The last thing Thor remembered aside from the excruciating pain— that was from being thrown like a ragdoll by the force of the hit on the side of his head near his fresh injury—was Loki standing frozen, watching him with barely held back storm of anguish as Thor fought his way to him, not intending to leave his brother, the only family he has, behind in the hands of the Mad Titan.
Thor wondered himself why his initial thought wasn't betrayal by Loki when the Titan's ship towered over theirs, with the trickster facing the Titan as if he was expecting him. The alarms should have went off when Thor himself saw the Tesseract not destroyed among most of Asgard, sitting instead on Loki's palm and was handed to the Titan.
Perhaps it was because of Loki's bargaining for their ship's safe passage, specifically asking to continue on their way unharmed. With his brother's silver tongue, he was left in charge of the diplomacy Thor was yet to have proper grasp on. Thor had been on edge at the whole ordeal, adrenaline thrumming for a fight as he was having qualms on leaving the Tesseract at the hands of the purple monstrosity. Even more so when this Titan—Thanos he was called—was plotting the dominance of the cosmos once completing the infinity stones.
This was usually the part where he charges head-on, stopping the evil before it even spreads further to the vastness of the universe. But the situation changed—his people were in tow, defenseless and weak after the destruction of Asgard. It gave Thor thousands of reasons to still his hand, and albeit with a heavy heart, he had to let his brother do the talking for the remaining Asgardians' survival. Thor would rather not send them to their death of a different manner after narrowly escaping one recently.
It would have been fine, it seemed, until Loki was to stay behind.
At his early reign, Thor was already forced with the decision of choosing between two difficult choices. Oh, he knew too well what a survivalist Loki was, and that there should be no conflict within Thor. It was a simple choice of many over an individual.
But damn if he would let Loki fall again.
Thor fought his way, thoroughly undoing Loki's efforts and sealing their fates.
And as long as the others were finally off a good distance, with Heimdall replacing him as their new leader, and Banner was brought back to Midgard as promised, Thor was satisfied. He would take Loki back with him, with the escape much easier with just the two of them, and then they would reunite with the others. It was a half-baked plan at most, but Thor knew they would manage; as long as they were together, they would thrive, and in the end, they would share the story of how Loki dare tried to trick him again, with Thor calling him out on his predictability.
As Thor fell on the endless void of the abyss, he smiled with his busted lips, numb face, and battered body.
With an unsaid apology, his only regret was being a failure for leaving Loki behind.
He woke up with the sudden flood of air filling his lungs. He breathed deeply, calming his racing heart down when he took in his surroundings. The whole body ache faded into phantom pain, and the open wounds and bruises on his skin were gone. Miraculously enough. It took him several minutes to realize he was seeing with his both eyes.
Thor figured out he was in Hel. It was impressive that the land of the dead has his old chambers in Asgard reconstructed at the smallest of details and even bothered to give back the half of his eyesight.
Ironic, really, that when he should have felt the telltale signs of being dead, he was feeling healthy and filled with the vigor of youth. Perhaps this was how it was here, and it wasn't as cold and devoid as it was depicted. Maybe it varied on the person.
Seeing himself on the mirror, Thor was taken aback how younger he appeared. His body still huge but without the added mass he gained these past few years, and he might be imagining it, but it seemed as if he was a half inch shorter. His hair was lighter and longer, barely passing the shoulders.
Thor recognized him.
This was the very same person who was labeled unworthy and banished to Midgard. At the same time was the current him, with eyes of that who had experienced loss, betrayal, suffering, and victory, mingling with the arrogant and overconfident exterior he used to have.
A female servant stumbled upon his room carrying breakfast. Thor vaguely remembered her as one of the palace's servants. She immediately apologized profusely after seeing Thor naked from waist up. He took pity on her, promptly putting on at least an undershirt and took the heavy tray from her.
"I could have gotten this myself," Thor told her, all the while wondering why he would even need sustenance in the first place. He let it slide as one of the quirks of Hel—creating vivid recreation of one's former life.
She hung her head low. "You specifically requested that I bring you your morning meal today," she said meekly.
"My apologies then. I shouldn't have let a young maiden like you carry something heavy." She looked rather young, a few years past the teenage years. He was hit with the realization that she was probably one of the casualties before Ragnarok. "What is your name?"
She blinked up at him, somewhat confused at the question. "Astrid, my prince."
"Astrid, from now on you're under no obligation to serve my meals. You have the morning for yourself. And, no, I'm not relieving you of your job, only that I require no servant."
It took her a while to process, with mouth slightly open in surprise. "Thank you, my prince." She smiled gratefully and bowed low before politely leaving.
Thor smiled in satisfaction at the exchange. It would take some getting used to on his new reality, of his new home without the people who made it be. He might be stuck in the place for eternity, never moving to Valhalla with Frigga and Odin. If this was where he was meant to be afterlife, then so be it.
Looking at the tray of food, his stomach gave him a pang of hunger. He frowned, for some reason not seeing any sign to give him the notion of being dead. The food, his surroundings, and his anatomical functions were all as if he was still alive. The only thing Thor has to convince himself otherwise was his memories and his last waking feeling of life on the verge of leaving him.
But what if it didn't? What if he landed on some place and was helped by its people? Although there was no explanation to his reverted age, he was reminded that it was possible to survive the void, though not without repercussions after seeing Loki's state when he tried to invade Midgard. Would Thor be encountering hostile entities as well? Or was he already in their territory?
He peered outside the window, Asgard in spring greeting him—very much intact and protected with magic. The training yard was not far below, lined with new warriors of the Einherjar being trained by Tyr.
Seeking answers, Thor went out, opting to observe the environment that resembled his former home. The noise of bustling activities in the palace greeted him, in the distance were the servants' to and fro, the ringing of steel against steel, guards on patrol… Thor could feel the vividness, far from the ruins he left it as. It might be a heavily elaborated illusion, but Thor missed this truly.
For a brief moment, he thought he could be ignorant and take everything at face value. If this was his new world… then he supposed he could live in it.
There was the sound of merriment at the banquet hall, roars of laughter and loud voices. There should only be one bunch of warriors who Thor knew could made such ruckus. And he wasn't wrong when he came upon the sight of the Warriors Three and Sif, his long-timed friends and brothers at arms.
Volstagg raised a turkey's leg his way, with Fandral raising his goblet. "To our dear friend, Thor Odinson," Fandral said aloud for a toast.
Thor fondly accepted the "Here, here" around the table. He settled beside Sif who was rolling her eyes at the ridiculousness of her friends but with lips pursed to a small smile.
"To the future King of Asgard," Volstagg's booming voice added as an after toast. The replies were tad bit louder this time, making Thor chuckle.
"My friends, there's no need for such," he told them, in which Sif raised an eyebrow. "I toast for our friendship, of us finally reuniting. Albeit in the afterlife," he whispered the last one in a solemn tone. He must admit it was in poor taste.
The last sentence didn't escape them, it seemed, when Hogunn stared at him inquisitively, Fandral incredulously regarding Thor, Volstagg promptly stopping his chewing on a bone, and Sif giving him an almost you're insufferable look from the sidelines.
"That's rather morbid, don't you think?" Fandral was the first to speak up, shrugging. "Forgiven. Must be your nerves speaking."
"And what's with the 'finally reuniting'?" Volstagg said between mouthfuls of meat. "We've seen you before sunrise," he pointed out. He paused, contemplating. "I was right to believe that blow in the head by the bilgesnipe did something to you."
Sif snorted, shaking her head. "Good lot it did."
There was a round of laugh at the table with Sif smirking winningly behind her cup.
Thor was confused at the sudden déjà vu. At the back of his mind was a short trip to memory lane of his last hunting trip with the Warriors Three and Sif that happened the day before his supposedly coronation day. He recalled the head injury they were pertaining to and the headache with it that lasted in the whole duration of his banishment in Midgard, living as mortal and all.
None of this was making any sense. First, waking up in Asgard that he had recently seen as a battleground of Surtur and Hela; second, appearing very much alive and few years younger. And then this, reliving the day that marked the shift from the spoiled, selfish, proud Prince of Asgard, to being Thor, protector of Midgard, an Avenger, the Lord of Thunder. If this was Hel indeed then it was twisted in its own way.
He regarded each of them fully, noting the changes in physical characteristics that he completely missed—their apparent youth, in recklessness and appearance. He wasn't the only one reverted then.
In fact, it dawned to him that everything around him was how they seemed more than half a decade back. Perhaps there was a more farfetched explanation behind all of these, one that was improbable but would put together the mysteries.
Thor was torn between the idea of being played with and being right at his guess. And if it would be the latter, then it was a perfect window of opportunity for him, Asgard, and even Midgard.
He excused himself, almost staggering on his steps in his search of someone. It might not be the best course of action at the moment, but he still has to make sure.
Make sure that he did travel back in time.