(Three little connected bits and pieces that won't fit in the next Codex story, but I felt like tossing in anyway for fun.)
Stitched: A SHIELD Codex Short
Loki didn't look up when the Director slid into a plastic seat across from him. He flicked his fingertip across his tablet instead, moving to the next densely-packed page of carefully collated SHIELD geographical information with a tiny sigh. "I still prefer actual books."
"The series you're butting through used to weigh on average more than a hundred and fifty pounds for all of the books together and had to be updated twice yearly. Three times if there were more than two military coups in a region. I think tablets got invented just to keep organizations like us from crying in despair." Phil looked around the Playground's otherwise empty rec room, tapping the file folder against the chipped table. "I remember back in the day the fresh recruits would build little book forts out of 'em and pretend it was winter. They'd throw wadded up paper for snowballs."
The green gaze flickered up at him, then at the file in his hand. "Is there a problem?"
"I need a full name."
Loki rolled his eyes and swished to the next page on his tablet. "It's the only name you're getting."
"This isn't like being a roadie and doing catering paperwork for Cher. The personnel system is going to puke and, if I'm really unlucky, drop tables if I try to just put in Loki. What's the rest, Odinson? I'm guessing here."
"No? I think that's how the Norse did it, and you said things were stabilizing-"
"Not the point."
Phil leaned back in his seat and watched as Loki kept stubbornly reading the dry text. "Cut me some slack and don't make me try to read your mind."
Loki sighed and tilted his head down to run a few fingers along his hairline, rubbing gently. "I'm not intentionally trying to be difficult."
"It's just pure natural style." Phil couldn't help but crack a smile.
A thin one began to form in return, genuine but slight. "My name is my own. I don't wish to share someone else's right now. I associate a certain baggage with the family name, let's put it at that. Regardless of any new treaty, I want only what I know is mine. A fresher start, if you like."
"Was I right, though?"
Phil squinted at him. "On what?"
The slight smile widened, becoming sardonic. "What's today?"
"Oh, forget it." Phil opened the file and tugged a spare pen from underneath Loki's arm, scribbling. "First name: 'Loki.' Middle name: 'Is A Pain.' Last name: 'In My Ass.'"
"Perfect." A single snort of laughter. "Your biographical notes on me must be a delight."
"They're pretty good, yeah." A particular detail from the notes and the older already-online associated files struck him hard out of nowhere and Loki's gaze came fully up to watch him quiver silently. In the eyes was a question – what is suddenly so damned funny? He tried to calm down, realizing that he'd just giggle-fitted himself into a risky topic. "If I explain, I'm really afraid you'll stomp out of here."
"Now you must tell me."
Phil pictured it again, his lips quirking. "It's probably not wise."
The tablet's screen flickered black and silent, the demigod leaning back in his own chair to cross his arms and stare blankly at Coulson, who was trying to keep a straight face and failing badly. "Okay, will you at least promise to not hit the roof?" Or the floor? The giggles threatened again. He cleared his throat instead.
"No. Truly, what's got you so amused? So it's at my expense apparently, so what?"
"Oh, God." Phil put the file down, mentally bracing himself. "Okay. I was in recovery for a few weeks after I came back from the dead. Didn't feel that great, because apparently resurrection via super unethical alien infusion gives flu-like symptoms for like a month after. So Fury sent me a get-well gift. Probably the greatest one possible under the circumstances."
Loki absorbed that. "I really am going to hate this, aren't I?"
Phil rooted around in his pocket for his phone. "You asked. So, Tony Stark has a really hardcore security setup everywhere. Even if he's just visiting the john of a Burger King, things get recorded around him. With that in mind, you better believe he has his tower in New York rigged up to the gills."
Something undefinable changed in Loki's face as he immediately realized where this was going. The temperature of the room seemed to drop at least six degrees.
"I have a two minute loop of footage from that day on my phone. I don't know how Fury got it from Stark's security cams and I have never, ever cared." Hell, it was bookmarked in a top-level folder for easy access on bad days. He passed the phone to Loki, who took it without a word.
Loki made it only as far as the giant green beast of a man grabbing the ankle of his own long-ago image before setting the phone screen-side down with deceptive gentleness. "Well," he said, leaning back and away from the device like it was coated with slick poison. His voice was deadly calm. "I'll grant that I can see why that would have cheered you up at the time."
"At exactly what point did you think that was gonna go well?"
"We are never going to speak of this again." The bland voice changed and became firm instead.
"He whipped you like a wet locker room towel." Phil was unable to keep the waver out of his voice.
The temperature seemed to dip again. Loki stared at him as his shoulders shook. Then he lifted a single finger. "My only words on the topic, and know I realize there will be no sympathy from them - It was one of those days where everything that seemed to be going perfectly was really quite not. I'd love to tell you that the whole plan, including its failure, was by my design but it's regrettably not the entire truth. So by the time Banner showed up, my rather enraged thoughts were, mostly, 'Well this can't hardly get worse.'" A slow, aggravated exhale. "It got worse."
Phil put his head down across folded arms to let the laughter drain out.
"Last year I would have stabbed you again for the reminder of this insult."
"I'm really surprised that's not happening," he wheezed.
"Gods. So am I." Loki shook his head and picked up his study tablet, now attempting to ignore the quiet laughter. "We will never. Ever. Speak of that again. Or so help me, I will take over this whole ridiculous planet with a butter knife."
. . .
Phil watched the last tech flee past him as he entered the medical lab. Well, at least the clearly agitated demigod hadn't tossed the place when he realized what he'd been called to med for. Just scared the hell out of the entire staff. No wonder Phil had been called down on a priority situation. He kept his own voice even. "No, what?"
"No, you are not getting a damned blood draw."
"Okay." He rubbed a single finger along his nose and locked the door firmly behind him. On the other side of the thick glass, he saw a few of the braver techs still lurking around trying to peek in. He waved them off, noting Simmons down at the far end. Her face held a worried pinch between the brows, but she at least didn't look afraid. He sighed and looked back to Loki. The man's face was paler than usual and slightly wild, not bothering to even fake his way through this one. "First, I'll apologize for not warning you about that like day one. It's so standard here that I didn't think for a second that you'd be freaked by it. I'm sorry."
"I am not freaked."
Phil let that go, because pointing out to the obviously genuinely freaked out demigod that he'd just dropped the most blatant lie of the month was not going to win anyone a cookie. He should have remembered, and he mentally kicked himself for the giant mistake. The alien man had all but gone ballistic last year when Coulson got a glimpse of hidden blue skin. The only thing that saved Phil's bacon at the time was how thoroughly wiped out Loki was by the Darkhold's draining curse. After getting an eyeful of Asgard and its place among the greater galaxy, he had an even fuller idea of just how much of a sore point that secret topic was.
Now he was just blithely asking for it to become almost common knowledge to any SHIELD team member Loki worked with.
Monster. The split-second, phantom glimpse of wounded red eyes.
Yeah, this could be going better.
He stayed calm, putting his hands in his suit pockets while Loki stared balefully at various things in the room. "If something happens to you under our watch, we want to be able to at least try and help you. That's the very least we can promise to anyone on the team, and the goal is to do a great deal more. To do that, we need at least basic things like blood type. Current medical status. Blood pressure. Where the hell the kidneys are, y'know, in case we got to squeeze in a new one. Do you have kidneys?"
He tried to make his voice light by the end. It cut zero ice. The demigod started pacing like a cat with a stepped-on tail. He went for a different scenario. "It's either trust us in a pinch or hope we can shove you back to Asgard so they can wave magic healing thingies over you before any permanent damage happens."
"I like neither option. If I'm harmed by my own stupidity, I'll take care of myself."
"You're not gonna be running solo here all the time. I understand your viewpoint, but that's not conducive to operating a team."
"You don't understand." The words came out in a snap, the man still pacing angrily.
Phil shook his head. If he tried to debate around what he thought he understood, this would take all day. Might as well go direct. "I do understand what your actual problem here is and you know it. Loki, we're not exactly perfect about racism on this planet, believe me, but no one gives a damn that you're not exactly like the other Asgardians that we've seen. That you're not Asgardian at all. At this point, we've seen cybernetic enhanciles, half-Chitauri, vampires, sorcerers, pyrokinetics, and whatever the hell the Kree did to, I don't even know, half our genetic lines. I know I'm skipping stuff. But you talk to Skye. She's still here. We didn't throw her out just because things got weird. Yeah, things can change. Sometimes they get scary – she scared us at first because we didn't know what happened or how to help her. But we're a team."
Phil inhaled to underline his point. "No one cares. Some of Asgard might throw you out on your ass for being something else, yeah, I get that. We don't have that perspective. Christ, I think we're actually starting to get jaded by the relentless weirdness we've been dealing with. I mean, things were weird when Fury was still running the place, but jeeze. I guarantee you, I promise you." He pointed at the door behind him. "If you walked out of this room totally blue, half of my core team would take one look at you, go 'well, that's different' before going to back to a magazine, and then the other half would ask if you think green pepper on the pizzas they're about to order is okay."
It stopped the pacing at least. Loki watched him, the eyes narrowed and unreadable.
"Fitz and Mack are watching old X-Files episodes like they're sitcoms, that's how screwed up our collective lives are right now. I hear this friggin' donkey laughter coming out of the rec sometimes." It occurred to him that the reference was probably still lost on Loki. "Three nights a week if nothing's shaking, you should join 'em. I bet ten bucks you'd find the alien abduction episodes hilarious."
He spread his hands. "No one cares. I sure as hell don't. Out of all the crap you've pulled in the past that we've mistrusted you over, this doesn't even make the list. It doesn't qualify. It's important to you, I'm not trying to ignore that. But it won't affect how any of us are going to think."
Still nothing at first. Then - "Miss Simmons."
He did a double-take at what he thought was a non-sequitur at first. "What?"
"I can respect her. She forgave me for nearly being driven mad by my mistakes, chose to freely. She can do the blood draw. I don't want the others touching me. I don't know them." His voice was icily curt, but a fraction of the tension was going out of his shoulders.
Phil nodded, looking back towards the rest of the underground facility. Yeah, she was still out there. Watching. Perfect. Get this mess done before the demigod found another reason to be upset. He flagged her down with a pull of his hand, and to her credit, she started moving toward the lab without hesitation. He unlocked the door for her, nodding once as she came in.
Simmons looked at the Director, reading what she could off his outwardly calm face as the door shut again. Then she looked at Loki, brows still knotted in worry. Not because of him, but for him. "Are you all right?"
Coulson could have hugged her. Friendly empathy was the exact right way to start. More of Loki's visible tension eased off. "I'm fine," he said, face still tight. He looked away, but he started rolling up a sleeve as he did so. "Get this over with, please."
. . .
Making a home:
They'd put him in a temporary room while the introductory work was being processed; a narrow but not cruel space of pale flaxen blue and obnoxiously cheery flower wallpaper. There were other residences proper in the facility for those that lived onsite in Coulson's odd little lair, and once certain matters were settled, a jangly but competent man named 'Koenig' led him to one of these. There were no ill-thought remarks on what was now known among those closest to Coulson. Koenig nattered on only about world news that he must now take mental notes on, and then left him in peace once the key to the door changed hands. That itself was a welcome newness; no longer any cages, only open doors and windows.
He hadn't brought much with him to Midgard – to Earth, he corrected himself - and it struck him with a sort of private regret that his now hollowed out life could so easily fit such small boxes when he was raised in castles. It wasn't that he left so many trinkets back in Asgard; if that troubled him so much, he could damn well have things retrieved. It was that everything in that old room marked a before when now he lived in a hard-fought after.
As much as he did still love his Asgardian quarters and the piles of papers and books that shaped it, it also served too well as a prison. Too full of memories both pleasant and cruel. This room, new and small and empty, wore the shape of something else – a fresh start, after all. The one possibility he clung to when falling between worlds. Just as he'd told the Director, his odd ally that might also be a friend.
For now it would hold the tablet he used to study the ridiculous intricacies of human societies and politics, and those few clothes he'd already started to collect. In time there would be books here, too, and what little pieces of art or other whimsies that struck him. In time it would be shaped to fit him more closely.
There was a wide couch set against the wall close to the door, covered in a plain and slightly puffy dark green. He decided it was a pleasant shade of that color, touching the armrest of it with a single finger. He sat on it and slung his bag of clothes off his shoulder to rest it on the floor, still thinking about the wandering paths of multiple lives, and found himself surprised when the knock came at the closed door. "It's open," he said, automatically polite to those humans he'd chosen to be around.
Skye popped her head in and scanned the room, focusing mostly on the carpeted floor. Something crinkled out of his sight, some object in her hands. "Oh, good, someone remembered to vacuum. Sometimes people hide in the empties to eat the stuff they steal out of the rec. I'm not kidding. I lost a whole freaking bag of these really good kettle chips once. I coulda punched whoever it was. Even if it was Phil."
"Maybe he stole them whilst in one of those fugue states. Couldn't blame him then, could you?" He raised an eyebrow, forever amused at the way the young woman could shotgun herself through a conversation.
She reared her head back at him. "You think that's possible?" She blinked, thinking about what he said. "He told you about those?"
"It was in the context of questions about the Kree, but yes, he made some confidences."
"They're dicks, right?"
The matter-of-fact tone made his face quirk. "I'm certainly not a devotee. There's probably exceptions to the theme, but not among those I know of."
"Yeaaaah." She stepped into the doorway. In her hands was a thick plastic bag, which she shoved towards him. "I suck at wrapping so I just used the bag. You're totally not going to get the joke."
Loki peered in and saw the fuzzy blue toy nestled in the bottom. "You're absolutely right," he said, not bothering to hide his bafflement. He pulled it out to examine, the plush animal feeling remarkably soft under his fingers.
It was blue and vaguely doglike, with large black eyes and little black claws and tall ears that seemed possibly more mousey than the rest. He set it on his knee to regard it more carefully, turning it around. No, he had not a clue what the hell it was supposed to be. He looked back up at Skye, a single eyebrow raised. She grinned back at him. "Look, I get that your default is that our culture can be kinda boring and stupid, but I'm going to make you watch the movie he's from."
He responded by way of a slow blink.
"You'll at least get it." She winced, her lips pulling back from her teeth in comic wideness. "Not that I mean – look, he's not an animal. I know he looks like a dog, that is totally not where I'm going with this. Or a monster." She rushed on before he could decide whether to look irritated or not. "He's a little jerk alien that finds a home whether he wanted one or not."
He looked down at the plush toy. "Oh," he said, not sure what else to make of that.
"It's a cute story."
She rolled her eyes, making a bad attempt at pretending to be frustrated with him. "Point is, you made it in the door. Not everybody does. Sometimes people go out the door and they're never, ever going to be allowed back in, because they killed all the trust they had. I think there's still a lot of people that'd be freakin' stunned to know you're under this roof. But those of us that have actually been here? Nobody's that surprised. Not even May. I actually think Phil was a little disappointed nobody did more than twitch when he came back from Asgard with you."
He looked at the toy again. "And this is a mark of that?" He squeezed it a little, then remembered. "Regardless, it's a gift. Thank you."
"All princely and crap. I'm telling you. Movie night. Then you'll get it." Skye looked up, thinking. "Friday. We'll order a pizza. I'll make May join us, she pretends Disney drives her up a wall but I swear to God I heard her humming Gaston's song once." She grinned as she swiveled her head back down towards him. "And you're sitting there with this 'I know what some of these words mean' expression." She made herself slow down. "Welcome to the funhouse, all I'm saying. The hard part is over."
He set the toy on the end of the couch. Yes, he would keep it. Atop the desk, likely. It was a kindly meant offering, although he was still wary of the story's intended meaning. "Is it?"
"Well, next comes the part where people get shot at every other week and sometimes dudes set things on fire with their mind or whatever, but for you maybe that part will be a bit more familiar."
Loki found himself giving her a wry smile. "Yes, I suppose that part might."
"I'll let you settle in. You've got like a bunch of cram work you're still doing and whatnot before Phil lets you outta the house to play with the team. Friday?" Skye stepped back through the door, both eyebrows lifted and waiting for an answer.
He shook his head, feeling somewhat thrown by her whirlwind of attention. "Friday. Yes. Whatever this thing is." He gestured at the toy.
"It's a symbol of family, is what it is. Later." She shut the door, giving him the privacy he needed to allow the startled expression to cross his face. Loki picked up the toy again and looked down into its black felt eyes.
No, perhaps neither he nor the odd little dog were the monsters here. Not today.
He set it aside again, gently. Then he picked up his bag with its few belongings, and started to make himself a home.
. . .
"Ohana means family." ~ Lilo & Stitch
2/20/15 mds All relevant rights remain in the hands of Marvel with no infringement intended. All realities are fair game. All half-mad demigods do whatever the hell they want.