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Avengers vs The Supreme Being

Chapter Text

Thanos looked at his cowering subordinate with a mocking grin. He was in a good mood, since he had just obtained his third infinity stone. If he had been in a foul mood, that subordinate would be nothing more than a pile of ashes right now. But since he was pleased with how quickly he was gaining power, he decided to hear out the poor man. He spoke in his booming voice, the one that was known for sending even the toughest men bawling for their mothers. “What?”

The man stood there meekly for a moment, unsure what exactly he should say. He finally chose to go with the truth. “Sir, the stones… they’re all… um... talking…”

“Bring them to me.” The man nodded and scurried off. He returned within the hour, three different containers in his hand. Even through the cases, Thanos could hear the muffled voices. He snatched the containers and opened them all, taking in the beautiful sight of all the power sitting on his lap.

As soon as they were free, there was a hologram coming from the different colored stones, green, yellow and orange. The holograms all looked exactly the same, and moved in sync with each other. It was a man, dressed in viking garb, so Thanos knew him to be an Asgardian. The holograms all flickered in the same places as well. He watched the man speak.

“This is a warning to any who hold one of these infinity gems in their possession. They are immensely powerful and dangerous in the right hands, and in the wrong hands, they could mean the end of existence as we know it. If this message is playing, then three of the gems have been united. That means that a powerful enemy could be awakened, and will stop at nothing to regain possession of these gems. I hope that it has been awhile since we entrapped her, so that our sacrifices were not in vain. Please, re-scatter these gems throughout the universe, do not allow them to fall into the hands of-” The hologram flickered. “-ever. You must take this warning seriously. The future of the universe, and everything beyond, depends on your next choice.” The hologram flickered again, and then disappeared. Thanos frowned. With three of the stones in his possession, there was no one alive who could even hope to take him on.

* * *

Thor frowned at the completion of the message. He was unaware that he was seeing the same thing that one of his most powerful enemies was seeing, as well as a curious collector and a protector of the gem on Xandar. This meant that someone, somewhere, had three of the stones in their possession.

He turned and left the vault. He wanted to return to earth and discuss this with the other Avengers. Maybe they would know how to solve this problem. He made sure the doors were closed and properly guarded before heading to the bifrost.

Less than a minute after he left, there was a soft thump coming from inside the vault, too quiet for the guards to hear. The pounding continued, and if anyone was in the room, they would have been shocked to realize that the sound was coming from one of the large stone coffins that had been in the room for as long as anyone could remember.

There was an annoyed curse, and more pounding. The person inside the confined space was exhausted and frustrated. Even though this coffin was sealed with a spell, she should have been able to easily remove the lid. Or at least punch through the thick stone until there was a big enough space to crawl out. And there was an insistent buzzing in the back of her mind, like something was trying to catch her attention.

But she felt helpless and weak. As she pounded against her prison, she felt a sharp stinging on her hands, something she had never experienced before. She tried to inspect her hands but there wasn’t even a drop of light inside. But she could feel the sticky liquid on her hands, and her eyes widened in surprise. If she didn’t know any better, she would say that was blood. And that would make the strange sensation pain.

She sighed. She did know better. She couldn’t bleed, she couldn’t feel pain. She never had before, so why would she magically… her thoughts trailed off as she remembered the moments leading up to her imprisonment. She felt the anger surge through her. Those damned Asgardians! She would get her revenge.

It had taken over a thousand of them just to contain her long enough to strip away her powers and lock them inside some colored rocks. The last thing she had heard before she fell asleep was the leader of those ‘gods’ saying that she would wake up when there was a chance for her to change. She snorted. They wanted her to change, they wanted her to become a ‘better person’ by stealing everything she valued and then locking her away?

She shoved against the stone, but it was useless. The stinging in her hands were back, and now that she had identified it as pain, she knew that she never wanted to feel it again. If this is what everyone else felt when they were injured, then she felt sorry for them. Well, if those idiots truly believed that she could change, then maybe they would start by letting her out.

She screamed until her throat was raw and her voice was scratchy, and the feeling of pain returned, so she decided to stop. She took a deep breath. There had to be some way out. The Asgardians knew that she would wake up eventually, and it would be without her powers, and they wouldn’t want her to be trapped forever.

There was enough room inside for her to turn over on her stomach, but it was a tight fit. She shoved as hard as she could, and to her surprise, she felt a little bit of give. She shoved some more, and she felt the strain in her elbows, but she kept pushing. After what seemed like hours, she had finally moved back the stone a centimeter, and that was just enough to let in a sliver of light.

She realized that she must have been pushing against the floor before, somehow she had been upside down. Maybe it was those damned Asgardians’ version of a joke. At this rate, it was going to take forever to get out. But maybe that tiny opening was enough to get her voice through. She gulped a few times, then screamed for some help. A couple of minutes passes, but there was still no response.

She jammed her arms against the heavy lid over and over, even after she could feel the slick blood dripping onto her face. Soon there was almost an inch of space, and she gulped in the fresh air. It was much better than the stale air that she had woken up with. The light was blinding, and it took her almost an hour to adjust.

But this small victory was just that: small. So after that little break, she began to push again, immediately reopening the scrapes that had just stopped bleeding. She didn’t care. It was worth it if it meant she could get out. And as long as she focused solely on her escape, she could push the pain to the back of her thoughts, and almost pretend like it wasn’t even there.

Once there was enough space to slip her fingers through, it got easier. She gripped the edge of the lid as tightly as she could, and pushed from the side. It made her arm bend at an awkward angle, but that wasn’t important. It was another half hour before the lid was pushed back far enough. She turned sideways to sit her shoulders through, and slowly stood up.

She looked around once she had stepped out of the coffin. There was so much light everywhere, it was a painful assault on her eyes that had been emerged in darkness for so long. She blinked and turned her head slowly. Her entire body felt stiff from lying on stone for who knows how long.

She looked down at her hands. She had known she was bleeding, but this was much worse than what she had expected. They looked like the mangled chew toy of a fierce mutt. She chuckled as she recalled past experiences with letting dogs chomp on flesh, though it had never been her own. She frowned. Had that hurt those people as much as this was hurting her?

She shrugged off the feeling. There was nothing she could do to change the past even if she wanted to, which she didn’t. She stretched carefully, not wanting to abuse her already sore muscles. She felt like she had depleted all her energy, and just want to close her eyes. This must what was known as tired.

She glanced around, but saw no threats in the room. There were no people inside, just shelves full of things, and most of them looked fairly useless. Then that buzzing from earlier got louder, and took up more space in her head. She could feel herself being drawn over to a golden pedestal. Resting on it was a glowing blue cube, and she reaches out to grab it.

As soon as she touched it, feelings of recognition rushed through her, and she knew exactly what was in the cube. But there was something blocking it off from her. She groaned as she recalled some of the Asgardian’s words. “Each of these gems has a different strand of your power inside. You’ll never be able to get any back unless you can reunite all six of them. And I doubt that'll ever happen. You may change someday, but I don’t think there will ever be a time that anyone deserves the amount of power you have.”

She cursed the Asgardian again. Well, at least her collection was off to a good start. One down, five to go, and she didn’t even know where she was yet. She looked down at her clothes. She was still wearing what she had been that day, and for all she knew it could have been just yesterday. But even if it felt like more time than just a day had passed, her clothes were still immaculate other than a few blood drops on her tunic.

She even still had the pouch that was tied around her waist, and she slipped the blue cube into the leather satchel. Then she straightened, and went to the door hesitantly. She had no idea what she was walking into, and in this vulnerable state, she had to be careful. Well, no matter how long she had been trapped, she still looked the same, so she should be able to pull off a decent story.

She smeared the blood from her hands over her face and shirt. She made sure that the bag was securely hidden in the folds of her skirt, and she gulped. She was already experiencing so many things that had never affected her before, and she thought that perhaps those experiences would extend to death. She had always been immortal, invincible, but she had also never bled before, so she wasn’t sure what to think.

There was a tiny flutter in her stomach, perhaps what most would consider fear. She had never felt afraid before, because she had never been able to get hurt or die, and she was always the most powerful one in the room. She shivered. They were either going to believe her or not, but either way, it would be best to get this over with.

She pushed on the giant doors, but the didn’t budge. She rammed her shoulder against them, and that must have been loud enough for the guards outside the room to hear. The doors slowly opened, and she stumbled out. It wasn’t even an act for the most part, she really did feel dead on her feet. She saw two Asgardians, and she wanted nothing more than to smite them where they stood. But that clearly wasn’t an option at the moment. Instead, she went with what her exhausted body demanded, and she passed out.

Chapter Text

She blinked a few times, and closed her eyes again when she saw the room she was in swimming around her. That had never happened before, and it made her feel sick to the stomach, which was also a first. She took a few deep breaths, and concentrated on listening to the conversation that was fairly audible.

"-he vault. I personally checked it all over several times before locking up, and she came from inside the room. The blood on the inside of that tomb matches what it would look like if someone was trying that hard to escape. I'm telling you, she must have been inside that coffin."

A gruffer voice spoke next. "That is impossible. That casket has been in here longer than I can even remember. I think it was in there before I was even born. There's no way for any person to survive that long."

She gulped. They were talking about her. And she could tell that they were Asgardians. Just something about them, she knew it without even looking. But seriously, how long had she been in there? The meaner guy made it sound like it had been a very long time. But it couldn't have been that long. In her current state, there was no way she could survive longer than a day or two, since she was pretty sure mortals and Asgardians alike required sustenance.

Well, putting off the introductions wouldn't make the dread in her stomach go away, and the sooner she adjusted to this new way of seeing things, the sooner she wouldn't feel like puking. She opened her eyes, and waited a moment for the room to steady itself. Then she sat up, though her arms were barely supporting her at all.

She recognized that they were talking in all speak, which was interesting. The Asgardians that she remembered only spoke in their native tongue, so when had they evolved like this? She cleared her throat. Maybe she should talk in some obscure language just to throw them off. She decided to go with Aedian. "How long do you plan on standing around talking about me?"

She looked closer at the two men. One was old, and he had an eye patch covering one eye. He had an air of authority about him. The other was younger, with long blonde hair and a friendly smile. He had a large hammer swinging from his hip, and she recognized it as Mjolnir, and she wondered how such a powerful weapon had fallen into the hands of that Asgardian who looked like a complete dunce.

The younger one's eyes widened as he realized that she wasn't speaking in any language he had heard before. The older one was better at hiding his shock, but she could still see it. She laughed. She couldn't let them know how weak she was, even if they had already guessed, so she would just act as high above them as possible.
The older one frowned. "What is your name?"

She let the edges of her mouth slide down. No one had asked her name in a very long time. They had always given her names, always different depending on where she was, and they never bothered to ask if she already had one. She thought of all the names she had been given in the past. "You may call me... Miriam." She laughed again. "You look like you've never seen a girl before."

The old man continued to speak, and the younger one seemed to know his place. He stayed silent. "How did you get into the vault?"
Miriam raised one eyebrow. So she had been a vault? This just kept getting better and better. "I have no idea. One day I'm going about my own business, not minding anyone but myself. The next thing I know, I'm waking up in that stone box of death."

So it wasn't exactly true. But they didn't need to know that. The older one's frown deepened. "That coffin has been sealed and collecting dust in that room since before I was born. My sons used to dare each other to open it, but they never could. Now you are claiming that you have been inside the entire time? How would you have survived for over ten thousand years?"

Miriam's eyes widened. "Wow. I mean, I thought I must have been in there for a while, but ten thousand years? That's just cruel. That's like an entire fiftieth of my life!"
The old man did not looked like he believed her at all. "You are now claiming to be half a million years old? That is quite impossible. And how do you know Aedian? It is a dead language."

Miriam grinned. She switched to one of the elven dialects. "Because I was around when it was still alive, silly. So, what's your name?"
The man didn't looked amused. "I am Odin Borson, ruler of Asgard. Now who are you really?"

Miriam didn't let her distress show on her face. This situation couldn't really get any worse at this point. If she still had all her power, she would turn this Odin guy into dust right where he stood. But as it was, she could barely move. At least her brain still worked. In her time, all speak had been a rare gift. But she had never needed to use it. After being alive for long enough, she found that she knew every language there was.

Which was now a good thing, since all speak was a type of magic, and it was gone with the rest of her power. But she could still switch between any languages or dialects she pleased, mid sentence if she wanted to. "I already told you, I'm Miriam. If you don't want to believe me, that's your choice."

She was disappointed to learn that she was still on Asgard. Those Asgardians who imprisoned her hadn't even thought of her of enough of a threat that she needed to be tossed out into space or something. But by now, those guys must all be dead, even if any of them had survived her entrapment. The ruler was usually the oldest and if this guy was ten thousand, then that mean there was probably no one left who had been around when she had been locked up.

That was annoying. Now she wouldn't get the satisfaction of slaughtering them all herself. But on the bright side, they were dead. Probably. That saved her the trouble of figuring out a way to do it with her newly weak body. Odin looked really grumpy, and Miriam laughed again. She couldn't help it, this guy was just so easy to laugh at.

She turned her attention to the younger man. He was looking at her with open curiosity. "What's your name?"

He looked a little surprised that she had spoken directly to him. He glanced at Odin, and the older man gave him a terse nod. The blonde looked back at Miriam. "I am Thor Odinson."

"Cool. So he's your dad. That's interesting. You don't look like the old man at all."

Odin growled. "You will show respect towards me and my family while you are in our realm."

Miriam raised her hands in mock surrender, and even though just the small action burned her muscles like crazy, it was worth it to see Odin's face turn purple. "Geez, okay. Respect. Total respect for you, man."

Thor looked more confused. "You speak like one from modern day Midgard. How would that be possible if you have been inside a coffin for so long?"

She wiggled her eyebrows. "I read your mind, obviously." Thor took a step back, and he didn't remove his gaze. It seemed like he actually believed her. This was good. Gullible Asgardians would make it easier to get around. "I can do a large number of things you would hardly believe."

Odin took a deep breath, and his face slowly returned to its original hue. He glanced at Thor. "Go retrieve your brother. He would know more about magic, if she is even telling the truth."

Miriam nodded casually. "Oh, she is."

She wasn't sure who Thor's brother was, since all these people were babies compared to her, but if he was an expert in sorcery or something, he would be able to confirm that she did have magic, but she lost it. Then maybe they would feel bad for her, and help her find the rest. She brushed her hand across her skirt on the pretense of unwrinkling it, but she was actually checking to make sure she still had her pouch. It was there, with a lump that was the right shape to be the blue cube.

Odin stared at her for a few minutes while they waited for Thor to return. She stared right back, knowing that she couldn't show this man any sign of weakness. Just when she thought she would have to break away from their little blinking contest, Thor returned. There was another boy with them, and he was tall and blue and had jet black hair. Maybe by brother Odin had meant shield brother, because there's no way those two could be related by blood.

The stranger stepped forward, and Miriam assessed him quickly. He had a quiet, dangerous look, and clever too. He could be a problem if he was around when she tried to trick these foolish gods. So she decided to go for distraction. Anything would work really, but she had a gut feeling about what would work best. She'd always had a talent for knowing just how to get to people.

"What are you supposed to be?"

The newcomer immediately stiffened, and she grinned. She had hit the mark. He stared at her with icy red eyes. "I don't know what you mean by that."

She shrugged. "Well, you're obviously not an Asgardian. But I can't think of any races that look like you. It must be newer, just came around since I've been asleep. So what are you?"

Thor stepped forward, and he shot a glare to Miriam. "He is my brother."

Miriam looked unimpressed. "Why is your brother blue, with red eyes? I've never seen any Asgardian like that before."

The blue one glanced down at himself, like he was shocked that Miriam figured out his was blue. She almost gasped as she realized what happened. She had always had eyes that could only see the truth. That was part of why it was so easy to hate people. But apparently that wasn't from magic, since it would seem that she still had that ability. She grinned. So he didn't look blue and evil to other people. That was interesting.

"How…?"

Miriam wiggled her eyebrows again. Maybe he wouldn't be any more difficult than the other two. "I can read your mind, of course. Just ask your… brother. He can confirm that."

The man shook his head, like he was clearing his mind. "I doubt that you can even walk right now, let alone read my mind. I can feel it, very powerful magic on you, but it's just residue. There's none of the actual power left. What happened to it?"

Miriam pouted for a moment. Then she decided that she could tell them at least part of the truth. As soon as she got her powers back, she was going to destroy all these Asgardians. It didn't matter that it was their ancestors and not them that had wronged her, she wanted to avenge herself. And the destruction of an entire planet wasn't that a big a deal. After all, she had done it before.

Chapter Text

Miriam took a moment to decide exactly how much she should tell the Asgardians and other company. Should she mention how her power was locked away in six different stones that held more power than they could comprehend? The stones now held whatever power had been in them when they were first created, along with Miriam’s power. Though hers was locked away inside the stones, and no one else would be able to get to that stuff.

Should she tell them how she was locked away after blowing up a few planets in a bored snit? Should she tell them about Ar’iaal? No… there was no way that bringing him into this would change anything. She took a deep breath. “I have been in that tomb all this time. I was locked away in there by those who feared me.” She looked at the blue one. She could sense that he would be the easiest to appeal to. “They feared me because I held more power than them, and they couldn’t control me. So they gathered a large group of sorcerers, and seeped my power from me. Then the proceeded to lock me up.”

She could see the blue one soften at the mention of being feared. It was good to know that she hadn’t lost her ability to practically see right through people. That would be especially handy now that manipulation seemed to be the only defense those damned Asgardians had left her with.

The blue one and the blond one both turned to look at the older one. “She is not lying… but she is not telling the whole truth. She is very amusing, even if her body seems to be an empty shell that was once filled with greatness. Can we keep her?”

Miriam narrowed her eyes. “I’m not some wild animal to be made into your pet. I need to track down the objects that contain my powers, and restore myself to my former glory.”

Thor shook his head. “There must have been a good reason for people to have feared you. What did you do with your powers to frighten them into taking such drastic action?”

Miriam scowled. “Of course you assume that I was at fault. I made the terrible mistake of being born, and I’m sorry, but I never did anything to harm those Asgardians.”

Odin tilted his head. “The ones who imprisoned you were Asgardians? Interesting.”

Miriam shook her head, and kept her attention on Thor. “You must understand. I need to get my powers back, so that…” She took a deep breath. The separation between her and Ar’iaal had started long before she had been imprisoned. But Thor seemed to be the follow your heart type of guy. “...so that I can find the one I love.”

Like she thought he would, Thor got an interested look. “What is the name of this person?”

Miriam sighed. They really didn’t want to let her off easy on this one, did they? “His name is Ar’iaal. He was around before me, but I’ve known him since birth. He is the most important person to me.”

Thor got a wistful look. “I can hear the truth in your voice. I know how you feel. I, too, and separated from the one who shares my affections.”

The blue one got an almost undetectable suspicious look. Miriam internally sighed with frustration. He seemed to realize that there was something strange about the fact that she had just so easily appealed to both brothers, even though they were obviously very different. She looked at him. “Do you have a name? Or shall I call you ‘the blue one’ until the end of eternity?”

He scowled. “My name is Loki.”

Miriam grinned. “I like it. I don’t know if it’s still a common practice among Asgardians, to name children after ancestors. But if it is, then I know exactly who you’re named after.” “And I now feel a sudden hatred towards you.” She finished in her head as she saw a picture in her mind of the leader of the Asgardians who had locked her away.

Loki nodded stiffly. “I see. And you are…?”

“Oh, right, you weren’t here for the introductions. You can call me Miriam.” She turned to look at Odin. It wouldn’t matter that she had the boys on her side if he was still unwilling to assist. “So? Will you help me retrieve my stolen power? Please?”

The old man frowned. “If you will excuse me, I must seek counsel with those I trust. I shall return before night falls to tell you what I’ve decided. Thor, come with me.” And he strode away purposefully, the eager blond on his tail.

Loki stayed, giving Miriam a curious look. Once his father and brother were out of earshot, he spoke. “So who are you really?”

Miriam raised her eyebrows and plastered a shocked expression on her face. “What are you saying, good sir? That I have told a mistruth?”

Loki shook his head. “There’s obviously more to you, and it is a very important part. Yes, people fear what they cannot understand or control, but that feeling of misunderstanding or lack of control would not arise if one does not strike first and demonstrate their power. So who are you really?”

Miriam frowned, and wrinkled up her nose like she could smell something rotten. “I take it that you speak from experience. Do people fear you because you look so different?”

Loki shook his head. “You do not have enough energy, magic or not, to read my mind, even if you do still possess that power even though everything else is gone. So tell me how you can see past what everyone else sees.”

Miriam shrugged, and bit her lip. “I guess I never really thought about how much my sight differs from that of most people. I have a strange thing, I can always see the truth. Whether it is in words, or pictures, or facial expressions, I will always know what’s real. So I don’t see past whatever facade you’re wearing, I don’t even see it in the first place.”

Loki sighed. “Alright, but that still doesn’t explain who are. You clearly know more about me already than most people I’ll ever meet, so I think I am at the disadvantage. Please, tell me more. And do keep in mind, whatever you were before, whatever you had before, you don’t have anymore. You are so weak compared to any common Asgardian.”

The girl blinked. “Did you just threaten me? Because that seriously sounded like a threat. Well, I guess it won’t kill me to tell you a little bit more. I was probably never mentioned in history because the Asgardians were ashamed of me, and wanted me gone. But just to be on the safe side, I won’t tell you anything that I wouldn’t want everyone to know. You just get to know first because you asked first.” She leaned back, not wanting her arms to give out on her while she was in the presence of this powerful man.

“Well, at least tell me something that I can’t find out on my own.”

Miriam shrugged. “I think that I can handle that. Alright, you asked who I am. That would include what I am. I know that my people were around long before the Asgardians, the first Asgardian was half of whatever I am. Honestly, if we had an actual name, it’s been forgotten hundreds of thousands of years ago. Once the Asgardians were flourishing, they began to grow jealous of the power that we hold, more than you can even imagine. In the end, I think there was supposed to be some kind of great war. But there’s no way the Asgardians could have won. Which leaves no explanation as to what happened to my people. All I know is that in the end, me and Ar’iaal, my best friend, were on our own, with only each other for company. We made ourselves scarce, so that the Asgardians wouldn’t be angry with us.”

“Yeah, like that worked out so well,” Loki interrupted.

Miriam continued on like she hadn’t heard him. “So our people, whatever they are, cannot die. But we can be crippled by extreme emotional traumas. Ar’iaal and I got into a major fight. He wanted to go out into the universe and search for the rest of our people. He said that it was practically our duty. But they had abandoned us, so we had no reason to bother looking for them. Our argument kept escalating, and neither of us were even sure quite what we were arguing about. In the end… he struck me. It was something he had never done before. He immediately regretted it, as did I for starting the fight, but he wouldn’t listen when I said that I didn’t hate him. He fell into a deep comatose state, something our people can do to preserve ourselves until a time where we can be emotionally stable. He left me completely alone. I don’t know how long he’s slept for, but I know that he must be awake by now. I need to find him and make sure he knows that I don’t hate him.”

Loki was quiet for a minute. Then he spoke. “If you were, well, the way you are right now, this level of weakness, and he struck you, and injured you, would you still forgive him?”

Miriam tilted her head. “What?”

“In your current state you can be physically hurt. If, when he struck you, he inflicted pain, which you have now endured, would you still forgive him?”

Miriam frowned. She couldn’t possibly imagine any world where Ar’iaal would want to hurt her. And she hadn’t felt pain when he hit her back then, only the symbolism behind the action. But that didn’t matter. It had been an accident, her own fault, really, and he had ended up suffering more than she did. She sighed. But truthfully, pain was something that she hated, and now understood why people hated her so much for inflicting pain on them. So if Ar’iaal and her found each other, and Ar’iaal did hurt her, which he wouldn’t, Miriam would tell him to leave. She finally spoke. “No, if he hurt me, then I wouldn’t forgive him. But he didn’t hurt me. And since I won’t be able to find him until my power is restored, by the time we meet again, if he dares harm me, I would hurt him so badly.”

The blue one chuckled. “You are very amusing.”

Miriam frowned. “I am an all-powerful being, I am not amusing, I am intimidating and frightening.”

Loki shrugged. “If you insist.”

She pressed her lips together until they were white. “Where did your brother and father go?”

Loki shrugged again. “I don’t know. They don’t include me in anything.”

Miriam sighed. “That sucks.” She understood what it was like to be left out. The Asgardians had held their grudges, but been polite enough to Ar’iaal and Miriam. But after Ar’iaal was gone, they just ignored her completely. It wasn’t a new feeling, but it was surprising that this could be felt by others. She’d always thought it was just her. She never knew better, since she had always been alone.

She looked up at Loki curiously. “So, what’s the story?”

He raised one eyebrow. “I’m sorry?”

Miriam shrugged. “You heard me. What’s the story? How does someone like you, who is clearly not Asgardian, end up being adopted into the royal family?”

Loki scowled. “It’s none of your business, really. I’m much more interested in your story. I’m still curious about what exactly it is that you did to incur the anger of the Asgardians.”

Chapter Text

Odin and Thor returned after what felt like forever. Then Miriam scoffed at herself. What was forever to someone who was already five hundred thousand years old? The ruler of Asgard shook his head apologetically. “I have decided that we shall not assist you in your endeavors to restore your power. My son will take you to Midgard, where you may live out the remainder of your life.”

Miriam wished so badly that she had her powers right now. She would just zap the old man into a pile of dust, and let it fall over the rainbow bridge. But right now she was powerless, weaker than even the weakest of the Asgardians. So her protest could only come in the form of words, rather than actions.

“Hey, you may not want to help me, but that doesn’t mean I have to go live on Midgard. That’s a stupid decision.”

Odin frowned. “I do not appreciate your disrespect-”

Miriam laughed. “So there are some Asgardians who do appreciate my disrespect, right?”

Odin’s face was slowly getting redder, and Miriam couldn’t help finding the whole situation amusing. Other than the part where she couldn’t smite the man where he was standing. His voice came out tight and quiet, like if he spoke any louder he would just explode. “You are being sent to Midgard, and that is very generous of me. If you continue to show such blatant disrespect, I will put you back in that tomb, and this time there will be no chance for you to escape.” He turned to Thor. “Go get the Tesseract, use it to transport yourself and this girl to Midgard.”

He nodded. “Yes father. Would you like me to stick around to ensure that she survives?”

Odin snorted. He somehow knew that even though Miriam didn’t have her power, she was far far away from being safe. “I would like you to stick around to ensure that Midgard survives.”

Thor frowned. He obviously didn’t see how the small weakling was dangerous in any way, but he was vigilant when it came to the protection of his precious Earth, so he wasn’t going to take any chances. He turned and left. Miriam tried to get up to follow him, but Loki held his staff out in front of her chest, blocking the way. She looked at him with annoyance, and he just shrugged.

Odin crossed his arms over his chest, and it didn’t look like he was going anywhere anytime soon. Miriam rolled her eyes. She had several mocking remarks to make, most along the lines of Odin being scared of a child, but she didn’t have a death wish, so she stayed quiet, as much as that pained her to do.

Thor returned after what felt like hours had passed by. Miriam kept telling herself that a few hours was nothing to someone who spent the last ten thousand years in a stone tomb, but she was very successful at convincing herself of that, especially when she was still so vulnerable. Thor had a guarded look on his face. “The Tesseract is gone.”

Odin immediately had on his scary face, and his eyes flitted over to Loki. The blue man shrugged, having no idea what they were talking about. Miriam snickered. “That sucks, when your own family doesn’t even trust you enough not to look your way as soon as something happens.”

Loki raised one eyebrow. “I believe that when you were laying down, I noticed something of unusual shape hidden on your person. I didn’t find it important at the time, but now I wonder what it is.”

Miriam shrugged. “It’s nothing important, I can assure you. It’s not your stupid Tesseract that can apparently travel between realms.”

Loki didn’t seem like he was going to drop the subject. “Then what is it, exactly?”

Miriam sighed. “It’s just some blue cube, so who cares?” Loki’s eyes widened, and his mouth stretched at the edges. Miriam glared at him, and he burst out into laughter. He bent over, laughing so hard. Miriam growled. “What’s so funny?” She didn’t like being made fun of, not at all. “Come on, I like a good joke as well as the next pathetic Asgardian.”

Loki managed to compose himself, though Miriam could detect more chuckles beneath the surface, ready to be let out at the littlest thing. “Do you honestly not know?” He clamped his mouth shut when he saw the girl’s blank face, to prevent more laughter. “That blue cube is, in fact, the Tesseract.”

Miriam jumped up when Odin spoke. The old man had somehow moved to stand right behind her. “Hand over the Tesseract.”

Miriam tensed, and she automatically reached down to clutch the stone. “But it’s mine.”

The gods all frowned simultaneously, and it was the first time Miriam saw any resemblance between the three. Odin looked curious despite himself. “What do you mean? The Tesseract has been in our possession for many thousands of years…”

Miriam tilted her head. “How many thousands of years? Does ten sound about right?”

Odin scowled. He hated to admit that when he thought about it, that really did seem to be about right. But that was impossible. The Tesseract was an infinity stone, it didn’t belong to anyone, it was just a byproduct created at the beginning of time and the universe. No one could technically own one. But the tone of her voice didn’t sound possessive, just factual. Like it was simply hers, and there was no argument.

The Allfather sighed. “Hand over the Tesseract.”

The girl looked like she wanted to argue further, but she knew that in the end, she was outmatched. They had had the rock for so long, anyone would believe that it was rightfully theirs, even if it was actually rightfully hers. Or at least part of it was.

Miriam started to turn around, and she noticed the gods all tense up. She rolled her eyes. “Do you mind?” Once her back was facing them, she pulled out her hidden pouch, and took out the giant glowing blue cube. She was loath to give it up so easily, since it was the only one of six that she had obtained so far.

She tucked her pouch back in, not wanting to give that secret up, even if it was small and insignificant. She turned back around and held out the Tesseract. She watched with wide as the color grew darker and darker. Odin looked confused. “It’s never done that before.” He grabbed it before Miriam could think of retracting her hand, and it immediately went back to it’s original color as soon as it lost contact with Miriam’s hand.

She raised one eyebrow. “Well, that certainly has to prove something, doesn’t it?”

The god shook his head. He handed the cube to Thor, who accepted it with a guarded expression on his face. Odin glanced at Miriam with his good eye, then back at his son. “Depart now.”

Thor nodded, and held out the stone in Miriam’s direction. “Touch it.”

Miriam frowned. “Don’t we have to go over the rainbow bridge or something?”

Thor glanced at Loki. “The bifrost was destroyed, we are no longer able to travel across it, which is why we use the Tesseract instead.”

Miriam looked at Loki and laughed. “Geez, you seem to be the troublemaker all the time. Doesn’t that ever get tiring?”

The strange blue adopted Asgardian frowned. “You say that I’m a troublemaker? What about you? We know nothing about you. For all we know, you could have destroyed half a dozen planets and there’s no way we’d ever find out, since that was ages ago at this point.”

Miriam’s eyes widened a fraction of an inch. “Me?” Her voice squeaked a little, and she had to clear her throat. It wouldn’t do for the one who was already most suspicious about her to be suspecting her of crimes that would surely get her executed or something. “Destroy planets? That’s impossible. I can’t even kill a flea.”

Then Loki and Odin and the whole room that the bed was in disappeared, and that really didn’t feel good on her limbs, which were still more sore than she could have ever imagined before. She started coughing as dust flew up everywhere, and when she blinked a few times, she saw that their surroundings had changed.

Thor looked around with satisfaction. “It’s much more freeing. The bifrost only connected to an area outside of one small town, but with the Tesseract, we can travel virtually anywhere we wish to go.”

Miriam groaned from where she was lying on the ground. “This is horrible. Why does this pain even exist? How can mortals stand it?” She screamed. “EVERYTHING HURTS!”

Thor shrugged apologetically. “I’m sorry, but I will need to bring you with me.” He bent down and scooped her up, one arm under her neck and one under her knees. He ignored her screeches of pain and indignation as he began to walk, carrying her as gently as he could manage. He walked for almost half an hour before Miriam’s voice died down. “You’re acting like a child who has gotten injured for the first time.”

She was panting, as though she had just run a marathon. She spoke through clenched teeth. “I am a child who has just gotten injured for the first time. I’ve never gotten hurt once in my entire life, I’ve never been capable of being hurt before. This is… I don’t even know how to describe it…”

Thor looked awed at the thought of Miram never getting hurt even once in her entire life. She bit her lip to stop herself from screaming again, and she bit down so hard that she drew blood. She could taste the coppery drops in her mouth, and she wondered what it felt like for all those people in the past who she had terrorized. She almost caught herself feeling bad for them.

To take her mind off of the pain, she needed a distraction. “Where are we going, anyways?”

Thor smiled cheerfully. “A place called New York. It’s great, I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do. I think that it’ll be easiest to watch over you with the help of a few of my friends who live in those parts.”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “I can’t even walk on my own, but sure, I’m dangerous. How far is it to New York?”

Thor shrugged. “I don’t know. Last time I got there on a fascinating flying machine. Right now, we’re walking there from a place called the Mojave Desert. I have no idea how long the trek will take.”

Miriam gasped and closed her eyes. She had a feeling that this was going to be the longest walk of her life.

Chapter Text

They had stopped for the night once they finally reached civilization. It had taken a few hours, and Miriam had passed out and woken up a few times already. Thor had managed to get a room at a motel, and by some coincidence, it was right across the street from an airport.

Miriam was lying on one of the two beds in her room, and tried to calculate how long it would take to walk to New York. Based off of the map that was in the back of the yellow book she found in a drawer, it was over two thousand miles away. Even at Thor’s quick pace, it would probably take a month to walk all the way there.

The Asgardian returned to the room, a slight frown on his face. “I wanted to see if there were any horses available to make the trip, but unfortunately, there were not. Instead, we shall drive there.” He held up a small keyring with one key hanging from it. Miriam sighed. “Well. I’m pretty sure you don’t need a key to get into a carriage.”

Thor shook his head. “Of course not. On Midgard they have transport called cars. You need a key to make it start.”

Miriam frowned suspiciously. “And you know how to drive one of these… cars? Since when does an Asgardian prince need to learn how to get around on little Midgard?”

Thor shrugged. “Well, I may have never actually driven before… but I have been getting brief lessons from my Jane. I am confident that neither of us will get too severely injured.”

Miriam took a deep breath, let it out, and closed her eyes. She silently counted to ten, then did it again in a few more languages. Why did her babysitter have to end up being the dumb one? And how was this guy ever going to be expected to run an entire planet?

The girl frowned. “I didn’t realize that they would accept Asgardian money on Midgard. Did Asgard found this place or something? Because I know that it wasn’t around when I went to sleep. Or maybe it was, but there was no intelligent creatures anywhere to be found, if there were creatures residing on the planet at all.”

Thor shrugged again. “Don’t worry, you’ll learn their culture soon enough. I know that I did.” He grimaced at some unknown memory, and then his carefree smile returned to his face. “Perhaps when you meet the rest of my team you’ll realize how wonderful this planet really is.”

Miriam looked at the god curiously. “What do you mean, your team? Are there other Asgardians on Midgard?”

Thor shook his head with a laugh. “Don’t be silly. With the tesseract being the only mode of transportation between worlds, there is no possible way for others to visit this realm.”

The girl crossed her arms over her chest. “Why don’t you just share the tesseract, and let everyone have a chance to visit this place, if it’s as great as you claim it is?”

Thor frowned. “The tesseract is a dangerous object, and should not be shared with just anyone. It is currently in the possession of the royal family, which means we can control who uses it, and that brings us a step closer to keeping this planet safe.”

Miriam sighed. “What makes this hunk of rock so important to you, anyways?”

Thor smiled. “It’s a precious place once you get to know it as well as I have. The people are so different than anything you’ve ever seen before, and they have no concept of magic at all.”

Miriam snorted, and rolled over onto her side, so she was facing away from Thor. She wasn’t in the mood to continue this conversation with her kidnapper. She pulled the blanket up and wrapped it around her shoulders. Thor seemed to understand her sudden need for peace, because he shut up. Either that, or he was as sleepy as his reluctant prisoner.

* * *

Miriam woke up, and looked around. The room was completely empty. She began to, understandably, freak out. Where had everyone gone? They had all lied down together, and now there was no one else around. She struggled out from under her blankets, then looked around.

There, in the corner, was a lump under a blanket. That meant that she wasn’t the only one left. Miriam hurried over, and dropped to her knees next to the only other person in the whole place. She roughly shook him awake, and watched as her best friend kicked off his own blankets, and stood up.

He grabbed Miriam’s arms. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

She sniffled and gestured to the room around them. Ar’iaal gasped as he saw the empty space. All of the beddings and blankets were still spread out over the hard rock floor, just like always. The only thing missing from the scene was the people themselves.

Ar’iaal pulled Miriam into his arms, in a tight hug. She needed to know that she hadn’t been completely abandoned, and that embrace was just what she needed. And if Ar’iaal was being honest with himself, he needed the physical contact as well. “Did you see what happened? Where they went?”

Miriam shook her head. “No. I just woke up and they were all… gone. I don’t know what happened to them.”

Ar’iaal made comforting noises, and bent down to press a kiss against the top of her head. “Shh… shh… It’ll be alright. We’ll find them, and make sure that they’re all safe. We’re going to get them all back, I’m serious. There’s no need to cry. Everything will be alright, okay.”

Miriam nodded. She trusted Ar’iaal, and if he said that everything was going to be okay, and they were going to get their family back, then she knew it was true. Ar’iaal would never lie to his own best friend.

Suddenly, the light coming in from outside dimmed, and the two turned to see the person who was blocking out the sun by standing right in the doorway. It was Miriam’s mother, and the poor girl ran over with relief. “Oh, mother, thank everything. I wasn’t sure what had happened, and I was afraid that…”

The woman scowled. “Do you seriously think that I came back here for you? I came back because we left something behind, and I was voted to retrieve it. I’m not sure why, but I suppose since you’re already awake, this is the perfect time to tell you something rather important. Here’s the thing… we don’t want you. You’re a freak, and we have no use for you to be among us. We figured that we should at least give you the courtesy of not having to watch us leave.”

Ar’iaal put his hands on his hips. “And what about me? Did you decide that I’m also not good enough to be allowed to live? Even though I obviously have never done anything to make you think that I don’t deserve to go with you.”

Miriam’s mother sighed. “I know how close you are with my daughter. We assumed that you would want to stay here with her. If you’ve changed your mind, then, by all means, come with me.”

She snatched something up off the floor, then turned to look at Ar’iaal expectantly. He glanced at his friend, and saw her resigned expression. She had already expected that he would want to move on with the rest. It would be too lonely here, on his own, and even though the selfish part of Miriam wanted Ar’iaal to stay, she knew that that wasn’t the right thing to do. And it was his decision anyways, whether or not he wanted to go.

Ar’iaal smiled softly. “I know that I am just being selfish, but I will stay. My place is by your daughter’s side, no matter what.”

The woman suddenly looked angry. “What is it about that… that… miscreant that makes everyone she meets fall for her every whim? Do you have no mind of your own, Ar’iaal?”

The boy frowned. “Don’t speak about her that way. Miriam is a good person, and I… I love her. That’s why I can’t leave her!”

The woman shot a bolt of lightning at Ar’iaal. He shrugged as the electricity slid harmlessly right off of him. He laughed. “You’ll have to do much better than that if you have any hopes of defeating me. As long as we all hold onto our gifts, we will always be at a stand still, and none of us will win.”

Miriam’s mom growled. “This isn’t the last that you’ve seen of us. When the opportunity arises, I shall return.”

The woman disappeared before either of the children could even attempt to initiate any sort of tracking device or spell. Ar’iaal pulled Miriam into his arms, and they collapsed to the floor in one drawn, hug.

***

Chapter Text

Miriam slowly opened her eyes, and took in the dark motel room. She hadn’t dreamed about Ar’iaal in thousands of years. She wondered what it was about this place that forced that painful memory to the surface. She heard a soft rustling, and rolled her eyes. “You don’t have to be so quiet, I’m already awake.”

The light flicked on, and Thor stood up. The bed sheets he had been lying on top of were barely wrinkled. He shrugged. “I do not require as much rest as humans do.”

Miriam sighed. “Did you even sleep at all?”

Thor shrugged. “When I am uninjured, there is no purpose to sleeping.” He stretched, then walked over to Miriam’s bed. “Since we are both up already, we should continue on our journey. If you are still tired, you can rest in the car.”

Miriam held her breath as she pushed herself into a sitting position, praying fervently that she wouldn’t be in too much pain. But that was a lot to wish for, so she decided to just be satisfied with the fact that she was now able to move, even if it wasn’t a lot of movement.

Thor moved to scoop her up again, but Miriam brushed him aside with a glare. If she was at all capable of doing something on her own, then she would not accept any help for it. Miriam winced as she swung her legs to the side, and pushed herself up so she was standing.

The god seemed to understand that her pride was at stake, so instead of picking her up, he followed closely behind, ready to catch her if she fell. Once they were outside, Thor pointed out the silver car that was parked in front of their room. “I considered the idea of taking the flying bird… the airplane… but I decided that this would be easier on you.”

Miriam snorted. “How thoughtful of you.”

Thor beamed at what he took as a compliment. “Of course. Now let us commence our trip to New York.”

Miriam rolled her eyes, but she followed. Thor opened a door, and motioned for the girl to sit on the strange shiny seat. She complied, and he slammed the door shut, trapping her inside the strange metal box.

A moment later, Thor slid onto the seat next to Miriam, and closed his door. He pointed to the leather strap attached to the wall. “You need to pull that down, and insert the metal clip into the little slot right here.” Miriam followed his instructions. Thor did the same, before sticking the keys into a little hole, turning them, and the car made a soft purring.

Miriam forced herself not to laugh at the gentle sound coming from such an aggressive looking beast. “So, do you even know how to get to New York?”

Thor shrugged. “Well, it can’t be that hard, can it? I know the general direction…”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “If Odin wanted to kill me, he should have just had the balls to do it back in Asgard.”

Thor looked confused as he backed the car out of the parking lot, and onto the road. “The All-father does not wish for your death. That is why you have been sent here. It is the best possible solution that he could think of.”

The girl shook her head. Thor swerved around some furry creature that had been in the middle of the road, and then kept driving like nothing was wrong. She was gripping the edges of her seat so hard that her knuckles turned white. “I’m pretty sure that while I’m in your… care… my life is in more danger than it would be in Asgard.”

The god shrugged. “I can protect you, if you are concerned for your safety. But make no mistake, I will not hesitate to do whatever it takes to protect this planet. So if you are planning on trying anything…”

Miriam scoffed. “Buddy, I think I’ll postpone my plans of world domination until a later date. Like maybe one where I can breath without everything hurting.”

Thor nodded, like that was a satisfactory answer for him. After a few minutes, he realized that the soft stream of random chatter had stopped, and he glanced at the girl sitting in the passenger seat. Her head was resting against the window, and her closed eyes, along with her deep breathing, gave away the fact that she was sleeping.

It made no difference one way or another, though admittedly, Thor had been looking forward to having someone to talk to during this long car ride. He wished that the tesseract had a more accurate aim, though he was grateful that he had at least landed on the right continent.

After a few hours, it started to get light out as the sun came up. Miriam mumbled something in her sleep, and Thor frowned. He listened carefully as she mumbled again. “...sorry… please don’t leave… you know that wasn’t… I could never blame you… I love you…” Then she frowned, and didn’t look at peace the way most people did when they were sleeping.

Despite her discomfort, though, Thor couldn’t help smiling to himself at that revelation. Even this tough girl had someone that she loved. Once he was reunited with the Avengers, he would try and help Miriam track down this person. The god knew how much it hurt to be separated from the person you love, and he was hopeful that a reunion would get Miriam to be happier. And happy people who were in love weren’t the sort to destroy planets, so it was a win-win, as Jane would say.

After another hour had passed, Miriam yawned, and stretched her arms as far as she could, even though she was restrained by the safety belt. She was already feeling much better, and she wondered if there was some kind of magic healing agent in the air on this planet.

She saw that Thor was staring straight ahead, but the grin on his face was obvious. Miriam scowled. “What are you so happy about? The fact that we’re driving ever closer to my imminent incarceration?”

Thor shook his head. “You aren’t going to be imprisoned. Maybe closely watched for a while, until you can prove yourself to be trustworthy, but you won’t be held captive.”

Miriam shrugged, and turned to look out the window. Sometime while she had been sleeping, they had passed out of that atrocious desert, and were now driving through a small town. There were people out in the fields, taking care of cows and growing crops. It all felt rather… domestic.

The girl’s stomach made a deep growling noise, and she felt a strange hollowness in her. “Hey, I think I’m… hungry?”

Thor glanced at her, then focused back on the road. “I stopped for sustenance while you were sleeping. Check the bag by your feet.”

Miriam glanced down, and saw the plastic bag. She rolled her eyes. Nothing good could ever come out of the plastic bag. There were a few boxes, and a clear bottle that looked almost empty, unless it was shaken. She peered up at the god, but he was busy driving, and she didn’t want to distract him so much that they got into an accident. That would be a good goal for later, but right now, she was badly injured, and probably wouldn’t survive being knocked around in the beast.

She twisted off the cap, and raised the bottle to her nose so she could sniff it. It had no distinguishable scent, and she pressed the opening to her lips, and tipped the bottle back. A cool liquid spilled into her mouth, and it had no taste, but it seemed to help quash the pains in her stomach.

The relief only lasted for a moment though, so Miriam decided that the strange liquid wasn’t the sustenance. She put the lid back on to prevent spillage, and pulled out one of the boxes. She tore off the top, and found herself staring at little orange squares. A strong scent of chemicals hit her nose.

Her stomach growled more, and Miriam decided that it was a sign that this was what she was supposed to eat. She reached in and gingerly plucked up one of the squares, pinching it between her thumb and forefinger. She dropped the square into her mouth, and was hit with a strong taste of chemicals, salt, and a little bit of cheese.

She wondered if one square was enough to sate her hunger. “Um.. blondie… how many of these do I need to eat to make my stomach stop hurting?”

Thor laughed. “The whole box is just one serving. One serving is enough to fill your empty stomach.”

Miriam nodded, and she held the box over her mouth. She let all of those fake squares fall into her mouth until it was full, she chewed and swallowed, then repeated the process. As soon as the box was empty, she pulled the bottle back out, and gulped down it’s contents. She smiled briefly at the fact that she felt normal again.

The girl went back to staring out the window at the passing landscape, and her eyes widened as she spotted a strange thing flying next to the car, almost like it was a race, or something. It was beautiful, and Miriam laughed as it kept surging ahead, and then falling back, like it was keeping pace with her.

“Blondie… what is that?”

Thor glanced over for a quick moment, and grinned. “That’s called a butterfly. They’re not usually so insistent, but it seems to like you.”

Miriam allowed a smile to quirk her lips at the thought that apparently there was at least one thing in the entire universe that liked her.

Chapter Text

Miriam had to squint to make out their surroundings now that it was getting darker out. After what seemed like years of driving, the car passed through a tall gate, and then stopped. That gentle hum that Miriam had gotten used to stopped as well, and she grimaced down at the safety belt. She looked up at Thor, who was already stepping out of the car. “Wait- aren’t you going to at least cut me free?”

Thor chuckled, and he closed the door behind him. A moment later, the door on Miriam’s side opened, and Thor leaned in. He pointed to the red rectangle next to the girl. “Just press down on that.” Miriam did, and gasped when the safety belt flew back, allowing her the freedom to exit the beast.

Once she was out, she looked around. They were standing in front of a large building, and there were a lot of people in strange clothes walking around. Thor motioned for Miriam to follow him, so she did. They got to what seemed to be the front door, and Thor pressed his hand against a small red square. A moment later, it turned green, and there was a click as the door swung open.

The Asgardian motioned for Miriam to go through first, and the door closed behind her. A moment later, there was a click as the door swung open again, and Thor entered the building. “Follow me.”

Miriam sighed. “Where are we, exactly?”

Thor laughed. “This is the Avengers base. It is very cool, isn’t it?”

Miriam’s eyes widened as a person went flying past her. She turned her head to follow the motion, and saw the man crash into a wall at the far end of the hallway. The man who appeared to be made of metal slowly stood up, a strange grin on his face. He chuckled, and shouted towards the direction he had come from. “Alright, I get it! Your wings are more than just decorations!”

Another man zipped down the hallway, a set of metal wings attached to his back. “You bet they are.” Both men suddenly froze, and they were immediately standing at attention, their weapons raised, as they stared at the girl in front of them.

Thor clapped his hands on Miriam’s shoulders, but he stepped back at her large intake of breath as he remembered how extensive her injuries were. He turned to the two men. “My friends, this is Miriam. She will be staying here for a while.” Thor nodded at them each as he introduced them. “This is James Rhodes and Sam Wilson.”

Rhodey stepped forward, studying Miriam. The helmet over his face raised up, revealing the human underneath. “Isn’t she a little young to be an Avenger?”

Miriam crossed her arms over her chest and huffed. “I’m not here to join your stupid little club. I’m here because that dumbass Odin thinks I need a babysitter. He’s just frightened of me, though.”

The man raised one eyebrow, and looked up at Thor. “Um… not to sound like I’m questioning your judgement or anything… but if Odin thought that she needed to be watched, doesn’t that mean she’s a potential danger to the world? And doesn’t that make it a little… weird… to bring her right into the place where the protectors of the world are? It just doesn’t really make sense.”

Thor shrugged. “Nonsense. What better place to take her than into the midst of the people who have vowed to protect the Earth at all costs?” Rhodey and Sam both sighed.

Sam cleared his throat. “Have you let the Captain know that we have a… guest?”

Thor shook his head. “We were just on our way to do that.”

Thor turned to walk down the hallway, and Miriam went to follow. But then her leg gave out from beneath her, and she found herself sprawled on the ground, groaning. Sam immediately sank to his knees, and began checking over her injuries. He sighed. “This is pretty bad. I think she needs to be taken to the infirmary before you do anything else.”

Thor frowned, and looked down at Miriam. “I thought you said that you were alright?”

Miriam scowled. “Of course I’m alright. Just give me a hand up, and I’ll be fine.” Thor looked unsure, and the girl sat up on her own. “Fine, don’t help me up. I’ll still be fine. Besides, wouldn’t you all be better off if I just dropped dead?”

Thor shook his head. “There is no honor in a death like that. And besides, we prefer to see as little death as possible. If there is a chance to save someone, we will take it.”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “Well, how heroic of you.” She got to her feet, pushing aside Sam’s hands that had reached out to steady her. She grumbled under her breath. “I’ve never felt more humiliated in my life. Which is a very long time.”

Thor hesitated, but Miriam crossed her arms over her chest, and stared at him with one eyebrow raised. “Well? Am I going to meet this ‘captain’ or what?”

The Asgardian nodded, and continued walking down the long hallway. They passed by many people who were hurrying around, talking quickly and looking at their tablets. The place seemed like it was very busy, though Miriam had the feeling that it always looked this crowded around here.

They got to another door with a keypad, and Thor scanned his hand so the door opened, allowing them entrance. This place seemed a little quieter, though not by much. There were only four other people in there, and they all seemed deep in concentration. There were targets set up all around the room, some of them were even moving, and the four people were running around, taking down the targets, and they seemed to be working together as a team.

A moment later, the two men from the hallway burst into the room. The other occupants glanced over, and it took a minute, but soon everyone had stopped what they were doing, and they were just staring at the small girl at Thor’s side. They gave him a puzzled glance.

The man in the tight blue suit walked over, pulling off his mask as he approached. “Thor… it’s been a while.” He glanced down at Miriam, then back up at the Asgardian. “But surely you haven’t forgotten that the practice room is for Avengers only?”

Thor shook his head. “I have not forgotten. But leaving Miriam unsupervised would surely not bode well for any of us.” He gestured at Miriam. “This is Miriam, my friend. My father declared that she is to live out the rest of her days on Midgard, under my watch. But as I cannot always be around, I thought it would be best for everyone to meet her, so that they could share in the responsibility of watching her.”

The captain frowned. “Why would Odin want her to be watched? She must have broken some pretty serious laws.”

Thor shook his head. “She is not Asgardian. But the All-father believes that she is dangerous, and is a threat to Midgard and Asgard. And the Avengers have promised to protect Midgard, which would include watching over any potential threats.”

Steve and Thor both looked over when they heard the loud crash. Miriam was sitting slouched next to the wall, though she quickly scrambled back to her feet, despite the fact that that couldn’t have been good for her injuries. She moved forward as quickly as possible (which wasn’t all that quick) with one arm outstretched. Vision was floating above the ground, backing away just quick enough to stay out of the girl’s reach.

Thor hurried over, and planted himself in front of Miriam. “What are you doing?”

Her eyes looked right past him, towards Vision. She pointed. “That’s mine.”

Thor turned to glance at the android quickly, then turned back to Miriam. “What’s yours?”

She sighed and rolled her eyes. “That stone, dummy! It’s one of mine!” She tried to push past him, but Thor was much stronger, at least at this current point in time, and he easily scooped up the girl. She pounded on his back with one hand while she continued to reach for the stone with the other.

Wanda walked over, a slight frown on her face. “Hey, I thought that I was the youngest on the team.”

Vision scoffed at that. “I am far younger than you.”

Miriam pouted. “Like I said, I’m not here to join your stupid club. And unless you’re older than five hundred thousand, give or take a few years, you can still be the youngest on the team.”

Wanda shook her head at Vision. “Yeah, but that doesn’t count. You still have all the wisdom and intelligence of an older person.”

Miriam sighed. “Yes, this is great and all, but can someone please tell the creepy red guy to hand over my stone?”

Wanda stepped closer to Thor and Miriam, a curious look on her face. “Are you really five hundred thousand years old? Because if you are, then you’re looking good for your age.” She closed her eyes for a minute.

Miriam’s eyes widened as she felt the slight tug at the edge of her mind, the one that indicated someone was trying to sneak in and preview her thoughts. Miriam sighed. In this weakened state, there was no way that her mental defenses were up to the task of protecting her mind, and besides, if the young woman could see that Miriam was telling the truth, then maybe they would hand over the stone that was sticking out of that other guy’s head. Wanda frowned as the smaller girl’s life flashed before her eyes. Each moment only lasted a few seconds, even if they felt much longer than that.

Laughing at the spot of food on her best friend’s nose.

Taking turns leaping from the highest ledge they could find, and then flying back up.

Meeting a strange woman in a dark hood, and feeling jealous when she saw her best friend’s look of admiration.

Munching on snacks as they watched a new world being created, and watching old worlds die out.

The feelings of betrayal at being abandoned.

The frustration and pent up anger from all of the unanswered questions.

The sharp sting of shock that came after the slap.

The sadness and loneliness of having no one left.

Jumping around from planet to planet, being a complete nuisance.

Scaring the Asgardians so badly, they decided to take action.

Being ambushed by hundreds, maybe thousands, of those strong warriors, and dragged into a grassy clearing. All of them raising their arms and chanting.

The foreign screams following the extraction of powers, that she realized belonged to her.

Dull looking colored stones slowly starting to glow as they were filled with power.

Heavy limbs as blackness covered her eyes.

Terrible nightmares full of death and destruction that never seemed to end.

Waking up in the dark, almost like it was just another nightmare to add to the list. Screaming until her throat was raw, and pounding until her knuckles were bloody.

Feeling so weak, and so powerless.

Wanting so badly to get back what had been taken from her, what was rightfully hers.

Wanda gasped, and took a few staggered steps back. She peered up at the girl who didn’t look all that unusual. Then she looked at Steve. “She’s not lying. The stones… really are hers.”

Chapter Text

The Avengers were all gathered around a large table, most of them unable to help sneaking glances at the rather unextraordinary looking girl. She just crossed her arms over her chest, slouched back, and glared at everyone. They had already been sitting around for a few hours, and Miriam was bored. She peered up at Thor. “So is there going to be any point in time where you make that guy give back what doesn’t belong to him?”

Thor shrugged, looking more comfortable than any of the other assembled superheroes. “I do not know, Miriam. Odin considered you dangerous with none of the stones in your possession, so I cannot imagine that he would approve of us just handing one over. Besides, Vision is also a friend, and we do not know what the effects of taking the stone away would be.”

Miriam’s frown deepened. It was rather unfair. This was the second of her stones that she had located, yet she still had none. Miriam glanced over at Vision, and he seemed to be leaning away from her, like he was afraid that she would run over and snatch the stone. The longer that she had to sit around on this Midgard, weak and vulnerable, the more she despised those Asgardians that had taken it upon themselves to imprison her in the first place. Miriam felt a righteous sense of satisfaction at the thought that all of those jerks had died locking her up.

The Captain moved to the head of the table, and cleared his throat to get the attention of his Avengers. They all tore their eyes away from the stranger, and looked towards their leader. Steve sighed. “By now, you all know that we have a stranger among us.” He nodded at Thor, then sat down.

Thor stood. “My friends, it is so good to see all of you again, after all of this time.” He gestured to Miriam. “This is Miriam. My father, Odin, has exiled her to Midgard until the end of her days. Do not be fooled by the fact that she looks like a child. This girl is older than all of us combined, and she, though powerless for the moment, is indeed the rightful owner of all of the infinity stones.”

Wanda stood up. “It’s true. I’ve seen into the recesses of her mind, and I watched as the stones were filled with a power that was torn right from her body.”

Thor nodded, and Wanda sat again. The Asgardian sighed. “Odin believes Miriam to be extremely dangerous. That is why he requested that the remainder of her life be closely watched. If she does somehow do something, then what better place is there for her to be located in at the time, than the place full of earth’s guardians?”

Some of the Avengers nodded at that logic, while others looked uneasy at the thought of Miriam’s presence. That didn’t bother her, though. She was used to people looking at her like she was going to blow up their entire planet (though to be fair, she did often blow up entire planets for absolutely no reason other than amusement value).

Miriam looked around at all of the different faces. Which one of these people would it be easiest to get into the head of? Which one could she appeal to to get her freedom?

She decided on the one with the wings, Sam Wilson. He seemed like a bit of a simpleton, and there was no reason to believe that he would have particularly good mental defenses. Being honest, he didn’t even look like he had any physical defenses, let alone mental ones.

Miriam lowered her eyes, and tried to curl up into the smallest shape possible. She drew up her legs, and pressed her face to her knees. She made soft whimpering noises. Thor frowned at Miriam, then looked at the other Avengers. “Though I don’t believe Miriam can cause much harm to us, do be wary. She has a way of getting into your head and turning your thoughts all over the place.”

Miriam narrowed her eyes. She didn’t move, though, so no one could see that she looked peeved. Miriam was annoyed. Was it really it really too much to ask to get back her power? If she ever did get it back, even just a piece of it, then Miriam would blow up this entire planet, as thanks for pissing her off.

The Captain sighed. “Thank you, Thor.” He looked over at Miriam. “We’re going to need to discuss this. Do you mind waiting out in the hallway with Thor?”

Miriam didn’t respond. Thor gently took her arm, and tugged her to her feet. It was okay to send Thor out to babysit, since he had already made it clear that he was on board with the idea of Miriam staying with the Avengers, since it had been his idea in the first place.

Thor pulled Miriam out into the hallway, and closed the door to the meeting room so the rest of the Avengers could discuss the matter without being overheard. Miriam leaned against the wall, arms crossed over her chest. “So what’s the point of all this? You’re going to keep me prisoner here even though I’m currently weaker than any of you? And in the same place as one of my stones? How do you know that I won’t just grab it and run?”

Thor snorted. “I have serious doubts that you would be able to defeat Vision in a fight. You would not be able to get the stone away from him.”

Miriam shrugged. “I think you’d be surprised by the motivation that comes with wanting something really, really badly. But it doesn’t really matter. It’s not like I plan on sticking around this place for very long.” She scowled. “And I shouldn’t have to. I’ve done nothing to wrong you or the Avengers.”

“It does not matter if you’ve done nothing against us personally. Odin believes that you could be a threat, and more importantly, he told me to watch over you. So that means that I’m going to watch over you, or at least ensure that there are capable people watching you.”

Miriam winced, and wrapped one arm around her middle. “Being mortal like this sucks. I guess those Asgardians knew what they were talking about when they said that they had found a punishment that was befitting all of my crimes. Though they probably would have been better off just killing me while they had me restrained, rather than just locking me up, right under their feet, no less.” She sighed. “If you would just help me get all of the stones back, then I promise that I’ll leave this place alone. I’m not going to lie and say I’ve changed my ways, but I can move all of my destruction to the other side of the universe, where I won’t be bothering anybody you care about.”

Thor shook his head. “I’m sorry, but no matter what the Avengers decide as your fate, you will have to stay on Midgard. Odin said that you are to stay here and live out the rest of your days, no matter how many there are left.”

Miriam scowled. “If I had my powers right now I would disintegrate you where you stand. You and all your dumb little friends!”

The door to the meeting room swung open, and Sam stepped out. He cleared his throat to let the alien know that he was there. She turned with a look of immense irritation on her face. He nodded to the doorway. “You can come back in now, so the Captain can explain the verdict to you.”

She stomped back into the room, and stood there angrily instead of taking a seat. “So you’ve decided what you’re going to do with me? Even though you have absolutely no right to do such a thing?”

The Captain sighed. “Staying here is your best option.”

“That implies that I have other options.”

Wanda grinned. “Well, technically speaking, you do. I could always destroy you right now, and save us all a whole bunch of trouble.”

Miriam looked unimpressed. “Right. You’ve seen the things that my kind is capable of, but you’re willing to risk their wrath just to kill someone who can’t even defend herself? How heroic.”

Vision stood up. “What exactly is your kind?”

Miriam glowered at that. Thinking of her kind only served as a reminder that they had all left her behind. Eventually, even the only person she had ever cared about had betrayed her. She shrugged, trying to look casual despite the hurt showing on her face. “We’re known as Eternals. Or at least, that’s what two of us call each other. There’s really no name more fitting, considering how long we’ve been alive at this point.” She shook her head. “Why do you care?”

Vision sighed. “I have never heard of such a species before. Wanda has described what she could of the things she saw in your mind, and they are confusing, to say the least. We are simply trying to understand who you are.”

Miriam spoke bitterly. “Well, I guess all you really need to know is that all of my terrible murderess personality aspects stem from a deep-rooted abandonment issue, caused by every other person in my entire freaking species leaving me. Anything else you wanted to know?”

Vision shook his head almost meekly. “No, that would be all.”

Chapter Text

Miriam paced back and forth in the small room she had been assigned. It had a bed and a little dresser, and that was it. There wasn’t even a window for her to climb out of. And whenever she tried to leave, she would bump into the two agents that were stationed just outside her door. It was absolutely maddening.

Miriam had already been held a prisoner for the past ten thousand years, and then, even though she had been freed, she was still a prisoner. It wasn’t fair at all. How could these idiots expect her to be ‘reformed’, or whatever, if they wouldn’t even give her a hint of freedom? They might as well have just put her in jail, since at least then they wouldn’t have to bother looking at her.

There was a soft knock at the door, but Miriam ignored it, and decided to continue her pacing instead. She was afforded very few rights in this place, so she wasn’t going to give up the right to refuse to see these idiots.

But Miriam’s wishes were apparently no longer important, because the door opened slowly. Thor was the one standing in the doorway, Miriam knew that much without even looking. It was because she could literally feel the power emanating from Mjolnor.

Thor cleared his throat, but Miriam stopped pacing while facing the wall so she wouldn’t have to look at him. “I have important business to attend to on Asgard, and as such, I will be gone for several weeks.”

Miriam shrugged. “Good riddance.”

Thor frowned. “You aren’t a dumb creature. Surely even you can see that beyond me, you do not have many allies in this place. The others are far more wary of you than I am. I just thought I’d tell you to be careful.” Miriam didn’t even dignify that with a response. She was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. Thor sighed. “Well, I shall see you when I return. Try to stay safe.” The door closed, and Miriam pressed her eyes shut.

How could Thor stand there and act so hurt when he was the one who had voted for her to be locked up here? Did he honestly expect her to be grateful for that? After a few minutes, Miriam walked over to the dresser, and climbed up on top by pulling out all of the drawers and using them as stairs. She pulled her knees up to her chest, and sighed as she leaned back against the wall. She was scared that if she fell asleep lying down, she wouldn’t wake up for another ten thousand years, as irrational as that was. Miriam closed her eyes, and let herself fall asleep, curled up uncomfortably on the dresser.

Miriam woke up with a sharp gasp some time later. She couldn’t be sure how much time, though, because there were no windows to let her know what time of day it was. She had been woken up by the feeling of strong power coming closer. From the feel of it, it had to be pretty big.

Miriam gulped. As much as she insisted that she could take care of herself, she knew that she was vulnerable and weak like this. She wouldn’t be able to defend herself, and no one would be stupid enough to try and protect the person they thought was so dangerous.

She scrambled down off of the dresser, and hurried over to the door. She tugged on the handle, but it was locked. The agents on duty must have locked it before hurrying off to deal with the problem. Great.

Miriam glanced around the room, trying to find a weapon to defend herself with. There wasn’t really much to work with in the barren room. She yanked out one of the dresser drawers all the way, and carried it up to the top of the dresser with her. She stood up, and dropped the drawer from as high up as possible, watching with satisfaction as it splintered.

She jumped down and picked up one of the larger splinters, looking it over carefully. That should be effective enough as a weapon against anything normal. Of course, that was going under the assumption that it was just a weak Midgardian breaking in, when there were really a million different things that could be trying to attack. And there were a million different motives behind it, too. It could be someone with a personal vendetta against the Avengers, or it could be some idiot who had plans of world domination, and just weren’t smart enough to start on the side of the planet where there were no Avengers.

There were loud shouts coming from the hallway, and Miriam tensed up. She went over and stood right next to the door, clutching her splinter tightly, even though the ragged edges dug into her palms painfully.

The door suddenly swung open, and Miriam didn’t bother to check who was there. She swung the piece of wood forward with a loud ‘crack!’ and then ducked through the doorway, and ran for all she was worth. She winced, and wrapped one arm around her sore ribs.

There was a shout, but Miriam couldn’t hear what was being said, and she didn’t care to stick around long enough to find out. As she ran, there was suddenly the feeling of something calling out to her, and she knew instinctively that it was one of her stones. It had a similar feeling to the Tesseract and Vision’s head, but it was distinctly different as well.

Miriam wanted to keep running, but she also didn’t want to miss out on a chance to grab back one of her stones, so she veered to the left, and ran harder. She didn’t even need to think about it, she could just close her eyes and let instinct guide her to a tiny little thing that held some of her power.

She wasn’t really sure how exactly she was going to get the stone out of Vision’s head, but if it really came down to it, she could always just brain him with her handy new stick. Of course, he could probably easily defend himself against an attack like that, but Miriam preferred to not worry about that part quite so much.

Miriam took a sharp turn around the corner, and she could feel the stone, so close to her, yet still out of her grasp. But that was of little importance. She would have it back soon, and then she would be that much closer to regaining all of her power. She was still running, rather quickly for a person who was still healing, but she just ignored the pain, and slid around the next corner.

She slid down the smooth hall floor, and came to a stop right behind the Avengers, who were all currently battling for their lives. They were fighting what looked like giant mechanical bees.

Not too terrifying, but getting stung by one of those suckers would probably hurt quite a bit. Miriam didn’t want to fight any giant bees. In fact, she wanted to fight the Avengers, who the bees seemed to be slowly losing too. These guys were good, so no wonder they had been elected to watch over the entire planet.

Miriam took a few steps back, and closed her eyes as she thought about an old friend. Gaea, she’d been called. A long time ago, back before Miriam had gone around ravaging everything she came across, she’d met the lovely woman. Gaea had taken Miriam in for a while, and had taught her many neat things. One of those things was how to handle an angry swarm of bees.

Miriam kept her eyes closed, and began softly humming. After a few wrong notes, her lips seemed to remember the tune better than her brain, and the soft song flowed out of her like it was as natural as breathing. She didn’t get too loud, knowing that the bees would be able to sense the vibrations in the air without actually being able to hear what she was singing.

Of course, this was a tactic that she had been taught to use on real bees, and she had never encountered these strange metal bees before, so she had never had the opportunity to see if it would work on them.

At first, it didn’t seem to, but after a few minutes of soft humming, she could feel the bees halting in their battle. Some began flying right past the Avengers, while their brethren kept up the fight.

After the heroes had defeated the bees in front of them, they turned around to see their prisoner, with the entire rest of the swarm hovering around her. She smiled at them, then turned to the Avengers with a cold gaze. “Hand over my stone, and I won’t order my friends here to go and kill every single person in this building who isn’t an Avenger.”

The Captain frowned. “You’re the one who sent them here? How?”

Miriam shook her head. “No, I’m not the type of person to take credit for other people’s work. Someone else sent these bees in here. I just spotted a chance, and I took it. So? Are you going to hand over the stone, or are you going to watch everyone else in here die?”

Black Widow stepped forward. “Are you really that scared to go on living without all of your power?”

Miriam scoffed. “Is it really considered being scared to want back what’s rightfully mine? I can’t change what I was born as anymore than any of you can. And maybe a lot of people have gotten hurt because of me. Directly because of me. But so what? Someone on this planet could build an army of mechanical bees to send around killing people, and they’ve got no power at all. My power is not evil or bad. That douche over there is proof of that,” she nodded towards Vision. “But I don’t need to justify this at all. That power is mine. You’ll return it to me, or you will lose everyone.”

The Falcon frowned. “Why are you so insistent on setting them onto everyone but us?”

Miriam shrugged. “I’d like to think that it would hurt you more to know that it’s your fault that all these people are dying around you. And then you can walk around and look at every single body once these bees have done their job. So? Are you going to give me the stone?”

Vision stepped forward. “No.”

Chapter Text

Miriam rolled her eyes. “This is literally the dumbest thing ever. Those stones rightfully belong to me, and you have absolutely no power to keep them, let alone understand how much power they really hold. So you’d really just be doing yourself a favor-” Miriam was suddenly flying forward with an undignified squack.

She landed in a heap on the floor, and looked up, a bit dazed. There was the sound of metal parts hitting the ground, since the bees couldn’t defend themselves if Miriam hadn’t first told them to.

Miriam leaned her head back against the wall. “I hate everything! I hope that all of you go to hell!” She tried to scramble to her feet, but found that her shirt was pinned to the wall via a little yellow disk. She looked up at glared at Falcon. Falcon, despite himself, couldn’t help gulping at that murderous look in the girl’s eyes.

Wanda glanced back and forth between Miriam and the now out of order metal bees. “So what are we supposed to do? There’s someone out there who was somehow able to get all of these things in here, and we’ve already got someone in here who’s intent on destroying us.”

Steve frowned. “How did you get away from James? He was supposed to escort you to somewhere safer?”

Miriam frowned, and answered in a mumble. “I have no idea what the hell you crazy people are all talking about.” Then she began to talk at a rapid-fire pace in some language that the Avengers had never heard before.

There was the sound of angry grumbling getting louder as the person grumbling got closer to the rest of the Avengers. Finally, Rhodey stopped in front of them, looking half pissed off and half embarrassed. When he saw that Miriam was currently unable to move, he sighed with relief. “Oh, good, you caught her. I was afraid that she was going to just get away after she broke out.”

Steve raised one eyebrow. “Yeah, how did that happen, anyways?”

Rhodey frowned. “As soon as I opened the door, she hit me in the head with a big piece of wood. Apparently she broke apart the dresser in there to use as weapons.” He looked at Miriam with some confusion. “But she could have made it out if the rest of you were preoccupied with the bees. Why would she not just run for it?”

Vision nodded. “I believe the answer to that is in my head.”

Miriam scowled. “Well it is mine. And just so you know, everybody thinks that I should get my stones back.”

Natasha tilted her head. “What do you mean by ‘everyone’? According to Thor, he took you straight here as soon as you got to Earth.”

Miriam looked up like she was praying for patience to not tear these fools apart. And even though she absolutely could not tear these fools apart, the vicious look she held on her face still sent shivers down the spines of the Avengers. “Everyone. Like all the people who- oh never mind. You’re all too stupid to possibly comprehend anything that requires brain cells to think about.”

Sam walked over to Miriam, yanked his disc out of the wall, and scooped up the alien like she weighed nothing. “That’s it. You’re going back to your room now.”

Miriam struggled in his arms, and she provided about as much threat as a squirming kitten. Then, she let herself go entirely limp. The sudden change in weight distribution effectively threw Sam off balance, and Miriam jumped out of his arms. She ran over to vision and reached up, having to stretch to actually reach the stone, and she brushed her fingers lightly over the rock before stepping back.

Vision frowned as he felt a splitting headache. It was unlike anything he’d ever felt before. He could feel the power of the stone suddenly at war with Miriam’s power, despite having lived together in harmony for ten thousand years. Vision sank down to his knees as various images flooded his mind. But there was one thought that stood out against all of the rest:

Miriam’s power wanted to get out of that tiny containment, and back into Miriam’s body. And if Vision continued trying to keep holding onto both power sources, they would soon tear each other apart, and him in the process. He gasped up at Miriam. “What did you do?”

Miriam grinned, looking satisfied with herself. “I simply gave a little reminder that you are trying to balance an awful lot of power. I’ve seen greater beings fall at the hands of less power than this, so I think that we all know what’s going to happen here. Either you’re going to hand over the stone, which I will proceed to take my own power from, and leave the stone’s power for you, or you will be ripped to shreds, and all of that power will be returned to me. Oh, and then your whole planet will probably blow up as a side effect of that. It’s up to you.”

Vision pressed his hands to his head, like that would somehow help keep in all of that power. He began to glow faintly, and the other Avengers were looking back and forth between Vision and Miriam with alternating concern and anger.

Steve stepped forward, and glared at Miriam, who was just standing there with an expression that showed a mix of anger and amusement. “That’s enough! Cease whatever attack you’re using against Vision!”

Miriam leaned back until her back was pressed up against the wall, and she crossed her arms over her chest. She peered up at Steve like she was daring him to take action. Finally, she gave a casual shrug. “It’s not like I can do anything at this point. I didn’t do anything other than give that rock a little reminder of just whose power it contains. All I can do is take back what’s rightfully mine, or stand here and get caught up in the explosion with the rest of you.”

What she didn’t say was how hard she was fighting to not start shaking like crazy. How absolutely terrified she was of the idea that there could be a moment where she’d no longer be alive. Being asleep was a horrible inconvenience, but being dead was likely to be a bit more frightening. But being dead had to be infinitely more satisfying than having to live as such a weakling. She was going to die someday no matter what if she stayed like this, so she might as well go down with a smirk on her face and giving off the impression that she knew what she was doing.

Vision looked up at Steve. “Captain, it is your choice. I don’t believe I have enough information to properly assess the situation, and you are the leader of the people in charge of protecting the world. So I’m sorry, but I’m putting the choice into your hands.”

Steve looked at Miriam, and his eyes widened when he realized the truth. It took the close observation that a super soldier was able to do, so Steve was able to notice. He saw the look of terror in Miriam’s eyes, and he saw the way that she was trembling all over, even if she was barely moving. But mostly he saw the acceptance in her eyes. He recognized that look. He’d seen it in the eyes of all those prisoners of war he’d rescued in the past. The look of someone who had accepted their fate, and knew that it would be pointless to fight it.

He sighed and looked Miriam straight in the eyes. “You said that you can take the power that is yours, and then return the rest to Vision, right?”

The look of complete surprise on Miriam’s face was priceless. She gaped at the Captain for a moment, looking like she was trying to collect herself. She had been so resigned to her fate, it hadn’t occurred to her for even a moment that there was going to be someone agreeing with her.

Finally, her senses returned, and Miriam found it in herself to nod slowly. “Yes.” She cleared her throat. “Yes, I did say that. It’s entirely true. I have so much power on my own, I really have no need for whatever random crap came with those things.” She scoffed. “To think that those stupid Asgardians didn’t think me worthy anything more than a few pre-owned rocks.” She looked at Steve, returning his serious gaze. “Are you really giving me permission to reach into your friend’s head and pull out something essential to his continued ability to live?”

Wanda glanced over at Steve doubtfully. “You’re not really trusting her to keep her word, are you? She doesn’t care about any of us. The moment she’s got that power in her hands, she’ll destroy us all, or at the very least, leave right away.”

Steve looked at Vision. “Can you accept my decision?”

Vision nodded. “Of course. I trust your judgement. Besides, I don’t think that she would have any easier of a time handling both sets of powers than I do. Now that they’ve been upset, they just don’t mix anymore.” He closed his eyes for a moment as another wave of pain washed over him. “Just do it quickly, I suppose.”

Miriam walked over to where Vision was, and she knelt down in front of him. Rhodey and Sam moved so they were standing on either side of the girl, ready to move the moment something seemed to be going wrong.

Miriam glanced up at Natasha. “Knife please.” At the assassin’s frown, Miriam rolled her eyes. “It’s not like I can just pluck it out when I’m as weak as I am right now.” She held up her hand impatiently, and Natasha slammed the knife down onto the waiting palm a little harder than necessary.

Miriam took a deep breath before leaning forward. “Not going to lie, most people don’t find the sensation of a knife in their skull especially pleasant.”

Vision shrugged. “Then perhaps now is a moment to celebrate the fact that I’m certainly not like most people.”

Miriam chuckled. “You’ve got that right.” Then she raised the knife, and pressed the tip in between Vision’s head and the stone. She closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them to focus on the task in front of her. “Well, here goes nothing.” And she pushed her wrist forward.

Chapter Text

The hallway was full of a thick tension as the blade of the knife slipped past the yellow stone, and it felt like everyone was collectively holding their breath. They probably were, because no one wanted to ever see a valued team member so vulnerable. And Miriam was so unpredictable, it was impossible to know whether or not she was really going to keep her word.

But what most of the team failed to notice was that Miriam looked just as on edge as the rest of them. If she failed, she could always just grab the stone and run, leaving the pieces to fall where they may. There was nothing left for her to lose, so the fact that she had little droplets of sweat visible on her face was the proof Steve needed that despite the way she talked, she wasn’t really eager to just go and kill them all off, at least not yet.

There was the sound of two hard surfaces clacking together, and everyone seemed to simultaneously twitch forward, seeming ready to wrench the knife right out of Miriam’s hands. But Vision didn’t seem any more distressed than he had a minute ago, so the Avengers just continued to stand there, waiting for something to happen.

Miriam knew exactly where to add pressure, though it did involve the tip of the blade digging into Vision’s head a bit more than anyone was comfortable with. Vision pressed his lips together, and just continued to stare at Miriam, well aware of the fact that it was only serving to make her increasingly uncomfortable.

Finally, Miriam flicked her wrist, then yanked back with as much force as possible. It would be best to get this all over quickly, rather than having the high strung superheroes breathing over her shoulders for a long time. She gave Vision an apologetic glance, and he just gave her an accepting nod.

With that final piece of permission, Miriam popped the stone out of its resting place, and as soon as the rock was no longer touching him, Vision slumped over, and it was really hard to tell whether he was dead or asleep. Miriam looked up at the concerned and angry heroes with a shrug. “He’ll be fine as soon as he gets this back. Just give me a moment, okay?”

She gripped the stone tightly, and squeezed her eyes shut. She brought the rock up to her lips, and pressed what looked like a gentle kiss against it. Natasha raised one eyebrow, but no one else made any move to stop Miriam from doing whatever she had in mind to do.

Miriam breathed in deeply, inhaling through her mouth, then she moved the stone down and held it over her chest. Steve motioned for everyone to step back when a strange yellow glow seemed to surround Miriam, though it was a useless gesture because the others were either already backing away, or edging closer to try and figure out what was actually going on.

Miriam blinked once, then opened her eyes fully, and they were the same color as the rock she was still holding. Though as they watched, the stone looked like it was fading a bit, and the yellow color just kept getting paler and paler until it was a smooth white.

Miriam stood up, still clutching the stone to her chest, over her heart if alien anatomy was anything like human anatomy. The glow around her began shaking like crazy, and now even the more curious heroes were smart enough to take several steps back, not wanting to be hit by any sort of explosion of power.

Miriam’s head slowly turned, taking in all of the people around her, and letting them take in the sight of her eyes, which were now completely red, with not even her pupils visible. It was enough to creep out even those who had seen many weird things so far in their careers.

When they looked down, they could see where the girl’s feet weren’t even touching the floor anymore, and she was instead floating several inches above the tiles. It looked like she had already sucked all of the power out of the little rock, though when she looked down at the white stone, there was longing on her face.

Steve cleared his throat, and held his shield carefully when the yellow eyes suddenly focused on him. He spoke in his best commanding voice. “You promised. You’d only take what’s yours, and leave the rest for Vision.”

Miriam pulled back one side of her mouth, leaving an expression that was a cross between an amused smirk and what was almost a genuine smile. She slowly sank back down, until her feet were once again resting on the floor, and then walked over to where Vision was sprawled out on the ground.

She knelt next to him, and blocked whatever she was doing from the view of the Avengers. Then there was a blinding white light that the humans had to cover their eyes and look away from, and when they opened their eyes, they felt relief. Vision gracefully got to his feet, and offered his hand down to Miriam, who was still kneeling on the floor.

She hesitated, then ignored the gesture, and got to her feet on her own. Steve looked at the stone in Vision’s head with some confusion, as it was a very pale pink, rather than just the solid white it had been a minute ago. Miriam crossed her arms over her chest. “Well, I’ve done as you asked, and I made sure to leave your friend alive. He shouldn’t feel any different.”

Vision blinked a few times, then nodded. “It’s true, I don’t feel any different than I did before.”

Miriam nodded smugly. “Of course you don’t, because I’m actually good at what I do. Fair warning though, I did leave a drop, just a little drop, of my own power in that stupid rock. Let’s call it my insurance policy. You’ve already seen what can happen when the two powers realize that they don’t belong together, and I’m fairly certain that you don’t want a repeat demonstration of that.”

Steve crossed his arms over his chest. “And what is it that you want that’ll stop you from enacting your ‘insurance policy’?”

Miriam smiled politely. “Obviously I want to get out of here. No one wants to get locked up in a little box for any amount of time, let alone for longer than ten thousand years. So you just open the front doors, and I’ll be on my way.”

Natasha raised one eyebrow curiously. “You have your power back now, so shouldn’t you just be able to walk right through the doors, or something?”

Miriam pouted immediately. “Ugh, fine. There’s no point in hiding it, since you’d notice soon enough on your own, but I can’t use my powers. At least not yet. Not until I get it all back. I didn’t know that this was going to happen, but apparently those idiot Asgardians made it an all or nothing sort of deal. I have my power back, I can feel it in me, but it’s totally useless right now.” Her face brightened up a bit. “Well, not totally useless. There’s still a few tricks that I now have back up my sleeve. It just happens that smashing through doors is not one of them. This is obviously the stone with the mind related powers in it.” She grinned. “You may never know whether or not I’ve decided to use my power on you.” She wiggled her fingers.

Rhodey rolled his eyes. “You can’t scare us by pretending that you have some kind of voodoo in it. Just admit it, you’re still powerless.”

Miriam narrowed her eyes, and gave the grown man a look that made him feel a bit scared. She took a few steps forward, so it seemed like she was going to stand right in front of him, but she turned last minute, and found herself facing Wanda. She smiled, reached forward, and grabbed Wanda’s hands, raising them to place them on the sides of her own head.

Wanda tilted her head. “What are you doing?”

Miriam smiled, and it was a very shark-like smile. “I want you to try reading my mind again. And the operative word here is definitely ‘try’. I just want you and your friends to realize that I’m not a useless little disposable being anymore.”

Wanda rolled her eyes at that, but she did close her eyes and breath out slowly as she concentrated on what was going on in the head of the much older girl. But instead of delving into another memory, or even a thought of some kind, Wanda found herself crashing right into a giant steel wall.

She felt around for a bit, but found that it was a smooth, flawless surface, and there was no way to penetrate it. She tried in vain anyways, and found herself slamming into the wall over and over, and she just knew that that was going to hurt soon. She slowly stepped back, and turned around, where she saw Miriam standing, her arms crossed over her chest. She had that yellow glow around her, and she tilted her head. Her expression was clearly asking if Wanda conceded, and Wanda had no choice but to nod.

Wanda opened her eyes and took a few steps back, taking in the girl in front of her. Though it was a little hard to think over that headache that was now roaring through her head. Miriam stayed standing where she was, showing that she really was an unmoveable object now.

Wanda looked up at Rhodey, a bit helplessly. “She speaks the truth. Her mind is completely fortified now. Where before I could just waltz right in and look and anything I wanted to, now I find that entry is impossible. And the power that she has is indeed in there.” She shrugged. “Maybe it would be best for us to just let her go-?”

Steve shook his head. “No way. Thor trusted us to watch her and that’s because Odin trusted us to be able to contain her. We’re just going to have to deal with her new strengths.” He looked at Miriam carefully. “And as long as you don’t go around attacking people or causing destruction, you are free to roam anywhere you want on the grounds of this place.”

Miriam’s eyes darkened. “Yeah, because that sounds like a fair deal. Honestly, what the hell is wrong with you people?”

Steve didn’t look ready to budge. “I think that it’s what’s best for everyone. Besides, Thor would be disappointed if he came back and found that you’d left without saying goodbye.”

Miriam’s eyes flared at that, but she didn’t bother responding. She just turned around and stormed back to her room, ready to lie in bed and sulk for a while. She’d seen enough television programs by now to know that that’s what they would expect of someone who looked the way she did, since unfortunately, in the eyes of the midgardians, she was still just a child. A child with immense and uncontrollable power, but a child all the same.

Chapter Text

There was a shrill beeping noise that seemed to be coming right out of the very walls, and Miriam slowly sat up. She tilted her head to the side to try and listen more closely so she could figure out what the hell was going on. The noise didn’t stop, and when Miriam finally decided to step out into the hallway, she saw little red flashing lights.

Miriam frowned. She was thoroughly confused. Was this another Midgardian activity that was meant to be fun? Because if so, then Miriam wanted nothing to do with it. She’d had enough ‘fun’ getting grounded a few days ago because apparently she ‘wasn’t allowed to borrow Hawkeye’s bow and use it to shoot at birds’. It was completely ‘irresponsible’ and ‘inhumane’. It was ridiculous that these idiots expected that she could be humane when she wasn’t even human. And if Hawkeye was retired, then why had he been stupid enough to leave behind his bow if it wasn’t meant to be used?

Before Miriam turned around and went back into her room, she paused because she heard the sound of urgent footsteps running down the hallway, quickly getting closer. She saw Rhodey make a sharp turn around the corner, and he was going to pass right by Miriam in a moment. “Hey! What’s going on?”

Rhodey slowed to a fast walk. “Haven’t you ever thought about the fact that it’s kind of our job to go out and fight bad guys and save people? Well we need someway to know when there’s things to do, don’t we?”

Miriam shrugged. “You guys have very strange ways of going about things. You do know that, right?”

Rhodey shrugged. “I really don’t have time to be standing around. There’s lives hanging in the balance here.” He quickly strode away, resuming his speedy pace. Miriam rolled her eyes. Obviously the man was still sore about the fact she’d taken him out so easily, even though she’d been absolutely powerless at the time, and he was supposed to be one of Midgard’s mightiest superheroes. That had to have bruised his ego even more than it bruised his head.

As Miriam continued to listen to the blaring alarm and flashing lights, an idea occurred to her. She’d always enjoyed killing random annoying things in the past. It was a good way to release tension and keep her in shape. So maybe she should help the Avengers right now. She could be useful, and they wouldn’t even be able to get mad, because she’d be helping them protect their precious Midgard by punching away all of her frustrations, so it would really be a win-win situation.

Miriam hurried down the hall in the same direction that Rhodey had gone, and there was an immense sense of satisfaction in her at the thought of actually being able to do something. This facility had gotten really boring really quickly, and Miriam didn’t understand how the other Avengers who stayed here full time could live with themselves. But it wasn’t her responsibility to make sure that these people were entertained. In fact, if it were up to Miriam, she would have no responsibilities at all.

But right now Miriam had a responsibility to herself; she had the responsibility to keep herself from bashing her head against the wall out of boredom, and this really did seem to be the next best option at the moment.

Miriam stepped into the hanger, and looked at the big ship that was parked there. She narrowed her eyes as she tried to figure out whether it was a spaceship of some sort, or if these were regularly distributed and Thor had just borrowed a really old version of a car. Either way, Miriam was slightly uncomfortable with the idea of getting on, but she knew that she would have to if she wanted to go kick ass with the other superheroes.

As she started to walk towards the ship, a Shield agent crossed his arms over his chest, and blocked the way. “Where do you think you’re going?”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “I do not have the time or patience for this,” she grumbled under her breath. Then she looked up and connected her eyes with the agent’s. She stared at him. “I’m rather obviously getting onto that spaceship- vehicle thing. And I have full authorization to do so.”

The agent blinked a few times, and it looked like he was fighting with himself over the matter. Miriam was annoyed that she wasn’t back to her full capacity of power. If she was, this guy would be falling to his knees, begging to do anything Miriam asked of him.

Finally, the agent gave Miriam a terse nod. “Alright, you can go. But don’t go causing any trouble, because then everybody will be pissed off.”

Miriam chuckled, and held her hands up placatingly. “Don’t worry, I wasn’t planning on causing any trouble for you guys. I promise, the bad guys are the only ones who are going to be in trouble.”

The agent sighed, and Miriam strode past him. She slipped aboard the ship and looked out the windows. She had purposefully stuffed herself in a spot that would allow her to see outside. She watched as the other Avengers boarded the ship, and let out a silent sigh of relief at the fact that she had enough of her power to block out that stupid redhead, so Wanda wouldn’t be able to suddenly tell everyone else that they had a castaway. Not that Miriam would consider herself a castaway, but that was hardly the point.

A few minutes later, Miriam felt the plane jolt forward, and then she watched as the ground got further and further away. Miriam was glad that there was no one looking at her right now, because they’d probably be able to see how unnerved she was by the current mode of transportation, even if they didn’t read her mind.

Miriam closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall, making sure that she was still curled up into the smallest ball possible, which was actually quite small. She decided that it would be good to take a quick nap before they got to wherever they were going, so that she would have full strength when it came time to fight.

Then Miriam realized that she would be completely screwed if she didn’t have a weapon to fight with. It had always been a lot easier, since she could just explode an entire planet with one snap of her fingers, but for now, she would have to find some way to fight.

She cautiously peered out from behind the crates that she was hiding next to, and saw that the small cargo room was closed off, and she was alone inside. Maybe one of these boxes would have something useful in it. Miriam began opening the crates and rifling through the contents, but there weren’t any weapons as far as she could tell. Just weird metal tubes that were bent in half. She couldn’t even begin to imagine what anyone would do with that.

After several more crates, Miriam finally found something useful. There were a ton of little discs with razor sharp edges, like the ones that Falcon tossed around. They were probably his spares. They would have to do for now, since there didn’t seem to be anything else that would work very well when it came to hurting people.

Miriam carefully attached the row of discs to her arm, then made sure that her shirt sleeve was tugged down far enough to cover up her newly discovered weapon. It wasn’t the best, but it would have to do for now.

Finally, after what felt like forever, Miriam could see the ground approaching the vehicle, and she ducked back into her hiding spot, just in case anyone decided to come in here before disembarking. If they did, they’d never be able to fit into the space, since they were all muscular adults.

Miriam watched out the window as the Avengers got off the ship, and began walking forward. There was a strange feeling in the pit of Miriam’s stomach at the thought of how easy this had all been. But she shoved aside that feeling in favor of thinking of all the different ways she could dismember the enemies that the Avengers had come here to fight.

She waited a few more minutes so that she wouldn’t be directly on the Avengers’ tail, and then she left the ship as well. Miriam carefully followed the path that they’d clumsily left behind, though that wasn’t really necessary, since she could quickly hear the familiar sounds of a battle.

Miriam grinned to herself. Now this was more like it. Finally, something that she’d be able to do without a bunch of grumpy superheroes telling her that it was wrong. They’d have to thank her for saving so many lives. But first, Miriam was going to fight, and she was going to tear several things limb from limb.

Chapter Text

Miriam stepped closer to the loud sounds of battle, and frowned when she saw that whatever the threat had been, it was already being led, in handcuffs, back the way that led towards the ship. Had the Avengers really been able to wrap things up so quickly? Miriam had to quash that pesky spot of disappointment she felt at not being able to help. Well, more likely she was just annoyed that she didn’t get to destroy anything after all.

Then she turned and ran back towards the plane, not wanting to be left behind. Though she came to a sudden halt, and tilted her head. What reason could she possibly have for not wanting to be left behind? It would mean total freedom. A chance to figure out how the hell she was going to get her hands on the other stones. An opportunity to find her way off of this hunk of dirt. As long as she didn’t go around creating large scale disasters, she didn’t need to worry about the Avengers being able to track her down. And with at least a bit of her power restored, she’d be able to move around nearly undetected.

It had been so easy to get away, and Miriam felt glad that those idiots down in Shield weren’t prepared to face her power. She turned and walked away, as quickly as possible, before diving behind some bushes to lie low for a bit. It wouldn’t do for her to be seen from the Shield plane as they headed back to their headquarters.

Miriam took the chance to look around, to try and figure out what kind of place she was in at the moment. She didn’t know much about Midgard, but she knew that it had many different types of regions, and all of them required completely different tactics in order to survive.

After about half an hour had passed, Miriam’s knees felt sore, so she stood up and stretched. Then she turned to walk in the direction that would lead her as far away from the Shield plane as possible. If she had been paying more attention, she might have heard the soft snap of twigs that occasionally rang out from behind her.

Miriam walked until she saw several buildings, and she hurried forward into the little group of huts that was a rather pathetic excuse for a town. There didn’t seem to be any people around, and she frowned as she decided that they must be scared of the dark if they all refused to come out at night.

Miriam’s stomach growled loudly, and she cursed to herself. No matter how much time had passed, she would never be used to the fact that her body now required more maintenance than it ever had before, in order to do far less than she’d once been able to accomplish. The whole situation sucked, but at least getting her freedom was one good thing.

And when she did figure out a way to get off of this dump, the palace of Asgard would be her first destination, where she’d finally be able to wipe that smug look off of that idiot Odin’s face. Who did he think he was, exiling her to a land where she had to carefully march through muddy ground? It was outrageous, and once Miriam was back to full power, she was absolutely not going to stand by and allow the terribly cruel acts to continue.

Miriam took a few cautious steps forward, then paused. She could feel that something wasn’t right. She glanced around, and then stood still and closed her eyes, letting her hearing become her strongest sense, at least for the moment. It was too dark to see anything anyways, so she may as well just listen.

There it was- the soft whisper of someone brushing past a leafy bush while trying to remain silent. Miriam had been followed, and she was now sure that there were probably no people in any of those huts. This was a set up.

Miriam slowly turned, and hoped that she would have the element of surprise on her side. Those idiot Avengers probably were stupid enough to believe she’d never catch on, since they’re so confident in their abilities. Suddenly, without warning, Miriam flung herself off of the main path, and in between a few trees.

From there, she quickly scaled the rough bark, scowling every time a bit poked into her knees, or scraped up her hands. She pulled herself up onto a large branch that was pretty high up, and inched over far enough that she could no longer reach the tree trunk, but was still hidden by the tree’s own leaves. Miriam grinned to herself, silently thanking the fact she’d been working out inside her room everyday, just in case a situation where escape was possible did ever arise.

Miriam looked down from where she was perched, and waited to see what would unfold. The Avengers waited a few minutes to move, perhaps thinking that they were mistaken in believing that the person they’d been tailing was suddenly gone. Then there was the soft rustling of leaves, and several sets of light footsteps as the ‘superheroes’ stepped out from their hiding spots warily, unsure of what to expect.

Miriam bit her lip to prevent that giggle that almost escaped at the look of confusion on their faces. She squinted a bit to try and see them better in the dark. Suddenly, the entire area was flooded with a bright light, and Miriam drew her legs up as much as she could, so that no part of her would be visible from the ground or the sky.

She watched as the Black Widow stood with her hands on her hips, glaring around murderously. She put away the communicator that she’d just used, presumably to summon all of the light. Now Miriam was stuck up in her tree, at least until those idiots went away, but as long as no one saw her, it would be fine.

Miriam scooched back so that her back was leaning against the trunk, since she wasn’t stupid enough to believe that her arms would be able to hold her up indefinitely. She watched as the Avengers spread out, trying to scour the entire area, and soon, there were Shield agents searching along with the heroes.

Miriam scoffed at Wanda’s pathetic attempt to search her out through her mind. Hadn’t Miriam already proved herself to be superior when it came down to mind games? Either way, Miriam knew that she had no chance of leaving this tree, not while the whole fake little town was lit up like it was radioactive. When Miriam peered up, she could see that the source of all of the light was actually coming from the Shield plane, which was just hovering up in the sky.

She glance down and saw that Wanda was leaning back against a tree, her head in her hands. Miriam grinned gleefully to herself. When she first got back a bit of her powers, she’d been able to close off her mind well enough that no one could get in. But while she’d been working out to make her body tougher, she’d also been training her mind. At this point, trying to get in was not only pointless, but it would be pretty painful, too. Miriam had built up a mental fortress around herself, and there was no way that anyone was going to be able to get through it. Miriam leaned her head back, and let her entire body relax. She closed her eyes, and let out a soft sigh.

A little while later, Miriam was woken from that place between being awake and asleep by the sound of soft humming. She looked out, and saw that the Falcon was flying around, trying to get a look at everything from higher up. At that moment, Miriam couldn’t help thinking that the Avengers team would be a lot more effective with more people who could fly.

Miriam was tempted to just shoot one of the little razor disks at the flying hero, but then that would immediately give away her position, and even if she was in good shape, there’s no way she’d be able to outrun these crazy weirdos. Falcon flew away in the opposite direction, but before Miriam could go back to relaxing, she heard a loud screech, and she cringed back.

She peered down at the ground and saw that Steve was standing in the center of the fake village, holding what looked like a plastic cone to his face. It was times like this where Miriam almost regretted not taking the man up on his offer to teach her more about Midgard culture.

When Steve spoke, his voice came out much louder than it should have, considering his distance from Miriam’s location. “Miriam! We know that you’re still around here! Remember how we agreed that you would stay with us? You could have broken out any time using your mind tricks, but you didn’t! That must mean you don’t really want to go, right?” There was a long pause, and suddenly, the giant search lights were shut off, and Miriam had to blink a few times to get used to the sudden darkness after so much light. The Shield agents probably had some sort of night vision glasses, otherwise there would be the sound of a lot of people walking into trees. Steve cleared his throat. “There- you can leave if you want. We’ve made it easy enough for you.”

Miriam shrugged. They were giving her an invitation to leave. It could be a trap, but then again, this whole thing seemed to be a trap from the beginning, and Miriam didn’t really know what was going on anymore. She shimmied down the trunk of the tree, and landed on the ground with soft feet.

Then she turned away from where all of the commotion had been going on, and she began walking. She heard Steve’s louder-than-possible talking again. “Miriam! What can you get out here, alone, that you can’t get back there, with us?”

Miriam snorted quietly. They’d imprisoned her against her will, then denied her her rightful powers until she’d forced their hands. Maybe out here, alone, she’d finally be able to find some peace. She made sure to keep her steps light and low to the ground so they wouldn’t be audible, and she walked further away.

Then that feminine accented voice spoke in that way too loud way. Miriam was going to have to look into getting one of those mouth cones for herself if it could make her voice boom so much. Wanda sighed. “You’ve been alone for a very long time. You probably can barely remember what it’s like to not be alone. But you don’t have to be that way anymore. Ar’iaal would not want you to have to be alone, would he?”

Miriam scowled. That wasn’t how his name was pronounced, and she didn’t appreciate having that name dropped on her like it wasn’t some kind of major bomb. How the hell would she know what Ar’iaal wants? He was gone as far as Miriam was concerned. She walked a bit faster, though she still remained quiet.

Then she heard the next voice to boom out at her, though this one didn’t need the help of that magic mouth cone. He must have just gotten back from his trip abroad. “My good friend, Miriam! Are you leaving because you did not enjoy my company?” Miriam rolled her eyes. “I bring you a note from my younger brother. I thought you might like to read it before you abscond.”

Miriam frowned. Thor’s little brother? That would be that Loki guy, with the blue skin and red eyes. The one who didn’t like others to know about his blue skin and red eyes. Why would he be writing her a letter? But now that Miriam was curious, she accepted her fate as the fish who took the bait.

She let out a really loud groan, and hoped that the Avengers could feel the frustration that was wafting off of her. But then she turned around, and crossed her arms over her chest. She didn’t continue towards the heroes, but now that she’d let out such a noisy sound, it wouldn’t be hard for the others to find her.

She stood still, and a minute later, someone reached out and grabbed her arm. She didn’t jump in surprise, because she’d been expecting it, though it was a bit stronger than she would have preferred. Thor was standing right next to Miriam, but his voice didn’t get any softer. “Prepare your eyes to face the light again.”

A moment later, the giant lights came back on, and Miriam blinked a few times as she got adjusted to the sudden change. Her eyes were going to be so wrecked in the morning from all of these shenanigans. When Miriam was able to see clearly again, she saw that she was surrounded by the superheroes, though they were spread just far enough apart that it wouldn’t appear to be an immediately threatening situation.

Miriam looked up at Thor with one raised eyebrow until he got the message and let go of her arm. He took a step back, but he was still easily close enough to grab her again if he needed to. “So? Where’s this letter?”

Miriam half expected Thor to not be able to produce anything, that maybe he’d lied, even though that wasn’t usually Thor’s style. But the blonde haired man reached into some pocket in his tunic, and pulled out a folded up sheet of paper. It was crinkly looking, different than the paper that could be found on Midgard. He held it out, and then stood still, waiting for Miriam to come to him.

She rolled her eyes at the giant man acting like she was some kind of wild animal. Then again, maybe being considered a wild animal wasn’t entirely a bad thing. She stepped forward, and snatched the paper out of his hand, and he let go of it easily enough.

Miriam gave Thor an uncertain look, and he gave a tiny nod. He hadn’t read it first because he trusted his brother. Trusting a family member? How… quaint. Miriam unfolded the paper carefully, holding it away from her so she could toss it away quickly if it turned out to be something other than advertised.

She moved her hands a bit closer, holding the paper steady. She frowned at the sprawling script, and the way she had to squint to make it all out properly. It was written in elvish. It was unlikely that Asgardians were teaching their children elvish, which means either Loki looked it up specifically for the note because he knew Miriam could read it, or he had already taught himself the beautiful language in his spare time.

She peered up at Thor, who had an eager look on his face, and she took a step back so he wouldn’t be able to read it over her shoulder. Miriam- Thor has told stories of how well you fit in on Midgard, which is to say, not at all. I must be completely out of my mind, but I trust you to not share this note with those Midgardians. I write to you now because I know what it is to not fit in. The day we met, you asked how I ended up son of Odin, despite the fact that I am a Jotun. It’s rather simple, really. I was found as a baby, and Odin cast a spell on me to hide my true face from the world. But I was only ever taken to be used as a tool in a game of politics, which is why I do not get along with my father at all. I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this. Anyways, that is certainly not the most interesting story I know, and for someone who’s been alive for so long, it cannot be the most interesting story you’ve heard. You must have much wisdom, or at least knowledge, that you’ve accumulated over the years. So perhaps you could share a story with me sometime? -Loki Laufeyson

Miriam looked up at Thor with one eyebrow raised. “Is this some kind of a joke or something? Why would your brother want to write anything to me? It just doesn’t make any sense. I mean, we only met for like ten minutes.”

Thor shrugged. “Perhaps he saw a kindred spirit in you. You do remind me of him a bit, in some ways.”

Miriam frowned. “I remind you of a tall and creepy looking guy? Gee, thanks. That certainly makes my day.”

Thor smiled. “Good, I’m glad to make your day. But if you expect me to bring him a response or anything, you’d have to be somewhere that you could easily hand me a letter.” He looked pensive for a moment, then broke out in a big grin. “I know! Why don’t you just stay with the Avengers?”

Miriam rolled her eyes, and crumpled up the letter. But it didn’t pass Thor’s attention when she slipped the crumpled paper into her pocket. She looked up at him challengingly. “Well? Are you going to tell all of these people to stand down or what? Because I don’t want to be shot down just for moving, or anything like that.”

Thor nodded happily, and gestured to the Avengers who were waiting around to do what they needed to if the situation were to escalate. They all looked a bit relieved that they wouldn’t have to face off against this girl, when the full extent of her powers were still unknown. Though if it were up to Miriam, she’d have her full power restored as soon as possible. Too bad it wasn’t up to Miriam.

Chapter Text

Miriam leaned back in her chair, and crossed her arms over her chest. She wasn’t sure why she had to sit around this stupid conference table, and it made her feel really dumb. It was a circle shaped table, so there was no one sitting on the end, and no one stuck in middle. Everyone was simply there, and that made Miriam uncomfortable. She couldn’t think of very many times where everything didn’t just come down to a giant power trip.

Miriam stared up at the Avengers, who always managed to make themselves look so large, despite the fact that most of them were seemingly average sized, for humans. Of course, if they’d ever met an eternal at the height of their power, then all of them would be running for their mothers, because they wouldn’t stand a chance at survival.

It took another few minutes for everyone to actually be seated, and all of the random chatter to have settled down. Steve was the only one still standing, and he cleared his throat so everyone would know that it was time to begin the meeting. He looked around at everyone who was seated, and gave them all friendly little smiles.

“So, as you should probably know, we’re gathered here right now to discuss the matter of our new guest,” Miriam couldn’t help rolling her eyes at that term. Guest made it sound like she had more of a choice in the matter than she really did. “Miriam.” Everyone’s eyes moved to look her over, and she just stared back at them blankly. Whatever they were hoping to get out of her, they were not going to get it. “There are many things we need to establish to make this arrangement as beneficial as possible for both sides. As we’ve all seen, Miriam has a lot of potential, and could be a useful member of our team-” Steve was immediately cut off by the sound of everyone talking over each other.

The eternal sighed, and though this wasn’t her top choice of places to be, if she had to be here, it would be preferably to at least have some semblance of peace. She closed her eyes for a moment, and let thoughts of calmness and peace wash over the Avengers. Once they’d all settled down, Wanda peered over at Miriam with narrowed eyes. She didn’t say anything, though. Probably because she had no way of knowing for sure that Miriam had just done that.

Steve looked at his team members scoldingly. “If you need to say something, then it should be done in an orderly fashion. Otherwise, we’re not going to accomplish anything here.”

Natasha stood up, and everyone looked at her. “The Avengers were originally put together to be protectors of Earth. Miriam has already made it perfectly care that she couldn’t care less about Earth. No matter how else you want to look at it, she’s simply not qualified to be a member of this team.” She sat back down.

Vision stood up next, and everyone seemed pretty interested in hearing what he would have to say. “If Miriam has the power to help, even just a little bit, is it not her responsibility to do everything she can to help?”

Sam shook his head. “No one should be obligated to do anything just because they were born with certain talents that other people were not born with.”

Vision nodded politely, “I see,” and he sat back down.

Miriam stood up and slammed her hands down on the table, satisfied that she was able to make some of them flinch. “Do I not get a say in the matter? Has it occurred to you that I want nothing to do with your weak excuses for defending this planet? This planet is just a baby, and could easily be crushed by anyone who wanted to, whether there’s a bunch of freaks in tight costumes lying around or not. I don’t want to be on your stupid little team. I don’t want to see you fighting so hard to defend this place, when most of you will be very dead soon enough.”

Steve looked at Miriam curiously. “But what if you had to live out the entire rest of your life here on Earth? Wouldn’t you want to make sure that it can at least last long enough for you to enjoy it?”

Miriam shook her head. “There’s nothing enjoyable about a prison. I hope that some aliens decide that this hunk of rock is in their way, and they blast it aside without a second thought. There are some out there capable of that,” the tone in the girl’s voice became sad. “I used to be capable of that.” She cleared her throat and shook her head. “Anyways, that’s not the point. The point is that I want nothing to do with any of this. I’ll stay here like an obedient little pet until a time where I see fit to leave. In the meantime, you can do whatever you want. I don’t want to join you.” She stormed out of the conference room.

Natasha shrugged. “Well, now that we’ve gotten that squared away, we can move on to other Avengers business.”

Steve gave her a strange look. “There’s really not much else on the books at the moment. I’m going to say that this meeting is dismissed.” The Avengers slowly filed out of the room, though Steve remained where he was standing. He looked up once he thought the room was cleared, and saw that Thor was still there as well. “I said that the meeting is over. You can go and do whatever Thor things you’re in the mood for.”

Thor looked unsure. “Are you not going to go after our friend to see why she’s upset? Perhaps if she learns that we are really her friends, she’ll reconsider your offer to join the team? Because I can say that I would be honored to fight side by side with that little warrior.”

Steve smiled. “Uh, yeah. You know, she seems to get along with you the best out of all of us. Why don’t you go and see if she’s alright? Maybe you can convince her to write a letter or something. I mean, having her in correspondence with Loki of all people is maybe not the best thing, but at least she’d have somebody to talk to. Even if she is a five hundred thousand year old alien, she’s still got feelings that shouldn’t be all bottled up.”

Thor nodded. “And it is good for my brother as well. He feels very much imprisoned, similar to how Miriam feels. Perhaps they can find friends in each other.” The Asgardian turned and left the meeting room, going off to find Miriam. She was in her room, hanging from the ceiling. Thor paused for a moment to figure out what she was doing.

Apparently she’d ‘borrowed’ a soldering iron to melt down one of the support bars on her bed enough to pull it out, and then she’d melded it to the ceiling. She currently had her feet curled around the bar, and her arms crossed over her chest. She raised herself up and down, letting out a strained groan each time she went up.

Thor grinned. “Impressive display, my friend.”

Miriam peered up at Thor, who currently looked upside down from her perspective. “What do you want?” She went up again.

“I simply came to inquire about your well-being. Should you be doing all this movement when your injuries are still so visible? You shouldn’t push yourself too hard because you feel that you’ve got a point to prove. We believe you when you say that you are strong.” Miriam went up and down again, without saying anything in response. “Also, if you don’t wish to discuss your healthy, despite the fact that you probably should, I came to see if you were going to send a reply to my brother’s letter. It seemed as though he was expecting one. And I thought that you were interested in responding. Is that not why you chose to return to this place?”

Miriam managed to shrug while upside down. “I don’t care that much. If I think of something to write back, then I will. If I can’t, then I won’t. It doesn’t really make a difference to me either way. And as for this exercise stuff? I know that you guys believe I’m mentally strong, but the strength of a human is microscopic compared to the strength of an eternal. I could push planets out of orbit if I wished, and now I can barely pick up a human being.” She went up and down again a few more times.

“Well, if you keep up this training, I’m sure you’ll find yourself much stronger in no time at all, even if it isn’t close to your original strength. But that’s not such a bad thing, is it? Before, you had strength that you never really needed. But now that you have need of it, you must work for it like everybody else.” Thor leaned his hip against the doorframe, and it didn’t look like he was planning on moving himself away anytime soon.

Miriam let out an annoyed sigh. “Are you seriously going to watch me work out? Dude, that’s just plain old creepy.” She let herself drop down to the floor after a few more reps, and grabbed the towel that was resting on her bed frame. The mattress was pushed up against one of the walls.

Miriam wiped off some of the excess sweat that was on her, and then walked over to the dresser, which had been replaced since she’d broken the old one. She pulled out some tape from the top drawer and wrapped it around her knuckles. Then she walked over to the mattress, and began punching it, constantly shifting her angle and speed. It made her whole fighting style very unpredictable. Thor felt that she could truly make a worthy opponent or ally, depending on what she chose to do now that she was stuck on Earth.

Thor cleared his throat. “I believe that if you tilted your fists down a little more on those wide swings, you’d find that you cause yourself less pain.” Miriam snorted and didn’t respond, but Thor noticed that she did take his advice. When it didn’t seem like she was going to offer anything else, Thor suddenly smiled. “Would you care to spar down in the training room?”

That was the first thing Thor had said that had actually gotten Miriam to stop what she was doing. She looked at him in disbelief. “I thought that the training room was for Avengers only? And we’ve all made it pretty clear that I am not, and shall never be an Avenger.”

Thor shrugged. “Normally it is. But that just means that we don’t really invite the agents in for practice. But since you’re so intent on training, and you’ve got nowhere else to do it besides your room, I don’t think it should be a problem. And as long as I’m there to supervise you, I think that nobody should have too many complaints.”

Miriam narrowed her eyes. “But you’re forgetting about the fact that I am way weaker than you. You could beat me into the ground right now. You could probably break every bone in my body. And as someone who’s never had a broken bone before, I’m really not looking forward to experiencing that.”

Thor shrugged again. “If that’s how you feel, then I think that I’ll be fine. But if the only reason you’re opting out is because of my strength then I can promise to go easy on you.”

“You were the one who just said that I shouldn’t be working out when I still look injured.”

The Asgardian smiled. “So then you are afraid to spar with me and lose. That’s alright. I understand.”

Miriam frowned. “I am certainly not scared of an Asgardian, of all people. But what do I actually get out of fighting you that I couldn’t get in here?”

Thor glanced around the small room. “This is admittedly a pretty impressive setup you’ve got here. But none of these things move or fight back,” a strange gleam got into Thor’s eyes. “Also, I’m prepared to wager on this. If you win, then I’ll stop bothering you.”

Miriam put her hands on her hips. “And if you win?”

“I’d say that you have to think further on joining the Avengers, but I know that you won’t agree to that, and even if you do, someone shouldn’t be forced to become a hero. So how about if I win, then you have to write a letter in response to my brother? I know he’ll be waiting around for a reply, even if he does deny it.”

Miriam finally sighed, then nodded slowly. “Okay, fine. You’re on.” When Thor held out his hand to shake on it, she just gave him a funny look, and pushed past him out into the hallway. When he stepped away, she slammed her door shut, and even though it didn’t lock, it at least provided the illusion of some privacy. Thor took the lead then, walking towards the training room.

When they went inside the giant room, they say that they had the place to themselves. Thor walked over to one of the large mats. He unhooked Mjolner from his belt, and placed it gently down on the floor next to the mat. Then he pulled off his cape, and shoes, and stood there, ready to go.

Miriam glanced down at herself. She was wearing leggings and a long shirt. She kicked off her own shoes, and faced off against the guy who was at least twice her size, probably more.

“You know, there’s no such thing as a clean fight in the real world, right? Which means that there should be no such thing as a clean fight when we’re sparring in your stupidly big gym.”

Thor nodded agreeably. “If that’s how you feel. Though I’m not sure how I would change my fighting style to a less ‘clean’ version.”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “Yeah, that’s fine. Whatever. Now let’s get started before I get bored and remember that my squishy bed is as good at fighting as you are.”

Thor raised one eyebrow. “The ‘squishy bed’?”

Miriam nodded seriously. “Yeah, that thing that was up against the wall.”

Thor laughed. “Ha, someone who understands Midgard even less than I do. That was a mattress. It’s only one part of the bed. The metal part that you broke was the bedframe. It’s not that complicated-” before Thor could go on, he had to duck to avoid the fist swinging towards his face. An excited look came over the Asgardian. “So the fight has begun already? Excellent.”

Miriam swung at him again, and he blocked with one arm. While he blocked that side, Miriam jumped up to kick at him. He had to jump back to avoid being hit. He seemed glad that Miriam was going hard. He knew that the girl couldn’t seriously injure him, at least not at the moment, so he didn’t mind her fighting with her best effort. He also kept in mind that she was still hurt, so he definitely held back a lot more than he would’ve if he were fighting against one of his shield-brothers or shield-sisters.

Thor caught his balance, and swung out at Miriam. She ducked right under his arm, and rolled under his legs. Still on the floor, she swiped her own legs right at the back of Thor’s knees. The kick wasn’t strong enough to knock him down, but it did throw him a bit off balance.

He turned, and Miriam sprang back to her feet. She jumped up rolled around Thor until she had an opening, and her arm shot out. Thor’s arm came up and blocked her, and she grabbed his arm to use as leverage while she swung herself up and kicked him in the throat.

Then she dropped down and took a few steps back, panting and sweating. “This isn’t right. All of my limbs hurt right now. Like they’re on fire.”

“It’s your muscles being forced to do actual work,” Miriam turned to see Natasha standing near the mat, an intrigued look on her face. “You’re actually pretty good for someone who’s never had to use your muscles before. You’ve got a lot of potential to be a good fighter. You’ve got pretty good stamina, too, to keep up with Thor. And you even managed to hit him pretty hard.”

Miriam scowled. “I certainly don’t need encouragement from you.”

Thor chuckled. “You should never take your eyes off of your opponent my friend.” Thor hit Miriam in the back and she fell forward. He knelt down and used his knee to pin her to the mat. “Do you admit defeat, my friend?”

The girl sighed, and didn’t bother flailing around, since she knew that she wouldn’t be able to dislodge the Asgardian. “Yeah, fine, whatever.” Thor stood and reached down to offer Miriam a hand to help her back up. She stood up without his help. “Why do I feel like this?”

Natasha handed her a bottle of water. “Here. You’re dehydrated from working out like that without eating anything this morning. I know you’re probably used to being able to get by without anything, but you have to learn now that you’re going to need to get used to the idea that now you need to eat and drink water if you want to survive. And if you want to get revenge on the Asgardians, or whatever, then you’ve got to survive. So drink up.”

Miriam reluctantly accepted the water, and chugged it down. She was feeling pretty thirsty, and her whole body ached. This was so unfair. She could once fight and do whatever she wanted to with no consequences. Now it was work just to keep her body functioning. She wondered how Midgardians had managed to survive so long on these stupid rules.

As they were walking out of the training room, Thor gave Miriam an excited look. “You must now write a letter for me to get to my brother. I think that it shall be good for both of you. And I do promise to not look at any of your messages back and forth.”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “Fine, whatever. I’ll get the finished letter to you before I go to bed tonight, okay?” Thor nodded, and then the two parted ways. Miriam headed back to her room, and flopped down onto the nest of blankets she’d made on the floor. Doing that made this place feel just a bit more like home. Too bad it didn’t have the other important part of home, though, which would be having Ar’iaal here with her right now. Miriam closed her eyes, and let herself dream of Ar’iaal, letting his presence push aside the dreams of death and destruction she’d been forced to see for ten thousand years.

Chapter Text

Ar’iaal chuckled, and ducked aside. Miriam’s eyes widened in delight at the challenge, and she leapt forward again. After another few minutes, it was easy to claim that the two opponents were equally matched. As soon as Ar’iaal held out his hand, indicating that the match was over, Miriam grabbed his arm and used it slam him down on the ground beside her.

He pouted for a moment, and then broke out into laughter. They both laughed for a while after that. They both laid on the grass, staring up at the violet sky. A shooting star ran past, and Miriam sighed wistfully. “Sometimes I wish that we could just dance around all of the planets we want to, all across the galaxy. With as much freedom as that star.”

Ar’iaal smiled. “We can. We can do whatever the hell we want. No one’s left to tell us ‘no’.”

Miriam peered over at Ar’iaal at that, and saw that his gaze was still directed up. “Do you ever regret it? Staying behind with me? Because of that choice, you’re forced to live alone.”

Ari’aal quickly shook his head. “Never. Not even for a second. Our people are complete douche nozzles to think that they’d ever be better off without us. Your mom has no idea what she’s missing out on by not getting to spend more time with you. And besides, it’s not like I’m totally alone. I’ve got you by my side, and you’re my best friend in the entire universe.”

“I’m your only friend in the entire universe.”

Ar’iaal laughed, and playfully shoved against Miriam’s shoulder. It’s not like he could ever hurt her. And it’s not like she could ever hurt him either. The only thing Miriam knew of that could ever truly incapacitate an eternal was extreme emotion, and even that wouldn’t actually kill one of the immortal beings.

No matter what Ar’iaal said, though, Miriam wasn’t appeased. After that day, she found herself always noticing the look of regret that would quickly wash over him whenever Miriam messed up. She knew that Ar’iaal wished that he could be with the rest of his family. But if Miriam had known that confronting him would lead to losing him for good, then Miriam would’ve never said a word, and Ar’iaal would’ve never raised his hand against his best friend in the entire universe.

***

Miriam slowly opened her eyes, and felt the pile of blankets beneath her. But the room around her was not one of the spacious caves that her and Ar’iaal had resided in so many years ago. This was the Avengers’ base, and Miriam was really no better than a prisoner, being held against her will, simply because there were so many people out there who were afraid of her.

There was a soft knock on the door a little while after Miriam had woken up, and she pulled a blanket up over her head and closed her eyes, feigning sleep. Hopefully that would be enough to keep those villains away from her.

No such luck. The door swung open after a few more knocks were met with no response. There was the sound of someone clearing their throat. “Miriam? Uh, I don’t mean to wake you, but-”

Miriam suddenly shoved back her blanket a bit, and peered up at Sam with one raised eyebrow. “Who said that I was sleeping?”

Sam sighed in annoyance. “I just came to tell you that Thor’s finally back from Asgard. We all know how anxious you got as soon as he left, and this was a particularly long trip, but he said that he needs to call an immediate meeting for the Avengers and you. You might want to make your way to the conference soon if you don’t want to miss whatever it is that he’s got to talk about.” Then he turned to head to the conference room.

Miriam laughed to herself and got up, fully dressed and not at all tired looking. She took a quicker path to the conference room, and couldn’t help feeling some smug satisfaction when Sam looked confused to see that she’d arrived there before him. He hadn’t been expecting that.

A few minutes later, Thor walked into the room. He headed right over to Miriam, who was spinning around in one of the swivel chairs like she had nothing better to do with her time. “Miriam. My friend, I bring you a letter from my brother. Since this involves only you, you may have it now, while the rest of my news involves the whole team, so I must speak with all of them first.”

Miriam looked at Thor with one raised eyebrow, then shrugged. She didn’t particularly care about whether she was kicked out of a stupid Avengers meeting or not. They’d already concluded that she really had nothing to do with any of them, and that she wanted it to remain that way.

So Miriam headed down to the training room. It was guaranteed to be empty right now, since it was for the Avengers only, and all of the Avengers were attending some top secret meeting. She’d been going there a lot in the past month since Thor had headed back to Asgard. At first, a few of the others seemed like they wanted to say something about it, but when they realized that she was simply there to train her body and not cause trouble, they decided that they had no reason to just go and kick her out or anything.

In the training room, Miriam sat down on one of the large mats that was usually used for sparring between the teammates. She opened up the envelope, which was still sealed, and pulled out the sheaf of parchment that was inside. Well, not parchment exactly, but it also wasn’t Midgardian paper. It was somewhere in between the two materials.

This time, the letter was written in the language of the Kree. At this point, Loki knew that Miriam understood any language that he could throw at her, and he was simply doing it to keep their privacy and to help amuse both of them a little bit more sometimes.

Miriam couldn’t help smiling a bit as she read about one of Loki’s many childhood adventures. This one involved him running off to meet some elves, and getting stranded, and having to stay with the elves for almost an entire week before Odin came for him. He believed that it was Odin trying to get rid of him, but Miriam suspected that it was just Odin trying to teach Loki a lesson about running away like that.

When she’d finished reading the letter, Miriam folded it in half and slipped it into one of her pockets. She’d begun borrowing clothes from Natasha, and most of the pants she borrowed had many more pockets than Miriam was used to. Then she was about to toss the envelope, when she realized that it still felt thick enough to have something inside. That was strange.

Before Miriam could investigate further, she heard the thunderous footsteps of the god of thunder. She shoved the envelope into a different pocket, as it was now something to be looked into. Later, though.

Thor smiled. “We have reached a conclusion concerning the idea I thought to bring to the table. We’d like you to hear us out.” They began to walk back to the conference room. When Thor noticed that Miriam seemed distracted, he patted her on the back in what he thought was a comforting manner. “Do not fear, we haven’t come up with some horrible torture to subject you to. Though I will ask that you remain civil, no matter what your reaction is to all of it.”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “I can’t make any promises when I don’t even know what ‘it’ is.”

Thor ignored that, and they arrived at the conference room a moment later. He held the door open, and Miriam walked inside. She saw that there were two open seats, one between Steve and Sam, and the other between Wanda and Natasha. Miriam only had a moment to choose which of those spots would be the safest, and ultimately came to the conclusion that she’d rather not bring herself down to the same level as these fools.

While Thor sat and stared at Miriam expectantly, she just stayed where she was, crossed her arms over her chest, and raised one eyebrow. “So? What exactly are we all gathered here to discuss?”

Thor looked like he wanted to explain everything, but Steve gave him a gentle look that conveyed the fact he thought Miriam would take it better from him. Whatever it was. The other Avengers were all shifting uncomfortably in their seats, looking like they didn’t think that this was the right decision. Since Miriam didn’t know what decision had been made, she really couldn’t say what she thought about it one way or the other.

Steve cleared his throat, trying not to look awkward, and not succeeding very well. “We’ve been discussing a few things. Things that Thor actually suggested. But before we say anything else, we have a few questions for you.” Miriam let out a soft huff of annoyance, but she didn’t say anything to interrupt the Avenger. “How exactly did you extract your power from Vision while still allowing him to keep the power of the stone itself?”

Miriam shrugged, and she felt like she really didn’t know the answer. They’d all been there to see the way that she had looked just as unsure of herself as everyone else had. None of them had fully believed she’d be able to do it.

“Mostly it came down to instinct. I knew that some of the power in him belonged with me, and the power recognized that too. So it wasn’t too difficult to just sort of… nudge it in the right direction. The right direction being me, of course.”

Vision looked the most fascinated by that out of everybody. Maybe because he’d been so directly involved. Or maybe because he still held a child-like curiosity for so many things, since he was really still just a baby, no matter how adult he may act sometimes. “Do you believe yourself capable of recreating that process?” Steve shot Vision a disapproving look at the disruption, but he didn’t say anything else.

Miriam stared at Vision with narrowed eyes, and then she shook her head. “No way. I’ve already taken all of my power that you had in you. There’s nothing left for me to extract, or whatever you want to call it.”

Thor shook his head. “Not on the man of sight. On a different one of the stones. If you were to have one in your hands, would you be able to remove your power while leaving behind what was already in the stone long before you were even born? Because if you could-”

The eternal was a lot smarter than anyone really gave her credit for. Probably because everytime they saw her face, they would find it only too easy to forget that she was much older than all of them combined. “The blue one. The one that I found in the Asgardian treasure room. You called it the tesseract, right? That’s presumably the only other one that you’ve got any sort of control over. You want me to remove my power from it? Even though that’ll make me closer to being normal again? And my normal involves punching planets that bug me out of existence?”

Before Thor could answer, Natasha decided to cut in. “When you do drain your power from the stones, is it possible for you to take the stone’s power as well? Whether by accident or on purpose?”

Miriam hesitated, then shrugged. “You’re asking me this like it’s some kind of common occurrence for a whole bunch of deranged Asgardians to remove my powers from me and stick them into a whole bunch of old rocks. I have no idea. But I would assume that I can’t. I mean, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m probably one of the most powerful people you’ll ever meet. Or I was, a long time ago. But even I’m a bit scared of what would happen if one person were to try and wield the power of all of the stones combined.”

Steve seemed to accept that answer, though it really didn’t make the other Avengers look less on edge. Well, Thor and Vision didn’t look any different than normal. It was Natasha, Wanda, Sam, and Rhodey that all looked like they had a problem but didn’t want to say anything about it.

Miriam turned her attention to Thor. He always seemed to be her biggest defender, for whatever reason. She could use that. “Would you really let me get back even a little bit more of myself?”

Thor glanced at Steve before smiling at Miriam. “We would. However, there is one condition.” Miriam slouched down a bit at that. Whatever the condition was, she didn’t think that she’d want to hear it. “Once you get back another bit of your power you’ll be stronger in many ways, right?”

Miriam nodded slowly. “Getting that first stone gave me back a bit of my power, along with making me just a tiny bit more strong and durable in the physical sense. Presumably, a second stone would only add to that. Why?”

Thor nodded thoughtfully. “Odin has agreed to let me bring you together with the tesseract, but he doesn’t want it leaving Asgard. Which is why you must agree to go peacefully to Asgard. You cannot just slay every Asgardian you see, simply because of a ten thousand year old grudge. If you can promise to behave yourself, then your power from the tesseract will be yours again.”

“That’s the condition?” Thor nodded, and Miriam relaxed her tense shoulders. “Alright then. Saving my vengeance for another day in exchange for getting part of myself back? That’s not even a choice. How soon can we go?”

Thor chuckled at Miriam’s impatience, though Miriam didn’t find it very amusing. She thought that if someone removed Thor’s hammer, for example, he’d want to do everything in his power to get it back as soon as possible, because he’d feel pretty weak without it. But no one seemed to fully grasp the predicament that the Asgardians had put Miriam in, so it made sense that Thor didn’t understand it either.

“We can leave for Asgard as soon as tomorrow evening. Then we’ll quickly get you to the tesseract, and then back home.”

Miriam nodded, and left the conference room. She wondered why the Avengers had suddenly decided that she wasn’t super dangerous. It seemed a bit at odds with their quest of protecting the Earth to let a dangerous alien regain strength before going back to Earth.

But Miriam wasn’t going to question it for now. It would feel so good to be even a little bit closer to who she’d once been. Miriam wondered which aspect of her power was locked away in the stone within that blue cube. Then she wondered if any of the Asgardians had ever figured out how to open the casing, or if that would be for Miriam to figure out.

Either way, Miriam couldn’t wait until tomorrow evening.

Chapter Text

Miriam refused to let any sort of wonder cross her face as she took in the city of Asgard. It admittedly looked a bit different than it had ten thousand years ago. A bit more impressive. But still not nearly as impressive as some of the other worlds that Miriam had seen before. Back when she’d still been able to travel between planets like it was nothing.

Based on the fact that the tesseract had been necessary to transporting her and Thor from Midgard to Asgard, it made sense to assume that it contained the bit of Miriam’s power that would once again allow her to travel freely through space in the same amount of time it would take a Midgardian to take a couple of steps forward.

As they walked through the large city, Miriam finally had to turn to glance up at Thor. “Why are we walking through this entire city rather than just having the tesseract bring us directly to the palace, or whatever that place is called?” She didn’t mention the fact that there was a strange tugging sensation in her that felt like it would be able to lead her directly to the palace.

Thor smiled excitedly. “I was hoping to show you around the city that I grew up in!”

Miriam arched one eyebrow. “Why? So I’d be extra tempted to suddenly murder everyone?”

The god of thunder shook his head, seemingly unconcerned with what Miriam had just said. “So that you could see what an incredible place this is, and know that it would be wrong to murder everyone. Also, I thought that you could use the opportunity to walk around somewhere that isn’t all long hallways and boring white walls. It’s very easy to get too restless at the Avengers building.”

Miriam shrugged, and didn’t say anything in response. She wasn’t really in the mood to discuss everything wrong with Asgard with Thor of all people. If he couldn’t figure out Miriam’s aversion to these people simply based off of what she’d told the Avengers, then he clearly wasn’t smart enough to ever be able to figure it out. And if Thor couldn’t understand Miriam’s hostility towards his people, then it wasn’t Miriam’s job to try and explain. She was done trying to explain herself to others, and justify her actions. She’d been done since Ar’iaal had left her.

Thor glanced down at the smaller alien. “These people, these particular people who you are laying your eyes upon right at this moment, have no quarrel with you, as you should have none with them. They are not the ones who imprisoned you and took away your power so you should not blame them for the actions of their fathers and grandfathers.”

Miriam scowled. “I’m going to blame whoever the hell I want for whatever the hell I want to blame them for. If I think that these people deserve to face justice for what they’ve done, then I know that they will.” At Thor’s nervous look, she rolled her eyes. “Oh, relax. I promised that I’ll save my vengeance for another day, didn’t I?” She peered up at Thor curiously. “You guys never did mention why the sudden change of heart.”

The god frowned. “We have a dangerous enemy, and we know that he wishes for the power of the stones to belong entirely to him. You said that even you would fear the person who could wield it all, and it is our fear that this one being can. And once he has all of the stones in his possession, he shall bring about unimaginable destruction and pain and death.”

Miriam smirked. “Midgard’s mightiest heroes are frightened of one man? What’s his name, the Boogeyman?”

Thor shook his head, not seeming to hear the sarcasm in the smaller being’s voice. “No. We don’t know much about him, other than that his name is Thanos, and he-” Thor continued talking in his booming voice, but Miriam suddenly froze in place. Her eyes were wide, and her chest was moving up and down quickly, like she’d just gone a round in the gym or something. She couldn’t think, and couldn’t hear anything else that Thor was saying. All she could hear was that one name bouncing around in her head, Thanos, Thanos, Thanos, and it was scarier than anything else she possible could’ve imagined.

Thor finally seemed to realize that Miriam was no longer following right behind him, because he turned back and strode over to the eternal in just a couple long strides. He looked down at her with one eyebrow raised. Miriam blinked a few times, and finally seemed to return to the present. She gulped. “Sorry, I must’ve let my mind wander for a moment there. What did you just say?”

Thor looked up as he tried to silently go back over everything that he’d said in the past couple of minutes. Finally he shook his head. “I have said many things, my friend. I’m not sure what piece of information you are looking for me to repeat.”

Miriam sighed. “The name of the guy you think is strong enough to take on the power of all of the stones? What did you say his name was?”

“Thanos,” Thor replied slowly, like he was speaking to a child or something. “Have you heard of this being before?”

Miriam gulped again. She only had a few seconds to decide how much of her life she was willing to share with this man who was still basically a stranger. Then again, Thanos really was a pretty common name. She smiled, putting on an entire mask to hide the fact that she was freaking out inside. “Um, no, sorry. I guess I just misheard you. Wow, this is feeling awkward now. I’m just way too easy to freak out. Let’s just keep on going to your fancy little summer home, okay?”

Thor looked uncertain. “Are you sure that you’re alright?You seemed very freaked out by the sound of this being’s name. And we assume that he is very old. Possibly even as old as you.”

Miriam scoffed. “Yeah right, there’s no one who could be the same age as me,” she sighed. Then she mumbled, “he’s a bit older,” under her breath so that the Asgardian wouldn’t be able to hear her. She shrugged. “Anyways, let’s keep going. I can’t stand the sight of these pathetic Asgardians for very much longer.”

Thor nodded wisely, realizing that Miriam was definitely hiding something, and probably wasn’t ever going to admit to whatever it was. But that was okay, because everyone was allowed their secrets, and someone who was as old as the girl was probably had quite a few secrets under her belt. He turned and continued walking, though he did pause for a moment to make sure that he could hear the sound of Miriam’s footsteps behind his.

As they continued on towards the god’s home, Miriam looked around the city with undisguised disgust. She couldn’t care less about any of these Asgardians or their pitiful lives. But unlike some people, Miriam wasn’t a promise breaker. She wasn’t going to go back on her word, especially since it would be easiest to annihilate the Asgardians after she got the rest of her power back, and not just thirty percent of it.

Then Miriam’s mind wandered to Ar’iaal, her childhood best friend. She hadn’t seen him for several thousand years even before she’d been cursed and stripped of her power and locked away. Not since they’d argued, and he’d slapped her. And eternals were so emotionally constipated that just a bit too much, and their body couldn’t handle it anymore. So he basically went to take a very long nap, and never woke up.

At least, Miriam didn’t think that Ar’iaal had ever woken up. If he had, then he surely would have sought her out, right? If he’d found out that Miriam had been imprisoned by the stupid Asgardians, then he would’ve done everything in his power to set her free. Even if he couldn’t wake her up, he’d certainly have moved her back to their home, or whatever new one he’d found, until he’d figured out a way to wake Miriam up.

So there’s no way that Ar’iaal could possibly be awake, which meant that he was still comatose in whatever remote little corner he’d buried himself in. Miriam wasn’t sure whether she was supposed to be relieved by that thought or not. Ar’iaal had always been her best friend in the entire universe. He didn’t deserve permanent punishment just because he’d slapped Miriam once over something she’d said. It’s not like either of them truly were capable of harming each other. Even now, they were incapable of harming each other, simply because of what was in their hearts. It had nothing to do with their physical strength. Miriam knew that Ar’iaal would never hurt her. If they were to meet under these conditions, he’d probably be frustratingly gentle around her.

Before Miriam realized it, Thor was motioning for her to walk up the steps next to him. She frowned. Walking into Odin’s home side by side with his son was sure to be some kind of significant ‘stick it’ to the king of the Asgardians. She peered up at Thor, who simply gave her an innocent little grin. Miriam wasn’t sure whether he was faking it or not, and decided that she didn’t really care.

A couple of large Asgardians decked out in full armor opened the gates to let Thor and Miriam inside, though they apparently couldn’t refrain from throwing Miriam looks of distaste. A lot of stories must’ve spread around about her in the time since she’d been exiled to Midgard.

Once inside the actual building, they walked down a few long corridors. Miriam found her chest feeling tight, and knew that she was pushing this mortal body too hard, but she wasn’t going to ask Thor to slow down. Even as a weakling, she could still keep her dignity, and the appearance of strength.

A few minutes later, Thor slowed his pace. He didn’t say anything, and Miriam chose to keep quiet as well. At the slower pace, it took them another few minutes to reach their destination. Miriam looked around, but not much of this palace looked very familiar to her. She’d been too broken last time she was here to really pay much attention to the scenery.

The two guards standing on either side of the double doors both gave Thor a slight nod, and didn’t acknowledge Miriam’s presence at all. Then they swung the large doors open, and Miriam walked in next to Thor. This room, she recognized. The treasure room.

And the tugging sensation that had been pushed to the back of Miriam’s mind was now back full force, yanking her forward before she could even think about it. She walked across the room, fighting to not break out into a full sprint. There, sitting up on a pedestal, was a blue cube. Now that it was in her sight, the tugging eased up enough that it was barely noticeable.

She reached up to grab it, but her arms were grabbed away. Miriam looked up into the grizzled, bearded face of Odin. “Do you know why you are being allowed this? Because make no mistake, this is an allowance. You are owed nothing.”

Thor walked closer. “I explained it to her on the way over.”

Miriam nodded. She didn’t think it was important to mention the fact that she’d been letting her mind wander for the majority of the time Thor had been explaining. It had been hard to concentrate once she’d heard that familiar and very frightening name. When Odin didn’t release her wrists, she wiggled them impatiently.

Odin raised one eyebrow. “Tell me, then. Tell me why this allowance is being made.”

Miriam groaned. She was so close. If only she could reach out and grab it. “Thanos-” She sucked in a quick gasp. There wasn’t much else she could say even if she wanted to. She had no idea what the Avengers thought she had to do with Thanos, of all people.

The king of gods sighed. “He is a very powerful being. If given the opportunity, he will use the power of these stones to cause more devastation than you could even imagine. He’s worse than you ever were. We simply aim to reduce his chances, even by a little bit, by putting the power back into you instead. Just him having the stones will be bad enough, we don’t need him having you as well.” He glanced over at Thor, who was standing tall under his father’s gaze. “My son believes that we should trust you. That if you promised to not harm anyone, then you really won’t. Is this true? Can we trust you?”

Of course they couldn’t. Miriam was going to be paying Asgard just as soon as she had all of her power back. And once the tesseract power was back where it belonged, Miriam would be able to hop on over to the next galaxy, getting herself as far away from Midgard and Asgard as possible. Then when she was strong enough, she’d return, and everyone would regret this one moment. But Miriam wasn’t going to tell that to the large Asgardian still holding her captive. At least not all of that.

Miriam gulped, and slowly shook her head. “No. I can barely trust myself most of the time. I’ll always feel that your people have wronged me, and I’ll always wish to exact my revenge for that.”

Odin suddenly released Miriam, and she took an automatic step back. “If you had tried to convince me that you’re trustworthy, then I would never believe you.” He stepped away, and gestured to the glowing cube. “You may take what is yours, and nothing more.”

Miriam hurriedly closed the gap between herself in the stone. She grabbed the cube, and held it out in front of herself. It was a breathtaking shade of blue. They reminded Miriam of Ar’iaal’s eyes. She didn’t even look back at the Asgardians as she raised the cube up over her head, and smashed it down on the pedestal. She smashed it down again a few times, ignoring the way that she could feel Odin’s eyes burning into her back, wondering what the hell she was doing.

After a few more tries, the cube popped open, revealing the little blue rock inside. Miriam took a deep breath, then reached forward and wrapped her hand around the stone. She lifted it to her mouth and pressed a little kiss against it, then held it over her chest. A blue glow suddenly surrounded Miriam, and when she opened her eyes, they were also blue.

The stone’s color began to fade until it was just plain white, and the glow around Miriam seemed to grow stronger each second the stone grew paler. The Asgardians stood their ground warily as Miriam’s feet lifted off the ground, and when she blinked again, her eyes were completely red, including her pupils and irises.

Miriam slowly stretched out all of her limbs, like she was getting used to the feeling of them, and then a moment later, she sank back down to the floor gracefully. She blinked a few times and her eyes were back to normal. She looked down at the stone in her hand, and then up at Odin. “You still won’t be able to touch this without exploding. Probably. I mean, you could always test it out just so that we know for sure?”

Odin shook his head. “Put it back into it’s case.” Miriam obliged, and put the smooth white rock back into the slot that had previously held a lumpy blue one. Once the cube was sealed shut again, it was simply translucent. She put the cube back down on the pedestal.

When Miriam looked up to meet Thor’s eyes, she saw that he looked excited. He was excited for her. Glad that she was slowly regaining her old self. Miriam could tell as soon as she touched the stone that it had indeed contained her ability to travel through space. It had also returned some of her former strength and durability, which was nice.

Thor reached up out one hand expectantly. “Let us return to Midgard, and the rest of my shield brothers and sisters.” He looked at the cube. “Will we still need the tesseract?”

Miriam shook her head. There was no point in trying to hide her newly recovered abilities, since they’d come out eventually, one way or another. She took Thor’s hand. “Alright, let’s go back before I’m tempted to kill anyone.” She wasn’t strong enough. Not yet, anyways.

A flash of blue surrounded the pair of aliens, and a moment later, they were standing right on the front lawn of the Avengers building. Thor grinned. “Let us go and tell the Avengers the good news.”

Miriam grimaced as she thought about how much more the Avengers were going to dislike her now. “Ah, you go on ahead. I need to… catch my breath.” Thor nodded, and strode towards the building.

Miriam blinked, and found herself in her room a moment later, where she sank down onto the bed. She suddenly felt exhausted. Eternals weren’t supposed to feel exhausted. Stupid Asgardians.

Chapter Text

“Wanna spar with me?” If Thor was surprised that Miriam had sought him out, then he didn’t let it show. Usually the other Avengers had to invite her to practice fighting with them.

Thor nodded. “That sounds like an excellent idea! Let us proceed to the gym!” Miriam followed the Asgardian to the gym.

When they got there, Natasha, Wanda, and Rhodey were already there. They made sure not to stare, because they knew from experience that if they paid too much attention to Miriam, she’d storm away. And this was the first time they’d be seeing her fight since her trip to Asgard, so they were curious to see how much stronger she was now.

Thor and Miriam stepped onto an empty mat and faced off against each other. Like he almost always did, Thor waited for Miriam to take the first swing. She obliged and lunger forward, punching one of her arms towards Thor’s neck while aiming to kick him in the gut.

Thor reached up and knocked aside her arm, then swung her over his head, so she landed on the mat behind him. He turned to face her, but she was suddenly behind him again, without anyone having seen her get up and move. The other Avengers didn’t even realize that they’d stopped what they were working on to watch the battle.

Thor was confused, until Miriam jumped up, and kicked him in the back of the head. He turned and lunged forward. Miriam appeared behind him again, and even though she was already sweating and red faced, she still had the energy to laugh. “You’ll never guess who I learned this move from.”

The Asgardian turned and started to leap at Miriam. Then he dug his feet into the mat and spun around, which meant he was facing Miriam head on. She was a bit surprised that he’d caught on so quickly, but that didn’t mean that he was going to win this one.

She appeared right above him, and dropped down so that her elbow dug into his head. While he took a moment to reorient himself, Miriam swung both of her legs around to kick Thor in the sides as hard as she could. Then she grabbed onto his shoulders, and slid down a bit so she could elbow him in the nose.

Then she was behind him, swiping her legs towards the backs of his knees. He turned around, and Miriam appeared next to him. She quickly punched him twice in the face. Then she shoved him to the ground, and he lost his balance, so he went. She grabbed his shoulders, and slammed him down onto her knee.

There were several very loud ‘cracks’ at that. Thor flopped back onto the mat, and even though Miriam was making a pained grimace, she remained standing so that she could call herself the victor.

Natasha walked over and knelt next to the god. She tilted his head back, and saw a small stream of blood running down from his nose. “I think you broke it.” She looked towards Miriam, a look of respect on her face, which quickly turned to worry.

Miriam clenched her teeth. “Good. So then I’ve won.” There was a large bloodstain on the knee of her pants that was quickly growing, and she didn’t look like she was planning on walking anywhere anytime soon.

Wanda and Rhodey decided that it was safe to get closer as well. Wanda whistled. “Apparently Asgardians have hard faces. You broke his nose, but it looks like his face broke your knee cap. That teleporting trick was neat, though. I’m assuming that it’s an effect of the tesseract?”

Miriam nodded. “Yeah, as far as I can tell.” She slid down so that she was sitting on the mat, and she rolled up one of the legs of her pants. She winced at the sight of fragmented bone sticking up through the thin skin of her knee. “Damn. I was hoping that maybe two stones would be enough for me to be beyond the point where I can still break bone.”

Rhodey grimaced. “How are you even still conscious? We know that you can feel pain and be incapacitated by it.”

Miriam shrugged. “Determination, I suppose. I wouldn’t look like much of a winner if I passed out right after the battle. I’m going to head to the medical area of this building now.” Thor moved like he was going to pick her up, and Miriam narrowed her eyes. “I can get there just fine on my own now, remember?” And a moment later, she was gone from sight.

Natasha stood up, and looked down at Thor curiously. “Will you be needing medical attention as well?”

Thor shook his head head, looking pretty cheerful for a guy who had blood dripping down his face. “I believe I shall do what you call ‘walking it off’. Though I would not be adverse to checking on Miriam’s well being. She goes to many lengths to prove herself worthy of us.”

Wanda looked worried. “What if she ends up dead? I mean, if she’s so willing to do whatever it takes to win, including letting herself get hurt, then how do we know that she won’t get herself killed because she doesn’t know when to back down?”

Thor frowned for a moment, and then his smile was back. “She would not let that happen. Getting hurt to win is acceptable because it means that she still won. Dying would be an automatic loss, which she would never allow.”

Rhodey rolled his eyes. “Great. So we don’t have to worry about her acting suicidal, just reckless to the point where we might see her bones. You are not supposed to be able to look at someone’s bones from the outside!”

Wanda patted his shoulder comfortingly. “If it makes you feel any better, eternals may have a different biological makeup than humans. Maybe they have bones that are supposed to come out occasionally?”

Natasha snorted. “Because that would make so much sense for a race of indestructible people.”

Wanda rolled her eyes. “Hey now. There’s no reason to be so snippy. I’m just trying to be helpful.” She looked to the god. “I’ll come with you to make sure that she’s alright. That was a pretty nasty looking wound.”

Even though they didn’t agree to go as well, both Natasha and Rhodey ended up following Thor and Wanda to the little hospital. One of the nurses looked up when she saw them come in. She spotted the blood on Thor’s face and frowned. “It must be a Tuesday.”

Thor shook his head. “We are only here to check on the health of our friend Miriam.”

Rhodey scoffed, and muttered, “I wouldn’t exactly call her friend. We barely know enough about her to consider her an acquaintance.”

The nurse ignored Rhodey, and looked pretty relieved that she wasn’t going to be relied on to patch up one of the actual Avengers. That would be pretty stressful, considering how important the Avengers were. Fixing up that girl wasn’t too stressful, though. No one outside of the Avengers knew why she was even there, since she clearly wasn’t one of them, and she definitely wasn’t old enough to be an agent of anything. The running theory was that she was one of the Avenger’s daughter. The fact that she didn’t hold much resemblance to any of them didn’t really mean anything.

She led them to the little room with Miriam in it, and the four actual superheroes went inside. There were doctors walking quickly around, shouting at each other. Wanda peered over at one of the doctors for a moment, then looked up at Thor. “Don’t worry, it isn’t a fatal injury. They’ll be able to patch her up just fine.”

There was a slight whine to the voice that spoke in response to Wanda. “Hey, don’t talk about me like I’m not right in front of you.” All of the Avengers couldn’t hide that they were surprised to see Miriam still conscious, and looking lucid for the most part.

At the questioning look they were all giving, one of the doctors sighed. “Her system is burning through the painkillers we’ve tried to give her.”

Miriam couldn’t hide the triumphant look she was wearing. “I’m starting to get stronger again, I can feel it.” She winced as one of the doctors did something. “I just wish that maybe this part could’ve waited until after the part where I stop getting hurt at all.”

The doctors seemed pretty frustrated themselves, having to work on a moving, squirming person. They were afraid that she’d move while they were trying to push the bone back in, and they’d end up making the current injury even worse.

Miriam reached into her pocket while one of the doctors was trying to reach over that arm. It was not a very good working system. She pulled out a slightly crumped envelope. “Sorry about the sweat stains on it. I forgot to take it out of my pocket before our match. Here. Take it to your brother.”

As he always had lately, he looked slightly curious about the contents of the letter, but he wasn’t going to read it because he was honorable to his word. He pocketed it carefully, and nodded. “I shall make sure that he receives it. Though aren’t you now capable of delivering it to him yourself?”

Miriam shuddered. “No way do I want to go back there. If I go back to your planet, it’ll be to kick everyone’s asses. There’s no way I can look at all those smug Asgardians without wanting to punch them really hard. No offense.”

Thor grinned. “If you could break all of their noses the way you did mine, I’d be too impressed to be angry on their behalves.”

Miriam raised one eyebrow. “Is that permission to go and fight your people?”

Thor cheerily shook his head. “Absolutely not.”

One of the doctors finally just pinned Miriam’s moving arm down to the bed. “Listen, I know that this hurts and it’s a pain in the butt, but there’s nothing we can do if you keep wiggling around. And if we accidentally make it worse, or can’t work on you at all, then you’re going to be feeling this pain for a while. So just work with us here, okay?”

The eternal sighed dramatically, but she knew that they were right. For as long as she was as weak as a Midgardian, she’d have to suffer through their painful treatment methods, and there wasn’t really anything else that could be done about it.

It was about half an hour later that Miriam was lying back in her own bed, or at least in the bed that was in her room in the Avengers building. Of course that wasn’t her bed, but it was the one she was using for now, and it was better than those hospital beds, no matter how squishy those things were.

There was a cast going from halfway down her thigh to the top of her calf. It kept her leg locked in a mostly straight position, and she’d been told not to walk on it for at least four weeks, and they’d given her a wheelchair. She declined the wheelchair, now that she could move around in a much more efficient (and fun) manner. They’d told her that she should stick with bed rest for at least one week. She’d left right after that.

Now Miriam was staring up at her ceiling, wondering what the heck she was supposed to do for an entire week if all she could do was lie on this bed. Then she grinned to herself. The doctors hadn’t said that her bedrest all needed to be done in the same bed, and she did have the ability to move around without walking, so she wouldn’t even be breaking the rules that they’d set.

Thor had been right. There was no reason Miriam needed to keep using him as a middle man. In fact, there really wasn’t any reason she needed to keep communicating via letters, other than so they could write in strange languages that almost no one else around these parts would be able to understand.

Since she was injured, going too far away would be out of the question, but going to another planet within the same system wouldn’t be that straining. So Miriam decided that maybe it would be best for her to take a quick vacation to the Asgard. The Avengers already knew she wasn’t going to just leave, but they still must’ve thought that the intrigue of letters with Loki would be enough to keep her around. Now she could get to Asgard from anywhere on Midgard.

And she hadn’t thought of it earlier, but it would be easy enough to just bring herself right to the palace so that she wouldn’t have to walk through the city of assholes. She was supposed to be staying off of her feet anyways, so this would be perfect. Miriam quickly scribbled out a note explaining where she was going so the Avengers wouldn’t think that she was just ditching them again. It would be an annoyance to have to call off a search party, or something.

She blinked, and a moment later, she was lying on a large bed covered in various furs and large comfy pillows. There was no one else around, and Miriam thought that this would be a very opportune time to do some snooping around. There was a helmet with giant horns hanging from one of the walls. There was a photograph of Freya. A sketchbook lying on a table. She appeared next to the table, picked that up, appeared back on the bed, and flipped through it. The drawings inside were all very elegant, and somehow seemed so very Loki.

Before Miriam could look around some more, the giant door swung open and slammed into the wall. There was Loki, looking as blue as always. He looked ready to attack whoever was intruding in his room.

Miriam couldn’t help laughing. There had been a time where she’d have been able to totally crush him before he even got the chance to open the door. Now she was lying on his bed, totally crippled. He seemed taken aback by the sound of laughter, and when he saw that it was Miriam, his eyes narrowed. “How did you get in here?”

A moment later, Miriam was standing behind him, and the pain that shot up her leg was worth it for the expression of confusion on his face when he turned around. “Well that’s new.”

Miriam grinned, and went back to the bed. “Thanks to how fast I am, I can even pull a few of your tricks. Actually beat your brother by doing that. It’s a cool move, but it probably does help that he’s not the sharpest guy around.”

Loki laughed, and sat down on the bed next to Miriam. “No, he’s certainly not. So if you can transport yourself around at will, why haven’t you fled yet?”

Miriam sighed. “Because some idiotic Asgardians decided to ‘scatter my power across the universe’ by leaving all of the stones in one small area. At the moment, Midgard is probably the best central point anyways, and plus it means that I can visit you whenever I want.” She couldn’t help feeling a bit sad that she couldn’t see Ar’iaal whenever she wanted to. He probably would’ve hated Loki. It would have been amazing to see them meet.

Loki rolled his eyes, but Miriam could see that he was pleased by her answer. He wasn’t stupid though, so he noticed that heavy air that suddenly settled over them. And he could take a pretty good guess as to the cause of that. He cleared his throat. “You promised to tell me about the time you and Ar’iaal had to pretend to be sheep, remember?”

Miriam grinned, grateful that Loki seemed to understand her so well. She took in a deep breath, like she always did before launching into yet another epic tale. “Okay, so it started when we found this ship, but we didn’t know it was a ship. How were we supposed to know it was a ship? It looked like random space debris or something…” And she couldn’t help moving her hands every time she spoke, and cutting herself off mid-sentence to add details she’d almost forgotten to mention. The two misfits stayed like that for a while, just lying on the bed and exchanging all kinds of stories. It was really nice, for both of them.

Chapter Text

Miriam groaned when she heard the sound of someone knocking on the door. She rolled over in the direction that should have just pressed her up against the wall, but instead, she ended up sprawled on the floor.

Her eyes flew open, and she suddenly remembered that she’d spent the night at Loki’s. They hadn’t shared a bed (it would be pretty awkward considering how much older Miriam was), and Miriam wasn’t actually quite sure where Loki had ended up spending the night.

When she didn’t respond to the knocking on the door, it swung open, and Loki swept in, carrying a tray with some food on it. “I thought I’d bring you something to eat. Don’t get used to this, though. It’s only because you’re too injured to walk on your own at the moment.” He sighed gleefully. “I still can’t believe you broke your knee on my brother’s nose. I always knew he had a hard head, but this is just getting ridiculous.”

Miriam snorted as she sat up and accepted the tray of food. She ate a few bites, then offered some to Loki, who sat down next to her. “This is pretty good. Maybe when I kill all the Asgardians, I’ll leave the cooks alone.”

Loki rolled his eyes. “I’m glad that you’re pleased.”

Miriam’s eyes widened. “Wait- did you make this stuff yourself?” She raised her fork up into the air like it was some mighty trident and she was declaring a great victory. “I can’t believe it! The great Loki Laufeyson believes that I’m worthy of cooking for! The next thing you know, we’ll be getting married!”

Loki looked annoyed by that. “If you’re not going to appreciate it-” He reached for the tray, but Miriam yanked it back, and because she’d moved so quickly, all the contents of the tray went flying across the room, spilling out onto the floor.

Miriam turned to looked at Loki with what she hoped was her best ‘dogged eye’ expression. That’s what the Avengers had called it when people scrunched their faces up a certain way in order to get what they wanted. It was a pretty useful manipulation tactic from what Miriam had seen, but she wasn’t sure that she was doing it right without having had any practice first. “Sorry?”

The jotun frowned, but he didn’t really seem to be that angry about it. Maybe if she just offered to clean it all up, then he’d be willing to let it go as quickly as Miriam’s tray had let go of its contents. Loki sighed. “Why do I put up with you?”

Miriam shrugged. “You know, lately I’ve been wondering the same thing myself. I think it’s a survival tactic. You know that I’m going to be pretty deadly once my full power has returned to me, and you want to make sure that I don’t just kill you off because I have an affection for you. Even if that is the case, it’s certainly working, so congratulations.”

Loki frowned. “I think that the more likely answer is that you’re my only friend, and I’m yours.” He said it in a soft voice, which made him sound even more vulnerable. Miriam realized that she had a lot of power here. She could completely crush this blue man. She could point out that she’s got plenty of other friends (sort of). That she’s very close with the brother he hates. That she didn’t care about him at all; he just intrigued her.

But Miriam knew that she couldn’t actually say any of those things. It was strange, because in the past, she’d never hesitated to hurt people by whatever random method popped into her head. But she didn’t want to hurt Loki. Not now. Was he really her friend?

Wouldn’t considering him a friend put him into the same category as Ar’iaal? Was it disrespectful to the memory of her best friend in the universe if she acknowledged that she might be making new friends now? Miriam let out a long sigh. “You’re nothing like Ar’iaal,” she hurried on when she saw the closed off look that covered Loki’s face immediately. “How can two people who are so entirely different both hold so much space in my heart? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Loki looked at Miriam carefully. “You still consider him to be your friend? Even after everything that’s happened?”

Miriam slowly nodded. “Yes. No matter what else, there’s hundreds of thousands of years of friendship in our history. I can’t just ignore that. Besides, he didn’t ever really abandon me. Not the way that all of the others did. He went away because he was afraid of hurting me. The others left because they wanted nothing to do with me. Perhaps one of them glimpsed the future, and saw what a monster I’d become someday, so they thought it best to just cut ties. It wasn’t an act of cruelty on their part, it was just them looking out for themselves. Ar’iaal didn’t know that by leaving he’d hurt me far worse than a little slap.” She looked down at her hands. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ll never forget Ar’iaal. But I also know that I’ll never see him again. The universe is a large place and he could be literally anywhere. You are not a replacement for Ar’iaal. You are your entirely own thing, one that I love just as much.”

Loki scoffed and stood up. “As if I care about the affections of a child.”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “I’m way older than you. I’m way older than your dad, and probably your grandfather and great grandfather. I’m way older than you could ever even begin to hope you’ll someday be. I am not a child.”

Loki raised one eyebrow. “Not even among your own people?”

The eternal slouched her shoulders. “There’s a reason that we’re called what we are. ‘Eternals’. It’s because as far as anyone else in the universe is concerned, we may as well live forever. There were plenty who were far older than me all those years ago, let alone now. There were also some that were younger. When you live for that long, you don’t really think of it in terms of ‘children’ and ‘adults’. You’re all just exactly who you are. You mature at your own pace, because everyone knows that you’ve got plenty of time to do it. It’s not the same for us as it is for your Midgardians and Asgardians.”

Loki sighed. “Fine, so you’re not a child. But you do look like a child by Midgard or Asgard standards. What’s with that? It doesn’t seem like something that would be really helpful with the world conquering thing. And if you’re so old already, how old do you have to be before you look any older than you are right now?”

Miriam shrugged. “Hell if I know. Ar’iaal’s been my only example of our species for almost my entire life, and he’s the same age as me. For all I know I’ll look like this for all of eternity. Who cares? It just makes it that much easier for fools to underestimate me.”

Loki chuckled, and nodded in agreement. “One would have to be rather idiotic to underestimate you.” He frowned. “Should you not be returning to the Avengers soon? I doubt they’ve given you leave to stay on Asgard for so long.”

The eternal rolled her eyes. “They are not my parents. They can’t tell me what to do. Hell, even if they were my parents, they wouldn’t be able to tell me what to do.” She sighed. “I don’t really want to go back. I much prefer to stay here with you.”

That brought a genuine smile to Loki’s face. “Now that you’re a bit more powerful than before, you can come and visit anytime you want, right? The tesseract no longer dictates travel between our worlds, right?”

Miriam nodded. “Yeah, I guess that’s true. In that case, I suppose that it is about time I start heading back. I did leave a note, but those guys get so crazy sometimes that they end up forgetting to check for something as simple as that.” She shrugged. “I’ll see you later, though, right?”

Loki smiled gently. “Well, now that you’re the one with the ability to jump between worlds, I’d think that it’s really up to you.”

Much to Loki’s surprise, Miriam lunged forward and wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug. It only lasted a moment, and she pulled away before he could decide whether or not he’d wanted to return the gesture. “Then I’ll be seeing you around, I promise.” A moment later, there was a flash of bright blue, and then she had completely vanished from sight.

Miriam blinked, and found herself sitting on one of the practice mats in the Avengers gym. She almost snickered at the surprised look she saw on Wanda’s face, who was standing right there. Wanda’s shoulders slumped down, and she knelt down next to Miriam. She reached out cautiously. “Are you alright? Where have you been?”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “I left a note.”

Wanda looked confused. “What are you talking about?” Then a look of understanding washed over her face. “Wait- you aren’t talking about that page of nondescript scribbles, are you?”

The eternal frowned. “Oh shoot, did I forget to write in your Midgardian dialect?”

Wanda sighed. “I think you forgot to write in any known Midgardian dialect. We searched all the language data bases we could find, but there was no way for us to translate it. That’s when we figured it was just random doodles or something.”

Miriam nodded. “Yeah, I think I might have gone for Kree. It’s a pretty well refined language. Much more sophisticated than the sorry excuse for a language that you like to use all the time. Definitely not scribbles.”

Wanda stared at Miriam expectantly for a moment, but Miriam wasn’t sure what the midgardian was expecting her to say. Finally, Wanda sighed. “So where did you end up going?”

Miriam nodded. “Oh. Yeah. I popped down to Asgard,” Wanda immediately tensed up, and Miriam narrowed her eyes at the lack of trust these people put in her. “I didn’t kill anyone, if that’s what you’re so concerned about. I wasn’t there to cause trouble, I was simply visiting a friend.”

Wanda grinned in excitement. “You have someone you’d willingly call your friend?” She tilted her head curiously. “Was it that guy from your memories? Ariel?”

Miriam crossed her arms over her chest. “It’s pronounced Ar’iaal. And no, I was not visiting him. It would be a rather boring visit even if I could easily track him down. But it wasn’t him. Believe me, if I found Ar’iaal, you wouldn’t be seeing me around here anymore. He’d be more than enough help making sure that I get all of my power back. He’s just as powerful as I was ten thousand years ago. He could just rip apart anyone that tries to stand between me and power. So if I ever found him, you’d never see me again.”

Wanda still looked interested. “You mean that you wouldn’t even come back here to kill us all, or something like that?”

Miriam sighed and shook her head. “No. You guys aren’t even worth the time that it would take to kill you all.”

To Miriam’s surprise, Wanda grinned at that answer. “I’m glad to hear it.” She stood up. “Come on, we should go make sure that everyone knows you’re alright. And maybe you can program Kree into our machines so that we know where you’re going next time you decide to take off. Everyone was really worried about you.”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “Fine, tell me where everyone else is. I’ll get there on my own. It would be much less humiliating than having to be transported by the likes of you.”

“I’m pretty sure that I could just call them into here.” She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, and sank down on the floor next to Miriam. She reached out to grab one of Miriam’s hand, and Miriam only let her do that because she was a bit intrigued. When she opened her eyes, she had a tired smile on her face. “They should all be on the way.”

The eternal couldn’t help looking a bit impressed. “You called them here with your mind? Neat.”

Wanda shrugged. “I’ve never really tried anything like that before. I think that it worked though. I think that maintaining contact with you definitely helped. I mean, since you went to Asgard with Thor, you’ve been exuding more power than ever. I think I might have borrowed a bit from you. I hope that’s okay?”

Miriam shrugged. “I’ve got plenty to go around. Of course, not enough to really feel normal, but plenty enough that you could borrow a bit with no consequences. You might feel really tired, though. Your body isn’t meant to conduct even a drop more power than you were born with, and if you did borrow some from me, it means that you’ve put yourself through more exertion than normal.”

Wanda sighed. “I don’t think I’m going to have to wait until later for that. I already feel exhausted, like I just ran a couple of miles or something.”

Before they could continue to discuss their fascinating topic, the doors to the gym swung open, and footsteps quickly rushed in. Everyone looked a bit confused. Thor stepped ahead of everyone else, thanks to his long legs. “Has Miriam been in here since yesterday? I’m surprised we didn’t spot her sooner.”

Wanda shook her head. “Don’t be stupid. She did leave a note.”

Steve raised one eyebrow. “I don’t think that random doodles quite qualifies as a note.”

Miriam awkwardly got to her feet, obviously holding almost all of her weight on her good leg. “It was in Kree. I forget myself sometimes. I wasn’t off murdering entire civilizations or anything. I’m not strong enough for that yet. Plus I’m injured. I’d have to be pretty stupid.” She shrugged. “The doctor recommended bed rest, but no one said that it had to be that boring bed I’ve got here. So I went to visit a friend. I didn’t even have to break the bed rest rule.”

Thor pulled the folded up piece of paper from an inner pocket of his shirt, and looked at it curiously. “Kree? What a strange looking thing. Next time would you write in English?”

Miriam shrugged lazily. “I was asleep the entire time humans were developing into anything worthy of attention. I’m not an expert at the Midgardian languages. It’s easy enough to speak it after hearing it all around me, but I’m not going to pretend like I’m great at writing in any of them.”

Thor frowned. “I would volunteer to assist you in learning quicker, but I fear that I wouldn’t be the best teacher of the Midgardian English.”

Steve took a few steps forward. “Maybe I could help you get better at writing in English? It’s not that hard, I promise. Speaking it is the tough part, and you’ve already got that down.”

Miriam sighed. “Why is Midgard so egotistical that it believes itself worthy of having so many different dialects? I mean, most of them aren’t even close to being the same. I’ve never encountered another species so divided amongst themselves.”

Natasha pushed past Thor. “Maybe we have a larger planet than you’re used to encountering?”

Miriam snorted. “Ha! That’s a good one!” She looked at Natasha with a sudden straight face. “For a planet covered in almost intelligent beings, it’s tiny! I mean, Asgard is pretty much the same size, but the Asgardians aren’t really spread around the planet the way you guys are here. But your planet it puny.”

Rhodey’s eyes widened. “So you mean that you’ve seen planets bigger than ours with intelligent species on them?”

Miriam shrugged casually. “I’ve destroyed planets three times bigger than Midgard in the time it takes one of you to yawn.” She sighed wistfully. “Those were the days.” She looked at the Avengers closely. “Where I’m originally from is probably about ten times larger than Midgard. It had to be, to account for the account that eternals are so much larger than Midgardians. Normally, anyways.”

Natasha looked dubious of that. “You seem to be about the same size as the average human adolescent. Did those Asgardians shrink you down when they stole your power from you?”

Miriam’s face flushed red. “Well, I’ve always been about this size. Losing my power did shrink me a bit, but even with all my power fully restored to me, I wouldn’t be much larger than Thor. Embarrassing, I know, but it’s not like anyone was going to laugh at the person holding the fate of their entire world in my hands.” She sighed. “Now I’m going back to my room. My knee is killing me. Glad to see that you’ve healed up nicely, though.” And in a brief flash of blue, she disappeared before their very eyes.

Chapter Text

Miriam watched with feigned boredom as the Avengers all ran around to change into their costumes before heading out. Before they left, Steve paused in front of her. “I know you’re still healing right now, but you can come out with us next time, okay?”

Miriam shrugged. “I’ve already told you like a million times that I’m not interested in fighting crime, or whatever it is you guys do while wearing spandex. Don’t be alarmed if I’m not around when you get back. I’m going to do some traveling.”

The Avengers were all packed onto their little ship within a few minutes, and then they were gone. Miriam looked down at her leg. Her knee was wrapped in a tight bandage, and there was bruising that could be seen still, but it looked a lot better than it had a couple weeks ago. Miriam had learned that she was already healing two or three times faster than midgardians, which was a good sign.

And it was nice to be able to walk around again. Not that Miriam really minded traveling by constantly bending the fabric of the space around her, but there was something refreshing about a nice simple stroll.

As Ava walked back to her room, she happened to pass by the command room, which had the door open. The large screen on the wall showed what it always did when someone was trying to call. Miriam wasn’t the Avenger’s secretary, so she wasn’t going to answer it, but then she decided it was time to see whether or not she could do long distance mind tricks yet or not.

She answered the call, and stared up at a man with an obviously receding hairline. He looked just as surprised to see Miriam as she felt to see him. But he managed to maintain a professional attitude, which was interesting. “May I ask who I am currently speaking with?”

Miriam grinned. “You may.” Then she stared up at the man with a pleasant look on her face. Midgardians were so easy to push around that sometimes she just couldn’t resist the temptation.

He blinked twice. “Who are you?”

Miriam had been planning on traveling around, and now she had a fun idea. “Tell me your location, and I’ll tell you who I am.” The man was starting to look at her suspiciously, so Miriam rolled her eyes. “Oh, you midgardians are so suspicious. Just give me a moment.” She walked over to the the door of the command room, and pulled down one of the many photos that were pinned there. She held it up to the screen.

It was a picture taken the night that Miriam had bet that none of the Avengers could hold their drink. When they were starting to prove her wrong, she popped over to Asgard to grab some of their more potent stuff. Within an hour, the superheroes were all completely smashed, minus Thor, who really could hold his liquor. Someone had grabbed a picture, and they’d all awkwardly huddled into a group, Miriam squished right in the middle.

She helpfully pointed to herself in the photo. “This is me with the Avengers. We’re… friends. So tell me who and where you are.”

The man narrowed his eyes. “I’m afraid that it’s classified.” Miriam knew he was still talking, but she started to ignore him. She peered into the background of what she could see on the screen. There were a few maps with various pins stuck in them, and old looking things everywhere. There was a file on the table.

Miriam picked up the remote to the screen, and took a still picture of the scene. Then she exited out of the conversation with the now angry sounding man, and opened up the photo. She zoomed in, and saw that there was a file folder on top of the desk behind him. It said ‘coulson’ on it.

Miriam appeared down in the file room. Everyone had taken to keeping paper records of everything, since they were afraid of something coming to life and taking over the internet, or something. She was digging around for a while before she finally found a folder labeled ‘Coulson, Phillip’.

She flipped it open and began scanning through the limited amount of information it contained. She found a photograph, and it matched the man she’d seen on the screen upstairs, but it had a stamp across that said ‘deceased’. And as far as Miriam knew, that meant that he was dead. And yet he was clearly still alive. Fascinating.

Miriam ended up following a paper trail that led her all over the filing room. She was learning so much that she’d had no idea about before. She was so caught up in her reading that she didn’t even notice someone else coming in. Miriam was interrupted by the sound of a soft laugh, and she looked up to see Steve standing in the doorway to the room. He clearly didn’t want to step in any farther because he was afraid of stomping on one of the many important documents or folders that were strewn across the floor.

Miriam blinked a few times in confusion. “Aren’t you guys supposed to be off on a mission right now, or something?”

Steve raised one eyebrow. “We got back a couple of hours ago. Someone said that they saw you heading this way. Aren’t you hungry? You look like you haven’t eaten anything all day.”

Miriam got to her feet, wincing for a moment at the stiffness in her knee. Then she looked around sheepishly at the disorder she’d brought to the previously tidy room. “Oh. I’ll clean this all up, I promise.”

Steve shrugged. “It’s not really that big a deal. But I am curious about what it is that you’ve been looking into with such vigor. I thought the going-ons around here didn’t interest you?”

Miriam closed the folder she was currently holding, and put it down on top of one of the filing cabinets, where there was already a precariously balanced pile. “Someone called for you guys today while you were out. I talked to him for a minute, and I was intrigued. I wanted to find out where he’s located so that I could pop in and surprise him. Wouldn’t that be funny?”

Steve frowned. “You did all of this research just to startle somebody for laughs?”

Miriam carefully shoved aside a few folders with the tips of her toes. “Well, that’s what I started off looking for. But then I found myself pulled into this entire conspiracy about a government organization and how it was actually built by bad guys to look like a good guy organization so a lot of the people in it were bad guys, but there were also some who were good, and then they were going to like blow stuff up, and there was another old guy like you and you had to fight him and there was a-”

Steve held out his hands to motion for Miriam to stop and catch her breath for a moment. Then he tilted his head. “Wait, is all of that seriously in these files? Who would’ve even taken the time to record all of that down?”

Miriam shrugged. “I don’t know. Most of the documents don’t actually say who wrote them. But there was so much going on. But now the evil organization has been wiped off the map for all intents and purposes. They shouldn’t ever be coming back. The only evil we’ve got to deal with now is the discord sown among everyone.” Her eyes widened, and she shoved aside the top half of a stack of folders that had been on the floor. She shoved aside a few more until she reached the one that she was searching for. Then she pulled the top paper out from it, and held it up. “Have you seen this?”

Steve carefully avoided stepping on anything important as he moved closer. He got a quick glimpse, and it didn’t look familiar. “No, what is it?”

Miriam gulped, and shoved the paper back into the folder. “You know what, it’s not really that important. You should head back up. I’ll just clean up a bit around here, and then get something to eat.”

Steve looked at Miriam with some concern. “Should you really be dealing with all of this when your knee still isn’t fully healed yet?”

The eternal nodded. “Yeah, it’s cool. I got it.” She waited until he left the room, and then she pulled out the document. Without knowing anything about the folder it was in, it would be basically impossible for Steve to ever find the copy backed up on the servers. So she shoved it into her pocket.

Then she began disappearing and reappearing around the room, scooping up files, and bringing them back to where they belonged. She was done with that about a half hour later, her mind still buzzing with all of the conspiracy stuff that she’d been reading about all day.

She popped up into the kitchen, and saw that there was no one else there. Despite how much she’d done today, she didn’t really feel all that hungry. She still grabbed something though, so that her still weakened body wouldn’t give out on her.

Then she went back to her room, and closed the door. There wasn’t much privacy in that, though. So she poofed over to Loki’s room, since it was the first place to pop into her head. He let out a rather unmanly screech when she just appeared there, and his inkwell fell over, spreading all over his papers.

Miriam felt really bad. “Oh, Loki, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. I wasn’t even sure that you’d be in here. I just needed somewhere outside of the Avengers’ eyesight to look this over.” She pulled out the crumpled paper, and flattened it out as best she could over the edge of Loki’s desk.

He snapped his fingers and the mess on the desk disappeared. Then he turned to look at Miriam’s paper with interest. “It must be something rather important from the looks of it. And you’re going to trust me of all people to see it?”

Miriam shrugged. “I mean, it’s not like it affects anyone not living on Midgard anyways. So you wouldn’t gain or lose anything by knowing or not knowing what it says.” She moved the paper over so that Loki could get a good look at it too. She sounded a little embarrassed by her next statement. “While I’m already very proficient with the Midgardian dialect used by the Avengers, I fear that I must’ve misinterpreted this document.”

Loki puzzled over it for a moment. “This looks to me like a proposal. Those idiotic Midgardians want to begin restricting their own kind. There’s no support on it yet, as far as I can tell, but if this were to pass, then there would be a great many Midgardians affected by it.”

Miriam walked past Loki to sink down onto his bed. Her knee was starting to ache. “Mind if I leave that here with you? I don’t want the Avengers to see this and start freaking out. They’d be pretty harshly affected. I wonder whose idea it was in the first place.”

Loki opened one of his desk drawers, and carefully placed the document in it. “Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe here with me. Though I don’t think that there’s really much to worry about. Midgardians have always had a frustratingly stubborn quality that makes them constantly demand freedom. They wouldn’t suddenly turn their backs on people and give up the fight. They’re not like that.” He cleared his throat. “Your knee is looking better.”

Miriam had to pause for a few seconds to take in the sudden change in topic. Then she nodded in agreement. “Yeah. It’s a sign that I’m on the right track to getting back to my previous glorious self. The version of me that was entirely indestructible.”

The Asgardian rolled his eyes. “Hardly indestructible if you could be taken down by a thousand Asgardians slinging spells at you. Anyways, since it’s mostly healed anyways, I could heal it the rest of the way, if you want.”

Miriam grinned. “Boy, would that throw those idiots for a loop. And then I could back in the ring with Thor. I may have beaten him once, but if I don’t keep practicing, I’m going to go out of shape.” She held her injured leg out towards Loki. “I just don’t understand how Midgardians have to survive when they’ve constantly got to worry about the maintenance of their bodies? They are bizarre creatures.”

Loki sat down next to Miriam and gently pulled her leg so that it was resting on his lap. He closed his eyes, and held one hand just above the injured knee. He began whispering so quickly and quietly that even Miriam had trouble keeping up with what he was saying.

There was a bright flash of pain, and then a loud cracking noise. A moment later, Miriam wiggled her toes around, and to her delight, the motion didn’t make her leg hurt at all. She unwrapped the bandage, and inspected her now thoroughly healed knee.

She pressed her fingers down over her knee, but there was no pain, so she laughed, and threw her arms around Loki’s neck. “You’re incredible!”

Loki pulled away after a moment, smirking. “Oh, believe me, I am already fully aware of that fact.”

Miriam got up, and suddenly an idea occurred to her. “Hey, if you’ve beat your brother in combat so many times, you’ve got to be the superior fighter. Which means that if I can beat you, then I’m golden.”

Loki shook his head. “Nice theory, but I’m afraid that it’s entirely untrue. I only win using trickery, deceit, and magic.”

The eternal nodded eagerly. “Yes, teach me how to do that!”

Loki sighed as though he was being forced to agree to get all of his teeth yanked out one by one. “Oh, alright. Miriam, would you like to spar with me?”

Miriam grinned. “Of course, my strong young blue giant. It would be my honor to go toe to toe with you.”

Loki led Miriam to what looked like an outdoor arena. There was an area for people to sit around and watch if they wished, and a large grassy field. Loki smoothly pulled off the cape he was wearing, and slung it over one of the seats in the first row of the stadium.

The two stood opposite each other for a moment, both waiting for the other to make the first move. Miriam got bored of waiting, so she leapt forward. Instead of hitting a solid chest, she just hit air, and awkwardly stumbled to the ground. She turned and saw that Loki was already behind her.

He grabbed her by one arm, and used the momentum to swing her up over his head, and then slammed her down on the ground. Her eyes slid shut, and Loki worried that he’d gone too far. She still had the strength of a strong Midgardian, and nothing more.

Loki knelt next to the eternal, and cautiously reached forward. Then there was a sudden darting movement. He was being pinned on his back, and there was a small knife at his throat. He chuckled. “What is there about trickery and deceit you could learn from me that you don’t already know?”

Miriam got up, and stretched her arms up over her head. “I’m sure that there’s still plenty you could teach me.” She could hardly contain a giggle. “For instance, there was this book I read down on Midgard, and I was just wondering if there was any truth to it,” She held up one hand to cover her grin. “Did you really get together with a horse?”

The god of tricks rolled his eyes. “Do you believe everything that you read about in storybooks written on an entirely different planet? How would you feel if there were weird stories about you floating around?”

Miriam shrugged. “I’d own up to it. People fear what they don’t understand, right? So then all I’d have to do to earn even more of their fear than I’ve already got is to be something that they don’t understand.”

They went another few rounds before heading back inside. Miriam felt proud of herself for being able to keep up at all, even if that first match was the only one she’d been able to win. Once they were settled back into Loki’s room, Miriam looked at the frost giant curiously. “So do you know anything about a creature called ‘Thanos’?”

Loki shrugged. “I supposed that depends on what you want to know. There’s definitely someone out there, if that’s what you’re asking. But there’s been so little interaction with him, no one knows for sure if he really is as powerful as he’s described in some stories.”

“Do you know where one could find Thanos if they happened to be looking?”

Loki gave Miriam a searching look. “Why are you so interested? I wouldn’t think that you’d be so concerned with another threat against the Avengers.”

Miriam’s face flushed. “Eh, just forget about it. You know what, I’ve got to get back before the others notice I’m missing. I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

“Wait,” Loki’s hand shot out to grab Miriam’s list. “If it’s really so important to you, then I’ll help. I’ll find out everything I can on him.”

A grateful look crossed Miriam’s face. “You’re a true friend, Loki. I’ll talk to you later. And if you ever have need of me, you know how to get in touch.” Then she poofed herself back to the Avengers base, and went to the gym. She still needed to get stronger before she would be ready for whatever was going to be thrown her way.

Chapter Text

If it had only been for a moment or two, then Natasha wouldn’t have really been all that bothered by the odd behavior. But now that she’d been able to notice for the entirety of the past three days, she was starting to get annoyed.

So finally, when everyone else was leaving the gym, she crossed her arms over her chest. “Miriam, I need to talk to you.” The Eternal stayed back while everyone else left. “I’m just going to get right to the point here. Why have you been constantly staring at me?”

Without missing a beat, Miriam responded with, “Your ass looks superb clad in leather like that.”

Natasha frowned. “That is horribly inappropriate. And I’m asking you a question because I expect you to give me an honest answer.”

Miriam shrugged. “I just keep trying to figure out why the Avengers let an ordinary Midgardian onto their team. I didn’t want to ask because I didn’t think that it’s the sort of thing you’d want to talk about, you know?” There was a moment of silence, and then Miriam cleared her throat awkwardly. “Alright, now that we’ve got that cleared up I’m going to head back to my room, ‘kay?” And she turned to leave.

Natasha reached out to grab Miriam’s arm, and even though Miriam could’ve pulled herself away, she decided she’d wait and see what Natasha actually wanted. The assassin let out a sound of frustration. “I know how to figure out when people are lying, and you’re still lying to me. It’s not just me that you’ve been staring at. Every since your day trip to the filing room, you’ve been giving all of us the strangest looks. What did you find there that freaked you out so much?”

The Black Widow was much better at all of this than Miriam had given her credit for. Miriam pulled herself free, but only took a couple steps back, so that she could get the chance to breath properly again. “You know, it’s really not all that big a deal. I just… read all of your personal files and am now trying to reconcile the people I read about with the people I see every day.”

Natasha shook her head. “It’s not like there was anything down in that room that wasn’t available for anyone to read. So just tell me what it is you found, and I promise I’ll leave you alone.”

Miriam couldn’t tell them, though. It would be too cruel, to have them all totally on edge about something that may never even come to pass. It wouldn’t be fair. And Miriam did have her suspicions that that paper had been misfiled or something, because it didn’t really seem like something that anyone would want any of the Avengers to come across. It was a good thing Miriam had thought to leave the document with Loki.

Miriam shrugged innocently. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Maybe you Midgardians just have different tells when it comes to lying than us Eternals do. After all, we’re supposed to be superior to your kind in every way you could possibly imagine.” She smirked. “I think that you should probably get to that super important Avengers meeting before they start to wonder where you are.” She waggled her eyebrows suggestively.

Natasha frowned in disgust. “You look like you’re twelve.”

Miriam scoffed. “No way. By Midgardian standards I’ve got to be at least in my late teens. And who cares either way? I’m still have a million years older than you are.” She shrugged again. “I’m going back to my room. You can go and have fun at your meeting.”

Before she could get away though, the Avenger grabbed her again. “I’ve just had an excellent idea. Why don’t you come to the meeting with me? Let’s not pretend like you don’t want to be an Avenger.”

Miriam raised one eyebrow. “I wouldn’t exactly call it pretending. You guys have never done anything to encourage me to want to be like one of you. I mean, if I were able to see you guys do something impressive, like, I dunno, stopping Thanos, then maybe I could be convinced. Without that, you guys are just kind of lame.”

“Yet you don’t think Loki is ‘lame’ when he’s the one who went up against us and lost?”

Miriam shook her head. “No way. Loki’s cool. For one thing, he’s way more open minded about aliens than any of you are. For another, he’s not afraid to blast people to death who disagree with him.” At Natasha’s disapproving stare, Miriam tilted her head. “What? That’s a quality that I can really respect in a man. And he’s blue. Which looks pretty cool.”

Natasha crossed her arms over her chest. “You’re coming to the meeting.”

Miriam quickly tried to think about different tactics she could use to get out of going. “Um, I can’t. I would be consumed by a sudden and completely overwhelming urge to murder everyone in the room. Meetings do that to me. I’m not really much of one for talking things out.”

Natasha stared towards the gym door, and for a moment, Miriam thought that she was safe. But then the Avenger snagged her arm on the way out, and tugged Miriam along behind her. Miriam petulantly tried to get herself free, but she didn’t want to accidentally tear Natasha’s arm off or anything, since she was definitely that strong already. “You’re coming.”

There didn’t seem to be any way for Miriam to argue her way out. She could just disappear and go to her room or something, but that would seem childish, and it would only cement the Widow’s theory that she was hiding something from them. Which she was. But it was for their own good, so really, it wasn’t something that should be counted against her.

Natasha and Miriam were the last to arrive at the conference room. Everyone looked surprised to see Miriam there, and Rhodey shot a meaningful look in her direction. “I thought that this meeting was for Avengers only?”

Steve seemed as surprised as everyone else, but he quickly wiped the expression from his face, and shrugged. “If Miriam wants to sit in on our meetings, I think that that’s something to be encouraged.” He smiled at the Eternal.

Miriam sighed loudly, and sat down in one of the empty seats. She crossed her arms over her chest and sank down to make it very obvious that she did not want to be there at all. That didn’t seem to occur to anyone, though. They assumed that if she didn’t want to be there, she just wouldn’t have shown up, like all of the other times.

Steve looked like he wanted to ask Natasha how she’d managed to convince Miriam to come to the meeting, but he figured that calling attention to it would have Miriam gone in literally seconds now that she could teleport anywhere she wanted to go, and just disappear in a flash of blue light.

Steve cleared his throat. “So there’s not any particular threat that we need to deal with at the moment. That’s not why you guys are here today. I just wanted to discuss the fact that-”

Miriam stood up suddenly, and her chair toppled over behind her. “Since you clearly don’t have anything of importance to talk about, I’m just going to commandeer this meeting.” She looked at Steve challengingly. He held his hands up in mock surrender, and sat back down in his seat. “Okay, good. So I’m just going to ask you guys directly then: What do you know about the alien named Thanos?”

Thor tilted his head. “That’s the name you got caught up on during our visit to Asgard, was it not?” Miriam gave the slightest movement of her head that could be interpreted as a nod. “Did you not claim to know nothing of the owner of that name?”

Miriam shrugged. “Maybe. But what I know isn’t relevant. Which is why I’m asking you guys to tell me what you know about him.”

Steve spoke up again. “Not much at all. We know that he’s bad, and that he’s trying to collect power from all the same sources as you. We don’t even know why exactly, or how many of the stones he’s already gotten his hands on, if any. If there’s anything you could add that would help shed light on the situation, we would be grateful to hear it.”

Miriam shook her head. “I don’t know anything. I’ve been asleep for the last ten thousand years, remember? Any sort of information I might’ve known is now just a bit out of date.”

Wanda frowned. “But if he’s truly as old as you suspect, shouldn’t you at least know something of him?”

Miriam bit her lip, and thought about where she’d first heard the name Thanos. She couldn’t tell the others that, though. They’d either believe her, and think that she was somehow involved in this space villain’s schemes, or they wouldn’t believe her, and they’d label her as someone prone to making things up.

So there wasn’t really any information Miriam could give them about Thanos that they wouldn’t already know. “I’ve never heard of anyone named Thanos before in my entire life.”

Natasha narrowed her eyes at Miriam from across the table. “That’s clearly a lie. Who are you protecting by not telling us whatever it is you know.”

Miriam couldn’t tell them. She couldn’t give away another piece of her life only to be ridiculed or doubted. Thor seemed to be the first one to recognize the conflict on her face. He spoke in a soft voice (which for him, meant speaking at a normal indoors volume), “Whatever it is you wish to tell us, we will take it seriously. You’ve earned that much at least.”

Miriam pressed her lips together, still feeling like she couldn’t tell them. If she did, how would things ever be the same again? Wanda stood up, and walked over to where Miriam was standing. She reached down to put a comforting hand on Miriam’s shoulder. “We need all the help we can get when it comes to stopping a bad guy. Even if you don’t think it would be important, we may be able to find the significance of your information.”

Vision looked at Miriam curiously. “You could easily have left already. The fact that you are still here means that you wish to help the Avengers, to help others. So here’s a prime opportunity to help.”

Miriam rolled her eyes and took a few steps back from the conference table. “Geez, you guys are making it sound like some major deal. It’s not like I know where this guy’s secret base is, or anything like that. All I know is one tiny detail that probably doesn’t matter at all in the long run.” She took a deep breath. “The reason I’m acting so weird about it isn’t because I know who this Thanos person is. It’s because… it’s because I always thought that it was a name unique to the Eternals. I said before that I’ve gone by many names in my lifetime. But my given name, when I first came into this universe, was Thanos.”

---

Ar’iaal skidded around a corner, and was lucky that he didn’t bash his head into the wall. While it wouldn’t have hurt him, it would’ve slowed him down enough to cost him the game. And there was no way he was going to lose against Thanos of all people. She was just a little wimpy thing.

He turned another corner, and dashed for the finish line. He slowed as he neared it, though, because he could already see the familiar figure standing there in wait. When he got there, he had to suffer through her cheers of victory. “Alright, alright, you win,” he grumbled. “So I guess that makes you the more mature of the two of us.”

The two friends made their way through the city, back to Ar’iaal’s house. His parents were waiting anxiously, and the air of playfulness around the two youngsters disappeared immediately. Ar’iaal looked at his mother and father with concern. “What’s wrong? What has happened?”

His mother refused to look at Thanos. “We just got word that the Newtrell clan is coming here. Their clan leader claims that our clan stole their heir.”

Ar’iaal furrowed his eyebrows. “But who could possibly be a stolen heir? There’s only…” He trailed off, and slowly turned to look at his best friend. Then he shook his head, and turned back to his parents. “No way, that’s impossible. Thanos’s parents left to explore, and never came back.”

Ar’iaal’s father sighed. “I’m afraid that that’s only what you were told in order to appease your curiosity.” He glanced at his wife before turning back to his son. “Everyone knows that you only get one chance in your life to produce an heir. Many don’t even get that much of a chance. We thought that if the Newtrell clan had no heir, they would eventually begin to die out. Then we could put Thanos in her proper place, and she could lead the clan to be our friend.”

Ar’iaal looked pissed to be learning all of this. “You kidnapped a baby to use as a political token? What the hell is wrong with you?”

He grabbed Thanos by the wrist, and tugged her out of the house. “Come on.”

Thanos looked at her friend, worried by his sudden odd behavior. “You don’t need to be angry with your parents, Ar’iaal. I’ve known for a very long time what my role was meant to be.”

Ar’iaal paused for a moment, but didn’t let go of his best friend. “You knew? You knew that my parents kidnapped you, but you didn’t fight against them or run away? And why didn’t you tell me?”

Thanos shrugged. “No matter how horrible their actions were, your parents have always been kind to me. I have no reason to hate them. And I didn’t think to tell you because if our clans become allies, then I’d still be able to maintain my friendship with you. Don’t you see? It’s all supposed to work out perfectly.”

Ar’iaal shook his head. “Don’t you see? You’re only thinking like that because it’s how my parents raised you to think. I’m going to bring you back to your parents. Your real parents. And I’ll stay with you there. See how my parents like it to lose their heir.” He frowned. “We can’t give them the name that your kidnappers gave you. How about… Annaya?” Thanos shook her head. “Cithari?” Another head shake. “Miriam?”

Thanos narrowed her eyes. “You want to name me after our pet?”

Ar’iaal grinned, some amusement returning to his eyes. “You’re right, that does sound perfect. I’ll just have to get used to calling you that. And you’ll have to get used to responding to that. Miriam.” He tried it out, and nodded. “Yeah, I think I like the sound of that.”

Thanos- now Miriam, shrugged. “I suppose there’s no reason that one name should be any better than another.” She looked at her friend pleadingly. “But that doesn’t mean I want to forget. I’ve been Thanos for so long. I have no desire to forget who I was.” Ar’iaal looked at his friend as if to say, ‘well what do you want me to do?’ “Please, no matter what happens, even if I begin to forget, you have to remember Thanos. You have to remember me.”

Ar’iaal smiled comfortingly. “Don’t worry Th- Miriam. I promise. I promise that I’ll never forget for as long as we both shall live. For eternity. Now let’s find the Newtrells, and return their heir. And everything is going to be okay, Miriam. I promise.”

Miriam let a small smile escape through her mask of worry. “I’ve yet to see you break a promise, Ar’iaal. I have no doubt that you will not begin to now. Let’s go. Off into the unknown. Here’s to hoping we’ll find better things.”

And arm in arm, the two began walking once more. And they didn’t stop to rest even once, until they were far away from the city. That night, Ar’iaal stayed up to watch over Miriam as they slept. “I promise I won’t ever forget,” he whispered. “I won’t ever forget you, Thanos.” And he never did.

Chapter Text

Thor nodded slowly. “Yes, that would explain why you seemed so interested in the name if it is your own, and it is meant to be unique. I too would most likely find myself puzzled were I to hear of an alien named Thor going around being evil. It must be disconcerting.”

Miriam nodded curtly. “Yeah.”

Wanda tilted her head curiously. “So are you saying that you believe Thanos to be an Eternal like you?”

Miriam actually gave the question some thought. Is that what she believed? When she couldn’t think of a satisfactory response, she just shrugged. “I don’t know. Last I heard, all of the Eternals were either killed off, or they fled to some other universe. I don’t think there are any left other than me.”

“So they all died before you took your little nap, then?”

Miriam shrugged. “Yeah. I may or may not have tracked the cowards down and destroyed them all.”

Natasha frowned. “Sometimes it’s so easy to forget the things you’ve done. And in those moments, you’re only too happy to remind us. How can you ever expect to get along with other people if you won’t let go of the past?”

Miriam didn’t seem all that bothered by the prospect of being alone. “It’s not like there’s anyone in this universe who I particularly want to get along with.”

Wanda shook her head. “That’s not true. What about Ar’iaal? Wouldn’t you want to be with him if you could?”

Miriam crossed her arms over her chest. “And now I find myself suddenly in the mood to punch something. Or someone. Really hard. Either that or I’ve got another bout of indigestion. I’ve found that it can be difficult to tell those two feelings apart. Either way, I know that I don’t want to be around any of you. No offense, or anything.”

Steve shrugged. “I get it. We can be a bit overwhelming at times. It’s mostly just because we’re all worried about you.”

Vision frowned. “I thought that we were worried about the fate of the Earth?”

Wanda jabbed Vision in the side with her elbow. “We can worry about both,” she hissed with annoyance.

Miriam snorted. “Whatever. I told you guys what I know. And I already warned you that it wasn’t going to be anything useful.” She blinked, and appeared in her room a moment later. She’d taken to keeping the door locked and barricaded off, since she didn’t need it in order to get in the room.

Speaking of Ar’iaal and Thanos had Miriam’s mind wandering far into the past, where she normally preferred not to go. It was too dangerous there, because Miriam would find some stupid bit of hope that wasn’t even real.

Standing before the Newtrell clan leaders was rather intimidating to the two young Eternals. Especially when they both looked like such a mess. They were covered in mud and scrapes and bruises, and their hair was wildly windswept, their cheeks bright pink. The woman stared down at the children blankly. “City brats. What are you doing out here? Will your parents not be worried when their babes are so far from home?”

Ar’iaal knew that Miriam wasn’t going to say anything, so he stepped forward. He cleared his throat, feeling more than just a little bit nervous. “Madame Newtrell, we have come a long way to speak with you and your husband. It has been approximately thirteen weeks since we left our city. It was difficult to track you who are constantly moving.”

The woman was beginning to looked slightly intrigued by the start of the tale. “And why have you traveled so far? Just to glance upon my beauteous face and realize that the tales of my looks are not exaggerated?”

Ar’iaal shook his head. “No. We have come to return your heir to you.”

That caught the attention of everyone in the tent, including Mister Newtrell, and all of the guards that were standing around. There were murmurs amongst them as they wondered if there was any truth to the boy’s words. The woman scooted forward in her seat, and arched one eyebrow.

It was a clear motion to continue his story. “Many years ago, your one heir was stolen away by the Madame and Mister of Bkjor City. They believed that taking your heir would eventually lead to your clan’s ruin. Despite what they most likely led you to suspect, though, they did not kill the baby. They brought her back to the city with them, and raised her as though she were their own. They hoped that when the Madame and Mister of Newtrell Clan fell, they could put the baby back, and have the entire clan’s loyalty.”

Madame Newtrell couldn’t keep the look of faint hope off her face. “How do you know these things, city brat?”

Ar’iaal took a deep breath, then let it out. “I know because my parents are the Madame and Mister of Bkjor City. As their heir, I was intended to become the Mister someday, and choose a Madame. But I could not do that. I could not do that because the person I’d grown up next to my entire life was never meant to be a Bkjor. She was meant to be a Newtrell.” He gestured to Miriam, who was just sort of awkwardly standing there. “This is Miriam, heir to the Newtrell Clan. We have journeyed here so that I could return her to her home.”

The Madame looked at Miriam closely, and beckoned for the girl to walk forward. Her eyes began to fill with tears as she took in the familiar features, almost a perfect replication of her own face. She reached out and pulled Miriam into a hug. Miriam was surprised, but then she relaxed into her true mother’s arms. “I never thought that I would find my way home.”

The Madame wept with joy. “You have, though. You are home now, darling girl. I’ll never let anything happen to you ever again, I promise.”

As she spoke, a shiver ran through Miriam, and the girl back away until she was standing safely by Ar’iaal’s side. She frowned. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me.” But she did know. As soon as she’d touched her mother, she’d sensed that there was something very wrong. But Miriam was afraid to say anything about it.

She knew that she’d always been different, but she’d figured out how to hide it a long time ago. Not even Ar’iaal knew that she was so unusual. So she just brushed aside the concern that was on her best friend’s face. He spoke softly so that no one else would hear. “Hey, are you okay? If this is too much for you, then we can go and come back later.”

The offer was tempting, but Miriam was no coward. She squared back her shoulders, and walked back up to her mother. “I’m sure that you can appreciate how utterly bizarre this all is, Madame Newtrell.”

The woman smiled. “Please, call me Khalia. It is my given name.”

Miriam nodded. “Of course… Khalia.” Her face flushed red as she spoke the unfamiliar name.

Khalia turned her attention towards Ar’iaal. “You have returned me heart when I thought to never see her again, and surely against your parents’ wishes at that. You have returned the Newtrell heir. You are welcome with our clan for as long as you wish to stay.”

Ar’iaal looked at Miriam, and he could see the panic flit across her face at the thought of being left alone with complete strangers, whether they were actually her family or not. He smiled. “If it would be alright with you, Madame Newtrell, I would wander with this fearsome clan until the end of time if it meant being able to wander by the side of my dearest friend.”

Khalia nodded. “Of course. We shall have to pack up camp and move on tonight if we do not wish to be found by the Madame and Mister of Bkjor City. I’d think that after going through so much trouble to steal my heir away from me, they won’t hesitate to do everything within their power to track you down and take you back. But they’re only Eternal. They make mistakes the same as everybody else.”

Then the woman began barking orders at people, and everyone was running around, though no one was bumping into each other, which was an incredible feat on its own. When it was clear that the children were on their own, at least for the moment, they both breathed out all of the tension that they’d been holding onto.

Miriam sank down to the ground to sit. “I feel so exhausted. Can I tell you something? There were a few times, while we were searching, that I was certain we were going to die.”

Ar’iaal shrugged. “Well, it’s not like getting a bit tired is suddenly going to age us so much that we’re clutching our chests and falling to the ground. We’re going to be just fine, I promise. We’ll watch out for each other, like we always have.”

Miriam frowned. “But what about your parents, Ar’iaal? They must be worried sick about you. I should have never agreed to come here. I should never have let you come along. This isn’t going to end well for any of us. If your parents do catch up then every Newtrell is dead. Including me now.”

“No. I won’t let that happen.” Ar’iaal spoke in a firm voice, mostly to hide the fact that he was actually freaking out. He’d just completely defied his parents in order to bring his best friend somewhere she didn’t even seem to want to be in. It wasn’t the ideal situation that he could find himself in, and there was no one to blame but his parents for it.

Miriam knew that Ar’iaal wasn’t as confident as he let on, she always knew, but she was kind enough to not say anything about it. She didn’t want to embarrass her friend. Plus, even when she knew that he was faking the strength, it did work to make her feel better.

Once some of the commotion had died down, Khalia let her thoughts return to her newly found child. She knelt down next to the girl, right on the dusty ground. She smiled comfortingly. “I know that the teachings in the cities differ a lot from the teachings of the clans. The cities don’t encourage their children to reach their full potentials. But I will never do that to you. I will never hold you back. I want you to be free here, in a way that you never were before.”

Miriam blinked a few times as she took in what she’d just been told. “I always knew. I mean, the Madame and Mister of Bkjor raised me practically as though I was their own child. They told me from the beginning that my real parents were the leaders of the Newtrell Clan. They planned to use me, as a political tool.”

Khalia had looked confused at first, but now her expression morphed into sympathy, and regret. She pulled Miriam into a tight hug. “If only I’d been there for you… if only I hadn’t taken my eyes off of you for even a moment. You are not a tool. And I will not allow you to be used by anybody. You can be happy now, here, with us. That’s what I want for you. To be happy. My heir deserves the entire fucking world, and if I could give it to you, I would in less time than it takes to close my eyes. But I can’t, and even if I could, it would not erase anything that has happened. You have been wronged. And I could do nothing to stop that from happening. But it will not happen again. I swear that to you. You will never be alone.”

Miriam nodded once. “Ah, thanks. I appreciate the sentiment.” She wasn’t trying to sound offensive, but she did need to tell her mother how she really felt. “But the truth is that I have spent the first thirty-thousand years of my life not knowing anything of you at all, beyond what I was told by the Bkjors. You are a stranger to me, as is everyone in your clan. While I don’t deny that I have a desire to get to know you better, I’m not going to pretend that everything is going to be perfect now that we’ve been reunited.”

The Madame pulled away from her daughter and sat back on her heels, slightly startled. Then she relaxed her face. “I understand. I wish to cultivate a relationship with you, but your mind has been poisoned by the city. Take as much time as you need. And I hope that a day will come, eventually, where you will feel comfortable enough to acknowledge me as your mother.”

Miriam sighed with relief that she hadn’t just started some kind of fight, or something. She nodded again. “I’d like for that day to come as well.”

Khalia got to her feet, and reached down to pull Miriam up as well. “You and your friend must bath and rest so that you may heal. Don’t worry. We will wake you before we leave. I promise, you’ll never be left behind.”

Miriam felt another shiver at those words, and she just knew that there was something off. But for now, she realized that she really was tired. She found Ar’iaal, and the two managed to eventually find a tent full of cots and a couple of doctors. Once they were all patched up, they nodded off to sleep pretty quickly.

Before she was completely unconscious, though, Miriam looked over at the cot containing her best friend. “Ar’iaal? Are you still awake?” there was no response to her whispered question. “I’m scared. Everything’s going to be okay, right?” But there was no one there to ease her fear. She curled up beneath her blanket, and sighed heavily. She could do this. She had to; for Ar’iaal. She couldn’t let him down. It would throw a bit of a wrench into their plans of being best friends until the end of time if she did. So Miriam was going to stay strong. She had to.

Miriam blinked in slight confusion when she realized that there was someone knocking at her door. Not feeling like tearing down the barricade she’d put up, she appeared out in the hallway, and saw that it was Thor. He looked down at her with his normal friendly smile, though something about it seemed more strained than usual.

She raised one eyebrow, though she was certain that she didn’t look at all curious. “Hey… pal. Is everything okay?”

Thor frowned. “It’s nothing…” he let out a long sigh. “Okay, it’s pretty bad. It’s about my brother, Loki.”

Miriam crossed her arms over her chest to hide the sudden tension in her shoulders. “What about him? Has he suddenly gone on a rampage through New York with the intent to destroy everybody?”

Thor shook his head, and his face was now completely devoid of all of the amusement he normally held for Midgard. “My brother is missing.”

Miriam’s eyes widened just the tiniest bit. “Missing? As in gone?” Thor nodded in confirmation. “How could that happen? I thought that he was stuck in the mighty palace of the Asgardians or something?”

The god of thunder shrugged. “Nobody knows what happened. All we know is that he is missing. He could be anywhere, with anyone. I was… I know that you hold no loyalty to any Asgardians, but I was hoping that you could help us find him. Please. He’s my brother.”

“I’ll help,” Miriam’s response shot out before she even had the chance to think about it, surprising even herself. She cleared her throat and shrugged, then spoke in a much more casual tone. “I mean, it’s not like I’ve got anything else going on at the moment. So I may as well, right? I’ll help.”

Thor nodded gratefully. “Thank you.”

“Whatever,” Miriam muttered, starting to feel uncomfortable. “It’s just something to do.”

The Asgardian smiled. “Regardless, thank you.” Miriam shrugged and stared at the floor, to hide the way that she looked so worried. Where the hell had Loki gone? What kind of trouble had he gotten himself mixed up in this time?

Chapter Text

Miriam looked around Asgard, but this time she wasn’t looking around in awe at the massive city with its physics defying buildings. She was looking around with inquisitive eyes, ready to spot any hint that could lead to where Loki had gone off to. She felt a clench in her stomach at the thought that Loki had decided to leave without telling her first. Which meant that she was basically hoping something bad had happened. Which probably made her the worse friend between the two.

Thor looked at the Eternal hopefully. “Have you found anything?”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “We’ve been here for all of five minutes. Relax, we’re going to find him. If you don’t then you have permission to break my knee again.” Thor wanted to point out how Miriam had broken her own knee, but he knew that now wasn’t really the time for that.

Miriam closed her eyes and took in a deep breath, then tried to block out all of the excess noise caused by the random Asgardians moving about in their own city. She tried to focus solely on her blue friend, hoping that his mind would stand out above others because it was so strong.

Then someone bumped into her, breaking her concentration. It had been a really long time since Miriam had needed to focus her powers for any reason. Before the Asgardians had taken her down she’d only cared about causing as much destruction as possible, so it hadn’t mattered whether or not she could hone her abilities to precision.

She scowled at the Asgardian, and was tempted to kill the woman for her interference. Thor must’ve figured out that the look on her face was a murderous one, because he gently put one hand on Miriam’s shoulder. “We have greater things to worry about than that woman. Finding my brother is more important.”

Miriam knew that that was true, so she closed her eyes again. Loki had to be somewhere. She’d already heard stories from the Avengers about how tricky he could be, and about how he could find ways to disguise himself as almost anyone if it would help him escape. But Miriam didn’t think that Loki would just run off like that. He had no reason to.

But after wandering around on Asgard for almost two days straight with no sign of Loki was starting to make Miriam think that he wasn’t even on the stupid planet. “Maybe we should try checking in with the Jotun. Sometimes people like to return to their roots, maybe?”

Thor frowned. “I do not think my brother has a strong affinity for his people.”

Miriam shrugged. “It’s got to be worth a shot, though, right? Because as far as I know, your brother doesn’t have a strong affinity for any people. Like at all.” She couldn’t help the little bit of desperation that leaked out into her voice. “There’s got to be something else we can do, right? I mean, we can find him.”

The Asgardian looked at Miriam carefully. “You care about my brother’s fate.” It wasn’t even a question, he just said it like he was stating a fact.

Miriam cleared her throat and narrowed her eyes. “Of course not. I don’t care about any of you pathetic losers.” She turned away from Thor and looked around. There were a few Asgardians giving her strange looks, like they could tell just by looking at her that she wasn’t one of them.

Thor nodded. “Of course not. Perhaps we should return to Midgard, then? It doesn’t seem as though we’ll be able to make any further progress here.”

Miriam grabbed Thor’s elbow, and a moment later, they were both standing in the middle of the Avenger’s training room. Miriam scowled at Wanda and Sam, who were currently in the middle of sparring while Vision and Natasha watched. Sam paused but Wanda didn’t, so she accidentally sent him flying across the room.

Before he could slam into the wall and potentially break his spine, Miriam appeared in the air right in front of him, grabbed him, and appeared back on the ground all in a matter of a second. She dropped him down onto the floor with no gentleness, and then turned to stomp out of the training room.

Wanda helped pull Sam to his feet, and they both looked kind of confused. “If she’s going to look so angry about saving my life, then maybe she’d be better off letting someone else do it next time.”

Wanda smacked Sam in the shoulder. “She isn’t angry about saving you. She’s clearly angry at herself right now.” She looked up at Thor. “I’m assuming that your search for your brother has yielded nothing?”

Thor nodded. “Unfortunately. They were close friends. That is why Miriam is finding it so difficult to believe that it is not within her capabilities to be able to track him down.”

Vision tilted his head. “We’ve already witnessed that Miriam has great potential inside of her. Perhaps she is so angry because she knows that if she had her full powers right now, then she’d easily be able to find one missing Loki.”

Miriam went up to her room, using her legs to climb the stairs like a normal person would. She wanted the benefit of being able to stomp up the stairs. It didn’t really accomplish anything, but it did make her feel slightly better, without even having to completely destroy anything first.

She didn’t expect her trip to be interrupted by Steve, who seemed to be waiting for her at the top of the landing. Miriam scowled at him and contemplated just disappearing to her room now, since it’s not like he’d be able to stop her or anything. He seemed to be able to read that look on her face, because he slowly held his hands up, palms facing the Eternal. “Wait. I just want to talk to you.”

Begrudgingly, Miriam nodded, and stayed where she was on the top step. “What do you want to talk about?”

Steve sighed. “Listen, I know what it’s like to lose a friend. To think that you’re never going to see them again. But I was wrong when it came to my friend, and you’re going to be wrong when it comes to yours. That’s all.”

He turned to walk away, but something in Miriam made the decision to open her mouth before she could even think about it. “Wait,” Steve paused, and turned around to face her again. Miriam gulped. She knew that she could easily find whatever information she wanted by sifting through the Avenger’s head, but she also knew that it wouldn’t truly satisfy her. “Your friend… what was his name?”

Steve smiled sadly, and motioned for Miriam to follow him to the conference room. So she followed. Once they were inside, Steve pointed to a little picture hanging on the wall, amongst the million other pictures and newspaper clippings that decorated the room. “That’s him and me. His name was Bucky.”

Miriam looked at the picture with an unreadable face. “You both look very happy there. What happened to him?”

Steve sighed. “I couldn’t save him from falling.”

Miriam continued to stare at the picture so she couldn’t have to turn around and look at Steve. “But you tried, right? You tried to save him?”

“Of course I did. But after he fell, I never looked for him. I should’ve, but I just didn’t.”

Miriam’s eyes shifted to one of the newspaper articles talking about how the Avengers saved New York from being invaded by aliens. “Where is he now? You said that you saw him again, right? So where is he?”

Steve didn’t answer that, and Miriam had the feeling that it was because even he didn’t know. He cleared his throat, then shifted the conversation back to Miriam. “This isn’t just about Loki, is it? It’s about that other friend of yours. The one you seem afraid to talk about. You don’t want to lose another friend, right? Because you’re not sure how you’d survive that.”

Miriam finally turned around, and the expression on her face could almost be described as a goofy one. She was clearly trying to hide whatever she was really feeling from Steve. “Oh, you mean Ar’iaal? Who cares about him? I gave up on him a long time ago. I’ve been living without him for longer than there have been intelligent beings inhabiting this planet. I never even bothered looking for him? What would’ve been the point? He was just an old friend, who outgrew his welcome.” Her voice sounded light, but her eyes were filled with fear. Steve wasn’t sure what the girl was afraid of, though. Maybe afraid of being alone. Wasn’t that what everyone feared in the end?

Steve wasn’t mean enough to suggest that, though. He knew she’d just deny it anyways. “Well, we’re going to find Loki either way, I can promise you that much. You’re not the only one who’s worried about him.”

Miriam chuckled. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure that Thor’s the only one worried about him. Well, this has certainly been a fun little chat, but I really should be going. Places to be, people to dismember.” She disappeared, but Steve didn’t bother going up to her room to follow her. She wasn’t going to hurt anyone, he knew that much.

Miriam got bored of just sitting up in her room after just a few minutes, so she decided to take her leave from the Avengers facility, at least for now. She wasn’t really in the mood to be around all of those optimistic little freaks.

Since she didn’t know much about the actual layout of Midgard and she didn’t want to risk getting caught in the middle of a wall, she began bouncing around, only going as far as she could see so that she would never accidentally appear somewhere unpleasant.

It wasn’t long before she stopped for a quick break, and then she heard the sound of someone screaming. Miriam’s first instinct was to just move on, because the problems of stupid little Midgardians had nothing to do with her. But then she realized that if she found the source of the noise, maybe she’d find the opportunity to beat the shit out of someone. The Avengers were too strong, and they’d stop her before she could get too worked up, but random Midgardians wouldn’t even know what hit them.

So Miriam made her way to the screams, which were beginning to grow fainter. They were coming from inside a building. Miriam had to go inside and run up the stairs since she didn’t want to get herself caught in the floor somewhere. Even though the screams had stopped, Miriam knew as soon as she reached her destination because the door was smashed off it’s hinges.

The Eternal bounced inside the apartment with almost no caution, and looked around. She hadn’t realized that there were other aliens living on Midgard. But what else could that thing be? He was very tall, with lots of muscles and a mean face. There were strange cords that seemed to grow right out the back of his head and he was almost completely gray.

Miriam frowned as she walked over to him. A quick glance around the room showed three dead bodies, all of them with a gaping hole in their chests where their livers should’ve been located. Or maybe it was their hearts? Miriam wasn’t exactly an expert on Midgardian biology.

She looked up at the alien with a ferocious look, and to her surprise, he didn’t jump out and immediately attack her. He just looked her over for a moment before turning and leaping out of the window. “Oh no you don’t,” Miriam muttered. She started to chase after him, but then she heard someone shouting for her to freeze, so she just kept going towards the window, and then there was a small prick of pain in her back.

When Miriam opened her eyes, she forced herself to stay calm, and to carefully assess the situation. She was in a room that was entirely white, and the walls were a strange texture. Miriam narrowed her eyes at whatever kind of primitive imprisonment this was supposed to be. And she could tell it was supposed to be a prison by the fact that there wasn’t even a door that she could see anywhere.

Miriam wasn’t really in the mood to mess around with random people, and she decided that she’d just head back to the Avengers building. Unfortunately, she didn’t know the layout of her current location, so she’d have to find a way out so she could orient herself.

A moment later she was on the other side of the cell’s walls, and found an entire room of people staring up at her with wide eyes. After a quick pause, most of them pulled out some strange looking weapons. Miriam really wished that she was still indestructible. Then she could just leave without hurting anyone.

Someone walked towards her, and she found that she recognize the face. From the look he was giving her, he recognized her too. Miriam wasn’t sure yet whether that was going to end up being a good thing or a bad thing. “You were the one who answered my call a while back, right?”

Miriam nodded. “Yup. Like I said, I’m a friend of the Avengers.” She looked around. “So who are you guys supposed to be?”

A tall man with dark skin stepped forward, looking confused. “How did you get out of there?”

“Oh, that was easy. I don’t exactly need a door to make an entrance.” To prove her point, she appeared on the other side of the room, and it took a moment for someone to spot her, and then everyone turned to face her again. “I guess I never introduced myself properly last time. My name’s Miriam. And I’m the person who could totally kick all of your asses if I wanted to.”

There were footsteps coming from outside the large room, and then someone else walked in. She was immediately on guard when she saw Miriam just standing there. “Who let her out?” Miriam rolled her eyes, already bored with this. The newcomer looked at Miriam with harsh eyes. “Why did you kill those people?”

Miriam blinked once, then snorted. “Sorry to pop your soap sphere, but that wasn’t me. Believe me, if I was going to kill someone, you’d know. Mostly because your entire planet would be nothing more than a pile of rubble floating through space. Anyways, it was nice meeting you all, but I really should be on my way.”

The woman in the doorway sounded pissed. “How could you kill other inhumans? When the world is against us, we have to learn to stick together!”

Miriam narrowed her eyes. “The hell is an ‘inhuman’? I didn’t realize Midgard holds subspecies.” she shrugged. “Not that I really care either way. I’m just going to-” Before Miriam could say anything else, she found herself flying backwards, and then she felt the pain of smashing into a concrete wall. That didn’t stop her from getting up and glaring at the woman who’d just attacked her. “I really think that there’s some kind of misunderstanding going on here.”

The guy who Miriam had talked to briefly before grabbed the attacker’s arm. He spoke softly. “Daisy…”

Miriam didn’t feel like sticking around to see the conclusion of this whole melodramatic affair. So she appeared outside of the large room, and then made a ran for it. When she came across hallways, she would appear at the opposite ends of them, and she soon came across a thick metal door. She appeared on the other side, and from there, had to keep going for a while before she recognized her surroundings. That’s when she was able to make her way back to the Avengers building.

She found Steve still standing around in the conference room. “Some crazy people tried to lock me up in a colorless room and then some crazy lady tried to kill me and I think that your planet is full of more crazy people than almost any other planet I’ve seen before in my entire life.”

Steve frowned. “Are you hurt?”

Miriam shook her head. “Of course not. I’m not stupid enough to let them hurt me. I just thought I’d let you know that there’s crazy people around.”

Steve sighed. “I’ll look into it.” Then he got an alert about in incoming call, and Miriam took that as her cue to head back to her room. The barricade was still up, though it did look like someone had started to take it down. She rolled her eyes and went inside. Maybe it was time for a nice little nap.

Chapter Text

Miriam thought that it would be fun to pop into the room where Steve was taking his call, so she appeared right behind him, hidden from view of whoever he was speaking with. “This is all just a misunderstanding,” he was trying to explain. “Miriam is with us. And she isn’t an inhuman. She’s not any kind of human. She’s an alien from another planet. I know that seems a little complicated, but considering the origin or your inhumans, is the idea of extraterrestrial life really so implausible?”

The woman he was talking to was the same one who’d shot Miriam across the room. She had her arms crossed over her chest. “Well, alien or inhuman, she’s a murderer. Are you just going to deny that? We found her standing right over the bodies. What other reason could she have possibly been there?”

Miriam cleared her throat. “Um, actually, there is a good reason for that. I was trying to be a hero, or whatever. I heard screaming, so I went in. There was some freaky looking monster that killed those idiot midgardians, and I was going to chase him but you’re the one who stopped me from being able to do that. So really, I’d say that this is all on you.” She frowned. “Also I broke my knee trying to do some basic sparring. Where do you think I’d get the strength to rip someone’s liver right out of their body?”

Steve looked at Miriam with a frown. “This was meant to be a private conversation, Miriam.”

She shrugged. “It’s about me, so I should be a part of it. I just thought you should know what I was talking about when I said that I had nothing to do with those people dying. When I’m back at my full strength, my first thought is going to be to destroy Asgard. This puny planet won’t even be on my mind. And I definitely wouldn’t take the time to kill you all off one by one when I could just explode the entire planet!”

Steve grabbed Miriam by the shoulders, and pushed her out of the room. He looked down at her with obvious annoyance. “You’re not helping anyone when you talk like that to people who know you, okay? They don’t know that it’s a joke. And those people are really on edge right now, because they’ve been going through a lot lately.”

Miriam raised one eyebrow. “You think that I’m just joking when I say that I don’t have the type of loving goodness in me to just forgive them for what they’ve done to me? You think I’m joking when I say that I want revenge on the people who made my life a living hell? I can promise you that it isn’t a joke. I really do plan on destroying Asgard, and to be honest, it’s a little hurtful that you don’t believe in me enough to think that I could do it.”

Steve took in a deep breath, then slowly let it out, obviously trying to stay patient. “Miriam, no one’s saying that we don’t think you’re capable of destroying Asgard, or at least that you will be by the time you’re back at your full amount of power, but that isn’t the point. The point is that we do believe in you. That’s exactly why we think that you aren’t going to do that. You’re a good person, Miriam. Even if you don’t know that, we do. You said it yourself that you were planning on helping those people and that’s why you were investigating the people who were being hurt. Not that that explains what you were doing so far away from here, but still. The point is that you’re much better than you were when you first came to us. Please just let me handle this?”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “Yeah, whatever. Have fun talking to that psycho in there. She’s crazy. She’s the one who threw me across the room. Like I said, there are some pretty crazy people on this place.”

Steve nodded. “I believe you. Now please,” he gestured vaguely.

“Fine, yeah, I get it. I can take a hint when I’m being kicked out of somewhere.” She disappeared, and reappeared back in Loki’s room on Asgard, only to remember a moment later that he wasn’t going to be waiting for her there. She sank down onto Loki’s bed, and looked around the room in annoyance. “Alright, where are you? If this is a game, it isn’t funny anymore!”

There was no response, and Miriam just felt overwhelmingly sad. She knew that if Loki were just hiding somewhere, he wouldn’t continue to hide from her. He would’ve said something to make sure that she wouldn’t worry. But he hadn’t done that. Either he didn’t care enough to let her know he was leaving, or he didn’t trust her enough to not say anything to the Avengers, or something truly terrible had happened to him. Miriam honestly didn’t know which of those were the worst.

Obviously she wanted to think that Loki was alright- wait. There was a person out there whose well being Miriam actually cared about? Logically, no matter what happened to Loki, Miriam’s life would stay exactly the same. Maybe Thor, who was her biggest ally, would be around less often, or would act more mopey when he was on midgard, but so what? That shouldn’t change anything in the way that Miriam was thinking.

And yet somehow that wasn’t the part she was thinking about. She wasn’t thinking of how she’d be affected (lonely and scared and sad and lost) but more about Loki himself. The idea of him getting hurt, or even killed, seemed absolutely unacceptable.

When she’d called Loki her friend, Miriam must’ve truly meant it, because she knew that there were very few people that she’d be bothered to lose. In fact, for the longest time, there had only been two; her mother and her best friend. And then she’d lost her mother because Miriam hadn’t been worth sticking around for. And then she’d lost the man she loved for exactly the same reason. He hadn’t cared enough to stay.

And losing the people that mattered hurt far more than any of the physical pain Miriam had been introduced to. Destroying a planet was far easier than losing someone important. Though Miriam couldn’t even figure out an exact moment when Loki had become important.

After sitting there in quiet speculation for a few minutes, Miriam heard the door to the room beginning to open. She knew that it wasn’t going to be Loki coming in, but she had no idea whether the person intruding on Loki’s safe space was a friend or an enemy. She silently disappeared and reappeared in the closet, which she opened just a tiny sliver to look out and see what was going on.

The person coming in was just Freya, who Miriam recognized from the picture on Loki’s desk. There’d been no reason to hide. But instead of revealing herself immediately, or returning to midgard to give the queen some privacy, Miriam decided to stay exactly where she was. Freya looked around the room, then walked over to the desk. She pulled open one of the drawers, and rummaged around for a moment before pulling out a tightly rolled up scroll. The woman looked so sad as she closed the drawer and tucked the scroll up one of her sleeves. She looked around the room for a moment, and a look of understanding seemed to cross her face.

“I know you’re there. You can come out. I don’t mean you any harm.” Miriam hesitated for a moment before opening the closet the rest of the way, and stepping out into the room. Freya smiled gently. “We’ve never met, but I’m assuming that you’re Miriam. I’ve heard a lot about you from my sons.”

Miriam raised one eyebrow. “Both of them?”

The queen nodded. “Yes. Both Thor and Loki consider you to be a good friend. And I couldn’t possibly dislike anyone who both my children love so much. I heard that you came by earlier with Thor, hoping to find Loki.” She frowned. “But considering that he’s still not here, am I correct in assuming that you had no luck?”

Miriam crossed her arms over her chest. “You seem to assume a lot of things. But you haven’t been wrong yet. I have no idea where Loki is, but I wish that I did. If I just knew where he was, I’d be able to go to him and get him home faster than you could blink. But I don’t know anything.” She nodded to Freya’s sleeve. “What did you just take, anyways?”

Freya let the scroll slide down into her hand. “Loki has always enjoyed the magical arts, and even those that he could not practice, he found fascinating to study. This is a scroll that has been preserved for many generations from an ancient people. It is meant to find lost things. I was hoping that perhaps I could find a way to make it work for me to find him.” She unrolled the scroll just a bit. “Though it has even less translated on it than most of our old things. And if you’re trying to figure out why I was acting sneaky, it’s because Loki should not have even had it in the first place, as it belongs in the vault.”

Miriam frowned thoughtfully as she quickly scanned through the couple lines of the scroll that had been revealed. “Um, I hate to break it to you, but that isn’t an ancient spell.” She pressed her lips together for a moment to hold in her laughter.

The queen glanced down at the scroll, then back at Miriam. “You can read the writing on here?”

The Eternal nodded. “Yup. When you’ve been around the block as many times as I have, you pick up a few things. I know plenty of dead languages.” There was no point in discussing the fact that many were dead because Miriam had personally killed off all those who spoke it. “That isn’t a magical spell. Here, let me see.” She grabbed the scroll without getting Freya’s assent.

She unrolled the scroll completely, and looked over the whole thing to make sure that she was right. And she definitely was. Freya looked down at the scroll as well, eyebrows furrowed as she tried to make sense of the words that looked like complete nonsense to her. “Then what is it?”

Miriam snorted. “It’s a poster someone put up. Challenging someone named H’rarig to a duel to the death over a missing pair of pants that this H’rarig dude supposedly stole. Then the bottom is different handwriting, so I’m assuming it’s H’rarig’s response. He said that there was no need to fight because the original maker of the poster just needed to check his drawers again and would easily find the missing item. I guess your translators only got the ‘missing’ and ‘find’ parts and basically nothing else.” She let the scroll roll back up in her hands. “So yeah, this is completely useless. Sorry.”

Freya shook her head, and put the paper down on Loki’s desk. “It’s alright. It was a long shot anyways.” She sat down on the edge of Loki’s bed, and Miriam noticed tears in the younger woman’s eyes. “Every time it seems that happiness can finally be upon us, something happens to take it all away. I’m beginning to think that we’re just not slated to be happy.”

Miriam felt really awkward, and wondered if it would be rude to just leave. She had no idea how to counsel someone when they were upset. The last person she’d cared about that she saw get truly upset was Ar’iaal, and when she’d tried to talk him down, he’d gone off to put himself in a coma on some far side of the galaxy. Clearly Miriam wasn’t the one to turn to when it came time to talk about emotions.

But Freya didn’t seem to notice Miriam’s internal struggle, and she just kept talking. “I love my family, my husband and both of my sons, and yet it’s always been a struggle to act like a family. Loki and Odin have always been at each other’s throats since long ago, and Thor and Loki have often found themselves at odds. Our family has never been perfect, but it’s always been the one that I loved and cherished above all else. I thought that I’d lost my Loki twice already, and now going through this all over again just hurts so much.”

There was obviously some long story connected to that last statement, so Miriam decided to start with something else. She gingerly sat down on the bed next to Freya, though she carefully left a couple of feet of space in between them. She cleared her throat, and then took a deep breath before starting. “I uh, I never thought that my family was perfect. This may sound strangely familiar to you, but when I was a baby, I was taken from my parents to be used as a political tool by someone else. The difference between me and Loki though is that I was aware that that was my purpose from the start. But that was okay because if that had never happened, I would’ve never met the most amazing and wonderful person in the universe. And later, after we’d found my real parents, I thought that I’d always have a family. Then my biological family left, for all the same reasons the stupid Asgardians did what they did to me.” She shook her head. “Um, the point is that it was just me and Ar’iaal for a really long time, and we were both okay with that. And then I lost him, and nothing was ever the same again. But that’s only because at that point I had no one. No one could take even a little bit of the burden I was carrying when I felt so hurt inside. But you’re different. You have other people around you who love you and are willing to listen to you and take whatever bits of your hurt that they can. So yeah, losing someone sucks more than basically anything else. But don’t forget that you haven’t lost everything yet.” She stood up, feeling extremely awkward. “And on that note, I’m going to get out of your hair because I’m feeling very awkward and embarrassed right now.” Her face flushed. “And I totally did not mean to say that out loud. I’m just going to go.”

A moment later, Miriam was standing back in her bedroom in the Avengers’ building, not wanting to wait even a moment for Freya to say anything else. She flopped down onto nest of blankets, and pulled one up to wrap around her shoulders. She couldn’t help going over what she’d said to Freya.

None of what she’d said could apply to her though. Miriam didn’t have anyone left. She’d opened her heart to someone after so many years, without even really realizing it, and all she got in return for that was more pain. Thinking of all the late nights with Loki where they swapped stories of all the things that had happened in their lives, and the laughter and joy between them, and how all of that was gone now, and there was no way to ever guarantee its return, made Miriam’s heart ache.

And she felt so insanely jealous of Thor. He’d had an entire lifetime of Loki being his brother, and he’d somehow always managed to fight and mess it up. Miriam knew that Thor cared about Loki, and she knew that Loki cared about Thor, but she was jealous of the fact that Thor had had so much more time, and had still managed to ruin it so often. Loki was an incredible person to have as a brother for sure, and Thor didn’t truly appreciate that.

There was a knock at her door a few minutes later, and Miriam pulled the blanket she was wearing right over her head. “Go away! I’m not in here!”

She could practically hear the rolling of the eyes on the other side of the door. “Miriam? I just want to talk.” It was Steve. He probably wanted to apologize for being ‘too mean’ earlier, or something like that.

With Steve, though, it was usually easier to just take his apology and then move on with your life. Otherwise he would make your life a living hell. One time he’d needed to apologize to Natasha for something that had happened out in the field, and she’d felt that there was no need to apologize, so she’d avoided him. But he proved to be very persistent. It was at the point where Natasha’s room was so filled with flowers that she could barely move in there that she finally gave in and let the captain say his piece.

“Whatever.” She rolled under her bed, where obviously no one would ever be able to find her, and the door opened a moment later.

Steve walked in, and crouched down next to the bed. “You realize that with the mattress still up against the wall, anyone could immediately see through the frame and know where you are?” He sighed. “So I finished talking with Daisy and I’ve managed to convince her that you aren’t the killer she’s looking for. She did say that your display of powers earlier was impressive, and if you’re willing, she’d gladly accept your help in tracking down whoever did commit those murders. And if you could describe what the person you saw looked like to me, I could make a sketch to show her, which could help.”

Miriam frowned. “I can help with your sketch thing. But I don’t have the time to try and help track down some midgardian murderer.”

Steve sounded intrigued. “Oh? And what’s taking up so much of your valuable time?”

“I’m going to find Loki,” she mumbled into her blanket.

There was a pause, and then Steve nodded. “I suppose that is technically a worthy goal. But Loki is just one person, and if you could help catch the killer before he kills anyone else-”

“I’m going to find Loki,” Miriam repeated. “When I didn’t look for Ar’iaal back when I still had a chance of finding him, that was a mistake. I should’ve just sucked up my pride and gone looking, but I didn’t, and now he’s gone forever and I’m never going to get to see him again. I am not going to make the same mistake here. I know what you all think of Loki, but he is my friend. Which I guess makes sense, since I know what you all think of me too. Tell your friend with the anger issues that that’s my final decision, and nothing is going to sway me from that.”

Steve smiled, and stood back up. “You know who looks for missing people, and saves them?” When Miriam didn’t answer, his smile grew. “A hero.” Then he walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Even long after he was gone, those words echoed in Miriam’s head. Was she really a hero? Was that even possible after all the things she’d done? Then she realized it didn’t matter. People could call her whatever they wanted; all she knew was that she had a friend who was in trouble, and she was going to save him no matter what.

Chapter Text

Miriam paced back and forth in Loki’s room. She’d returned there, hoping for some kind of clue as to where he could’ve gone. She still hadn’t even been able to figure out for sure whether he’d left on his own or been taken against his will, and it was all starting to feel rather frustrating.

She suddenly dropped to the floor, not caring when the back of her head bounced off the cool stone, and she stared up at the ceiling like it was the most interesting thing in the world. She felt like it was all completely hopeless. How was she supposed to be able to find Loki? She was far older than him, but even she was smart enough to admit that being one of the oldest beings around didn’t necessarily make her the smartest as well. Though that wasn’t to say that she wasn’t smarter than everyone on midgard put together. Because she didn’t doubt that that was true.

When Miriam got bored of staring up at the ceiling, she decided to roll over under Loki’s bed. Halfway under, she realized that she felt like she was falling, and she quickly disappeared and reappeared upright on the other side of the room. Miriam stalked over to the bed, and grabbed one post, dragging it away from where it had been peacefully resting.

There, right in the stone floor, was a dark purple shadow. It was obviously some kind of portal. That still didn’t answer whether Loki had left of his own free will or not, but it was a lot more to go on than she’d had just a few minutes ago. Miriam was about to go fetch Freya or maybe Thor, when she realized that the portal was quickly shrinking in size. There wouldn’t be enough time to get anyone and come back, even with her ability to teleport.

Miriam paused for a moment to debate whether it was worth going through an strange portal that would lead to some unknown land, and then she decided that it was. If Loki was in there somewhere, Miriam was going to find him. And she could always disappear if it turned out to be nothing good down there.

The portal was shrinking rapidly, so Miriam took a deep breath, clenched her hands into fists, and leapt forward. As she fell, it felt like she was being dragged through a horrible cold shower, similar to the time she’d accidentally broken one of the hot water heaters in the Avengers building.

She shivered like crazy, but did her best to keep her eyes wide open, trying to see everything there was to see about this place, wherever it was. For a moment she could still see the light of Loki’s room shining above her, but then that spot quickly disappeared, and Miriam couldn’t see anything in the dark.

After a while, she wasn’t even sure if she was still falling, or if she was just floating around in space somewhere. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant sensation. Then after it felt like she’d been stuck in the darkness for years, she saw a small splotch of light beneath her, appearing to grow larger as she approached it quickly.

Miriam fell through the circle of light, and landed on a patch of grass. She rolled a few times, landing on her back, and she watched as the portal above her disappeared with a soft ‘pop’.

She got to her feet and tried to dust some of the dirt off her back, and then when she was satisfied with that, she stopped to actually look around. It looked like she was standing in a small clearing in the middle of a forest. The trees were tall, blocking out the horizon in every direction. All Miriam could see clearly was the pale violet sky, and the bright light coming from two blue suns that were high in the air.

Miriam frowned, and turned to look at the forest. Every direction looked exactly the same, filled with tall trees. Teleporting through an unknown forest was way too risky, since Miriam didn’t want to end up halfway in a tree, so she knew that she’d just have to pick a way to start walking in.

Loki had to be around here somewhere. Otherwise there was no explanation for why there had been a mysterious portal in his room. She squeezed her eyes shut, and focused on extending out her mind, trying to find some trace of Loki somewhere. This time there were no hoards of people wandering around to potentially break her concentration.

Just when she was about to give up and pick a direction to go in at random, Miriam felt the tiniest twinge in her mind, and she could feel her blue friend’s mind. It was very far away, and the connection was too faint for her to bother trying to send a comforting message, but at least now she knew which way to go.

Whatever reasons Loki had for being here didn’t matter. Miriam was going to drag him home by the ears if she had to. And if there was someone keeping him here when he didn’t want to be here, Miriam just knew she would be kicking some ass, because she had to get all her anger and frustration out somehow.

Overall, Miriam was just pleased that the search had been so easy. While it had taken nearly a week, it was true that the second place she’d looked was already showing promising signs of Loki’s presence. All she had to do was follow the direction of Loki’s mind, and she’d find Loki. Then from there she’d figure out what planet they were on, and which nearby planets were familiar enough for her to transport them to.

After walking for several minutes, Miriam couldn’t help feeling irritated at how dark the forest was, thanks to the trees up there that were blocking out any sunlight from getting in. Every few minutes, Miriam paused in her walking to focus on Loki’s mind again. It never seemed to grow any stronger, which meant that she really was very very far away. Potentially half a planet away. But that was alright. Miriam would get to him eventually, one way or the other.

After walking for what had to be a couple hours at least, Miriam could feel a tiredness in her limbs, and her muscles were starting to get sore. She severely missed the days when her stamina had been literally endless, and she’d never felt any soreness or pain of any kind. But she had to make do with what she had, and Miriam was just grateful that unlike when she’d first woken on Asgard, she could move more than a couple of steps without any assistance.

Miriam sat down on the dirty ground, leaning her back up against the bark of a tree. The only good thing about the lack of sunlight was that the dirt beneath her felt cool instead of hot and dry. She tilted her head back, and closed her eyes. Loki had already waited a week. He could probably wait however long it would take Miriam to take a quick, refreshing nap.

Her eyes had only been closed for a few minutes when Miriam was jolted awake by the feeling of cold steel up against her neck. She didn’t risk moving her head, she just slowly opened her eyes to stare up at whoever dared to attack her without any provocation.

The person holding a sword to Miriam’s neck (and really swords were so primitive by basically anyone’s standards) was tall and purple, about the same color that the sky here had been. There were a couple limbs more than midgardians had, and no visible eyes anywhere on the body. “What right do you have to intrude in these sacred woods?”

Miriam recognized the language. She must be on the northern half of the planet Esperos. The southern half was too cold for most living creatures to inhabit. That’s why Miriam had taken great joy in spending time down south many years ago, when she knew that no one would be bothering her there. It had all been so long ago, and back then the north hadn’t been so green and full of life.

Miriam frowned up at the lady who was threatening her, and spoke in the native language of the planet. “Listen, I don’t know who you are, but I have a very important thing that I need to be doing right now. I’m trying to find a friend of mine, and hell if I will let you get in my way.”

The Esperosian looked slightly surprised that Miriam knew and understood their language well enough to speak it fluently. She quickly recovered from the shock, though. “It does not matter what your intentions here are. No matter how noble you seem to think yourself, nothing changes the fact that you are trespassing on sacred grounds. Give me one reason that I should not just kill you now.”

Miriam pressed her lips together like she was deep in thought. Then she disappeared without a scratch, and reappeared directly behind the Esperosian. “Well, perhaps the fact that you’re incapable of doing so should at least be taken into account.” She grinned. When the alien swung around with her sword, Miriam easily disappeared and reappeared a few feet away, avoiding the blow. She shrugged. “I don’t plan on hurting you, surprisingly enough. I just want to find my friend and then get out of your hair.” She looked at the bald head in front of her. “Er, get out of your scalp? The point is that I’ll leave you alone as soon as I’ve found my friend.”

The Esperosian shook her head. “Whoever you are, you are clearly dangerous. I cannot allow you to leave this place. Your blood shall be spilled as a sacrifice to the great goddess Iyalia.”

Miriam’s eyes widened for a moment, and then she started laughing. Miriam had never been lying when she’d said that she’d been known as many different names throughout her life. “Oh my gosh, this is too good. Listen lady, that’s me! I was chilling here, Esperos, right? I was living in the southern hemisphere for years! And yeah maybe some stories about me got spread around a little bit, but I never expected to actually go down in your history. If you want to please, Iyalia, that’s me!”

The woman narrowed her eyes. “You do not look like a goddess.”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “Are you not watching me teleport back and forth like it’s nothing? Do your history books never mention the part where I literally just appeared sometimes? Maybe I’m not larger than life at the moment, but that’s only because I got on the bad side of a few Asgardians and they thought that they had the right to do anything about it.” She heaved out a long sigh. She was really going through a lot of effort just for Loki. He better show some gratitude later. “Listen, I know that Esperosians are semi-telepathic. I’ll let you into my mind, and if you see enough there to prove that I’m the goddess you’re speaking of, will you let me walk away in order to find my friend?”

The woman hesitated for a moment, then slowly nodded. She lowered her sword, though she blatantly didn’t sheath it. “Fine. That is acceptable. And if I cannot see any evidence of your claim, then I will run you through with my sword.” She walked closer to Miriam, and held her hands out to touch the Eternal’s forehead. Both of them closed their eyes, and Miriam forced her defences to back down so that the alien could get in, though she made sure to only guide her towards the specific memories she was thinking of.

Miriam looked down at the purple people, distaste in her eyes. “You are a very weak species, and I have no doubt that you’ll die out very soon. Especially if any of you anger me.”

One of the Esperosians, wearing a small crown of golden flowers, stepped forward. “Who are you, and what do you want from us?”

Miriam smiled. “You can call me Iyalia. And all that I want is a place to relax in my down time in between destroying planets.” She could see someone aiming a spear at her out of the corner of her eye. “Oh, don’t even bother trying to attack me. None of you hold any weapon great enough to give me so much as a paper cut.”

The leader glanced at his people, then back at Miriam. “Well, if you’re truly so indestructible, then there is an entire half of this planet that you may occupy and call your own. Our people cannot go too far south before we risk freezing to death. But if you’re so great and mighty then you should have no problem surviving.”

Miriam laughed. “Ah, you think that if I go down there I will perish. We’ll see.”

The leader gulped, and took another few steps forward. “But you cannot live there for free.”

The Eternal tilted her head, a look of amused curiosity on her face. “What, you want me to pay rent?”

“If you are so great as you claim, then you will ensure our continued survival for everyone on Esperos. If any of our citizens are in need of help, you will provide it.” The poor thing looked terrified, even without eyes to give that away.

There was a moment of silence, and then Miriam let out a loud laugh. When she got herself back under control, she gave a simple nod. “Sure, why not. I was starting to get bored anyways. I may as well show you just how powerful gods can be.” She bent down to tap the ground, and the land around her immediately started turning brown as she killed every plant within twenty yards of where she was standing. “Just don’t forget that I don’t work for you, and I don’t owe you anything. This is something that I’m doing for fun. And if you try to take advantage of that, you will regret ever being born.”

The memory ended, and Miriam instantly slammed her mental walls back into place before the Esperosian could do any further prying. She raised one eyebrow. “So? Do you believe me now?”

The alien slowly nodded. “That was Emperor Jul’iian. I’ve only ever seen pictures of him, but I’d recognize him anywhere. So are you really a goddess, or are you just some alien that has more power than us?”

Miriam grinned, showing off all her teeth. “Does it really matter, Mar’cney?” She’d gotten a glimpse of the name while the Esperosian had been intently focused on Miriam’s memory.

Mar’cney frowned. “I suppose not. So who’s this friend that you’re looking for? Perhaps I can aid you in some way.”

“Well, he’s a jotun. Blue skin, red eyes, black hair. About yay tall,” she held one hand up almost a foot above her head. “Wears lots of leather, super moody. His name is Loki in most circles.” She put her hands on her hips. “Have you seen him?”

Mar’cney shook her head. “No. I’ve never seen anyone of that description. But all that really means is that he’s been wise enough to avoid entering these sacred woods.”

Miriam furrowed her eyebrows. “But that doesn’t make any sense. The portal that brought me here dropped me right off in a little clearing in the woods. It would’ve dropped him off in the same place. Wouldn’t it have?”

“I have no knowledge of how portals work. But I can lead you out of these woods at least.” Miriam accepted the offer, and ignored her aching limbs as they walked several more hours to the edge of the woods. Finally, they emerged from beneath the leafy canopy, and Miriam had to shade her eyes against the bright suns. “Please don’t go back into this forest again. Goddess or no, it is a sacred place to our people. I wish you the best of luck in finding your friend.”

Miriam nodded in thanks. “Well, I probably won’t be seeing you around. Nice to meet you though.” She turned and waited until she couldn’t hear Mar’cney’s footsteps anymore, and then she closed her eyes to focus. Even though they’d come so far, and were now out of the woods, the trace of Loki that Miriam could detect felt exactly the same. Logically, it should’ve gotten either stronger or weaker after so much movement on Miriam’s part, but it felt identical.

That sent a funny twisting feeling through Miriam’s stomach. Something wasn’t right. And now that she thought about it further, she knew that Loki wouldn’t have fallen through his bed and into a portal, and unless he was the one who’d created it, he wouldn’t have been stupid enough to jump through the way that Miriam was. Plus there’s no way the forest patrol wouldn’t have noticed him wandering around aimlessly if they’d noticed Miriam so easily.

Something here wasn’t adding up, and Miriam didn’t like it at all. She decided to keep following Loki’s trail, since she didn’t technically have anything better to do, but she couldn’t help feeling worried. She should’ve left some kind of note for the Avengers, or for the Asgardians to pass along to the Avengers. Because right now, nobody knew where she was. And nobody, including Miriam, knew where Loki was either.

Chapter Text

Miriam felt like she’d been walking forever, trying to follow Loki’s trail, though she never felt like she was getting any closer to wherever he could be. Finally, she spotted the outline of a town up ahead, and that inspired her to start moving faster. The Esperosians may be sort of primitive compared to many other people on many other planets, but that didn’t mean they would have no place for a weary traveler to rest.

After a while she reached the outskirts of the town, and saw many of the purple aliens working on their farms. Most of them looked up and stared at Miriam as she walked past them, obviously curious about the presence of someone who was clearly not from their planet.

She got further into town, and looked around, trying to figure out where her connection to Loki was trying to lead her. She spotted an inn, and checked her pockets for any money. Now would be a good time to stop and rest. She had some Midgardian and Asgardian money on her, and wondered if either of those currencies would be accepted. There was only one way to find out.

Miriam walked into the inn, and went up to the front desk, where a nice young Esperosian was sitting and doing a crossword puzzle. She cleared her throat, and the alien looked at her with some surprise. “Oh! Um, can I help you?”

Miriam responded perfectly, sounding as though she’d lived on the planet her whole life. “I was wondering if I could rent a room for the night. But unfortunately I’ve only got money from other places. Would you accept either of these?” She pulled out some Midgardian coins, and then some Asgardian coins, and held them out.

The Esperosian, who was wearing a nametag pinned to his shirt that said R’lit, looked at the currencies curiously. “Sorry, but if you don’t mind me asking, where are you from? We haven’t gotten alien visitors in years, and there’s been no news of any new ships landing anywhere.”

Miriam shrugged. “Yeah, sorry, I came through a portal. Sort of by accident. I’m from a place so far and long gone that I’m sure you’ve never heard of it,” she couldn’t help sounding slightly sad at that. “But um, let’s just say that I’m from Midgard.”

R’lit nodded seriously. “I’ve heard of it. That’s pretty far as well. Midgard has about the same space travel technology as we do here. But if you came through a portal that makes sense. Why are you here though?”

“I’m looking for a friend of mine. Jotun. Blue skin, red eyes, very broody. Have you seen him anywhere?”

R’lit shook his head regretfully. “No, sorry. It’s going to be big news that you are here. If there were another far away alien here, I’d have heard about it. But as to your earlier query, I will take a couple of these silver coins in exchange for a room.” He picked four American quarters out of her hands, and Miriam decided not to mention that that was only a dollar, and she was pretty sure that they weren’t even made from real silver. She stuffed the rest of the money back into her pockets, and the Esperosian reached across the desk to hand her a key. “Here you go. Enjoy your stay, and I hope that you do find your friend soon. Your room is on the second floor, on the right.”

Miriam nodded. “Thank you.” She glanced at the symbol on the key, and searched the halls until she found the door with the same symbol on it. She put the key in and turned it, and was glad to see that it successfully opened. She went into the room, making sure to close the door behind her, and flopped down onto the bed.

After a few minutes, Miriam’s stomach grumbled loudly, and she cursed the fact that she needed sustenance to survive. It wasn’t fair. Though since there seemed to be plenty of excess food lying around Midgard, hopefully it would be the same here on Esperos, and she’d be able to find something to eat. At least the farming going on outside was proof that they did have food, which was relieving. Starving to death on an alien planet would be rather embarrassing.

As she left her room to go back downstairs and inquire about getting something to eat, she nearly bumped into someone else who was leaving their room. “Sorry, sorry.” Then she looked up at the person she’d bumped into, and her eyes widened. “Lok-”

He quickly pressed one hand over her mouth, and dragged her back into the room he’d just walked out of. She could’ve gotten away, but she let herself be dragged. Loki shoved her away and then slammed the door to the room shut. “What the hell are you doing here?” he hissed.

Miriam couldn’t help feeling hurt. It seemed as though Loki had intentionally left Asgard, and he hadn’t wanted anyone to know where he was. She frowned. “I was trying to find you. I thought that you could be hurt, or worse. No one has any idea of where you are right now. They’re worried sick about you. You have to come back with me.”

Loki quickly shook his head. “Absolutely not. Do you think I would’ve come to this pathetic little planet if it weren’t important? And I would have left a note if I wanted to be followed. How did you even find me here?”

Miriam sat down on the edge of the bed. “There was a portal under your bed, so I jumped through it. And why didn’t the guy at the front desk mention that you rented a room when I specifically asked about you? I would’ve known if he was lying about having seen you, so I don’t understand.”

Loki sighed, and stared down at Miriam. “I can disguise myself, remember? It’s just never worked on you because you ‘see the truth’. As far as anyone here is concerned, I’m just another Esperosian, from a different town, who’s here on business. And they’re not suspicious at all. I can’t have you blowing my cover. Just go back to Asgard or Midgard or wherever.”

Miriam crossed her arms over her chest. “But what are you doing here? What business could you possibly have in this primitive place? And why wouldn’t you want anyone to follow you? And I’ve been searching for your mind all day but I’ve never felt like I was getting any closer. Are you blocking your mind? But why? Seriously, what’s going on here?”

Loki ran one hand through his hair, then sat down next to Miriam. “Look, I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but I’m in the middle of something pretty important here, and I can’t have you getting in the way. What I’m here for is none of your business. If I wanted you here I would’ve said something before leaving.”

A sharp sting came, and felt like it was stabbing Miriam right in the chest. So Loki had left of his own free will, and had chosen to not say anything to Miriam. Apparently he’d never thought of her as a friend the way she’d thought of him. She pressed her lips together in a flat line for a moment before responding. “Well I am far older than you can even comprehend, and I can go wherever I want, which means that if I want to stay on this dump, that’s up to me. You can be here on your business, and I’ll be here on mine.”

Loki rolled her eyes at her stubbornness. “I’d really appreciate it if you could just go back home.”

Miriam raised one eyebrow. “That might be a little difficult since my home was blown into millions of pieces long before even your father was born.”

“You know what I meant.”

Miriam shook her head. “If I want to stay on Espero, then that’s up to me, and I’m choosing to stay. If you’d really wanted to be left alone, you could’ve at least left a quick note saying that you were going. You wouldn’t even have to say where or for how long. Just a memo that you’re leaving on your own, and people wouldn’t be so worried.”

Loki seemed a bit taken aback by that. “Were you worried?”

Miriam scoffed. Of course she’d been worried! Why else would she have gone through so much effort to find him? But he clearly didn’t care about her, so it didn’t matter how worried she’d been. “Of course not. Why would I be worried about you? You can obviously take care of yourself. I was just trying to find you because it was getting really annoying to see Thor moping around everywhere.”

Loki’s eyes flashed with hurt at that, but Miriam didn’t care. Caring about other people was a deadly trap that could only end in a broken heart, and Miriam had experienced enough of those for ten thousand lifetimes. She’d cared about her adopted parents, though they’d only been using her as a political tool. She’d cared about her birth parents, though they’d ditched her and Ar’iaal as though it were nothing. She’d cared about Ar’iaal more than she could’ve ever thought possible, and he’d left her the moment things got a little bit tough. And then she’d been stupid enough to care about Loki, who’d never cared about her in return. He was just another person who wanted to get away from her as soon as possible.

Well, Miriam had learned her lesson. She’d opened her heart, and been hurt for it every single time. She abruptly stood up. “You know what? You’re right. I should just go. I won’t tell anyone where you are. I won’t tell anyone what a dick you are.” She started towards the door, and Loki reached out to grab her arm.

“Wait. I- I can’t tell you what I’m doing here. But if you read it from my mind, then that wouldn’t be my fault.”

Miriam narrowed her eyes. “‘Wouldn’t be your fault’? What are you talking about?”

He lifted her arm up so that her hand was touching the side of his head. “Find out for yourself. Please.”

Miriam wasn’t sure if it was some kind of trick. What was Loki trying to get at? If what he was doing was so private that he couldn’t say, why would he be able to show it? Well, there was only one way to find out for sure. She sat back down next to him. “If I see anything I don’t like, I’ll be out of there before you can even blink.”

Then she closed her eyes, and slipped into his mind, being a little rougher than necessary. It was time to see what was going on.

Loki was in his private workshop that branched off from his bedroom. He was sitting at his desk, flipping through the pages of an old book. He looked fascinated by whatever he was reading.

He was interrupted by the soft sound of footsteps against stone, and he looked up slowly, having trouble tearing his eyes away from his reading material. “Just come in instead of making a loud distraction.” He thought it was just Miriam. There was no response, and Loki slowly stood up. He stared at the doorway. “Mother? Is that you?” There was still no answer.

Loki’s whole body began to tense up as he realized that there was obviously something strange going on. He took a few steps back, and he bumped right into someone who was standing behind him. “Well, if you’re just going to invite me right in, I may as well take you up on that.” The voice was a deep growl, and completely unfamiliar. A moment later, everything went black.

,,,

When Loki opened his eyes, he was aware of a pounding headache, and the fact that his arms were being held up above his head in a rather uncomfortable position. His first thought was to use some magic to escape, but he found that he was unable.

There was a cruel chuckle from in front of him, though he couldn’t see who was there because they were standing in the shadows. “Guess that little rat was right. Some of the right materials mixed together, and you’re useless. What’s the point of a pathetic creature like yourself if you become so worthless without your magic?”

Another voice rang out from somewhere out of sight. “Hey! Leave the prisoner alone! You know that Thanos wanted to speak with him in person. And with the least amount of injury we can manage.”

The first voice sounded slightly disappointed. “I was looking forward to getting a few drops of blood on the ground. But I guess that can always wait until after Thanos is done with him.” He walked closer to Loki, revealing a large man in dark robes, a hood covering his face. He fiddled with Loki’s restraints for a moment, then dragged him away from the hall. Loki tried to get to his feet, but his captor was moving too fast, and he kept stumbling forward and getting dragged across the ground on his knees.

After making their way through what looked like a large stone maze, they went through a very big set of double doors, and the hooded man shoved Loki forward onto the ground.

A loud, deep voice spoke, sounding angry. “I told you that there would be consequences if you were to be defeated on Midgard.”

A shiver ran through Loki as he saw his life flash before his eyes, and he slowly looked up at the one who’d arranged for this kidnapping, and saw-

Miriam jerked herself away from Loki, looking like she’d just been burned. Loki furrowed his eyebrows. “Are you alright? You didn’t even see my reason for being here.”

Miriam got to her feet, looking slightly unsteady. “Thanos,” she said softly. “That bastard.” She clenched her hands into fists, not caring when her fingernails dug into her palms and broke the skin there. “I believe you,” she muttered, still looking like she was about to pass out. “The others have told me about when you attacked Midgard, and Thor has told me why. This is like that again.”

Loki nodded hesitantly. “I can’t really say. If I could, I swear I’d tell you. If you want to know the exact details or-”

Miriam shook her head. “No, no that’s alright. I believe you. I believe you. I just don’t- I can’t- I just-” She shook her head again. “I believe you,” she said again.

Loki looked at Miriam with serious concern. “Are you alright? You’re the one who was going into my mind. If anyone’s going to get messed up from it, it should be me, but I still feel fine. So what happened? What’s wrong with you?”

Miriam looked down at the floor. “Thanos. I-” She gulped, and didn’t say anything else.

“I know that that used to be your name. Is that why you’re so bothered? Do you truly find it so unnerving for a monster like him to share a name with you? Because there are lots of monsters and non monsters, and there are slightly less names, which means that they get used a lot. Are you so bothered by that?”

Miriam shook her head. “No. It’s not that. It’s not the name. Well it is, but the name is unimportant. He could take my name if he wants. That doesn’t bother me. Well maybe it does a little bit. But that hasn’t been my name in so long that it doesn’t really matter anymore.”

Loki stood up, ready to catch Miriam if she actually passed out, since she was swaying back and forth without even realizing it. “Then what is it? What’s wrong? Why are you so upset?” A thought occurred to him. “You’re really old. Thanos has to be pretty old himself. Do you know him? Is he someone you’ve met before?”

Miriam gulped, looking pale. She shook her head. “He isn’t just someone. I’d know that face and that voice anywhere. He isn’t just anybody. And he hasn’t always had the name Thanos.”

Loki gently guided Miriam to sit back down on the bed. “So who was he before he was Thanos?”

She shivered. “I can’t believe he actually stole my name. That bastard. Ar’iaal.”

Chapter Text

9,000 Years Ago

Ar’iaal frowned at the person standing before him. Or more accurately, at the person cowering before him. “But that’s impossible. Someone like Miriam would never just drop off the map, whether I was with her or not. I just can’t believe that. Tell me the truth. Where is she really?”

The smaller being shivered, and spoke in a squeaky voice. “I don’t know, I swear. I’ve never heard of anyone named Miriam. No one’s seen an Eternal in thousands of years! Please don’t kill me!”

Ar’iaal took a deep breath in, then slowly let it out. “I would not do something like that.” There were more important things to focus on at that moment. More important people to focus on. He’d been asleep for nearly five thousand years, and tracking someone down after all that time was starting to feel nearly impossible.

After a moment, he realized that the pathetic thing in front of him was still babbling on. “I might know someone who could help you, but you have to swear you won’t hurt me if I tell you! Please!”

Ar’iaal hadn’t been planning on killing the idiot anyways, as he’d clearly just stated. “Fine. Tell me what you do know, then.”

“The planet Xarez was destroyed around a thousand years ago. No one was ever sure of the exact cause, but there’d been a lot of things being destroyed like that around the time. Then some big shit went down on Asgard. The king of those pompous pricks died, and then the planet wide destructions stopped. The survivors of Xarez have been looking into all of that. That’s all I know, I swear.”

Ar’iaal frowned. “Get out of my sight. You are absolutely pathetic and you disgust me.”

,,,

When he reached New Xarez, it was made immediately clear that he was not welcome there. “Eternals cause nothing but trouble for everyone around them. Get out of here.”

He scowled. “I’m simply trying to track down my friend.”

“Well you aren’t going to be finding any friend of yours around here. Whoever told you that stupid story was probably just lying to save their life, since they know how dangerous your sort is.”

Ar’iaal took a step forward, and found satisfaction when the Xarezian took a single step back, a slight look of fear on his face. “Now you listen to me. I have been alive longer than you could possibly imagine. And I have fought very hard to get this far in my search for the woman I care about more than literally anything else in all of existence. Now you will tell me anything you know about an Eternal who often goes by the name Miriam, or you will lead me to someone else who can tell me. It’s up to you. Your only third choice is to watch all of Xarez literally crumble beneath you for the second time.”

The Xarezian finally gulped, then nodded. “Fine. If I take you to the king, will that satisfy you?”

Ar’iaal nodded. “I suppose that it would, seeing as no one else around here seems to have any clue of what’s going on.”

After being led through the long winding hallways of the castle, the Xarezian stopped outside a large set of double doors, and he motioned for Ar’iaal to wait where he was. “I must speak with the king before he can see you.” He disappeared into what was presumable the throne room. He returned a few minutes later, and bowed his head. “He will see you now.”

Ar’iaal went into the throne room, and found a smug looking Xarezian sitting on a fancy chair, a dented crown resting lopsidedly on his head. He bowed his head as a sign of respect so that the king would be more likely to cooperate with him. “So the Eternal has come to grovel before me? Finally bothered by the constant loneliness of being the last of your kind?”

The Eternal’s head snapped up, and he took in a sharp gasp of air. “What are you talking about? I am not the last.”

The king grinned, looking excited to incite drama onto the universe. “Oh, but I’m afraid you are. My guard explained that you’re here in a desperate attempt to track down your friend. But I can assure you that she is long gone. The Asgardians banded together, gathering all of their most powerful people. They succeeded in destroying the menace, but they all died while doing so. Eternals are hard to kill. But even they are invincible. Not even your friend.”

Ar’iaal clenched his hands into fists. “Where did they do this? Where did they murder her?”

The king shrugged. “Does it matter? That was a thousand years ago. Why dig up buried memories? That bitch got what she deserved for trying to kill all of my people.”

Ar’iaal’s eyes narrowed, and he surged forward to wrap his hands around the king’s neck, squeezing tightly. “How dare you speak of her like that!”

The Xarezian rolled his eyes. “Well, you’re already proving that you’re better at holding your temper than she was. And I’ll dare to speak however I want about the one who destroyed my entire planet, and ninety percent of its population. The point is that she’s gone now, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Ar’iaal let go of the alien’s throat before actually killing it.

“You disgust me,” he spat. Then he left to go talk to an old friend.

,,,

Ar’iaal looked around the dark cave, and didn’t feel at all bothered by the dankness or eeriness of it all. “My lady, where are you?”

A moment later, a soft voice came from behind Ar’iaal, and he slowly turned to face his friend. There was a dark hood covering her face in shadow, and Ar’iaal was still afraid of what was beneath. “You called me so familiarly, as though we are friends. But that can’t be right, can it? Because you are the one who rejected me! And then you avoided me for several thousand years!” As she spoke, her voice got louder and louder. Then she paused to take in a deep breath, and let it out. “I’m sorry, that was rude. I’m going through some things right now. What do you want, Ar’iaal?”

He clenched his hands into fists as he spoke, hoping desperately that his friend would be willing to help. “Is it true… is Miriam really dead? I’ve heard that she died a thousand years ago, but you’re the only one who could know for sure.”

Death pulled back her hood, revealing a pale skull with black designs tattooed across the forehead. It was certainly one of the stranger sights that Ar’iaal had seen before in his very long life. “Ugh, Miriam?” She tilted her head, and smiled. “Yes she’s dead. Like you said. A thousand years. Sorry, old friend. Guess you’re just a tad too late.”

Ar’iaal felt like his heart was being stabbed a million times over. He couldn’t imagine going through life without Miriam. He should’ve been strong enough to stick around and protect her even after their fight. Instead he’d gone off and slept while the only person he loved had been in danger. He sank down to his knees. “Please, my lady, there must be something you could do to bring her back. Please.” He could feel tears falling down his cheeks, and he felt as pathetic as all those lesser creatures he’d spoken to just to get to this point right now.

Death shook her head. “Sorry, but that’s simply impossible. I only do crazy shit like that for people who impress me. And you, darling, are the very definition of boring. I can’t believe you’re actually begging to me on your knees. You’re so worthless.”

Ar’iaal clasped his hands together. “I know what I said before. That I could never love you so long as Miriam is in my life. But that didn’t mean it was an invitation for her to be gone! Please, I swear, I’ll be with you forever if you just bring her back. Even if I never saw her again, just knowing that she’s alive and alright would be enough for me. Please.”

Death kicked at Ar’iaal’s head, and he dodged the blow just in time. “Maybe you didn’t hear me the first time. You don’t impress me, you’re boring, and you’re useless. I don’t need you, and I was crazy to believe that I ever did.”

Ar’iaal jumped to his feet. “Then I’ll just have to prove my worth to you. I’ll send so many people your way that you won’t even have enough space for all of them, and I’ll keep killing more and more. I’ll prove that I’m worth it. And then you’ll bring back Miriam.” He turned and hurried away.

Death slapped one skeletal hand against her face. “That’s not what I was trying to say, you fucking idiot.” He was already way too far away to be able to hear her. “Stupid Eternal. Your girlfriend isn’t even dead.” She put her hood back up, then turned and went back to where she’d come from.

,,,

Ar’iaal smashed down the castle on Xarez, and watched it crumble with a sense of detachment in him. He no longer cared about what happened. He’d kill everyone in the entire universe if it would mean that he could get his Miriam back.

The king was still sitting in his throne when Ar’iaal stormed in, though he definitely looked much paler and shakier than last time they’d met. “Who are you, anyways? Don’t I at least deserve to know the name of my killer?”

Ar’iaal knew that he had to honor his fallen friend. He had loved her with everything he had, and now she was gone. If the thoughts of revenge and potentially bringing her back weren’t so provocative in his mind, then he probably would’ve fallen right back asleep at the horrible news. “Thanos.” He frowned. It didn’t feel right, but that had been her name as a child, and he couldn’t bear to think of the name he’d lovingly called her for so long. “My name is Thanos. I’m the most powerful thing in existence. And don’t you dare forget it.”

The king nodded solemnly. “I would be a fool to do so. But please, let me tell you why I am still here, even as all of my people run for their lives.” Ar’iaal- no, it was Thanos now, nodded for the Xarezian to continue. “I have something that may be of some interest to you. If you wish to truly be the most powerful, there is something that can help you. Six somethings, actually.” He held up the staff that had been propped up against the side of the throne, and gestured to the jewel that was on top. “No one’s quite sure where these stones came from. There’s six of them, which is a strange number, but that’s not the point. The point is that a single one of these stones contains more power within it than most living things could ever dream of owning. They can only be touched directly by the most powerful of beings. If I give you this stone, will you cease this unprovoked attack?”

Thanos paused to think. He’d never heard of these stones before, but if they were really that powerful, then he definitely wanted them. He could use them to prove his worth to Death so that she would be willing to bring Miriam back. He nodded. “Fine.”

The king thrust the staff into Thanos’s hands. Thanos tilted his head, then touched the stone on the staff to the floor. The castle began to shake and crumble down around them. The king jumped up. “What are you doing? I was trying to find a peaceful resolution, but I should’ve just used that on you!”

Thanos stayed exactly where he was, even after the entire planet was gone, and the staff in his hands was the only thing left to remember it by. That was one powerful little rock if it could do so much damage in such a short amount of time. Surely if Thanos were to collect all six, Death would be impressed beyond belief, and she’d be willing to return Miriam to him. It was all for her, after all.

,,,

Soon, the stories were everywhere across the universe. Thanos, the god-like being on a never ending search for power. He could destroy entire planets in a matter of minutes, and he could never be hurt. So many people gathered around him to revel in his power that it was becoming less and less necessary for him to go out and do much damage himself.

Finding more of the gems was shockingly difficult though, even with all the power and influence he’d managed to get for himself. Whoever else owned those rocks must covet them greatly because of their power.

Thanos was interrupted from his thoughts by one of his subordinates. “Sir, we’ve brought you an Asgardian, as requested.”

“Send it in.”

A minute later, a pathetic little Asgardian was shoved to his knees in front of Thanos, his hands bound in front of him. “Whatever it is that you want, you won’t be getting from me. I have a duty to my people, and I will not talk.”

Thanos rolled his eyes. “You don’t need to talk. In fact, this will all be much easier if you just sit there and shut up.” He reached forward to touch the Asgardian’s head. He quickly scanned through the weakling’s mind to find the information he was looking for, then he shoved the alien aside. “Well you’re completely useless. All you know of your past is a small bit of lore and nothing else. You are truly disgustingly pathetic.”

The Asgardian clenched his jaw. “I don’t care what you think of me. You are the scum of the universe. You already have so much power, but you want more and more so that you can prove to everyone how strong and scary you are. You’re the one who’s pathetic.”

Thanos quickly slapped the Asgardian, sending him flying backwards. “You know nothing of me or why I do the things that I do. If you were so smart, then you’d know that I don’t care who I scare. All I care about is killing lots of infants like you, and getting lots of power so that I can impress an old friend. It may have been some time, but I’ve never lost sight of my goals. And you are nothing in the long run. Just an insect to be squished beneath my feet.” He quickly killed the Asgardian, and left the body for his people to take care of.

,,,

“Sir, the stones… they’re all… um… talking…”

,,,

Thanos frowned. With three of the stones in his possession, there was no one alive who could even hope to take him on. No one was going to defeat the mighty Thanos. He was going to be the most powerful being in existence, and he was going to convince Death to give back the piece of his heart that had been missing since the moment he’d heard of Miriam’s death. Because she was his heart, as far as he could tell.

This would all be worth it in the end, when Miriam was returned to him. Thanos had been through too much, and he was not going to lose.

Chapter Text

Loki stared at Miriam in shock, but it was pretty obvious that she was just as surprised by the turn of events as he was. “What? But how is that even possible? I thought you said he was taking a long nap because of getting himself worked up into an overly emotional state?”

Miriam shrugged. “That’s what I thought. I mean, if he’s been awake for long enough to become what he is today, then why hasn’t he tried to find me? I was only on Asgard, it’s not like that’s such a difficult place to look. Especially after some of the stories that must’ve gone around after my imprisonment. I just don’t understand.”

Loki carefully sat down next to Miriam. “Are you sure? I mean, it’s been thousands of years since you last saw him-”

“I’m positive!” Miriam snapped. “He was with me for my entire life! A few thousand years apart is nothing, considering how old we are. I wouldn’t be able to forget Ar’iaal’s face any sooner than I could forget my own.”

Loki tilted his head. “But if you and Thanos, er, Ar’iaal-”

“Just call him Thanos,” she said in a tired voice.

Loki nodded. “Right. So if you and Thanos are the same type of creature, why do you look like a Midgardian or Agardian, while he obviously does not?”

Miriam sighed. She gestured to herself. “I’m from a different place than him. I thought I’d already explained it all to you? He was born to the city dwellers, and I was born to a bunch of nomads. It’s the same way that people born on Midgard look different from each other based on what are they are born in. And on top of that, I’m much smaller and weaker looking than I would be at my full power.” She crossed her arms over her chest, and Loki just blinked. He didn’t think that Midgardians born in different countries looked that different, but he didn’t know anything about Eternals. Miriam cleared her throat. “I’m kidding. If he really looks that different, it’s because he’s basically wearing a disguise. He wouldn’t look so different if he wasn’t. But I see right through the disguise, so I see nothing but the face that I’ve known all my life.” She sighed. “If he’s really been collecting those stupid rocks like the Avengers said, then that means he’s actually stealing my power, whether he knows it or not, and that sucks.”

They were both silent for a moment. Then Loki opened his mouth. “I still have business that I need to attend to on this planet, whether I want to or not. Just stay up here until I get back, okay? I don’t want you wandering around and doing something stupid.”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “Your faith in me is overwhelming.” She got to her feet, and moved stiffly towards the door. “Are you going to meet him in person again once you finish with your business?”

There was an awkward pause. “I can’t tell you,” Loki finally said. “You could look further in my head if you want-” Miriam quickly shook her head. “Then I guess you’ll just have to figure things out on your own. Try not to be stupid. I’ve really got to go; I’m already behind schedule.” He hurried out of the room, and carefully closed the door behind him.

After he’d been gone from the room for a few minutes, the silence seemed to press in on Miriam, and she felt like she was suffocating. How the hell had Ar’iaal become this monster? How had he become so much like her? She squeezed her eyes shut, and immediately, his face flashed before her mind.

Even though hardly any time at all had passed since the last time they’d met, he looked older and wearier than the last time she’d seen him. And based on everyone else’s reactions, his disguise must be a rather intimidating one. Miriam couldn’t help wishing that she couldn’t see past it. She wished she could be just like everyone else who feared the scary powerful alien, without knowing that it was the person she’d always thought of as her only family. It wasn’t fair that she was the only one who was in on the secret just by glancing at him. Miriam wondered if she could put a scary disguise on herself.

Several minutes passed, and Miriam shook her head, trying to shake away her thoughts. Trying to rid herself of the image of Ar’iaal looking so hateful and angry. And of course she didn’t really like the image of Loki looking so terrified either. He’d always seemed so untouchable.

Miriam left Loki’s room, making sure to lock the door before leaving just in case he had anything important in there. It meant she wouldn’t be able to get back in until he returned, but Miriam didn’t really care about that. She wasn’t going to just sit and stay like some Midgardian pet just because Loki had told her to.

She left the inn, and wandered around outside, exactly what Loki had told her not to do. But Miriam couldn’t find it within herself to care. If anything truly dangerous came up, it would be easy enough for Miriam to just teleport away, and go somewhere safe. For now, she had no idea where she was going, though.

Miriam felt completely lost. She knew that her goal was still to gain back all the power that she’d lost, but now that she knew half of it was in the hands of Thanos, she didn’t know what to think. How was she supposed to reconcile with the only person she truly considered to be her family after knowing about all the things he’d done?

And thinking about that made her consider various reasons why he’d never tried to find her, even though he’d been awake for at least a couple thousand years already. Maybe he’d heard about all the horrible things Miriam had done in his absence, and had finally decided that she was too much to handle. Maybe he’d felt the exact same lost feeling when he’d heard of her deeds, and had decided that he was better off without her.

Miriam couldn’t really blame him for that. She was a horrible person, and she’d done more horrible things than she’d ever be able to count. She had more blood on her hands than everyone else she knew put together, including Thanos himself. Maybe he’d work himself up to Miriam’s level eventually, but right now, as far as she knew, she was still the worse of the two Eternals.

She couldn’t even be angry or upset or traumatized by the past, because it was all things she’d done to other people. No one had ever harmed her, and if she let guilt overwhelm her, then she was just selfishly trying to get more attention than she deserved. No wonder Thanos hadn’t tried to find her. He deserved infinitely better. He should’ve just left with the rest of the Eternals all the way back then, when Miriam’s own mother realized how worthless Miriam was, and had decided to cut and run.

Miriam sank down to her knees, not caring about all the little pebbles that dug into her skin and felt rather uncomfortable. She knew that little marks like those would heal up soon enough now that she’d gained back a little bit of her power. She wished she could go back to being completely invincible, though. Then she could go on with her life without suffering from the awful pain that was in her chest. Because she’d never felt her heart hurt before, which meant it was just as protected by invincibility as any other part of her.

She pressed her hands up against her eyes, and her shoulders shook as she started crying. All this time, she’d kept Ar’iaal in her mind, knowing that he was out there somewhere, and once she’d been restored to her full power, she’d track him down and wake him up and they could just go back to the way they’d been.

But that was an impossible dream, and it had been from the start. Ar’iaal didn’t want to see Miriam again. He didn’t want to have anything to do with her. He just wanted to be left alone to dominate the universe in peace. And if he wanted to take over everything on his own, then who was Miriam to stop him? She certainly didn’t have enough power for that. And even if she did, she probably wouldn’t bother. Ar’iaal deserved to have whatever he wanted, even if that no longer included Miriam.

The tears that leaked through the spaces between her fingers fell onto the gravel road, causing little dark splotches to appear, almost like it was raining. She wiped at her eyes, and stared at the ground blankly. What was the point? For as long as she could remember, Miriam had been living for Ar’iaal. And now he didn’t even want her. So what was she supposed to do? Gain back the rest of her power and live another million years completely alone? Grow old and die as a faux Midgardian in a handful of years? Just fade away into nothing?

“Miriam!” She jolted up in surprise at someone shouting her name. Loki was crouching down in front of her, looking pretty concerned. “Hey, I just said your name a bunch of times. Did you even hear me? What’s wrong?”

Him asking what was wrong made Miriam realize that she’d never even stopped crying. She wasn’t going to pour her heart out to Loki though. She already knew that he didn’t care about her. Maybe he had been taken to this planet against his will, but that didn’t change the fact that Miriam wasn’t really worth caring about.

She quickly stood up, and rubbed at her eyes until she was sure that she was tear free. Then Miriam shook her head. “Nothing’s wrong, I just got lost in my thoughts. I realized that you’re right. I should just go.”

Loki narrowed his eyes. “That was me trying to protect you. But then I let you see what’s going on so you’d be able to help. I thought you wanted to help? Because you’re so insanely stubborn all the time?”

“No. I think you can handle this. You seem to be doing just fine this far. I’m going to leave now. I’ve already done more than enough here, or anywhere else.”

Before she could actually walk away, Loki jumped forward and pulled Miriam into a tight hug. He spoke into her ear in a soft voice, since he didn’t seem to plan on moving away anytime soon. “Miriam, I know that you feel scared and confused. You feel like you’ve been betrayed by the person who was most important to you out of everyone in the universe. You feel like you’re alone. But you’re a complete idiot to think that. Just because you’re oldest friend turned out to be an enemy doesn’t mean that everyone else who cares about you is just going to disappear.” He leaned back so that he could look Miriam in the eyes. “You aren’t worthless. Really nobody is, since everyone means something to someone else. And you mean something to a lot of people. And you deserve that. You’ve come a long way from where you started. You used to be Thanos, and now you’re able to see how wrong he is to be acting in that way. But you can’t just give up, okay? There are people who love you and want you to be happy.”

Miriam looked down at the ground so that she wouldn’t have to actually meet Loki’s gaze. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She pushed Loki away from her, and took a couple steps back. “There’s no one like that. Ar’iaal was the only one who ever loved me, but even he got tired up having to put up with me for so long. It’s better this way. My mother figured out a long time ago that I was meant to be on my own. I don’t know why I never bothered listening to her sooner.”

Loki shook his head. “Don’t be an idiot. People are allowed to care about you. You can’t just decide what other people feel. I know that when you said you weren’t worried about me you were lying. And when I said I didn’t want you here, I was lying too. The universe that we live in is completely insane most of the time, and so are most of the people living in it. But I’d have to be more insane than any of them put together if I didn’t see how much you’re worth caring about. When I’m with you, I imagine that this is what it would be like to have my own sister, rather than that total idiot of a brother that I ended up getting stuck with. Don’t run away. Maybe you’ll outlive me and all the others by a million years, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least give us a shot in the small amount of time we have. You’re a person who means a lot. How can you be so old yet still not be able to see that?”

Miriam shrugged. “By the standards of the Eternals I’m still young.” She wiped away at her eyes as they started tearing up again. “Practically my entire life, Ar’iaal was all I ever had, and I was so sure that he was all I would ever get. When he left, nothing mattered anymore. Who cared how many people I killed when I felt so empty inside? But now I don’t feel empty. I feel pain. Inside my heart is hurting so much right now. He doesn’t want me. He doesn’t need me. The only person I’ve ever had doesn’t care about me at all.”

Loki shrugged. “So what? Get over yourself. You’re worth caring about, but that doesn’t mean every single person who you cross paths with is going to love you until the end of time. That would just be impossible. You can be satisfied with just getting whoever you can to love you at any given time. And you’ve got people like that. I know that you’ll always miss Ar’iaal, and you’ll probably always regret the way that things ended between you. But that’s no excuse to just toss aside everyone else who cares like they’re nothing but garbage.”

Miriam sighed. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’ve never cried this much before.”

Loki smiled gently. “It’s because you’re grieving for someone you’ve lost. Doesn’t matter if they’re still alive or not, they’re gone for the second time now.” He held out one hand towards Miriam. “Come on. Let’s go back before someone sees us talking and gets weirded out.”

Miriam sniffled a few times. “I wasn’t planning on ever stopping the search for you. I’m just sorry that I couldn’t stop that bastard from getting to you before any of this could happen.” She accepted Loki’s hand, and the two of them walked back to the inn.

They started to head straight up to Loki’s room, but then Miriam’s stomach growled loudly. He laughed. “Ah, earlier when we bumped into each other, you were headed to find food, weren’t you?”

Miriam scowled. “Stupid body that requires food to be able to keep functioning. It really isn’t fair.”

“So does that mean you never ate anything before you were cursed by the Asgardians?”

Miriam tilted her head to think about it for a moment. “Well, one time I ate a few people who were being dicks to me.” She shuddered at the memory. “They did not go down well.” Loki grimaced and was about to comment on how disgusting that sounded, but Miriam wasn’t finished talking yet. “Oh, and there was the time that I ate a planet. Now that was unpleasant on everyone.”

Loki stared at Miriam with wide eyes. “You ate a planet? Like a whole entire planet?” He couldn’t imagine anyone’s mouth being able to stretch open wide enough to eat a whole planet.

Miriam nodded, looking dead serious. “Well, once it was broken down into little pieces, it only took like a year to eat the whole thing. Obviously I destroyed the whole planet first.”

“Obviously,” Loki echoed. “I can’t imagine your body digested that very easily.”

The Eternal shrugged. “It was alright. But a planet doesn’t taste anywhere near as good as a pizza from Midgard.”

Loki rolled his eyes, and told her to go ahead to his room. He handed over the key so she’d be able to get back in. He went in after her by a few minutes, carrying a tray of food. “Well, you can’t exactly get a pizza around here. This will have to do for now.”

They ate until they were full, and then Miriam leaned back against the wall. “So you’re here on business for Thanos, and he’s an obviously bad dude, which means that whatever you’re supposed to be doing, I need to stop you from doing it. Are you okay with that?”

Loki nodded. “Yes, that sounds agreeable. But I really can’t think of any way to let you in on the plan without you looking for yourself. I’m sorry.”

Miriam clenched her jaw. “It’s alright, I can handle it. It’s just the face of a criminal that we need to stop. That’s all.” She closed her eyes. “Give me a minute, though?”

Loki smiled at her fondly. “Of course.” He’d give her as much time as she needed, because he’d hate to see such a brilliant mind break.

Chapter Text

Miriam took several deep breaths, and then slowly let them out before reaching up to cup the sides of Loki’s head. She squeezed her eyes shut, and focused on his memories of meeting Thanos again.

A loud, deep voice spoke, sounding angry. “I told you there would be consequences if you were to be defeated on Midgard.”

A shiver ran through Loki as he saw his life flash before his eyes, and he slowly looked up at the one who’d arranged his kidnapping, and saw Thanos, looking as terrifying as he had the first time they’d met. He gulped, and looked back down at the ground. “Midgard was not my fault. There is a group of Midgardians who were strong enough to stand up to me and win. I had not expected to find myself facing such difficult foes-”

“Enough!” The sound of Thanos yelling was enough to make the whole room feel like it was shaking back and forth, and Loki had to bite back a whimper of fear. “I gave you orders under the expectation that they would be followed. I do not accept excuses. If you weren’t quite so valuable, I’d rip your head off of your body right now and be done with it.” He leaned back in his huge chair, and crossed his arms over his chest. “But I am feeling generous today, so I’ll give you a single chance to make up for your failure. I want you to travel to the planet of Esperosia. I’ve heard that there is something there that could be of great value to me. A glove. Just one. I want you to remain as inconspicuous as possible in your search. Can you handle this?”

Loki gulped, not sure if he’d heard correctly. “You want me to find a single glove? How will I know if I find the right one?”

Thanos grinned. “You’ll know. Of course, I’m sending you on this search based on a rumor, so there may not be any glove at all. But if it’s there, you will retrieve it for me.” He bent over, and pressed one hand the size of Loki’s whole face against the top of Loki’s head. “You will not tell a single person about your mission. And you are not to leave Esperosia until you have retrieved the glove, or have exhausted all plans and resources in your attempts to do so.”

Miriam opened her eyes, and balled her hands into fists. “He’s such a monster. I’m sorry that you had to go through all that. I do wonder what he needs that glove for, though. But of course he wouldn’t have shared that with you even though he trapped your knowledge in your head anyways.” She stood up, and began pacing back and forth across the small room. “Maybe I can find this glove before you do. And then I can hide it somewhere that only I’d be able to find it. You’d be able to search the rest of this planet as hard as you want and you wouldn’t be able to find it, so he’d let you leave.”

Loki shrugged. “I couldn’t say whether that would work or not. But realistically, whether I can complete my business on this planet or not, I will end up dead.”

Miriam frowned, and quickly shook her head. “Absolutely not. I won’t allow it. I may not be at my most powerful, thanks to the Asgardians pulling my power right out of me and Thanos stealing it from there, but I could still hold my own against him. I could protect you. Hang on, I might even be able to…” she trailed off as she leaned over so that she could put her hands on Loki’s head again.

She focused on finding the bits of his mind that Thanos had wrapped his control around, and she confidently chipped away at it. Thanos didn’t have the boost of the mind related stone, and Miriam was as close as she was going to get to full capacity of her mind powers until she’d gotten everything back, so she was sure that she’d be able to defeat Thanos in this.

Several exhausting minutes later, Miriam finally backed away from Loki. She had sweat dripping down her face, and she was panting like she’d just ran a hundred miles, but she’d succeeded. “There. Now tell me why you’re here on this planet.”

“To find a glove for Thanos,” Loki answered without thinking. His eyes widened as he realized what he’d just said. “Did you really just break the hold that Thanos himself had over my mind? But you’re not even at your full strength, so how can that be possible?”

Miriam shrugged. “It’s the same way that Asgardians are all different. They’re all stronger than Midgardians for sure, but amongst themselves, they all have varying strengths. Thanos was never as good with his mental abilities as I was. And he couldn’t be cheating with that one, since I already got my powers back from the one that was in Vision’s head.”

Loki stood up, and stretched his arms up over his head. “The only problem now is that I still have to make it appear as though I’m putting all my effort into this search, or Thanos will still kill me. No matter what you say, you aren’t physically strong enough to go face to face with him. Not right now.”

Miriam scowled. “I can’t wait to be back at my full strength so that I can punch that idiot in the face. I can’t believe he’s using half my power.” She tilted her head. “So if I already got to the one in Vision, and the one in the tesseract cube, and Thanos has like three of them according to the transmission Thor heard when I woke up, then where’s the last one?”

Loki tilted his head to think. “I’m not really sure, to be perfectly honest. I doubt that even my father knows, or he would’ve said something sooner. Actually, my brother may know the location of one. It’s not like there’s any way to know for sure whether something is a powerful rock, or actually one of your rocks, but it was pretty powerful. It caused some problems a couple years ago, but Thor helped deal with that, so he may know where they ended up putting it. Once we leave this horrid planet, we can ask him.”

Miriam nodded. “Alright, sounds good to me.” She went back to her pacing. “Alright, now I know what we should do. We’ll find this stupid glove thing together, and then we’ll send you back to Thanos. You tell him that you did everything in your power, but could not locate it. Because he’ll think your mind is still under your control, he’ll assume that you must be telling him the truth. Then he sends you on your way, and everybody’s happy.”

Loki frowned. “Couldn’t he read my mind to make sure that I’m telling the truth? Because then he’d know immediately that I was lying.”

They both paused to think about that for a moment. “Well, maybe we need a different approach then. What do we know that Thanos wants? Power. So this glove that he’s looking for must have something to do with gaining more power. Also, it’s a glove. And people have two hands. So doesn’t that mean that there should be a second one somewhere? But for him to send you here on a rumor, either he doesn’t know where the other one is, or believes that it’s unattainable. What if we find both gloves, and use whatever power is in them against Thanos?”

“I’m not sure that that’s such a good idea either. We don’t have any guarantees that the gloves are anything more than the latest fashion statement, or that there’s even a second one, and I don’t think you should be the one to face off against Thanos. Seeing as he is formerly your best friend and only family and all.”

Miriam’s shoulders slumped forward. “Well that’s it. I’m all out of ideas. Honestly, I may be old, but most of my time was spent leaping without looking, so I’m not exactly built to be pumping out the ideas. What do you think we should do? Because if that glove really is powerful, then we definitely can’t hand it over to the mad man. No pun intended.”

They both stood in silence for a few minutes before Loki shook his head. “I don’t know. Maybe if we just ran away, we’d be alright, but that’s no way to live, and it wouldn’t help you to ever get back the rest of your powers.” He tilted his head. “What ever happened to your people, anyways? I mean, I know you said that they left you, but weren’t the city dwellers still around? And did you and Thanos really never try and track down the nomads?”

Miriam frowned, not liking to think too much about her past. There were plenty of good time with Ar’iaal, long before either of them had thought they’d be better off apart and murdering planets and people, but there was also a lot of pain. “The nomads didn’t stay on the same planet as the others. By the time they’d decided to leave Ar’iaal and me behind, we were already galaxies away from where we’d began. We used to find it fun to travel through space. It’s not like we needed any air or food or water or spacecraft. I have no idea where the nomads ended up after they left. But I do know that Titan, the colony we lived on, was completely destroyed. Presumably the people were all killed as well, but they could just be floating around in space somewhere.”

“What happened to it?”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “I was a complete menace, remember? After Ar’iaal left me, I felt more alone than I ever had in my entire life. I thought if I went back to Titan, I could be taken back in, and I’d be able to stay there with the other Eternals until Ar’iaal returned. But they wouldn’t have me. They claimed that I must’ve killed Ar’iaal, and were angry that they’d lost their only heir in the first place. They kicked me out, and I reacted badly. I told you I ate a planet, right? While I guess that was a bit of an exaggeration. It was more of a moon, really. I destroyed it, then ate every single bit of it. Why are you asking about the other Eternals?”

Loki reached up to stroke his chin. He must’ve decided that now wasn’t the time to get into the logistics of eating a moon, because he moved on to more important topics. “Well, I just thought that maybe if you could get enough of them gathered together, they’d be able to defeat Thanos together. But it sounds like he and you were not ordinary Eternals.”

Miriam shrugged. “I suppose in some ways we were stronger. But where they had large families of people who loved them, we only had each other, and that ended up turning out to be one of the worst imaginable weaknesses we could have. And even if I hadn’t acted so rashly back then, there’s no way that there’d be any Eternals willing to help me. None of them besides Ar’iaal ever liked me. You got any other ideas in that big brain of yours?”

There was a knock on the door that saved Loki from having to answer, since he didn’t have any solutions anyways. He went over to open the door, and saw R’lit, the man from the front desk, standing there. He held up a small packet of papers. “These are all the articles you requested. I hope they’re sufficiently helpful.” Loki gave the Esperosian a tip, then basically pushed him out of the room and slammed the door shut.

Loki opened the packet, and spilled the papers all out across the bed. “Any common information on where we may be able to find a fancy glove should be somewhere in this mess. Not really. Especially when the answer is so obvious.” She plucked up a clipped newspaper article about a gauntlet being put in a museum in a nearby city. “I’ve seen one exactly like this before. It was only a quick glimpse before I nearly died, but there was a glove like this in the treasure room on Asgard.”

Loki snatched the clipping out of her hand, and quickly scanned it. “Could it really be this easy? The Esperosians don’t seem to realize quite what they’ve got, they just know that it seems fancy. I don’t know what it does either, but you’re right. There’s definitely one in the treasure room. The one here was apparently donated by a random visitor from another planet, who disappeared the next day. It’s meant for a left five-fingered hand.”

Miriam grinned. “Sweet. So all I have to do is teleport into the museum, grab the glove, and teleport outside, where you’ll be waiting. Then I’ll grab you, and bring us to the nearest planet. It may seem a little disorienting, but I’ll have to do a bit of planet hopping before I can get you back on Asgard. If we head to that city right now, we can steal the gauntlet as soon as tomorrow night.”

“Stealing isn’t a very good answer.”

Miriam shrugged, not bothered by Loki’s reluctance. She had the feeling that it was only a token protest anyways. “It’s not like anyone was using it for any specific purpose. And besides, if we don’t steal it now and hide it somewhere safe, Thanos will take it himself soon enough and he’ll get something out of it that we don’t want him to have.” She took the clipping back from Loki, and peered at the grainy photograph closely. “Hm. Looks like there are little slots on the back of it. You could probably put something into those.” She blinked, then frowned. “Something like six little rocks full of immense power.” She looked back up at Loki. “Even without my power in them, those stones are strong. And it looks like Thanos could use this to use the power of all six of them at once. Loki, you haven’t seen what an Eternal can do at the height of their power, you’ve only heard my stories. But with all of these at once, I’m sure that Thanos could do literally anything he wants to do. Like literally anything.”

Loki frowned. “Well, I suppose for stealing something in order to save the universe from a murderous and power hungry alien, I can make an exception. Alright, let’s head to the city now. We can go into the museum tomorrow morning to look around and figure out the layout, and then you’ll be able to teleport to the gauntlet without bumping into any walls.”

Miriam raised one eyebrow. “Or even better, I could go in the museum in the morning, grab the gauntlet while I’m already in there, and then teleport away. Then I grab you, and we hit the road. Or the stars. Or however you would say that. I’ll drop you off on Asgard, and then I’ll grab Odin’s glove as well, and hide them both somewhere Thanos will never be able to find them. If Thanos tracks you down, explain that you did the best you could, but were unable to find it. We can do this. We can beat that bastard.”

Loki still looked unsure, but he wasn’t going to argue with the plan, since he knew that he probably wouldn’t be able to come up with anything better. Defying Thanos was dangerous, but somehow, now that Loki could just picture the Ar’iaal of all Miriam’s stories, Thanos felt more approachable. More defeatable. And Loki definitely wasn’t going to allow such a dangerous weapon to fall into Thanos’s hands, which is why he was willing to go along with this crazy plan. “Alright, let’s go.”

Chapter Text

Miriam looked around at the various displays inside the museum, and even after reading each of the little plaques, she had no idea how any of these things qualified as art. It was the same feeling she’d gotten the time that Thor had brought her to a Midgardian museum. It’s not like there was actually anything interesting in there. Maybe it was just a museum thing. Maybe they were all destined to be boring and pointless.

Though this particular museum at least had the decency of holding a single thing of value, which was nice. Not that there was any easy indication of where they’d be able to find the glove that Thanos was seeking. As she perused everything that she walked past, Miriam had to wonder why Thanos didn’t just come here himself if the glove was so easy to find. Did he not want anyone to figure out his plans? Or was there some other reason he’d chosen Loki as his lackey?

After a while, Miriam got tired of just wandering around in the very large building, and she went up to one of the Esperosians who was wearing a shirt that said ‘staff’ on the back. “Excuse me, but I saw an article about how you’ve got a gauntlet on display here that was left behind by an alien a little while ago. I was hoping you’d be able to tell me where I could find that? It sounds like it would be really neat to look at.”

The staff member sighed. “You’re the second one to have asked about that recently. And I’ll tell you the same thing I told the other one. We don’t have that in our possession anymore. Since it was just a rusty old glove, large and very useless, when a private buyer offered to take it off our hands for a large sum of money, it wasn’t exactly a tearful parting. No one ever wanted to see that piece of junk anyways.” He cleared his throat, and tried to look more chipper. “I do not mean to imply that everything in this place is junk, though. There are many other artifacts and artworks that I’m sure you’d find most pleasurable and fascinating to observe.”

Miriam clenched her jaw, feeling irritation fill up in the pit of her stomach. Of course it wasn’t going to be that easy. Miriam was half a million years old, and she’d never seen anything be that easy before. “Can you tell me who bought it?”

“Sorry, ma’am. But I’m afraid that they wanted to remain anonymous. And with the large amount of money they gave us, we’re certainly in no position to deny them that simple request. What’s so special about that thing anyways? Why are so many people interested in obtaining it? Except for that one who donated it in the first place, of course.”

Miriam turned away from the Esperosian while he continued to mutter to himself, trying to solve the mystery of the big old gauntlet. He was useless. This trip to the museum had been useless as well. And now Miriam felt bad for making Loki wait outside for so long, when he probably would’ve enjoyed some of the exhibits.

She walked out, and quickly found Loki in the spot behind the museum that they’d agreed upon earlier. He seemed surprised to see her slowly ambling towards him rather than simply appearing. “What’s wrong? Was it not safe for you to teleport out? Where’s the gauntlet?”

Miriam groaned softly. “It wasn’t there. Apparently someone bought it for a lot of money, and since the stupid locals didn’t even know that it was something of value in the first place, they handed it right over. So now we know even less than we did before. We don’t even know what planet the dang thing is on. We could just go and grab the one in Odin’s possession right now, but that would probably alert Thanos to our plans. Ugh, this is just a giant crap fest right now.”

They both stood there in awkward silence for a few minutes before Loki cleared his throat. “Perhaps we should simply return to Midgard now, and question my brother about the location of the aether. If we can get there quickly, before Thanos learns that I’m on the run from him, you could obtain more of your power, and be another step closer to being strong enough to defeat him.”

Of course Miriam wanted to get back all of her power as quickly as possible. But she knew that despite how much stronger she’d been than Ar’iaal before, now he’d be the one with the advantage. He had half of her power in his hands, which meant that he had an added boost, while Miriam was down by a lot. She wasn’t sure that it was even possible to defeat him with such little power.

But in the end, it had to be worth a try at least. She gave a solemn nod. “Alright. Prepare yourself, because this isn’t going to feel very pleasant. I’m going to take us to the nearest planet, and keep bouncing around from there until we reach our destination. Unfortunately not even I could cross the galaxy in a single leap. This shouldn’t take long though. You may interpret it as much longer because of the amount of leaping we’ll be doing. You may want to close your eyes.”

Then Miriam reached out and grabbed both of Loki’s wrists. He grabbed her wrists as well. He didn’t want to get pulled away and lost in space, since unlike Eternals, Asgardians would die without any oxygen or warmth. Though he was planning on keeping his eyes open, since this would be a unique learning opportunity. Since the tesseract had been powered by Miriam, did that mean her transportation method would feel the same way as using the tesseract had?

Before he could try and think of more questions, Loki felt a slight tug, and between one blink and the next, they were standing on entirely different terrain. He felt like in less than a second, he’d nearly died, like all his insides had been torn out, and then shoved back in. He glanced at Miriam, wondering if she felt the same way. She didn’t look particularly bad.

When she noticed him staring, Miriam gave a soft grunt. “I haven’t tried bringing someone along with me since before I lost all my power. A girl can get a little out of practice in ten thousand years. And besides that, you’re kind of heavy. No offense. At least I’m not trying to cart around Thor, because that would definitely make me throw my back out.”

Loki gulped. “I don’t feel very well right now. But that was such a fast transportation. Much faster than the tesseract ever went. I’ve seen you move quickly across small spaces, but I didn’t expect it to take the same amount of time to cross a space as large as the one between worlds.” He took a deep breath in, then slowly let it out. “Alright, I’m ready when you are.”

Miriam nodded. “Alright. Oh, and sorry about the slight dizziness. It’s from being completely exposed in open space, even though it’s only for a fraction of a second. It affects me too, but I’ve been bouncing back and forth between Asgard and Midgard for so long that even in this weak body, I hardly notice it. Come on. It might take longer, but it also might be easier to take a breather like this in between each stop.”

Loki shook his head. “I don’t think that would be beneficial. It’s a rather… unpleasant experience, and I’d rather get it all over with rather than psyching myself up each time. Stop and rest when you must, but otherwise let’s just go.”

The two of them grabbed each other’s wrists again, and Miriam nodded. “Sure. Let’s see how far I can go before I need to take a break. This should be fun.” A moment later their surroundings had disappeared, and Loki squeezed his eyes shut despite himself.

When he could feel solid ground beneath his feet again, Loki immediately pulled away from Miriam and dropped to his knees to vomit. While the tesseract had taken a bit more time, it had also been more gentle. He couldn’t even really describe the sensation of being whipped through so much space in such a short amount of time.

He looked up once his stomach had settled a bit, and saw Miriam leaning over, her hands resting against her thighs as she panted for breath. “Well, that was exciting. I got us all the way here without even stopping to ask for directions or anything.”

A moment later, Loki realized that they were indeed on Midgard, just outside the vast Avengers compound. He got to his feet, still feeling disoriented. His body was not meant to travel in such a quick and harsh manner, and he was sure he’d never forget that. It was quick and convenient, but if it was a choice, he’d pick to take almost any other means of transportation. He cleared his throat, and tried to keep his voice steady as he spoke. “So shall we seek out my brother?”

Miriam nodded. “Sure.” She started to head towards the building, and Loki hesitated only a moment before following her. His legs felt like jelly, but he wasn’t going to let on about that if he could help it.

The guards scattered around spotted them fairly quickly, and rushed over. “Miriam! Everyone’s been searching for you for days! Where have you been?” Then they looked at Loki with a mixture of curiosity and nervousness. “And what’s that?”

With a start, Loki realized that he was still disguised to look like an Esperosian. Perhaps that was for the best anyways. He wasn’t sure he’d be welcome into the compound as himself after everything he’d done to torment Midgard.

Miriam gave the guards what she thought was a winning smile. “Ah, it’s so nice to be home. This is my friend,” she purposely omitted mentioning a name or species. “And we just need to get inside and talk to the others. It’s pretty urgent. Is Thor around?”

One of the guards narrowed his eyes. “Thor is currently off planet, searching for both you and his brother. The others are out at the moment, but once I tell them you’re here, they should return shortly. Let’s head inside.”

No one seemed willing to touch what appeared to be a tall purple alien with four legs, three arms, and no eyes, so they simply followed closely and kept a stern eye on him. Miriam had to try and hold in her laughter at their reactions, since she couldn’t actually see what the disguise looked like, and could only see the pout on Loki’s normal blue face.

They got inside, and went straight to the conference room. Even after Miriam’s assurances that she’d keep an eye on her friend, two guards stayed behind while the others went to try and track down the Avengers. Miriam did feel a little bad about worrying everyone so much. She hadn’t expected to be gone for so long, and she hadn’t had time to leave behind a note.

It still felt strangely foreign to her, though. The idea that anyone would actually worry just because she’d disappeared for a few days. She wasn’t going to question why, though. She just leaned back in her seat, crossed her arms over her chest and waited. She didn’t even realize that she’d dozed off, exhausted from the effort of dragging an entire frost giant across the universe, until Loki flicked her in the shoulder.

Her eyes snapped open, and Miriam looked up at where Natasha, Steve, Rhodey, Sam, Vision, and Wanda were all standing. Thor would take a bit more time to return, but the others were there at least. They all had varying looks on their faces, and Miriam couldn’t be bothered to try figuring out what each one meant.

Instead, she stood up, and stretched her arms over her head. “Hey. You’ll never guess who I found.” She looked at the two guards. “Ah, the whole Avengers team is here. I don’t think you’re needed at the moment.” At Steve’s quick nod, the two of them filed out of the room. Then Miriam stared at the superheroes with wide eyes, and gestured to Loki. “I found him.”

Wanda raised one eyebrow. “I didn’t realize we were missing anything like that.”

Miriam frowned. “I found Loki.” Since she’d said who he was, Loki stood as well, and a moment later, appeared to the others exactly as they would recognize him. “So Thor doesn’t have to worry anymore. I actually successfully found him.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “That’s the only good news though. The reason he was missing is because Thanos kidnapped him.” That brought some looks of doubt and some looks of concern to the Avengers. “He wanted Loki to find a gauntlet that would allow him to use the power of all six stones at the same time. He doesn’t seem aware of the fact that I’ve already started taking back some of my power.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath in. She kept her eyes closed as she spoke, ready to disclose everything. Though the information wouldn’t really be relevant in how they could defeat Thanos, Miriam didn’t feel like lying or holding back anything that could come back to bite her later. “That’s not all. I’ve also discovered the identity of Thanos.”

Steve frowned. “What do you mean? We already know who he is.”

Miriam shook her head, and finally opened her eyes. “Well, maybe you do know who he is now,” she admitted. “But I found out who he used to be. I saw Loki’s memory of speaking with Thanos, and I recognized him immediately. The reason I was unnerved to hear of Thanos the first time was because that used to be my name. But I still thought it was merely a coincidence that connected me to him like that. I was wrong. When I looked into Loki’s mind, I saw someone I’d never be able to forget the face of. I saw Ar’iaal.”

Everyone in the room had heard at least one story of Miriam’s oldest and dearest friend, even though she tried not to speak of him very often since the pain of his departure and absence was still strong. Steve gulped. “Are you sure?”

Miriam nodded. “Yes. I can’t really judge him, I know. After all the horrible things I’ve done, he’s only taking his turn. Maybe that’s just how Eternals are. We’re destined to ruin lives and be bad people. What else are we supposed to do with the amount of time that we’re given? But that’s not even the part that hurts the most. I can’t believe he’s been awake and lucid long enough to become Thanos, but he never even bothered trying to find me.” She let out a soft sigh. “Anyways, I don’t think it matters much when it comes to beating him, but I just thought all of you should know so that I wouldn’t be hiding anything from you.” She grabbed Loki’s sleeve, and tugged him towards the door of the room. “We’re going back to Asgard for now. I’ll be back later to debrief you on everything that happened.”

As soon as they were out in the hallway, Miriam brought Loki and herself to Asgard like she’d said. She brought them straight into Loki’s room, since that the was the place she was most familiar with, and was only slightly surprised to see Thor sitting on the edge of Loki’s bed.

Thor jumped up, clearly very surprised to see both of the missing people he’d been worrying himself sick over, and he looked back and forth between the two. “So I guess Miriam found you then? Or did you find her?”

Miriam grinned. “Doesn’t matter. The point is that we’re both back now, and we’re both definitely leaving again very soon. But while we’re here, you wouldn’t happen to be able to give us access to the treasure room, would you?”

Thor frowned. “Why would you need that?” He shook his head. “Wait- where have you even been? What happened?”

Miriam shrugged. “Loki got kidnapped by Thanos, and I rescued him, and now we’re kind of on a mission that involves the throne room. We just plan on stealing something.” At Thor’s blank face, she laughed. “I’m joking, big guy! I just want a chance to look at that disgusting thing I slept in for ten thousand years to see if there’s any kind of clue that was left behind about where the rest of my stones are.”

Thor nodded. “Yes, of course I can help you with that. But afterwards we will need to talk at greater length about what transpired over the past several days. And you have to make sure Mother knows you’ve returned. She’s missed you very much.”

As Thor walked towards the treasure room, Miriam and Loki purposely lagged behind. Loki spoke in a soft whisper that Thor wouldn’t be able to hear. “What are you doing? I thought you were going to ask about the aether?”

Miriam responded in an equally quiet voice. “I will do that later. For right now, I’ve decided we should grab the other glove after all. Once we’re in there, you keep Thor distracted while I steal the gauntlet.”

Loki rolled his eyes, but he did nod his head after a moment. “Fine. I already agreed that stealing to prevent someone who’s practically the incarnation of evil from getting their hands on it is fine. Actually, I don’t mind stealing even if the situation isn’t quite so dire.”

Miriam scowled. “He’s not the incarnation of evil. As Thanos, he hasn’t even done a percent of all the shit that I have. And if I could be turned around the power the friendship and love and all that crap, then so could he. Now come on before your brother starts getting weird ideas in his thick head.”

They both hurried forward to catch up with Thor, and neither said another word about their plan. Stopping Thanos was going to be very difficult, if not literally impossible, if their only weapon against him refused to harm him.

Chapter Text

As they walked into the treasure room, Miriam felt an unexplainable wave of fear wash over her. There wasn’t anything in particular to be afraid of, especially because she was much weaker than she had been upon her last visit to this room. But she couldn’t help feeling frightened, though it was really more an echo of fear than anything.

She carefully avoided looking at the tomb she’d been trapped in for ten thousand years. Just a glance at it was sure to bring up too many memories of the nightmares she’d suffered while locked away, and now wasn’t the time to be getting hung up on her own memories. The future was too important to worry about things that had already happened.

And yet, she’d specifically told Thor that she planned on investigating what the Asgardians had intended to be her final resting place. It was going to be a bit difficult to convince him that that’s what she was doing when she couldn’t even look at the stupid thing. And even Thor wasn’t dumb enough to believe she could investigate something without going near it. Or if she could, she wouldn’t have needed access to the treasure room in the first place.

Luckily, thanks to whatever connection they had, or perhaps just their ability to think on the same wave length, Loki seemed to come to the same conclusion as Miriam. They were too close to Thor now for any kind of whispered conversation, and Miriam really should’ve tried discussing this before showing up on Asgard, but it was too late for that now.

Loki walked over to Thor, standing so that when Thor turned to look at him, he was looking away from Miriam. He spoke in a soft voice that Miriam was sure she wasn’t meant to hear. “Thor… Brother, may I speak with you about something of utmost importance?”

Thor nodded, and even though Miriam couldn’t see his face, she knew how happy he had to be to hear Loki refer to him as ‘brother’. “Of course. You know that you can speak with me about anything that passes through your mind.”

Miriam had to refrain from letting out a snort at that. She had no doubt that Thor was a smart enough guy, but she was pretty sure that most of the things Loki thought about would be far above the blonde prince’s comprehension.

While it was tempting to stay there and listen in on the conversation, which could have any combination of truths and lies in it in order to create a better distraction, Miriam knew that she had other priorities at the moment. She waited another few seconds just to be certain that Thor was paying no attention to her, and then she turned to look at her goal.

The glove was up on a pedestal, and it looked exactly like the one in the newspaper clipping. The one that had been purchased by some mysterious buyer. They’d have to remember to track down that asshole later, but for now, Miriam was just grateful that Thanos wasn’t the one with the glove in his possession.

She walked closer to the display, and could see the five grooves across the back that were clearly perfectly sized to hold little stones in them. Other than that, though, it just looked like a cheap metal glove, and Miriam couldn’t figure out what was so special about it that it would allow someone to wield so much power at once.

But then again, it wasn’t really relevant how it worked, since the goal was only to retrieve it, and hide it away somewhere Thanos would never find it, at least until they could figure out some way to use it against Thanos instead. Miriam reached up to grab the glove, and as soon as she’d brushed her fingers against it, she knew that her original assessment of it had been correct.

Whether Thanos had heard bad rumors, or this one in particular was just a fake, there was absolutely nothing special about this glove. Of course it wasn’t going to be able to harness or control the power of objects that had been around since the beginning of time itself. Even pathetic Midgardians had more power in a single molecule than this glove had in its entirety.

That was thoroughly disappointing. And yet, perhaps it could still be useful. If this glove looked identical to the one that Thanos wanted for himself, perhaps they could use it as bait? Not on Asgard, because Thanos probably wouldn’t be willing to risk himself like that, but maybe if they moved it to an easier to access location? Then again, Thanos had sent Loki to do his bidding when he’d heard of a rumor of his glove before, so it was most likely that he’d just send other minions to fetch the glove, and setting up a trap wouldn’t matter if all they did was capture an innocent person who’d been forced into doing the dirty work.

But if they let him fetch it through a minion, and it was brought back to Thanos, then Thanos might put all the stones in, and then put the glove on. If he actually believed that this was the real deal, it could very well end up getting him killed, or at the very least, severely incapacitated. Which was no more than he deserved, of course.

Then again, hadn’t Miriam done far worse than Thanos ever had? Ar’iaal had started off as a much better person than Miriam could ever hope to be, so didn’t that mean that there had to be a chance that he could change back to that person again? Sure he was currently trying for universal domination and destruction, but that didn’t mean that there was no hope. Miriam had destroyed entire planets of living beings, and now there were people who believed in her and her goodness. Of course those people were total morons, but still.

The point was that it was possible Thanos could turn around and become Ar’iaal again if they just gave him the chance to do so. Sure Miriam was pissed off that he’d stolen her name and never bothered trying to find her in the ten-thousand years she’d been napping in a treasure room, but that didn’t erase the hundreds of thousands of years of friendship that they’d shared.

Before Miriam could really make up her mind about what to do with the glove, she felt a hand rest on her shoulder, and she immediately tensed up. “It is a rather ugly thing, isn’t it? Why does that piece of armor interest you so much?”

Miriam shrugged. “It’s a completely worthless piece of garbage that’s been on display amongst priceless treasures for who knows how long. I suppose I’m simply curious as to how no one has ever discovered its truth worth in all the time that it has been resting here.” She gently dislodged Thor’s hand, then turned around to peer up at him.

He didn’t look particularly upset about her standing around and investigating something other than what she’d asked to be able to look at. “Why would you call it worthless? I’m sure that my father would not hold on to something for so long if it didn’t hold some kind of value.”

Miriam shrugged again. “People make mistakes. Especially idiotic Asgardians, no offense.” Thor grinned to show that none had been taken. “Though it does make you wonder. If this one’s a fake, who’s to say that the other one isn’t as well?”

“Other one?”

Miriam nodded. “It’s a glove, Thor. They usually come in pairs. Loki and I had almost found the other one, but it was whisked away by some private collector with a lot of money. But how do we know that that one was the real one? What if they’re both fakes and the real one is still out there somewhere? Or what if there are thousands of fakes to distract from the real one? Or what if no real one exists at all, and it was simply a story that was fabricated by some merchant in order to sell more of his wares?”

“Sorry, but I have no idea what you’re talking about right now.”

Miriam frowned. “What would you do if you lost your hammer, and then you heard that it was lying around in the equivalent of a dusty storage room somewhere?”

Thor tilted his head, and there was a pensive look on his face. “My first reaction is to say that I’d go and retrieve it immediately. But that would be a first reaction most people would make to finding out one of their important belongings that had been missing was now discovered. You wouldn’t have asked just to hear that as the answer. But I’m not sure what answer you are expecting to hear from me.”

But Thor’s hammer wasn’t the right analogy here, because as far as she knew, Thanos had never held the power of all those stones in his hands before, and he’d sent Loki after that glove based on a rumor. Thanos didn’t have the same kind of sentimental attachment to a glove he’d probably never even had in his possession before.

Even though she knew that it was a sudden change in topic, Miriam was tired of thinking about the glove. It was only sending her thoughts around in circles anyways, so there was really no point in worrying about it. “Thor, where’s the aether?”

The Asgardian looked understandably surprised by the question, but he managed to bounce back impressively quickly. “It was sent to a secure location after it caused so much trouble here on Asgard, and down on Midgard. No one is meant to know the exact location, because my father feared that it would lead to someone else finding it and falling to its temptations. Why do you ask?”

From that, Miriam understood that Thor knew exactly where it was, but wasn’t going to tell her anything unless she coughed up some information of her own. “It’s a powerful stone like thing, right? So it’s quite possible that it’s got more of my power in it, though I’d have to actually get closer to it to know for sure. And if it does have my power in it, then I’d quite like that back.”

Thor looked unsettled at the thought. “I wouldn’t even necessarily call it a stone. It’s quite unstable.”

“Even better then. Perhaps if it does hold my power in it, and I were to carefully extract it, it would stabilize the stone, and you wouldn’t have to worry about it causing so much trouble and destruction in the future.”

Even though Thor was frowning, Miriam had the feeling that he was going to give in to her request with just a bit more nudging. “I don’t know about that. It’s a very dangerous object, and there’s no guarantee that it has any of your power in it, and even if it does, it’s risky to let anyone get so close to it.”

Miriam clasped her hands together in what she understood to be the way Midgardians prayed to whatever god-like figure they believed to be watching over them. Of course, there were many beings in the universe far more powerful than the Midgardian image of a single god, but Miriam figured that the praying pose couldn’t hurt either way. “Please, Thor. I need to have all of my power back. Or at least as much as I can possibly get. If not to empower me, than to stop Thanos from getting his hands on it. I just recently discovered something very important about him, and I know that if I had all my power…” she trailed off, not really sure exactly what else needed to be said in order to convince Thor.

Apparently her speech was convincing enough already, because he had a slightly concerned look on his face. “What is it that you’ve discovered?”

Miriam took a deep breath in, then slowly let it out. Despite the fact she’d already shared this discovery out loud twice, and had been thinking of it every moment since it had taken place, it was still strange to actually say it. “Thanos was not always Thanos. He used to be Ar’iaal.”

Thor frowned. “Your friend? But how is that even possible? You don’t even look anything like what I’ve heard of Thanos in the stories, so how could you be the same species? And how would you even happen upon a discovery like that?”

“I believe that he is using his power to mask himself in order to appear big and strong to those he wishes to threaten and intimidate. But I am immune to such tricks, of course, and can see nothing of the frightening creature that others have described him as. I saw him in one of your brother’s memories, and I immediately recognized him. We were so close for so long that no matter how much time we’ve spent apart, I’d never be able to forget about it. No matter how much I might want to sometimes. But anyways, the point is that I refuse to let him grab up any more of my power than he already has. It simply isn’t fair. Don’t I deserve to get back what I’ve lost? The same way you’d want to retrieve one of your arms if it was severed from your body and thrown to the other side of the universe?”

Thor still didn’t look entirely convinced. “Look, I can understand and appreciate the fact that you want your powers back. Nobody can blame you for that. But like you said, it would be disastrous for Thanos to gain even more of your power than he already has. Right now, you don’t know where the aether is, and Thanos doesn’t know where the aether is. No one does. That means that it’s safe. If you head out and find it, even if you get to it first and get back your own portion of its power, the stone would still be there for Thanos to snatch up. I just don’t know if it would be such a good idea to offer up one of the things he’s searching for.”

Miriam crossed her arms over her chest. “If Thanos figures out how to fully control the three stones that he’s already got, we’re all completely screwed, and it won’t matter if he gets his hands on another one or not because he’ll have already one. If we are going to have any chance of defeating him, then we need as much power on our side as we can possible get.”

Thor’s shoulders slumped down, and he nodded once. “I cannot tell you where to find the aether-” Miriam immediately geared up to protest, but Thor just held up one of his hands to motion for her to wait a moment. “It isn’t because I don’t find you trustworthy, but because there are so many others who are not. However, I can take you to the place where the stone was left, and hopefully we can find it from there. Working together. Another reason I have for not telling you where to go is to prevent you from heading out and trying to deal with this on your own. I know that that’s the way you’re used to doing things, but that isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. You’re not alone, Miriam. I’m going to help you get your powers back.”

Loki clapped his hands together once, startling both Thor and Miriam, who’d somehow managed to forget that he was also still standing in the room. “Well that was a very sappy and touching little speech there. Please don’t tell me that you plan on leaving me out of the loop on this?”

Miriam quickly shook her head. “Of course not! You’re too excellent a partner in crime to try and ditch you.”

Thor laughed. “While I’m glad that that’s all settled, I don’t plan on heading out immediately. We could all do with some much-needed rest. And we should also head back to Midgard to let the other Avengers know that we are going before we leave so that they won’t worry the way they did before. I don’t know how many times you can disappear on them before you realize that they do actually care about your fate.

Miriam shrugged, unbothered by the gentle rebuke. “Hey, I would’ve at least left them a post-it note if I’d been planning on leaving for a while. It’s not my fault that Loki’s room tried to eat me and then drop me off on some planet on the ass-end of nowhere. You’d think all the stupider planets would’ve died off at some point in the last ten thousand years, but you’d be wrong.”

Loki rolled his eyes. “Well as absolutely riveting as this conversation is, Thor’s right. We should get some rest. We’ve all had some difficulties lately. And now that I’ve discovered how much I dislike your form of travel, I will let you say your goodbyes to the Avengers on your own. I suggest the three of us depart from here tomorrow afternoon, on a nice and sturdy ship.”

Miriam couldn’t help laughing. “What, did you get motion sick or something? I told you that you should’ve kept your eyes shut.” After a moment, she let out a yawn. “Yup, I’m beat. Just show me where I can take a quick nap before I pop down to Midgard to let everyone know what’s going on. You know what? Nevermind. I’m so tired that this floor right here looks plenty appealing to me. I really did a lot more traveling around than I have in a while, so it was draining.”

Loki sighed, and reached out to grab Miriam’s upper arm. “Come along. I’m sure that Odin wouldn’t appreciate you sleeping in his treasure room. He hardly trusts you to be around the palace with adult supervision.”

“Oh shut it,” Miriam muttered. “I’m way more adult-y than anyone on this entire planet.”

Loki shook his head. “You’re older than anyone on this planet,” he corrected. “But you’re certainly not more of an adult. Now come on before you actually pass out, because if you did, I’d drag you just outside of the throne room, and then leave you there.”

Miriam shrugged. “I’d be fine with that,” but even as she said that, she knew that it would be lovely to sleep on a big comfy bed. “But I guess I’ll keep you company anyways, just out of the kindness of my heart.”

Thor had an amused look on his face as he heard the exchange. “I’m glad to have introduced the two of you. It is wonderful to see two people I care about who also care about each other.”

“Yeah, whatever, let’s just sleep.” Miriam let herself be dragged off down the halls, and she found that she didn’t even bother to think any murderous thoughts towards the Asgardian guards who patrolled the palace. Maybe she really was improving as a person. Or maybe she really was just too tired to bother thinking about much. Either way was fine with Miriam.

Chapter Text

Miriam woke up, and rolled over, falling off of the comfortable bed she’d been resting on, and right on top of Loki, who’d apparently decided that the gentlemanly thing to do would be to sleep on the floor and give her the bed. But then he slept right next to the bed? Miriam didn’t even remember going to sleep, but she was sure that if she’d been awake enough last night, she would’ve argued with Loki about his poor life decisions. If he really thought about it, it was his own fault that there was now a person on top of him.

And apparently Loki had not prepared himself for this possibility, because he whipped out a small dagger and would’ve thrust it right in between a couple of Miriam’s ribs if she hadn’t ducked out of the way in time. “Seriously? You’re the one who insisted that you don’t mind sharing a room, but then you try to kill me?”

Loki blinked a few times, and he reminded Miriam a bit of a Midgardian kitten just rising up from a restful nap. “What?” He dropped his dagger so that he could reach up and rub at his eyes. “Sorry, but why did you think tackling me in my sleep would ever be a good idea? It would’ve been your own fault if I’d just stabbed you to death.”

Miriam clamored to her feet. “Yeah, yeah, whatever. You don’t look threatening at all. Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to pop down to Midgard to say goodbye to my friends.” She paused for a moment, staring straight ahead. “Huh. It’s weird to have friends, plural. I can’t even remember the last time that that happened.”

The annoyed look on Loki’s face softened to something kinder. “Yes, go tell your friends that we will be absent for a while. They are the rather nosy sort who would find it inappropriate to not know where you are at any given moment.”

Miriam stretched her arms up over her head and let out a loud yawn. “Can’t really blame them. I mean, now that you know me, would you ever want to have to go through a single day without being able to see me?”

There was a teasing grin on her face, but Loki answered in a more serious voice. “I would not, if only because that means that you’re bound to get yourself into some kind of trouble without anyone there to supervise you.”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “Don’t make it weird. I’ll be right back.” Truthfully, she didn’t like the serious tone to Loki’s voice when he was saying something that could just as easily be said as a joke. Being serious was just too much work.

A moment later, she was back in the Avengers compound. Although she must not have been paying too much attention while traveling, because she ended up appearing several feet above the ground. Before she could start falling, she blinked, and appeared on the ground itself. She wasn’t in the mood for any more broken bones. They were too much of a pain in the ass.

Steve had been sitting on the couch, watching whatever was playing on TV, but he was instantly on alert mode when Miriam appeared. It was only after he saw who it was that he relaxed. “Are you ready to explain how you managed to find Loki?”

Miriam had already forgotten that she’d promised to share everything with the Avengers. Well, Loki had said that they’d be leaving in the afternoon, and it would take her hardly any time at all to get back to Asgard, so she figured that she had enough time to clear up a few things. “Yeah, that’s definitely why I came back here.” She grinned. “You’re an early riser, aren’t you? Most of the other Midgardians seem to have some kind of complaint against those who rise before the sun does.”

Steve shrugged. “I’ve always been the type of person who goes to bed early and wakes up early. There were less nighttime activities in my time, so it’s just what I’ve gotten used to. And it’s nice to be able to go out running without worrying about being suddenly needed back here.”

Miriam tilted her head. “I thought that crime never sleeps?”

“I don’t think that’s true. I mean, even you sleep, and you’re supposedly an all-powerful being, right?”

Miriam crossed her arms over her chest. “I take great offense to that ‘supposedly’. I am an all-powerful being, no argument needed. And yeah, I need sleep now, because my body isn’t strong enough to sustain itself for long periods of time without getting a chance to restore itself to normal, but that wasn’t always the case. Before the poopy Asgardians took my powers away, I never had to sleep. It was usually something we did anyways, because it helped us keep track of the passage of time, and it helped when we were bored and had nothing better to do.”

It was obvious that Steve was trying not to laugh too hard at something, but he seemed to be failing. “I’m sorry, that’s really interesting and all, but did you just say ‘poopy Asgardians’? What are you, six?”

Obviously the proper response to that was for Miriam to stick out her tongue at Steve. “Hey, I’m still trying my best to not like, murder all of them. Baby steps, you know?”

Before Steve could let out what would no doubt be a very witty rejoinder, the annoying alarms that signified some kind of problem went off. Steve groaned. “Heck, maybe crime doesn’t ever sleep.”

There was no point in feeling smug about being right in this case, or rather there was, but Miriam was willing to be the better person and not go for a teasing ‘I told you so’. It didn’t look like Steve would really appreciate it at the moment. Though there was something else he might appreciate, since he wasn’t currently wearing anything remotely resembling his usual Captain America star-spangled outfit.

So she grabbed his arm and brought him to his room so he could change without having to worry about the slow waiting time of the elevator. Then she decided to pop around to see everyone else, to make sure that they were ready to go out and face whatever it was that had set the alarm off. And Miriam figured that since she was here at the moment anyways, she’d probably go out with them to help. She still had several hours until Thor and Loki would be taking off from Asgard, so she didn’t think the distraction would be too big of a deal.

Natasha and Vision were the only ones who’d already been awake, though Miriam wasn’t even going to begin to guess what they spent their early morning time doing. All of the others had clearly been woken up by the alarms if the bleary looks on their faces were anything to go by.

Miriam was pretty sure that this was her first time actually going into the private rooms of the various Avengers, and she decided that she’d have to come back at some point when she had more time on her hands so that she could thoroughly investigate each of them. From their daily squabbles and the way they each acted, some of the parts of their stories were clear, but overall, Miriam didn’t actually know all that much about these superheroes. Though in some ways it was fair, because they barely knew anything at all about Miriam. It was hard to sum up so many years of life, and the few flashes Wanda had seen didn’t even come close.

It didn’t take as long as Miriam would have expected for all the Avengers to be gathered in the parking garage, ready to take off and deal with whatever threat had arisen while they slept. Though some of them obviously still looked tired, since they didn’t know what the threat actually was, they figured that it was better to bring the whole team just in case. Miriam was glad to go with them, because she didn’t want any of them to get killed because they were too tired to dodge out of the way in time.

Steve, Natasha, Wanda, and Miriam all crammed themselves into a car together, while the other three flew over them. Miriam could have just teleported herself to the location of the threat, but she wasn’t stupid enough to think she was invincible in her current state, and she didn’t want to wind up dead.

As they drove, the other three all looked like they were focusing all of their concentration on driving, weapons, and thinking, so she figured that now wasn’t the best time for a conversation. Though it would be easiest to double up and tell them about her adventure finding Loki right now, so that she wouldn’t have to do it after this mission and wind up late. She was pretty sure that Thor and Loki wouldn’t leave without her, since they had no real investment in getting the aether in their own hands, but on the other hand, Loki might decide to take off just to be a dick. They were friends, but that didn’t stop Loki from being rather insufferable at times.

Wanda seemed to be the first to notice that something was on Miriam’s mind, since she had only been staring off into space, and not doing anything in particular. She was also the one sitting next to Miriam in the back of the car, which probably helped. She gently nudged Miriam with one elbow. “Is everything alright? You look as though you are thinking about something.” She spoke softly, probably not wanting to interrupt Steve’s driving skills, or Natasha who was messing around with one of her guns.

Miriam smiled. “Isn’t everyone always thinking about something?”

Wanda rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean. You know you can talk to me, right? I understand that you are far older than I am, but you look younger than me, so I can’t help wanting to take on a sis- a helpful role here.”

Miriam tilted her head at the slip-up in Wanda’s words. Miriam wasn’t exactly an expert with the English language, but she could think of very few words that started with ‘sis’, and all the ones she could think of were variations of sissy and sister. It seemed unlikely that Wanda would want to call herself a sissy, though based on her accent it would seem that English wasn’t her first language, so it was possible. Miriam still didn’t understand why a single planet would have so many different cultures and languages, but that was besides the point.

If Wanda had been trying to say something about being a sister, then why hadn’t she just said it? Miriam had never had siblings before, so she wasn’t sure exactly of what that kind of relationship entailed, but she figured that it was something along the lines of her relationship with Loki. And if that were the case, why would Wanda be so hesitant about it?

Unless Wanda was already someone’s sister, and had had a bad experience of it. Now wasn’t the time to ask about that kind of personal stuff, though. While it would be interesting to learn more, since Wanda had so rudely tried to learn all about Miriam back during their first meeting, Miriam didn’t want anyone to be off their game while they were going up against an unknown threat.

It really was quite strange to think about the fact that Miriam had first come to this planet kicking and screaming- or at least close as she could get with her limited mobility at the time- and had hated all of the Avengers and the idea of a handful of Midgardians actually being able to defend an entire planet. And now here she was, ready to fight side by side with them. And Miriam couldn’t even pick out any specific moment that had led her here. She wondered if Ar’iaal would want to fight with them too once she got the chance to talk to him in person. If she could change so much then anyone could, right?

After a moment, Miriam realized that Wanda was still staring at her expectantly, waiting for some kind of response about how she was at the moment. She let out a soft sigh. “Just thinking about stuff, you know? I can still hardly believe that my Ar’iaal has become such a monster, nearly as bad as me, and that he stole my name on top of it. It’s easier when it comes to me. I’ve always been inherently evil. It’s why my family left, because they knew what I would become. But Ar’iaal was always so different. He kept me grounded, and I would’ve gone rotten a whole lot sooner if it weren’t for him. But when did he change? There’s so much time we were apart that it could have happened in that I can’t even begin to take a guess. I just wish that I’d been there for him, the way that he’d always been there for me.” She peered at Wanda out of the corner of her eye, and saw that the girl was giving her her complete attention. “I’m scared,” she admitted quietly. “To see him like he is now. I know that physically I’ll only see him as Ar’iaal, but I’ll still know that he’s Thanos now. And I hate myself for being afraid. I’m an ancient being with so much power; I shouldn’t be afraid.”

Wanda unbuckled her seatbelt so that she could scoot closer to Miriam and pull the Eternal into a hug. “It’s alright to be scared,” she whispered. “Everyone’s got to be scared of something. But don’t go freaking yourself out so soon. This threat that we’re going to face now isn’t Thanos. If it was, we’d definitely know about it. You just have to get through one mission at a time, and you’ll be alright.”

Miriam reached up to wipe at her eyes. “This is hell,” she said through gritted teeth. “Before a year ago, I’d never cried, and now it feels like it’s all that this weak body of mine can do.”

Wanda seemed to want to say something else, something that would probably sound wise beyond her years and a proper amount of comforting, but the car suddenly slammed to a stop. “Alright people, what the heck is that?”

Miriam and Wanda both leaned over the the front seats to try and look out the window to see whatever it was that Steve was looking at. From what Miriam could tell, it was a giant pink blob. That was all there seemed to be to it. But as they watched, it landed on top of a car. When it moved away a few seconds later, the car was nowhere to be seen, and the blob had grown a bit bigger.

Miriam cracked her knuckles, and got out of the car without bothering to open the door. She’d seen something similar to this before, though it had been such a long time ago that she could barely even remember it. What made this pink blob unique was that halfway up it’s body, was a few dark lines that seemed to form a frowny face. If it weren’t going around eating cars, Miriam would almost say that it looked adorable.

While the others were scrambling out of the car, and quickly huddling up with the three that had flown here to discuss a plan, Miriam appeared right next to the blob. The Avengers already had a system of working together, and Miriam wasn’t sure how well she’d fit in with them without more team practice, so she decided that for now she’d go solo.

Of course this would be much easier if it were back in the days when nothing could hurt her, and she probably could’ve swallowed this blob for lunch. She appeared in the air up by what looked like a drawn-on face, and then appeared on it’s other side before she could fall. Miriam couldn’t actually fly, but this was pretty fun on its own; to just constantly appear in midair and then disappear to a different spot in the air before she could start to fall.

Even more amusing was the way that it seemed to confuse the hell out of the pink blob. Down on the ground, Miriam could hear someone call out, “Pepto Bismol!” and she wondered if they’d encountered this creature before and knew it’s name. Because even though it looked similar to a creature she’d encountered in the past, up close she could see that this thing had clearly been manufactured. Midgardians really were too clever for their own good sometimes.

She reached out to punch the blob, mostly just to see what would happen and not because she thought that it would actually bring the creature harm. The blob parted for her hand like she’d just punched a bowl full of toothpaste. It was when she went to retract her hand that she noticed the problem.

The gel-like substance that made up the blob clung tightly to her hand, and when she fell, she felt a rough yanking sensation a moment before she realized that she was dangling from the blob by just one arm. When she wiggled around to try and tug herself free, her feet got stuck as well.

Miriam rolled her eyes in annoyance, and teleported back to the ground near the blob’s… feet? There weren’t any specific limb shaped entities attached to the creature, but they were on the ground so she decided to assume that the blob was standing on some kind of blobby feet.

Unfortunately the gel that she’d been stuck to before was now stuck to her, and no matter how hard she shook her hand or kicked her feet, she couldn’t dislodge it. She walked over to the Avengers, who’d left their huddle but hadn’t actually started doing anything to try and attack the Pepto Bismol, as they’d referred to it as.

“This was definitely made by one of your people,” she helpfully informed them. “And it’s very gluey, so you probably shouldn’t touch it-”

Apparently Sam was a bit of a moron because he reached over to prod at the gel. He immediately recoiled and let out a soft hiss. Everyone watched as the goo on his fingertip quickly melted away his glove. He yanked off his glove and threw it away from him, looking down at his finger in concern. There was an angry red burn there, but it was small enough to not cause much problems for him, and would probably fade by the end of the day.

After seeing that, though, the other Avengers looked at Miriam with wide eyes. She could understand their concern, since the gel was covering her bare hand and bare feet- apparently she’d forgotten to pull on some shoes before leaving Loki’s earlier- and she wasn’t being burnt at all. Miriam silently cheered, since this was obviously yet another sign that it was possible for her to be returned to her former glory.

Steve blinked a few times, then cleared his throat. “Alright, so we need to defeat it without touching it, and without doing anything that might splatter it around, right?” When Miriam nodded once, Steve gave her a small smile before barking out orders to the other superheroes. They all immediately moved into the positions that they’d just been assigned, and Miriam found it odd. She couldn’t imagine willingly doing what someone else commanded her to do.

And Steve must have figured that out on his own, because he hadn’t actually told Miriam to do anything. There was no way that he considered her down for the count, and she was the only one who could risk getting close to the thing. She might end up losing her clothes, but that wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen to her.

Miriam tilted her head as she stepped back and studied the blob creature. The heroes were flinging projectiles towards it, many of which exploded upon impact. The pieces on the ground didn’t seem to be sentient, they just burnt through what they touched. She looked down at her hand, and saw that the gel was hardening into a dark red solid. When it was completely red, the same color as spilled Midgardian blood, she was able to smash it against the side of a building, and it fell apart in a dusty mess, sort of like plaster. She continued to stare at it, but it didn’t reform or freshen up at all.

She smashed off the bits on her feet, and grinned. Whatever pieces were separated from the main mass went bad after a few minutes of being kept apart, which meant that exploding the thing into lots of little pieces would be their best bet. It would still eat away at the stuff it landed on, but the damage would be minimal, and would only persist for a short amount of time.

Miriam appeared next to Natasha, and grabbed one of the grenades that were hooked to her belt. Before the woman could accuse her of thievery, she looked up at the blob, and appeared inside of it. Immediately, her senses were overloaded. Her eyes were stinging from being pressed up against the goo, and she felt like she couldn’t breath, and her movements were very slow.

But she did spot a solid looking chunk in the center of the thing. She went back out, heaving in deep gulps of air, and cursing the fact that she needed it. Then she pulled the pin out of the grenade, since she knew she wouldn’t be able to move her arms around quick enough inside the blob, and appeared right next to the solid bit. It was located directly behind the cute little frowny face.

Miriam forced her arm forward enough to jam the grenade into a small crevice of the electrical box that clearly powered the thing, then appeared back out of it again. A moment later, instead of a loud explosion, there was a muffled sounding pop, and then she realized the flaw in not telling the others about her plan.

She quickly teleported around, grabbing each of the Avengers and chucking them somewhere safe, along with a few stupid Midgardians who’d thought they’d just go around and look at the monster that could’ve potentially killed them.

From where they had been relocated to, they could all see the bits of the blob raining down around them. A couple minutes later, Miriam could see that the stuff had shifted from pink to dark red, and she felt that it was safe to approach.

At the scene of the explosion, she saw the charred remains of the electrical box, along with lots of dusty red powder and chunks lying around. The Avengers caught up with her soon enough, and Natasha gave her a disapproving look. “That stuff is toxic to us. You could’ve gotten us all killed.”

Miriam shrugged. “But I didn’t, and none of you are even hurt beyond a few small burns that you got during your own attacks, and the Pepto Bismol is dead, so there’s nothing to worry about here.”

Sam sucked in a sharp gasp of air before laughing loudly. “The what?”

Miriam frowned, and crossed her arms over her chest. “Isn’t that what you called it before?”

“Yeah, because it’s the same color as a medicine called Pepto Bismol. I wasn’t trying to officially christen it or anything.”

Steve clapped one hand over Miriam’s shoulder a moment before pulling back, unsure if he wanted to touch the hardened goo that covered her entire body. At least it was dark enough that it hid the fact she was completely naked. “Well, I guess we should be grateful for you stepping in like that. It is lucky that it didn’t harm you at all. You might want to head back to the base though, and find some new clothes or something.”

Miriam chuckled at the uncomfortable look on the man’s face, before she remembered that according to Midgardians she looked like a child still, and then she could understand the uncomfortableness. She went back to the compound, straight to her room. She bounced herself off of the walls a few times until all of the hardened goo had been broken off, and then she took a quick shower before getting dressed and going back to the common room. A quick glance at the clock showed that she still had some time before it was afternoon, and she had promised to tell the Avengers about a lot of stuff. She settled down on the couch while she waited for the heroes to return so that she could then be on her way to collect more of her power.

Chapter Text

Miriam got through her debrief surprisingly fast. It was probably highly helpful that she managed to share the perfect amount of detail without it being too much, and without the Avengers feeling the need to ask too many clarifying questions. Though she wasn’t sure why they all got an embarrassed look when she mentioned sleeping in Loki’s bed. They were friends, and he’d let her use his bed many times before. It was just another thing that made Midgardians so very odd.

When she finished wrapping up her story of pretty much everything that had happened since the last time that she’d spent longer than five minutes in the presence of the Avengers, she brought herself back around to her current business. “And that is why Thor is taking me to find the aether, since it’s likely one of the rocks with my power in it, and the more powerful that I am, the greater a chance we’ve got when we go up against Thanos.”

That declaration was met with an uncomfortable silence that stretched out way too long. It was finally broken by Natasha, but the gentleness in her voice immediately had Miriam on edge, since the red headed woman was never gentle. “Are you really sure that that’s such a good idea? We don’t know how much power Thanos already has, so for all we know, you having half your power back isn’t going to be enough to defeat him. And there’s the fact that he was your friend for a very long time. Do you really think that you could go up against him in a fight to the death?”

Miriam frowned at the ridiculousness of that question. “No, of course not. Who said anything about fighting to the death? If I beat him down hard enough, then I can take the opportunity to talk to him.” It felt odd to have so many blank stares directed at her, and she cleared her throat. “I mean, just look at me. I’m insane. I’ve killed more people than you could count in your entire short lifetimes. I’ve caused too much damage and destruction for anyone to ever completely recover from it. And now here I am, trying to help you defend your planet, and I’m not even going around and murdering all of the Asgardians I come across, no matter how insufferable some of them are.”

Steve sighed heavily. “We understand that you’ve changed a lot, though we’ve never actually met you while you were still at your full power, but I can assure you that we’re all so very proud of how far you’ve come, just since the first time we met you. But not everyone is capable of that kind of change. No matter whether you get the aether or not, you wouldn’t be able to take back whatever power of yours Thanos has already taken, and he’ll probably be the victor. I’m not trying to sound morbid, but you probably won’t be able to get strong enough to beat him, at least not on your own, and even if you were, I don’t think he’d be willing to listen to reason.”

Miriam narrowed her eyes. “You’re right; you never knew me when I was at the height of my power. Do you really think that any of you would’ve been able to encourage any sort of change in me if I hadn’t been at my very weakest and most pathetic when we’d met? If the circumstances were normal, I would’ve just blown up this entire planet, and all of Asgard on top of that, and there wouldn’t have been anything that anyone could’ve done about it, and I wouldn’t have let any of you talk me into actually doing heroic things.”

Steve nodded urgently. “Exactly! And now Thanos is in that exact position! He’s at his most powerful, so why would he ever listen to anyone when he could just destroy them within a few seconds anyways?”

“He’ll listen to me,” Miriam said with more confidence than she really felt. What would she even do with herself if it turned out that even Thanos’ oldest and greatest friend wasn’t enough to talk him down from whatever insanity he planned on going through with? Well, it would certainly tell her for sure what the truth of their relationship was. He had never searched for Miriam in the entire time she’d been sleeping in Odin’s throne room, and he was the one who’d left her in the first place, so what if he was satisfied with his current life? What if he just wanted to destroy everything in the universe and just spend the rest of eternity floating around in space and doing nothing? But she couldn’t think about. “If I was strong enough to catch his attention, he would at least listen to me.”

Everyone was still staring at her with uncertainty, and she crossed her arms over her chest as she waited for someone else to try and oppose her. Wanda took a step forward. “I think that all of us agree that you shouldn’t go for the aether. You said that it’s likely one of yours, which means that you don’t even know for sure. It seems like too much of a risk. And even with it, you’d be at half your normal power while Thanos is above his normal power.”

Somewhere in the worried sounding words was probably some semblance of good advice. But as she’d always been wont to do, Miriam only heard the parts that interested her. “So none of you want me to go after the aether, even though there’s a strong possibility that it could help me gain back some of my power, right? The power that I was born rightfully with and feel like a cripple without? I know what’s really going on. You’ve heard me talk about how horrible I was at full power, and you’ve heard plenty about how horrible Thanos is with his full power. You just want to stop me from getting stronger because you’re afraid that I’ll turn back into the monster that I was before.”

That got a few looks of shock, but Miriam couldn’t tell if they were surprised that she’d figured it out, or just startled by the accusation. She didn’t care. Steve shook his head adamantly. “That’s not at all what we’re trying to say, Miriam. I know that good and bad deeds don’t cancel each other out, and even if they did, you’ve had a lot more years of bad deeds for the few things you’ve done here to really change that. But you helped anyways, because you are a good person. You just went too long without any guidance, or friends. But that’s different now. You’re different now. We all believe in you, and believe that you’re a good person. Having more power won’t make you suddenly evil; it’ll just make you the same person you are now, but stronger.”

Miriam’s shoulders slumped down. “Whatever. I don’t care what you all have to say about it. Thor already agreed to take me, and there’s no way that I’m going to back down. Any opportunity I get to restore myself to normal is one that I’m going to take, no matter what the risks are. And when I kick Thanos’ ass, and then make him go back to being the sweet and caring guy that he was before, you’re all going to realize that I was the one who was right.”

Steve looked like he wanted to say something else, probably something about how they were all a team, and they should make team decisions, or something equally weird like that. Miriam didn’t even really feel like a part of the team. The rest of them had only gotten in the way when she’d been the one to stop that weird jelly monster earlier.

Since she didn’t really care to hear anything else that the Avengers had to say, she had no problem with going back to Asgard. She was probably getting closer to when Loki had wanted to leave, anyways. Even though he hadn’t set any specific time, he was sure to get annoyed if she was late. He was odd like that. But it wasn’t a frost giant thing or whatever, that was definitely just a Loki thing.

She stood in Loki’s room a moment later. It’s the place she was most familiar with in the palace, and on the entire planet in general. Loki wasn’t in there, though he probably had wards set up that let him know when people were in his quarters, because other than the time he’d been on the other side of the universe, he usually showed up within a few minutes of her.

There was no point in waiting around though, since she already knew what the plan was. She started towards the treasure room. It probably would’ve been easier to just appear directly there, but she’d only been there once- well technically twice but she’d been so out of it at the time that it didn’t really count- and she hated the feeling of being stuck in things. Even though it was easy enough to get out of that kind of mess, it was overall a very uncomfortable feeling, and the few times it had happened had been pretty painful as her body attempted to occupy the same space as another object.

When she reached the doors to the treasure room, she saw that Thor was already there, chatting with a pretty looking Asgardian. When Miriam cleared her throat to announce her presence, the stranger glanced over her shoulder, and raised one eyebrow. “Can I help you with something?”

Miriam immediately didn’t like the woman. “Actually, yes. Your boyfriend and I were just about to head out on a romantic journey through the stars.”

Thor got out, “There’s really nothing romantic about the stars,” at the same time the stranger spluttered, “He is not my boyfriend!”

Well, since Miriam didn’t actually care to have any kind of romantic claim over Thor (or really anyone, ever), she found herself with nothing but amusement from that exchange. “Then you won’t mind that we’re leaving today and probably won’t be back for a while.”

The woman clenched her jaw, but then she took in a deep breath, and nodded once. “Of course not. Thor’s adventures are great, but they are many, and I have had my share of them.”

Miriam smiled sweetly. “Sounds divine, darling. Catch you around later.” She might’ve jumbled up the Midgardian phrase, but the point went across quite well, and the woman stormed away after giving her a quick scowl.

Thor seemed entirely oblivious to anything that had just happened, and Miriam found that to be the most amusing thing of all. “Dude, you’re not even going to find it flattering that two girls were just fighting over you?”

Thor furrowed his eyebrows. “I did not see any battle take place. And as I already hold a rather lovely romantic entanglement, I find myself not looking at any other woman as anything other than a friend. But I feel I must point out that if you find yourself having feelings towards me, I would have to gently decline, as your young looks, combined with me already having a love would be quite inappropriate-”

Miriam let out a loud laugh when she just couldn’t keep it in any longer. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to try and fight your girl. Though if it wasn’t that woman who was so clearly hanging onto your every word, then who is it? Is it someone on the team? Anyone I’d know?”

Loki’s voice suddenly drawled out of nowhere, “His beau is a very feisty Midgardian. She is the one who held the aether even before anyone else that I know of.”

The idea of a mere mortal being able to have possession of the stone made Miriam wonder if it really was one of hers. A normal Midgardian shouldn’t be able to hold anything so powerful in their hands, and if that was the case, then the stone wasn’t powerful enough to be one of hers. Though she figured that it would still be worth it to take a trip and find out for sure. It would be stupid to discover later that she’d missed out on her own power because of laziness.

Thor seemed distracted, lost in happy thoughts, at the mention of his lover. “I will have to introduce you two at some point upon our return. She is a very amazing person, and I’m sure that the two of you would get alone. She’s a very inquisitive type, and would likely have many questions about your physiology, but even more questions about your home planet.”

Miriam shrugged. “I’d be happy to meet her, but no one can really investigate my home planet. It’s nothing but atoms floating around independently at this point.”

Loki laughed. “As fascinating as that is, and as much as I just love talking about Thor’s lady love, would it perhaps not be a more suitable use of our time to take off? Since Thor is the only one aware of our destination, we don’t know exactly how long it will take to arrive, and I for one would like to just get this mission over with.”

Miriam pretended to look offended by that. “Really? You just want to get it over with so that you don’t have to worry about spending too much time with me?” Then she grinned. “Oh, I get it. You’re afraid that if you spend too much time in my awesome presence, you’ll never be able to go through a single day without being able to rest your eyes on my beautiful visage?”

Loki reached up dramatically. “Oh, how ever did you figure out my darkest secret? I fear that I won’t survive if I get too greedy with your time, and whatever would I do when you return to Midgard?”

Instead of trying to say anything back, Miriam just started giggling, and Loki joined her a moment later. Thor didn’t seem entirely sure of what had just happened, but he appreciated a good time as much as anyone, and he joined in with the laughter.

It felt good to just stand there and laugh until her stomach ached, and then go a little longer. Of course, nothing they’d just said was really that funny, but sometimes when someone could use a good laugh, the littlest thing could end up setting them off.

Finally, Loki cleared his throat, and forced a serious expression on his face. “All joking aside, we really should head out quickly.”

Thor nodded in agreement. “Of course. Let’s go to the ship. I took the liberty of picking one out earlier, and placed some rations and medical supplies aboard for us, along with my own belongings, and I believe Loki already put his things there.”

It hadn’t even occurred to Miriam that she might want to pack some clothes, but she decided that if she really felt the need for a change, she’d just borrow a pair from one of the brothers who were accompanying her. The only clothes she had were the ones she’d been given by the Avengers anyways, and all of them made her feel a bit childish. Not that parading around in things that were too big would be much better, but she didn’t really care.

It didn’t take very long for the three of them to settle into the ship that Thor had picked out, though it did take a few minutes for Thor and Loki to finish arguing over which buttons they were supposed to be pressing. Miriam glanced over at the control panel only once, and immediately decided that it was far too complicated for her. The technology she was used to was far different from the current level of tech, and overall, she’d rarely ever used ships in the past anyways, thanks to her handy ability to just teleport around.

But then after the argument settled down, they finally took off, and were away from Asgard’s atmosphere in a pretty short amount of time. It wasn’t until they were out in the vast blackness of space, with no other planets anywhere in sight, that Loki politely asked his brother, “And you did tell the all-father that we were heading out, right?”

There was a conspicuously long pause before Thor responded with, “I thought that you did.”

Loki let out an exasperated sigh. “Why would I do that? You’ve always been the favored child of his, mostly because you’re the only child of his, and he would’ve been much more accepting of it had you been the one to ask for permission.”

Thor shrugged, not seeming too bothered by the development. “We are both adults, and perfectly capable of going out on an adventure without permission.”

Loki narrowed his eyes. “It isn’t the ‘going on an adventure’ part that I think he’d have a problem with. He’d probably be more concerned with the fact that you’re taking us to the aether, which you and he both agreed to hide away forever so that no one could ever benefit or be harmed from its powers.”

“Hm,” Thor hummed under his breath for a moment before answering. “In that case, I believe that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission anyways, so I don’t think that we should worry too much about it.”

Loki opened his mouth to speak again, but Miriam cut him off. As entertaining as she found it to watch people argue with each other, she had the feeling that this entire trip would be completely unbearable if they couldn’t start it off on a high note. “Alright, settle down, that’s enough from both of you. Why do you guys only get along sometimes?”

Of course Loki was the one who responded petulantly, “Perhaps those are the times when we spend a mere handful of minutes together. Now we are enclosed in a small space for at least several days.”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “I could’ve taken us myself if Thor had been willing to cough up the location. I might have even been able to try transporting this entire ship, though again, that would require at least some basic knowledge of where we’re going.” Loki looked impressed by the claim, but when Miriam had all her powers, she’d been able to move around a lot more than a little ship. She’d once stolen one of the moon’s from some planet just to mess with the residents of the planet. It had been pretty epic, and Miriam had been pleased with herself for years after that. But the point was that even if Miriam did manage to move around this entire ship, it would probably be really draining on her, and it would be nowhere close to what she’d once been able to do. It wasn’t really fair that she’d lost so much.

But she had at least succeeded in getting Thor and Loki to shut up. Well, neither of them really seemed capable of being entirely silent for too long. But they stopped fighting each other, which was probably the best she was going to get from them, and she was satisfied with that. The conversation ended up shifting to Thor explaining again why he had to be so tight-lipped about it, and Loki asking occasional questions about the things that Miriam had once been able to do. She didn’t mind talking about the past now as much as she had at first, because she knew she was talking to people who genuinely cared. And any time she mentioned Ar’iaal, it served to remind her of what she was fighting for.

Chapter Text

Time seemed to pass by particularly slow, probably just to be cruel to Miriam. She couldn’t figure out why she’d ever thought that coming here would be a good idea, at least with these idiot brothers for company. All they did was constantly squabble, and while it had been amusing at first, it didn’t take long to shift into something that was just plain annoying.

As Thor pointed out yet again that there was a reason his hammer had chosen him, or maybe he was trying to convince everyone of the benefits to cheesy doritos (Miriam had stopped paying attention a while ago), Miriam’s head started pounding, and she jumped up out of her seat. “Alright, that does it. You two are officially the most irritating creatures in the entire universe, and I hope that Thanos swallows you for lunch.”

For a moment, Thor looked shocked, but then he asked what kind of beverages would go with the lunch, and Miriam groaned before sinking back down into her seat. He had to be doing this on purpose, right? No one could actually be that obtuse, could they? And then there was Loki, who had proven himself many times over to be rather intelligent, and he was too busy trying to explain why some bubbly Midgardian drinks were better than others to even realize that Miriam had just insulted him.

She would assume that it was just a guy thing, since there had been a few occasions back in the Avengers compound where she’d overheard some strange and completely pointless conversations, but Wanda and Natasha had never had a problem getting involved in those conversations. And Ar’iaal was a guy (if one were to go by the Midgardian definition of being such) and he’d never been so ridiculous or annoying. Or maybe he had, but Miriam had just never noticed because his ridiculousness would have been endearing.

As Miriam stared out the window, watching a blur of stars speed by them, she wondered if this trip was going to be worth all of the hassle. The biggest bonus was that whether she found one of her own stones or not, she could just teleport herself back to Midgard. And if this aether was one of hers, then she could probably transport all of them, including their ship, back to Asgard. She hadn’t just been bragging when they’d first set out. Miriam was well aware of the fact that she was a powerful being. Or at least she was when idiotic Asgardians didn’t bumble around with stuff that was really none of their business.

Lost in her own thoughts, and grateful that she had so many years of memories to look back on and think about when there was nothing else interesting going on, Miriam didn’t even realize that they’d reached their destination until Thor gently shook her shoulder. Well, it was gentle for him, anyways, since he didn’t accidentally dislocate anything, and what more could someone ask for?

She looked at Thor with one eyebrow arched. “Yeah? Did you finally figure out which brand of breakfast cereal was clearly created with magic because mankind isn’t advanced enough to make anything so tasty?”

There was a brief moment of hesitation, and then Thor actually nodded. “I have managed to convince my brother that if he were to just try the crunchy cinnamon squares, he would know exactly what I’m talking about, and has agreed to taste some upon our return. But that’s not why I woke you up. We’re here.”

Miriam furrowed her eyebrows as she looked back out the window. There didn’t seem to be anything interesting out there that couldn’t be found in a million other places in the universe, so she wasn’t sure where exactly they were. “Is this some kind of joke? Did you bring us all the way out here just to tell us that we’re not allowed to know where the rock is?”

Thor shook his head, a patient look on his face. “I would not do that. If I was really determined to keep you away from the aether, I simply would not have agreed to tell you where it is or take you to it. You would not have been able to find it within the vastness of space, even if you knew which direction to even begin heading in.” He tilted his head. “With Vision and with the tesseract, you seemed to feel some sort of pull once you were close enough. Is that not the case right now?”

Miriam closed her eyes for a moment to try and focus on her connection to her power, and even though it was very faint, she actually could feel something. It wasn’t exactly a pull, but just the barest connection. Her eyes snapped open, and she nodded. “Actually, I think I can feel that. But where the hell is it? I don’t see anything out there?”

Thor gestured to the space outside. “Originally the stone was handed over to someone who is a collector of rare things and powerful knickknacks. But he accidentally lost it, which is why we had to place it elsewhere.”

“How do you accidentally lose an all powerful artifact like the aether? Even if it wasn’t one of mine, it still sounds like a really powerful thing. I just don’t understand how you can lose something like that.”

Thor frowned, and looked as though he were experiencing some second hand embarrassment at the memory of whatever had happened. That alone was almost enough to make this entire trip worth the trouble, because up until now Miriam had been operating under the assumption that Thor was incapable of feeling shame. He cleared his throat once. “I believe that he was admiring it while relieving himself, and accidentally dropped it.”

It was impossible to hold in the loud cackles of laughter. “Are you serious? This collector flushed one of the most powerful objects in existence down the toilet?” Even though she knew Thor was completely serious about it, that didn’t stop her from finding it extremely amusing.

“Yes,” Thor said with a sigh. “That is why my father and I agreed that it would be safer to find a different place to store it.”

That reminded Miriam of why they were out there in what seemed to be the absolute middle of nowhere. She glanced towards the window again, just to double check that no mysterious planets had popped up while she was occupied. But there was the exact same amount of nothing out there now as there had been a few minutes ago. She turned back to Thor. “Alright, I give up. Where did you hide the damn thing?”

Thor gestured outside. “Right there.” When Miriam obviously still didn’t understand what she was supposed to be looking out, Thor pressed his finger up against the window. “That big rock.”

Once Miriam figured out what Thor was looking out, she couldn’t help feeling disappointed. Calling that thing a big rock was a bit of an exaggeration; it barely looked any bigger than Thor himself did. “Seriously?”

“You are capable of going out there and retrieving the stone and then getting back in here, right?”

It felt like this was all part of some kind of weird practical joke, but there was no harm in at least checking out the situation. It’s not like they could just ditch her there, since she had been paying just enough attention during their journey to be able to find her way back again. And she didn’t think that they’d take her out to the middle of nowhere to ditch her anyways. As much as she hated to admit it, Thor and Loki were her friends.

So she decided that she may as well trust Thor on this, and she appeared out on the rock. As soon as she was there, the feeling of connection grew stronger, and she only had to take a few steps forward on the hunk of space junk before she spotted it. There was a small container that looked like it had been sealed with magic, and then duct taped to the side of the rock. There also seemed to be magic surrounding the rock, which must be what kept it from just drifting away into the vastness of space. This whole situation felt absolutely ridiculous.

Miriam knelt down, though she got a quick twisting feeling in her stomach, and she realized that the ship was now upside down. Apparently there was nothing stopping the rock from spinning in place. She pried up the duct tape, though it stuck surprisingly well. Maybe Midgardians did have the potential to be greater than they were, if only because they came up with such interesting inventions.

The container was sealed shut with magic, but Miriam prided herself on her creativity. She could just go back on the ship and ask Loki to open it, but she wanted to be able to feel like she could do things on her own. So she pressed one hand up against the side of the container, and then in a move that felt entirely uncanny and unnatural, she teleported her hand inside of the container.

It was extremely painful, because the container was small enough that it barred the rest of her from entering, and it felt like she’d just sawed her own hand off in one quick swoop. Before she could lose her nerve by thinking too hard about what she was doing, she wrapped her hand around the stone, which immediately began pulsating in her grasp, and then teleported both her hand and the stone out of the container.

She whimpered for a moment at the absolutely disgusting sight of her hand only being attached to the rest of her by a few thin tendons, and Miriam was pretty sure that she threw up in her mouth a little bit. This worked out so much cooler in her head.

But then she stopped worrying about that part, and focused on the fact that she could feel her own power inside of the glowing red rock. She closed her eyes, and forced herself to open up so that her power could flow back into her. At first it felt like a small trickle, but then she was suddenly slammed back by the feeling of so much power returning to her at once. Apparently this stone, despite the fact that her connection to it had been the weakest so far, held far more of her power than either of the first two had.

When Miriam opened her eyes again, she realized that she was drifting around aimlessly, though she could spot the ship in the distance. She looked down, and saw that her hand was clenched tightly around the rock, though now it was smooth and white, instead of red and constantly shifting around. And her hand was completely reattached to her body, which was definitely a positive thing. She didn’t think she’d be able to stand being out of commission with any more serious injuries.

She took in a deep breath, even though it was entirely unnecessary. She hadn’t even noticed the way that her lungs had been burning before from being in space with no oxygen for too long. But now she felt more like her old self, where she had never had to worry about something as trivial as breathing.

Figuring that the stone was useless to her now, she teleported it back into the container, this times hands free, and then teleported herself back over to the rock so that she could duct tape it back down. A moment later, she was back on the ship, and she couldn’t keep the jubilant grin off of her face. “It really was one of mine!”

Loki smiled, but seemed a bit wary. “So how does it feel to know that you’re back at your halfway point?”

“Honestly, I feel great right now. I don’t know if you guys ever got the full experience of what that red rock could do, but it was holding onto a pretty big chunk of my power. I’d even go so far as to say that I’m more than halfway back to being myself.”

Thor was the one who pointed out what he must’ve thought was the obvious. “You’re taller.”

Miriam glanced down at herself, but she looked the same as always. Maybe she’d just been pretending to be bigger all this time. Ar’iaal must’ve thought she looked like a total idiot, since he would’ve known that she still looked normal. Then again, he thought he was scaring everyone by looking like a giant purple rock monster according to the descriptions Miriam had heard, but she still saw him as the same old Ar’iaal. Being able to see through lies and disguises certainly made for some more interesting revelations. Miriam had never even realized that she made herself look bigger, though it made sense that she’d want to look more intimidating.

She couldn’t stop grinning. “I guess so. This is just so incredible. I feel like I could go up against Thanos right now and knock him on his ass until he remembers some common sense.”

Loki frowned. “Don’t forget that you only have about half of your power, while he’s currently got one and a half times his usual power. You could get yourself seriously hurt if you delude yourself into thinking that you’re more powerful than you are.”

“I don’t think you understand,” Miriam said. “I’ve always been more powerful than Thanos anyways. And right now I just feel like I could do anything that I wanted to. And I know that I would succeed.”

Loki wrinkled his nose, and didn’t look happy, which didn’t make any sense. As one of Miriam’s closest friends, shouldn’t he be happy for her that she got to get more of herself back? It’s not like she was on some crazy power hungry quest the way that her old friend was. She was just trying to restore herself to her natural state. And up until now, considering the fact that Loki had come with her all the way out here, she’d assumed that he was in support of that. He spoke in a soft voice, which always sounded just a touch unnatural coming out of him. “I just can’t help feeling a little concerned. If you get too far ahead of yourself, you could wind up getting seriously hurt.”

Apparently Thor wasn’t entirely idiotic, because he recognized the tension in the air, and did his best to try and diffuse it. “Yes, well, we should be heading back now. I’m sure that all of our friends are eager to hear the results of our mission.”

Miriam grinned, eager for the chance to show off her regained power. “And this time, we won’t even have to sit around in this awkwardly small space for a few days.” She reached out to touch the wall of the ship, and closed her eyes. She heard sharp gasps, and when she opened her eyes a moment later, they were just outside of Asgard’s atmosphere. “I told you I could do it,” she couldn’t help bragging.

Thor hesitated for a moment, but then he reached out and grabbed the controls to steer them safely into the same space that they’d left from less than a week ago. It felt like it had been so much longer, thanks to the torture of listening to bickering brothers for so long. It would be nice to get out and take in the fresh air. It wasn’t something she needed anymore, but in the short time she’d been forced to breath, she’d gotten into the habit of it, and it would take time to figure out how to stop doing it.

When they were back in the palace, Miriam continued to feel overly giddy. She hadn’t felt this good in ages, and she couldn’t be more pleased with everything that was happening. Sure, her former best friend had ditched her and then decided to steal from her and try to take over the galaxy, or something, but Miriam felt so light. She felt like she could devour planets, or steal moons, or be a worshipped god to some primitive people. There was still a vague, aching emptiness inside of her, but it didn’t feel so bad anymore. It was like she’d eaten after starving for a long time. She was full for now, but there was still the memory of an empty stomach, and the knowledge that it would be back soon.

But for now, Miriam planned on enjoying herself. It had been too long since she’d gotten the opportunity to do that. Of course, by becoming one of the ‘good guys’, she couldn’t relieve her stress in any of the ways that she would’ve in the past. But there had to be plenty of things she could do for entertainment around here. Or not here exactly; Asgardians were all a bunch of sticks in the mud, and now that she actually had the power to deal with them, she didn’t want to risk falling to temptation. Her blood lust had died down ages ago, but now it felt like it was back full force as she was reminded of just how much had been taken away from her.

Miriam intended to fully stick to her plan of being good, at least until it got too boring, so she waved a cheerful goodbye to Loki and Thor, then popped herself back to Midgard. She wondered if the other Avengers would be able to tell just by looking at her that she’d gained back a crucial piece of herself. She wondered if they’d even care, after that argument that felt like it had happened years ago.

Maybe the Avengers weren’t the best place to start, then. Miriam no longer had to worry about the annoyances of breathing, eating, or sleeping, which meant that she had more freedom to go wherever she wanted and do whatever she wanted, without ever worrying about what would happen if she were to get stuck anywhere. This feeling of building towards completeness was just incredible, and Miriam couldn’t wait to enjoy every minute of being her old self again.

Chapter Text

As it turned out, making her way through all of Midgard was not nearly as exciting as Miriam had expected it to be. She’d picked a single spot to start, and decided that she was going to make her way all around the entire planet and then turn and go all the way around in the other direction, so that she would have a chance to really witness every single aspect of the world.

It’s not like the sights themselves were boring. Miriam couldn’t think of a single other planet she’d visited that had such a diverse biosphere. There were some planets with all water, some with all desert, some with all forest, some with all city, some with all mountains, some with nothing but plain flat surface all the way around. But Midgard was special because it had a little bit of everything in it. And the people were just as diverse as the ground itself. It made sense, that people living in different types of environments would evolve to deal with their homes differently, but it still seemed crazy. And Miriam didn’t think she’d ever understand why Midgard felt so special that it needed thousands of different languages. How did the people from different regions ever communicate with each other?

But no matter how fascinating her trip was, Miriam couldn’t help feeling a bit bored. Every time she thought of some funny comment, or a clever quip about what she was looking at, she realized that there was no one to share her words with. She tried to talk with the locals in the places she toured, but they mostly seemed confused by her presence, and unwilling to do a lot of chatting. And the majority of Midgard’s surface didn’t have any people at all, though it was always fun to find a place with secret humans in it that no one else knew about. Especially the one that seemed almost advanced enough to be caught up with some of the closer alien planets.

One of Miriam’s favorite moments was when she decided to walk across the ocean. She probably had enough strength to actually swim across the top of the water, but it seemed like it would be more interesting to see what was underneath. She’d gone all the way across the bottom of the ocean floor, deeper than any Midgardian would be able to go without their insides popping out like when Thor was being too enthusiastic with one of those yogurt tubes that he loved.

It had taken Miriam a few tries to remember not to breath, though. It was pretty uncomfortable to feel her lungs filling up with water, and at first, she’d had to emerge several times just to cough out what she’d accidentally swallowed. But once she managed to kick the habit of breathing, she was able to go back under without any worries. And in the deepest depths, she discovered things that Midgardians had probably never even imagined existing. Alien life forms that had not originated on this planet, though there was nothing she’d never seen before.

And whenever Miriam came across a vast space that was almost guaranteed to be the same all the way across, she just let herself cheat and teleport across the space, though she did it in small increments so that she’d be less likely to miss out on anything interesting that might be in between. She felt a bit like a cheater for doing that, but when she’d looked it up, the last person who had walked all the way around the world had taken about eleven years. Miriam might have time to kill, but she didn’t think that the Midgardians did. And while it was great to explore the scope of her newly regained powers, she knew that Thanos wasn’t going to wait around for her to finish a decade long world tour.

So Miriam decided to be okay with her moments of cheating, and she decided to just be satisfied with the few interesting things that she had seen. But now it was probably time to return to the Avengers. As soon as she came to that conclusion, she also decided that she wasn’t going to just teleport straight there, because she needed time to think about what she would tell them. She hadn’t told anyone where she was going, and they’d had no way to contact her, since she hadn’t even been smart enough to go back every few days to check in. It’s not like that would have inconvenienced her in any way, so there was no excuse. The Avengers probably wouldn’t physically harm her, but their disappointment would feel uncomfortable for sure.

She ended up bringing herself back to the country where the Avengers resided, and then hired someone to drive her the rest of the way to the compound. While she drove, she thought about what she could say. They probably wouldn’t appreciate it if she told them the truth, which was that she’d elected to take her own little vacation across the planet. But they-

Miriam furrowed her eyebrows as she tuned in to what the radio in the car was talking about. “-trouble. These people have abilities beyond a normal person’s comprehension, and they are extremely dangerous. If we try to treat them like normal people, we’ll be the ones who end up suffering for it.”

“It seems a little presumptuous to say that all of them are dangerous. Even the ones who are on the stronger end of the scale can learn control and-”

“I’m not saying that they all have bad intentions. But do you really want to risk our childrens’ lives on the chance that it’s possible for everyone to learn control? All it takes is one emotional blow up and there could be any number of casualties. The incident in Risan is only a small example of what can happen in the worst case scenario-”

Before the men on the radio could continue arguing, the driver reached over and shut off the radio. She glanced back at Miriam in the rearview mirror. “Sorry about that. I’m just not in the mood to listen to a bunch of old white men arguing about why some people apparently don’t even deserve their basic human rights.”

Apparently it had been longer than Miriam thought since she’d last touched in with any civilized society of people. “Who exactly are they talking about?”

The driver arched one eyebrow, and she looked surprised as her gaze flitted back and forth from the road to the mirror. “What rock have you been living under? It’s all anyone’s been talking about since Risan. There’s this group of people who call themselves inhumans, and they all have cool superpowers. The problem is that even though they’re technically born that way, their powers only manifest in certain conditions, which leads to a lot of chaos and confusion.”

Miriam blinked a few times. “Wait- so that guy on the radio was saying that people should be afraid of these ‘unhumans’? That’s nuts. Midgardians should be grateful to have advanced lifeforms in their ranks.” She tilted her head as she tried to remember a conversation that had happened a while back. It had been when she’d been kidnapped and brought to that colorless place, and that crazy lady had tried to kill her. Miriam wondered if they’d ever caught that killer that they’d been after. “You know, this planet kinda sucks. Not only do you guys hate each other based on something as inane as the fact that you look different- which is really awesome compared to the dullness of most planets- but you apparently also hate each other for being able to do cool things. If I wasn’t so eager to talk to Thanos myself, I’d just bounce this joint and leave you to your fate.”

The woman blinked a few times, and then there was a loud honking behind them. She quickly swerved off of the road, and put the car into park as she unbuckled her seatbelt and twisted around to peer at Miriam directly. “What the hell are you talking about?”

Miriam shrugged, and leaned forward. “Oh, sorry. I guess I forgot that not everyone knows about everything that goes on around here. You people believe in a lot of secrecy. But if you’re going to be blabbing things all over the radio for anyone to hear, then who even cares? I’m Miriam. I’m not from this planet.”

The woman gulped once, and then slowly let out a shuddering breath. “Alright. This is all officially very strange. But I guess my people are descended from aliens, so I can’t really judge you. Have you ever heard of a race called the Kree? All inhumans have a bit of Kree DNA in them. I’m Jack, by the way.”

Miriam’s eyes widened with excitement. “Oh, does this mean you have superpowers?” A lot of people claimed that the Avengers had superpowers, but from what Miriam had seen during her time with them, they weren’t really all that super. They were a bit stronger and faster and better looking than average Midgardians, but everything about all of them that made them interesting were created by Midgardians for Midgardians. Wanda was the only one who’s gifts were really exciting, and even hers had been made by other people. She couldn’t wait to see what actual superpowers looked like.

Jack blinked a few times, and she seemed very unsure of herself. “I hope you know that this is quite possibly the strangest conversation that I have ever had before.” She smiled. “I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone about me before. I was always too afraid. But something about you just makes me think that nothing bad will come from me telling you anything. And I can, um, help speed up recovery from injuries and illnesses.”

“Oh, that’s great! Teach me how to do that!”

The Midgardian laughed awkwardly. “Um, it doesn’t really work like that. It’s something in my cells and blood and stuff. I don’t think you can just teach someone how to be an inhuman. Anyways, if you’re an alien, you must have seen way more interesting things before then a healer.”

“Maybe. But most of the things I’ve seen were just from magic, and not from natural born abilities. Well, there are a lot of races who can do really bizarre things without any training. Like an entire planet of people who communicate internally only. Or the ones who look like jello and mate by combining into one giant blob, and then dividing into three equally small blobs that have to grow up before they can mate with someone else.”

Jack seemed a bit taken aback by just those few descriptions of alien lifeforms, so Miriam decided that it was time to shut up. While it wouldn’t be that difficult to find a new ride, she wasn’t really looking forward to having to do that, and she knew that it would be easiest to just stick with where she was. She leaned back in her seat, and stared at Jack expectantly, waiting for the Midgardian to say something. Finally, after an unnecessarily long pause, the woman spoke. “This is a weird day. But I already agreed to drive you, so we should probably get back on the road. Just try not to say anything else too awe inspiring while I’m driving, because I don’t want to cause an accident.”

Miriam shrugged. “Why not? If anyone gets hurt, you could just fix them, and I could fix the cars.”

Jack’s eyes widened, but then she turned back around in her seat. “Let’s wait to talk again until we reach the motel, okay? I need some time to think for myself anyways.” She met Miriam’s eyes in the rear view mirror, and smiled. “Just for the record, though, I’m glad that you chose me to travel with. I can’t wait to hear more stories about your adventures.” Then the two of them drove in silence for a while, content with feeling slightly less lonely than before.

,,,

Thanos could hardly believe it when he was told that the stones were talking. After that strange hologram projection incident that felt like it had been forever ago, but was really only a couple of years, the stones had remained completely silent. But now they were displaying the same message again. It wasn’t a very good quality hologram, though. It even flickered in the same spot, preventing Thanos from finding out whose hands the stones were not supposed to fall into. But either way, there was only one thing that all of this could mean. Someone else, a single person, had gathered up the remaining three stones.

In a way, that made Thanos’ job easier, since he only had to go to a single source to find the three that he was missing. On the other hand, it meant that he’d have to be very careful. Only someone very powerful would be able to use all the stones at once, and the chances of that being the case were very slim, but there was no point in taking stupid risks. Thanos could very well find himself up against an enemy that would actually pose a challenge. And wouldn’t that be a unique situation?

As Thanos paced back and forth in his room, he wondered who had the stones. Did they know of the full power of what they held? Had they been seeking them out, or had they somehow come across them accidentally? What were they planning to do with all of that power? Had they also found the gauntlet that would allow them to use all of the stones even if they weren’t quite as strong as Thanos? Was it possible that any other Eternals had survived the extinction of their race? Would he be able to properly impress Death even if he only had half the stones? There were just so many questions.

While he was thinking, Thanos came to a halt without realizing. He blinked a few times, then glanced over at the mirror hanging on the wall next to him. He scowled at his reflection. He knew that everyone else saw the big ferocious monster that he intentionally showed them, but all he could ever see was his usual self. It was rather frustrating, and if anyone else ever saw him without the cover of his disguise, they’d be too busy laughing at him to remember to be afraid. Of course, a demonstration of his power would be enough to earn back their fear, but he preferred to terrify the people around him without doing a single thing to them. It felt much more satisfying. And it was fun to be intimidating.

Thanos was interrupted from his thoughts by the sound of someone knocking timidly on his door. Usually his minions knew better than to disturb him when he was trying to be alone. Even all powerful beings needed some time to themselves every now and then. And he couldn’t really afford to act soft and mushy around his people, which is exactly what would happen if he ever allowed himself to think of his weaknesses, including Miriam, outside the privacy of his own chambers.

But he felt like he was in a giving mood at the moment, and he decided that he wasn’t going to just immediately disintegrate whoever was trying to bother him. It would be more trouble than it was worth anyways, since it could be difficult to find good help these days. Thanos swung his door open, and glowered down at his minion. Just because he was feeling generous didn’t mean he was going to miss out on any opportunity to terrify the people around him.

His minion gulped, but other than that, managed to stand tall. That was pretty impressive, actually, though it was probably just because he was so used to having to face Thanos and his angry faces. “Uh, sir, I’m terribly sorry to bother you when you’re trying to use this time for yourself, but I’m afraid that there is some, um, urgent news. I just received word from Esperosia. There’s no sign of the frost giant that you sent there, and apparently there were some news clippings in his room reporting a glove in a local museum but that there’s currently no glove there now. And news travels slow, which means that he probably left there several months ago. If he hasn’t already reported back to you, then-”

“Silence!” Thanos barked out. If Loki had taken off with the gauntlet, then it was possible that he was the one who had the other stones. But if that were the case, how had he hidden that from Thanos? Had he somehow retrieved them in just a few months? But Thanos had been searching for thousands of years to find three, so there’s no way an insignificant wretch like Loki could have found three in such a short amount of time. But whatever was going on, it was clearly something big.

An idiot like Loki would probably return home without a second thought. It’s where he felt safest. So Thanos decided that it was time to head there himself and find out what was going on. He was sick of sending his lackies out and only getting back insufficient results. If he wanted this done right, he would have to do it himself.

The only question now was whether or not to bring any of his stones. He could only safely wield one at a time without the gauntlet, but even one would help him defeat an enemy in a fight if necessary. But if someone managed to steal it from him, then that would set him back quite a bit, which would make Thanos very very unhappy.

He deliberated about it with himself for a while before deciding to leave all three of his stones at home. Even without them, he was one of the most powerful creatures in the universe, and he felt confident in his ability to kick Loki’s ass if necessary.

When he reached his conclusion on the subject, Thanos stormed out of his chambers, and headed into what he playfully referred to as the ‘throne room’. He looked at his gathered minions, scanning over each of them and thinking about their varying qualities as he quickly picked which two would accompany him to Asgard. It’s not that he felt he needed bodyguards or anything; he just liked the intimidation factor that came with having mindless goons constantly following him around.

It didn’t take him very long to point to a couple of random minions whose names he vaguely knew, and bark out, “You two with me. Prepare us a ship to take to Asgard!”

The two of them blinked in confusion a few times before looking up at Thanos warily. “Of course we’ll do whatever you ask of us, sir. But are you really sure that’s such a good idea? My grandfather once told me that you hated all Asgardians for…” he trailed off when he noticed the dangerous look on Thanos’ face. “Uh, just ignore me, I have no idea what I’m talking about! We’ll be ready to go within the hour!”

Thanos nodded once in satisfaction, then headed back to his room. He couldn’t think of anything that he really needed to pack up to take with him, so he decided to take a few minutes to himself to meditate and think about his favorite subject: Miriam.

Chapter Text

When she got back to the Avengers compound, and sent her driver on her merry way with a very generous tip, Miriam was surprised to find that she actually felt rather guilty about skipping out and having a grand old time while everyone else had to stay home and train to take on the big threat that was coming their way soon. There were guards out front and patrolling the perimeter, just like there always was, but Miriam couldn’t help feeling like this time there was something a little off.

She narrowed her eyes, and wondered if there was anyone who’d dare to attack her friends. If there was, then surely they’d regret it. Miriam stopped short in the middle of casing the place to try and figure out the current problem. Were the Avengers her friends? She’d started to think that they were, before the aether, but then they’d been so opposed to the idea of her gaining back the powers that had been rightfully hers in the first place.

And going back to the time before the Avengers, the only friend she really had to judge the whole friendship thing by was Ar’iaal, and that hadn’t exactly ended well for either of them. Though maybe it wasn’t fair to judge their entire thousands of years of friendship just based off of a few less than pleasant events that had taken place near the end. The slap and following disappearance had obviously been bad for both of them. Then Miriam had been locked up for a while, through no real fault of Ar’iaal’s beyond the fact that he wasn’t around to stop her from doing anything crazy. And now Ar’iaal was moonlighting as one of the most feared monsters that was going to come and probably kill everybody on every planet he came across, since that’s what it sounded like he’d already been doing anyways. So that was really only a couple of things. Did that outweigh all of the good times?

While she stood there thinking, one of the guards slowly walked over to her, looking surprised to see her there. “Miriam? Is that really you?”

Seemed like a pretty stupid question to ask, because either it was really her and there was no reason to doubt it, or she was some kind of imposter, and there’s no way that she’d confess so easily. Not that Miriam should’ve really expected any better from the people who worked with the Avengers. There seemed to be very few Midgardians capable of actually being smart when it was required of them. “What would you do if I said it wasn’t?” The man immediately started to reach for his gun, and Miriam sighed. “Relax, I was just joking around. Don’t you people know how to take a joke?”

The man stared at her with big eyes, one hand on his gun, though he didn’t actually pull it out. Yeah, the Avengers definitely needed better security. “Are the others with you?” There was an unprofessional amount of hope in his voice, and since no one was with Miriam, she almost felt bad about the fact that she was sure to let this guy down.

“No one’s with me. Why?”

The man’s shoulders slumped down, and he looked far too tired for someone just going about their usual duties of guarding the compound. “We were all arguing about it. You went missing before the others, so some of us thought there was no connection because we know you like to travel around, while others thought that you were just the first one taken.”

Miriam furrowed her eyebrows, and she didn’t like the knot building up in her stomach as the man spoke. “What the hell are you talking about? Who’s gone missing?” From the way he was talking, it seemed easy enough to assume, but Miriam didn’t want to think that her assumption could actually be correct.

The guard let out an exhausted sounding sigh. “The Avengers. No one’s seen any of them in almost a month. They just vanished without a trace. We managed to get into contact with Mr. Stark, and he said he would use every resource available to find them, but he hasn’t succeeded yet.”

“Has Thor been around at all?”

The guard shook his head. “No. No one’s seen him since he left with you on some top secret mission.”

Miriam sighed, and tried to think about what the hell could’ve happened. She could just teleporting to every single location on the planet until she found them, but without any more specific location, that could take a very long time, because there were a lot of places around, even if it was a relatively small planet. And if they were on the move, then that would make things even more difficult. She had no idea who this ‘Mr. Stark’ was, but he sounded important. Maybe Miriam could go to him for help.

But first she should probably double check with Asgard, because maybe Thor had just been bumming around there for a while, unaware of the fact that his shield siblings were in danger. Or not. They were just gone. They could be perfectly safe, happy, and healthy wherever it was that they’d gone off to, as unlikely as that seemed.

She figured it would be mean to take off without saying anything, since the guards all seemed at least a little bit traumatized by the fact that the Avengers were gone, and they’d all failed at their job of guarding. “I’m going to Asgard to see if Thor’s there, or if not, whether there’s anyone who can tell me where he is. I shouldn’t be gone too long.” Then after a brief moment of hesitation, she reached over to pat the man on the shoulder. That was a comforting thing to do, right? That’s what people do for each other?

Then she blinked, and a moment later, she was standing on the steps to the palace. She furrowed her eyebrows as she wondered why she hadn’t just appeared in Loki’s room like usual, but then decided that that wasn’t the biggest issue at the moment, considering the fact that the people most likely to be able to defend Midgard were all missing.

She easily walked past the armed Asgardians who stood outside the palace, since they’d seen her around with Loki often enough to know that she was allowed inside whenever she wanted. Worst case scenario she could’ve teleported inside, but some strange instinct inside of her was saying that she should try and navigate this situation on foot.

The halls were all as lavishly decorated as they normally were, but they felt strangely silent, and empty. In fact, for a place that was usually a bustling hub of movement, it was very bizarre to see not a single Asgardian walking around inside. Especially after finding out that all of the Avengers were missing. Had the Asgardians gone missing too? And was Miriam really obligated to find them if they were? She didn’t think that she was. Finding the Avengers was one thing, but there was no reason that the Asgardians of all people were in any way her responsibility.

Instead of heading towards the stairs and making her way to the royal quarters, she paused and strained to hear any noise that would indicate the whole place hadn’t turned into a total ghost town. The guards outside had still been present and alive, but that really didn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.

She thought she heard something coming from the direction of the throne room, so she decided to check that out first before heading up to see if Thor or Loki were around. The closer she got to the throne room, the more certain she was that that’s where the faint noises were coming from, though the walls and doors were so thick that it was impossible to make out a single word that was being said.

Miriam could just teleport into the room, but since she wasn’t really sure what was going on, and she was familiar with the layout of that particular room, she was just as likely to wind up teleporting partway into another person or interrupting an important meeting as she was to do anything else.

She pressed her ear up against the door, but that didn’t help her hear any better. She hoped that no one would see her, and that the doors wouldn’t be too noisy, and she pushed the door open just the tiniest bit so that she could peer inside to see and hear what was going on. It looked like every Asgardian in the palace was crammed in there, and they were all staring intently towards something that Miriam couldn’t see from where she was.

Since everyone was mostly angled away from the doors, Miriam didn’t think anyone would notice if she were to push them open just a tinier bit more. So she did, and slipped into the room. She could hear somebody shouting, but she couldn’t see over all of the ridiculously tall Asgardians, who apparently didn’t like to sit down during presentations. What was going on that had them all so enthralled? She didn’t think that it sounded like Odin speaking, and who would they be as ensnared by that wasn’t their king?

Trying to cause the minimal amount of disruption possible, Miriam began pushing and shoving to make her way to the front of the crowd. Most of the Asgardians remained silent even when she blatantly shoved past them, and Miriam tried not to think too hard about whether that was a good thing or not.

After a couple minutes of trying to force her way forward, someone reached down to grab her arm, and they squeezed hard enough to actually hurt. She was ready to abandon all pretense of subtlety, and she looked out to yell at the Asgardian for daring to hurt her. But then her eyes widened in surprise when she saw Thor looking down at her. She couldn’t quite read the expression on his face, but when he raised his free hand to press a finger against his lips, Miriam understood that he needed her to be quiet. She wanted to ask him what was going on, but when no one beyond the person up front was talking, she was afraid that it would be too noticeable. And dragging someone like Thor back out into the hallways would be impossible, because everyone would notice him pushing through.

It was a big enough crowd that they might not notice him simply disappearing, though. Nobody had their attention on the crown prince, and Miriam really needed to talk to him. Both to question what was going on in Asgard, and to see if he knew anything about the missing Avengers.

While Thor was still gripping her arm, she teleported them out into the hallway, and hoped that it hadn’t been anything particularly important going on in there. Well, obviously it was based on how many people had been in there, listening like it was the most amazing speech they’ve ever heard before, but she was sure someone would be willing to offer Thor a summary later. “Where the hell are your Avengers?” She’d brought them up to Loki’s room, which was empty and far enough away that they could talk loudly without being overheard.

At first it had looked like Thor was going to argue with Miriam, but after hearing her question, his face twisted up in confusion. “My Avengers? Why are they my Avengers?”

“Well I certainly don’t want them if they’re not even capable of keeping themselves from being disappeared.”

Thor frowned. “What are you talking about? Which of them is missing?”

Miriam sighed. “All of them, apparently. I was hoping that you’d know something about it, but apparently disappointment is something I should start learning to expect.”
Of course that brought a troubled look to Thor’s face. He couldn’t be happy to learn that some of his close friends had dropped off the map. They could be anywhere, with anyone, having anything done to them, and that was a pretty worrisome thought. “That is not our only problem at the moment,” he said quietly, or at least as quietly as was possible for the Asgardian. “My people were not gathered in the throne room for a joyous event. We are being held hostage. The others are all hiding in their homes, hoping that the trouble won’t spread to them.”

“What? Who could hold a room full of stubborn butt-heads like the Asgardians hostage? And why? What do they want from you guys?”

Thor hesitated for a moment before answering. “You probably won’t like the answer to that. Men claiming to work for Thanos came to herald his arrival. They got here early this morning, ordered everyone in the palace to gather in one room, and said that Thanos would be here soon. We don’t yet know what they want, but it isn’t looking good.”

Miriam crossed her arms over her chest. “And are you going to explain to me why a room full of hundreds of your people can’t fight back against a couple of intruders?”

Thor sighed, and he looked his age for once. “We have not been given the chance to talk amongst ourselves to form any sort of plan. But even if we just rushed them, and managed to take them down, it won’t stop Thanos from coming here, and would probably only make him more angry to see his people hurt. Now you must take me back to the throne room before anyone notices my absence, and then go back to Midgard and search for the Avengers. They need you.”

That sounded tempting, but Miriam wasn’t going to just run away. She knew Thor wanted to get her far away before Thanos arrived, which was sweet of him, but she couldn’t just leave. “You need me too. None of you stand a chance against Thanos. At least I can try and stand up against him. You’re my… friend, Thor, and I’m not just going to abandon you. Is Loki down in the throne room too? He could make an illusion that the two of you are still down there while the three of us actually discuss a solution up here.”

Thor’s frown deepened. “I am unsure of where my brother is. When you left after returning from retrieving the aether, he was disappointed, and holed himself up in his room for a while. Then he said he had important business to take care of, and took off a couple weeks ago. And before you ask, no, there’s no chance that he went to Midgard to kidnap the Avengers. Please just return me to the throne room. I don’t wish to abandon my people or cause them any trouble by leaving them.”

Well this certainly wasn’t ideal. But Miriam wasn’t going to just take off either. Of course she was worried about the Avengers, but they’d already been missing for a month, and if they were still alive, then they could survive a few more days wherever they were. Thanos was the much more immediate, and intimidating, threat. The stories that had been passed around about him did not make him out to be a pleasant person in any way, no matter how many good memories Miriam had of the Eternal.

She grabbed Thor’s hand and gave it a comforting squeeze before bringing them back down to the throne room. She closed her eyes to concentrate so that she could make sure they ended up in the exact same spots they’d taken off from, since that was probably the only open space in the room at this point.

A moment later, there were lots of loud gasps, and Miriam quickly opened her eyes to see what the problem was. Oh, yeah, that would be a problem. Despite how little standing space there had been earlier, all of the Asgardians had managed to press themselves up against the walls, clearing a space in the center of the room. Which was exactly where Miriam and Thor had just appeared.

She wanted to apologize to the Asgardians for kidnapping their prince- and boy wasn’t it a strange day where Miriam of all people was willing to apologize to the Asgardians about anything at all. But before she could, there was a loud, achingly familiar voice. “Prince of Asgard! What is the meaning of this?”

Thor and Miriam both whipped around, and while Miriam wasn’t sure of what it was that Thor and the others saw, she knew immediately what she was looking at. There was Ar’iaal, looking so stupidly perfect despite the anger on his face. She took a hesitant step forward, and it was so obvious the moment that Ar’iaal actually saw Miriam, because it felt like the whole world froze around them. As their eyes met, a flurry of emotions rushed across Ar’iaal’s face, and then he stared at her like he was seeing a ghost.

And suddenly Miriam wanted nothing more than to run forward and pull her best friend into a tight hug and never let ago. Sure, he’d done some awful, despicable, unexcusable things, but so had Miriam. She was no better than him just because her good period came after the bad while Ar’iaal was vice versa. She opened her mouth to say something, anything. To beg forgiveness or demand an apology for him or ask why he’d left her behind. Or maybe just punch him in the face for stealing her name and leaving her for dead.

But before she could even make up her mind about what she wanted to do or say now that she was finally standing in front of Ar’iaal again, he pointed to her with a look of fury that could not be rivaled. “Kill that imposter immediately!”

Chapter Text

Miriam clenched her jaw, but she refused to run. Maybe when she’d first woken up from her imprisonment, she might’ve. Not out of cowardice, but out of logically being aware of the fact that she was far too weak to go up against Ar’iaal. But right now, she had more than half of her power back, Thanos probably didn’t have the remaining stones on him because if he did he could’ve just killed her himself, and she had the god of thunder on her side. All in all, Miriam felt pretty good about the fact that she could win this fight.

Though… a quick glance at Thor was all she could afford, since it was always a bad idea to take one’s eyes off of one’s enemies for more than a blink, but it was enough to remind Miriam of everything that the Avengers stood for. She could not, in good conscience, kill off these minions who were quite possibly being forced to do Ar’iaal’s bidding the way that Loki had been.

Quicker than most people would be capable of watching with just their bare eyes, Miriam teleported in and out of the room, grabbing Ar’iaal’s minions and depositing them on some nearby moon that had a harsh environment, but not a fatal one. Then she appeared back in the throne room a final time to face off against Ar’iaal, fairly sure that she would not be able to teleport him away without his consent. It would be nice to remove the Asgardians as well so that there was no chance of them being used as hostages, but she was sure that they’d be smart enough to leave on their own once they realized that Ar’iaal was on his own, and distracted by Miriam’s presence.

She put her hands on her hips, and glowered at him through narrowed eyes. She didn’t care about airing all her grievances out in the open, since it was only Asgardians behind her, and no one particularly important. “What the hell is your problem? You’re the one who abandoned me, and now you’re going to try and have me killed?” She didn’t shout, but her sharp tone seemed to echo throughout the entire room. “Not to mention the fact that you had the audacity to steal my name as if you had any right. Who the hell do you think you are?”

Ar’iaal blinked a few times, and his eyes slowly widened. “Miriam?” His voice was a faint whisper, probably inaudible to anyone standing further away from him than Miriam was. “Is that truly you?”

“Yeah it’s me, dumbass. Is it really that hard to recognize me? We were only best friends and basically family for hundreds of thousands of years. Does none of that time mean anything to you? Why am I even bothering to ask? The answer is clear; you don’t care about me at all. You stole my name, you stole some of my power, you just called me an imposter, and you’ve turned as reckless and wild as I was in my youth.” She could practically taste the Asgardians’ confusion over hearing such a thing from one who appeared to be little more than a child to them. But Miriam didn’t care about what the Asgardians were thinking. The only one in the room whose opinion she really cared about was the man standing right in front of her.

Much to everyone’s surprise, Ar’iaal sank down to his knees, and reached up as though he were going to take Miriam’s hands, but he paused just a hair’s width away. “Please, forgive me,” he pleaded softly. “I thought you were dead. I visited Lady Death herself, and she confirmed such a thing. I was- am- willing to exchange a billion worthless lives just to have you back. I’ll do whatever you ask of me to make things right. I’ll renounce that stolen name, and I’ll spread apologies across the universe if that’s what you wish of me. Or I’ll kill a billion more if that’s what you wish.”

Miriam crossed her arms over her chest, bringing them out of Ar’iaal’s reach while he knelt on the floor. “Why the hell should I even give you a chance?” She closed her eyes for a moment as she took a deep breath in, and slowly let it out. “The Asgardians ripped my power from me, and locked me in a realm of nightmares and horrors for ten thousand years. But you have hurt me far worse than they have. You abandoned me out of your own selfish guilt, and left me to rot when I needed you most. And it hurt because you were always the one person I trusted and believed in above all others. But you proved to me that it is foolish to ever trust anyone, because they will eventually turn against you.” Ar’iaal flinched at the accusation, and tilted his head to look down at the floor while Miriam continuined. Everyone else in the throne room watched the proceedings with wide eyes, unsure of what they should do next. “Those stones that you have three of belong to me. They each have bits of my power stored in them. I demand that you return them.”

Ar’iaal was quick to nod his head up and down. “Of course, anything you ask of me is yours.”

That was a lot of power he was putting into her hands. She’d say that this was all too easy, and yet, she could feel the honesty in Ar’iaal’s words. Everything he’d done as Thanos had been out of some twisted idea that he could bring someone back to life if he caused enough destruction to everyone else. “You’d do anything?” she asked in a dangerously soft voice. She wondered if Ar’iaal would be able to hear the truth in her words, or if he had gone so long barging into peoples’ minds that he had forgotten about the subtleties of their abilities. When he nodded eagerly, she offered a cold smile. “Would you even fall upon your own sword for me?”

He was quick to nod again. “Anything,” he repeated in a quiet, but firm, voice. “If that’s what you ask of me, then that’s what will be done.”

While he was still staring at the floor, Miriam slowly sank down, and reached out to grab his chin and tilt it so that their eyes could meet. “I would never ask that of you. Unlike you, I have never felt the urge to betray the people I cared for.”

Ar’iaal flinched again at the past tense of ‘cared’, but that didn’t stop him from speaking. “You don’t understand. After what I did, I couldn’t bear to face you. I didn’t deserve to be around you any longer. I was ashamed, and guilty, and I didn’t want to hurt you again. I had done something unforgivable, and-”

Miriam cut him off, not caring if it made her seem rude. Ar’iaal hadn’t done anything lately to earn politeness. “We are Eternals. Named so because we are all-powerful, and will survive forever. Like Midgardian cockroaches, we cannot be killed in a single swat. I didn’t even feel a sting of pain from your action, Ar’iaal. Not the physical kind, anyways. And believe me, I have felt real pain since then. Be grateful that you’ll never have to experience such a thing for yourself. But no, what hurt was that you immediately left me. You didn’t even attempt to talk things over or apologize and be forgiven, you just left, as though I would want it to be that way. But you never asked what I wanted!” She could feel herself getting more upset as she thought about the past, and she almost envied all the Asgardians and Midgardians who would never be able to have as long and complicated pasts as she did.

“What did you want?” Ar’iaal asked hesitantly, as though he were unsure he had permission to do so.

Miriam sighed, and bowed her head down. Not out of submission, but out of exhaustion. She’d barely been awake from her prison for any time at all, but the truth of it was that she’d been running herself ragged since the moment Ar’iaal had left her behind. “I just wanted to not be alone,” she said quietly. “I just wanted to not be alone, with you by my side. We could’ve figured things out. We are the two most powerful beings in existence. We could do anything we put our minds to. And yet you chose to run away like a coward. How could I ever forgive you for such a thing?”

Even as he spoke, it was clear from the look on his face that Ar’iaal thought he’d be digging his own grave deeper, but he spoke anyways. “And what of everything else I’ve done? I’ve caused more death and destruction than you could imagine.”

Miriam fell back so that she was resting on the backs of her heels, and she let out a loud, startled laugh. Everyone else in the room seemed startled as well, but Miriam only had eyes for Ar’iaal in that moment. “I think you have it in reverse. I’ve had far more time to wreak havoc than you have. You’ve been Thanos for what? A few thousand years now? Ten at most? I was far worse than you for far longer. Why do you think the Asgardians were so eager to get rid of me? They knew that I was a threat to all life across the universe, and they knew that I didn’t care one bit about anyone or anything at that time. Did you ever try to go back to Titan during your reign as Thanos? If you noticed it was conspicuously absent, then that’s because I ate it. The entire thing. Along with all its inhabitants. Because I was a little angry that day. And that’s one of the kinder things I did during that time in my life. It would be entirely hypocritical of me to hate you for any of the horrid things you’ve done as Thanos when I know that I’ve done far worse. But when you hurt me by leaving, that was before you were Thanos. Before you were intent on destroying everyone everywhere. There’s no excuse for what you did. How could I possibly ever forgive you for that?”

Everyone seemed to be watching with bated breath as Ar’iaal slowly reached out to take one of Miriam’s hands from where they were curled up on her lap. She wondered for a moment if they were still seeing the illusion Ar’iaal had cast around himself ages ago, but then decided that she didn’t care one way or another.

She let Ar’iaal take her hand, and the gentle contact between them after going so long without it felt like the most heavenly thing Miriam could possibly imagine. But she couldn’t just give in, could she? The Avengers would expect her to take Ar’iaal down, but she already knew that if she told him to never harm another person unprovoked again, he never would, so that wasn’t a major concern. But if she were to just forgive him now, after all this time, then that would mean that her huge temper tantrum that killed billions of life forms was all for nothing at all. That would make her an even worse monster than Ar’iaal. She didn’t exactly feel guilt for her past, but she no longer bragged about it as though it were some great cause of pride.

She heaved out a big sigh, but before she could say anything else, or tug her hand back, Ar’iaal leaned forward to pull her into a hug. She froze in place, unused to this feeling after so long, but then relaxed into it. Being in Ar’iaal’s arms felt like coming home. Considering the fact that she’d destroyed every place that her and Ar’iaal had ever lived in together, he was really the only semblance of home she even had left.

Miriam could feel her eyes itching with unshed tears, but she didn’t want to look even more weak in that moment than she already did. And yet… this felt so indescribably right. Her voice caught on a small sob, and then she threw her free hand around Ar’iaal’s shoulder so that they were both hugging each other with one arm, while holding their other hands together between them. “I missed you so much,” she choked out.

“And I you,” Ar’iaal responded, sounded just as wrecked.

It was hard to say for sure how long they sat there on the floor together like that, but Miriam couldn’t even imagine separating from Ar’iaal again. For so long, it had been just them against the universe, and they had been a family for each other. Ar’iaal was like her brother, and the love they shared for each other ran so deep that there were probably only a handful of other beings in the world who could really understand it.

But finally, Miriam could fear a light touch against her shoulder, and she reluctantly pulled herself free from where she was tangled with Ar’iaal so that she could turn around to see where Thor was standing behind her. He had an awkward look on his face, a mixture between happiness and wariness, and Miriam was glad, because that was exactly how she felt at the moment too. She cleared her throat once so that she’d be able to actually speak without embarrassing herself. “Thor.” She stood up so that she wouldn’t have to strain her neck back to look at him.

The prince frowned. “I am pleased that you and your Ar’iaal have been reunited. From what little you and Wanda have mentioned of him, it is clear that you share a unique relationship. But I have to ask- does he still pose a threat to my people, or to the Midgardians, or anyone else?”

Miriam glanced down at where Ar’iaal was still kneeling. “No,” she told Thor while staring at her best friend. Then she spoke to Ar’iaal. “If you are still hiding yourself, cease doing so right now.” Ar’iaal didn’t say anything, but a few seconds later, there were gasps from all throughout the room, and when she looked back at Thor, even he seemed taken aback by the truth of Ar’iaal’s appearance. In the end, he was also what they would think of as a child, even if he was older than any of their brains could truly comprehend, just as Miriam was. “He is no threat.”

Thor nodded once, apparently trusting Miriam to know exactly what she was talking about. That kind of faith in her felt misplaced, but Miriam was honored by it all the same. “In that case, we must return to Midgard to search for our shield-brothers and sisters. You said that they were missing, and I am worried about them.”

Ar’iaal finally stood up, and his voice was the same as always, but she assumed that everyone else was used to some sharp, booming tone, because they seemed surprised by his soft smooth words as well. “You go and help your friends. I will retrieve your stones and bring them to you on Midgard.”

Miriam hesitated for a moment. “I don’t think that that’s such a good idea. The majority of people on Midgard would have no idea of who you are or what you’ve done, but the friends I’m going to help out do know your reputation, and it has not endeared you to them.”

Thor furrowed his eyebrows. “But the Avengers have all accepted you despite your past, so why should he not be offered the same opportunity? As long as he leaves behind his glamour, he is not in danger of frightening any innocent Midgardians, so there should be no issues with him going there. You said yourself that he will bring no harm any longer, which means that he should not require an escort to retrieve the stones or go to Midgard, correct?”

Miriam sighed, and suddenly reached out to pinch Ar’iaal in the arm. When he only yanked his arm back, but didn’t even attempt to complain, she sighed again. “See, he’s perfectly well trained. I wasn’t lying when I said that he won’t be an issue anymore. But I just don’t want him going there. I will meet him elsewhere to retrieve my stones from him, and that is final.”

There was a clearly hurt look on Ar’iaal’s face. “But you said that you missed me. And all I have wanted for the past nine thousand years is to see you again and make things right. Please, there must be something I can do to make you trust me.”

“It isn’t about trust,” Miriam said in a tired voice. She paused for a moment to try and think about how to properly explain her feelings. “I don’t want you on Midgard because Midgard is mine. It is the only place that has ever been mine without me forcing my way in. I have friends there, and am invested in Midgard’s continued success.” Ar’iaal didn’t say anything, but it was obvious that he didn’t really understand. She suddenly knew that this wasn’t a conversation she wanted to be having right in front of Thor. He would probably take Ar’iaal’s side in the matter. Too bad Loki wasn’t around. He would understand. She grabbed Ar’iaal’s arm, but he didn’t flinch away, just let himself be teleported to the other side of the palace. “Look, it’s not about trust,” she insisted again. “It’s about the fact that everywhere we’ve ever gone, everyone liked you better. Growing up, your parents clearly favored you, which is perfectly understandable since I was only there to be a political tool anyways. But then my own parents clearly favored you as well. They fled to escape me, but were still willing to take you with them. I know you can’t help it, but I guess you’re just easier for people to like, and Midgard is mine.”

After a short pause, Ar’iaal nodded once. “You’re afraid that if I go to Midgard I will steal your friends away from you? Miriam, that’s ridiculous. You made all those friends on your own because they knew you and liked who they knew. And I would never take anything from you. If you really don’t want me to go to Midgard, then I won’t. I swore that I would do anything you asked of me, and I meant it. But I do think that you’re wrong about people liking me more. Especially since your friends will know the things I’ve done.”

Miriam didn’t want to act jealous and angry. Having Ar’iaal back was supposed to be a good thing. A thing that she’d gone so many thousands of years thinking she would never actually get. But the entire time she’d been wishing for him back, she’d also adapted and learned to go about life on her own. She was very used to not having Ar’iaal. It would feel strange to have him back around all the time. And it would be worse if he inadvertently stole her friends and planet away from her. She knew he wouldn’t do it on purpose, but she also knew that it would happen regardless of Ar’iaal’s intentions.

In the past, it hadn’t really bothered Miriam as much when Ar’iaal had been the more popular of the two of them, because she knew that at the end of the day, it was still going to be just the two of them against the universe. But it wasn’t like that anymore. Times had changed, and they had both changed, and everything was so different than it used to be. But if Miriam didn’t let Ar’iaal come to Midgard, then she would look like the villain for not giving him a chance to reform and move on.

She leaned back against the wall that was behind her, and crossed her arms over her chest. “Do whatever you want, Ar’iaal. I mean don’t go around killing innocent people and destroying planets, obviously. But beyond that, your life is yours to choose. You can’t live an entire life doing only what I say and second-guessing every thought and action because you aren’t sure if that’s what would make me happiest. I don’t want to be a slave master, and I don’t want to control you. Just do what you want to do, Ar’iaal.”

“I don’t want to hurt you again,” he said softly.

“Then don’t.” She shrugged, and then tipped her head back and closed her eyes. “I didn’t lie before, when I said that I’ve missed you. From the day you left, all the way up until today, I never forgot about you or stopped wanting to have you back. But it’s been a very long time. You have to realize that things are not the same as they used to be. It’s going to take time and patience for us to get to know each other all over again, and for me to truly believe that you’re sorry for hurting me in the first place.”

Ar’iaal was quick to bob his head up and down. “Of course, I completely understand. Time, space, whatever you need.”

Miriam lifted one corner of her mouth into a small smile. “I need my power back. That’s a good place to start. I’ll meet you on Asgard’s second moon in three days to get them back from you. And while you’re away, you might want to think about telling your minions that the universal destruction plan has been binned.”

“I’ll do it, I promise.” He hesitated for a moment. “I know I have no right to ask anything of you, but could I just have one more hug? It’s been so long. Far too long.”

Miriam opened her eyes, and nodded once. “Fine. But just one and then you have to get going.”

Ar’iaal grinned, and it was probably the happiest Miriam had seen him in almost longer than she could even remember.

Chapter Text

She could feel Thor’s judgemental gaze on her the entire time they walked through the Avengers compound after she’d teleported them both there. Miriam decided that it would be best to simply ignore his looks, because she didn’t want to deal with whatever it was that he had to say. She knew that he would never be able to truly understand her relationship with Ar’iaal- nobody ever would.

And besides, they had far more important things to focus on at the moment, considering the fact that a quick conversation with the nearest patrolling guards was enough to learn that the Avengers were still missing, and nobody had heard anything from them at all. This was really bad, because the longer they were away, the bolder that the smaller villains would get, thinking that there was no one out there to stop them.

Even though it wasn’t really necessary since it was only the two of them, Miriam instructed Thor to meet her in the conference room. He continued giving her odd looks, but she really didn’t have the time to worry about him at the moment. Once the Asgardian walked away, Miriam took a minute to herself to just breathe and relax. She felt like she deserved a break. But then again, she’d never been lucky enough to catch breaks at any point in her life, so there was no reason that now would be any different.

Once she finished feeling sorry for herself and her ever busy schedule, Miriam teleported into the conference room, where Thor was already patiently waiting. Odin really didn’t deserve to be blessed with two great sons considering what a dick he was most of the time. And she barely even knew the guy.

Miriam sat down at the head of the table, where Steve usually sat. “Okay, so here’s the deal; we need to keep threats away from the planet between the two of us, while also working towards finding the Avengers. It isn’t going to be easy. Once I get the rest of my power back from Ar’iaal, that’ll definitely be a super huge help with the warding off bad guys part, but it’s not going to suddenly make me all-seeing, all-knowing, or whatever. I’m not going to be able to pull out a crystal ball and suddenly locate them. However, we can eliminate at least some of the places that they couldn’t possibly be. Even if they’ve been separated from each other, they’re strong on their own. I can understand Rhodes or Wilson being trapped by a regular jail, but the others shouldn’t have that problem. Which means that they must have special accommodations to keep them all right where they are.”

Thor nodded in agreement. “All of that sounds correct to me. So how will we find our shield brothers and sisters?”

That was something Miriam had to think about for a while, but then her eyes widened. “Oh, those crazy people would probably help us if we asked! The ones who tried to kill me because they thought I was some kind of serial killer or something. They’re pretty cool, I think. I mean other than that attempted killing of me bit. But that couldn’t happen now anyways, so it shouldn’t matter.”

“I can hardly believe that I would let myself forget how many friends we have outside of the Avengers. Though…” he trailed off for a moment, and it was so unlike Thor to sound uncertain about anything that Miriam couldn’t help giving him an intense look in the hope that it would force him to keep talking. And it surprisingly worked to do just that. “Would we not also have an easier time if we had the benefit of another Eternal on our side?”

Miriam narrowed her eyes at the suggestion. “Are you trying to say that I can’t even protect this stupid planet without his stupid help? Because I can! I don’t need that loser for anything.”

Thor gave her a thoughtful look, which she didn’t like at all because Thor was supposed to be the idiot that never knew what was going on (even though that never seemed to actually be the case after their initial meeting). “Very well. As he is your shield brother, I will obey your wishes on how you want to deal with him.”

“Thanks, I guess.” She sighed, and then walked over to the large screen that practically covered an entire wall of the room. “I’m going to call up that group of weirdos. Pretty sure I remember how to contact them based on a file I read. Though I did go through a lot of files so it’s hard to say for sure.” She laughed, and then shrugged, like there were no important consequences to anything they did now. “Why don’t you head out and get yourself something to eat? Going through a kidnapping has to be exhausting. Or is it not a kidnapping if it all takes place in your house? What would that be? A home invasion or something?”

Thor let out a soft laugh. “I will find sustenance for us both. It cannot have been easy to reconnect with your Ar’iaal after so much time apart, and emotions can be just as tiring as anything else.” He reached out and actually pat the top of her head like she was some kind of dog before he left the conference room.

Miriam stared after him like he was the strangest thing she’d ever seen, which really wouldn’t be too far of a stretch. Well, okay, to be fair, Loki was a lot stranger than his brother. And she’d definitely seen a lot of weird creatures out in the universe during her very long life. But even so, Thor was odder than most.

After he left, she called up those other crazy people, while taking a moment to wonder if they’d even answer, based on what she’d heard on the radio about inhumans having some troubles lately. But it was at least worth taking a minute to ask for the help, and even if they didn’t provide any, Miriam was sure that her and Thor were strong enough on their own. With Ar’iaal backing down from his goal of destroying what seemed to be everybody in the entire universe, there weren’t really any super big threats on the way that would cause too much trouble.

Unfortunately, maybe all the political stuff going on was an even bigger deal than she’d thought, because nobody answered her call. There were so many people in that group that she’d assumed there would always be at least a couple lying uselessly around their base. She wondered whether she should be worried about them or not. It’s not like she didn’t have other problems going on. It’s not like she wanted to be seen as some amazing savior superhero. But on the other hand, how was she supposed to prove to Ar’iaal that she didn’t need his help if she couldn’t even protect a handful of people on the planet she’d claimed as hers?

Miriam found Thor in one of the compound’s kitchens. “Looks like there might be some other missing friends too, or at least some people who could use help. I’m stronger than you, and can get there a lot quicker between the fact that I’ve been there before and I can teleport, so I’m going to go and check out the situation. You stay here and strategize, or something.”

It was strange how Thor was so willing to just follow Miriam’s lead. Maybe it’s because after all this time, it had finally sunken in with him just how old and powerful Miriam was. She may have appeared to be a child to Asgardians and Midgardians, but she was most definitely not a child. Either that, or it was because Thor didn’t want to feel like he was taking over Steve’s position on the team, even when Steve wasn’t there. Or maybe because he’d known the Avengers longer, and was taking their loss harder, so he couldn’t concentrate on plans as much. Whatever reason Thor had for blindly following Miriam around, though, she was grateful for it. It saved her the time that she’d have to spend arguing with him, and he could be a pretty stubborn guy.

She was ready to just take off from there, but Thor suddenly shoved a plate in her face, and it startled her enough to pause and assess the situation. There was just a simple sandwich and some chips, but she realized that Thor was trying to give the food to her, and she smiled. “I appreciate the thought, buddy, but I don’t need to eat. Like it is not a physical need of mine. Back when you brought me here the first time, I’d almost never eaten anything before, with the acception of a moon and some people. I don’t need external sustenance to survive.”

Thor nodded once. “I understand. But I would still feel better if you ate something all the same.”

Miriam rolled her eyes, but decided to humor the guy. She quickly scarfed down everything on the plate. “Thanks, that was delicious, now I really need to get going, okay?” She reached up to pat him on the shoulder, and then stepped back so that she could bring herself to the crazy people hideout.

She appeared right in the middle of a person- which was absolutely going to ruin these clothes and she wasn’t even getting paid for this- and then appeared a couple feet away instead. The person she’d appeared in dropped dead to the ground, looking like they’d just swallowed a bomb and been exploded from the inside. Hopefully he wasn’t too important to these people, or else they’d start throwing around accusations of her being a killer again, even though this was totally not her fault- oh, yeah, she’d almost forgotten that she had her full powers back now.

She could hear someone run down the hallway and then start screaming, but Miriam just ignored them and knelt next to the fallen man. She pressed her hand against the biggest chunk of him she could find, and within a few seconds, all the pieces of him seemed to be magnetically drawn back to each other. Once they all connected, the seams were tied together with very minimal scarring, and then the man’s chest started rising and falling as his heart began beating again.

Satisfied with a job well done having saved someone’s life (even if she’d been the person to kill them in the first place) she stood up, and realized that she was surrounded by people with guns. She narrowed her eyes as she slowly turned her head to see all of them, and then relaxed when she saw Coulson, Phillip. She grinned widely at him. “Hey! I was just popping by to check on you guys!”

A couple of the other armed individuals looked at Coulson as well, clearly confused. “Do you know her?” someone whispered to him.

He just stared at Miriam like he was trying to figure out who she was. While they’d only met very briefly, she felt a little offended that he didn’t recognize her. Or at least, she did until she realized why. “Oh I feel like a bit of an idiot right now. I’ve still got the,” she gestured towards her body. “Hang on a moment.” Considering the fact that she couldn’t even see her own illusions, she thought it was perfectly understandable that she might forget when they’re in effect. She still looked a little older and a little taller, and once she made herself look normal again, a look of recognition slowly filtered into Coulson’s eyes. “Anyways, like I said before, I was just popping in to check on you guys.”

Coulson motioned for the others to lower their weapons, and they did so reluctantly. Then he walked over to Miriam and the guy who was still lying on the ground. “Did you just bring someone who was dead back to life?”

Miriam hummed thoughtfully, and then shook her head. “No, I don’t think he was all dead. Just mostly dead.” She laughed at the reference to the movie Thor had insisted on making her watch a while back, which she’d then gone on to insist that Loki watch.

If Coulson understood the reference, he didn’t seem to find it funny. He just continued looking back and forth between Miriam and the guy on the ground. After a few seconds, the guy on the ground groaned, and then his eyes fluttered open and he pushed himself to sit up. He looked around in confusion. “What just-?” He got to his feet without looking pained at all, though as he looked down at his exposed arms, his confusion seemed to grow even deeper. “What the hell?”

Coulson walked closer to the man, reaching out like he was ready to catch him in case he toppled over suddenly, but Miriam was confident in her ability to heal the guy well enough that he wasn’t missing anything he needed. She wasn’t exactly an expert at healing though, so it was technically possible that she was wrong. It was something she’d rarely done in the past, and even that was only to get something from the other person.

Apparently Coulson noticed the scars left behind on the other guy’s skin, and he looked back at Miriam. “Maybe it would be best if you explain exactly what’s going on here.” Miriam heaved out an overly dramatic sigh, and then flopped down onto the ground, tilting her neck so that she could peer back at Coulson. “We do have chairs around here if you’re interested,” he told her while sounding almost amused.

Miriam shrugged. “This is fine.” After a long moment passed, Coulson nodded, and he sat down on the floor as well. One of his colleagues remained standing there while the others slowly filtered away, including the guy who’d been healed, since Coulson instructed him to get to the infirmary to be checked over. “I don’t know if you’ve heard anything about it, but the Avengers are kinda missing right now. Nobody knows where they are, and they’ve been gone for like a month. Maybe you at least noticed that they weren’t prancing around New York like usual. I called you because I thought maybe you’d be able to help me find them, but no one answered, so I wondered if you’d all disappeared as well, and came to check. But I didn’t know someone was going to have the unfortunate luck to be standing in the exact spot I teleported into.”

Coulson’s eyes flicked over to the drying blood on the ground before he focused on Miriam again. “So you accidentally killed one of my men, and then fixed him?”

“Yeah. It’s been a while, so I’m glad it felt just as easy as it used to. So are you going to tell me why no one bothered to answer a call directly from the Avengers tower?”

Coulson sighed, looking tired. “We change the access codes around here pretty often. When no one on your end answered to receive a new set of codes, we did get a little worried. But we still had to change them to be safe. You were most likely just blocked for not having the right codes.”

“Oh. That’s a boringly simple answer. Will you at least help us find the Avengers?”

Coulson tilted his head curiously. “Us? Who else do you have?”

Miriam lifted one hand to tick off her fingers as she listed each person. “The guards at the Avengers compound, Thor, me, Stark’s been searching steadily with no luck so far, Loki if he ever shows up,” and she didn’t miss the way Coulson flinched at the mention of Loki’s name, “and maybe an old friend of mine, but I haven’t decided about him yet. So there’s not a lot of us to go around between doing superhero work stuff, and trying to track down the Avengers. I know you’ve probably already got a lot on your plate if the stuff my friend Jack told me is anything to go by, but we could really use all the help we could get. The Avengers aren’t just superheroes- there’s already tons of those, with more being made everyday from what I’ve heard. They’d like a symbol of protection to the people who don’t have any powers.”

Coulson nodded once. “I can’t guarantee anything. Like you said, we’ve got a lot going on at the moment. But you’re right, the Avengers are important. I’ll send as many people as I can spare to the compound to help you, and if I hear anything about them, I’ll be sure to let you know. Though you’ll have to make sure you actually accept the changed codes this time if you don’t want to have the same problem again.”

Miriam grinned, and leaned forward to pull Coulson into a hug. “Thanks, buddy. I have varying levels of fondness for all of the Avengers, and I’d hate for some of them to be injured too badly.” Then she got back up to her feet, and offered a hand down to Coulson to help pull him up as well.

“You’re a lot stronger than you look. Maybe at some point when we’ve both got the time, you and I could sit down and chat a little bit about you. I’ve never met an inhuman with more than one power, and yet you can teleport, heal people, change your appearance, and who knows what else.”

Miriam nodded. “Sure. When we’ve got time. Catch you later.” Then she went back to the compound. She found Thor down in the gym, sparring against punching bags, and casting them aside when they split open. “You know, I’m pretty sure that at least half of the Avengers’ budget just goes towards punching bags.”

Thor grinned. “Ah, you have returned. How was your trip?”

She motioned towards one of the empty mats, and then positioned herself to be ready to fight. Thor was happy enough to join her for a few rounds of sparring, especially now that he didn’t have to worry about injuring her so badly she’d be bedridden for weeks. “I talked to Coulson. He said he’d send a couple guys over, and that he’d let us know if he hears anything, which basically means that it was a pointless trip. Nothing was wrong there, just didn’t have the right codes to call them. Not really sure how that works.” She dodged a straight forward punch from Thor, and rolled across the mat. “So how’s your day been so far?”

He smiled as they continued to go at each other. “I prefer days that don’t begin with my home being invaded, but considering the fact that none of my people were hurt, and you’re lucky timing prevented someone from destroying Midgard and Asgard, I suppose that I can’t really complain. Though I am worried about our friends. Hopefully we’ll find them soon.”

Miriam ended up pinning Thor to the ground, and he looked happy to have someone who he could go up against who would pose a challenge to him. “Yeah. Hopefully.” Then she scrambled back to her feet. “Alright, let’s go again.” It had been a while since she’d been able to fight at almost full strength, and it felt too good to stop now.

Chapter Text

Miriam wasn’t very surprised when she showed up at the designated meeting place, and found Ar’iaal already waiting there for her. He even had a blanket spread out with some food on plates around him, making it seem like he’d made himself comfortable there a little while ago. “Someone was eager for this meeting. You know I’m only here for my stones, right?”

One of Ar’iaal’s eyes seemed to twitch a little bit, but that was the only reaction he had to her words, other than holding out a box towards her. Not worried about it being a trap, she took the box, and opened it up to see three rocks nestled in it. Perfect. She put the box down on the ground, since she was pretty sure she’d have to do this one at a time if she didn’t want to explode or anything, and then reached down to pluck out one of the stones.

She went through the process of restoring her power from each stone, and when she was done, she couldn’t stop herself from collapsing to the ground like a puppet whose strings had been cut. Despite living thousands of years at her full power, going so long without it made it all feel almost overwhelming now. She could feel all of her natural power flowing and shifting through her, attempting to settle into her body the way it had been for so long. And she could also feel something foreign, and wondered if she’d accidentally taken any extra power from the stones that hadn’t been hers to take.

It felt like Miriam was lying on the ground for just a few seconds, and for millions of years at the same time. When she blinked and opened her eyes, everything looked so much brighter and clearer than it had during her time as a pseudo human. She smoothly got up to her feet, and quickly realized that she was no longer on the moon where she’d met up with Ar’iaal. Instead, she was on some random chunk of rock that she didn’t recognize, but it didn’t take any effort to teleport back to where Ar’iaal was probably still waiting for her.

When she got there, he was lounging on the blanket he’d brought, reading over some piece of paper. He looked up as soon as Miriam appeared, and there was a wary smile on his face. “I wasn’t sure when you’d be back.”

“How long was I gone?”

Ar’iaal glanced up at the sky, then back at Miriam. “Just a couple hours. And thank goodness for that. Too much longer, and your friend probably would’ve come to hunt me down and make me suffer. Not that an Asgardian would really be able to do much to me, but, you know.”

Miriam shrugged. “Can I just say something? I’m really pissed that you thought I was dead, and then acted like you had any right to get upset when you were the one who left me. I never told you to go, you just chose to leave. I wish you’d stop just acting like nothing happened. There’s too many thousands of years of hurt between us for it to all just be gone.”

Ar’iaal gulped, then nodded once, a guilty look on his face showing briefly before he tilted his head down to look at the ground. “I regret so much of my past. We could- together, maybe we could go back and fix things. Start over again. Do it all right this time. Neither of us have to become monsters, or be separated.”

Miriam shook her head. “It’s impossible. Yes, technically, we are capable of going back. It’s not outside the realm of possibilities. But there wouldn’t be any point. Even if we changed everything, the two of us would still remember our lives here. And besides, we’re both so old, Ar’iaal. I can’t stand the thought of living out the same hundreds of thousands of years again. There isn’t enough excitement in the universe for that.” She knelt down, and after a moment of hesitation, she reached out to take one of Ar’iaal’s hands. “We must learn from the past, and if we change it, we cannot do that. If it were truly that easy, we would’ve just returned to moments before you hit me after it had just happened. But even then, you knew that that was not the answer.”

“What do you want from me?” Ar’iaal asked in a barely audible whisper. “I will do anything at all that you want.”

It’s not like Miriam couldn’t have anything in the universe she wanted right now, with just a snap of her fingers and no help from her childhood friend. She could understand why her own family had chosen to abandon her all those centuries ago. They had been right to be afraid of her, when she could twist and bend reality around her without a second thought. Even Ar’iaal could not do that, despite how powerful he was.

She frowned. “There’s nothing you could give me that I could not procure myself,” she said slowly, carefully testing out each word before letting it take shape in the air. “I want things to go back to the way they once were just as much as you do, but it’s impossible. We can never go back to how we were. But we can grow and learn, and get to know each other all over again. We’re practically strangers after so much time has passed without a single word to each other.”

Ar’iaal’s face lit up, but he spoke quietly, like he was afraid of startling Miriam into changing her mind. “I’d really like that too. And I could help you find your friends- I swear, I won’t try to take them or anything else away from you. Just give me another chance, Miriam. I won’t make you regret it, I promise.”

Miriam stood up, but she didn’t let go of Ar’iaal’s hand so that she could pull him up as well. “I’m sure we both have plenty of stories to share with each other, huh? At least the search for the mysteriously disappearing superheroes will give us the opportunity to talk. But don’t blow it this time. If you want to leave, then that’s your choice, but if you ever try to hurt me again…”

“I won’t, I swear it!” Ar’iaal sounded so earnest, and was staring at her pleadingly. She couldn’t let him down, so she just nodded once, causing his grin to somehow brighten up even more.

She clutched his hand tightly before teleporting them both back to the Avengers compound on Midgard. When they got there, she could hear alarms going, and rolled her eyes at the fact that she just couldn’t catch a break these days. Well, that’s what she got for taking such a long vacation from her problems.

She teleported to the training room, bringing Ar’iaal along with her, and saw Thor swinging his hammer around at… nothing? There was apparently nothing there, but the Asgardian looked like he was really exerting himself to fight, and the alarms were still blaring. “Thor! Wanna explain what’s going on?”

He only gave Miriam a very quick glance before turning back to his nonexistent foe. “I think this building is haunted. Since we got here a few days ago, I’ve noticed the occasional object moving itself, or knocking itself down, but I didn’t think much of it. Until a punching bag was unhooked and threw itself at my head!”

Ar’iaal tugged on Miriam’s sleeve, and she arched one eyebrow as he leaned over to whisper in her ear. “You and I both know that ghosts aren’t real, and even if they were, there’s no way we wouldn’t be able to see them.”

“Unless it’s not an illusion, and ghosts are truly invisible,” she whispered back.

Thor shot another quick glance towards the two Eternals. “I am very pleased to see that you have made up at least a little bit, but I am in a bit of a bind here, and could really use some assistance.”

Miriam gasped. “Are you saying that the crown prince of Asgard can’t even beat up a couple of ghosts on his own?” She laughed, and then teleported directly into the center of the supposed fray. She could immediately tell that at least Thor wasn’t crazy, because she really could feel movement around her that wasn’t coming from the Asgardian. When she swung her arm around, she could feel it sink into the soft flesh of a person’s stomach. Would ghosts really be so tangible? Could ghosts even really exist? She’d think about asking Lady Death, but Miriam had always held a slight grudge against the being for being able to so easily steal away Ar’iaal’s attention back in the day. And now wasn’t the time to worry about that anyways.

She began lashing out at the completely invisible people. There was no sign of them being there, not even the faintest breathing noises, no grunts of pain when they were hit, no footsteps on the ground. And unlike most clear objects, there wasn’t even the slightest hint of an outline, or sun spot, or anything else that would indicate there was a physical thing right there. It made no sense. Miriam had thought that she’d basically seen it all after her many years of traveling the universe, but apparently she was wrong.

As soon as a hand slapped across her arm, Miriam snatched the invisible wrist, and gripped it tightly enough to bruise. She closed her eyes for a moment, and then let out a gasp at what she was able to get from the surface of the invisible being’s arms. “Thor! Stop! They aren’t ghosts! It’s the other Avengers!”

Thor didn’t seem to hear her right away, but the ones attacking Miriam did, and the attacks stopped. They must’ve just been trying to get the attention of anyone they could, and hadn’t been able to figure out any other way to go about it. She teleported over to Thor to grab his hammed mid swing, because she knew he’d never forgive himself if he injured one of his teammates.

Thor blinked a few times, and then tugged his hammer free. “They’re the Avengers,” Miriam repeated. “Not ghosts. They were just trying to call out to you since they can’t talk or be seen at the moment.” Thor looked confused, but he looped his hammer through his belt again instead of holding it out to attack again, so Miriam took that as a good sign.

“How can you be sure that it is our shield brothers and sisters?”

Miriam held out one hand with the palm facing up, and waited patiently for the feeling of a larger hand resting on top. It was very bizarre to feel the weight of something that she couldn’t detect with most of her other senses, but she ignored that strangeness. “I’m no great mind reader like Wanda, but I’m back at my full power, which means that I’m capable of quite a lot of stuff, including some small glimpses into minds. Not even that, really. It’s more like I can tell whose mind is whose. These are definitely the Avengers, and not some kind of fakes. I’m pretty sure Steve is the one touching my hand right now. Squeeze once for yes, twice for no.” There was a quick squeeze, and she grinned. “Have you been in the compound the entire time you’ve been missing?” Two squeezes. “Do you know where you were?” One. “Do you know how to fix yourselves?” One. “Do you need our help?” One.

Ar’iaal suddenly shoved the hand away from Miriam’s. “Do you really trust your instincts that much when you just got them back?”

“Don’t be a dick,” Miriam muttered. “Okay, so now we just need a way to communicate that will let us ask more than just yes or no questions, because that could take us years to even get on the right track.” She could feel the slight buzz of curiosity coming collectively from the Avengers, most likely wondering who Ar’iaal was. Though Wanda had seen Ar’iaal in Miriam’s mind back when they’d first met, so she probably recognized him now. It’s not like he or Miriam had changed much. Unless he was using an illusion at the moment even though Miriam had told him not to. But there were bigger things to worry about.

First, Miriam thought she could just hand the Avengers some pens and paper, but as soon as they held the pens, they became invisible as well, along with any ink to come out of them. Of course, if it had been that easy, they would’ve just done that from the start. Then Miriam got a truly inspired idea, and told them all she’d be right back. She teleported to the nearest hardware store, and bought a bunch of giant cans of paint which took her a couple of trips to get back to the tower. She also went to a craft store to buy a bunch of tarps, and large white styrofoam boards. Midgardians really did think of the coolest things.

Back in the tower, she got Thor and Ar’iaal to help her (even though she didn’t really need the assistance, she could tell that they wanted to feel useful), and it didn’t take very long to shove aside all of the mats. Then they spread the tarps out to cover up as much of the floor as possible, and then laid out the styrofoam boards over the tarps.

Then Miriam got open containers to spill the paint out into. She assigned each container a letter of the English alphabet, along with a few common words like ‘the’, ‘and’, ‘we’, etc. When she was all down, she gestured proudly to the containers. “Alright. I’m going to try and keep my questions as simple as possible. Only one person can try to answer at a time to avoid any confusion. Jump into each bucket you need hard enough to splash some of the paint out so those drops will be visible to us even when the rest turns invisible. Got it?” There was a general feeling of assent, and Miriam nodded in satisfaction. “Great. I guess the most important question I’ve got is how the heck are we supposed to make you all normal again?”

There was a very long pause, maybe as they thought out their answer, or decided who would be the one to cover their feet in paint, and then the jumping began. The first few tries were completely useless, because paint splattered everywhere, and whoever had been chosen to be the jumper moved too fast at times, and too slow at other times, making it very difficult to make out anything being communicated.

Miriam cleaned off all the styrofoam, and then demanded that they start again, and that they’d keep doing it until they got it right. After a while, the jumps slowed down, and she realized that it was probably tiring, so she quickly fetched food from the kitchen, and they all sat down for a lunch break. It was certainly odd to watch the food be picked up, and then disappear. It was interesting that her and Thor hadn’t disappeared while fighting the Avengers, but maybe that was because they hadn’t been holding her the same way they were holding the food? She’d probably ask them a lot more questions once they were able to actually talk in a way that would make sense.

When all the food was gone, she felt it was safe to assume that everyone had gotten enough. Then they went back to the jumping, with Thor slowly writing down each letter and word as they were made. It took a while, but eventually, the paint letters stopped, and then Miriam, Thor, and Ar’iaal sat down to look down over the paper Thor had been writing on. It hadn’t occurred to Miriam to make a bucket to represent a space, so they had to do a bit of puzzle solving to figure out where all the individual words were, but eventually they had a solid page or so of information.

Scanning through the finished product didn’t take very long, and Miriam actually rolled her eyes when she saw what the solution was. “Seriously? You guys all have a lot of explaining to do. How the hell do you end up so caught up in something that should’ve been pretty simple to avoid? Whatever, just give me a moment. Everyone who’s currently invisible, touch my arm,” and then she held one of her arms up over her head so that the sleeve would fall down to around her elbow. There was no noise of shuffling footsteps, but a few seconds later, she could feel several different fingers pressed lightly against her skin.

Honestly, it was crazy that Wanda hadn’t been able to cure the witch’s curse that had struck them all, but it made it more clear how useful Miriam was, so there wasn’t much point in complaining. It didn’t take much effort to push just enough power through the Midgardians to dispel the curse without making them all explode.

When she was done, and everyone was clearly visible and audible, all the Avengers began talking at once, and Miriam wasn’t even going to try sorting out all the individual voices and thoughts. She teleported away, off to Loki’s room in the palace on Asgard. It’s one of the places where she felt safest, even though it sucked to not have her friend there. Now that the Avengers had been found (and she’d definitely have to get the full story from them about everything later) she could focus on finding Loki. He’d supposedly left on his own, but that didn’t make her feel better.

She glanced up eagerly when she heard a step, but then furrowed her eyebrows when she saw that it was just Ar’iaal, and not Loki. “How’d you know I’d be here?”

Ar’iaal shrugged. “Now that you’re at full strength again, we’re back to the days of me being able to kinda feel you out to know where you are.” His eyes slowly swept around the room, taking in every detail, before focusing back on Miriam. “Are you and the younger Asgardian prince… together?”

Miriam narrowed her eyes, and crossed her arms over her chest. “No. Not that it’s any of your business, but you’re already well aware of the fact that I have no inclination for romantic entanglements. And Loki is my best friend.”

She couldn’t miss the way Ar’iaal physically winced at those words, but he didn’t try to convince her that he was still her best friend. At least that was a small point in his favor. “Sorry, I just- Are you happy? With your life? With the way it is now? With the people who surround you?”

It only really took a moment of contemplation before Miriam was able to nod. “Yes, I am surprisingly happy. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s a good thing that the Asgardians did what they did to me, but I can’t deny the end results. Though I would definitely be happier if I at least knew that Loki was safe, wherever it is that he’s run off to.”

She gave Ar’iaal a pointed look, and he nodded once. “I’m sorry for what I did to him. I had no idea that he even knew you, obviously. Of course, I know that that doesn’t excuse what I did, but I just- if I’d known how important he was to you, I wouldn’t have hurt him so much. And if he ran off because he was scared of me, then I’m very very sorry. When we find him again, I’ll apologize in every way that I can think of.”

“‘We’?”

Ar’iaal nodded again. “I may not be your best friend anymore, but you are still the person I care about more than anything else in the entire universe, and if it’ll make you happy to have Loki back, then I’ll do everything in my power to help you find him. We’re starting over, remember? Friends help each other with stuff like this.”

Miriam smiled. “Thanks. We should probably head back to Midgard before anyone freaks out. We’ll figure out a plan to find Loki tomorrow.” She hesitated for a moment before adding, “It is good to see you again, no matter what grievances I might have with you.” And then she teleported back to the Avengers compound, ready to hear about what the superheroes had been up to that involved magic and curses. It was sure to quite fascinating.

Chapter Text

After everyone had gotten some rest, and given a thorough explanation of what exactly had happened to the Avengers, Miriam made sure to pop by and give Coulson the heads up about the Avengers being back in town and open for business. He seemed relieved, and said that everything was easier when the Avengers were around to pick up the slack, and it also meant that he wouldn’t be wasting any of his limited manpower on trying to track them down. He thanked Miriam for her hard work, and then she returned to the compound.

She made sure that everyone was gathered up in one room, and then decided that properly introducing Ar’iaal to them needed to be like ripping off a bandaid so that she could just get it over with, and jump straight to the part where she had to continuously justify giving a monster like him another chance.

“Alright everyone, I would like to introduce you to one of the universe’s biggest dicks, owner of one of the universe’s smallest dicks, also known as Ar’iaal.” Ar’iaal had a slight frown on his face from that introduction, but other than that, did nothing.

The first reaction was complete silence, and then everyone was jumping to their feet, weapons drawn, ready to start attacking. Ar’iaal just sat up a little straighter in his seat. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I was trying to help back there with the paint and everything.”

Miriam sighed, and stood up as well, though she kept her body language open and relaxed. She knew that there was nothing any of the Avengers could do to actually hurt her or Ar’iaal, but she knew that she would much prefer to walk away from here with all of her friends still liking her as a friend. Of course, if she had to choose between the Avengers and Ar’iaal, she would certainly choose the Avengers, but she would really appreciate not having to make that choice in the first place. She held her hands out in a gesture for the Avengers to back down. Thor was just looking anxiously back and forth between Miriam and the other heroes. “Guys, calm down. I know this seems like something bad, but it’s not. I’m not going to lie and try to convince you that Ar’iaal has spent the past few thousand years running around being a nice guy, since we all know that that isn’t the case. But he’d promised to give up his evil ways, and I believe that he’s telling the truth about that.”

Steve shook his head. “I’m sorry, Miriam, but we cannot trust him. He’s caused so much death and destruction and wants Earth to be the next planet to be killed off.”

Miriam narrowed her eyes. “Maybe so. But you seem to be forgetting about the part where I spent far longer than just a few thousand years causing just as much death and destruction, and yet you were all willing to give me a chance to change, and to prove that I was capable of said change. I’ve done far worse things than this idiot could even begin to imagine, and I had no noble reasons for doing it. He thought he was helping me, in a very weird way. Of course that doesn’t excuse his actions, but by comparison, I caused complete carnage everywhere because it was something to do when I got bored. So how is it that I’m the one who is going to stand here and be considered trustworthy while you completely discount him?”

The Avengers all shifted on their feet, seeming unsure of what they should do. Wanda finally took a step forward, and looked directly at Ar’iaal. “If you truly want us to be able to trust you, and you have no ill intentions towards us, then you will have no problem with allowing me into your mind. I know that there are very strong natural barriers, which means you will have to intentionally make yourself vulnerable to me.”

Ar’iaal glanced up at Miriam with one eyebrow raised, and she gave a sharp nod. There was no reason for Ar’iaal to try and hide from Wanda, because he was telling the truth about no longer wanting to destroy the entire Earth. Or any other planet for that matter. Ar’iaal sighed once, then closed his eyes and scrunched up his face as he concentrated on taking down his mental walls. Miriam had never tried taking them down when she was at full power, but she could imagine just how difficult it had to be to go against one of an Eternal’s body’s natural defenses.

After several long minutes passed, with most of the Avengers still holding out their weapons and looking like they were very much on edge, Ar’iaal opened his eyes and looked up at Wanda. “Alright. Let’s just get this over with.”

Wanda walked over, and placed her hand on the top of Ar’iaal’s head. Both of them closed their eyes simultaneously, and stayed completely still for a while. When Wanda finally let go and stepped back, she turned to the other Avengers. “He is telling the truth. He was under the impression that if he killed enough people it would bring back Miriam, but since she’s actually still alive and here, he doesn’t see the need to kill anymore people, and is willing to just stop.” She glanced back at Ar’iaal with an incredulous look on her face. “Did you really meet the actual personification of Death? Like she’s an actual, living, real person?”

Miriam scowled. “Ugh, I hate her. She’s always had a thing for Ar’iaal, and her ways of showing affection often involved one or both of us getting into some pretty bad trouble. I think she’s always had it out for me. Probably out of jealousy.”

Ar’iaal shrugged. “She never had anything to be jealous of, though. We’re siblings. If she was into me like that, she would have no reason to try and get in between us.”

Natasha put her guns away, and then looked over at Miriam with curiosity. “So all those times you talked about you and Ar’iaal, you never meant to imply that there were romantic feelings between the two of you?”

Both of the Eternals wrinkled their noses at the same time. “Don’t be gross. We may not be related by blood, but we were raised as siblings from the time I was born, and then after everyone else left, we were the only family left for each other. That’s all we’ve ever been. I have no interest in being involved with anyone, ever.”

Ar’iaal nodded in agreement. “I’ve always seen us as brother and sister, and since I’m the older one, I always considered it my job to look out for Miriam, and protect her whenever possible.”

The Avengers all seemed to accept that, though Miriam wondered what she had done to make anyone think that she had a romantic interest in Ar’iaal. It seemed like a very human thing. Based on the various movies and television shows Miriam had seen, humans had a strange expectation that close relationships of any nature would eventually turn romantic and/or sexual. They were quite bizarre creatures at times.

But she was glad that Wanda’s reading seemed to be enough to convince everyone that Ar’iaal wasn’t lying about wanting to turn over a new leaf. And she would have gotten angry if that pointless argument had gone on for much longer, because she really had been a monster, so it wouldn’t be fair to give her a second chance, but to not offer the same thing to Ar’iaal.

She sat back down, and then clapped her hands together. “Great! So now that we’ve determined that Ar’iaal is not planning a mass destruction of any sort at the moment, we can move on to our next item of business. Thor’s brother, Loki, is missing.”

“Again?” Sam asked.

Miriam nodded. “Unfortunately yes. This time it’s more likely that he took off on his own, since last time he was kidnapped by Ar’iaal, and Loki isn’t dumb enough or weak enough to be captured by too many other people.”

Thor cleared his throat. “If my brother has indeed left of his own free will, would it not be best to just allow him time and space to accomplish whatever it is that he left for?”

That was a valid question, but Miriam didn’t think that it was so simple. “I’m not sure that we should. It’s quite possible that he originally took off because he knew that Ar’iaal was coming, and felt afraid. If that’s the case, then it’s urgent we find him to explain that he doesn’t have to worry, and to give him the opportunity to at least get a few punches in if he wants to. And if he did leave for a specific purpose beyond just hiding, then it’s possibly something that we could help him with. Most importantly, I don’t want him to ever feel like he’s alone or unwanted, which might be the case if no one tries to chase after him.”

“Surely he must know that he’s wanted, considering the lengths you went to to find him the last time, right? I mean, you bounced halfway across the universe to make sure that he was okay, and then went against my influence on him when you weren’t even at your full strength.”

Miriam punched Ar’iaal in the shoulder. “If you hadn’t kidnapped him in the first place, I wouldn’t have had to go so far just to get him back. But also, don’t be a coward about this. You need to apologize to Loki. It’s his right to feel safe in his own home, and you’re the one who made that impossible, first by snatching him from it, and then by going directly after him. And if you don’t apologize to him, I’ll never speak to you again.”

Ar’iaal blinked a few times, and then crossed his arms over his chest. “Fine. I already told you that I’d help you to track him down, right? But what if he doesn’t accept my apology?”

Miriam shrugged. “It’s well within his rights to choose whether to accept or not. What’s important is that you are honest and genuine in your apology, and that’s it. You wouldn’t have to stoop to doing this if you hadn’t been such a douche in the first place, so you only have yourself to blame.”

“Yeah, yeah, I get it. I’ll apologize so that we can all parade off into the sunset like one big happy family. If I do apologize, and mean it, then will at least consider making me your best friend again?”

Miriam snorted. “As if. A person can only have one best friend, which is why they’re the best, and Loki’s already taken that spot. And unlike you, he’s never done anything to get himself booted out of it. Why don’t you start with just trying to make your way back into the regular friend category, okay? Maybe if you agree to wash my laundry everyday for a year, I’ll think about reinstating you to full friend status.”

Steve suddenly let out a soft chuckle, reminding Miriam that the Avengers were all still there. She looked over at Steve with a raised eyebrow, and he shrugged. “Sorry, I know you just said that you’re siblings, but I guess I wasn’t expecting you to really act like such siblings, you know? I never had any blood siblings growing up, but I did have someone who was basically my brother, so I get where you’re coming from. I just find it fascinating that immortal aliens such as yourselves basically act the same way around siblings as human children do.”

Miriam immediately narrowed her eyes. “We’re not children. But fine, I guess I understand what you meant by it.” She sighed, and then looked around the room at everyone. “So anyways, back to the point. We need to find Loki, again, or figure out a way to convince him to come back to us, which will probably be easiest if we can get him to understand that it’s safe for him back home in the palace on Asgard, and here in the compound. Any questions?” Everyone shook her head, and Miriam smiled at them. “Good. Then let’s disband for now, and meet again later so that we can discuss all of our potential ideas.”

Natasha leaned over to whisper something in Steve’s ear that made him laugh loudly, and then he cleared his throat before starting towards the door of the conference room. “Well, in that case, we’ll all leave the two of you to get re-acquainted.” The Avengers all filed out of the room.

Once the heroes were gone, Miriam turned to look at Ar’iaal. “So will you really mean it when you give your apology, or is it just going to be something that sounds good and honest? Don’t forget the fact that I know you better than anyone else, but right now, after everything that happened with you stealing my name, it’s hard for me to really say whether I know the real you or not.”

Ar’iaal sighed, and he sounded tired. Which made Miriam’s mind wander for a moment as she wondered if there was any way to show Ar’iaal what sleep was like without doing a ritual that would take away all of his power. Then she focused back on the present and what Ar’iaal was saying. “I really do feel bad about what happened to Loki. And yes, I can acknowledge the fact that part of that has to do with him being important to you, but my actual reason for feeling bad shouldn’t matter. All that should be important is that I’m sorry for what I put the guy through, and I want to be able to make it right if I can.”

Miriam nodded. “Alright, I believe you. And I won’t even ask to dig around in your head first to make sure. Mostly because if I was given permission to dig around in your head, I’d probably be too tempted to do it with a shovel and an electric drill.”

Ar’iaal laughed. “Alright, I get it. I’m not really forgiven by you yet. I can live with that, though, as long I can still be a part of your life.” He reached out to grab both of Miriam’s hands. “I hope you can believe me when I say that you’re truly the most important person in my life. No matter what else happens, I just want you to be happy.”

Miriam smiled gratefully. “I’ll be happy when I have Loki back.”

Ar’iaal nodded. “That’s exactly why I’m going to get him back for you.”

“More like with me,” Miriam corrected him. “There’s no way I’d ever just sit back and relax while you and everyone else do all of the work. Especially when it’s for something that I want so badly. But yes, you and I will certainly bring Loki back home. And then you’ll apologize to him, and everything really will be perfect.” She could tell from the look on Ar’iaal’s face that he didn’t believe in the possibility of everyone walking away from this happy, but she knew that she had to at least try.

Chapter Text

“Ah, Miriam, I know that you intended on throwing a large and intricate rescue mission to find my brother and ensure his safe return, but it would seem that he has already returned home on his own.”

Miriam wasn’t sure why Thor looked so nervous, considering what good news he’d just shared with her. “You don’t sound very happy to have him back. What’s going on?”

Thor jerked his head up to look at Miriam with wide eyes. “Of course I am delighted to have my brother home, where I know that he is safe and well! But I was under the impression that you were greatly looking forward to being the one to find him and convince him to return, so I thought that you might be disappointed that that was the not the case.”

Miriam snorted. “Just how shallow do you think I am? Of course if there was a rescue mission required, I wanted to be in on it because Loki’s my best friend. But the most important thing to me is knowing that he’s okay and that he’s hopefully at least a little bit happy with life. I didn’t want him to stay missing just so I could find him. I think humans are the only ones with that bizarre hero complex thing. Anyways, if he’s really back, then I’m just going to go visit with him. If you see Ar’iaal around, tell him that I’ll bring Loki here later today, so he better be standing ready with that epic apology.”

Thor nodded once, and thanks to Miriam’s assurance that she wasn’t upset, his usual chipper expression was back in place. “I will be glad to pass on the message. While you are gone, I shall attempt to bond more with your shield brother. He and I have both found a similar fondness for pop-tarts, and I believe that we can forge a great connection between us based on that.”

Miriam rolled her eyes, but was pleased at the thought of Ar’iaal getting along with the other Avengers. Especially Thor, since Miriam liked him best out of the lot. Wanda was pretty okay too, and even though Loki wasn’t actually an Avenger, she really hoped that he and Ar’iaal would end up working things out. It would suck if her two favorite people in the universe hated each other forever, and she didn’t want to choose between them. No matter what she may have said or thought before, if it really came down to it, she wasn’t entirely sure who she would choose.

She teleported to Loki’s room, and found him sitting at his desk, scribbling away in one of his many journals. Even though he always wrote in codes to keep his thoughts private, Miriam could understand exactly what was written because of her ability to see through all lies, which was why she always made a pointed effort to not look over his shoulder when he was writing.

Instead, she remained by the doorway, and cleared her throat to get Loki’s attention. He finished whatever thought he was in the middle of before putting his pen down and turning to look up at Miriam. “I didn’t realize word would get around so quickly that I had returned. Unless you just come here everyday because you miss me so badly and cannot stand to spend a single day without me in your presence.”

Miriam walked over to him and punched him lightly in the shoulder. “It was a jerk move to disappear like that without saying anything. Again. Even with Ar’iaal out of the running when it comes to people who might have snatched you, there’s still a million other things that could have happened, and I was worried about you.”

Loki sighed, and stood up so that he could pull Miriam into a very brief hug before they separated, both feeling a bit awkward by the physical contact. Then Loki sat down on the edge of his bed, and motioned for Miriam to sit down next to him. “Look, I’m sorry about the disappearing act. I didn’t intend for anyone to be concerned. I just had to get away. Even if all of the Asgardians are strong enough to stand up against him, I am not.”

A sympathetic look covered Miriam’s face, and she reached out to gently rest her hand on top of one of Loki’s. “I know that nothing is going to just erase your memories of how you were treated before. It was wrong of Ar’iaal to do everything he did to you, both of the times that he grabbed you up. The tortures he inflicted, and the ways that he scared you… all of it was absolutely horrible, and you didn’t deserve any of it. But I swear to you that Ar’iaal is no threat to you anymore. His reasons for doing what he did are flimsy, but in the end it all leads back to me, and he has me now, so he has no more reason to continue with any of that destructive behavior.”

Loki scowled, but didn’t yank his hand away from Miriam’s, which was a step in the right direction, considering the current topic of conversation. “I had heard that the two of you reconciled. It’s the only reason I bothered to return at all.”

The surprise couldn’t be kept off of Miriam’s face. “You heard that? Who told you that? And where were you hiding that you could get the news so quickly?”

“My brother told me. He was aware of where I decided to hide out from the beginning, and promised to let me know if things blew over enough for me to ever come back. Not that this place is really the one that I consider to be my home, mind you. But that oaf apparently couldn’t bear the idea of me heading too far away. As for the specific location, I think that I’ll keep that to myself. Even I deserve my secrets.”

Miriam laughed. “You’re the master of secrets. I’m sure that you never have to worry about not having enough of them. But I won’t push. And I won’t even yell at Thor too badly for letting me worry so much. He could have at least told me that you were safe.”

Loki arched one eyebrow. “Do you really think that you wouldn’t have forced answers out of him if he gave you even a little bit to go off of?”

“Alright, that’s fair,” Miriam said with a soft laugh. “So anyways, I basically came here to tell you that Ar’iaal isn’t going to do anything to hurt you, and to beg you to come back to the compound with me, at least for a short bit, so that Ar’iaal can give you his apology for everything in person.”

The unimpressed look on Loki’s face made it pretty clear what he thought of that idea. “Do you honestly think that there’s anything he could say to me that would come even close to making up for everything he’s done to me?”

There was a haunted look in Loki’s eyes as he thought back to his time spent with Ar’iaal. And the truth was that Miriam knew that there was nothing that would make him feel better. Nothing more than time and patience and maybe some Midgardian therapy. She’d done more than her fair share of horrific torture in her younger days, but she’d never stuck around long enough to see the aftermath of her brutality, so she really couldn’t even begin to guess how Loki was feeling. “I know that he won’t be able to say anything that will make you feel better. And I accept the possibility that you two will never like each other, as much as I hate the idea of that. But I think that it would be good for you to at least hear him out. Get some closure. Punch him in the nose if you feel like it. Please, Loki?”

He sighed loudly, but then nodded once. “Fine. I’ll hear what the brat has to say. But if he says anything I don’t like, I’ll be out of there in an instant, got it?”

Miriam nodded eagerly. “Yes, I understand! Thank you!” Then she leaned over to give him another quick hug before pulling away and hopping up to her feet. She knew that Ar’iaal would have prepared a touching apology speech if he was smart and if he was serious about making things right with Miriam and staying a part of her life.

After a few seconds, Loki stood up as well, and looked down at Miriam curiously. “You’ve been hurt by him too. How have you forgiven him so easily?”

Miriam furrowed her eyebrows. “Didn’t we talk about this a long time ago? The slap was done in a time where it was incapable of harming me, and both of us knew it, so there’s no point in getting pissy about it now.”

Loki narrowed his eyes. “That’s not the hurt I’m talking about. He may have damaged me in ways I never would have been able to imagine before it happened, but all of it was stuff that could be repaired. Even my mind will heal from it all someday, or so my mother assures me. But you were betrayed by someone you loved and trusted above all others, and then you were attacked and beaten because he was not there for you, and then you were completely abandoned by him. No matter what I may have been through in my life, I can never think of a time where I was ever truly alone. You have tens of thousands of years where you were. I think that that must be a worse form of torture than any of the physical trials I faced at his hands.”

Miriam crossed her arms over her chest, and looked down at the floor. “I didn’t want to forgive him,” she admitted. “Even now, I’m not so sure that what I feel for him is forgiveness. But I just want so badly for things to be like they once were between us. What are tens of thousands of years of abandonment next to hundreds of thousands of years of being my everything? But I’m not an idiot. I know things will never be exactly as they are. All I want from Ar’iaal right now is to see him put all of his effort into becoming someone I could once more be proud to call my brother.”

There was a moment of silence, and then Loki let out a long breath. “No matter how good his apology is, you better not be impressed enough to declare him your best friend,” he warned. “Or else I might be forced to turn to drastic and violent measures.”

Miriam grinned. “I promise. And don’t worry, I already made it very clear to Ar’iaal that there is no opening in the best friend department. He knows that he’s apologizing because it’s the right thing to do, and not because it’s more likely to get him back into my good books.”

“Will it get him back into your good books though?”

Miriam shrugged. “Guess it depends on how good of an apology it is. But even if I think it’s the most touching apology I’ve ever heard before in my entire life, which wouldn’t be all that difficult considering the very small amount of apologies I’ve heard before, I probably wouldn’t tell him that outright. It would be more fun to make him really work to earn his way back into even a basic friendship with me.”

There was a slightly worried look on Loki’s face, which felt so out of place for him. “Are you sure that that’s a good idea? Do you really want to push at and provoke such a dangerous guy?”

“It’s not like he’s stronger than me. I could so easily kick his ass if it turned into an all out brawl. And besides, if he gets frustrated to the point of trying to actually hurt anyone, then it would be proof that he isn’t someone that I want to have hanging around me or my friends. Don’t worry, I’ll protect you guys from him if it’s necessary. I have no problems booting him to the curb if he tries to start anything.” Of course, that wasn’t entirely true. Miriam would definitely get rid of Ar’iaal if he tried to cause harm to anyone, but she wouldn’t be able to do that problem-free. There was just too many years of friendship between them for anything less than having that again to be easy. She’d lived for so long thinking that she’d never see Ar’iaal again, and now he was right there, where she could see him whenever she wanted to, provided that he didn’t mess this up.

For some reason, Loki looked like he doubted Miriam’s words, but she decided not to be too bothered by that. Instead, she just held out one hand, and arched one eyebrow. Loki smiled, and took her hand. “Alright, take us to your precious Avengers so that I can hear what the douche has to say, and we can all go from there.”

Miriam brought them back to the compound in a second, and then looked around. They were in the gym, and Natasha was the only one in there at the moment, working on beating up a punching bag. She looked over at them the moment they appeared, but relaxed when she saw who it was. “I’m not sure that I’ll ever get used to having someone who can just come in whenever they feel like it without having to pass by security first.”

Miriam shrugged. “I’m too lazy to go through all of that stuff. And it’s not my fault that you Midgardians aren’t equipped to hop around whenever you want to. Anyways, have you seen Thor and Ar’iaal?”

Natasha shook her head. “I haven’t seen them, but they’re in the kitchen on the third floor.”

Miriam squeezed Loki’s hand, and brought him straight to their destination. It occurred to her a moment later that Ar’iaal might have wanted more than a second of advanced notice so that he could prepare himself to speak, but then she decided that after everything he’d done, he deserved to be put on the spot and made a little nervous. Besides, if he’d already worked on an apology like Miriam had asked him to, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal for him to have to say it now. And Thor should have already warned Ar’iaal that they were coming by, even if the Asgardian hadn’t known any specific time to give.

She pulled Loki further into the room, and immediately spotted Thor and Ar’iaal, though she paused for a moment to try and figure out what they were doing. Ar’iaal was standing on top of the counter, reaching up to press his hands flat against the ceiling, while Thor stretched up to brush the tips of his fingers against the ceiling. They both seemed to be enjoying themselves with whatever the heck they were doing, but Miriam still didn’t feel bad about clearing her throat and interrupting them.

Though Thor was clearly startled, Ar’iaal was not, and Miriam knew that it was because of all of the many abilities that came with being an Eternal. “So. Loki’s here right now. Do you have anything that you think you might want to say to him, Ar’iaal?”

Ar’iaal hopped down off of the counter, and walked up to Loki and Miriam, though he wisely left a few feet of space in between them. He bowed his head down so that he was looking at his feet instead of at Loki. “I am so sorry for everything that I put you through. It was wrong of me to take out my anger at the universe on individuals such as yourself, and I’m sorry that you ended up getting hurt just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Though if he think about it, it’s really Thor’s fault, since he’s the one who let you fall into my domain, and-”

Loki spun on his heels to look at Miriam. “Alright, I think we’re done here,” he said in a stiff voice. “I was willing to listen to him for you, but not if he’s going to stand around and refuse to take any responsibility for his own actions.”

Miriam nodded understandingly, and took Loki back to his room immediately. “I’m sorry. I honestly thought that he would try harder, since he knows how much you mean to me.”

“That’s probably exactly why he didn’t try harder,” Loki sighed. “The midget is jealous of our friendship, was probably hoping to provoke me into a fight to make me look bad in front of you.”

Miriam frowned. “I’d say that Ar’iaal would never do something like that, but he’s done a lot of thing the past few thousand years that I wouldn’t have thought him capable of. I swear, I thought that he had changed. Wanda even looked through his mind and saw that he has no more interest in killing people because he already got me back.”

Loki shrugged. “Maybe he isn’t planning on killing anyone, but that doesn’t mean he plans on playing nice with me. There’s nothing I can do about that, and more importantly, there’s nothing I’m willing to do about that. It isn’t my responsibility to make an effort here. He’s the one in the wrong, and he is very thoroughly in the wrong. In case you don’t remember, he was planning on destroying all of Midgard just for kicks.”

“I know, I know. This is all one hundred percent on him. I wish that you two could reconcile, but I completely understand why that isn’t possible, at least for now. I’ll try talking to him, but if it’s really a case of jealousy like you said, then I doubt he’ll be willing to give a genuine apology no matter what I say.” She sighed, and sank down onto Loki’s bed. “I just expected better from him, you know? If it makes you feel better, I’ll tell him to find a different place to live on Midgard, so that you can still come by and visit Thor and me whenever you want.”

Loki shook his head. “Most of our visits take place here anyways, so there’s no reason to make him dislike me even more. And besides, I’d feel a lot better knowing that you’re keeping an eye on him. You know what they say about keeping friends close.”

Miriam wasn’t sure that she did know what they said about that, but she just smiled and nodded. “You’re right. So what do you want to do here? I need to stick around for a little while to cool off before I talk to Ar’iaal. We’ll probably have a much more productive conversation if I don’t feel like slamming him into the ground and then erasing him from existence.”

Loki grinned. “In that case, I have a few ideas about what we could do to occupy our time. I just got a copy of this scroll that’s supposed to…” he kept rambling on about the new piece of magic, and Miriam listened intently even though she knew she was way more powerful than anything Loki would find on a piece of old paper. She smiled and nodded and asked questions in all the right places, and wondered why Ar’iaal was so resistant to the idea of seeing Loki the way that she did.

Chapter Text

“Ar’iaal, we need to talk.” The other Eternal let out a soft grunt to indicate that he was listening to Miriam, though he didn’t seem to be able to tear his eyes away from the video game he was playing. She frowned, and sat down on the couch next to him. “That was a pretty shitty excuse for an apology that you gave Loki, and neither of us appreciated it. I don’t think that it’s a good idea for you to try to talk to Loki at any point unless you plan on giving him a real apology. However, because I am such a generous and giving person, I am not going to kick you out of the compound.”

Ar’iaal’s head sharply jerked up so that he was actually giving Miriam his full attention. “Was that even something you were taking into consideration?”

Miriam shrugged. “I want all of my friends to get along, Ar’iaal. But you do make me so mad sometimes. Why were you so mean to Loki, even after finding out that I’m alive and everything? Are you jealous of him? Are you jealous that he’s been my friend while you’ve been off conquering worlds?”

Ar’iaal threw down the game controller with enough force to shatter it into pieces, along with chipping the floor. “Of course I am! Did you really think that I wouldn’t be bothered by the fact that you replaced me? I spent thousands of years searching for you! I’ve made so many sacrifices and I-”

“Oh don’t act like you’re some kind of saint! None of the sacrifices you made were your own! You slaughtered complete strangers to chase a pipe dream! If I really was dead, killing billions of people wouldn’t have changed that! And since I wasn’t, it was all truly worthless! You did nothing but waste your time!”

Ar’iaal scowled. “It wasn’t a waste! I was trying to get back to you, how do you not understand that?” He stood up abruptly. “And just so you know, you’re not the only one who tried to find a replacement for family. I basically have a kid, you know.”

That was complete news to Miriam. She didn’t even think that it was possible for an Eternal to procreate with another species, and it’s not like there were other Eternals around for him to be making babies with. She didn’t doubt his word for a second, though. If he said he had a kid, then he was telling the truth about it. She blinked a few times, feeling a little shocked. “You have a kid?” Then she leaned over to smack him in the shoulder. “Then what the hell are you doing here with me instead of out there with your kid? Are you trying to make yourself into someone as despicable as my parents were?”

Ar’iaal clenched his jaw, and looked away from Miriam. “She’s an adult by her species’ standards. She doesn’t need me anymore.” Ah, so the kid wasn’t an Eternal. Miriam felt grateful on the kid’s behalf that they didn’t have to be.

Miriam narrowed her eyes. “We’re so old that we can’t even honestly give exact numbers, but I still-” her voice cracked, and Miriam took a deep breath in and slowly let it out before continuing. “I was raised for political reasons, and your parents never loved me. And then I thought that I’d finally found a place where I belonged, and everything was good for a little while, and then my biological family, and everyone else, just left me behind because they didn’t want me anymore. I wouldn’t want them back even if I could have them. Is that what you want for your kid? Trust issues and daddy issues and abandonment issues, and all the other issues that we’ve got? You’re such an ass, Ar’iaal.”

“Everything I did was for you,” he whispered.

Miriam shook her head. “You adopted a kid for me? Sorry, but I don’t buy it.”

Ar’iaal sighed. “It happened as a result of me trying to get you back. I thought that I could make an equal exchange for you if enough people died, and she’s strong. Obviously not on our level, but she’s so strong. But it would be best for her if I stayed away. I raised her to be a soldier, not to be a person. She’s better off without me.”

Miriam crossed her arms over her chest. She wasn’t even sure where to begin sorting through all the emotions swirling through her at the moment. She was an aunt, and she’d never even met the kid before. “If she’s better off without you, then so am I.”

That clearly wasn’t what Ar’iaal had been expecting to hear, and he stared at her with wide eyes. “What-?”

“If you really think you’re so bad for her that she is better off without you around, then why would you think that I should be around someone who’s apparently so awful? You tried to force Loki away out of jealousy, but you pushed your kid away out of some weird guilt. I don’t understand your way of thinking.” She sighed, and then shook her head once. “I’m still not going to kick you out of the compound, Ar’iaal. But I don’t think that this is where you’re supposed to be.” Then she got up and teleported back to her own room. She walked over to the door to open it and then slam it shut because the action sometimes worked to make her feel better.

It was a little while later that she heard the soft knocking at her door, and Miriam slowly walked over to swing it open. When she saw that it was Ar’iaal, she closed it most of the way so that he wouldn’t be able to see into the room past her. Somehow it felt like a private space that she didn’t want Ar’iaal to enter. She arched one eyebrow at him in a silent indication that he should get talking or just leave her alone.

Ar’iaal’s shoulders slumped down. “You’re right,” he said quietly. “I am completely responsible for what I did to Loki, and I should have gave him a more sincere apology. Sometimes being as strong as we are can make it difficult to understand just how damaging my actions can be against others when they do survive. I know that that isn’t any kind of excuse for my actions, but it’s the truth. And…” he trailed off for a moment, then reached into his pocket. He pulled out a small square, and held it out. Miriam took it, and saw a picture of Ar’iaal sitting on a large throne, one that was probably fitting for his illusion, but just looked ridiculous to Miriam who could only see him as he was. There was a little green girl on his lap, and she had her hands clapped together in excitement. “That’s Gamora. It’s an old picture, of course. She’s twenty-seven now. And I know for a fact that she hates me because she betrayed me. She’s the one who left me.” By the time he got to the last sentence, his voice was so soft that it almost couldn’t be heard at all.

“Did you even try to talk to her and apologize?”

Ar’iaal shook his head, looking miserable. “There’s no point. She’d never forgive me.”

Miriam rolled her eyes. “If she’s never going to forgive you either way, then what could it hurt to at least say the words? I can’t help but think how entirely possible it is that she has no idea that you’re even sorry for everything. You can’t just assume that everyone knows what you’re thinking.”

There was a pause, and then Ar’iaal nodded. “You’re right. You know, I think you’ve gotten a lot smarter than before we parted ways.”

Miriam shrugged. “Probably. I spent a long time being nothing but someone who causes pain and destruction to others, mostly in an attempt to stay entertained so that I’d never be left along with my own thoughts, and to make it so that everyone would be just as miserable as me. But then I spent ten thousand years locked in my own head, and I woke up so weak and fragile and powerless. I had to learn to adapt pretty quick just to stay alive. And somehow all these stupid Midgardians actually got me to like them, so I had to adapt even more.” She tilted her head, and relaxed her grip on the door. Of course Ar’iaal could just teleport into the room if he really wanted to, but it was still a sign of burgeoning trust. “So what are you going to do?”

Ar’iaal gulped. “I think I have to go find Gamora. Just to talk with her, if she’s willing to listen to me. And I’ll listen to anything that she feels she needs to say to me. I’m not sure where she is exactly, though. I tried to keep tabs on her when she first left, but I had a lot on her mind, and I trained her very well. It’s going to take me some time to find her.”

Miriam reached out to take one of Ar’iaal’s hands and give it a gentle squeeze. “This place will still be here when you get back, no matter when that is. I’ll still be here. And I’ll be excited to meet my niece.” She let go of Ar’iaal’s hand and hesitated for a moment before surging forward and pulling him into a hug. “I know that a lot’s happened, and we’re both much different than we were as kids. But you’re still my brother, and I will always love you.”

Ar’iaal eagerly returned the hug. “And I will always love you, my sister.” They stayed like that for several long seconds before Ar’iaal finally pulled away. “Thank you for everything. And I’m sorry for all that I’ve done.”

Miriam nodded once in acceptance of his words, though she still wasn’t ready to say that she forgave him, because that would be a lie. But she did care about him. “I wish you the best, Ar’iaal. And I will miss you.”

Then he disappeared a moment later, and Miriam knew that she wouldn’t be able to find him anywhere in the compound, or anywhere on Midgard at all. He might not know where his daughter was, but he had to at least have some idea of where to begin his search. He’d spent so long looking for Miriam, so he could take the time to look for Gamora now.

,,,

The next morning, Miriam was flitting around the kitchen, singing along to the garbage song playing on the radio, and whipping up breakfast. She didn’t need to eat, but she’d gotten into the habit of it, and she’d come to greatly appreciate the taste of certain Midgardian cuisine.

She was interrupted from her intense concentration on the contents of the pan on the stove by the sound of Thor chuckling from where he was standing in the doorway. She turned to look at him. “Can I help you with something?”

The Asgardian shook his head as he stepped into the kitchen. “No, no, don’t mind me. If you are cooking, then I would love to have some of whatever you’re making. It certainly smells good.”

Miriam turned back to the stove to keep stirring. “I figured that there’s no point in eating cheap stuff when I don’t need it, so I’m only going to eat if it’s something very tasty. And I have faith in my cooking skills, even if I’ve never really done this before.” She turned off the flame, and tilted half of the pan’s contents onto one plate. Then she grabbed another plate from the dish cabinet to pour out the rest. She grabbed an extra fork, stuck it into the mess, and then slid it over so that it was closer to where Thor was.

He sat down, and grabbed the fork. “This certainly does appear to be a unique concoction. What was your inspiration?”

Miriam shrugged. “Didn’t bother to find a cookbook anywhere, so I just threw in whatever was on hand that’s tasted good in the past.” She quirked up one side of her mouth in a devious little grin.

Thor was a brave man, though, and he was apparently not going to back down from consuming whatever it was that Miriam had cooked. They both took their first bites at the same time. Thor’s nostrils flared for a moment, and he slowly got up to walk over to the fridge and pull out a carton of milk, and then he chugged the entire thing. Once it was empty, he tossed it in the garbage, and then sat back down to eat another forkful. “This is indeed flavorful, my friend.”

Strangely enough, now that Miriam was back at her full amount of power, her senses were noticeably muted compared to when she’d been closer to a Midgardian than anything. She’d never noticed it before because she’d had no point of comparison, but being powerless had somehow made everything taste better, look more beautiful, sound sweeter, feel more intense. In order to make up for it, she needed her food to be very strongly flavored. Apparently Asgardians didn’t have that problem.

Steve wandered into the kitchen a few minutes later, hair damp from having just showered. “Something smells good.” Miriam silently offered up a bite of her breakfast. Steve ate it, and his face flushed bright red before he rushed out of the room, clutching at his middle. She shrugged, and went back to eating. Apparently even being a super soldier wasn’t able to fortify a Midgardian’s stomach enough to survive the stuff Miriam wanted to eat. Good to know. Miriam made a mental note to apologize to Steve later.

After a while, she wandered down to the gym, and saw Wanda making various pieces of exercise equipment fly around the room. Wanda didn’t see Miriam approaching, and accidentally smashed Miriam’s head with a bench press pole that had three hundred pounds of weights on it. Miriam easily knocked the weight to the floor after it smacked her, and it didn’t even smart in the slightest. It was also weird to get used to the idea of not feeling pain after having to feel so much of it for a little while.

Wanda’s eyes were wide with panic when she realized what had happened, and Miriam had to offer a comforting smile. “Don’t worry about me, I’m perfectly fine. Incapable of getting hurt, remember?”

Wanda nodded. “The idea of any person being entirely impervious to physical harm still seems to be so odd. I’ve seen people who heal quickly, but you are in an entire category of your own. Well, not entirely your own, I suppose, since you have your Ar’iaal.” She tilted her head curiously. “Speaking of, where is he? I don’t think I’ve seen him since yesterday morning.”

Miriam shrugged. “He took off. Had some amends to make. Felt bad about the way things ended with someone. I guess his entire existence doesn’t revolve around me after all. Should I feel jealous or relieved?”

Wanda snorted. “Definitely relieved. No offense, but your Ar’iaal gives me the creeps.” Then she held both of her hands out. “Would you like to spar?”

Miriam agreed, and the two of them faced off. It was interesting to see Wanda fight at such a disadvantage. She couldn’t use her usual mind tricks on Miriam, and none of her physical attacks accomplished much at all. Of course Miriam had to very consciously hold back her punches, and in the end, they called it a draw. Both of them collapsed down on the mats, Wanda heaving for air, and Miriam out of solidarity.

That’s when Natasha, Steve, and Thor all showed up. Steve didn’t even have a hint of green in his face, and Miriam was glad that she hadn’t made him permanently sick. He’d brushed aside her apology earlier, saying that it was his fault for not thinking about the potential differences in food between an Asgardian and an Eternal.

The whole team sparred together for a little bit, mostly practicing fighting off things that Miriam and Wanda threw at the rest of them. They followed Steve’s directions, and nobody got knocked down during the training. Before everyone left the gym, Miriam cleared her throat loudly. “Ahem, I have a small announcement to make. I just wanted to let you know that Ar’iaal has gone to take care of some unfinished business, of which there is absolutely no insidious nature. I am not sure when he will return, but you don’t have to worry about him, I promise. That’s all I wanted to say. You can go now.”

Everyone scattered, talking softly amongst themselves, and Miriam decided to stick around in the gym after they’d all gone. She wasn’t even sure of how much time had passed before there was a soft thud, and she turned her head to see that Thor had plopped down next to her.

Thor held out a small box of cheez-its. “The first Midgardian food you ever ate,” he reminded her with a soft chuckle.

Miriam smiled as she accepted the snack. She sat up, and then held the box on her lap, though she didn’t actually move to open it yet. “Back then I thought you were just a dumb, blonde bag of muscles. But you’re actually pretty great.”

Thor grinned. “At first, I thought of you as small and helpless, but you are certainly not either of those things.” He tilted his head. “Well, you are not small in a spiritual sense, at least.”

Miriam snorted. “Gee, thanks.”

“You are pretty great as well, Miriam,” Thor told her in a fond tone as he nudged her in the side with his elbow. “It’s nice to have friends who are more… durable.”

They sat there in silence for a few minutes before Miriam spoke again, still looking down at the orange box in her hand. “I don’t think I’ve ever really thanked you for dragging me here. I know that I wasn’t all that great when we first met, and I didn’t deserve a second chance, but you gave that to me anyways. You bringing me here to the Avengers, and getting me into contact with your brother, is what gave me a family. You’ve done so much for me, and I don’t know how I could possibly ever repay you for something so incredible.” She bowed her head down so that her hair would drape around her face, hiding the fact that her eyes were red and watery. “There was a really long time where I was certain that I would never get to have a family again. I think I’d give up all of my power again in an instant if it meant getting to have everything that I do. How can I really thank you for everything?”

Thor leaned over to throw an arm around Miriam’s shoulder, and pull her into a sideways hug. “There’s only one proper reward that I can think of. Are you happy?”

Miriam was slightly confused by the sudden question, but she nodded once. “Yeah. I think this is the happiest I’ve ever been before.”

Thor nodded once. “Then you’ve already thanked me more than enough.”

She took a moment to repeat his words over and over in her mind a million times, and then she smiled. “So, uh, we saved the world by stopping Ar’iaal, right? This world, and Asgard, and wherever else he might’ve gotten it into his head to attack.”

Thor raised one eyebrow. “Indeed. What of it?”

Miriam shrugged. “So that’s pretty major stuff. How is our next adventure possibly going to top that?”

Thor let out a barking laugh. “I’m sure you’ll find a way to complicate any mission we might go on. But don’t worry about the future and all the battles we will face. Right now, just think about how nice it is outside today.”

Between one blink and the next, Miriam had them both sitting outside in the courtyard, resting on top of bright green grass. “You’re right, it is very nice out.” She leaned back, resting her head on her hands. “I saw in a movie once that Midgardians like to find shapes in the clouds. What an absolutely useless pastime.”

“It is foolish of them,” Thor agreed. Then he pointed straight up. “That one looks like you.”

Miriam laughed, and she pointed to a different cloud. “That one looks like you if you were a lion. Or if you didn’t get a chance to brush your hair in the morning!”

Thor chuckled and pointed to a different cloud. After a little while, Thor apologized for having other things he needed to do, and then he took off. Miriam remained outside, resting in the grass, looking up at the bright blue sky. Ten thousand years ago, she wouldn’t have considered for even a second that one of her closest friends someday could be an Asgardian. And thousands of years before that, she would have never guessed that there would ever be a time where she would feel so at peace.

And yet, here she was. Friends and family all around her, a beautiful sky to look up at, and a feeling of peace and contentment that could not be rivalled. Maybe this wasn’t what she’d hoped for herself as a child, but now that it was what she had, she wouldn’t trade anything in the world for any of it.