Disclaimer: All characters in this fanfic belong either to Marvel or Norse mythology. I own nothing but the imagination I used to write this.
Everything's going to be a decidedly mixed bag from here on in with Norse mythology, comics, and movie. Nothing is quite canon anymore, if it ever was to start with. So just keep this in mind; while things that happen in this story might reference back to one of the aforementioned three, it might not necessarily be in the way that it actually happened.
Returning to Asgard once more to resume his aborted search for a way to augment his magic, though now for a different reason from before, Loki pushed the door to his room open and strode in, this time not even breaking stride when he saw that once more there was an intruder present.
"Lady Sif." He addressed her. "The lack of wards upon my door are not permission for you to enter, nor to touch my things." He'd have to remember to add plenty of safeguards before he left again. It wouldn't do to be constantly worrying about another unwelcome guest getting into his quarters.
Sif looked back at him in silence for several moments before she put the book down, thankfully with more care than Amora had earlier done. "The quickest way to get a Sorcerer's attention is to touch their things, correct?"
Loki bared his teeth in a feral smile. "Not a trick I myself have employed, though now that you have mentioned it, it seems like a good idea." He put his hand on the book she had just put down to slide it away from her. "Since you speak of having wanted to get my attention though, what is it you want?"
Sif was slow to lift her head and make eye contact with him, but when she did, her gaze did not waver. "I find myself troubled by thoughts of you laying with my husband."
"Ah, he did tell you then. Good. I would so hate to be the cause of marital strain." Sif scowled at him, but Loki only smiled and took a step back from the table, spreading his hands out. "Dear Sif, you're not jealous, are you?" His smile faded. "We may be at odds, sister through marriage, but I have no wish to do harm to Thor. I would not have his marriage broken by my causing. Truly."
"You have done him wrong in the recent past," Sif pointed out. "Why should I believe it to be different now?"
"Because I love him, as both my brother and more." Loki told her frankly. "But why are you truly bothered by this development? Do you wish him all for yourself, or is it only that it is me with whom he chooses to bestow such affections?"
Sif sighed heavily before pinning him with a look that would kill a lesser being. "And how am I to know this is of his own choosing? That you have not--"
Loki's hands slammed down onto the table hard enough to make the books placed upon it jump. "Those are not my craft!" He stared at her, green eyes blazing and dark-tinted nails curling against the thick wood. "If it was in my nature to force emotions that are not there, I would have done so with Sigyn first!" He straightened up. "If all you have brought are accusations, then I would ask you to leave."
Sif stared at him coldly for several moments before giving him a terse nod and moving around the table to leave. Reaching out to open the door however, she paused and looked back at him.
"Sigyn did love you." She stated. "If you had treated her like a wife instead of a decoration, perhaps you would have realized that."
"Love isn't pouring acidic venom upon one's significant other." Loki snarled back at her.
Sif snorted softly. "If anyone hated you enough for that, it was Skaði. But you took care of her, didn't you?" She yanked the door open and left before Loki could reply, slamming it solidly behind her and leaving him to stare at the place she'd been in puzzled aggravation.
Loki's hands flexed at his sides before he threw up several intertwined locking wards onto his door, and then a few on his balcony door just to be sure. Satisfied that he would not be intruded upon and doing his best to put Sif's words out of his mind, he turned to the task at hand--finding a way to strengthen his magic so he could find the Chitauri.
"Selvig, my friend!" Thor smiled widely and lifted his arms as if he would embrace the man, though he understood that what he saw before him was a projection from another place. That didn't make the gesture any less important in Thor's eyes, however.
Selvig smiled tiredly back at him. "It's good to see you, Thor." He said. "You seem well."
"Well enough." Thor agreed. He lowered his arms and his expression became more serious. "You do not look so well yourself, however. What ails you, my friend?"
"Ah." Selvig chuckled softly. "I'm just tired. I've been up all night and haven't had a chance to get to bed yet. I wanted to talk to you first." He took a deep breath and sat up in the chair he was sitting in. "I asked S.H.I.E.L.D to get me in contact with you. Loki came here not long ago."
"Loki did?" Thor frowned deeply. "He did not harm you, did he?"
Selvig smiled slightly and the image distorted briefly as thunder rumbled on his end of the line. "No, he just gave me a scare. He wanted me to find...." He trailed off and frowned.
"My friend?" Thor looked at him in concern.
"Ah, sorry." Selvig pinched the bridge of his nose. "Tired." He shook his head out and then focused on Thor again. "Loki wanted me to find a planet with a thick, yellowish atmosphere and several orbiting moons. He also mentioned at least one of the moons having an atmosphere with yellow or orange coloration." He repositioned himself on the chair. "I think he's looking for the Chitauri home world."
"Oh...yes." Thor nodded slowly. "We knew he wished to locate them, though I swear I did not think he would go after you." Thor spread his hands in a helpless gesture, though his expression was frustrated. "You may be assured that I will speak with Loki on the matter. With Mjölnir if needed."
Selvig stared at him and then rubbed his eyes. "I think I'd like to know what's going on. Not now," He continued quickly. "I think I'll call back later once I've had some sleep."
"Of course, my friend." Thor smiled to him. "Sleep well."
The feed cut and Thor wandered away from where the projection had hovered. Loki had been gone for about an hour, and Thor wondered what he could be up to. If he had completed his business with Selvig, then what was he doing now? Thor sighed heavily and shook his head. It was true that Loki hadn't seemingly done anything truly terrible, but he was still leaning more in the direction of the mean side of mischief. Thor wanted to trust his brother, but Loki was making that very hard and now there was this latest development.
Thor paused in the hallway and scowled. If Loki had gone after Jane, then by Yggdrasil's roots, he was going to give his brother such a beating he'd wish the Hulk had taken another go at him.
Tony spun the stylus tool between his fingers. "You know, this is really bugging me."
"Hm?" Bruce looked up from his microscope's display screen. "What is?"
"Loki. He gets a hold of the staff, but then hands it over to me and even tells Steve he thinks I'm the only one who should handle it. He's feeding us all this stuff on that Gauntlet...." Tony waved his hand. "Claims to be all against the Chitauri, but conveniently isn't here when they attack both here and on Asgard. This all stinks worse than backed up sewage."
Bruce looked amused. "How do you know what backed up sewage smells like?"
"Camping trip once when I was a kid. Didn't go well. Never forgot that smell." Tony shook his head.
"Right." Bruce looked back at the microscope's images. "I think you might be overreacting a little."
"Overreacting? This coming from the guy who'd said Loki was a bag of cats?"
Bruce smiled faintly. "Oh, I still think he's seriously unhinged, but as far as we know he hasn't killed anyone yet, so that's an improvement at least."
"So, what? We wait for him to kill someone before we start watching ourselves? He can pop in and out whenever he wants, and he's doing who the hell knows what right now. JARVIS can only track him when he's inside the building and unless I can get a tracer on him...."
"The one he's got the biggest problem with right now is you." Bruce pointed out. "But if you're really worried, then have Steve talk to him. Loki seems to have decided he likes him."
"Well of course he likes Steve." Tony tapped the electronic component he was fiddling with. "Steve still comes off as being really gullible."
"Except, he isn't. So let Steve take care of it. He seems to know how to deal with egomaniacs pretty well."
"Ha ha, very funny." Tony motioned with his chin at the microscope. "So, what's got you staring so hard?"
"It's the hemoglobins. They're like nothing I've ever seen before. Their oxygen-carrying capacity is at least double ours, but without really changing in size, and the composition changes when you lower the temperature enough. They go from iron composition to copper and have antifreeze properties." Bruce shook his head. "I don't even understand how that's possible."
Tony's eyebrows went up. "Wow...that's Loki's blood?"
"The sample you got off of the roof, yes."
"Oh, this I need to see." Tony moved off the stool he'd been sitting on, only to collapse with a yell of pain.
"Tony?!" Bruce moved to his side almost immediately. "What--?"
"My g-goddamn leg." Tony hissed through his teeth. "F-Forgot about it. Aaarh, fuck! Help me up." When Bruce helped him to his feet, he braced himself on his worktable, hissing in pain and trying not to faint.
"Tony." Bruce put a hand on his back. "Maybe you should think about going to the hospital when the supplies get here. There's only so much I can do for you here."
"Yeah, maybe." Tony shakily reached out to grab the crutch and lean on it instead of the worktable. "Maybe they can fix my leg."
"Mmm.....I think that might be a bit drastic, but I still strongly recommend you get a professional to look at it."
"Or maybe I can just bargain with Loki, since he said he could heal it."
Bruce arched a brow. "You were just saying how you don't trust him, and now you want him to work magic on you?"
"Hey, what can I say? I live on the edge." Most of the pain reduced to a throbbing, Tony hobbled over to the microscope and leaned down to take a look. "Wow. Just as impressive the second time around." He looked over to Bruce. "So, what do you think the chances of one of us convincing Thor to let us take some blood for comparison? Because if this kind of thing could be duplicated or synthesized--" He was interrupted by a beeping and then a holoscreen popped up, displaying some images.
Tony blinked and straightened up, then he arched a brow and smiled crookedly. "Well, isn't that interesting?"
Loki didn't return until late evening, and when he did, he was clearly tired. That might have been what caused his delayed reaction when he found Thor barreling down on him.
"Brother!" Thor called to him. "I would have words with thee!"
Loki spread his arms out and smiled cynically, knowing Thor's temper when he saw it. "Then have your words brother, and we--hrk!" He had expected Thor to surge up to him and stop, but instead the older God grabbed him by the neck and swung him around to slam back-first into the nearest wall.
"Selvig is under my protection, Loki." Thor rumbled, thunder rolling outside punctuating his words. "Do not go near him again, or you will know my anger."
"I do not already?" Loki winced when Thor squeezed and he brought up a hand to grip the other's vambrace. "Fine! I thought perhaps he might have the information I sought, but he did not. If he is under your protection, then you would know if I had harmed him. I did not do so!"
"Stay away from him." Thor repeated. "Stay away from Jane as well."
"Your precious mortal waif? What cause would I have to bother with her?"
"I remember your threat in the Bifröst chamber, Loki. Do not think I would have forgotten it."
"Oh, such an irony!" Loki smiled coldly. "As I recall, all I said was that I would 'pay her a visit'. It was you who construed threat in it--as you were meant to, of course." His smile faded and his expression became serious. "Though I also recall having corrected your assumptions of our brotherhood, as well."
"You are my brother, Loki. Blood or no, you are my brother. It does not please me to find myself at odds with you, but you will obey me on this!" Thor squeezed the younger's throat again for emphasis.
Loki coughed and narrowed his eyes. ".....I've already gotten my answers."
"What?" The storm crackled in Thor's eyes. "What did you do, Loki?!"
"Heh." The smile came back briefly. "I spoke with her, that's all. A few days ago now. I wanted to know what made her so special, why you would listen to her rather than me." He smiled a cold and bitter smile. "She made you think of Sif, didn't she? She knew what I was, knew what I could do, and she still spoke so.....arrogantly to me."
The storm within Thor's eyes was loosed, and the heavens opened up in torrential rainfall outside. ".......Where were you earlier?"
"Aside from speaking with Selvig, I suppose? I was in Asgard."
"Again?" Thor finally let go of Loki and stepped back. "Whyfor?"
"Hn..." Loki slipped sideways and moved away from the wall, rubbing his throat. "The same reason as before, but this time I didn't get attacked, so I was able to conclude my business."
Thor furrowed his brows and frowned. "Which was what, Loki?"
"Looking for a way to strengthen my magic for a time to aid in divining the location of the Chitauri." Loki paced away from Thor. "But I found nothing of use. My guess is what I seek would be kept in the Allfather's possession, out of my reach."
"If Father knew you needed them--" Thor began.
Loki snorted. "Self-centered as always. You could have the sun and moon if you implied you wanted them, but I must cajole and beg for the barest scraps!" He looked back at Thor with a disgusted expression. "Odin would never give me access to those books."
Thor was the one who looked tired now and he sighed softly. "You lie to yourself as much as you lie to others, brother." Thor spoke wearily. "You have wanted for nothing in growing up alongside me. Magic tomes were always for you to access if you asked for them, weapons suiting of you crafted immediately at your request. We are together Princes, Loki. Don't pretend you are less."
Loki had stopped pacing during Thor's monologue and stood, staring at him with growing incredulousness. "......As always, you see only what you choose to see. Yes, I could have tomes, but always the ones freely given were well below my level and I would have to sneak in order to find the ones of any use. Yes, I was given my daggers and fine staff when I demanded that weapons be made for me, but do you know the scorn I had to endure, asking for such 'pitiful' weaponry?" He pointed at Thor, eyes narrowing, and the temperature sharply dropped so for several seconds their breath could be seen before it warmed up again.
"I am a Jötun Prince, stolen from the snows. Should I be grateful for not being left to die? Should I be grateful for being a joke to those around me, even when doing nothing humorous at all? Should I be grateful, Odinson, to have been the force to push against so you could shine and cast me in ever deeper shadow? No." He let his arm drop. "Odin will not give me those books. He does not trust me, and I've given him no reason to with my parting words to him. I would say you owe me for that, but you owe me for far more than you would ever bother to repay."
Thor looked back at Loki in irritation. "Enough, Loki. We will speak of such things later if you feel that we must, but I will not have a battle of words with you."
Loki laughed derisively. "No, of course you won't. It's too intellectual for--"
"Enough!" Thor strode forward and grabbed Loki by the back of the head, staring him in the eyes. "You are clever, Loki. If you do not have access to those tomes, then I know you will find another way. Just stay away from Selvig and stay away from Jane. Do not cause problems for them, or for us. Please, brother."
Loki stared back, and then sighed heavily before pushing Thor's hand away and backing away from him before emitting a soft groan and averting his gaze.
Thor looked puzzled and worried. "Loki?"
Loki shook his head with a soft laugh and then pointed at the ceiling. "I remembered Stark's peeping habits."
"Ah.....oh." Thor began to smile. "Loki! At a time like this?"
Loki gave a shrug and turned away.
"If you're done being the Prince of Pity Parties." Tony's voice came through the speaker abruptly. "Head down to the lab. I've got something to show you."
Loki slowly turned back again to look at Thor, expression about as thunderous as the weather outside. "Are you certain I can't kill him?"
Thor sighed heavily. "I am irritated with him as well, brother. None the less, killing a mortal simply because you are upset with them is in poor taste."
"Hypocrite." Loki spat at him before striding past. "Let us go see what the croaking toad wants, then."
"If he throws you out a window, I think even the other guy will agree that you deserved it." Bruce said, looking at Tony as if he might have lost his mind. "What are you doing, Tony? You don't go purposefully pissing off powerful beings, especially ones like Loki."
"Are you kidding?" Tony retorted. "Pissing off powerful beings is my thing. Stark Industries isn't the best at whatever I have it doing for nothing."
Bruce snorted softly, but he was smiling a bit. "I'll be sure to mention that in your eulogy." He and Tony both looked over when Loki and Thor strode into the lab. Loki stopped short when he saw Bruce and his eyes narrowed, lip curling up in a snarl.
"One day Stark, you will not have your pet monster so handily by to protect you. I have a very long memory for slights, and as you are mortal, I would have quashed you long before if not for Thor's affection for you."
"Yeah yeah, nancy boy. Whatever you say." Tony turned away to his screen, not noticing Loki's twitch nor Bruce's tensing.
"You are very lucky my brother is standing behind me, Stark." Loki said tightly.
"What?" Thor looked confused.
"He just essentially called me a Vanir of the current meaning, Thor."
Thor's brows furrowed, and then a loud bang of thunder seemed to shake the building. "How dare you insult my brother so?!" He moved to push past Loki, but then Bruce got between the Asgardians and Tony.
"Tony's in a lot of pain from his leg." He spoke quickly, hands half raised as if doing so could physically stop Thor. "He gets like this when he's hurting."
Loki bared his teeth, subtly slipping half behind Thor. "Then perhaps he should have taken my offer to heal the injury when I had first given it. I'll not be so inclined now."
Tony watched quietly from over Bruce's shoulder, and then sighed. "JARVIS. Show them the images from S.H.I.E.L.D."
A holo screen popped up in the air between Bruce and Thor, several images making themselves known on it. Loki scowled, but then stepped around Thor to look at the images.
"Well now." He said after a few moments with a feral smile. "This seems to be the Power gem."
"Yes, that's what I thought too." Bruce stepped back to lean against Tony's workstation. He pushed his glasses up his nose. "It was apparently stolen at the same time you went for the scepter."
Loki's lip twitched as if he wanted to curl it, and his eyes narrowed a bit before he decidedly began poking at parts of the hologram until doing so started a video. Loki watched as a woman with scarlet red hair and blue skin surrounded by the same glitter that had given him away in his invisibility stepped into view of the camera. He then watched as she swiftly, and in many cases, acrobatically, took care of the S.H.I.E.L.D agents that got in her way. She then took out some kind of cutter to slice through the thick plastic which had protected the Power gem, reaching in to take it and tuck it in a pouch before prying off a vent grate and escaping into it.
"So." Loki mused softly. "It is in her possession, then."
"Yeah, though we'll have a hell of a time finding her." Tony pointed out. "That woman there? That's Mystique. She's a shapeshifter, and also one of the top members of The Brotherhood of Mutants. But hey, you're the man with the plan, aren't you? So any ideas?"
Loki looked at Thor, and gave an incredulous laugh. "Can you fathom the arrogance of this mortal, brother? He insults and belittles me, and then in the next moment asks for my help!" He laughed again, but then looked back at Tony impassively. "Kneel for me, Stark. I'll consider your request then."
"What? No. I'm not--I couldn't even if I wanted to, Loki. My leg's busted up, remember?"
Loki gave a nasty smile. "I haven't forgotten. So then Stark, it seems we are at an impasse. You want me to find the Power gem for you, and I presume, tamely hand it over to you as I did my scepter, but you have nothing to offer me to make it worth my while." He took a step closer, though he paused and eyed Bruce warily when he tensed before looking at Tony again. "I do not need you to find the Power gem, and I have no reason to give it over to human hands. Indeed, I think I would keep it for myself. With its power, I would not need any augmentation at all to find the Chitauri. Indeed, with the Power gem I might not even need you mortals at all."
"Brother." Thor rumbled warningly.
Loki clucked his tongue and turned his head to look back at him. "Must you construe threat in everything I say? I won't harm your precious mortals, though this one's arrogance vexes me muchly." He shook his head. "Oh never mind. I might as well speak to a wall. I may gain greater reaction from stone and mortar than reach the brain between your blocked ears."
Thor gave Loki an irritated look, then reached out to grab his arm and pull him back toward the elevator. "You go forth to seek the gem immediately?"
".....I might as well." Loki sighed wearily, though he didn't try to pull free from Thor's grasp. "All that studying for naught. Such an aggravation."
"Before you do so, I would have you take me to Jane."
Loki jerked his arm free abruptly and looked at Thor as if he was fresh cow manure. "Your precious woman? Get yourself there. Throw Mjölnir to the West and South, I am certain you can find her."
"You are going to take me, brother." Thor spoke firmly.
Loki gave an exasperated sigh. "Fine. I will take you to your precious human." He placed a hand on Thor's arm and in but a blinking, they were suddenly standing outside in the cool night desert air near a car dealership.
"I'm sure you can find your way from here." Loki stepped away. "How regretful that you would truly rather have her affections than mine."
Thor looked around himself, then gave Loki an annoyed look. "This is not about choices, brother. Jane is a friend, and I wish to visit her. She is not a lover, regardless of how she may fancy herself so."
"I wonder how long that will last. A bit thin, but her hips looked good for childbearing." Loki waved a hand when Thor scowled at him. "I don't like the woman, but that is through no fault of her own. Go on and have your fun, brother. I will come back for you in the dawn."
"And if you do not?"
"Then you can find your own way back. Or not. The Chitauri should not be able to attack again for another day after, and who is to say they will attack Stark's tower again? They may have other goals the next time, I could not say." Loki shrugged.
Thor thought about this, then nodded. "We must speak at great length, Loki. Soon. There are many things I must speak with you of."
"I'm sure there are, should your mortal waif not chase them all from your head."
Thor gave a heavy sigh. "......Are you certain you will be able to find this 'Mystique', brother? You too are a shapeshifter, but--"
"Worry not, Thor." Loki smiled. "I have always known where she was. She is afterall, the oldest of my mortal children and worth keeping track of." He turned to walk away, slowly fading out of view. "Goodbye, brother. At least you can lift Mjölnir this time."
Thor clenched his teeth at the reminder of the last time he and Loki had both been in New Mexico and watched until Loki vanished from view completely before turning smartly on his heel to find where Jane lived.