Chapter 10: Face-off.
Thor was oddly calm once they had headed away. Somehow the thrill of battle and the promise of a fight made his worries seem like minor issues. He knew that he could help Loki by doing something, by standing by his side. Now, he only cared about speed, hurry, faster and faster. He needed to be there. Every second wasted to catch a breath could be a second too much. Tony could not follow him at the same speed, it asked too much of his suit, but Thor would see him there, he would be able to hold off any enemies long enough. He touched down on the grounds of the industrial park, just remembering Tony’s warning about catching attention so that he could land between some steel plates. He couldn’t see Loki. He was inside somewhere already. Norns forbid he would be too late, not again.
Loki was quiet when he snuck into the building that held the Chitauri. He was not like Thor, barging in with his powers blazing, it wouldn’t do. He needed to know things first. How many were there? How did they get here? And what was the device he had seen before? He moved slowly, his back close to the wall. The warehouse was relatively empty, there were a few old tables and workspaces, the odd larger compartment of things that the humans had built here once. The place was grim. Loki did not like it here at all, it was just so dark and cold. He heard them, the Chitauri. He could hear the noises they made to communicate. It made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end with memories. He grit his teeth against it. No, he would not be afraid. This was his chance to take back his own strength. To show them that he was not just the cowering little prince. Thor, Thor’s friends, the Chitauri: They would all know it. He rounded a corner, hiding himself behind the old working-bench nearby. There were about 8 of them, Chitauri foot folk. They were working on the device, a machine that had the size of a small car. He did not trust the look of it. It looked like a canon, but there was no ammo nearby, no crates or energy tubes. If it was something that had to fire, they were not planning on doing so soon. Was that a good thing? He was not so sure yet.
He rounded the corner and snuck to a closer bench. They were making it ready for something anyway, the mechanics were functioning. Loki had to know what they were doing. He sighed and looked to a nearby door before he projected the image of a man there, a Midgardian man, simple and plain, just enough for the Chitauri to spot. He waited for one of them to look up before he made his projection run off as if he had been spotted. The Chitauri took the bait, gathering their weapons and chasing after the image that had fled down the hallway. Loki waited for a while before he walked towards the device. It was indeed huge. But he could not find anything it would have to fire. He looked behind him for a moment more before he pried off one of the plates to look inside. For a while he was just looking at wires until he could see the tubes. They were significant, made of glass. He parted the wires and looked at the runes that were carved in their holders. These were mage-runes. The device was not to fire, it was to drain. They had made it to collect the power from the Tesseract to turn it into a weapon. He set his jaw tightly. Oh that was not good at all. He made to get up and turned. He met the faces of 6 Chitauri, they had already surrounded him. He instinctively reached for the knives he usually carried with him, but he did not have anything. He was pretty sure they recognized him even through his disguise. They were not stupid. One lunged forward and he shot a bolt of his magic at it, making it screech in pain. He made ready to do the same to the rest, but any plans went lost when one of them hit him hard enough on the head to make him stumble, another hit and he fell over forward, vision dimming instantly. One of them had snuck up behind him. He really was out of his depth. Normally he would have sensed them, and a simple hit to the head wouldn’t have fazed him so much. But he was not yet in shape, not as he should be, not like he usually was.
When Loki woke up again he was relieved not to be in tremendous pain. His arm pulsed, quite horribly too.
“Loki?” He heard. “Can you hear us?”
That was Banner’s voice. There was some shuffling.
“Brother, please wake again. Are you well?” Thor asked.
Loki grunted then and opened his eyes. He was warm though, fever? He was looking into a bright set of lights, white almost.
“Jarvis, dim the light above his head.” Tony immediately ordered.
“His eyes are really creepy like that.” Pepper’s voice muttered.
Loki shook his head, back in Stark Tower. He was safe. Thor must have found him. He waited for his vision to focus and saw that they were all there, Bruce, Thor, Pepper, Stark… And they all sported the same concerned gaze. Loki hummed and slowly brought up his hand to rub in his eyes. But as he did he saw a flare of blue rather than soft pink. He gasped and shot up. His entire skin, he was Jotun.
“Loki, easy.” Thor immediately said, putting a hand on Loki’s shoulder. He was wearing gloves, the rest was also dressed warmly, sweaters and scarves, Loki got a hunch that the temperature here was kept low by Stark to favour him.
“What happened to me?” Loki hissed.
“We hoped you could tell us. When we found you the Chitauri had fired this weapon at you, Thor thought you were dead.” Bruce explained, carefully taking Loki’s arm.
“They used their device on me…” Loki cursed. “They took my magic.”
Thor squeezed his shoulder harder.
“They… They can’t do that. Magic is part of you, they can’t just take that right? It’s-”
“You think I look like THIS for bloody good fun?”
This form that he despised so much. Thor frowned and knelt in front of him.
“What do we do? Can I help you? Do anything?”
Loki looked at Thor’s face and then at Banner who finished the new wrap on his broken arm, assuring it was still fine.
“I will have to wait. The device cannot destroy the paths of Seiðr in me. But the reservoirs they made for me are completely empty and drained now. It will take weeks, at least two, before they are back on track. It will be at least two or three more DAYS before I can even turn my skin back to normal.”
He looked at the ring he used for his disguises, the gems were all cracked like cheap glass, the magic gone. He put his hands over his face and took a few deep breaths, feeling an anger rise up just as strong as a fear. He needed his magic. He was NOTHING without it, hopeless, small and weak.
“May we speak alone?” Thor asked then to his friends.
They were staring and he just knew that Loki only felt more pressured if they were there. One by one they left, glad to return to the warmer comfort of the rest of the tower. Loki knew that Thor was cold too, his breath came out in puffs of steam and he rubbed his arms. But this was nothing compared to their first encounter in Jotunheim. Thor pulled a chair close. Loki had been on a table, but a cushioned one, that would keep him comfortable.
“Stark informed me that he made these rooms for when he was still sick with that device that kept the shrapnel away from his heart. It’s old technology he was talking about. Primitive. But the bottom line was that you could be looked at here without involving Midgard’s hospitals.”
Loki nodded, but it was only half-heartedly.
“We need to get that device and destroy it. They made it to drain and harness the power of the Tesseract, I’m almost sure of it. If they manage to do so, they could control the strength of it into a weapon, a beam. The focused devastation can take planets apart with a good shot.”
“And we will go do that… But Loki, brother… You need me first. Is there anything I can do? Anything I can retrieve for you to help your recovery?”
Loki huffed and shook his head, his hands curling around the table. He looked at his bare feet, protruding from under the sweat-pants that Stark had most likely provided for him.
“There is nothing. It’s something my body has to make of its own.”
He slammed his hand down.
“Another setback! It’s like I cannot do a single damn thing right anymore!”
Thor winced a little and reached out for Loki.
“You are in a bad position. But you are not alone Loki. You have us. Stark has apologized for his behaviour too. You have a team, you have people to help you. Please, don’t give up your hopes.”
Loki sighed and smiled thinly.
“You always insist on making things look light again.”
Thor leaned his elbows on his knees and looked into Loki’s eyes, blood-red and shimmering with tears.
“And you cry and feel lost so quickly.” He chuckled and brushed a hand through his brother’s hair.
“Experience I suppose.” Loki sniffed a little, smiling through his upcoming tears.
“Nonsense, come… Will you be able to join us for a meal? You will probably recover much better if you eat and sleep well.”
Loki wiped at his eyes and laughed a little.
“Yeah. I will be right with you, let me find a shirt so I don’t frostbite people.”
Loki brushed off his brother’s hands then and came to his feet.
“You can go ahead, I’m sure I’ll be able to find my way there.”
Thor was about to protest and say that it was no trouble for him to wait up and walk with Loki, but he quickly came to realise that Loki himself rather see him there later.
“Do not take too long then, I’d have to come retrieve you.”
Loki snorted a little and traced one of the Jotun lines that took up his shoulder.
“Wouldn’t dream of it.”
Thor nodded and left Loki to his own devices then. He could understand that Loki would feel a need for some privacy, after all, he had only just woken up after being cornered. He had been lucky that Thor and the rest were on time. Thor grit his teeth a bit. If he had lingered any longer, who knows what state Loki could have been in. Or worse, he could have been gone, taken somewhere. On the other hand, if he had just been quicker, Loki wouldn’t have lost his magic. He took the elevator back to the lounge room where the others had gathered, the same room where they had eaten before and enjoyed conversation. The rest was already there, sort of huddled by the coffee-table and looking at Thor quite anxiously.
“Is it permanent?” Banner asked. “The blue state… Because, he seems to hold quite a hatred to it.”
“No. It’s not permanent. 2 days, Loki said. It’s his true state… But he decided to deny this. It’s a difficult thing for outsiders to grasp.”
Loki joined them shortly after. He had put on a simple shirt, long-sleeved and soft. Together with the baggy pants that Pepper had gotten for him earlier, Loki looked a lot less intimidating. He looked skinny and even a bit small.
“You want anything?” Thor immediately asked.
“Ice. It’s so warm out here.”
Tony stood and came back with a jacket instead that could regulate temperatures.
“I use it under the suit sometimes, to keep me warm, but it can also keep you cold so…”
He handed it over and sighed a bit.
“For what it’s worth I apologize that I put you in that position. I was wrong. But you really, really messed with my head with the shit you pulled in New York- I could not trust you, I could not bring myself to it until I saw it.”
Loki hummed and pulled the fabric over his shoulders, cooling down at least a bit now.
“It’s all well.” He just muttered.
“Hungry?” Pepper asked instead, bringing out the food she had cooked. “You will recover better when you eat well.”
Loki put his head in his hands and sighed deeply, not looking at any of them.
“To be honest… I just really want to be alone at this moment.”
They looked between each other.
“Are you angry with us brother?” Thor asked.
“No… But I have been talked to, pushed and pulled at from every side these past days. Good intentions, bad intentions. Encouragements, warnings, conversations, advices everywhere… I just want to be alone for a moment… Before I completely lose my head again.”
He stood up from the table and took the plate that Pepper had handed him.
“I’ll lower the temperatures in your room for your own comfort then.” Tony said.
Loki only nodded and walked away, leaving the rest alone at the table to eat in silence.
“Should we be worried now?” Pepper asked Bruce then, slightly worried.
“No. You shouldn’t. In fact, this is a very healthy reaction. It means he is processing things and that he is willing to take the time to let it settle. I say you best leave him to it, he might be gloomy and he would not want to be disturbed. But I am confident he would come out of it much more secure.”
He looked at Thor then and smiled thinly.
“All you can do for now my friend is sit back and wait… You will have to accept that you simply cannot always do something for him. And he would want you to trust him to handle himself too.”
Thor looked up the stairs and smiled.
“Loki has always been keen on his time alone. I only think it’s for the better that he took it for himself. It means he is starting to gain a certain confidence again.”
Tony frowned but said nothing of it.
“Well… At least this is quite an eventful slumber party, one could say.”