's hands and twisting it, the metal heating and melting beneath his fingers.

"How dare he!" Sif snarled, meaning Loki as she stalked forward, the dark god flinching violently at her words. "That little bastard—mmph!"

Clint had found a roll of Iron Man duct tape on the table, ripped of a piece and stuck it over the warrior's mouth, effectively silencing her.

Surprisingly, she didn't make any more murder or speaking attempts, and seemed so dumbstruck at the mortal's nerve she just stood there with the tape over her mouth for a moment.

Slowly, like the sun setting beneath the horizon, Loki's eerie green eyes faded to something far more normal, yet still not even close to human, and the god began to turn his head, blinking languidly.

Slowly, Loki returned to himself.

Not a being watching dared so much as to breathe, just standing there and watching, the fact that the situation was more than a little awkward not even managing to enter their minds.

Gaze sharpening, Loki turned his gaze to Thor, mouthing something, then his eyes darted around the surrounding circle.

Then he laughed. Silently.

He clutched his stomach and doubled over, shoulders shaking with mirth, lips curled up in a cynical grin.

"Dude, are you okay?" Tony asked, coming back over with a drink in hand. "'Cause that was, frankly, insanely creepy."

Thor grabbed Loki's shoulders, but the God of Mischief rasped a quiet, grating "Don't."

Thick blond eyebrows pulled in confusion.

"I feel nauseous," Loki explained, voice sore.

Thor quickly let go and moved out of the way, and Loki laughed even harder.

It wasn't long after that that Shield finally arrived.

Really, Tony thought it was surprising they hadn't realized strange things were going on at Stark Tower until the top had blown up and then blown back together.

He thought at least they would have noticed all the bifrost activity.

But they were now, debriefing everyone.

Or at least, everyone they could find, which was everyone who had been at the event minus four Asgardians who had gotten zipped back to Asgard as soon as it was clear they wouldn't be dragging Loki back with them.

Also minus Loki.

Phil, who was in fact not dead after the getting-stabbed-by-Loki incident, was wearing one of the most hilarious expressions of confusion Tony had ever seen, made even more so by the fact that he was trying so very hard to understand the Avengers' wacked up stories, and to make sense of a incomprehensible situation, that didn't make much sense to any of them either.

Except perhaps Thor, but he wasn't saying much, staying uncharacteristically stoic and quiet, answering only yes and no questions.

Not too long after Loki had regained his senses, he had simply gone poof in a flash of greenish light that left them all blinded, and he was gone.

Much to Thor's disappointment.

And maybe Tony's as well, once he was able to actually admit it to himself that he almost missed the son of a bitch.

At least, he'd thought Loki was long gone—anywhere in the universe by now—until he noticed the single duct tape rose sitting in a wine glass on his table, that he was certain he hadn't left there.

"Okay Loki, I know you're here," he said, crossing his arms.

The was a soft chuckle behind him.

He turned to see the god standing there, once more decked out in his leather and metal armor, golden horned helmet upon his head.

"I hope you didn't get rid of the duct tape ones," Tony remarked, raising a brow. "The craftsmanship was impressive."

Loki just smirked at him, and Tony couldn't help but wonder why the hell he was here anyway.

He got an answer.

Sort of.

"A souvenir," Loki said, tossing something to the mortal. "It may soon become... invaluable." He turned, sweeping around, before tossing one last glance over his shoulder. "My best regards. Tony Stark."

"You too, Reindeer Games," Tony half snorted, half chuckled. He glanced down at the roll of 'golden' duct tape in his hands, then back up at the god, only to see the heel of a dark boot disappearing into his full length mirror, which rippled before calming.

He frowned, walking over and tapping on the completely solid glass.

He glanced back down at the tape in his hands.

Why the hell would this ugly tape be invaluable?

It wasn't till a few days later, when inexplicably every last roll of gold duct tape on planet earth disappeared, that Tony perhaps realized what Loki had meant by that.

He now had the very last roll of dull brownish bronze duct tape. In the world.

Just what he needed.

It ended up being used as bandages for particularly large gashes the Avengers got on their missions.

Odin Allfather entered the throne room one morning, and for a moment he stood there, the chamber looking slightly... off.

The throne room, as it turned out, was no longer gold. But rather, it was a strange brownish color, almost like a dull, flat bronze, that was utterly atrocious.

Upon further inspection, it appeared that the entire chamber, floors, walls and ceiling, was completely covered in what one of the Warriors Three informed him to be Midgardian Duck Tape.

Which wouldn't have been so bad, except for the fact that it would Not. Come. Off.

Even his throne was covered in the damned stuff.

Odin cursed Loki's name for a full fifteen minutes, and when he eventually stopped to take deep, furious breaths, the echoes of his shouts ricocheting off the halls sounded disturbingly akin to the God of Mischief's lilting laughter.



Yup, really long one-shot XD

EDIT: I have now posted the prequel to this story, which is called, Running Recalcitrant (I was originally going to call it Wretches And Kings, but I changed my mind) and am currently working on a sequel, which will likely be called, The Last Color You'll Ever See (Is Green) - although I might changed my mind again X3

I'd really appreciate feedback on what you think about this fic. So drop a review and let me know! ^.^