It was like nothing Loki had ever worked with before. Part machine, part magic, the nightmare catcher was made with what hed dubbedtechnomagery.The nightmare catcher had been conceived in order to help Tony, who suffered from near constant nightmares. Loki himself had plenty as well, so hed been using himself as a test subject. It wasnt good science or good magic, though. He was a Jotun; Tony was human. Things didn't necessarily work the same between the two species. What Loki might withstand easily could harm Tony irreparably, and Loki couldn't risk that.
He also couldnt risk being caught with the device. While Thor had named him official ambassador to Midgard, thus granting him diplomatic status here, Loki did not think that the leaders of Earth would take kindly to their former enemy wielding what would appear to be, to the ignorant, a mind-control device. Loki and Tony both had been subjected to brain scans to prove that they were not currently under the influence of any such control, and in Tony's case, never had been. Loki and Barton both showed similar patterns, which had been part of their defense. Ultimately, the plan had been a failure, the panel of judges returning the expanded definition of what mortals called 'the insanity plea', but they'd also insisted on a trial.
There was no way Loki could get a fair trial on Earth, and he knew it. Furthermore, he'd already been sentenced, punished, and pardoned in Asgard. He might now reside on Earth by choice, but that didn't mean the Prince of Asgard felt he wasnt still above their laws. The only thing that tempered his outright disdain of them was Tony. It was for Tony's sake that Loki wanted his residency here to be sanctioned. For them to have any kind of stability together, Loki couldn't be a fugitive.
All of that was at risk if he got caught with the nightmare catcher. Fortunately, Loki was clever. He kept the device at his flat in Gramercy Park. He'd never really lived there much, preferring to spend most of his time at the Tower even before he and Tony were a couple. After being given a lab there to work on his quest to recreate the longevity-granting golden apples of Iunn's orchard in Asgard, Loki was most likely found there or in the modest quarters Stark had granted him after realizing they both worked long hours, often until exhausted. Exhaustion came slower to Loki, of course, but it came eventually. He could be obsessive about his work. It was yet another trait he and Tony shared.
Now, it was so close to time to share this with Tony. Loki couldn't take any risks there either, though. It needed to be thoroughly tested and proven safe before Loki would even consider telling Stark about it, let alone testing it. No, he'd have to continue to escalate the tests on himself. Loki wasn't even sure it worked yet.
Dreams were tricky. Dream wasn't a state, not like matter or quanta. It was more like a spell, an ephemeral thing, an energetic influence. Detecting and measuring Dream itself wasn't something even the technology of Asgard had perfected. But the influence of Dream could be detected and measured, especially the influence ofbaddreams. Those reactions seemed to be fairly consistent between himself and Tony. Loki had surreptitiously had Jarvis monitor both their sleep, noting any fluctuations in body temperature, respiration, heart rate, restlessness, or other indicators of nightmares as compared to more restless sleep. It didn't take long for a clear pattern to emerge, and the nightmare catcher now had a detection matrix based on all those clues. It couldn't stop a nightmare from starting, but it could detect one within 90 seconds of onset 95% of the time. Another few percent were detected outside of that time frame, but there were still some that went entirely undetected. Adjusting the detection threshold was proving to be very difficult as it seemed to vary almost night by night. Loki suspected there were still variables involved that needed added to his calculations.
Then there was the question of what to do to deal with the nightmare once detected. Waking the sleeper wasn't an option. Tony needed as much sleep as he could get. His sleep had to remain uninterrupted. The nightmare, however, could be interrupted without waking him, or so Loki hoped. Like a river, his sleep could keep flowing, the dream carried along like a leaf on its current. All Loki needed to do was disrupt that current to send the leaf on a different course. With testing, he'd also realized that this function needed to be recursive. Sometimes the new course wasnt any better than the original one and needed to be disrupted again. Finding the line where too many disruptions might cause harm or where it should be determined that peaceful sleep was simply impossible at that time was another elusive divination for Loki so far.
'Nightmare catcher' really was a misnomer. It didn't trap or catch nightmares at all. It just deflected them. Like the Earth's magnetosphere deflected highly energetic particles from the sun to create the beauty of the Northern Lights that both Tony and Loki loved, the nightmare catcher exerted influence. It was just a nudge, a stick dragging in the river current, a pebble tossed into a pond to form ripples, the nudge of wind across the surface. Nothing excessive, nothing indelicate. The magic involved was intricate, some of the most difficult work Loki had ever attempted. He'd combined wards and charms in ways their creators had never intended or even imagined was possible. He'd embedded and encapsulated what most considered incompatible magic within a scaffold of his own creation and then bound it interwoven with the machinery of the device. It truly was a hybrid of both magic and technology. Such a thing wasn't entirely new to Loki, hailing from Asgard, but this was the first of its kind in any of the Nine Realms.
Previous tests had given Loki insight into not only how to build the nightmare catcher, but what safeguards to include and how to make its workings undetectable. He wouldn't be helping Tony at all if he got himself incarcerated immediately upon using it. Wouldn't do either of them any good. It was unlikely there was a prison on Midgard that could hold Loki, but he didn't want to put that to the test. He also didn't want his work confiscated. Norns only knew what that could turn into in the wrong hands. Loki gave a soft chortle at the implication that his hands were the 'right' ones. No doubt most of Midgard would disagree with that. Fortunately, no one else in Midgard needed to know about the nightmare catcher. Just him and Tony, and that was how Loki planned on keeping it.
This latest test was the longest duration Loki had used the nightmare catcher. All tests up to this point were mere hours, not even an entire night. Now, for the first time, Loki was going to use the device for an entire night. Unfortunately, that meant that rather than sneaking out of the Tower for a few hours to do the testing, Loki would be spending the night away. It wasn't uncommon for him or Tony to go days without sleeping, so it was odd to have it so regulated for the testing protocols. If this night went well, then it was time for consecutive nights. Loki wanted a solid month's worth of use with no ill side effects before he even considered mentioning it to Tony.
On the long, red, leather couch in his workroom, Loki stretched out, the nightmare catcher in his hand. He tucked it under the throw pillow beneath his head and thumbed the on switch to engage the device. It let out a soft hum for a few seconds and then went silent. So far, so good. Closing his eyes, Loki thought about listening to Tony's even breathing next to him to get to sleep. It took far longer than he would have wanted.
With a start, Loki awoke, uncertain of where he was. It was always like that now when he wasn't in bed with Tony, which he noticed right away. Ah, yes, the flat. His workroom. And the nightmare catcher! Loki reached under the pillow for it. When he pulled it out, it was glowing a soft blue that indicated it had performed its function during the night. At first, Loki hadn't had any confirmations on the device. Both the hum when starting it and the lights were later additions providing feedback that certain processes had taken place.
He didn't remember having any nightmares, which wasn't entirely unheard of without the device, but here it was indicating that he'd had some. Loki felt well rested and in a fine mood, though, which was not usually the case after his nightmares.
It seemed the nightmare catcher worked.
Loki tried to contain his excitement. It was still early in the test cycle. It would take more than one night of good sleep to convince him the device worked as intended. Still, this was a very heartening first overnight trial.