A Web of Words - Chapter 9
“So, I…” Steve sighed, ran one hand through his hair. “Thank you all for coming, I guess.”
The mood in the meeting room was grim. Natasha and Clint sat on one side of the table, both bruised and bandaged, whilst Coulson and Pepper sat on the other. Thor was standing with his back to the wall, arms folded over his chest. Tony had followed Bruce’s example, and was sitting in silence in the corner of the room.
Even Steve, standing at the head of the table, looked tired.
Of course, normally Fury would have been the one to lead a meeting this serious, but their Director was apparently dealing with something more important. Coulson had rattled off something about radiation and interdimensional shifts in Washington State. No-one had been inclined to listen.
“Listen, guys, I…I know we like to be egalitarian, but I’m making an executive decision on this,” Steve said. “We don’t do executions. That’s not what we’re for. Now, I know we have to do something about Loki, but whatever it is, we’re not killing him in cold blood. Not on my watch.”
The others remained silent. Clint shot Natasha a look; Coulson shifted awkwardly in his seat.
Tony just stared at the floor.
He didn’t know what the fuck to think.
I spent last night fucking a Norse god.
I spent last night fucking a known killer.
He didn’t even know why he’d done it. Hell, he knew he was a playboy, but Loki? Even the name filled him with a kind of sick confusion. So, do I regret it, or-? Was it his fault or mine? Does he regret it? What the fuck does he think of me?
Would I do it again?
Unbidden, his mind began to fill with images of lean muscles shifting under pale skin, of glittering green eyes and elegant fingers, twined about with strands of energy, and-
Christ. Tony blinked, hard, trying to clear his head.
“Thor,” Steve was saying. Tony stared at him, trying to concentrate on the meeting and only the meeting. Before I dissolve into a damn puddle. “Could you give us any suggestions? We have the technology, if it came to it, we could send Loki back to Asgard.”
Thor shifted, his frown deepening. “I realise that my brother has wronged all of you,” he said eventually, and his voice was quieter than Tony had ever heard it. “Deeply. And I am sorry for it. But I fear for him also.” He paused, and seemed to weigh his next words carefully. “Our father is not naturally given to kindness. Unless Loki came to him as a supplicant, unless he begged his forgiveness, I fear that the punishment for this would be…severe.”
“Well, how severe are we talking?” Clint said suddenly. “Because I kinda wanna tear his guts out.”
Before Thor could respond to that, Bruce spoke up from the other corner of the room.
“I, uh, I know this isn’t going to be a popular opinion,” he said quietly. “I know he’s hurt you all, I know we thought he was - less harmful, than he is, but, uh.” He looked down, then up again. “Attacking us as a group isn’t as bad as trying to take over an entire planet. It’s more personal, yeah, but objectively, it’s not…And I know we’re all on high alert right now, but I helped Thor patch the guy up last night, and…”
“That true?” Steve asked Thor. The god nodded. Tony thought back, and realised that some of the gashes on Loki’s back had been stitched, that someone must have given him bandages, cleaned out his wounds. But then his thoughts turned back to the new scratches he knew would be coming up across Loki’s arms, the bruises he knew he’d left on his arms, his hips, and suddenly he felt a sick, guilty feeling rising in the pit of his stomach, because Christ, I’ve fucked things up so much-
When Bruce started talking again, Toy felt a sudden urge to buy the guy some flowers or something.
Or maybe you should do that for Loki, one of the more sarcastic parts of his brain supplied.
“The guy’s a wreck,” Bruce was saying. “I mean, he fixed the throat wound by himself, he woulda died if he hadn’t, but…” He made a helpless gesture. “I can’t believe he’s still standing. Might even be that his magic’s the only thing keeping him alive, I don’t know. I don’t think he could hurt us if he tried right now.”
“Are you sure he’s not faking it?” This from Coulson. When they turned to look at him, he shrugged. “You know, god of lies. He could be faking it. False sense of security.”
Bruce shook his head. “I, uh, I don’t think he could fake those kind of injuries.”
There was a long silence then. Tony stared pointedly at the floor.
Don’t think about it. Don’t think about him.
“Well,” Steve said eventually, clearing his throat. “If that’s the case, I think we should go down and pay him a visit. All of us. Just to talk.”
Tony shut his eyes.
So, they all trooped downstairs, and, at a nod from Steve, filed into Loki’s cell. And if Tony lurked at the back, his mouth firmly closed, well, everyone else was too distracted to comment.
Loki was sitting on the edge of his bed, his face perfectly blank, and damn, if Tony had thought he looked bad the previous night, it was nothing to how he looked now. He hadn’t bothered to get dressed properly, so he sat there bare-chested, and he had bled through his bandages in more than one place. Bruises had blossomed along one half of his face, and his bottom lip was slightly swollen. Tony caught sight of a series of raised scratches running over Loki’s shoulder, and felt his mouth go dry.
Fuck. Oh, you’ve fucking outdone yourself, Tony. Well done.
“Doctor Banner,” Loki said eventually, without looking up. His voice was scratchy and quiet, but Bruce still stiffened. “I suppose I owe you my thanks.”
“Damn right,” Clint muttered. Steve cut him off with a sharp hand gesture.
“Loki?” he said. Loki slowly raised his head to look Steve in the eye. His face was an expressionless mask. “I…uh, I’ve gotta be honest, we don’t entirely know what to do with you.”
Normally, Loki would have leapt on a statement like that. Tony knew it. The others probably knew it too. He would’ve made Steve regret his damn honesty in thirty seconds flat. But no-one said a word.
“Do with me what you will,” he replied eventually.
“Brother,” Thor said, and Loki didn’t flinch, didn’t even blink at the epithet. “Would you not come back to Asgard? Not as a prisoner, but as a supplicant. If you showed the appropriate level of humility - even if you were not sincere - the Allfather would show you kindness, in time.”
Something flitted across Loki’s face. “The same breed of kindness that he showed Jormungand? And Narfi?” he asked. There was an aching, unutterable weariness in his voice, and Tony was shocked to see Thor recoil, as if Loki had lashed out. Before any of them could say anything, Loki slumped back on the bed, letting his fingers tangle in the blood-stained sheets.
“Do what you will,” he said again. “It matters little to me.”
After that, he would answer none of their questions, no matter how they were phrased.