Loki Talks... Results May Vary
Tony was used to making things up as he went. Plans were boring and inflexible things, way too typical for someone like Tony Stark. Making things up off the top of his head was what he'd always done. Arguably, it was what he did best. That said, he was starting to think that that wasn't the best plan with Loki. It was what he'd been doing with Luna, and that had worked well enough, but he'd also had no idea what was going on that whole time. Probably not the best approach to the situation, seeing as not a week after Loki and Tony became... whatever they were, the god had kidnapped Pepper.
Pepper was in a room not far from Loki's. Tony assumed that the room Loki lead Tony to was his own, at any rate. As soon as he was in the room he turned to face Loki.
"Okay, so, we should probably talk about a few things," Tony said.
Loki grabbed him and pulled him into his arms, holding him tightly. "I hope that you are not too cross with me. I assure you that your friend has not been harmed."
"I believe you," Tony answered. "In the future, I'd appreciate it if you could tell me before you kidnapped my friends."
Loki smiled, stroking Tony's hair. "I am sorry. I would have told you, but I didn't want you to try and stop me. I knew that you would not agree to letting Victor anywhere near your friends."
"Yeah, well, I guess I'll let it go this time. He did actually help. Seriously, though, Loki, I need to know what the hell you're doing."
Loki sighed. "I am not use to trusting others with my full plans," He admitted. "It was months before I told Amora the true reason we were even on this realm."
"Your goal is to save Earth, isn't it? You can trust me with that."
"I plan on manipulating a lot of your people, Anthony."
Tony moved back enough to meet Loki's eyes. "As long as you don't hurt the people I love, we can manipulate whoever we need to."
Loki's eyes widened a little at the statement before he replied. "Tell me who is on this list of untouchables."
"Pepper, Bruce, and Rhodey," He answered immediately. "I don't have many friends, so no one is allowed to mess with them. I hate people touching my stuff."
"I do not believe I have met the last on that list," Loki said. "But I shall do my best not to harm one of yours."
"I'll introduce you sometime. He's my best friend."
"Ideally, I would not harm any of Midgard's heroes. We'll need an army if we can get it, after all."
"An army approaches. We'll need as many as possible to fight it off."
Tony stared at Loki. "You say things like this way too calmly."
"Nothing gets done if I panic at every inconvenience," Loki answered. The god pressed a kiss to Tony's head before retreating to sit on the bed. "I am not certain that I can trust you with all of my plans just yet. You do not trust Victor and he is a rather large part of most of my plans."
"He doesn't have to be," Tony replied, almost petulantly. "I'm sure I could do whatever he can."
"You could not cure Extremis."
"I was close! All I needed was more time."
"Are you willing to turn your Iron Man suits into an army and attack your friends?" Loki questioned.
Tony hesitated. "I could..."
"But you do not wish to," Loki concluded. "That is one of the reasons I need Victor. Your Avengers are not well tested. Not individually and not as a team. They need opposition and he is willing to provide it. You need to be a perfect machine by the time The Mad Titan arrives. You cannot afford less."
"And that's why you told Thor to let us fight for ourselves. And why you told him to leave Doom alone."
"Yes," Loki told him. "It is also the reason that I have not reached out to that other group of Midgardian heroes. There are four of them...?"
"The Fantastic Four?"
"Yes. Victor said he would kill one of them and I thought it best not to take the chance of one of them being killed at a critical moment. Or the suspicion and loss of trust that could happen in the fallout once everyone took to their sides."
"Alright, I get that."
"I plan on uniting every force on Midgard that I possibly can. Your Avengers, Shield, any heroes or villains that can be convinced or manipulated to the task," Loki went on. "On any of the other realms, this would be an easy task. They are no so divided as this realm insist on being, none so vulnerable. But I will not let anyone hold me from my task."
"So what are you planning to do exactly?" Tony questioned. Loki insisted on talking in broad strokes, but Tony was determined to get something out of him.
Loki hesitated longer than he planned to. It couldn't be wise to tell too much of his plan. Variables acting alone often caused failure. He could hardly count the number of times Thor and Sif and The Warriors Three had caused his plans to go awry by giving away his strategy or deciding to move ahead more quickly than told because they thought Loki's plan too tedious. At least until he stopped telling them his plans altogether, then the success rate increased tremendously, even if their esteem of him and his tricks plummeted.
"I'd like Pepper to have a good hold of her Extremis abilities before she leaves here," He eventually answered. "Just cautionary. She may not wish to be involved in the fighting, but her abilities could prove volatile if she becomes stressed without knowledge of how to regulate them."
Loki hesitated again. "I planned to aid Victor in improving his magical skills."
Tony didn't look fond of that idea, but held his tongue on the matter. "So train the Avengers, help Doom with his mojo, get Pepper squared away. That's all?"
"Of course not," Loki replied quickly.
"So, not going to tell me about the rest?"
"I have a few more alliances in the works," Loki replied cautiously.
Tony really didn't like the tentative way Loki seemed to be regarding him. He walked to the bed so that he was standing right before the god, meeting his gaze and asking, "What do you need me to do."
Loki held his gaze a moment before reaching out, placing a hand on his cheek. "What I need from you, as a warrior, is to become stronger. Cultivate your Avengers, bring them closer to each other, and bolster your own defenses."
"Alright. As a warrior." Tony nodded. "What do you need from me?" He repeated.
Loki wrapped his arms around Tony's waist and pulled him close, leaning his head on his mortal. "I do not know," Loki admitted after a moment. It wasn't the complete truth. What he wants are mostly things that he's gotten from his mortal allies; Trust, worship, companionship, things he wasn't able to get, not even in part, from Asgard. He isn't certain that he could ask for that though.
Tony sighed, petting Loki's head. "You have to come to my workshop in a few days," He told him firmly. "I'm going to make you a phone."
Loki smirked. "I have a phone. Several in fact."
"Whatever you've got, mine will be better."
Loki chuckled. "Confident mortal."
"What do you need several cell phones, for?" Tony questioned.
"Mostly to keep Shield from tracking me if I happen to be in contact with them. Not that they are aware it's me."
"I could build you much better security," He scoffed.
"So you could," Loki agreed. "All for the better, I suppose. I've left them unguarded a time or two in the castle and I'm fairly certain that Victor has them bugged by now."
"Why do you put up with that?"
"It really is no matter to me," Loki answered. "If I had need to keep secrets, I could use magic to assure them or else return to one of my apartments for a while."
"How many do you have?"
Loki smirked. "Enough. One should never keep all their resources in one place."
"Has anyone ever told you that you're very paranoid?" Tony asked him.
"Yes," Loki answered. "Of course, that person later tried to kill to me."
"Good point," Tony nodded, deciding he needed to work on Loki's phone as soon as possible. Not being able to talk to him whenever he wanted to was unacceptable.
Pepper wasn't sure whether she was a prisoner or a guest. On the one hand, she couldn't leave, that was a fact. Doom had told her, directly and succinctly, that she was not permitted to leave until he was done examining her. (Examinations consisted mostly of watching her trying to use her power and Doom making notes before disappearing.) On the other hand, Loki had presented her with her work laptop so that she could still take care of Stark Industries work. Together the two seemed to be sending rather strong mixed messages.
"Anthony has left," Loki said from behind her, causing her to jump at his sudden appearance. One thing she did not think she would ever get used to was his ability to appear out of nowhere. She'd only been in the castle for a few days, but of this she was certain.
"Don't you knock?" She snapped at him as she closed her laptop.
"Not typically, no," Loki replied wryly. He took a step closer to where she was seated at the desk in, what she supposed, was her room, now. "Are you calm at the moment, Miss Potts?"
A villain, holding her captive in another villains castle, wanted to know if she was calm?
"Considering the circumstances? Yes." She deadpanned.
Loki nodded. "Anthony thought it best if I were the one to inform you, since you have yet to get a handle on your Extremis abilities."
"Tell me what?" She asked suspiciously. She knew, had known for days, that she was not going to like when she finally got a proper explanation for her hold in Doom's castle.
"Anthony and I are romantically linked," Loki told her without preamble.
Pepper assumed that she was not taking this well, by the way her temperature rose and her clothes caught fire. She was sitting perfectly still, staring at the god, perhaps in shock. The chair, curiously enough, did not catch fire.
"Hmm, I should tell Victor to create fire proof clothing for you," Loki mused. "Or perhaps a few spells would do."
Pepper should care that she was standing before someone considered a god, that attempted to take over the world, that was allied with Victor Von Doom. She didn't though.
"What?" She yelled as she shot up from her seat.
"He said that you might not take it well." Loki grinned widely at her. "Of course, he also claimed that you were immensely important to him and not to be lied to, so in good faith, I suppose I should tell you that this is not exactly new information to you."
"What is that suppose to mean?" She yelled. "How! When?"
In answer, Loki shifted to the form of Luna. "I'm certain that you remember me," She said with a smile. "I was under the impression that we had gotten along fairly well."
"You..." Pepper's brain stuttered a moment as she took this information in before her outraged flared back up. "Tony's been sleeping with a villain for--"
"No, no. We were hardly sleeping together then. It was my plan not to do so at all, but I find Anthony rather irresistible."
Pepper glared at him. "Is that a joke?"
"Why should it be?" Loki replied.
"Look, I don't know what your game is, but if you hurt him, I will destroy you. Even without having to use Extremis."
"It is good to know that you are willing to defend his honor, seeing as he demonstrated the desire to defend yours as well. However, I have no wish to play games with Anthony, and if you ask, I will tell you precisely what I want from him."
"Then tell me," Pepper insisted.
"I want Anthony to belong to me," Loki told her. "I want him to worship me. I want to know everything about him and all that he is. I want him to trust me and to love me and to allow me to keep him. I want his passion and creativity and wit and intelligence." Loki paused before adding, "I also want him to help me save the world, but that is a rather separate matter."
Pepper was a little thrown off by the apparent honesty and intensity in his answer. Then the last part of his statement caught up with her. "What do you mean, save the world?"
Loki took a seat upon her bed. Pepper had calmed down, even if she didn't seem to notice, and Loki waved a hand to summon new clothes to replace the other woman's mostly singed ones. "Now this a conversation I was looking forward to having with you, Miss Potts."
"We can't seem to find anything abnormal," Simmons said as she typed on her computer. She was checking and double checking result, Fitz doing similar work at her side as he looked over blood samples for signs of contamination. "Melinda showed signs immediately."
"Is it possible that it just didn't work?" Bruce questioned. It came out a little more irritable than he intended. He'd been in and out of Shield too often the last two weeks between trying to do work for Shield and dealing with Pepper and her Extremis problem. A problem that had apparently been fixed, even though Tony refused to tell him how or why Loki had kidnapped her or how he'd resolved that situation. The irritation he felt for his friend and that he felt for Shield were rebounding on one another. "It effects people differently, right?"
"That's only conjecture," Simmons said.
"And it's odd that we can't find any sign of it in her blood or any evidence that it entered her body at all, despite the fact that she clearly had a physical reaction to it," Fitz added.
"Have you considered leaving it alone?" Lockley spoke up. She wasn't, technically speaking, suppose to be in here with them. But she had taken it upon herself to stick close to Natasha and Melinda when possible, or Loki's agents when it wasn't. It made any contact she had with them as Skye go much smoother when she knew how to handle them.
Melinda May was being almost constantly poked and prodded as they tried to study her new mutation and it made Raven angry and sick in turns. As Skye, she had begun to hint that she could help her if she wanted out of Shield, without the baggage of working with Loki, as they were all worried about. Winning the woman's trust was the first step, after all.
Incidentally, the tests done on Melinda and, less intensively because of a lack of results, Natasha, seemed to be pushing Fitz and Simmons similarly to the brink. They were in turns eager and hesitant about what they were doing. Bruce Banner's discomfort and refusal to take part in the more unsavory explorations of Melinda's new power seemed to encourage their discontent.
Raven was using all her will power not to let any of her revulsion show on Lockley's face.
"We can't leave it alone!" Simmons objected, looking utterly put out at the thought.
"Director Fury would have our heads!" Fitz added.
"Yes, well, if you keep it up you may end up taking hers," Lockley said bitterly.
They were all quiet in the wake of that statement.
"I don't know about you two, but I'm going to recommend that this stop. I can't be apart of this if they're just going to keep going further and further. I don't think The Other Guy can take it."
"It isn't as if we don't recommend that this be let go," Simmons replied, almost offended.
"That's not the same as refusal to do it," Lockley said.
They became quiet again. She had a knack for guilting them, though it had yet to be enough to make them stop. She couldn't stop wondering if Loki would be very angry with her for destroying Shield in righteous indignation. Or just killing Director Fury.
"Agent Coulson is coming," Bruce warned her. They all knew she wasn't suppose to be there and had taken up the kind habit of keeping look out for her.
"Yeah, Yeah, I'm leaving," She said. It was just as well. Skye had a secret meeting with Grant to get to anyway. Out of them all, he seemed to take to her the best. He was more openly suspicious, but also much more curious. He also seemed to respond well to their sparring sessions, taking each round as proof of her worthiness, even when she let him win.
Well, sooner or later something would give. She just didn't know who would be first to crack.
Keeping track of Raven was very easy with all the work that Doom had gone through making her tracker. Loki knew that she was absolutely fine. That didn't mean that it wasn't the slightest bit annoying having to wait so long to have the chance to speak with her. She spent nearly all of her time in Shield's base and between her playing the part of Lockley and Skye, there was very little time for her to update him on their situation.
What he did learn, when she was finally able to talk freely, was very interesting. His agents were strained, the Widow had been altered in some way that Shield was unable to yet determine, and Amora had (apparently) had a talk with Shield.
All things considered, the mortals were right on the edge of being over ripened fruits, ready for the picking.
He gave Raven the location of one of his extra residences in case his agents wanted to go somewhere 'off the grid' to hide from Shield, telling Raven to otherwise just take them to the place she had before used. It was important to have the options laid out in advance. They were dealing with spies, after all. Hesitation would mean failure.
After he and Raven had finished, he decided that now was the perfect time to put in his call to Hawkeye. The man had desired to speak with Loki and he was probably tangled up in knots over the potential danger of The Widow's situation. She had been well trusted, but she also was a source of research, now. They couldn't find anything about what the mutated version of Extremis had done to her, but that only meant that they would eventually try to look deeper, especially if Agent Melinda May decided to make herself unavailable as a stand in any longer.
Loki didn't think he could have lined the pieces up any better himself.
"Who is this?" Hawkeye answered immediately.
"Hello, Agent Barton," Loki greeted coolly. "I received word that you wanted to speak to me."
Clint had no idea why he thought that it was a good idea to talk to Loki of all people. He had no idea why he even wanted to. Maybe it was some remnant of mind control or he was just losing it.
The sound of Loki's voice almost prompted him to panic. Shield already thought he was a traitor and now he was a having a conversation with the guy he betrayed them for. He'd be utterly screwed if they found out. The Avenger's would probably be pissed at him. Natasha would flay him alive.
That thought actually firmed up his resolve a bit. He didn't trust Loki. How could he trust someone that had literally taken his free will away from him? But when given control over him, Loki had done a lot less to hurt him than Shield had. They had a common enemy in that way. And though it hadn't happened yet, Shield was probably on it's way to becoming a threat to Natasha. He didn't trust Loki, but he also didn't think the guy had any interest in tearing one of the people closet to him to pieces.
"No need to reciprocate the greeting," Loki went on after letting the silence stretch a while. "I'm certain you'd rather not have to speak my name aloud for whatever monitoring devices Shield has on you."
"I'm at the Tower," Clint responded quickly and then wondered what the hell difference that would make to Loki. It wasn't as if he knew about what Clint had been through since the invasion. Wasn't as if he knew that the Tower was the only place he felt even remotely safe from Shield. For now, anyway. It probably wouldn't last if Tony let him stay full time. Neither of them was exactly well trusted.
Contrary to all of Clint's thought, Loki responded with a knowing calm. "Ah, somewhere safe then. Well, please continue with whatever you like."
"You utter asshole!" Clint exploded. "Where do you get off acting like you know anything! Ordering me around as if--" Clint stopped, the words getting caught in his throat.
"Ah, I suppose this is long overdue," Loki sighed. "Agent Barton, this will not likely mean much to you, but I shall say so anyway. I apologize for the trouble you have been caused on my behalf. I know that my words mean little to you, but I would like to make amends if possible. If I can soothe your anger or fear with any action of mine, I would certainly like to try. Within reason, of course."
That actually upset Clint more, even though it was mostly perfect for what he wanted. He wanted some way to keep Natasha safe from Shield and he'd use Loki to do that if he had to, but the expectancy of the statement ticked him off regardless. Still, he chose to reign it in. No need to be counterproductive.
"There is something that I want," Clint said.
"Yes, there is something that I want as well," Loki said. "Not a condition, mind you, just your consideration. You know well that I have no ill intent for your realm, quite the opposite, really. Working ill at ease with others makes things much more difficult, wouldn't you say?"
"I'm not going to work for you again."
"That is not what I meant to imply," Loki corrected. "What I mean, is that we need not be enemies. We need not be direct allies, if you prefer, but in the future, if I work with the Avengers, I'd rather know that we do not have a problem."
"I want you to protect Natasha from Shield," Clint said abruptly. After a moment, he continued. "I don't want her to have to experience any of what I did." Not again, he thinks but doesn't say. He knows that it wouldn't be the first hardship of Natasha's life nor even the worse, with what the Red Room put her through, but he wants to protect her none the less.
Loki is silent for a while before he answers. "What do you suggest that I do?" He asked. "It is not really my place to help her if she is where she wants to be.You may have such rights as her friend, but I do not, and keeping the Widow any place she does want to be will likely prove a daunting task."
"Don't let them take her!" Clint said insistently. "I know she doesn't want to leave them now, but if she does..."
"Well, you will have to be the one to tell me when such a time comes. I do not have such direct watch over the Widow."
"The same as last time," Loki told him. "Contact Skye and she shall contact me."
"Would you like a direct line of contact with me?" Loki asked.
The idea itself made him nervous of what Shield would do (this time) if they found out. "No."
"Then that is the way it shall be done," Loki concluded. "When you change your mind, you may have a more direct method. Or if circumstances change. Until then, Agent Barton."
Clint wasn't sure whether he felt relieved or even more worried.