sam_storyteller: (Gen Fic)
sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2012-03-08 01:52 pm
Entry tags:

Avengers: Trickster

Title: Trickster
Rating: G. Weirdly enough.
Fandom: Avengers movieverse
Summary: It occurs to Loki that the man who keeps the hounds has even less to fear than the hounds themselves.
BETA CREDIT JESUS: [livejournal.com profile] 51stcenturyfox, Claire, and [livejournal.com profile] neifile7 demanded clarity and fixed my grammar!

Also available at AO3.

***

"Would you like to see a trick?"

The Avengers -- the heroes of Earth, the mightiest of its warriors -- are celebrating below. All the world is celebrating in their name. The defeat of Loki, the greatest threat this little planet has known, is cause for celebration.

But Loki is the master of lies and misrule.

He stands, incongruous in a well-cut black suit, looking out over the world he could have conquered. At the rail of the roof on the the high tower of Stark, he stands and looks down, and thinks of his next move. They think they've destroyed him. Thor will realize they haven't, but not yet, and not for some time, perhaps. They've set him back, of course, but misrule is not so easily eradicated from any world, least of all this one.

He turns when a voice asks the question. Even-toned, calm, no fear.

"Would you like to see a trick?" the man repeats, hands in his pockets. Loki has seen this one before. Little son of Coul.

"What sort of trick?" Loki asks, because there is no threat here. Not from a small, weak Midgardian who merely keeps company with warriors.

"A good one," the son of Coul replies, strolling towards him as if he hasn't just tried to destroy this city.

It occurs to Loki that the man who keeps the hounds has even less to fear than the hounds themselves.

"You're not afraid of me?" he asks warily.

The son of Coul smiles. "No."

"Why not?"

A shrug. The man hoists himself onto a metal box, one of many on the roof, legs swinging, hands clasped between them.

"You know, I'm relatively new to the Asgardian thing," he says calmly, a half-smile on his face. "But I've studied you. All of you."

"From behind your little glass screens?"

"Predominantly."

"What have you learned?" Loki asks.

"No offense," the son of Coul says, "but you're not a warrior."

Loki stretches out a hand, palm up, ready to crush this man's bones inside his flesh for that. "Say it again."

"Come on. Would you really want to be? Like them? You and I, Mr. Laufeyson, we know better, don't we? Couple of meatheads punching each other in the street -- where's the fun in that?"

Loki curls his fingers in, but doesn't summon the power he could. He lets his hand fall.

"Asgard values war and feats of strength. And I get that, I do. But haven't you ever thought there could be more to life than how many you kill of...whoever it is you kill?" The son of Coul's voice drops, almost seductive. "Being no warrior is no disgrace."

"You mentioned a trick," Loki says. He doesn't miss much, and this itself could be the trick.

"So I did. Because for a lord of lies such as yourself," and he inflects the phrase with respect, genuine respect, which startles Loki, "surely a small pure victory is preferable. Call it a bet, even."

"A bet."

"I win, you leave Midgard to its own devices," the son of Coul says, and Loki laughs. "You win, and I will show you how to rule."

"I need no lessons in ruling from a human."

"Considering how badly they just defeated you, I think you do. There are ways and means of ruling this world that don't involve even drawing their attention. I ought to know."

"And why is that?"

The son of Coul's lips twitch. "How do you think I got to be their boss?"

"Why make this bet? Do you seriously hope to win against a god?"

"Well. If I win, you get lost. And if I lose, I'm the right hand of the emperor. Don't mind the sound of that. Either way it works out well for me."

"What makes you think I'll honor our bet?" Loki leans against the railing, complacent now. This fool has too much pride. "I am, as you say, the lord of lies."

"I think you respect a fellow trickster. I think there's honor among thieves. And I think if word got out that a human beat you, the great god Loki, your pride wouldn't let you stay. That's the little bit of Asgard left in you, the bit your great Jotunheim heritage can't burn away. Now, if you're done asking questions, I'll repeat: do you want to see a trick?"

Loki narrows his eyes, but he nods. The son of Coul slips to his feet, reaching into his pockets. He produces two small, round objects, holding them in his palm.

"This is an old contest invented by a Midgardian named Thompson. He's -- well, he's sort of our version of you," he says, tossing one of them to Loki. He catches it, looking down in interest. It's a walnut. An ordinary Midgardian walnut, still in the shell. The son of Coul takes a few steps, turning his back to Loki (a mistake, but Loki will let him live), and looks up.

There's a silver tower above them, some kind of communication device, rising high from the roof, with crossbars along it. It reaches into the sky with arrogance typical of a lord of Midgardian magic like Stark, as if he were trying to prop it on a distant star.

"If I can throw this walnut over that tower, I win," he says with an arrogant smile. "If you can, you win. Here -- I'll give you two throws," he adds, and tosses a the second nut to Loki, taking a third from his pocket.

"You can't be serious."

"I rarely joke," the son of Coul assures him. "I have never been more earnest in my life."

Loki stretches out a hand. "Give me that one," he says, and the son of Coul trades the walnut in his hand for one of Loki's.

"You throw, then I throw, then you again," the son of Coul says.

"You're an odd human."

"So I've been told."

"I'm stronger than you."

The son of Coul shakes his head. "You're weak from the fight. Aren't you? No stronger than we are, right now. Sure, you could snap me in half, but this is a test of skill, not magic. You'd know you cheated. So I figure we're pretty well-matched."

It's insolence, but Loki can respect that, too. More and more interesting by the minute, this man who pretends to stand with warriors.

Loki sights the top of the tower, hefts one of the walnuts in his hand, and throws. It clatters against the metal, but doesn't quite reach the top. The nut is too light, the resistance of the wind too strong.

"Points for aim," the son of Coul remarks. "My turn."

He steps back, the nut clenched in one hand, draws his arm up over his shoulder, and flings, stumbling forward when it's done. The walnut sails up and up and up, until it's difficult even to see, and clears the top of the tower by a few scant inches. He puts his hands in his pockets smugly. "I think it's your throw."

Loki sights again carefully, takes a step or two for traction, and throws as hard as he can. The little brown nut soars --

Clang.

Clatter.

The nut hits the metal, and drops back down to the roof.

"Trickery," Loki hisses, turning on him.

"Yes. But I won anyway," the son of Coul replies. He lifts his right hand. There's a nut in it. "Swapped it with a weighted one. They fly a lot further when they're a little heavier."

"You rude little -- "

"Ah ah," the son of Coul raises his left hand, cupped, and Loki freezes, not entirely of his own will. "You made a bet, Loki Laufeyson. The rules about gods and mortals are very clear here on Midgard. You made a bet -- "

"No!" Loki cries, because he feels the pull of Asgard, feels it in his flesh and blood and bone.

" -- and now you have to pay," he continues, still calm, still with only a faint smile on his face.

"NO!"

"Loki, son of Laufey, heir of Jotunheim -- "

Loki screams, head thrown back.

" -- prince of Asgard, I banish you from Midgard, and bar your retur -- "

The last of his words are lost to Loki, as he rises into the sudden storm, turning and turning, past the silver tower of his defeat and into the bridge, the bridge this little human called out of nothing, with a trick --

And even as Midgard fades, Loki can't help but be just a little admiring.

When he returns, and he will return someday, the son of Coul will be his pet. This he promises.

***

"And that's how you beat a trickster god," Phil says quietly to himself. He flicks out the blade of his pocket-knife, pries the walnut open with the edge, and pops the meat of it into his mouth, letting the shells fall to the ground. Phil's very fond of walnuts.

"Hey, Coulson!" someone calls, and Phil turns to see Stark and Clint, leaning out the roof door.

"You're missing the party," Clint says, grinning. Both of them are already tipsy, to judge from Clint's easy slouch and Stark's bright eyes.

"What the hell are you doing up here?" Stark adds, and tosses something through the air. Phil catches the bottle of beer left-handed, tucking the blade of the knife away with his right, pocketing it.

"Just surveying my kingdom," he says placidly. He waggles the bottle. "I'm on duty, you know."

"Word from Fury says otherwise," Clint assures him. "Come on, man, even you have to be a little relieved."

Phil starts towards them. It's windy on the roof, and there's no reason now to linger.

"A little," he says. The adrenaline rush is over, it's true, and he's unsteady enough to appreciate the arm Stark slings around his shoulders to pull him into the stairwell.

"So, are we the most awesome heroes who ever lived?" Stark asks, as they descend. "Because I think we are."

Clint high-fives him across Phil.

"We owned Loki. I think that makes us honorary gods," Stark continues.

"Don't let it go to your head," Phil murmurs.

"Too late," Stark replies, and then they're in the penthouse of the tower, full of heroes and SHIELD agents and -- apparently -- the supermodels Stark has on speed-dial.

The other two rejoin the party. Everyone's talking and laughing, happy, safe, even if they also seem a little battle-weary. Phil leans in the doorway, watching. Tomorrow there'll be a thousand things to do, from city cleanup to hero PR, but for now, he supposes he can be off-duty enough to stand here and enjoy their triumph.

Phil Coulson is a man of small victories. A budget increase; paperwork turned in on time; convincing Steve Rogers not to strangle Tony Stark; getting a juicy piece of intel; hearing rare praise from Director Fury. He knows he is the plain man who blends into the background, and he prefers it that way.

But he is the master of these hounds and, in the end, the fox belongs to him.

***

ENDNOTE: The trick Coulson pulls -- using sleight-of-hand and a weighted object to win a distance-throwing contest -- was developed and perfected by "Titanic" Thompson, an infamous gambler and con man of the early 20th century. He once pulled it on Al Capone with an orange, 'cause nobody got stones like Ti.

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