Thor had barely managed to calm his brother into something resembling normalcy when the helicopter made its landing on the roof of the building. For Loki's sake he was glad, because his gut feeling was that the odd, semi-hysterical, hiccuping laughter that Loki had been engaged in was the closest his brother ever got to crying these days. And that was a disturbing thought all on its own, for a myriad of reasons that Thor lacked both the attention span and simple desire to contemplate. Thor was a man who preferred a simple, black and white sort of reality, and that had the odd effect of making him much more comfortable with an enraged Loki that wanted to kill him as opposed to a quietly broken Loki that looked like he desperately needed a hug43.
Clint was first in to the apartment, his bow drawn and ready. Thor was quickly to put himself between Loki and that arrow, which earned him a long-suffering look. "You shoot someone's brother once..." Clint muttered, though he didn't lower his bow yet. "Apartment clear?"
"I have not checked all of the rooms," Thor said. "Though Loki seems to think it is safe. And that his waffle iron is missing, if that helps."
Clint snorted. "Never pegged him as a waffle kind of guy." He made a habit out of not trusting a thing Loki said, so he went to check the other rooms for himself.
Agent Romanoff was on his heels, with Coulson behind her. Her eyebrows went up a little when she took in the broken window, and Loki's pale, bleeding state. "Isn't that..." she crooked her finger at Loki's shoulder.
"I think the wound has re-opened."
"Interesting." She arranged herself on the back of Loki's black leather sofa, arms crossed over her chest as Clint popped back into the living room to let them know that the apartment was clear.
Coulson positioned himself between Loki and the door, just standing casually as if he was there by pure chance. "Nice apartment," he observed. "I like the furniture choices. But a little empty."
Loki laughed, propping his chin in his unhurt hand, eyes half-closed. He looked positively woozy. No one, not even Thor, trusted it. "I had a lot of books. And paintings. And a Tiffany vase."
"And a waffle iron," Thor added helpfully. Loki covered his eyes with his hand.
"Want to tell us what happened, Loki?" Agent Romanoff asked. Her expression clearly stated that whatever had happened, he must have had it coming to him. And then some.
"My brother is bleeding," Thor said. "Should we not see to that first?"
Agent Romanoff inspected her fingernails. "Oh, I think he'll live." When Thor opened his mouth to argue, she gave him the sort of look that he'd only ever been on the receiving end of a few times in his life, and always before from his mother. He closed his mouth with an audible snap. "Well, Loki?"
Loki sighed, still not looking up. "I hope that you appreciate how difficult this is for me."
"Oh, be sure that I do." Her tone oozed sarcasm. She gave him a predatory smile that failed to make an impression, since it was directed at the top of his head44.
"When I arrived at my apartment, it was already occupied. By someone that stole every easily movable object that I own."
Coulson looked faintly unimpressed. "Is that all?"
Loki looked up. "Before we proceed further, could you please decide amongst yourselves which one is the bad cop? Because I don't have the energy."
Coulson glanced at Agent Romanoff and shrugged. "For the purposes of this interview, we both are."
Loki's answering sigh was positively long-suffering.
"So, is that all? Your books and your waffle iron?" Agent Romanoff said.
"You're not anything approaching that lucky," Loki said. "It also took possession of all of my magic."
Everyone in the apartment went very quiet and still for a moment. Except for Clint, who was perhaps physically incapable of being quiet when he wasn't actively aiming at someone and deciding where to perforate them. He gave voice to an almost awe-struck, quiet, "Well fuck me."
"It?" Agent Coulson said quietly.
"It," Loki said, "is a robot that also looks like me. And believes that is is me."
"Tell me you didn't have anything to do with this," Agent Romanoff said. "And then I'll call you a liar."
"Oh, I helped Daniel make the robot. I see no point in lying about that now." He kept going, ignoring Agent Romanoff's murmured 'I find that hard to believe.' "But where that thing45 got the idea that it is me, or superior to me--" he started laughing again, in a way that Thor found very worrying. "I had nothing to do with that."
Loki looked up at Agent Romanoff, his face gone still. "Do me the courtesy of not assuming I'm a complete idiot, because you know for a fact that I am not."
"Coming from someone that's tried to destroy the world on more than one occasion, that statement seems a lot less dramatic," Coulson observed.
For once, Loki looked like the one who wanted to tear his hair out. It was a new experience for everyone, and pleasant for all but him. "I don't do things I can't control."
"Could have fooled me," Agent Romanoff said.
Loki realized then that he could either give up trying to convince these idiots – who were now the people he had no choice but to rely on, at least until he came up with a better idea – that the threat was serious, or admit to them that he'd been playing both sides against each other for nearly a year now. In his weakened state, it wasn't a decision that he could make in a coherent fashion, because he liked none of the options and couldn't seem to think through the layer of confused fuzz that had enveloped his brain – did Thor feel like this all the time? - to develop an as yet un-thought-of fifth or sixth option off the cuff.
He let out a little snarl of frustration that, on his better days would have sent everyone with a survival instinct – so everyone but Thor – scrambling for cover, and shoved himself to his feet. Unfortunately, whatever dramatic gesture he'd intended was washed away by a wave of dizziness. His face went a disturbing shade of white46 and he toppled like an overwrought Victorian lady, directly into Thor's arms.
Thor gathered his unconscious brother to his chest in a bundle of lanky limbs and gave Natasha a glare that could have frosted glass. "Can we take him to the hospital now?"
Agent Romanoff looked almost stunned. "I think that might be a good idea."
"Oh, come on," Clint said. "It's not that impressive. He did that when I shot him, too."
43 – Though when Thor had tried, in his indelicate way, to offer his brother a hug, Loki had attempted to insert a fountain pen into his vital organs, so he'd decided it would be best to just back off for the time being. Possibly until Loki was safely handcuffed to a hospital bed again, though something about that particular situation made Thor feel slightly strange.
44 – However, it should be noted that for the following week, Loki had an unusual amount of split ends. There may be some correlation.
45 – Said with enough venom to kill a poison arrow frog at fifty paces.
46 – Like eggshell, but with a bit more mental asylum to it.