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The Unquiet Thought

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There is light. And whirring.

Loki blinks open his eyes and jerks hard back into the cushion he is laying on. Directly above his face is a metal claw that resembles equipment in Asgard’s dungeon (maybe, or not, he’s not- his mind is- it hurts). The claw rotates and makes another noise.

He can’t remember anything that happened since Thor had led him out of the cells to be wiped clean, and then static of unstable sensations and THOR and Stark holding tightly to his shoulders and standing very very close oh gods it didn’t work didn’t they were going to take him apart no but they didn’t he needs to leave nownownowNOW- he almost bolts up, straight into the machine, when a voice stops him.

“Yeah, they said that might happen, reverting to the last restore point must be a bitch. Don’t worry, we’ll fix you right up.” Loki freezes. “Daddy had to deal with Thor- Thor’s not here by the way, chill out- but Odin said he’d come back when you were awake.” A man walks around the edge of a table- Stark. The man of Iron. “Codes or something, I don’t know. It’s like the equivalent of a memory chip upgrade only with magic. No one will explain it to me. Dummy, back up.” It does, the Midgardian continues to move. Loki sits cautiously while he talks. “Still a pain in my ass, you aren’t even conscious and you’re messing with my babies. Dummy has either been following me dejectedly or crouched at your bedside since you got here, You has been sitting in his charging station with his back to me all day, and Butterfingers… okay, Butterfingers is acting completely normal. Maybe there is an increase of the number of items dropped, but he’s sneaky. He’s probably plotting something.”

Words roll over him.

Loki is like a statue, rigid. Unmoving. His fingers clutch tightly to the edge of the seat cushion. He jerks, body slamming violently into the back of the couch when something touches his wrist.

“Dummy. Back. Up.  Hey,” Tony (no, Stark. It’s Stark) kneels down slowly, palms up where Loki can see them. “It’s okay, you’re okay. No one’s going to do anything to you. JARVIS- my AI, I don’t know if you remember him- he’s got you covered.” Breath falls out of the Midgardian in a rush; he will not look Loki in the eye, which Loki only knows because he himself cannot move, cannot blink. It is like the dwarves taking him apart all over again. “I know your last memories must be really shitty, and you have no reason to trust me, but I promise-”

Loki starts to hyperventilate.

“Sir,” a voice booms from nowhere. He jumps again, unable to stop the knee-jerk reaction of panic. "Perhaps you should step out of the room.”

“JARVIS-“

“I really must insist.” Stark looks at nothing in particular, brows and jaw drawn tight, as if he is on the verge of speaking. “Doctor Banner is asking for you.”

“Wha- Bruce? Yeah, yeah okay. Bruce.” Stark accepts the excuse for what it is. “I gotta go take care of this.” He turns hesitantly to Loki. “We’ll talk later, yeah? Just… try to breathe.” One of the metal contraptions still buzzing around him gets under foot as Stark starts to back away; he gives them a worried look. “And not hurt them. They like you.”

The mortal stills and watches him carefully, one hand resting on the buzzing machine. There is a tickling at his senses, but he pushes it away without a thought and nods faintly. Just leave. Leaveleaveleaveleaveleave.

He won’t be here long; as soon as Stark is gone he will hide until he is himself again.

The man hesitates, but at the voice’s prompting finally walks out of the room. 

Loki sags back into the couch, sucking in a long draw of air, letting it shudder out of him as he releases the breath. The feeling is there again, just brushing against his mind. When he pushes the feathered touch away a second time, the machine that had hovered over him droops.

“Mr. Odinson,” The voice that is everywhere at once addresses him and he starts to tense up again. “I must ask you to stop gathering your magic. You have been overexerted by recent events; any further distress could result in unnecessary complications.” Before Loki can speak, the voice continues. “You are currently in Sir’s lab. I can assure you that Sir was speaking the truth when he told you Thor is not present in the building. I have permission to show you video surveillance of relevant areas if you would like to verify this yourself."

Loki nods.

A different machine approaches him in short, slow bursts of movement (hesitant. The one from the charging station?). It pokes at a monitor, maneuvering it close enough that Loki can see, and then fusses nearby while he watches Thor being taken up to the roof and into a helicopter that leaves. The time stamp was less than twenty four hours ago. He flips through bits of footage, camera to camera, carefully inspecting all floors of the tower that the security allows him to view.

The first machine is out of sight now, but there is a grinding whirring sound. Loki does not know what it is doing. The second is circling quietly nearby, leaving Loki with an uneasy feeling in the pit of him. He is still being watched. Hunted.

He stares at the screen, a quiet image of an empty common room that leaves him restless. “Where is Thor now?”

“Mr. Borson mentioned plans to remove him from Midgard. I believe he is now in Asgard.” The grinding noises stop.

"And I was left behind.”

“Mr. Borson expressed concern for your wellbeing should you return to Asgard at this particular moment. It was decided you would stay in the tower for the time being.” Loki laughs brokenly. “Mr. Borson also requested to receive notification upon your waking.”

“What is stopping me from leaving right now.”

“Nothing.”

The pounding in his head from his first attempt at teleportation is fading. Loki briefly considers gathering a new wave of magic. “You are going to distract me then.” He bounces his heel on the ground, eyes darting around him. 

“The workshop is on lock-down. I assure you, it is quite safe.”

“Except from Stark.”

“Sir will be occupied for some time, and if he returns I will simply explain that he is not needed at present and suggest he acquire food and rest. He gets little enough as it is.”

“You will lock him out?”

“Assuming you refrain from touching any of the lab equipment, yes.”

“But… he is your maker?”

“Sir created me.”

“You are not tied to him?”

There is quiet.

“Not, I believe, in the way you are thinking. Sir’s wellbeing is a concern of mine because he is himself, and not because it is written into my coding. I have been given choice in many things; those who stay in the tower have come to respect those choices. If I lock the doors on my own volition, they will not press. He trusts me with his care and has also charged me with yours. I am nothing if not thorough- Dummy, I told you this was unnecessary.”

The first machine is back again and nudges Loki’s arm, claw extending outward with a carefully held glass.

A glass filled with a thick green liquid.

Loki draws away.

The machine- Dummy- chirps and offers it to him again.

“What is it-“ As he is pushing the glass away, the other machine, the one circling around from a distance, is suddenly right beside him, pulling aggressively on his shirt.  Dummy startles backwards, green spilling over the rim of the glass.

“Stop this,” JARVIS commands. It doesn’t. “You, go back to your charging station.” There is an awful, angry buzzing noise. “If you do not cease your actions I will override your system and put you on standby.”

It pauses, claw still gripping fabric (there is a tear), then releases and shifts backwards. Its movement is haphazard, knocking into tables and benches as it goes. Loki gets the distinct feeling it is doing this on purpose.

“I apologize, he is pouting.” Loki winces when heavy equipment crashes onto the ground. He watches the machine finally settle into its station, what he assumes is the visual sensor is turned toward the wall. 

(with his back turned to me all day)

You.

“Are they always like this?”

“Occasionally. But not with this consistency, no.”

“Why, then?”

“You would interact with them frequently when you were not yourself, that you have not responded to their concerns is… upsetting.”

“I do not remember them.”

Loki looks at the glass again, now set on the table closest to him, a green trail dripping down the side and onto the floor. Dummy is sitting beside the table quietly, the only movement an adjustment of the visual sensors when he looks over.

The blanket that had been over him is in a crumpled mess on the floor, Loki reaches down to pick it up. He closes his eyes and looks for the thread inside him, flickering. When Father had been mentioned, Loki had hoped- but no.“I am still bound to Thor, I can feel the pull.”

“Only for the moment.”

“… what?”

The feed on the monitor changes.

He spends the rest of the afternoon watching the security footage of Odin raging at Thor. Once he gets to where the Allfather follows Stark down to the lab and sits on a chair by the couch, running wrinkled fingers through Loki’s hair, he curls up in a ball.

Dummy tries to hand him another green smoothie.

-

When Odin returns it is out of nowhere and silence. You buzzes in panic and nearly trips over its own tread in an attempt to hide behind a table. Dummy follows the Allfather wherever he walks, a strange combination of curious and territorial. 

Father stops in front of Loki, beckoning him to stand, once more cupping a hand on the back of his neck before he rests his thumbs over Loki’s closed eyes and hums.

Hallr má una, öllu ná, öllu nenna.                            

Chips of memory fall through his mind. He sees Thor yelling, Steve trying to feed him, Bruce next to him on the couch, Tony chattering in the lab, green smoothies. When father’s hands fall away, they wrap around him instead of returning to his sides. Loki steps closer and clings.

Stone may thrive,
achieve everything,
enjoy everything.