Thor was even more of a fool than Loki had always believed.
Loki thought this numbly as he sat on the floor of his cell. His not-brother’s words still tore his soul apart. “I know you seek vengeance as much as I do. Help me escape Asgard and I will give you that. And afterwards, this cell. …When we fought each other in the past I did so with a glimmer of hope that my brother was still in there somewhere. That hope no longer exists to protect you.” But a detached corner of his mind was critiquing Thor, as if Loki were still playing the role of counselor to the future king.
Even without Loki speaking into his ear, Thor should have realized that a word of affection now, now when Loki had lost everything, would have bound Loki to him eternally. Loki’s not-father had disowned and imprisoned him, Loki’s not-mother was dead. Thor was all he had left. If allowed to, he would have clung to Thor forever, been loyal to him to death and beyond. And did Thor really imagine anyone would serve him if all he offered in return was eternity in a box? Thor should at least have lied. Promised him freedom and then slapped him back in the cell anyway once the mission was done.
Vengeance was all Loki had to live for now, but he would have that. After, he would contrive to escape (to what?), or Thor would have to kill him trying to drag him back to this.
“When do we start?” he asked dully.
Loki did not trouble to object to the shackles. He followed Thor cooperatively to where his brainless friends were waiting.
Fandral made the first threat.
He stood in front of Loki and put the point of his dagger to Loki’s heart. “If you betray Thor,” he snarled, “I’ll kill you.”
Loki looked at him. Fandral might as well have been a thousand miles away. Thor continued ahead, indifferent.
There had been a time when Thor had made a token effort to blunt the worst of his friends’ bullying. Loki had always resented that Thor did not do more. Now, had he had any emotion left to care about anything, he would have wished to have even that half-hearted defense back.
After a moment, Fandral lowered his dagger, puzzled. Loki continued in Thor’s wake.
Hogun was next, swinging his mace and stopping it an inch from Loki’s skull. “Betray Thor… and die.”
Loki gazed at him, vaguely curious. Hogun had always struck Loki as smarter than the rest of them, not that that was saying much. Did he really imagine this was an effective tactic?
After a moment, blinking and uncertain, Hogun lowered his mace. Thor glanced back, irritated. “Come on,” he ordered.
Loki came on. Until Volstagg stopped him with a hand on his chest. Volstagg knew Loki didn’t like being touched (by most people, anyway); likely he was doing it for that very reason. “You even think about betraying Thor and I’ll gut you like a fish,” he blustered.
Loki looked at him. Some tiny spark of curiosity made him ask, “What makes you think I care?”
He had tried to kill himself just two years before. His father and brother hated him, his mother was dead. He was a frost giant. He had nothing left to live for. Why did they imagine this was a threat? They were even stupider than he had always believed.
After a moment Volstagg dropped his hand, his expression suggesting that something had awakened within his seldom-used head.
Loki was not even able to take one more step before a sword appeared at his throat. Sif was holding it. “Betray Thor and I’ll kill you,” she said with a glittering smile. Hope gleamed in her eyes that Loki would give her the excuse. She always had taken great pleasure in killing things. And this must be the moment she had dreamed of all her life, the chance to eliminate the one person who had once rivaled her in Thor’s affections.
Loki did not bother to move his head. He felt the blade make a fine scratch along his neck, felt a few drops of blood trickle down. Swiftly Sif lowered her weapon, looking shocked. And worried; what if she had killed him before they were finished using him? Loki would have been amused had he the energy for it.
Thor was returning to them, with company. Loki recognized her at once: the human Thor had dallied with during his exile. He had wondered, then, what she could possibly see in Thor. She had an excellent mind. Then again, some brilliant men wanted nothing but beauty in their women; no reason a brilliant woman could not be the same.
When the mortal saw him, she stared in astonishment. “You’re-“ She stopped there. Loki supposed seeing him must be frightening for a mortal, after the Chitauri.
Then she hit him.
Some residual instinct of self-preservation made him roll with the blow. Had he held still, she would have broken her hand against his dense Asgardian flesh, and the warriors surrounding him would have been delighted at the excuse to batter him senseless.
“That’s for New York!” she declared.
Loki stared at her for a second.
And then began to laugh.
Loki had learned he was a member of a monstrous and hated race. He had fallen through a wormhole, expecting to die, and instead fallen into the hands of Thanos. Thanos had subjected him to tortures a human mind could not even conceive of. He had been smashed by the Hulk. His father and brother, who had always claimed to love him, fully intended to lock him alone in a box for eternity and would consider themselves generous if they granted him a bed to lie upon and two or three books to fill the millennia.
And this girl had slapped him. Slapped him for invading her planet.
The laughter bubbled out of him, more and more hysterical.
What did she imagine her lover had been doing, all these centuries? Loki tried to imagine her reaction if she had seen Thor on Jotunheim, Nidavellir, Alfheim, Vanaheim - oh, most of all, on Utgard. Covered in blood and laughing aloud in joy as he slaughtered enemies by the hundred. Did she imagine he carried his hammer and sword because they were pretty? Did she imagine his armor was designed to accentuate his muscles? Just who did she think she was lying with?
All of them stared at him, now uncertain what to do. They all thought him mad. None of them could see the joke.