A plain cell, sparsely furnished with nothing but the barest of essentials and brightly lit, houses a pale skinned man with shoulder length black hair. Clad in humble attire he lounges on the floor of the cell, propped up by one of its three solid walls, with a leather bound book resting against his upraised knee.
Scattered throughout the room stacks of books litter the floor, bed, and table.
A metal cuff etched with runes adorns his wrist preventing him from accessing the bulk of his magic.
A bored sigh escapes his lips as he stares disinterestedly at the book he is reading. His head falls back against the wall and he stares up at the ceiling. Books are entertaining, but with little else to do for months on end, they lose their appeal.
A slow, mischievous smirk graces his face and his eyes spark with a secret delight. Slowly his eyes slide shut and his breathing gradually deepens until he appears to be asleep.
The soft whistle of an arrow cutting through the air is met with the solid thunk of the arrow head finding its mark a second later. The sound of rapid fire soon follows the first arrow. Minutes or hours pass as the archer loses himself in the steady rhythm of drawing, aiming, and firing.
Months of built up frustration, anger, and guilt bleed out of him as the soothing rhythm of drawing, aiming, and firing washes him of everything, leaving only a sense of peace in it wake.
Draw, aim, release.
Draw, aim, release.
Pausing, Clint glances around himself to find the source of the soft laughter.
Nothing. No one else is in the archery range with him.
Shrugging, Clint returns his attention to his various targets and once again draws his bowstring. Aiming, he fires and hits his mark with a satisfying thunk.
Draw, aim, fire.
Draw, aim, fire.
The rhythm soothes him and his mind clears of everything but the feel of his bow and the sounds of his arrows whizzing through the air and hitting their marks.
Peace settles in and Clint moves with graceful ease through the obstacle course hitting mark after mark with kill shots.
Step, turn, draw, aim, fire, turn, duck, step, draw, aim, fire, run, turn, aim…….laughter.
Clint stumbles. Its louder this time and unmistakably male.
He spins around with his bow drawn sweeping the area to find the source of the laughter. No one. Slowly and tense, Clint sweeps the obstacle course looking for the source of the laughter. He may not be able to see them, but he knows someone is here.
Clear laughter rings out from his left and he swings around to face it only to find empty space. Moving forward he clears section after section of the course finding no one.
Distinct male laughter once again rings out and Clint has the nagging feeling of familiarity but is unable to place the voice.
Climbing to the tallest point of the course, Clint looks out over the entire course searching but not finding the source of the laughter.
The laughter turns taunting and Clint catches a glimpse of green from the corner of his eye. Spinning on his perch, he aims at where the flash of green ought to have been, but once again finds nothing but empty space.
Climbing down from his perch, he make his way, bow drawn, to where he thought he caught the glimpse of green. No physical trace is left behind.
Familiarity fills him, this game of cat and mouse, and the laughter rings out clearer than before.
Following it to the entrance of the course, Clint scans the range and finds no sign of life other than himself.
Minutes pass without a hint of laughter as he clears the rest of the range. Gradually the tension in his body drains away and he relaxes knowing no one else is in the range.
A chuckle sounds right behind him and Clint swings around, bow drawn, to face a smirking Loki. Two arrow sprout from the god’s left shoulder and just above his heart. His laughter rings out clear and strong as his image shimmers like a mirage and melts away to reveal a stunned Natasha.
Clint stands eyes wide and frozen.
“Shit Nat, I thought you were Loki.”
Director Fury sighs, rubbing his temples in an attempt to stave off the migraine his headache is threatening to become.
If she were any other agent, Romanoff would be dead right now. As it was, she just managed to dodge the arrows enough to turn the kill shot to a minor flesh wound.
Barton was adamant that Loki had been in the range. If he had been, Fury’s headache increased, that’s just what he needed, a mad god with world domination on his mind loose on earth. If he wasn’t….. one of his best agents could be psychologically compromised.
This was supposed to be Coulson’s job.
Maybe he should reassign Coulson back to the Avengers. Fury gave a sarcastic snort. That would work, he could see the Avengers now. “You are being assigned your previous handler. Yes, the one Loki skewered on the Helicarrier. Dead? Not any more. I brought him back to life a couple months back and had him assigned elsewhere.”
Yeah, that was a no go.
Laughter filled his office. Fury shot out of his chair, gun raised, and scanned the room looking for the mad god.
The office was empty.
Lowering his gun Fury went to the door, opened it and scanned the hall. All seemed normal. Closing the door Fury turned back to his desk and found Loki sitting in his chair as if he owned it.
“So, Coulson lives” he said with a smirk.
Laughter filled the office and two bullets hit the leather chair where Loki’s heart should have been.
Tony sighed and ran his hand over his face and through his hair. Something had set Banner off and the Hulk had been destroying one of his labs for the last two hours. None of the other scientists knew what had caused Banner to Hulk out and the surveillance video of the incident showed Banner fine one moment, looking up as if he had been called, eyes widening in surprise and then going on a rampage.
It had taken the Hulk two hours of tearing apart the lab and a couple adjoining ones to settle down enough to morph back into Banner.
Tony sighed again and took a long swig from his glass. A chuckle sounded to his right and Tony glanced up from the amber liquor and raised an eyebrow.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in an asgardian prison?”
Loki laughs in response and gives a slight shrug, “I was bored.”
“I suppose I have you to thank for the destruction downstairs.”
“As I said. I was bored.”
“There something you need reindeer games?”
“Coulson is alive.”
Tony stares at him in suspicious disbelief.
“Fury discovered a means of retrieving him from the realm of the dead. I thought you might be interested in this knowledge” Loki says offhandedly and then disappears.
“Who is lying, Sir” Jarvis inquires.
“Jarvis, we’re hacking S.H.I.E.L.D.”
“Very good sir.”
“Yeah, Jarvis. What is it?”
“Agents Romanoff and Barton are here and they seem agitated. Dr. Banner is with them.”
The elevator dings and Bruce and the wonder twins rapidly walk into the room.
“Loki’s back” Barton states.
“No shit Sherlock,” Tony replies, “that’s not our biggest concern.”
An infuriated Barton stalks forward. “Not our biggest concern?” He seethes.
“What?” a stunned Barton replies.
“Fury brought Coulson back from the dead.” Tony motions toward the holographic screen.
Fury’s office door slams open.
“When were you going to tell us?!” Rogers all but shouts.
The Avengers, sans Thor, stream into his office
“Tell you what?” Fury coolly replies.
Rogers leans down and plants his hands on Fury’s desk.
“That you brought Coulson back to life.”
Fury gives them a blank look and silently curses Loki only to receive and echo of laughter in reply.
A slow smile spreads across his face and a bubble of laughter escapes his lips as his eyelids slide open to reveal startling green, mischievous eyes. He is not called the God of Mischief for nothing.