A/N: It's been a crazy stressful few weeks for me so I wanted to write something; this is what came out. This is one of the few stories that I've never felt is quite right no matter what I change. I keep tweaking it and revising it but I know myself and I'd probably never post it if I didn't just ignore my perfectionist nature. I hope you guys like it fine, though.
Warnings/Rated M for: blood, disturbing imagery/concepts, torture (I guess), minimal language, Loki-whumpage (when is there not whump?!)
Disclaimer: I own nothing, yadda, et cetera, seriously why do I even bother with this? ;)
Waiting for Perdition
"You want us to do what?" asked Stark, eyebrows raised in what he hoped was incredulity. Next to him, Bruce shifted but said nothing.
Nick Fury sighed and rubbed his forehead with his fingers; Tony couldn't care less if he was giving the man a headache, he needed a clear answer.
The Director of SHIELD lowered his hand and glared at the billionaire. "It's not that complicated, Stark. We need the two of you, if at all possible, to come up with a way to execute him."
"And I say again: What?!" Tony knew he was being annoying, he didn't care about that either. That still didn't explain anything.
It sat in the corner, the corner of the gray-steel room, silent and still, at first. As he approached, he could see a slight quaking, something in the hands, the shoulders, and ever so subtly in the green scrubs he wore. Strangely, the first thought that emerged was that it was some idiot's idea of a joke, the green scrubs. Green. He caught a smirk before it formed, the figure huddled- no, not just huddled, but cowering -in the corner stamping out any possible humor trying to form.
Loki. It was Loki. Of course it was Loki, but it also wasn't.
Tony stopped before even getting remotely close. It wasn't because he was afraid- for some reason he couldn't find that emotion -proper though it would be this close to the god, but he wasn't, not even a little bit, because he was so pathetic, so pitiful.
The pale face remained downcast, nearly facing the wall, the hair chopped short as if by a butcher's knife. His wrists were cuffed together by a short chain, his ankles, too. The silver muzzle remained affixed to the lower half of his face. But he wasn't hurt- or at least, he didn't seem to be. His skin was pale, yes, but otherwise unmarred. Even so, Tony's eye was distracted by a single droplet of dried blood on the hem of his shirt at the bottom.
Tony stared at it.
Loki. This is Loki. Damn.
"I don't know what we're doing here." Bruce's voice next to him caused Tony to start but his eyes remained on the trickster god.
"We tried everything," said Fury, his one eye appearing tired, even as harsh as it was. "Nothing has worked so far, so we need you two to come up with something, anything, that might do the job, permanently."
Bruce rung his hands together, a habit of the anxious. Tony's eyebrows remained plastered to his hairline.
"Okay," tried Bruce, appearing as tired as the director. "This is just... You really think the two of us are the most qualified for this... whatever this is..."
Fury sighed and tilted his head slightly, as if conceding the point. "No. Most of us aren't convinced you are, and we've got other people working on it, too, but none of us have been able to come up with a viable solution. The two of you, our so-called resident geniuses might have a more... unique perspective than the rest of us. Or, at the very least, a fresh perspective."
Tony continued staring, wide-eyed. "You know, Nick, maybe this isn't the best time to tell you about my whole 'issues with torture' and all that shit, it might come up here as a little bit of an issue-"
"It's not torture, Stark," bit out Fury with obvious annoyance, but there was a defensiveness to his tone as well. He crossed his arms and took in a deep breath. "It's an execution. Plain and simple. That's all we need and that's all you're expected to do; to-"
"What," Bruce interjected, "kill him?"
"Tell me you're seeing what I'm seeing, big green... You see him, right?" Tony mumbled without taking his eyes off the god.
Bruce shifted his weight next to him. "Don't call me that, Tony," was all he said, arms draped across his chest as if to protect him from the sight before them. Tony couldn't blame him, he himself kind of felt like running out of here screaming dramatically, but- Well. That was a little too dramatic, even for him, fun as it might be.
For some unfathomable reason, Tony found his legs moving toward their intended- What was Loki to them? Victim? Prisoner? Project? Ugh, all three sounded horrible.
"He's been here for, what, a couple of months? Longer?" asked Tony. "Why the hell is he still here?" He could have said, 'Why is he still alive?' but that just... didn't sound right coming out of his mouth.
Fury gave him a look. "I really hate having to repeat myself- We tried to execute him, just days after he was sent here-"
"And, right," interrupted Tony, "nothing worked, right." He lifted a finger. "So you need little ol' us to try our hand at playing judge, jury and executioner, then?"
"Don't be so dramatic, Tony. He's already been tried, by his own people, no less. We don't need another trial, he's just here because it's apparently Asgardian law that the victims enact the final punishment; in this case, Earth, and that punishment is execution."
The engineer and the scientist nodded. What else was there to say? They had agreed to work for SHIELD, at least for the time being, and this sounded more like a favor to Fury than anything; they didn't know how to say 'no'. He hadn't steered them wrong yet.
The effect was instantaneous when Tony foolishly decided to squat down next to the god- albeit still some distance away; Loki flinched so fiercely it made both Tony and Bruce flinch as well. Nothing else happened. The god remained where he was, silent, his face still hidden against the wall as he trembled slightly.
The single drop of blood screamed at Tony like a gaping wound. He looked at Bruce, whose face was blank except for the slight quirk of one of his eyebrows. Tony raised both eyebrows at him. They both left the room soon after.
There were hundreds of files sent to JARVIS' system- which Tony had brought with him to the SHIELD facility -within the hour all files on their resident trickster-god-prisoner, who apparently was also the subject of some questionable acts the SHIELD scientists called 'necessary procedures' in order to find out more about his physiology so they could kill him more properly. Or, at least, that's what Bruce had said, and the sarcasm was palpable. Tony had leaned down to make sure there wasn't any green in the other's eyes, to which said eyes had rolled and continued looking through the files.
"J?" Tony spoke up.
"Is there anything, I dunno, not boring in these files that I could actually understand?" Bruce gave him a look that said he was slightly offended that his field of science was something Tony considered 'boring'. Tony shrugged innocently.
"If by 'not boring' you mean 'not something you must read', then yes." Damn that snarky AI. "There are several dozen video files."
"Uh, video files?" Not what he meant... But still, that was weird, why would there be- But JARVIS had already started up the feed on a large screen in front of the two. "Oh..."
Bruce had left almost immediately, quickly realizing just what was on the videos. Tony honestly didn't know why he didn't just tell JARVIS to shut it off, because he felt like his eyes might explode, followed by his head. He rubbed his fingers into his sockets, trying to keep the images from being burned into his retinas.
What the hell is wrong with these people? Recording this? But of course, SHIELD recorded everything. Tony himself had obtained the footage of Loki while he was a "prisoner" aboard the helicarrier during his first visit to Earth so he could study their potential future enemy, should it be necessary. He had never actually gotten around to watching those files...
Right now he was watching a wonderful video titled simply as: P142_19, which was SHIELD-speak for "prisoner number 142 and attempt number 19 at executing said prisoner" which consisted of trying to inject deadly substances that Tony didn't recognize into his bloodstream.
Tony grimaced when he saw the god writhe on the metal table he was restrained on, his back arched and his eyes clenched shut, agony in his every feature.
Damn, Tony thought, I'm gonna go insane if I have to watch any more of this. But he knew he should, he didn't know why, be he knew he had to. He told himself that he needed the information in order to properly come up with a more viable execution method, but the truth was something less... clinical.
He could see it in the casual movements, the uncaring touches, the cold emotionless eyes of the god's supposed executioners- they didn't care. Everything painted in their faces, their bodies, said he was a slab of meat on a metal table, little more than an animal brought to the slaughter, and somehow... somehow Tony was trying to care. To be there... to be there for him... Why? Why? He had no answers.
But when execution attempt number 22 rolled around, Tony didn't even care that this was his enemy, he just felt like someone had to be there with the trickster god, to just know what had happened, that he shouldn't have been alone through all that torture. Because that's what it was, wasn't it? SHIELD and Fury's intentions might have been execution, and it was true, they had tried to execute him the most humane ways the first few tries, but with every passing numbered file, Tony couldn't help but feel like he was watching snuff film after snuff film- except the victim couldn't die, even if he wanted to.
File number 23 made Tony lose his breath. It wasn't that much worse, except that they were trying electrocution now, the god's body going rigid and jerkily straining against his metal bonds, but it was what happened on their third attempt that got to Tony; Loki was crying. The current was so strong his tears burned into his skin creating black streaks across his face and falling into his hairline.
Tony lowered his face to his hands, what the hell are we doing?
File number 29 made Tony vomit in the waste basket next to his desk. They were cracking open Loki's chest and trying to cut out his organs. It was clear that they had tried to administer drugs to render him unconscious first, but his physiology had apparently rejected everything they put in him, which meant he was awake when they started cutting at him.
Tony's hand was shaking fiercely as he covered his mouth. There were more tears, they glittered in the trickster god's eyes as his lungs could be seen quickly inflating and deflating as his heart beat a thousand miles a minute. It looked like it had worked as, finally, Loki had fallen limp, and they had sewed him back up, only for the monitors to come to life only two hours later, his organs having apparently grown back in such a short time.
Tony had already vomited a second time, then a third by the time Loki was fully awake again.
File number 36 made Tony pass out. When he woke up, the video had been paused on the picture and he promptly passed out again. The second time he woke up, the screen was blank.
"Sir, I have stopped the footage as you appear unable to remain conscious with it on your monitor."
The inventor shook his head and sat wearily in his chair. "No jokes now, Jarv," he said with a breathy, croaky voice.
"That was not my intention," returned the AI. Tony regretted that he sometimes couldn't tell when JARVIS was being sarcastic or serious- not that it mattered at the moment.
What was it that had caused him to faint like a first-year medical student? Oh right, they had cut off Loki's head. Somehow... somehow, that still hadn't worked, but how? He hadn't gotten passed the part with the saw and-
His fingers went to his mouth, not gonna vomit now, no no, not now. Passing out was bad enough, he was not going to throw up... again.
"J?" he swallowed the rising bile. "What's Bruce doing?"
"Doctor Banner is currently reviewing the files concerning the prisoner's physiology, presumably in order to determine-"
"Yeah, yeah, I don't need a play-by-play, I get it." But considering that cutting off the god's head hadn't even killed him Tony wondered if looking at his medical files would do any good. "Damn," he said out loud. Just what the hell did Fury think they could do?
Maybe it was time for a little visit.
Loki wasn't in his cell. And, to Tony's surprise- and anger -he found him two levels down, in a room that he couldn't gain access to.
"Hey," Tony said to a woman in a lab coat passing by. "I need to get in this door," he said, somewhat urgently. He didn't have time for tact or charm, he just had to get into that room. He knew what was happening in there and it made him sick even thinking about it. What the hell, Fury? Why even call us in?
The woman continued on her way, all but ignoring the Avenger.
"Shit," Stark mumbled.
The image of Loki having his head cut off with wide-open eyes made the world spin for a moment. I don't have time for this. He reached for a small device in his pocket he kept with him for just such an occasion; there wasn't an electronically guarded door in the universe Tony Stark couldn't open, and this one wouldn't be the exception. And, if it somehow was... Well, that's what the Iron Man suit was for.
The first room he entered was very dark, not a single light burning. It was some sort of observation room, but there was no one present. A large glass window- presumably a one-way mirror -bordered one side of the room. A single door led to a second, almost blindingly white, room. The hard light fell across the observation room's floor like an ominous blanket as Tony slowly stepped into it.
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
No no no no no nononononononono... The jagged blade was so close, lingering over his neck. He tried to scream, would have gladly screamed his throat bloody, but it didn't matter, did it? His throat was about to be cut, and again!
Then it was cutting, the serrated edge cutting into him and pain exploding through his entire body. And no, it didn't matter that he had tried to scream because his voice had been cut in half and his eyes were rolling up in his head and he begged for death please please please let me die let me die someone help me save me! No no no nononono...
There was warmth. Darkness. Brightness. Blinding brightness. Sticky. Wet. Pain pain pain pain painpainpain no no nononono someone help me please! someone plea-
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
Tony burst into the room, he didn't know why he had waited so long, he just couldn't bring himself to breach the protective barrier the glass wall had provided- separating him from living nightmares.
"What the hell are you doing?!" he tried to scream, but all that came out was a high-pitched gurgle that caught in his throat.
But it was too late. The dark-haired, blood-matted head, with still wide-eyes and gag firmly in place was all that greeted him.
There was a man, with gloves and garments that covered every bit of him and a mask that covered his face and the glasses that protected his eyes-
Tony couldn't even form thoughts at the presence of these people. They were staring at him, paused like the horrible movies he had seen too much of, but he didn't care about them right now.
"Get out..." he said quietly through clenched teeth.
"GET OUT!" Tony screamed so loud he made himself jump. The effect was immediate as every person in the room rushed out, some stumbling over instruments as the metal clanged across the floor.
The silence rung in his ears. Death and quiet. But something drummed loudly a moment later: drip, drip, drip said the blood. The green scrubs weren't green anymore.
Tony's body didn't want to vomit, it didn't know how right now. His mind couldn't comprehend what he was seeing. It was just a horror movie, that's all. Nothing is real, nothing is real, nothing is real nothing is real.
He walked forward, hands clenched in fists at his side, elbows locked straight, head stiffly downcast as his eyes remained on the dripping thing before him. He didn't dare breathe.
Nothing is real.
He swallowed. Then swallowed again. He didn't know why he was doing it, didn't even fully register that his hands were moving. They were as numb as the rest of his body.
His hands grasped the head on both sides, it was heavier than he was expecting- that much was all that registered in his thoughts. Next, his eyes observed his hands moving the head down, down... down.
Somehow, inexplicably, the ripped skin along the bottom of the head, when touched by the neck of the body, began to weave itself into the skin below it. With the fascination of an unthinking, uncomprehending mind, Tony watched with rapt attention. The blood was still there, on his hands, on the skin, the table, everywhere everywhere everywhere, but it didn't matter because it would grow renewed inside the body, he knew.
A morbid, blank smile spread on Tony's face. Heal. How. How can- His mind tried words but they wouldn't come.
The weaving was soon complete, the skin, although still red with wetness, was smooth, as if nothing at all had ever touched it. So Tony wanted to touch it, feel the impossible anomaly beneath his still-numb fingers. Maybe it might make the feeling in his cold digits come back?
Then suddenly, the eyes opened. For a moment Tony couldn't comprehend what that was, the bright green orbs that stared at nothing with too-wide eyes, then, when they flicked to his brown ones, he jumped back, suddenly afraid. Tony collided with the glass wall behind when an ear-shattering scream resounded through the room. It didn't matter that it was muffled behind metal, it made his bones hurt to hear it.
The scream continued until the body was out of breath, then it started again after he had inhaled deeply and raggedly.
Suddenly, Tony's mind snapped back. He blinked rapidly and stared, stared at the body- no, not a body, Loki. Loki, Loki, Loki... On impulse, Tony stumbled forward and released the metal clamps that kept the trickster god on the table. He didn't know why he was doing it, only that he needed to; the sight, the memory of this event was forever burned into his mind and he didn't want to see it anymore.
Without a second's hesitation, Loki stopped screaming and scrambled off the table in a frenzy, his body thudding on the floor. Tony winced at the sound, dull bone hitting concrete, but didn't near. The god screamed some more as he crawled across the room like something out of a horror movie, head on the floor. The movements weren't... human. They were uncoordinated and frantic to the point of spasms, like he couldn't control his movements, but he seemed determined to move across the floor despite it all. When he reached a wall, his head cracked against it, then again, then again, and Tony flinched and winced each time. Damn, what's wrong with him?
The god's head was low, spine bowed over, the back of his head hitting the wall repeatedly, arms twitching with jerky movements. He then remained against the wall, and pushed himself with his legs until his head quite literally hit the corner nearest him. Something about his movements reminded Tony of a broken robot whose owner had somehow fallen asleep on the "go" button.
It all might have been comical if not for the fact that it was terrifying. Tony felt not unlike a person trapped with a madman that was, well...not a man; more, perhaps, like an animal that had just lost its head. He flinched back as if his own thoughts had just hit him physically. What the hell, Tony?
After what felt like an eternity, the god stilled, his movements less flailing and self-harming and more...sad. He was prostrate and his head was still in the corner, every part of him shaking fiercely. And, when Tony's own heart had stilled and stopped beating so loudly, he could hear, what was that? He dared to take a step closer, then another, then another... Loki was crying- no sobbing, albeit quietly.
Tony felt his heart lurch at the sound. And suddenly, he didn't care about whatever Loki had done, how many people he had hurt, had killed, how he had tried to take over the world- as strange as it was to think now, given the pathetic form before him -it all didn't matter. This was wrong on so many levels the wrongness of it would probably give Captain America a heart attack.
When "normal and sane punishments" didn't work, SHIELD clearly just said, 'the hell with it, let's try cruel and unusual' and then went ahead and did it because this couldn't be called anything else but.
His shaking legs moved him forward, but Tony still wasn't sure how good of an idea this was. Despite just having his head chopped off Loki still had his godly-strength, and, you know, he had just had his head chopped off and had bounced back; this was a man to be terrified of, and yet, Tony couldn't help but feel nothing but pity for the sad figure.
Loki still twitched on occasion and seemed to further bury himself into the wall every few seconds.
Tony stayed back several steps, but leaned slightly over, as if that would help somehow, then whispered, "L-Loki?"
A startled and muffled yelp escaped the god as he fell on his side, although his head remained firmly affixed to the corner and his legs attempted to hide his chest. Wide and wet unblinking green eyes jumped to Tony's, but they didn't seem to see him.
The billionaire leaned in a little more, taking a half-step closer. At the movement, Loki flinched hard, his eyes finally registering some sort of recognition of the man before him.
"Uh..." started Tony, but what could he say?
He and Loki both jumped when the single door to the room burst open, several men with black gear from head to toe and large guns at the ready rushing in. Tony's heart jumped into his throat, but he at least noticed that none of them were pointing the guns at him- they were all trained on the mischief god on the floor.
At the end of their long train walked in the director himself.
Normally, Tony would have a snarky and biting remark for the one-eyed man, but right now, his throat was too busy being filled with his heart to even move much less try for his usual tact.
"Stark," Fury nodded in his direction as he walked passed the Avenger and headed toward the god. He crossed his arms several steps away and looked at the figure on the floor with slight contempt and...sadness? It was a resigned expression, almost. "What am I going to do with you," he sighed.
For a long moment, nothing happened.
Then, trembling, the prone god crawled the little distance to reach the director, and to Tony's surprise, he curled in on himself in an obvious kowtow, his prostrate form making Tony's heart beat even faster. The trickster's hands were splayed flat on the floor, even as they shook, his head bowed to expose his neck in an obvious show of submission.
Tony blinked. Fury rubbed his head and shifted uncomfortably- which was something, as Nick never looked uncomfortable. Then, he shook his head slowly and turned sideways, as if directly facing the god disturbed him.
"Get him out of here," muttered Fury to his men, eyes avoiding Loki and Tony, both.
Immediately, two of the soldiers clasped chains on Loki's wrists and ankles, then dragged him out of the room quite unceremoniously. And before Tony could say anything, or even think to say anything, Fury and his men were gone, the blood still dripping from the table the only thing filling Tony's vision.
Tony released the breath he had been holding.
"So what the hell are we supposed to do?!" Tony yelled- a little bit too loudly, maybe -as he and Bruce sat in the science lab where they had taken up residence the last few hours. "I mean..." He paced across the floor for the millionth time, then stepped up to Bruce with a hand out. "I mean, Bruce, you should have seen him, he was practically begging Fury to... to..."
Bruce raised a brow. "To?"
"I don't know!" he coughed out a mirthless laugh. "I don't know," he said quietly next. "Maybe...kill him? Hell, that's what I'd beg for after how many almost deaths? It's like a nightmare you can't escape. Imagine being killed over and over, the next one worse than the last, I can't-" He intertwined his fingers on top of his head and leaned his body against a desk. "Oh God," he mumbled into his hands as they moved to cover his face. "This is a disaster..."
There was silence for a few moments, then Bruce spoke quietly, "It's too bad we can't just remove that muzzle and ask Loki how to kill him." His words seemed like a joke, but his tone was dead serious. "I mean...you're right. Loki's probably ready to die by now. He probably even expected execution when he was first sent here. It makes sense that he would want to die. I just don't know what we can do about it. If the guy can survive decapitation, I'm not sure what else we could do."
Tony shook his head and straightened up. "You know, I actually think they were onto something there."
"Loki didn't actually heal until I...re-attached his head to his...body." Tony grimaced at the memory and couldn't believe he had done that.
"So," began Bruce, thinking, "you think they were planning on separating his head fully? That he might die eventually that way?"
"But," said Bruce, his thinking cap clearly on, "I'm thinking that might even be worse." The billionaire frowned in question. Bruce canted his head to the side. "I'm just saying, who knows if that would even really kill him. What if..." he grimaced. "What if he was still alive, somehow, and he was just...separated from his body. But, you know, still conscious...in there..." He readjusted his glasses nervously.
Tony felt like his own grimace wouldn't go away anytime soon at that new thought. He resisted the urge to curse up a storm, but only because he was afraid vomit might come out instead of words. Since when did their lives become so morbid that they had to consider whether or not a head was still alive after it was removed from the body? It was all wrong. Tony groaned in frustration. Freaking gods...
Bruce was cleaning his glasses now as he mumbled, "I'm just glad Thor isn't here to see this, can you imagine how he would-"
"Thor," Tony interrupted, a finger up.
The glasses remained off. "What's that?"
A smile started growing on Tony's face. "Thor," he said again. "Thor, Thor, dammit, Thor!" He grabbed Bruce by the shoulders and resisted the urge to kiss him. Bruce, for his part, looked baffled. Tony wrapped an arm around his friend's shoulders and gazed at the ceiling as if he could see the sky. In that moment, Tony briefly wondered if he hadn't lost his mind a little bit after all he'd seen today. "Oh yeah," he said, smile widening.
"'Oh, yeah' what, Tony. You're kind of freaking me out right now..."
The billionaire chuckled and looked to his friend, not letting him go just yet. "We're gonna tell Thor." Bruce blinked. Tony nodded, still smiling. "We are so gonna tell big brother."
Bruce lightly pushed Tony off, then rubbed the back of his hair as if Tony had messed it up. "And...why?"
"Why? Why? Isn't it obvious, he's gonna rescue him!" Oh yeah, he's definitely lost his mind more than a little bit.
"Um...okay?" The scientist looked a little confused, but not entirely opposed to the idea- or so it seemed to Tony.
"I'm serious, Brucie. We'll get Big Red And Blonde down here, tell him what's up with his lil' bro, then he'll... he'll..." Well, he hadn't quite thought ahead that much, but he was convinced the plan was sound.
"You do realize that Thor knew Loki would probably be executed when he was sent down here, right?"
"Well, sure," said Tony quickly. "But I doubt he knows about..." he hesitated, "all this." He made a sweeping gesture to encompass...everything.
Bruce stared at his friend for a moment, crossed his arms, then, unexpectedly, shrugged and said, "Sure. You're right."
"I...am?" Tony could hardly believe it. His insane plan made sense! And to someone who wasn't him. Well, of course since it was his plan it would make sense- what had he been thinking? Yeah, Loki's insanity was catching, that was for sure.
The scientist's smile was small but enough to comfort Tony, somehow. So Tony smiled back. This would work. Oh yeah, this would work.
Tony felt like an idiot, frankly. He was, quite literally, yelling at the sky. Why did Thor's calling card have to go through some guy that they had to yell at as if they were raging against the heavens? The thunder god hadn't been Earth-side ever since his brother had been sent for his punishment, which wasn't that surprising, considering. Who wanted to hang out on a world that had executed your brother? At least not so soon...
"Hey!" Tony called to the vaguely dragon-shaped cloud almost directly above him. "Yo, Thor! Puny mortals calling Mister God-of-Shampoo-Commercials!" Tony rolled his eyes. Figures. Right when they needed him he wouldn't come. He had been screaming at the sky for nearly thirty minutes now! What was keeping him?
Just as that thought formed in his mind, a bright flash of light lit up the sky and, as per usual, Thor appeared in a stream of rainbow-tastic glory before him, red cape flowing. Ugh. Is that cape alive or something? There wasn't even wind here.
Tony walked forward. "Hiya, big guy. Long time no see. Or speak. Or, ya'know, anything. How's that castle in the sky serving you?"
Ignoring most of what Tony had just said, Thor nodded once and mumbled, "Man of iron," in lieu of an actual greeting. Strangely, his normally bright blue gaze was downcast as he avoided looking Tony straight in the eye. Right. Dead brother...
"Oh hey," Tony patted the thunder god on his armored shoulder. "How 'bout that brother of yours not being dead?" Tony immediately regretted the smile he had on his face when Thor's eyes jumped to his, wide and confused, angry but almost hurt. Of course he had to blurt everything out.
So. I'm a huge jerk.
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
He was back in his cell, or... what was this place to him? To them? A cage for an animal they were trying to put down? A waiting room that he would eternally wait in until he withered away, his mind long lost along with the blood that slowly dripped down the drain of that too-bright room? He didn't know and it didn't matter.
He briefly remembered one of the Avengers being in the room the last time he had died; the man of iron, was it? It was so difficult to remember, his innumerable executions melded together in a terrifying nightmare that would never end. And he had begged the man named Fury again! Why would he prolong his torture this way? Why would he not kill him permanently? But that was the problem, wasn't it? The mortals simply didn't know how.
Loki had, at first, assumed this was their chosen punishment, that he would die over and over for all the lives he had taken. But, thinking back, the methods of execution themselves painted a different picture. They began with trying to put him to sleep- which they did, but he always awoke later, no worse than when they had begun. The next twenty or so times- Loki had lost count, honestly -they had tried poisons and things mingled into his blood. They were painful and grew in intensity as the weeks past. From that time on, when their methods began to change, he realized they weren't doing it as torture so much as new methods of killing him- and that they were trying to do it permanently.
Loki had feared death when he first arrived on Midgard, but he soon begged for it. The first time they had cut off his head he had screamed and screamed and tried to beg with his eyes as much as he could, but to no avail. The man named Fury might have had some thoughts on the matter, but the people in white coats that were in charge of actually enacting the executions- they barely seemed to notice Loki. They treated him as if he were an interesting specimen to be studied, like the insect that needed its wings pulled off to see that they could be pulled off. They made Loki shiver.
And the man of iron- Tony Stark. Had he truly been there? Or had his mind conjured up the man in some futile effort to believe that one of the mortals might try...something. Loki didn't even know what. Save him? Ludicrous. They hated him; who would wish death on the trickster more than the Avengers? Was that not their function?
The god lay against the floor on his side, the familiar feel of the metal around his wrists and ankles almost a welcome respite from the horror of the...room.
What was there to live for anymore? Would he go on like this forever? The mortals could easily be replaced with more, the new ones could continue this on for the rest of Loki's very long life.
Despair overwhelming him, Loki choked out a sob. He didn't even want to imagine it- he would be mad before the year was out. But how long had he been here already? Weeks? Months? Had it already been years? He found himself begging, even in his own mind, for death, for someone, anyone to take his terrible excuse for a life from him. Please, please, someone kill me...end it. He wanted to speak, then maybe he could call to Heimdall and ask him to ask the All-father to send someone- someone from Asgard that could actually do the deed for the mortals, if that was their wish.
The harsh metal grinding of the door opening made Loki jump, his thoughts interrupted.
"Shit, that was too easy," floated a voice toward him from the open door.
Loki blinked, but couldn't find the strength- physical or otherwise -to even sit up. Already? Again? Still, the voice was familiar...
Then, like something out of a dream, the tall figure of his brother entered his vision. Loki blinked rapidly, certain his eyes were playing tricks on him. Or...am I dreaming? I have to be. What is-
"In, in, Thor!" said the man of iron in hushed tones as he all but pushed the thunder god inside- or at least tried.
Loki craned his neck, eyes still wide and unbelieving. No. I'm dreaming. It was the only explanation. But why was Tony Stark here? He was never in these dreams.
"Loki..." said the overwhelmingly familiar voice of Thor. Brother... The trickster tried to blink away his tears, but found that he no longer had the ability to stop such a simple act anymore, not after he had cried enough to fill the whole of Midgard's oceans.
Then suddenly Thor was rushing toward him, so quickly that Loki cried out in fear. He didn't know why he was suddenly afraid, maybe because he feared this wasn't real, that the wondrous visage of his brother would disappear and he would be left alone with his despair and tears once again.
"Brother," began Thor, leaning down on one knee above him. "It is I-"
"Thor!" whispered a voice from behind the elder god. "Just grab him and let's go. I'm sure it's a tearful reunion but SHIELD'll be on the way any second now!" So it was Tony Stark, the voice was unmistakable.
But Thor seemed to not hear the mortal as he stared at Loki and Loki stared right back. And when two gentle hands removed the muzzle around Loki's head, he continued to stare. Can it be? The blue eyes were the same, so much the same. But he still couldn't believe it.
That was when Thor grabbed him and hauled him into the tightest embrace he had ever felt. Loki felt as if his tears were being squeezed out of him and he thought it was the most wonderful feeling in the realms.
"Th-Thor?" he choked out with the most pathetic, hoarse voice he had ever heard. Is that my voice?
The thunder god held him tighter, then ran a frantic hand through his dark hair, then kissed him fiercely on the head. Loki briefly heard Stark saying something behind them, but neither god heard him.
"Loki, oh Loki, my brother- I should have never let you go. I-I should have never-" He kissed Loki on the head again as the younger grasped tightly to the elder's armored chest, unable to properly return the embrace whilst still bound. "I love you, I will never let you go again. Never again...never."
Loki didn't know what to say, still couldn't believe this to be true. Because how could something so wonderful be true? Was Thor truly here...and to save him? To save the traitorous trickster? It was so overwhelming that Loki smiled despite the ache it caused him to do so as he rested his head against Thor's shoulder. "Please," he choked out. "Please, take me away from here. I don't want to die anymore. I don't want to- No more. I...I..." Just say it! "I'm so- so sorry, brother..." He started sobbing. Just say the words! "I- I love you...too." It's true, it's true, has to be, has to- "Please don't leave me here."
Thor's hands continued stroking his head. "I will not leave you, Loki," he all but whispered. "Never again, I give you my word."
"Thor!" hissed the mortal from behind them. "We have to go. Now!"
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
"Oh, shit..." mumbled Stark as the agents of SHIELD- the same ones that had taken Loki away before -walked in a half-crouch toward their location. "This is really not going well- Thor!" he yelled into the cell. Finally, finally Thor was rising; when he turned around he was carrying Loki in his arms, the muzzle on the floor at his feet. Yep. Not going well. If they would have to fight... Thor would have to put down Loki- he didn't see that happening.
Movement to Tony's side caught his eye, and before he knew it, someone was passing him and approaching the soldiers.
"Uh..." Tony said with his usual eloquence.
It was none other than a certain Doctor Banner. Hm.
He walked calmly toward the agents, and for some reason, it sent a shiver through Tony that Bruce was always so calm, even in a situation like this. The scientist knew what Tony and Thor were doing, of course, but they had both insisted he stay in the lab in case things got...out of hand.
But here he was, facing off against nearly two dozen armed men clad in black- they couldn't even see their faces through the dark helmets. At the approaching Banner, the men almost collectively stopped in their tracks. They looked to their leaders, obviously confused as to what they should do.
"Hi, guys," said Bruce with a small half-wave of his hand. The gesture was so innocent and innocuous but it seemingly sent a shiver through every man before him.
Tony smirked. Smart guys. It was good to know SHIELD was filled with people who at least had some common sense.
Banner didn't budge and neither did the soldiers, their still forms in a line against one wall and disappearing until the corridor bent out of view. It was strange, this sight, that such a small man could cause such fear in more than a dozen people armed to the teeth with state of the art gear.
Thor emerged from the cell with Loki, who had laid his head on the elder's shoulder as if he hadn't the energy to even lift his head.
"Man of iron?" Thor looked at the SHIELD soldiers and Banner with some curiosity.
"No worries, blondie," said Stark, a hand on his friend's too-large shoulder. "Bruce's got our back. And hey! He didn't even have to smash anything to do it; SHIELD's getting smart." He smiled.
Fortunately, their escape route was in the opposite direction from the large group of soldiers.
"Let's go," said Tony. He called back to Bruce, "You coming?"
Bruce turned his head around, "Nah, you guys go ahead. Me and the boys here are keeping each other company. Right, guys?"
Tony would have laughed if he wasn't hightailing it out of the SHIELD base along with two Norse gods.
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
It wasn't until after they had escaped the building that Loki noted they had not run into anyone else, not even a single stray agent in the corridors. It struck him as odd, but at the moment he couldn't bring himself to care overmuch as he was being held in Thor's arms, the cool night air touching his skin. He drank it in, turning his gaze to the sky. There were thousands of stars and he realized they weren't in any city, but on the outskirts of a large town that lay below the hill that the building sat upon.
They were currently making their way down a smaller hill beside the SHIELD compound.
"Loki," Thor's voice brought his attention back. "Brother, can you perform magic?"
The trickster god blinked. Magic... Now that the muzzle was gone, yes, yes he could. And the thought suddenly struck him, overwhelmed him. It's... it's returned, I can use my magic again. He smiled unconsciously, even as the act hurt his disused jaw. "Yes. Yes...I can." Thor smiled in return and held him tighter.
"Okay, Mister Smileys, no offense to all this brotherly affection, but can you guys get a move on?" asked Stark.
Thor looked to his friend. "You believe SHIELD and Fury will attempt to retrieve Loki?"
"Uh, no, actually, I was thinking more about your daddy," said Stark, looking around and about nervously, as if the All-father might appear next to them- and perhaps he was not entirely wrong. Heimdall could have easily told Odin of Loki's escape, someone could already be on their way. "I mean," continued Stark, "don't get me wrong, Fury's a scary guy, there's no way we would've gotten out of there without a fight if he really wanted to keep reindeer games here."
Thor frowned. "You believe he wished us to escape with Loki?"
Tony's head whipped around to look at the thunder god. "Isn't that what I just said? But really," he looked to Loki, "you gonna do your magic mojo or whatever?"
Loki was lowered to the ground gently as a brief moment of panic overtook him at his being separated from Thor in so open a place, but he quickly quelled the thought as the thunderer wrapped an arm around his shoulders.
Stark continued to look around nervously until Loki spoke to him, "Stark." His voice was scratchy and he tried to clear it, if mostly unsuccessfully. "Stark," he tried again as the man of iron looked at him expectantly. "I..." Loki didn't know what to say, so he just spit out what first came to mind. "I...thank you. I know it was you and...and Banner who...saved me." He couldn't believe he was thanking mortals, of all things, for his rescue, but the truth, at least in this instance, had to be voiced more than anything.
A half-smile dawned on the mortal's bearded face. "No problem, Bambi," he said. "Hey, the little brother of my friend might as well be my little...brother..." Loki raised a single eyebrow. Stark perked his lips. "Or something. Hey, I'm bad with words when I'm not drunk, give me a break."
Loki gave him as genuine a smile as he could manage and bowed his head- it was the least he could do given what the man had done for him. "And," Loki said, "if you could convey my thanks to Bruce Banner as well?"
"Sure, sure," Stark waved a hand. "I'll tell him, don't worry."
Thor opened his mouth, "Stark-"
But the same waving hand shot up, palm out, to stop the thunder god. "Nuh-uh. Big guy, I've had enough thanks from Norse gods today, thanks."
For such a seemingly arrogant man, Loki thought, he certainly didn't take praise well.
Thor nodded his head once. "Will you be...punished for your aiding of us?"
Tony snorted. "Not likely. Not only is it obvious that Fury let us go, but no one's gonna do anything against a guy who could buy the world ten times over." And there was the arrogance... "Anyway, people might say we live in a democracy- they're wrong. We live in a plutocracy; nothing's gonna happen."
The thunderer nodded again and held tighter to Loki, who, for once, felt no need to push him away. Whatever might happen, he had his brother and, as much as his mind wished to deny it, he knew Thor would not abandon him again.
He weaved his magic and felt the familiar pull of Yggdrasil as he and Thor disappeared from the mortal realm, the light of their passing all that was left for the single mortal to witness.
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
Tony smiled as Bruce approached his spot on a hilltop. Neither said anything as the scientist sat next to his friend. The stars were beautiful and the breeze sweet, the echo of the crossing of gods into other worlds still almost tangible on his tongue.
They sat there, for how long they didn't know, and all was well with the world again. Except...didn't they just let a mass-murdering psychopath loose on the universe? Dammit! Ugh. I'll get on it tomorrow. I'm too sleepy today, thought Tony. Yes. Tomorrow... And with that, he fell asleep on the soft grass as he and his friend watched the stars twinkle in the night sky.
A/N: I somewhat felt like this ending is a little too fluffy for the content in this fic but I wanted it to end on a good note (and hey look at that, great stress reliever, too ;D). I also tend to like the contrast of "dark" to "light", if that makes any sense. Kind of think this could work as a slightly longer story but I don't really have the time with all the fics I'm working on at the moment.
I suppose my "torture (I guess)" warning is because it's more unintentional torture than anything (not that that changes things for the victim). SHIELD has basically dehumanized Loki so they don't really see it as torture. Gruesome but psychologically accurate, I think. Also, sorry for the (literal?) deus ex machina but I decided Loki needed to get away from Earth pronto. ;P
So what do you guys think? Weird, good, horrible? Any comments/reviews welcome.
(As a side note: there's probably some unanswered questions here, because, as I said, it feels like it could be a longer story. There's certainly a lot going on in the "background" that we don't see (especially in regards to SHIELD's motives and Fury). If you have questions, feel free to ask.)