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What I Once Was

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The table displayed a lavish spread of dishes from which both Loki and Thor eat enthusiastically. While it wasn’t the Asgardian feasts the pair were used to, both had to admit that Midgardian food wasn’t half bad. They ate privately on Thor's floor of Avengers tower, where Loki's room was located as well. Loki had been with the Avengers for almost a month now, serving his sentence and the only constant in his day was having dinner with his brother. He hadn’t been able to find any other sort of routine since arriving and the others hadn’t been at all welcoming. Loki remained convinced that if his brother were not here then the Avengers would have happily thrown him into a prison cell.

Not a single one of them was happy with Loki being there and they didn’t try to hide the fact from him. He could practically feel the waves of hatred pouring off of them. They especially hated the fact that he seemed to have gotten off with an easy sentence, that the decided punishment was ‘rectifying the mess he had made of New York’. It hadn’t helped that Thor had done a very bad job of explaining exactly what had occurred. When telling his friends the sentence Thor had made it seem that the punishment was for the attack. In reality, Loki was being punished for not having been strong enough to resist the torture he had undergone at the hands of Thanos. The All-Father felt he hadn’t fought through it as a warrior should have. Thor hadn’t divulged that information and Loki wasn’t going to correct him. Not with the hate-filled glares, he was already receiving, they would never believe him anyway.

Loki put up with the animosity and just focused on doing his job. Which was a lot more difficult than he had first imagined. Shield had demanded his magic be bound before he was allowed to set foot on Midgard although he couldn’t imagine how they expected him to rebuild their city if he didn’t have assess to his seidr. But that was their problem, not his. So far he had mainly been helping the cleanup crew with giving out supplies to those made homeless by the attack. And always with an Avenger close by.

The two Gods were just finishing up their meal when Thor spoke out. “Loki, I will be returning to Asgard tomorrow for Father needs assistance in settling some disputes about the realms. I should only be gone for a few months. Father says you are to stay here and fulfill your sentence. When the city is back to its previous state then all will be forgiven and you too will be welcomed back to Asgard.”

Loki didn’t even bother to hold back a snort. He had never been welcome in Asgard, to begin with, and now that they all knew about his heritage, the hatred aimed towards him would be all the worse, he shivered just thinking of how the guards had treated him when he had been in the dungeons after Thor had brought him back.

“Brother behave.” Thor said although his voice was filled with amusement. The two finished up their meal before retiring to bed.

Loki slept fitfully and woke up feeling more tired than when he went to bed. Thor woke early and Loki filed out to see his brother off. Along the way, Thor reminded Loki to ask Dr. Banner to check his injuries in a few days time. Thor had been monitoring Loki’s wounds as Loki had expressed concern about having anyone else that close to him. Loki nodded, though he had no plan to ask the Avengers for any form of assistance. Besides all but the worst wounds and breaks had healed by now anyway.

Thor departed and Loki felt at loose ends, he wasn’t needed with the recovery crew until two and wasn’t sure what to do in the meantime. The rest of the Avengers made sure he knew he was unwelcome with them, glaring at him when he hesitated in the communal room. Shrugging it off, he pretended he wasn’t at all bothered by the icy attitudes and made his way back to Thor’s rooms. There wasn’t any amusement to be found so he ended up just lying down, which in turn ended in his falling asleep. He still found himself exhausted, even when he hadn’t done anything and while he knew the reason why, that he was still recovering without any aid from his magic, it still frustrated him.

He awoke with a shout as Steve shoved his shoulder to wake him up. His first reaction was to lash out though he managed to contain that, instead growling out a command for the captain to not touch him. Steve raised an eyebrow but held his hands up just the same.

“We leave in fifteen minutes. Make sure you’re ready.” And with that, the captain left the room. Loki groaned and rolled over. He blinked blearily and saw that it was indeed a quarter to two. Slowly he got out of bed, attempting to comb his hair back. Failing to tame it without the use of his magic he gave up and tied it back in a sloppy ponytail. The overall effect made him look tired and ill.

He shuffled his way through into the shared living space and saw that Steve was leaning against the counter, already waiting for him.

“You ready?” Loki nodded and they left. The captain walked swiftly into the elevator that would take them to the ground floor exit. Loki swallowed the pain fast movement caused and followed the captain with his head held high. Just because he was healing, didn’t mean he was better yet, this was the first time he’d been left to heal without the assistance of his magic. The suppressors had been placed on him as soon as the captured him after the invasion. Then he’d been sent to Midgard directly after the trial leaving no gap in between where he might have recovered. Plus he also had the addition of the wounds from his time in Asgard's dungeons.

The Captain didn’t speak to him on the whole journey over. The Shield man in charge go clean up that day treated Steve warmly upon arrival and led them to their section. Today they had been assigned to the group clearing the rubble of destroyed buildings off the road. There were bright yellow skips all around. Loki vaguely heard the discussion in the background that they couldn’t use machinery to clean this but he wasn’t sure of the reason why it didn’t make much sense to him. They set to work.

Loki’s mood worsened as the day went on. He wasn’t used to manual labor in the first place, let alone with an injured body and no magic to reinforce his strength. Manual labor. Loki thought. When all I would have to do is click my fingers and the whole building would be restored.

He continued grumbling in his head until the clock hit five and all the teams were called in. The volunteers were thanked. Loki was given many glares. Then they were off again, heading back to the tower. Once inside Steve headed straight for the dining room and joined the rest of the team at the table. There wasn’t a place for Loki, but the God shrugged it off. He didn’t care to eat with them anyway so it’s not like it mattered. He stacked a plate high with food from the kitchen and retreated into his room.

Without Thor there the food seemed to have lost some of its appeal and he ate with a lot less relish than before. He made his way through third helpings of the main dish, a sort of pasta, before polishing it off with several pieces of fruit from the bowl on Thor’s kitchen table.

By the time he was finished, he felt bloated. Leaning back on the settee he ran a hand down his stomach, growling when he realised there was a slight bump there. It wasn’t very noticeable but considering his stomach normally caved inwards he wasn’t happy about it. He had obviously eaten far too much that evening so he decided to retire to bed and sleep it off.

Once again he slept fitfully, waking many times throughout the night. His dreams kept returning over and over to the darkness of the void. He shuddered. It was still dark when he woke but he knew he wouldn’t get any more sleep that night. He pottered through his morning routine, doing everything mechanically until he was undressing ready to shower when he had caught sight of himself in the floor length mirror.

At first, the normal reflection stared back at him, pale skin covered in scars. Then he noticed the roundness of his stomach hadn’t receded overnight but that was not all. As he looked closer he saw that his thighs now touched as he stood, he could no longer see the outline of his ribs and worst of all his arms wobbled when he poked them. His hips were no longer angular and the conclave space between them was gone. He shuddered in disgust.

He couldn't comprehend what had caused this change in his body. Never before had he had a problem with weight gain. In fact, he had eaten more in Asgard than here and had always remained worryingly underweight. Even those times when he had tried his hardest to pack on the pounds, desperately trying to build muscle mass, it had never worked.

In his younger years, Loki had been ashamed of this, self-conscious in front of his well-built brother, but as he had grown he’d realised the advantages of being slight. It allowed him to sneak around, gather information that no one else knew. He’d learned to be happy with his body the way it was, to feel confident in his lithe form. Now, however, he couldn’t bear to look at himself. Something needed to be done.

Over the next three days, he continued observing the fat on his body, putting together many theories on how it could have happened. He scribbled them down on a piece of paper.

He was overeating.

The first statement written was crossed out after Loki thought how unlikely it was, he had eaten in much greater quantities on Asgard.

The food here was processed and fatty.

He wasn’t as active.

Although he was still doing physical work, every day he was dragged down to the city to help with ‘clean up’. His body wasn’t holding up well to that. The work was aggravating the more serious of his injuries that still lingered, every time his ribs got close to healing he would be forced to do physical labor and they would break once again. The same with the others that were still healing. If anything he was too active.

He re-wrote overeating.

If only his magic was back, he would be better in an instant. His magic? Did magic stop you from becoming fat?

Magic burns fat.

The last sentence was soon underlined and, as he pondered it more, he circled it.

In the week that followed, Loki spent all his free time doing research. Among the few belongings, he had brought with him were several old books, ancient books on the workings of seidr. Everything became strewn about the room in a frantic mess. Generally, Loki was a neat person but whenever he got caught up in a project then the research materials would be on every available surface.

This new behaviour was brought to the attention of the Avengers when Natasha came in to collect Loki for the days' work. She took silent notice of the foreign material and brought it up at the team meeting later that day. That is why, when Loki can back the day after, it was to see all of his materials, books, and calculations, being boxed up and taken out of Thor’s suite.

He stood stock still as everything was removed. When the shock wore off he felt anger begin to build. It started slowly and then burned brighter in his mind until the only way he could let off the excess emotions was to hurl the furniture around the room. It took half an hour to work out his frustrations and by the time he finished the whole place was a battered mess. Chairs lay in splintered parts on the floor, the wardrobe door hung on its hinges and every mirror was smashed to pieces.

It was only as he calmed that he felt the pain wash over him. Slumping to the floor, he pulled his shirt off. It seemed he had reopened all of his old injuries. The cuts were bleeding sluggishly and the ribs were definitely re-broken. The others that hadn’t had a chance to heel yet, like the broken ankle and torn tendons felt a million times worse.

He found a flannel to wet so he could wipe down a particularly profusely bleeding cut on his side. As he put his hand to his skin he froze. Under his hand was a roll of fat. He couldn’t believe it. No. He wouldn’t believe it. He wobbled to the full-length mirror in the bathroom, that had escaped his manic anger, and his reflection showed the way the fat bunched up when he lent forwards or twisted.

Nausea welled inside him, a cold sweat broke out over his skin and his hands started shaking. How could he have let himself get this out of shape? He felt hideous. Forgetting his agitated injuries his went for his notebook, that he’d hidden under his pillow and had not been seized by the Avengers. Shakily he flipped through the pages until he found his list. Staring out at him was the many underlined phrase, magic burns fat.

He had nearly completed his research before they took it away and from what he could find it seemed that magic burned through energy created from food. So if he didn’t have his magic then his body just stored the excess calories. The solution, therefore, seemed simple, he told himself while taking deep breaths, he just needed to cut down on food. If he did that he’d be back to normal in no time.

Chapter Text

Loki started the changes slowly. First, he stopped having third helpings at every meal and when that didn’t seem to produce quick enough results he cut back on the second serving too. Three days in and Loki thought he could see some difference. He wasn’t hungry either so he reasoned he was eating the correct amount now, rather than overeating as he’d done before.

Come the fourth day of his diet and Loki still feel comfortable with his body. Bruce had come to collect him for work and he didn’t comment on Loki’s outfit choice. Before, Loki had been wearing skin-tight suits or skinny jeans with dress shirts. Today one of Thor’s long-sleeved t-shirts swamped his torso, hanging loosely over black cotton trousers that were baggy but gathered at the ankles. This self-consciousness about his body had destroyed his already low self-esteem and he wanted to cover it up until he regained his previous weight.

Bruce made small talk on the over, an unusual occurrence as none of the other Avengers even bothered talking to Loki. Loki knew he was just being polite and had no interest in a meaningful conversation but he appreciated the gesture just the same. The location was swarming with Shield officers and every head turned towards him when he entered the scene. Gathering Alien tech was the order of the day. Overwhelming hatred poured from every Shield official there and Loki had a hard time keeping his head proudly in the air, staring straight ahead and ignoring all around him. Loki listened aloofly to a lecture on what they needed him to do today. They told him in no uncertain terms that if he found anything extraterrestrial he was to alert an agent immediately and that if he were to touch anything they would open fire.

He quickly learnt that they didn’t really need his help, their scientists seemed perfectly capable of checking what they searched for. More than capable, in fact, they were the absolute top of their respective fields. The only reasoning Loki could fathom for his being present was so they could shove in his face the results of the invasion, his failure or perhaps to show him how utterly useless he was. He couldn’t help but agree with them on the last account. He broken body was slow. Without his magic, he had no particular advantage. They proceeded quicker without him in the way, so it was true that they were better off without him. Everything seemed to be conspiring to make him feel like utter rubbish.

The cherry on the cake happened when he stumbled across a set of Chitauri chains. The world went dark and his mind wandered back to the void. Those chains were securing his arms and legs to the wall as they set his lower legs on fire once again. The memory appeared as clear and painful as when it had actually happened. His magic had tried to heal him which ultimately meant he just kept getting burnt anew until finally he became too exhausted and the damage stuck. He had the scars still.

He came too when a hand grasped his shoulder. Drawing in a shuddering breath he realised he’d started hyperventilating. Hesitating slightly he looked over to see Bruce behind him before shrugging the hand off and storming away. Bruce quietly followed behind him. They still had an hour before they finished but the Doctor didn’t object when Loki started heading back to the tower.

They didn’t talk, Bruce didn’t pry, which Loki was grateful for. The experience had left him shaken and he wanted to be on his own to process what had happened. Loki headed straight to his room when they arrived and shut himself in there for the rest of the day. He curled up under the covers and ignored Jarvis when he said the dinner was ready. He wasn’t ready to face anyone. Besides what harm could one missed meal do anyway. In fact, it would probably do him good, he still hadn’t lost the weight he’d gained.

***

Thoughts kept swirling around Loki’s head as he tried to rest. At first, they started off as snippets of his time with the Chitauri, the memories then blurring and distorting. He viewed everything from a third person perspective, looking down on himself being tortured. He watched as his emaciated body was beaten and used. At some point, his focus shifted from what was being done to him, to the way that he looked. He could see every bone in his body clearly. There was no unnecessary fat clinging to his bones. He missed that feeling of weightlessness.

Slowly the body in chains morphed into a grotesque version, his limbs swelling, rolls of fat growing on his stomach. The words the Chitauri now threw at him were to do with his weight, saying that’s why he was worthless, why he was never accepted. He’s disgusting. He already knew that he couldn’t hear any more of their words. He began gasping for breath.

He jolted upright, not quite sure if he’d just been asleep then or not. After a shaky breath, he threw aside the blanket and made his way to the bathroom to look in the mirror. What he saw in his reflection was the grotesque image from his mind. Nauseated he turned away. There’s something he needed to know, something that he’d avoided doing up until this point, he hadn’t wanted confirmation of the disgustingness of his figure but now he needed a tangible way to measure. To see the progress he made.

Under the sink sat a sleek pair of digital scales, he’d never given them much thought before but now he grabbed them with a desperateness, watching the display flash blue as he turned it on. Placing the scales on the floor he took a deep breath then stepped on. It took a terrifying few seconds for the scales to load the figure, configuring with an obnoxious flash. Three. Two. One. He looked down.

157 pounds

A flutter of panic and disgust jolted in his stomach. All of a sudden he felt ill. 157 pounds was disgusting. He knew he didn’t have any muscles, never had and probably never would, so that meant all that weight must be pure fat. Just thinking about it he began to feel hyperaware of the shape of his body. Cells of fat clung to his insides, making him disgusting on the inside as well as the out. It needed to be gone, he needed to be rid of it.

Loki stumbled his way back to bed and slept fitfully through the rest of the night, waking just as tired as he went to sleep. A weird sense of empty calm seemed to envelop him. It seemed as though he was on autopilot, going through the motions of his morning routine but not really experiencing it. After he was ready for the day he sat on the sofa, staring blankly into space.

Breakfast wasn’t really necessary as a meal, he decided. It wasn’t like he had any activities planned from now until lunch, there would be no energy being burnt. He couldn’t help but keep looking down at his body, occasionally pinching the fat, pulling it between his fingers. The clock turned and lunchtime approached. He opted for a light meal, two slices of toast with butter, no jam. If he’d calculated right, that should be enough to keep him going throughout the day’s work. With any luck, all the calories would’ve been burnt away with the hard labour.

Natasha was the Avenger that collected him today, so it was guaranteed there would be no conversation. Loki went about the work with ease, his mind elsewhere. He didn’t know if he was imagining things, but he was sure that Natasha was keeping a closer eye on him than usual. This sent him into a fit of paranoia, sure that she could tell how fat he’d gotten. In his mind, that’s the only reason why she would be looking. He needed to try harder, he wanted to make sure no one looked at him at all.

The irony was lost on him at that moment, that just a few short years ago he would have given anything to be out of the shadows and receiving attention.

***

Loki’s new routine continued the same way for the next few days. Wake up, no breakfast, a small lunch and one serving of dinner. After that first day he had come out of his dissociative state, but in leaving that bubble of oblivion came a slew of anxiety.

The thoughts just kept coming, unbidden into his head. How he wasn’t making progress fast enough. That he was unworthy of anyone's time looking the way he did. That he should be back to normal by now. He worked himself into such a state that he found himself once again climbing onto the bathroom scales. Waiting with bated breath he watched while it loaded.

153 pounds

Not good enough. He should have been back to at least 150 by now, perhaps even lower, if only he’d been disciplined enough. If he’d actually worked hard for once in his life he could have resolved the issue by now. His thought spilled further and further out of his control, they whispered spiteful, hurtful things, and he began to see now why he had never been praised, never rewarded. It’s because he was lazy. He never put his full effort into anything he did, every action was half-hearted.

Loki resolved right then and there to work harder at this than he had at anything else in his life so far. He could do this. It was with this new determination that he woke the next day. He happily skipped breakfast, spending the time working out instead. He hadn’t trained for a while and his injuries screamed out at him but he pushed himself until he’d worked up a sweat.

Lunch was cut down to one slice of toast and a glass of water. He figured that would be sufficient energy for the coming afternoon's work. Tony came to collect him and spent the afternoon throwing snide remarks his way. Loki was able to ignore most of them but one, in particular, stuck in his head.

“A bit slow today, aren’t we reindeer games?”

Slow. He was moving slower than normal. Tony had noticed how his body had gotten so huge that it was slowing him down. Worse yet he had called him out on it. Loki grit his teeth together, not sure if he was about to yell at Tony or start crying. Maybe both at the same time. He managed to keep his head down and get the work done, the thoughts in his mind didn’t stop.

Once back at the tower he immediately shut himself away. Not that any of the team attempted to stop him. He opted to have a piece of fruit for dinner instead of a meal, reasoning that it would be just enough to sustain him, after all the only thing he would do for the evening was read, then sleep. If he was stricter with himself then he could drop the weight and return to his normal speed.

The same routine continued for little over a week; exercise, toast, work, fruit, sleep. As the days went by Loki became more and more dissatisfied with his body and the way it looked. Every time he looked in the mirror he found a new flaw, a new reason why he wasn’t good enough. His body wasn’t chasing how he wanted it to and yet he became considerably weaker and sluggish.

The general lethargy began to affect his work and while the Avengers noticed they weren't overly concerned. Most agreed that it was Loki’s new form of retaliation, one of the few ways he had left to act out and they dealt with him accordingly.

Steve was on Loki duty the Monday following. They had finished work for the day and were headed back to the tower. Steve had noticed the change in productivity, the way everything he did seemed an effort but now that he was watching Loki, he seemed to be walking with his head up, every inch the proud prince they all knew.

“You know, not putting in the effort is only affecting you.” Steve decided to be blunt and to the point while trying not to openly chasten the trickster. Loki raised an eyebrow.

“Whatever do you mean Captain?” Loki croaked, his voice crackling from disuse. Goodness, he thought, when was the last time I actually spoke to someone.

“Not working hard enough won’t affect us, it will only lengthen your sentence. And gain you more distrust.”

For a moment Loki looked startled. He thought back over the last week. He genuinely had been trying his hardest, pushing his body to limits that it objected. Every evening he came back to his room exhausted and aching but satisfied that he had done his best, had gotten back to his normal strength. Now to hear that he still wasn’t good enough made him want to curl into a ball and never breath again.

“Loki?” Steve questioned as Loki stormed on ahead, head down hoping the soldier couldn’t see the tears in his eyes.

Steve debated catching up and stopping him but found he didn’t have the energy to deal with an angry God of Chaos. He left Loki to slam the door to his room shut and be alone to calm down from what Steve supposed to be a temper tantrum. He did make a quick note to ask Jarvis to notify him if Loki became too violent and left it at that.

Behind the closed door, Loki was once again pulling out his scales. As he stood on them his thoughts raced and he found he couldn't stem the flow of tears down his cheeks.

144 pounds.

At least it was progress, he tried desperately to tell himself, nearly there. A few more pounds and he’d be back at his normal weight. But these thoughts were drowned out by the voice yelling inside his head. Telling him it wasn’t enough, that he still wasn’t good enough.

Chapter Text

Loki didn’t sleep that night. Every time he was about to drop off his breathing would speed up and his extremities started to go tingly and numb. When the clock struck four he decided he was too anxious to stay lying in bed any longer and he got up. Showering was something he’d slowly come to dread. He hated having to see his body, to touch it, to wash it. He didn’t feel like he belonged in his own skin and just wanted to remain hidden under a layer of baggy clothing until he felt like himself again. So showing was something he put off longer and longer, but right now his hair was too greasy to do anything with. Unfortunately, a shower was in order.

As he rubbed the shampoo into his head a concerning amount of hair either fell out or split in half. Tendrils clung to his fingers every time he ran his hands through the black mass. Sighing he gave up, opting to stand under the warm water until all the soap suds were washed away.

With nothing else to occupy his time with Loki, slung on his exercise clothes and started his work out regime. And repeated it. And repeated it again until he was panting for breath and the walls were spinning. And still, it had only just turned ten o’clock. Slumping to the ground he tried to slow his breathing while wiping the sweat off his forehead. This was more exercise than Loki had become accustomed to and his limbs were shaking in protest.

There he stayed as his breathing eventually slowed enough for him to doze slightly until Tony came to collect him. The engineer opened the door after knocking several times and getting no reply. He almost rolled his eyes when he saw Loki snoring by the door.

“Wakey wakey rise and shine Rock of Ages.” Loki blinked sleepily up at him before lurching to his feet. His arms immediately wrapped around himself. He didn’t want Tony to see him in only a light t-shirt and leggings.

Glaring at Tony he grabbed his loose-fit jeans and oversized jumper and slammed the bathroom door behind him. Once safely inside he completely fell apart. He couldn’t believe he’d allowed Tony to see him like that. What must he have thought when the proof was right there in front of his eyes. The proof of how disgusting Loki had allowed himself to become, the proof of the collection of imperfections that made up his body.

He didn’t want to have to deal with this today. He wanted to hide from the world, but he knew that that wasn’t an option for him. So gritting his teeth he stepped out, face set with grim determination. He worked hard. Harder than his body wished for him to do so, he aggravated the nearly healed injuries, he was getting tired. He could feel himself beginning to lag, his breath coming in short, frantic puffs.

Still, he refused to slow down so by the time the clean up crew was called to a stop he had trouble standing upright. Somehow he managed to keep his composure all the way back to the tower, not noticing the odd looks Tony kept shooting him. By the time he stumbled into his room his vision was blacking out around the edges. The floor he walked upon didn’t feel even anymore as if he walked upon a great churning sea. He fought and stumbled his way over to his bed, fighting to stay conscious. Slumping onto the covers, he didn’t even have the energy to undress before he passed out.

The next morning he started the day off by weighing himself. An event that made him infinitely anxious but he needed to know, it was almost an obsession by this point. He went through the ritualistic motions of setting up the scale and was very pleased to see the number now read 139 pounds. A grin lit up his face from ear to ear. This was good news, very good news. He found his mood lifted all the way through his morning workout. He was back to his normal weight, the weight he was back on Asgard before everything had happened. He just needed to keep this up and he’d be fine.

His good mood didn’t last long, it plummeted in downwards spiral when he walked past the mirror on his way to the shower. He stopped and stared. If he was back to his normal weight, then why did his body still look so severely overweight? Was this how he looked all the time? Surely not. He would have noticed, wouldn’t he? These questions raced around his head, tripping and stumbling as each fought it’s way to the forefront of his mind.

He couldn’t believe he’d never noticed the way he’d looked before. This made the decision for him, something needed to be done. He couldn’t afford to slack off now, his routine to be as strict as before. That meant no breakfast today. He had contemplated it, after seeing the return of his previous weight, but he couldn’t now. Not now he’d seen how he really looked. Slowly he was beginning to see food was the enemy.

When he dressed it was still in the baggy clothing he had been favoring recently, not being comfortable with anyone seeing anything of his body. Not when he felt as insecure as he did. He worked out for longer than normal, pushing himself to the point where his vision blacked out for a split second and he opened his eyes again to find himself face down on the floor.

While he sat on the floor and waited for the world to stop spinning, Loki realised that it had been twenty-four hours since he’d last ingested any food. The realisation brought a grim smile of satisfaction to his lips. A dark voice inside his head wondered how long he could keep it up.

The answer was three days. For three days he went completely without food, resisting any temptation. The first day was the easiest and the second day he felt elated. Weird bursts of energy overtook him throughout the day causing a sense of euphoria. It was as he returned from work on the third day that he cracked. Complete exhaustion had claimed him and when he’s entered the apartment the fruit bowl had been right in front of him and nearly without thinking he plucked a banana out of the bowl and scarfed it down. The taste had been so delectable that he’d quickly followed it with an apple. It wasn’t until he was halfway through his second apple that he released what he was doing.

He’d thrown the remains of the fruit across the room, disgusted at himself. He could feel the food sitting uneasily in his stomach. He couldn’t believe he had ruined all his hard work. Tears of anger were welling up in his eyes. He wanted to punch something but when his fist connected with the marble worktop it sent searing pain up his whole arm and within minutes it had begun to bruise. Storming through the room he pulled out the scales once more. 132 pounds. Not good enough. It wasn’t enough. He needed to do better.

He passed the next two weeks in the same manner, refraining from food for as long as he possibly could. His longest stint was six days, the shortest merely two. Whenever he gave in he found himself in a state of depression that he couldn’t break out of until the numbers on the scale dropped once more. He isolated himself, retreating into his head more and more, reliving old traumas all while the voice in his head told him he deserved everything he got.

He was down to 118 pounds.

The more time passed the more paranoid he became. Every time someone looked at him he was sure it was to criticise. He missed that the looks being sent his were full of concern and sometimes worry. For while he believed he was working as hard as ever at every task that was assigned to him, that he continued to conceal everything he felt, the Avengers had slowly begun to pick up that something wasn’t quite right with him.

What they had first put down to rebellion, they now worried was something more. Each of them began picking up on signs that indicated all was not well with the trickster. A wobble in his step. Panting breath after doing minor physical work. The bags beneath his eyes. None of them had voiced their concerns believing the occurrences to be one-offs, nothing to be overly concerned about. It wasn’t until they all sat down together and the topic was brought up did they begin to get suspicious. When everything was listed together it gave them some cause for concern.

As soon as Loki’s name was mentioned Clint rolled his eyes and left the room. From the first time they had heard the jurisdiction Clint had stated outright that he refused to work with Loki. The Avengers were completely understanding and made sure the Clint never had to come into contact with Loki. The Avengers waited until Clint was out of the room before carrying on their conversation.

“It’s all very odd,” Steve said. “He’s just been acting very strangely this week.”

“It’s like he’s just given up caring,” Tony called out. “Half the time it seems like he just can’t be bothered with to do the work. Like he doesn’t care if his punishment ends or not.”

“I think it’s something more than that Tony.” Steve shot back.

“I mean I know he looks awful.” Steve rolled his eyes at Tony. “I meant health wise Capsicle. He looks constantly exhausted.”

“Well, what’s changed in this week that’s brought this on and is this something we need to do something about?” Steve said.

“Honestly, I think there’s been something wrong with him for longer than just the last week. I noticed weeks ago but didn’t say anything.” Bruce wrung his hands together. “I think we were all just too ready to dismiss any potential problem as Loki acting out because we didn’t want to have to deal with it.”

Bruce statement was met with silence. No one knew how to respond and guilt hung heavy in the air. Eventually Tony spoke up.

“When’s Hammer Time coming back? Can we just keep an eye on Loki ‘till then? Once big bro’s back he can deal with it.” The team seemed of two minds about this. While it was defiantly the safest option, neither did they want to answer to Thor if anything was seriously wrong and they had done nothing. After much back and forth, they decided to observe more closely and only intervene if anything drastic happened.

***

Loki noticed the increase in the stares directed his way and it did nothing to sooth the paranoia he felt. The Avengers stuck by his side all though out work and seemed reluctant to let him depart to his room after. This odd behavior continued for another week and Loki didn’t eat anything in that time. Every time he went to give in and scarf down a piece of fruit, his mind supplied him with the image of the eyes of the Avengers staring at him, judging him. That gave him the strength to continue his self restrictive diet.

It was Monday, the second week of the team sticking to him like glue and Loki awoke in a panic. His nightmare lingered in his head convincing him he had gained all the weight back, he convinced himself that he could feel it on him. He hyperventilated, breath coming in harsh gasps. The first thing he did once he could breathe again, was to stumble to his scales.

108 pounds.

In the back of his mind, a long-suppressed voice was trying to speak up, screaming that this wasn’t good, recognizing this was getting dangerous. Its screams were drowned out by the new voice, sharp and cruel, crooning praise to Loki. Telling him how well he was doing. That this was good. That he was good. For the first time since Thor had left, Loki smiled.

Chapter Text

Another team meeting had been called three weeks after their last discussion about the resident God of Chaos as new concerns had been brought to light. Natasha had been the one on Loki duty that day. The work had been easy, just surveying damage done to major buildings, looking over a list and putting a tick on the piece of paper. Despite the low energy requirements of the job, Nat had noticed Loki become increasingly unsteady over the course of the afternoon, until the point where he had passed out.

She had watched him fall to the ground in a dead faint. He'd been awake again by the time she made her way over to him and of course, he’d denied that it’d happened at all. Nat knew what she had seen, however, and she hadn’t missed his look of relief on his face when she suggested they leave it there for the day and head back.

Nat finished up her report and looked at each of them. “So, what do we do?”

Silence met her question, each Avenger having their own internal battle. Weighing up doing the right thing against helping the person who destroyed New York. Tony was thinking of all the ways that this could be a trick and Steve was feeling guilt over still being hesitant to interfere. Finally, Bruce spoke up.

“We need to talk to him.” Several members shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t think it would be a good idea for anyone to speak to him alone, so I suggest we call him down here, confront him as a group. That way there are several witnesses if anything goes wrong.”

“We’re doing this now?” Tony questioned. After seeing hesitant nods from the team he called out to Jarvis. “Could you call him down J?”

“Certainly sir.”

They waited in silence for ten minutes before Loki made an appearance. Steve jerked backwards and Bruce bit back a gasp. He didn’t look well. Unfocused eyes scanned them warily, a shaking hand brushed stray strands of hair away from his face. His clothing seemed to swamp him, gathering around his body in swathes and he seemed to be having trouble standing upright.

Steve pulled a chair out from under the table and gestured for Loki to sit. Loki shuffled over and all but collapsed into it not seeming to even notice Steve hovering anxiously over him in case he fell. Once seated he tried to pull himself together, he blinked several times and folded his shaking hands into his lap. He looked to them all, trying his best to fake an expression of attentiveness.

“Would you like anything to drink?” Steve asked politely to which Loki shook his head. “Right. Well, we called you here as we have some concerns we wanted to address.”

Loki shifted uncomfortably, unsure of what they were going to ask him. He couldn’t think of what he’d done wrong, he’d been behaving, completing the work, not getting in their way. A model prisoner.

“We’ve all noticed that you seem to be struggling in the work we’re setting for you.” Steve began tentatively.

“I have been performing to standard.” Loki interrupted. Underneath the outrage lay fear. Fear that they had noticed how his monstrosity of a body had been slowing him down. He was trying so hard to rectify the issue, he didn’t think he could cope with it if they started to interfere or to tell him he wasn’t improving fast enough. “How dare you suggest that I haven’t been putting my all into the tasks set for me.”

“No one is arguing that you haven’t been trying your best,” Bruce said softly. “We’re just concerned that you don’t seem to be coping with the workload.”

“Of course I can cope. I am capable of coping with whatever you can throw at me. In case you have forgotten, I am a God. I am not weak.” Loki had stood up over the course of his speech and despite his claim of not being weak, his legs shook under his weight, ready to give in at a moments notice. This made him even angrier.

“Loki please, sit down. We just wanted to see if you needed any help.” Steve gestured back to the seat, waiting in concern as the fragile looking Trickster shook all over.

“I don’t need your pity,” Loki spat before storming from the room once more.

“Well, that went well,” Tony smirked.

“I suppose we at least tried.” Steve made it sound more like a question than a statement. Nat said nothing, keeping her face blank but Bruce looked torn. He had a feeling that all was not well and he wasn’t ready to give up quite yet.

***

Pure anger enabled Loki to get back to his room but as soon as the door closed behind him his legs finally gave way and he fell to the floor. The room span dizzyingly around him and nausea welled up. He wretched. Nothing came out. He’d broken his record, it had been nine days since he’d eaten anything. There was nothing there for him to bring up.

Tears began to form in the corner of his eyes, Loki had no idea why. He didn’t feel upset. He didn’t feel anything. Just lost. Lost and completely alone. He wished his brother was there. He didn’t feel right, he knew something was wrong but he just couldn’t understand what it might be. But Thor would know how to help. His brother, his big brother, his protector would know what to do.

“Please Thor,” He whispered to the empty room. “Please come back soon. I need you.”

With that his vision went dark and he lost consciousness.

***

Reality filtered back to him in increments. First he felt a softness underneath him, then he could feel the light pushing against his closed eyelids. Next, he could hear a rustling noise next to him. Turning towards the noise he cautiously blinked his eyes open. His vision was blurry at first but then the shapes and colours came into focus.

Bruce was sitting in a chair that had been pulled up next to his bed. Loki checked that it was his bed, as he didn’t remember getting into it last night. The sheets were the pale grey he remembered, the outlines of the room the same so he must be in his room. Sitting up slightly he noticed that Steve was also standing against the wall looking at him.

“Why are you watching me sleep?” His voice felt sore and came out all croaky.

Bruce chuckled. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

Loki opened his mouth to reply but shut it again. He wasn’t sure what the last thing he remembered was. There was a pain behind his eyes making it hard to think.

“Could you turn the light off, I have a migraine.” Bruce nodded at Steve to grant Loki’s request. The room instantly became dim, the only light filtering in from the half-closed curtains. In any other situation, Loki would have thought it was quite cosy.

“Shall I tell you what I know of last night?” Loki just shrugged at Bruce’s question. “I remember, not five minutes after you assured us all that you were completely fine getting an alert from Jarvis saying you’d passed out. Tell me why would you pass out if you’re perfectly fine?”

Loki paused for a moment, suddenly thankful for the headache. The lie sprang easily to his lips. “It’s just a migraine, Doctor Banner, no need to get so worked up. I’m sure it can’t be good for your situation.”

Bruce completely ignored Loki’s attempt to bait him into an argument. “So if it’s a migraine, what about all the weeks before that? Are you telling me you’ve had a migraine for nearly a month?”

“On and off. I think it must be the warming of the weather. I do come from an ice planet you know.” Loki lay back against the pillow, his body couldn’t hold up his weight any longer, the muscles all shaking with the strain.

“Right. Well, Loki I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, just this once. Though I do want to run some tests, just to be sure there’s nothing majorly wrong. Bed rest for the rest of the day, then tomorrow morning I want you to come to my lab.”

“I will see you tomorrow Doctor Banner.” Both Avengers noticed the way his words slurred together, he was asleep before they’d left the room. Tony was waiting for them in Thor’s sitting room beyond.

“Well?” He asked.

“He’s obviously lying,” Steve said, a frown marring his forehead. “How could you let him off like that?”

“I knew he was lying Steve. It was obvious, which is worrying in itself.” Bruce glanced back at the closed door. When the god of lies can be called out on, well lying, it was an indicator that something was seriously wrong.

“How do we handle this?” Steve asked. It was a situation he hadn't come across before.

“We find out what’s wrong and fix it, preferably before Thor comes back. Right Doctor Banner?” Tony grinned at his fellow scientist. Bruce found himself thinking if only it was that simple.

***

Loki was out cold for most of the night, alternating between dreamless oblivion and warped nightmares. When he woke the next morning he felt terrible. His head pounded, his body ached and the room span as he tried to sit up. It was several minutes before he heard the voice of Tony’s AI talking to him. Blinking he tried to concentrate on what it was saying.

“…requested that…asked me to remind you… do you require assistance?” Loki could only make out words and phrases at first but eventually, the words registered.

“No. I’m fine,” He muttered in response to the last question.

“Doctor Banner requires your presence in his lab.” Loki nodded knowing that Jarvis could see him and shakily got out of bed. Picking up some clothes on the way, he got ready in the bathroom spending a good while hunched over the toilet, once more not bringing anything up. He poured himself a glass of water and took slow shaky sips until his throat no longer felt like sawdust. He avoided looking in the mirror the whole time, he needed to stay calm throughout this meeting and he knew that his emotions would get the better of him if he had a reminder so early in the morning. For a similar reason, he also avoided the scales.

He glanced at the fruit bowl as he passed, a shiver running through him and tears prickling behind his eyes. He no longer understood his reactions, he didn’t know why he felt tearful at everything. All he knew was that he needed to keep this weakness a secret from the Avengers. He didn’t want to give them an opening to use him, as so many others had done before.

Squaring his shoulders he made his way out of the door of Thor’s apartments and into the rest of the tower. He started walking, got a few paces and stopped. He had no idea where Dr, Banners Lab was. Come to think of it he didn’t know where anything was other than Thor’s room and the common living area.

“Jarvis, how do I get to my location?” Although he knew the being was everywhere within the tower he still looked to the ceiling when addressing him.

“An elevator has been prepared. Follow this corridor downwards.” He kept silent while Loki walked until the door to the elevator opened and Loki stepped inside.

“Now what?” The short walk had made him short of breath. He glanced at the panel of buttons, not knowing which would take him where he wanted to go.

“Sir has programmed this to take you only to your destination. None of the other buttons will take you to other floors.” Loki shrugged the information off. It made sense that they didn’t want a criminal wandering around inside their headquarters. He leaned against the mirrored wall as the elevator descended keeping his eyes fixed on a point to steady the dizziness that washed over him every time he moved.

He went over his plan in his head, breeze in, make them all feel like fools for thinking there could be anything wrong with him and then just as he was leaving he would casually ask if they knew when his brother was returning. It would be simple. He could handle it. Deep breaths, he kept reminding himself. The elevator pinged it’s arrival and Loki sauntered out. Bruce was waiting for him and gave a small smile to which Loki nodded in return.

“This way, Loki, my lab is just down here. Tony’s waiting there, I hope that’s okay with you.”

“Very wise of you doctor.” Loki knew they would want a witness in case he hurt someone or tried to escape.

Bruce watched as Loki dragged himself down the hall. He always liked to meet his patients in the hallway so he could observe the way they walked to the room. Often it was very telling. In this instance, he could tell by the way that Loki had squared his shoulders that he was prepared to bluff his way through the examination. He could tell it was a bluff as Loki swayed when he walked and when he had spoken the words had come out slurred.

Bruce opened the door and gestured Loki inside. “After you.” Loki walked past him, careful not to touch in the tight space. Tony was stood, leaned against a counter top and for once kept silent. Bruce made his way over to the spiny chair at the desk. “Take a seat Loki.”

Loki gratefully sank into one of the two remaining chairs, his legs shaking with the strain of the walk. Tony took the other seat. Wringing his hands together Loki looked towards the exit. He felt trapped. He found he couldn’t look either of the scientists in the eye so he looked down towards the nicknacks that lay scattered on Bruce’s desk. Just keep calm, he told himself, deep breaths. You can do this, you can get through this, you don’t need to tell them anything. He breathed deeply, continuing his affirmations in his head. Hang on in there, he told himself, just hold out a little longer. Thor will be back soon. Loki smiled at that thought and with the smile lingering on his face he glanced up, signing he was ready to start the procedure.

Chapter Text

Bruce asked questions and got noncommittal answers in return. It was okay, he’d expected this. The most important thing Bruce needed to do was observe Loki’s body language, just as he had when the God walked in, watch his mannerisms and the way he presented himself. Currently, Loki was drooping in his seat, as if his head was to heavy for his body to hold up. His eyes often glazed, losing focus for moments at a time.

His clothes were far too big for him, in fact when Bruce looked again he was sure that Loki was wearing his older brothers clothes. Interesting. He made a small note on his clipboard. Loki was exceedingly pale, although this seemed to be the norm for him, he had had the same washed out look when he had invaded as well as the dark circles under his eyes. His face seemed gaunter and, although it was hard to tell under the layers of clothing, Bruce was sure he’d lost weight as well.

Bruce brought the questioning to a close. “Alright Loki, that’s enough for now. I’d just like to take some bloods before you go.” Loki eyed him suspiciously at that, looked briefly over at Tony before nodding his consent. Bruce busied himself setting the needle up, making sure never to turn his back completely on the trickster.

When done, he brought the supplies over to the table. Tony came over with him, moving his chair so he was sat next to Loki, ready to restrain him if necessary. “Alright Loki, if you could just roll up your sleeve.”

Loki looked like a rabbit in the headlights. Like he had just been asked an impossible task. He cleared his throat “I don’t really think it necessary for you to take my bloods. Not really appropriate, to have alien DNA in your database.”

“It’s fine. Hammer Time let us take his bloods too, so no big deal.” Loki grimaced at Tony's words and seemed to cast around for another excuse. Bruce gave him a moment before slowly and carefully rolling the sleeve up.

Bruce glanced over to Tony and they both looked to the exposed flesh. Skeletal hands lay at the end of limbs so thin Bruce could have easily wrapped his whole hand around. Loki's wrist bones jutted outwards, skin stretched tight over it. Bruce then looked at Loki himself. The god had averted his eyes, refusing to look at either Bruce or his own arm.

With a gesture Bruce got Tony to move into position to steady the arm while he pressed the needle to the crock of the elbow. “Alright, Loki just relax, it won’t take a moment.” Bruce noticed how gently Tony held the trickster as if afraid any rough treatment would hurt him. That was probably correct, seeing how frail the proud God had become. When he had enough vile’s of blood he drew the needle out, gently taping a cotton bud in place to stop any excess bleeding.

When Loki made no other move Bruce also gently rolled down his sleeve. The trickster was shaking, whether from fear or exhaustion Bruce wasn’t sure. There was just one more thing he needed to check, now that he’d seen the weight loss first hand and then Loki could scuttle off once more.

“Okay. This way Loki, I just want to weigh you then you can leave.” Loki’s head snapped around anger blazing in his eyes. Not the reaction that Bruce had been expecting. As much as he’d discussed Asgard with Thor, and considered himself quite knowledgable on the topic, he couldn’t help feeling that he’d overstepped some sort of etiquette. He quickly backtracked. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any offense with that. I noticed that you seemed to have lost some weight recently,” Bruce hesitated, Loki looked ready to kill. “But since I have no previous data that would be pointless. Thanks for coming today. I’ll get the test done.”

Bruce quickly excused himself, heading through a backdoor leaving Tony to show the God out. It took longer than expected for Tony to join him once more. He raised an eyebrow in question.

“Princess had another dizzy spell as I walked him down the corridor. He also wanted to know when his brother was returning.” Was the reason Tony gave as he sat himself on a spiny chair and propelled himself across the room so he was closer to where Bruce worked. “I think you offended him.”

“You don’t say.” Bruce rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, they’re all so muscly up in Asgard and pride themselves on being strong, that I don’t think Reindeer Games took too kindly to you pointing out how scrawny he is.”

“Thank you, Tony, I realise that now. But don’t tell me you haven’t noticed how much weight he’s lost.”

“Of course I noticed. How could I not? He looks sick, like seriously sick. A walking skeleton.” Tony shuddered, watching Bruce silently as he started running tests. “Are we terrible people?”

“No.” Bruce set down the test tube with a bit too much force.

“Then how come we didn’t notice something was up?”

“We were just being cautious because it’s Loki. If it was one of our teammates we would have figured it out straight away.” Bruce heard how hollow his excuse sounded even to his own ears. In truth, he felt terrible too, he just didn’t want to admit to the guilt. He needed to keep his head clear so that he could help Loki now.

“You didn’t hear him just now Bruce. When he was asking for his brother. He sounded scared. Like real fear, not faked to manipulate or whatever other shit he does.” Tony paused guilt flashing over his face. “I might have told him Thor was coming back really soon.”

“Why would you do that? Tony! We have no idea when he’s coming.” Once again Bruce put down his tools and stood taking deep breaths.

“Yeah, I know it was a terrible thing to do. But he just sounded so desperate. I wanted to comfort him. Besides he was so out of it that I doubt he will remember anything I said.” Tony wasn’t sure if he himself believed the last sentence, but he was beginning to worry he’d cause Loki more distress in the long run. “I’m going to go up to the launchpad for a bit.”

“Why?” Sometimes Bruce just couldn’t keep up with the way Tony changed topics.

“I’m going to shout to the sky. See if that Heimdall guy can hear me and send Thor back, or at least pass a message on.” Tony was already on his feet, strutting out of the door. Bruce gave an exasperated chuckle to himself before setting to work once more.

***

When Loki finally arrived back to his room he was a shaky mess. He flopped down on the sofa as soon as he’d staggered his way over to it and gently lay his head down, curling into himself. The anger he’d felt earlier had been quick to fade, it simply took to much effort to cling onto such a strong emotion. Now he simply felt scared. He was alone and vulnerable and surrounded by enemies. By people who hated him and wished him nothing but harm for what they assumed he’d done to their planet.

They were mocking him, deliberately playing with his feelings. They’d told him he’d lost weight, they teased and played at concern. Lies. All lies. But Loki could still see through them. He wouldn’t let himself be taken in by such a scheme ever again. He wouldn’t let them ruined all his hard earned results. He was sure he was nearly at his goal weight. He should weigh himself. The green glowing digits were for his eyes only, how dare Dr. Banner assume he could just look at something so personal.

Loki tried to sit up, but the room span dizzyingly around him, so he lay back down. He could weigh himself after he’d had a nap. He closed his eyes letting the exhaustion claim him. He didn’t know why he was so tired all the time. Before, when it had been no effort to keep up his perfect body, he’d always been full of energy.

It’s because this isn’t healthy, the thought came as a surprise to Loki but was quickly drowned out by the part of his mind that had been dominant over the last several months, You don’t need to listen. You’re perfect now. Keep up the good work.

For the first time since Thor had left, Loki wasn’t pleased by the way his thoughts praised him. He was once again overwhelmed by a feeling of wrongness. He just wanted his big brother to come and make everything better like he did when they were children. Man of Iron said he was coming back soon, Loki thought, Just hold out until then. You can do this. And with that, he fell into a deep slumber.

***

For the last half an hour Tony had talked to the sky, whilst waving his arms and pointing wildly. Just as he was about to give up there was the familiar atmospheric disturbance and Tony watched as the Bifrost opened up. He saw someone land neatly in the dust and stand up. But that someone wasn’t Thor.

“Greetings Man of Iron,” Defiantly an Asgardian then, Tony thought rolling his eyes. “I come with a message for you. Your own message has been received and will be relayed to the Prince when he returns with the delegation this evening. The council would like to remind you however that Prince Thor is very busy right now and may be unable to take time out of his schedule to see to less pressing matters.”

“Great. Look, could you tell Thor that his little brother is really really ill and is asking for him. Can you make sure Thor gets that part of the message? I don’t trust your council, I’m sure he won’t be told the whole message.”

“I shall make sure it is done.” The messenger bows slightly before calling to Heimdall to open the Bifrost. Tony shook his head. That had actually gone better than he had hoped, honestly, he had expected to be completely ignored, nice to know that someone up there was listening.

“Jarvis, how’s Loki doing?” Tony asked.

“He is currently napping.”

“That’s good, he looks like he needs the rest.” Tony didn’t know why he was so worried about the God when he’d gone from hating him to being concerned. He still hadn’t forgiven Loki for everything that he’d done, but he’d been pleasant enough while staying here, mainly keeping to himself and not causing any trouble.

It seemed like the Loki who was staying here was completely different from the one who invaded New York. Tony couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was. There was something, he was lacking that spark of madness, he was quiet, Tony would almost go as far as to say reserved. But that wasn’t all, he seemed physically different as well, beyond the changes from whatever this current illness had done.

“Jarvis, do we have any footage of the battle or did Shield delete it all?” Tony went to the cabinet to pour himself a drink.

“All public access has been removed. They do however have their own footage. It can be recovered in approximately two hours?” The AI questioned.
“Awesome Thanks J, what would I do without you?” Tony dropped three ice cubes into his drink, swirling it around before taking a sip.

“You would have to spend hours of you’re own time hacking in instead.” Tony chuckled, he’d be forever grateful that he’d programmed Jarvis to be as snarky as himself.

Chapter Text

Loki woke from his nap feeling disorientated, shivering even though he didn’t feel cold. Everything in his vision seemed dimer somehow and most of all he felt weak all over. Slowly and carefully he made his way to the bathroom, splashing water on his face to try and clear the confusion. The scales caught his eye from where they lay in the corner of the room, carelessly left out after his last weight check. He couldn’t resist the urge that bubbled up. He had to know. The chill of the glass under his feet made him shiver, and he focused on a spot on the wall to try and stay upright as the number display loaded. He slumped against the sink when it flashed its results. Loki glanced down.

94 pounds.

“Shit,” Loki whispered softly.

That wasn’t okay. He wasn’t okay. He’d know it for some time, but seeing the number there, in bright obnoxious green, cemented in the reality. Frantically his eyes found the mirror and he watched his brow furrow as he assessed the image in front of him. If the number was so low then why did his reflection still seem so grotesquely overweight? Perhaps the scales were broken? He could see every bit of fat that clung to him, his arms, his legs, his stomach, and hips.

No longer able to bear the sight of himself he turned from the mirror and made his way into the kitchen. The fruit bowl sat right in front of him. Taunting. Teasing. How long had it been since he’d last eaten anything? He couldn’t remember. It must be pushing two weeks, maybe more. He didn’t even feel the hunger anymore. Surely an apple couldn’t hurt? Didn’t he deserve it after working so hard for so long? Reaching out, he watched his hand shake violently, almost unable to pick up the fruit his grip was so weak.

With his prize in his grasp, he stumbled over to the sofa and slumped down. The minutes ticked by as he sat staring at the glossy red, so shiny it reflected the room around him, painting the familiar setting in distorted hues of red. The reflection moved as his hands shook until finally he worked up the courage to bring it to his lips. So close he could smell the sweetness but he couldn’t make himself take a bite. His mind screaming at him, to take even one bite would ruin all his hard work. He couldn’t do that to himself, not now, not after he’d worked so hard. The apple fell from his grip as tears started to pour down his cheeks.

***

Tony had spent the last few hours searching video footage for screenshots of Loki at various points. They ranged from the picture of when he first arrived on Earth with the invasion, to when Thor brought him back and then finally the one from that morning. When all were lined up together in chronological order, the transformation was striking. In the very first Loki looked like death. That picture was similar to the most recent, there was still a difference however, something that Tony knew he was missing but couldn’t yet put his finger on.

Despite the effects of the rest of the battle, Loki seemed healthier when Thor took him back to Asgard than when he had arrived, even after being Hulk smashed. The first red light flashed up in Tony’s mind. The next warning was that Loki had looked worse again when Thor had brought him back. There was a great amount of improvement whilst Thor had been here, almost to the point where Loki looked to be almost healthy. But that had rapidly deteriorated again leading to the point they were at now.

“Sir Dr. Banner has the results of the blood test.” Jarvis’ voice crackled through the speakers.

“Wonderful. Thanks, tell him I’ll be down in a sec.”

“Of course Sir.” Tony opened a new folder and began to save his screenshot timeline in there. He stretched and made his way down to the labs where he found Bruce sat looking at a printout.

“You know you can view that on a screen. My hologram technology is perfect.” Tony grinned as a greeting.

“It helps me think better to view things on paper.” Bruce placed the printout on the desk and pushed his glasses up.

“To each their own. What did you find Doc?”

“Nothing much, to be honest. He’s not human, or even Asgardian, so I don’t know what’s normal. For a human, I would diagnose him with anemia. Perhaps a vitamin D and B12 deficiency.” Bruce pulled up the results onto a screen and flicked it over to Tony.

A quick once over revealed as much to Tony as well. “Maybe the food here isn’t giving him everything he needs in his diet? What do they even eat on that ice planet?”

“Or these results could be normal, this could just be what his stats look like.” Bruce sighed in defeat before pulling out several bottles of pills. “I wrote some prescriptions and got one of your workers to fill it. Just for iron and mineral supplements.”

“I’ll take those to him in a moment. First, look at these.” Tony pulled up his folder of screenshots, explaining his findings as Bruce looked through.

“You’re right, there's defiantly something different from about here,” he pointed from the screenshot after they found him in a crater where the hulk left him. “I just can’t work out what it is. Every time I think I’ve got it my mind loses focus and glazes over it.”

Tony thought that described the feeling exactly. “Like white noise starts up to stop you from hearing the answer?”

“Yeah. It’s weird.” Bruce nodded as he spoke, taking off his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose.

Tony was about to reply when Jarvis piped up. “Sir you have a visitor.”

“Is it Thor?”

“No, it’s another messenger. They are on the roof, shall I invite them in?”

“Yes please. Thanks J.” Tony scooped up the pill bottles. “I’ll give him these after I’ve spoken to Mr messenger.”

“See you later Tony.” As he closed the door and made his way up, Tony kept thinking. He couldn’t get Loki out of his head. He knew he had missed something vital, and Tony Stark hated missing anything. It was a matter of his pride at this point, and he didn’t even care anymore that this was the person that threw him out of a window. He needed to find out what was wrong. Not to mention he was actually worried for the God. More worried than he was willing to let on. Something was seriously wrong, anyone with eyes could see that, and he was never one to turn away someone in need.

His thoughts carried him all the way to his penthouse where the same messenger as before waited for him in the middle of the room.

“Greetings,” he said, with a deeper bow than last time.

“Er yeah hi.” Tony waved slightly. “Did you give my message to Thor?”

“I did indeed. His Highness was most concerned, he wrote you this reply and bid me to bring it to you with the utmost urgency.” He held out the letter. Or scroll would be a more accurate description. It even had a wax seal. Tony tore it open, not even looking up to see the messenger dutifully hovering nearby.

Dear Friend

What you have told me is most concerning. I will be with you as soon as I am able, though I fear that will be as late as lunchtime tomorrow. Father will not allow me to leave before that. Mother is also concerned and wishes she could visit, but that would break the All-Fathers decree and she wouldn’t wish to worsen Loki’s sentence. She requested you pass her well wishes on to Loki and tell him that she is thinking of him. If anything is to happen in the meantime please tell Heimdall and I will be with you. Father will just have to deal with it. If it also wouldn't be too much to ask, please console my brother and assure him I will be with him soon. Send a reply back with the messenger, he knows to wait for one.

Yours Faithfully

Thor Odinson of Asgard

Tony looked up to see that the messenger was indeed waiting patiently. Just to be annoying, Tony took his time finding a pen and paper and scribbling back a reply.

Dearest Thor

Thou message hast been receivethed. We shall await your company at twelve on the dot.

Yours forever

Man of Iron, Anthony Stark of Midgard

He chuckled to himself, he didn’t even know if Thor would get the joke. For good measure, he added a load of kisses at the end, then folded it up and passed it back to the messenger, who bowed and strode out to the balcony where the rainbow drew him upwards.

He looked back at the letter, reading it over once more. Thor’s handwriting looked nothing like he expected. He’d anticipated a messy, rushed scrawl but it looked more like it was written by a teenage girl, all big rounded letters, evenly spaced. It wouldn’t have looked out of place with hearts where the ‘i’ dots where meant to be.

Stuffing the letter in his jacket pocket he went down to Thor’s floor, knocking on the door when he arrived. There was no reply. He knocked again. This time he heard a faint incomprehensible mumble and opened the door. Most of Thor’s apartment was open space so Tony could see Loki lounging on the sofa straight away without having to search for him.

“Heya, how you feeling Reindeer Games?” Tony asked as he walked over. He didn’t get a response. Loki was refusing to look at him but Tony could tell that his eyes were red. He was also shivering so Tony pulled the blanket off the back of the sofa and placed it around Loki, tucking him in before he realised what he was doing and backed off.

“Thor sent a message.” This got Loki to perk up, he propped himself on one hand so he could look at Tony properly. Tony tried to ignore the way that arm shook under his weight. “He said he’s coming back tomorrow around lunch.”

Loki breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing that. He lay himself back down, pulling the blanket closer around him, the small smile not leaving his face.

“He also said your Mother sends her regards and says she’s thinking of you.” That small smiled turned into a full-on grin. It lit up his whole face, transforming it completely but that wasn’t why Tony gasped. He’d suddenly realised what he’d been missing when looking through the photos. Loki’s eyes were green, a deep emerald colour, currently dulled with exhaustion but green none the less. And they were blue during the invasion. Tony remembers staring into that bright, hypnotic blue as Loki grabbed him by the throat and threw him through a window. He wouldn’t ever forget that stare.

“Anthony?” Loki’s voice sounded weak and rasping and it drew Tony out of his thoughts.

“Sorry,” Tony mumbled. He wasn’t sure how to process the new information, or why he hadn’t notice before. Honestly, he felt terrible, the guilt welling up inside him, causing him to question so many things that he took for fact before. But Loki was still gazing up at him with concern, and was that fear? He flinched back when Tony reached out a hand to readjust the blanket.

“Oh. Bruce also looked at your blood tests.” Tony suddenly remembered the other reason he came down to visit the ill god. “He thinks you’re anemic, which means you don’t get enough iron, so he prescribed you these, Iron supplements and Vitamin supplements.”

Tony took each of them out in turn and placed them on the coffee table. He jumped up to grab a glass of water, uncapping the bottles and tipping the correct dose out placing it on a coaster.

“Here.” He held the glass out to Loki, keeping his hand on it even as Loki wrapped his own around. Tony didn’t think Loki’s skeletal hands would have the strength to hold it. Loki brought it towards him looking grateful and took a few small sips. He sighed contentedly before weakly pushing the glass back at Tony.

“The waters to take the tablets with Lokes,” Tony paused, where that nickname came from? Shaking the thought away Tony quickly picked up the tablets and placed them in Loki’s free hand.

Loki froze, not able to hide the terror that crossed his face. “What are these?” He asked, his voice shaking.

“Iron tablets and vitamin supplements.” Tony refrained from smirking and adding how he already told Loki that.

“Are they dangerous?” Loki wouldn’t look him in the eye but he sounded angry.

Tony knew he was out of his depth. Loki’s emotions change so swiftly that Tony couldn’t keep up, not knowing what will set him off. “They’re not dangerous at all. Your body will take whatever it’s lacking and what it doesn’t need it just shits it out as waste.”

Loki looked at the tablets dubiously, staring them down. Tony didn’t interrupt, just watched and held the water. Emotions flitted across Loki’s face, confusion, distrust, fear, disgust. Tears began to well in his eyes before he suddenly threw the pills across the room.

“I won’t fall for it.” His grin was manic, eyes not quite focusing on Tony. “I won’t allow you to poison me.”

“Listen to me,” Tony reached out to touch him before he thought better of it. “I won’t harm you with no reason. And you’ve not given me any reason to the whole time you’ve been here. You don’t have to worry. You can trust me Loki.”

Loki just laughed and shook his head, muttering nonsensical words to himself. Tears began to leak and drip down his face until he was full out sobbing. His breathing sped up, heading towards hyperventilation.

Tony, not wanting to make things worse, just sat and waited for him to calm down. Finally, when Loki had cried himself out, he looked around the room in a state of disorientation. Tony waited for a moment before offering him a tissue which Loki took and wiped at his face.

“Would you like me to stay?” Tony asked gently. Loki shook his head, so Tony got up and exited the room, glancing back one last time to see Loki draw his knees up to his chest and hug them with shaking arms.

Chapter Text

Tony woke with a pounding headache. The night before, after he’d left Loki’s room, he had made himself a drink. Then another. Then he remembered his discovery about Loki and it had made him feel so guilty that he’d downed another drink without even tasting what it had been. Steve had discovered him before he drunk himself into a stupor and dragged him to his room.

“Good morning Sir. It is currently 9:30 am.” Jarvis’s voice was far too loud.

“Keep it down J. My head kills.” He went to sit up but as that only succeeded in making the world spin he lay back and pulled the covers over his head. “Ask Butterfingers to make me coffee and a bacon sandwich. Please.” He drew out the please in an annoying drawl.

He lay still, thinking. He knew he was taking the Loki situation badly, he knew he’d really fucked up, he just wasn’t yet sure how much yet and the guilt was eating him from the inside out. He was still feeling sorry for himself when he heard his bedroom door swing open. He sighed in relief. Nothing like coffee and greasy food to cure a hangover.

“I wondered why I found Butterfingers trying to set the kitchen on fire.” And there was nothing like a lecture from Captain Proper to make a hangover worse.

“My head hurts Capsicle.”

“Yes, and who’s fault is that?” Tony heard Steve walk over to the bed and place something on the cabinet.

“Is that my food?” He perked up slightly, throwing his covers back just as Steve opened the curtains. Tony hissed dramatically, throwing his arm up to cover his eyes.

“Butterfingers is upset now Steve.” Tony opened his eyes to see Bruce also standing in the doorway, frowning at Steve.

“He was about to set the cooker on fire. I had to stop him.”

“But you didn’t need to shout. He’s down in the lab sulking now.” Bruce came fully into the room, he had a bottle of Advil in his hands.

“Have I ever told you how much I love you Bruce.” He took the offered bottle and gulped the tablets down, ignoring the nearly scorching hot coffee.

“What happened last night?” Steve dragged one of the chairs over to the bed while Bruce opted to perch at the end of the bed.

In between a mouthful of bacon and a sip of coffee, Tony muttered, “I talked to Loki.”

“When you took him his meds?” Bruce asked.

“Meds. You found out what was wrong with him then?” Steve looked pleased with this.

“Not exactly. More like found some symptoms? I don’t know. The meds were just some nutritional supplements.”

“He refused them by the way.” Tony chipped into the conversation.

“What happened?”

“I’m not really sure, one moment he looked like depression personified, then he got really angry and threw the pills across the room before crying.” Tony shrugged. “He seemed happy that Thor’s coming back today though.”

“I didn’t know Thor was due to be here.” Steve raised an eyebrow.

“Oh yeah, I forgot to say. I sort of shouted to Rainbow Bridge Guard, and he sent a messenger who then said that Thor was coming at midday today.”

“That’s a relief,” Bruce said while Steve nodded in agreement. Tony was just finishing his breakfast, the pain behind his eyes lessening, when he remembered what else he had realised. He was about to share his suspicions but something held him back. What about if he was just reading into things too much? What if his memory was faulty? He decided to keep it to himself right now and ask Thor about it when the opportunity presented itself.

“Jarvis?” Tony heard Steve ask. “Can you inform the rest of the team that Thor’s coming back today. Let them know about the Loki situation, tell Barton that he probably wants to be clear of the meeting.”

“Of course, Captain Rodgers,” Jarvis replied.

“We’ll leave you to shower,” Steve said getting up and putting his chair back. “Do you want to collect Loki just before Thor arrives. He seems to like you best at the moment?”

Tony didn’t know on what grounds Loki liked him best but he agreed anyway. He lounged around for the rest of the day, flicking through some blueprints. Just keeping his mind occupied and away from what could possibly be wrong with Loki. When the clock hit eleven-thirty he got up and went down to knock on Loki’s door.

The reply he got was the same muffled incomprehensible mumble as last time. Pushing the door open he saw that Loki had barely moved. He was still laying on the sofa cocooned in the fluffy blanket.

“Hey, Reindeer Games,” Tony said softly as he approached him. “Your brother’s going to be here soon, do you want help getting up?”

“I’m fine. I don’t need your help.” Loki grumbled as he pulled himself into a sitting position. His hair was matted and flat, and the bags beneath his eyes seemed impossibly deeper. Tony watched as he began to dry heave, watched as he clamped a hand over his mouth, although he didn’t bring anything up.

Going into the bedroom, Tony opened the wardrobe to find Loki some clean clothes to put on. All of his suits were hanging dusty on hangers and Tony recalled how he hadn’t touched his own clothing since Thor left, choosing instead to wear his brothers. From Thor’s room, he picked out a pair of loose cotton pants, a t-shirt and a warm zip-up hoodie that was slightly fluffy on the inside. Loki hadn’t left his seat but now had his head resting between his legs. He looked up when Tony approached.

“Here, I got you some clean clothes,” He placed them in Loki’s slack hands. “Do you wanna shower?” Tony asked. Loki shook his head but struggled to the bathroom anyway. Tony sat waiting, listening for any signs of distress coming from inside. At one point he heard a soft gasp, followed by quiet sobbing, but he didn’t intrude.

When Loki exited he didn’t look any better than before. Thor's clothes absolutely hung off of him. Tony was sure that he could see the outline of Loki’s ribs through the thin material of the t-shirt and Tony couldn’t remember the last time he had seen Loki without his multiple layers of clothing on. He must have been wearing more than Tony thought because Loki looked so much thinner than Tony had previously assumed.

Silently they made they’re way up to the main living room. Natasha, Bruce, and Steve all waited for them. Clint was notably absent. It was nearly twelve by this point and they were all watching the balcony window anxiously, still sure that Thor was about to burn Midgard to the ground for allowing his precious brother to get in such a state.

As soon as Tony and Loki had entered the room, Steve fetched a chair, helping Loki to sit down in it. They shared a worried glance when Loki didn’t even object the assistance, he merely looked down avoiding eye contact with anyone. Tony and Steve stayed close to Loki as he swayed where he sat, both concerned that he was about to topple over at any moment. Natasha fetched him a glass of water and helped Loki take a few small sips. An anxious silence fell as they all waited for the arrival of Thor.

***

Lightning flashed as Thor landed on the balcony and the occupants of the room all turned their heads in unison to watch. He opened the door as Bruce walked forward to greet him. He smiled brightly until he lay eyes on his brother.

“Loki?” He asked, voice soft for once. Loki looked up and upon seeing his brother blinked several times as if to make sure that he wasn’t imagining him. Then he struggled to his feet and wobbled forwards towards Thor not saying a word. Thor met him midway and was utterly shocked when Loki threw his arms around him and leaned in, pressing his face against Thor’s shoulder.

Thor held his brother tight, stroking his back and whispering comfort words in his ear. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d held his brother like this, it had surely been many centuries when they were both still children. Loki had grown distance as he got older. Thor no longer had time for showing physical affection. Oh, how he regretted that now.

Loki didn’t pull back so Thor kept holding him, gently running his hands down his brothers back in a comforting manner. Loki felt so worryingly thin and fragile in his arms. Even through the layers of clothing, he could feel every rib, every vertebra in his spine. Thor glanced to his friends in a questioning manner but they all refused to meet his eye. His attention was drawn back to his brother as Loki when slack in his arms. Tightening his grip with lighting reflexes he held his little brother up making sure he didn’t fall to the floor.

“Brother?” Thor got no response although Loki did blink back to consciousness. Thor kept holding him as it didn’t seem that Loki could take his own weight. “Do you want to lie down?”

After Loki nodded sluggishly Thor scooped him up into his arm and carried him over to the sofa, lying him softly down. Thor felt a wave of unease as he realised just how light Loki was, he knew his brother had always been thin but never like this. Thor was afraid that Loki would break if moved too roughly. Loki curled up into a ball as soon as he was laid down, glazed eyes always keeping Thor in his line of sight. Steve gently pulled a blanket over Loki’s shivering form.

“My friends, what is wrong with him?” Thor crouched down in front of the sofa laying his hand softly on the back of Loki’s neck. This seemed to settle Loki, causing a grim smile to flit across Thor's face.

“I think that’s a conversation we need to have outside.” Bruce came up behind Thor and motioned for him to follow. Thor looked back to Loki, who had his eyes closed but Thor still hesitated.

“I can stay with him.” Steve moved a chair so it was positioned at the head of the sofa.

At that reassurance, Thor nodded. “Inform me when he wakes.” Only when Steve had assured Thor he would send a message with Jarvis did Thor finally followed Bruce and Tony out of the room. They didn’t go far, just down the corridor, far enough away that Loki wouldn’t be able to overhear them talking about him.

“Tell me what’s happened.” The warning in Thor’s voice was unmistakable. Bruce and Tony looked to each other before giving a condensed version of events, from when they’d noticed Loki starting to look unwell, trying to talk to him and eventually to the events of the last few days. Thor’s face grew graver and graver the more they talked. “I see. And he actually asked for me?” Thor’s smile was quiet and sad.

“Yeah he did,” Bruce said. “I’m sorry we didn’t take better care of him.”

“That’s okay my friends. It is Loki, he is the most stubborn person I know.” Bruce shoulders instantly relaxed. “When you examined him did you see if his injuries had healed? I’m wondering if that might be the cause.”

“What injuries?” Tony asked.

Thor deflated slightly. “Of course he didn’t tell you. I don’t know why I assumed he would. Lingering wounds from the battle and from his time in Asgard's prison. His magic was stopped while still on Midgard so it didn’t have time to heal him.”

“I didn’t even know he was hurt. I’m so sorry Thor, I would have treated him if I had known.” Bruce continued rambling, feeling terrible. He was the team’s doctor, he should have taken better care of someone who was left under his supervision.

“I know you would my friend. I do not blame you in the slightest. The fault is mine, I should have known my brother well enough to have informed you myself.” Thor leaned back against the wall, staring into the middle distance long enough that Bruce and Tony began to shift uncomfortably, not knowing what to do.

Eventually Tony couldn’t bear the silence any longer. “Thor. Can I ask you something?” Thor grunted in response and Tony took that as permission to go ahead. “What colour are Loki’s eyes?”

“They are green,” Thor answered still seeming distracted.

“I thought so,” Tony muttered under his breath, then louder he said, “Then why were they blue during the invasion?”

Chapter Text

If the question startled Thor, he didn’t show it. Tony watched as he answered his question in a matter of fact tone that suggested that this wasn’t the first time he’d relayed this information.

“I believe they were turned blue from the sceptre's influence. Thanos couldn’t put him under complete control with the mind stone only, Loki’s powerful enough to resist that, that's why Thanos had him tortured into compliance.” Thor looked at them in confusion as they stared at him, shock clearly painted on their faces. Tony felt sick. “Surely you knew this already.”

“Uh. No. No, we didn’t Thor. What the fuck?”

“Tony,” Bruce warned.

“No. Seriously what the fuck? Why the hell didn’t we know about this.”

“I informed you when you were told of Loki’s punishment.” Thor was getting angry now but Tony wasn’t about to stop. This was new. This meant he’d fucked up big time, they all had. If what Thor was saying was true and Tony saw no reason why it shouldn’t be, their treatment of Loki had been downright disgusting.

“You told us nothing other than that he had to clear up the mess he made,” Bruce said quietly, Tony could tell that he was brimming with frustration, probably feeling the same guilt that Tony himself was.

“That is what our father sentenced him to.” As Thor yelled thunder could be heard rumbling overhead.

“Why did he sentence him when he was innocent. Because it sure as hell sounds like he was innocent.” Tony was shouting now and he saw Natasha come around the corner to see what the commotion was about.

Thor had his fists clenched. “You dare challenge the All-Fathers instructions.”

“You know what. Yes, I do challenge him.” Tony shouted back.

“What was Loki’s sentence?” Natasha asked, trying to diffuse the situation as Thor reached out to grab Tony and pin him to the wall.

“He was charged with restoring the city, as it was due to his weakness that it was destroyed in the first place.”

“What weakness?” Natasha stared straight into Thor’s eyes refusing to break eye contact. She noticed the hesitation in them, hidden behind the burst of anger as if whatever Thor was about to say were not his words.

“He allowed himself to give in, he didn’t fight Thanos as a warrior should have.” Thor's words were quieter than before.

“You don’t believe that though do you?”

“It is not my place to challenge the All-Fathers words.” Thor breathed deeply and let go of Tony, who picked himself up and brushed his shirt free of wrinkles. “When I’m king then perhaps I can bring change, but right now this is his ruling and as the Crown Prince and a warrior of Asgard, I shall abide by it.”

“And as a brother?” Bruce piped in.

“As a brother, I just want to see Loki well again.”

“Then we all want the same thing. For now, let’s put this misunderstanding behind us instead of playing the blame game and work together to help Loki.” Bruce looked at all of them. “I think, this time, we can all agree that he deserves our help.”

There was a murmur of agreement, before they all walked back to Loki, who lay fast asleep, his breathing laboured. Thor stroked Loki’s now wispy hair away from his face, eyes filling with sadness as Loki unconsciously nuzzled into his hand.

“I shall take him back to our floor and make sure he gets some rest for today. Hopefully, we shall join you for dinner if Loki feels up for it. Tomorrow I will assist you in discovering what ails him.” With that Thor scoped Loki up into his arms, once more wincing at just how fragile Loki felt in his arms. “It’s all going to be alright brother,” He whispered to Loki as he held him to his chest.

***

Thor decided that he wanted to keep Loki close so set him down in his own bed, while he sat at the desk. He’d brought with him some reports that he’d been ignoring. He hated paperwork and Loki was the one who normally handled it but he was grateful for it today as it provided him with a much-needed distraction.

Loki began to stir a few hours later and Thor was instantly at his side, hand stroking his cheek until Loki looked at him. Loki seemed to be having trouble focusing but Thor saw him smile when his eyes finally fell upon his big brother.

“Good rest brother?” Thor asked in the softest voice possible.

“Yes, I feel much better now. I was sure that I had dreamt that you came back. But here you are.” Loki’s voice was low and scratchy as if he hadn’t used it for a while and Thor could make out the way it wavered.

“Can I get you anything?” Thor asked helping Loki to sit up when it became clear that he was too weak to do so himself. Loki shook his head so Thor joined him on the bed. “What happened Loki? You seemed fine when I left. Are you injured, has someone hurt you?”

“No one hurt me. Most of the previous wounds have also healed.” Loki smiled to his brother but it didn’t reach his eyes.

“Then what's wrong with you?”

Wrong. There it was that word again. Loki rolled it around in his had. The feeling of wrongness that had been lurking for so long came over him again, threatening to drown him under its weight.

Right now all Loki wanted was for his brother to take care of him, to make everything better. Rolling over he buried himself into Thor’s side. “I don’t know.” He muttered after a while of silence. Thor kept silent and Loki began to panic, thinking that he’d said the wrong thing, that he’d upset his brother. Scared that Thor would leave him alone once more. “Please don’t be angry.”

He knew he sounded weak and pathetic to his own ears and he wished he could take the words back. He needed his brother, he didn’t think he could survive if Thor decided to leave him. He felt Thor shift and he reached out a hand to grab at Thor’s t-shirt to keep him there. He needed Thor to stay. He couldn’t do this alone any longer. He didn't even know what ‘this’ was. He didn’t know what to do. He could hear Thor speaking but couldn’t make out the words he was saying.

The vicious part of Loki’s brain that had been in control these past weeks was happy to supply replacement words. It told him all about how Thor was saying that he’d always know he was disgusting, that he hadn’t tried hard enough, that he wasn’t good enough. The words reached around and around, a chilling chant that blocked out all other thought. Loki was aware when the panic took hold of him but there wasn’t anything he could do to stop it. It was like he was locked out of his body.

His breathing raced and his vision began to cloud, his body too weak to gain back any sort of control. Vaguely he was aware when other figures began to appear in the room but Loki couldn’t tell if they were real. His hands felt tingly and there was a tightness in his chest that made it hard to breathe. The tears rolling down his cheeks were warm but didn’t have the energy to try and stop them.

There were more voices speaking to him now, all calm, but he still didn’t know what they said. There were hands touching him and he tried to pull away, he didn’t want people touching him. Not now. Not when he wasn’t in control. Not when his body felt disgusting and foreign to his own mind.

Eventually, his breathing began to slow and the world settled back to how it was meant to be. The episode had left him exhausted. He wanted nothing more than to lay back down and let sleep take him once more. Maybe if he was lucky he wouldn’t wake up this time.

But he wasn’t allowed the rest he craved as there was another hand on his shoulder, shaking him slightly. He flinched away and the hand was quickly removed but a low voice was now speaking to him.

“Loki? Can you hear me? You’re safe.” He looked up to see Bruce standing next to where he lay. Thor was on the bed next to him still and Tony and Steve lurked in the background.

“What…?” He began to ask, stopping when the word came out slurred.

“You had a panic attack. It’s normal to feel a little disorientated after. Take all the time you need.” Bruce moved back to give him some space.

“Thor?” Loki called out to his brother in a voice so weak and vulnerable it broke Thor’s heart.

“I’m here brother.” He took both of Loki’s hands in his. “I’m here.”

“I don’t know what's wrong with me Thor.” Loki sounded defeated and exhausted. He had no energy to care. He was done. He didn’t want to deal with anything anymore. Thor was here now. Everything was going to be okay. He was aware of Thor replying but at that moment was hit by a wave of exhaustion. “Please don’t leave me,” He garbled out before sleep claimed him once more.

Before they left Bruce checked Loki’s stats. They seemed normal enough he decided it was safe to leave Loki there rather than transferring him to the medical wing. Thor thanked them all as they left then went back to his brother's side where he stayed dutifully by his side until Loki began to stir once more. Thor thoughts were racing, he had no clue what could have happened to make Loki so ill in the few short months he had been away.

He had never seen his brother look so scared as when they’d talked earlier. Actually no, Thor thought, that was a lie. He had seen that expression on his brothers face once before when he had been hanging off the Bifrost, moments before he had let go. Ice rushed through Thor’s veins at the realisation that the last time he had seen his brother in such a state was when he had tried to kill himself. Was that the problem now? Thor’s mind refused to accept such a possibility. Of all the things that Loki had survived, he wouldn’t let his downfall come by his own mind. But Thor knew that his being ignorant to Loki’s pain was what led to his last attempt. He knew this time he would try harder. To be there for his brother.

Loki’s face scrunched up in pain and it was several long moments before he opened his eyes.

“You stayed.” Thor could hear a hint of disbelief in his voice and it made him uncomfortable.

“Of course I stayed. I’m not planning on going anywhere. I won’t leave you again brother, I promise.” Thor didn’t care how cheesy the words sounded when he saw the hope that flared in Loki’s eyes. The way he relaxed just slightly. “Would you like to get up for a bit or do you need more rest?”

“I’ll get up.” Loki pushed himself up on shaking arms, not resisting when Thor moved to help him. He insisted on walking to the living room, although Thor kept a hand on his lower back, ready to catch him should his legs give out. Loki was panting for breath by the time they made it to the sofa and Thor pulled a blanket tightly around Loki’s shoulders, not sure if the shaking was from exertion or cold.

Thor announced that he was going to make tea and disappeared into the kitchen giving Loki a moment to pull himself together. Truth be told, he needed a moment as well. He had never before seen his brother so weak and helpless. Even if his theory on Loki’s mental state was accurate it didn’t explain the physical weakness Loki was exhibiting.

Almost mechanically he made the tea, putting the two cups on the tray along with sugar and a jug of milk. When he came back Loki had his head in his hands, elbows resting on his knees. He put milk and sugar into his own cup, asking Loki if he wanted the same.

“What’s in it?” Loki asked in reply. Thor asked for clarification, not entirely sure what Loki was asking. “What's in the tea?”

“Tea?” Thor hesitated. “And water.”

“Nothing else?” Loki was eyeing the cup suspiciously.

“That is all, I promise.” Thor watched as Loki reached out a shaking hand to take the tea off the tray. It seemed to take a great deal of effort for him to even lift it and he could see the frustration in Loki’s eyes when he could barely hold it. Slowly Loki took a sip, it seemed to Thor that he had to force himself to swallow the liquid.

He took two more sips before he couldn’t force himself to have anymore and Thor gently took the cup from Loki’s hands before he dropped it and placed it back on the tray, along with his own forgotten cup. Loki’s behaviour was getting stranger and stranger. Thor had no idea why it seemed so hard for him to even drink tea, something that he used to love. Loki had always had a sweet tooth, and normally loaded his tea with as much milk and sugar as possible, never plain like just then.

“Mr. Odinson, Mr. Laufeyson. Dinner is ready to be served.” Jarvis’s voice filled the room. Thor was grateful for the distraction and bounded to his feet.

“Come, brother, let us dine with our friends. You look like you need it.”

“What?” Loki’s voice was sharp, his eyes piercing.

“I said-” Thor began but Loki cut him off.

“I heard what you said. How dare you suggest,” Loki choked on the words and couldn’t finish the sentence. “I thought I could trust you, Thor.”

Thor jolted at the accusation, unsure what he had even done wrong. “You can trust me Loki. What’s wrong?”

Loki flinched backwards as Thor reached out to him and began to struggle to his feet. “Go have your food. Leave me be.”

He began to walk back to the bedroom and Thor called after him. “Are you sure you don’t want me to stay brother? I can have food delivered here for us.”

“I’m not hungry,” Loki snapped.

“I can still eat here and keep you company.” Thor could barely keep up with Loki’s mood swings at the best of times and right now he felt totally out of his depth.

“I want to be on my own for a while.”

Thor hesitated, weighing up his options. “I won’t be long then, if you wish for some alone time you shall have it. I’ll be back here the second you need me. And I’ll bring you back some food, in case you get hungry later.”

“Don’t bother. I feel sick. I don’t want food.”

“You didn’t tell me you felt ill.” Thor eyed him suspiciously.

“It’s not a big deal. Now go, enjoy your dinner.” Loki tried to smile but Thor could see the pain hidden behind it. Thor hesitated for a second longer, but he didn’t want to set Loki off again, so he did as Loki requested and left the room.

“Jarvis?” He called to the ceiling. “Please tell me if Loki tries,” He couldn’t say the words. “If Loki’s not alright.”

“Of course Sir. I will keep a close eye on him.” Thor smiled his thanks before setting off for the communal dining area.

Chapter Text

Loki let out a growl of frustration as he slammed the bedroom door shut behind him. He didn’t know what he was feeling. At points he wanted to tell Thor everything, then at other points, his brain screamed that there was nothing wrong with him. That he wasn’t ill enough to require help. That he was just attention-seeking as he always did. He couldn’t exactly tell Thor what was happening when he didn’t even know what was wrong, just that something was.

Leaning against the shut door he slid down to the floor. The room wouldn’t stop spinning and he felt nauseous, the few sips of tea he’d had sitting uneasily in his stomach. Curling in on himself Loki started rocking back and forth, trying to provide himself with some sort of comfort. He’d yet again chased Thor away so this was the best he was going to get. The paradox bothered him, the conflicting feeling of longing for his brother and yet wanting him nowhere near, so he wouldn’t be witness to Loki’s weakness.

It was that weakness that had led to this punishment in the first place. He couldn’t let any more of it be shown. Taking a few deep breaths, Loki managed to push down the tears that threatened to overspill and to calm down. Thor was here, he reminded himself, that meant that everything was going to be okay. As long as Thor stayed then he was fine, he just needed to carry on pretending that everything was fine and eventually it would be.

***

Thor came into the dining room and immediately the talking stopped. The other Avengers looked at him, expressions ranging between curiosity and sympathy.

“You okay Hammer Time?” Tony approached and Thor tried to give him a fake smile.

“I am worried, Loki is not well. I fear for his safety.”

“Where is he now?” Bruce asked.

“He refused to join us stating that he was feeling unwell and not hungry.” Thor sighed and stood awkwardly in the doorway. “He requested some space but I don’t think I should leave him alone in that state of mind.”

“He’ll be okay for a few moments and besides, you’ll be no use to him if you don’t take care of yourself.”

Thor nodded before making his way over to the table and taking a seat as Steve brought plates over to them. Everyone muttered their thanks.

“Have you saved anything for Loki, I shall take it to him later.”

“I hadn’t, but I can easily make a plate up. Loki never eats with us.” Steve said the last words awkwardly as he knew they hadn’t made Loki feel welcome, yet no one wanted to admit this out loud to Thor.

Thor didn’t question it though and the team breathed a collective sigh of relief. They ate in silence, everyone waiting for Thor to speak first if he so wished. Eventually, he did.

“So my brother never joined you for meals after I had left?”

“No, he preferred to keep to himself. We all just thought he was being all high and mighty.” Tony said.

“I’m sorry Thor, we should have made him feel like he could join us.” Bruce looked down at his plate, shame washing over him. Ashamed of himself and of how his prejudices had let him isolate a man who had needed their help. Thor didn’t respond and everyone looked around nervously, waiting for the Thunder God to unleash his anger upon them. “We’ll make this better Thor, I promise.”

Thor thanked them and they went back to eating in silence. When they were all done, Steve grabbed the plate of pasta he had saved for Loki and put it in the microwave to warm it up.

“When was the last time Loki even ate?” Tony asked, mostly to himself, but no one in the room seemed to know the answer.

“Do you think this will be enough?” Steve gestured to the plate, now not sure it was a big enough portion if Loki hadn’t been well enough to eat for a while. “There’s more leftovers if need be.”

“He said he was feeling sick earlier, so he might not even eat all of that.” Thor frowned as he said it. It didn’t sit right. Loki, skinny as he was, had always had an appetite to rival Thor’s.

Steve nodded at Thor’s statement before grabbing a fork, following Thor back to his rooms. To Thor’s astonishment, not only did Steve follow but so did Tony, Bruce and Nat. It seemed that everyone was ready to make up for their previous mistakes. Not that Thor minded, the more people to help his little brother the better in his opinion.

Opening the door he called out, “Loki? You here? We’ve brought you some dinner.”

Loki appeared in the bedroom door, looking bedraggled and worn out. “I told you I wasn’t hungry Thor.” He looked to the others who were now entering after Thor. “Did you have to bring the whole jolly gang.”

As ill as he might be, Thor was pleased that he hadn’t lost the sharpness of his tongue. He’d been worried earlier but it seemed that all was not lost.

“They’re worried about you Loki, just like I am.” Thor gently took his brother's arm and led him over to the table where Steve was laying down the food. Thor was once again struck by how thin Loki’s arm felt in his hand. He had grabbed his bicep but found that he could easily wrap his fingers around the whole way. That wasn’t healthy, he didn’t know what sickness was causing Loki to lose so much weight but they needed to find out soon before the damage became irreversible.

Loki let himself be led to the table in a kind of a daze but as soon as he was seated with the food in front of him he began to struggle out of his brother grip. “What are you doing Thor. I said I wasn’t hungry.”

“I know Loki, but you need energy to fight this illness, whatever it may be. You need to keep your strength up.” Thor took the seat next to Loki. “I know you feel sick but please just try. Our friends have said that they can’t remember the last time they saw you eat.”

“Then they are ridiculously unobservant.” Loki clenched his hands to stop them trembling. They couldn’t have noticed. He kept to himself. He’d never joined them for meals, even when Thor had been here. They’d made sure that he was never welcome at the dinner table. No Thor was bluffing. He had to be. No one could know his secret. “If you make me eat, I will vomit on you.”

“Would you prefer something else?” Steve chipped in. “I can make something easier on the stomach if you want?”

“I don’t want anything.” Loki had meant it to come out as a growl but the words sounded more like a whine and he looked down making sure to avoid eye contact. “If I eat will you all leave me alone?”

(!!!)

Thor agreed easily and Loki looked to his plate. It seemed intimidating. It had been weeks since he’d eaten anything at all, let alone anything this substantial. He picked up his fork, nearly dropping it with how much his hand shook and continued to stare at the food. To him, it looked disgusting. Everything about it was unappealing, the pasta looked slimy, the sauce it was covered in looked like glop and there were mysterious chunks of vegetables mixed in throughout.

Loki poked the fork in, wincing as it made an audible squelching noise. He couldn’t bring himself to put this in his body. Slowly, trying to put off the moment as long as possible he began separating the food. Pasta went in one pile. Vegetables in another. The next step was to scrape as much sauce off the pasta as possible. The amount of fat in just that was ridiculous, the less he had to eat the better. If he could minimise the amount he put in his body then he could minimise the damage done to all his hard work.

He thought he heard a noise from behind him but he ignored it, just like he had been ignoring all of the people in the room. The people in the room were all watching him. That were about to see what a disgusting monster he really was. They knew that he didn’t need the food, but were watching him eat it anyway. Just like a monster to have no self-restraint. His breathing was beginning to speed up and it felt like the walls of the room were pressing in on him. He wanted to get this over with. He could feel the tears building in his eyes.

Come on Loki, he encouraged himself, just a few pieces of pasta. Then they will leave you alone. Yes, it might take a bit more work to get rid of it but it’s doable.

But Loki couldn’t do it. He dropped the fork to the plate with a clatter and dissolved into tears. Tears of shame and humiliation. He couldn’t look at the food or the others in the room. He just wanted to be left alone. He didn’t want anyone to look at him. But he could feel all their eyes on him. Watching him, judging him as he sobbed over a plate of pasta. He was pathetic. There was no saving him. He couldn’t do this. With that last thought, he fled the room.

(!!!)

***

Bruce had watched Loki with growing horror as he had picked apart the food. It came to him as one sudden horrible realisation that he could only hope he was wrong about. Though everything made sense. In a horrifying terrible way, it made sense. The way the only thing wrong in the blood test was mineral deficiencies. That would happen if someone was suffering from malnourishment. The dizzy spells. The slow decline of health. The isolation, the sudden angry outbursts, the weight loss, the secretiveness, the lies. It all pointed to one diagnosis. An eating disorder.

Once Bruce admitted the words to himself, it somehow felt right. That thought made his skin crawl, how could something so deadly feel right. How had they let Loki get to this point? Why hadn’t a single one of them realised something was wrong earlier. Why hadn’t Loki reach out for help? No, he would take that last one back. It made perfect sense that Loki wouldn’t ask for help. One of the symptoms of an eating disorder was extreme secretiveness and Loki hadn’t even been able to trust them in the first place. This was all on them, the blame for letting it get to this point. Bruce needed to sit down and he wobbled his way over to the sofa.

“You okay there Brucey?” Tony asked as he came and sat next to Bruce. Bruce realised he had been zoning out, as Thor was no longer in the room and Steve had removed the offending plate of pasta.

“I think I know what’s wrong with Loki,” Bruce muttered out. Tony quirked an eyebrow in question but Bruce waved him off. “I’ll tell all of you my theory when Thor’s available. I don’t want to say it more than once, I already feel like crap for ignoring the symptoms so long.”

With that, he left the room and made his way to his lab. He asked Jarvis to open a hologram page and pulled up the official terms of diagnosis. Everything was there. He would need to talk to Loki, of course, and do a more thorough examination, but at this point, he would be surprised if he was wrong. Closing down the hologram he went to make himself some tea to wait for the others to join him.

Chapter Text

First Tony and Steve joined Bruce, then Thor. Natasha had opted to stay in Thor’s rooms, to keep an eye on Loki so someone would be there if he awoke.

“Dr Banner, please, you know what is wrong with Loki,” Thor said into the building silence.

“I do, yes.” Bruce took in a deep breath. There was no easy way to say this. “Thor, I think Loki is anorexic.”

“Fuck…” Tony muttered, drawing out the word.

“I would never have thought of that,” Steve said, almost to himself. The three of them started talking in anxious tones until Thor interrupted.

“Pray tell, what is this anorexia and how do we cure it? I will hunt down whatever is necessary for you to make the cure.” Thor stood up, hand ready to call his hammer, ready to battle to restore Loki’s health.

Bruce sighed. “It’s not quite that simple Thor. Anorexia, while it affects the body, is primarily a mental illness. Sit down and I’ll try to explain. Do you want anything, this isn’t going to be easy to hear.”

Thor replied that he was fine before taking a seat and looking expectancy at Bruce. Bruce had long suspected that Asgard had no concept of mental health and that Loki had paid the price from their ignorance. Many times over, not just with the current situation.

“Anorexia is an eating disorder. People who suffer from this restrict their food intake, normally under the belief that they need to lose weight, there are of course other reasons but this is the most common.”

“That makes no sense for Loki,” Thor interrupted. “He has always been too thin.”

“He might not see it that way though Thor,” Steve said.

“Yeah, or there might be another cause altogether like Bruce said,” Tony added.

“It might not even be anorexia at all. I would need to speak with Loki first to confirm the diagnosis.” Bruce ran his hand through his hair. “Thor, if Loki is suffering from an eating disorder, helping him recover is not going to be easy.”

“I’m up for the challenge,” Thor assured them. Bruce wasn’t entirely sure that Thor understood but he carried on explaining the finer details of what it meant to suffer from anorexia. Thor’s face got grimmer and grimmer as the discussion went on.

“How did this happen?” Thor demanded.

“I don’t know Thor. No one but Loki can answer that. Speaking of, I want to talk to him, get a proper diagnosis. We can go from there.” Bruce asked Jarvis to check up on Loki and Nat. It seemed Loki was asleep once again. He asked Nat to wake him and see if he had enough strength to walk down to the lab or if they needed to transport him there. “I want to run more tests. If it’s gotten this bad, I need to make sure that all his organs are still functioning. Tony do you have an ECG here?”

Tony nodded, muttering that he had all the equipment Bruce could ever dream of. Bruce got everyone to clear out of his office, he wanted to talk to Loki alone. Tony would come in to assist with some of the tests, but that was all. Bruce wanted to give Loki complete autonomy, needing more than ever before for the God of Lies to be truthful just this once. His life depended on it after all. Thor started to protest, not comfortable with leaving his brother vulnerable like that.

“If he asks for you Thor then, of course, I’m not going to stop you from being with him, but more often than not patients feel they have to downplay their symptoms when loved ones are around.” Thor glared as Bruce spoke but eventually filed out along with the rest of them.

Ten minutes later Nat opened the door and Loki walked in. Walked was probably the wrong way to describe it, more like wobbled. The journey down to the lab had obviously been a strain to Loki, there was sweat forming on his forehead, he swayed where he stood and he kept blinking as if he couldn’t quite get the world to come into focus. Nat helped him into a seat, which he all but collapsed into before she left the room with a nod towards Bruce.

“Hello, Loki. How are you feeling?” Bruce asked as he pulled up the swivel chair so he could face Loki. Loki murmured something incomprehensible and Bruce nodded along. “Well, I think I might have a diagnosis for you but I need to ask you some questions first.”

Loki nodded but soon stopped as the movement threw him off balance and he had to grab the arms of the chair to avoid falling forwards. Bruce had his hands out to steady him but avoided touching him unless it seemed absolutely necessary.

Bruce could tell that Loki was uncomfortable so he dove straight in with the questions. “How would you describe your general mood as of late?”

“How does this have any relevance?” Bruce was expecting Loki to misdirect the conversation and was prepared to withstand any attempt the God of Lies made. He needn’t have worried, Loki wasn’t exactly on top of his game right then.

“All the question I’m going to ask are very important and I need you to answer them as truthfully as possible. How has you’re general mood been?” Bruce repeated the first question.

“Okay. I’ve been better, but I have also been worse.” While Bruce could tell that the words spoken were technically true he felt there was a lot more to it than that, for now though he didn’t push, just ticked the corresponding box on the questionnaire he’d printed off. They got through a few more questions in the same manner, Loki not giving any sort of reaction until Bruce asked, “Have you noticed any change in your eating habits lately.”

Loki’s gaze snapped up and he glared at Bruce with a vengeance they hadn’t seen since the events of New York. “That is absolutely none of your business.” He took a breath. “Next question.”

Bruce held his ground. “No.” Loki’s eyes narrowed. “I need you to answer all the questions.”

“Where’s Thor?”

“In the communal area, I believe.” Bruce made sure he showed no emotion, giving Loki nothing to feed off of. Honestly, he was somewhat relieved, the passivity had been worrying him.

“I want Thor here,” Loki demanded. Bruce could tell that the outburst had sapped the last of his already non-existent energy, he was hunched over in his chair and panting for breath, the wild anger hadn’t yet left him though.

“I can call him if that’s what you want. It might be harder to answer with your brother in the room.” Bruce felt it fair to warn him in advance.

“Jarvis, tell Thor I want him.” Loki ignored Bruce, looking to the ceiling.

“I will relay your message,” Jarvis replied.

“That’s fine Loki, whatever is going to make you feel the most comfortable. Just know that if at any point you don’t want Thor in the room then I can send him away again. You have complete confidentiality here.”

Loki refused to answer and remained silent until Thor entered the room. Bruce shot Thor with a stern look, trying to convey to him not to pander to his brothers every whim, Loki was going to try everything to get out of answering questions he was uncomfortable with, Bruce didn’t need two gods ganging upon him. Thor saw him looking and gave a brief nod.

“Is everything alright Brother?” Thor grabbed the chair from across the room and placed it close to Loki’s, casually slinging his arm around the back of Loki’s chair. Bruce noted the look of surprise on Thor’s face when Loki leaned back into him. The action, however, didn’t surprise Bruce; Loki was not well, he was in a very vulnerable place and he needed the comfort of safely and familiarity.

When Loki still didn’t answer, Bruce decided to speak. “Loki is finding some of the questions a bit difficult to deal with.” Then addressing Loki directly. “Loki, I need your consent to speak openly in front of Thor.”

“Why?”

“Patient confidentiality.”

“You can say whatever you like. I have no freedom or rights anymore anyway.” The last sentence was said with no malice. If anything it was a resigned, throwaway comment. Bruce wasn’t sure how to respond to that, from what they’d learnt that wasn’t true anymore, but Loki was still a prisoner here, so Bruce let the comment slide for the moment. He knew when to pick his battles.

“Then I will repeat the last question.” Bruce looked between the brothers as he asked yet again about Loki’s eating habits.

This time Loki spat out the word, “No.”

“No change, what-so-ever?” Bruce prompted.

“Perhaps I have needed to reduce my intake slightly, but that is only because of these damn things.” Loki held up one wrist that had the magic suppressor bracelet on them.

That was a curveball that neither Bruce or Thor had seen coming. Yet again, Loki had managed to get Bruce to question his assumption. He asked Loki to clarify.

“My seidr consumes most of my energy, without it I do not need to eat as much as before. If you noticed a change in habit it must have been that.” A smug look crossed Loki’s face as he spoke.

“I see.” Bruce had a niggling feeling that something wasn’t quite ringing true. “But how is it that you’re so unwell, now that there is no longer an additional drain on you’re energy?”

“You’re the doctor, you tell me,” Loki smirked. If it weren’t for the fact that his eyes couldn’t focus and was still shaking head to foot Bruce would have been certain he had faked the illness. Shaking his head slightly, Bruce reminded himself that, not only was he dealing with the God of Lies but with someone who was most certainly mentally ill, where secrets and manipulation were the name of the game.

“Can you tell me what you typically eat in a day?”

“Breakfast, lunch dinner.” Loki waved his hand as if he was bored of the questioning.

“A little more specific please.”

“Surely even you know what that means.” Loki laughed slightly, a manic unsettling laugh. When Bruce didn’t respond Loki started talking again. “Toast. Sandwich. Pasta. Fruit.”

“Jarvis? Have those foods been regularly delivered to Loki’s room?”

“How dare you not believe me,” Loki spoke at the same time that Jarvis replied.

“Only the fruits and bread. Even those have not needed replacing in the last two weeks. Nothing else has been ordered in since Thor left.”

“And I know that you haven’t been to the communal kitchen either, I already had Jarvis check the security footage. So Loki where have you been getting food from.”

“Jarvis is lying. I’ve had ample access to food. I went to the other kitchen.” Loki knew he was cornered, Bruce could tell just by watching the nervous way his eyes darted around the room, the way his hands picked anxiously at his sleeves. Bruce knew there was no other kitchen that Loki had clearance access to go to. He had all the information that he needed to go on.

“Alright Loki. Thank you for answering my questions. I can now, with certainty say that you are suffering from anorexia. Do you know what that is?”

“No.” Bruce found himself explain the details to a God for a second time that day. Loki’s expression changed from horror to disgust, to disbelief.

“You’re wrong.” Loki’s voice was void of any emotion. “I’m not. You’ve got it wrong.”

“It’s tricky to come to terms with, especially when you’ve never heard of it before. But we’ll help you through this, you’re not alone Loki.”

“I want to go. Can I go?” Loki’s eyes darted around more frantically, trying to find an escape route.

“I just need a few tests then you can, yes.”

“Fine, just be quick about it.” Loki snapped, truly in a bad temper now. Bruce didn’t speak as he drew another lot of bloods, took Loki’s blood pressure which was much lower than it should be. He also took his blood glucose levels which were again far too low to be healthy. Nearly done, Bruce thought to himself, keeping calm as Loki became more and more agitated. He still needed an ECG but first the most difficult task, weighing Loki.

“Alright Loki, just one last thing. I just want you to hop on here for me.” Bruce gestured to the scales that stood in the corner of his office.

“I refuse.” All emotion drained from Lokis face. Bruce watched as Loki struggled to his feet and began to walk towards the door. He got about halfway when he began to tilt sideways and plummet to the floor. Thor was up out of his chair before Bruce could react, catching Loki at the very last moment.

Carefully Thor lowered him down, letting Loki place his head between his knees. Bruce grabbed a glass of water and went to crouch in front of Loki helping him take a few sips. After a minute Loki looked up to him, tears pooling in the corner of his eyes. Bruce could read the fear in them. Confusion and guilt too. Gently he put his hand on Loki’s shoulder, leaving it there when Loki didn’t immediately flinch away.

“Loki you’re not well. And we should have all noticed sooner that you were struggling. For that I’m sorry. So please let us help you now. It’s okay to be frightened. None of this is your fault. Please, I know we have given you no reason to, but please try and trust us.” He looked straight into Loki’s eyes as he spoke, ignoring the tears that now streamed down Loki’s cheeks, the way his breathing speed up. “Will you let us help you?”

Loki stared at Bruce for a long while before breaking eye contact and nodding his head. He turned into his brother, grabbing at Thor’s t-shirt and resting his head in the crook of Thor’s neck. Thor kept whispering reassurances to Loki until his breathing was back to a normal rate again. Bruce deemed it safe to ask once more.

“Can we weigh you?” Loki whispered his consent in a way that sounded as if he was going off to battle. Bruce let Thor help Loki up and they made their way over to the scales. “That’s it, you’re doing so well.” Thor held Loki’s hand as he stepped onto the scale. Bruce waited for the numbers to light up. It was a tense three seconds before the little beep sounded. Looking down at the figure Bruce was nearly sick. 89 pounds. How had they let Loki get to this point?

Chapter Text

Loki looked at each both Thor’s and Bruce’s face before he looked down at the scales.

89 pounds.

“Oh.” Was all he muttered before reaching out for the wall to steady himself feeling like he might faint. Not from illness or exhaustion. From shock. The voice in his head tried to praise him, tell him how well he was doing but for the first time it was completely drowned out by his mind screaming not good, not good, not good.

“I need to sit down.” He muttered as the world spun around him. Instantly there were two pairs of hands on him, guiding him over to the nearest chair.

“Take deep breaths. Everything’s going to be okay.” Everything will be alright, a sentiment Loki often repeated to himself. It was strange hearing it said out loud by a voice other than his own, but Loki appreciated it none the less. Just as his breathing began to calm he was hit with another realisation. They knew. He was a disgusting monster and they now knew. Every time they looked at him that’s all they’d be able to see. Of course, that was already what the Avengers thought of him, but despite everything, Thor had always still loved him. Now all of that would change.

Before he knew it he was crying again. Sobbing into his hands, uselessly trying to hide his weakness from the others in the room. It was a while before he could breathe freely again and even then he couldn't look anyone in the eye. He could feel the disgust trailing over every inch of his body. He didn’t deserve their help. He deserved to be punished.

“Loki?” He jolted back to reality. Bruce was looking expectantly as if he’ed asked a question before and was still waiting for an answer.

“I’m sorry.” He didn’t know if he was apologising for not hearing the question or for being weak or causing so many problems.

“That’s okay,” Bruce reassured him. “Take your time, coming to terms with being unwell is tricky. You’re doing really well.”

“I’m not ill,” Loki muttered but Bruce either didn’t hear him or just outright ignored him.

“I was just asking if you felt well enough for me to proceed with the rest of the tests. Your body is in a worse state than I anticipated.” Loki flinched as Bruce said those words. He knew he was disgusting, an utter disgrace, the doctor didn’t need to point it out. “It’s okay Loki. We’ll help you get well again.”

Loki looked to his elder brother, concerned by how silent he’d been, only to find tears running down his cheeks. Well done, he scolded himself, You’ve made Thor cry. Way to go.

“Loki can I proceed.”

“Yes of course.” Loki could vaguely hear Bruce calling for Tony but his eyes were locked on Thor. “Brother? I’m sorry for making you sad.”
“You haven’t made me sad Loki.” But Thor’s voice was hollow and Loki didn’t believe him. All of a sudden he was a child again and he wanted nothing more than his big brothers' approval.

“I’ll do better, I promise.” Before Thor could respond Tony came into the room with one of his robots following along behind.

“I’ll be playing nurse today.” Tony winked lewdly at Loki but Loki couldn’t bring himself to smile. Tony just shrugged it off and started berating the robot, Butterfingers, to set the machine up properly.

“You’re gonna need to remove your shirt.” Loki breath got caught in his throat, he couldn’t do that. They would be able to see him. He couldn’t. “Loki breath. We’re not here to judge you. We know you’re ill.”

Bruce began explaining what was going to happen, how he was going to stick these little sensors over Loki’s body and that they were going to be able to read his heartbeat. Loki tried to listen, to distract himself from his panic. It all sounded rather convoluted, while he wasn’t skilled in the healing arts he had a basic working knowledge and knew that such a task would be much easier to accomplish with seidr than the ECG machine.

Everything was set up an ready to go, Loki just needed to remove his top. He was shaking, this time from terror. His body didn’t look how he wanted it to, he wasn’t comfortable showing it to anyone. They’ed see how they didn’t have to be concerned anymore, that he just needed to lose a bit of weight then he’d be fine. He didn’t want to lose their concern, it felt nice to know that someone cared. And honestly, he couldn't carry on as he had been. As much as he was loathed to admit it he really, desperately needed help.

Breathing deeply, he first of all peeled away the zip-up hoodie. Leaving him in only a t-shirt, his bare arms poking out of the sleeves. Without the huge layer of material swamping him, he felt exposed. The cool air of the room raised goosebumps along his bare skin, hairs raising along his arms. He began shivering, which couldn’t be a good sign, he never felt cold. Weakly he grabbed the hem of his t-shirt, hesitating from pulling it off.

“I can’t.” He whispered, the words getting caught in his throat. Thor came over to him then and lay a gentle arm around his shoulder, pulling him into a side hug.

“I love you brother. We will fight this illness together, side by side as we always have.” Thor took the hem from Loki’s shaking hands and gently tugged upwards. Loki closed his eyes, not wanting to look at his body, he hadn’t even been able to shower for the last week because he couldn’t bear the thought of seeing what his body had become. Because he couldn’t bear that his body still wasn’t what he wanted it to be.

If Loki had had his eyes open he would have seen the way Thor’s expression crumpled at the sight of his emaciated torso. He would have seen the way that Tony’s eyes traced the defined outlines of his ribs before he had to look away or the way a flicker of horror passed over Bruce’s expression before he schooled it once more into a look of calm professionalism. Luckily Loki didn’t see any of that, he kept his eyes tightly shut and tried not to drown under the roaring in his head.

“Loki we’re going to attach the sensors now.” Bruce’s voice sounded distant and Loki wasn’t sure if he responded out loud or not but the next moment he felt something cold and sticky being placed onto his chest. He flinched away from the touch and there was a pause where someone, Thor most likely, grabbed his hand and squeezed it gently. His hand felt so strangely fragile in his brothers' strong grasp. This managed to keep him calm as more sensors were attached to his chest, arms and for some reason his lower leg.

“All done,” Tony said as he placed a blanket over Loki. The material was thin and did nothing against the pervasive chill but it did cover his body from prying eyes and Loki felt comfortable enough to open his eyes once more. There were wires attached to all the sensors, and all those wires led to a machine that was recording something. His heart apparently. “We’ll just let that run for a couple of minutes.”

Tony carried on rambling but Loki tuned him out, he turned his head to the side so that he could look at Thor, who smiled when he saw Loki looking, reaching his free hand up to run his hand through Loki’s hair. Loki was tired, not just physically but mentally too this comfort was exactly what he needed, comfort that he hadn't received in so so long. Even when Thor had rescued him from the dungeon, he hadn’t comforted Loki. After Thor had found out what the Chitauri and Thanos had done he had merely clapped Loki on the back and said he was glad he was okay. But Loki wasn’t okay. He hadn’t been okay for a very long time. But he’d kept it bottled up inside, not wanting to bother anyone with his issues, not when they already had so much to forgive him for.

He felt like a burden now. Anorexia. Loki rolled the word around in his head. It seemed like a glove that didn’t quite fit. He didn’t feel that there was anything actually wrong with him, he didn’t feel as if he was sick enough for the amount of care he was receiving. He felt like a fraud. Surely this was all of his own doing, no one should have to deal with the ramification of what he had inflicted upon himself.

“All done Lokes.” Tony approached him breaking his train of thought. He looked up to see Bruce reading a print out from the machine. “I’m just gonna remove the sensors, alright.”

Loki nodded but his gaze was fixed on Bruce. The was a slight frown on the doctors face that worried Loki. “What does it say?” Loki couldn’t keep his voice from shaking. Thor's grip on his hand tightened, obviously anxious about the test too.

“I’ve detected some abnormal rhythms of the heart, the condition is called bradycardia. But don’t worry, the effects are still reversible at this point.” His smile didn’t reach his eyes but he brought the print out over for Loki and Thor to look at. “See here, the heart is beating very slowly, which is due to a loose of muscle mass of the heart.”

“Oh.” Loki gasped out. It hadn’t hit him before that other parts of his body might be effected, he thought that the fat that swaddled his body would be the only thing to go. It was quite a shock to the system.

“Luckily it hasn’t progressed to a prolapse of the Mitral valve yet. We’ve at least caught this illness in time to prevent that.” Bruce put the paper aside as Tony removed the last of the sensors. “Loki, do you see how serious this is now. We can offer you all the assistance in the world, but you have to want to get better. Do you want that Loki?”

“I do.” Loki gasped out the words, tears choking him. He was scared. No, he was terrified. He didn’t want to die. All this had started as a way to carry on living, to not kill himself when he first realised what a disgusting monster he was. He’d wanted to fix the weight gain and feel good in himself once more. He couldn’t breathe. His whole body was overtaken with sobs. Gasping for breath he reached out blindly for his brother, needing something to hold on to least he be swept away in the feeling completely.

No one said a word until Loki had calmed down. Thor redressed him and Bruce found a wheelchair in the store cupboard which they manoeuvred Loki into. To Tony’s surprise, Loki didn’t protest but then, Tony figured that he was too exhausted at that moment, it had taken over half an hour for him to cry himself out. Bruce grabbed some supplies then they all made their way back to Thor’s rooms.

It seemed to be an unspoken decision that they weren’t going to put Loki in a hospital room unless there was no other option. They all thought that a sense of normalcy would aid Loki in his recovery. When they arrived Thor helped Loki out and to the bathroom. Neither Tony nor Bruce spoke in that time, just silently set up an IV at the side of the bed. When Thor brought Loki back to his room he was wearing a fresh set of clothing but still had the same blank look about him, as if his mind had signed off and gone elsewhere.

“Loki?” Loki’s head turned slightly when Bruce spoke to him. “I’m going to start you on an IV. You’re severely dehydrated.”
“What’s in it?” Loki’s slurred question was tinged with a fear he didn’t quite have the energy to express.

“Just water and electrolytes.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“I promise I will always tell you exactly what’s going into your body. This solution is going to rehydrate you, nothing else.”

“Promise.” The way Loki’s voice wavered broke Tony’s heart. Bruce assured him and showed him the IV bag. “Okay.”

Tony inserted the cannula into the crook of Loki’s elbow. It took several attempts as his arm was so thin the vain was near impossible to locate. When he was hooked up, Bruce and Tony exited together, while Thor stayed at Loki’s side.