He Without Sin

Svadilfari

This was one of the few times that Tony actually thought to do the responsible thing. He had only spent a few moments staring at where Loki... Luna... had been before deciding to call Shield. He had unconscious villains to deal with, frozen villains, a room full of hostages, and Extremis. He could probably be forgiven for freaking out a bit, but this was definitely over the bar of things Tony Stark could comfortably deal with at once.

Tony felt somewhat suspicious when he was told Coulson would be arriving within ten minutes. Did the agent have something he actually had to do nearby or had he just been waiting around to spy on them?

Bruce and Pepper were both out cold, leaving him without either of his better halves to tell him he ought to do otherwise, so Tony made a few decisions quickly. There was no way in hell he was going to tell Shield about Pepper being hit with Extremis. After what Clint had told them about how Shield handled the Loki mind control incident, he was not about to trust them with Pepper. He'd find a way to handle it on his own. He'd come close to being able to solve it before, anyway.

He also decided he wasn't going to mention Loki. Well, he wasn't going to mention that Loki was Luna. Bruce wouldn't remember, he never had very many clear memories as the Hulk, and Pepper had been too out of it. He couldn't say for sure why he decided on this, maybe because he just needed time to deal with the revelation in the first place. He and Luna had had... chemistry. He'd, perhaps a little hastily, trusted her. Also, he'd been assured that Luna was a her! And this... was a little much. Granted, he and Loki had flirted during the invasion. Rather overtly, in fact, but that didn't mean... Tony didn't know what any of it meant!

A few things had fallen into place, though. It made a little more sense that Luna had been following Thor. He didn't understand what he'd wanted, but it made more sense. He also thought that Loki had been surprisingly honest with him, at least in the ways that could be confirmed. Loki wasn't human and wasn't willing to tell Tony the truth, but he'd told him that much and that meant something. Even if Tony didn't know what.

Coulson showed up right on time, with several Shield agents following. Tony decided to let Shield take care of releasing the hostages and taking custody of the villains, and aside from slipping a sample of the mutated Extremis formula from Magneto's gun into a hidden compartment in the suit, he let them take what there was to take. He really needed to get Pepper out of there before Shield found out about her.

Bruce awoke in time that Tony didn't have to carry him out and Coulson allowed them to leave without debriefing first. And Tony got out of there as fast as possible.

"What happened, Tony?" Bruce asked him once they were in the car.

"Everything went to hell," Tony answered. "Listen, I need your help. Shield doesn't know about Pepper."

Bruce looked confused for a moment before recognition lit his eyes. "You didn't tell them?"

"No, and I don't want you to tell them either. I don't want them to be involved," Tony insisted.

"I understand," Bruce replied. "But what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to fix it," He replied confidently.

"Of course. If you need help, though..."

"Thanks, Bruce." Tony smiled at him. Nervousness and worry ran through him and he sent continuous looks to Pepper in the backseat, using the rear view mirror to watch her when he could.


He returned to New York right away, even though he insisted that Pepper stay. He was worried about her and he very much needed to investigate what Extremis had done to her, but he also needed to keep her as far away from Shield as possible and they would be waiting for him if he stayed. He had a hard time calming her down when she first woke, which lead to her body heating up, more freaking out, before he was able to calm her down for her own good. Aside from her temperature being higher than before and Pepper being a bit nervous, everything was well enough.

He took care of a few last minute company things in her place, not wanting her to do anything that would cause her stress or be around too many people in case anything happened. He wasn't keen on seeing her accidentally hurt herself or others and he knew, even if she would rather stick close to him while she was this afraid, that she would feel safer in Malibu than she would in the Tower. It was more familiar, after all.

He was ushered into a briefing with the rest of the team as soon as he was back in New York. Bruce's account of things was cut short by the Hulk's involvement in the fight, so Tony's was the only account they had. He was not looking forward to any part of recounting this tale.

"Wait a minute," Hawkeye interrupted him before he'd even gotten three sentences into is story. "Luna? The mutant check?"

"Yeah," Tony sighed.

"How did you not notice she was sitting right next to you?"

Tony had wanted to skip over the part where Luna had been to his house and they'd gone to the conference together, but he shouldn't have bothered to even try. They were spies, after all. He sighed. "I knew she was there."

Hawkeye gave him an incredulous look. "So you were just going to ignore the fact that the mutant we've been looking for was sitting right next to you?"

"You guys have been looking for her?"

Hawkeye rolled his eyes. "Did you think Shield wouldn't look for her?" He asked.

Tony shrugged. "Anyway, we were there together."

"What?" Four simultaneous voices questioned, everyone besides Bruce, who already knew, and Thor, who didn't know who they were talking about.

"I saw her and asked her to come along."

"And you didn't think to mention that to anyone, Stark?" Fury demanded.

"Bruce was there," Tony answered. If the growl that followed was any indication, that answer did not placate Fury. "Anyway, like I was saying, she let me out of the chair--"

"How?" Natasha questioned. "Don't be vague, Stark."

"She pulled the metal back."

"With her bare hands?" Steve questioned.

"Is anyone going to let me finish this story?" Tony questioned. "Anyway, the Hulk got loose, Luna and I took down the mutants, and then Loki showed up with the Tesseract."

"What?" Everyone participated in the group exclamation this time, Thor even going so far as to rise from his seat as if he were going to go and get Loki right then and there.

"Yeah..." Tony continued as casually as he could, hoping to skip over most of the actual details. Telling the story in order would gain him too much scrutiny. Best to just go over the important parts. He was pretty evasive when he needed to be. "He used it to take out the Hulk and it made Killian... um, implode." Tony shrugged. "And he used something else to trap the Extremis soldiers in ice."

"The casket," Thor said. "I did not know he had it..."

"The what?" Tony asked.

"The Casket of Ancient Winters," Thor repeated. "It is a weapon of the Jotunn. Loki had taken possession of it before the destruction of the Bifrost, but we thought it lost when he fell from the void."

"Loki did what now?" Tony questioned.

"It was before his arrival on Midgard," Thor answered evasively. "It is... of little importance now," He murmured.

Fury let out an angry growl. "Didn't you say your people could keep it safe?"

Thor frowned at Fury. "It is safer with Loki than it is with any Midgardian. Even if Loki seeks to do harm with it, that would not compare to the harm you would invite upon yourselves in your ignorance."

"Wait a minute," Bruce said. "Thor, you knew that Loki had this casket and the Tesseract the whole time?"

"I did not know the Casket of Ancient Winters was still in his possession," Thor replied sullenly.

"But you knew he had the Tesseract?" Bruce continued.

"Wait!" Tony interjected. "If the Bifrost is still broken and Loki stole the Tesseract, how did you get here? And how will you get back?"

"My father was able to send me here. It took some time to gather the energy that was required, else I would have arrived sooner," Thor told them. "And once I retrieve Loki, I will return using the Tesseract."

"What's Loki been doing this whole time?" Steve questioned. "Here's been here for months and he's had the Tesseract and this other weapon--"

"The Casket of Ancient Winters," Thor repeated.

"So why hasn't he attacked yet?" Steve questioned.

"Maybe he doesn't intend to," Tony said contemplatively. Thinking about all that Luna had said to him, it made sense. She had told him that something was coming, that she wanted them alive. Something she'd said to him particularly hit him in that moment. "I can't take out an army alone and I wouldn't be able to protect an entire realm." "Shit," Tony mumbled to himself. Why hadn't he put more thought into that sooner? Probably because he didn't believe her. The words coming from Loki, who had already brought an alien army through, made all the difference. But what was the end game here?

"Why would he be here if he wasn't going to attack?" Steve asked.

Thor sat back down heavily, frowning as he tried to contemplate the facts. "Loki must have had a reason to come here," Thor said. "Loki and Amora can move freely through the nine realms, they could have gone to any one of them and no matter what the Enchantress claims, I know that she must be here for my brother. She'd have no interest in Midgard otherwise."

"And we know that Amora is working with Doom," Natasha said.

"We don't know that!" Steve objected. "She destroyed his doombots and fought against him!"

"She also disappeared with him," Natasha pointed out. "So we have to assume that she's working with Doom and Mystique, which means that they must also be working with Loki."

"But if they were working with Doom, why haven't they attacked us?" Steve questioned.

Tony was really conflicted now. He trusted Luna, but he didn't trust Loki, which was complicated since they were one and the same. Luna watched their battles, which could line up with him working for Doom, but healing Natasha seemed counter productive to that. Unless Loki was using Luna to get their guard down, in which case everything she said to him had been a lie. And yet, he couldn't believe the things Luna had said to him in Malibu were a lie. There would be no reason to make up the things about being a monster. Really, all he had was evidence that Luna had told him the truth. Even if he thought that she had been trying to get close to him, (she did kiss him, after all,) she explicitly stated that taking him to bed would be counter productive to his goals.

All of this thinking was getting him nowhere fast. Except...

"If Loki was going to attack us, why would he attack Killian and save a room of captive people, myself included, from the Hulk?" Tony asked.

No one really had an answer to that right away.

"Could he have been after Extremis?" Bruce suggested.

"He didn't take it," Tony told him. "He didn't even try to attack me." Not even when Tony was alone at his house with him... or her, as it was at the time. Actually, Loki had had plenty of opportunities to attack him without the others around.

He really should not be facilitating this much between whether or not to trust Loki. The obvious answer was not to do it. But he really couldn't discredit everything based on that one fact. Could he? Should he?

Tony was giving himself a great big headache.


Loki was in a panic when he arrived in Victor's castle, startling Amora, Victor, and Mystique where they were gathered at the dining table. Victor and Amora immediately rose from the table, Mystique pushing away from the table, but the three were unnoticed by Loki. The god was trembling, alternately grabbing at his own skin and staring at it in horror. He was panting, almost hyperventilating, and a constant murmur of "No, no, no, no," was falling from his lips.

"Loki!" Amora's voice was alarmed as she looked at the blue skin of her fellow god. She looked torn between reaching out to him and moving away. "Wh-what is this?"

Victor had no such dilemma, having seen Loki's true form before and went quickly to the god's side. Crouching beside the god, Victor laid a hand on his shoulder, pulling back when Loki startled violently and looked at him with a wild and helpless gaze. "Loki? What has happened?" Victor demanded.

"He's here. He's here! He's here!" Loki repeated in an increasingly panicked voice. He tried to pull himself in as small a ball as possible, then seemed to rethink the idea when he looked at himself and realized that he was in his true form. "No, no, no..."

Victor took firm hold of Loki's shoulders. "Who is here?" He demanded. "Who has done this? I shall destroy them!"

Victor's words seemed to end Amora's hesitation and she approached Loki as well. "This... it must be a spell," She reasoned. "Asgard must have sent someone else to fetch him. They knew that Thor would not be enough."

"Who?" Victor demanded, turning to her.

"I do not know. Only Loki..." She frowned as she looked at his panicked state. "I have to get this spell off of him, it's... he's isn't calm enough to tell us--"

"Then do it!" Victor snapped.

"I can't!" Amora replied. "It's too strong to break all at once."

Mystique was still watching from the table, unsure what to do. She wasn't use to seeing Loki frightened by anything and it made her nervous. He was preparing Earth to fight someone so strong that Loki didn't think two gods could take on alone and he had done that calmly. She was uneasy in the face of his fear and she felt alone sitting away from them at the table.

Amora and Victor were talking too loudly to hear the new murmurs coming from him, Mystique was focused intently enough to hear the new litany. "Thor will come. Thor always comes. He'll come. He'll come..." And Mystique remembered Thor. He had shown up when Victor was breaking apart Shield. Thor was Loki's brother, but she didn't know anything about him except that Amora had feelings for him. And that Loki wanted him here and that, at least, was something that she could do.

It took only a moment to recall what the Thunder God had been like the brief moments that she'd seen him, all moments of Amora's, so she hoped that she wouldn't need to do much acting. But she remembered his walk, his presence, he was a god and while she couldn't fake that, she could act as protective of Loki as the god seemed to want. Shifting into the Thunder God's form, she stood and moved toward him. She spoke before she was directly in front of him. "Loki."

The wild and fearful eyes locked onto him immediately and Loki seemed torn between what reaction to have. His trembling increased and she could see him fight between running from and running toward her. His voice was shaky and uncertain as he spoke. "Br-brother?"

Mystique dropped down in front of Loki and opened her arms, using the booming voice of Thor as she spoke. "I am here, Loki. I am here."

It disturbed her, though she fought not to show it, when Loki's eyes well up with tears. He seemed unable to move, so she pulled him into the embrace he so needed. She imagined anyone would feel safe wrapped in the arms of such of bulky body, especially since that body was attached to a god. She wondered if that was part of the appeal to Amora. Loki clung to her, repeating the word brother over and over again. Mystique had to wonder what Loki and Thor were like for him to be so comforted in a moment of panic by the appearance of Thor, yet never seem to talk about him. The thought annoyed her as she realized how much she didn't know about any of them. She'd been so secluded and exempt from everything and maybe it was partially her own fault, but she wondered if she would be able to do more if she wasn't so in the dark.

"Hush, I am here Loki," Thor's voice soothed.

Victor watched this display a moment before turning to the Enchantress. "Whatever spell affects him, you will find a way to break!" He commanded.

Amora nodded mutely, still looking at Loki strangely.

Victor stood.

"What are you going to do?" Mystique questioned when it was clear that Amora would not. Loki didn't seem to be reacting to anything else, just clinging tightly to the image of his brother.

"I will find what has caused this and I will destroy it," He said with certainty.

Amora's words from not long ago rang through Mystique's mind. 'He will destroy your enemies without mercy.' She tried to contain the shiver that went through her. It wasn't fear, but she wouldn't call it safety either. She held Loki tighter. These people were much more dangerous than Magneto, had the ability to be much more invasive than Charles, and yet... Amora was right. Doom was right. She felt at home in this place with these people, comforting a god and watching a man go off to destroy their enemies.

Mystique made a decision that she was certain the others had already made with each other. Loki had her loyalty before, but in this moment, she realized that she did not want to remain distant and in the dark about what was happening here. She would protect and fight for them, just as she had for Magneto and for Charles at different points in her life. Unlike those times, though, she didn't fear that she was being manipulated into her choice. They had all been fairly obvious about what they were doing, what they wanted, and that she was welcome here regardless of what she did.

Hell, even Doom would probably let her live in Latveria if she decided not to fight. She was invested and she wasn't going to continue to pretend otherwise. This time when she spoke, even though it was Thor's voice and she was watching Loki, the words were for herself. "I am here."


At Thor's insistence, they all ended up back in the Tower. Thor was speaking as they all settled down. "I wanted to wait until we were all together or I would have told you all sooner."

"Told us what?" Tony questioned immediately.

"My father sent another mage to aid in locating Loki," Thor explained. He took a step to the side revealing a person standing behind him that was definitely not there before. He was well dressed in a sharp suit with long hair pulled back. He had one hand crossed over his chest as he bowed slightly at the waist, giving them a polite smile. "This is Svaldilfari."

"Pleasant to meet you all," Svaldilfari greeted. It took Tony a moment of staring before he recognized him as the one that showed up and attacked Loki. He didn't seem to recognize Tony, but he'd gone straight to Loki when he showed up so no surprise there.

Thor enthusiastically introduced each of them and Svadilfari responded with genteel politeness. The man turned to face both Tony and Bruce with a smile. "You two are the mages of Midgard, yes?"

"Scientist," Tony objected.

"Ah, that is what Midgard calls it's mages, is it?"

"No--" Tony began only for Bruce to cut him off with a disapproving look.

"You could say that," Bruce told him.

"Then the two of you would be the ones best suited to helping me track Loki," He concluded.

"If we knew how to track him, we would have done so already," Tony complained.

"You misunderstand my intention," Svadilfari told them. Even though he was talking to Bruce and Tony, he made sure to keep eye contact with the other Avengers, making them part of the conversation as well. "I was able to find Loki not long ago when he used the Tesseract. The energy was a beacon to his location and I tracked him there quickly, but he was fast to retreat. Before he got away though, I was able to preform a locking spell, trapping him from changing forms. The form he was in can be tracked by the temperature. It is extremely cold and I thought Midgardians tools would be able to track it more easily than myself. I'm certain he won't be able to stay away, if you could create such a device, I would be able to go to him as soon as he appeared."

"Why can't you just find him like you did the first time?" Hawkeye complained.

"Loki is clever, he keeps himself hidden and cloaked so that he is not easy to locate," He explained. "Energy as strong as the Tesseract cannot be hidden when it is in use, but it can be covered well enough when dormant. There are traces of magic here, recent enough that I know that Loki has been in the area, but I cannot pinpoint where. He's been careful."

"Well, I'm sure that Tony and Bruce would be willing to help," Steve said.

Tony sighed. He wanted to get back to Pepper, but it would be suspicious to skip out for no reason. "Yeah, alright," He said aloud. "It shouldn't take too long to crank out a temperature scanner."

"He will have a difficult time removing my spell, so I imagine it will be a while before he shows himself once more," Svadilfari informed them.

"Since you'll be tracking Loki, you probably need some place to stay, right?" Tony asked.

"I have not yet had time to appropriate dwelling for myself in this realm," He agreed.

"I'll let you stay in the tower. I've got enough empty rooms," Tony told him.

"Your hospitality is greatly appreciated," Svadilfari told him with a smile. He executed another partial bow at the waist. "I will defer to you gentlemen on the search for the second prince. This is your realm after all."

Bruce responded to that with a small smile of his own. "Tony and I can try to teach you the basics here."

"Greatly obliged , friend."

"Why did they chose you to come after Loki?" Natasha questioned him.

Svadilfari smiled at her as he answered. "There are very few mages that can travel the realms with their own power and I have worked with Loki before."

"Svadilfari is something of a renowned builder," Thor explained. "Asgard commissioned him to build a protective wall around it's boarders and Loki worked closely with during that time. I am short of the details of their co-operation, however."

"If I recall, the crown prince was called away to another task while I was working with the second prince," Svadilfari explained. "Prince Loki was rather well known for his magical prowess and given the usual proclivities of Asgard, I was highly curious. The All-father and I came to an accord and I was lent the second prince as an apprentice of sorts for the duration of the building."

"In the myths they mentioned that you're a horse," Natasha added.

"A misconception, I assure you." He laughed good naturedly.

"I wonder how such an idea spread," She asked idlely.

"I did quite bit of shapeshifting when I was in Asgard. That is probably how the idea spread."

"Oh?"

"Actually, I helped the second prince quite a bit with his animal transformations as well."

"The myths also mention Sleipnir," Natasha commented.

Svadilfari nodded at that. "A creation of ours. Well, mostly of Loki's. I showed him how to shape his magic into physical forms, but he surpassed my explanations greatly with his creation. I believe he gifted the horse to the All-father, yes?" Svadilfari looked to Thor for confirmation.

"You are correct," Thor nodded. "Sleipnir is father's war steed."

"The myths say that he is a child between you and Loki." Natasha was watching Svadilfari closely and the others began to catch on to her focus. Clint perched on the back of the couch she was sitting on as Steve began to stare at her with confusion and disapproval.

"Loki does not have children," Thor told them with a laugh.

"Your myths seems to be very misinformed," Svadilfari told her, meeting her gaze.

"I suppose so," She conceded easily.

"Hey, I'll show you to your room," Tony spoke up, thinking that the impromptu interrogation was likely over. The man only nodded, following Tony as he lead him away.



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