Loki actually found it something of a relief to have the wound in his shoulder and the current state of his blood supply become the focus of attention, rather than himself. He needed the time to think, though of course thinking was far more difficult than it had any right to be. He wasn't unconscious for more than a few seconds, but everything was a bit strange for a while, including a helicopter ride where Hawkeye spent the entire time cheerfully holding a ream of gauze against Loki's shoulder with more pressure than Loki really considered necessary, not that anyone bothered to ask him.
Then it was back into the base and its little hospital, and there were doctors and stitches and a very unnecessary x-ray, which also bought him more time to think. There was quite a bit that he needed to think about. His enemy had a tangible face, and it was his own personal face, pasted on a thing. Just thinking about that made all the monitors attached to him beep in a very annoying way. Though of course there was nothing he could do about that, since he was once more handcuffed to the bed and unable to interfere with much of anything physically, let alone magically. Which was of course the next part of the problem, because that abomination had stolen his magic, ripped it from him in a way that still left him feeling more scared than angry47. And he hadn't been able to resist, so that meant he had to turn the figurative knob on his creativity up to eleven, since normal methods just weren't going to work.
Really, he already suspected that getting his magic back would go hand-in-hand with destroying the damn robot – you couldn't call it killing if it wasn't alive, after all – and that seemed like a nice mix of business and pleasure. That thought alone was enough to brighten his day considerably, because he could always think of a creative way to destroy something he hated, and make it a lighthearted diversion rather than a chore.
That plan required a little more data. Data he would hopefully acquire by Thor and his friends throwing themselves repeatedly at the robot and later returning singed and smoking, which seemed to be their favored method of doing business. And if he was lucky and fate was sporting one of those lusty smiles she seemed to save just for him, it would also cause them all some serious bodily injury.
Unable to proceed with his preferred avenue of scheming, Loki tried to find other mental entertainment while he stared at the white ceiling tiles over his bed. It was to avoid situations like this that he was always in motion of some sort or another, whether it was pacing or flipping pages in a book. While he schemed or studied or learned, he had something to occupy his mind and prevent it from spinning completely out of control with boredom, while still avoiding several vital areas of introspection that he simply Did Not Want To Deal With48.
But now he was forced to consider tricky questions, like why on Midgard he still looked like himself, rather than the blue monstrosity he was well aware lurked just beneath his skin. His true heritage was an uncomfortable truth that no amount of mischief and mayhem allowed him to escape, and without his magic to keep it at bay, the reality of it should have been trapping him just as surely as the handcuffs that Agent Romanoff had cheerfully locked around his wrist and ankles. Yet the bits of himself he could still see were the normal color of flesh, though the sensation of cold seemed to be creeping in from his fingertips and toes. Maybe it was the product of a paranoid and overpowered brain, but maybe it wasn't, and he was about to turn into a fascinating science experiment for the SHIELD doctors.
With that horrifying train of thought barreling through his mind and ready to jump the rails at a moment's notice, it was almost a relief when Thor walked in.
Thor had another misshapen stuffed animal tucked under his arm, and a cheap glass vase filled with a multicolored floral explosion. "Brother!" he boomed.
Loki lifted his head off the cracker-thin hospital issue pillow specifically so that he could let it thump back down in the most sarcastic manner possible.
"How do you fare?" Thor arranged the stuffed animal – Loki thought that it might be a tiger, holding a heart embroidered with "You'll do grrrrreat!" – and the flowers on a counter safely out of Loki's reach.
"Well, I feel as if I've been shot all over again and something with all the vital existence of a toaster has torn my magic out of my soul, but now that you're here I'm sure all those cares will simply fall away and be forgotten in the warm glow of camaraderie and cheer."
Thor sat next to him. "So, not very well."
"Not very, no."
An awkward silence descended. Loki willed it to become even more awkward, in the hopes that it would drive Thor from the room and leave him alone with his personal horrors. Prompted by the thought of horrors, he lifted his head to take a glance at his hands, just to make certain they were still the proper color, and wiggled his fingers against the ever-increasing chill.
Thor, who could be shockingly observant at the times it was least convenient to Loki, said, "You don't look any different, brother." Loki gave him a sharp look. Thor ducked his head, shrugging a little defensively. "Heimdall told me of how your appearance... alters at times."
As much as Loki disliked the physical reminders of his heritage, he liked showing them to others even less. At one point he'd been tempted to use it as some sort of defensive mechanism, perhaps for frightening mortals with the revelation that he was truly a monster. But after seeing himself in the mirror, he'd been left so disheartened that he couldn't even manage a half-decent evil laugh.
"It was never something that I consciously controlled," Loki said reluctantly. "Otherwise, I suspect I would have figured the reality of my situation out much sooner." Since of course, he thought venomously, Odin never would have gotten off his sainted OdinArse and grown the OdinBalls necessary to just tell him.
"I had thought about that too."
"You seem to have done a lot of thinking in the last hour or two. Has your brain overheated? There's an ice machine down the hall, I hear."
Thor chuckled, taking the comment in precisely the wrong way49. "From my earliest memories, there has never been a hint of blue to your skin or red in your eyes."
And that was hardly something he could have controlled as a child, either. "Perhaps it is environmental," Loki said. Not because he wanted to have this awkward conversation with Thor, mind you, but because he was thinking out loud. He hadn't seen any sort of change in himself, after all, until he'd been touched by one of the Jotun, and until he'd held the Casket of Ancient Winters.
"Perhaps this is your true face," Thor said quietly. "And anything else is like a bad dream."
Loki snorted, looking over at his brother. The expression on Thor's face was painfully earnest, and he felt a stab of intense dislike. That somehow, despite everything that he had done to Thor – up to and including the Mead Incident a few months ago – that the man was still reaching out with such obvious and awful goodness was enough to make Loki want to scream. If Thor had been anyone else, Loki would have shamelessly taken advantage of it, yet with his brother he simply couldn't. "This entire conversation," he said bitterly, "is turning into a bad dream."
"I take it as a sign that you belong in Asgard. With me. With all of us." Thor took his hand, the one that was handcuffed to the bed, meaning he couldn't escape his brother's grasp.
At least that was the reason Loki told himself that he didn't just shake the blond terror off.
It was too much like a simplified faery tale. As if all it took was walking among the Aesir, or a touch from Odin, or perhaps the boundless, unwavering love of Freya to turn a monster into something at least man-shaped. Loki knew that such a solution was idiotic, a child's story, which was about as much thought as Thor put in to anything even on his most reflective of days. There had to be a technical explanation that Loki could figure out, were he given the use of his hands, and some chalk so he could start diagramming out the necessary magic fields.
Because a world where Thor, his big-hearted and tiny-brained adopted brother, could cut to the heart of a matter that Loki himself had been unable to force into a solution via shear IQ was simply not a world Loki wanted to live in. A world where Thor could see a solution, if a cringe-inducing-ly clumsy and imprecise one, more quickly and clearly than Loki could was terrifying, and even worse, it was plain idiotic.
And it was likewise idiotic, Loki thought, that his treacherous feelings were trying to convince him that warmth flowed from Thor's hand into his, chasing away the feeling of creeping chill.
47 – Though with Loki, fear inevitably turned to anger because being scared was an insult from the universe at large, and of course, insults made him angry. So it was only a matter of time before he had another little bit of rage to tuck away into his psyche until it could be used to best effect at a later time. Preferably when no one was expecting it.
48 – Those capital letters were well deserved, and an accurate portrayal of Loki's own opinions about the direction of his thoughts. Introspection was neither kind to Loki, nor to the people around him that were susceptible to the lash of his tongue or the insertion of pointy objects, the latter of which was often preferable to the former.
49 – Which was to say, as a joke, rather than as a nasty personal jibe aimed to get him out of Loki's hair.