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A Loki Carol

Chapter Text

During yet another confrontation between Loki and the Avengers, something unexpected happened. The trickster god had been minding his own business (that of trading blows - both physical and verbal - with Thor), aware that Thor's fist was about to connect with his face and it was going to hurt but, there was not the time to get out of the way. That was fortunately, beside the point though because, just before the fist could make contact, there was a blinding flash of white light which knocked him off his feet.

 

Loki sat up, a frown on his face: he didn't seem to recall ordering one of his minions to set off a nuclear bomb yet, that was the only thing that would account for such a bright and disconcerting flash. Well, that and powerful magic. He sighed as he realised that yes, that was probably exactly what had happened. Probably Amora. He had really hoped that she would stay away for longer, given that he had sabotaged her plan to snatch Thor... He wondered just what wonderful delight he was now going to have to rescue the dim-witted idiot from just so that he could be the one to kill him at a later date.

 

The dark-haired god sighed and rubbed at his forehead, a pounding headache was starting giving Loki further proof of the strength of the magic this latest ploy of Amora's had invoked. How delightful.

 

As Loki heard quiet footsteps move to stand in front of him, he pulled his hand away from his face to speak. "Who did you have to kill to get this lev-." The rest of the sentence died in his throat as he looked up at the female in front of him. A female that definitely was not Amora. "Mother?"

 

Blinking furiously, he wanted to scream and rant and rave at the woman - because this could not be his beloved mother: she had died over ten years ago. This was too cruel a trick. Even for Amora it was too cruel. He needed to scream that at her but no words would come forth. Not a single one even as 'Frigga' stepped closer to him.

 

Frigga smiled a little sadly as she reached for him, trying not to feel hurt as he shuffled back, out of her grasp. "It is me, Loki. Did you really think I would leave you like this? My two children, so broken..?"

 

Loki shook his head, still scrambling backwards. "NO! You are not my mother! She is dead. She is dead and that is my fault but you are not her!" But oh, the look of compassion on the older woman's face was so very much a look that belonged on that much-missed face...and something that he doubted that Amora could ever come close to imitating.  He angrily rubbed at his eyes to rid them of sudden tears.

 

Frigga smiled then, and it was like the sun coming out. "Ah, so I am your mother after all. I am glad." The brunette opened his mouth to negate her comment but just sagged a little instead. Voicing that lie once in a lifetime was enough for him. "I was angry.  Even as I said the words, I regretted them.  I hope you know that.  Don't think I have changed my mind about Odin. I will not!"  It might not be Frigga but it helped to be able to say it, even to an illusion.  Maybe wherever she was, she would hear him.  “I will never change my mind about Odin!”

 

Frigga sighed and looked at him wearily for a moment before a soft, exasperated laugh escaped her. "You may not be Odin's son by blood but you have certainly picked up many of his traits along the way - not least his stubborn-headedness. No matter. It does not change why I am here."

 

Loki eyed her but decided to play along - the sooner he did, the sooner this madness would end and he could finish his fight with Thor and go home to enjoy some peace and quiet. Because this madness would end, even if he had to kill Amora to make it happen.  "Excellent - get to the point of this masquerade then, I do believe I have a fight to win." Because clearly Thor was not dead.  Not given that this was Amora. Not that he cared other than the fact that it had been a good fight.

 

Frigga straightened seriousness taking over her expression. "I am not an illusion or a masquerade or one of your many enemies sent to play with your mind, Loki. I am here as a final gift to you from the Norns; and from myself.You are about to instigate your very own Ragnarok."

 

Loki snorted. "So you are here to stop me, Mother - don't you know that I do what I want?"

 

Frigga smiled at that. "Of course, Loki - that is one of the many traits you got from me but no, I am not her to stop it. I am here to ensure that you are aware of the choices that you can make. I am here to be a guide... Do you remember that book that Thor brought back from you from Midgard after his first visit? You must have read it a thousand times."

 

"A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens." He had already spoken before he realised that he should have perhaps pretended to have to think of it for a while but it had been a wonderful surprise from his brother - one that he still cherished. He rolled his eyes. "It was a good story. It still is. A surprisingly good choice by the oaf."

 

His mother sighed. "Must you talk about your brother so?" Loki looked gravely at her. "I fear I must Mother, yes. What does the book have to do with anything? I seriously doubt that Thor's one good choice in a thousand years is going to be the cause of Ragnarok."

 

Frigga moved to Loki's side then sat down beside him, close but not touching. "The Norns have agreed that because this is such a pivotal moment, they will give you a chance to better understand the points in your life that have brought you to this moment. You are effectively going to be playing the part of Ebeneezer Scrooge."

 

Loki couldn't help but shift closer - everything about the woman beside him screamed 'Frigga'. Just for this moment, he would allow himself to believe the lie because it had been so very long since he had been able to do this, to just simply be with her. "What exactly does the spirit of Christmas have to do with me, Mother? You want me to turn around and believe in that other silly god?"

 

Frigga rolled her eyes, swatting at him. "Loki... Sometimes you think entirely too hard on subjects. You are to be visited by three spirits. They will show you moment from your past and present as well as future possibilities so you can better understand the man you have become. Not everything in this life is as black and white as you seem to think." She frowned. "It is time for me to go - may I at least get a hug before I leave?"  She opened her arms, the expression on her face hopeful.

 

How could Loki possibly hope to deny or disappoint his mother in this? He sighed and shifted, his arms wrapping around her as his eyes closed and for a moment as he inhaled deeply of the scent he could only ever pinpoint as 'Mother', Loki felt at peace.

 

It couldn't last of course - she disappeared as he held her and then there was another flash...

 

Loki reeled as Thor's fist connected with his face. He had time to notice the look of shock on the blonde god's face when Loki didn't defend himself and instead was sent tumbling over the edge of a roof. I suppose it would have been too much to ask for that to be avoided.

 

Loki sighed and cast a quick spell that slowed his descent. When he landed on solid ground, he looked up at Thor for a moment then teleported away. Clearly if he was drifting off into hallucinations in the middle of battle, he needed some serious sleep – because it must have been an hallucination.  Now that he was back, he could recognise that the magic was not that of Amora’s. Even if magic is borrowed from another, it takes on the form of whomever casts it.  There had been traces of his mother’s magic in that spell…

 

Thor stood on the roof, staring at the place where his brother had simply vanished from and wondered just what had transpired - one moment, they had been fighting, he with his fists; Loki mostly with his cutting words as he dodge out of the way, the next Loki's eyes had appeared so...lost.

 

He had wanted to ask what could possibly have transpired in that second but he couldn't stop the fist that was already on its way to connecting. It shouldn't have mattered of course - normally Loki would be knocked back a step at most but this time, he had been somehow completely unprepared. The force of his blow had sent the younger god over the edge of the roof. Thor didn't have time to stop him, could only rush to the edge and watch him fall, a scream of 'Loki' torn from his lips. It had been pure relief that flooded through him as his sibling stood a moment later on solid ground, safe. Still, he wanted badly to know what had happened to cause that lapse.

Chapter Text

Two weeks had passed since that strange hallucination.  Loki was finally feeling back to his usual self and was currently sitting at the table in his living room, making new plans to cause mayhem and chaos for Thor and the Avengers.  The god’s pet cat was also perched warily on his right shoulder, hissed intermittently as it eyed the tortoise that happily sat on the floor, munching on a lettuce leaf. It was oddly comforting. "Tyfon...maybe someday you will realise that Donar is not your enemy." The god smiled ruefully and shook his head. "Probably not." He raised a hand to pet his feline friend but before he could say anything else, there was a blinding white flash.

 

"Wonderful." Loki sighed as he covered his eyes to ward away the brightness and the pain such intrusion caused.

 

Opening his eyes cautiously moments later, he was annoyed when he was hit by a tide of homesickness as he found himself standing in the great hall of Asgard. He pushed the stupid sensation downthen looked around, hoping to at least see Frigga.

 

Of course even in this, he was disappointed - Heimdall stepped out of the shadows. Loki took a wary step back, remembering that the last time it had been just the two of them, Loki had used the Winter Casket to freeze the older god... He was probably holding a grudge still. "When did you die?"

 

Heimdall turned that all-seeing gaze on him and it took all of Loki's self-control not to flinch away from it. "I am not the Heimdall you knew, little god. This form was chosen to give you the comfort of the familiar."

 

How could Loki not laugh a little at that? "Well, if anything would serve to tell me that I am dreaming, it is that - Heimdall was never someone who ever gave me comfort."

 

Not-Heimdall considered that for a moment then changed form and somehow it was even worse...a few minutes of study told the dark-haired god why: this was no one he knew...it was everyone - Thor's eyes; Sif's hair; Hogun's nose; Frigga's mouth...

 

Loki swallowed audibly. "Never mind. Heimdall is fine." He sagged a little with relief when the form changed back. "And what, pray tell, do I call you?"

 

"You may call me Guardian." The Not-Heimdall intoned.  Loki nodded but did not speak so the guardian continued. "I am here to help you understand your life to date. I find that the easiest way to do that is to allow you to see scenes from your past. If it seems appropriate, you will hear the thoughts of the person in question. Is this agreeable, young god?" 

 

For a moment, Loki wondered what would happen if he said no but he didn't bother testing it. He would see this through to its ridiculous conclusion. "This won't change anything but, all right -do as you will."

 

Heimdall nodded once and then everything faded to black.

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

When Loki's eyes adjusted, he found he was walking alongside the guardian as they followed a Jotun through what could only be Jotunheim. Ugh - what could anyone possibly hope to teach him here? He turned his gaze to the scene before him and grimaced as he recognised the blue giant in front of him - his supposed father...  He turned away in disgust but the guardian gently urged him to turn around again.  Loki sighed and did as he was bade.

 

Laufey stood in the battle field, covered with the blood of his enemies and of himself. So much blood that was mostly Aesir but it mattered not - the surviving Aesir still outnumbered them; they could not win this fight. Yet to admit defeat was unthinkable. They could not give in to Odin Allfather!

 

As he watched, Loki smiled faintly at the way his blood-father managed to sneer about Odin. It seemed they did in fact have something in common after all. A small thing though – and certainly not enough to wash away the pain that came to him at the thought that, even to his own people, he was an outcast; that his parents would rather abandon him than claim his as their own.

 

Laufey's gaze was pulled to the messenger rushing towards him. He wondered at the urgency of his missive but didn't have to wait too long.  The king listened to the words that made no sense. His mate Farbauti was dead.

 

Of course, he had been somewhat prepared for this day - from the moment that Odin had brought his troops to Midgard after them, and then to their own realm, he had known there was a good chance that they would all die - Winter Casket or not - but not like this. She had died giving birth to their child... With a howl of pain and rage, Laufey followed the messenger.

 

Loki was stunned. All his life, he had been told that the Jotun were unfeeling; a race who cared only for conflict and killing yet, the grief that swept through Laufey on hearing of his mate's death was palpable and alarming in its intensity – as was his worry earlier for his people, fighting a futile war against the Aesir.  What shocked him further was that, though his birth father was angry, it wasn’t directed at him for being born and killing his mother but rather, for the general futility of the situation.

 

The god watched Laufey fall to his knees by Farbauti's bedside and sob brokenly as he clung to her corpse. "NO!This is not right...it cannot be right! The Jotun don't CARE! They DON'T! Everyone knows that - the only thing they care for is battle."

 

The guardian looked over at him. "Yes - all of Asgard know this. Enemies of Jotunheim... Perhaps, little Jotun, you should think about researching your own people a little more, rather than taking the word of people predisposed to think the worst?”  The guardian smiled wryly.  “Just out of curiosity… your biggest indictment of the Jotun seems to be that they are hungry for war almost all the time… yet how exactly is that any different to the Aesir?  Do they not spend all their time fighting or boasting and singing about their last fight whilst preparing for the next one?” Loki had no answer for that.

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

The fight lasted for hours but, finally it was done.  They had lost, the Casket was gone, his beloved was dead along with a lot of his people but all was not lost.  He still had his son.  An exhausted and mostly dispirited Laufey composed himself enough to go and see his child.

 

Laufey smiled down at the babe in the maid’s arms but he shook his head, refused to take him when offered. "I will not touch the future king whilst so filthily attired. Take him to the Temple and stay there with him. You will both be safe there. I will come for you when I can. Ask the Priestess for Shiva's blessing upon him. He is going to need it." He said the last with a weary sigh, then turned to leave and join his men, ready to discuss the terms of their surrender with Odin.  What other choice was there?  He wanted his son to grow up… the question that remained was to how much of a life his son would grow up to have.  Odin was not exactly known to be generous in victory.

 

Loki might have said something then, if he could wrap his head around the idea that he was not unwanted but, he didn't get a chance.  Everything went black and he was suddenly looking at his not-father...

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

Odin was beyond exhausted. The fight had been long he had lost many good men; done unspeakable things in the name of peace and he had lost an eye. He supposed the latter had been worth it though because finally, the frost giants were defeated. Temporarily maybe but it would do for now. The destruction rained down upon them, and upon their planet should take a millennia to fix before they could even think of attacking another realm again. By that stage hopefully, Laufey would be long dead and the next ruler of this accursed realm would be more willing to find peace on a permanent basis.

 

For now though, there was nothing more to do but take the Winter Casket back to Asgard where Laufey could not use it to bring terror to other realms.

 

Laying ruin to a realm no longer gave him satisfaction. He supposed he had gotten old - there was no pleasure in war any more. He would far rather be at home on Asgard with his wife and son.He gave his two guards a nod - it was more than time to depart.

 

When they got to the temple of Shiva though, he heard the sound of warfare... He growled and handed the casket over to the man on his right and headed inside. His blood boiled at the sight before him - five of his own men stood there, had slaughtered the women inside. He roared at them - one thing he had always demanded was that no matter what world they were on, the religious buildings must remain untouched yet these five had desecrated and spilled blood.

 

He did not hear the crying until the five lay dead at his feet.  Odin frowned and looked around until the source revealed itself.

 

A child lay forgotten, or rather abandoned. No doubt its carer lay among the dead on the ground. Small for a Jotun - perhaps a halfling; perhaps just unfortunate. Abandoned in the temple no doubt because of its small stature. He moved closer to study the runes on its body and his eyes widened... The child bore the marks of Laufey - this child was his offspring...the ruler of the realm had abandoned his own child to the fates.

 

Was this the child that his own father Bor had spoken of..?

 

Odin shook his head. "Preposterous!" He could not possibly adopt a frost giant child. Even if he could bring himself to look after a child of Laufey, the Aesir would never accept him. He wished though, that the baby would stop crying. It was hard to ignore, reminding him as it did of his own son.

 

It was the thought of Thor that made the Allfather lift the child up - he would not like to think that someone would leave his child to die if Asgard and Jotunheim's positions were reversed.

 

He would have to find somebody to leave the child with. "It's almost a pity - Had you looked Aesir, I could have brought you home. You may have eased Frigga's pain at not being able to conceive another - especially when Thor is definitely not magical."

 

The Allfather snorted and shook his head. "Sentiment."

 

A small cry of surprise escaped him when, as he touched the child's cheek, the skin started to pale. In a moment, the child in his arms was Aesir and Odin's expressions turned calculating. "Remarkable...to be so young with so much magic. We could do much with you.Perhaps you would be a fitting companion for my son after all - for who would dare to tangle with such a pair?"

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

Loki shook his head to clear it as the vision ended but it didn't really help. Odin had lied to him about his being abandoned. His parents had wanted him... A laugh escaped him.

 

"What amuses you so?" He turned his gaze to the Guardian. "For a moment, I was stunned that Odin lied to me, but when has he ever done anything else? Laufey didn't even seem troubled by my small size. Even in his grief, he wanted to protect me. I think in the same situation, I would have thrust the child aside."

 

The Guardian looked at him for a moment, weighing him. "That's not quite true though, is it? Sleipnir was not exactly the product of happy circumstance yet you love your son fiercely; have done much in fact to keep him safe."

 

The god frowned. "That's different."

 

The guardian tilted his head to the side, a quizzical expression on his face. "Different yes but no less difficult. Many would say the thing that they have in common is that the parent would be within their right to turn their back upon the child."

 

"Well then, most people are stupid. A child cannot be blamed for-"

 

Before Loki could say more, the scene blackened again.

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

Frigga took the infant from her husband's arms and smiled down at him. Her heart melted instantly as his gaze met hers. "Oh, but he is beautiful! How could anyone abandon him? How could anyone abandon their own child?" She fell silent for a moment as she felt for the magic that had changed the appearance of the babe. "You are right - he is going to be very powerful indeed."

 

Odin smiled. "We could raise him as our own, dear heart. Imagine how loyal he will be to us. Imagine the power he will bring. He could even help our son to usher in a whole new era of peace - and who would dare stand against them!"

 

Frigga frowned up at him. "Odin, he is a child, not a weapon. He needs love and a home and to be cared for."

 

Odin nodded and smoothed a strand of hair behind his wife's ear. "Yes, yes - I am sure you are right." He held back a frown as he considered it then decided. He could not love a Jotun child but Frigga had a big enough heart to love him for them both. He would, for his part, offer him a home. It would be enough.

 

Loki growled at that. "Enough? Enough? It was never enough from you! You never cared! I was never more than a possession to you...something that could keep your precious son safe!"

 

Hearing his angry words, the guardian sighed and pulled them out of the vision. He didn't give him time to draw breath however as he pulled him into another. This one of Frigga setting Loki down into Thor's bed, Odin in the background ready to pounce and rescue his son if Loki did something horrible.

 

Thor looked at his mother then at the baby set down beside him.  His mummy said that this was his brother and he had to take care of him. He frowned and looked at her again then nodded slowly, serious. He reached out and took the baby's hand. Loki looked at him with big, green eyes and Thor could do nothing but grin at him before snuggling a little closer. Odin relaxed.

 

Frigga smiled over at him. "I told you there was nothing to worry about."

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

Loki watched as the young gods ran on the bi-frost, Heimdall and Odin watching them. They could only have been around ten but Loki could not say for sure - he and his brother had often played on it, loving the colours of it as most Aesir did.

 

Heimdall frowned. "He is nearly old enough... You should tell Loki soon, just who he is."

 

Odin frowned as he watched the children play. "I see no reason to do so."

 

The guardian looked bewildered. "He is already hearing stories of just how horrible his people are. Surely it is better to tell him the truth; to tell him of how his people can be just like us - loving and giving..."

 

The Allfather shook his head. "I will not! I have seen the future and I will not change it for the sake of a Jotun. I would not dare!"

 

Heimdall sighed. "He is a good child, old friend. His tricks meant to amuse or get retribution for those who have been hurt. Can you truly not find it in yourself to love him?"

 

Odin's gaze was tinged with regret as he looked once more at Heimdall. "Not as a son, no. As a companion of Thor's…I can manage that."

 

Heimdall sighed but said no more. He took his leave as he returned to his post.

 

Loki was confounded. "A companion of Thor's? What does that even mean?"

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

Many scenes followed of Loki and Thor together as they grew up. They were never far away from each other. No one ever called them simply 'Thor' or 'Loki'. It was always 'Thor and Loki' or 'Loki and Thor' depending on who they were talking to, because where one was, the other was never far behind.

 

Loki rolled his eyes "What exactly is this supposed to prove, Guardian?

 We were close when we were younger, of course we were but we grew apart. It was inevitable. I don't have the brute strength needed to keep up with him, he doesn't have the brains to keep up with me..."

 

"Yet you missed him."

 

"You are mistaken."

 

"Oh?"Loki really should have known better than to say such a thing... The next thing he was being pulled into scene after scene featuring Loki or Thor staring at the retreating back of their sibling as the other went off to do something that they could not. Each time, the god was forced to feel the pain of rejection. The impact never lessened.

 

"Enough! That was years ago. Thor left me behind long ago." Before Loki could think on what he had said, the scene blacked out again...

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

The next scene was more recent but it still took a moment for him to place it. However, the moment that he watchedthe dagger of his past self slide into Thor's side, he knew - it was his first attack on Midgard, when he had the help of the Chitauri.

 

He watched a moment later as he rolled off the edge of the roof, not wanting to fight any more with his brother. If anyone had asked him, he would have guessed that Thor would have been wearing an expression of physical pain mixed with rage that Loki had dared to flee from his lecture and from justice.

 

He would have been wrong - his brother didn't even seem aware of the pain the small dagger had caused but seemed entirely filled with despair. Despair and longing...

 

Loki's hand twitched as he witnessed that. "How stupid is he? How long will it take him to realise that his brother - Loki Odinson - is dead? Loki Laufeyson was who survived that fall. This is the way things are meant to be - everyone knows that this is what Odin wished!"

 

The guardian sighed. "Odin hardly wanted you spending an eternity fighting Thor."

 

"No. He wanted me to spend an eternity ruling a dying realm - the well-trained Aesir king of Jotunheim. I never wanted the throne of Asgard, I surely did not want that of Jotunheim.  All I wanted… all I wanted was to matter!"

 

In that moment, he understood Thor's habit of punching inanimate objects when there was no other enemy around to pound mercilessly. He would pay dearly for the chance to hit something right now. "Then they wonder why I tried to destroy Jotunheim! Surely it would have been better for all concerned if Odin had just told us that the Jotun were a good people who were misunderstood by those who lived on Asgard! Then I might have cared..." He was so lost in his anger, he hardly registered another vision starting - not until he heard the Allfather speaking at least.

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

Odin made his way over to stand by his friend's side. "Good morning, old friend. Tell me of Laufey and Jotunheim."

 

Heimdall looked slowly over to him. "The people work to rebuild what they can and they bury their dead... They are incensed that their temple was burned down - they believe that their future king died inside. Laufey grieves still for Farbauti and for their child. I do not think he will forgive you."

 

Odin winced. "I told the two men to fix the mess, I never said to burn it down." He sighed heavily. "I wonder how he would react to the knowledge that Loki resides in my home...  I would return the child but neither Frigga nor Thor would forgive me. I cannot do it."

 

Heimdall considered that too. "Then you must stop focusing on this - it has been a year, Odin. It is time to focus on what you have. Try to forget who Loki was and focus on the fact of who he is."

 

"...I do not think I can love him, Heimdall."

 

"Do your best. Every child deserves to be loved. He may be Jotun underneath the magic but that does not make him inherently evil. You have seen that while so very different physically from us, they care just as much for their loved ones. We are all the same, under the skin. Give him a chance, Odin." It would be a debate they had many times over the years.

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

Loki snorted as the vision faded. "Okay so a few times in my life, Heimdall actually didn't hate me. That changed very quickly as I grew up."

 

"What exactly makes you think that, godling?"

 

Loki gave him a look of utter disdain that he tended to keep purely for his oaf of a brother. "It is not exactly a secret. I can feel the hate that emanates from him every time he turns his gaze upon me."

 

The guardian sniffed and shook his head. "You are a peculiar one and no mistake. You think yourself above everyone yet at the same time beneath everyone. Does that not give you a headache?"

 

A wry smile tugged at the lips of the dark-haired god. "Frequently." His vision darkened again and a moment later, he was back with the same pair.

 

Heimdall frowned as he watched the Allfather pace in front of him. Moments ago he had asked for sighting of his son. For the first time in many months, he could report that yes, Loki somehow lived and was on Midgard of all places. Rather than just being grateful for the fact that his youngest lived, he was talking about how he should be punished.

 

Heimdall felt that his oldest friend was getting his priorities mixed up but it was not his place to say so. "My Lord, I would ask that you do not punish the child for his actions against me when he is returned."

 

That declaration was enough to stop Odin's agitated pacing. "Heimdall, do not feel that you have no right... Loki has acted terribly. It is only right that he should be punished for all he has done here, and for whatever he plans on Midgard."

 

Heimdall held back a sigh. "I do not believe that your son was in his right mind - he learned that he was not Aesir in the worst possible way; when he talked to you of it, you fell into Odinsleep - I am not casting blame my lord, but you cannot deny it was a terribly inconvenient time - even Frigga was too busy worrying about you to give her son her full attention. But then, of course, Loki had become quite adept at hiding his pain away...add to that, the fact that his brother was banished - probably the one person that could have made him realise he still belongs here."

 

Odin's hands fisted at his side but he pushed the sudden anger down - Heimdall was his oldest friend and most trusted advisor. While his words were not the comfort he wished for, he knew no offence was intended. "You think I should let him off with this? With all that he has done?"

 

Heimdall bowed his head slightly. "No, my lord. That is most certainly not my place. I am merely asking that he is not punished for what he did to me - I believe he truly did what he thought was right - that allowing Laufey into Asgard and destroying him here was the simplest way to stop another war occurring..."

 

Odin considered his friend, wondered what else he had to say. "Yet there is more...out with it, Heimdall!"

 

Heimdall nodded slowly, wary. "Allowing Laufey into our realm was a risky move, yes but one that saved us from all-out war. I would just ask you to consider how you would react if Loki and Thor's actions were reversed.  What if it had been Thor who had done it all?"

 

Odin froze and considered the implications for a moment before shaking his head. "Thor would never have considered such an under-handed thing."

 

"Perhaps not but it was infinitely less messy than it could have been. Given that Thor’s solution to any problem is to hit it with Mjolnir until it stops being a problem, how many Aesir lives did his actions save?"

 

Loki watched the scene play out before him, a bewildered expression upon his face. "Why is Heimdall taking my side again? After what I did? I do not understand."

 

The guardian shrugged and Loki eyed him.  “Are you sure you are not him, putting a different slant on things to make him look better?”  The other man just gave him a look that managed to show exactly what he thought of the suggestion and Loki's vision darkened.

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

Loki was on the bi-frost once more. He turned when gestured to by the guardian. His head tilted in curiosity as he noted an angry-looking Sif complaining to Heimdall. About Loki of course.

 

Sif scowled. "It's not fair, brother - Thor's brother is positively hateful. I have no idea what slight he imagines against him this time but I cannot forgive him. Not this - he turned my sword to a piece of wood in the middle of training." Of course, she had she had still managed to win but that was not the point – it was humiliating.

 

Heimdall frowned as he turned his attention away from the realms to look at his younger sibling. "Was it really that serious a bout of mischief? Was it truly unwarranted?"

 

Sif opened her mouth to object but brother or no, she was no different to any other subjected to that all-seeing gaze. She squirmed for a moment before letting out a resigned sigh. "Okay, I might not have been totally blameless..."

 

Heimdall's lips twitched ever so faintly. "Let me tell you a secret, Sif - Loki saves the nastiest of his tricks for those who have slighted him or the people he cares about. How many times has he played a nasty trick on someone who was rude to you, hmm?"

 

Sif was still upset, wanted to deny this had ever happened but her sense of fair play would not allow it. "A lot." She sighed. "So...you are saying that he considers me a friend after all?"

 

Heimdall smiled faintly.  “You won the bout, did you not?  Using a staff of wood instead of a sword.  They are taking you a lot more seriously now, are they not?”  How could they not?  She had taken down a fully armed opponent whilst wielding an inferior weapon.

 

Sif considered that for a moment.  Her smile when it came was like the sun coming out.

 

Loki snorted.  "I thought she was going to kill me for it - I would never have done it with a more worthy foe but she looked distinctly bored. Also, she called my magic 'nothing more but tricks for children.' It aggravated me.  It worked out in her favour of course – they started to see her as a real threat after that.  Finally."

 

He considered what Heimdall had told her. "He sees too much... Sif was nicer to me after that. I figured I would have to avoid her for a month or so but despite leaving so angrily, next time I saw her, she was… perfectly fine.  I always wondered...at one stage I had worried that she had taken a notion for me." He shuddered. "If I had had to reject her, she probably would have broken me into little pieces."

 

The guardian actually smirked in agreement at that. "Don't give me that, Guardian - there are very few men who don't quake in terror at the sight of the Mighty Sif stalking toward them in battle." His sight darkened as he was still admonishing the lookalike.

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

He was looking at the Allfather again. The haggard look on his face pointed to this being a time after the death of his beloved wife.

 

"Why her, Thor? Why not Sif? Your long-time friend? I would have you fall in love with anyone but her!"

 

Thor raised a brow at that. "Anyone, father? Even Loki..?"

 

There was a brief pause but his father did not look as outraged as he expected - or, at all for that matter. "Loki would be infinitely preferable to Jane... A mortal of all things."

 

Thor was fairly certain that the ground under his feet was tipping. "He is my brother."

 

"We are gods, Thor. Even if he WAS your brother, it would not be an issue."

 

Loki still could not see his brother's face but for a moment, he felt sure that if he could, both he and Thor would be wearing twin expressions of bewilderment.

 

He had always lived in fear of telling Odin that he was attracted to men, sure that he would despise him for it yet, it seemed the idea of two men who had grown up as brothers, in his home, loving each other did not disturb him...

 

Thor gave a disbelieving laugh. "I think Loki might not be the only to have slipped into insanity in this house." He regretted the disrespectful words as soon as they were out of his mouth but his father took no offence; waved the words aside. "Do you deny that Loki is attractive?"

 

"Of course not, father - anyone with eyes can see that he is beautiful b-"

 

Again Odin waved words aside. "Find him and bring him home, Thor. Your mother would rest in peace better knowing that Loki was restored to us, in whatever role you both choose." With that said, he turned and walked away, leaving Thor standing there, mouth agape.

 

Loki was not sure just how long he stood there after the scene faded, unable to do anything but stand and stare at nothing but eventually, he let out a weary sigh - he needed time to think about all this. "Is that the last? Can I go home now? I was in the middle of planning my next nefarious scheme..."

 

The guardian snapped out of his own thoughts and turned to look at him once more, a disappointed look on his face. Loki wondered vaguely which one of his apparently many failings had managed to disappoint him. 

 

"There is more." Loki held back a sigh.  "First though... How many times do you suppose that Thor has saved you from injury or death in the midst of battle?"

 

Loki shrugged. "I do not know - who keeps track of such things?" The guardian raised a brow and just looked at him.

 

Loki threw his hands up in resignation. "Okay, you got me - seven hundred and twenty one. I keep track of it! What of it?" He rolled his eyes as the guardian continued to watch. "Okay yes, I did the same for him five hundred and twelve times. And now of course, there are the many times that I have actively put him in danger."  He glared at the guardian resentfully. "That will not change a thing - I was already aware of the shortfall on my end. I am not just going to miraculously leave him alone because I owe him."

 

The guardian shook his head in answer to that. "Are you aware that when you went into battle together, you always cast more protective spells and wards over him than over yourself?"

 

The god rolled his eyes. "That's only sensible. I was never so much in harm's way as he was - Thor is the one who always rushes headlong into battle. If I want him to live, he needs extra protection." He froze at the guardian's next words:

 

"You still do it."

 

What? No! That was the most absurd thing he had ever heard! "I beg your pardon?" Loki managed to sound so affronted that the guardian summoned a wide smile. He didn't give the god a chance to react, just pulled him into another vision...

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

Loki looked around, getting his bearings. His other self was in the middle of a fight. The Avengers were facing off against himself and Doctor Doom and his Doombots. The particular bot in question was, as far Loki knew, the one he saw only recently which meant this was his most recent battle against his brother and friends. 

 

Of course his other self was not really in the middle of the fight but off to the side, watching as Doom did everything in his power to destroy the enemy.  His counterpart was waiting for something else apparently.  No.  Not something else.  Someone else.  Thor.

 

He watched his other self smirk as he spotted his brother enter the fray. He remembered wondering idly what had caused Thor to arrive so late to the fight.  Apparently his lateness still bothered him but again he brushed it off.  He watched as a beat passed before an incantation fell from the sorceror's lips, his hands moving in familiar gestures. Satisfied with his efforts, he stepped out from the shadows, grabbing his brother's attention.

 

Loki watched, bewilderment on his face. "I...I warded him. I don't even remember doing it. I was just waiting for him to show, looking forward to the expression on his face when he saw me - tired and angry and frustrated... No wonder my attacks are always so powerless." He wanted to smack himself in the face. How embarrassing to know that an age-old habit was so ingrained that he didn't realise he was doing it. "No wonder he cannot let me go - he never could do much with magic but on some level he would sense it, would know I was protecting him.  It has meant that he has not been able to let go of that futile hope."

 

His face fell into his hands for a moment before he looked once more at the guardian, a rather evil smirk on his face. "Thank you - this at least has made this whole tedious affair worthwhile. Next time, Thor will not be so lucky."

 

The Guardian sighed and muttered something that Loki could not swear on but he felt sure was along the lines of how he may not be Odin's child or Thor's brother in blood but he sure was in stubbornness.

 

Loki shrugged it off. "Whatever. Are we done?"

 

The guardian considered him. "You have always wondered, have you not, how Thor reacted to the news that you were not, in fact, his brother."

 

If Loki paled, the guardian at least had the grace not to mention it. "Not necessary," he stated tersely, "I just wish to go home." The guardian paid him no mind however and in this at least, he was as cruel as Loki had always thought his lookalike to be. The world turned black once more.

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

It had been two weeks since Thor had been forced to dangle there and watch his beloved brother fall into nothingness. Weeks that felt more like millennia. He had done nothing in that space in time, save lie in his bed and mourn; getting up only long enough to send a servant to Heimdall in the hope of news on his sibling - even if it was only a sighting of his corpse so that it could be brought home.

 

He would still be in his bed right now but his friends had shown up to stage what the humans called an 'intervention'. He had not really paid much attention but for whatever reason, he was reminded of Loki's words before that last fight - not his threats to Jane, for he knew the only reason they were spoken was to goad Thor into a fight. No, the words that troubled him were about Loki not being his brother... What nonsense was that?

 

He made his way to the throne room and stood before his father and waited for the Allfather's answer to that exact question.

 

Loki wanted to turn and run; wanted to gouge his own ears and eyes rather than have to stay there and he really was not the sort to run away from his problems any more - wasn't that how he had gotten into the mess with the Chitauri after all - but this was too much.

 

Clearly sensing his intention to run, the guardian wrapped a hand around his upper arm. Forcing him to stay in place just as surely as Thor's hold would have. "You will listen."

 

"Why? So I can hear what my brother truly thinks of the Jotun scum who masqueraded as his brother for over a millennia? I think not!" He spat the words out as he tried again to wrench his arm free but of course it was still futile. With a mutinous expression upon his face, he growled out a "fine" before turning to look once more, catching the tail end of Odin's explanation.

 

"...so Loki is not your brother at all. I am sorry I did not tell you sooner, my son."

 

Loki watched as Thor's expression moved from one of shock at his father's words to horror as it sunk in. The dark-haired god laughed, a sound that was anything but joyful. "Ha! Even the supposedly perfect Thor cannot accept me for what I truly am. I knew it!" The realisation was stupidly painful given all that had since passed between them.

 

Thor finally snapped out of it to put words together. "But that's...why would you let him find out in that way? HOW could you do that to him? You say he found out because a Jotun touched him... Did you not think of how he would react..?"

 

Odin cut over him, standing up to move to stand opposite his son, too angry to stand still. "I forbade you both to go anywhere near Jotunheim, Thor. I cannot be held accountable for your actions in this."

 

For a moment Thor could only gape at him. When he spoke, the thunder had calmed in his voice and he sounded almost defeated. "So that makes it all right, does it? To keep so momentous a secret from my brother? From me? You would have hidden this from him for the rest of life, wouldn't you? Until it was beneficial to you to do otherwise, most likely."

 

When Odin stayed silent, Thor took the time to think it over, his eyes widening. "You... You planned to put him on the throne of Jotunheim...you would have sent him away from everything and everyone he loves - from everyone who loves him - just to have someone you could control placed in charge of a dying realm?"

 

Thor paled suddenly as another thought occurred to him. "Right before he...he let go...he looked to you for reassurance and you denied him. He needed your approval!"

 

"I could not give it - he tried to kill you then he tried to destroy a whole realm. Enemy or not, that was inexcusable." Odin roared.

 

Thor growled. "You did not have to approve of his actions but you could have given your love. " His eyes narrowed. "Failing that, you could have reminded him that mother and I loved him!"

 

Odin's voice was weak again when he answered, distress shining through. He sounded almost pleading. Thor had to understand. "No, I did not think. I never meant to suggest that he was not loved – just that his actions were wrong... My son, you must realise that I never intended him to leave Asgard. I could never ask that of any of you."

 

Thor snarled as he saw his father's plans unfold. "It is the only thing that makes sense - you gave me a brother to love; you gave mother a son... Yet you would have taken him away from us both. Did you even for a moment think about how much pain you would inflict upon us, if you could not think about the pain caused to my brother... And he IS my brother, regardless of the blood in his veins. Do you care for anything apart from this damned realm?"

 

Odin flinched. "Why won't you let me explain? Thor I-"

 

His son interjected with a snarl. "No! There is nothing that you say which can fix this - you broke my brother's heart with your lies. No wonder he would rather kill himself than stay here a moment longer! You killed my brother - the fact that he tried to destroy Jotunheim is YOUR fault. YOU SHOULD HAVE TOLD HIM LONG AGO WHO HE WAS! You broke Loki's heart and you broke mine and Mother's too."

 

A strangled cry was the only warning Thor had before his father crumpled to the ground. The blonde reacted a little too slow to catch him but reached down to check he wasn't dead. A snarl came to his features when a slow but steady heartbeat was revealed under his fingers. Not dead... "Odinsleep. How convenient." He turned to a guard. "Take him to his chambers and send someone for my mother."

 

Loki wanted to laugh at Odin falling into the damned Odinsleep once more, at of course a most inconvenient time - well inconvenient for everyone but Odin of course - but he couldn't do anything but breathe in that moment. He wasn't even sure he was doing that.

 

Thor had not rejected him. He had in fact, stood up to Odin for him after taking in the situation for but a minute. He had heard Thor's pretty words many times since Thanos had sent him to Midgard of course - of how he was still his brother but this...this was different. He had not been saying it to pull a wayward once-sibling into line. He had meant it!

 

A choked sob escaped him and he had to wipe away a stray tear before he remembered that he was not alone.

 

Loki eyed the guardian. "This changes nothing. I might have to acknowledge that I love that oaf but I hate everything he stands for. Everything! There can be no middle ground. This will only stop when one of us is dead!"

 

The guardian looked pityingly at him for a moment then, with no other warning than a flash of bright white light, he was once more back in his home, sitting at his desk with Tyfon in the act of jumping off his shoulder to attack Donar. Fortunately for the tortoise, Loki's reflexes were quick. He grabbed the cat by the scruff of her neck then lifted her properly, taking her to the kitchen for her dinner. "You really must stop trying to kill your brother, Tyfon. One of us should."

Chapter Text

If the people who knew Loki were asked, the one characteristic they would all agree that he had was that of being contrary. In the weeks after being visited by the lookalike of Heimdall, he proved that to be true. He knew he was supposed to start being nicer to Thor; was meant to care but he refused to do so.

 

Loki reasoned that if he and Thor had met again shortly after his fall but before Thanos, they may have had a chance but it was too late now. Far too late - his course was set and that course was to see either himself or Thor die at the other's hand. He couldn't even say for sure which of those options he wanted to happen. He supposed it probably didn't matter anyway.

 

The point was that he was yet again fighting against Thor and his little friends on Midgard. He couldn't even remember who his particular ally was in that moment. Didn't matter. The rest of the creatures could be dead right then and nothing mattered but Thor and himself. He was going to end this. Today.

 

He glared at the blonde oaf in question as he just managed to duck out of the way of his hammer - the hammer that Thor had aimed for his brother's face.

 

He was really going to have to work on not calling Thor his brother any more. It would be so much easier if he could forget their shared past. It was so stupid that he clung to it. He growled as he straightened and glared furiously at Thor. "Is that really the best you've got, Thor? Aww, are you coming down with something, perhaps?" He grinned as he swung his staff and felt it connect with the blonde's side. Clearly the oaf was stupid because despite the fact that he had landed blows right there more times than enough - had even stabbed him during his first attack on Midgard - Thor had not thought to fix that weak spot. He really wanted to roll his eyes at that. Apparently if Loki was not spotting and fixing the weak spots in his armour, Thor didn't have the wit to do it himself. "By the nines... Do you have any sense of self-preservation in you at all, Thor or are you seriously too thick to-"

 

He was cut off as Thor's hammer knocked heavily into his gut, sending him straight across the clearing they were currently fighting in.

 

Loki growled and stood the moment that his motion stopped. He took the time to dust himself off before moving back to Thor, eyes narrowed in anger. "I'll be doing this world a favour by removing your presence from it!"  Thor remained quiet and it was infuriating.

 

In truth the blonde god just wasn't in the mood for this fight. Jane had ended their relationship only the day before. He supposed that he should be angry about it but his overriding emotion was that of despair - yet another person he cared for had turned their back on him. Perhaps Loki was right - the world...the nine realms in fact...would be better off without him. Maybe he should just let Loki end this once and for all. He sighed and looked at his brother. "Don't you ever grow tired of this, Loki?"

 

The thunderer watched the smirk grow on the younger god's face as he lashed out with his staff only to have the attack blocked by Mjölnir. It didn't seem to bother him though as he just danced back out of the way, searching for another chance.

 

"What's there to grow tired of? I could do this for the rest of my life... You on the other hand, seem a little distracted." Only one thing ever seemed to bother Thor this much - his confounded mortal. "Aww, what's wrong? Did darling Jane finally realise that you are an idiot and discard you?"  Loki lunged with the staff, the sharp end aiming to slice through his not-brother's throat. Of course he didn't expect to make contact but Thor wasn't doing anything other than looking broken. That stupid hammer actually fell from his grasp... His staff was going to slice his brother's throat! Thor was going to die and there was nothing he could do about it - it was too late to stop it, no matter how much time seemed to have slowed down.

 

For a moment, he had a flash of memory - the one and only other time he had caught his brother off-guard.

 

Ll. Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

They had been training - for want of a better word; Loki had been getting steadily angrier as Thor’s friends taunted him for not being able to make a single mark on his older brother while he was undoubtedly covered in bruises. All Loki had wanted to do was leave so he could sink into a warm bath but of course that would not be acceptable: that would not be manly...

 

He stood up after being knocked to the ground yet again, glared at Thor as he dusted himself off and lunged with his sword. It showed just how unbothered his brother actually was that he dared to turn away to answer Sif's question whenever Loki was attacking.

 

Thor should have been able to block the attack but he didn't get the chance. Loki could still remember the way his stomach dropped, the sickening, squelching noise as his sword slid into Thor's gut. He remembered too, the way that Thor's eyes had widened in surprise before he fell to the ground, blood oozing through his fingers as he clapped his hand over the wound.

 

Shocked, Loki had been unable to do anything for a second or two. It was only the ever-rude Sif shoving him out of the way to get to Thor that brought him back to life. He in turn shoved Sif out of the way and fell to his knees at Thor's side. He didn't waste time apologising, he just called forth his magic, putting everything he had into healing his brother.

 

He let out a relieved sigh minutes later as Thor's wound healed, his head flopping down against his brother’s for a moment.

 

As he felt Thor's fingers in his hair, he looked up at him, he remembered that it had been Thor who apologised to him.

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

Thor sighed as time slowed down the way it was wont to do in such moments – as it had when he had watched Loki fall from the bi-frost - and let Mjölnir slip from his grasp as Loki's staff came towards him. So this was it - the end of all things. Perhaps there would be no Valhalla for him , dying this way but, that was okay. He could wait for his brother in Hel, he supposed... He stared into Loki's eyes and patiently waited for it to be over.

 

As Loki snapped back to the present, his horror-filled gaze slid to his brother's, seeing acceptance there. NO!!!! NOT LIKE THIS!! SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING! His stupid brother wasn't supposed to die like this. He was supposed to die in a blaze of glory, his arrival at Valhalla guaranteed. He was not supposed to give up the fight just because some stupid mortal appeared to have broken his heart and his spirit.

 

Never in his life was he so glad for that all-encompassing bright light. He flopped to the ground with a weary sigh. He lay there for a moment, panting but a sudden fit of laughter hit. "What is wrong with me? The end of Thor is what I want!"  He jumped a little as he felt a hand pat the top of his head. He looked up and saw the face of his mother. "So are you actually my mother or just a guide?"

 

Frigga smiled. "It is me."

 

Loki sat up and looked at her. "You seem awfully chipper considering I have effectively just killed your son...and not even in glorious battle – he just gave up."

 

Frigga shook her head and laughed. "There would not really be much point in my being here if your brother was about to die now, would there?"

 

Closing his eyes, the god let out a weary breath. "Ah, so we come to the crux of the matter - this is not about me at all, is it? It is of course, all about Thor." He snorted. "Even in this, my Ragnorak, I remain in his shadow..." If Frigga's words comforted him at all, he did his best to ignore the fact, focusing on his annoyance instead.

 

Offering her hands to help him up, Frigga smiled. "It is not about Thor, my son. Not only, at least. Some day soon hopefully, you will understand: what would you be without Thor? What would Thor be without you?"

 

Loki took the proffered hands and stood. After careful consideration, he snorted. "Happier."

 

Frigga eyed him. "You, my son, are an idiot."

 

A shrug was the only response to that. "Are you not going to show me the present or whatever? Or did you really only show up to save your son?"

 

He received the weary look that only a mother could give. "I came to save both my sons.  However, I am also here to answer any of the questions you have in relation to what you have been shown so far."  She gestured ahead and started walking.

 

As Loki followed, the scenery slowly melted from that of a white void to his mother's beloved gardens. He pushed down the nostalgia the simple scenery caused. "What possible questions could I have? You claimed this was all about having the full picture so I could make the right choice. Clearly, as far as everyone is concerned, the right choice is Asgard and Thor because I have not been shown anything that paints him in a negative light."

 

Frigga stopped walking, weary expression once more on her face. "This is balance, my son... You are already more than bitter enough as it is. You see only the bad in everything. You do not need the help of anyone to see it, unfortunately.  You have learned too well to hide the kind and fragile heart that you possess.  Of course, it is not as if you do not have some very good reasons - plenty in Asgard have been more than vile to you just because you were different. Despite our attempts to make others see."  His mother sighed and rested her hand on his left cheek as she faced him.

 

Loki scoffed at that. "I don’t know a single person who would agree with you on that, Mother.  Especially not me."

 

She shrugged. "Since when do I care about what others say about my children? Who can claim to know my boys better than I?" She traced her fingers lightly over the lines on Loki's forehead as he scowled.

 

"Certainly not Odin!  Then again, he never bothered to learn a thing about me.  No interest there at all, was there?  I was brought to Asgard to be your child and yours alone."

 

Frigga smiled sadly. "You were such a sweet and loving child. It killed me to watch you grow up, to see Asgard and its people destroy you - or try to - bit by bit. All because you were something they didn't understand. On their side, you could have been magnificent. Now, they may never know just what they have lost… More fool them!"

 

Loki sighed and wrapped his mother in a hug, a faint smile on his lips. "Why Mother, it almost sounds like you don't like the Aesir."

 

"This is nothing whatsoever to do with Asgard or with the Aesir. What more could I possibly show you? I can tell you that the children love you for the mischief you play and for your tricks; for the fact that, unlike the rest of the adults, you sought them out and amused them; that they sought you out in turn because you were kind to them; for the fact that you could never ignore a child in distress, regardless of the fact of who their parents or siblings were or what they had done to you... But this you already know. Your problem with the Aesir was never with the children of today. It's with the children of yesterday who you grew up with and their parents and their ridiculous belief that true power lies only in the physical."

 

Loki looked away. "Did I have any true friends on Asgard, Mother?"

 

Frigga looked sharply at him. "You had Thor, you had us and you had Heimdall, even though you did not realise it."

 

A grin spread over the male's face. “You're not going to try and convince me that Sif and the Warriors Three love me?”

 

"I would if I could but I cannot. They would love you if they could though - you were so very important to Thor that they would try but they do not know you enough to love you." She sighed and it was a sound so sad somehow, that Loki felt his own heart break a little.

 

"When I held you in my arms for the first time, it took me but a moment to love you as my own. You still are that easy to love if you would let people in but you have put up so many barriers to your heart that most give up... It might keep you safe but, is it not a terribly lonely existence, my precious child?"

 

Loki's mouth twisted in the semblance of a smile. "I was mocked and jeered my whole life for being different, Mother. Perhaps if Odin had cared enough to intervene... Cared enough about me to take an interest..."

 

Frigga's eyes filled with tears. "I will not deny that these past centuries have been hard for you - as Odin has gotten older, he has become more focused on Asgard. He forgot how to be a father..." She shook her head. "When Thor brought Jane to Asgard that first time, he was going to send her away - despite the fact that she was dying and our healers could have helped. He reacted to Thor as the Allfather. It has been a long time since he treated my oldest as a son, rather than the future king of Asgard."

 

Frigga considered him. "As for people being nasty, we always fear what we do not understand - apart from a precious few who are willing to seek it out and learn about it. People such as you. Whether you realise it or not Asgard needs you."

 

Loki rolled his eyes at that. "Asgard does not deserve me!"

 

Frigga smiled a little sadly and stroked his hair back from his face. "No. They do not. You have so much to offer... But do your current allies deserve you either? Do they make you happy, Loki?"

 

Loki scowled. "What does my happiness have to do with anything? Asgard never made me happy either."

 

His mother was giving him that look again. It still made him want to squirm. "Fine - it had not made me happy in a long time."

 

Frigga nodded. "Not since Jotunheim and Thor's banishment."

 

Loki gave the Allmother a quizzical look. "What are you getting at, Mother?"

 

Frigga merely smiled and shook her head. "It is time for me to go." She leaned in and placed a kiss on his cheek. Be well, my son."

 

Before he could say another word, there was another blinding flash of light. His hand automatically moved up to cover his eyes.

 

  Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

As the light cleared, he remembered his brother. Loki looked up warily and saw his brother mostly intact - somehow his mother's intervention had changed the trajectory of his staff's blade. It had still caught his throat but with merely a glancing blow - Thor had the lightest scratch across his skin.

 

Loki told himself that the feeling flooding through him on realising his brother would live was annoyance rather than relief.

 

Thor looked as surprised as Loki did that he was still alive.  The trickster snarled at Thor and lunged forward and punched the other god hard in the face. "You MORON!"

 

Thor blinked as he lifted a hand to protect his face from more damage. Before he could say a word, Loki disappeared.

Chapter Text

There was no let-up sometimes - this was clearly one of those times. It was not bad enough that he had almost killed Thor, the big imbecile but, when he had gotten home, it was to the news that his upstairs neighbours had left their bath running with the result that his own home had been flooded too – in fact, most of the worst of the damage was done to his place.  Lovely.

 

He had no choice but to go in anyway, trudge through the soaked carpets and stare mournfully at his books and supplies, ruined. He didn't even bother trying to rescue them - he just lifted Tyfon and Donar and cast a quick spell to send everything that belonged to him somewhere safe. He would sort through it all when he was in the mood to do so. Or never. Never was good.

 

He would make sure that he protected his next home against human stupidity too. In the meantime, he got a room in a nearby hotel.

 

There was not anything particularly remarkable about the hotel he chose - it was the sort of nondescript building that Thor and his mortal friends would overlook in a search for him. That was enough.  Besides it would be a simple enough task to make his room more attractive with a few magic spells if he chose to stay longer.

 

The blinding flash came just as he released his nosy cat from its cage so it could look around.

 

When the light cleared, he was greeted with the sight of a little blonde ringleted girl. A face he remembered well, regardless of the passing years. "Sigyn."

 

The girl rolled her eyes. "Foolish mortal, have you learned nothing at all yet! We are disappointed - we were led to believe that your intelligence set you apart! We are not the child version of your lost wife, this is just a form." The voice was discordant, to say the least - it was many voices together as one. It was almost painful to Loki's ears.

 

Loki sighed. "Yes, I gathered that from your voices. You got it wrong anyway - Sigyn's eyes are not green."

 

"You may call us Guardian." Had he asked that? He didn't think so. Then again, he was having rather an off day.

 

Noting his faraway gaze, Guardian walked up to him and kicked his shin. Before he could react at all, the flash told him that they were off.

 

Ll. Oo. Kk. Ii.

 

They were standing on the Bifrost, peering into Heimdall's observatory. Loki scowled at the sight of the king standing there, talking to Heimdall.

 

-

 

Odin sighed as he looked at Heimdall. "How are they doing today, old friend?"

 

Heimdall turned his gaze briefly to his king. "It is the same as ever, my Lord - they fight. I saw Loki briefly as he fought Thor but he faded as the fight did."

 

Odin nodded, unsurprised. "They both fare well?"

 

Heimdall considered the question. "Without Thor there to drag him to the eating hall, Loki continues to eat far too little. That is all I could see in the short time granted to me.  As for Thor, he is not himself - he and Jane are not together any more and he seems to be taking it especially hard." He hesitated for a moment but finally added. "Perhaps it will not be long before he returns to us."

 

Odin snorted. "He will remain on Midgard as long as his brother does."

 

-

 

Loki growled at that. "Oh yes, because your son would never allow someone to be hurt, would he? Rushing to everyone's protection - everyone that is, but his supposed own brother's!"

 

Guardian gave him a bland look at that. "You chose this course - how can you blame Thor for everything you have done since his Coronation?"

 

"I'm talking of before that - I have always been different and the people of Asgard always made sure I knew it. The humans have a word for it - bullying. I was bullied relentlessly and he did nothing to stop it." His cheeks coloured at the look the Guardian gave him and he turned back to the scene.

 

-

 

Odin cast a weary gaze out to the Abyss. "I would have them both back here, Heimdall – you know that. If they were here willingly and happy - even if to do so, I had to accept that..." He let out a weary sigh. "...even if I had to accept that they were in love and Loki was carrying the next heir."

 

Heimdall raised a brow at that – his king talked like this was the first time he had ever voiced such a thought… perhaps Odin was getting too old after all.  It was a worrying thought.

 

-

 

Loki spluttered at the idea that Odin was still going on about that but never got a chance to say anything as the scene changed.

 

Ll. Oo. Kk. Ii.

 

They were on Midgard and it was chaos - people were screaming and running in all directions... and he could see himself fighting Thor in the background. "This is not the present!" Loki was not quick enough to avoid another kick to the shin. "Is it normal for you to be so violent?"

 

"We have never had to deal with one as idiotic as you before - if we could reach your head, we would slap some sense into you. Of course this is not happening right now - have you never heard of artistic license? We show you the future... that is to say, instances that show you the feelings currently, of those your life touches."

 

Loki smirked. "So you're telling me that the realms do not actually revolve around me?" He did successfully manage to get out of the way of that kick, at least. "You do not have much of a sense of humour, do you?"

 

Guardian glared at him. "We look upon the chaos and destruction you have caused and we see no reason for jubilation. You are a spoiled little child, crying loudly for his Daddy's attention."

 

Loki scowled at the face that, for the first time in centuries, he was growing to hate. It just glared back at him. With a growl, Loki looked away, to the scene ahead of him once more.

 

He winced as a small child was knocked down in the rush. No one bothered to help him, instead they jumped over his prone figure.

 

One man actually stood on him, breaking bones by the sound of it. He stopped long enough to see what he had stood on but a particularly loud explosion saw him running away once more, the child forgotten.

 

Loki scowled. "So now I am to be blamed for man's inhumanity to man, am I?"

 

The Guardian's glare didn't ease up at all as it answered. "Under normal circumstances, Ian Jones is a good man - he works tirelessly for a wide range of charities. Any spare money he has, he gives to the needy... yet your vile actions drove him to a wild panic... is that something to be proud of?"

 

Loki shrugged unapologetically. "You can only hide the monster inside for so long."

 

"Like you?" He just shrugged again. This seemed to incense the spirit more, as this time it reached up his back to his hair, grabbed a handful and yanked hard enough to make Loki see stars.

 

When Loki's vision cleared, he was treated to vision after vision of injured people; destroyed buildings; people crying over lost friends, loved ones and pets as well as their homes and possessions; people cursing his name...

 

It was not something Loki was accustomed to seeing - he didn't hang around after a fight to see the mayhem. Even back when he fought alongside Thor, he never saw this side of battle because he was swept up in the throng praising his idiot brother, whether he wanted to be or not.  The worst part of it all, was the realisation that whether he wanted to or not, he was acting like Odin – or as he imagined him to act years ago, when he could be bothered to leave the throne for any length of time.  This was the chaos he had always imagined the Allfather left in his wake…

 

"We should leave it there - that is what you deserve to take from this. However..."

 

-

 

A woman sat down on a seat opposite her friend as they took their break together. "Loki was out again. Saw it on the news. Downtown this time... lots of people injured, buildings destroyed, the usual. Why have the Avengers not put him out of his misery already?"

 

Loretta sighed. "I don't think that Thor would allow them to - he loves Loki."

 

"Oh, and that makes it acceptable, does it?" Sarah was so angry she wanted to slap the other woman.

 

"Of course not. I just... I don't know - he never really strikes me as evil so much as broken-hearted. He's a child acting out..."

 

"Would you be so lenient if he attacked you? Or your little girl Clara?"

 

Loretta sighed. "I don't know. I would like to think I could be but, no one truly knows who they are until they're truly tested, do they?  C’mon Sarah, you heard the same stories as I have – before everything turned to crap in his life, he was a good man.  Of course he loved mischief but in his heart, he was a good man.  Who wouldn’t snap after everything that happened to him?  It’s just a shame that he’s taking so many people down with him."

 

Sarah rolled her eyes at that, her anger melting away. "You are far too soft for your own good.  You know what I think - he needs a good lay!" She cackled and lit up a cigarette. "Either Tony Stark or even Thor himself - they're not really brother's, after all. Definitely not Captain America - he's too dull. Of course, he and Hawkeye have previous form...  The Hulk might just break him so probably not him."

 

Loretta shook her head and smiled wryly. "I see you have given this thought."

 

"Oh and you haven't?"

 

Loretta grinned widely.  "Thor. It's got to be Thor. He's the only one that seems to be able to get under his skin… and they do look so very good together."  Both women laughed at that.

 

-

 

Guardian smirked a little. "That woman of Midgard is not the only one to think you are misunderstood - you have quite the following on the virtual network of Midgard - Tumblr; Archive of our Own; deviantArt... so many sites dedicated to you loving Thor; one of the Avengers; Sigyn or indeed, the author themselves... that's a Mary-Sue apparently."

 

Loki snorted and shook his head.  He could not even think of anything to say to that.  He wrestled with the urge to reach out and strangle the women. Not that it would do any good but still. "Why does no one seem to have any difficulty imagining me to be in love with Thor?"

 

The spirit levelled her gaze upon him. "You assumed you would have no place in his life after he became King so allowed frost giants into your realm; you lost it after you found about Jane; you attack his beloved planet; you single him out in every fight against the Avengers; you forcibly stopped Doom the time he found a way to depower Thor... is your erstwhile ally even talking to you again yet?"

 

"Oh shut up."

 

-

 

Amora was standing with Doctor Doom in his lab, griping about Thor.  The two were not natural allies, bearing in mind that Doom wanted to kill Thor; whereas Amora just wanted to marry him and have lots of sex and babies…

 

"Face it, Doom – as with every other time, our plan has no chance of succeeding because of that little Toad! He will protect Thor at all costs – from you trying to kill him and from me trying to take him to my home. You waste your time trying to woo the little runt because his love has already been given to Thor."  Amora’s face screwed up in disgust at that.  “As if he could ever stand so much as a chance with my Thor!”

 

Doom eyed her before turning back to the bot he had been working on. "Doom wishes you would shut up! Doom trusts Loki - if he stopped Doom killing his idiotic brother, it is because he is not done with him yet - not because he is in love with him!"

 

Amora laughed at that. "You are as big a fool as he is! Blindsided by love for a stupid toad!"

 

A simple gesture saw a few of the bigger Doombots surround her. Before they could attack her however, she disappeared.

 

-

 

Loki rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "Doom is in love with me?" He shuddered at the thought of it. "Well there goes another ally!" He said it flippantly enough but really, it wasn’t looking good, was it?  He appeared to be running low on people he could work with and where was the fun on working solo?  That meant he had to split his attention, taking it away from Thor… oh.

 

Ll. Oo. Kk. Ii.

 

The Warriors Four were sitting around the table, drinking mead. Well, three of them were - Volstagg was feasting.

 

Fandral set his drink down and looked around the small group. "Do you know, more and more I hear people saying that they wish Loki had stayed in charge; that we had not brought Thor back when he did; that Odin is not the same man he was when Frigga lived."

 

No one appeared shocked but Sif jumped up, angry. "How dare they say such things about that traitor!"

 

Fandral looked calmly at her as he sat back, his arms folding casually. "They dare because it is true!"

 

"You would not dare to say such things if Thor were here!"

 

Before he could say a word, Volstagg spoke up. "But that’s the point Sif - he is not here, is he? We have not seen him more than five times since he exiled himself - and each time was at our instigation, not his."

 

Hogun nodded in assent. "He should have taken the throne by now. Instead he leaves Asgard to the care of his ailing father."

 

Sif looked ready to explode. "How-"

 

Hogun levelled his gaze upon her. "Sif, you are like a brother to me so hear me: you will never have Thor's love – at least not romantically. Accept that and you will see clearer."

 

Shocked, she could only stare at him.  “How can you say such things to me?”  She turned her gaze to the other two, expecting some support.

 

Volstagg sighed. "He has known you a thousand years, Sif. If that is not enough..."

 

Watery eyes stared blankly down at the table in front of her as she tried to think of something to say. She shook her head and blinked the tears away and walked away from them.

 

-

 

Loki snorted as he watched her leave the scene.  “I had actually forgotten that they could be as cruel to each other as they were to me.”  He shook his head.  “She would make a good queen of Asgard – just… not with Thor.  They’re too much alike – Thor needs someone more thoughtful at his side, not someone ready to jump into a confrontation at a moment’s notice.  As much as it pains me to say it, he needs someone like Jane.”

 

The Guardian eyed him.  “Or… you?”

 

Loki snorted at that.  “Well, it would certainly be one way for me to hold the throne, wouldn’t it?”  Oh, he was losing it all right, if that was starting to seem like a feasible idea.

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

“After all we have been through together, after the many years we have been friends, they still know nothing about me!”  Sif snarled as she paced around the observatory.

 

Heimdall sighed and turned her gaze upon her for a moment.  “Are you really so surprised to learn that they would think you still in love with Thor?”

 

Sif stopped her angry pacing to glare at him.  “You too?”

 

Heimdall returned his gaze to other matters.  “Of course not – I know that you know that it is impossible with Thor.  You know where his heart lies.”

 

Sif scowled.  “Loki… after everything he has done, it is still always about him.  I doubt even his precious Jane will manage to change that.”

 

Heimdall.  “You do realise how angry and jealous you sound, little Sister?”

 

Sif sighed and slumped.  “The heart is a stupid thing!  Thor is my friend but I do not understand how he can still love Loki after everything he has done…  I do not understand either why my heart clings to Thor as a friend, given how he has deserted us.”  She paused for a moment then looked at Heimdall.  “They’re not wrong, are they?  He’s not the same as he was.”  She wisely didn’t mention just who he was – her brother would know anyway that she referred to the Allfather.  He always knew.

 

Heimdall considered her words.  “No, unfortunately he is not.  As for Midgard, It is because they are so far behind us that Thor feels the need to protect them, Sif – he sees their potential.  Perhaps you need to consider spending some serious time there, to see what he sees.”

 

Sif just made a face at that.  “I have better things to be doing with my time.”

 

Inwardly, Heimdall sighed.  “In that case, you have at least seven men in this realm who would happily spend the rest of their days with you.  Maybe it is about time you started acknowledging their existence.”

 

She gave him a disbelieving look.  “Seven?  I cannot believe that there is even one.”

 

This got a rare laugh out of her brother.  “Have I ever lied to you?  One of the seven is much closer than you obviously realise.  Perhaps that is what has your friends riled so.”

 

-

 

Loki rolled his eyes at that.  “I would wager the realm itself that he is talking of Fandral.  Not that that would be much of a leap.”

 

Guardian eyed him.  “How is it that you can see so clearly into the hearts of others but not into your own or Thor’s?”

 

“I suspect that whatever answer I give you will result in you being violent towards me so I am not even going to try and answer that.”  He sighed and danced out of the way of the kick to his shin but didn’t expect the punch to his side.  “I think I rather hate you.”

 

Guardian just smirked at that.

 

-

 

“I told you already – I don’t want to talk about Thor any more.”  Confused eyes stared back at her and she just glared.  Darcy paused in the action of getting up out of her seat, ready to go to the bar and order more drinks.  She sat back down again.  “Okay, one… you haven’t actually spoken about Thor at all; and two, I didn’t even ask about him – I asked you what you wanted to drink, because it’s my round.”

 

Jane blinked, taken aback.  “Oh.”  She frowned in thought.  “Well, we’re not talking about him.”

 

“Okay.”  Darcy stood again, she would just get two peach schnapps.  Why not?  They’d drunk at least one of everything else in the bar over the past week apart from the peach drink.  It was time.

 

“He doesn’t love me.”

 

Darcy sighed and sat back down again.  “Yeah, you said – he’s in love with Loki.”  In fairness, Loki was hot enough to make even her consider batting for the other team again but seriously..?

 

Jane nodded morosely.  “The last time we were… y’know, together…. Just before he fell asleep afterwards, he nuzzled into me, smiled and said “I love you’.  That woulda been pretty sweet actually.  The full sentence?  Not so much!  He said ‘I love you Loki.’”

 

Darcy choked on thin air at that.  “I… what?”  That she had not been expecting.

 

“I thought maybe it was some sorta blip, y’know?  But then he did it again the next morning – he screamed out Loki’s name as he came…”  She reached for her glass and downed the rest of whatever it was – something with strawberries, orange juice and a lot of vodka in it.  “This is really good...” She smiled drunkenly for a moment, forgetting her woes, before her face gained a pout at the realization that the glass was empty.

 

Given that Jane had drank all her drinks too for the last while, Darcy really wouldn’t know if it was.  It did however, mean that she was a lot more sober than her friend.  She patted her hand consolingly.  “I’ll go get more...”

 

When she returned with their drinks ten minutes later, Jane continued talking as though there had been no break at all.  “Y’know, I think I’m mostly just pissed that I spent so much time with him.  It’s not like we had anything in common.  He didn’t understand most of what I was saying and seemed more than happy to believe that the Bifrost worked with Magic.”  The last word just dripped drunken disdain and Darcy considered not giving her friend any more alcohol for a while but the look Jane threw her way as she reached for the glass told her that would be a bad idea.

 

Darcy shrugged helplessly.  “But it does!  For them at least.”

 

Jane rolled her eyes.  “Sure, whatever… magic.  That’s their name for the process but other than that, they’ve never bothered to look deeper.”  She sighed and shook her head.  “What I mean is, I’m HOT!”

 

Darcy choked on her drink.  “…of course you are.  Wow, that was an unexpected turn…”

 

-

 

The vision finally ended, thank the Norns.  Guardian scowled.  “We meant to stop that sooner but you had such a pained look that we could not help but continue.”

 

Loki sighed.  “I am so glad that my discomfort gives you pleasure.”

 

The Guardian gave him a swift kick to the back of the knee even as it grinned at him.  Loki sighed and righted his balance before he fell.  “It seems the next vision also contains alcohol.  It seems to be a theme on Midgard.”

 

-

 

Thor peered morosely into the glass of mead he held in front of him - he was on his fourth glass and decidedly drunk after years of only drinking the much weaker Midgardian alcohol – Tony had brought out the Mead that Thor had brought him from Asgard years ago because apparently Jane ending their courtship merited getting drunk.  In truth, Thor’s thoughts were not with her at all. "I miss my brother."

 

Tony didn't seem overly shocked at this sudden statement. "It's to be expected. He seemed to have stopped caring about you entirely for years, yet we just witnessed his anger at the thought that you nearly died at his hand.”

 

Thor looked at him. "Am I stupid to hold onto hope?"

 

Tony shrugged. "I don't know, Thor. I never had a brother - adopted or otherwise." He sighed. "If you were asking Fury, he would undoubtedly say yes... but he’s a moron so don’t ask him.  Look, Loki’s been your brother for the last thousand years - and going by everything you've told us, a good man." He shrugged helplessly. "Other than Steve, what one of us hasn't been on the wrong side? Where would this world be if everyone had given up on us?"  He shrugged.  “Where would Bucky be now if Steve had given up on him?”

 

Tony considered his next words carefully but there really was no delicate way to put it so he just blurted it out. "You love him more than just a friend though, don't you?"

 

Thor shrugged and took a drink. "Loki has always been my best friend. I don't think I ever told him that though. I had assumed he knew but maybe he didn't... there was such distance between us."

 

He sighed and sat the glass back on the table and leaned back in his chair. "Some of that was his fault. A lot of it was mine."

 

Tony nodded and saw a chance to get back to his question. "Because you love him as more than a friend or a brother... you are in love with him."

 

For a moment, Thor looked almost afraid that someone knew – he had spent so long suppressing his feelings that letting them out was not easy.  But he forced himself to relax – or the alcohol did.  He was not on Asgard, he was with a friend who would not judge him for daring to love someone like Loki. "...I am."

 

Tony nodded in confirmation. "When did that start?"

 

Thor's gaze fell to the table and he shook his head. "I think I always did. It was seeing him with Sigyn though, that made me realise just how deeply I felt. I was devastated the day he married her... when their relationship came to an end, I felt bad for him but also... so relieved."

 

Tony smiled faintly. "That's a natural enough reaction. I adored Pepper from the first... if she had told me she was marrying someone else..." He shuddered at the thought of it.

 

Thor sighed sadly. "I learned to keep him at a distance a lot of the time. Sometimes though, it was just too hard. It took me a hundred years to bury it deep within myself but things were never the same after that.  Asgard is a strange place – truly.  Behind your realm in so many ways – people of the same sex do not enter into relations there.  It’s just not done.  Of course, there’s also the fact that Loki was raised as my brother."

 

Tony shrugged.  “It’s still not really a big view from Midgard’s point of view.  If it helps.  Seems like the stories from years ago were full of people sleeping with their siblings.  We kinda half expect that the ‘gods’ would do the same.”

 

Thor stared at him, surprised but shook his head.  “Asgard is decidedly not like that – Odin split Freya and Freyr up because of that exact reason.  Well, that’s what the Aesir choose to believe anyway.  My father has always been more uncaring about such things – he split them up because he figured he could use Freya to further the reach of Asgard.”  He frowned and swirled the contents of the drink in his hand.  “Actually, my father seemed to be even suggesting that he would be quite pleased if Loki were to become my Consort.  Just as long as we both came home.”

 

Tony grabbed the mead by his feet and filled up the two glasses again. "What about Loki? Did he ever say anything to you?"

 

Thor watched as Tony put the container back on the ground. "No. He never knew how I felt, thank the Norns. Our closeness back then was only natural because we spent so much time with each other.  Then afterwards, II think he attributed my distance to not knowing what to say after what Balder did to his children..." He faltered and shook his head, unwilling add more detail to that statement.

 

"My brother is the one person in all the realms that I would gladly give up everything for. I would gladly, if it meant having him by my side once more.  I would have given him the damned Throne if I had only known what was going through his head." He smiled bitterly and thunked his head against the back of the chair. "It never occurred to me that he would be unhappy with my rule. I thought he knew that he would be right there at my side, my most trusted advisor."

 

"Never in any of my imaginings was Loki anywhere far from me. Yet, it seems in Loki's, I was nowhere to be found... I keep coming back to that fact. We were so close, before - now look at us!"

 

Tony sighed and took a long pull of the mead in his glass – he was getting better, obviously but, even after all this time, so many feelings were a little hard to contend with.  The mead definitely helped.  He relaxed as he felt the alcohol burn all the way down to his gut.  "How did you put the distance between you both?"

 

Thor shrugged carelessly. "I looked at normal brotherly relationships around the realm and noticed that they were just not as close as Loki and I.  I followed their example: I stopped trying to fight his battles against bullies, I even called him a coward and womanly for his fighting style - choosing to stay on the edge of a fight… I stopped dragging him with us every time we went out even though I knew that Loki liked going with us – he also just liked to feel that he was wanted rather than just grudgingly added to the group.  Out of all of it, I think being called womanly hurt him the most." 

 

Thor’s expression turned pained as he remembered the first time he had not cajoled his brother into joining him and the group on one of their many jaunts – he had looked shocked and disbelieving before he quickly put a mask on.  Continuing to walk away had been the hardest thing he had ever done.

 

The brunette frowned at that. "Womanly and Cowardly… that's rather offensive - as both Hawkeye and Black Widow would tell you.  I don’t think Asgard would really like any of us, would they?"  He paused and considered that.  “Actually, they’d probably love Steve given that he’s all strong and blonde and so perfectly perfect.” 

 

Thor didn’t even bother trying to deny that fact.  He just nodded.  "There is nothing cowardly about any of you - I worked that out long ago, back when we first met.  As for Loki, he might have fought on the edge of battle but he did so because it was necessary to his fighting style; and because he wanted to keep us all safe."

 

"Being the god of mischief, he got blamed for everything anyway - why wouldn't he get blamed for anything that happened to the rest of us?  I don’t think it started out that way – I think he just wanted to keep us – me – safe.  He is the reason that I was so able to throw myself into battle as I did.  I always knew he would be watching my back… whereas Loki was smart enough not to need anyone else to protect him." A muscle ticked in his jaw. "Somewhere down the line, he decided that it naturally followed that he was less important than I was."

 

Tony shrugged as he took a drink. "I can kinda see his point in that regard - you got Mjölnir and then you get to be King and you’re the perfect example of everything that the Realm stands for; muscly, blonde, blue eyed to Loki’s less-noticeable strength, black hair and green eyes… He's been in your shadow for years now."

 

Thor's expression darkened then. "He throws that in my face almost every time we meet, like I don't know what that feels like!"

 

"Do you?" Tony couldn't help his dubious expression.

 

Thor smiled bitterly. "Do you know what I liked most about Midgard to start with? My worth was not judged on whether or not I wielded Mjölnir...  You all know it to be a useful tool but, it is not revered here the way it is on Asgard – there, no one really sees me, not really - they just see the hammer."

 

"I won almost every fight even before I got her. After though, I was on another level. No one really seemed to see me at all. They didn't fear Thor, God of Thunder; they feared Thor, Wielder of Mjölnir." He snorted. "Loki didn't fall under my shadow - he fell under the shadow of a dying star that was given the name of Mjölnir, just as I did."

 

He sighed and looked at Tony. "Other Aesir practically worshipped at my feet because not only was I Odin Allfather's golden firstborn, but I was the only one able to wield Mjölnir. It did not take long to start doubting people who wished to be my friend - was it really me they cared for or the hammer?"

 

"You didn't have to use her..."

 

Thor laughed at that. "Of course I did - there were always so many questions if I dared to walk around without it. Do you know what it is like to be more known for something that your parent gave you than for anything you have done yourself?"

 

Tony snorted. "Thor, it's only since I took up the mantle of Iron Man that I have been introduced as something other than 'Howard Stark's son'" He shrugged. "It's shit and infuriating so you rise above it." He grinned widely. "Or you follow the love of your life to another realm..."

 

Thor smiled faintly and shook his head. "When Father first sent me here, I thought it was purely a punishment but, I think now, it was to remind me that I was more than just the wielder of Mjölnir. If I had only remembered that fact years ago, things would have been so different."

 

"There were parades in Asgard you know - the sole purpose was for me to show Mjölnir off after another war fought and won. The people cheered as I used it for destruction... why wouldn't they cheer if I brought war to Jotunheim?"

 

Tony considered his friend. "You were miserable, weren’t you?  Despite everything, you didn’t feel like you were being true to yourself."

 

Thor looked at him and nodded. "I was. Loki was the only light in the darkness but I could not even pull him close as I wished to. It was him slipping from me this time and I did not know how to fix it..."  He sighed and looked away for a moment before turning back to his friend.  “Don’t get me wrong – I am grateful for Mjölnir.  Having the hammer has ensured the safety of the realms and their people.  I cannot ask for more than that.”

 

“Thor, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be seen for who you are too.”

 

-

 

The scene faded to black and Loki's knees gave out as for the first time, he truly understood that he and Thor were not so different after all. "Norns..."

 

Guardian, surprisingly didn't opt for violence. Instead, she patted his head. "So you begin, at last, to understand. We are pleased."

 

The usual flash of white was the only thing that told him his time with the Guardian of the Present was over.

 

Still on his knees, Loki stayed where he was until his eyes adjusted, then he crawled over to the bed, resting his head against it for a moment before pulling himself up onto it. "Oh Thor, you big oaf – why didn’t you ever tell me..?"  How had he never seen that Thor cared so deeply?  Why had he never realised that Thor was just as trapped as he was?  Just another pawn for Asgard to use as it saw fit…

 

Chapter Text

Loki smiled faintly, half-awake thanks to light, tickling touches that could only belong to Thor. "Stop that - I'm trying to sleep." He lazily smacked the hand away from his chest but it returned again moments later. "So tired... please just five more minutes..."

 

He lips turned up faintly at the corners as soft, full lips found his in a tempting kiss. "Not playing fair."  The sound of Thor's warm laugh coaxed his smile wider and he finally opened his eyes, grumbling at the light. "Damnit Thor - it can't possibly be time to get up."

 

The blonde shifted on the bed so he was leaning over him, smiling down. "Not yet, no but, I've been gone for a month on that ridiculous diplomatic mission and I hardly got a chance to talk to you last night... or other things either for that matter but, there is not time to do all the things I was dreaming of so I thought we could lie here and talk.” Another kiss was placed on his lips.  “I missed you."

 

Loki snorted and pushed Thor until he was laying on his back beside him. Before Thor could protest, Loki was stealing a kiss before snuggling into his side. "So talk - I'm all ears. What did I miss?"

 

Thor sighed and shifted a little to wrap arms around his lover. "Fandral nearly got himself killed."

 

Loki snorted and rolled his eyes. "Again, Thor? Was there a pretty maiden around to distract him?" It was usually a pretty maiden.

 

Thor's deep laugh rumbled through Loki and he couldn't quite hold back a sigh of contentment as he placed a kiss against his blonde lover's bare skin.

 

He felt his eyes getting heavy again as he listened to Thor regale the story of Fandral's latest mishap. He hadn't meant to fall asleep but he had not slept particularly well, alone in the big bed made for two. Apparently his body was intent on making up for that.

 

Ll. Oo. Kk. Ii.

 

Loki woke but refused to open his eyes for a moment as he automatically reached to the other side of the bed for Thor, only to meet nothing but cold sheets.

 

Thor had gotten up without him? He sat up, a frown of confusion on his face as he wondered what would cause him to leave without saying something.  He looked around the room for clues... and realised that this was a random hotel room in Midgard not the Royal Chambers in Asgard - Thor had not gone anywhere because he had not been there in the first place. It had been nothing but a dream.

 

Loki closed his eyes tightly as a tired sigh escaped him. Of course it had been a dream! He and Thor were not lovers – they could not even be in the same room together without a fight breaking out.  It was impossible to conceive that they could ever go back to how they had once been.  For the first time, he acknowledged that the feeling that always came over him whenever the thought crossed his mind was pain.  “Always so perceptive of others…”

 

Ll. Oo. Kk. Ii.

 

Loki went through his usual morning ritual in a daze, hardly thinking as he freshened up and made and drank a cup of coffee then fed Tyfon and Donar. He only vaguely snapped out of it on realising that there was nothing edible in the room – while he could usually appreciate and share the mortal love of chocolate snacks, he could not deny that the sweet foods offered by the hotel minibar were not tempting so early in the morning. He really should have thought to at least bring the food that had been in his old home. Still, it was a small matter to get more.

 

He quickly gathered his keys and wallet and headed out - perhaps a walk would clear his head.

 

Ll. Oo. Kk. Ii.

 

Loki considered the dream more as he walked to the local bakery - in many ways, a straight-out sex dream would have been easier to push to the back of his mind but, this had been so very much worse.  Many times before everything was destroyed, a drunken Thor would tumble into Loki's bed rather than his own, wanting to talk. Though not as frequent since Thor discovered the joy of sex with pretty but stupid maidens who hoped to make themselves a princess – or at least earn the right to say they had slept with the Crown Prince.

 

Loki too had been known to crawl into Thor's bed. Though it was a much rarer occurrence. Sometimes, it was because the thunder outside was very bad, signifying that Thor was very angry indeed. Of course, a saner person would have left Thor to calm down in his own time. A saner person would not walk into the god of thunder's chambers to calm him down for the sake of Asgard, its people and of course for Thor himself.  But when was the last time that anyone had called Loki sane?

 

(He still felt like he should be running to Thor when the thunder came to Midgard - even though he was mostly the one who had caused Thor's foul temper in the first place)

 

On those rare occasions when they had shared a bed though, without fail, when Loki awoke the next morning he would find himself being cuddled close to the thunderer, an arm wrapped tight about him to keep him right there.

 

It should have been embarrassing and humiliating. It felt anything but - Loki had loved those moments, not having to share Thor's attention with anyone else - not Sif; not the Warriors Three; not any number of his devoted ladies... just Thor and him, talking about whatever came to mind - or nothing at all, actually. Those times had been the most peaceful that Loki had ever managed.

 

Had anything he had achieved since then even been worth it?  What was it all even for anyway?  Of course he had been hurt - and jealous, he could admit that now to himself at least - when Odin had given Thor Mjölnir, but that was not it, not really... because while it hurt to receive nothing, it seemed only right that Thor should wield her.

 

No, the final straw had been when Odin announced that Thor was to be king... Thor was to be King and what possible use could the older god have for him? Especially when Thor had been distancing himself for years anyway? Other than those times when he was too drunk to do otherwise.

 

If Loki had been named as Odin's successor, he would have had a viable reason to keep Thor around - he was strong and the golden son and everyone loved him... Loki was just Loki... He had nothing to offer that others didn’t.

 

The thought of conceding his place at Thor's side was untenable. He just was not ready. Not yet.  He doubted it was something that he would ever have been able to give up.  He snorted as he realised that the fact that Thor really had not been ready to be King – was too angry and too ready to go to war for every real or imagined slight - had been only second to the fact that he was not ready to lose Thor.

 

He shook his head sadly as he remembered the vision he had witnessed from the night before – Thor had not wanted him to leave his side either. 

 

Unbidden tears welled in his eyes but he blinked them away furiously and entered the shop he found himself standing in front of – it seemed that he had automatically found his way to one of the few shops that served tolerable food.  A local bakery that claimed to have been there since the city first came into being.  He did not know or care if their claim was true – just that they had food he could actually stomach.

 

His turn came sooner than expected, given how long the queue had been when he first entered. A quick glance around him told that the shop had emptied. He wondered vaguely if he had missed one of those annoying fire drills that they did from time to time but he did not hear any shrills alarms.  He shrugged it off, moved to the counter and placed his usual order.

 

He barely noticed the terrified look the blonde girl by the register gave him - she didn't look particularly familiar so had probably started only that day and was worried about making a mistake.

 

Of course the trivial matter could only hold his attention for a small time before he was pulled back to thoughts of Thor. He sighed and paid as he took the bag full of pastries, dropped a tip into the waiting jar and walked out.

 

Ll. Oo. Kk. Ii.

 

The idea of heading back to the hotel did not really appeal right then and truth be told, the cool air of the morning was refreshing – perhaps a longer walk would clear his mind at last. Loki decided he might as well walk to the park and sit for a while, perhaps with a cup of hot chocolate from one of the nearby vendors that were always hawking their wares.

 

When he got to the park, he was pleasantly surprised to see that his preferred vendor was there, even more so when he discovered that there was only one other person ahead of him. He didn't think so many of the city's population would be put off by cold weather - or perhaps it was just his lucky day. He smirked wryly at that particular notion - luck had not been on his side for some time now.

 

The god took his hot chocolate, paid more than he needed to and then walked off, hoping his favourite spot would be empty. Of course his thoughts immediately fell back to Thor.

 

Ll. Oo. Kk. Ii.

 

He had been walking for maybe twenty minutes, completely lost in thought when a noise to the right caught his attention. A noise much like...

 

... Barton's arrows. He reached up just in time to pluck the projectile out of the air.  Pulling it down to look at it quizzically, he had to laugh as he realised just why he had been so ‘lucky’ that morning – he had not cast the usual glamour that allowed him to walk around freely in the City.  Instead of the nondescript Midgardian the world usually saw on such outings, they were seeing Loki.  After checking that the arrow wouldn’t explode, he dropped it by his feet and looked up to see if he could spot the archer.

 

His breath caught as his gaze landed on a certain blonde Asgardian instead.  “Thor.” Norns, the man was good-looking...how had he not noticed just how attractive he was before? No that wasn't right - of course he had noticed... Loki just had not realised that he was attracted to him before.

 

He did his best to push that thought aside by focusing on the anger that was sure to come. Because there was always anger when he saw Thor.

 

He did not know if he was more shocked that he had to wait or that he was actually waiting for it.  Realising that it wasn’t there, he just stared at the blonde who stood before him, waiting for him to make a move, anticipating a fight.

 

Loki ignored the newly-discovered attraction, and the fact that Thor appeared to be gearing himself up for a fight and actually looked closer…

 

Thor looked tired – more than that, he looked resigned and saddened even as he readied himself for the attack he knew was coming.  It was the first time that he had properly looked at his brother in a very long time.  Normally they were too busy fighting for him to take the time but now he did, the sight of Thor made his…heart…sink a little.

 

Thor did not stand as proud as he had once, the corners of his lips were pulled down and the light in his eyes had dimmed significantly.  Of course, Loki would wager that that would change when battle started because Thor was always that bit more alive when fighting but right now?  Right now Thor looked like he was dying slowly…

 

… he had done that.  To Thor.

 

And for what?  What was the point of it all anyway?  Why was he forcing Thor to do this time and time again?  How could he continue to do that, knowing that Thor loved him?  Surely every fight they had must be like having a piece of his soul chipped away…

 

…because now that he thought of it, was that not exactly how it felt to Loki?  Sure, at first doing as he pleased had been fun but, when was the last time he had truly been able to say that he enjoyed what he was doing?

 

For what?  For the chance to rule Asgard?  As if the people would ever truly accept him!  No, it had only ever been about Thor, being his equal…  He dropped his head into his hands for a moment and rubbed at his forehead.  When he looked up again, Thor was still standing there, waiting.  So many thoughts flitting through Loki’s head in a matter of seconds, he shook his head a little, hoping to clear it a little to focus on the present.  “You’re not going to speak, Brother?”

 

In truth, Thor had been a little dazzled by that laugh his brother had given only moments before; he had been instantly taken back to a time when things had been simpler and happier.  He blinked and shook the memory away because letting his guard down in front of Loki was definitely not a good idea.  “What are you doing here?”

 

Loki shrugged and lifted up the grocery bag and hot chocolate he held in each hand.  “Getting breakfast.”  He took a sip of his drink, grinning behind the cup at the puzzled look on Thor’s face.  He was still grinning as he lowered the cup once more. “Even supervillains have to shop and eat once in a while, Thor.”  He spoke in a perfectly civil voice which seemed to confound the blonde more.  “Are you and Barton out for a walk?”  He finally peeled his gaze away from Thor and scanned the area and relaxed as he spotted the little Hawk up on a roof nearby; apparently ready to attack if necessary but for the moment holding off.  “Or are you just the first members of the group to arrive?”

 

At the reminder of the other Avengers, Thor’s expression hardened – and that was no different than any of the rest of their fights – except that this time, he actually didn’t ignore the pain his brother was trying to push down.  “Do you really expect me to believe that you are not up to something, trickster?”

 

Loki twitched slightly at that – it was a name that Loki truly despised and Thor knew that – clearly the oaf was trying to get a reaction.  Perhaps he had somewhere else to be and wanted this done with?  He pushed the cynical thought aside with surprising ease.  Perhaps Thor was just trying to convince himself that it didn’t hurt; that he didn’t care.  Loki considered him, considered what exactly Thor would be like once his last piece of hope was taken from him – when he finally gave up any hope that he could reach his brother.  Loki shuddered at the thought of it and he in turn slumped a little.  Already Thor did not shine as brightly as he once did.

 

With a concerted effort, he pushed the disturbing thought to the back of his mind and smiled lopsidedly at him.  “Of course I am up to something, Thor – I am having deep and meaningful thoughts.”  He once again held up the warm drink and bag in his hand.  “Hence the shopping and hot chocolate.”

 

He tilted his head slightly as he considered him.  “I saw you and your little group’s fight against Amora the other day – I have to say, she does seem to be running you all ragged as of late."

 

Loki noted the questioning look on Thor's face but shrugged and changed the topic. "You did not look as … happy as you normally do on the battlefield.” Well, he had actually. Fighting Amora - a once-friend did not weigh so heavily upon him he supposed. But he was not going to admit that he had noticed the difference in him just now as they stood talking, having the most civilised conversation they had had in years.

 

Thor shifted his weight to his other foot as he considered Loki.  This had to be a trap.  Somehow.  Yet, the pull he felt towards Loki was as strong as it ever had been and he found himself unable to walk away or even stop talking when the younger god seemed willing to talk instead of screaming at him.  “I… it’s not the same." At least when Jane was still with him, he could keep his thoughts on something other than Loki. He didn't have that now and he missed him.  He missed Jane too, of course – but her loss was a lot more bearable.  "It used to be…”  He faltered even as he lowered Mjölnir finally.

 

“…fun.”  Loki nodded slowly and took another sip of his drink.  “You miss the Four.”

 

Thor rolled his eyes at that – such a non-Thor thing to do that Loki couldn’t hold back another smile.  “I miss my brother.”  He hesitated over saying it, expecting that to be the moment that Loki decided to launch his attack. 

 

Yet he didn’t – Loki just watched Thor; the part of him that still remembered what it had felt like to be Loki before Frigga started her little quest was amazed – after all this time, Thor could still hope to reach him.  After everything he had done…

 

…more shockingly, Loki actually wanted him to – even if only that he couldn’t bear to see Thor disappointed. 

 

He felt like banging his head against the walls of Asgard itself because the sudden hope rising in Thor just radiated out of him.  Perhaps it was the dream from only hours ago; perhaps it was the knowledge that Thor was in love with him but the truth was, Loki could honestly say he had never seen a more beautiful sight...and that he was just as enraptured as everyone else seemed to be by the big oaf.

 

It really was a good thing he worked that out when he knew there was a chance as opposed to a time when Thor could not forgive him. As it was, he suspected that the road ahead would not be easy.

 

Still, what would life be if it was easy?  His gaze on Thor softened.  “It was fun.”

 

“Loki…”

 

Before Thor could do or say anything, Loki dropped the cup in his hand and a blast of magic hit the blonde.

 

Even as he cried out in alarm, Thor recognised that the magic used was not meant to harm. He looked curiously at Loki.

 

Loki shrugged. "A gift for Amora; to level the playing field. She does seem to have been running you all ragged with that new spell of hers... and I would so hate for her to get her grubby hands on you."

 

Thor waited for the usual addition of “before I have the chance to kill you.”  It didn’t come.  Shocked, he could only stare at Loki as he teleported away. He hardly registered the voice of a worried Barton screaming through his earpiece. "I... am fine, friend Barton. My brother did not harm me."

 

Ll. Oo. Kk. Ii.

 

Loki flopped down onto the hotel bed and let out a groan. "Bloody interfering mothers."

 

 

Chapter Text

Lacking his usual elegance, Loki flopped down onto the hotel bed and let out a groan. "Bloody interfering mothers."

 

Ll. Oo. Kk. Ii.

 

Frigga smirked as she walked in at that exact moment. "Perhaps if you were a little more perceptive of yourself, my son, we would not be at this impasse." Loki only grunted in response as he dropped his right forearm over his eyes as he lay there, definitely not sulking.

 

Frigga, despite this snub seemed only to be amused. She sat down on the edge of the bed and patted the hand he had left lying at his side, quite content to wait until he had it out of his system.

 

After a good few moments, it occurred to Loki that he was acting in the same way that Thor did when he could not get his way but was unable to throw tables around or drown Asgard with storms.

 

The thought was enough to irritate him out of it. Norns, his brother was annoying. And yet...

 

He shook his head to clear the thought away before he could follow it to its logical conclusion, unwilling to go there. He sighed as he sat up, shifting around on the bed until he was at least moderately more comfortable.  "So how much of that did you witness?"

 

Frigga smiled. "I saw my son walking around Midgard without an illusion in place, and being perfectly fine."

 

Loki eyed her disbelievingly. "Your other son was threatening me with Mjölnir and his friend with his arrows!"

 

Frigga's smirk returned. "Details, details..."

 

The two fell back into silence until Loki broke it with a sigh. "This is ridiculous, you know that, don't you? I have gone too far to be accepted. It's too late.  Even if Thor can accept me, Asgard never will!"

 

His mother's expression hardened. "It is too late when either you or Thor are dead, my son. Last time I checked, you were both firmly in the land of the living."

 

Loki looked at her from under his lashes. "I would only bring him down. He deserves better."

 

A very inelegant snort escaped Frigga then. "Deserves better than being loved by the person he loves most in all the realms? Why must you always be so negative, Loki? You are oftentimes your own worst enemy, destroying your happiness before it even starts."

 

He opened his mouth to reply but no words came to him. He changed the subject. "So when does the third spirit get here?"

 

"Ah..." That caught his attention and he glanced quickly at her. "What?"

 

Frigga smiled. "What better person to show you your future than someone from your past? I must confess that I found the other two inefficient - I will show you the future, with different scenes. We can talk when the first is over." Before he could wrap his mind around his mother's words, she grabbed his hand and everything darkened...

 

When Loki came to, he was standing in Victor Von Doom's lair, watching the madman explain his latest plan to his only-slightly older self.

 

Ll. Oo. Kk. Ii.

 

Doom grinned at Loki. "Doom knows that you will like his newest plan, Loki - Doom knows you will like it very much."

 

Loki sighed internally at Victor's words - words he had heard too frequently to truly have any faith in. "You have said this before as I seem to recall..."

 

"Indeed he has, but this time, the good doctor is actually on to something." Amora interrupted as she walked into the room, stealing Doom's thunder. It was a statement that caused Loki to raise a brow in interest. "Go on..."

 

Again, Doom started to explain but Amora was far too excited. "Doctor Doom found an old Hydra bunker - it had SHIELD files. Files all about the pathetic little Avengers. Someone has been keeping those files up to date - it lists the strengths and weaknesses of all of them."

 

Loki didn't hold back his sigh at that. "It's a trap - do you really imagine that the Avengers could so easily be beaten - even the original small group were not so easily-"

 

Doom talked over him. "Doom understands why Loki would be sceptical. However, this will work. The Avengers will be no more."

 

Amora nodded in agreement. "The question is, are you in or are you out?"

 

Loki snorted. "The Avengers always pull through. This time will be no different - regardless of what you throw at them." He shook his head. "Not to mention that anything to do with Hydra seems to incense them even more than usual. If you go against them in this, you will lose - perhaps more than just this battle."

 

Amora eyed him fiercely for daring to suggest that a group of MORTALS could take away her life. "Still a coward after all these years!" She turned her back on him. Anger flashed in Loki's eyes at the slight but it was lost on the pair as Doom followed the lead of the sorceress.  His hands clenched into fists at his side as he teleported out of the lair.

 

Ll. Oo. Kk. Ii.

 

Loki blinked as he came back to himself, standing beside his mother in a white space. "I... what?"

 

Frigga shrugged. "There is more."

 

Ll. Oo. Kk. Ii.

 

Loki reclined on the bed in the hotel room, Tyfon lying lazily on his lap as his owner gave him the attention he demanded; petting with one hand while holding a book with the other, reading. He was actually a little...bored? ...lonely? Whatever it was, it was having the effect of making him read out loud, just to break the silence.

 

"It looked too easy for him-I'd remembered the bikes being much, much heavier than that. 'These aren't half bad,' Jacob appraised as we pushed through the cover of trees. 'This one here will actually be worth something when I'm done-it's an old Harley Sprint.'" Loki trailed off with a small measure of relief when the television turned itself on.

 

It had been one of the first spells that Loki had placed in the room - any mention of Thor at all and the television would turn itself on, alerting him to it. "Hmm. I wonder what the big oaf is up to now..."

 

Loki set his book aside, lifted Tyfon up carefully and swung his legs off the bed. Turning, he set the lazy animal back and watched for a second as his pet made himself comfortable once more, then got up to check.

 

--o--

 

His first glance at the television made Loki smile - his favourite reporter Janice (tall for a human, blonde hair, green eyes. Most importantly, she was the only one brave enough to ask him any questions - and for that reason, she got answers. Sometimes.) was reporting... a closer look was more disturbing. The usually flawless reporter was unkempt - hair everywhere, clothes torn, blood running down her face from a cut on her scalp...

 

Loki stared in confusion at the scene revealed to him - in the background civilians, looking decidedly the worse for wear, were screaming and running away. In what looked to be utter chaos and destruction, the Avengers were fighting Doom and his bots and Amora plus a few others he had never bothered to remember the names of. This was like no fight he had witnessed since coming to Midgard – even the fight with the Chitauri had not been as chaotic.  Of course he had seen carnage like this before, but usually that happened and then he, Thor, Sif and the Warriors Three showed up and made it stop.

 

Further studying of the scene made Loki realise that, calling it a fight was incorrect - because the very scared reporter was stating something that made no sense. Loki reached for the control and turned it up. Even then, disturbed as he was, a small part of him was rolling his eyes at the idea that turning the volume up would make the news more palatable.

 

"Oh God... this is bad... this is very bad... Hawkeye is down... Ironman is dead... Spiderman... Scarlet Witch...The Fantastic Four... The Vision…. Black Widow… oh God, oh God..." She swallowed audibly. "There's only Thor and the Hulk are left... I..." A terrified breath escaped her as she was forced to duck to dodge some flying masonry. "If you're not doing so already, pray! Pray like you never have before." She was audibly sobbing now. "The bots are... they are killing everyone in their path - civilians, women, children... Oh God!"

 

This was a massacre. 

 

Loki could only stare numbly at the screen, disbelieving but obviously it didn't change a damn thing - the camera operator seemed to be stuck switching between the bodies of the dead Avengers.  What of Thor? Agitated, Loki switched channels, confident that the scene would be repeated on whatever channel he landed on.  It was too horrific not to be.

 

The image on screen clarified just in time for Loki to see a villain he did not recognise creep up unseen behind Thor, a decidely lethal sword in hand, poised to strike.  Loki was vaguely aware of voices off-camera screaming at Thor to try and make him notice in time but Thor had no chance of hearing them above all the rest of the commotion…

 

There was no actual stopping to consider the right course of action - he could not get the images of the dead Avengers from his mind. He could not let the same happen to Thor.

 

--o--

 

He was too late. Far too late - Loki arrived in time to see the sword of some up-and-coming villain enter his brother's back, ripping through skin and bone and muscle to get to his heart was.

 

Thor never stood a chance.

 

The world melted away - even the sounds of countless people screaming in horror and fear melted away. There was nothing. Only Thor.

 

He wasn't aware of screaming his brother’s name as he rushed to Thor's side; wasn't aware of much at all really. He fell to his knees by his brother's side and pulled him into his arms, his only thought that there was no coming back from this - his healing magic could not save him, nor could Asgard's magic... Thor was lost, just as their mother was.

 

It didn't stop him trying though, despite all logical arguments.

 

Gold magic crackled on his fingers - pure healing magic was always gold - and he pumped it into his brother, trying desperately to pull him back.

 

"Thor...Thor, please. Please! You can't leave me, you can't! I need you here. You know that - I need you. Asgard needs you... you can't just lie there dying! Midgard will be overrun, Thor. They will die and it will be your fault." A choked sob escaped him and he vaguely wondered when he had started to cry. His throat hurt too, so maybe he had been screaming. He didn't know.

 

He futilely funnelled his magic into Thor for what seemed like forever but it didn't make even the smallest dent in the wound in his chest.

 

He shook Thor's body roughly then. "Damn you Thor! How could you leave me? HOW COULD YOU LEAVE ME ALL ALONE WHEN I LOVE YOU?" An anguished howl escaped him as he lowered his head to rest against his brother's. Panting, he sat like that for a moment before planting a soft kiss on Thor’s lips.

 

His revelation of only moments before threatened to tear his heart right out of his chest. He loved Thor. With every damn fibre of his being... and now he was gone from him forever. FOREVER!

 

Anger of a different sort washed over him then though he was mindful enough not to let it touch the precious body in his arms. He set Thor carefully down before venting his rage.

 

... and how he vented!

 

The magic crackled off him - this time so dark that anyone with sense would flee. The normal, law-abiding citizens of Midgard were the smart ones it seemed as they stayed away.

 

It was a small matter to get to the bastard who dared to kill Thor. Feeling that none of his magic was suitable, it was even less effort to change to his true Frost Giant form and freeze the life from him.

 

There was no real satisfaction in seeing the face the man pulled as he realised death was coming fast and without mercy.

 

Loki dropped the frozen corpse and decided it was time to remove Doom and his allies off the face of the planet. None of them deserved to live if Thor could not.

 

--o--

 

Perhaps one of Thor's berserker rages fell on him then because asked later, he could not really remember much.

 

He had eviscerated, disembowelled, flayed, beheaded, stabbed, frozen and burnt everyone who had dared to touch his brother and his friends that day. Amazingly, not a single citizen had been caught up in the massacre.

 

As he came level once more with Thor’s body, a hand landed on his shoulder.  With a snarl, he turned, ready to kill whomsoever dared to touch him… the face before him stopped him in his tracks.  The fury left him as quickly as it had first came upon him and he crumpled.  “F-father… he’s dead.  Thor is DEAD!”

 

With a heavy sigh, Odin pulled his errant son into a tight hug. 

 

Everything else seemed so stupid at the minute – every stupid gripe he had had against the Allfather meant nothing.  The only thing that mattered was that Thor was gone; was lost to him forever.  He clung to his father like a child would, sobbing brokenly.

 

--o—

 

A few hours later, when it got dark, Odin sighed as he looked at his golden son for what would be the last time.  Thor was lying upon a boat that was ready to be set adrift on the river before being set alight.  He and Loki were not upon Asgard though, they were on Midgard.  It mattered little of course – his son would go to join Frigga regardless of the realm. 

 

He looked at Loki and sighed again.  This was not what he had envisaged.  Parents were not supposed to die before their sons.  Thor was not supposed to be sent to the next life in this manner – secretly - but, what other choice was there?  The threat of Asgard loosing the bifrost on warring realms had faded with time – it was accepted that it was an action Odin would never take.  If those same realms knew that Thor was no more; that Asgard’s greatest warrior was no more… on top of the fact that Loki, their greatest sorcerer save Odin himself - and Odin was nearing the end of his days - was gone permanently, there would be an uproar.

 

No.  As much as it pained him, only he, Loki and Heimdall could know that Thor had fallen.  At least until another worthy warrior came to the fore.  He supposed he would have to talk to Loki about making appearances in the other realms while wearing Thor’s form. 

 

Tears once more started to fall from his eye as he pushed the boat fully into the water and Thor started to drift away from them.  For a mad moment, he pictured himself wading in after him to instead keep him there.  He tried to blink the tears away so that he could see Loki clearly in the flickering light supplied by torches held by himself and Nicholas Fury.

 

Loki slowly turned his gaze to his father.  At his nod, he swallowed hard but lifted the bow and arrow in his hands.  At Odin’s nod, Loki whispered a quick spell to light the arrow then loosed it.  He had to bite down hard on his lip to stop the wail of despair that was desperate for escape at the sight of his beloved brother’s body going up in flames.

 

He wasn’t aware of dropping the bow and arrow or falling to his knees on the muddy bank of the river the moment that Odin’s staff slammed down, sending Thor’s remains to the heavens.  He wasn’t aware of Nicholas Fury and Maria Hill discreetly walking away to give the two some privacy.  He was only vaguely aware of Odin dropping to his knees in front of him to hug him.

 

Thor was gone.  Thor was gone.  He clung to his father and cried his heart out.

 

--o--

 

Odin had left hours later – there had not really been much of a choice of course – he had left Sif in charge of the throne in his absence because, who else was there?

 

He came back two weeks later.

 

Odin sighed as he and his youngest sat at either side of a small table in a non-descript hotel.  The boy had not lifted his head to look at him since he had arrived to talk.  “Loki, whether you want to believe it or not, you are my son – the only son I have left.  Come home – come home to Asgard and take your rightful place as King.”. He had not expected to have to do this so soon; had hoped to gradually convince Asgard of the rightness of this new plan but time ran short - he could feel the Odinsleep calling once more.

 

Loki sighed at that, unable to bring forward any emotion – even disbelief.  “You have forgotten how badly it went last time.  Asgard would no more accept me – a Jotun – on the Throne than they would accept Jane.  Actually, they would probably accept her quicker.  Ask Jane to do it.”

 

The older god grimaced in distaste at the thought of a mortal ruling over Asgard even as he shook his head.  “It was all so quick before.  One moment your brother was to be crowned then suddenly, there you were instead, without any warning or official proclamation of the change and me gone... having just been told that there was a traitor in our home – one who wielded magic.  Of course your friends panicked.”

 

He couldn’t even find the energy to be angry or even to roll his eyes at that.  “Sif, Fandral, Volstagg and Hogun were never my friends.”  He stopped talking and just focused on breathing. Breathing was hard at the moment – ridiculously so.  It hurt to breathe knowing that Thor wasn’t doing the same.  “I do not want to go back to Asgard.  There is nothing for me there now.”

 

Odin couldn’t deny that.  “No.  You never really let them in, did you?”  He looked surprised.  “You would turn down the Throne?” It was unthinkable – he had raised both children to rule once his time was up.

 

Loki looked up again at that, a small spark of life returning to his eyes, if only briefly.  “I never wanted the Throne, Father.  I only ever wanted to be his equal.”  The light died again and he lowered his head once more.

 

Understanding came to Odin then and the stupidity, futility and sadness of it all hit him.  “You were too good at hiding your emotions, my son – he loved you too.  He really only ever saw you.”

 

A muscle ticked in Loki’s jaw at that.  “Aren’t you forgetting his precious Jane?”  Loki couldn’t quite stop the bitterness that tainted his tone as he mentioned the mortal – even though he knew that anything between the two had been long since over.

 

A strong desire to reach out and shake Loki hit Odin then.  “What he felt for Jane was nowhere near close to what he felt for you – his love for you was sempiternal.  If I had but known that you felt the same, I would have done more to encourage him but you kept your feelings too well hidden, my son.”  Odin’s gaze took on a faraway look as he remembered the vision granted to him so very long ago now.  “You would have been perfect together, ruling over Asgard and keeping the peace in the Nine Realms.  Who would have dared to stand against Asgard’s two Kings – one the strongest warrior, the other the strongest sorcerer?”

 

Loki wanted to rage at the older man for daring to reveal all this now, when it was much too late but what would be the point?  It wouldn’t change anything.  He looked away for a moment, trying to get his thoughts in gear.  “As you said already – Thor chose Midgard over Asgard, wishing to protect its people.  Without the Avengers, they are vulnerable.  I will stay here and do what I can to protect them.”  Words he thought he would never say. 

 

The very idea would have been unthinkable before Thor’s death but that had changed – one little girl, no more than six mortal years – had walked up and set a rose onto his brother’s body.  “I’m so sorry about your brother, Loki.  Thor was the best Avenger.  Not like Ironman at all.  He once broke my favourite toy.”  It had made him laugh even if only for a second and in that moment, he understood why Thor had loved these silly mortals so much.  He laughed through his tears even as he thanked her.  “He was my favourite too.  Thank you.”  With that said, the little girl nodded and scurried back to her mother.  Her mother who didn’t look upset or worried about the fact that her child had been talking to Loki.  The woman in fact, just looked sympathethic.  Mortals were insane.

 

Yes, it seemed only fitting that he would spend the rest of his days protecting them – dying for them if necessary.

 

--o—

 

When someone in one of the other realms unleashed a group of Bilgesnipes onto Midgard, the Bifrost opened up and the Warriors Three spilled out into the surrounding area to offer their help.  Loki didn’t bother debating the pros and cons with the new Avengers, he just shrugged and pointed at the one closest to them and trusted them to get on with it.  It was only afterwards that he thought to ask where Sif was.

 

The awkward silence that followed him saw him returning to Asgard where he learnt that Sif was to be married – to Odin.  Odin seemed indifferent, informing him that someone needed to sit upon the throne and why not Sif?  Frigga was gone and no one could replace her.  No one could come close. Sif was good enough. 

 

Sif seemed focused on the fact that she would be Queen and her child would rule in its own right.

 

The Warriors Three took it upon themselves to pop by weekly after that, filling him in on the fact that the pair were “nearly married… nearly married… nearly married… you’re not attending Prince?... nearly married… married… not pregnant… not pregnant… PREGNANT!”  How Loki looked forward to these updates!  He sighed and shook his head.  “I wonder what Thor would make of this.”

 

Hogun sighed.  “If he were here, this situation would not be happening.  You would be the ones planning children.”

 

Loki looked down at the beer in front of him, willing away sudden tears.  It really didn’t take much to make his heart feel like it was breaking all over again, just the mention of the big, blonde oaf was enough.

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

The vision ended then, finally and Loki lay on the hotel bed, disoriented and heart-broken until he remembered that Thor was very much still alive.  He sat up, brushing the hair out of his face as he tried to remember that it was okay.  Everything was okay.  Thor wasn’t dead.  He jumped a little as a light hand landed on his shoulder.  He turned his head to look and his gaze met Frigga’s.  “He’s not dead, right?  That was just… he’s not dead!”

 

Frigga shook her head.  “He’s not dead.  It’s alright, Loki.  Breathe.”  He seemed to be on the verge of a panic attack – something she had not seen him take since he was very young indeed.  Not since the first time that Thor chose his friends over him.

 

Loki buried his face in his hands, wanting to feel relieved.  He didn’t.  Because this could still happen.  He had to stop it!  He looked at his mother, his face set and determined.  “Will you tell me where the Bunker is?  I need to burn it to the ground.”

 

Frigga’s gaze softened even further.  “There is more to see yet, my son.”

 

Loki whimpered.  “I cannot watch him die again.”

 

Frigga’s smile when it came was really more of a grimace.  “You don’t have to.”

 

--o--

Chapter Text

Loki smirked at Natasha as they faced each other on the battlefield – it wasn’t really his battlefield actually, he was just there because he could think of nothing better to do that day.  He held his hand out and a dagger appeared in it.

 

“Coulson was right about you – you lack conviction.”

 

Loki snorted and rolled his eyes.  “And how is Phil these days?  Still working with that little team of his?  Perhaps I should pay him a visit…”

 

Black Widow eyed him.  “If you’re trying to rattle me, you’re failing miserably.  You couldn’t kill him last time when you had a chance, I seriously doubt you’d manage it when he actually has people around who are protecting him and he knows what to expect of you too.  He wasn’t prepared you see – he thought you were more like your brother… that you had a moral compass; that you would not kill someone when their back was turned.”

 

Loki’s eyes widened in annoyance or anger, she couldn’t tell which.  “I am nothing like Thor!”  He thrust the dagger out then, aiming for her neck.  Both sets of eyes widened in horror as she didn’t move out of the way. 

 

Time seemed to slow down as Loki realised he was about to kill her – he had not put a lot of force behind the blow, he had just wanted her to back off and give him space.  He had fully expected Natasha to jump out of the way as she always did.  The problem now, was that his blades were always razor-sharp.  The stupid mortal was going to die.

 

He didn’t have time to stop the trajectory, all he could do was to dispel the dagger.  His fist still connected but it was only a glancing blow rather than having his full force behind it.

 

As Natasha staggered back from the force of it, her wide eyes met his but where his were only filled with relief, the Spider’s eyes held too a look of satisfaction.

 

Before he could say or do anything that would leave her in no doubt that he hated her still, his eyes widened in shock and pain as a sword was thrust through his armour, skin, bone and his heart.  He vaguely felt a body move in close behind him.  “Doom told you last time – you would pay dearly if you double-crossed him again.  Should have killed her when you had a chance, you traitorous bastard.” 

 

Perhaps he could have survived it – even then as coughed up blood, he felt his magic surging, trying to repair the damage done but before it could even try, Doom grasped the sword tight once more and yanked it out roughly from Loki’s body.  God or no god, there was no surviving that level of damage.

 

Falling… he was falling again and once more, there was no one there to save him.

 

…and then there was Thor, catching him before he hit the ground.  Of course there was Thor – arms wrapping around him, lowering him to the ground gently as he tried frantically to stop the blood.  Loki sighed contentedly knowing that the man he loved would at least be the last person to hold him in this life.

 

--0--

 

Thor frantically tried to summon some sort of healing magic – he knew the theory behind it of course but had never done more than study the absolute necessities because that’s what Loki was there for, wasn’t it?  It was only now that Loki lay dying that he registered just how stupid and arrogant his assumption had been.  He had just always assumed that, even on the wrong side, Loki’s love would win out and his brother would save him if necessary.  It hadn’t occurred to him that Loki would be the one in need of healing.  “Loki…”  So much he needed to say but there was no time now.

 

Unfocused eyes opened and looked in Thor’s direction.  “I… love you.”  Thor didn’t even have the chance to respond before the life left his little brother. 

 

A strangled sob escaped him then as he pulled Loki back into his arms to hug him.  Apparently even in that moment, Doom did not have the wit to leave or even shut up.

 

“Doom hopes you like your gift, Odinson.  Doom knows he did you all a great favour-“  His words were cut off as without warning, Thor was suddenly holding his throat in his hand.  “You DARE..?”

 

Thor hadn’t planned it.  One moment he was holding his dead brother, the next he was laying him down gently before grabbing the bastard who had taken Loki from him.  He needed this cretin to feel at least some of the pain he felt – without bothering to consider the consequences, he crushed his throat in his hand…so severely that he decapitated the mortal.

 

Thor peered down at the now-lifeless body in his hands but felt no satisfaction.  He heard nothing aside from the roaring of blood in his ears as he dropped it, wiped as much blood off his hands as possible and picked Loki’s body up carefully once more.  Taking his gaze off him briefly, he noted that the Avengers stood around them and seemed to be saying or shouting something but he didn’t register their words.  He just started walking.  As soon as they were in a suitably clear space, he looked heavenward.  “Heimdall…”

 

The Avengers were left standing there uselessly, in a field full of lifeless Doombots and their now-dead creator, wondering if they would ever see their team-mate again. 

 

“I wonder if that was the real Doom or just a bot.”

 

“Somehow, I don’t think that Thor cares, Captain.  I guess we’ll only know for sure if Doom doesn’t show up again.”  Then again, could they even be sure of that?

 

--0--

 

Odin was there waiting to meet them when the Bifrost deposited them in Asgard once more.  He seemed to sag in on himself when he saw his dead son.  “Oh Thor…  I am sorry, my son.  Bring him home – we will prepare him to go to your mother.”

 

--0--

 

The funeral was a much smaller affair than Frigga’s had been – only Thor, Odin, the Warriors Three and Sif were in attendance.  They did their best to comfort Thor but it was a losing battle.  As Loki’s body was set on fire, he sank to the ground in despair.  Even the sight of him joining their Mother as Odin banged Gungnir on the ground offered no comfort – Loki should be with him.

 

--0--

 

Eight months after Loki’s death, Odin came to him.  “It is not the future that I wanted from you but it seems you will have to make do… it is time for you to become King, Thor.  And a good King needs a wife and Queen at his side.”

 

Thor turned dead eyes to his father.  “I do not wish to marry.”

 

“No, of course not but the fact of the matter is that you need to.  I am old, my son.  I have but a handful of years left.  The fact remains that you will need someone by your side.  If it cannot be Loki, then I would suggest Sif.  She at least understands your pain even if she does not share it.”

 

Thor sighed.  “Fine.”  What did it really matter anyway?

 

--0--

 

They were married the very next month.  It wasn’t something either of them wanted, though Sif had to admit that being Queen was not the worst fate because there was so much more that she could do for the realm now than she had been able to simply as one of its warriors.

 

There were none of the usual boisterous celebrations on the night of their marriage – there was no one to carry them to their chambers to ensure that the marriage was consummated.  The Warriors Three were also at present, the Warriors Two as Fandral had taken leave.  Thor couldn’t blame him. 

 

He and Sif played tafl on their Wedding Night…  And every other night after – or they talked about their day or discussed the state of the realm.  Sometimes they made their way down to the training grounds and worked out until the fell into their separate beds in exhaustion. 

 

Two years after their wedding, Thor gave her permission to have a child with Fandral if the other was so inclined.  It wasn’t ideal but hopefully, the fact that his child would eventually take the Throne would go some way to making amends for marrying the woman that Fandral loved.  “I cannot give you what you want, Sif.  I’m not him.”  He left it unspoken that she was not Loki.  “If you have a child with him, he will become my heir.  I would not deny him or her.”  While he was not in love with Sif, he did love her – she had always been one of his closest friends.  She would not make her suffer in the way that he did, unable to ever be with the one she truly loved.

 

He had thought it might be awkward, being around Fandral knowing that the other man was with sleeping with his wife but, in truth he could not find it in himself to care.  For Fandral’s part, he was awkward for a while but got over it quickly enough – he supposed his friend had years of practice talking happily with men even as he slept with their wives behind their back.

 

When the child was born a few years later, it was obvious enough that she was not Thor’s daughter.  Odin, when he got the chance to hold her, merely stared down at the child in sadness before proclaiming his grandchild a beauty.  It saddened him to think that there was nothing to be done about his bloodline dying out but what else could he do?  He could hardly force Thor to produce an heir with Sif, after all.

 

A week after introducing Áslief to Asgard as Thor’s official heir, then Odin joined Frigga and Loki not long afterward.

 

Ll.  Oo. Kk.  Ii.

 

Loki took a deep breath as he was returned to himself.  “Well… that was cheerful.”  As it all sunk in, he couldn’t hold back a laugh.  Frigga looked at him quizzically. “I was more bothered by the fact that I was about to kill Black Widow than I was about my own death.  Until I realised that Thor was devastated.  The thought of leaving behind like that was… unpleasant.”

 

He sighed and sat up, scrubbing at his face to try and ground himself somewhat.  “So now what?”  He looked at her, waiting for the next vision.

 

“That is up to you, Loki.”  She sat beside him and pulled him into a hug.  “Listen to your heart for once, hmm?  Do what will make you happy?”

 

“And what if what makes me happy is killing your son.”  Frigga just levelled her gaze upon him until he sagged.  It had been a ridiculous question after all.  “So that’s it, then?”

 

She nodded.  “It is time for me to go.  Choose wisely, Loki.  I do not want you to live a life full of regret.  I want only what is best for you – and for Thor.  The fact that you can find a way together, well, that pleases me immensely.  It won’t be easy of course and you will have to be willing to sacrifice your pride.”  She released him and stood, offering her hand to help him stand up.

 

Loki took the proffered hand and stood, looked at her for a moment before pulling her into a hug, fighting back tears.  “I don’t want you to go.”

 

Frigga sniffled faintly as she hugged him back tightly.  “I only wish I could stay but, the Norns have been more than kind to allow me this chance, my son.”  She pulled back and looked at him, tears shining in her eyes.  “Just know that I love you.  I loved you from the very first moment Odin placed you in my arms and that has not ever changed.”  She placed a kiss on his cheek.  “Ever will you be my darling boy, Loki Odinson.”  Gently she urged his head down so that she could place a kiss on his brow, and then she was gone.

 

Loki slumped to the ground once more, head in his hands and thought over everything that had been revealed to him.  For the first time in a long time, he made a conscious effort to listen to his heart.

Chapter Text

A fortnight after Frigga had shown Loki two possible futures, Loki was absolutely sure of what he wanted.  It really was incredibly simple – he wanted Thor.  He wanted to spend the rest of his life with the big oaf.  Simple like the man himself.  The snarky thought actually raised a smile from Loki as he pottered about his home, watering his many plants.

 

Of course he knew that Thor was smart – not as smart as him of course but that would be disappointing indeed and, why would Thor need him at all if he was?  They balanced each other perfectly and he had to wonder just how he could have been so blind as to not see it until someone had pointed it out.

 

He could only assume that because he had been in love with Thor for so very long, that it was just a part of him so he did not recognise the significance of his feelings.  He was a moron.

 

The problem now was that he had been fighting against Thor for so very long that there was perhaps the possibility that Thor would not accept his change of heart – he knew his brother loved him but would it be enough?  Was he still redeemable in Thor’s eyes?

 

No, he had to believe that he was.  He just needed a suitably large gesture to ensure Thor of where his true loyalties lay.

 

Loki’s chance came sooner than he had expected when Amora got back in touch – apparently Doom had found a hidden bunker belonging to Hydra…

 

Loki cursed himself for forgetting to get the details of the bunker from his mother before she left but he shook it off a moment later – what was done was done.  He had to fix this quickly or there would be no fixing his relationship with Thor.

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

The alarm went off in Stark’s tower informing them that there was an intruder.  When the suited-up Avengers got to the room in question, they found Loki standing there, hands up in a gesture of peace.  He stood in fact, in the exact place where the Hulk had once smashed him into the floor.  He smirked at them.  “What’s that expression… oh yes… I come in peace….”

 

The Avengers were sceptical – simply because with Loki, it was wise to be so but then again, he had not been as violent lately as he previously had been.  Thor was the one to speak.  “What is the meaning of this, Loki?”

 

Loki smiled softly at Thor and the blonde could only stare back in confusion for a moment at an expression that had only appeared in his dreams for a long time now.  He rallied quickly enough, stepping closer to his errant brother.  “Why are you here?”

 

“Amora reached out to me – it appears that Hydra is not as dead as you all thought.  It seems that Doom found one of their secret bunkers.  While it was abandoned, it seems that someone has been updating the files that they kept there – or at least, they’re relatively recent.  In it, there is information about each one of you – all your weaknesses and how best to exploit them.”

 

Natasha snorted.  “And you just felt the need to share this with us?  Why?”

 

Loki sighed and lowered his arms.  “Because I do not want any more deaths on my conscience… because actually, the image of you all dead at their feet is a distinctly unpleasant one… and because this realm needs you…”  He was aware that they were gawking at him.  “Oh come now – if I wanted you all dead, you would have been so, long before now.”

 

Thor nodded slowly at that, aware of the truth of his brother’s words.  “You will tell us where Doom’s lair is so that we can stop him!”

 

Loki rolled his eyes.  “I could do that – or you could take this,”  he walked over to the bar and dropped a thick pile of files down before moving back to his original position, “and work on fixing your vulnerabilities.”

 

Natasha tilted her head to the side.  “It would make more sense to stop him at his home, long before he got to New York.”

 

“True… if it was just Doom who had the information, but everything he knows, his bots know.  Plus, he has shared the information with Amora and she, oddly enough, does not hang out at his home.”

 

“So we take them out one by one.”

 

A long-suffering sigh escaped him.  “I don’t think you understand – they have decided to do this.  The attack will happen tomorrow.  You either have time to wipe out his stronghold or you have time to fix your vulnerabilities.  You do not have time for both.  Even if you could do the former, you cannot guarantee that you will be safe.”

 

Clint snorted.  “How do we know you’re not actually working with them in this?”

 

Loki looked at him questioningly.  “I give you the information they have on you all, tell you when they attack and you think I am tricking you?”  He had to admit that he was a little disappointed in their cynicism but, he could not really blame them so let it go.  He looked at each of them in turn.  “All right, say you do go to his lair… He has apparently had these files for some time… do you honestly believe that he won’t have contingencies in place there to defeat you all, if necessary?”

 

“My brother is correct – it truly makes no sense to go to Doom.  Here at least, we are on familiar territory.  The people too, now know what to do in such situations so the majority will automatically go to safety.  We are far better off preparing ourselves and ensuring our weaknesses are dealt with.”

 

Tony eyed Loki.  “How do we know that what is in the those files is even correct?”

 

Loki’s eyes widened in disbelief.  “Stark, all you need to do is read the damned files to know the truth of it.”

 

Stark considered him then moved over to take the files, leafing through them until he found his own.  He paled slightly as he skimmed through the contents.  “Amora has the ability to take the Arc Reactor out of my chest through the suit?”

 

Loki shrugged.  “Such a thing would be child’s play, yes – it would just be a case of calling for it.”

 

“Then why have you not?”

 

“Where exactly would be the fun in having you dead, Stark?”

 

Tony snorted through that and pulled Thor’s file out – it was very thin in comparison to everyone else’s.  “Seems you only have one weakness, Point Break and that seems to be that your armour is vulnerable at the side.”

 

No one missed the way that Loki rolled his eyes at that.  “I have been telling him the same thing since we were first fitted for his armour.  Sadly, the big oaf fails to listen and thinks himself invincible.”  He smiled fondly at the oaf in question.

 

Tony didn’t even bother trying to fathom what was going on there.  He just handed the different files out to the rest of the group.

 

Bruce frowned.  “Amora has a spell to split me and the Other Guy into separate entities?”

 

Loki looked grim.  “Indeed… but it is not a terribly sensible idea, is it?  You are the only one to have even a modicum of control over him.  Without that, well… imagine the damage that he could do!”

 

--0-- 

 

After a while, it became apparent that the group would really rather he was gone so Loki coughed slightly to get their attention.  “Well, whatever you decide to do, I will be there in New York.  If you do decide to go pay dear Victor a visit, I shall hope that the Norns will look favourably upon you.  Failing that, I will be doing what I can to aid you when the time comes.”  With that said, he disappeared.

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

The day of the fight dawned brightly, not a cloud in sight.  Loki decided to take it as a good sign.  He had shared everything that he knew with the Avengers so he could only hope that they would act upon it accordingly.  Regardless, he would be there.  He would not stand idly by whilst his brother and friends were killed.  Not ever again.

 

Doom grinned at him as he appeared just as the battle was starting.  “Perhaps you should not look quite so smug, Victor.  It is rather unbecoming.”  How exactly he could look so smug when his face was hidden behind a mask was a mystery to Loki – perhaps it was one of the villain’s superpowers.

 

Doom considered him.  “They will never see this coming – Doom’s bots will decimate them.  Add to that our allies and New York will be scraping their precious Avengers off the streets for some time to come… do you think that Doom should perhaps save the Hulk?  He could be useful to study…”

 

Loki smirked at him.  “You do whatever you think is best, Victor.”  With that said, he made his way into the battle, for once consciously placing charms upon Thor and his friends; refilling arrows and bullets as necessary and of course adding the power of his spells to their weapons.  No, he would not allow a single Avenger to fall this day!

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

The fight had started before Loki got there and Thor could not help but wonder if Loki had simply run to ground.  He did not really wish to think that his brother would do so but then, since coming to Midgard, it had become normal for him to flee if the battle appeared to be too difficult.

 

His time on Midgard had taught him that such actions were not cowardly.  After all, it was better to live to fight another day than to die futilely but, he could not help but feel disappointed in Loki.  He had hoped that perhaps there was hope.

 

 

--0--

 

Thor could not find it in himself to curse his foolishness at the way his heart lifted on seeing his brother enter the fray.  He could barely keep the stupid grin off his face when he felt his brother’s magic washing over him; revitalising and protecting.

 

Fighting with his brother at his side – this was how it was meant to be!

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

As Doom lay in a broken heap on the ground, he couldn’t help but wonder just what had gone wrong – they should have been victorious… yet here they were, all defeated. 

 

A flash of green caught his eyes and he knew. 

 

 

Loki had betrayed him.  He should have known the stupid man would – he was far too much in love with his brother to do anything else.

 

When he got free –and he would- he would kill the man for his impertinence.  He smirked tiredly behind his broken mask.  Or perhaps he would let Amora do it.

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

Around him, the Avengers stood, bloody and broken but all in one piece and alive.  They were not sure what to do or say to him – they had witnessed the attacks that their enemies had tried to launch at them and there was no denying that they would have been deadly indeed, if Loki had not given them warning.

 

Loki broke the strange silence as he pulled a stolen dagger out of the body of one of the bots – he quite liked it so he would keep it – he felt sure that he had earned it.  He looked at Thor and nodded before moving backwards.  When he was a suitable distance away, he dropped his usual spell that hid him from sight and looked heavenwards.  “Heimdall…”

 

Just as Thor thought of something to say, Loki was swallowed up by the Bifrost.

 

 

Chapter Text

Loki stumbled a little as he was deposited in Asgard – it had been a while since he had used the Bifrost to travel and, he had forgotten the strange sensation it left in its wake.  When he finally looked up, he was not at all surprised to see Odin there, sitting upon Sleipnir and eyeing him in a speculative manner.  It also was not that surprising to see Sif and the Warriors Three either.

 

He looked at Odin for a moment but with a small nod to himself, he sunk to his knees, head lowered.  “Allfather.”  He knew he should say more but really, what words would make right all that he had done, believing himself unwanted.

 

His actions caused quite a clamour in those around him but Odin merely held a hand up to silence them all.  “So you have come home, my son?”

 

Loki dared to look up then.  “I…yes.  I wish to atone.”

 

Odin snorted at that even as he turned his attention to the guards.  “Take him to his chambers.”  Ah, that lovely cell and all that white… he wondered vaguely if he would see another book now that his mother was gone but he merely stood and followed the guards as instructed.

 

Loki only stumbled a little as they walked past the path that would take him to the cells.  “The cells are that way, Allfather.”

 

Sitting atop Sleipnir, Odin smirked and for a second, Loki could almost believe he saw a resemblance to the face he saw every day in the mirror.  “Do you think to tell me where to go in my home, son?  I do believe I know where the cells are – you are going to your rooms. You remember the way, I hope – it has been a while but they have been yours for nine hundred years so I would hope you remember.”

 

Loki stumbled to a complete stop then.  “What?  Why..?”

 

A soft smile tinged with sadness came to Odin’s face then.  “You are not the only one that Frigga called upon, Loki.  She asked that I gave you a chance.  I will endeavour to do that for her.  Go to your rooms and I will see you shortly.  I have a few matters to clear up first.”  With that said, he nodded to the guards and walked to the Throne Room.

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

It was strange stepping into his chambers – in some ways, it felt familiar yet at the same time, like he had been gone for far longer than the years he had truly been absent.  So much had changed since then – and sadly, little of it had been for the better.

 

He sighed and sat on his bed and looked around – everything was as he had left it.  There was no dust that he could see which either meant that his rooms had been maintained or else a spell had been placed to keep everything fresh.  Either option was rather disconcerting – because it suggested that Odin had always known he would return.

 

The fact that his belongings were still here certainly spoke to the fact that no one had ever believed him dead – not even when he had fallen to the void… when he had chosen to fall to the void.  He sighed then, feeling the weight of the realms on his shoulder.  Suddenly exhausted, he flopped back on the bed and closed his eyes.  He would just rest for a moment.

 

--0—

 

Loki did not wake when the Bifrost was activated once more.  He knew nothing of the talk spreading like wildfire through Asgard of the second prince, back and apparently ready to seek atonement.  He did not hear of Thor rushing into the Throne Room to protest his brother’s latest captivity and pleading for a chance to talk to him.  He most certainly did not hear Odin say he was standing down as it was Thor’s time to take the Throne; that what would become of Loki now fell directly to him.

 

The first thing that Loki knew of any of it was when Odin walked into the room, woke him and cast a spell upon him.  Before he could ask, Odin gave him the answer.  “A truth spell.  I would have you tell the truth to your brother at last.  For good or ill.”  Loki looked dopily up at him, still half-asleep but before he could rouse himself fully, Odin left.  He sighed and shook his head and sat up.

 

Moments later, Thor walked into the room and it was hard, so very hard to make eye-contact which really was stupid, given all they had been through but there you go.

 

“Father has informed me that he has placed a truth spell upon you.  Normally I would be appalled but you were ever hard to read and I do not know your heart.  It troubles me.  Just this once, I would ask you questions and know your answers are true.”

 

Loki held his arms up and away from his body in a gesture of openness as he stood there.  “Do you regret what you did – to Midgard and to Jotunheim?”

 

Loki sighed and looked away.  “Did you know that I was wanted by my blood family?  Odin got that wrong… they wanted me; they mourned me when I was gone… they love, Thor.  Deeply.”  His eyes filled with tears and he looked at his brother.  “I do.  I should have known better than to listen to the tales of stupid, old men embittered by war.  I have done much to the people of Jotunheim that I hope one day to be able to have the chance to atone for.”

 

Thor’s eyes widened at that – at the honesty and pain and regret he saw shining clearly in his brother’s eyes.  “…and Midgard?”

 

Loki sighed.  “I would not go so far as to say I understand them but, there is no denying that they are fascinating – they achieve so much with such short lives.  Indeed, they embody chaos more fully than any other race I have come across.  They deserve to have the freedom to continue to grow and change and thrive.  Taking even one life was shameful – taking the lives I have is inexcusable.”  Loki grimaced at all the honesty spilling from his lips.  He could have tried to evade the spell but honestly, he was just too tired.  Plus, a part of him felt that it was the very least he could do.

 

As he prepared to ask his next question, Thor turned his gaze from him then, unable to look at Loki as he asked the question.  A part of him didn’t want to hear the answer, unsure if his heart could take it.  “When…when you used the Destroyer on Midgard,” he paused to swallow around the sudden lump in his throat, “did you mean to kill me?”

 

A muscle ticked in Loki’s jaw at the memory.  “If I had meant to kill you, I would have used the ray on your fragile mortal body.”  He blushed fiercely then, hating to admit the truth; hating to admit that he had forgotten something vitally important.  “I… forgot.  In that moment, I forgot that you were mortal.  I was angry and I wanted to hurt you – I lashed out and punched you.  It was only as you fell to the ground that I remembered you were not yourself – had you been yourself, I doubt that the Destroyer would have bothered you at all.  I have never more wanted to die in my life than I did at that moment.”

 

Thor’s expression softened. “…and yet you went on to try and destroy Jotunheim.”

 

Loki’s eyes shone with tears as he looked at Thor.  “I had already gone too far – I knew that.  I was angry at myself… and then I was angry at Laufey for leaving me in that temple.  Because if he had not done that, I would not have been there to kill you.  He should have dashed my brains out on a rock – it would have been kinder to everyone.”

 

Thor was shocked to hear that.  “Do you really believe that?”

 

Loki shrugged and walked over to the window, staring sightlessly out.  “I did – I do.  So much pain and misery could have been avoided if I had died then.”  He flinched as he heard an almost-animalistic growl escape his brother.  He did not expect to be hugged from behind but Thor ever was unpredictable in such moments.

 

“You belong here, Loki.  With me.  Do not dare to say otherwise!  The realms would have been so much lesser without you.”  Loki was not sure if he liked the way that his heart seemed to swell at words he had so desperately needed to hear.

 

“I cannot atone for all that I have done.”

 

“Perhaps not but, if you don’t try, you certainly won’t.”

 

Loki sighed and closed his eyes and allowed himself for a moment, to enjoy the comfort of Thor’s embrace.

 

Thor stood like that for a moment but finally he could put his last question off no longer.  “I have been trying to understand why you did all this, Brother, but none of it makes any sense to me.  Why did you do it?”

 

Loki snorted.  “The answer really is quite obvious if you stop and think of it:  It was all about you, Brother.  It always was.”

 

Oh, how those words stung – he had thought that his brother had done it because of his belief that Odin had favoured Thor through the years and Loki had certainly shouted it enough at him but now, as they stood there in the cold light of day and the shouting and recriminations had stopped, Loki stated it simply.  His heart shattered a little.  “I would gladly have given up the Throne for you.”

 

Loki growled and tried to turn around but Thor’s grip was threatening to break his ribs.  “You don’t get it – I didn’t do it because I was jealous of you, I did it because I was jealous of her – of Jane.”

 

Thor blinked and his arms went slack.  Finally Loki was able to turn around.  “I have been in love with you for years.  I did not realise it until recently when someone pointed the very obvious out.  Then again, it’s been a part of me for so long that I couldn’t see it.  I love you, Thor.  I have no doubt that I always will.  Seeing you so happy with Jane shattered that last shred of sanity I had – I had lost so much of you to your friends but you still had some time for me… what time would you have for me now that you had gone and fallen in love with a mortal?”  He snorted and rubbed at his face.  “I had no chance, I knew it.  I was so angry, Thor – after all the many years together, you rarely listened to me.  Even in Jotunheim, you shoved me back and told me to know my place.  Yet a handful of days with your precious mortal and you were changed beyond recognition.”  He sighed and let his head flop down to rest against Thor’s chest.  “I was angry and jealous.”  He whispered.

 

It was funny, Thor thought, that one did not notice how broken their heart was until it was fixed.  Loki loved him – after years spent trying to push all his feelings down, his brother confessed to feeling the same way about him.  It was if a huge weight was lifted off him.

 

Thor gently slid his hand under Loki’s chin and urged him to raise his head to look at him.  “I have been in love with you just as long.  The love I felt for Jane was fleeting – for a brief moment, it helped me forget the pain of my hopeless, unrequited love but it was not a match for what I felt for you.”  He smiled ruefully.  “I saw in Jane a likeness to you – she is very intelligent and has your sass…”  He smiled at that.  “But it could not last.  Jane deserved better than to be loved for being similar to you.”

 

He looked into his brother’s eyes for long moments then lowered his head and after centuries of waiting, shared the sweetest kiss either had ever experienced.

 

Thor knew that the road ahead would not be easy – Loki had much to atone for but Thor also knew that he would be there to support his love through it all.  They would do this.  Together.

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

When Thor and Loki were married a decade later, most agreed that being ‘Queen’ of Asgard was a role that Loki had been born to play – he made Thor a better King.  Thor in turn, made Loki a better person.

 

It was Loki who decided that the Casket should be returned to Jotunheim.  He delivered it himself – though Thor insisted on going with him.  He walked into Jotunheim wearing his Jotunheim wearing his usual Aesir appearance.  When he left, six months later than expected, he wore his true form and held his head up high doing so.  It had been hard, even when he had told Byleistr and Helblindi everything but they had been willing to listen and to understand and Loki had been ashamed – because his people were not primitive monsters – they were just people.  Good people who had had no choice but to agree to their King’s demands for war but who deserved a chance to live a life better than what they had been reduced to. 

 

In the end, Loki said the three words that were enough to soften the hearts of the people around him.  “I am sorry.” 

 

Helblindi sighed and patted his shoulder.  “We all make mistakes, brother.  It is how you choose to move on from them that you learn what sort of person you truly are.”

 

Loki stared up at his brother and nodded slowly.  “I hope then, that I will do the right thing.”

 

“You are already doing it.”

 

Ll.  Oo.  Kk.  Ii.

 

Looking in on her boys for the last time, Frigga smiled proudly – finally they were on track for the glorious future that she had seen so many years ago in her weavings.  The Nine Realms would blossom under the care of her sons - this she knew to be fact as sure as Volstagg was eternally hungry.

 

Frigga grinned to herself as she slipped into Fandral’s home as he slept that night.  She leaned over and whispered in his ear:  “Time to man up and tell Sif how you feel, Fandral.  She will not wait forever.”

 

Fandral and Sif were married the very next month.

 

It seemed that at last, the work of an Allmother was done.

 

Ff.  Rr.  Ii.  Gg.  Gg.  Aa.