magicom: (doctorwalk)
[personal profile] magicom
Disclaimer: I don't own The Avengers or any of its characters. No money being made.
Characters: All of the Avengers briefly, but mostly Thor, Loki, Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff
Spoilers: Minor spoilers for Thor and The Avengers.
Summary: The Avengers are facing a magical foe and need the help of someone who knows magic well.
Warnings: None to speak of.
Notes: The basic idea is from a dream I had last night. Maybe, at some point, I'll write what happens afterwards.

“If it’s powered by a type of energy, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” Bruce told them, taking off his glasses to squeeze the bridge of his nose.

“It doesn’t have a signature I can lock onto,” Tony confirmed, tapping away at a small handheld device. “Something is obviously powering these things, but Jarvis can’t get a fix.”

“It comes from beyond your realm,” Thor intoned gravely. Even with Loki and the army he’d raised defeated nearly six months prior, the ‘higher form of war’ he’d feared those beyond the nine realms had seen the prospect for on Earth was still a constant threat. “It is magic. I have seen it before. On Asgard, magic is a discipline, just like your science.”

“Great,” Natasha said, leaning forward across the table. “Can you tell them how to counter it?”

Thor shook his head. “I’m not well studied in magic... though others are.” He paused, clearly hesitant. “My brother is a skilled sorcerer,” he suggested.

Everyone looked at each other, but it was Clint who raised an eyebrow at Thor. “How many brothers do you have?”

“One,” Thor confirmed. He knew that was the answer they feared.

“You mean one apart from the crazy one that blew up New York, I assume,” Tony said lightly.

“I am speaking of Loki,” Thor told them, tired, already, of beating around the bush.

“I thought Loki was being punished for his crimes,” Steve said, finally speaking up.

“He is imprisoned on Asgard,” Thor explained. “I can take you there to speak to him.”

There was another silence as they traded looks around the table and came to some sort of consensus.

To Asgard. Steve and Natasha would go with Thor. They were the best equipped to deal with Loki without losing their tempers.

Thor paced in the seemingly empty throne room, Steve and Natasha hidden nearby, but out of sight. It would do none of them any good if this meeting started with the lashing out of an emotional reaction. It would be hard enough to reason with Loki. Meeting him alone, to start, was Thor’s idea, but the others had agreed – however reluctantly – that it was probably the best way to get the information they needed.

Thor noticed, when the guards brought Loki into the room, how drawn he looked. Pale. Even more so than usual. Had he always been that thin? Perhaps he had. Dressed in a simple tunic and trousers, his feet bare, he looked smaller than Thor was accustomed to.

“Brother,” Loki said, stepping several paces beyond the guards as Thor waved them away, but maintaining a wary distance. “Who else, I suppose, would have the authority to summon me up here? To what do I owe the humiliation?” he added dryly.

“Humiliation?” Thor questioned.

“You know where the dungeon is. Yet you had them parade me up to the throne room. Past,” he added, raising one finger, “among others, your friends, who remain, it would seem, as fond of me as they ever were.”

Thor gave him a weighty look. “Why must you seek the most negative interpretation of everything in life? The six of us fought together, Loki.”

“No, Thor,” Loki argued, his expression hardening. “They fought with you. I was simply there also, and much to their chagrin, at that.”

“That isn’t true.”

“Why not? Because you believe it to be so? You, who would believe ill of nobody, regardless of the evidence to the contrary?” He didn’t leave room for Thor to answer. He turned and took a couple of steps towards the windows. “What do you want?” he asked wearily.

“We seek your counsel, brother.”

Loki stopped, then looked at Thor for a moment before he laughed. “You seek my counsel? Oh, that is good. I’m not quite sure how to respond to that.” He smirked a little and, as though it occurred to him in the same breath, added “Who, exactly, is ‘we’?”

Thor turned and nodded and the Avengers stepped out into the open. Loki’s expression hardened again.

“How hadn’t I guessed?” he remarked blandly. He walked up the steps to the throne and seated himself there, running his hands idly over its arms. “Does the Allfather know you’ve brought humans to Asgard?” he asked just as idly.

An expression of annoyance flickered across Thor’s face briefly when Loki sat, but he said nothing about it. He didn’t wish to give his brother the reaction he sought. “Loki, we haven’t time for your games. This threat could destroy all of the nine realms, not just Earth,” Thor retorted.

Loki smiled. “I’ll take that as a ‘no’.”

“They have a weapon,” Steve said, stepping towards the stairs that led up to the throne where Loki casually sat in an attempt to get the conversation focused back on their problem. “We think it’s powered by some sort of magic, but none of us has ever seen anything like it before.”

“None of you has seen much,” Loki informed him loftily. “Th…”

He stopped when Odin entered the room, looking down at him for a moment before looking at Thor again.

“You see,” Loki said airily to Thor. “He’s been on his round of the vaults,” he explained, twirling a finger in the air to illustrate, “to check on the relics he keeps there and noticed one was missing. He always knows. I told you.”

“You know very well why you’re down there. Must we always…” Odin started, but two guards, entering behind him, rushed past the king to point their weapons at Loki, who, startled, scrambled back in his seat slightly.

“Stand down!” Odin bellowed.

“Your majesty,” one of the guards protested, “the traitor has placed himself in the seat of power.”

“It’s a chair!” Odin retorted. “Get out!”

The guards bowed and left the throne room as Odin turned to cast an appraising glance at the two visitors and a significant one at his elder son.

“Well spoken, Allfather,” Loki said with mild amusement.

“Indeed,” Odin said, turning his attention to his younger child, making no move to oust him from his perch. “And yet you still refuse to call me ‘father’.”

Loki’s expression turned petulant and he looked down at the arm of the throne where he traced the pattern of the gilding with his finger.

Odin turned, again, to Thor. His tone was matter-of-fact, rather than accusing. “You have brought Midgard’s troubles to Asgard.”

“Sir,” Steve interrupted, “with all due respect, I don’t think you really understand the situation here.”

“Oh, I understand the ‘situation’,” Odin replied calmly, turning to face the humans. “Having recruited one of my sons into fighting your war, now you’ve come for the other one.”

Natasha was beginning to see the shape of both Thor and Loki much more clearly. Thor as the golden child. Loki’s life competing with Thor for attention. Both of them attempting to live up to this imposing man, who clearly loved them both in his way. And Odin… did it tear him apart to see the way the two of them fought now? To know the things that Loki had done?

“Your majesty,” she said, stepping forward, bowing her head. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Loki sit up a little. He was wary of her. Well, good. “We face an enemy with access to a magical power that we can’t hope to match without help. Thor tells us your son knows magic well. We came only for advice.”

Odin looked at her – looked into her, seemingly - for what felt like a long moment, then he glanced up at Loki, still draped unhappily across the throne.

“Then you must talk to him,” Odin told her. “He willingly recognizes no other authority.”

His voice didn’t sound sad, but she sensed a sadness in it. She bowed her head again and the Allfather left the room, exchanging one last look with Thor as he departed.

“You fared well compared to the last time you defied him,” Loki told Thor conversationally. “We’ll see if I’m as lucky at the end of this encounter. Though it would be difficult to fare more poorly, I think, in my case.” He breathed out a short laugh. “Unless your intention is tossing me back into the abyss when you’ve extracted what you want.”

“Must you always be so difficult?” Thor snapped at him. “Stop behaving like a child. There are innocent lives at stake here!”

Innocent lives?” Loki replied. “If one could argue that such a thing exists, then they hang always in the balance. They’re the currency of power.”

“’The currency of power’,” Thor spat derisively, stepping towards the stairs. “Do you listen to yourself?”

“You are very well aware that it is so,” Loki replied. “Why did Odin take the casket from Jotunheim? We’ve heard the story many times: to protect innocent lives throughout the nine realms, as though Asgard gained nothing but the warm feeling of perpetrating a good deed when, in fact, it gained a relic of unspeakable power. And now the Tesseract. You brought it here to protect Midgard from its ill use, you told the humans. It’s incidental, is it, that Asgard has claimed yet another powerful relic for its vaults? Each ‘good deed’ rendering you more capable of the next as you grow your arsenal each time.”

“Father keeps the relics locked away, not just from ill use but from any use,” Thor argued.

“Until such time as the danger to ‘innocent life’ swings against Asgard. Do you believe he’ll not use every instrument at his disposal then? That you won’t? You think you’re so much more worthy than I am, but I, at least, am willing to admit that Asgard’s arsenal exists to defend Asgard and its protectorates.” He put a hand to his heart mockingly. “Not that your simplistic sentimental treatment of them as souvenirs of triumph rather than the spoils of war isn’t touching, considering I am one of them.”

“Hey!” Steve interrupted, stepping between the feuding brothers. “This isn’t what we’re here for,” he told them, giving them each a stern look.

“Yes it is,” Natasha said, realizing what Loki’s point was, even if he hadn’t intended it to be understood, except, perhaps, by Thor. Loki was a dangerous weapon and when the tide of battle had turned against them, they’d pulled him out of the vault. She put her hand on Steve’s arm to calm him, then looked up at Loki. “We need to know how to track magic back to its source.”

Loki met her gaze, holding it for a moment, then sat back in his seat. “It’s not a simple matter of ‘knowing how’,” he informed her, a note of condescension in his tone, though she expected that of him by now. “Even if I explain it to you, who will execute the spell? The last I checked, none of you is proficient with magic.” He smiled a little. “’Earth’s mightiest heroes’. Your planet hasn’t begun to recognize the existence of magic. You’re out of your depth.”

Steve glanced between the Asgardians. “You could do it,” he suggested to Thor.

Loki laughed loudly. “Oh, please. And here I thought you were the one without a sense of humour.”

Thor gave Loki an annoyed glance, but when he looked at Steve he admitted “I brought you here because I lack Loki’s skill with magic. My strengths lie elsewhere.” He looked back at Loki. “There was a time when our gifts complemented each other.”

“A time thought long past by all but you, who looks back more than forward,” Loki chided. He looked at Natasha. “I can perform the magic you require, but not from here.”

“That’s what you’d like, huh?” Steve said. “A chance to escape. Maybe betray us to the enemy while you’re at it?”

“A lovely thought, but you underestimate the depth of my punishment. Apart from being served in swathes of time your mortal brains couldn’t begin to comprehend, I am incapable of fleeing the custody of any Asgardian who is given leave to transport me.” He held up his left hand where a silver and black band was clipped firmly around his narrow wrist. “As Thor has brought me here from the dungeon, so could he bring me to Earth. I could not go far without suffering.” He gave Steve a pointed look. “Magic.”

“But you’re a magician,” Natasha pointed out.

“A sorcerer,” Loki corrected.

“How do we know you can’t pick the magic lock whenever it suits you?” she persisted.

“He cannot,” Thor confirmed. “Even Loki cannot. Nobody can.”

“How do you think Asgard holds on to her stolen relics?” Loki purred.

Thor gave him another stern look. “You will do what is required and then you will be returned to your cell.”

Loki’s expression slowly blossomed into a grin. “I said that I can do it. I did not say that I will.”

“Loki…” Thor began angrily.

Loki stood, just as angrily, glowering down at his brother from the top of the stairs. “Do you think I sit in my cell each day waiting for you to show up; hoping beyond hope for the day that I might be of use to you? Do you think I seek redemption? I seek nothing from you, brother, and if you come seeking something from me, then you best have something to offer for it,” he spat.

“Your freedom is out of the question,” Thor told him.

Natasha slapped his arm with the back of her hand. “Then offer him something else,” she hissed. She looked at Loki. “What about that cell of yours? Is there anything you need to make it more… comfortable?”

He gave her a withering glare.

“What if Thor told your father…”

His father,” Loki corrected, crossing his arms.

“His father,” she acknowledged dutifully, though she didn’t believe it from what she’d seen. “What if he told his father that you helped us willingly? Could that affect your sentence?”

He walked down one step, his gaze on her calculating. “The last time you came to strike a bargain with me, I underestimated your proficiency at manipulation.”

“You still got what you wanted,” she pointed out.

“More or less,” he conceded.

“You can stare at four walls all day or see daylight for a few hours for a measly spell.”

“What makes you think that what your task would require would be easy?”

“I don’t know about you, but for me pretty much anything would be easier than sitting in the same room for swathes of time my mortal brain can’t begin to comprehend.”

Loki snorted softly, then glanced from her to Steve to Thor. Finally he walked down the steps.

“Very well,” he told them.
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