“This is Christine Everhart, reporting live from the United Nations headquarters in New York City, where preparations for the coronation of Loki the First of Earth are well under way-”
“-four days ago the last of the free nations surrendered their independence and swore fealty-”
“-many of the former world leaders are here today in the hopes that they can win the favour of our new king and be admitted into his council-”
“-after the public execution of the world’s top five global powers I’m surprised so many former world leaders have turned up for-”
“-Nick Fury, director of the global security organisation S.H.I.E.L.D., has refused to comment on his organisation’s sudden support for the future king-”
“-there is much controversy over S.H.I.E.L.D.’s sudden change of loyalty and disavowal of the surviving Avengers-”
“-conspiracy theorists are claiming that S.H.I.E.L.D. is implicated and might in fact be responsible for the death of billionaire Tony Stark, who was most well-known for his alter ego Iron Man.”
Loki’s nails bite into the arms of the chair he is currently reclined in, and the many hands working on him still. He takes a deep breath, exhales, and says, “Continue.”
The hands immediately return to their task of making their new king appear his best for the cameras. Loki forces himself to ignore them as he once ignored the pampering of his servants in Asgard. Instead he turns his acute hearing towards the many babbling news crews, searching for any signs of insurrection. He might have people on the floor monitoring the press, but he is too use to doing things himself to simply switch off. He is curious, too, and curiosity has always been one of his greatest weaknesses.
The hands retreat and one of the servants says, “We are finished, your majesty.”
Loki opens his eyes and turns his attention to the looking-glass presented to him. His assistant had been correct about the makeup subtly highlighting his features – especially the intoxicating green of his eyes. He smiles and murmurs, “Impressive.”
Relieved smiles break across his servants’ faces. They hastily bow and retreat from the room, leaving the looking-glass on the small table beside him lest he wish to perform further inspection. He is tempted, and is just about to reach for the looking-glass when his assistant enters the now deserted chamber. Her smile is just short of a smirk when she says, “I take it you approve of my suggestion?”
“Be careful Miss Potts,” Loki warns. “On a less joyful day I might not be so indulgent of your insolent tone.”
“That’s a lie,” Pepper Potts replies, her smile still just short of a smirk. “You and I both know that you enjoy my insolence.”
Loki chuckles as he rises to his feet. “That is true; I find it hard not to admire your calculated courage.”
He pauses for a moment to assess her. She is impeccably attired in a green and black chequered dress with matching blazer and dark stiletto heels. Around her wrists are the homing bracelets of a still functioning suit of armour that responds solely to her. At her throat is the necklace forged from the pieces of His heart. Although she wears Loki’s colours she has purposefully made it clear to all observers that she is still His woman. Loki may command her loyalty, but that is all he may command. She is no mindless pawn or lost little girl – she is a warrior who makes her own choices. Loki admires that, admires her, and is silently thankful that she chose to ally herself with him rather than turn against him.
“Do you have a problem with my attire?” Pepper asks with an arched brow.
“No,” Loki replies softly, his eyes lingering on the gem at the centre of the necklace, “you are perfect.”
For a second her composure wavers. She hastily forces it back into place and replies with a tight smile, “I’m glad you approve your highness.”
Loki meets her eyes and sees the tempest beneath the surface of her professional exterior. He suddenly finds himself asking, “Why are you doing this Miss Potts?”
“I’m sorry, you’ll have to be a little bit more specific,” she says, frowning slightly.
“I know why you joined the war,” Loki breathes, stepping closer so that only she will hear him. “S.H.I.E.L.D. took Him from you and you knew that I was the one best suited to giving you the revenge you sought. But now the war is over, the ones who ordered His death are dead, and S.H.I.E.L.D. has been tamed. Yet you are still here, acting as my right hand. I wish to know why. Why have you not turned on me? I am in part responsible for His death – it is due to His association with me that the Council felt threatened and ordered the assassination. Even if you are too good a person to begrudge my involvement in that particular affair there are still many other reasons for you to hate me, the least of which is that I was His...”
“You were the Other Woman,” Pepper finishes with a rueful smile.
Loki resents the term but cannot argue over its accuracy. “Yes,” he growls. “I turned His eyes from you. I lured Him into my bed and did unspeakable things with Him that chased all thought of you from His mind. And yet you stand before the cameras and tell the world that my rule will be just and fair and that they should surrender so that there is no need for bloodshed. Why? What drives you Pepper Potts?”
“Exactly what I tell the cameras,” Pepper replies, still smiling. “I want to change the world. I know I can’t do that on my own so I get close to the men with the power and the drive to help me fulfil my ambitions.”
“What else?” Loki asks in what is barely more than a whisper.
The smile drops from Pepper’s lips and her eyes turn hard. “I knew exactly what I was getting into when I started dating Tony. I knew he’d spent his life as a womaniser, that he’d always had trouble connecting with people, that his kidnapping had severely damaged what little capacity he had to trust others. I knew that if I started a relationship with him it would be complicated and messy and I did it anyway because I loved that insufferable jackass. I loved him and I knew he loved me, but that didn’t mean he’d necessarily be faithful. For months after we started dating I was certain that he’d slip and I’d walk in on him in the middle of a drunken fling. He never slipped though – even during the bad times in our relationship when we couldn’t stand the sight of each other he never found comfort in another person’s arms, until you came along.” Pepper pauses and takes a deep breath before continuing. “I was furious when I found out. I don’t know how long you’d been sleeping together before the guilt got to him, but eventually he couldn’t keep up the lie. He told me and I was mad because what sort of idiot sleeps with someone who regularly tries to murder them so that they can take over the world? I knew Tony was a glutton for punishment and the king of unhealthy relationships, but that was just ridiculous. I told him to give you up because I had no intentions of sharing him. He said that he couldn’t and we fought about it. I considered leaving him.” She sighs, still apparently angry at Him – and at herself. “It took me awhile to realise that he needed the both of us. I was the one that chased the nightmares away, you were the one who let him know it was alright to have them – together we stopped him from going crazy. I still wasn’t overly fond of the arrangement but I was willing to give it a go. I knew that no matter what he would always come back to me. You were the Other Woman, not me.”
She flashes him a dark, gleeful smile that rakes down Loki’s spine. He knows he should feel angry, that he should probably strike her for her perceived superiority over him, but he is too enraptured in her tale to risk shattering the narrative.
Pepper’s smile is replaced with a blank mask as she continues her tale. “That was when the two of you got careless. You stopped trying to kill each other and people got suspicious. They found out about your affair and the World Security Council decided that Tony was too valuable an asset to risk losing to you. They had him killed because your ridiculous sex game got out of hand and you started to have feelings for him. I don’t blame you for that; I can understand you falling for Tony. At some point I even semi-approved of the whole thing; if Tony’s dick was able to prevent millions more deaths at your hands it seemed rather selfish of me to object. That didn’t mean that I liked you. I still don’t like you, if I’m being honest, even after you helped me avenge Tony’s death. I think you’ve taken too much pleasure in too many deaths for me to ever like you.” She pauses, makes sure she has Loki’s full attention before continuing. “You asked me why I’m doing this. I know the answer you want to hear is that I used you to take vengeance on S.H.I.E.L.D. and now I’m going to wait until you let your guard down to deliver a knife into your back. I know that’s the answer I would love to give, but it wouldn’t be the truth. The truth is that I know Tony loved you and that for some reason he believed you were a good person worth saving. I know that nothing I do can make you see things the way Tony wanted you to see things so I’m not going to try. Instead I’m going to help you achieve your goals so that you can find happiness. Tony would have wanted you to be happy. He would have wanted me to be happy, and I think I can best find that happiness sorting out the world’s problems rather than searching for a way to murder a god. I’m going to stay at your side and help you rule, not for your sake, but for mine and the world’s - and for Tony’s memory.”
She smiles and it is a sharp, dangerous thing that plunges deeper into Loki’s heart than any mortal weapon ever has.
Pepper steps back, curtseys, and says, “I hope your throne is everything you thought it would be, your majesty.”
With that she walks away to enquire about the delay in the coronation’s commencement. Loki does not watch her go. Instead he reaches into a pocket dimension and runs his thumb across the cold metal of a damaged faceplate. The invisible servant had destroyed his master’s life’s works upon His death. Loki had found only pieces, and he still hates himself for the sentimentality he displayed when he collected them. He should not need keepsakes of a mortal – he should not need to cling to the memory of a man whose life started and ended in the blink of an eye. And yet...
Loki retrieves his hand and steels his heart against the emotions and memories that claw at him. Stark’s death sparked this. He should thank the man for giving him the inspiration (and the woman) to achieve his dreams. He has stepped out of the shadow he has lived in all his life. His enemies are defeated and cower at his feet. He has a throne, subjects, respect – a billion people who will kneel before him on command. He has everything he ever wanted...
(And it means nothing to him now)