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Asgardians In Space

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The Supermarket in the middle of the Galaxy

 

The Story So Far....

 

There are only 6 ingredients which are required to make a universe. These are: Time, Power, Soul, Reality, Mind, and Space. Although we cannot fully understand it ourselves these ingredients existed before anything else did. And even after our universe was created these ingredients were not completely used up. Instead they were condensed down into physical forms and scattered across the universe.

 

Five of the six Infinity Stones can be accounted for.

 

The Time Stone hangs around the neck of an earth man called Steven. The Reality Stone is in the safekeeping of the Elder known as The Collector. The Power Stone is protected by the Nova Corps on Xandu. The Mind Stone is embedded in the skull of The Vision. And the Space Stone lies firmly wedged in the U-bend of one of the toilets onboard The Statesmen.

 

It was placed there by the Norse god of Mischief, but more on him later.

 

Only the location of the Soul Stone is unknown to us. And that is a bit of worry because it is generally believed that once the Infinity Stones are all gathered together in one place bad things will happen. They were used to create the universe and they can be used to un-create it as well and then re-create it all over again according to the will of their owner. Some say that this has happened countless times before.

 

It goes without saying that the Infinity Stones are older then time itself and more powerful than you could possibly imagine, and therefore should be treated with the greatest of respect...and perhaps not shoved down a bog, but Loki was hard pressed to find a safer place. The Statesman, although spacious had the disadvantage of having Heimdall onboard, the Asgardian who was able to see everything that went on. But there were some places where even Heimdall wouldn't dare peek, hence the toilet.

 

And the reason that Loki and Heimdall were onboard a space ship zipping through the galaxy was because the prophesied Ragnarök had come about and obliterated Asgard out of existence. Not even the dust was left. Or those itty-bitty toast crumbs that seem impossible to remove from the toaster completely.

 

They were not alone. Loki had stolen The Statesman from a man called The Grandmaster and had piloted the ship straight back to Asgard to rescue his people from otherwise certain death. He had also risked his life to resurrect the Fire Demon Surtur and killed a load of zombies. It had been an odd sort of day. Frankly, he had been more useful than his brother Thor, god of Thunder, and current king of the surviving Asgardians, who had done little more than distract Hela for a while, but not actually killing her, which would have been really helpful. Would anyone acknowledge this? Probably not. But, for once Loki had more on his mind than trying to outshine his perfect brother.

 

Mainly, that once again he was the owner of an Infinity Stone. It had called to him, just as it had before, just as the others had once called to him.* That had to mean something. Trouble probably. Lots and lots of trouble. Best to keep it hidden away for now.

 

So, there they were, 210 Asgardians (that's including 3 gods and one Valkyrie), a Kronan, a bug-alien-thingy, a Skaarian gladiator who looked like he was wearing a cheese grater on his head, and a Hulk, all stuck together on a spaceship racing towards Earth because they had no where else to go.

 

It was going to be a tedious journey.

 


 

 

King Thor was in the engine room with Tony Stark. Sort of.

 

The self-proclaimed genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist was leaning against one of the thrumming engines, staring at Thor over his drooping sunglasses with a smug expression in his eyes. “Listen up, Point Break, what you've got here is a Melas Mark 5 engine filled up to its eyeballs on Blue-Ceru-7 fuel. That's not good.” He thumped a fist against the engine only for a small coil to drop into his hand. He threw it over his shoulder. “Probably not important.”

 

Thor had to admit to himself that he was impressed with how much Tony's voice sounded like the real Tony, not that he would say it out loud.

 

“So are the engines going to stop working?”

 

Tony gave him a pitying look, as if he couldn't believe how slow the god of thunder was. He lead the way to a work station littered with tools.

 

“I'm saying the engines are tipsy, heading straight for under-the-table drunk and about to pick a fight with the electric can-opener. They'll loose by the way.” He flipped a screwdriver into his hand and looked very pleased with himself.

 

Thor shook his head in frustration. The Tony speak was starting to grate on his nerves. “So, they will stop working? Speak clearly!”

 

Tony held up his hands. “You know I'm Tony Stark, so I don't really care if people understand my incessant babbling or not -”

 

“Loki!”

 

There was a green shimmer and Tony Stark had turned back into Loki. He threw the screwdriver back onto the work surface and motioned for Thor to look at the computer screen. It was filled with graphs that Thor could see no meaning in.

 

“They will continue to run, but the fuel is too powerful for them,” said Loki, tapping a finger against the screen. “We need to slow our pace or they will shake themselves to bits. These engines are very old and they just can't take the modern fuel which was poured into them.”

 

Thor thought hard. “Ah, so it's like when Uncle Eitri** insisted on drinking Volstagg's home brewed beer at your 18th birthday celebration.”

 

“Exactly like Uncle Eitri,” Loki said, expression brightening. “You know, I actually miss our dear Uncle. Not that he would be of any use in this situation...”

 

“Me too, brother. And it's not everyday that you get to see the King of the Dwarfs scrambling up the side of the palace stark naked.”

 

“No, you don't do you?”

 

“Embarrassing,” they said together.

 

“Can you fix the engines? Or at least keep them ticking over until we reach Earth?”

 

Loki shrugged. “Depends on how long our exodus will last. Do you know how many light-years away the Earth is from Asgard?”

 

“No, do you?”

 

“No. With the Bifrost we've never needed to know the physical distance before. I suspect that not even Heimdall knows. He was evasive when I tried to ask him earlier.”

 

“So sooner or later we will break down?”

 

“Not unless you have a bag of fairy dust hidden under your cloak.”

 

Thor patted Loki's shoulder. A low rumble and a gurgling noise turned Thor's mouth into a smirk.

 

“Was that your tummy, Loki?”

 

Loki pulled away from Thor, an arm held against his stomach.

 

“No, why would it be my stomach, Thor? After all I haven't eaten in 72 hours.”

 

Thor nodded in sympathy. “Me neither. Our supplies won't last for ever and Val has made it her life's mission to be charge of rationing. Come on, let's see if she's feeling merciful today.”

 

Together they travelled to the lower deck where they had stored the emergency ration boxes they had discovered onboard the ship, as well as every last scrap of food and jars of wine the escaping Asgardians had taken with them.

 

A horrific sight met their eyes. A terrible sound met their ears. It was all awful.

 

“No...” Loki groaned in a low voice.

 

Thor was incapable of speech, just made a peculiar guttural sound from the back of his throat.

 

The Hulk was lying spread-eagled on his back and snoring loud enough to wake a drunk Snorlax. Around him lay empty ration boxes and food wrappers. Wine jars had been drained and smashed. Even the goat was no more. All that was left was a collar and a horn.

 

Now, historically things never go well for the Asgardian who attacks the Hulk, especially when they are trapped inside a contained unit such as a spaceship, but fury and hunger had overridden both Thor and Loki's common sense. They would regret it very shortly.

 

Thor snatched up an empty jar and hurled it at the Hulk's head. It bounced off the thick skull and shattered against the wall.

 

The Hulk's face twitched as he slowly opened his eyes.

 

“You idiot!” Thor bellowed, marching towards the Hulk with Loki just behind him. “You've eaten all our food, there's nothing left! How could you?”

 

“Moron!” Loki yelled.

 

“Jerk!”

 

The Hulk moaned. The goat had not agreed with him and now there were two puny gods shouting uncontrollably at him. His head was spinning. He tried covering his ears, but he couldn't block out the anger of his friends. And when his friends were angry the Hulk felt angry. Very angry.

 

“Thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows!”***

 

“And you're really greedy too!”

 

The Hulk let out a monstrous roar that shook the walls.

 

Loki was the first to sense danger (the monstrous roar was a huge tip off) and realised that annoying the Hulk was not a good idea. He tried to back away, but it was too late.

 

“STOP SHOUTING AT ME!” The Hulk screamed. He lunged forward grabbing both Asgardians by a leg. He swung them around, bashed them together, and finished by smashing Thor into the floor and then Loki on top of him.

 

“Scrawny gods,” Hulk growled as he stomped out of the room to find someone who appreciated him.

 

Trapped underneath Loki Thor made a small whimpering sound. It might have been a whimper of pain or it might have been the sound of his soul leaving his body. Either was possible.

 

“We told him,” Loki squeaked. He was going to count this as a victory even if he couldn't feel his legs.

 


 

 

“I only left my post for what....five mins?” Val giggled. “I was thirsty, right? Why shouldn't I be allowed a little coffee break?”

 

Thor rubbed his sore head. The conversation with Val so far was not going well. It was an hour after they had been chiselled out of the floor by Korg and Thor's ears were still ringing. Loki had stumbled off to be by himself, muttering something about needing time, “to re-learn how walk properly...and only seeing one of everything...”

 

The conversation would go a lot more smoothly if Val would look at him instead of having her back turned.

 

“Coffee, fine. Alcohol no. Look at me!”

 

Val wobbled from side to side. “I am looking at you.”

 

“You're looking at a fake plant.”

 

“Oh. That would explain why you're shorter...and more leafy. Hang on...” Turning around on the spot turned out to be a difficult manoeuvre. Val forgot that was she supposed to move her feet as well as her legs. She ended up twisting around and tumbled over.

 

“Thanks to you we have no food. And you have a problem. I'm done talking to you.”

 

It was enough to help Val sober up a little. “Thor, I'm sorry.”

 

Thor hesitated by the door, but chose to say nothing and walked away from the bar.

 


 

 

As usual Heimdall was standing silently on the bridge, staring out into the darkness, searching for any sign of the Earth, or maybe one of the other Realms, anything which might help them navigate their way through the galaxy. So far he had only the vaguest of notions of the direction they should take, more of a feeling and an instinct, than solid evidence. It was as if a shadow had fallen across the universe, hiding everything from his gaze.

 

He didn't like it. Heimdall was so used to relying on the power of his eyes and ears that it made him hideously uncomfortable to think that they might just be lost. No, not lost. Just unsure of their location. He was Heimdall, he never got lost and never lost anyone.

 

He heard Thor coming five minutes before he actually arrived on the bridge.

 

“Majesty,” he grunted. “I heard the incident.”

 

“I know you did. Any suggestions?”

 

“Cannibalism?”

 

“Sensible suggestions?”

 

“We need to stop off somewhere and replenish our supplies. Re-fuel too with something which won't destroy the engines.”

 

“Yeah, but where?”

 

“Why don't we try that establishment in front of us?”

 

Thor leant forward against the glass. Far away into the distance he could just make out a sharp dot of orange light. As they neared the dot grew into an asteroid with a squat, ugly building latched onto it. It was decorated with garish orange lights and a sign which read: Welcome to Starbury's. Smaller ships were zipping around it, likes flies over a dustbin, some landing in the parking area and others taking off, filled up with bright orange bags stuffed with groceries.

 

“What is it?”

 

“I believe it is called a supermarket, Majesty. Like our markets only -”

 

“Super,” Thor finished. “Wonder what's so super about them.” He pressed the intercom button. “Hey, bro, fancy a trip to the shops?”

 

“Yeah, man, why not?” Korg's voice answered. “Supermarkets are known for their fresh air, aren't they?”

 

“I thought he was talking to me,” Loki's voice cut in irritably. “Me actually being his brother.”

 

“You're both my brothers,” Thor soothed. “The three of us, adopted bros together. You coming too then, Loke? Managed to pop your kneecap back into place?”

 

“Is the Hulk coming?”

 

“No, absolutely not!”

 

“Then I am absolutely am.”

 

“Great! I'll meet you both onboard The Commodore in ten minutes.” He grinned at Heimdall. “This is fantastic timing! Just what we needed when we needed it.”

 

“I'll keep a close eye on you.”

 

“Relax, Heimdall. Me, Loki and Korg in a shop – nothing's going to happen.”


 

 

*In The Avengers Loki briefly owned both the Mind and Space Stone. In Thor: The Dark World, he may have ordered The Warrior's Three to transport the Reality Stone to the Collector while disguised as Odin. Or it may have been the real Odin before Loki put him in a care home on Earth. Does anyone else think that Loki may also snatched the fake Infinity Gauntlet from the vault as well as the Tesseract?<
**Eitri is King of Nidavellir, home of the dwarves and friends of Asgard. I imagine that he's an honorary uncle to Thor and Loki. And, yes, Loki probably did have something to do with Eitri climbing up the side of the palace, not that he would admit to it.
***From Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. I haven't read it, but I wanted to include a Shakespearian insult

 

Chapter Text

 

The Supermarket in the Middle of the Galaxy – Part Two

 

The galaxy has many wondrous sights in which to enthral and amaze the spiritually hungry traveller. But they will still need to eat and occasionally purchase toilet duck. This is where Starbury's comes in. It has stores potted all over the galaxy, ready to sell its products to whoever and whatever walks/squelches through its doors.

 

Thor landed The Commodore with a bump across three parking spaces; he was still adjusting to only having one eye. He would have walked straight in through the sliding doors, but Korg grabbed his shoulder.

 

“Hey, slow down, man, we need going to need some of those trolleys to be put the food in.”

 

Thor looked to where Korg was pointing. There was a plastic shelter with a sign which read: Trolley House. It had a smiley face painted onto it, as though it made it all the more cheerful. There was a disgruntled blue alien trying to shove one back in among the others, but it didn't seem to want to go. Eventually the alien spat out a string of colourful words and stalked off, pausing only to stick a finger up at Thor.

 

The god of thunder decided that for once the softly-softly approach was probably the right way to go, and promptly crouched down behind a plastic hedge, motioning for Korg and Loki to join him. Korg was so tall that he rose above the hedge, so he did his best to sit still to appear like an ordinary pile of rocks.

 

“Why are we hiding?” Loki hissed.

 

“I'm being cautious. I thought you'd like that.”

 

“By kneeling behind a fake hedge?”

 

Thor looked offended. “This is me being cautious, okay? I've changed. I am the cautious god of thunder from now on. And who knows what we'll find in there.”

 

“We might even find our destinies in there...” said Korg. “But, it's probably the spaceships fumes talking. They mostly just sell food and stuff.”

 

Thor ignored him.

 

“Right. In a moment, Everyone grab a trolley and try to be cool. We don't want to stand out as alien beings who have no idea what they're doing. Remember, this place is probably isn't so different from the markets back on Asgard. We grab what we need and find the person in charge to barter with. And then we get the hell out of here and back to The Statesman.”

 

“Do you have the list?” Loki asked.

 

“Yes, it's right here,” Thor replied, waving the paper in Loki's face. “So you can stop nagging -”

 

“I'm not nagging. You're the one who wants to be the god of cautionary thunder.”

 

“Fine. I'm sorry. Okay, landing party, go!”

 

Trying to look cool and completely at ease with the situation, Thor, Loki, and Korg made their way across to the Trolley House. Everything looked and appeared to be normal until Thor took hold of the nearest trolley. As soon as he had touched it, it lit up blue and said in a pleasant voice:

 

“Good evening, Sir. My name is Thomas. Thank you for selecting me to assist you with your shopping experience. And I can take this opportunity to assure you that I will not troll you in anyway.” It made a strange gurgling noise, which Thor could only assume was the sound of the trolley laughing.

 

Korg chuckled to the point of a piece of rock falling off his arm.

 

“That's hilarious and definitely worth losing a chunk of a limb for,” said Korg. “Let's see what I get.” He grabbed a battered old trolley. Pale yellow lights flickered to on reluctantly.

 

“Good evening, sir,” the trolley said, in a wheezy voice. “Thank you for...sel...cat food...buy one get one free elephant...”

 

“I'm impressed.”

 

There was an eruption of high-pitched giggling. Loki was holding onto a trolley with bright, pink lights which flashed in a complex sequence.

 

“Hello, sir, I'm so excited to be working with you tonight,” the trolley trilled. “We're going to have so much fun.”

 

Loki looked horrified.

 

“Can I swap you?”

 

“You absolutely can,” the trolley said in a sing-song voice. “But, would you want to? Between you and me, sweetie, the others are far more irritating than me.” Thomas made an ugly disgruntled sound. “And I've already scanned your brain, so I know you're the smartest one out of your friends.”

 

Loki never needed a reason to look smug. He existed in a permanent state of smugness. But whenever he was flattered his smugness would reach unbearable levels for anyone standing within five miles of him. Thor had to avert his eyes from Loki's smirk for fear of vomiting, while another pebble dropped off Korg.

 

“Obviously,” grinned Loki. Then the trolley's words sunk in. “Why have you scanned my brain?”

 

“Only to be be aware of your likes and dislikes so that I may recommend products to you,” the trolley said cheerfully. “It's nothing to worry about.”

 

“Sounds reasonable-ish,” Thor said. “Can we go now?”

 

“A wonderful suggestion, sir. Aisle 2 would be an excellent place to start. Sir could do with more iron in his blood.”

 

Together they pushed their trolleys towards the bright lights of the supermarket.

 

Chapter Text

 

The Supermarket in the Middle of the Galaxy – Part Three

 

 

“Are you sure you want all this bread, sir?” Thomas the trolley politely inquired. “Man cannot live by bread alone. And the same goes for gods.” He tittered loudly at his own weak joke.

 

“It's none of your business,” Thor snapped. The trolley had so far made comments on everything he had placed in it and the constant commentary had been annoying from the start. He, Loki, and Korg had decided to split up in the hope that they could get the shopping done faster, but Thor felt as though he were moving at a snail's pace.

 

Thor had never been responsible for buying food for so many people before and even with a list he was now becoming painfully aware that he should have perhaps written more down than just: bread, meat, milk, cheese, wine, and beer. Beer was underlined.

 

The trolley suddenly swerved into the shelves knocking several loaves of bread onto the floor. Thor snatched them up and balanced them carefully on top of the bread already piled inside of the trolley. At least no one could accuse him of not buying enough bread. Thomas remained silent, but Thor could feel him judging him.

 

“As I've told you several times I'm shopping for a lot of people. Including a giant, green rage monster, so -”

 

“In which case might I suggest a jumbo sized bag of Binbon marshmallows, to be found halfway down aisle 6?”

 

“Marsh – what?”

 

“It might sweeten his nature, sir. Binbon marshmallows contain a natural sedative. Good for getting youngsters to quieten down, if you know what I mean.”

 

If you have ever seen a Binbon child then you will know what Thomas meant. They are born larger than their parents and can flatten a house just by sneezing. Binbon parents need all the help that they can get.

 

“Okay, remind me later.”

 

“However, the price will be high, you know, and -”

 

“Noted. Now shut up!”

 

“How rude!”


 

 

Loki, meanwhile, was stuck in aisle 5. Thor had torn off part of the list for him and given him the verbal order of “Get cheese and beer.” Loki liked neither cheese or beer, and he hated to follow lists and instructions, so as soon as he had disappeared from Thor's sight he made the decision to venture OSL (off shopping list).

 

“Oh, you rebel!” his trolley had giggled when he had scrunched the piece of paper up and flicked it into a passing trolley pushed by a racoon.

 

So far he was enjoying himself immensely, even if he was stuck behind an old Bree couple who were moving incredibly slowly and stopping every other second to carefully examine every packet and tin that they picked up. The day he had dropped off the Bifrost and into a wormhole had sent Loki on a journey through the darkest and most evil of worlds, which had led him to believe that the 9 Realms was the only place where he could come close to being happy. His time on Sakaar hadn't been much better with the threat of losing the Grandmaster's melt-stick hanging over him, but this was different. He was exploring a new part of the universe and currently no one was trying to kill him. It felt good.

 

“You feel free,” the trolley said. “In a supermarket. That might be a first.”

 

For a second Loki felt wrong footed. He wasn't used to being around someone (or something) who could see through him, but the trolley, like all Starbury's trolleys, had been fitted with a light-weight telepathic chip. It was only supposed to be capable of allowing the trolleys to recommend products of potential interest to the customer, but there were some trolleys who had somehow developed the ability to read emotions.

 

“It is for me,” Loki admitted.

 

Having thrown a load of chocolate and bubble bath into the trolley, Loki thought that maybe he should try at least to make one sensible choice in order to avoid Thor's wrath. And that was when he had spotted the tinned food. None of it looked particularity appealing but at least it would last a long time.

 

The problem was that the old couple were still taking up the whole aisle and Loki was becoming impatient. He was considering creating a snake illusion to frighten them off, drumming his fingers on the trolley's handle as he did so. He drew away them sharpish when he heard the trolley sighing happily.

 

“Oh, don't stop!” the trolley begged. “It's been decades since anyone has given me a massage.”

 

“Sorry, but you're not my type. And that's the first time I've had to say that.”

 

“Call me Tina,” the trolley purred, her pink lights blinking slowly. “I haven't always looked like this, you know...”

 

“Oh? What were you before? A basket?”

 

“No,” the trolley said, in a hushed tone. “I used to you look like you.”

 

That caught Loki's attention. “Like me? I thought I was talking to an A.I programme.”

 

Tina giggled. “Nope, I come from Xander.”

 

“Xander...about eighteen months from Asgard...”

 

“Sorry?”

 

“You're a long way from home.” He knelt beside the trolley. “Tina, I'm going to touch you. Do not giggle, sigh, or make a scene.” Loki ran his hands over the thin bars, feeling for any trace of magic. He found none. “Not an illusion, then...science did this to you...Pardon me,” he pressed his forehead against the trolley, searching for the mind of the trolley. It took a few seconds to swim through the void, but eventually Loki found Tina right at the centre. Images of her old life filled his mind: of Tina in her natural form, of walking into Starbury's for the first time, of being strapped into an odd looking machine, of switches being flipped...

 

He inhaled sharply, falling back onto the floor and eliciting a disapproving tutting from the old couple who just assumed that Loki was up to no good. It was a fair assumption. He sat up and felt that he had to ask the obvious: “Tina, why are you a trolley?”

 

Tina giggled. “It's my job, silly. Customer Service Assistant. I'm here to help the customers, and part of that involves being a trolley. Duh.”

 

Loki forced a chuckle. “Indeed, silly me. And you gave your full consent did you, to be turned into a piece of equipment?”

 

“It's in my contract. Being a trolley isn't for everyone, but I'm quite happy. I've been bullied all my life so I said to myself one day: Tina, why not work in a shop? At least then it'll be your job to be pushed around all day.”

 

“I wish I possessed a jot of your wisdom,” Loki lied. By now he had lost interest in Tina's story. She had chosen to become a trolley and that all there was to it. He examined a tin of Groot Fingers (whatever they were) and tossed it into Tina.

 

“Liar. But, never mind. I don't care that you think I'm boring. Everyone does. And what about yourself?”

 

Loki shrugged. “I'm a shape-shifter, but not like you. If I tried to become a trolley it would only be an illusion. So, if someone tried to put in a tin of prunes it would go straight through me and fall out of the bottom, if you will pardon the expression.”

 

“Well, you've got to commit when you turn into a supermarket trolley, that's what they always say to us on training days. Give it a 110%. And once you do it there's no turning back.”

 

“Oh, shame.”

 

“So, you change a lot, do you?”

 

“It's not in my nature to become stagnant.” An amazing thought struck Loki. “You should give it go, Tina. There's more to life than being a trolley with a wobbly wheel. Imagine it, you could become a -”

 

“A till?” Tina asked with a wisp of hope.

 

“Yes!” Loki cried, enthusiastically. He wanted to be encouraging. “Or even better a -”

 

“A forklift?”

 

“Fine, but I was thinking something other than a machine. Expand your mind.”

 

Tina squealed, her lights shining on full power. “I could be a tin-opener!”

 

“Now you're getting smaller. Think big, T. Raise your ambitions.”

 

“It doesn't matter much anyway. It could never happen.”

 

Loki smirked. He had made up his mind. “I wouldn't be so sure about that. Can you feel pain in this form?”

 

“No. Why?”

 

“Good. Because I wouldn't want you to scream.” Loki knelt beside the trolley again. He held out his index finger; it was glowing with a fiery energy, crackling and sparking. He pressed his finger against the side of trolley and traced out a rune mark. It shone like fire for a moment before fading away.

 

“What was that? What did you do?”

 

“It was the Kenaz rune mark. The torch. My mark.”

 

“I don't understand.”

 

Loki was smiling broadly, practically buzzing with excitement. This was going to be fun.

 

“Think about being a tin-opener,” he instructed. “Go on. Hold an image of it in your mind, try to picture what it would feel like – oh, you've already changed. That was fast.”

 

Instead of being Tina the trolley, Tina was now Tina the tin-opener. And Loki's shopping was now scattered all over the floor.

 

“How did you do that so fast?”

 

“This is amazing!” Tina crowed from where she lay stationary on the floor. “I've never felt so alive!”

 

The Bree couple had been staring opened mouthed at the spectacle. They turned and hurried away as fast as they could before they too could be turned into tin-openers by the green witch.

 

“Tina, I loved you for who you were!” their trolley shouted as they disappeared around the corner.

 

“Wonderful,” Loki nodded. “Of course, this is just a illusion. There are limitations, so I don't think -”

 

“Open something with me!”

 

“I'm not sure that -”

 

“Try it!”

 

Loki dutifully selected a tin of baked beans and then picked Tina off the floor, attached her to the side of the tin and began to turn her. To his amazement and Tina's delight, she worked perfectly, turning smoothly and not catching the tin's label on her teeth.

 

“How are you able to do that?” he demanded, tapping Tina against the shelf. She was solid and not ghost-like at all, unlike his own illusions.

 

“I told you. I give it a 110%.”

 

“But, I've been shape-shifting for hundreds of years and have never been able to form solid metal.” Oh, he had tried countless times, but had never succeeded. How useful it would be if he could form Captain America's shield and have it be just as strong as the real thing? Or cocoon himself inside Iron Man's armour?

 

“Maybe you just don't understand what metal feels like. I could show you the machine if you like. The one which turned me into a trolley.”

 

Loki shook his head. “No, thank you. I can do without being a trolley for the rest of my existence. As you said, it's not for everyone.”

 

“Suit yourself. What was that?!”

 

A terrible crashing, smashing noise had come from the direction of the meat counter, closely followed by a lot of angry shouting from both aliens and trolleys alike.

 

“If I had to hazard a guess I would say that Korg has probably just knocked over a load of shelves and broken everything in sight.”

 

Chapter Text

 

The Supermarket in the Middle of the Galaxy – Part Four

 

Korg had gotten himself into a right mess. He had only wanted to buy the meat (all of it; he figured that the Asgardians ate a lot of meat), but had somehow slipped on the floor, sending Stan the eighty year old trolley (not that Korg knew his name) careering straight into the glass counter, smashing it. Lumps of meat and tempers had flown. Naturally, Korg had tried to pull Stan out of the remains of the counter, but this only made things worse as the counter collapsed. Korg was sent staggering backwards and knocking over an entire shelving unit of glass jars.

 

The sound of destruction was tremendous and attracted the attention of everyone in the shop, including the old Bree couple. It was bad enough that they had seen the Green Witch transform an innocent shopping trolley into a tin-opener, but now they had stumbled across a living pile of rocks destroying the shop. Thursdays were usually a lot quieter than this. Once again they tried to flee the scene only to bump into Loki.

 

“Hello,” he said pleasantly enough, knowing full well that they were terrified of him.

 

They said nothing in return, but pushed past him as quickly as they could. Loki blew the old lady a kiss and winked at her. Their fast exit meant that Loki now had a clear view of Korg and the surrounding chaos. It made him laugh so hard that he had to hold onto the shelves for support.

 

“What's going on?” Thor demanded, making his way up the aisle with his trolley full of bread. He towered above everyone else and they quickly parted to let him through. “Loki, what did you do?”

 

“Me? Absolutely nothing. It is hilarious though, is it not?”

 

“Loki,” Thor said in a warning voice.

 

“Oh, come on, it's funny.”

 

“Korg, are you alright?” Thor took hold of Korg's arm and pulled him upright. The large steak, which had somehow landed on Korg's head, slipped off and fell onto the floor with a wet slap.

 

“I'm okay,” Korg replied in a small voice. “I'm tougher than I look. Which is a big claim, I know, but also happens to be true.”

 

An uppity looking assistant came over to fold her many arms and tap her five feet at them in an angry fashion. “I've called the manager,” she announced crossly.

 

The glare Thor gave her could have melted an iceberg. She dropped her arms and stilled her feet. “Sorry about that,” she squeaked and scurried away.

 

The manager arrived only a minute later. A strange sort of hush descended over the store as he made his way to the scene of the incident. Thor hated on him on sight. He was the kind of man to stifle life rather than embrace it. He was mundaneness wrapped up in too tight, sweaty, cheap polyester. His shirt was polyester, his trousers were polyester. His brain was polyester and his soul was non-existent.

 

He brushed past Loki, making the god of mischief shiver, as though the joy of life had been sucked out of him. Then he looked slowly around. First at the broken counter, then at Korg, then at the steak at Korg's feet. He pushed his glasses back up.

 

“I see,” he said.

 

“It was an accident,” Thor laughed. “Mr...eh...”

 

“The Manager,” said The Manager.

 

“Mr The Manager...Korg meant no harm. These things happen, right?”

 

“You will pay for this,” The Manager said, in a voice that was as flat as his face.

 

“We have Units,” Thor assured him. “Lots of Units. We did quite well for ourselves on Sakaar.” He laughed and slapped the Manger's arm, attempting to be chummy. Loki cringed inwardly. It was never a good idea to reveal too much about yourself.

 

“Sakaar?” The Manager echoed. “I am sorry, but that money will not do.”

 

“But, it's Units. The currency of the galaxy.”

 

“They are Sakaarian Units, good only on Sakaar.”

 

“Surely they are the same thing.”

 

“Sakaar is a planet populated by slaves owned by The Grandmaster. This much you must know if you have come from there. The Grandmaster would never allow any of his slaves to escape by giving them money they could use else where.”

 

“In that case...” Thor trailed off, realising that he had no case, that he was losing the battle. He looked desperately over his shoulder. “Loki!” he hissed through gritted teeth. “Come and schmooze – now!”

 

Loki held up his hands and shook his head.

 

“Sorry, but I don't think that we can talk our way out of this.”

 

At that moment Heimdall made contact over the communicator built into Thor's wrist-computer – he'd found it onboard The Statesman and claimed it for himself.

 

“Majesty, we have a problem.”

 

Thor rolled his eye.

 

“What?”

 

“I've refuelled the ship. The assistant said that our engines should work better than ever.”

 

Thor knew what Heimdall was about to say.

 

“Good,” he said flatly, “But, don't tell me: we have the wrong kind of currency.”

 

“Yes, Majesty. And they threatened to call the manager. Ugly fellow apparently, like the back end of a hog -”

 

Thor hit the mute button with his thumb, almost cracking the screen.

 

“You will pay what you owe,” The Manager said. “Two trolleys of shopping, wasted meat, broken counter, and a ship load of fuel. You will pay.”

 

“We want to pay you,” Thor cried, exasperated. “But, with what? I suppose that we could...we have gold-ow!”

 

“Goldfish,” Loki said quickly with a smile. “My brother was trying to say goldfish. We can pay you in goldfish. Very valuable.”

 

The Manager stared at Loki for what felt like an eternity, seriously considering Loki's offer.

 

“No,” he said, finally. “Goldfish are not viable tender here.”

 

Thor roughly shoved Loki aside to where The Manager would not be able to hear them.

 

“You stabbed me!” he growled, pulling out Loki's knife.

 

“Only a little,” Loki whispered back. “You were about to use the most precious gold in the galaxy to pay for groceries. Think!”

 

“You must pay,” The Manager repeated.

 

Loki shrugged. “Well, we tried to. You can't accept Sacaarian Units or Asgardian Fish, and that's all we have. Looks like we'll just have to leave and -”

 

“Pay in labour.”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“Pay in labour what you owe. You will work here until you pay off your debt.”

 

Loki chuckled. “I don't think – no, actually, on second thought, I agree completely. Make Korg a customer service assistant.”

 

The Manager shook his head. “He will go in the warehouse, out back. He is strong. He can lift things.”

 

Loki pulled a face. “But he's also extremely friendly and helpful, aren't you, Korg?”

 

“I am indeed,” Korg nodded. “I'll help anyone,”

 

“See? He'd be an excellent customer service assistant. So, make him one. I insist.”

 

“What are you up to?” Thor asked in a low voice.

 

“Nothing,” Loki replied. And then loudly, “I bet that deep down you would love to transform Korg into a fully functioning customer service assistant, and I would love to see it too. I bet it's a fascinating process.”

 

Once again The Manager shook his head.

 

“Korg will work out back. And as for you two...”

 

“What?”

 


 

 

Beep...beep...beep...

 

Thor finished scanning the Bree couple's shopping through the till. He was decked out in a bright orange and sky blue fleece and 100% polyester trousers and shoes. He had a name badge pinned to his chest. It had been made in a hurry and read: Thaw.

 

“That will be 1,200 Units, please,” he said in a quiet voice. The uniform, the bright lights, the monotonous work were killing him slowly inside.

 

He waited as the Units were transferred from the Bree's wrist computer to the till before saying through gritted teeth, “Have a nice day.”

 

Beep..............beep...beep...

 

“Well, this is fantastic,” Loki said from his place at the next checkout. He was serving a crocodile-like individual who was tapping his tail impatiently. If it was meant to hurry Loki along it wasn't working.

 

Beep.........................beep............................beep, beep.......................................beep. (Loki preferred to take his leisurely time scanning the products. This way the customers would see how slow he was and instead go to Thor. It was working; disgruntled customers were drifting into out of his line and into Thor's.)

 

“Shut up, Loki...And can I have some of your bags? I've run out.”

 

Bip..............bip.............................................bip......(This is the sound of Loki tapping in the bar codes by hand instead of scanning them. The crocodile-man looked ready to bite his head off and serve himself instead.)

 

“Can't help you, sorry. But, Mother would be so proud of us, wouldn't she? We may have fallen from being the King and Prince of the Nine Realms, but at least we're working together. I mean, yes, she might have had loftier ambitions for us than being a couple of checkout assistants, but at least it's better than being transformed into the actual tills. I don't think I'd like to be a till.....” He finally finished scanning each of the Crocodile-Man's products. “That will be 200,000 Units please. And don't forget to vote for me to be selected as Employee of the Month. Bye bye now.”

 

He gave the Crocodile-Man a winning smile and wasn't at all surprised when the Crocodile-Man ran a tongue over his pointy teeth. Even when he was forced to wear a garish uniform Loki was still confident enough to flirt. And to be flirted with.

 

“What are you wittering on about?” Thor demanded, hitting the till so that it sprung open. He fished out some loose coins and handed them over to the waiting customer. “This is your fault, by the way.”

 

“You'll have to explain that one, brother,” Loki replied coolly, as he slowly, very slowly, peeled open a carrier bag and then very, very, carefully placed the food inside for his waiting customer.

 

“For the love of Drax, will you hurry up!” the customer screamed, pulling on his hair. “You're killing me slowly! In fact, I'll do it myself!” He snatched the bag from Loki and proceeded to do Loki's job for him. This, of course, pleased Loki greatly as he would always rather argue with Thor over doing any actual work. Not that he ever wanted to work.

 

“If you had just let me give him a little gold then we wouldn't be here now, would we?” Thor said. He twisted around in his seat. “And you shouldn't do his work for him,” he said to the customer.

 

“It's faster this way!” the customer snapped back. “I'll do everyone else's too!” He went on to scanning the items for the next customer at lightening speed. A collective sigh of relief arose from Loki's line.

 

Beep, beep,beep, beep,beep,beep -

 

“And you shouldn't attempt to barter our people's gold without asking them first,” Loki retorted, sitting cross-legged on his chair. “Did it occur to you that for most people their gold has sentimental value? Family heirlooms, mementos of lost ones?”

 

-beep, beep,beep, beep,beep,beep -

 

“I wasn't going to give all our gold away,” Thor snapped, tearing open a bag.

 

“But, it's not our gold. Not a single ounce. Neither of us have any gold any more. We've gone from being the richest to the poorest of Asgard. If you want to spend our people's gold you're going to have to ask nicely for it.”

 

Thor sighed. “Fine. I agree. I was wrong to even think it. Happy now?”

 

- beep, beep,beep, beep,beep,beep -

 

“While I'm wearing this fleece? Not really.” Loki smiled brightly at the latest customer. “Have a great day. And don't forget to vote for me to win Employee of the Month.”

 

“I'm the one who's doing all the work!” the angry customer snapped, still scanning away.

 

“And you're doing a marvellous job,” Loki assured him. “But – hush- no talking.”

 

“Employee of the Month,” Thor muttered, shaking his head in disgust. “You crawler.”

 

Loki shrugged. “Thaw, you're just jealous because I can win by charm alone.”

 

“You're so vain that you covert any cheap prize,” Thor laughed, but sped up his scanning speed. He wanted to prove to Loki that hard work was more important than being charming.

 

The Manager walked slowly up to them with Korg in tow. He stared at them unblinkingly for a few minutes before finally saying, “Okay, you can go now.”

 

“Yes!” Loki howled, tearing off his fleece and throwing it over the head of the angry customer, still doing Loki's job.

 

“What, really?” Thor asked. “We've only been here a couple of hours.”

 

“Yes, but one of your companions came to see me. She offered me a gold necklace as a method of payment to cover your shopping, fuel and the broken counter and ruined meat. I told her that I don't accept bribes, so she offered to stab me as well.”

 

Loki glared at Thor. “I told you that we should have threatened him hours ago!”

 

“I then accepted her bribe. You can go now.”

 

Thor ripped off his own fleece. “It's been absolutely horrible working for you.”

 

The Manager nodded. “Yes, I am a bit of a jerk and I like to make people miserable. I think your mother was probably ugly.”

 

“Hey, that's really -never mind. Loki, Korg, let's get out of here before I break something on his face.”

 


 

 

Val was waiting for them by The Commodore. She was decked out in what looked like a very high-tech spacesuit, also taken from The Statesman.

 

“Thanks for coming for us,” Thor said to her. “And for giving up your necklace.”

 

Val shrugged modestly. “So, are we're good then?”

 

“Yeah. You'll have to show me how to use that.”

 

“It's not that comfy and the thrusters are a bit tricky. But, it was fine for a short walk.” Val stared at the contents of their two shopping trolleys. “Is that all you got?”

 

“Yes,” Thor admitted. “We're not going back in for more.”

 

“I am sorry to hear that, sir,” Thomas the trolley said unhappily.

 


 

 

They mostly sat in silence as they flew back to The Statesman. Mostly.

 

“Well, that was an awful experience,” Thor said for the third time. “I can't believe ordinary people frequent them all the time.”

 

“At least I got a memento out of it,” Loki said, smugly.

 

Thor sighed. “What did you steal?”

 

“Only what I deserve.”

 

“What did you steal?”

 

“They would have wanted me to have it.” Loki tossed up the Employee of the Month trophy and caught it again with one hand.

 

“We're not going back.”

 


 

 

It was only until later that night that Loki remembered that he had slipped Tina the tin-opener/trolley into his coat pocket just before going to look for Korg. He remembered because as soon as he had hung his coat up on his cabin door Tina decided that she would turn back into a shopping trolley again.

 

“You've torn my pocket,” Loki said, flatly. He stretched out on his bed, lacing his hands behind his head. “You're a stowaway, you know that?”

 

“I know...but I wanted to tag along,” Tina said, pink lights somehow blinking in a cautious way. “I'm not just a shopping trolley any more. I'm a shape-shifting shopping trolley. I want to see more of the galaxy. You're not going to throw me out into vacuum of space, are you?”

 

“No. Not unless you want me to.”

 

“No, please don't!”

 

Loki thought about it for a moment. “Very well. You can stay.”


 

 

AN: This is the end of the first story. Thank you for reading it. I'm going to try to write a more serious story next. Thank you!

 

Chapter Text

 

The Broken Crown – Part One

 

I would introduce myself formally, but titles like Thor: God of Thunder, King of Asgard and Protector of the Nine Realms don't really explain a whole lot. You've heard the words god and king and Nine Realms, so now you're probably imagining that I am ruler of sunny little place out in the middle of nowhere and not doing much more than making speeches and watching school plays about my life.

 

So, allow me to introduce myself informally.

 

My name is Thor, and I am incredibly angry right now. The Allfather, my father, is dead; Asgard has been destroyed; my hammer was destroyed; the Nine Realms will have to be renamed as the Eight Realms, and those Eight Realms are completely unprotected; just over two hundred of my people survived Ragnarök, and my brother is a dick.

 

I think that sums up my first week as king fairly neatly.

 

Okay, so I was never taught that being a king would be easy. I had always been told that keeping the peace in the Nine Realms would sometimes be challenging. But, what Odin had never prepared me for was inheriting a broken crown. I am not so much as a king, more a manager of a disgruntled group of people who really don't want to be where they are, don't like how you run things, don't like each other and who just don't like anything much in particular. More on them later.

 

The final two years of Odin's reign had been peaceful. Well, they would be when your dick of a son had put you in an old people's home on Midgard and you've no more responsibility than a leaf floating down a stream has for the tree from which it fell. And yet even when he had broken through Loki's spell Odin waited until the last moment to tell us about Hela. Yeah, Hela, Godess of Death, and the secret, super-evil, super-powerful sister that we never knew we had. Thanks for that, Dad. Nice one.

 

If it sounds like I am complaining too much then maybe you are right. There are some things to be thankful for. But, I had warned you that I was angry. I am Thor the Thunderer after all.

 

Alright, I'll try and think of some positives...

 

Space is nice. I mean, yeah, it's very pretty to look at with thousands of stars zipping past the windows and clouds of colourful nebula billowing all around...though, actually, space travel is mostly boring and tedious. It's just waiting around until you reach the place you wanted to get to. Most of the time it's just nothingness. We Asgardians are not used to travelling like this. We were spoilt by the Bi-frost, instantly arriving at wherever we wanted to be. I've known Asgardians to complain that even crossing the Rainbow Bridge was too long a journey to be worth the effort.

 

At least we have a good ship to ride in and while away the days. It is impossible for us to tell where The Statesman had originated from before The Grandmaster had got his grubby mitts on it. We tried to view it's electronic records, but they had all been wiped a long time ago, but it was a fairly safe bet to suggest that it must belonged to someone rich, important, and with a great need to impress. And it is luxurious enough to keep the people happy and comfortable. For some – for the farmers, stone masons, seamstresses and so on - it was more luxurious than they had ever seen before. There are enough spacious cabins for everyone, tasteful décor and even a swimming pool. If this was how we were going travel in exile then I'd say we had a pretty sweet deal. Not that everyone would agree with me.

 

So, going back to the grumblers and moaners I mentioned earlier...

 

We were on day eight of our journey and artificial morning had broken onboard. After speaking briefly to Heimdall and learning that the Earth was still no where in sight, I made my way to the dining hall – a spacious room almost as large as the halls on Asgard, with a patterned ceiling and with small round tables dotted around on a thick carpet – where Broge and his wife, Opla, had already cooked breakfast and their three children were laying it out on the tables. They had run a small bakery on Asgard and were bowled over by the state of the art kitchen they now had to play with. At least they were happy.

 

Sitting at small separate tables just isn't our way of eating, so instead the tables were pushed together as close as they would go into two long parallel lines down the middle of the hall.

 

As was customary a seat had been saved for me halfway down the line. Korg and Val were already there, sitting on either side of my seat, plates piled high with fruit.

 

“Morning, bro,” Korg greeted. “Loki not joining us?”

 

“Nope,” I said, filling my plate. “According to Heimdall he's fast out. And as I've explained eight or nine times now, he's a god of the night-time. He only stays awake during the day-time if he has to.”

 

“Maybe he's just a night-owl kind of guy, but not actually a god of it. I'm not really a morning dude myself, but I don't go around telling people I'm a god of the night-time.”

 

“Well, he is, so...”

 

“I mean I'm quite good at burping the alphabet. Does that make me the god of burping the alphabet?”

 

I snorted. “Korg, that's not how the whole god thing works, okay? It's not just something you can make up. Loki wouldn't lie about being a god of the night-time just so he can lounge around in bed all day....and what am I saying? Of course he's lied about that.”

 

Typical. Over 700 years I've brought that lie. How many times as a kid did I stay awake all night just to keep him company only to fall asleep in lessons the next day?

 

Val pulled a face. “He's going to resent you keeping tabs on his every move.”

 

“Yeah, but as we've just established Loki is not exactly trustworthy. Believe me, I don't like doing it, but it's for the best.”

 

“He risked his life to save Asgard.”

 

“Doesn't mean a thing. Some days he'll be your BFF, and the very next he'll try and sell your kidneys to the Rock Folk – not your people, Korg - to use as a pond filters. Has anyone fed Hulk yet?”

 

For obvious reasons we were much more careful about allowing the Hulk to be anywhere near our supply of food. We wouldn't even allow him into the dining hall during meal times. I feel like a disloyal ass for treating my friend in such a way, especially as meal times are an important social occasion for Asgardians, but needs must.

 

“I'll go this time.”

 

Val took a tray and began to pile it up with toast, fruit, and rashers of bacon. As she walked away I caught sight of Frey staring with a disapproving look. He sighed, shook his head, and went back to talking in hushed tones to Kern next to him.

 

Trouble was brewing, especially where Frey was concerned. I could ask Heimdall to fill me in later but I had no desire to spy on my own people unless I had good reason to. I didn't want to be that sort of that king.

 

“Excuse me, your Majesty?”

 

It was Ri, Asgard's oldest teacher. She should have retired 300 years ago, but loved her vocation so much that she refused to leave the classroom, much to the misfortune of the children.

 

“Yes, Aunty Ri?”

 

Always call your elders Aunty or Uncle. It's a sure-fire way of buttering them up. Of course, in Ri's case it would take a whole dairy's worth of butter to smooth over her cracks.

 

“I have insufficient materials to carry on with the children's lessons,” she announced grandly. I could tell that she expecting me to be distraught at the very least. “I require pencils, paper, calculators, chalk, text books -”

 

“I see,” I said, not really seeing at all. Or caring. Lucky them, is what I wanted to say.

 

“No, you don't.”

 

“No, I don't,” I admitted. I lowered my voice to say, “With the greatest of respect, Aunty Ri, perhaps under the circumstances -”

 

“Are you about to suggest that I discontinue their education in light of the recent disaster?” She sounded horrified.

 

I lowered my voice even more. “Well, yes, I was. You may not be aware of this, but the children suffer nightmares. They are exhausted during the day. Perhaps we should simply allow them to amuse themselves and to be free as far as is possible while onboard a spaceship. After all they have been through they deserve to have some fun.”

 

I had said the wrong thing. I could tell by the way her eyes narrowed into slits.

 

“Fun,” Ri said with a sniff. “My lessons are always fun.”

 

“I have no doubt,” I soothed. “But, I'm sure that the children don't need to know their algebra just yet.”

 

Ri drew herself up to her full height, which wasn't much, but she was terrifying none-the-less. “It may interest you to know that I was teaching the children about the weaknesses of the Frost Giants. Perhaps under the circumstances that knowledge may prove useful?” She walked away before I could answer and sat herself opposite Frey of all people.

 

I should have rebuked her, I know. I should have reminded her that if it weren't for Loki she would have perished on Asgard. But I didn't. I was too dumbfounded by the way she had spoken to me, and how she had turned her back on me before I had given her permission to go.

 

As always Korg had something to say on the incident. “What a cow. I get the feeling, bro, that she doesn't respect you as king.”

 

“Yeah, I think I may have picked up on that.”

 

“And she's got it in for Loki.”

 

I looked over to where Ri, Frey, and Kern was sat, huddled together.

 

“She may not be the only one. And you can blame them?” I smiled confidently. “But, don't worry, they're not going to do anything expect to moan and whinge about everything. It's what people like them do. Let them say whatever they like, nothing is going to happen.”

 

But, of course, something did happen. The doors and half of the wall were smashed inwards as the Hulk came crashing through, bellowing and roaring with all his might. I couldn't say for sure what had set him off, but it might have had something to do with Loki clinging onto his back, with one arm wrapped around the Hulk's neck and the other with a metallic toaster tucked under it.

 

“Everyone get back!” I ordered. “Into the kitchen!”

 

The people scrambled for the kitchen door as the Hulk began to fling tables and chairs around. I caught sight of Frey frozen to spot, eyes wide with fear.

 

“Go!” I snarled, giving him a shove. It was enough to make him move.

 

The Hulk had managed to snatch Loki off his back and hurled him away. Loki flew through the air, smashing against the wall. He still had the toaster under his arm.

 

“Loki!”

 

To my amazement Loki began to laugh as he picked himself off the floor. Actually laughing as though it were all some big joke.

 

“Don't worry, Banner,” he giggled. “This is actually working! I can hear you loud and clear!”

 

Korg tried to pull him away. “Don't be a Doug!”

 

But, Loki wouldn't budge from the spot. He held the toaster aloft.

 

“Come on, Banner!” he yelled. “We're all waiting for you!”

 

I couldn't believe it. Loki had completely lost it. He really had lost the plot this time. And if I didn't do something now he would be killed.

 

I opened my hand instinctively, but there was no hammer to summon to my hand. I spun wildly around, searching for anything that I could use to distract the Hulk. Not my lightening powers, still hadn't learnt how to fully control them. Too much could kill someone. In the end I settled for two tables, one in each hand. I lobbed them through the air, where they bounced harmlessly off the Hulk's thick hide. Useless.

 

“Hey!” Val's voice screamed from somewhere in the corridor. Finally. “Out here, Big Guy!”

 

The Hulk turned towards Val. Good. Get him away from the people. It would also give me time to grab the Binbon marshmallows from the kitchen. According to the packet even just one contained enough natural sedative to knock out a hundred stone Binbon teen, whatever that was. I had brought them from Starbury's to use on the Hulk if needed, but I hadn't yet tried them out.

 

“It's time for the sun to get real low,” Val said in a calm voice, but with her dragon-fang dagger raised protectively in front of her. She reminded me of Nat, but there was no time to dwell on that.

 

Loki looked appalled. “What? No, it isn't! Hulk, you're supposed to be fighting me, you oath! Look at me!”

 

He had a death wish. I wondered if I would be better off shoving one of the marshmallows down his throat instead.

 

Loki's demands did not go unheard. The Hulk punched a hole through the wall as he glared at my brother with fiery eyes.

 

“Loki, no!” Korg was doing his best to drag Loki away, but Loki broke free of his grip and leapt into the air.

 

He landed once again on the Hulk's back and pressed the toaster against the back of the Hulk's skull.

 

“Quickly, Tina!” he grunted. “We have to do this now!”

 

He was calling his toaster Tina....ye gods, this was bad...

 

Okay, so there was no time for marshmallows, I was just going to have fight the Hulk with my bare hands -or bare lightening - and hope that I didn't kill Loki by accident.

 

Electricity crackled over my knuckles. The Hulk was ramming his back against the remaining wall, trying to crush Loki, but Loki was holding onto his hair with an iron grip. I heard Loki yell with pain, but still the god of mischief wouldn't let go.

 

I raised my crackling fist, ready to fire, but then I noticed a change come over the Hulk. His movements had become weaker, his arms flailing uncoordinated.

 

“That's it, Bruce,” Loki panted. “Just follow our voices. You're nearly there.”

 

The Hulk convulsed, skin switching from green to greyish-white, and shrinking, only to grow back again. Finally the Hulk gave one final roar of defiance before slowly melting down into the lithe figure of Bruce Banner, trembling and moaning on the carpet.

 

Loki rolled off him, not looking much better himself, even if he was laughing.

 

“Good job, Tina,” he laughed shakily. “We defeated the Hulk.”

 

The toaster shimmered green and then – for some reason – turned into a Starbury's shopping trolley, one with pink flashing lights...I don't know. I recognised it from our little trip to Starbury's, but why it was onboard The Statesman, why it could turn into a toaster, and how it had helped Loki turn the Hulk back into Banner – just don't ask me, okay?

 

Val was kneeling next to Bruce, talking softly to him, so I instead went for Loki.

 

“What the hell?!” I took Loki by the throat, dragging him to his feet, and slamming him against the wall, ignoring his yelps of pain. “What were you thinking? You're insane! You could have been killed! Anyone could have been killed!”

 

“Stop it!” the trolley squealed. “He's injured!”

 

“Yeah? How is that a surprise?”

 

“Thor!” Val snapped. “Look at him.”

 

The forcefulness in her voice cleared the red from my eyes long enough to see the blood trickling out of the corner of Loki's mouth. He was bent over, an arm wrapped around his stomach and legs shaking.

 

Wordlessly I helped lower him to the floor, propping him up against the wall.

 

“We did it for Bruce,” the trolley said, quietly.

 

“Loki?”

 

My brother gave me a shaky grin. “I can explain everything.”


 

 

AN: Thank you for reading! Loki has explaining to do.

 

Chapter Text

 

The Broken Crown – Part Two

 

I grinned shakily at Thor.

 

“I can explain everything.”

 

Thor's face was like stone.

 

“After Eir has healed you,” he said, shortly. “Although, given how much you hate healers I am surprised at how reckless you've been.”

 

Ha! What a hypocrite to call me reckless.

 

I hauled myself to my feet. My body hurt all over, but I managed to stand, even though I was leaning heavily against the wall.

 

“I'll pass.”

 

Eir was indeed a skilled healer and physician, but that didn't mean that I wished to subject myself to her brutal care. Her name means mercy, but there was nothing merciful or gentle about her bedside manner. And as for her healing magic, it would burn bright and hot in my blood until I screamed in agony. It was my Frost Giant half which was incompatible with her magic. I was Aesir enough that the magic worked, but it always came at the cost of terrible pain. As a child I had no idea why her magic hurt me so, but I learnt early on to avoid her as much as possible, preferring to heal naturally or to attempt healing magic, something I was never very good at.

 

The last time I was healed by Eir was a few weeks before Thor stormed Jotuheim. We were quelling a Rock Troll rising in Nornheim. There was only supposed to have been about a hundred strong, but in truth their numbers were so much greater. We were hopelessly outnumbered, but still Thor wouldn't allow us to retreat. He had a reputation to think about. To be fair he did destroy most of them single-handedly, but then the second wave came pouring out of the caverns and finally he accepted that it was time to run. I cast a smoke screen to conceal our escape, but a shower of arrows came down on our heads just as the Bi-frost was opened. Thor laughed heartily as we arrived in Heimdall's observatory, thinking that we all had gotten away unscathed.

 

And then he saw me lying on my front.

 

How was it that I was only one unlucky enough to be hit not just be one arrow but three? And poisoned ones at that.

 

Thor ran to my side, dropping to his knees. He wrenched the arrows out of my back and shoulder without so much as an utterance of warning, throwing them back through the portal. He turned me onto my back and felt my forehead.

 

“You're burning up,” he said.

 

“I-I'm fine,” I rasped. My mouth and throat were already as dry as sand – the poison taking hold – but I was still determined to avoid a visit to the healers if I could.

 

“Their poison is potent,” Heimdall said, turning the sword and closing the portal. “Get him to Eir quickly.”

 

“No...”

 

Thor ignored me, but instead roughly hoisted me over his shoulder as though I were insensitive to pain as a bag of flour. I groaned loudly; I couldn't help it.

 

My vision had became blurry and my mind felt foggy and heavy, but the wind blowing across the Rainbow Bridge was sharp enough to revive me just enough to protest again.

 

“Put me down, Thor. I'm good, really good...There's nothing wrong...” I struggled weakly against him, but Thor tightened his grip.

 

“Enough!” he barked. “You're delirious. You're going to Eir and that's that!”

 

“I don't need to...I can heal myself....” I groaned.

 

Fandral laughed at me. “Remember the last time you tried healing magic? Blew out an entire wall in the west wing.”

 

At that point my vision grew cloudy. I could see a scurrying, shifting mass spreading over the Rainbow Bridge.

 

A whimper escaped my lips.

 

“Rats....why are there rats...?”

 

“He's hallucinating,” someone near to me said. Sif perhaps. I concede that I may have been delirious at that point. “We don't have much time.”

 

The next moment I remember is Eir's worried face close to mine and saying softly, “This will hurt, but it won't last long. Be strong, Loki.”

 

And then she placed her hands on my body and activated her healing spell. My whole body felt as though it had been set on fire. My back arched and my head tilted back as I screamed, tears running down my face with my limbs flailing.

 

“Keep him still!”

 

Strong hands closed around my arms and pushed down on my chest – Thor and Fandral probably. I writhed and struggled but couldn't break free. I begged for mercy – funny, given her namesake. The pain was overwhelming.

 

And then it was over, ceasing suddenly without fading, like a candle snuffed out.

 

I lay on the bed, panting and shaking.

 

I felt Eir's fingers moving through my hair.

 

“Shhh, it's over now. Well done.”

 

“Why is he like this?” Thor. He sounded distressed, an understandable reaction to the situation he caused by his recklessness and arrogance.

 

Eir's fingers continued to move steadily through my sweaty hair.

 

“Shhh,” she repeated. “Sleep now, Loki. Just sleep.”

 

I fought to keep my leaden eyes open, I wanted to hear how she answered Thor.

 

“I don't know. We may never know. He's different...” was the last I heard before I fell into a sleep that lasted nearly two days.

 

I didn't know it then but Eir lied. She was our family's physician and she knew that Odin had taken me from Jotuheim. She knew that I had been born a Frost Giant, but still she treated me as if I were fully Aesir. I despise her now.

 

And I blamed Thor, of course. If he had just listened to me and allowed us to retreat one minute sooner then I would not have been hit by three poisoned arrows and nearly killed. It was after I woke up and Thor congratulated me on my bravery and finally having some battle scars to show off that I made up my mind once and for all to punish him. I had been considering it for some months, but kept putting it off because of my love for him. But being injured and poisoned, being pinned down and subject to torture....that was when I finally snapped.

 

Back in the present Eir stood next to Thor, wearing a pained expression on her face.

 

“Please, Loki, let me help you,” she begged. “I've been studying the magic of the Frost Giants. I can do better.”

 

“No!” I hissed.

 

“You are hurt, let -”

 

“He said no,” Thor said, staring at me coldly. He looked to where Bruce lay, a pathetic, shivering grey lump. “Leave Loki. He and I need to talk, but not here.”

 

He practically dragged me out of the room, down the corridor, and shoved me through a swing door. I stumbled into a dimly lit room – the library. My favourite place. I sank down gingerly into an armchair, still with an arm wrapped around my side. I was sure I had a few cracked ribs.

 

Thor stood in front of me, clearly furious, but not wanting to let it show. It made me think of lava about to burst out of a pillar of marble. I couldn't understand it.

 

“What are you looking so po-faced for?” I demanded. “We have Banner back, a much greater asset I would have thought than that idiotic creature.” I dabbed at my bleeding mouth with my sleeve. “You should be pleased. Overjoyed even.”

 

“I am,” Thor said, flatly. “How did you do it? Banner was sure that he would be trapped inside the Hulk forever.”

 

I smiled. “Tina.”

 

That changed the stony expression on my brother's face. He blinked, confusedly. “The shopping trolley/toaster?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“W-what?”

 

My smile broadened. “I gave her the power to shape-shift. She's quite talented, actually. Yes, at the moment she will only shift into kitchen utensils and appliances, but I believe that with a little more -”

 

Thor was running his hands through his hair, agitated. It would be a long time before it grew out.

 

“Why did you...? Never mind. Let's just skip over that for the moment,” he interrupted. “How did Tina bring Banner out of the Hulk?”

 

“Well, when Tina was first turned into a shopping trolley -”

 

Thor's confusion increased. “So, Tina is originally toaster, not a shopping trolley?”

 

“No, no. The toaster is one of her new Aspects.” Why was Thor being so slow? “Tina is from a planet called Xandar. And when she gained employment at Starbury's -”

 

“She's from Xander? Loki, are you telling me that – that trolley is a person? Used to be a person?”

 

Typical Thor, always getting distracted and upset by the wrong details. I tried to get the conversation back on track.

 

“Yes. A customer service assistant. As I was saying, when they first turned -”

 

“I thought she was an AI programme.”

 

“Me too, until she told me otherwise. As I was saying -”

 

“Were all the trolleys there once people?”

 

“Probably. I don't know for sure.”

 

“That's evil!”

 

“Probably. I don't know for sure.” I was growing tired of the constant interruptions at this point.

 

“But, why is she here? Did you kidnap her?”

 

“No!”

 

“It's finally happened! You've kidnapped a mortal!”

 

Thor looked mortified and I was highly offended by the accusation.

 

“She's here because she wants to be!” I snapped. “Can we get back to the Hulk?”

 

“Go head. I'm fascinated.”

 

“Remember when Tina said that the trolleys could scan our brains so that they could tell us what to buy?”

 

“Yes, slightly unsettling, but yes.”

 

“It's due to a telepathy chip. Nothing too powerful, or at least they're not supposed to be. Tina's different. She began to hear a voice inside her head, calling for help.”

 

“Bruce.” Finally, he was comprehending something.

 

“Exactly. It was obvious to me that we could use her telepathic link with Dr Banner to pull him out of the Hulk, leading him towards the light as it were. It required physical contact, of course, but it worked brilliantly. Well?”

 

I was waiting for the applause, the well-dones, or at least a brotherly slap on the back. But nothing was forthcoming. Thor just stood there looking...I was unable to read the expression on his face. I hated that.

 

“What?” I demanded angrily.

 

“Nothing,” he said, softly with a shrug. “I just thought that you were too keen on self-preservation to pull a stunt like this.” His expression suddenly grew hard. “What is the matter with you?”

 

“There is nothing the matter with me!” I snarled. “I did a good thing today! I thought you would be pleased!”

 

Thor snorted. “Well done,” he said sarcastically. “You almost got yourself, Tina and our people killed. Good job, Loki.”

 

“I rescued Banner!”

 

“You were stupid!” Thor shouted back. “If you had a plan you should have come to me first! Or Val! Either of us can handle the Hulk better than you. But, no, you went charging in without thinking things through and picked a fight with the one being who could flatten an entire city! Fantastic work, brother.”

 

“It worked!”

 

Thor was shaking his head, wearing a pitying look on his face. “And you call me reckless. That's why I asked what is wrong with you because normally your plans are so much more intricate than this. But this...this was just foolhardy and not like you at all.”

 

I blinked rapidly. “I am fine.”

 

“Really?” Thor said not believing me. “Then you listen to me, Loki. If you want to stay on this ship then you follow the same rules as everyone else.”

 

“Oh, what rules? Don't fight the Hulk – fine! I promise not to do it again.”

 

Thor slammed the reading table with his fist. The legs instantly collapsed beneath it.

 

“Yes, that!” he bellowed. “Stay away from Bruce! You have nothing to do with my friend!”

 

I folded my arms defencelessly. “You don't trust me at all, do you?”

 

“How can I? And how can you expect people to trust you when you trust no one yourself? It's a two-way street. You won't even tell me what happened to you after you fell off the Bi-frost.”

 

I drew in sharp breath through my teeth. Unwanted memories exploded at the forefront of my mind. He should not have said that.

 

“Loki?”

 

“You're right, brother,” I said. My eyes felt wet. “I don't trust you. Or anyone else. Life has taught me not to trust. Nothing is going to change that.”

 

Thor growled loudly. He made his way to the door, pausing just long enough to say, “You're not well liked, Loki. I am the only one who can protect you, but remember that I am the king and will put our people's needs first. Break my rules and I will throw you off my ship. Trust in that.”

 

He slammed the door closed leaving me all alone in the library.

 

 

 

AN: Thanks for reading!

 

Chapter Text

 

The Broken Crown – Part Three

 

After my pleasant little chat with Thor, I made my way back to my room. Rather slowly and painfully, I might add, with one hand pressed against the wall for support. At least I could take some comfort in knowing that my injuries would heal quickly enough and that I had successfully escaped Eir's clutches for the time being.

 

Still though, I was rather disappointed with my brother's attitude. I had given him his friend back, but all I had received in return was a brisk telling off and threatened with exile. That's gratitude for you. I understood it though; he was anxious to assert himself as king and reprimanding me was simply putting on good show. Well, good luck to him. We've only been trapped on this wretched vessel for just over a week and already the people are walking all over him. There had been cases of gambling and drunken fighting, and although Thor had spoken to the culprits it simply would not be enough to deter them permanently. If he really wanted to nip all this depravity in the bud then he would have to punish them severely, but he would never do that because then he would remind himself uncomfortably of Odin in the early part of his reign, soaking his hands in blood in order to dominate the Nine Realms. Thor had no real desire to be king; he'd rather be everyone's friend, but you can't be both.

 

I'd finally made it back to my room. I pulled off my boots and coat and collapsed onto the bed, wrapping the cold blankets around me, enjoying their comforting iciness. I always weave ice magic into my blankets. Same goes for my clothes, otherwise I would quickly overheat and melt. When I was a child Mother would sit for hours with my clothes draped over her lap, patiently and skilfully waving her hands over them in an intricate manner, sowing coolness and coldness into the very seams.

 

Thor and the other children thought I was weak for being so easily overcome by the summer's heat. And because neither Odin or Mother offered up any other explanation I also thought that I was weak. More lies.

 

[Hey, Loki, can you hear me?]

 

It was Tina, speaking to me telepathically. A very useful way to communicate over long distances and out of Heimdall's earshot.

 

[Yes, obviously. You are speaking inside my head.]

 

Tina chuckled, her laughter reverberating around my skull and then she asked, [Are you alright? Your brother looked really angry with you. And you wouldn't let that healer lady help you. Stubborn, much?]

 

[I'm fine. Everything worked perfectly.]

 

[I'll have to take your word for it. I didn't realise that part of the plan was for the Hulk to beat you into a pulp. That really scared me, by the way. I don't how you're still alive.]

 

[I'm tougher than I look.]

 

There was a pause and for a moment I thought that our conversation was over and that I would finally be able to sleep without the sound of Bruce screaming inside my head. Yes, I know that I had told Thor that it was Tina who had heard his voice. This was true, but she didn't start to hear him until I tuned her in myself. Why did I lie? I am the god of Lies. And I am very careful to show weakness only when it suits me to. There was no need for Thor to start asking endless questions about my telepathic ability or about how in recent weeks I seemed to have the lost ability to filter as much as I had done in the past.

 

[I'm still in the dining hall,] Tina suddenly said, breaking into my thoughts.

 

I pulled the pillow over my head, not that it would muffle her voice. It was a comfort none-the-less.

 

[And?]

 

[I can't go anywhere by myself, remember? No legs. The Val Lady and Korg keep poking me, trying to get me to talk. They're doing it right now.]

 

[Then why not talk to them? We have nothing to hide. Or, and here's a thought: why not shift into the Aspect of your original self and walk away?]

 

[You know I can't! Come and get me?]

 

I thought about it for half second. It would be far too much effort to move now.

 

[Perhaps later. Thor will want to question you first. And to warn you against associating with me.]

 

[Grrreeeaaat. No wonder you feel so alone most of the time. Nobody likes you. Not even Bruce. Even as we were rescuing him I sensed a ton of hostility aimed towards you. What is that all about?]

 

[Ah. I may explain one day. Or Thor will tell you later. Either way I would drop the sentimentality you seem to feel for me. It's a waste of time.]

 

Tina huffed loudly. [Why are you so....argh! I can't think of how to describe you. But, you like causing trouble, I'm sure of that.]

 

I smiled. [Oh, didn't I tell you? I'm the god of mischief. Nice to meet you.]

 

ooo

 

When I returned to the dining hall the people had ventured out from the kitchen and were inspecting the damage caused by the Hulk. Opla was very upset about all the food that had ended up on the floor, but her two children, Arvid and Astrid, were in awe, jumping in and out of the hole in the wall and roaring, imitating the Hulk.

 

Bruce had obviously been waiting for me, because as soon as he saw me he struggled to his feet, holding onto his torn trousers with one hand. He looked weak and pale, but determined to speak to me.

 

“Thor, I'm so sorry -”

 

I cut him off. “It's not your fault, you know that.” I thought that he was referring to the dining room.

 

Bruce shook his head. “No, I meant...I meant about Asgard. Val just told me.” He looked over his shoulder to where Val was tentatively poking Tina the shopping trolley with her dagger. I would have to speak to her later. “I'm so sorry, Thor. I don't know what to say. Saying sorry just doesn't seem good enough.”

 

What could he possibly say other than sorry?

 

I laid a hand on his shoulder to put his mind at ease. “My friend, I take comfort from you being here with us. Though I should apologise to you that I myself was not able to bring you back from the Hulk. And that we haven't already made it to Earth.”

 

Bruce smiled at me awkwardly.

 

“Well, I'm here now to help out in any way I can. But, you must be so angry.”

 

He knew all about anger so I guess it makes sense that he could recognise it in me. I sniffed loudly.

 

“We should find you some clothes...uh, we don't have much....”

 

I decided not to add that Bruce was shorter than most of our adults. Aesir grow tall. I would have to take something from Arvid. Only 14 he was already about Bruce's height and knowing Opla she would have packed spare clothing just before fleeing Hela's soldiers.

 

Opla being the motherly type to all was only too happy to deck Bruce out in Arvid's spare trousers and shirt, as well fussing that he was too thin. He was donated a pair of boots (a size too big) by Mason, and a dark red cloak by Gill.

 

They were curious to talk to him, of course. But Bruce being Bruce shyly deflected all of their questions, stammering his thanks and rubbing his hands together. I decided to spare him further discomfort by giving him a tour of the ship.

 

He of course had questions.

 

“So, is there anything I should know about Asgardian manners? Like will I offend anyone if I blow my nose at meal times?”

 

“Not at all. If you want to fit in then all you need to do is sing loudly and out of tune, and drink a whole lot.”

 

He chuckled before moving onto his real question.

 

“So, what's Loki up to this time?” he asked. “I assume that he didn't help me out just because he was feeling charitable.”

 

I shrugged.

“I don't know,” I admitted. “But, I've already warned him off from speaking to you. Just be on your guard. And keep that cloak on.”

 

Bruce raised an eyebrow.

 

“Loki has this weird thing where he can taste colours,” I explained. “He hates that particular shade of red, claims it tastes like raw liver.”

 

“Synaesthesia. Interesting, but I'd rather not aggravate him.”

 

“You don't have to worry, Bruce. Not when you have me, Val, Korg, Heimdall and the rest of the Asgardians watching out for you. Loki may act tough, but really he's a bit of push-over. What's the saying? His bark is worse than his bite.”

 

Bruce stopped in his tracks, his smile strained now.

 

“Apart from when he's leading an alien army to take over the Earth, right?” he said, clasping and unclasping his hands. “Thanks, Thor, but I'm still going to avoid him at all costs. You might still see him as your little brother who occasionally causes trouble and isn't much of a threat, but to me he's a mass murderer and enemy number one....” He broke off, suddenly looking apologetic. “Sorry, rude of me to go on like that. It's been a long week.”

 

Yeah, no kidding. But, he was right to say it.

 

“No, you're right,” I said. “For most of his life Loki was a good person...I guess that I'm still hoping that he'll go back to how he used to be. But that's never going to happen. Instead I'm stuck with someone who only looks and sounds like him. Occasionally, I see a look in his eye – regret or fear maybe – and I know my Loki is still in there somewhere. Honestly, I just want my brother and best friend back.”

 

Bruce smiled softly. “You know after we all first met, we all read up on your legends – the other Avengers, I mean.”

 

“Oh, no. As I've told Tony on many occasions, not all those stories really happened. Most were made up by your people.”

 

“Okay. But, what about the one where you had to pretend to be a blushing bride for a day?”

 

I knew what Bruce was doing. He was giving me the opportunity to reminisce about the good old days and I was grateful for it.

 

“Alright, I admit that one really did happen. Mjolnir was stolen by this Ice Demon, so Loki came up with this crazy scheme to get her back...”

 

We'd rounded a corner and there was Frey waiting for us, looking pale and shaken up, but determined.

 

Bruce, sensing trouble, took half a step back and chose to stare at the ground.

 

“What are you going to do?” Frey demanded.

 

“About what?” I asked, trying to sound pleasant.

 

“About him,” Frey replied. “And Loki.”

 

Chapter Text

The Broken Crown – Part Four

 

There are some who describe the Infinity Stones as being like siblings to one another. They share some characteristics, but are otherwise highly individualistic, with varying properties... And personalities.

 

The Mind Stone, for example, could be described as an enabler, bringing out the worst in those who come too close to it, making them feel far more powerful and certain of themselves than they really were.

 

The Reality Stone is a bully, using living beings as a host and destroying their sense of what is real and what is fantasy.

 

And as for The Space Stone, well, let's just call it a trickster.

 

The truth was that Loki couldn't even clearly remember taking the Tesseract from the vault. His memory was a little foggy surrounding the event. He could recall tossing Surtur's crown onto the Eternal Flame. He could remember sprinting up one narrow flight of steps after another with white, hot flames licking at his heels and thinking that his time was definitely up....And then he was on The Commodore...blackout...and then he found himself onboard The Statesman and not feeling so good...disorientated and exhausted...and woolly minded...

 

He felt even worse when he discovered The Tesseract in his pocket with no clear idea as how it got there. All he knew was that he had banked on Surtur on destroying it after spotting it on its pedestal. If Thanos found a way of tracking it...There was something else that didn't make sense to Loki. He had posed as Odin for two years – how could he have forgotten that it was in the vault? He had sent the Reality Stone away, far from Asgard, so why not the Space Stone? What was wrong with his memory?

 

Blinded by panic he stumbled through the nearest door and discovered that inside there was a long line of toilets. Without thinking he ran into a cubicle, shoving the cube down the toilet's u-bend, as far it would go. His sleeve was soaked, but he didn't care. He didn't even notice the damp discomfort.

 

As Loki sat on the floor his stomach heaved several times, but nothing came up. Eventually he hauled himself to his feet and staggered out of the door and straight into Heimdall.

 

He fell back against the wall, heart pounding in his chest. Had Heimdall seen him with The Tesseract?

 

The Watchman offered him a rare smile. “Loki, glad to see that you made it. I was watching as you flew out of Asgard, and I'll admit that for a minute I thought we had lost you. I think that we can safely describe your talent as “epic”.”

 

Loki suddenly felt his legs give way. Heimdall darted forward, wrapping a strong arm around Loki's middle.

 

“It's okay, I've got you. You're in shock. And you're not the only one.”

 

“N-n-no, I'm n-not...I-I just d-d-don't know how I-I got h-h-here...” There was something wrong with his head; a kind of heavy, confused fog wrapped around his mind, making him feel all jumbled up and disconnected from reality.

 

“Yes, like I said, shock,” Heimdall muttered. “Here, sit down.” He lowered Loki to the floor, keeping a strong hand on his shoulder. “Look at me, Loki. Look at me. This isn't your fault, do you understand that? You had to do it.”

 

Loki's mind was still on The Tesseract. He barely noticed as Heimdall removed his cloak and wrapped it tightly around his shoulders, as though it might prevent him from shaking himself into pieces. Had he taken it? Why couldn't he remember? He looked up, wide eyed and shaking.

 

“I-I d-didn't w-want t-to.”

 

“I know.” Heimdall crouched down in front of him, holding onto his shoulders. “Listen, okay, you stay here. You've done enough for us today. Your parents would be proud of the courage you have shown. But, there are injured people I need to attend to first. After I've helped them I'll come and find you, alright? Good boy.”

 

He squeezed Loki's shoulders before standing up and disappearing into the throng.

 

Loki had no idea for how long he sat in a confused daze, but eventually the trembling subsided and mystery of The Tesseract slipped to the back of his mind to the place of forgotten memories. He got up, leaving Heimdall's cloak behind, and went to find Thor. As far as he was concerned the Space Stone had been destroyed by Surtur and the universe was all the safer for it. A great weight had been lifted off his shoulders now that he believed that Thanos now had no chance of assembling all of the Infinity Stones. Thank you, Surtur, how convenient of you.

 

Sadly, for Loki the Tesseract wasn't finished playing with him just yet.

 


 

 

Thor

 

I looked up and wasn't at all surprised to see that it was Frey who stood in front of us, arms-folded and wearing a self-righteous expression. Typical. He had always been a pot-stirrer, forever running to Father to complain about the pettiest of incidents and how things were run. In the end Father gave him a lot of land to farm, far from the citadel, laying it on thick how Frey was only Vanir trustworthy enough to be reliable upon to do such an important job. The soft soap worked like a charm. Frey mostly stayed away, too busy wrapped up in the business of growing crops and raising cattle and bossing about the farmhands to be interested in the minor affairs of Asgard.

 

But now he had no farm left to distract him.

 

“He could turn back into the Hulk at any second,” he said, jabbing a finger in Bruce's direction, “and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Loki is one to set him off. So, what are you going to do about it?”

 

“What am I going to do?” I repeated, taking a step towards Frey. “I'm going to suggest that you scuttle off and leave me to show my friend around the ship. And I'm also going to suggest that you mind your own business.”

 

I channelled my inner Nick Fury and gave him a hard, one eyed stare. It worked like a charm.

 

Frey broke eye contact, and with a final resentful look aimed at Bruce, shoved past him.

 

“The safety of my people is my business,” he said, not daring to look back. “I thought it was yours too.”

 

I was beginning to think that Loki may not be the dominate threat after all.

 

“He's seems like a nice guy,” Bruce said, ruefully. “I -I'd like to get him know more.”

 

“You don't need to worry about him.”

 

“You told me that I don't need to worry about Loki.”

 

Oh, brother. I couldn't help but think back to how he had looked in the library. Something wasn't right. If only he could tell me what was going on inside his head. Maybe he didn't know himself.

 

“You don't need to worry about either of them. Come on, let me show you the spare cabins. You can take your pick. And then I need to talk to a shopping trolley called Tina.”

 

“Sorry, what?”

 


 

 

Tina

 

Some people think I'm weird, that it isn't right for someone to want to be shopping trolley. But, they don't understand the advantage that comes from being made of metal and plastic. No pain. And when you can't feel pain then you're free. Okay, yeah, so I can't go anywhere unless someone moves me and I can't feel the wind or the sun, but who really cares about those things? In this form I am in a cocoon, a suit of armour, and am perfectly protected. Which is why it is pointless for these Asgardians to keep poking and prodding me, trying to get me to talk. It simply won't work. I won't talk unless I want to.

 

My family don't talk about me, except to call me a freak or bonkers. My friends have disowned me. They tried to talk me out of joining Starbury's, but I was stubborn and wouldn't listen. I don't want to be someone for whom pain is just part of life. I can live without it.

 

Loki is the only friend I have now, even if I don't know much about him. He gave me the gift of shape-shifting for free and let me stay with him, hidden in his cabin. He's tried to encourage me to turn back into my Xandarian self, but he doesn't seem to care much that I prefer to be a trolley or a toaster. He has a sort of live and let live attitude about him. Or perhaps he's felt so much pain in the past that he understands why I want to avoid feeling it at any cost.

 

He called himself the god of Mischief....not sure if I believe that. It seems a strange thing to be a god of. It does explain his powers, but, still, a god? He's too scrawny for that, surely?

 

I thought I was doing well to ignore the ones called Val and Korg, but then Loki's brother, Thor, showed up. I was a bit startled to see him, even after Loki warned me about him.

 

He stood in front of me, hands clasped together, cleared his throat and said in a deep voice, “Uh, hello, Tina. Do you mind if we speak in private?”

 

Now he is a god. Tall, blonde, voice like a grand piano, and muscles to spare. I hadn't the opportunity to see much of him at Starbury's, but now I could get a proper look.

 

I giggled foolishly. Sorry, Loki.

 

“Sure. Just, uh, lead the way.”

 

Val and Korg stared opened mouthed as Thor wheeled me away to an empty room with just a couple of armchairs and a coffee table in it. Then he sat down in front of me.

 

“Okay, look, Tina, first thing I want to say is that you're safe with us. I know that you've been hiding out in Loki's room, but there's no need to. No one is going to throw you out into space or maroon you on a dead planet.”

 

I could have sighed with relief. And he was sweet too. Loki had painted a picture of him being an ogre.

 

“I'm Thor, by the way. Nice to meet you.”

 

“And you.”

 

He suddenly looked embarrassed. I could feel his curiosity.

 

“A-are you really...I mean, were you really a person?”

 

“Yeah, from Xander.”

 

“Okay, good. I wasn't sure if Loki was lying or not. That's fine. Perfectly normal, I'm sure.”

 

If I had fur it would have bristled by now. Instead I flashed my lights rapidly.

 

“A few hours ago I helped turn that green monster back into your friend. The day before that Loki was showing off all his different Aspects to me. Define normal.”

 

He chuckled softly. “Good point. My apologies. How much do you know about us?”

 

“Not much. I know that you are called Asgardians. I know that collectively you are all grieving and that you feel lost. But, Loki won't tell me why. I tried only asking once and he changed the subject.”

 

Thor bowed his head and when he looked up again I saw tears in his eyes.

 

“We've lost everything...” he said, voice catching slightly. “Our home world was destroyed by a terrible demon and the goddess of Death...Loki grieves just as much as the rest of us, but he's never been very good at sharing his pain.”

 

“I'm so sorry.”

 

Thor was resting his chin on clasped hands now, staring into nothing.

 

“Her name was Hela and she would stop at nothing in order to rule the Nine Realms, even killing us all. The only way to stop her was to release the Fire Demon, Sutur. He was the only creature strong enough to destroy her. But it came at a price of the destruction of Asgard.” Thor looked straight at me. “It took some magical ability to free Sutur at the right time, which is why I asked Loki to do it. I think perhaps it is a burden which weighs more heavily on his mind than he deserves.”

 

I said nothing. I didn't want to betray Loki's confidence by telling his brother about the nightmares he suffered everyday (he seemed to preferred to sleep during the day), although maybe my silence said enough.

 

I decided to ask a question of my own.

 

“Thor, are you a god?”

 

His mouth curled up into a smile.

 

“Yes, I am. The god of Thunder. Nice to meet you.”

 

“What is a god?”

 

My question seemed to throw him.

 

“You don't know?” he asked, surprised.

 

“Do you?”

 

That got him. He stood up, running a hand over his beard as he thought about how best to answer. He flicked off the light switch, throwing the room into darkness.

 

“Good question,” he said. “But, it's not very easy define who and what we are...” There was a loud crackle from where he stood, followed by blue flashes of light as he opened his hand and small lines of electricity danced across his palm.

 

“There are only six basic ingredients needed to make a universe,” he began “These are: time -”

 

He sent a tiny bolt of lightening shooting up towards the ceiling where it created a jagged looking clock. There it stayed, floating above us, wobbling and humming quietly with energy.

 

“Power...”

 

Another small discharge of lightening, this time creating a clenched fist.

 

“Soul...”

 

A heart symbol.

 

“Reality...”

 

A square.

 

“Mind...”

 

A man with a long cloak for some reason.

 

“And, finally, Space.”

 

Two zig-zag lines floating near to one another.

 

The humming was much louder now as all the symbols shimmered above us, occasionally crackling as they let off small discharges of energy. The room was bathed in their eerie blue light.

 

“The universe was created.” Thor closed his fist and the symbols dispersed into the air with a loud crack. Opening his fist again, a number of bolts of lightening dotted the room with stars. “And the essence of those ingredients was spread out over it. But, there are some corners of the universe which received more than it's fair share...”

 

He formed the image of a tree with long, reaching, zig-zagging branches stretching out along the length of the room.

 

“And some of those beings who belong to those areas are different from the rest of the universe's population...longevity, stronger, more powerful, unique abilities....I guess that you could say that we are the children of that which created the universe in the first place...Gods of War, Justice, Wisdom...Goddesses of Love, Fertility, Sleep, Healing...Sky, Oceans, Forests...Life and Death....Music and Poetry...Food and Drink...Sport and Theatre...”

 

I watched in amazement as Thor threw up his hands to make whole gang of little stick gods and goddesses to hover by the tree.

 

“All these things come from the original six and are everything that makes up the mortal life. If you can think of it then there's a god out there who embodies it. The six ingredients may have made the basis of the universe, but we give it colour and life and beauty.”

 

“And shopping trolleys?”

 

“Uh, maybe. Probably a Roman god, but we don't talk about them.”

 

As I was admiring Thor's light-show, a deep voice cut in over the intercom.

 

“Sire, we have a problem.”

 

“What is it, Heimdall?”

 

“Frey has been attacked. And he's blaming Loki and Dr Banner.”


 

 

AN: Thanks for reading!

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The Broken Crown – Part Five

 

I went straight up to Deck 4. I felt like I was walking into another stupid, open-air play. There was a whole crowd of Aesir gathered round in a circle and in the centre Frey was lying on the floor, moaning and groaning as loud as he could, with Eir kneeling next to him. There was a blood stain on his left shoulder.

 

“He's okay,” Eir said to me. “I've already healed him. It was nothing life threatening.”

 

Frey looked indignant. “I was stabbed!” he cried, grimacing as best as he could.

 

“More like grazed on the left shoulder. With this, apparently.” Eir held up a dagger with a delicate looking handle – emerald green with silver decoration.

 

Before I could take it Frey leapt up, snatching it from Eir's hand. He held it aloft, high enough for everyone to see.

 

“Loki did this to me! And Dr Banner!”

 

It was a pretty wild accusation, I thought. The idea that Bruce would willing hurt anyone let alone conspire with Loki to do so was laughable. But, I could hear their names being passed down the crowd in shocked and disgusted voices. I wasn't at all surprised to see Rin among them, spitting out their names more loudly than anyone else.

 

“We don't know that for sure!” I said, loudly, trying to put a halt to the whispering. But, in my heart I already knew that the damage had already been done. The Aesir were clearly on the side of Frey. All I could do was try to nip in the bud as quickly as possible.

 

“What? You don't believe me? That doesn't surprise me! You would side with your maniac brother and friend!” Frey was really whipping the crowd up. And I thought Loki was a drama queen. “I am telling the truth. Dr Banner came to distract me while Loki attempted to murder me. I was fortunate that he missed my heart otherwise I would not be talking to you all now.”

 

Frey grabbed my hand and put Loki's dagger into it.

 

“The evidence!” he hissed.

 

The shocked mutterings from the crowd increased. Rin was the only one to look happy, wearing a smug expression on her wrinkly face. That bitter, old witch should not be working with children.

 

“That's a ridiculous lie and you know it!” I bellowed. “But, let's ask Heimdall what really happened. The Watchman sees all. Heimdall?”

 

I was pleased to hear the people fall silent. I noticed that both Frey and Rin suddenly looked less confident. Heimdall was so well trusted that he could put an end to Frey's mad accusations. The people would believe his verdict.

 

We waited but Heimdall did not answer.

 

“Heimdall! What did you see?”

 

I heard Heimdall sigh over the intercom. When he spoke his voice was heavy with regret.

 

“I am sorry, Majesty, but I saw and heard nothing... Except for when I heard Frey calling for help...”

 

“I don't understand. Heimdall?”

 

Frey was triumphant. “You see?” he roared. “This is the second time today that Heimdall has been unable to see Loki. And why is that? Only powerful magic could obscure Heimdall's sight and who alone on The Statesman has magic that powerful? Loki!”

 

The crowd became more anxious. You could see the waves of fear and anger rippling through their ranks.

 

“Frey, that's enough!”

 

“No, I'm not afraid of you, King Thor! I will not be silent!” Frey turned back to face his audience. “We shouldn't think badly of his majesty for being loyal to his brother or his friend. The bonds of brotherhood can never be broken. And his friendship with Banner is a strong one. But he is blinded to the truth – none of us are safe with Loki and Banner onboard. If Heimdall can't see them then they could commit any horrendous crime.”

 

“Why would they -”

 

“Because they're friends!” Frey shouted. “Or Loki has a hold over Banner. We all saw Loki freeing Banner from the Hulk. Your brother never does anything for altruistic reasons. We all know that, don't we? We all knew he was up something! Imagine what he could with the Hulk on his side!”

 

There was a murmur of agreement from the crowd.

 

It was time for Frey's closing statement. “The Prince is mad. And always has been. It's the Frost Giant in him. Time he was locked up for good.”

 

The crowd cheered. Frey had won the people over perfectly. Everyone except Eir was nodding and echoing the same sentiment.

 

A man called Troy stepped forward, looking both ashamed and fearful.

 

“Majesty, please, my wife, Erica, is pregnant with our first.”

 

He was a good man. I couldn't blame him for wanting to protect his family.

 

“I know she is,” I softly.

 

“We were in the dining hall this morning when the Hulk came crashing through. The shock of it all it's not good for her or the baby....And she's suffered enough stress already...We could have both been killed.”

 

“I know. But, nothing is going to happen to you or your wife or your child. I give you my word.”

 

Troy's blue eyes were filled with tears. He shook his head. “We just don't feel safe any more.”

 

It was as if those words gave the people permission to unleash their anger. The whole crowd began to shout. “Lock them up! Throw them off the ship!”

 

They were getting to riot. I had to placate them in any way that I could.

 

I waved my arms for attention and sent a crash of thunder over their heads. It was sudden and loud enough to silence them for a moment.

 

“Very well for now I will put them both under arrest. But this matter is not closed. I will not pass judgement until I have had chance to investigate properly.”

 

The crowd cheered my name. I felt sick to my stomach.

 

Frey nodded at me. “Thank you,” he said. “You're doing the right thing.”

 

I turned away before I could punch him.

 

“Heimdall?” I asked.

 

“Majesty?”

 

“Send one of the guards to Dr Banner's room. Have him calmly explain what has taken place here and what Bruce has been accused of.” I lowered my voice. “Make sure that they assure him that I don't believe it.”

 

“And Loki?” Frey asked.

 

I glared at Frey.

 

“I'll go to Loki myself.”

 


 

AN: I don't like Frey – and I'm the author! What a jerk! But, don't worry I'm sure that Thor will sort this mess out. Thank you for reading!

 

Chapter Text

 

The Broken Crown – Part Six

 

I went straight up to Loki's room on Deck 3 accompanied by two guards.

 

I paused outside just long enough to think about how little I wanted to do this. We had argued only a few hours ago, but when do we not argue? I still wasn't happy with how reckless he had been, but it didn't mean I wanted to see him thrown into outer space, something which a lot of Aesir would be happy to see. I took a deep breath and stepped inside, instructing the guards to wait outside.

 

Typically for Loki the room was in semi-darkness and with the heating turned way down low. Considering that neither of us had brought any possessions on board with us, it was somehow cluttered with books and strange looking trinkets. One day I would get Loki to demonstrate just how much his pockets could carry. I was convinced that he had literal pocket dimensions inside his pockets, just to carry all of his books and everything his sticky fingers caught hold of.

 

Loki was asleep on his bed, with his head stuck under his pillow. It made me feel hopeful – he couldn't have attacked Frey in his sleep...well, he could, but that wasn't likely. However, what disturbed me was the sight of a light frost forming over the bed frame and spreading over the blankets. I hadn't seen Loki do that before, but this wasn't the time to ask about that now. Later.

 

“Loki,” I whispered. “Loki, wake up.” I went to shake his shoulder, but my hand simply went straight through him. I can't claim to be surprised, but I was annoyed.

 

“Loki, where are you really? I assume you're hiding because you know what's going on.”

 

I looked around the dim room, although I wasn't really expecting to find him lurking in the corner or behind the chair. As children, he would always beat me at Hide and Seek...Apart from when he was wearing his squeaky shoes...You see, there was this one time when he was two, when he disappeared for a whole day. Our parents were frantic. After that Mother enchanted his shoes so that they would squeak wherever he went and we could track him. It took him a whole year to figure out why he was suddenly being found so easily. He devised a way to lift the spell from his own shoes and place them onto Odin's. Father failed to see the funny side of that.

 

Loki's ghost snapped opened its eyes.

 

“I heard my name being mentioned in angry tones, yes, so of course I hid. And I am trying to sleep.”

 

“We need to talk.”

 

“We are talking, fopdoddle.”

 

Ye gods, I forgot how cranky he could get when tired. Being battered and bruised, and our eariler dispute, wouldn't be helping either.

 

“Frey says that you and Bruce attacked him.”

 

“Did he? I'm impressed. I didn't think he had the mental capacity to tell a lie. Oh, well. We learn something new everyday. Good morning.”

 

He rolled over, presenting his back to me.

 

“Loki, this is serious. He was stabbed by your dagger.”

 

“I know.”

 

“How?” I asked through gritted teeth.

 

“I lost it during Ragnarök...although, I can't remember when I lost it exactly. I thought maybe I had dropped it on the Rainbow Bridge or during all the confusion when we first came onboard The Statesman. Easily done. At least I know who has it now.”

 

“And you didn't think to tell me?”

 

“We had just lost our home. Do you really think I was going to complain about losing a dagger?”

 

“Fair enough. But, what about Heimdall? He's been unable to see you today.”

 

Loki gave me his Isn't-It-Obvious-Look.

 

“Heimdall's eyes aren't as keen as they used to be. And his hearing not as sharp. We draw our power from the Yggdrasil and – excuse me -” Loki yawned loudly. “Since Asgard has been destroyed the Yggdrasil has been permanently damaged. You must expect there to be a weakening among us. Or powers to go awry.”

 

I looked at the ice forming on his bed, but decided against mentioning it directly.

 

“We draw our strength from each other, brother. Even you.”

 

“A heart-warming sentiment, Thor. Go and explain that to Heimdall, but be sure to speak up. And while you're at it, you can retrieve my dagger for me. It deserves better than to be caught in Frey's sweaty, grasping mitts. Off you pop.”

 

I didn't move.

 

“What?” Loki demanded. “Why are there guards outside the door?”

 

“How did you know about them?”

 

“I can hear them thinking really loudly. And stupidly. Why?”

 

I looked down, too ashamed of myself to answer directly.

 

Loki laughed harshly.

 

“I don't believe this! After you condescend to lecture me about trust, you're here to keep me prisoner. Hypocrite! Maybe I should point out the obvious – I didn't attack Frey.”

 

“I know. Direct physical attacks are not your usual MO.”

 

I felt the temperature in the room plummet. Loki's projection was glaring so hard that I thought I saw flames in his eyes, like wildfire.

 

“And what of Bruce? Do you think he attacked Frey?”

 

I sat on the bed, forgetting about the frost, and immediately stood up again.

 

“It doesn't matter what I think.”

 

“Yes, it does. You're the king! Listen, Thor, Frey could have claimed that I stamped on his head in clown shoes and the people would still believe him because I have always been despised.” He spat out those final words, wearing a pained look.

 

“Not everyone. You still have at least one fan.”

 

“Korg likes everyone.”

 

“Wasn't talking about him.”

 

“You may as well as have meant him for all the use you are to me. You told me that you are the only one who could protect me, but when it actually comes down to it you won't even lift a finger. You know, I was starting to feel homesick, but now this feels just like old times. I feel right at home, being punished for wrongs committed by others.”

 

“Shut up the self-pity, Loki, and listen for a moment. Frey's a liar with a huge grudge against you, we both know that. Well, most of the ship does. And he has it in for Bruce too. Now, it's going to take me a little time to put things right, but I will do it. All I ask is that you play along for now because if I don't keep you under arrest it will only make things worse – they're already calling me biased. If I let you go now the resentment towards you will only grow. So stay in your room. No tricks, no manipulations. Don't fan the flames by escaping. Just let me do my job. Agreed?”

 

“Just one problem.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“I'm not really here.”

 

“Oh, I forgot! So, where are you hiding?”

 

Loki's ghost faded away as he said, “Where do you think?”

 

I smiled at the guards as I stepped outside.

 

“We're going to need ten minutes of privacy. Come back after that.”

 

They nodded compliantly enough, but they didn't look too happy.

 

I crossed the hall to my own room. Loki was sitting cross-legged on my bed, looking pensive. There was frost everywhere.

 

“Were you sleeping in my bed, Goldilocks?” I tried to brush some of the ice crystals from the blankets, but it didn't make much of a difference.

 

“Frey has never liked me,” Loki said. “You remember...”

 

“I know. Let's go.”

 

I escorted him back to his room where I waited with him until the guards returned. He was putting his trust in him; I couldn't let him down.

 


 

 

As soon as Thor left I began to plan my escape. It wouldn't be hard. Don't blame me; I am the god of Mischief, a being of Chaos. It's my nature to upset Order.

 

However, I also knew that brother was right. Frey was both angry and stupid, but Thor was reasonable and popular. He could talk them around, but not if I made things worse for myself. And yet it did not sit well with me relying on Thor to get me out of trouble. Nor was I ever comfortable being trapped in one place, even for a short time.

 

I paced the room for a bit. And then I sat on the floor, pulling a book from my pocket. It was a signed copy of A Study In Scarlet. It made me wish Arthur was here.

 

A few minutes later and Bruce came stumbling through the door.

 

Wonderful.

 


 

 

Wonderful.

 

I had been minding my own business when a soldier came to tell me that I was under arrest for attempted murder, but not to become cross about it because Thor didn't believe it. I mean, why would I be cross about a little thing like this?

 

And then a short time after that the solider orders me out of my room, marches me to the elevator, then down a corridor and shoves me through another door.

 

“Hello, Bruce.”

 

Wonderful. It had to be him, didn't it? The one man I was keen to avoid at all costs and now we cell mates. Fantastic.

 

“Hi,” I said, awkwardly. I backed away from Loki, only to knock over the lamp. I tried to pick it up hurriedly, but kept dropping it.

 

“Why don't you just sit down?” he suggested icily, turning a page of his book.

 

I did so as quickly as I could. For next five minutes I watched him as warily as a man might keep his eye on a tiger, but thankfully he seemed to be absorbed in his book. Thor had told me not to be afraid of him, but I wasn't going to let my guard down around him. I could Hulk out on him, but an angry and frightened Hulk onboard a spaceship was never a good idea. Besides Loki now knew how to squash the Hulk back inside of me and there was no way I could beat Loki in a fight.

 

“You don't have to stare, you know.”

 

I flinched. “Uh, sorry, I – uh -” I tried looking around the room instead, but there wasn't much to hold my attention.

 

“Where are my manners? Have a book.”

 

He fished deep inside his pocket and pulled out a paperback, holding it out to me. I wasn't going to refuse, was I?

 

“Uh, thanks,” I said, cautiously taking it from him. I looked at the cover: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

 

“D-does Thor know about this?” I asked.

 

Loki turned a page. “No, he doesn't read much. Oh, you mean about us. I doubt it. This is Frey and his followers trying to stir up more trouble against us. They think that we will fight, giving them more reasons to force us to walk the plank. But, it's not going to work, is it, Bruce?”

 

“No, no. I'm fine, thanks. Perfectly calm. It's not like I don't have any reason to be – be pissed off at the sight of you.”

 

“Passive aggression is not going to ease our situation. I suggest that we stop talking to each other and we may both come out of this unscathed.”

 

I opened the book. “Good plan,” I muttered.

 


 

AN: LOL, I wish I had magic pockets like Loki. Thank you for reading!

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The Broken Crown – Part Six

 

980 AD

 

From my vantage point in the oak tree I could see that Frey's barn had finally collapsed and was now a smouldering pile of ash and timbre, the black smoke reaching up to the stars. Behind that I could see the red glow, stinging the inside of my mouth with its overwhelming spiciness, of Frey's home on fire, the furious flames having leapt from one building to the other. The stench of burnt cattle was carried on the wind, only adding to my nausea.

 

“My son, why do you hide?”

 

Father. I fluttered up to a higher branch. He would throw me into the dudgeons for this.

 

“Very well. I shall join you up there. It is a good night for climbing trees.”

 

I couldn't fly away with a burnt wing, and the branches were now too thin to support my weight any further, so I was stuck where I was. I listened as the bark creaked under Father's weight. He was thickset, yet he was able to scramble up the tree effortlessly. He came to rest just below me, the thin branches somehow holding him up. He settled himself against the trunk of the tree and lit his pipe.

 

He blew out a couple of smoke rings, sighing with contentment. “That's better. Now, Loki, why don't you explain to me what happened?”

 

He waited. I remained silent.

 

“I shall do the explaining then. You, Frey's sons, and some other boys were playing in the barn as usual. And then what happened? Did the rough-housing get out of hand? They made you feel angry, frightened? And suddenly – woosh- the barn is ablaze and you know that you caused it. Such power and so uncontrollable, it is indeed alarming for someone so young. However, never forget, Loki, that you are mine and Frigga's son, your powers were always destined to be great. That is not something to be feared. You will learn to control them, just as I did and just as your mother has. And, hopefully, one day Thor will learn too.”

 

A cool breeze ruffled my feathers. Yes, that was what had happened. I never knew that my magic could be so destructive; I had not lost control of it before. Everything spell I had cast in the past had been filled with purpose, thought out and was executed with precision. But this....this was emotion running amok. I closed my eyes.

 

[Are you going to punish me?]

 

“I don't desire to.”

 

[But you will.]

 

“No. I will not. Not this time. The blame lies on those who tormented you and they will be punished. However, a man has lost his livestock, his home, his peace of mind. He must receive some compensation. You will give him the gold to replace all that is lost. You will see to it that his home and stables are rebuilt. You will make him, his family and servants feel welcome in the palace. Do not think of this as punishment, but as a way of putting this matter to rest for good.”

 

Father held out an arm to me.

 

“Let us return home now, my son. It took me a long time to find you, even with the help of the ravens, and the night grows colder still.”

 

I felt my hawk Aspect slip away from me. I was naked, exhausted, burnt, covered with soot, and terrified. I fell into Father's arms, snivelling like a baby.

 

Father embraced me tightly, patting my back.

 

“Come now, there is no need to cry, Loki. Thor didn't cry last year when his lightening destroyed the school. Stop it now.”

 

I swallowed back my tears and shifted into my wolf Aspect in order to preserve my modesty. I trotted slowly behind Father, limping as I went. Father finally took pity on me as he summoned Sleipnir and we were able to ride back home.

 

And though I did everything Father asked of me, Frey never forgave me.

 


 

 

I was an idiot. How could I ever be stupid enough to think that Thor would let us out? I had no idea of how much time had passed, but I was sure that we had been trapped in my room for hours now. He probably intended to keep us prison in here for the duration of the trip. Or maybe forever. Always trapped.

 

How he could he lie like that to me? How could he betray Bruce? I thought that they were friends. If this how Thor treats his friends then there is no hope for me. Or maybe that was Thor's plan all along, to contain me, to chain me down in a too small room where there didn't seem to be enough oxygen...and where the walls move on their own...

 

Little god, are you going to talk to me today?

 

No, no, no – not you! Not now!

 

Your family are not coming for you, Little god. They deny your existence. They've abandoned you.

 

Not Thor! Not Mother! She never stopped searching for me...

 

It is your misguided trust in your family that causes you so much pain. The sooner you let go of them the sooner you will know peace in your heart.

 

Thor will come. He promised. He will come back. He's coming back.

 

“Loki?”

 


 

Bruce

 

While I trusted Thor to let me out soon enough I was still keen to stay as relaxed as possible.

 

I was immersed in my book when I heard a strange noise. I looked up to see that Loki had thrown A Study in Scarlet aside and was holding his head in his hands. His shoulders and chest were heaving up and down as he panted heavily.

 

“Loki, you alright?”

 

I could see that he wasn't, but I needed him to be.

 

“It's going to be alright. Thor will be here soon.” He continued to hyperventilate. “Look, if you get stressed then I'll feel stressed. And in this tiny room that won't be good for either of us. Do you think you can calm down? For both our sakes?”

 

Loki lowered his trembling hands from his face. “I-I am c-calm!” He snarled.

 

“Sorry, I just -”

 

I watched as Loki closed his eyes, one hand over his mouth. He looked nauseated – pale and sweaty. I remembered what Thor said about my cloak and how it tasted like raw liver to Loki. That wouldn't be helping matters, so I took it off and threw it under the bed and out of sight.

 

I thought about knocking on the door to get the guards attention, but then changed my mind. Loki had said that they wanted us to fight. They would hardly let us out if that were true.

 

I would have ignored Loki, left him to his own devices, but then I caught sight of the patch of ice growing out from where he sat on the carpet. It was slowly crawling over the floor and reaching up the walls. Not good.

 

I turned my back to the corner to whisper, “I don't know if you can hear me, Heimdall. I don't know how this works. But if you can then you need to tell Thor to hurry up. Loki is not handling it well, and if he freaks out then then you're going to have a freaked out Hulk to deal with. Uh, thank you. It's Bruce Banner, by the way.”

 

Oh, man, I did not want to be involved with whatever Loki was going through. I did not want to be involved with him full-stop. He was the man who had destroyed New York City, who had killed 80 people in two days, the man who had taken control of one of my friends. I didn't want to help him; helping each through the heavy stuff, that's a friendship thing. We weren't friends.

 

However, we were being held prisoner together in a small space and there was ice slowly spreading out everywhere. Not good for my own blood pressure. So to help myself I would have to help Loki.

 

Wonderful.

 

I stood up and wiped my sweaty hands on my trousers. I took in a few calming breaths of my own as I thought out my strategy. Loki was showing clear signs of suffering a panic attack; he was being pushed into fight or flight mode, and given that he was a god I should keep my distance unless I wanted to pummelled. Which I didn't. I would keep calm and do everything I could to make him feel in control. Should be easy.

 

I cleared my throat. “We will be out of here soon, Loki. We just have to wait it out. However, you do seem to be suffering a panic attack, so why I don't I -”

 

“Gods...do....not suffer...panic attacks!” he panted. The growing of the ice sped up, almost reaching the bed now. I sat down on it, lifting my feet off the floor.

 

“Right, but – uh -anything you can do about the ice...” My breath was coming out in white clouds now. I wished I could reach for my cloak.

 

There was a red tinge to Loki's eyes as they widened when he looked around the room. He whimpered, actually whimpered. Bad sign.

 

“I...can't....stop...” He was struggling for every breath now, gasping and wheezing.

 

“Yeah, you can, sure you can. Uh, the sun's going down, the sun's getting real low, the sun's going down -”

 

“S-shut up! W-w-why a-are y-you -?”

 

“Sorry, it's just what Thor kept saying to me. I assumed it was an Asgardian thing.”

 

I was amazed to see Loki suddenly haul himself to his feet. He used the wall for support as he stumbled towards the door, one hand over his heart.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

“S-suffocating...w-we have to get...out...”

 

“No, I'm not suffocating. I'm mortal, so if there was something wrong with this room I'd be dead long before you. Look at me, I'm fine. Bit cold, but mostly fine.”

 

Loki frowned, sending tears running unchecked down his face. I could see him trying to work why I was okay when he felt like he was dying.

 

“Your breathing is all wrong. Too fast and too shallow. You want to feel better, you want to stop the room from spinning, then do as I do...breathe in nice and slow through your nose...”

 

Loki slumped back against the wall, shaking his head. I saw him glancing towards the keypad. The ice was crawling over the ceiling now. There was a popping sound as the lamp went out, sending the room into semi-darkness. I could still just make out my breath clouding in front of me and Loki's figure sagging in the corner.

 

“You can leave if you want,” I told you. Keeping him in control, see? “It's up to you, but personally I want to screw this Frey over as much as possible.”

 

Loki looked back at me, bewildered.

 

Now that he was paying attention to me I felt more confident that I could pull this off.

 

I shrugged. “Why would I like him? He accused me of trying to kill him. T-that's not nice, you know? So, both of us could escape now, overcome the guards easily. But, why would we want to make ourselves look even more guilty? Thor will sought this out, you know that. So, I say let's just chill out in here. And when Thor comes to get us he will find us kicking back with our books. And Frey will know that he couldn't intimidate us, right?”

 

Loki nodded.

 

“Good. Now copy me, this will help, I promise. Breathe in through your nose, hold it for three seconds, and then out through your lips...do it again...breathe in through your nose...”

 


 

AN: Thank you for reading! Lol, I can't help but pair Loki and Bruce/Hulk together as frenemies. Both are green, both accused of being monsters...maybe there should be a superhero team for all the characters associated with green or who are actually green. Loki, Hulk, Mordo, Green Goblin...

 

Chapter Text

 

The Broken Crown – Part Eight

 

Thor

 

If I was going to get the people back on my side then I would need all the support I could get. I needed Heimdall. I went straight to the bridge where I found him waiting for me just beyond the doors.

 

“I am sorry for letting you down, Majesty,” he said as soon as he saw me.

 

I laid on a hand on his shoulder. “You've nothing to apologise for, my friend. But, is it true? Loki told me -”

 

Heimdall raised a hand. “I was able to hear that particular conversation. Loki might well be right. The Yggdrasil has been damaged. And yet you also may be right – we draw our strength from each other. Perhaps my problems come from my stubbornness and unwillingness to rely on others. From now on I should be more of a team player. I may even learn how to mingle with my fellow Aesir.”

 

“Uh, great, good for you.” Heimdall had always been a loner, never leaving his post in the observatory unless forced to, never attending a single party; it was hard to picture him “mingling”. “But, I need your advice, Heimdall.”

 

We moved away from the Aesir working on the consoles towards the viewing-screen.

 

“The people want to exile Loki and Bruce from the ship. But, I know that's wrong. And yet if I tell them no, won't that make me a bad king? One who doesn't care for his people's opinions, leaving them feeling unsafe. Won't that make like me Odin in the first half of his reign? Carrying out my will by force? No, I'm not in favour of an absolute monarchy, where I only look out for myself and my friends. The Golden Sham, Val called it. I mean to change that.”

 

Heimdall smiled at me. “Well, you are also allowed to have an opinion. And you're allowed to express that opinion. You act like nobody trusts or respects your judgement.”

 

“I'm not sure that they do,” I snorted. “I'm a weak king, Heimdall. It's only been a week and already screwing everything up.”

 

“I've served many kings and queens, Thor, and you are far from being the first to be frightened of the crown and the responsibility that comes with it. You've changed so much in these past few years. Trust my opinion, you are ready to rule. More than anyone you understand that a king must serve his people, but also to lead when he has to. There's no need to be afraid of the power you wield as monarch, because you will always try to do the right thing. And the people will respect that.”

 

I let his words sink in for a moment. I still didn't feel completely sure of myself, but as long I had my friends to support me I could at least try to put things right.

 

“Heimdall, will you get the people to gather in the throne room? And I will need Eir, Val, and Korg.”

 

“Very well. What are you planning to do”?

 

“To act like a king.”

 


 

 

“Ready?”

 

No, I was not ready. I would never be ready. Ask me to fight a hundred rock trolls single-handedly and I won't sweat a drop. Ask me to step out in front of the people and suddenly my hands are sweating.

 

“Ready.”

 

It was time to put on a show.

 

Heimdall opened the door to the conference room/throne room. Ooh, it was packed in there. Of course, it was, idiot. You ordered the people to meet there.

 

There had been a loud buzz of voices as we waited outside, but as soon as Heimdall had opened the door, silence fell like a hammer.

 

“His Majesty King Thor the First!” Heimdall bellowed. “Make way for your king! Bow before your king!”

 

I was used to presenting myself before large crowds of people as a victorious warrior, waving Mijolnir about and cheering for myself, acting up from the adrenalin I felt. But, now I was walking in as a king. It required a display of dignity and might, so adrenalin was absolutely no help here – no running, jumping, or roaring. Oh, please, don't let me trip over my cloak. Eir had lengthened it for me, arguing that longer was more majestic looking, if impracticable. Be regal, be regal. No tripping.

 

I wish I was more like Loki in these situations – always without fear when faced with a crowd. But, then again, he loved the attention.

 

I waited until the people had separated into two halves, leaving a clear path down the middle of the room, before slowly, elegantly walking down it. I summoned a light breeze so that my blood red cloak billowed out behind me, and with Val, Eir, and Korg following closely behind, heads bowed, I will claim that I looked rather impressive. Very majestic.

 

As I passed them by the people bobbed down into a bow before straightening up again. I couldn't look to either side, but in my peripheral vision I caught sight of Frey and Rin as they barely inclined their heads to me.

 

I made it to my bucket seat/throne, turned, and sat down while sweeping up my cloak so that it draped over the side. Val stood to my left, and Korg on my right, and Eir stood behind the throne. Heimdall stood guard at the doors. Internally I was excited that I had made it to my seat without goofing it up, but outwardly I arranged my face into an expression of being both bored but superior.

 

Rin could hardly wait to start screeching at me.

 

“Is it done?” she demanded. “Are they under arrest?”

 

I didn't answer her, but instead stared impassively straight ahead.

 

“Well?”

 

“You will address the king properly,” Val answered.

 

“Your Majesty will do,” Korg chipped in. “Or Big Cheese.”

 

Rin looked pained, but she complied. “Your Majesty, have the would-be murderers been locked up?”

 

“Who are these would-be murderers of which you speak, Min?” I asked.

 

Rin. And you know who, Your Majesty.”

 

I examined my fingernails. “Ah, Loki and Dr Banner. I have found no evidence against them. They shall be released shortly.”

 

Shocked whispers rolled across the room.

 

Frey stepped forward. “Your Majesty forgets Loki's dagger -”

 

I cut across him before he could work his silver tongue any more.

 

“My brother informs me that he lost it shortly after the tragic events which caused us to be here in the first place. I think we can all agree it is very easy to lose a weapon in the heat of battle. Or possibly afterwards. All of you saw Prince Loki fighting to protect you from Hela's undead armies, armed only with his headpiece and a single dagger at one point, I am reliably informed. Do you any of you dispute that?”

 

Not one person said a word. I wished I had been around to witness Loki fighting like that. I bet he looked awesome.

 

“Frey?”

 

The farmer was looking distinctly uncomfortable by now and I was starting to enjoy myself. There was some fun to be had acting like a king, even if I didn't feel like one on the inside.

 

“No, I don't, but -”

 

“And as for accusations against Dr Banner, have all of your forgotten that he is an Avenger, a team of which I am also part of? I would not fight alongside Banner or even welcome him onto the ship if I thought him dangerous. Perhaps you also accuse me of a being a murderer?”

 

“Of course not, that is ridiculous!” His face had turned bright red.

 

Val coughed.

 

“Your Majesty,” Frey added. “But, you are biased -”

 

I stretched out my hand, electricity jumping over my fist. “Silence!” I thundered, both literally and metaphorically. I stood up. “This unpleasant matter is easily solved. You say that the Prince and Dr Banner tried to kill you and should be thrown off the ship. I say that is a pack of poorly constructed lies designed as revenge and coming from a heart of prejudice. It is well known that your brother died with honour in the war against the Frost Giants. The Prince is a Frost Giant. It is easy to see where your hatred comes from even if it is unacceptable.”

 

For the first time I sensed a change in the crowd. Now the majority of the people were looking at Frey and Rin with a mixture of amused, disappointed, and disgusted faces.

 

“He also burnt my barn down!” Now he just sounded petty.

 

“As a fifteen year old child! A boy who did not know how to control his own magic. We all remember that Loki was punished and paid you compensation.”

 

“He is dangerous.”

 

I stood up, reaching up to my full height. “And so am I! But, I fight for you, as Loki has many times in the past. But, like I said, this matter is easily solved. For Frey and his supporters I will ensure that you feel safe. If you believe that Frey is telling the truth then you may leave in an escape pod, today, and be far from Loki and Bruce. However, if you remember that I am the rightful king of Asgard, and if you trust my leadership and judgement, if you trust that I care for all my people, then you may stay. We have been through the darkest of days together and I only wish for us all to stay together, but I will not force anyone to do so. This is my final decision on the matter.” I sat slowly back down.

 

“So, what do you say, Frey?” I asked. “If you were telling the truth then you must leave. If you admit to lying...well, that is a serious crime, indeed.”

 

Frey had lost all colour from his face. Rin didn't look much better.

 

Heimdall coughed loudly from the back of the room. He silently stretched out his index finger and thumb into the shape of an L. Loki. Something had happened. I cursed silently. Couldn't he have done as he was told just for once?

 

I stood up once more. “Asgard, you have an hour to make your decision. We'll meet by the escape pods. Some of you require no time to think, for you have already made up your minds. As for the rest of you, I advise you to think very carefully.”

 

I swept back down the hall, cloak billowing out behind me, and with my entourage close on my heels. As soon as we out through the door I tore off my cumbersome cloak and handed it back to Eir for her adjust once again.

 

“You were great, by the way,” Val told me. “Just like Odin, only better.”

 

“Thanks. Heimdall, what's going on?”

 

The Watchman drew alongside me. “I'm not certain. Dr Banner said something about Loki “freaking out”...and then he told me who he was...”

 

“I don't understand. They were being held in separate rooms.”

 

“Not any more.”

 

Frey. I would only be too glad to see him gone. But, I could feel my heart sinking fast. God of Mischief he may be and unable to control himself to some extent, but if Loki had hurt Bruce I would never forgive him.

 

We rode the elevator in silence back to Deck Three and ran along the corridor to Loki's room. I barked at the guards to move aside before forcing the door open and storming inside.

 

“Loki! Bruce!”

 

“Yes, brother?”

 

Okay, so I'll admit I was expecting the worst. Chaos, carnage, Bruce with his hair on fire and Loki laughing about it, but what I wasn't expecting was...well, a book club.

 

Bruce was sitting in the chair, and Loki was lounging on the bed, both reading quite happily and surrounded by piles of books.

 

I rubbed my face. “What is going on?”

 

Loki flipped over a page of her book. “It's called reading, Thor. You should try it sometime.”

 

“Bruce, you called for help.”

 

He rubbed the back of his neck. “Uh, yeah, but it's fine now....He turned into a woman....That was interesting...”

 

“It's normal for me. Get over it.”

 

“S-sorry.”

 

I couldn't believe it. “And that's the reason you called to Heimdall? Because Loki turned female. Is that all?”

 

“Uh, yeah, sorry, Thor.”

 

Mortals. They have no idea.

 

Loki snapped her book closed and hopped off the bed.

 

“And where were you?” she demanded. “I take it we're free to go?”

 

“Yes. I was able to -”

 

“I am sure you were magnificent. Bruce, thank you for holding my hand. I'll call on you the next time I require a cuddle. Excuse me.”

 

She barged straight past me and disappeared to who knows where.

 

Bruce let out a long groan, slipping out of his chair to the floor.

 

“Did she give you any trouble?” I asked.

 

He held his hands in his face. “No, it was fine...all fine...” He looked at me with exhausted eyes. “Just tell how long we were stuck here?”

 

“A little over an hour.”

 

“What? Is that all? It felt like days! I'm so out of here.”

 

I followed him out of the room. “Hold on! Loki said that you held her hand. What -”

 

“I-I don't w-want to talk about it...” Bruce was hurrying as fast as he could to the elevator. “I think she might kill me if I did...”

 


 

 

It had been some years since I had last swapped to my female form, but it never hurt to have a change every now and then, especially after...whatever had happened to me in my room... Needless to say, I hadn't enjoyed the sensation of feeling like my chest was being crushed or that heart was about stop. Like dying. I was determined not to go through that again, so hopefully putting my male form to rest for a while would be enough solve that problem.

 

It was worth it just to see the look of surprise on Banner's face as I suddenly altered form during his breathing exercises. On an in-breath I was male and then on the out-breath I was female. It was enough to make him splutter.

 

I went straight to the communal bathroom at the end of the corridor so that I could adjust my clothing for a better fit. I couldn't help but stare at my face in the mirror. I was still Loki; same green eyes, dark hair, although maybe my cheekbones stuck out a little more than I'd remembered, but there was something different too...something I couldn't quite put my finger on...a shadow over my eyes, perhaps...something that was there, but hidden...like an invisible veil...

 

I tapped my reflection's forehead in the mirror, trying to figure it out. Bruce had called it a panic attack, but why me? It had felt like pure fear and dying, but what was there to fear? What was I so scared of, yet couldn't remember?

 

I heard a soft crackling coming from my hands. A thin layer of ice was spreading out from under my palms and over the sink. Oops. I was going on to have to work on preventing that from happening again. When I looked up again I saw that my eyes had turned red, a revolting flavour of rust.

 

“I am Asgardian!” I hissed through gritted teeth. The red turned back to green, but it was disconcerting to say the least.

 

I had told brother that the damage caused to the Yggdrasil would cause godly powers to go awry, and yet I was suffering a double-whammy of glitches. With Odin gone...It wasn't worrying about for now.

 

In the end, 52 left with Frey and Rin, including Troy and his heavily pregnant wife, Erica. Shame. I was looking forward to seeing how Thor would cope with leading the Naming Ceremony. Baby-proof he was not.

 

I can't say that I was crying to see any of them leaving – they were all horrible upstarts- although there was a distinct feeling of gloom hanging over us all. Thor, more than anyone, looked grim as he tersely shook each of their hands, even Frey's, and wished them a safe journey to wherever they ended up. We had lost so many during Ragnarök, and now our numbers had dwindled even more. The Fates would not be pleased, but, still, it was their choice.

 

I should have stayed away, but I had some parting words for Frey. I waited till they had boarded the pod before projecting a ghost of myself into the cockpit where Frey was alone.

 

He practically jumped out of his skin to see me. Oh, wouldn't that have been fun, to go through all that only for him to suffer a heart attack?

 

“What do you want?” he spat through clenched teeth.

 

I grinned cheekily as I hovered a little way above the console. “Only to say bon voyage and, also, thank you.”

 

Anyone else would have immediately felt suspicion on hearing those words, but not our Frey. He was always slow on the uptake.

 

“Thank you? What for?” he snarled. “Turning your brother against you?”

 

I chuckled.

 

“For picking up my dagger. You know, I could not be entirely sure that you would, but then I remembered what an incredible moron with a grudge you are. I knew you were itching to find a way to get back at me; not that you would be able to cook up a scheme all by yourself.”

 

Frey blinked stupidly at me.

 

“You manipulated me?” Ah, the copper coin had finally dropped.

 

“No, no, Frey, you did all this to yourself. I merely dropped my dagger in the right place. You chose to pick it up. You chose to use it on yourself and claim that that it was Bruce and I. Oh, I may have helped you to spread some ill feeling against myself, because, let's face it, you're a charmless boil who couldn't attract a swarm of wasps even if you bathed in strawberry jam, let alone a rally a group of people to your cause.” I changed into my “ordinary” woman Aspect. I could see by Frey's face that he recognised me from the times I had whispered in his ear to complain bitterly about myself and Banner. “After that all I had to do was attack the Hulk; it was the moment you had been waiting for, to prove us both a threat to the people.”

 

Frey was beginning to look like he had swallowed a bee. His face was bright red with fury and his eyes were bulging.

 

“Why would you do this?” He was so angry that he could barely push the words out through his lips.

 

I sat myself down on the console, well, as much as an illusion can sit down.

 

“In your stupidity you've overlooked three important factors, Frey. The first is: I love Thor. I think the world of my brother and am frighteningly co-dependent on him. Without him...I stagnate. So I will do anything to make his rule easier for him. And that includes banishing those who seek to weaken the throne I no longer desire for myself. I've had my turn at ruling and made Asgard prosper for a short time. I mean, yes, I may have played a large role in the complete destruction of Asgard, but overall, it prospered. And Odin said that he loved me. That's all I ever wanted. Now I'm all for King Thor. Which is why you and your followers really have to go.” I was idly twirling a lock of hair around my finger; it always came out long, for some reason, when I became a woman.

 

“Obviously I couldn't do it myself – no one would accept that. It had to be by Thor's hand, and your own, of course. Also it doesn't hurt that now Bruce and I have some goodwill in the bank. It's going to be some time before anyone dare complain about us.” I smirked. “That leaves us with plenty of freedom for carrying out shenanigans and devilry, don't you agree?”

 

You know, I don't think that he did. In fact, I don't think that he heard a word that I had said beyond that I loved Thor.

 

“Love?!” he choked. “But you're always at each other's throats!”

 

I stretched my arms behind my head as I said, “You had a brother once; you must remember that sibling relationships are always complicated. Too bad that you blame me for his death. I wasn't alive back then.”

 

“You're one of them. That's enough for me!”

 

It was enough for me too. I hated the Frost Giants, not that I would share my prejudice with Frey. Besides I had more reasons to hate them. My biological father had abandoned me to die, and as for my mother....I didn't know a single thing about her.

 

“I know it is. Now, as for the second factor, you have spent hundred of years harbouring a grudge against me, but you failed to see the obvious which really should have put you on your guard.”

 

“Which was?”

 

I lent in close to hiss in his ear. “I have had held a grudge against you.” I straightened up again. “After I destroyed your barn and home, it didn't matter to you that I gave you gold, that I gave your family the best guest rooms in the palace, or that I couldn't stop apologising. You didn't care that I was barely fifteen years old and stricken by my own, uncontrollable magic. You still pestered Odin to treat me like a common criminal and throw me into the cells. You made me afraid of myself and my family ashamed as they offered one formal apology after another, until finally Odin gave you more land just to shut you up. You are greedy, petty, callous and malicious! I thought that maybe the loss of your family would have subdued you, but, nope, you're still the same old Frey. How could I not encourage you on the path to your own downfall? I have been waiting a very long time for this opportunity.”

 

Frey glared at me through eyes as narrow as slits. “You call me greedy, petty, callous and malicious – I call you hypocrite.”

 

I shrugged. “The difference is that I have charm. And a ton of sex appeal. And intelligence, magic, good hygiene....actually, there are a lot of differences. For one thing, you're sitting in an escape pod about to marooned on whichever planet happens to be closest, and I'm not. I hope it's a it's a good planet.”

 

“You said there were three factors.” Frey was slumped in his chair, looking utterly defeated now.

 

“Ah, yes, the final one. The most important one. I am Loki, the goddess of Mischief, and you should never, ever try to outwit me. Bye – bye now.”

 

I allowed my illusion to fade away, while my real self, safely onboard The Statesman, hit the emergency release button for the escape pod, jettisoning it into deep space.

 


 

 

Everyone was happy. Thor had asserted himself as king, I had gotten rid of an old enemy, Heimdall was acting strangely sociable, and The Statesman was now a more peaceful place with 52 fewer grumblers on board to drag everyone down. We were more united than ever.

 

“You look worryingly pleased with yourself, Sister.”

 

“Do I? Well, maybe that's because Frey is gone and I have my dagger back.” I patted Thor's shoulder. “Thank you, brother. You said you would protect me and you kept your word, like a true king.”

 

Thor beamed at me. “You're welcome. Although, I'm not entirely sure that you didn't have something to do with it.”

 

I shrugged.

 

“I could say that I did, or I could say that I didn't. Either way, it will still keep you wondering.”

 

Thor shook his head. But then he looked at me with a strangely knowing expression on his face.

 

“Of course, if you had, then for once you've used your chaotic nature to bring stability to the people instead of upheaval. Good for you. Proves to me that you can channel your chaotic energy into something useful.”

 

For some reason this did not make me happy. It only meant that he expected me to be good all the time and there wasn't much chance of that. It would be better if he kept his expectations of my behaviour suitably low.

 

“And if you hadn't, well, then Frey almost came close to beating you at your own game. The lies, the manipulation, using your own bad reputation against you. Good job I had all in hand.”

 

I forced a smile. “I've already thanked you once. No need to get a fat head about it.”

 

Thor chuckled. “I joke, that's all. I'm glad to have you around to help me. No need to be sore about it.” He slapped my back.

 

I gasped sharply, staggered forward for full effect. “Bruises! I had fight with the Hulk, remember?”

 

Thor was predictably upset. “Sorry! Sorry! I forgot! I'd thought you would have healed by now.”

 

I had, but this was the best way to tame his boisterous behaviour. I've endured hundreds of years of back slaps and bear hugs and “friendly” fights, and was still subtly training him. We would get there one day.

 

“There is something else I wanted to say.”

 

“What?” I rubbed my side.

 

“You told me about Heimdall and the Yggdrasil...and Bruce told me a bit of what happened in your room...”

 

No surprises there. I knew he'd blab.

 

“And I saw the ice in your room – and in mine - so if there's something wrong you can tell me, Loki. We can work it out together.”

 

Oh, good grief, he was giving me the wide-eyed look. And maybe I had been worn down by the panic attack, and the fight with Hulk, and the lack of decent sleep, but I found I wanted to talk to him, to ask for help. To admit I wasn't fully in control and that it scared me. Big brother, make it all better because I don't how to fix this! Pathetic. Yet I still heard my own voice speaking up.

 

“I can't remember...I've forgotten something important...” My throat was dry and I felt my tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth. Asking for help just wasn't my thing.

 

Thor offered me a sad, but sympathetic smile. “I feel a bit like that.”

 

“You do?”

 

This changed things. If Thor was experiencing the same problem then it wasn't just me.

 

“I know I've overlooked something...”

 

“Or someone,” I added.

 

“Yeah, it feels like a someone.”

 

We both racked our brains. And then we remembered.

 

“Tina!”

 

Okay, so maybe not everyone was happy. She had been left for hours by herself, stuck in the little room Thor had left her in. And maybe it had been an exaggeration to claim that any of us were 100% happy. But, what we had was good enough for now.

 

We didn't know it at the time, but in sending off some of our people we had actually saved their lives. We thought we were the lucky ones. In a few short weeks we would want to be with them.

 

 


 

AN: Thank you for reading! Loki's new headgear in Ragnarök was based on his outfit from the Agent of Asgard comic book series in which Loki tries his hardest to redeem himself to no longer be the villain. That's some good character development :) And the reason Loki is now a woman, well, as I writing Loki's final scene with Frey I kept picturing him as a woman, so I decided he must have changed. Male Loki will come back whenever Loki feels like changing.

 

Chapter Text

AN: Just a short one-shot while I work on the next story.


 

 

 

Passing the Time – Dead Fish

 

When faced with a long space journey it is important to keep yourself occupied, otherwise you may just found yourself going mad. There was plenty which needed doing daily onboard The Statesman, but everyone deserves a day off every now and then to spend as they please.

 

One option is to...

 

Play Dead Fish

 

“What on Xander is Dead Fish?” asked Tina, today a doughnut maker.

 

“Well, there are two different versions,” Loki replied, tying a green scarf over her eyes. “Skill and Blitz. We'll be playing Skill.”

 

“It's actually very simple,” Thor added, securing his own blue scarf. “We spin around 20 times so that we're dizzy and then we walk around until one of us falls in whatever body of water happens to be close by, in this case the swimming pool. That person is the loser.”

 

“And we keep calling out, “Dead Fish” to let the other know that we haven't fallen in yet. A long silence is indicative of someone having drowned, but that's never happened.”

 

“Isn't that kind of...childish?”

 

“We were five when we came up with it. Anyway, enough chatter – GO!”

 

Tina watched as Thor and Loki spun around on the spot, counting as they went, and once they had completely twenty rotations, staggered off in different directions, arms out-stretched and yelling:

 

“Dead Fish!”

 

“Dead Fish!”

 

“Dead Fish!”

 

“Still Dead Fish!”

 

“Dead Fish...again.”

 

“I'm not even that dizzy any more – Dead Fish!”

 

“This fish is still alive.”

 

“Yep, me too...”

 

“A fish who has ceased to live.”

 

Thor came to a halt. “You know, Loki, this isn't as hard as it used to be. Usually one of us has fallen in by now. Maybe we're too old to play this game any -”

 

“DEAD FISH!” Loki screamed tackling Thor around the waist and knocking him straight into the pool with a gigantic splash. She tore off her blindfold throwing it down onto the wet tiles. “Ha! Who's a Dead Fish? Thor's a Dead Fish!”

 

“Isn't that cheating?” Tina asked.

 

Loki turned her back on Thor – a mistake. “No, my friend, you just the saw a round of the Blitz version, skilfully carried out – WAH!”

 

“DEAD FISH!” Thor roared, as he leapt out of the water, catching Loki by the arm and tossing her into the water.

 

A moment later and Loki broke the surface of the water, with her dark hair plastered down over her face. She tried to swim to the side, but Thor grabbed her by the wrist.

 

“Who's the Dead Fish?” he demanded, dunking Loki up and down, like she were a digestive biscuit in a cup of tea.

 

“Alright, alright – it's me! Ow! Get off!”

 

“Sorry,” said Thor, letting her go.

 

“Dear me, you get so overly excited, don't you, Thor?” Loki rubbed her wrist. “You forget your own strength.”

 

“I think you both get overly excited!” Tina called, from the safety of the benches.

 

Loki swam to the side and lent on it, chin in hand. “Is that so?” she asked, eyes glinting mischievously.

 

“What did the Doughnut-Maker say?” Thor asked, joining Loki.

 

“Tina said she would like to join in.”

 

“No, I didn't!”

 

“Cool. I don't think Tina can manage the Skill version, but she may like to play Blitz.”

 

“That's just what I was thinking.” Loki jumped out of the pool and advanced on Tina.

 

“No, stay back, Loki. I'll fry in the water! My doughnuts will get soggy.”

 

Loki lifted the doughnut-maker up over her head. “We keep telling you to try shape-shifting into something with legs...Now is your time – Dead Fish!”

 

The trickster hurled Tina towards the pool. Half-cooked doughnuts splattered the tiles as Tina turned back into a shopping trolley in mid-air. But before she could hit the water, Thor jumped up, catching her and holding her above the water.

 

Loki shook her head, disappointed. “Still prefer to be an inanimate object, huh?”

 

“You two are the worst!”

 

Thor carried her back to the side, carefully putting her down. “Sorry, it was just a joke.”

 

“Am I laughing? Man, you two are a bad influence on each other.”

 

“Sorry,” Thor repeated. “It won't happened again.”

 

“Yes, we got carried away,” Loki admitted. “Sorry about Thor. He is a terrible influence on me. The absolute worst, forever pressuring me to make bad choices, not thinking about the consequences -”

 

“It's fine. I forgive you both. But, I'll turn into a woman if I ever feel like it and not before.”

 

Loki squeezed some of the water out of her hair. She sighed heavily.

 

“This did not keep us occupied for as long as I hoped it would. But, then again, until we make it to Earth, everything we do is just passing the time.”

 

Safety Warning from Captain America: You know when I was kid growing up in Brooklyn we used to enjoy swimming and fishing just like everyone else. In the winter we would skate. But it's important to stay safe and not to take risks. Don't listen to those turkeys from Asgard who think it's okay to knock each other into the water blindfolded. Remember they're basically immortal, you're not. It's better to be called a Scaredy Fish than a Dead Fish...seriously, who writes these?

 

 

 


 

AN: Dead Fish comes from Taika Waititi who said that originally “Get Help” was going to be “Dead Fish”. It was changed because they decided that the audience would be confused by the name and so the joke wouldn't work.

The next story is going to be a Loki centric story. I haven't written anything yet, but have been using the time to mentally draft out what I want to do. Hopefully I will get the first chapter written soon.

In between the multi-chapter stories I will probably post more “Passing the Time” one-shots, with every character getting a short story focused on them.

Thank you for reading!

 

 

Chapter Text

AN: Hi. I know I said that this next story would be a Loki-centric one, but I got my story order mixed up. Sorry, Loke. This one is for Valkyrie.


 

 

 

Special Angel – Part One

 

Drinking too much is bad for your health; everyone knows this. Even for Aesir, too much can get the better of the liver in the end, like a mighty mountain slowly being worn down by the feet of mountaineers. And everyone also knows that alcohol is the enemy of civilised society, or so they say. Well, I was always taught to keep my enemies close. So, yay, me for getting something right.

 

That deserves a drink.

 

I filled my glass to the top and held it aloft, so that the light shone through the amber liquid, setting it aglow...like a sunset...

 

I remember how she used to look riding in front of the sinking sun, the dying light creating a halo around her golden hair and turning her skin a soft pink....

 

“Here's to you, Kára. Hope you're having a better time than I am.”

 

I drained the glass and, because I hate to see an empty glass, instantly refilled it.

 

“Uh, I hope I'm not interrupting...I can go...”

 

I spun around to see Bruce Banner standing in the doorway, looking awkward and embarrassed as usual. I offered him a wonky smile, patting the vacant stool next to mine.

 

“Have a drink on me,” I told him, filling up a spare glass to the very brim. The liquid trembled as I moved the glass along to his seat, but in my steady hand I did not lose a drop.

 

He shuffled across the room and sat down with all the grace of someone who is secretly scared of alcohol. He carefully picked up the glass, spilling some much to my disdain, and took the tiniest of sips.

 

“Wow!” he cried, suppressing a cough. “That's, uh, it's good.”

 

“And to what do I owe this pleasure, Bruce?”

 

“Oh, this is just a social call...Well, actually, no, that's not entirely honest. I have a favour to ask.”

 

Ah, I see. Well, he is kind of cute in that shy-clever way. And he's sweet, too. I felt flattered, to be honest.

 

I nursed my glass close to my chest and smiled coyly at him. “You won't know the answer unless you ask.”

 

“Right...well...could I have some of your blood?”

 

Not what I was expecting, but, oh, well. I've had other offers.

 

“What for?”

 

Bruce shrugged. “Just to examine in the lab. They have quite a nice medical lab here. Some of the equipment is very dusty and in need of good tune-up, but otherwise -”

 

“Yeah, but what for?”

 

“Why not? I've never seen Asgardian blood under the microscope before. Could be interesting.”

 

“Fine. I assume you to want to wait until I've sobered up before sucking me dry?”

 

“If you don't mind. And I won't be taking much. Just a vial.” He suddenly had a wistful look on his face. He smiled ruefully. “You know, I would quite like to get my hands on some of Loki's blood. Half Frost Giant, half Aesir. I bet we could learn some fascinating things from that.”

 

“Sure you could,” I nodded.

 

“Do you think she'd say yes?”

 

“Probably not. But, don't worry, I can hold her down for you.”

 

Bruce chuckled as though I'd made a joke.

 

“No, I really can hold her down.”

 

“Oh....,” Bruce said, mildly, not getting it, and then, “Oh! So, the two of you are...”

 

His face became practically contorted as he tried to hide his surprise, and yet was clearly curious to ask more.

 

“Yep,” I confirmed.

 

I offered no more, waiting for him to ask his questions.

 

“How long has this be going on? No, no, scratch that – why Loki? Don't you know about the terrible things she's done?”

 

His tone of voice managed to both annoy and worry me. Annoyed, because I didn't like to see him disappointed with me. Worried, because it made me realise how little I knew of Loki. I'd heard that she had tried to take over both Asagrd and Migard, but I hadn't asked for all the awful little details, like how many were killed. It was just easier to ignore and focus on the Loki I knew. If I asked too many questions I would have to take a long, hard look at myself in the mirror and admit that there was a monster there. Bruce was right to be disgusted with me.

 

“I've done terrible things too,” I said, quietly.

 

“Yeah, but you're -”

 

“Different? How?” I spat. “I spent years capturing innocent people to sell as slaves to The Grandmaster. And most of them were killed in the arena.” I rubbed the back of my head as I sat hunched over my drink. “Heartbreak, bitterness, anger...they can drive a person to do the most evil things. I'm not trying to make excuses, but there it is. I guess we both have a lot of red in our ledgers.”

 

For some reason Bruce looked puzzled, but then it gave way to a bitter smile.

 

“Heh. I've heard that phrase before. I'm guessing Loki said that to you? Wonder if she was being sincere. Well, it is a good one.” He drummed his fingers before saying in a raspy voice. “I've no idea how many people I've killed as The Hulk.”

 

The sadness and regret in his voice made me look at Bruce properly for the first time. I had seen the Hulk kill plenty of contestants in the arena, but hadn't given a moments consideration to how it might have affected Bruce. I was an ass.

 

“No, you are different,” I insisted. “You don't have control over the Hulk. And you have a kind heart, I can tell. That goes a long way in this world, you know, Bruce.”

 

I punched his shoulder just to make sure that he was paying attention. He had been staring into nothingness, wearing a sorrowful look, but now he smiled sadly again.

 

“You have a kind heart, too. You just went down a bad road for a while, but you've turned around. That's what's important in the end. I guess that all three of us owe the universe a debt.”

 

I threw my arm over his shoulder, giving him a brief hug.

 

“Hey, how do you know how to work that....the music box over there?”

 

I was pointing to the black box sitting on the shelf above the bar. I knew it was Migard tech, but hadn't wanted to touch it for fear of breaking it. Aesir are naturally stronger than humans, and their stuff is generally way too delicate for Asgardian hands. In the past, I have accidentally pulled doors off their hinges and shattered windows.

 

Bruce looked up and laughed. “A CD player? Man, I would love to know who owned this ship.” He went around the bar and pressed a few buttons on the “CD Player”.

 

I love singing and reciting Asgardian epics as much as the next Aesir, but we don't write music the way humans do. There's only so many lute solos and ballads about bloody battles that one can take without wanting to steal said lute and smash it over the musician's head.

 

But the music that came out of the player, it was bittersweet and captivating. It was about love, sung in a voice filled with emotion which swelled at the climax of the song. He was accompanied by a choir, piano, violins, and other instruments I could not identify, but none of which were a miserable lute.

 

You are my special angel,

Sent from up above,

The Lord smiled down on me,

And sent an angel to love

 

You are my special angel,

Right from paradise,

I know you're an angel,

Heaven is in your eyes

 

Bruce laughed again. “Wow, this is an oldie. My parents used to listen to stuff like this.”

 

I pressed my finger to his lips to shut him up. I was captivated by the lyrics.

 

The smile from lips brings the summer sunshine,

Tears from your eyes brings the rain,

I feel your touch, your warm embrace,

And I'm in heaven again

 

I listened. I thought of Kára. I wept.

 

You are my special angel,

Through eternity,

I'll have my special angel,

Here to watch over me.

  


 

I intercepted Loki on her way back from the bridge. Thor was in charge overall, but during the night, while most Aesir slept, Loki took over, making sure that the running of the ship continued to go smoothly. It was an arrangement which suited them both. It gave them both a chance to put their leadership skills to use without constantly getting in the other's way.

 

Loki smiled tiredly when she spotted me. I could tell just by the way her shoulders sagged that it had been a tiresome shift. And yet she still managed to look hot, even with her hair slightly messy and dark rings under her eyes.

 

“Someone needs to unwind,” I said.

 

She came to lean against the wall next to me, folding her arms.

 

“And you want another distraction.”

 

“As do you.”

 

“True,” she said with a smirk. But, then she frowned, rubbing her forehead. “Damn, I was so bored. Everything is so orderly and peaceful; it's hateful”

 

“Still got that headache?”

 

“Hmm...Heimdall persuaded me to try to use my telepathy to seek out the Earth, to “hear” it or to send a message. It could work if we get close enough, but no luck so far. Instead I have been assaulted by all the inane thoughts of everyone onboard...when to make a cup of tea...what to eat...who fancies who..It's funny, isn't it? For all our advanced technology we still prefer to rely on magic to guide us to our new home.”

 

“It's more reliable. And you should let Eir take a look at you.”

 

“It's fine. It doesn't bother me when I have something else to focus on.”

 

I placed a hand on her cheek and turned her face towards mine, and thought some very interesting thoughts.

 

“Did you hear that?” I asked.

 

Loki's cheeks had flushed red and her pupils were blown wide, so I took that as a yes. I took her by the hand and led her to my room.

 


 

 

There was something bizarre onboard the ship, something which did not belong. It had been floating through space searching for a suitable host and now it had found a whole hoard of them. Harvest time. It entered the ship, a nebulous pink gas, and floated along the air vents, seeking out its first target.

 


 

 

I felt Loki jolt awake next to me.

 

“What's wrong?”

 

“I'm not sure...”

 

I sighed. It was probably just another bad dream, or attention seeking. But, given it was Loki, it was most likely both.

 

“You're so needy.” I pulled her close. “Go back to sleep.”

 

I held her as tightly as I could. Most people would have been horribly uncomfortable, but not Loki. She liked be squeezed, like my arms could squeeze out all the loneliness and anger. Her body was chilly to the touch, but I ignored it. I couldn't help but think that there probably wasn't many people who be willing to tolerate it for very long. It was no wonder that she was hungry for physical contact all the time; she had been starved of it for too long.

 

I thought about what Bruce had said as I ran my fingers lightly over Loki's scalp. Could we ever redeem ourselves?

 

I eventually felt her relax in my grip and listened as her breathing slowed down. I rolled over and went back to sleep myself.

 

When I next woke up Loki had gone. There was nothing unusual about that; we were hardly joined at the hip. No, what was strange and not possible was the sight of Kára sitting on the end of the bed, completely and gloriously alive.

 

She smiled her sweet smile and singing in a soft voice, “You are my special angel sent from up above...”


 

 

AN: K á ra is a named Valkyrie from one of the old Norse poems, meaning Wild or Stormy one.

You Are My Special Angel was written by Jimmy Duncan in 1957.

If you don't like the Val/Loki pairing, I understand. It was never meant to be a long-lasting affair and it's going to work out. I put them together because I feel that they are two lonely, broken people who naturally gravitated towards one another, rightly or wrongly. Val is still grieving for K á ra, and Loki, although might secretly be romantic at heart, due to her chaotic and selfish nature can't form or maintain deep, meaningful relationships. So she has a lot of sex instead. In the original myths, Loki is married to Sigyn, who is famous for remaining loyal and staying by his side even in the worst situation. Loki needs someone like that, right?

Thank you for reading!

 

Chapter Text

 

Special Angel Reunion – Part Two

 

We didn't stand a chance against Hela, but because we so fervently believed in our mission to protect and serve the crown no matter what the cost, we took up our swords and rode out against the goddess of Death, anyway. We should have paid more attention to Hela's title – goddess of Death. It should have made us think twice.

 

Most of all, we should have told Odin to get stuffed, but we were mad with patriotism and drunk on our previous 100% success rate. We had never before failed to quell a rebellion or conquer new lands for the kings of Asgard and seriously believed that we wouldn't fail now; we thought we were invincible. How arrogant of us to think we could defeat the living personification of death.

 

As always we were an impressive sight, charging across the fiery sky on the backs of our gleaming white winged-horses, with our blue cloaks streaming out behind us and our swords flashing the colours of gold and red; that's the only positive thing I have to say about it.

 

Hela was waiting for us, of course, and gave us no opportunity to even so much as scratch her. She felt betrayed by Odin and was in no mood for playing games or showing mercy to mere flies. As soon as she heard our horns she created a multitude of black swords and that, as they say, was that. Goodnight, Vienna.

 

Hela's swords shot through the air, like a cloud of arrows, breaking through the magical barrier which had always protected us before. In a way, Kára and I were two of the lucky ones, or at least the ones who survived a little longer than the others, because our horses were hit, impaled through the heart, rather being struck ourselves.

 

Kára's stead went down first, screeching a final death scream, as it tumbled down with Kára clinging to its mane. Then it was my turn. I jumped off its back, landing on my feet. I couldn't see Kára any where, but there was no time to be concerned. I knew my goal. Kill Hela. Yeah, right. Like I said, we were all kind of mad.

 

I draw my sword and charged while all around me my comrades were falling from the sky like bits of torn confetti, shredded.

 

I saw Hela turn towards me, a wicked glint in her eye, and knew that the goddess of Death had chosen me next. I saw her throw the sword at me. I knew my time had come. But then...but then Kára jumped in front of me, coming out from nowhere, knocking me back. I saw the blade burst out of her chest. I saw her eyes closed, golden hair flying out behind her. I saw her fall, falling on top of me, and dead before I could even touch her.

 

I lay trembling beneath Kára, too scared to move. Silence had fallen and that's what frightened me the most. Battles are usually deafening. The only noises I could hear was that of my heart beating and the sound of approaching footsteps, moving slowly and with purpose.

 

I scrambled for my dagger, but it lay just out of reach and my fingers were slick with blood, so I doubt I could have held it anyway.

 

The footsteps came closer, a steady beat on a drum. My heart was pounding. I held onto Kára with one an arm while still reaching for my dagger. My bloody fingertips brushed the handle.

 

Pain exploded in my arm as a boot stamped down on it.

 

Hela lent over me, smiling a sickening smile, twisting the heel of her boot into my arm. Her smile grew hard as she said:

 

“I order you to tell the King of this battle. Inform him of how I wiped out his most elite warriors most easily. Tell him I had fun. Tell Father that if he wishes to imprison me he'll have to face me himself.”

 

And then she shifted into Eagle Aspect and flew away.

 

I don't know for how long I lay there with my arms wrapped around Kára. It could have been ten minutes or ten hours or ten days. Eventually I sat up, holding Kára in my arms, her head slumping over my shoulder. I looked around the carnage, at my fallen friends and dead winged-horses, and felt my heart grow cold. I screamed as loudly and for as long as I could. Then I suddenly stopped, as if my breath had suddenly been cut off. There was nothing left of me. My friends, my beliefs, my lover had been all slaughtered. I was just a breathing corpse, not quite dead.

 

I didn't go running to Odin. I was done with him. I just ran as far and as fast as I could. For a while it worked, outrunning the pain and the memories. Then I was on Sakaar and I couldn't run any further. The memories returned, so I drank and took on a new persona, that of Scrapper 142. I didn't care about the despicable things I was doing there to earn money. I liked that I was no longer like the old me. I needed to forget everything and that included myself and all my morals.

 

However, I kept the engagement ring, the ring I was going to propose with. Valkyrie are not supposed to marry one another for obvious reasons of discipline and professionalism, but we would have found a way. Or just quit.

 

“Brunhilde, listen to me....The Princess Hela may be the Allfather's daughter and she may be the goddess of Death, but we have to defeat her regardless. The fate of Asgard depends on us.”

 

Our final conversation and I can remember every word, recall every inflection and tone, and every facial expression, no matter how subtle.

 

“I know.”

 

“She is unlike anything else which we have faced before, so -”

 

I caught hold of Kára's arm.

 

“Don't say it,” I begged. “Don't say goodbye, Kára. It will only tempt misfortune.”

 

She turned to face me, wearing a sad half-smile.

 

“Hmm, very well, I'll just content myself to say goodnight.” She placed a hand on my cheek. “Please, say it back.”

 

“Goodnight, Kára. Sweet dreams.”

 


 

 

“You are my special angel, sent from above...” the being who looked like Kára sang.

 

“Stop it!” I hissed. I had snatched my dagger from under the pillow and was holding it out in front of me. “What are you?”

 

Kára raised an eyebrow in an amused look.

 

“Did you forget me so quickly?” she asked, pouting slightly. Her pink eyes glowed. My Kára did not have pink eyes.

 

“Enough!” I barked, circling around the bed so that I was close enough to attack. The Not-Kára did not look fazed in the slightest, but simply twisted around from where she sat on my bed so that she could follow my movements. “Are you a ghost?”

 

Not-Kara laughed. “A ghost?”

 

“Then you must be a shift-shaper. Loki, is that you? Because if it is then this low even for -”

 

“I'm not Loki. Poor old Loki. She's going to really hurt herself one day, you know.” She was fiddling with the bed sheets now, plucking at a crease between her long fingers. “I think all she really needs is lots of cuddles. And a way to get rid of the Tesser -”

 

“Stop trying to distract me and tell me who you are!” I demanded.

 

The Not-Kára stood up, neatly swishing her blue cloak aside, as she sauntered towards me. I raised my dagger.

 

She smiled Kára's sweetest smile, her beautiful pink eyes glowing so brightly.

 

“Okay, you got me. But, I'm closest you can get to having your beloved Kára back.” She raised a finger to her lips as she looked thoughtfully towards the ceiling. “I don't really have a name, but I suppose that what I am is Love-Lost. Yes, that may as well do, after all you will be calling me Kára anyway.”

 

She took another step forward and folded her arms around my neck. I don't why I didn't stop her, but she felt warm and smelt exactly like Kára. It was like I was being bathed in love and gentleness and kindness.

 

“Really I'm just here to help.”

 

“Kára....you're back...”

 

She pressed her lips to my forehead. “It's okay now. I'm going to take good care of everyone here. No one has to feel heartbroken any more.”


 

 

AN: I still hurting over IW, so writing about more deaths was hard. Thank you for reading :D

 

Chapter Text

 

Special Angel Reunion – Part Three

 

Bruce pressed a ball of cotton wool to the inside of my elbow and wrapped a bandage around it.

 

“So what are you going to do with my blood?” I asked, sounding as casual as I could. For all our famed toughness Aesir are not that good with blood. We're just not used to seeing it outside of our bodies. We rarely bleed and with our use of healing magic we never had reason to study medicine or physiology in the way that humans were forced to by necessity. Blood was something of a mystery to me. “You're not going to clone me are you?”

 

Bruce chuckled softly as he stuck a label to the vial containing my blood. I took it as a no.

 

“Or steal my powers?”

 

“That depends on what secrets I unlock,” Bruce replied, mischievously. “Thanks again, Thor. You know, I can't believe how much my life has changed in just a few short years. I've always wanted to be a scientist, but as a kid I never dreamed that I would one day be studying the blood of the gods while onboard a spaceship. I can't wait to rub this in Tony's face.”

 

I clapped a hand on Bruce's shoulder. “Everyone will be ecstatic to see you again, my friend.”

 

“Thanks.” Bruce rolled his stool over to where a microscope stood on a bench. “Thinking of Earth, you know that Tony and this Dr Strange won't exactly welcome Loki with open arms. They will want her to face Earth justice, which could mean life-long imprisonment or even execution.”

 

The thought had occurred to me more than once.

 

“I'm aware.”

 

“What will you do?” Bruce asked softly.

 

There was a stethoscope just lying on the table, so of course I picked it up and began to swing it around.

 

“If you had a sibling who was a murderer, what would you do?” I countered. “Wash your hands of them? Or protect them as best as you can?”

 

Bruce didn't answer, not that I expected him to.

 

“I love Loki to bits, but I can't stop her from being a goddess of chaos any more than I can stop being the god of Thunder. Some days I think that the universe needs protecting from Loki. Other days I think that Loki needs protecting from Loki. She needs to be saved from herself because she can't stop herself.” I let go of the stethoscope and watched as it flew across the room, hitting the far wall. “If the Earth won't accept us then I will find a planet that will. Or if we can't find a planet then I will find a way to rebuild Asgard.”

 

Bruce looked apprehensive. “How would you do that?”

 

“We used the power of the Tesseract to rebuild the Bi-Frost. We used the Mind Stone to create the Vision. Why couldn't I use an Infinity Stone to undo Ragnarök? I know where the Reality Stone is. That would be the best to use, wouldn't it?”

 

I didn't expect Bruce to agree with me. Really I was just thinking aloud; part of my impulsive nature. However, I was surprised at how shocked Bruce was.

 

He practically leapt off the stool, looking on the brink of Hulking out.

 

“Look, I understand why you are thinking these things, but it's not a good idea, Thor. As your friend, let me shoot that idea down for you right now.” He paced up and down, throwing his hands up in the air. “Those stones are trouble, right? Evil, even. They bring out the worst in people and cause destruction wherever they go. Loki can testify to that.” He paused, pinching the bridge of his nose and breathing slowly. When he looked up again he seemed considerably calmer. “And you said it yourself, you told me after Sokovia that you determined that there is someone else after the Infinity Stones, someone who has been playing games with us all this time and that it can't be coincidence that so many of the stones have shown up on Earth or Asgard. Right? Right?”

 

“Right,” I conceded after a moment's consideration. “I'm sorry, Bruce. I was just weighing up my options. Forget I said anything of the sort. And definitely don't say anything to Loki. She's a pirate at heart and would be all for obtaining the five remaining Stones. But, I should remind you that I did say that I discovered nothing to suggest that there is someone after the Stones. I heard whispers, legends, ghost stories, but nothing credible. Maybe I was wrong. Besides, the Tesseract had been destroyed.”

 

Bruce waved his hands in front of my face, saying, “No, no, after seeing Loki's panic attack, I believe you. And you're forgetting everything we know for certain. Mainly, your mother was able to discover Loki's location shortly before he teleported to Earth. She spoke to him briefly, but it was enough to let her know that Loki had been given the Chitauri army in exchange for the Tesseract, once he had secured it. This tells us three things.”

 

Bruce was in full lecture mode and held my full attention. Once again he paced up and down, occasionally looking to me to check my expression.

 

“One: Loki wanted you to know where he was and what he was up. Two: whoever owned the Chitauri doesn't like getting their own hands dirty. And three: they weren't afraid that the god of Mischief would dare to double-cross them and keep the Tesseract for himself.”

 

He rubbed his hands together. “Remind me, what was Loki's goal exactly? Did he really think that Odin would just let him rule Midgard? That we humans wouldn't fight back?”

 

I scratched the back of my head. “Well, yes. You're one who said that you could smell crazy on him. But, more than anything, I think that Loki wanted to prove to Father that he could be just like him and conquer a planet. Be a real god instead of just a Frost Giant with a few magic tricks. Odin never really appreciated his gifts. He only ever saw Loki's weaknesses and not his strengths.”

 

Bruce shook his head and carried on walking.

 

“I've also been asking myself, how did Eric Selvig build a fail-safe into the portal while under Loki's supposed control?”

 

“Eric is a very intelligent man. His mind is strong.”

 

“Yes, but so is mine. And Tony's. And you're a god, but look at what happened to us all when we simply stood in the same room as Loki's sceptre. We started fighting. I really don't think that high intelligence is the reason for Eric's supposed disobedience. I think he did exactly as Loki wanted him to.”

 

To use a human phrase, it warmed my heart to hear Bruce voicing my own thoughts.

 

“It made us more aggressive,” I added. “And I suspect, increased Tony's ambition, leading him to create Ultron...made him believe that he was absolutely right, that he couldn't fail, that he could -”

 

“Take over a planet?” Bruce added.

 

I smiled. “So, we're of the same mind? That Loki was either being influenced or controlled?”

 

“Isn't that what you believed from the very start?”

 

“It's what I hoped. So, who controlled the would-be king?”

 

“You should ask Loki about it.”

 

I shook my head. “Loki would never open up to me.”

 

“Maybe she would tell Val.”

 

Valkyrie? Why Valkyrie?

 

“Val?” I asked innocently.

 

“Yeah, didn't you know about the two of them?”

 

“The two of them?”

 

Oh, great. I should have known that Loki had someone. She had been surprising mellow of late and now I know why. But, why did she have to chose Val? They weren't a good match.

 

“Ah, maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut.” Sensing danger, Bruce began to busy himself in front of the microscope.

 

“No...it's fine...It's only my sister with my friend,” I said through gritted teeth. “I'm not worried that one will hurt the other. Or one might try to murder the other. They make a lovely couple, I'm sure.” I slammed my fist down to empathise my point; several glass beakers bounced off the table, shattering on the floor. “Sorry...I will clean that up.”

 

“Yeah, it's awkward. What would Odin have made of it?”

 

“Oh, he would have hated it.” I began to pick up the shards of glass.

 

“Because they're both women? Currently.”

 

I gave Bruce a perplexed look.

 

“No, on Asgard we don't even have labels of sexual orientation. You fancy whoever you fancy.”

 

“That's good. You're more accepting than Earth is.”

 

“Well, put it this way, there's a rainbow bridge which runs through Asgard and everybody's on it. No, Odin would have forbidden it because we're royalty, the heirs to a mighty empire. We don't just get to chose our own partners. We're both expected to marry well to someone who is a good match politically and produce lots of heirs, to ensure that the Aesir tribe remains in control of the Nine Realms...He would never have allowed Jane and I to marry...”

 

I dropped the broken pieces of glass into the bin.

 

“I need to talk to Loki.”

 


 

 

Loki was in the library, curled up in an alcove surrounded by piles as books as usual.

 

“Loki, we need to talk...”

 

“I'm reading.”

 

“It's important.”

 

Loki sighed a she turned a page. “I told you before: I'm not lending you any more shampoo.”

 

“No, not that.”

 

Loki huffed loudly, but tossed her book aside and stood up. “What is it then?”

 

“It's just that...well...”

 

I wasn't going to put it off any longer. I threw one arm around her neck and the other around her body, pulling her into a tight bear hug.

 

“W-w-what are you d-doing?”

 

She sounded horrified. Anyone would think that I had just spat into one of her precious novels.

 

“I owe you a hug,” I replied, simply.

 

I held her even her tighter, lifting her off her feet. For a few seconds she was too shocked to do anything but hang there, but then she started to squirm.

 

“Get off, you witless oath!” She snarled.

 

It was hardly the warm moment I had imagined. I let her go.

 

“What was that for?” she demanded, angrily, smoothing back her glossy hair. I wish I had some of her shampoo.

 

“I just thought that with everything you'd been through....”

 

“What are you wittering on about? I haven't been through anything which you yourself haven't also experienced.”

 

I placed a hand on the back of her head.

 

“I meant it when I said that what is ever wrong, whatever happened to you, we can work it out together.”

 

She slapped my arm away.

 

“Stop asking,” she hissed, and stormed out through the door, with a load of books pinned under her arm.

 

I had messed up again. I should have learnt by now that reaching out to Loki only causes to her to pull away. I should have left things as they were.

 

I ran to the door. “Loki!”

 

But my was blocked by Jane Foster leaning against the door-frame.

 

“Hello, Thor,” she said with a smile. “Long time no see.”

 

 


 

AN: There was a comic book released called Thor: The Dark World Prelude and was set before, during and after the events of The Avengers. In it Frigga was able to track Loki down in a vision and talk to him briefly before he dismisses her. This is how Thor knew that Loki was on Earth and planning to use the Chitauri army.

I hope people don't mind me going down the “Loki controlled by Thanos” route. I mean, would you trust a trickster god with your most valuable stuff? “Here, Loki, you can borrow my car and all my money, but don't keep any of it for yourself.” Unless you were confident that he would never betray you.

It's also interesting seeing the difference in Loki from Avengers and Ragnarök. Avengers: take over Earth by brute force, screaming at people to kneel before you. Ragnarök: wins over the people's hearts via theatre and screaming “Your saviour is here!” Sakaar: planned to take over by sleeping his way to the top and general treachery, but kindly includes his recently deposed and grieving brother in the plans...:P LOL, he's a survivor, taking advantage of every situation, right?

Thank you for reading :D

 

Chapter Text

 

Special Angel Reunion – Part Four

 

I can hear you and I know what it is that your are thinking – is the pink gas alien going to drain all of the Aesir and their companions of their life force/energy and then move onto the next victim?

 

Oh, children, haven't you just got me all wrong? I mean, yes, sucking them dry is what aliens in your Sci-Fi shows would do. But, this isn't TV and I meant what I said; I really am just here to help, a benevolent god travelling through the stars, searching for the poor of heart and downtrodden in spirit. A doctor, if you like, come to heal the sick.

 

I was idly drifting through the galaxy, not bothering to search too hard for my next patient, when I heard her calling out into the darkness:

 

[Doctor Strange, this is the Asgardian refugees. Asgard has been destroyed and we are lost. If you can hear us, please respond....Tony Stark, I found your Hulk, so come and collect him....Black Widow put Hawkeye down and answer me! Isn't there a single Avenger at home? What is going on?]

 

There was some desperation in her voice and I was intrigued.

 

[Captain Steve Rogers, this is Loki of Asgard. I am sending this message telepathically, and I am unsure how long it will take for this message to reach your mind. Perhaps a year or two...hopefully no longer than that. My people require your assistance, Captain. Asgard has been destroyed and we are few in number. We are lost, wandering through space on a stolen vessel. We wish to find refuge on Earth, but will require a beacon of some kind to light the way. If you are the honourable man you claim to be then you will honour the past, for we have fought for the Earth many times before, and will find a way to help guide my people on their journey. Please, help them, Captain.]

 

Well, I was hooked. It is always risky to transmit messages telepathically; you never know who or what may be listening in. Thankfully, I am not a threat. I followed her voice and found The Statesman, a vessel filled to the brim with grief and loneliness and broken hearts. How could I pass such needy people by and not help them? So, I seeped in through the cracks and floated down the air vents, dividing myself up as I went; nobody would be forgotten.

 

For the Valkyrie, I became the dead girlfriend. For the King, an admiring mortal. For Bruce, Betty. For Heimdall, the man he abandoned for his watch. For Korg, the girl who dumped him in front of all his friends. For the shopping trolley, a boy who died. For many others, I became those who had fallen during Ragnarök. For the children, I became lost friends.

 

Now, as for Loki, I will admit that it was a challenge trying to decide which face to become, for she has had many past loves. None of her relationships have lasted long, but whenever she said, “I love you”, she meant it....or least she always meant it as she said it. Her heart is highly chaotic and very changeable.

 

So, I decided to go back to Number One

 


 

 

As I neared my rooms, I sensed an unusual presence on the other side of the wall. I created a ghost of myself and sent her through the door to investigate.

 

As it turned out, I wasn't the only ghost in the room.

 

Fandral was lounging on my bed. He lay on one side, legs stretched out, and propping his head up on his fist. He put on a sloppy grin when he saw me enter the room; a smile which had once made my heart flutter, but I was no longer a lovesick youth. If my heart leapt at all it was only because I had not expected to find a dead man in my room.

 

I will admit that for perhaps half a second I thought that maybe Fandral had escaped Hela after all, and that I had somehow failed to notice him onboard the ship all this time. But, then logic overruled sentiment and I knew that it was impossible.

 

“Hello, Your Highness,” he greeted, giving a little wave.

 

I sent my ghost over to the bed to peer more closely at the Fandral. It looked a lot like Fandral – same tousled, dirty blonde hair, same structure of face, same large hands - but the pink eyes gave it away. I should also add that I don't like pink; as a hue it is far too sickly. And yet his voice, mannerisms and appearance was so exact that if I wanted to I could pretend that it was him.

 

“Still haven't kicked the reading habit, I see.” Fandral commented, picking up a book from the bedside table and flicking through the pages. “You surprise me, Loki. Aren't books a little too orderly for someone like you? Predictable? But, then again, I suppose you always were Miss Contrary, forever reading because you enjoy it and to annoy your father. And, of course, you can't push fictional characters away. They stick around no matter what.” He replaced the book and sat up. “Did you miss me? Actually, no need to answer that. I know you have, but I am here now.”

 

“How could I? This is the first time we have met.”

 

Fandral cocked his head to one side.

 

“But, I know all about you,” he said, gently and with his pink eyes glowing brightly. “I know how as a seventeen year old you used to admire me from afar, but were too shy to say anything. I know how during that summer you caught sight of me practising the sword outside with my sleeves rolled up to my elbows, with the sweat pouring down my face, and with the evening sun lighting up my hair.”

 

He gracefully slipped off the bed and stood in front of my ghost. He lowered his voice to a husky whisper as he said, “I know that I made the first move, that we kept our relationship a secret from Odin, that you used to love that I always smelt as sweet as a meadow and could hold onto you tight. I remember how you used to recite whole poems from memory and read out loud with your head on my chest. I remember how I used to enjoy playing with your silky hair and how I taught you how to dance properly. I remember exploring the forest together at night. And I remember how you cried when Odin ordered us to break up, and how you tried to bargain, offering to remain as a woman so that you could produce heirs to the throne. I remember you saving my life in Jotuheim*.”

 

He placed a hand close to my ghost's cheek, but didn't actually attempt to touch it. I wasn't the only one who could tell when something wasn't real.

 

By now I was starting to feel quite bored with Fandral's wittering. Don't forget that I was really outside the door; it's never easy to seduce somebody when they are not in the same place as you. And I had heard it all before.

 

However, I was also starting to feel increasingly agitated by the thoughts of the people inside my head. In the short time that Fandral had been speaking, the people all over the ship seemed to be initially in a panic, but then, suddenly, their thoughts were becoming more mellow, more sweet, more loving. Among them was Val, Heimdall, Bruce, Korg, Tina, and Thor. Whoever and whatever this being was, he was powerful and he had taken over the entire ship.

 

My chest tightened as my head became increasingly clear and pain free for the first time in days. I can't deny that it wasn't a relief that the thoughts of the people were quickly slowing down and disappearing from inside my mind, but it also meant that I was the last one standing.

 

So, what should I do? Run away, fight, or negotiate?

 

Thankfully, I have the ability to do all of the above at the same time.

 

I ran away, leaving my ghost to continue talking to Fandral. Now that I was headache free I felt stronger than I had done in days, so I sent out another three ghosts to investigate the ship; information is power, after all, and I wasn't going to act until I had a clearer idea of what I was going up against.

 

“What is your reason for being here?” my ghost asked. “Whatever it is, I am sure that we can come to some arrangement.”

 

Fandral smiled broadly, spreading his arms out wide. “I have come as a balm to soothe the broken hearted.”

 

How disappointingly dull.

 

“And is that all?”

 

“Isn't that enough? My dear, not everyone is as suspicious as you are.” He gave me a bright smile. “I won't take no for an answer.”

 

“And I wasn't going to deny you, or at least, I won't turn you down until I have a better understanding of your capabilities.”

 

Fandral's smile faltered. “My-my capabilities?”

 

“Yes. You are extremely powerful, my friend. You have succeeded in turning my brother, the god of Thunder, into a drooling vegetable, fantasising about the life he could have enjoyed with his favourite mortal. We could use an ally like you in case one of our many enemies learns of our whereabouts and decides to come knocking.”

 

“You speak of Thanos?”

 

My chest tightened again.

 

“Yes. Even he. So, what would it take for you to want to work for me, to become this ship's best defence system?”

 

Fandral took a step back, looking unsure of himself. “Nobody has ever tried to hire me before.”

 

“And I thought that you knew me well. Imagine this....” I trailed off.

 

The downside to controlling four ghosts at once is that it requires a high level of concentration; not only was my attention spread out thin between the projections, but I was also making way to The Commodore, all the while avoiding drawing attention to my real self. The reason for my pause was that Ghost 2 had just found Tina in the cinema, parked up in front of the seats, and giggling in the presence of a young man with long, flowing, green hair and bright pink eyes. Considering that she is unable to move by herself she certainly gets around the ship a lot. I turned the ghost invisible in order to observe more closely, wondering how I could free Tina.

 

“Something wrong?” Fandral asked. His eyes had narrowed into slits, causing Fandral's face to twist into something ugly. “Why don't you come inside now? You can't be comfortable lurking out in the corridor.”

 

I ignored him, deciding to press on with my bid and keep Fandral distracted.

 

I circled around him saying, “We allow you to live alongside us as our friend and protector, taking it in turns for you to feed off us, and in exchange you defend us against our enemies. You could put them into a trance, just as you have done to us, and then we can take care of the rest.”

 

Fandral's smile had become strained and empty by now. He chuckled softly as he shook his head. When he looked up his eyes had turned hard and a deep shade of pink that was bordering on being red.

 

“That's not how I help people. And now, princess, I am beginning to tire of your games. Have the good grace to accept my mercy.” He advanced on me, swiping a gloved hand through my ghost. “It's for your own good.”

 

I skidded to a halt in front of the air-lock.

 

“So, that's a no, then?”

 

There are many things about this existence which I dislike – pain, any shade of purple, meat – but there are three things which I have consistently despised my whole life. One of them is snakes. And one is the concept of nothingness and emptiness. Mischief can't survive in a vacuum without anyone to react to it; it just goes against my nature. So, I really wasn't relishing the idea of taking a short walk in the vacuum of space, famous for no oxygen, gravity, or atmospheric pressure, completely unprotected until I reached The Commodore.

 

I could survive for a short time, but I wouldn't enjoy it.

 

I thumped the button to open the air-lock door. It rolled back to reveal a whole crowd of old flames crammed in there, pink eyes aglow, like a bright fire. They were mostly Asgardian, but there were one or two mortals...not many at all...Alhazen**, Shakespeare, Lord Bryon, Jane Austen, King Louis 13...oh, and Queen Victoria with Prince Albert, looking very prim and proper.

 

Oh, what? Go ahead and judge me. They were all just a bit of fun and I was going through a phase. And you probably won't believe me, but I never lay with Queen Victoria. Or Albert. He was my “bromance”; I was most heartbroken when I heard how he suddenly died. And it's thanks to me that a treaty of alliance exists between Asgard and the British Empire; you can ask Winston Churchill about it.

 

Some might feel ashamed of themselves to be confronted with all their past partners. Some might feel embarrassment. I was more preoccupied with the sudden feeling of overwhelming loneliness and emptiness – I told you I hated emptiness. How could I not feel distress at seeing so many past loves collected in front of me, like a visual timeline of broken relationships? Or maybe it was the burning pink eyes, boring straight inside my head, scorching my mind and making me feel woozy.

 

I stumbled backwards, coming to slump against the wall and sliding down it.

 

Running away had been a bad move, I decided. Too much effort. But, leaning here with my eyes half-closed was actually very peaceful.

 

Through blurred eyes I saw Fandral crouch down in front of me. He placed a hand under my chin, tilting my face upwards.

 

“Time to stop running, Sleepyhead,” he said, affectionately.

 

With no effort at all he picked me up in his arms and carried me back to my room, gently placing me on the bed. I nuzzled his neck, breathing in his scent; I'd forgotten how sweetly he had smelt.

 

“Lotus-eaters,” I mumbled, sleepily.

 

“Shh,” Fandral hushed, combing his fingers through my hair. “You're safe now and can be at peace until the day you die,” he whispered. “Is this not salvation? The promise of a comfortable existence until your final breath? But, I do feel for you, you poor creature. What was Odin thinking when he made you Aesir? You weren't born a god; and it was arrogant of Odin to believe that could he create one.”

 

I frowned.

 

“I..am..a...god...”

 

“Not a true god, though. Not like Thor. No, when Odin picked you up as a baby he simply fused a few aspects of godliness onto you soul, gave you a few powers. No wonder you went bad; your soul was damaged. Being made into a half-god, that would be enough to send any innocent creature insane.”

 

Tears began to spill over my eye-lids; I knew Fandral was speaking the truth. He lifted me up to cradle me in his arms, rocking me back and forth.

 

“I am not saying these things to hurt you, Loki. I only speak the thoughts you have buried deep in your heart. I only want you to understand why you need me.”

 

I was beginning to understand. Why would I wish to continue my wretched existence fully aware of myself when I could slumber peacefully in Fandral's arms, never alone or unloved ever again?

 

“I didn't chose to be like this,” I wept.

 

“No, of course not,” Fandral said, in a soothing tone. “Who would be the god of Mischief, Mayhem, and Wildfire? Whatever Odin had planned for you it clearly did not work. You're just rubbish now, Loki. An experiment gone wrong. Unwanted, unlovable and unable to love. The most pitiful creature in all the universe.”

 

Wherever you go there is war, ruin, and death!

 

Odin had been right about me. Would it not be better for everyone if I was safely contained?

 

“Very well, I accept. Please don't leave me again.”

 

Fandral kissed me on the forehead.

 

“I will never abandon you,” he promised. “I will never stop loving you.”

 


 

 

 

* Thor (2011) when Fandral is impaled on ice spikes, a Frost Giant advances on him, but Loki spins round throwing a dagger at it, taking it out.

**A polymath, born in 965 (like Loki), he was a scientist, mathematician, astronomer, philosopher.

 

AN: Loki spent much of his youth exploring the Nine Realms, particularly Midgard where he was able to meet people who helped him to quench his thirst for knowledge and expand his mind, and where he was no longer the weakest man. However, Odin did not approve, believing the gods should remain separate from the mortals. Loki began to lie about his trips to Earth, instead claiming that he was spending the summers with Eitri at his forge. Odin quickly discovered the truth, but decided to turn a blind eye and pretend not to know so that he would not have to punish Loki. During 1346 -1353, the Black Death ravaged Europe, killing 60% of the European population; Thor felt a strong instinct to go and help, but Odin forbade it. Loki did not return to Earth for many years, by this time suspecting that Odin knew of his activities, but wondering why his Father did not confront him about it. Loki interpreted Odin's lack of action as cold indifference, the opposite of love, and the gulf between father and son only widened. He began to take bigger risks, worming his way into Queen Victoria's court in 1841. He quickly became a favourite, making the Prince Albert jealous. Eventually, the Prince Consort tried to have Loki removed – it didn't work, but they somehow became friends, sharing some similar traits and understanding what it is like to be overshadowed by another. At this point Odin and Frigga did more to keep Loki busy at home. He was kept unaware of Albert's untimely death until many years later. In 2012, Loki now no longer cared about keeping his true identity a secret and demanded that people kneel before him and destroyed New York. Albert would be most disappointed with his old friend.

Thank you for reading!

 

Chapter Text

AN: Revengers assemble! Some fighting, but nothing too gory.

 


 

 

Special Angel Reunion – Part Five

 

Love-Lost wrapped her long arms around my neck. I felt like I was being bundled up in a comforting blanket; it soothed over the cracks in my heart, making my mind feel sluggish and woolly.

 

“No one has to feel heartbroken any more,” Love-Lost whispered into my ear, sounding just like my Kàra.

 

I felt the tears rolling freely down my cheeks, like a dam had been burst. It had been a long time since I had been able to cry so easily and openly, and not at all held by back by bitterness, anger, a need to appear strong, or the numbing effects of alcohol.

 

“I forgive you,” Kàra whispered, resting her head on my shoulder. “What I did, I did for you. Because I love you and always will.”

 

A loud gasp escaped my lips. I had been forgiven, at last, after all this time...I fell to my knees, weak with relief and overwhelming love, Kàra still holding onto me.

 

“I'm so sorry,” I wept. “I never meant for you to die for me. Why couldn't it have been me?”

 

“Shhh.” Kara was rocking me. “We're together again. That's all that matters, my special angel. I will love you for all eternity.”

 

All that matters...

 

I could have stayed there for all eternity. Not feeling heartbroken any more had a certain appeal to it; being freed my survivors guilt sounded even better. But it wasn't real.

 

Asgard is all that matters,” Kàra once said to me. “It's more important than me or you. It what we live, fight, and die for. No exceptions.”

 

I wish I could have stayed in her arms, but she wasn't my Kàra. This is not what she would want for me. Her love for me had been pure, and completely unselfish – she wouldn't want me to stay in a stupor for the rest of my life. So, yes, I could have chosen to stay under Love-Lost's spell, but that would be taking the easy way out of my pain. Kàra never chose the easy way out.

 

I thought of Kàra as I wrenched my leaden eyes open.

 

“You are not Kàra!” I screamed, tearing away from her. I fell onto my back and scrambled for my dagger. I held it up in front of me, slowing backing away.

 

Love-Lost stood up and sighed dramatically, just as Kàra used to when she wanted to tease me, pouting slightly and shaking her head.

 

“I really wish that you Aesir would just settle down,” she said, walking slowly towards me. “It took a surprising amount of energy just to subdue Loki, and now you? This really will not do, you know.”

 

Love-Lost had chosen its words poorly. At the mention of Loki I felt a chill run down my spine, breaking the spell for good.

 

“Loki...”

 

Love-Lost smirked, a dimple appearing in her left cheek.

 

“Yes. I mean, she came around to accepting me in the end. And why would she not? If she can make the right decision why can't -”

 

I drove my dagger into Love-Lost's chest and pulled it back out again. I felt the whole ship rock beneath my feet as the alien staggered back, convulsing with pain. It flickered between Kàra's face, to a man with sandy blonde hair, and then a woman with dark hair; screaming with pain as it did so. It could feel pain – good.

 

I bolted out of my room and down the corridor as fast as I could. If I was going to fight this thing I was going to need more space.

 


 

Love-Lost was so distracted by the pain that it temporarily released its hold on half the ship.

 

Fandral screamed on the bed, clutching at his chest.

 

It was enough to wake Loki, who up sat upright, gulping for air as if she had been submerged deep under water. She watched with malicious interest as Love-Lost flickered between it's image of Fandral and it's usual form of pink mist.

 

“Heart-burn?” she asked, flatly.

 


 

 

I charged down the corridors. All around me I came across people being held in a trance by Love-Lost, all surrounded by a pink mist. Their ghosts turned to face me, screeching at me, some reaching out to claw at me.

 

I pushed past them all, leaping over them, slashing at them, until I reached the dining hall. I burst through the doors. Thor had only just repaired them after Loki's fight with the Hulk. He clearly hadn't done such a good job because one fell off its hinges, falling with a bang on the floor. I felt a little guilty about the door, but, oh well, I had more important things to worry about.

 

Something sharp hit me on the back of the head, knocking me into the ground. I skidded over the floor, my dagger spinning away from me.

 

I rolled onto my back. Love-Lost was in the doorway, with long pink arms of mist whipping around in the air. Her eyes were burning so harshly that I could no longer see Kàra's eyes.

 

“You will accept my love!” she hissed, no longer sounding like Kara.

 

Frankly, she just sounded off-putting now.

 

An arm of mist shot out towards me and wrapped around my ankle like a rope. I was hurled into the air and smashed against the wall and then against the opposite wall, being pulled over tables and chairs, again and again, over and over...

 

Br ű nhilde...I love you...

 

I love you, too, K à ra....Forgive me for failing you...

 

One last time I was smashed face-down into the ground. White light exploded in my eyes. Blood trickled down my face. I gulped with pain. I winced as I felt my battered body being dragged slowed backwards, reeled in like a fish on a line, towards Love-Lost, waiting for me with open arms.

 

I feebly tried to free myself from the arm, but it was no use. My trembling fingers simply went through the mist; yet it held onto me tightly enough.

 

“HEY!” a deep voice bellowed from somewhere behind Love-Lost. “HAVE AT THEE!”

 

Love-Lost yelped as she was knocked suddenly sidewards by something. The misty arm disappeared from my ankle. Whatever it was that had hit her had flashed across my sight, flying by so fast that I couldn't make out what it was.

 

Love-Lost staggered upright, her Kàra form flickering on and off like a dying light-bulb.

 

“AND AGAIN!”

 

Love-Lost cried out as the thing – a circular disc- smashed straight into her, knocking her backwards. I watched closely as the disc curved in the air before turning back on itself. I followed it's trajectory as spun towards the doorway.

 

Loki – male again and in full battle aspect- was standing behind Love-Lost, and holding up his arm, looking like a falconer waiting for his bird to return. The disc landed on his arm with a loud clunk; forcibly enough that Loki was almost spun around by the impact. Now that it had stopped moving I could see that it was a large, circular shield decorated with a white star in its centre.

 

Loki smirked, very proud of himself.

 

“Good job, Tina. Just like we practised.”

 

[Thanks, Loki. It wasn't so hard to replicate after you showed me all those Captain America comic books you own.]

 

Loki looked pained, his near-perfect entrance ruined.

 

“Speak up, Tina, I don't think that the people in the next galaxy quite heard you.”

 

[Sorry,] Tina squeaked. She raised her voice to shout, [Loki of Asgard does not own any Captain America comics!]

 

There was a thumping sound as Loki bumped her against the wall to silence her.

 

“Now you're just pouring fuel onto the fire,” he explained. He ran across the room towards me, holding Tina up in front of us. “Get up if you can,” he told me. “We're not done yet.”

 

Love-Lost burst upright, sending tables and chairs flying, surrounded by a pink, raging fire.

 

“ENOUGH!” she screamed. “I WILL HAVE YOU ALL IN MY LOVING CARE!”

 

“Clingy, isn't she?” I joked, as I snatched up my dagger and climbed wobbly to my feet to stand beside Loki. This is the stuff of nightmares, right? The Ex meeting the current boyfriend/girlfriend.

 

 


 

 

AN: Oh, yeah, Loki can feel the righteousness surging! I've been waiting a while to write Tina turning into Cap's shield. LOL, it felt pretty good for Loki to have the shield. “Have at thee!” is a Thor line from Earth's Mightiest Heroes. I'm addicted to the theme song.

Loki brought those comic books for research purposes, to get to know his enemy better. He never bothered to get rid of them.

Many thanks to the guest reviewer for the previous chapter! I wish I were as good a writer as Douglas Adams! Best compliment – thanks! :D

Thank you for reading!

 

Chapter Text

 

Special Angel Reunion – Part Six

 

I held my blade aloft, standing close to Loki.

 

We could hear Love-Lost laughing in Kàra's voice, although it sounded more chilling than I had ever known it to be. The tables flew aside as she floated to her feet and walked steadily towards us, misty arms whipping the air, and smiling sweetly as if this were all some big game.

 

“I'm not ready to give up on you just yet, my loves. Maybe I will turn into someone who truly loved you, but failed you, and then you will see how much you need me.”

 

We watched as Love-Lost's form began to slowly alter, gradually shifting from being to Kàra into somebody quite different...It started with her growing taller, limbs extended and becoming broader as the muscles bulged outwards. Then her hair grew out and down to her waist, turning from golden curls into a cerulean blue, plaited into braids and decorated with bands of gold and scarlet, which flashed when they caught the light. Her clothes mostly faded away, leaving the new being with nothing but a flimsy animal skin to hang loosely around her pinched waist, and a few items of jewellery – gold arm bands and a necklace made out of some animal's jagged teeth. Her skin had also turned a deep shade of blue. There could be no mistaking what she was.

 

“Frost giant!” the hiss escaped my lips before I could stop myself. But there was something about her, which seemed familiar. “Loki, I know this one! It's Farbauti!”

 

Love-Lost lifted her head, revealing her Jotun face, narrow and with a high forehead, and, like all her kind, was covered in a series of narrow ridges; her's mostly ran down the left side of her face like a network of cracks in a broken mirror.

 

I heard a strangled gasp escape Loki's throat. Perhaps the name meant nothing to him, but Loki is nobody's fool. He knew that Love-Lost would not wear the appearance of any old Frost Giant; he could see the family resemblance.

 

I would have liked to have spared a moment to reassure him, to tell him not to listen to whatever came out of her poisonous mouth, but I am foremost a warrior and I know you should never miss an opportunity to attack when in a desperate situation. So, I leapt towards her, skidding under one of the thrashing arms. I almost made it to her, blade ready to slash at her, but then she lightly jumped over me (easy for a giant) and kicked me in the back. I ploughed face-first into the carpet. Come tomorrow I would probably have a carpet burn down the side of my face.

 

Loki hurled Tina at her, but this time his throw was weak and lacked power. Love-Lost easily caught Tina in one hand as though she were no more than a child's Frisbee and immediately hurled her back at Loki, faster than you could blink. Tina hit his chest, sending him flying. She bounced off his armour plating to shoot off in the direction of the far corner, landing somewhere among the broken furniture.

 

[Loki, I'm sorry!]

 

“You were my final chance, Loki,” Love-Lost said, ice forming under every footstep as she strode towards him. Her voice had a strange quality to it – unusually melodic for a typical Frost Giant, and weighed down with sorrow. “I had given Laufey two sickly daughters when he required a son as mighty as himself to inherit the throne. I was much honoured when I fell pregnant with you for I showed all the signs of carrying a healthy boy. Can you imagine my horror and fear when I gave birth to you?” She pointed a long finger towards Loki. He was still on his back and slowly crawling away from her. “Nevertheless, I loved you as only a mother can love their worthless child. Laufey was not pleased, of course....and that's why he stabbed me through the heart. Heh, much like Frigga actually. You do get through mothers, don't you, Loki?”

 

Loki was trembling with rage, biting his lip so hard that blood was trickling down his chin. He thrust his hand out in front of him. I saw the air ripple as a wave of invisible energy shot out from his palm and smashed into Love-Lost, flipping her over – head over heels – to land heavily on her front.

 

“Keep it distracted!” he shouted to me. “This spell will require concentration.”

 

I had no idea what he had planned, so I really hoped that it wouldn't take too long.

 

[Val, you can use me if you like,] Tina called, loud enough for Love-Lost to hear.

 

Inwardly, I groaned. As Love-Lost had been talking I had sneaked around behind her and had edged my way towards where Tina lay. Now she had gained Love-Lost's full attention. The alien sprung to her feet, pink fire burning in her eyes as she spun round to face us.

 

Before she could attack us I dove towards Tina, going into a forward roll, and snatching her up. I threw her as hard as I could. This time the shield hit its mark, cracking against the Frost Giant's skull. She screamed, flagellating arms pounding the ceiling and walls in agony.

 

As we fought, Loki had dragged the blade of his dagger across his right palm. His blood had splattered the carpet as he began to mutter under his breath. His eyes were closed and he was rapidly tracing a circle with his left hand.

 

There was a loud crackling noise coming the ceiling. We looked up to see that a black hole had opened up above Love-Lost's head, with thin tendrils of red electricity sparking over it.

 

Love-Lost yelped as the force of the black hole began to slowly pull her in, lifting her off her feet, her blue hair raised above her head. Her misty arms swung around, searching for anything to get a purchase on, eventually latching onto the walls.

 

“What dark magic is this?” she screamed, as she was continued to be dragged upwards.

 

“Oh, just a little spell I cooked up especially for you,” Loki replied, casually. “Think of it as disinfectant. If you want to heal a sick body then you flood it with healing magic, leaving no trace of the disease. And if you happen to be stuck on a vessel with a parasitic gas alien...well, it's best to get rid of it all at once, don't you think? Right now, Val and Tina, all over the ship, wherever Love-Lost is, there is a black hole opening up, ready to suck it into one of the pocket realms. There will be no one for you to nurture there. You will be all alone for the rest of time.”

 

Love-Lost screeched with effort, sharp teeth bared wide, as she tried to resist the pull of the black hole, her arms leaving deep gorge marks in the walls and ceiling. It was chilling how much she looked like Loki when afraid and furious.

 

Loki knew this too, I think. When I looked towards him I saw that his own face was pale, but determined. However, he was biting his lip again, fresh blood dripping over his chin again. His eyes looked watery.

 

“I'll drag you all in with me!” she screamed.

 

Loki laughed, grinning broadly. “You can try, but it won't work. This spell may be improvised, but being a fast thinker, I put a lot of thought into it. Only you and you alone will be sucked into the portals. Everyone else will be safe.”

 

“THEN I'LL KILL YOU BEFORE I GO!”

 

Love-Lost's arms of mist shot towards Loki, latching over his nose and mouth, smothering him. His eyes widened as he tried to free himself, but to no avail. However, by releasing her grip on the walls and ceiling Love-Lost was yanked towards the black hole. Just before she fell through she braced herself against the ceiling, arching herself over the hole, as if she were trying out some strange yoga position.

 

“Loki, help your mother!” she screamed, even as she was trying to kill him.

 

I leapt up towards her and booted her in the stomach.

 

“Just go!” I bellowed.

 

She gasped with pain and curled in on herself. For one final time she took on Kára's face, eyes filled with tears and reaching a hand out to me. Then she was sucked into the darkness, taking her misty tendrils with her, dropping Loki to the floor. For a moment the black hole crackled and fizzed with dark energy, before it began to shrink down, eventually closing for good.

 

All over the ship, Love-Lost's ghosts were sucked into their black holes, leaving behind a lot of confused and sleepy Aesir behind.

 

I stumbled over to where Loki lay on his back, panting for breath.

 

“You okay?” I asked, breathlessly.

 

He nodded.

 

“Good spell. You should write it down.”

 

“I won't forget it.”

 

I flopped down beside him. “It could never have worked out between me and the gas alien.”

 

“No?”

 

“No. It smelt funny, like a fart, and who wants to sleep for all eternity anyway?”

 

Loki winced sharply. “Everyone is waking up. I can hear their thoughts, buzzing like bees...”

 

A chunk of plaster fell from the ceiling and crashed onto the floor. Thor was going to have a hard time cleaning this mess up.

 

I felt for Loki's cold hand, squeezing it.

 

“We're okay,” I whispered.

 

He pulled his hand away.

 


 

 

Later that evening, I was all alone in my room, examining Kára's ring between my finger and thumb.

 

Whenever I closed my eyes I could still see her falling in front of me, long golden hair flying out in front of her face...but I had to move on. There was no good in living in the past.

 

I kissed the ring and removed it from around my neck, hanging it from the corner of my mirror.

 

“Goodnight, Kára.”

 


 

 

I met with Thor in the trashed dining room.

 

“And how are you feeling, your Majesty?” I asked, sweetly.

 

He scowled at me. “Sore-headed,” he admitted. “And ashamed that I missed a good fight.”

 

I bumped a fist against his shoulder. “We handled it just fine. Your turn for victory and glory will come another day. And besides you get to be in charge of clean-up.”

 

Thor dropped his head. “Seriously, me?”

 

“You do want to be a hands-on king, right? No golden sham.” I gripped my hands together. “How is everyone?”

 

“Mixed feelings,” Thor replied, folding his arms. “Some were grateful for a chance to see their loved ones, others are just in shock...We are a resilient people, though. We'll recover quickly.”

 

“And you?”

 

“Oh, I'm incredibly resilient,” Thor teased. “No, I have the knowledge that Jane is still alive and well and doing exactly what she wants to do. It was good to see her again, but it wasn't real. You?”

 

I looked down. “I'll be alright,” I said, softly. I smiled when I felt Thor patting my shoulder.

 

He tugged on his short hair, clearly subconsciously missing his long hair. “I'm worried about Loki.”

 

“It's okay, I will look out for him.”

 

I couldn't miss the incredulous look on his face, but then said, “I hope so.”

 

 


 

 

I went to visit Loki in his room. It was actually a little difficult to find space in walk in because for some reason Loki had placed large towers of books here and there, and looking liable to topple at any moment. It gave his room the atmosphere of a dusty second-hand bookshop. As usual Tina was there on the shelf, this time in Egg-Whisk form.

 

“Tina, can you give us a minute?”

 

[Of course] she said, chirpily. She remained motionless on the shelf. [Might need a bit of help.]

 

Loki huffed loudly as he dodged around the book piles to snatch Tina of the shelf. “Get some legs!” he snapped, before flinging her out through the open door. He saw the reproachful expression on my face. “She chooses to be helpless,” he said, with a shrug. “It is infuriating.”

 

He jabbed the button to close the door. I moved some of the leather-bound tomes off his chair and sat down.

 

“Hey,” I smiled.

 

“Hello,” he replied, flatly.

 

I looked around at the high stacks of books, flicking through those closest to hand. Many looked like first additions, while others were signed by the authors. As I glanced over the covers I could see that he owned books from all over the Nine Realms, written in their various languages. Some looked like recent publications, but there were others which were probably older than I was. It was a book-lovers treasure trove.

 

“Do you carry all these around with you?”

 

“They fit easily into my coat.”

 

“Are you having an inventory?”

 

“Something like that.”

 

“Do you want me to help?”

 

He looked strangely embarrassed by the question.

 

“No, no....it's all just rubbish, really.”

 

Embarrassment is not an emotion I usually attribute with Loki.

 

“Really?” I examined a letter from Will Shakespeare; he was rejoicing at having finished another play and wanted Loki to see it. “Rubbish? But this is you. After all, stories are sort-of lies and you are the god of Lies. Thor told me that you used to love telling stories in front of the fire, keeping everyone entertained. Who would Loki be without his love of reading?”

 

Loki shrugged, his face remaining strangely shifty-looking. I decided to press on.

 

“Bruce has managed to get the projector working in the cinema room. We have time to go for a swim and then we could go watch the film, whatever it is. Opla said that she would try making something called popcorn.”

 

Loki looked puzzled. “Why would we want to do that?”

 

I shrugged, pulling on my hair. “For fun. We get along quite well....why not have an actual relationship?”

 

Loki snorted. “The Frost Giant and the Valkyrie? That sounds ridiculous.”

 

That stung.

 

“Only to you, maybe.”

 

And then he decided to drive the knife in.

 

“Why would I wish to waste time with you? There would be no pleasure in that.”

 

I swallowed back my anger as I got to my feet.

 

“I know you're hurting over the things Love-Lost revealed to you,” I said, evenly. “but you don't have to lash out at me. I only offered to be there for you.”

 

Loki snickered cruelly. “I really don't think that your presence or care would make the slight difference to me, do you? I have never loved anyone. What makes you think that you're different or special?”

 

I stormed out, pushing over a stack of books as I went.

 

I was more angry and upset than I cared to admit, but it was his choice. If he wanted to be on his own then so be it. As for me, I was done with being bitter over the things I couldn't change. I was going to live in the present, for myself and Kára, but mostly for myself.

 

 


 

Bonus Scene: Who Korg Saw

 

Korg couldn't believe his eyes. There, before him, was his old girlfriend, Scissorina, of the planet Sniptron.

 

“Scissorina!” he cried.

 

“Korg!” she wept.

 

“I'm so happy to see you!” He gathered her up into his rocky embrace. “I thought you said that we could never be together, what with me being a pile of living rocks and you being a -”

 

“A living pair of scissors? I know what I said, but that no longer matters! Let's get married and together we can finally end the futile rivalry between rocks and scissors for good!”

 

“Finally, there will be peace between our families. No more scratched rocks.”

 

“And no more blunted scissors.”

 

“I love you!”

 

“I love you too!”

 

And then she was sucked into a black hole.

 

“Oh, bloody hell!” Korg exclaimed. “Oh, well, you win some, you lose some.”

 

 

 


 

AN: Farbauti features in some of the comic books, which I haven't read, so I don't know much about her, other than it was rumoured that she killed herself after giving birth to Loki and seeing that he was small. However, I think that Loki uncovers that she was actually murdered by Laufey. It just makes Loki's backstory all the more tragic.

Thank you for reading :D This is another story wrapped up. LOL, I had thought Scissorina up a while ago, but have been waiting for a good point to include her. She and Korg were star-crossed lovers, not meant to be. It was just a little Rock-Paper-Scissors joke for you.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The Man with the Cheese-Grater Helmet

 

He had been one of the gladiators on Sakaar. He had followed Loki to Asgard to help in the fight against Hela and her undead army. Now he was living onboard The Statesman among the Aesir.

 

No one had ever heard him utter a single word. No one had ever seen him remove his helmet, which reminded many of a cheese-grater.

 

“Do you have a name?” Thor asked him one day in the dining hall.

 

No answer.

 

“Could you write it down?”

 

No reply.

 

“Do you ever take that helmet off?”

 

Zero response, expect to swallow a mouthful of cereal.

 

Curious, the god of Thunder went to seek answers in the library. Or to be more specific to seek answers from the god who practically lived in the library.

 

“Loki, do you know anything about....?”

 

“About....?”

 

“About the Sakaarian gladiator, the one who never talks and who wears that strange helmet all the time.”

 

“Oh, Cheese-Grater Guy.”

 

“That can't be his name.”

 

Loki shrugged. “That's the name he goes by. Nobody knows much about him except that he's very strong and a highly skilled warrior. I never saw him fail to win a fight.”

 

“Excellent! I shall challenge him to a fight!”

 

Loki's eyes widened in shock. He threw Pride and Prejudice aside as he leapt to his feet.

 

“Do not do that, brother, I beseech you!”

 

“W-what's gotten into you? It'll just be a friendly fight to keep in training.”

 

Loki looked widely around to make sure that no one else was listening. This was silly of him because he knew that they were alone in the library, but Loki never liked to waste an opportunity to be theatrical, especially when it was for the purpose of winding Thor up.

 

“Do you not sense something about him?” he asked in a hushed tone.

 

“Like what?”

 

“Wake up, Thor! Like he's concealing some great power beneath that mild demeanour...maybe he's one of the lost gods of old who came before us. He could even be the god of Silence.”

 

Thor's eyes lit up.

 

“The one with the power to silence all the universe...Let's go and ask him!”

 

“No, Thor, no!” Loki shouted, latching onto Thor's arm to prevent him from running off. “I beg of you, resist the temptation! Don't ask him his name, don't challenge him to fight, but most of all, don't ask him to remove his helmet! Who knows what destructive force that would unleash?”

 

Thor's imagination was well and truly fired up by now and he really believed that Cheese-Grater Guy was more than he appeared to be.

 

“Fine,” he huffed. “I won't ask him a thing. But, what's he doing here?”

 

“Who's knows? Only time will tell.”

 

ooo

 

In the early hours of the next morning, Loki was walking alone down the corridor to his room, when he sensed a presence ahead of him. He looked up to see Cheese-Grater Guy standing by his door, arms folded and remaining motionless. His stillness unnerved Loki slightly.

 

He watched as Cheese-Grater Guy silently raised a finger to his lips.

 

“Shhh...” he said, softly, before turning on his heel and walking away without making a single noise.

 

A chill ran down the spine of the god of Mischief.

 

Loki sucked in a deep breath. He was going to chose to believe that Thor had cottoned onto his lies and was trying to get his own back by convincing Cheese-Grater Guy to scare Loki.

 

Well, that wasn't going to work because clearly there was no way that Loki had been actually been correct when he had said that Cheese-Grater Guy was a secretly powerful being. No way.

 

When he looked up again there was no sign of the Cheese-Grater Guy.


 

 

Loki is Good With Kids?!

 

Loki stood back to allow the flock of Asgardian children tear past him and charge around the corridor to who knows where. There didn't seem to be much substance to their game, other than running as fast as they could and screaming at the top of their voices.

 

Except that the smallest child, a boy named Arty of three years of age, had fallen flat on his face and had been well and truly left behind.

 

He started bawling.

 

Loki did the prudent thing by looking around for a responsible adult, or just any other adult beside him who could deal with this problem. There was no one. Great. Oh, well, he was a prince, so he should care for his people.

 

He lifted Arty to his feet.

 

“Don't cry, Arthur,” he said. “You're not hurt.”

 

“B-but, I can't keep up!” the boy sobbed.

 

Loki felt a rare but powerful pang of sympathy. Yes, he very much knew how that felt.

 

“Well, we can't have that, can we? Hold still. This won't hurt.”

 

ooo

 

Arty very much enjoyed being a wolf cub, leading the other children on as they bolted all over the ship, and howling at every opportunity.

 

Ooo

 

Later that day, Loki felt an urgent tugging on his coat. He looked down to see Di was staring at him with a pleading but determined look.

 

“Make me a cat, Uncle Loki. Please,” she added.

 

Behind her was all the other children (minus Arty); all at once they began shouting out their demands.

 

“I want to be a dog!”

 

“A lion!”

 

“Bear!”

 

“A velociarapter!”

 

“I – uh-” They were all crowded around him. It was too difficult to say no. “Then get into line. And remember your manners.”

 

“Thank you!” they all said together.

 

 

Ooo

 

Thor was rather taken aback by the amount of animals (and one dinosaur) that had suddenly appeared on his ship. And by coincidence by the sudden reduction in children. There could only be one responsible.

 

“Loki!” he yelled. “Did you turn all the children into animals?”

 

Loki took a sip of tea. Kids were such hard work.

 

“Yes, I did. Don't worry; they'll turn back in an hour or two.”

 

Thor banged his fists on the table so hard that Loki's tea jumped out of the cup.

 

“Brother, this hard for me to say, but...I'm so proud of you!” He flung an arm around Loki's neck. “That's a really nice thing you've done for the little ones! I've not seen them so happy since Ragnarök. And their parents are over the moon. Good work!”

 

Loki made a strange raspy noise as he tried to break free.

 

“Thank....you...” he wheezed.

 

Bruce shook his head in disbelief. The Aesir had a very different way of parenting their young in comparison to humans.

 


 

Why Bookworms Bump Their Heads More Often Than Anyone Else

 

  1. They start off by sitting normally...

 

The library armchair's were big and squishy. Loki sits properly with his back straight and feet on the floor.

 

  1. Then they slouch sideways....

 

Even for Loki it can be tiring to sit up straight for hours on end. You can tell when he's tired because he slumps to the left, leaning on the arm-rest.

 

  1. But this means that their feet don't always rest comfortably on the floor, so this is when the bookworm swings their legs over the arm-rest, sitting sidewards in the chair.

 

Loki often swings his legs at this point.

 

  1. However, even that position can become tiring for the back eventually, with nothing to rest it against. This is when the bookworm goes bat-like. They hook their legs over the back of the chair, hanging upside down. Some would say that this is uncomfortable, that it is impossible to read upside down, but the seasoned bookworm does not notice. They are too engrossed in their book; there is something meditative and traditional about the position, passed down from one book-lover to another.

 

Loki is very much at ease, reading upside down, with his hair brushing the floor, but it is best not to startle him.

 

HEY, LOKI!” Thor bellows. “WHATCHA READING?”

 

Whoah -OW!”

 

Loki?”

 

Not for the first time, Eir holds an ice pack on Loki's head.

 

Reading again?” she asks, sternly.

 

Hmmm,” Loki whimpers.

 

Reading: It is a dangerous pastime. Other common injuries include: back strain, eye strain, neck strain, and paper-cuts.

 


 

AN: RIP Cheese-Grater Guy. I was quite upset to see him lying among the dead in IW. Thanks for reading :D

 

Chapter Text

 

A Fistful of Lightening – Part One

 

Planet Rainless occupies a rather empty corner of the galaxy, and what with it being a small, arid lump of rock, receives few willing visitors; it is known as the lonely planet.

 

As well as being visually and spiritually unappealing (mostly deserts with the odd squat mountain here and there, and no night life worth speaking of) it had also suffered the tragedy of a terrible plague outbreak seven years ago, wiping out a large number of the population. The disaster had led to long-lasting civil unrest – riots and increased lawlessness and a severe drop in manners, that sort of thing.

 

In other words, you wouldn't visit Rainless unless you had no choice but to travel there. Or if you had crash landed there.

 

It was 9 pm – sun-set time- and the residents of Barren Town, like the rest of the planet's population, was feeling their energy levels steadily dropping, along with the sun, for the Rainless natives gain most of their energy from the sunlight. And after the sun has fully set, many of them become lethargic and apathetic, choosing to recline in their chairs by the fire or to collapse on their beds. As mentioned above, there's practically no night-life. It was a good time for bandits.

 

Boff and Wench were two such criminals. They had spent the day lying on rocks, absorbing as much sunlight as their scales would allow, and now they had ridden into town, fully charged, with devilry in their minds.

 

They secured their horses just outside of town and slipped, unnoticed, through the gates. It was so much easier now than it had been a few years ago; now there was fewer capable people left alive to try and stop them. The houses now, with their sleepy, unsuspecting owners, made easy pickings, and Boff and Wench took their leisurely time, fully enjoying the experience. Barren Town was far from being the first town they had targeted and, they thought, that it would not be the last.

 

Erring on the side of caution, they stopped at the fifth house and made their way back to the town gates, with their sacks full of food and stolen items slung over their shoulders.

 

They were most incensed to find someone sitting on Boff's horse.

 

“Hey!” Boff yelled, dropping his sack. “What the hell do you think you're doing?”

 

This was brave of him for the someone was taller than most Rainless. He appeared to be far too big for Boff's horse, although the creature was bearing up well under the strain with great dignity.

 

“Me?” the stranger asked innocently. “Just thought I'd try out this magnificent animal. I've never ridden a mighty two-headed horse before.”

 

Boff's horse tossed his heads proudly, recognising admiration when he heard it in a rider's voice.

 

“I like you too,” the stranger said, warmly, patting the horse's necks, making sure to pat both necks an equal number of times. “I have the Allspeak,” he said, by way of explanation to the two bandits. “It covers horses.”

 

At this point Wench backed a few paces away. The stranger's appearance was well covered, hidden beneath a red and yellow poncho and a dun coloured Stetson, pulled down low; but, Wench didn't need to see his face or the texture of his skin to know that the stranger was an alien who probably meant them harm.

 

Boff was less astute.

 

“You're a bloody thief!” he snarled, pointing his gun at the stranger's chest. “That's against the law, you know!”

 

This seemed to annoy the stranger. He jumped down and stood unflinching in front of the two bandits.

 

“It's getting late and I have somewhere to be, so could we move this along, please? You fire your silly, little guns at me, then I capture you, take you to Doc Sheriff, and collect the bounty on your heads. Everybody's happy. I have my bounty, the townspeople have their stuff returned, and you two will have a good story to tell in prison.”

 

“Or I could shoot you in the head and have a good story to tell in front of the campfire, as well as owning a sack full of swag. Yeah, that sounds better.”

 

Boff fired once. The bullet hit it's mark, square in the middle of the stranger's forehead. Usually, at this point the target crumples to the ground, blood pouring out of the neat little bullet wound, and very much dead. But, there was nothing usual about the stranger.

 

The bullet hit his skull, but instead of smashing through the bone, ricocheted off it at an angle, knocking his hat off in the process. The stranger took one step back, a hand to his forehead.

 

“Ow, now that was rude.”

 

Boff, considerably pale now and scales raised, fired again and again and again, aiming not just for the head, but just the stranger in general. Like the first, they had no impact, other than to make a few holes in his poncho and cause him to stumble back a little.

 

Wench had seen enough. He dropped his sack of stolen goods and made a break for it, running as fast as his wobbly legs would carry him. He would not get very far.

 

Boff tried his gun again, only to hear the feeble clicking of an empty barrel.

 

The stranger shook his head. “Like I said, I capture you. Both of you.”

 

He threw back his poncho over his shoulder to reveal two clenched fists cracking with electricity.

 

Boff whimpered.

 


 

 

Doc Sheriff (so called because he happened to be both the town's doctor and sheriff) was happy enough to be woken from his deep sleep in order to throw the thieves into the tiny cell, but not so happy to pay up the bounty there and then.

 

“Can't it wait till dawn?” Doc Sheriff yawned.

 

“I'd rather have the cash now.”

 

“You'd be wise to keep a lower profile,” the Sheriff warned, clumsily counting the notes out. “The other bounty hunters won't take to someone muscling in on their patch. And folks round here are suspicious of strangers. Especially ones like you and -”

 

“You haven't said anything, have you?” the stranger interrupted, suddenly anxious.

 

“Course not. I'm here to heal the sick and keep the peace. But, you'd better work faster to get out outta here. I'll drop by tomorrow, alright?”

 

The stranger smiled broadly and handed a note back to the sheriff. “Thanks, Doc.”

 


 

 

“Loki, I'm back!” Thor shouted, as he kicked the door closed behind himself. By now he was well assured that no matter how much noise he made, the barkeeper, who lived below in the rooms behind the saloon bar, could not be disturbed after sun-set.

 

“I caught a couple of thieves – that was fun. Too bad you chose to miss out, brother. At least it means we have enough to stay for another couple of days.”

 

He went directly to the back bedroom, and as he did every time, paused in the doorway to give himself a moment to psyche up to the sight of his very ill brother.

 

It didn't matter how many times he walked into the bedroom and saw Loki lying shivering on top of the covers, hearing him pant for breath and muttering nonsense, it still unsettled him. Scared him, even after three days of being exposed to the sight.

 

But, as always, after a moment's pause, Thor swallowed back his fear and strode in, acting like nothing was wrong. He strode in and walked around the bed, crouching down so that he was level with Loki's pain-lined face.

 

“Still not talking to me, huh?” Thor asked, carefully brushing away the sweat-soaked strands of hair that had been sticking to his brother's forehead. “Trust you to drag this out, Loki.”

 

Loki's whole body shook as a chill swept over him. His hands clenched the sheets even more tightly, so much so that they shook uncontrollably.

 

“Tha-Tha....” he babbled, the syllables making no sense to Thor whatsoever. “Ik...cha...ra...”

 

“Shhh,” Thor soothed, holding his hands over Loki's. “It's alright.”

 

He stepped back just in time as the wave of ice spread over the bed, down its legs and over the floor, reaching as far as the door, but thankfully no further. The freezing of the room had become a daily occurrence, but if it cooled Loki down then Thor was not going to resent it, even if he worried about the negative attention it might draw if one of the Rainless found out about it.

 

The ice crunched beneath Thor's knees as once again he knelt by the bed. Loki's skin and hair, even his eyelashes, were coated in a thin layer of frost. He was still shivering terribly, but the frost would help with the fever. Thor supposed that it was Loki's subconscious trying to fight the illness. What was less helpful was when Loki reached out a trembling hand and a bright flame erupted around his fingers. Another daily occurrence, but a much less welcome one.

 

“Flame off, flame off!” Thor hissed, waggling Loki's limp wrist back and forth until the flame died out. Then sighing, he ran a hand through his short hair. “I wish you'd tell me what's wrong with you. Not plague, I know that much.” He tapped his brother's cheek. “Come on, Ki. Time to wake up now.”

 

The only reply he received was a low moan of pain as Loki continued to shiver and burn, the frost quickly melting and running off his skin.

 

I can explain everything...well, almost everything...

 


 

AN: Thank you for reading :D It's quite fun writing a Western-pardoy, Cowboy-Thor, sick-Loki story.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

A Fistful of Lightening – Part Two

 

Four days ago...

 

There are many ways in which magic can go “bad”, turning into poison in the veins of those who possess magical abilities and going wildly out of control.

 

Sometimes it is simply a matter of physical distance. If the magic user is separated (for whatever reason) from their source of magic, then their powers can fluctuate erratically in strength. In other cases, the cause may be psychological. Emotions and mental health (whether positive or negative, good or bad) exert a powerful influence over the magic user's ability to perform spells and control their magic effectively. However, there are times when one's magic becomes tainted by an outside influence. This is most dangerous for the victim. Although, there are times when a combination of these factors are to blame.

 

From it's place in the u-bend of its toilet the Tesseract was feeling bored. It began to hum loudly as it glowed brightly, sending water jumping up over the seat and splashing onto the floor.

 

In his room Loki began to whimper and perspire as his veins glowed an electric blue before fading back to their usual colour.

 


 

For Thor the day had started in much the same way as all the other days onboard The Statesman started. He awoke, feeling at the peace with the world, and then he would recall that his world had been destroyed by Surtur. That put a slight dampener on his mood.

 

He would then kneel beside his bed and pray to Odin, Frigga, Bor, and any other distant relative who might hear him, to continue to watch over him and his people. This time of reflection and mediation would usually only last about five minutes before inevitably his mind would start to wander so far off topic that he knew he may as well pack the business in and promise himself to try harder the following day. This never happened.

 

Thor dressed and made his way to the twice-wrecked dining hall. He was pleased to find Heimdall, Bruce, Korg, and Val already seated at one of the tables with plates piled high with food. Normally, such a sight would serve as a booster for his own considerable appetite, but not today. Opla had warned him yesterday that once again they were running low on food, so it wouldn't be long before a replenishment of supplies would be required. Thor wanted to put off another trip to the supermarket for as long as possible, so it was with great self-restraint that he only put half the amount he usually wolfed down onto his plate.

 

“Not hungry?” Val asked, taking a large bite out of sausage.

 

“Not very,” Thor lied.

 

Bruce was seasoning his scrambled eggs with a light shower of pepper, when the pepper pot spoke up.

 

[You're just as bad as Loki. He doesn't eat much either.]

 

Bruce flinched, dropping Tina into the white and yellow mush.

 

[Hey!]

 

“Sorry,” Bruce mumbled, as he gingerly picked the glass pot up and set it down on the table. “I'm just not used to....Never mind.”

 

“It's your own fault, sis,” Korg said, sternly. “You should give people a warning when you're around.”

 

[I know, but I forget I'm here sometimes.]

 

Val had raised a disapproving eyebrow. “I don't why you waste your time like this, T,” she grumbled, jabbing her knife at the pepper pot. “There are better things you could be.”

 

“Ignore her,” Korg told her. “She's just in a grouchy mood because her friend-with-benefits broke up with her.”

 

“Hey, I just happen to be a mood that's all. It's nothing to do with Loki. And I wouldn't have called him a friend...An-annoying-frozen-tit-with-benefits was closer to the mark.”

 

Thor grimaced as he rubbed his forehead.

 

“Do you mind not referring to my brother as anything-with-benefits? You're putting me off my breakfast.”

 

[Loki's been in a horrible mood all week, too.]

 

The conversation drifted down the channel of bad moods and what a pain they were to experience – Bruce offering little on the subject - but Thor wasn't listening at all. Instead he idly munched on a rasher of bacon as he thought hard about Loki. It wasn't news to him that Loki was in something of a sulk, but what to do about it, that was the problem.

 

An upset Loki was an angry Loki, and an angry Loki was very volatile indeed.

 

No, Thor hadn't at all been surprised to hear that Loki had dumped Val, silly god that he was. He always had to lash out at those who cared the most.

 

“Majesty.”

 

Heimdall had raised his fork to his mouth, but froze before he could actually place the food inside his mouth.

 

“What's wrong?”

 

“It's Loki. He's started a fire in the bar.”

 

Volatile indeed.

 


 

 

It could be worse, Thor reasoned to himself as he barged his way into the bar, fire extinguisher primed and ready for use. As far as he could see through the smoke the fire wasn't so very big that it couldn't be managed. Not that it was ever a good idea to start an open fire in a room without a chimney. In a room full of alcohol. On a spaceship.

 

It was one of the round tables which his brother had ignited. The flames were making light work of it's wooden top and it wouldn't be long before the table collapsed, allowing the fire to reach the floor.

 

Loki himself was standing a short distance from the table with a large stack of books by his side. As Thor bounded across the floor, Loki picked a paperback off the top of the pile and tossed it without hesitation onto the flames.

 

Thor shoved him aside as he unleashed the full foamy might of the fire extinguisher onto the fire. It did its job well and within seconds the fire had been snuffed out and there was nothing left but a blackened skeleton of the table, flakes of charred pages floating around, and a whole lot of goopy, white foam dripping onto the floor.

 

Loki was filled with the self-righteous indignation that only comes with being both drunk and in the middle of doing something incredibly foolhardy.

 

“Hey, I worked hard to start that! Or at least, I assumed I worked hard. I don't actually remember starting a fire...Does that sound odd to you? I must have disabled the smoke detectors and sprinklers and everything.”

 

Thor said nothing, but dropped the empty extinguisher to the floor and, placing both hands on Loki's shoulders, propelled him roughly towards the open door and shoved him through it.

 

The god of Mischief stumbled to the opposite wall before sliding down it, landing on the floor with a bump. He chuckled.

 

Thor still said nothing, but stood in front of his brother, staring frostily at him with his arms tightly folded.

 

Loki folded his own arms and wore a mocking grumpy expression on his face, a mimic of Thor's own expression. He only managed to hold it for a few seconds before he started laughing.

 

“You look so funny when you're angry. Is that your kingly look? Because if so, it is hilarious.”

 

At this point Thor dropped his arms and instead sat on the floor beside his brother, knowing that while Loki was intoxicated there was no logic in trying to reprimand him. He sat in silence for a moment watching as clouds of smoke continued to billow out from the bar.

 

He wondered how much alcohol Loki had consumed.

 

“None,” Loki said, and then he added, “I can hear your thoughts loud and clear, big bro. Nope, nope, nopity-nope, I used a tipsy spell to feel better...My head - it's been killing me...And I was burning my books because I wanted to burn my books....I saw a fire and I took advantage of it..No, no, Tennyson had to go, along with Shakespeare...Ow, my head...”

 

The colour drained from Loki's face as he sagged forward, hands in his hair. The sudden change in in his brother's demeanour was enough to startle Thor; clearly Loki was in a lot of pain. He placed a hand on Loki's shoulder to steady him.

 

“Is this why you used the tipsy spell? As a painkiller?”

 

That would make sense to Thor if it was true. Since healing magic would only hurt Loki then why wouldn't he look for other spells to manage his pain?

 

He thought that he had phrased his questions mildly enough, so as not to annoy Loki, but it still triggered a violent reaction in his brother.

 

“I CAN HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS!” he screamed at Thor. “YOU DON'T NEED TO SPEAK OUT LOUD AS WELL!”

 

Loki twisted himself around, breaking himself free from Thor's grip. He drew his knees up to his chin, with his arms wrapped around his legs, breathing heavily.

 

If Thor had believed that Loki was in full control of himself then he would have become angry at his brother's behaviour. However, he did not believe this in the slightest. He knew that he was looking at a very distressed and upset Loki, and possibly an emotionally sick one too.

 

[Sorry,] he thought as clearly as he could. [How long has it been this bad?]

 

“And my heart...it's full of stitches....”

 

[I don't understand, Loki.]

 

“It hurts. Everything hurts.” Loki face was hidden by his hair, but Thor could see him pressing the back of his hand to his mouth. He heard him sniff. “The more I find out about myself the shitter it gets...”

 

[Farbauti.]

 

The name popped into Thor's head. Before today Loki had not once alluded to what Love-Lost had shown him, and if it weren't for the intoxicating effects of the tipsy spell, he probably would not have mentioned it now.

 

It would be easy to assume that Loki did not care about his own past, but Thor knew that this was not the truth. It was more that Loki was secretive about the things which weighed upon his mind.

 

“And I hate what Odin did to me as a baby...” Loki rambled on, not even looking at Thor, but staring emptily at the floor. “Why couldn't he have made the god of ice...something useful? Instead of god of Mischief. And for what purpose? I hate it. He stitched godliness onto my soul...and it hurts...I'm Odin's monster...twice-monster....Frost Giant and Odin's monster...”

 

It was as if had a dam had been burst inside Loki's mind and all of his grievances were pouring out of him without filter or censure.

 

“And was I adopted or taken as a hostage? There are rules for taking children as hostage and he broke them...”

 

Thor couldn't help but shake his head as he listened to Loki's outpouring. As much as he wanted to know what was upsetting Loki this somehow felt devious. Loki wouldn't be telling him these things if he could control himself. His own thoughts began to run unchecked through his mind, loud and clear enough for Loki to hear.

 

[I'm really worried about him. It has to be the tipsy spell making him reveal so much. He doesn't normally open up like this. I only want to help, but I don't know how to respond. It's like when he was hanging off the Bifrost and I couldn't stop him from letting go... And why did he have to burn his books? At least some of them, anyway. Why does he have to hurt himself in this way?]

 

Loki groaned loudly. Thor's concern for him was enough to put an end to his confessions. He struggled to his feet and began to wobble down the corridor, one foot in front of the other, like a man practising a tightrope walk.

 

[Where are you going?]

 

“You can't conceal your thoughts from me. And I can't stop rambling. We're not normally so exposed to one another and frankly it's sickening....so, I'm going...”

 

[At least let Eir take a look your head,] Thor remonstrated.

 

Loki was leaning against the wall now with his head bowed.

 

“I can hear everyone...It's so noisy! It doesn't stop.”

 

There was a tone of desperation in his voice which made Thor urgently try to form some comforting thoughts, but he abandoned them all before completing them. Loki was a master of magic, so if he couldn't solve this problem on his own then the situation was bleak indeed.

 

Thor joined him by the wall, placing a firm hand on Loki's shoulder.

 

“Loki -” he began.

 

“SHUT UP!” Loki bellowed. “I DON'T NEED YOUR HELP!”

 

A thick wave of ice began to roll out from under Loki's feet, climbing the walls and spreading out over the floor, crackling loudly. It didn't last long, however, before it was rapidly melted and evaporated by the flames which had burst, unbidden, from Loki's hands.

 

The god of Mischief staggered backwards away from Thor, looking in wide-eyes horror at his hands.

 

“I can't...I can't....” There was a sheen of sweat over his face and his chest was rising and falling quickly as he gasped for breath.

 

Another dense sheet of ice sprung out from where Loki stood, making Thor concerned that more fire would follow.

 

[Point your hands downwards, Loki,] he instructed calmly. [No need to burn your eyebrows off today, right?]

 

To his relief, Loki complied, and just in time too, as more bright flames shot out of his hands and melted the ice surrounding him. However, Loki was starting to look worse than ever, almost panda like with his pale skin and dark circles around his eyes. He took several more steps back.

 

[Hey, what are you looking so scared for?] Thor asked, doing his best to make his inner voice sound both relaxed but firm – in charge and control of the situation. [You can't hurt me and you're not going to do any lasting damage to the walls. We can do this all day if we have to, just you and me, brother.]

 

“I can't stop!” Loki panted.

 

[Yeah, you can. You just have to calm down first, right? Try breathing like Bruce showed you. How did that go?]

 

Loki closed his eyes and tried to control his breathing, but he gave up seconds later as another cycle of ice and fire was completed and then repeated, only that each time it happened the ice seemed to stretch further and the flames came out hotter.

 

“I can't focus,” Loki hissed through gritted teeth. “It's too noisy.”

 

[This is getting out of hand. I may have to knock him out if he can't stop himself.]

 

Thor couldn't stop himself from thinking it and immediately regretted it as it only added to Loki's distress. He heard his brother whimper as more ice, and at the same time, fire, fought against one another in the corridor. Clouds of stream seemed to swallow them up, concealing the two brothers from one another.

 

“The others are coming,” he heard Loki say in a shaky voice. “They're in agreement with you...”

 

 


 

AN: Thank you for reading! I had intended for this flashback to be only one chapter, but it was becoming too long, so I'll split it over two.

Loki was asking himself if he had been taken as a hostage by Odin. In the Middle Ages, it was quite common practise to take the son of an enemy to end a conflict or as part of a financial transaction. The hostage was in sense “fostered”, raised alongside the hostage-taker's own children. The hostage would be raised in this “foreign” culture and once released back to his own family would act as a bridge between the two families or the two sides. If this was Odin's original intention then he seemed to have changed his mind as he never returned Loki to Jotunheim.

 

Chapter Text

 

A Fistful of Lightening – Part Three

 

Thor wished that not everyone had decided to play the part of the calvary and show up at the end of the corridor, looking ready to jump on Loki. Heimdall and Val were leading the party, standing tense and ready for action. Korg and Bruce stood behind them, looking worried. Even Tina was there in shopping trolley form, being pushed along by Bruce. Maybe they were planning on using her to cart Loki off to the medical bay. Everyone wanted to help, even they were unsure of how to go about it.

 

A quick glance at Loki's face confirmed to Thor that the presence of so many people was only frightening him even more. Given that he could hear their thoughts, Loki knew exactly what they were thinking and none of it was very pleasant.

 

[He's gone mad. Again.]

 

[He's really lost it this time.]

 

[I hope that he doesn't hurt anyone.]

 

Thor could only imagine how awful it must be to be assaulted by the jumbled cacophony of people's inner most thoughts, no matter how vile, selfish, or stupid those thoughts might be. He watched as his brother pressed himself against the wall, hands clamped over his ears; he had the countenance of a trapped and wounded animal.

 

Thor tried to get closer to him, but once again the temperature in the corridor plummeted as thick, black ice spread out from under Loki's feet, crawling up the walls and over the ceiling. Heavy flakes of snow floated around in front of their faces. Thor quickly back-peddled to avoid his legs being frozen, joining others by the elevator. Even if he had been caught in the ice he would not have been frozen for very long; tongues of flames had leapt out of Loki's hands, like snakes jumping out of their dens, instantly melting the ice. Clouds of steam temporarily hid Loki from their sight.

 

“What do we do?” Val asked, as the steam floated over them.

 

“It's okay, everyone,” Thor assured them. “We all just need to stay calm.”

 

The steam dissipated into the air, revealing Loki sitting on the floor with his knees drawn up his chin.

 

The elevator pinged and Eir stepped out with a mug in her hand, rapidly stirring its contents with a teaspoon.

 

“I've dissolved one of those Binbon marshmallows,” she announced in her usual brisk manner, and not at all perturbed by the chaos around her. “It's the only kind of sedative we have. Anyway, Loki, you had best drink it. It'll help calm you down.”

 

Loki shuffled along the floor, staring at them all warily.

 

“No, it won't calm me down” he shouted back. “It'll knock me out. That's what you're thinking. You don't even know if it will work.”

 

[It'll be alright, Loki,] Tina called. [We only want to help.]

 

Loki's face twisted itself into an ugly expression.

 

“Why should I listen to you? You're the worst kind of person – insipid and absolutely passive! You'd rather live out your days as a shopping trolley than do anything for yourself. I was wrong to waste my powers on you. You disgust me.”

 

The others were too stunned to respond to that for a moment (although none of them were surprised that Loki could say something so cruel), and it was impossible for them to tell how Tina was taking it. Her pink lights blinked a little slowly, that was her only reaction. But, Loki could hear her thoughts.

 

“I mean it!” he snarled into the silence. “You think I'm lying, but I'm not. And as for you, Val, you're doing your best to look hurt on her behalf, but I know you agree with me.”

 

Val's frown deepened into a scowl. “I wouldn't have put it like that..”

 

Eir stepped forward. “Now, now, there was no need for that, young man. Drink this now and this situation will be over. We can then work out how to help you.”

 

“LEAVE ME ALONE!”

 

As he screamed large spikes of ice erupted out of the floor, surrounding him like a ring of teeth.

 

[He's gone Elsa on us] Bruce thought before he could stop himself.

 

“Shut up, Bruce! Or should I tell Thor that you have a theory about the Super Solider serum?”

 

Bruce's face turned bright red. “Please don't...it's just an idea, Loki...I wasn't going to try and replicate it...”

 

More jagged pillars of ice burst out of the ceiling and walls; one almost impaling Korg.

 

“Easy, bro!”

 

Thor rubbed his fists together, electricity dancing over his knuckles.

 

“I thought that you wanted us to stay calm,” Val reminded him.

 

“I am calm!” Thor growled. He had no desire to hurt Loki, but his brother's mouth was running loose and probably wasn't going to stop anytime soon. “Heimdall, you know what it's like to hear everything. Can't you talk to him?”

 

“No good, Majesty,” Heimdall replied. “Hearing spoken conversations is not quite the same thing. Besides, it'll take more than me to calm him down.”

 

He hadn't noticed that behind him Tina had begun to shimmer, glowing brightly, as then her shape began to alter. She grew upwards, forming a head, and arms and legs. Hair that was so blonde that it almost looked white tumbled down over her back. Her skin was of a dark pink hue and her eyes, when she opened them, were an unusual mix of magenta with blue splodges around the iris. She had symmetrical ridges sloping downwards on both cheeks of her heart shaped face.

 

“Oh, you're a Krylorian,” Eir observed. “How lovely.”

 

For a short time Tina held her shaking hands up in front of her face, turning them one way and then another. But, then without warning, she darted forward before anyone could stop her, running barefoot over the ice and in-between the spikes, and on reaching Loki wrapped her arms around his body with her head pressed to his chest.

 

Loki's eyes widened in shock. He instinctively moved his hands towards her to prise her away, but stopped at the last moment out of fear of what his touch would do to her. Burn her or freeze her, he couldn't tell what might happen.

 

“Loki, you know I have a fear of pain and I haven't had a feeling body for years, so right now I'm really scared,” Tina confessed in a trembling voice, with her eyes squeezed closed. “Unless you want to hurt me then you're going to have to control yourself.”

 

Control himself? Hadn't she been paying attention? He couldn't control his powers – that was the problem!

 

“Get away from me!” he hissed.

 

“No!”

“Go!”

 

“NO!” Tina yelled, tightening her grip. “We're friends, so we stick together, right? No matter what.”

 

Being in such close proximity to Tina, Loki could hear her thoughts the loudest. They drowned out the thoughts of the others, an terrified, urgent, repetitive pleading of:

 

[Please don't hurt me, please don't hurt me...]

 

He could feel her shaking with fear, every tremor vibrating through her body into his, but nevertheless she held onto him tightly. It hurt him to know how scared of him she was in that moment, but her loyalty was...touching...

 

“I can't hold it back,” he told her breathlessly.

 

“Then drink the marshmallow!” she urged. “Before it's too late.”

 

Seeing Loki nod his consent, Thor too the mug from Eir and hurried over to them. He raised the mug to Loki's lips, with one hand on the back of his brother's head to steady him. They made a strange looking group with Tina still hugging Loki, and with Thor standing just in front her.

 

Loki gulped at the warm, gloopy liquid. The mixture was so thick that it was difficult to drink quickly, but Thor kept the mug pressed to to his mouth. It had a strange flavour to it, which he couldn't quite think how to describe. It was sweet -both in taste and aroma - in an overpowering sort of way, filling up his senses so that everything else was blurred out.

 

A white mist clouded his vision and the voices, which had been thunderously loud inside his mind, was suddenly pleasantly muffled, like the distant hissing of ocean waves on a beach.

 

Muffled,Loki thought to himself as he felt Thor's warm hands lowering him to the floor, that's what it feels like all over...

 

It was like his mind was had been wrapped up in a padded blanket. It wasn't uncomfortable, exactly, just stillness all over. A moment later and he was fully asleep.

 

Thor had been a little surprised to see that even before Loki had drained the mug his eyelids had began to droop. Those marshmallows were more powerful than he had realised.

 

“You can let go now, Tina,” he had said, quietly, as he'd stepped closer to Loki to hold onto him, before helping him to lie down on the floor.

 

The Krylorian giggled in a self-conscious way before taking a step back, releasing Loki from her iron grip. And then she caught sight of Bruce and Val staring at her with open mouths. Heimdall coughed into a closed fist, flicking his gaze downwards.

 

Tina looked down.

 

“I'm naked!” she squealed, and immediately reverted back to her shopping trolley Aspect. [That's better,] she sighed. [Having a fleshy body just isn't worth the bother.]

 

Thor was kneeling on the floor with Loki's head in his lap while Eir was checked his pulse.

 

“His pulse is good,” she announced, before gently waving her hands over his body. Blue light slowly swirled between her fingers as she scanned him for illness.

 

“What's wrong with him?” Thor asked, unable to stop himself. While he viewed patience as a virtue, it really wasn't his strong suit.

 

Instead of answering him directly, Eir simply lamented, “I miss my Soul Forge.” She placed one hand on Loki's forehead. “It would really be useful right now. My own magic can only be so accurate.”

 

“Yes, but can you tell anything from -”

 

“I'm not sure,” Eir admitted, biting her lower lip. Thor could tell that she was loathed to say that she didn't know. “There's something....Something is hurting him, but if the cause is physical or psychological, I can't tell. Where your brother is concerned it could easily be either one.”

 

Thor nodded. He wasn't going to argue against that.

 

“You should have a heart to heart with him when he wakes. See if you can get to the bottom of this.”

 

“I keep trying!” Thor insisted. “Loki has always been secretive.”

 

He looked down at his sleeping brother. It was a relief to see Loki looking so relaxed and still for once, even though his skin looked paler than usual and there were dark rings around his eyes.

 

“I'm going to take him off ship for a few days,” Thor said. “There's a sort-of Pleasure Planet about a days flight from here. It has a casino -a very corrupt casino, if it's reviews are accurate. I'll take Loki there, and he can blow off some steam, put his talents to good use, then we'll come back.”

 

It was an idea he had been toying with for the past few days, but now he knew that he really wanted to go for it. For Loki's sake, of course.

 

The way that Eir's mouth was hanging open you might have thought that she had just scolded her tongue.

 

“I'm not convinced, Majesty. He needs peace and quiet and -”

 

Thor almost laughed.

 

“Loki? The boredom will only make him worse. I think we can both agree that he's been on his best behaviour since Ragnarök. If it weren't for him Love-Lost would have consumed us all. It's only fair that we keep finding ways for him to be the god of Mischief which don't involve betraying us. Because he will betray us if he gets too bored. And what better way than to take him to a casino which boasts about being impossible to beat? He'll love the challenge.”

 

[You don't trust him?] asked Tina.

 

Thor waved his hand in a so-so way.

 

“I trust him when he's being trustworthy. That's the tragedy of having a trickster for a brother – you always have to hold them at arms length to stop them from stabbing you in the back, even when you want to hug them.”

 

“Very well,” said Eir, primly. “When do we leave?”

 

Thor blinked at her. “We?”

 

“I'm coming with you, of course. We still don't know the cause of his loss of control. You need a Healer with you.”

 

Thor aimed to make the expression on his face an even mixture of grateful, but firm, while trying to give aghast a wide berth. Eir was a loyal friend who only had Loki's best interests at heart, but to take her along would be akin to taking one's mother to a wild party – all the fun would be sucked out of it.

 

“Uh, that's a very kind offer, Eir, but I think its best that we go alone. Threes a crowd, you know.”

 

“I'm willing to come, too,” Val called. “Then we can be a four.”

 

“If you're going then I'll go,” Korg chipped in. “Being stuck on this here ship is starting to get to me.”

 

“I know exactly what you mean, Korgy.”

 

Thor raised his voice for attention. “No, I'm sorry, everyone, but it really should just be me and Loki this time. A sort-of Brother Bonding Road Trip. But, Heimdall, you can keep your eyes peeled for a suitable planet we can all visit together.”

 

“As you wish, Majesty.”

 

Thor lifted Loki up in his arms, making sure that Loki's arms were folded comfortably in his lap.

 

“Good. Right, see you in a few days everyone.”

 

[You're going now?] Tina asked, taken aback.

 

“No time like the present.”

 

[But you haven't planned anything out. Are you going to take spare clothes? Do you need a packed lunch? This seems very impulsive of you, Thor.]

 

“Yeah, well, I'm the impulsive kind. Everything always turns out fine in the end. I've learnt that trying to plan too far ahead never really works for me.”

 

[But, aren't kings supposed to be a little more....uh...never mind...]

 

“Responsible?” Eir finished, arms folded across her chest. “Yes, they are. Thor, do you really want to take Loki now that he's unconscious? It'll be very disorientating for him to wake up in a strange place.”

 

“Loki enjoys surprises. Being disorientated will be a thrill for him. Besides, I'll be there for him when he wakes up.” Eir still didn't look convinced, so he added, “I can take care of him, I promise. I'm just trying to keep all my people – including Loki – safe at the same time. I'm doing what I think is right.”

 

He paused by the elevator. “Oh, can one of you get the cleaners up here? It's a real mess. Thanks.”

 


 

 

On board The Commodore, Eir tucked Loki's icy blankets around his shoulders and adjusted the pillow under his head, trying to make him as comfortable as possible as he lay across three seats. The trickster god was still fast out and showing no signs of waking soon. There was a king-sized circular bed at the back of the ship, but given its dubious past no one wanted to put Loki down there.

 

“If he doesn't wake up by tomorrow morning then come straight back,” she instructed Thor.

 

“Of course.”

 

“And be alert to any sign that his headache has returned. Leave if he starts hearing everyone's thoughts. Keep him calm if he starts feeling distressed again.”

 

“Yes, Mother.”

 

Eir gave him a look which could have a felled a Groot at ten paces.

 

“This is serious, Thor. He needs looking after properly. I'm not sure that a trip to a casino is going to be much help.”

 

“You don't know brother like I do. Loki needs to get away from The Statesman for a while, from all that responsibility.”

 

Eir arched an eyebrow. “If you say so. Have fun, but not too much fun.”

 

Thor had no idea by what she meant by raising her eyebrow at him.

 


 

 

Loki awoke some hours later. The first thing he noticed was the lack of noise inside his own head – no intruding voices thinking bland thoughts about food or sleep or their needing a trip to the bathroom; no spiteful or resentful thoughts about who had slighted who; or lustful thoughts and obsessing over if those thoughts were reciprocated; no more voices proclaiming their grief over lost loved ones or the fall of Asgard – those had been the hardest ones to bear.

 

Loki might have wept with relief if he hadn't felt so sluggish and foggy minded. Usually the god of Mischief considered all information as useful, storing the most interesting titbits away in his memory in case he needed to use it against someone, but being exposed to everyone's most intimate thoughts all at once had just proved overwhelming in the end. Perhaps it had been a punishment, karma, for not caring enough about his people in the past. Now he considered himself intimately acquainted with everybody on board The Statesman, being privy to their greatest ambitions, favourite meals, and bathroom schedules. How did Heimdall endure hearing and seeing most things without going mad? Maybe the guardian had always been mad, but no one had noticed before.

 

Now his mind was blissfully quiet and empty, except of his own thoughts and....

 

“Thor...?” His voice sounded dry and raspy to his own ears.

 

From what he could hear, Thor was intensely focused on piloting a ship of some kind...The Commodore...but why...why weren't they on The Statesman?

 

“Thor?” His voice was stronger this time.

 

His brother spun round in his seat and smiled when he saw Loki awake.

 

[Good, he's awake. He still looks out of it, though. Those marshmallows are made of strong stuff.]

 

“You okay?”

 

Loki wasn't sure of the answer, so he said nothing. There was a peculiar feeling all over his body, like his skin being tightened over his muscles...and he was shaking, but he wasn't feeling frightened...As far as Loki knew being scared was the only reason to shiver. He felt another new sensation, one of something invisible crawling down his spine, making him almost jump off the seats. He tried pulling his chilly blankets closer around himself, but that only made the uncomfortable sensations stronger, so he dropped them onto the floor, along with the pillow.

 

I'm cold, he suddenly thought, surprising himself because he had never felt cold before. Never.

 

However, he didn't have long to contemplate the implications of this new experience before he was lulled back into sleep by the left over traces of the sedative in his bloodstream and the comforting white noise of Thor's thoughts.

 


 

 

The Tesseract was angry that her plaything had left the ship without her, but there was still some fun to be had before she forced him to come back... Well, if he didn't want to be with her then she would send him some place far away....

 


 

 

“Loki, are you alright?”

 

Thor was startled by how suddenly Loki had sat bolt upright when he had been deeply asleep only seconds ago. He was even more alarmed when Loki's eyes sprung open and all Thor could see was a bright blue light shining where there should have been an emerald green.

 

The same blue light swarmed all over the controls, sending sparks flying.

 

“Loki, what's happening?!”

 

Loki, of course, did not answer as he collapsed back over the seats as The Commodore was teleported to a distant part of the galaxy in a crackle of blue energy.

 

 


 

 

Thor did his best to maintain control of the ship, although that was proving close to impossible, especially given how confused he felt at that time. All he knew was that there was a big planet up ahead and they were being pulled towards it with increasing speed. It was going to be a bumpy landing.

 

He tried to recall everything his flight instructor had taught him about crash landings centuries ago.

 

Never see a crash landing as a mistake. See it as either a learning importunity to improve your skills as a pilot. Or, if you really messed things up, at least you can take comfort in the afterlife knowing that you will never ever crash again and other people can learn from you.”

 

Not very helpful.

 


 

 

There is a famous saying on Midgard which goes, “If you can walk away from a landing, it's a good landing.” By this logic Thor should have felt proud of himself for having landed the Commodore in the middle of a desert and lived to tell the tale, but for once his good humour failed him when he realised that the ship was completely dead and that he couldn't rouse Loki at all.

 

The sun beat down harshly on his head as he scanned the scene before him, but he could not spot a single, solitary sign of life. And because The Commodore had no power in it to maintain its life support systems, the mostly metal ship was quickly heating up inside, like a giant oven. He had no choice but to place Loki over his shoulder, covered up by his ice blanket and start walking in whatever direction he fancied.

 

Thor had no idea for how long he trudged over the sand, but the Fates clearly wanted them to live because after some hours he was held up by Doc Sheriff, who had been patrolling the area after hearing rumours of a strange low-flying aircraft.

 

His relief at seeing someone who could possibly help overwhelmed his surprise at seeing the Rainless man astride a two-headed horse. In that moment, he was too hot, tired, and worried about Loki to feel much amazement, although that would come later.

 

“You wanna know what my role is here?” Doc Sheriff demanded, pointing a flimsy looking pistol at Thor's head. “I'm the Sheriff. I'm also the doctor – that was was my chosen profession, but needs must. Times are hard. And as Sheriff it's part of my job to keep my eyes peeled for anything suspicious. So, when I hear of a ship flying low over the desert, I think to myself, “Dim, you might wanna check that out because that sounds sort-of suspicious.”. And then when I ride out there and come across a smooth-skinned stranger carrying something which looks a helluva lot like a corpse over his shoulder...well, I could look up suspicious in my Sheriff's Handy Guide Of Suspicious Things To Look Out For and find a description of you there, you know what I'm saying? You may as well have a sign pointing down on you with flashing lights saying, “Oh, boy, this guy is suspicious!”” He pulled back the safety-catch on his pistol. “Really hoping you have a good explanation, Stranger.”

 

“We crash landed here,” Thor croaked. “And he's not a corpse. He's my brother.”

 

“So that was you? Well, you can just go right ahead and put your corpse-brother down, uncover him and then step away. I want to take a look.”

 

With a little reluctance Thor complied. He was disturbed to see Loki shivering slightly and looking as white as a sheet.

 

The Sheriff crouched down beside Loki and began to examine him, gently taking Loki's head in his scaly hands, and tilting it from side to side.

 

“Well, you're right, Stranger. That ain't no corpse. Brother, eh? Yeah, I can see the resemblance.”

 

“You can?”

 

“Well, to be honest, you people all look alike to me.” He gently tapped Loki's cheek. “Can you hear me?” He looked back to Thor. “Was he knocked out? What happened?”

 

“It's...complicated...” Thor hedged.

 

“It always is,” the Rainless said, brushing the dust off his knees. “Put him on my horse and I'll lead you to town. I know a safe place where you can stay. The barkeep is a close friend of mine and owes me several big favours. But I'm warning you, Stranger, my town doesn't take kindly to sick people. You're going to have to keep this one hidden until he's better.”

 

Thor could have kissed him, but that would have been a way too familiar act to impose on someone he had just met. So he opted for grinning as broadly as could.

 

“I really like you,” he told the Sheriff.

 

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just get your brother onto Har here and we can get going. The sun will have gone down before we know it...”

 


 

AN: This is the end of the flashback. LOL, Tina is growing as a character. Poor Thor is going to have his work cut out trying to care for Loki. Thank you for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

A Fistful of Lightening – Part Four

 

The fever was doing strange things to Loki's mind, twisting and stretching thoughts and memories into weird half dreams, as he was pulled in and out between sleep and wakefulness, like a wave being dragged over the sand on a beach...back and forth, back and forth....it was relentless, constant, wearisome...leaving him exhausted and listless...

 

Eyelids fluttered like moth wings. His vision was blurry, his mind uncomprehending of the scene around him...the concept of scale was lost...objects and furniture were nameless and unrecognisable, growing and shrinking out of proportion...time and location were also lost in the fire of the sickness. He could be anywhere at any point in his history...none of it made sense...

 

He was lying...somewhere...it was mostly dark, although there was a golden light near to him...not that powerful, enough to frighten the shadows into scuttling over the walls like disturb spiders...A rustle of fabric above him...a curtain flapping like a broken bird...

 

Loki moaned. The room was alive, trying to swallow him whole. And there was sand in his blood, rubbing against the inside of his skin as it was pushed around his veins. He tried stretching out and curling up, but there was no comfortable position to be found. He was too light and the blankets too heavy. He writhed under the scratchy sheets, his skin sensitive to every single thread.

 

“Shhh,” a low voice kept telling him. “It's okay, Loki. You'll be alright. Just try to relax.”

 

There was a shadowy figure leaning over him. Loki could just about see his face, but the fever prevented him from recognising it. He saw a dark shape sticking to part of the face and some part of his mind identified it as being an eye-patch.

 

“Odin...” the name slipped out on a raspy out-breath, barely more than a whisper. He tried to shift away, but he lacked the strength.

 

After all this time Odin had finally come to see him in his cell...Maybe he finally wanted to listen to what Loki had to say about Thanos....or set him free...

 

The shadow shook it's head. “No, it's Thor,” it said, softly.

 

That didn't make sense...eye-path meant Odin, not Thor...He'd preferred Thor to Odin, but still....

 

Thor was the enemy, wasn't he? Someone who would prevent Thanos' plans from coming to fruition...No, that wasn't right either...

 

Brother, however I have wronged you, whatever I have done that has led you to do this, I am truly sorry.”

 

No, Thor was the kind one, the trustworthy one, the one hadn't given up on Loki even when he said a couple of times that he had.

 

Loki groaned. He was feeling very confused. He thought that he had shaken off Thanos' influence years ago, but the fever seemed to have dragged up the dregs of the Titan's control and teachings from the back of his mind.

 

“Drink some water for me.”

 

A cup briefly passed across his eyeline, blurring in his sight. Even in the dim light Loki's could discern that the cup was a deep purple colour. Alarm bells began to ring at the back of his mind. Purple was a bad colour. It was bitter, sickly – the taste of death. He coughed, the colour of purple sticking to his tongue.

 

The hard rim of the cup was pressed against his lips, but its unexpected coolness was enough to make him jump. Too cold. Too bitter. Poison. He turned his head away.

 

Strong fingers, which felt chilly to him, gently but firmly pressed themselves against his cheek, turning his head back.

 

Fingers, soft and putrid, smelling like rotting flesh, moved over his face, covering his nose and mouth.

 

There will be no realm, no barren moon, no crevice where he cannot find you...”

 

He tried to summon the strength to get away, but heavy hands pushed him back down. The pressure seemed to settle the sand under his skin, so lay he still, hoping that the hands would remain on his arms.

 

“You have to drink something,” the shadow's voice insisted from somewhere above him. “You'll dehydrate.”

 

One hand moved away from his left arm, leaving it feeling twitchy and exposed to the cold air, but mercifully the other hand stayed where it was.

 

The cup was against his mouth again and immediately tipped upwards. Icy cold water water sloshed around his mouth, sending painful chills running down his body. Reflex took over and Loki began to gulp the liquid down.

 

The moment seemed to last for ever, the cup never emptying. Eventually, Loki grew too tired of the water to drink any more and he pulled away from the cup.

 

“You've only had a few sips,” his brother's voice said, sounding both disapproving and worried at the same time. “Have some more. Come on, now.”

 

The purple cup shimmered in the air as it moved towards him. A foul bitterness filled Loki's mouth. Weakly, he tried to knock the cup away. He was barely able to raise his arm, but it was enough to send the cup away.

 

“Okay, we'll try again in a while.”

 

Now there were no comforting hands holding him down. The sand burned like fire under his skin, shifting and swirling around, rubbing against his nerves. Loki tried rolling onto one side and then the other, but he was too light to still the sand.

 

His eyes roamed around the room. The walls expanded outwards, bending and creaking, before contracting inwards with a deep groan. It was breathing them in. Dark skeletons floated over the wallpaper and the curtains fluttered like the shroud of a ghost. His gaze moved to the corner where Hela, goddess of Death sat, looking at him with hungry eyes and smirking.

 

He wasn't ready for her.

 

“No...” he moaned. “Thor...”

 

“It's okay, you're safe.”

 

Something cool was dabbed repeatedly against his forehead and cheeks. He shivered under its touch. It was distraction enough to send the monsters in the room away.

 

He could hear Thor humming rhythmically before quietly singing some ancient Midgard song with words from a half-forgotten language.

 

“Peis dinogat e vreith vreith, o grwyn balaot ban wreith, chwit chwit chwidogeith. Gochanwn gochenyn wythgeith. pan elei dy dat ty e helya...”

 

The song was older than Loki and almost as old as Thor. It didn't matter what the song was about. Songs like that were so old it was like staring into the heart of a fire, providing a thread into the past to cling to.

 

Loki sighed as the cool something was pressed against his neck.

 

“llath ar y ysgwyd llory eny law, ef gelwi gwn gogyhwc, giff gaff. Dhaly dhaly dhwg dhwg, ef lledi bysc yng corwc...”

 

A wave of fire and ice rolled over him, making him writhe in the bed, unable to keep still. But then – oh, great mercy – he felt one of the heavy hands squeezing his upper arm as the thumb rubbed circles into into the muscle.

 

“Dydygai ef penn ywrch penn gwythwch pen hyd, penn grugyar vreith o venyd...”

 

The singing and the rubbing of his shoulder continued until Loki had finally, Loki crossed the boarder into proper sleep.

 


 

AN: Cough, cough, sneeze, sneeze...I have this weird problem where I always seem to get sick when writing sick fics...Sister, I'm finished. I know I've hundreds of colds before, but it's really the end this time...

Thor is singing Dinogad's Smock, an Old Welsh lullaby which is about 1400 years old. It's on Youtube.

On the bright side, I discovered that there is an animated Avenger's film about Loki trying to steal the powers of Santa Claus. LOL.

Thanks for reading! If I don't post again, assume that I've expired and build me a big statue.

 

Chapter Text

 

A Fistful of Lightening – Part Five

 

Over a thousand years ago, Thor and Loki's tutor had been teaching them the importance of being able to see people's personalities objectively, and so as an exercise had asked each of them to write down a list of each other's virtues and flaws.

 

Even now Thor could clearly recall Loki's rather unfavourable assessment of his character. In his neat handwriting Loki had written two different headings. On the left side of the page was Virtues and on the right was Flaws. The Virtues column was rather sparse looking with only two adjectives listed: Courageous, followed by Amusing. The Flaws column had much more attention and imagination dedicated to it, with descriptions such as: Vainglorious, Overly gregarious, Braggart. He had also been most intrigued to see that Stubborn had been placed in the middle, hovering between Virtues and Flaws.

 

“Stubbornness is generally considered to be a flaw, Loki,” their tutor had said with a sniff. “Now, patience and determination are virtues. You could have written those down. And perhaps put obstinate or pig-headed in the flaws column.”

 

“His stubbornness can be either a help or a hindrance depending on the situation.” Loki had protested. “And patience is not a synonym for stubbornness. Look it up.”

 

The cane had been struck across his hands for that. Even back then Loki had been too clever for his own good.

 

The incident had stuck inside Thor's memory over the years, him being rather proud that Loki viewed his stubbornness (or obstinacy) as both something to be admired and despaired of. If it was solely a flaw, then it was the kind of flaw one could be secretly proud of.

 

Back in the present, Thor was beginning to understand that it would take every ounce of both patience and stubbornness he possessed to continue caring for Loki. The trickster god may have been trapped in a deep, feverish sleep for much of the time, but he still managed to cause trouble for Thor.

 

Although, the freezing of the bed and bedroom floor was useful in lowering Loki's fever, it was not good for heightening Thor's patience. Ice has a nasty habit of melting in temperatures above 0 degrees, and in turn, water has a nasty habit of soaking bed linen and hard wooden floors.

 

Everyday, Loki would subconsciously freeze the room, and everyday Thor would have to scoop him up in his arms, carry him to the kitchen/living area, place him down on the too-small battered sofa with flora print, where his legs would hang over one of the arm-rests, and strip the bed before the frost could melt and wet the mattress. After that he would mop the floor. And then he would he make the bed with yesterday's sheets (which had been hung up to dry on the line in the kitchen). This was followed by him pegging the now-damp sheets up on the line and carrying Loki back to bed. He had never felt so domesticated before in all his life.

 

He didn't find the work physically hard, but it did make him realise how pampered he had been in the palace of Asgard. He had never made a bed before, or mopped a floor, or hung washing up on a line. Even on The Statesman he had servants to clean his room and wash his clothes. He hadn't asked them to do those things for him. They just did them and he just let them. He just hoped that Val wouldn't find out.

 

“There we go. That's better, right?” he said, as placed Loki back on the bed.

 

Now that he had gotten himself into a routine, Thor had to admit there was something strangely satisfying about caring for the sick. It felt pretty good to be helping someone who couldn't care for themselves. There was no obvious glory in it, and most of the time it was simply tedious, but there was something heartening about it. Maybe if being god of Thunder didn't work out for him he could train to be a Healer instead. He could known as Healer Thor for the Sick.

 

He gave his brother's shoulder a brief pat. However, as turned his back Thor heard a familiar soft crackling sound. He whipped round to see, once again, a thin sheet of ice flowing across the room.

 

“Oh, come on!” Thor groaned. “Loki! Again?”

 

For the second time that day Thor carried Loki to the sofa, stripped the bed, hung up the damp sheet....and so on and so on, huffing all the time. Maybe Healer Thor wasn't meant to be after all.

 

“Don't do that again!” Thor warned him some time later, as he carefully covered Loki up with his ice blanket and adjusted his pillows. “We're running out of dry sheets.” As he sat on the side of the bed he couldn't resist feeling Loki's forehead in a clumsy attempt to try and gauge his temperature. Loki's skin still felt warm and clammy beneath his hand. “Eir's going to kill me for not listening, you know that, right? Still, if she'd had her way you would have confined to bed rest onboard The Statesman and I know that the boredom would have driven you nuts.” He paused, looking for any sign of a reaction on his brother's sleeping face, but saw none. He chuckled nervously. “I know it's your pattern to die every few years, so you're probably due another death, but do you think you could put it off for another thousand years, please? Come on, Loki, you need to get better now. You could at least tell me what you need to get better.”

 

Loki's eyelids twitched slightly, but that was all. Thor squeezed his shoulder as he stood up.

 

“Alright, brother, I'll be back to check on you soon.”

 

[Majesty...]

 

Thor jumped at the sound of the faint voice inside his head.

 

“Heimdall!” he cried. “You can see us?”

 

[I can...but the image is dim...Patience! I will ask him!]

 

“Heimdall?”

 

[It's Korg,] the watchman replied, sounding somewhat huffy. [He's told me to say hello and ask how you are.]

 

How kind. There was nothing like being marooned on a desert planet to make one appreciate their friends all the more.

 

“Oh. Then tell him I also say hello and that I'm -”

 

[Actually, Majesty, do you mind not using me to relay messages?]

 

“Sorry.”

 

[How did you get thrown so far off course?]

 

“I'm not entirely sure...” Thor hedged. “Loki seemed to experience a surge in power and then we crashed landed here. Can you come and get us?”

 

Heimdall chuckled, a rare occurrence.

 

[This is just like old times. You and Loki disappearing somewhere in the Nine Realms, staying out too late, getting into trouble, and then needing me to bring you back.]

 

Thor rolled his eyes. “Yeah, it's a real hoot. Are you coming?”

 

[We're already on our way. It will take a couple of weeks for us to reach you. Can you hold out till then?]

 

“I can,” Thor said, as he glanced towards the bed. “But Loki's very sick. I've made friends with the local doctor, but he's stumped as to what's wrong with him. So, anything you can do to get here faster...”

 

There was a pause as Heimdall considered his answer.

 

[I can't make any promises, Majesty, but we will do our best.]

 

“Thank you, my friend.”

 

The silence of the room weighed heavily on the king after he felt Heimdall's voice receding from his mind. He looked around the room feeling suddenly feeling a little lost and alone. He was not used to being told to sit tight and wait for help to arrive. He was more suited to taking action, but what more could he do other than to continue looking after Loki? At least he could take comfort from knowing that his friends were on their way. He just had to hope that Loki would either recover during that time, or at least not get any worse.

 

“Thor...Thor...”

 

Thor's heart leapt at the sound of his brother's voice.

 

Loki's eyes were only half open, but Thor could see them shining brightly with the light of fever in them.

 

He sat down on the bed again, placing a hand on Loki's head. He could feel the heat radiating off Loki; his fever must have spiked again.

 

“Hey,” he greeted softly. “You okay?”

 

Loki blinked rapidly and clutched at the blanket tightly in his hands.

 

“There's a ...” he whispered.

 

Thor lent in closer. “A what?”

 

“A bilgesnip under the bed,” Loki said, with a moan.

 

Thor couldn't help but smile.

 

“You're dreaming, Loki. There's no bilgesipes here.”

 

“He's staring at me.”

 

“I thought you said it was under the bed? Just dreaming, Loke.”

 

“Get rid of it...”

 

“Oh, come on.”

 

“Please...”

 

“Fine!”

 

Feeling exceptionally foolish, Thor stood up and tried to work out how to expel an imaginary bilgesnipe from the room. He crouched beside the bed, peering under it, and made a little show of “grabbing” it and struggling to keep a hold of it as he walked to the window and mimed shoving the offending creature out into the wide blue yonder, while all the time there was the voice of suspicion informing him that Loki was simply taking him for a ride.

 

“There! Gone!” he proudly proclaimed, patting his hands together. “Happy?”

 

An eerie smile stretched across his brother's face before he drifted off to sleep again.

 

Thor sighed loudly. Given that his patience was rapidly wearing out only his stubbornness and refusal to give up would remain to help him power through this dire situation. He turned around just in time to watch the ice creeping down the bed legs and over the floor for the third time that day.

 

The god of Thunder cursed loudly as he tore back the blanket, moved Loki to the sofa, stripped the bed, mopped the floor....and so and so on for the third time that day.

 

Yes, indeed in this case, his stubbornness most definitely belonged squarely under the heading of Virtue.

 

Gods give him strength.

 


 

AN: Thanks for reading! Thank you also for all your reviews – you're all very kind and awesome!

 

Chapter Text

 

A Fistful of Lightening – Part Six

 

“Good news, Stran...What in hell's name happened to you?! You look like you've been wrestling with a whole swarm of krick!”

 

Thor had no idea what a krick was, but he assumed that it was unpleasant, even more so if they came in swarms. He wiped the sweat and blood off his forehead with the back of his hand. Unknowingly, Doc Sheriff had been half right when he had said “wrestling”.

 

“I've been....fighting....a....unicorn!” he panted. At this point he was too tired to care if the Doc believed him or not, or what he would think about it if he did.

 

Loki, no, no you can't shape-shift here!”

 

Thor would have taken the ice any day over this – watching his brother shift into full unicorn Aspect, complete with shining white coat, gleaming golden horn, and rainbow coloured mane and tail.

 

Yes, he looked fabulous and would have sent any young girl squealing with excitement, but it was hardly a pleasing development when he was trapped inside a too-small room and out of his mind with fever.

 

Thor watched helplessly as a single kick of his back legs smashed the bed, sending splinters flying, and then with a single zap of magic from his horn turned the lamp into a mound of multi-flavoured ice-cream, complete with sprinkles and strawberry sauce.

 

Loki, pack it in!” Thor bellowed, latching himself around the unicorn's neck. “You have to turn back before the barkeep hears us! DO NOT TURN ME INTO ICE-CREAM!”

 

Predictably, Doc Sheriff laughed and pushed past Thor into the kitchen.

 

“Medical supplies have finally been delivered!” he said, proudly patting the bag he was carrying. “All the way from the capital no less. We can finally get this one onto a drip.”

 

His good humour faltered when he pushed open the bedroom door and saw the remains of the destroyed bed posts propped up against the wall, and the mattress and Loki(thankfully back in his Aesir form) lying on the floor.

 

“Unicorn, huh?” he mumbled. “I said it before, Stranger, but you guys are definitely suspicious.”

 

“You said something about a drip,” Thor said, hastily. “You mean like a tube in his arm?”

 

He had seen images of mortals hooked up to drips before and it never failed to make him shudder. There was something inherently wrong about seeing people lying ill with transparent bags slowly dripping liquids into their veins.

 

“That's right.”

 

“Isn't that a little...”

 

“A little what?”

 

“Well, uh, primitive.”

 

Doc laughed. “Stranger, I'm sure where you come from everything is highly advanced and you can just heal people with a click of your fingers, but here we muddle along as best we can. And as long as you stay here you're just gonna have to muddle right along with us. The drip will keep him hydrated and allow us to insert medicine and nutrients directly into his bloodstream. Trust me it will help a great deal.”

 

He began to carefully unpack his bag, explaining what the items were as he went along: needles, catheters, IV stand, IV bags of fluids....frankly it all made Thor's head spin and he found himself nodding along, but not really paying attention. He knew that the Doc was trying to reassure him by showing that he knew what he was talking about, but it didn't help much. He could handle needles being inserted to himself, but when it came to other people his skin would tingly unpleasantly with anticipation. He had to turn his back as the Doc prepared the venous catheter.

 

“That's strange...the needle won't go in.”

 

Thor could hear the confusion in the Doc's voice and he chanced peering over his shoulder to watch. Doc Sheriff was holding onto Loki's left arm and was prodding at a spot on his forearm, but to no avail – the catheter would not go in. He even held the needle to the light trying to see if it was sharp enough.

 

“It's not your fault,” Thor told him. “It's our skin. Uh, how can I explain this? It's a defence mechanism. You see, our bodies are naturally very tough, but we can allow needles to be inserted if we will it by allowing ourselves to relax enough. It requires a combination of concentration, relaxation and trust. I thought that because he was asleep you wouldn't have any trouble, but given that it's Loki, I should have known better.”

 

The Sheriff stared at him mystified for a moment and then he laughed again, scales flexing up and down.

 

“What strange creatures you are!” he cried, scales finally smoothing down. He held the catheter aloft. “Anyway, here you are. You give it a whirl.”

 

“What?”

 

While there were many things in life Thor would be happy to “give a whirl”, this one not one of them. He felt the same way he did when his tutor would hold out the chalk to him and demand that he solve a complex equation.

 

The Doc waved the catheter before him.

 

“You're his brother. I'm sure he trusts you more than me.”

 

Although Thor was sure that this was true, it still didn't say much where Loki was concerned. It was some reluctance that Thor accepted the catheter, holding gingerly in his fingers in case he should break the delicate equipment (a very real risk), and followed Doc's instructions about where to insert it.

 

He prodded, he poked, he jabbed, he pleaded, but still Loki's skin refused the catheter.

 

“Sorry,” he said, eventually, handing back the needle.

 

“It's not your fault,” the Doc said, patting his shoulder. “You're just gonna have to keep doing your best to keep him fed and watered that's all.”

 

“Fed?”

 

There was that feeling again: tutor, chalk, unsolvable (at least for Thor) equation. At least back then there was no risk of the tutor biting him.

 

“Yeah, a little soup will do. He's gonna need the nutrients and the energy.” The Doc returned to searching back through his bag and eventually produced a small vial of light blue liquid. “This will help to lower his fever. Two drops in his water in the morning and then again at night should do it. I'll give him his first dose now.”

 

The Doc used a small pipette to carefully squeeze out two drops of the liquid into the purple cup of water, stirred it, and then put the cup to Loki's mouth.

 

That's typical, Thor thought as he heard Loki gulping the water down without any resistance, that for the Sheriff he behaves.

 

After the cup was drained Doc Sheriff stood up with a creak of his scales and began packing up his bag.

 

“What do I owe you?” Thor asked.

 

The question was dismissed with a brief wave of Doc's hand.

 

“We'll worry about that another time, Stranger. Now, I've got to hurry. Places to be, Sheriff things to do and all before sun-down.”

 

Something about his tone of voice caught Thor's full attention.

 

“Something dangerous? Can I come?”

 

The Rainless man laughed at his eagerness. He slapped Thor's shoulder.

 

“Another time maybe. Look, why don't you explore the town a bit? He's not going anywhere and the medicine should kick in quickly.”

 

That was tempting. He could nip downstairs and enjoy a nice, frosty glass of beer. Something he had been craving for days.

 

Thor shook his head, thinking back to the unicorn incident earlier that day and to the constant freezing of the room.

 

“I don't like leaving him on his own for too long,” he said eventually, feeling very much the martyr.

 

“Suit yourself. I'll be seeing you, Stranger.”

 

 


 

As promised the medicine worked quickly and well, and when Loki surfaced sometime later he found his mind to be clearer than it had been in days, even if he did feel exhausted and limp.

 

He blinked away the blurriness in his eyes. He was lying on the floor of a rather cramped and comfortless room, which for some reason had a broken bed stand lying in pieces in the the corner. And were those hoof prints scorched into the floorboards?

 

He hauled himself off the mattress, alarmed at how weak he felt. His legs were shaking so much he was forced to hold onto the wall for support. He stumbled over to the window and drew back the curtains. Sunlight that was so powerful that his skin immediately began to sting, hit him full in the face, forcing him to withdraw again.

 

“I take it that you're feeling better then? The medicine must be working.”

 

Thor was standing in the doorway, arms folded. He was aiming for nonchalance, but Loki could see that he was barely able to suppress a grin.

 

“Where are we?” Loki asked, his voice low and raspy.

 

“Planet Rainless.”

 

Loki blinked a couple of times, but otherwise did not act as though the name meant something to him.

 

“How did...” His voice suddenly gave out. He coughed and tried again. No luck.

 

“Why don't you sit down before you fall down and I'll do the talking?”

 

Loki's stubborn streak reared its ugly head and he considered ignoring Thor, but the thought of not having to struggle to keep standing on trembling legs also had its appeal.

 

He dropped heavily onto the mattress and listened as Thor related the events of the past few days. He suspected that some details had been exaggerated for dramatic effect (it didn't sound very likely to Loki that Thor had wandered the desert for a whole week before they were rescued by Doc Sheriff), while other points in the narrative seemed to have been omitted all together (Loki had almost laughed when Thor had claimed that caring for him had been completely uneventful), however he chose not to interrupt his brother, instead allowing him to the tell story as he saw fit.

 

“So, this burning hot, bleak, dusty town is to be our home for the next two weeks?” he said, once Thor had finished speaking.

 

“Looks like it. Unless we can fix the Commodore.” Thor gave him an inquiring look. “Do you know what caused that surge in your magic? What's made you ill?”

 

“No-no idea,” Loki admitted, as he yawned loudly.

 

Thor looked as though he didn't quite believe him, but didn't push it. Instead he said, “You should rest. Is you anything you need?”

 

“I'd like a cold bath.”

 

Now that he had asked for it out loud, Loki's yearning to cleanse his skin and relax his aching muscles in bath full of cool, refreshing water was so tantalizing that he would have been willing to wrestle a bear for one. Or at least get Thor to wrestle a bear for him.

 

Thor pulled an apologetic face. “Sorry, but the Rainless don't bathe. They scrape off any dirt on their scales using a razor-like thingy and then coat themselves in an anti-bacterial powder. So, no bath tubs. You could do what I've been doing – using a sponge and a bucket.”

 

Loki thought about it. A sponge and a bucket didn't sound anywhere near as relaxing as the bath he had been wishing for, but his skin felt so dirty to the touch that anything was better than nothing. He nodded minutely.

 

Thor quickly returned with a half-filled bucket, sponge, bar of soap and two towels, and put them down on the floor.

 

Loki stared rather gloomily at the items. He was more than used to roughing it when circumstances called for it, but not after he had been so ill.

 

“Have fun,” Thor told him with a smile, before vacating the room again.

 

Still feeling a little dizzy, Loki spread out one of the towels over the floor and tore his shirt off. It did feel pleasant to cool his skin down, especially when he stood in the direction of the fan, making the fine hairs on his arms stand up.

 

As he washed he thought about Tina. His memory was hazy surrounding the events which had led them to planet Rainless and believed it possible that he may have seriously injured her. Not that he was concerned. Eir would have healed her, and in any case it was Tina's choice to run towards him when she should have stayed back. And all because she had some silly ideas about friends sticking together. How sentimental of her. Sentimental and rather sweet.

 

After the deed was done, Loki realised that he was hardly feeling any better. Just having a wash had taken up all of his energy. The heat in the room was stifling, making him feel tense and irritable. His whole body was aching and his head was pounding.

 

He flopped back down on the mattress, pulling his ice blanket up over his head. It provided much needed shelter from the heat, but he doubted that he could stay under there permanently for the full two weeks. He could try, though.

 

He heard the door open and the floorboards creak as Thor walk across the room.

 

“You okay?”

 

“I need more medicine,” the lump under the blanket moaned.

 

Thor shook his head.

 

“I can't give you any more until tonight. I don't know what it would do to you.”

 

“Aside from making me feel better? Yes, we wouldn't want that.”

 

Loki heard Thor step closer to the mattress and could practically feel him frowning.

 

“The medicine was designed for mortals, Loki. It's no wonder that it's only lasted a short time for you. I could give you a whole bucketful and it wouldn't make much difference.”

 

“But it would make some difference.” Loki sounded optimistic, as if he could persuade Thor to give him another dose. But, his brother was completely unmoved.

 

“We only have a small amount and we have to make it last until either Doc can order more or we get picked up by The Statesman. So, sorry, but no more for you until tonight.”

 

Thor watched as the lump rolled over. He assumed that Loki was presenting his back to him, but he couldn't be sure. Sulking was most effective when done in full view.

 

“I have to go now. We need food.”

 

He waited for a reaction but none was forthcoming.

 

“And I'll be taking the medicine with me, so don't waste your strength searching for it.”

 

The lump remained as silent as a rock. This worried Thor. If Loki had been himself he would surely protested at Thor and demand to be allowed out of the room as well, but instead he continued to recline limply under the blanket, not moving a muscle.

 

“I'll be back soon,” Thor assured him.


 

 

By now the townspeople were more or less used to Thor's presence in their community, even if they were still in awe of his appearance (his height and smooth skin were of particular interest to them) and mostly kept a wary distance from him. However, because Doc Sheriff seemed to have accepted him the majority of them also accepted him, rather than try to run him out of town. Something which would have been very reckless of them.

 

He went first to the butchers, who bravely decided to ask if Thor had been skinned and where were his scales now.

 

“I shoved them down the throat of the last man who dared insult me,” Thor answered with a toothy smile. He held out his massive hand. “Can I have my change now?”

 

His change was quickly given.

 

After that he brought a couple of loaves of bread from the baker (without incident) and found that he still had some money left over. He looked up towards the last shop in the row. It was a tiny, rundown place, much neglected by the townsfolk.

 

Why not? He thought to himself.

 

He had to duck his head in order to squeeze through the door and once inside had to take a minute to allow his eyes to adjust to the gloom. All the other shops had large glass windows so that the Rainless inside could absorb as much sunlight as possible, but this place was different. It seemed to have been designed to block out as much of the light as it could without being absolutely pitch-black.

 

Loki would like it in here, Thor thought as he carefully shuffled past the overstuffed, dusty, bookshelves to the counter. A slight Rainless woman was sitting in an armchair, fanning herself and reading a fat paperback novel. She was wearing sunglasses, despite the lack of light.

 

“Can I help you, Stranger?” she asked in a wheezy voice.

 

Thor suspected that she wouldn't sound so reedy if she just did some dusting.

 

“I would like to buy some books.”

 

“Well, either you've come to the right place or there's something more wrong with my eyes than I had previously thought.” She tapped the frame of her sunglasses with her fan.

 

“You're different from the others,” Thor commented before he could stop himself. He was immediately embarrassed by his own rudeness. “Sorry, I didn't mean -”

 

“It's okay. I am used to it. And if you actually buy something then you can say whatever you like to me. What were you after exactly?”

 

Thor blew out his lips as he glanced around. Really, he had no idea. He had never been inside a bookshop before.

 

“I was, uh, hoping to replace some books which I destroyed.”

 

The Rainless' brows rose above her sunglasses.

 

“You destroyed books? Why would you do such a thing?”

 

Thor shrugged. “I was having a bad day. Well, bad few weeks, to be honest. And I guess that...somehow I thought if I destroyed something I loved I wouldn't feel as much.”

 

“And did it work, Stranger?”

 

“No. It just meant I had lost something more.”

 

“That's too bad, Stranger.”

 

“So, anything by Shakespeare?” Thor asked, not sounding too hopeful.

 

“Who?”

 

“Never mind. And no Tennyson, right?”

 

“Not a single letter.”

 

“Does that you mean you've heard of him?”

 

“No.”

 

Thor looked about again, feeling hopelessly lost.

 

“What sort of books did they write? Maybe I have something of the same genre.”

 

“Tennyson was a poet. And Shakespeare was a play-write.”

 

He felt proud of himself for knowing that much.

 

“Hm-hm. I'm fresh out of poems and plays.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“What did they like to write about?” the Rainless woman prompted.

 

Thor desperately searched his memory for any quote or theme or story that might help him to answer the question. He was annoyed with how much he was struggling to do so. Loki had been reading this stuff for hundreds of years, surely some of it should have rubbed off on him.

 

And then, just as he was about to give up, a flash of a woman with a magic mirror and of soldiers on horseback.

 

“Uh...well...Tennyson...he liked to write about dead women floating down rivers and...oh, yeah, soldiers of light charging the shadow valley of death on the backs of canons...”

 

Now that he had put it like that it did sound more exciting than he had previously thought.

 

“And Shakespeare?”

 

More desperate searching through his memory, only this time he felt a little more confident.

 

“About kings and queens taming shrews...and Prince Hal wanting to do it for England, Harry, and St George....”

 

“Do what?”

 

“Um, I think he wanted to go into the breach. Once more.”

 

The shopkeeper reached under the counter and dropped two battered paperbacks onto the surface.

 

“Why don't you try these? They're very popular. And romantic.”

 

Thor looked at the titles: Her Journey of Destiny and The Vengeful Mistress.

 

Well, they sounded like they could be interesting enough to keep hold of the attention of a sick person without being too taxing, so Thor smiled, handed over the appropriate money, and walked out of the shop feeling very pleased with himself.

 


 

AN: Anyone care to make a guess as to what those paperbacks are about? Thor is more innocent than we are, so don't go telling him.

Loki turns into an unicorn in Agent of Asgard. It's a very funny moment.

Anyone else notice that Loki blinks a lot when nervous? Like when he's being threatened by The Other.

Thank you for reading!

 

 

Chapter Text

 

A Fistful of Lightening – Part Seven

 

Thor returned to their rooms in a rather good mood. This time his shopping expedition had been a complete success. He had books, bread, and meat. And he had done it all without being forced to work on a check-out or by picking up any weird shape-shifting women.

 

He was a little surprised to find Loki lying face down on the sofa, wrapped up in his blanket, and fast out. Thor supposed that he had become tired of being on the mattress and had wanted a slight change of scene.

 

There was a battered and slightly greasy cook book in the top kitchen drawer. Thor flipped through its pages before settling on a stew. The author claimed that it was a, “quick and simple recipe every time.” Well, if the author was confident of the outcome then why shouldn't he be?

 

“How hard can it be?” Thor asked aloud.

 


 

 

Ever the optimist, Thor had assumed that following the recipe would as simple as counting to ten and that within the hour he would have produced a mouth-watering meal which would match the photo in the book.

 

Turns out he was wrong. There was a lot more multi-tasking involved, and boiling and chopping ingredients (many of which he didn't have) than he had envisioned. And he was quite sure that he hadn't cooked the meat properly, so he gave it a quick zap with his electricity before tossing it (now blackened and smoking) into the saucepan.

 

Incredibly, Loki slept through all the noise – the clanging of pots and the occasional cursing as Thor either managed to hurt himself or do something he wasn't meant to do – and through the smells. Oh, the smells. He couldn't tell if they were good or bad, but they were definitely strong.

 

When he had finished Thor gave his brother's shoulder a tap, and when he wouldn't wake, stretched out his hand just above Loki's head and used his own brand of magic to create a positive charge in the air. The finer strands of Loki's hair began to stand up on end, making him look like a strange bird.

 

“Get....off...” Loki demanded sluggishly, clumsily knocking Thor's hand aside. “Hate it when you do that.”

 

“I know,” Thor replied with a smile. “That's why you slick your hair back. Don't think that I hadn't figured that one out. Anyway, come on, I made us something to eat.”

 

Loki's eyes widened and he sat bolt upright, grasping Thor's sleeve tightly in his hand.

 

“You cooked?” he hissed. “Thor, you promised!” Then he looked to the ceiling and said loudly, “He didn't mean to, Domnu!”

 

Thor felt rather hurt. He shook himself free from Loki's grip saying, “Nothing's going to happen. And I worked hard making that stew. You could at least try it.”

 

Loki sniffed the air. “Is that what it's supposed to be? I thought that I had thrown up and forgotten about it.”

 

“Rude! To the table, now!”

 

Reluctantly, hesitantly, and shuffling his feet, Loki wobbled to the table, still wrapped in his blanket, and sat down heavily in the nearest chair. He viewed the bowl of “stew” in much the same way as a sick person looks at the doctor who asks, “I hope that you haven't booked any holidays this year...?”

 

Thor sat beside him, smiling encouragingly.

 

“Shall we...?” he asked, pressing his hands together.

 

Loki rolled his eyes, but copied his brother as together they recited,“For this plateful make us grateful.”

 

Loki poked at his stew with the spoon, stirring it this way and that way, as if he expected to unearth (or perhaps unstew) some hidden treasure concealed at the bottom.

 

Eventually, he pushed the bowl away, saying, “Thor, I understand that our acquaintance has been a short one, so I don't blame you for not knowing that I am a shape-shifter and therefore I don't consume meat.”

 

Thor pushed the bowl back towards his brother, wearing a strained smile.

 

“Sorry, but you need to build your strength back up. And you're not going to achieve that by simply chewing on pimbles – that's the only kind of veg they have here. I'm still not entirely sure how to describe it. But, for your sake, I chopped it up and threw it in with the rest. So, eat up.”

 

“It's the wrong colour.”

 

“Perhaps you would prefer it slopped over your head.”

 

They engaged in brief staring contest, in which Loki broke eye-contact first.

 

He jabbed at a lump of grey meat with his spoon. “What is it, anyway? Or rather, what was it?”

 

“You don't want to know.” Thor shovelled his stew into his mouth eagerly, rather enjoying it. It was a little tough, but not bad for a first attempt.

 

Loki watched him warily for a moment before scooping up a spoonful of pimble (he decided to avoid the meat as best as he could), stared at it for a moment, and placed it into his mouth.

 

Coughing and retching were the initial reactions, closely followed by a dash to the sink.

 

Thor was on his feet. “What? What's the matter?”

 

“It's full of salt, you idiot!”

 

“It's supposed to be. To give it flavour. And to act as a substitute for everything I didn't have. Which was quite a bit, to be honest.”

 

“The Dead Sea on Midgard has less salt in it than your stew! I could float a cow on top of that.”

 

Loki rinsed his mouth out with a glass of water, before refilling it to the brim.

 

“I want to go bed,” he announced. He held out his cup. “Medicine.”

 

Wordlessly, Thor drew the vial from his pocket and used the attached pipette to squeeze two drops into Loki's water. Loki greedily gulped the liquid down, before throwing Thor one final sour before he left the room.

 

Thor tried another mouthful from his own bowl.

 

“Tastes fine to me.”

 


 

 

Something told Thor that he should look in on Loki before going to sleep himself. He was rather glad that he did. The medicine had worked for a short time, but already it had worn off again. Even from the doorway he could see the sweat glistening on Loki's forehead as he tossed and turned under the sheets.

 

“You look terrible.”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“Can't sleep?”

 

“Evidently not.”

 

Thor withdrew from the room for a few moments, and when he had returned he was holding something in his hand.

 

“I brought a couple of books for you. A get-well soon present.”

 

Loki rolled onto his tummy and hid his head under the pillow.

 

“Not really in the mood for reading right now, Thor.” He sounded truly miserable.

 

Thor watched him feeling sorry for him. He hesitated just for a second before shyly saying, “Well, I suppose I could read to you.”

 

“I'm not a child,” came the muffled reply.

 

“No. But do you want me to read to you?”

 

“I'm not a bedridden grandmother.”

 

“I didn't say that you were. And you're dodging the question. So, Loki, would you mind terribly if I sat in the room and read aloud?”

 

Loki came out from under the pillow. “If you must.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

Thor sat crossed-legged on the floor beside the mattress and selected Her Journey of Destiny.

 

“If you do insist on reading then I expect you to do the voices,” Loki told him, eyes closed.

 

“Piss off.”

 

Thor turned to the first page and began:

 

Dima was a young Rainless woman who loathed wearing her nurse's uniform. Although, the pretty puffed sleeves and pinched in waist gave her a perfect voluptuous silhouette, which suited her pretty face perfectly, she was far too passionate to want to be caged in by the heavily starched material for ever.

 

How she longed to be free! Free of the damned war! Free of the noise of exploding bombs and emptying bed pans! Free from having to watch decent, young, handsome men die in her care despite her most attentive efforts!

 

If only, if only she could be her true self and run barefoot over the hot sand, completely naked and -

 

“Can I stop you there?” Loki interjected.

 

“Please, please do!”

 

“I don't want to be read soft porn by my older brother.”

 

“I didn't know that -” Thor protested.

 

“It's just so wrong on so many levels.”

 

“I'm sorry!”

 

“Let's never speak of this moment again.”

 

“Agreed. Where's your coat? I'll find something else.”

 

After plunging his arm deep into the left coat pocket, Thor found himself clutching a hardback edition of The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

 

“Anything I need to know before I start?”

 

“Holmes is a detective. Doctor Watson is his best friend. In the previous story Holmes apparently died fighting Professor Moriarty.”

 

Thor nodded and once again began to read.

 

Thankfully, this time, there was nothing blue in the story. Thor found the first part of the story a little dry and slow moving, but his interest picked up when the doddery old bookseller revealed himself to be the titular character, much to the shock of the doctor.

 

My dear, Watson,” said the well-remembered voice, “I owe you a thousand apologies. I had no idea that you would be so affected.”

 

Thor couldn't help but smile ruefully.

 

“You see?” he said, softly. “It hurts people when you fake your death.”

 

He thought perhaps that Loki had actually nodded off, given that he was lying still with his eyes shut. But then he saw Loki smirk.

 

“I don't know why Watson puts up with Holmes,” Thor added. “He gets treated awfully.”

 

Loki cracked one eye open as he said, “It was worth a wound – it was worth many wounds – to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind the cold mask...that is what Watson has to say in a later story.” He reached across and plucked at Thor's sleeve. “Come on. I want to hear the rest.”

 

Thor cleared his throat and continued on.

 

Holmes!” I cried. “Is it really you? Can it indeed be that you are alive? Is it possible that you succeeded in climbing out of that abysmal abyss?”

 

By the time he had reached the end of The Empty House Loki had finally slipped into a fitful sleep. He didn't look comfortable, but it was better than no sleep at all.

 

Thor's night on the sofa was hardly more refreshing. He was far too long for it and it was full of lumps; and it didn't help that even at night the air was warm and stifling, but slept he did.

 

The next morning as Thor reached for his shirt (flung down onto the floor beside him) he realised that it felt unusually cold, far below room temperature. He pressed his hand against the material and saw a glimmer of rune marks, shimmering like silver fish at the bottom of a pond. He gained the same result from prodding his poncho and hat.

 

He grinned broadly as he dressed, enjoying the feeling of coolness being wrapped around him. From the day he crashed landed on the desert planet he hadn't enjoyed such a reprieve from the constant heat. It was a most welcome sensation.

 

 


 

Bonus Thingy: Cop Au.

 

Narrator: Welcome to Asgard, the Golden City with the gleaming Rainbow Bridge, the jewel of the Nine Realms....

 

Chief Superintendent Heimdall: Five Asgardians all frozen...There's a Frost Giant scumbag running loose in the city and I want him found quickly before the Allfather declares war on Jotunheim. Let's wrap this up quickly, people.

 

DCI Thor: We won't let you down, sir. We'll have this case done and dusted by tea time.

 

Heimdall: Oh, and, Inspector, I've finally found you a new sergeant. Thor, this is Loki. Show him the ropes, right?

 

 

DS Loki: The evidence isn't conclusive that these attacks were carried out by Jotun -

 

DC Fandral: Troublemaker. We all know it was a Frost Giant. You can't just swan into this department and throw your weight around.

 

DS Loki: We should try surveillance!

 

DCI Thor: Surveillance? That doesn't sound very godly.

 

DS Loki: It would be the smart thing to do.

 

DCI Thor: We're gods. We break doors down! We do not pussy-foot around using wimpy, mortal like methods.

 

DS Loki: I have magic. The spell would be very simple.

 

DC Hogun: Never trust a sorcerer. Where are you from exactly, anyway, Serg?”

 

DS Loki: The edge of the citadel....no where special....Please, Guv, just give me a chance. Let me show you what magic can do.

 

DCI Thor: Alright. One chance. And if you're wrong then you're out of here.

 

[ PC Sigyn lies in a hospital bed covered in frost bites. Thor and Loki are there.]

 

DS Loki: Look, I know you're angry with me. But I was right. This isn't the work of a Jotun. I didn't know that she would get hurt.

 

DS Loki: Say something!

 

DCI Thor: Very well...

[Punches Loki in the face. They have a punch up the hospital.]

 

[Thor has a black eye. Loki a bleeding nose.]

 

DCI Thor: You should have told me what you are from the beginning, Loki.

 

DS Loki: What? That I'm the monster parents tell their children about at night? No. Odin brought me in because he wants to build a peace treaty between our two kingdoms. I suppose that you want me to turn in my badge?

 

DCI Thor: Are you joking? We've got to put this right. Only this time we'll actually work together. Do it properly.

 

DS Loki: So...not by the book, then?

 

DCI Thor: Mention the bloody rule book one time and I'm going to tear it up, set it on fire and shove the remaining pieces down your smug gob. You're the god of Mischief, not a flipping mortal accountant. Start acting like it!

 

DS Loki: Thank Odin for that.

 

 

[They capture a thug and polity ask him questions.]

 

DS Loki: If you don't tell me who attacked PC Sigyn then my esteemed colleague here will zap your balls. Frankly, I hope you don't answer because I want to see how high you will jump when a bolt of lightening fries them!

 

Thug: Who the hell are you guys?

 

DCI Thor: The gods of kicking ass and knitting patterns. Now answer the question!

 

Thug: Alright, alright, it was Heimdall! He hates the Frost Giants. He wants to start a war.

 

DS Loki: What do we do?

 

DCI Thor: Isn't it obvious? We take down Heimdall, save our two worlds, and be in the tavern by 7. Trust the Fantastic Thor!

 

 

DS Loki: I'm glad you've recovered, Sigyn. And I'm sorry for the trouble I caused you.

 

PC Sigyn: I might forgive you if you buy me dinner.

 

DS Loki: Sorry, but I have to go...I really should return to Jotunheim....

 

DCI Thor: You great frozen, mortal-loving, poetry-reading, Bryon-esq, wuss! Buy her dinner, you idiot. You're staying.


 

 

AN: Thank you for reading! Loki mentioned that he can't eat meat because he's a shape-shifter. All Asgardian shape-shifters are under a geise not to do so. A geise is a magical taboo. A long, long time ago an Asgardian turned into a wolf aspect and ate the sheep belonging to a member of the Tuatha De Danann, the Celtic gods. For the sake of peace Bor agreed to a geise being put in place to prevent the other Asgardian shape-shifters from consuming meat again. Over time the geise has weakened, but to break a geise can still cause misfortune to the one who breaks it. Some claim that Loki must have eaten a steak the day before he fell off the Bi-Frost.

Loki also mentioned Domnu. She is the Celtic goddess of Water. And possibly the mother of a race of monsters.

Poor Thor is working so hard for Loki, but I doubt he will ever get a verbal thank you. Loki gave him that Watson quote about “loyalty and love lying beneath the cold mask” and he wove an ice spell into Thor's clothes, so I hope this will be enough for Thor. I think Thor understands.

The bonus AU was just a weird bit of fun.

Thank you again!

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

A Fistful of Lightening – Part Eight

 

Thor jabbed repeatedly at Loki's shoulder.

 

“Go away.” Loki rolled onto his side, yanking the blanket over his head. “Let me sleep, please.”

 

The blanket was pulled away.

 

“Sorry,” Thor said in whisper. “Just letting you know that I'm going to be gone most of the day. I going out into the desert to find the Commodore and bring it back into town. You stay here. Eat, sleep, read, but do not leave these rooms. Remember, according to the Doc the Rainless are still nervous about sick people. Let them catch a glimpse of you and you'll be burnt at the stake.”

 

Loki briefly considered correcting his brother, that in place like this he was much more likely to be hanged, but then decided he really didn't have the energy to waste words and his head was pounding too much in any case. Instead, he just nodded meekly, the very picture of a perfect patient.

 

“I've asked Rai to look in on you later on.”

 

“Who?”

 

“The barkeep.”

 

Now Loki was annoyed. He didn't need a babysitter.

 

“You mean jailer?”

 

“Refer to him however you like, it changes nothing. I've you left a mug of water with your medicine in it, so don't forget to drink it. I'll be back before you know it.”

 

Loki doubted that. He ducked back under his blanket (so hot already that morning!) and listened as he heard Thor's footsteps move away and then the door opening and gently closing. For while he lay with his eyes wide open, staring at the light shining through the green blanket.

 

Although, the room was overwhelmingly warm, at least it was quiet. Since arriving on the desert planet, Loki had found that his powers of telepathy had simply ceased to be. Before, on The Statesman, it had been overly sensitive, allowing him to hear more than he wanted to and unable to “switch it off”, but now he had the opposite problem. He simply could not tune into people's minds any more. It was more than frustrating, it was troubling. He didn't like it. Not being able to listen on people's thoughts left him feeling both vulnerable and isolated.

 

He placed his arm across his eyes, breathing heavily. He could feel the ragged remains of his magic clogging up his soul. Not good. It had taken a lot of effort just to weave the ice spells into Thor's clothing last night. That was probably a mistake.

 

What if this sickness killed him? He had heard stories of other sorcerers suddenly dropping dead from an infection in their magic. According to those grim tales there was no cure to be had. Either the sorcerer would simply get better on their own or they would die. It was as simple as that.

 

He snatched up the mug and drained with just a few large gulps. He could tell himself that as long he took his medicine he would be fine. Then he rolled back onto his side and fell asleep again.

 


 

 

When he woke the sunlight had shifted across the room, signalling that it was early afternoon. He fiddled with his blanket listlessly. Thor had only given him three options: eat, sleep, and read. And to stay in the rooms. Was that all? How dull. It didn't help that as soon as Thor had issued him instructions he immediately wanted to do the opposite of them. Really his brother should have been more mindful of his contrary nature. Besides, Thor had been only gone a few hours and he was already lonely and bored. How was he supposed to last out the rest of the day?There was a whole town out there lying just beyond the four walls of his room and he was so bored of being sick.

 

He could smell alcohol and hear the clunky music of an out of tune piano and the buzz of voices drifting up through the floorboards. They called to him, slowly overriding the common sense which told him to rest. Besides, hadn't Thor taken him off the Statesman so he could have some fun? He reasoned that as long he stayed upstairs above the saloon bar then Thor shouldn't have any reason to be angry with him.

 

He climbed off the mattress and stood in front of the mirror as he summoned an illusion to fall over himself, one which showed him to be in perfect health. No more lank hair, waxy coloured skin, or pale eyes. Creating the illusion was much harder than it should have been. His magic felt stiff and unyielding, unwilling to rise in his blood; it stung to use, sending a wave of sharp pins and needles over his skin.

 

He was panting by the time he had finished.

 

He didn't know what time exactly Rai was planning to check up on him (or if he had already been while Loki had slept), but he wasn't going to simply wait around twiddling his thumbs. Instead, he began to shout at the top of his voice:

 

“RAI! RAI, GET UP HERE NOW! I NEED YOU!”

 

He could only imagine what the faces of Rai's customers looked like. Seconds later he heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps running up the stairs. A moment later, and Rai burst into the room, slightly breathless and scales twitching up and down.

 

“W-what is it?” he demanded. “Do you need the Doc?”

 

“No. I was just wondering if you fancied a game of cards, Rai?”

 

He spoke in a pleasant voice, but it only seemed to put the barkeeper on the defensive. He narrowed his eyes and raised his scales.

 

“Cards? Is that all? I charged up here thinking that you might be dying or something!”

 

“I am sorry to have disappointed you.”

 

Rai's scales rose even higher, revealing the green flesh which lay beneath. “You're supposed to be horribly ill.”

 

“I'm feeling much better,” Loki replied, flashing Rai a bright smile. “And I'm sure that someone -either my brother or the Sheriff – promised you money to allow sick, old me into your home. This planet is still recovering from the plague, so, really you've taken quite the risk. Don't you deserve the chance of some compensation for the risk you've so nobly taken?”

 

There was a long pause as Rai eyed him up and down, trying to decide if he could trust Loki or not.

 

“Yeah, I think that I do, as it happens.”

 

The scales had finally relaxed.

 

“Good. Now, why don't you invite some of your buddies up here and we can get started?”

 

Rai thought hard. He thought that Loki did look healthy enough that he could win some well-earned credits off him without feeling guilty.

 

“You're on. I hope you won't regret this.”

 


 

 

It was late afternoon as Thor finally staggered through the town's gate, slowly planting one foot in front of the other, grunting with effort. He managed to attract quite a bit of attention; people stopped what they were doing just to watch. Hardly surprising really, given that he was dragging the Commodore behind him, attached by chains. Deep grooves in the sand stretched out behind him into the distance, a testament to the gruelling day he had experienced.

 

Doc Sheriff rode up alongside him.

 

“You're a strong stranger, ain'tcha?” he said. “Why don't you take a break?”

 

Thor's feet slipped on the sand. It was never easy to walk on sand; this is especially true when you are hauling a star-ship behind you. He was leaning so far forward that he was in danger of falling flat on his red face.

 

“I-I got this,” Thor croaked, feet finally gaining a purchase on the shifting sand. The Commodore drew forward an inch.

 

“You know, Stranger, most people would have asked for help. Or hired a team of horses.”

 

That hadn't occurred to him. The last time he had tried to hire a horse on new planet...the pet shop had been mistake, but he was much wiser now. Sometimes.

 

“I'm fine. I can do this!”

 

“Sure you can. Doesn't mean that you should.” The Sheriff placed his fingers in his mouth and whistled. “Come on, people! Lend a hand!”

 

Thor felt a little embarrassed to see so many of the Rainless hurry over and take up pushing positions around the Commodore.

 

“I meant everyone!” the Doc Sheriff added, calling to those who were still stubbornly standing on the sidelines, only increasing Thor's discomfort.

 

“No, it's okay. No need for you to get help.”

 

At those words the window on the top floor of the saloon bar was shattered; shards of glass flew outwards, littering the ground, along with Loki. The god of Mischief had fallen at his brother's feet like a sack of potatoes, landing heavily on his back.

 

Thor could not have been more surprised even if his hat spontaneously transformed into a cat. At least the sight had given the Rainless yet another thing to be intrigued about. The smooth-skinned strangers were certainly paying them back by giving them gossip-worthy stories to discuss endless.

 

“Wha-what -?” Thor stammered, looking between his brother and the broken the window. “Did you just -? What the hell, Loki?!”

 

“Oh, hello,” Loki rasped. “Did you have a good day?”

 

“Forget that! What happened? Is this because I said get help?”

 

Loki began to chuckle, but it quickly turned into a cough.

 

“Get help,” he said in a croaky voice. “Works every time. Oh, don't look so worried, brother. Rai and I just had a little disagreement, that's all.”

 

Doc Sheriff tipped his hat back as he knelt beside Loki. “Rai? I might've known. He's mostly reliable, but can be a bit of a hot-head when it comes to money. I'm assuming this about money.” He shook his head wildly. “How is it that you don't have any broken bones? Oh, wait, it's that super-strong thing again, isn't it?”

 

Loki knocked his hands away and sat up, with his arms wrapped around his stomach.

 

Thor couldn't help but notice that despite having been seriously ill for almost a week, and in spite of having just being thrown out of a window, Loki was looking remarkably well, healthy to the point of it being completely unbelievable.

 

He bit his lower lip. He was angry with Loki, although hardly surprised, but at the moment he was furious with Rai.

 

Dark clouds began to roll over the sky, blocking out the sun.

 

It was a both fascinating and a worrying weather phenomenon for the Rainless. They dropped the Commdore's chains to stare upwards, their heads tipped backwards.

 

“What the hell?” the Doc cursed. “A-are those rain clouds?”

 

Even Loki looked perturbed by the sight.

 

[Don't forget where we are, brother,] his voice said within Thor's head. [These people need the sun.]

 

[Do not lecture me, Loki!]

 

He saw Loki visibly wince at the sharpness of his thoughts. Perhaps he was over reacting just a touch. He took a few deep breaths and watched as the clouds dissipated, allowing the sun to beat down on them once again. Then he took Loki by the arm and hauled to his feet.

 

“Come on,” he said. “You need to be inside and I need to have a word with Rai.”

 

“Hey!” the Doc Sheriff said, sharply. “If anyone round here needs to have words with people, it's me! I don't need you causing more trouble.”

 

“Fine. You deal with Rai. And I'll deal with Loki.”

 

“What did I do?”

 


 

 

Alongside with Rai, there were two other Rainless males in Loki's room. They all looked to be in shock, staring with mouths hanging open. And when they saw Thor towering in the doorway, eyes blazing, they look positively terrified. Rai was backed up against the wall.

 

“I didn't do it!” one old Rainless squeaked. “It was Rai!”

 

“I-I'm s-sorry!” Rai stammered helplessly. “I-it j-just sort of happened! He kept talking to me.”

 

Thor looked to his brother, who shrugged.

 

“That I can well believe,” Thor told them with a growl as Loki rolled his eyes. “Now get out, all of you! Go talk to the sheriff!”

 

The trio scrambled from the room as fast as they could.

 

Thor looked round in despair at the mess in the room, at the empty beer bottles (some broken) and the playing cards scattered over the floor.

 

“I did stay in the room,” Loki told him quietly. “Mostly. And I earned us a nice, fat pile of universal credits. And I didn't cheat, despite what Rai claimed. I didn't need to. Thor?”

 

Thor pinched the bridge of his nose and counted to five. Really, he knew that Loki couldn't help causing trouble any more than he could prevent himself from summoning thunder clouds when angry. It was just part of their natures, even if it was annoying.

 

“Fine. Well done,” he said, flatly, once he had reopened his eyes. “You know, I don't know why I bother to be concerned about your welfare. Clearly, it's a waste of energy. Anyway, if you're well to be thrown out of windows then you must be well enough to tidy up.”

 

Loki sank down onto the mattress. “I feel weak.”

 

Thor harrumphed loudly. His brother certainly had a large amount of cheek.

 

“Perfect timing. I'm not cleaning up after you.”

 

He didn't notice Loki holding his head in his heads.

 

“Thor....”

 

“If you're feeling well enough to gamble then you can me help to repair the Commodore tomorrow. We -”

 

“Brother....”

 

Thor turned in time to see Loki shimmer as his illusion finally gave out. His face was chalk white and blood was slowly dripping from his nose and splattering onto the floor. Sweat glistening on his forehead. He sat with one arm wrapped around his stomach, while he clutched at the edge of the mattress with his other hand, his knuckles bone white and visibly trembling.

 

He lent forward as he began to cough, his whole body shaking and nose still bleeding.

 

Thor looked around the room before snatching up a face flannel and pressing it to Loki's nose.

 

“This is why I wanted you to take it easy,” he told him. “You've pushed yourself too hard. Come on, you need to lie down.”

 

Thor lowered him sideways onto the mattress, ignoring the moans of pain. Loki immediately curled up into a ball, with his knees drawn up his stomach. He was shaking like a leaf in a storm, his face screwed up in pain. Thor placed a hand on his shoulder to steady him and was alarmed at the heat radiating off his brother.

 

“Is it your stomach?”

 

Loki gasped loudly, arms tightening around his abdomen.

 

“Thor...I need help....” Loki turned his face towards Thor, blinking rapidly.

 

The sight made Thor lean back involuntarily. Loki's eyes had turned from green to a deep, blood red. Just like all Frost Giants.

 

“What?” Loki demanded weakly, droplets of sweat running down his face.

 

Thor removed the flannel from Loki's nose to quickly dab at his brother's forehead.

 

“Nothing. It's okay. You'll be alright. I'll go get the Doc.”

 

He was able to sound calm enough, but Thor suddenly felt sick himself as he saw patches of Loki's skin turning blue. On his arms, cheeks, and when Thor lifted his shirt, over his back and stomach. The blotches were growing rapidly, spreading out like ink dripped onto a napkin.

 

Loki was turning back into a Frost Giant.

 

 

 


 

AN: Thanks for reading!

For each of my original characters I flipped a coin to see if they would survive the finger snap. The results are not good.

Rainless Bookshop Lady: Lives – yay! Doc Sheriff: Dies – Boo! Rai: Dies – oh, dear.

Manager of Starbury's: Lives – why him? The Love-Lost (assuming it survived Loki's black hole spell): Lives – seriously?!

Frey: Lives – fair enough, I was bit harsh on his character. Ri: Lives – fine. Broge (only mentioned once. Cook): Lives – phew. His wife, Opla: Lives – phew, again! Their twins, Arvid: Lives – good. And Astrid: Lives – at least their family survived intact.

Di (one of the children, also only mentioned once): dies – sad!

Arty (another of the children): dies – this one hurt as Arty will be in future chapters!

Tina: Dies.....WHY?!

 

 

Chapter Text

 

A Fistful of Lightening – Part Nine

 

Like all Aesir children, Thor had grown up listening to bedtime stories about the Frost Giants. Horror stories. Tales about how they would sneak into Asgard and steal away naughty girls and boys from their beds; or how they liked to feast on Aesir hearts for breakfast; or that they possessed the power to suck the soul right out of your body and place it inside a single snowflake, only to leave it to melt and then evaporate in a pot over a fire.

 

Yes, they were indeed grim fairy-tales, but it was all just a bit of fun. Thor had enjoyed hearing the dark stories which chilled his blood; it made his cosy bedroom feel all the more safer, knowing that his mother and father would always protect him from the evils which lay just beyond the realm of Asgard.

 

He had never imagined that his brother could be one of them.

 

After Loki had let go of Gungnir, Odin had dragged Thor back onto the bridge. For a time they were frozen in stunned silence, Thor kneeling at the edge and Odin standing behind him. Finally, Thor felt his father's heavy hand on his shoulder.

 

“Let's go inside now.”

 

“He just let go – I couldn't stop him...”

 

Odin led Thor to the family's private chambers, where Frigga was waiting anxiously for them. She could tell by their faces that Loki was gone, but she still needed to hear the full story. Thor sat limply in a chair while Odin explained to Frigga what had happened.

 

As was usual for Odin his conversation had been brief, brisk, and spoken with little emotion. To many his demeanour would have been judged to be purely cold and unfeeling, but to his wife, who understood him better than anyone else, could clearly see the hurt that hid behind the cold eye and marble face. She fell into his embrace, to comfort him as much as herself, resting her head on his shoulder.

 

“He said that we were not brothers,” Thor said in a rusty voice. He did not notice the look that passed between Odin and Frigga. “That we never were. What madness had gripped him, that he could no longer recognise me as his brother? That he could do such terrible things?”

 

Frigga returned to her seat, as Odin said, “Loki has always been highly temperamental, and yes, maybe possessed a disposition towards insanity...that would not be surprising knowing what his blood father was like.”

 

Thor looked up sharply, feeling the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.

 

“Your brother was born a Frost Giant,” Odin went on, in the same clipped tone. “Abandoned and left to die by his own family, I rescued him from Jotunheim and brought him home. Laufey was his father.”

 

Thor had swallowed loudly, closing his eyes as he tried to quickly process the overwhelming revelation. His brother...one of the monsters he had been raised to destroy...one of the enemy...son of the enemy...

 

Frigga had reached across the table to take his hand. He'd jumped at her touch; pulled away.

 

“I think...perhaps...I understand some of his rage now...” He had spoken quietly, barely able to get his words out. “Why Loki was driven to madness, because you were ashamed of what he was-”

 

He had flinched as Odin had slammed down his fist onto the table.

 

I carried him home in my arms!” Odin snarled. He lent on the table, staring Thor down with his icy, grey eye. “It seems that no matter how much do for my children, I will forever be condemned of not loving enough.”

 

“Enough!” Frigga barked, springing to her feet. “We all love Loki. But that alone will not bring him home.”

 

The silence that followed her words hung heavily in the air between the Odinsons. Thor and Odin shared a worried look, before Thor finally said quietly:

 

“Mother, we both saw him fall. The observatory went first; it was crushed by the power of the worm-hole. I think Loki truly gone.”

 

Frigga smiled sweetly at him as the tears ran down her face.

 

“If he were, I would have felt it,” she said, with absolute conviction. “But, as I did not feel him die I will believe that he is living still. We must search for him.”

 

“No, Frigga,” her husband said in a low voice, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Heimdall cannot see him, nor can I, even when I look beyond the Nine Realms. Our son-daughter is gone. Now we must mourn. The whole of Asgard will mourn for three days.”

 


 

 

Thor had never seen Loki in his true form before. For a moment he was oblivious to his brother's pain and instead stared, transfixed, at his blue skin and the fine crack-like ridges which ran down the side of his face. This was one of the monsters he had heard so many horrible stories about; one of the savages who were the eternal enemy of the Aesir.

 

It had been easy to pretend that he had no such prejudices, as long as Loki wore his Aesir form and as long as they never discussed his true heritage. But now that the mask had been ripped away he could no longer deny the deeply ingrained disgust that churned somewhere in his stomach.

 

He felt ashamed of himself, but there was no time to deal with such feelings. The blood dripping from Loki's nose was splattering over the pillow. He was still clutching his stomach and convulsing with pain.

 

“I'm going to get the Doc, okay?”

 

It was hard to tell if Loki understood him or not; his red eyes were clouded with pain and fever, but he was looking at Thor nonetheless.

 

“Thor...”

 

Sluggishly, Loki caught hold of his arm, long fingers wrapping around his forearm. Thor cried out in agony as the water in his cells froze beneath Loki's touch, leaving a painful ice burn behind. He shook himself free, knocking Loki's arm aside.

 

It worried Thor that Loki no longer seemed to be aware of what was happening; he had certainly had given no indication that he was cognizant that he had lost his Aseir form, something which should have elicited some kind of emotional reaction from him. And it positively frightened Thor to have witnessed how quickly he descended back into delirium.

 

“Supergiant got herself killed....” Loki mumbled, burying his face into the pillow, leaving streaks of red across the material.

 

“What? What's a supergiant?”

 

“Don't blame me...”

 

Thor watched helplessly as he curled up even tighter, moaning loudly. Patches of sweat were showing through his shirt.

 

Thor rubbed his sore forearm. He knew that he needed to fetch the Doc, but he couldn't risk Loki hurting him, even if it would be unintentional. He hurried out of the room, returning a moment later with a length of rope and used it to bind Loki's wrists together. Loki was too weak to even stop him. His eyes rolled in his head as Thor secured the rope.

 

“Sorry, but I can't let you hurt the Doc by accident.”

 

Thor ran to the window and was relieved to see the Doc down below, talking to Rai and his friends.

 

“Doc!” he yelled. “We need you!”

 

The Doc Sheriff immediately pushed past the others, running around the Commodore to his horse to snatch his medical bag off the saddle.

 

Thor waited beside Loki as he heard the Doc pounding up the stairs, and then the sound of his footsteps running across the kitchen. The bedroom door flew open, but the footsteps ended there.

 

The Doc Sheriff had come to an abrupt halt in the doorway. His mouth hung open and his scales stood up on end. He pointed towards Loki.

 

“Is that – he is...?”

 

“Doc, please! I know what he looks like, but he's still my brother and he needs your help. Doc!”

 

Thor's yell was loud enough to break the Doc out of his trance. He returned back to true doctor professionalism as he picked up his bag once more and knelt beside the mattress.

 

“Sorry, I just...I'll do my best,” he said, sounding terribly uncertain and unable to take his eyes off the blue creature who writhed before him. “Why is he tied up?”

 

Thor hesitated. He couldn't lie, but he doubted that the truth would help matters.

 

“His touch causes ice burn,” Thor replied quietly, holding up his arm.

 

The Doc's eyes widened; he was frozen in the act of placing his stethoscope's ear buds into the appropriate place. Suddenly, he stuffed the instrument back into his bag and jumped to his feet.

 

“I'm sorry, Stranger, I am. But I don't know what this is. I don't even know what he is. Or what you are.” He spoke angrily, fearfully. “I knew straight away when we first met that there was something suspicious about you two, but this – this is too much now! I want the two of you out of my town!”

 

He made for the door, but Thor blocked his path.

 

“Wait, Doc, please! It's quite simple, really. I'm Thor, the god of Thunder. And that's my brother, Loki, god of Mischief. We come from a place called the Nine Realms. Nothing complicated about that, right?”

 

“Gods?” The Doc squeaked. “If he's your brother then why does he look like that?”

 

“Uh, well, he's not actually my blood brother. He's from a planet called Jotunheim, a world of Frost Giants -”

 

“He's not big enough to be a giant!”

 

“No, good point. He was born small. And my father and his father were enemies, and my father found him abandoned and so -”

 

“Just shut up! Shut your mouth!” The Doc snapped, his eyes flashing angrily. “The more you explain the more confusing it gets.”

 

They were interrupted by the noise of a painful sounding coughing fit. It was powerful enough to shake Loki's whole body. The coughing soon turned into retching and then he was vomiting.

 

Thor paled when he saw the colour of the vomit. Bright crimson.

 

“He's dying, isn't he?”

 

The Doc didn't answer. His previous reservations temporarily forgotten, he had returned to Loki's side. He quickly pulled on a pair of gloves and was doing his best to examine Loki, but being unfamiliar with Jotun physiology there was only so much he could do. He used a damp cloth to wipe away the vomit and blood from Loki's mouth and nose, his own face looking grim.

 

“Isn't there anything we can do? Try?”

 

The Doc shook his head hopelessly and Thor felt his heart sink; but then the Doc stilled, consulted his pocket watch and stared out of the window.

 

“Maybe...” he said to himself in a low voice.

 

It was enough to give Thor hope.

 

“What?” he demanded. “What?”

 

Suddenly, the Doc was all action. He leapt to his feet and began packing up his bag.

 

“I'm warning you, Stranger, this most likely won't work. But if anyone has a shot of pulling it off it's you.”

 

“Anything. But, what -”

 

“I'll explain on the way. There's no time to lose. We need to put him in the back of my cart, so pick him up gently! And don't forget your hat. Stranger, we're gonna take a little ride out into the desert. Let's go!”

 


 

 

Thor urged the Doc's horse, Har, on as fast as he could go. Thankfully, the beast was more than used to charging through the desert in the cause of a medical emergency, and Thor was highly impressed with how it's two heads strained at the bit as it galloped over the sand, hooves barely touching the ground.

 

The Doc was riding in the back, doing his best to stem the flow of blood from Loki's nose and to keep him cool. To keep him alive. His task was made all the more difficult by the bouncing of the cart, but he doggedly kept to his task.

 

The Frost Giant had fallen still and was no longer responding to anything that was going on around him. His eyes were half-open, but they heard no spark or gave any indication that he was seeing the outside world. He was wrapped up in his ice blanket, but it was doing little to keep his fever down. Every breath he took in sounded jagged and laboured.

 

“How's he doing?” Thor shouted over the rattle of the wheels.

 

“Just keep looking for those train tracks!” was the less than optimistic reply.

 

Look for the train tracks, that was the only direction the Doc Sheriff had offered Thor. The lack of specifics was more than enough to make Thor nervous. He scanned the scene before him, but all he could see was sand and in the distance the hazy outline of the mountains.

 

Dusk was falling quickly. The setting sun had set the whole sky ablaze: reds mixed with pinks and oranges. Thor was only too glad to welcome the night in, his brother's time. Hopefully, it would lend him some much needed strength. It was not useful for everyone, though.

 

“And how are you doing, Doc?”

 

The Sheriff's reply sounded a little weary. “Don't you worry about me, Stranger. Just keep going. You should see the tracks any moment now.”

 

Thor looked around and – yes- spotted a glint in the distance and to their left, the last of the sun's rays bouncing off the steel tracks. It seemed odd to Thor that the tracks should just begin so suddenly, lain over the sand, but he didn't dwell on this peculiarity for very long.

 

“I see them!” he bellowed.

 

“Then go after them, Stranger!” the Doc howled back. “Fast as a bullet! Don't slow down for anything!”

 

Thor urged the two-headed horse on, shouting, “Hyah! Hyah!”

 

Har responded well, leaping forward, sending clouds of sand and dust flying out from under his hooves.

 

“Are you going to tell me anything?” Thor called.

 

The Doc threw one bloodied cloth away and pressed a fresh one to Loki's nose. Loki didn't even move or reacted in any way to the sudden touch. He lay limply on the floor of the cart, with his wrists still tied together and resting on his chest, covered up by the blanket.

 

“On this planet we have spirits we refer to as the Kin,” the Doc said, tipping his hat back. “They usually live out in the wastelands. Powerful beings, but you wouldn't want to trust them any more than you would a toilet made of paper, if you know what I mean. Highly suspicious beings. But, if you can catch one then they are honour bound to grant you a wish. That's not easy though. Hope you're up for it, Stranger.”

 

Thor gritted his teeth together as he urged Har on. Catching a wish-granting spirit sounded much more up his street than playing at being a nursemaid to Loki.

 

“Course I am,” he said, eagerly. “Just point me in the direction of one these Kin.”

 

He very nearly dropped the reigns as suddenly he heard an almost deafening noise – a mournful, shrill howl, like the wail of a ghost. He looked up, open-mouthed, to see a locomotive engine, pulling five carriages, towering over them as it sped along the tracks at top speed, steam billowing out from it's funnel, and pistons little more than a blur.

 

Har screeched in alarm and veered sharply away, bumping his heads together. Thor stood up to maintain control of the frightened beast, pulling back on the reigns. The Doc had thrown himself over to Loki to hold him down as the cart bounced alarmingly.

 

“Where did that come from?” Thor demanded.

 

“That's your Kin, Stranger!”

 

“What? The train is the Kin?!”

 

“Shape-shifters! Knew it would want to race us if we went fast enough! This one has been around for years. Now, go get it!”

 

Thor whipped the reigns again and felt his heart soar as the Har's speed increased. He summoned the wind to race against them and dark storm clouds to roll over the sky (it couldn't hurt now that the sun was already setting). The blood pounded in his ears in time to the hoof beats and the booms of thunder.

 

“Is that you doing that, Stranger?” the Doc demanded, holding onto the side of the cart.

 

Thor only laughed. It had been some time since he had last felt like Thor the Thunderer. But now he had the storm rising in his blood, making him feel at one with the planet and all it's natural power. It was intoxicating.

 

With another piercing whistle, the train turned sharply to the left, charging off into the growing gloom.

 

“It's getting away!”

 

Thor yanked sharply on the reigns. The horse changed direction so quickly that the cart tipped sideways, going up on one wheel before crashing back down again.

 

The Doc once again was forced to wrap his arms around Loki to prevent him from being thrown out of the cart. The Frost Giant moaned loudly as the cart fell back onto two wheels, bumping his head against the floor.

 

Doc Sheriff lent forward to slap Thor's head with the back of his hand.

 

“I ought to have you arrested for driving like a moron!” he hissed. “Can't you be more gentle?”

 

The train was now moving at a seemingly impossible speed, pulling far away into the distance. Thor licked his dry lips as he watched it go. The horse was doing its best, but was quickly growing tired. Thor could think of a way to help Har match its speed, but he was a little unsure. He never done anything like it before, and yet why should he not?

 

“Stay with us, Loki,” he heard the Doc tell his patient. “Keep fighting.”

 

Thor made his mind up.

 

“You want gentle?” he called over his shoulder. “Fine! Hyah!”

 

Har pulled to the right and away from the Kin.

 

“Wait – what are you doing? There's a ravine up ahead!”

 

“I know! I saw it earlier. I see it now.”

 

In the growing darkness it looked like little more than a dark scar in the ground. Thor urged the horse onwards, silently praising the animal's instinctive trust in him. If only the Doc was just as trusting.

 

“Are you crazy?” the Sheriff demanded. “You'll kill us all!”

 

He tried to grab the reigns, but Thor knocked his hand aside.

 

“God of Thunder, remember? It'll be okay.”

 

Har galloped with increasing speed towards the ravine. The scar seem to grow and open up in front of them, widening into a large gash.

 

The Doc Sheriff swore loudly as he wrapped his arms around Loki, prepared to hold onto him for as long as was possible.

 

With a loud double-whinny the horse leapt off the edge, taking the cart and its occupants with it. They arched in the air, and for the smallest moment hung there, looking like a child's mobile. Thor summoned a bolt of lightening to envelop the two-headed creature, lending it some of his power. Har eagerly lapped up the magic, allowing the lines of electricity to run down his body and over his flanks. Lowering his heads, Har then charged forward, dragging the cart up and up into the night sky, among the booming thunder clouds and forked bolts of lightening.

 

Panting heavily, the Doc slowly sat up, holding tightly onto his hat with one hand. He crawled on his knees to the side of the cart and cautiously peered over it. He quickly ducked back down again. He never been so high up before in his life.

 

“Gentle enough for you?” Thor asked.

 

“I think we have different definitions of gentle.” He groaned as the wind of the storm rocked the cart. “Anything you can do to calm things down? I think I'm gonna throw up.”

 

Thor shook his head.

 

“Why does everyone have to be such a bad back-seat driver? Anyway, enough, we have a train to catch. Onwards, Har!”

 


 

 

AN: I struggled with writing some aspects of this chapter.

One: Odin, Frigga, and Thor's initial reaction to Loki's crimes. Loki had just killed many Frost Giants, attempted to kill Thor...as well as the other betrayals he committed. I used the word madness more than once because I think that if my child suddenly turned like that I would assume a mental breakdown too. And yet I think that Loki has always been that cold and ruthless deep down; he's just good at hiding and is more subtle about it. And yet using the Bifrost to destroy an entire race is hardly subtle and during the final fight scene when Thor says, “Loki, this is madness!” and Loki replies, “Is it? Is it?” you see him visibly shaking and crying, so maybe he wasn't in complete control of himself after all. Or maybe I'm just making excuses for a character I like because, you know, genocide and murder are bad.

 

Either way I hope you don't mind me ignoring the attempted genocide in this fic. This is a fluffy fic.

 

Two: Thor's reaction to seeing Loki's Jotun form. Argh! Did I go overboard with the disgust? I don't know. I was drawing on the idea that Thor hasn't really had to deal with it face to face yet. I'm sure he spent a good deal of time brooding over it and coming to the conclusion that it doesn't really matter, but I think he can't help a reaction that he was brought up with.

 

And Supergiant? Who is or was Supergiant? Hmmmm...

 

Oh, and as for the flying horse, Thor is the Allfather now, so I'm sure he must be able to do things like that.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Chapter Text

 

A Fistful of Lightening – Part 10

 

Now that Har had received his power-up, it was an easy task for him to bolt across the stormy sky and to catch up with the speeding locomotive.

 

As soon as they were flying over the train, Thor reached into the back to shake the Doc Sheriff's shoulder. The night-time was having a profound effect on the Rainless man. In only a matter of minutes he had become drowsy and limp, lolling in the corner of the cart. He was still checking on Loki regularly, but his movements were clumsy and sluggish. As for Loki himself, his breathing was raspy and shallow and slow. Every laboured breath was like another number disappearing off his final countdown.

 

“Doc, wake up!” Thor shouted. “I need you to take the reigns.”

 

The request was alarming enough to make the Sheriff a little more alert again. He sat up, blinking rapidly.

 

“Wait, where are you going?” he demanded. He shook his head hopelessly. “I don't know how to land this thing.”

 

Thor stood up on the seat, poncho flapping in the wind. He put his hat on before saying, “Sure you do. It's easy. Just let Har do the work. Just...try not to crash.”

 

“I wish I had never met you,” the Doc muttered, wearily. He awkwardly slipped in the seat beside Thor, taking the reigns. He lent forward to say, “Har, please don't kill us.”

 

“That's the spirit,” Thor assured him. He took one final glance at Loki, still lying out cold under his blanket, before spreading out his arms wide and diving off the side of the cart.

 

He landed heavily on the roof of carriage number 1, leaving a pleasant looking indent behind and four smashed windows. Looking up, he saw the Doc's cart pulling away, hopefully to land safely somewhere near by. The train was, quite rightly, outraged at such vandalism and embarked on a series of furious hairpin turns, moving so sharply that the carriages rocked from side to side, almost derailing itself.

 

Thor lowered himself to a crouch and began to shuffle slowly along the roof, arms stretched out to help him keep balanced. There was hot, black smoke blowing back into his face, so he raised his neckerchief over his nose and mouth. They were moving at such a high speed that the wind had more than doubled in strength; it made Thor grateful to be as a solid as an oak tree and therefore could not be easily...

 

Another sharp turn sent Thor tumbling over. He was now dangling over the side of the carriage, legs scrambling for a purchase.

 

Just ahead he could see the locomotive engine itself; it was tantalizingly close, but he still had to get there.

 

He dragged himself back onto the roof of the carriage and waited for the train to move in a straight line before leaping up high into the air and landing on the cab. He swung himself inside, fully expecting to discover a vast array of complex buttons and levers and who-knows-what for him to smash or pull, and hopefully in the process, come across the something that would make the train stop.

 

The cab was completely empty; it was just an empty room. Not a single lever or dial to be seen. He would have to go to Plan B...well, in Thor's mind it was a plan; to anyone else it would considered a half baked notion at best.

 

He climbed back out of the cab and very, very, carefully pressed himself to the side of train, slowing shuffling along the footplate. Once again the train went on a series of tight turns, doing its very best to shake the Asgardian off, but Thor held grimly on.

 

Finally, he reached the front. Jumping up high, he twisted around in the air and found himself stuck against the face of the steam train. He took a deep breath before slipping down to take hold of the cattle-guard, implanting his feet as firmly as possible on the ground.

 

The pain it caused him was tremendous, but in spite of this sacrifice it still did nothing to stop the train; rather Thor was shunted backwards as easily as a ball is kicked away by child. Thor feared that he might actually be pulled under the wheels and turned into a bright red mush. He had try to harder.

 

With a louder, animal-like howl, Thor tightened his grip and pushed back with his all his might.

 

Wheels squealed; a whistle shrieked; and Thor screamed as the train continued to propel him back and back over the sand and over the tracks, his elbows and knees erupting into burning agony under the pressure, but he refused to let them buckle. Sand flew up all around him, like snow being shoved aside by a plough.

 

On and on it went. Thor pressed harder, digging his feet deeper into the sand, creating a trench as he went. And then, finally, at long last, he was aware the train was gradually losing speed, actually slowing down. Oh, sweet, sweet relief for his aching, burning limbs and feet! Victory for Thor.

 

Of course, the train had only slowed to a stop so that it could go in reverse. It sharply pulled back away from Thor, causing him to fall flat on his face. It sounded its whistle twice in a cheeky sort of manner as it rocketed backwards.

 

That did it for Thor. His patience, stubbornness, pig-headiness – whatever you like to call it – which had carried him through the past week, allowing him to carefully care for his very ill, trickster brother day and night, and helping him to endure frost bites and scoldings and being turned into a bowl of ice-cream, was now well and truly extinguished.

 

He leapt to his feet, electricity crackling all over his body. Before, he had held back for fear of hurting the Kin and therefore destroying their last hope of healing Loki, but he had that fear no more.

 

The train by now had retracted far into the distance and Thor could only just see it's lights shining at him. He rubbed his hands together, summoning a powerful bolt of lightening to strike the train. Sparks flew as the engine helplessly tipped onto its side with a great crash.

 

Thor leapt forward, covering the distance in a single bound. Not wanting to give it a second chance of escape, Thor jumped onto its side and wrapped his arms around its funnel.

 

“I'll hit you a second time unless you yield!”

 

For a few moments, nothing changed. Thor allowed a heavy layer of clouds to gather immediately over them, with thunder booming ominously. Suddenly, he felt himself falling onto the sand as the train disappeared beneath him. The train had gone but there was something was struggling in Thor's arms; it was a figure in a long white robe, fighting against him. It had scales, like the Rainless, but was also more canine in appearance, with a narrow snout and two sharp, triangular ears sticking up on top's of its head.

 

“Do you yield?” Thor bellowed, as the Kin continued to writhe in his arms. Clutching it created an unusual sensation – it was neither solid nor liquid or gas, but somewhere in between all three states. Holding onto its robes felt like cool water was running through his hands, and yet, unlike water, he could keep a hold on to it without it falling through his fingers. Thor knew that his grasp was tenuous and that at any moment the spirit could break free and disappear again.

 

“Yield!” he barked.

 

For the first time, the Kin spoke, it's voice a whisper and ethereal. “Very well,” it hissed. “I yield. Now release me.”

 

Thor held it even tighter. “Not until you promise to grant my wish.”

 

“I promise.”

 


 

AN: Short chapter this time! I wanted this to be the last chapter of Fistful, but realised that it would probably become a very long chapter, so I decided to divide them in two. And very little Loki – sorry, Loki!

Here are some of the upcoming stories:

Loki and the Black Order: Loki finally recounts to Thor how he came to possess the sceptre and who sent him to Earth to gain the Tesseract, as well as his misadventures with the members of the Black Order.

The Party: The Asgardians are invited to a party hosted by Dionysus, Greek god of Wine, Fertility, Theatre and Altered States. Thor is reluctant, Loki over eager, and Bruce just wants a quiet life.

Shore-leave: Thor promised the others that he would allow them to visit other planets, now he has to make good on his promise, while trying make sure that everyone keeps a low profile and not draw attention to themselves.

Family Celebration: It's an important time for the Aesir as Bruce, Tina and Korg observe them preparing for one of their most sacred festivals. Thor and Loki reflect on their family.

Thank you for reading!

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

A Fistful of Lightening – Part Eleven

 

“I know what it is that you desire, Asgardian,” the Kin whispered, floating a foot above Thor. “I hear the drums of war beating in your heart. It's what all Asgardians crave: glorious battles, power, gold, and beautiful men and women. Choose one and I will grant it to you.”

 

Thor craned his head back to look up at the spirit. He smiled. “Tempting, but I choose none of those of things. All I ask for is a healing. For my brother. He's dying and I don't fully understand why. I want you to restore him to full health and power.”

 

The Kin's ears twitched slightly. It stared down at Thor through cold, golden eyes, which sent a shiver down Thor's spine.

 

“Done,” it eventually said.

 

Thor looked about in the gloom for any sign of the Doc or Har, but all he could clearly see were the stars shining brightly above as though they were trying to make up for the time they had lost when concealed behind the storm clouds.

 

The Kin floated away, heading off into the darkness, and Thor had no choice but to follow it, hoping that it knew where it was going and that it could be trusted to reach Loki.

 

After ten minutes of jogging after the Kin, Thor heard the unmistakable sound of a horse snorting coming from somewhere behind a giant sand dune. The Kin simply floated over the top while Thor was forced to go round the long way. Before he had completed the detour he heard Har let out a startled whinny and he saw the bright lines of electricity flowing over its body.

 

He charged into a sprint, bumping into the startled horse after just a few paces.

 

“It's okay, Har, it's okay,” he said, rubbing the horse's noses. “It's with me.”

 

The Kin was floating over the cart – mercifully still in one-piece – and slowly descend over its occupants. Thor quickly joined it, leaping into the back. The Doc Sheriff had finally succumbed to his exhaustion and was fast out, snoring loudly. Loki looked worse than ever, blood still slowly trickling from his nose and running down over his cheeks. His breathing was frighteningly slow and shallow.

 

Thor pressed his fingers to Loki's throat. There was a pulse there, but it was weak and erratic. He looked to the Kin with pleading eyes, silently begging it to make good on its promise.

 

The Kin placed its clawed hand over Loki's forehead. It moved its head to close to Loki's, sniffing loudly.

 

“There is much that needs healing,” the Kin finally announced. “So many invisible wounds. I sense great anger and sadness...and such horror at such a young age, when life has only just begun.” The Kin closed its eyes, its voice filling with sorrow and sounding child-like as it said: “Why is she screaming, screaming so loud? Why is he hurting her and why is no one stopping him? It's so dark out here. Why doesn't my mother come to me?”

 

Thor felt another chill run down his spine. “What are you doing?”

 

The Kin's eyes snapped open again, as cold and as soulless as they had always been.

 

“Assessing the damage.” The Kin waved a clawed hand over Loki's wrists. The rope which had bound them suddenly frayed and snapped apart. The Kin moved its hand up and down over Loki's upturned arms, declaring: “There is miasma in his magic. Yes, that's it. Pollution. His magic is highly polluted and has been for some time. Possibly years going by the extent of the damage to his organs.”

 

“By what? What caused this?”

 

“Prolonged exposure to toxic objects, ones that would make playthings of us all.” It's lips stretched back, creating a toothy grin. “Take comfort from knowing that he deserves to suffer. I am.”

 

Thor rubbed his knuckles together, allowing the electricity to spark and crackle over his muscular hands. Thunder boomed in the distance.

 

“Oh, I will keep my promise, Asgardian. But, understand this: I am not an all-powerful being. I must remove the magic from his body and cleanse it - the process may kill him.”

 

“I understand. But, if I suspect that you are holding back, if you allow him to -”

 

The Kin cut him off with a loud growl, golden eyes flashing with fury. After a few seconds hesitation it moved back to hover next to Thor, then it waved its hand at Loki, lifting him into the air. Initially, Loki was as limp as a broken reed, with his head down on his chest and limbs hanging uselessly about him, but then the Kin raised his hand and Loki stiffened. His arms stretched outwards and his head was tipped backwards, white hair floating as though he were underwater.

 

There was a roaring sound all about them, like the din of water rushing over a bed of pebbles, as Loki's infected magic was pulled out of his body. A cyan mist, his magic twisted out of his mouth and nose to float in the air above them.

 

Thor's nose twitched. The magic did not smell good to him. There was something rank about it.

 

As the magic continued to be drained from his body, Loki's eyes popped open. They were completely black, reflecting the stars.

 

He began to dream.

 


 

 

Loki slowly woke up, feeling groggy and achy. The place where he lay – wherever it was – somehow felt both familiar and yet lost to him, like a half-forgotten memory. He could feel that there were unbelievably soft pillows beneath his head, and above came the gentle tinkle of wind-chimes blowing in a breeze.

 

He tried opening his eyes again, blinking away the white fog. His vision cleared, bringing the balcony into sharp focus. But, it was more than just a balcony, it was his balcony attached to his bedroom in the palace of Asgard.

 

Clumsily, Loki slipped off the couch, knocking the pillows and blankets to the floor, and wobbled the few steps over to the white-stone parapet. His rooms were located at the back of the palace and therefore looked over the forests and mountains. The situation of his rooms had been a careful and deliberate choice made by his parents. While Thor's faced the citadel and, after that, the ocean, marking him as a guardian of the people, Loki was to be forever seen as protector of the mysterious, deep forests and all its creatures – hence his helmet. It was PR to increase the people's respect for him, despite him being a shape-shifter. It was one of the few occasions where Loki felt he had come out on top over Thor; the view was spectacular and a wonderful place for flying over in Hawk Aspect.

 

Shape-shifters were relatively uncommon on Asgard and somewhat misunderstood. Due to the geise they were under, forbidding them to consume meat , it meant that they could not fully partake in many of the ceremonies involving ritual meals. This made them untrustworthy in the eyes of many Asgardians (there is not even a word for vegetarian in the Asgardian language). And the fact that most shape-shifters would rather spend their time in the Aspect of their favourite animal over competing in sports or hunting or battles, made them appear most peculiar.

 

The Midgardians would probably compare them to hippies: no meat, no hunting, and always craving to be at one with nature.

 

Hearing a low hum Loki looked up to see a flying boat, little more than a dot, soaring way above the palace. Just tilting his head back was enough to trigger a spell of vertigo. He held onto the parapet as the balcony spun around him. It was so hot, unbearably so. He waited until the dizziness had receded before he picked the blanket off the floor and threw it over his shoulders.

 

He couldn't explain why, but he felt compelled to leave his room. This he did so on unsteady legs, heading out into the corridor.

 

The heat was over powering now, pressing against him from all sides, but Loki had to keep going. The golden floors and walls shimmered and swam before his eyes, the ceiling-to-floor banners flapping in an unfelt draft. Loki kept one hand on the burning wall as he carefully placed one foot in front of the other.

 

Time and space did not seem to adhere to the usual rules here. He had only just left his rooms, but now he realised that he was on the ground floor and outside the Great Banqueting Hall. Hearing voices, Loki pulled open one of the massive, intricately carved doors and peered inside to see that there were only five people there. They were seated in the middle of the table, at the places of honour, and were enjoying the food and wine which were spread out before them.

 

Loki stared at them. He couldn't imagine why they were there or what their connection to one another was as he was sure that they did not know one another, and yet they seemed to be chatting quite happily to one another.

 

“But you know them,” Frigga stated simply.

 

Loki didn't even flinch when he saw his mother standing beside him, looking exactly the same as the very last time he had seen her alive; he was incapable of experiencing surprise in this strange version of Asgard.

 

Loki nodded towards the nearest man. “That's Doctor Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme on Midgard.” He looked to the other guests, pointing as he named them. “He's Taneleer Tivan, The Collector. Next to him is the android known as The Vision. And that's Gamora Titan, the Most Dangerous Woman in the Universe. And the last one is Tina...I don't know her surname, if she has one. Why is she here?”

 

Frigga shrugged her thin shoulders, wearing a sweet smile. “Why are any of them here? Why is there one vacant place waiting to be filled?”

 

Loki looked back to the table. He hadn't seen the empty gold plate at first, but there it was – an empty plate with an empty wine goblet placed in front of an empty chair, in between Tina and Dr Strange.

 

He felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up on end.

 

He flinched as Frigga placed a hand on his arm, and lowering her voice to whisper, asked, “Do you understand now, son?”

 

He tried to think, but his mind was foggy. His thought processes were further interrupted by a painful shiver. It started at the top of his neck, ran down his spin and spread out over his whole body. He pulled his blanket more tightly around himself.

 

“I'm cold,” he said, through chattering teeth.

 

Frigga simply smiled emptily at him, and Loki sensed that she would not speak to him any longer.

 

He stumbled past her. Up ahead he could see the flight of golden steps sweeping up towards the throne, looking more ornate and shining more brightly than usual, with its wings stretching out far behind it. Around the throne, placed here and there, with seemingly little thought, were statues of wolves, horses, dogs, and ravens in various poses: prowling about, or howling at some invisible moon; trotting gracefully; in flight or pecking at the floor.

 

Odin was sitting on the throne, looking every bit the formidable former ruler of the Nine Realms. In full Battle Aspect and holding onto Gungnir, this was the Odin Loki remembered most clearly from his childhood: the mighty Odin, the All-Father in name, but not in practise; cold, disdainful, and so far away.

 

Loki gasped for breath. It was all too much in the throne room – the heat, the dizzying brightness, the disappointing look in Odin's eye.

 

The stairs seemed to twist before his very eyes as he struggled to breathe. Distantly he heard Odin remark, “Look at the state of you. Your appearance is disgraceful. And I've been informed that you wish to not participate in the Wild Hunt this year. That is unacceptable.”

 

Loki find he couldn't answer. There was a loud ringing in his ears.

 

“It was a mistake to have brought you out of Jotunheim all those years ago. Well, I intend to put things right. I'm sending you back to the Frost Giants. You're finished here in Asgard.”

 

A sudden sharp, terrifying wave of stomach pain brought Loki to his knees at the foot of the steps. With tears in his eyes he clutched at his abdomen as the sweat dripped down his face and back.

 

His vision was blurred as he looked up at Odin. The All-Father's appearance seemed to flicker and alter; one moment he was Odin and the next he was Thanos, grinning manically.

 

“You've disappointed me, Little Loki.”

 

Loki squeezed his eyes shut. He wasn't ready for Thanos. Not yet, not now. When he opened his eyes again, Odin had replaced Thanos.

 

Every fresh wave of agony stole his breath away. He abominated begging, but he had done so much begging and pleading in recent years a little more wasn't going hurt.

 

“Please...”he spat out, bitterly. He reached out a weak arm, holding onto the step above him. “Odin...”

 

He heard footsteps climbing down the steps. Odin was no longer in his armour, but was clothed in the loose, comfortable robes he would save for the days when he had no official business to conduct.

 

He was still frowning, but it was softer than before – a look of concern rather than contempt. He held his hand out over Loki, allowing a small ball of light to sink into the trickster's back. Waves of relaxing warmth ran all over Loki's body, reducing the pain significantly.

 

“No need for you to speak,” Odin informed him before he even had time to open his mouth. “I used to enjoy our conservations, I did. But, right now, I don't think you have it in you to say much. I will do all the talking.”

 

Loki groaned inwardly.

 


 

 

Thor was watching on tenterhooks as Loki's infected magic was forced out of him. It took great self-restraint on his part to simply observe the operation and not interfere in any way. Although, the infection had turned the magic into poison, it had also kept Loki alive; removing it would be nothing less than traumatizing for an already weakened body.

 

He found himself folding his arms tightly across his chest, a way of holding himself back and holding in all the questions he desperately wanted to ask the Kin: Are you working too fast? Too slow? How will you remove the infection?

 

Then, at long last, the stream of magic flowing out of Loki's mouth petered out. Above the cloud of cyan magic drifted above them. Loki's arms fell to his sides.

 

Thor, sensing what was about to happen, ran forward just in time to catch Loki in his arms as he suddenly dropped from the sky.

 

“I must destroy the infection,” the Kin said in it's soft voice. “Time is crucial now. The longer it takes, the more dangerous it is for him.”

 

“Then, please, hurry up!”

 

The Kin moved forward so that it was directly under the cloud and holding up its hands, worked to separate the infection from Loki's magic.

 


 

 

Odin sat down heavily on the steps next to where Loki lay.

 

“I regret that we haven't had the either opportunity or the inclination to talk things out since you first discovered your roots. But the time is right now. You have me all to yourself, and I have you too weak to lash out before I am finished. What you think of me, how you will judge me, after I am done, is up to you.”

 

As Odin had stated, Loki felt too drained of energy to say anything – perhaps because of the heat, or because of Odin's spell. Instead, he lay, rather uncomfortably, on his side. His mind was lost in a haze, but through it all he could hear Odin talking to him softly.

 

“I used to be your favourite a long, long time ago. When I first brought you back from Jotunheim you would not feed for many days. You lost weight. You became too weak to cry. Eir said that you were dying of heartbreak for a mother who had been murdered. She advised me to say goodbye. And, for a short time, I considered doing just that. I held you in arms, and you reached out your tiny hand and held onto my finger. And that's when I thought: no, Eir, my son is a survivor. Only I didn't think a phrase as mild as that, but something altogether much more coarse. I ordered the wet nurse to bring a pipette from the kitchens and I fed you myself, dropping a few drops of milk at a time into your mouth. I stayed up all night with you, slowly feeding you in that manner, watching over you. It took a long time, but eventually you grew to a healthy weight and thrived.

 

And Frigga? Took her a while to bond with you. But, can you blame her? I went out to battle one day and returned having lost an eye, but gained a son. She was furious. However, I knew Frigga's gentle heart well and patiently waited. Before long she came to love you as her own, as I knew she would.

 

But, ah, I can see that once again you wish to ask why I took you from Jotunheim in the first place? I can see that my initial answer did not satisfy you. Allow me to elaborate on it, and then maybe you will accept it and gain much needed peace of mind.

 

The prevailing reason was mercy. You understand mercy, I know you do. I watched as you protected Jane Foster twice during the battle against Malekith. And I know you have taken a mortal woman under your wing. I wonder why you did that? You asked for nothing in return, which is most unlike you. Oh, don't think that I am mocking you; mercy is never weak. To quote your Mr Shakespeare: it is twice blessed.

 

Yes, it briefly crossed my mind that one day I could use you to strengthen the truce between Asgard and Jotunheim. But, it was hardly a plan. A brief consideration, quickly dismissed. Besides, what father doesn't have ambition for his children? Some confidently predict that their babe will one day become a world famous doctor, or a novelist or an actor. I envisioned that you would be the one to finally bring peace between our two worlds after millennium of fighting. A father's vanity. Because when it comes to my two sons, I am proud and vain of them.

 

And, yes, you do look like Hela. Neither your mother or I was expecting it. I should have predicted it's possibility, since I did pour some of myself into you. But, you could never be like Hela.

 

You were eight when it became obvious to us that you were growing into the god of Mischief, and we named you as such. Yes, it was the snake incident, among other things. Frigga was apprehensive, although she never allowed you to see it. And I must admit, so was I. Hela was forever at the back of my mind.

 

So, why had I done it? Why, as the All-Father, had I blessed you with my intelligence – yes, I know I'm vain and arrogant – and cunning? After all mischief means to cause harm to other. If we were in the company of a Midgardian teacher right now they would be chastising me for labelling you as a “bad boy”, telling me that to do so would obviously cause you to go astray. I would have to humbly agree with them and apologise to you for causing you pain in this respect, although it was not my intention.

 

In my arrogance, I had overlooked your passion and talent for reading, as well as your natural sensitivity. Knowing what mischief meant, you must have wondered why you were given it as a permanent title when your greatest crimes amounted to cutting Heimdall's hair off, and giving Thor a shallow flesh-wound with your dagger. Your brother had long since been named god of Thunder, but that was hardly a judgement on his personality, was it? Whereas mischief suggests something much more sinister.

 

No, in my thoughtlessness, none of this crossed my mind. I saw you for what you really were: my intelligent, loveable son with a talent for trickery. And a trickster is just what Asgard needs. Our technology may be great, but due to our long life-spans our culture was stagnating. It required a chaotic element to shake things up, and to force growth. That was to be you: an innovator.

 

In those early days, the future looked glorious in my mind. With Thor's strength and your cunning there would not be a single one of our enemies who could reign victorious against the sons of Odin. The Odinsons will rise out of the ashes, all of space will be in their hand...as the prophecy goes. But, perhaps that is not meant to be. I'd never imagined that you would turn on your family. I thought you were happy.

 

Thor told me your reasoning. That you wanted only to be his equal and to be accepted as a worthy son...Therefore I choose to accept responsibility for your crimes against Jotunheim. If anyone questions you about it, you may tell them this: that you did it for me and my soul shall bear the consequences. If anyone tries to take revenge against you for it, you will be protected. It will make my time in Valhalla less pleasant, but understand that I make this decision cheerfully.

 

However, as for the crimes you committed after that....I cannot protect you, Loki. All I can do is to remind you that you are both a god and a trickster; a Jotun, and an Aesir. You crave a single, solid identity, as most people do. But it is a mistake to feel that having so many identities makes you less of a person than anyone else; no, it makes you more. They give more to defend yourself with, more to fight with.”

 

Odin stood up, saying, “I have kept you too long, and I have stayed beyond my allotted time. So, just one last thing to be said: you are not responsible for Farbauti's death, and you are not responsible for Frigga's death. Don't let the monsters in your head convince you otherwise.”

 

Loki's eyes were closed, but he felt the hot tears streaming out from under his eyelids and down his face. He felt Odin's rough hand lightly touch his hair, before pulling away.

 

“Farewell, Loki.”

 

Loki tried to reach up an arm to Odin, but he was too exhausted to move.

 


 

 

The infection was resisting the Kin's attempt to destroy it. The cyan cloud of magic swirled about over head, angrily shifting one way and then another, emitting an angry hiss, as the Kin stood beneath it, working it's own magic.

 

Abruptly, the cloud came to a halt, frozen in place by the Kin. The spirit raised its arms above it's head before slowly lowering them again. The cyan cloud was split into two halves: one sky blue and the other emerald green. The Kin raised it's left hand, under the blue cloud, and quickly clenched its fist. The blue cloud was dispersed, bursting into nothingness, leaving only Loki's pure magic behind.

 

Loki's magic had a healthy look about it, Thor thought. It was transparent and sparkling like a forest stream. As it moved about overhead, it made his head hairs stand up, but in a friendly way, like a summer's breeze. It arched upwards and began to spiral downwards towards Loki.

 

Thor felt his brother shift unconsciously in his arms, opening his mouth wide to breathe his magic back in.

 

The positive effects began immediately. Thor watched as Loki's form slowly reverted from Jotun to Aesir again, his breathing becoming even and natural sounding again, that of a sleeping person over an unconscious one.

 

He placed a hand on Loki's forehead and was relieved to feel his brother's skin had its usual chilliness, the fever gone. In fact, everything about Loki's appearance was much improved, from his skin to his hair.

 

Thor gently tapped his cheek, calling, “Loki? Loki, can you hear me?”

 

Loki's eyes snapped open, bright green and shining. He drew in a deep breath as he bolted upright. Before Thor was able to react, Loki had leapt out of his arms and jumped out of the cart. He staggered a few paces forward before falling to his knees.

 

Thor was right behind him. As he touched Loki's shoulder, his brother gave a startled cry before exclaiming, “Thor! What happened to your hair, your eye? Where's Mew Mew?” He suddenly gasped, tumbling backwards. “Are you a Scroll?! If you are then it's a poor likeness. I think you need to return to Scroll School and redo the basics.”

 

“Loki, I'm not a Scroll. It really is me, Thor.”

 

Loki chuckled.

 

“My brother was never so ugly!”

 

“What's wrong with him?” Thor demanded of the Kin, who hovering high above their heads. “What did you do?”

 

“Only what you asked me to. He is restored. If his mind is a little confused it is only because it has suffered much. I hope you will not regret your choice,” the Kin added before fading away.

 

“Thor!” Loki yelled so loudly that Har whinnied again. “I love you!” He threw his arms around Thor's neck, but instead of holding on slowly slipped down to the ground, fast asleep.

 

To Thor, this was a relief.

 

Thor put Loki down in the back next to the Doc, before gently urging Har into flight.

 

He was so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he flinched when, some time later, Loki suddenly jumped onto the seat next to him.

 

“Good sleep?” Thor asked.

 

“Hmm-hmm,” Loki yawned, stretching his arm up far above his head. “Best in years,” he added.

 

Thor turned his head and saw Loki grinning at him, eyes shining brightly. It had been a long time since he had seen Loki looking so well. The smile was infectious.

 

“How long until The Statesman arrives?” Loki asked.

 

“Six days. Or five. I've lost track.”

 

“How will we pass the time?”

 

Thor shrugged. “We'll think of something. But, you do owe me a big favour, you know that, right?”

 

Loki's smile faltered slightly. “I do,” he admitted. “Very well, I will track down Jane Foster for you.”

 

“No, that's not what I want. I want you to tell me everything that happened to you after you fell from the Bifrost. Where you went, who you met, what you did, and who's after the Infinity Stones. Everything.”

 

Loki was suddenly pale again. He turned away from Thor, arms wrapped around himself.

 

“Are you feeling sick again?” Thor asked, alarmed.

 

“No...yes...I can't, Thor....” His voice had become a hoarse whisper. “I can't talk about it...Can't even bear to think about it...Look, the Tesseract was destroyed on Asgard, and the things that happened to me – that's in the past. And the people who...they must have heard by now that Asgard was destroyed, so as long as we don't draw attention to ourselves....There's no point in talking about it!”

 

“I'm sorry, Loki, but I have to know. How about this idea? While you were king, you turned your life story into a play. Every bad and upsetting thing that had happened to you was included in it – figuring out that you are a Frost Giant, being killed by Kurse...That was therapeutic, right? You got to express all your anger and bitterness and sadness without hurting anyone, as well entertaining them. But, you skipped the year you were missing. Why not fill the gap in the narrative for me?”

 

Loki looked incredulous. “You want me to put on a play?”

 

“I want you to tell me a story. You used to enjoy telling stories, right? I want you to take all those bad memories and own them.”

 

Loki said nothing, but nodded.

 

He past the rest of the journey in deep thought, staring up the stars and listening to the Doc gently snoring. Every memory from those days were jumbled up his head, and, although, mentally he was only lightly skimming over them, it was enough to make him sweat. Even though he knew that he was safe enough on this planet (the Black Order never returned to a planet once they had decimated it) and even though Thor was at his side, Loki still did not feel safe.

 

“Loki,” Thor said in a low voice. “I am here.”

 

“I know,” was all he was able to say through a throat that suddenly felt constricted.

 

 

 


 

AN: Phew! This story is finally done! However, I can feel the Black Order peering over my shoulder – they want to be included. So far every story in this fic has been about softening Loki's heart a little bit at a time, him learning that he's loved and how to love...but now I'm going to have to take him in the complete opposite direction. In an interview for Avengers, Tom Hiddleston said that Loki had, “gone off the map mentally and has completely let go of normal, psychological patterns.”

Thank you for reading!

 

 

Chapter Text

AN: This will probably be the darkest story so far, so I'd say that trigger warnings apply for feelings of suicide, torture, etc, although I don't intend for it be graphic or explicit. I'm not fond of dark stories, but I want to be true to what is widely believed to have happened to Loki. It must be perfectly balanced between angst and adventure, as all good fics must be. Remember, no matter how dire the situation, Loki always has a plan.


 

 

Child of Thanos: Part One: The Fall

 

Night had fallen some hours ago, so they had the bar all to themselves, which suited them just fine; and as compensation for throwing Loki out of the upstairs window, but mostly as a means of appeasing Doc Sheriff, Rai had told them that all drinks were free to them. If only he knew how much Asgardians could drink.

 

Thor poured them both a generous measure of whisky...or at least, they assumed it was whisky. It's label held the special distinction of being the only bottle to depict a drunk, two-headed horse having a grand old time on a surfboard, so they knew it must be good stuff.

 

“Prost,” they both said, clinking their glasses and then draining them dry.

 

“What do you think?” Thor asked.

 

“It's horrible! It's a very salty yellow.”

 

“Good. Have another.”

 

Thor waited a moment for Loki to swallow the liquid in one gulp and then recover, before asking, “So. Are you ready to tell me your story?”

 

He saw his brother's mouth tighten slightly, before he jutted his chin out, saying, “I am. But no interruptions, please.”

 

Thor held up his hands. “Promise.”

 

Loki slipped off the bar stool and went to sit down at the rickety, old piano, lifting its dusty lid up.

 

“I've composed a soundtrack,” he explained, without the slightest hint of embarrassment.

 

Somehow the thought of his brother creating background music for his own story made Thor strangely happy.

 

He grinned as he said, “Well, you wouldn't be you if you hadn't.”

 

“I call this piece: Letting Go.”

 

Loki began to play.

 


 

 

You asked me to start from the very beginning, as all good stories should. However, I hardly know how to begin. Since being healed by the Kin my memory has become clear, whereas before the memories of my year away were an incoherent mess; some memories being twisted, others hidden away from me, and others still mere fabrications. I have only just begun to make sense of it all.

 

Perhaps I should begin with the destruction of the Bifrost, as that was the last time you saw me before our year long separation began. But, even starting from that point has its narrative difficulties because, to put it simply, I can recall two different versions of the same event and although I now know which one is the false memory and which one is true, for the longest time I was made to believe differently. I know that you are wondering how this came to be, but I'll get that in time.

 

The event I am talking about is me falling into the void. The two different versions centre around how I came to fall, although it hardly matters as the end result was exactly the same. Well, I say it hardly matters, but I am sure you are anxious for me to remember correctly. And it used to matter to me a great deal as well. I was very angry with you for a time.

 

I remember you tossing me into an abyss...This is version one. You referred to it as one of my “imagined slights”.

 

We were both standing on the jagged edge of the newly destroyed Bifrost. Your actions had caused an almighty explosion as rune marks and spells were ripped apart. All that energy had been flowing into the Observatory to be fired against Jotunheim, but with the bridge gone there was no where else for it go, expect to blow up underneath us. We were sent rocketing up into the air, riding on a rainbow coloured fireball of flames and magic, before crashing back down again onto the remains of the bridge.

 

For a short time, both of use were too stunned to move with our ears still ringing and bones still aching. And then we remembered the cause of all that pain and scrambled to our feet. Still fighting to regain our breaths, we looked to one another as if to say, “Look at what we have just survived...” - a moment of brotherly connection - and that is when you pressed one hand to my chest and wordlessly shoved me over the edge.

 

You look horrified. As well you should at the thought of murdering me. Truly, you are nothing without me.

 

And as for the second version, the real version, you know it already.

 

Odin holding onto you, and you and me dangling off the Bifrost.

 

It was typical of our relationship, was it not? Father saving you, and us both grasping onto Gungnir.

 

“I could have done it, Father! I could have done it! For you! For all of us!”

 

I meant those words. I could have destroyed the entire race of Frost Giants and it would have been for all of us. I could have fixed our relationship. If Father had ever doubted my loyalty to the Aesir, my suitability to the throne, surely, I thought, wiping out all traces of my true heritage would be proof enough of my fidelity. What greater sign could there be of me being a worthy son – a Frost Giant – willing to kill all other Frost Giants for him? And finally, at long last, he might be proud of me again, just as he had been in the old days before our alienation.

 

But the answer he gave crushed me.

 

“No, Loki,” he hissed, with fire flashing in his eye.

 

I felt like a blanket had been dropped over my head, heavy and black and suffocating and blocking out all light.

 

No, Loki...Just like that, through two small words, my lifetime of trying to be worthy of his love and approval, had been dismissed. I had been dismissed. I knew then that there was nothing more I could try, nothing more I could do to earn his love...He could never love a Frost Giant...I had run out of ideas...Well, except one....one more Frost Giant to be executed...

 

No, Loki...Those words should be my epitaph.

 

“Loki, no!” I heard you snarl.

 

Of course, you would echo Odin's words and sentiments. You looked so alike, glaring at me with fury in your eyes, silently condemning me. I couldn't stomach it any longer.

 

Why are you looking at me like that with such disbelief, Thor? Did I get it wrong? Misinterpret Odin, and misinterpret you?

 

Possibly. I did tell you that my memories were twisted and that I am still trying to untangle everything.

 

But, you should be proud of me, brother. Look at how far I've come back from the edge. I can finally admit that possibly, maybe, I wasn't seeing or hearing things as they truly were.

 

Anyway, it doesn't matter how I view the incident now, only how I saw things back then.

 

And I saw only darkness.

 

So, I let go.

 

It was a colossal mistake as it happens.

 

Drink?

 


 

AN: The song Loki was playing, “Letting Go” is from Thor (2011) and belongs to Patrick Doyle. It's a very beautiful soundtrack.

And if Thor and Loki keep drinking at the same pace throughout this whole story, they might just end up drunk before its completion. Hopefully not.

Thanks for reading!

 

Chapter Text

 

Child of Thanos: Part Two: Wishing Well

 

 

“I know that I promised not to interrupt -”

 

“But, you are going to interrupt? Well, that is unexpected.” Loki waved his hands over the piano keys. “The instrument is all yours, brother.”

 

He stood up and nimbly hopped onto the top of the upright piano, allowing his legs to dangle over the side.

 

Thor rolled his eyes, but dutifully sat down on the newly vacated stool. He scanned the long line of black and white keys, suddenly feeling daunted.

 

“It's been a while,” Thor warned him. “And this mite-bitten thing is nothing like the pianos we have -had – back home. In fact, I'm not even sure that I can play something like -”

 

“Oh, go on! It's been an age.”

 

Thor found that after a few false starts his hands moved easily over the keys, producing a pleasing melody he didn't know he had inside of him.

 

“I don't know why you chose to neglect your gift for music,” Loki commented, quietly.

 

“You know why. Didn't want to be like you, standing out for being proficient in one of the “softer” occupations.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

“You know what I mean. Besides, you were the one who used to mock me the most. You made me believe that everyone was laughing at me.”

 

“Well, they were! They were just too stupid to appreciate that you may have other talents, aside from smashing people with your hammer. Do you enjoy it?”

 

Thor thought about that for a moment. In the end, underneath all the layers of insecurity, he realised that he had missed playing an instrument. “I do.”

 

“Then you should do it more often. Who cares what other people think of you?” Loki lay back, folding his arms underneath his head. He put on a Transatlantic accent to say, “Play me something upbeat, Sam.”

 

Thor snorted; he didn't understand the reference, but at least he recognised that there was a reference. He racked brain for a good song.

 

From his time on Earth, he had been exposed to a great deal of music. But there was so many different kinds. Bruce favoured opera as a way to relax; Tony preferred heavy metal and/or rock (Thor couldn't be sure of the difference); and Cap sometimes secretly listened to sentimental songs from the 1940s.

 

But, what kind did he like? He wasn't certain. He didn't feel like he had particular preferences; he found that his brain tended to absorb it all without discrimination. There was one song, however, which came to mind. He had heard it at Tony's party – one of Tony's many parties - and the lyrics had stayed with him.

 

So, he started to play and was mightily pleased with himself as he found the tune was flowing out perfectly from under his hands.

 

He chuckled. “This is awesome. I could do this all night.”

 

“So, come on, then,” Loki prompted. “You wanted to interrupt my story for a reason. What do you want to say? I hope it's important.”

 

That angered Thor, just as it was intended to.

 

“How can you be so flippant?” Thor demanded, hitting a few wrong notes. “Look, I just wanted to take the opportunity to drill the obvious through your thick skull: what you did wounded us all for life. All of us.”

 

“That's gratifying.”

 

“See? Cracking jokes like that is why I believe that you don't fully understand the impact your suicide had on us. But, trust me, it was hardest, darkest time of my life, the year that you were gone. The guilt and anger I felt was almost overwhelming. I blamed myself, I blamed you, and Mother and Father. But, I could never find any real closure because you weren't around to answer all my questions. It tore our family apart; we barely spent any time together. I travelled around the Nine Realms, fighting to maintain the peace; Odin buried himself in his work; and as for Mother, we all thought her slightly mad because she was the only who believed that you were still alive! Just be honest with me, do you understand how much hurt you've caused?”

 

Loki sat up, crossing his legs, and resting his elbows on his knees as he went deep into thought.

 

“I know what pain feels like,” he said, eventually. “Pain was my motivation for the things that I did. But, truthfully, I can't imagine your heartache over me. If you did indeed experience such a thing.”

 

That stung.

 

Thor stood up, placing a hand on the back of Loki's neck.

 

“Of course, I did! We're brothers and you're my friend. We share over a thousand years worth of memories. We've seen the best and worst of one another. So, of course, I grieved everyday for you; it was like I had lost half of myself. If I'd been the one to have died, wouldn't you grieve? Mourn?”

 

Loki didn't answer, but looked away. Thor removed his hand and sat down heavily, resuming the song.

 

“At least we got to say goodbye after I was killed by Kurse,” Loki said in a hopeful voice, as if the memory might cheer Thor up.

 

Thor blew out his lips nosily.

 

“Don't get me started!” he snapped. “You always have to make me watch, don't you? Both times!”

 

“Bad habit. Sorry.”

 

“Sorry? Is that it? I'm psychologically scarred because of you.”

 

Loki hung his head.

 

“You've never appreciated how beloved you were,” Thor muttered.

 

“And you never appreciated the agony I was in,” Loki retorted, voice cracking.

 

Thor shook his head in frustration.

 

“That apology I offered you all those years ago – I meant it. I know I've let you down badly, and I'm trying my best to be a better brother to you. But, it's pointless if you don't forgive me.”

 

He waited for a verbal reply, but none was forthcoming. He looked up to see Loki staring down at him with tears with his eyes.

 

“If it helps, I forgive you,” Thor said, softly. “I probably shouldn't, but I do. It's my choice.”

 

Loki bowed his head again, and when he looked up after a long silence, said, “Forgiveness is a trait of the strong, but not of the weak.”

 

Thor smiled sadly. “It's okay. I understand you.”

 

He finished playing the song and stood up.

 

“Your turn again, Loki. So, what happened when you fell into the void?”

 

 


 

AN: I had only decided to write this chapter a couple of days ago, so it wasn't planned, but I felt that Thor ought to be allowed to speak up about his feelings. And it's always fun writing about them just hanging out together. My justification for Thor being good on the piano is: 1) He's over a 1000 years old – he needed to fill his free time with something other than training. He'll also continue to live for a very long time, so he's bound to pick up new skills and hobbies along the way. 2) I think he's smarter than Loki would like us to believe, but he focuses more on being a strong warrior. 3.) I wanted to add to his character because I can.

 

The song he plays is Wishing Well by Free. It's a good bluesy rock song, and I tend to think of it as Thor singing it as Loki. Here are the lyrics which stand out to me the most:

 

You've always been a good friend of mine, but you're always saying farewell. And the only time that you're satisfied is with your feet in the wishing well...

 

You've always got something to hide, something you just can't tell. And the only time that you're satisfied is with your feet in the wishing well...

 

Put up a fight you believe to be right, and someday the sun will shine through.

 

That last lyric really gets to me as I tend to think of Loki attacking Thanos.

Thanks for reading, the next chapter is half written. I just need to get on with it.

 

I forgot to add, I know that in this fic that Thor is very forgiving of Loki, perhaps unreasonably so, but my reasoning is this: they're both over a 1000 years old and for the majority of that time Loki was good, or at least, not trying to kill anyone...I think. We don't get to see what Loki was like back then. (Although there was the snake story). In any case, from Thor's perspective Loki is a good person who suddenly, unexpectedly went bad, for only a few years. Yes, he did terrible things, but it must seem like a blip to Thor. As he said in Ragnarök, there's still good in Loki. Also, Thor knows it's better to have Loki on side rather than as an enemy, so his decision to forgive, while mostly compassionate, has an element of strategy to it.

 

Chapter Text

 

Child of Thanos: Part Two: Golden Mirrors

 

Was I expecting to die, I hear you ask.

 

Yes.

 

We called it The Void because we lacked information about it's properties, apart from knowing how destructive it was. Also we lacked imagination, but never mind, it was only meant to do until we came up with something more fitting. I was rather disappointed that you never thought to name it after me.

 

I'm just saying that the Loki Void has a ring to it. And The Void did cause you to be devoid of me...oh, forget it...

 

You'll recall that Old Voidy caused something of a stir when it first appeared eight years ago, opening up under the Rainbow Bridge like a crack in space. It was darker than dark around it, and had a nasty habit of crushing, disintegrating, and swallowing up anything that got too close to it: nebulae, probes, unmanned shuttles, children's balls, rubbish, embarrassing love letters....your favourite axe...sorry about that last one....whatever we chucked in (intentionally or accidentally) was destroyed by Voidy.

 

It was a mystery to us. The Bi-frost was our way to zip around the universe, but a wormhole? Clearly, there were gaping holes in our knowledge. But we had observed enough to know that anyone foolish enough to dive into it had about as much chance of surviving as the beer running dry in Valhalla.

 

There must be some very thirsty souls in Valhalla...

 

Was I hoping to die?

 

Only for the first few seconds of falling... and then I saw Voidy gaping open before me like a gigantic mouth, growing larger and larger as I rushed towards it, the last of the Observatory being broken down into a golden cloud of dust, and decided that dying wasn't such an attractive idea after all.

 

That's the downside of falling from a great height: it takes too long. Time slows down, giving you time to think, usually to regret the decision you've made. And you can still see the faces of the people you have left behind. Rather cruelly the brain gives you a hefty dose of adrenaline. You might think of it as going into a battle frenzy; that powerful, intoxicating feeling that makes you want to fight back, that you can solve all your problems.

 

Except the one of how not to die.

 

But, what an amazing experience. To hurtle through space without the aid of the Bi-frost, knowing that I only had a limited number of breathes left, or that at any moment my body could be burnt up, or maybe I would be sucked into the current of the Yggdrasil, torn to shreds, and scattered across the universe. At least it was an interesting way to go.

 

The closer I drew to Voidy, the stronger its pull on me became. It was like having an iron fist grasping me, it's finger slowly tightening around my chest, crushing my lungs. My skin began to burn. I hoped it would be over quickly. But I did still possess the presence of mind to conjure a shield around myself. It was a weak shield, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances.

 

Dimly, I saw the blue cloud of the nebula swirling around Voidy, tasting sweetly like mint, and thought briefly how beautiful it looked. I thought that it would be the last beautiful thing I would ever see, so I savoured it as much as I could....but, what with my lungs being squeezed and my body feeling like it was on fire, I really didn't have much capacity for focusing on the view, no matter how spectacular it was.

 

My shield flickered and died.

 

And while I abominate such a time worn cliché, I don't know how else to word this expect to say: everything went black.

 

There was fire, there was ice, there was an overwhelming pressure pulling me in one direction and then another, and there was the occasional flare of colour, but mostly there was only a deep, impenetrable black, wrapped around me.

 

We've done it all now, haven't we? Travelled via Bi-frost, wormhole, and have been flicked out of the Bi-frost to hurtle head-first through open space (thanks, Hela). Incredible, wasn't it?

 

Oh. I see that you clearly didn't it enjoy the experience as much as I did. Come on, you must admit that it was exhilarating in a hellish sort-of way. Each to his own.

 

I'm not sure for how long the darkness lasted. A few minutes? Hours? Days? No matter how long I was unconscious for, I mostly enjoyed the peace, the silence, the stillness. I was hovering in that place in-between wakefulness and dreaming, without being aware that I was still alive.

 

But as the seconds ticked by I was gradually moving towards self-awareness again and beginning to weakly question into which of the underworlds my soul had been washed up into. I wasn't particularly fussy, there would always be drinking and partying. Although, I was curious to know who was running the show in Hel. There had to be someone keeping all those souls in line. Odin and Frigga had always been curiously tight-lipped about it in the past, making out that no one ruled it. I'd never believed them, which had made me all the more inquisitive. Do you remember when we tried to break into Hel, but never got past the bridge? Odin was so angry. Now we know why.

 

Finally, I had enough energy to crack my eyes open. I felt very confused to see myself hanging over me and looking equally befuddled.

 

I was in the Soul Forge, maybe? Had I'd been rescued and taken to the Healing Room?

 

I blinked rapidly. The other me blinked. He had a strangely golden sheen to him. Was I so good that my soul had turned golden?

 

And then my sluggish brain finally worked it out: it was a reflection.

 

I sat up, bumping my head sharply against the ceiling. It was much lower than I had realised. I could sit up, but I had to keep my neck bent to do so.

 

I was in a tunnel, or shaft, of some sort: ceiling, two walls, floor, and all golden and highly polished to the point of the four surfaces acting as mirrors. It was so narrow that I couldn't even extend my arms out sideways to their full length. I looked ahead to see the tunnel stretching off into the far distance with no end in sight. I twisted around (bumping my elbow this time) to see that it was same in the other direction. No beginning and no end. No twists or turns. Just one long tunnel of indeterminate length.

 

If this was one of the underworlds then it was nothing liked I had been expecting. Not enough wolves for a start. It seemed to me that it was far more likely that I had been placed inside of one of Odin's more phantasmagorical prisons, one that was designed like a puzzle box to send the captive mad before they are able to solve it and break free. Except that there is no way out. A rather cruel thing to do, to suggest that there might be a solution, to dangle hope on a string before the prisoner's eyes, only to yank it out of reach before they can grab hold.

 

I'll admit that after everything I had already been through, I was not exactly in the mood for playing games or thinking things through. In something of a frenzy, I began to pound the walls and ceiling with my feet and hands, intending to smash my way out.

 

“ODIN!” I screamed, as I hammered my fists against the wall. “LET ME OUT, ODIN! ODIN!”

 

Of course, there was no reply; not even an echo. There was no sign or hint that there was anyone on the outside observing my progress. And no matter how hard I struck the ceiling and walls I left not the slightest dent or the smallest mark. But I was like a deranged monster and I couldn't stop myself from continuing the assault, despite clearly seeing that it had no effect whatsoever. I just kept hitting and kicking and screaming, oblivious to the physical pain I was causing myself, and fuelled by my fury. I was so angry that my magic rose like a tidal wave in my blood and manifested itself as a burst of telekinetic power. It reverberated off every surface to hit straight back at me, knocking me backwards and smacking my head and arms against the ceiling and sides. Only then did I stop, when I was too exhausted and smarting to continue.

 

Only then was I still enough to really notice my reflection. I looked awful. My hair was sticking up in clumps, my eyes were swollen, clothes torn and ragged, and though I couldn't see it, I knew that I must be pale.

 

I drew my knees up and rested my head sideways on them. I rocked slightly as I tried to slow my breathing down. I needed to think. At least by having a tantrum my fury had burnt itself out for the time being, and I could think a little more rationally.

 

And of course there's nothing quite like being trapped in a prison to motivate one's thinking. This isn't what I had wanted. I had wanted a peaceful end to my problems, not an extension of them. I had wanted release and escape, only to find myself incarcerated. I had to escape; I couldn't stay in there for the rest of my life.

 

I could only think of two options: forwards or backwards. But always on my hands and knees.

 

Wonderful.

 

With nothing else for it, I began to shuffle forward on my aching hands. Odin would pay for this. And you, of course. As far as I was concerned, this was all your fault.

 

After twenty minutes or so of continuous crawling, I was struck by the unfairness of it all, the futility of the task. There was no way to measure how I far I had moved or if there was indeed an exit for me to reach. What had I done to deserve this?

 

You can keep pulling faces if you like, Thor. I am only relating to you how I felt back then and not how I feel now. Even I can see that my thinking was distorted by my own bitterness and anger and depression. You asked me if I had any idea of how much hurt I had caused. Well, no. Not back then. I simply wasn't able to even spare the smallest thought for the lives I had taken. How can I explain this? I knew that I had taken hundreds of innocent lives...but I couldn't feel it? There was no emotion whatsoever attached to the memory, good or bad.

 

Truly, there are times when I feel like I'm stuck inside my own head and I find myself insufferable. In the past, I would occasionally create a projection of myself just so I could smack myself in the arrogant face and watch it happen. Other times I would create a projection of you. Or Odin.

 

You're giving me that look again. The one where you're clearly making your mind up over whether you should hit me or hug me. Please refrain from doing either. I keep telling you, I am much better now. It is all sunshine and unicorns in the mind of Loki.

 

But, speaking of distorted thinking – twenty minutes. It took twenty minutes of mind-numbing, humiliating crawling for me to remember that I have magic and that I should probably put it to good use. It wasn't just my appearance that was a mess. My mind was in shreds too.

 

Clearly this place had been created by magic, so understanding it would provide me with some much needed clues. I ran my hand over the wall, summoning the runemarks to come to the surface – if it had any.

 

The wall glowed beneath my touch, and, a after a little mental pulling, there they were. A tightly woven grid of shining runes, carefully arranged in a repeating pattern and held together by a network of spells.

 

I felt a chill run down my spin. I knew what this was. I should have known from the very beginning, but I had been stupid and slow. The copper penny had dropped with a loud, resounding clang.

 

I wasn't inside one of the underworlds and I wasn't trapped in one of Odin's prisons.

 

I was inside the Observatory.

 

No, I don't mean that I was trapped inside the physical ruins of the Observatory, but rather...look, hand me that piece of chalk. I'll draw it on the bar.

 

The Rainbow Bridge is like a frozen river, yes? It's the Bi-frost existing in a state of being both a solid, allowing us to walk over it, and as a constant stream of energy, flowing into the Observatory. The Observatory allowed us to summon it's power, while the needle of the Observatory directed its flow.

 

But without the Bi-Frost flowing through it, what happens to the Observatory spells? They cannot come undone so easily – the magic was bound in place a network of runemarks created by the Incantation Fetters. All flesh turns into dust eventually, but the soul is immortal. The same can be said of the Observatory. The physical structure of the Observatory was broken down by the Void, completely destroyed, but the spells remain. When I entered Voidy, I was mixed in with those spells.

 

I was in the soul of the Observatory.

 

Perfect.

 

That explains the never-ending tunnel. The spells were designed to control the power and flow of the Bi-Frost. I'd said I was in the soul of the Observatory, but it would more accurate to say that I was in the waste pipe of the Observatory, and without access to the Bi-Frost, I was not going to be flushed out any time soon. It was just about undignified as it gets.

 

I went over my options.

 

I could use dark magic to summon the Bi-frost. I tagged it as “only as a last resort” idea. There is a good reason for why dark magic is called dark magic – because it always comes with a hefty price tag. Like a broken geise, serious misfortune or even death always follows. I don't think it's a coincidence that I became so ill after the Love-Lost attack, and that was even after I had sacrificed some blood.

 

And why does it take dark magic to open the Bi-frost when one doesn't have access to the Bi-frost sword and the Observatory port? Odin, of course. Actually, I agree with Odin's logic on this one. Without the curse placing conditions onto the use of the Bi-frost, anyone could open it from any place. And we wouldn't have exclusive access to it. But, imagine how much money we could make if we charged people for using the Bi-Frost....never mind...

 

Still, you can at least at agree that it was a clever idea of mine, to be sucked into the spells of the Observatory. How else could I have survived?

 

Now all I needed to do was to find a way out. Easy-peasy.

 

My glass is empty and I don't just mean metaphorically.

 


 

AN: Thank you for reading!

I only did a small amount of research into the underworlds of Norse mythology. If I've understood correctly, there was a number of different underworlds: Valhalla, Hel, Freya's Hall or Field, and the underwater abode of the giantess Ran. Again, if I've understood properly, Hel is nothing like “hell”, it's not a place of punishment. And it seems that the afterlife isn't so different from actual life – with drinking, eating, sleeping, fighting, etc.

I should have probably looked into the Thor comics to see how they portray Hel and to see if they include any of the other underworlds. But, I didn't. I assume that if I take in too much information and if I try to juggle too many different source materials then I am bound to get something completely wrong and cause offense. Sorry if have.

I also mentioned Incantation-Fetters. This a by-name for Sigyn. Technically, it is a kenning, or circumlocution, basically a roundabout way of describing something in an ambiguous way, using two words where one would do. e.g. battle-sweat meaning blood. Kennings are also associated with the gods, so one of Loki's kennings is “father of the sea thread”, meaning J ö rmungandr.

So, what does Incantation-Fetter mean? Well, we don't really know enough about Sigyn to say for certain. Or at least, that's what my weak research turned up. Incantation would suggest magic, spells, suggesting that maybe Sigyn also had magic. And Fetter means to bind or restrain. This could be in reference to Loki being bound to three rocks.

For this fic, I use the term to refer to any Asgardian who has a talent for creating unbreakable spells. I believe this to be a common interpretation of Sigyn's powers.

 

Chapter Text

 

Child of Thanos: Part Three: Escape and Rescued...sort of...

 

I am not prone to either claustrophobia or agoraphobia, but I would by lying if I said that being trapped in that tiny space didn't have any ill effect on me. It was the “stillness” which bothered me the most. No breezes, no echoes, no temperature; that is to say I felt neither uncomfortably hot or cold. It just was. That lack of sensory feedback must be how Tina feels, wrapped up in one of her metal and plastic Aspects. It might work for her, but as for me, who relies heavily on his senses, the deficiency in information was unnerving. I kept imagining that there was someone or something creeping up behind me, and with free space being so limited I couldn't turn around in time to defend myself. In the corner of my eye, I kept catching my own reflection moving, making myself flinch as though there was some monster caught in the metal. The sound of the blood pumping in my ears was like feet pounding along the tunnel.

 

If there was someone else trapped in there, then I had no intention of being around long enough to meet them.

 

I was lying on my back (sitting up was no longer an option as my neck was now painfully sore from being bent for so long) and with one hand reaching half-way up the wall, was laboriously picking apart the mesh of rune-marks and spells. Or at least, trying to.

 

Imagine trying to scratch your way out of a box made of diamond locks. Not the easiest of tasks.

 

But, that was the whole point of getting the Incantation-Fetters to do the work in the first place – nobody would want the magic to unravel while in mid-journey, or for it to fade away every few years or so. When an IF binds a spell into a place, it is done with the expectation that it will last for all eternity.

 

I was hoping that those expectations had been severely misplaced, otherwise I would have to resort to dark magic.

 

Beneath my hand the rune-marks glowed brightly and solidly – no obvious weak points to be seen. I'd tried pinning one down with the point of my dagger, jiggling the blade. The rune-mark hummed and buzzed, but remained firmly in place. And it yet it gave me hope that I was on the right track. I tried again, this time summoning a small tendril of electricity to run down the blade and into the rune-mark.

 

What? You didn't know that I can what you can do...more or less?

 

Well, I can. I just don't use it that often.

 

Anyway, once again the rune-mark began to hum, only this time at a higher frequency, and the more energy I pushed into it, the more it began to vibrate. I kept it up, and soon the rune-mark was jumping about in its place, sending a shower of tiny golden sparks arching into the tunnel. With a final push of magic the rune-mark burst apart, like a popped soap bubble, in a haze of golden magic. Perhaps being on the inside of spell made all the difference. It was weaker on the inside.

 

I used my sleeve to wipe the sweat off my forehead.

 

That was one rune-mark down; I'd only have to destroy about another hundred or so before I could break free...at least that was my estimation.

 

So, that is what I did. One rune-mark at a time. I can't tell you how long it took me; it is impossible to say. Sometimes I slept a little, but mostly I worked without stopping. It was a race against time as I grew increasingly hungry and thirsty...and as the hallucinations became ever more disturbing and violent.

 

Yes, who would have thought that being trapped in a narrow tunnel would not be conducive to good mental health?

 

I'll only touch upon this briefly as I don't wish to talk about it. At first I would only hear the occasion whisper; and after that some of my reflections would make unhelpful remarks and the odd rude gesture. Then, a few destroyed rune-marks later (perhaps whole days had passed), the hallucinations transcended from the auditory to the visual – mostly rats, but they never touched me. It's what came after that still makes me shudder and still gives me nightmares. I'll just refer to to it as Him. He appeared at least once every two destroyed rune-marks...I think? He was not friendly or benign...and that's all I have to say about Him.

 

You don't need to hold my shoulder, Thor.

 

Needless to say the hallucinations only increased my motivation for escaping as quickly as possible and I worked all the faster for it, even forgoing sleep. In hindsight, the sleep deprivation only made the delusions ever more sinister, but I was not aware of this. I just knew that I wanted to get out with as few as visitations from Him as possible.

 

Finally, after who-knows-how-long, I had ripped out enough rune-marks from the fabric of the spell to create cracks in the wall of the tunnel. Anyone else in my position might have wept with relief. But not me.

 

The cracks were as thin as the threads that make up a gossamer. A sweet light blue energy glowed through them. For me they were a symbol of hope, the light at the end of the tunnel, as it were. All I needed to do was to pour as much of my magical energy into the cracks as possible, overwhelming the net of rune-marks and then glorious freedom would be mine.

 

I pressed my finger to one of the cracks and allowed my magic to flow through me into the gap. It was enough to wake up Him. I could hear Him scuttling and scraping down the tunnel, slowly and surely, breathing heavily.

 

Not again. I had to get escape. Now.

 

I was almost completely drained of magic.

 

The crack slowly widened, and all around me the tunnel had become ablaze with the spicy, fiery, golden light of the rune-marks as they shone and buzzed angrily in protest. The noise was deafening, the light overwhelming, but behind it all I could sense Him still coming closer and closer, reaching out for me...

 

I pushed harder, summoning every last drop of magic from my veins. The fissure grew larger, splitting apart the ceiling from the walls with a mournful groan. I shoved one arm through and then the other, pushing the sides apart with all my might. I felt like fire and ice as the spell fought back to maintain itself.

 

Him placed a hand over my mouth. I was done to my last drops of magic. Time had run out for me.

 

With a scream and a final burst of power, I gave one final push. At first there was nothing, but then the spell and the mesh of rune-marks suddenly burst apart like a firework. Rune-marks up and down the golden tunnel exploded, one by one, the net unravelling like a woollen jumper. I was consumed by the blue light as the tunnel shimmered and melted all around me...

 

Once again, there was darkness. Once again, I was falling. Only this time I was smiling, the wonderful taste of victory filling my mouth. I had achieved the impossible. Or at least proved what was once thought to be impossible possible. And then I remembered that I had no idea where I was falling to.

 

Wonderful.

 


 

 

I dreamt of Asgard on fire. I dreamt of you, and of Frigga and Odin, flashes of faces rushing across my mind's eye.

 

The noise of a hollow explosion, like a giant ball of ice cracking into two pieces, from somewhere close by tore me from my sleep. I lay on my back gasping for air. Above me, the sky was a churning mess of the duller colours: browns and blacks and grey, all mixed in with a rusty red. And at its very centre, looking cold and indifferent, sat a blood red sun.

 

I knew those colours and understood their flavours, I had tasted them so many times before. I recognised the odours – ashes, and burning timbres, mixed in with burnt flesh – as they danced on my tongue. This was war. This was a world in chaos, on the brink of tearing itself asunder.

 

Another explosion. Closer than before, more solid and much nastier.

 

I hauled myself to my feet, feeling dizzy and unsteady. I lent against the trunk of a withered tree as I took in the environment. I was in a vast field, an endless sea of coarse grass. In the distance there was a city ablaze, with gigantic rolls of black smoke lazily floating up into the sky.

 

There was no sign of the Observatory. Not that I had fully expected to find any physical wreckage given that I had seen it being ground down in golden dust. A shudder ran down my spine. Everything that had happened back home now felt like a lifetime ago.

 

As I stared at the burning city the truth hit me full in the face: I had lost. I was lost. And I had lost everything. Family, home, title, privileges, reputation...no friends to speak of in the first place...It had all been stolen away from me by you and Odin.

 

I sensed a presence behind me. I whipped around to see a boy with stumpy looking antlers on top of his head – probably of teenage years – was trying to creep up on me. He was holding a knackered looking gun in his trembling hands and pointing it at me with an unsure look on his face.

 

“Who are you? Are you one of us or one of them?” the boy demanded.

 

“One of you,” I replied without missing a beat. “Now let's stop wasting time with this inane chatter. Tell what I've missed!”

 

I could see that he was young, inexperienced, naïve, not a professional soldier or warrior, but above all other things, frightened. I knew that his world was at war, but I still required details. Thankfully for me, I could also see that he was type to blindly follow whoever displayed enough authority without checking their credentials. He would be clay in my hands.

 

He shook as he spoke, voice shrill. “Sir, I've lost contact with the others! No one is responding. I think they're all gone, Sir, they're gone! And, Holo have mercy on me, but I ran away. I ran away as fast as I could.”

 

He really was just a child forced to fight for his life. He wasn't meant to be on the battlefield. I had to wonder though, you and I were both sent to war for the first time around his age – were we ever so scared? I can't remember. Although, we were so carefully protected I doubt that we were ever in any real danger.

 

“What's your name?” I asked.

 

“Tri of the Second Forest Tribe, Sir....no family name because....they're all gone too....”

 

“You may call me Loki...of the City...” That had been a guess, but since Tri didn't dispute it I assume that it had the right thing to say. “No family name either. Now, chin up. You stick with me and we can escape this place together.”

 

He suddenly looked defiant.

 

“We can't leave, Sir. Loki! We can't!”

 

I took a step closer to him, towering over him.

 

“Now you listen to me,” I said in my softest voice. “Do you have any idea what we're dealing with?”

 

I hoped he did.

 

He wavered. “No.”

 

“Well, I do.”

 

I didn't.

 

“What they'll do to us, if they find us, will be ten times more horrible, more painful, than what happened to your family. Everybody else is gone. We have to abandon the planet. Do you know where we can find a ship?”

 

He nodded, eyes watery.

 

“Then lead on.”

 

I followed Tri to the other side of the field, carrying the ancient gun, but without having much faith that it would do any good should I have need of it. There was even a bit of sticking tape wrapped around a crack in the handle. Still, though, given that I hadn't eaten or drunk anything in days, and my magic was down to the very drags it was better than nothing.

 

We only got as far as the rotting fence before our luck ran out. Or perhaps Tri's so-far good luck (as foolish as he was, he had survived longer than the others) was cancelled out by my own misfortune. I do seem to attract an awful lot of bad luck. More than my fair share.

 

And I'm not saying that I feel guilty for what happened to Tri. It wasn't my fault.

 

I failed to notice them sneaking up on us, sensing them only when it was too late to escape. They attacked so quickly and efficiently, a good show of teamwork. I myself had never been much of team player, always preferring to work alone, but I know a strong team when I see it.

 

I felt something rushing up behind me. I turned and caught it in my hand. A three-pronged spear. Nasty looking, but beautiful in its potential for causing chaos. I wanted it. Well, you know, finders-keepers.

 

I tossed the gun back to Tri, just in time as I was set upon by a man with a glaive. You've seen me fight, seen me defending myself with nothing but my dagger and my wits against numerous enemies. I may not be as strong as you, but you also know that I am a good warrior. But, I couldn't land a single blow against the glaive man. I could in true Aesir style boast of my efforts, exaggerate my skills and talents, or just plain lie about how many enemies I was facing at the time, but I won't. The truth was that he was faster, stronger, more agile, more aggressive, and talented than me. Yes, maybe being so physically weak had something to do with it, but I'm not so sure. All I could do was defend myself with the spear, being slowly pushed back towards the fence all the time. It was incredible. He was incredible.

 

Speaking of the spear, it was behaving very oddly. I could feel it pulling in my hands, trying to escape my grip, but I refused to let go. There was no time to think about it as my attention was fully occupied.

 

He swung the glaive towards me. I parried, side-stepped, parried again. Dodge, dodge, defend. It was all I could do.

 

He repeated his attack. The blade flashed red in the light, and it's tip caught my forearm. It stung more than a little. You can still see the scar, look. If I hadn't stepped back when I did, I wouldn't be playing the piano now.

 

In my peripheral vision I could see the shadowy outline of four other people. Tri was with them, held in the arms of the largest and bulkiest of the figures. He really hadn't been much use, captured almost as soon as the fight had begun. He had even given up struggling and was just hanging there, like a wet jumper on a clothes line.

 

Thankfully for me, Glaive Man's friends didn't seem to be at all inclined to help him, not that he needed it.

 

“Let him have his fun,” I heard one of them say. A female voice.

 

The spear had stopped struggling in my hands, making things a fraction easier for me. But not much. Not enough. I was quickly growing tired, my movements becoming sluggish.

 

“You put up a good fight,” Glaive Man hissed. “No one else has lasted this long.”

 

“Thank you,” I replied.

 

I know, I know, it was hardly the snappiest of replies. Even telling him to f-off would have been better than meekly thanking him for his weak, slightly snarky compliment. But, I was exhausted and losing blood, as well as strongly suspecting that I was about to be killed where I stood. My brain was not working at full capacity.

 

A second later and I had been knocked off my feet, landing heavily on my back. The spear vibrated violently in my hands, before pulling away and flying back to whoever had thrown it. I was convinced that I was about to die. But then again I had been 100% certain that Old Voidy would destroy me and that hadn't worked out. It occurred to me that Father might just be proud of me if he knew I had died fighting. Pathetic, isn't it? Even after I had tried to kill myself I still found myself wistfully hoping for Odin's approval.

 

“Don't let me down!” I told Glaive Man, as he stood poised above me, ready to plunge the glaive into my heart. “Do the deed properly.”

 

He narrowed his sharp eyes at me, looking slightly confused.

 

“You wish to die?” Apparently, he was more used to people begging for their lives rather than death.

 

I shrugged. “The desire waxes and wanes. Right now, I believe that death would be a kindness. I've nothing worth living for. But, in two minutes I may desperately wish to live for another thousands years, so, come on, get on with it!”

 

Much to my annoyance he did not follow my order, but instead he dragged me back across the field to where the others were waiting. He threw me to my knees, my tangled hair flopping over my eyes.

 

“This one is interesting,” he said. “He's clearly not of this world. Too good at fighting for that.”

 

Looking out from under my hair, I took a closer look at the group.

 

You know the human phrase: never judge a book by it's cover?

 

I've never agreed with that phrase. Appearances can be deceptive, of course (shape-shifters know this better than anyone else), but the value of first impressions and gut instinct should never be underestimated. Besides, there is the other phrase: never smile at a crocodile. This one is much more sensible. If I see a crocodile grinning at me, I'm not going to marvel at its friendliness and go over to shake its paw...except that is what I sort-of did...

 

There were five of them, all looking like they had been carved out of a nightmare. Three males and two females; all psychotic in their desire for carrying out their mission. There was absolutely nothing pleasant or trustworthy about their appearance and demeanour. My kind of people.

 

This, Thor, was the galaxy's most feared and hated group of people to ever travel among its stars: the Black Order.

 

“Cull, bring the other one here,” Glaive Man demanded.

 

Cull looks like the Hulk's evil twin, if that is any kind of description. Vast, bulky, reptilian, and as dumb as he is strong. He is the only member of the group who is unable to speak in anything beyond grunts, growls, and roars. At least he was fun to play with.

 

He dropped Tri down beside me. He was shaking from his toes to the top of his antlers. I tried to send him some comfort.

 

[Don't be afraid, Tri. Just leave the talking to me, okay? I know I can get us out of this mess.]

 

I didn't, but I can't stand the sight of people snivelling. Tri looked a little shocked to hear my voice inside his head, but he also seemed to trust me implicitly, despite having just met me and watching me getting my arse handed to me. It must be my confident aura.

 

One of the males stepped forward. He was ugly and nose-less, thinner and smaller than the others, but no less intimidating. I felt the hairs on the nape of my neck stand up on end. This guy was the one to fear, I realised. He may look frail when compared to the others, but he was clearly hiding some great intelligence and dark power. This was the biggest crocodile of them all and the one with the toothiest grin.

 

Ugly raised his hand. No, perhaps it is unfair to call him ugly. To be honest, he was quite handsome in a repulsive sort-of way, looking like the grey lint that accumulates down the backs of sofas and in pockets. Or a dead fish. A bit of both. I will continue to call him Ugly.

 

“Rejoice!” he cried in a reedy voice. “For soon you shall become true children of Thanos! Your sacrifice for the greater good shall not be in vain!”

 

Thanos...Thanos...it was the first time I had heard the name, and even then it sent a chill running down my spine. I knew it meant something terrible, I could feel it. And yet I couldn't properly understand it. It was like...death, but also love? Love and death mixed together. We've both lived so long that we know how easily and often the two go together. Except that this was the bad kind of love, which is not really love at all.

 

“Through Thanos the whole universe shall be restored to perfect balance! None shall stand in his way!”

 

I should tell you that the Black Order was also known as the Children of Thanos, Thanos' Generals, or Thanos' Death Squad. Cheery names,but perfectly suited to them.

 

So, who is Thanos? I can see that you're itching to know; clearly, his name has had the same impact on you as it did me. Anyway, I'll explain who he is in good time. At this point in the story I didn't know myself, but I was intrigued. I assumed that he must be a god, but even that didn't make sense. We knew all the gods, didn't we? Unless this guy was muscling in from another galaxy, which is just plain rude.

 

The ugly one pointed a long, grey finger at Tri. “How do you wish to die?”

 

Tri was understandably distressed by this question.

 

“Die? We're the last ones!” Tri screeched. “We don't deserve to die!”

 

I saw the dark haired woman raise the spear in her hands, pointing it directly at Tri's head. I shuffled sideways away from him, distancing myself from him. I wasn't witnessing a display of bravery, but of insanity. He had lost everything, including his reason. There was nothing that could be done, expect to avoid his fate. As I had warned Glaive Man, my desire for annihilation had already passed, shoved aside by my curiosity to find out more about this Thanos and why his devoted followers had invaded a planet.

 

“You should spare us!” Tri went on, completely oblivious to the danger he was putting us both in. “It would be the honourable thing to do!”

 

Honour? These people? A low chuckle escaped my lips. Obviously they had no honour. Not even Edgar Allan Poe could have conjured up these evil people for one of his stories. Spear Woman tilted her head at me, confused by my reaction. Thankfully, the others ignored me.

 

“Your people were given a fair choice,” Ugly-Most-Foul said in a voice so soft and slightly wet that it slipped off his tongue like a lump of green phlegm. “Give us a tribute or all be slaughtered. Your leaders chose slaughter.”

 

Oh, good, I thought, they're basically Aesir. Just can't get away. I had images of them charging from planet to planet, plundering and killing just for the sheer hell of it.

 

“But be at peace for in death you shall become a child of Thanos.”

 

I rolled my eyes. I was already tired of the preaching. Unfortunately for me I was destined to hear a whole lot more before my return to Asgard.

 

Tri was looking at me with wide-eyed panic.

 

“Say something!” he hissed at me.

 

I wondered what he meant at first and then I remembered that only a short time ago I had told him that I would work my silver-tongue in our favour. Oops. It probably wouldn't work, but may as well try it.

 

“If we are to become children of Thanos, then why don't you tell us all about him?” I asked, smiling sweetly. “We want to hear everything to make our deaths worthwhile.”

 

Ugly looked ready to oblige, hands raised up in front of him, however, at this point Tri's fear overrode the logical part of his brain.

 

“But we don't want to die!” Tri yelled in a strangled voice. “I don't care about Thanos!”

 

He must have thought that I would simply try to persuade them that it would be wrong to murder us, but it's never that straightforward. In a situation like this you have to convince the enemy that keeping you alive would be in their best interest or that you are on their side. Forget about morals. These people had killed so many, why would they suddenly care about right or wrong?

 

[Calm down!] I ordered.

 

“Tell them that they're not allowed to kill us! Tell them that you're injured and I'm only just turned eighteen! It goes against the rules! Tell them!”

 

I shook my head silently at him, bidding him to shut up. Our captors had shifted into attack positions, antagonised by Tri's outburst and ready to strike at any moment.

 

“I don't care about Thanos!” Tri screamed. “I hate Than-UGH!”

 

His body fell lifeless to the ground with a heavy thump. I stared blankly at his corpse. There was an electric blue blade of pure energy sticking out of his chest. It flicked before fading away.

 

One of the women – blue skin, white hooded-cloak – dropped her hand back to her side.

 

Ugly smiled at her. “Thank you, Supergiant. He was becoming most insufferable.”

 

I glanced at Tri again and then I did something strange. I yawned, a wide-open yawn. It wasn't deliberate; I just couldn't help it. I wasn't feeling tired or bored (impossible in this situation)...it just sort of happened...

 

This, of course, did nothing to calm the situation down. They turned their weapons on me. I yawned again.

 

“Are we boring you?” Supergiant demanded. “We just slaughtered your little friend right in front of you!”

 

“No, you're not boring me,” I said, truthfully. “No, he wasn't my friend. And, yes, you did slaughter him right in front of me. Thank you for stating the obvious.”

 

I know I was being reckless, but I couldn't stop myself.

 

“And how would you like to die?” Ugly asked, rather coldly. “For the glory of Thanos, or against him? Choose wisely.”

 

So I did.

 

Eventually, I said, “For the glory of Thanos, naturally. But, I would like to do so in the arms of Dionysus, Greek god of wine, theatre, parties, altered states and sex. That way I could go out drunk, high, entertained, and knowing that I am undone in every sense of the word...He's on Olympus if you want to contact him.”

 

I stared hard at the charred grass before me, bracing myself for death. This time I was really, really, sure that I was about to die. But instead of hearing the whistle of a weapon being chucked at my head, I heard a strange, disconcerting sound. Laughter.

 

I chanced looking up.

 

“I like this one,” said Spear Lady. “He's strong and funny.”

 

Glaive Man nodded. “He told me he has nothing to live for.”

 

The one called Supergiant floated next to them. She looked at me with empty blue eyes that tasted like sharp berries.

 

“He reminds me of how I used to be,” she said in a whispery voice. “Lost, alone, desperate, despairing....We could make use of him, fill him with new purpose - our glorious purpose. We'll take him to the Sanctuary.”

 

Sanctuary...that sounded nice, but something told me that it wouldn't live up to expectations.

 

With the exception of Cull, who never took his little eyes off me, the four of them stood in a circle, conversing silently with one another. It was obvious what they were discussing. I did my best to keep my face neutral, as though I wasn't one for much thinking or scheming.

 

Finally, Ugly turned to me to ask, “Do you accept our glorious mission, and to serve the mighty Thanos? We can teach you all about him. Give you a new home, purpose, and family.”

 

These people were psychopaths...and yet there was something appealing about the offer of a new family.

 

“What mission?” I asked.

 

Ugly smiled at me. He really shouldn't do that when trying to attract people to his cause. “To save the universe,” he said, proudly. The others looked proud too. I'd no idea that the universe was in need of saving.

 

Oh, of course, I thought to myself, because if you slaughter children then obviously it is about saving the universe.

 

As I said, these people were nutcases. And only an insane idiot would willingly go with them.

 

I swept my gaze over them all, weighing them up, taking in every scrap of information I could deduce about them.

 

I felt the fury and rage slowly bubbling up in my blood. I knew what they wanted, to use me for their own purpose just as Odin had done. Well, those days of being used were behind me. Heaven help anyone who tries to use me.

 

I would spread such chaos among them, I decided, tear their little group apart.

 

I allowed my gaze to rest on Supergiant for a second longer than the others. She had already said too much in front of me: lost, alone, desperate, despairing...Emotionally she was the weakest and so would be the first to go, I decided.

 

I looked over the rest of the group. Tight-knit, no obvious weaknesses, apart from the big guy – Cull - standing a little apart from the others, little intelligence in his eyes and clearly not valued...yes, I could use him...

 

In time they would learn the rules that so many fools have only learnt when it was too late for them: that if you value your lives just as they are and have no wish for change, then never invite a Trickster into your home. Never say anything in front of them because they will only use that information against you. And, most of all, if you come across a Trickster who is angry and with nothing left to lose and you've just killed a teenager in front of him, then whatever you do, if you wish to succeed in your mission, then do not tell him that you did it in the name of Order because he is an agent of Chaos and will bring your ordered world crashing down on your head just to prove you foolish and insignificant.

 

I smiled my brightest smile at Ugly.

 

“It would be my absolute pleasure,” I told him. “I accept.”

 

“And what is your name?”

 

“Logi the Wildfire,” I said, conjuring flames into my hands just to illustrate my point. It wasn't the biggest whopper I've ever told. The humans are forever mixing us up and truthfully I am skilled in creating and controlling fire when I want to. But mostly I blame Wagner for this case of mistaken identity. Besides, I was not stupid enough to give them my real name. Unlike them I know never to trust others.

 

They led me away to their funny looking ship and we took off immediately, leaving the tiny Planetoid Who-Cares behind, burning and dying for no good reason.

 

Actually, I haven't been completely honest. Yes, I had been telling the truth when I said that I intended to tear their world apart, but I barely left my mark. And I would regret going with them. Sorry. I wish I had been able to destroy them, but at least I had some fun in process.

 

Anyway, as I said before, this was war. And in my mind the war would end with me being the victor. I was sure of it.

 

This was going to be so much fun.

 


 

AN: Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

AN: I was feeling pretty unfocused when I wrote this chapter, so it has quite a scrappy feel to it. So, apologies in advance and thanks for reading!


 

 

Child of Thanos: Part Five: My New Friends...uh, Enemies,...No, Frenemies!

 

 

I suppose that you want names and physical descriptions of the members of the Black Order. Very well. Wait, what are you doing with that notebook, Thor? Is it what I think it is? Oh, it is! You actually keep a list of all your enemies! And you've ranked them, too. Why aren't I in the book? Well, I'm touched that you wish to enter the Black Order into your I-Want-To-Fight list.

 

Let's start with Glaive Man. Goes by the name of Corvus Glaive; I assume that this an assumed name and not his birth name. It would be quite odd if his signature weapon was only favoured by him because it also happened to be his surname. By that logic the galaxy would be a far happier place if his name was Corvus McFeatherduster.

 

He is tall, lean, grey skinned, pointy ears, clawed hands and split feet. As I said before, he is extremely agile and strong. Actually, the leader of the Black Order, but is surprisingly humble about it. Doesn't like to brag. Or even talk very much at all. Morose. Silent. Yet is skilled at managing his team. Absolutely devoted to his mission. And his wife.

 

Yes, it is odd how we just assume that villains are never the marrying type, but apparently some are. And who is the lucky lady? Proxima Midnight, one of the women I mentioned earlier. This might sound strange, but I found their relationship to be rather sweet, even if it felt slightly incestuous. Why incestuous? I'll get to that. We even took time to celebrate their fifteenth wedding anniversary. Adorable or gross, either way as soon as I found out about them I added their marriage to my mental checklist of weakness I could potentially exploit.

 

Proxima Midnight, a.ka. Spear Lady. Is very handy with a three-pronged spear which she can summon telepathically back to her hand. Tactically this puts her an advantage because she can hurl her spear and continue to fight without having to waste time scrabbling around to retrieve it. It's also good for toasting marshmallows and as a back-scratcher.

 

She has long dark hair, lots of eye make-up and a helmet with horns...No, she does not look like me! I am reminded of Hela, who looks nothing like me.

 

Then we have Ugly-Most-Foul or Ebony Maw. I have already described his appearance to you, as for his personality, well, let's just say that you would not have trouble picking him out of the crowd. Of the Black Order he had taken on the role of Thanos' herald or priest, even. Not a single conversation passed by without him finding a way to reference the “great Thanos” or the “mighty and wise Thanos”, often in loud and obnoxious tones. Most worryingly of all there was complete sincerity in his proclamations. At first I mistakenly thought that maybe he did so out of anxiety or fear of being seen less than absolutely devoted to his master, but over time I came to understand that his loyalty was bone-deep and unshakeable. He really believes that Thanos is the greatest being to have ever moved through this reality, that the “mighty and wise” Thanos is perfect and incapable of error, that Thanos is destined to save the universe.

 

He has powers of telekinesis, but his greatest strength lies in his uncanny ability to bend people to his will, to bring them onto his side, and to make them believe in his “noble cause” just as strongly as he does. Makes them willing to die for Thanos.

 

Next is Supergiant. She habitually wore a white hooded cloak. And she was the most volatile of the group; her powers the most frightening. She was able to float through solid objects and control the minds of multiple victims at once. Oh, and she had penchant for consuming people's intellects, leaving them mindless zombies. So, you know, overall I think I can sum her up as a sweet and gentle woman. But, honestly, it was a thrill to know her, though. It was exhilarating never knowing from one moment to the next if she would succeed in breaking through my mental barriers and drinking up my mind.

 

What? Did I sleep with her? What do you think?

 

Now, what can I say about Cull Obsidian that I haven't already said? In truth, I rather miss old Cully. Not much. But, it was fun having someone new to bother.

 

So, now you know their names, I can move onto the more important information. They are not the only members of the Black Order. There are so many more out there, Thor, all killing in the name of Thanos, spreading fear and chaos for the sake of salvation, and all steadfastly devoted to their “father”. You see the Black Order are his adopted children. Thanos' children. He selects a planet, usually an isolated one few have heard of, decimates it, and selects a child to kidnap and raise as his own. He makes sure that they're young enough to twists their minds and weaponises them. Then he sends them back out into the world to carry out his will.

 

Well, obviously I was an exception. Yes, it does have some things in common with a cult. But, like I said, I was an exception because normally they would only target truly vulnerable people, usually from broken homes, disillusioned with life, and at their lowest ebb....people who have nowhere else to go....and who -who are looking for a new family...oh. Bastards.

 

But, the Black Order, Thor, their mission is find things, precious things. Yes, the Infinity Stones. And they will stop nothing to get their grubby mitts on them. Too bad that they don't know that the Tesseract/Space Stone has been destroyed. High five me, bro!

 

Anyway, I was marched further out into the countryside, closely surrounded by the members of the Black Order, should I get cold feet and try to make a bolt for the forest in the east. We were never raised to run away, but it had occurred to me more than once that maybe they were planning on killing me after all. They could do so very easily. But the death blow never came. And I didn't once try to escape. I possessed neither the energy or the inclination to do so.

 

Instead, I focused on appearing at complete ease, as though all was right in the burning, little world, and that I did not have the wit to appreciate the danger I was in. I must have looked utterly bone-idle to them.

 

By now night had fallen, which lifted my spirits a jot. My eyesight has always been sharper in the dark. An unwelcome thought leapt into my head, informing me that it must be because I am a Frost Giant. In the past, for every quirk I had experienced it was explained away by my being a god of the night. Now I was wondering if that too had been a lie to stop me from asking too many questions.

 

Eyes hurting in the daylight, Loki? Don't fret; you're a night-time god.

 

Always drowsy during the summer? Because you're a god of the night, and night is always so much cooler than day...

 

Feel more at ease during the winter? Oh, Loki, you're night-time god!

 

I had not allowed myself any time to process the truth about myself, and I was not about to start now. I pushed the the thoughts to the back of mind, ignoring the quickening of my heart.

 

In the distance on top of a hill, I could see numerous sharp beams of light pointing upwards into the stormy sky, looking like needles stuck in a black pin-cushion. On the ground was the shifting, black mass of many individuals moving towards the lights in order that they may be teleported onto their waiting ships.

 

“Your little helpers?” I asked, casually.

 

“Don't ask questions,” Glaive Man grunted, shoving me in the small of the back.

 

Don't ask questions. I was going to hear that a lot.

 

Were they the Chitauri? Don't ask questions, Thor. Okay, okay, no, as it happens they were not our old, useless friends. I had, in fact, caught my first glimpse of the Outriders, Thanos' top army of genetically engineered warriors. The Chitauri were a poor second-best he had knocking around in the bargain bucket of evil minions and ready to palm off on those allies he could not quite bring himself to fully trust. Honestly, I deserved so much better.

 

Later, I was to find out more about the Outriders, but for now all I could surmise was that they were the Black Order's foot soldiers. Why they had wrecked such havoc on what looked to be a harmless, backward planet in the name of saving the universe was still a mystery to me.

 

Finally, we came to a halt in the middle of a wasteland, and tilting my head back saw the strangest looking ship I have ever seen. Known as the Q-Ship, it is vast and circular with a hole in the middle. Yes, like a gigantic doughnut. The ship itself has no name – naming a vessel would be too sentimental for these people - so from now on I will just refer to it as the Doughnut.

 

We were quickly beamed aboard and would they give me a tour? No they would not! I wonder why that was? But, rather, they escorted me straight into a cramped cabin with nothing in it but a bed and a sink and a hidden camera – I could hear it buzzing in the corner of the ceiling. I didn't mind it's sparseness. I had all I needed.

 

“Rest here awhile,” Ugly Maw told me. “I will collect you when it is time to eat. Any dietary requirements?”

 

I blinked at him. For all my travels over the Nine Realms I had not come across the phrase before. Was I so low on magic that even my All-Speak was on the fritz?

 

“Is there anything that you can't or won't eat?” Ugly Maw clarified in a slightly louder voice.

 

I thought quickly. I was afraid of exposing any weakness that they could later use against me. If I told them that I was under a strict “dietary-geise” not to consume meat, then what could stop them from forcing me to chow down on steak and later be killed for it? I would be far from the first person to die because they had been forced to break their geise.* And yet I must be seen to be fully trusting of my new companions.

 

“I'm not fond of meat,” I said, lightly. “Anything else will be fine, thank you.”

 

“Oh, that is a shame,” Ugly said, in a rather simper-y voice.

 

“In what way?”

 

“Well, you did say you were of the Wildfire. Fire and meat are often found together, are they not? The fire in the humble hearth or campfire, the meat hanging over it, slowly cooking.”

 

I smiled thinly. “I am of Wildfire. Not domesticated fire.”

 

“Is there a difference?”

 

“Where I come from? Yes. Domesticated fire is tamed fire, controlled by men for their own purposes. Wildfire only destroys. However, all fire is dangerous, even tamed fire. Turn your back on it or fail to treat it with proper respect and it will burn your house down.”

 

“Hmm. Oh, well, here you are among friends.” He bowed slightly.

 

“Thank you, Ebony.”

 

“Sleep well, Logi.”

 

With nothing else to do I laid down on the creaky bed and fell into an exhausted sleep.

 

Some time later I was subjected to someone poking me awake.

 

“Go away,” I moaned, groggily.

 

But, the poking persisted and I eventually opened my eyes to blearily see Proxima staring down at me. With a face like hers it was impossible to tell if she was in a good or bad mood.

 

“We couldn't wake you yesterday. You've been through hell,” she added, almost sounding sympathetic. “I brought you food. Eat it all.”

 

She pointedly looked down at the tray she was holding. There was a jug of water, cup, small loaf of bread, and a bowl of steaming vegetable soup with a spoon. I was so hungry by then that even scraps would have made my mouth water.

 

As I shifted position in the bed I realised how strangely stiff and unwieldy my left arm felt. A hot prickle ran down my spine when I saw that there was a tight bandage wrapped around it. And that wasn't the worst of it. As I sat up I looked down and saw that I was no longer wearing my own clothes, but had been changed into a shapeless white shirt and baggy grey trousers, that left me with a strong taste of porridge in my mouth. I pressed my fingers to my cheek and found that skin no longer dirty to touch. The layers of dirt and sweat had been washed away. My breath caught in my throat loud enough for Midnight to hear it.

 

“It's okay,” she said, flatly, placing the tray on my lap.

 

It wasn't okay. I had been undressed, redressed, washed, and administered first aid in my sleep and been completely unaware of it. What had they done to me?

 

My stomach gurgled loudly.

 

“Eat,” Midnight ordered. “Drink.”

 

Once I was started I couldn't stop. I've never gone for so long without food or water. The colour was surprisingly good. I hadn't mentioned this before but I hadn't eaten much before falling off the Bifrost. Hardly in the mood.

 

“You do talk in your sleep.”

 

I almost froze up. Almost. The need to stuff my face overrode my fear.

 

“What about?” I asked, tearing off a chunk of bread.

 

Midnight shrugged. “A strange word I do not know the meaning of. Faw, I think?”

 

“Only my lucky number.”

 

“And you cried.”

 

I snorted so hard that I sprayed bread crumbs everywhere. “I did not!”

 

Midnight smiled in a way that told me that she didn't believe me.

 

After I had drained the jug and consumed every last crumb, Midnight pushed me back down against the pillow.

 

“Sleep,” she commanded. “It's what you need. Mind and body must heal at the same time.”

 

After what had happened last time, sleeping was the last thing I wanted to do, but annoyingly Midnight stayed in the room. She stood over me, arms folded, and telling me off every time I opened my eyes. It hardly created a restful atmosphere, but she made clear that she was not going to leave. For a long while I pretended to be asleep, hoping that she would then go away, but I could always hear her breathing. Eventually, I dosed off for real. I don't know how long I slept for.

 


 

*C ú Chulainn is a very important character in Irish mythology, like Hercules. He died by broken geise. Sort of. One of his geise forbade him to eat dog meat. However, it is also taboo to refuse hospitality, so when an old woman offered him a meal of dog meat, he didn't have much choice but to eat it. Breaking his geise made him weaker in a sense and he was soon killed in battle.

But, the most interesting thing about this guy is that essentially he is the original Hulk. He would under go a terrifying battle frenzy known as a riastrad – translated as warp spasm – where it is said he would turn into a horrifying monster and unable to tell friend from foe.

 

Chapter Text

 

Child of Thanos: Part Six: Books

 

 

Do you know what is the most dangerous weapon in all the universe, Thor? It is not something that can be forged in the fire of a star, nor is it a suit of metal or a shield made of vibranium.

 

It is the power of the conviction; the absolute certainty that without a shadow of a doubt you are in the right and everyone else is wrong, and, no matter what, no matter what must be done, there will be victory. This conviction, whatever it may be, stands like a marble pillar in the centre of the mind, unbreakable and unshakeable, and all thoughts must wrap around it, becoming twisted and tangled, but nevertheless, attached to the central conviction which dominates the mind. There is little room for anything else for the conviction demands absolute loyalty and devotion; everything else becomes secondary to carrying out the mission.

 

And yet there is a kind of cool pleasure to having such focus, to be freed from the fires of doubt and uncertainty and fear, to know who you are and what you want from life, to have a singular, clear end-goal in mind and with the confidence that you cannot fail.

 

Unwavering conviction is also highly attractive. People love to have a cause to fight for: a war, animal rights, politics, or even over as something as idiotic as wanting “justice” for a badly written TV show. People need a purpose whatever it may be. People also love simplicity. So, it is all too easy to snare people in a net by baiting them with a simplistic solution to all of life's problems, to win their undying loyalty and have them follow every order issued without question. The bait becomes exceptionally shiny and attractive to some if is presented in such a way as to make the target feel special, that only a select few possess the intelligence and wisdom to understand the cause and what must be done. Anyone who disagrees with them is a fool.

 

You're giving me that look again: the one where your face is trying to suppress the judgement and pity, while wondering if I'm aware of what I am saying, but is failing miserably and only serves to make you look weird. For the record, you asked me for a honest account and I'm giving it to you. If I were manipulated and brainwashed at all by the Black Order, then I'd want you to understand what a simple trick it is, that it could to happen to anybody.

 

And may I remind you that some years ago you were absolutely certain that invading Jotunheim was the correct thing to do, very nearly resulting in a war? It only took the smallest of pushes from me for you to set your mind upon it. You wanted to do it from the moment we discovered the Jotuns in the vault, all it took was for me to inform you that you were right. It was that simple, that easy.

 

Do not look too guilty, brother. A short time later I also suffered from the same conviction, that wiping out all Frost Giants, committing genocide, would be a good thing to do with no negative consequences for me whatsoever. And this is in spite of being raised with the belief that killing in cold blood, away from the battlefield, is evil, wrong and highly dishonourable. And in spite of watching you being banished by Father for only killing about thirty Jotuns.

 

You knew that going to Jotunheim was forbidden and would probably cause a war. I knew, deep down, that genocide would not make me your equal in Odin's eyes. But, we both chose to ignore the voice of reason, or it was simply drowned out by the strength of our convictions, because we believed that we were right and that the crimes and murders we committed were justified! The sons of Odin can do whatever they like, right?

 

As I said, don't bother to wallow in your guilt, Thor, there is no point in it. You're a different person now with the invaluable benefit of experience under your belt. You're the one who told me that growth is important and you have grown. Apart from your hair. It seems to be getting shorter with – ow!

 

So, you see now how the most dangerous of people are those who are the most certain, the ones who won't take no for an answer, who are completely unable to consider if they might just be wrong to believe what they do, and are willing to do anything in order to be proved right? Even by killing billions?

 

And as for me, what did I learn? Not much, to be honest. I simply relearnt old lessons. Mainly, don't trust people.

 

Moving on, the next time I woke up, I found that a small pile of books had been left by the bed. It was an innocent enough sight, but I would never get used to the idea of someone creeping into my room whenever they felt like it. Fully aware that I was being watched on camera, I picked the books up, dumping them onto the bed and inspected the titles. And then I did what do best. I read.

 

I read through the book as quickly as I could. It was all a load of old tosh. But, at least, some of my questions were finally answered. They had spoken of wanting to save the universe, but hadn't specified from what or how. Now I knew.

 

According to them the universe was in need of saving from over population. True. And not really what I had been expecting. I'd been imagining something along the lines of Lord of the Rings, and, yes, I know you've not read them. Don't worry about it. I like to make references for my own amusement and imagine that someone out there would understand.

 

The books also claimed that there are not enough resources to go around, it claimed. Wrong. There are enough resources, but they lay in the hands of the richest 1% of the universe e.g. Asgard.

 

Imagine how different the Nine Realms would have looked if we had just shared out even the smallest fraction of our gold or offered up our technology. Peace might have prevailed for once instead of there being constant wars every time we turned our backs.

 

But, was there one single mention of better resource management among the pages? Nope. Instead it waffled on for a hundred pages or so about all the horrors that would befall planets should their populations continue to grow as their resources shrank. And with some very questionable statistics thrown in and a whole lot of extremely graphic depictions of people starving and being cramped together in tiny spaces, I knew that was holding a fine piece of propaganda in my hands.

 

So, what was the Black Order's solution to this tricky and complex problem? What would their great Thanos have them do?

 

Although, the book did not explicitly say so, and going by what I saw on Tri's planet, it was heavily implied that nothing less than slaughtering half of the universe's population would suffice.

 

Don't get me wrong, Thor, I couldn't care less about the rest of the universe. Any outrage I felt was purely intellectual rather than moral.

 

For starters, how were they even trying to achieve this goal? Simply travelling from planet to planet, massacring the people and then moving on? Hardly efficient. I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but the universe is quite a big place, so simply bringing balance to one planet at a time just isn't going to work. Plus, like I just said, the universe is huge, but the Black Order is tiny. Eventually, the universe would notice them. How would they win such a battle? Them vs the rest of the universe. These people were destined to lose.

 

The other books were even worse, if that were possible, but much more informative and entertaining. I loved them. These were about Thanos himself, autobiographies written by Ebony, I suspected. Turns out he's not a god, but a Titan, but he would very much like to be a god and enjoy the universe's unthinking obedience. They talked briefly about his childhood, how he was this misunderstood genius and how planet Titan fell apart because no one would listen to him. Fact or real, I drank up every detail and stored them away in my memory.

 

Ah, you have you trusty notebook ready. Why write it down when you could just read them for your yourself? There you are. Did you expect anything less from me?

 

After I had finished, and fully saturated with literary garbage, I was burning to leave the room and go exploring. I tried the door and was thankful that it opened for me. I had half expected it to be locked.

 

The doughnut ship was vast and as you might expect, not built or designed for comfort. It was rather warmer than was comfortable for me, but I could do nothing to let on about this, what with being Logi of the Wildfire. I was anxious to find the bridge, steal as many access codes as I could, and work out how to pilot it – just in case. And after that I'd planned on finding the engine room, stealing as many schematics as I could, and working out how to sabotage the ship – just in case.

 

However, I never made it to either place. I had just located the elevator and discovered that there was an ugly monster inside. Tall, humanoid and with six arms, all bulging with muscles, it snarled at me as though it wasn't pleased to see me.

 

I blew out my cheeks. “Fine. I'll take the next one.”

 

But the creature wasn't having any of it. It stepped out of the elevator, arms flexing, mouth stretched wide. I summoned a flame into my hand, ready to hurl it into its face.

 

“Outrider, stand down,” a cool female voice ordered.

 

I flinched as Supergiant floated straight through me to wave the Outrider back into the elevator. It felt like my vital organs had temporarily been put into stasis before suddenly jumping back to life again. The Outrider silently obeyed Supergiant, but not before flicking it's serpent tongue at me. So I flicked it the bird. Equal exchange.

 

“The Outriders are vital to our mission,” Supergiant said, floating a little way above my head. “It sensed you snooping about and so it came to investigate. They're extremely loyal. Well, that's how we program them to be.”

 

As always, Supergiant had an ethereal feel to her appearance, flickering between being solid and ghost-like. Her cold, black eyes were like two marbles, staring at me unblinkingly.

 

I snuffed out the flame. “Ah, yes, the mission to resolve the overpopulation problem. They must be invaluable to you. Thanos was indeed wise and generous to offer you such an army. And I do not snoop!”

 

I saw the faintest of smiles flicker across her blue face, although the eyes remained just as hard as ever, and knew that I'd said the correct thing. I figured that as long as I praised Thanos with every other breath then I could get away with anything.

 

She floated down the corridor saying, “There is none who is greater than my father. I know that you've read the books. What do you think of him?”

 

I had no choice but to follow after her.

 

“A breath of fresh air,” I answered. “I've seen far too many people go without the necessities: food, water, shelter, medicine. I've seen innocent children drinking from puddles and going to bed with empty stomachs. Something I never want to see again. But, never before I have come across someone with the good sense, the courage, to state the obvious: that there are too many people in the universe. It is a harsh truth, maybe, but sometimes to you have to be cruel to be kind. We must do what we can to lower those numbers, no matter what the cost.”

 

Supergiant came to a sudden halt. “Cruel to be kind? Killing is never cruel, Logi. Fun, maybe, but not cruel. Living on the other hand, now that is cruel. My father has promised me the honour of being slain by his very own hand once the mission is over. I live for nothing else; I live to die.”

 

I felt a small chill run down my spine. The woman was unhinged. It's common enough to enjoy murder, but to wish it upon yourself by your own father is something else.

 

I kept my face as still as a mask, so as to hide my discomfort.

 

“The book said that Thanos has rescued many children. You were most fortunate to be chosen out of so many. Not just for the Black Order, but to become one of his.” I was sure to inject a longing tone into my voice.

 

The subject of adoption was not something I wanted to discuss, but it had to be done if I were to uncover more information and to make myself appear to be more trustworthy.

 

“What was your father like?” Supergiant asked in a soft voice which didn't quiet suit her.

 

Inwardly I smiled. We were both mining each other for information. Throwing titbits at one another to see what we would gobble up.

 

“Which one?” I said, bitterly, this time no affectation was required. “I murdered my biological father. Well, every son kills his father, as the saying goes. And as for my adopted father, he despised me. He took me purely for his own gain. It had nothing to do with love.”

 

I was ashamed to feel hot tears prickling in my eyes, but for once I didn't try to stop them. I had to be seen to be broken. What? Oh, fine, I admit that I was broken. I was forever alternating between states of numbness, horrific emotional agony, and rage, and therefore was easy pickings for carrying out the will of the first group of strangers I came across and who offered me even the smallest amount of sympathy. Happy?

 

Supergiant had lowered herself just enough to wrap her arms around my neck and pressed her forehead to mine.

 

I gasped as feeling of fire swamped my mind, burning out every memory and thought. Replacing them was a vivid range of images of a universe at peace, gloriously empty and thriving. It looked pretty fake to me, but all cynicism was overridden by Supergiant pushing feelings of peace and adoration into me. It was awful And at the centre of it all was the one they called Thanos. He was sitting alone in a hut watching the sun rise. It was only a fleeting image, but it was enough for me to get a taster of how much Supergiant adored and loved the titan.

 

I wrenched myself away, feeling disorientated and dizzy. “What was that?”

 

“Just a hug,” Supergiant replied simply. “With our vision for future thrown in.” She licked her top lip. “I wish I were allowed to consume your mind, Logi. I'm sure you'd be delicious. Of course, if you prove to be not as useful as Corvus thinks you could be then maybe I will...”

 

“I will be indispensable to your cause,” I said, hurriedly. “You can rely on me.”

 

They really couldn't.

 

“Then follow me to the training hall. Corvus wants to fight you.”

 

AN: Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 38: Child of Thanos: Part 7

 

Thor had always been a slow reader. Unlike Loki he couldn't simply skim his eyes over large blocks of texts and hope to absorb much information. Instead, he flicked through the books, pausing to read an extract or two and carefully picked over each sentence with all the deliberation of a detectorist sweeping a field for hidden treasure. More likely that he would only discover rubbish.

 

He found that Loki's brief review of the books was on point. They were extremely rambly, alarmist, and full of scaremongering. The paperback about Thanos was of more interest, even if it was scanty about revealing any useful information about the Titan. And no photos, sadly. However, it was intriguing how the author was eager to portray Thanos as a kind of prophet-saviour, whose wisdom and capacity for mercy outweighed that of anyone else's in existence.

 

So engrossed was he that he had failed to notice that the piano had fallen silent. However, he was shaken out of reverie when he heard the jarring clang of several keys that had been pressed down all at once. He looked up to see Loki was slumped forward, elbows on the keys, head in hands. His brother's shoulders were moving steadily up and down as he breathed a little too quickly.

 

“Loki, you alright?” he asked softly, even though the answer was obvious.

 

“Hmmm,” came the distressed sounding grunt.

 

Thor tossed the book aside onto the counter and moved his stool closer to Loki's.

 

“Might as well just tell me the worst of it, Ki,” he urged. “Get it over with. You said that Supergiant took you to the training hall because Corvus Glaive wanted to fight you. Did he?”

 

Loki nodded, finally allowed his hands to move away from his face. Thor was slightly alarmed to see how pale and drawn he looked. It made his stomach knot up because he knew that it meant either Loki had done something terrible or that something terrible had been done to Loki. Hopefully not both, but he had to admit that it wasn't likely.

 

A few seconds passed without either brother saying anything and Thor realised that he would have to do the talking.

 

“Okay. So, what happened?” he asked, lightly. “Did he kick your ass for a second time?” It was calculated callousness, designed to shock Loki out of his muteness and thankfully it paid off.

 

Loki shot him an icy glare, and with his tongue loosened by indignation, said with a snarl, “No, because like the good warrior that I am, I beat him. Or I would have done if Supergiant hadn't intervened. At that point my strength and magic had recovered and because I was passing myself of as Logi, I'd relied on my fire magic. It worked as well as expected. Foam mats were set alight, water-sprinklers set off. Black smoke filled the room. Corvus was scared. But, before I could finish the imp off Supergiant....” Words suddenly failed him, drying up like a trickle of water. He took in a deep breath before continuing. “It was like an iron fist was wrapped around my mind. She reached inside my head and had complete control of my body and mind. I could no longer think or move. It was like being frozen inside of oneself. Corvus' glaive impaled itself into the wall an inch from my head. I fell to my knees, prostrating myself before him in an act of absolute surrender as Supergiant laughed cruelly at my predicament. She only released me when Corvus ordered her to.”

 

Thor winced in sympathy, although he found himself thinking back to how Clint had been forced under Loki's control and how traumatised it had left the archer. It made him wonder if Loki had felt any remorse for doing so at the time, any kind of affinity for Barton as a fellow mind-controlled victim, or if he even felt any remorse now.

 

“Sounds unpleasant,” he commented quietly.

 

Remorse...yes, that was the expression he could see in Loki's eyes. A haunted, guilty, remorseful look, a torrent of feeling which could not have just come from being mind-controlled. So, there is something else, Thor thought. The knot in his stomach tightened. Something more.

 

“Go on,” he pressed.

 

Loki glanced away, but then he continued to speak in a low, monotonous voice, “The fight over, Corvus announced that I was ready to join the Black Order on a mission. We were headed to a planet, Tempest 7. Like Tri's planet, it is an isolated, small, low-population place, with not much advanced technology. No way to call for help. Plenty of heroes there, but no Avengers.”

 

Thor sighed heavily, already anticipating the conclusion to this tale. But, he said nothing, instead keeping his hand by his mouth.

 

Perhaps unconsciously, Loki mirrored him, rubbing his mouth with the back of his hand and then his eyes, although they were dry. He glanced at Thor's exposed wrist, the sleeve having pulled down a couple of inches.

 

“By the way, what happened to your arm?” he asked in a raspy voice. “I noticed that it is bandaged up. I have a vague memory that I might have had something to do with it.”

 

Thor tugged the sleeve back up into place. Underneath the bandage the ice-burn Loki had given him only a few hours earlier still stung. He decided that Loki didn't need to be burdened with even more guilt, so he answered bluntly, “Scolded myself in the kitchen. And you're stalling.”

 

Loki shook his head.

 

“No, I'm not stalling,” he insisted. He held out his empty glass to Thor. “I just require my glass to be refreshed. So, come on, make with the splishy-splashy.”

 

Thor hesitated for a moment, bottle in hand, before relenting and pouring out the amber liquid until it reached the rim of the glass. In the past, Loki had never been much of a drinker, but now he was knocking the stuff back faster than Thor had ever known him to before.

 

“Take it easy!” Thor ordered, as he watched Loki gulping the whisky down. He lent forward to tug the once-again empty glass from Loki's hand. “There is such a thing as responsible drinking, you know.”

 

“I'm done with being responsible,” came the bitter reply. Loki had stood up to grasp for the whisky bottle, but Thor held it out of his reach and easily pushed him back down onto the stool.

 

“You can have another drink once we've finished talking,” Thor promised him. “But, you need to finish the story first.”

 

Loki's eyes flashed furiously at him, but then the anger suddenly died out and only sadness remained.

 

“If I am slowing down it is only because you're the first person I've told about what happened to me and the things that I did...and it's not as easy as I'd thought....,” he said, in a whisper. “I can see certain memories so clear and fresh in my mind, see every tiny detail, still able to recall sounds and odours, feel textures...and sometimes the memories come upon me without warning, and never the pleasant ones. I've not been required to verbally describe them until now and it should be effortless. I've never struggled with words before...” He shook his head again, as if he could shake his thoughts into place. It must have worked because his manner became more business like, speaking in clipped tones.

 

“The people of Tempest 7 are pig-like, with snouts for noses and floppy ears. They live -lived – in comfortable little round huts on stilts, so that they could happily weather the regular floods without inconvenience. Their preferred modes of transport were boats and planes. Before we showed up they'd no idea that they weren't alone in the universe and were completely without defence. The only truly remarkable thing about them was that they were the keepers of the Mind Stone.”

 

“The Mind Stone?” Thor echoed. “But how did the Black Order know -”

 

“Because it's what the Outriders do,” Loki snapped impatiently. “They're scouts, spies, who scour the universe for the Infinity Stones. Silently, they invade planets, listening out for the faintest whisper, the subtlest whiff, of information about the Stones and then they follow those leads before reporting back. They are so numerous in number and so easily replaceable that it is no difficult matter for the Black Order to send Outrider after Outrider out to the further corners of the galaxy, like hunting dogs chasing after a scent. With so many mindless spies working tirelessly the chances of uncovering the Stones are in their favour.

 

I was not told about the Mind Stone, of course. I was simply told that I would be helping to bring balance to an unbalanced world. And in doing so I would become a true child of Thanos. I could guess what would be required of me and if I looked anything less than enthusiastic they would have killed me as easily as they had murdered Tri right in front of me, so I looked enthusiastic.”

 

He chuckled nervously between his fingers, a strange sound coming from his lips.

 

“We were beamed down into the middle of the capital city, or what passed for a city, onto a wooden pier like structure. All around us I could see numerous Q-ships dropping off squadrons of Outriders, far too many to count, some flying and other swimming and crawling to reach their targets. I assume that it was the same all over the planet.” His voice faltered again and he paused to suck in a deep breath. “The mission had begun straight away. No warning. No chance for them to even to try to defend themselves. Ebony Maw wasted no time in beginning one of his speeches, wandering slowly around the pier and proclaiming in a loud voice, 'Fear not for today salvation has come to you!' As for myself, I was frozen to the spot, mesmerized by the chaos, by the screams, and the bodies quickly piling up. How could they move so fast? I'd never imagined that half a population could be wiped out in mere hours by hand and yet it was happening before my very eyes.

 

With the exception of Maw, who was still wittering away, the members of the Black Order were already up to their elbows in blood, each killing in their own particular style. Glaive and Midnight were working closely together, Cull was smashing up whole huts, and Supergiant was flying back and forth overhead, alternating between slurping up the minds of her victims, leaving them helpless zombies, or taking control of them and having them kill themselves.....I think that....seeing that might be the most disturbing thing I have ever seen....”

 

Loki was staring empty-eyed into nothingness now. Thor wondered how long he would have stayed like that if he hadn't reached across and gently tapped the back of his hand. Loki flinched sharply, but was at least brought back to the present.

 

“You said that you were frozen to the spot,” Thor said in a low voice. “But you had to move, didn't you? Couldn't have stayed like that for long without someone noticing.”

 

Loki shook his head, dark hair rustling against his collar.

 

“I summoned my daggers to my hands and charged forward, leaping from boat to boat, hut to hut, casting one illusion after another to give the appearance that I was slaughtering just as many people as they were. For a while this method worked and from the distance I could hear the calls of my team-mates praising my efforts. It did not last, of course.... Supergiant suddenly landed beside me, forcing a family to line up obediently in front of me. I knew what she was about to order. I felt sick. I feel sick now.

 

'Go on, Logi,' she urged. 'What are you waiting for?'”

 

Loki fell silent again and Thor bowed his head, rubbing his wrist.

 

“What did you do?” he prompted, flatly.

 

Loki snorted, before offering a sad little smile. “I know what you would have done and I did briefly consider the same. I really did. I even thought about doing it as you. That is to say I would have morphed into you before taking on the whole lot of them and gone down fighting. You would have been proud of me then, wouldn't you? But, what good would come of dying so soon? As always, I was playing the long game and dying on some unknown planet wasn't part of it.”

 

His words were cold and off-hand, but Thor could see Loki's chest heaving up and down, betraying his true feelings about the incident. He watched as Loki briefly closed his eyes as he gathered himself, as one pauses before leaping off a cliff, and when he spoke again it was in a hurried and breathless tone.

 

“I felt like I was moving inside of a dream. Nothing felt quite real. It was all sluggish, numb, and all colours and sounds and scents were muted.

 

I can't tell you how many there were or what they looked like or if Supergiant made them beg for mercy. It's all so...blurry and distorted....but I do remember that I raised my hand and...and I torched them just like that....And then I told some stupid joke, I can't remember what. Supergiant laughed....And then we moved onto the others...”

 

He gulped loudly but carried doggedly on with his narrative, unable to stop now that he started.

 

“There were others, many others, but that family was the first so....” Loki's voice suddenly became hard and antagonising as he glared sharply at Thor saying, “You must hate me so much right now, Thor, for killing innocent people, for not fighting back there and then. It must hurt you so much to have a brother who -”

 

Thor couldn't bear to hear the rest of the tirade. It was just typical Loki behaviour to lash out at other people when he was hurting and Thor had no desire to stand for it any longer.

 

“Shut up, Loki,” he snapped irritably, cutting the provocative rant short. “Stop trying to goad me into having an argument with you. If you want me to beat the crap out of you just so you can feel a little better about yourself, then fine, right now I'm more than happy to oblige, but it won't work. Not for long. Those deaths are always going to be on your conscious.”

 

Loki's eyes widened for a second, but then fell closed. He looked like a man who needed to sleep for a very long time and forget all about the nightmare that had become his waking life.

 

Thor balled his hands up into tight fists, watching as they quickly turned red, before opening them again and feeling relief flood through the strained muscles.

 

He was angry, yes, of course he was. Murdering innocent, defenceless people went against everything that they had been taught. And if he had been Loki's position what would he have done? As Loki had said, he would have probably fought against the Black Order. And he would have probably died. But, would that have been the right thing to have done? It was certainly the more honourable way, but sometimes the long game had to be played for the greater good. If Loki had died then Thor wouldn't know as much about the Black Order or Thanos as he did now.

 

He shook his head violently as he tried to remain calm. He couldn't pretend that he would have made the same choice as Loki and he couldn't deny that Loki must have been at least partially motivated by self-preservation. But, they were two very different people, with different ways of serving justice. For Thor, his way was typical of the Aesir, delivering justice with a swing of a blade or the throw of a hammer; it was immediate and the effects obvious. But, for Loki, his ways were much more subtle and hidden and never apparent to the naked eye. His preferred way of serving justice had always been to entice the perpetrator into a trap of their own making, or to humiliate them by revealing how foolish and stupid they truly were. Unfortunately, it wasn't a method which earned any glory or acknowledgement. At least, that's how it was in the past. Over the past weeks, Thor had been doing his best to widen his view of the world, so that he could see things from Loki's perspective in a way that he hadn't received growing up. He had to believe that Loki had a plan against the Black Order, even if it had gone wrong as Loki's plans usually did. And he couldn't believe that Loki obeyed out of cowardice.

 

And, besides, it fitted in with the nature of the brother he had known before all the trouble had started. The old Loki – the true Loki – had always despised the overpowered arrogant and the foolish, and felt some sympathy for the underdog, often going out of his way to tear the bully down. That was his way of dishing out justice. No weapons, just words and cunning. It was just unfortunate that it was seen merely as “childish pranks” and if they went wrong Loki had been always been punished for it. Loki might be self-centred, but he had never been completely heartless or cowardly.

 

So, yes, he was a confused mixture of emotions right now: anger, pity, resentment, compassion...

 

He scrunched up his fists again, watching his brother carefully as Loki clumsily closed the piano and lent forward to rest his head on his folded arms, looking utterly dejected and defeated. It was hard seeing his brother so low, but the clear remorse also gave him hope that his brother was coming home to him. He knew that he needed to say something quickly and it had to be right thing.

 

“You didn't have a choice,” he said, but his voice sounded too stiff, too unfeeling for Loki to recognise his sincerity. “They would have killed you. Or Supergiant would have just controlled you, just like she did in the training hall. Murdered by you or by the Black Order, that family was dead anyway. It made no difference.”

 

“It made a difference to me,” Loki's muffled voice replied, cracking slightly towards the end. “I wasn't strong enough or clever enough....You wouldn't have done those terrible things... Why am I always the evil one? If this is the fate the Norns have woven for me then I don't want anything to do with it. ”

 

Thor hesitated for a moment before placing a hand on Loki's shoulder, squeezing it and rubbing it with his thumb. Carefully he moved his hand downwards and began to rub large circles into Loki's back. If he were telepathic then he would have sensed Loki's initial surprise at being touched and then the overwhelming, sorrowful gratitude for such a sweet gesture, following quickly by the powerful force of guilt for receiving something he was sure that he didn't deserve.

 

Loki kept his head down, feeling somewhat ashamed that Thor was rubbing his back and that he was enjoying it. The heavy hand felt hot to him, burning through his clothes, but it was pleasant kind of burning, the kind that relaxed muscles rather than hurting them. But most of the all the weight of Thor's hand and the rhythmic motion was like an anchor, preventing his thoughts and emotions from spiralling completely out of control. It was kindness and understanding that should be withheld from him for all time.

 

“You're not evil, Loki,” Thor rumbled. “Evil people don't feel remorse. You do.”

 

Loki bit his lip. It would be easier to bear if Thor did beat him within an inch of his life. Or if he yelled and accused and threatened to lock him up. But Thor wouldn't do that. He was far too forgiving. Too nice. This was torture by kindness and felt like acid in his veins. He should have knocked Thor's hand away, attacked him, anything but this sickly sweet sentimentally. And yet he couldn't quite bear to do that either.

 

And so they stayed as they were for a minute or two before Loki finally gave in and whispered, “I'll....leave....I'll take the Commodore and just go...”

 

Thor was startled by the suggestion. He removed his hand from Loki's back, who could have screamed at the sudden loss of the comforting weight and warmth.

 

“Are you joking? I need you to help get our people safely to Earth. I can't do it without you. We can't bring those people back, but if you're truly sorry for what you've done then you'll do everything in your power to redeem yourself. And you can start by helping me. Protecting our people is the most important thing right now, agreed?”

 

Loki stared at him for a moment and Thor wished he could see what was going through his head, but he felt more than a little proud – and relieved – when Loki nodded his head.

 

“Agreed,” he rasped.

 

“Good.” Thor held onto Loki's shoulder. “There will be bad days, brother. But there will be good days as well. Days worth living for, I promise.” He sat back down beside Loki. “Now then, tell me how the Black Order got a hold of the Mind Stone.”

 

 

 

AN: Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Child of Thanos Part Eight: Supergiant

 

Battles are always so terrifically noisy, aren't they? The resounding clash of metal, sword against sword, axe against shield or armour; the bellow of men in an united war cry; the pounding of horse hooves over the ground; and the roar of fire.

 

And when a battle suddenly reaches its final conclusion there is always a momentary hush, a brief, heavy silence, which descends over the land. A world holding its breath. The silence either means that there is no one left alive and that the scavengers have yet to arrive, or that the surviving soldiers are too proud or battle-weary to start weeping or to scream in protest.

 

But, sound always returns in the end. A reminder that life will always continue. The medics come to collect the wounded and tidy away the dead, the victors bicker over the spoils of war, the leaders negotiate a peace treaty and sometimes, just sometimes, you can hear the birds or other wildlife daring to creep out of their homes and making noises of horror at the changed landscape before them. But it is still life.

 

What happened on Tempest 7 was no battle. It was slaughter. They had some soldiers, but they were hopelessly and inadequately prepared for such a challenge as the Black Order and their multitude of Outriders. They were a peaceful people who had not yet made contact with the wider universe; how could they possibly defend themselves?

 

I continued on with my grizzly task, fighting closely alongside Maw, Supergiant, and Cull. It hadn't escaped my notice that Midnight and Corvus had slipped away. Either they were stealing a moment to do what married couples do best or they had some other task to complete.

 

I conjured and sent a projection after them. However, it was not easy maintaining the concentration needed to do so, and I only managed it for a short time.

 

My ghost followed them as they walked through the middle of the chaos, leaping from boat to boat until they reached a temple-like building which rose above all others, balancing on top of a single thick column, covered in a thick red weed. They hurried inside and my ghost would have chased after them had not Supergiant distracted me.

 

She had taken control of a large group of Tempest soldiers, armed with little more than ancient pistols and swords, and was sending them dropping into the murky water one by one to drown themselves. They were surrounded by civilians trying to stop them, but to no avail.

 

“We come burdened with glorious purpose!” Maw proclaimed, now in full herald mode. “And with it we bring glad tidings!”

 

I was asking myself if he ever shut up.

 

And then suddenly I was ordered to cease.

 

“Logi, halt!” Supergiant commanded, reaching inside my mind and freezing my body. I was stuck with my hand raised just as I was about to hurl more fire at the little row of huts. It felt just as awful as last time, but thankfully she let me go a second later and I was able to breathe again.

 

“We have reached our target,” Maw announced. “The population is halved.”

 

I don't know how he knew and I had to bite my tongue before I pointed out that Tempest 7 showed no sign of being overly populated.

 

I sensed something in the vegetation to my left. A child, clearly no where near the onset of puberty, leapt out of the bushes to escape the gathering flames. After stumbling a little, she shook her chubby head and on seeing me produced a dagger no longer than her hand. She charged at me, tiny dagger pointing forward. As young as she was she must have known that she had no hope of killing me or even injuring me, and her instinct must have told her to run away and hide; I don't know why she did it.

 

But before she could reach me she suddenly froze to the spot, her baby dagger clattering to the ground, just as I had done on the two occasions Supergiant had taken control of me. I felt rather sick as the girl began to perform a humiliating little dance in front of me, hopping around and clapping her hands together, while all the time her wide eyes showed the fear she was experiencing. From close by I could hear Supergiant, Maw, and even Cull all laughing without restraint, so I joined in as well.

 

I couldn't stand it. Causing mischief is what I was born to do, but this was just the vilest cruelty without purpose except that Supergiant found it funny.

 

I did what I could to stop it without giving myself away. I gathered up a fistful of her dress under her chin and hoisted her into the air, her hoofed feet still waggling away to an invisible beat.

 

“You should be grateful, little one,” I said, feeling my stomach churning in disgust at myself. The child, suddenly released from Supergiant's control, squealed and writhed in my grip. “Your insignificant planet has been noticed by the great Thanos. Remember that name: Thanos. Never forget it and be thankful.”

 

[Be brave, little one. They will suffer the consequences, I promise.]

 

It was a stupid message to have sent to her as I never keep my promises and it was a stupid risk to have taken as I suspected that both Supergiant and Maw were also telepathic and could have easily heard me.

 

With only a small amount of effort I tossed the girl into the water. The action was much crueller in appearance than in reality as I assumed that all on this planet could swim. I was relieved to see her bob to the surface and furiously paddle to the other side with five other survivors were calling to her.

 

“Aw, you threw her away?” Supergiant whined. “What a waste. Father would have liked her. Oh well.”

 

She raised her hand and I knew what she was about to do, drown her like all the others.

 

“Don't!” I barked. “For Odin's sake, she's a just a child!”

 

Maw and Supergiant stared at me, hardly able to comprehend my impertinence.

 

I had less than a second to backtrack.

 

Just a child...how dumb was I to throw that out as a reason for Supergiant to refrain from murder? Supergiant cared nothing for the youth of her victims. If anything children were a novelty. I would have to come up with something better. Something which would allow me to cover up my true colours and fast. The longer I hesitated the more danger I was placing myself in.

 

At lightening speed my mind created a number of reasons and finally settled on one I hoped that Supergiant and Maw would swallow.

 

“Thanos is a merciful leader!” I went on with the same level of force in my voice. “One who keeps his word. The population has been perfectly balanced as all things should be – one extra death will upset that fine balance! Is that not correct, Maw?”

 

I could feel the beads of sweat trickling down my back as I awaited Maw's verdict. If he disagreed or doubted my loyalty I was toast. On the other hand, Supergiant was a wild card anyway and the glare in her eyes told me that she was ready to drown me herself, with or without Maw's approval.

 

He looked between us, one to the other, for what felt like an age. I held his gaze, no blinking or flinching, while all the time I was scrunching up and relaxing my toes inside my boots, the only nervous tic I could conceal. Then finally he ordered in his super soft voice, “Stand down the both of you! There should be no bickering among the children of Thanos. We are to meet Corvus and Midnight back on the ship.”

 

If sound returned to the planet, I did not hear it. The truth was that I felt rather numb and detached. I had set the majority of the huts and boats alight, so that the air was filled with a dense black smoke, concealing much of the landscape from my sight. Very quickly those boats sank and the huts were never far behind, the flames eating their way through the stilts sending the simple structures toppling into the water, never to see the light of day again. Already the Outriders were making their way back to the teleportation points so that they could be beamed aboard the Q ship to await the time when they would be needed again.

 

I strained my ears to hear any sound other than the deafening roar of the flames, but I could hear nothing beyond it. Not even the wail of people in despair.

 

Before I knew it we were back on the Doughnut and sitting down to a meal prepared by a well-trained Outrider.

 

They were all in a celebratory mood, except for myself and Supergiant, who was still sulking. Cull wolfed down every last morsel he could lay his gigantic hands on, and Corvus and Midnight were sat together and making lovey-dovey looks at one another. If I had an appetite the sight would have put me off. Even Maw was in frighteningly good mood and was slurping up his soup with a gusto.

 

As I poked tentatively at the vegetable lumps in my own soup (I did not trust there not to be any meat in it) I remained on high alert, watching and waiting for one of them to attack me and to demand my true name. Although, the accusations never came I was conscious that Maw was watching me more closely than usual, or maybe it was only my imagination.

 

But, what if he knows? I asked myself. What if he is watching my every expression and movement and building a case against me? What if he's only playing with me?

 

I felt more sweat prickling my back and underarms as I desperately tried to appeared relaxed and at ease. But, have you “tried” to relax? It's not possible.

 

“It's not poisoned, you know,” Supergiant said in a teasing voice, although there was no good humour in her face, only hatred.

 

I smiled back as I swallowed a large spoonful and said, “I know. I'm just a bit tired, that's all.”

 

So useful to be immune to most poisons. If it was poisoned. Supergiant dropped her gaze, but I was still under scrutiny.

 

“Logi, you're shivering. Why?” Ebony observed.

 

Yes, why was that?

 

I shoved every last bit of emotion to the back of my mind, forcing away the horrors of the day. All I really wanted to do was to hide away in my room, but I had to appear chirpy. It was easy enough; I've had plenty of practise over the years of detaching myself from my true feelings.

 

“I'm of fire, remember?” I replied. “It's nippy in here.”

 

Corvus laughed and slapped my back. “Cull, turned the heating up for Grandma here.”

 

Clearly, he had yet to be informed of my little outburst. Cull obediently shuffled off to press the appropriate buttons while Supergiant criticised him for wrong ones he pushed.

 

“You idiot!” I heard her hiss.

 

“Yes, indeed, Father will be more than pleased with us,” Ebony gushed, rubbing his hands together.

 

There are many terrifying sights in the universe and seeing Ebony Maw in such a disturbingly good mood was one of them. He looked me, eyes all aglow.

 

“Father will be mightily pleased with you, Logi. I'll make sure that he knows all about you. I am excited for you to meet with him.”

 

Somehow that thought did not make me as happy as it did Maw.

 

I shrugged. “We brought balance to a tiny planet. What's so special about that?”

 

Supergiant rolled her eyes as if I were too stupid to understand.

 

“Not just a tiny planet, Logi,” Corvus rasped. “Think of Tempest 7 as being a very large treasure chest for a very small jewel. A precious jewel.”

 

From around his neck he removed a necklace with a clunky looking box-shaped locket attached to the chain. He took it into his hands and opened it up, before presenting it to us. Nestled safely inside on a bed of red velvet was a pale yellow gem. It glowed faintly in the dim lighting.

 

“This is the Angnere, also known as the Eye of the Storm,” Corvus explained in a hushed, reverent tone, hardly able to contain his excitement. I glanced at the others. They were staring at it with the same level of awe as though it were the most beautiful object they had ever laid their eyes on. Apart from Cull, that is, who was busy snapping pieces of cutlery in two.

 

As I too stared at that innocent looking stone I felt a shiver run down my body, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. There was great power contained within it, I was sure of it. More power than I had ever come into contact before.

 

“It's ancient,” I breathed before I could stop myself. “Older than anything else I've met before.”

 

Maw looked at me, impressed, and laid a hand on my shoulder.

 

“I sense it too,” he whispered.

 

With all this touching bonding happening between us it seemed a good opportunity to fish for further information.

 

“And that will help the Great Thanos in his mission?” I asked, doubtfully. “It's a dainty little bauble to be sure, but -”

 

“Bauble?” Midnight laughed. “Our Father is not merely interested in fancy looking trinkets, Logi. But, never mind about that now. The more pressing issue is that you go and take a shower. You have pig blood in your hair.”

 

I felt sick again, but refused to let it show. Or at least, I hoped it didn't show.

 


 

I sat on the edge of the bed, attempting to focus all of my attention on the book in my hand. Attempting and failing. It was Thanos' auto- biography again. I was staring hard at the page, but I wasn't able to read a single word. I kept seeing the faces of all those I had murdered. The face of Tri. The face of the little girl who had attacked me. The stench of burnt flesh refused to leave me and in my ears was the crackle of spreading flames and the howls of terrified people.

 

You're unworthy of the loved ones you have betrayed...I kept hearing Odin's voice repeat those words over and over again inside my head. Unworthy...

 

I was painfully aware of the presence of the hidden camera and of the suspicion constantly held against me; I had no choice but to stuff every little bit of emotion deep, deep down inside of myself to the place where I could no longer feel it. The smallest tear, a frown, a look of regret could betray me. I could not allow any of it to show.

 

I looked down to see that my hands were trembling but with a little concentration I was able to still them. I felt dead inside, but for now that was the safest way to be. No emotion, no sentiments. My heart was stone.

 


 

The following days dragged by wearily as we made our way to the sanctuary, wherever and whatever it was. There was a sense of urgency in the air as the Black Order were anxious to deliver the Angnere to Thanos as quickly as possible. I was still not told what the Angnere was or where they had hidden it, although I had tried looking for it on several occasions.

 

And then came the day when I successfully escaped. Sort-of.

 

“Where is Supergiant?” Midnight asked impatiently over breakfast. “Anyone seen her?”

 

We all replied in the negative.

 

“Cully isn't here either,” I added, lightly, before taking a large bite of dry toast. And then I pulled a large bowl of porridge towards myself and began to tuck in. Treachery always leaves me hungry and I had no idea when I would get to eat again.

 

“Outrider, find Supergiant.”

 

“And Cully,” I added.

 

We only had to wait for a few minutes before the Outrider returned looking agitated, flexing its many arms restlessly. We all followed it to where it led us.

 


 

Supergiant was lying in a crumpled, undignified heap on the training room floor, her limbs crossed over herself, looking like a broken rag doll. There was blood dripping out of the corner of her eyes, and out of her nose and mouth, dribbling down the side of her face onto the floor. Her eyes were stuck open, looking as cold and as blank as they had always done while she had still been alive.

 

I neatly dodged my way around the remaining members of the Black Order and the gathering Outriders to dart forward and kneel beside her, making a little show of carefully examining her.

 

“Her neck's been broken!” I exclaimed. Shock. Horror.

 

“Who did this?!” Corvus demanded. “Was it one of the Outriders?”

 

“Where's Cully?” I asked in a low voice, looking around. “Has anyone seen him?”

 

No one had seen him, apart from yours truly. Of course, I did feel bad for...actually, no, I meant to say that I felt no guilt at all. Gleeful, maybe.

 

“Look at the bruises on her neck!” I shouted angrily, pointing. “No one else has a hand that size!”

 

Midnight lent over my shoulder to peer at Supergiant.

 

“It's true,” she said in a slightly shaky voice. And then sounding more determined, “Outriders, find Cull and bring him to us!”

 

After the monsters had left us we stood in silence. I braced myself, knowing what was coming. It was so predictable.

 

Proxima Midnight's hand tightened around her spear.

 

“The bruises on her neck, they came from a much larger hand than Logi's,” she said, quietly. She spun round to face me, eyes flashing furiously and with the spear pointing at my head. “So, why do I still feel suspicious?”

 

I stared her down. “Nothing to do with me.”

 

I yelped as the foam mats suddenly levitated off the floor and flew at me knocking me backwards against the wall and pinning me there. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that it was Maw, standing there calmly with his hand raised.

 

There was a rattling noise and a screech of metal as the pipes came away from the wall, releasing steam everywhere, and wrapping themselves around my body and neck. They burned against my skin. I gasped for breath, trying to break free, but it was no use.

 

The lights above us shattered, and a multitude of jagged shards of glass rushed towards me. I drew in a deep breath, stealing myself for what was about to happen, something I had also anticipated.

 

Maw raised a single finger and the shards stopped just shy of my face. They were so close I was seeing double of every shard. Some were thick and long, while others were barely larger than a grain of rice. I tried to tilt my head away from them, but I could only move it barely an inch. It made no difference.

 

“Did you kill Supergiant?” he asked in that slippery voice of his.

 

“No,” I croaked, fighting against the pipe pushing against my windpipe.

 

“Did you have anything to do with her death?”

 

I struggled, I fought, I stared at those impossibly sharp pieces of glass suspended before me.

 

“No, please believe me!”

 

Maw tilted his head to one side. “Maybe we will, but only after we have made certain that you are telling the absolute truth....”

 

Maw clenched his fist closed and the glass pieces of began to press themselves into my face. As tough as my skin is, nothing was going to stop those pieces from pushing and grinding and twisting their way into my body.

 

I shrieked and howled in agony as a hundred piece of glass pierced my skin.

 

If you want to fool someone into thinking that you are not a threat or innocent of a crime, you have to be seen to be defeated, to be completely ground under foot.

 

“I DIDN'T DO IT!” I screeched. “PLEASE! I DIDN'T KILL HER! PLEASE, STOP!”

 

I was doing wonderfully.

 

It was truly painful, pure agony, but I was determined and kept to the script. And just as I thought I might give in, Corvus grew bored.

 

“Release him, Maw,” he said. “Why are we wasting time on him when we know who the real culprit is?”

 

Ebony Maw dropped his hand and I, and all the shards of glass and broken pipes, crashed to the ground. I sucked in one greedy, painful breath after another, but couldn't resist running a shaky hand over my face, even though I knew what I would find there. Despite my anticipation, my breath still caught in my throat as the delicate skin on the palm of my hand caught against the minute shards of glass embedded into my cheeks and forehead. I didn't need to see my reflection to know that I was bloodily mess.

 

I wasted no time in pulling out the larger shards, feeling sickened by the experience. Although, the wounds would heal in time, in certain lights I can still see the silvery pin-prick scars dotted all over my face. And because it still hurts a little to eat or talk (although, I haven't felt such discomfort in the past couple of hours, maybe because of the Kin?) and because I had no time or way to pluck the smallest shards out, I know that they are still in there, buried under my skin in my cheeks, slowly working their way to my brain. Gross, right? Perhaps the Kin had fixed the problem. Time will tell.

 

“Don't move a muscle!” Midnight warned me as the three of them dashed out of the room.

 

I counted to ten before making a break for it, leaving a projection of myself behind, curled up tightly on the floor.

 

This was it. Time to escape. So far my plan was going rather smoothly, aside from my handsome face being ruined. All I had to do now was reach the escape pod I had selected the day before, jettison it into space, and then transform myself into an Outrider, hiding among them. They would chase after the escape pod for a time as I would lay low. And then one by one I would murder the morons in their sleep and generally spread chaos and disinformation by shape-shifting into each of them. It was a beautiful plan and how I wished it had worked out, but there are just some things you can't plan for.

 

For one thing, I hadn't expected to literally run into the arms of Cully. I'd skidded around a corner and there he was, arms like tree trunks wrapping around me and lifting me off the floor. I'd thought that after killing Supergiant he had done the smart thing and gone into hiding, but clearly he had decided that if he was going down then he would drag me down with him. Fair enough, I suppose, after all, I'd been the one who over the empty days had been subtly filling his head up with ideas of revenge against the one who'd bullied and belittled him. Those things are true, by the way. None of the Black Order had much respect for him, but Supergiant had been the worse, forever mocking his lack of intelligence and bossing him about like a servant. All I'd done was given him a little encouragement to go in the right direction.

 

Obviously, he was not as thankful for my counsel as he should have been.

 

“Cully!” I hissed, as those gigantic arms attempted to crush my chest. “I'm your friend, you moron! Put me down this instant and I can get us both out of here alive!”

 

Not true, of course, but the longer I was caught in his grasp the less time I had to go into hiding. Every second was vital.

 

Plan amendment: take Cully with you and stuff him inside an escape pod. Let the Black Order find him first.

 

But, Cull refused to play nice. He growled loudly at me, tightening his grip.

 

Well, he asked for it. My arms were held behind my back, but I was able to summon a white hot flame into my hand and burn Cull in a very inconvenient place. He hollered so loudly that I knew the Outriders would be alerted. He threw me away from himself so that he could clutch at his roasted you-know-what's. I smashed against the opposite wall, but immediately hauled myself to my feet and continued down the corridor.

 

Plan amendment: forget the escape pod, just find a safe place to change form and blend in.

 

But even that was no longer possible. Time was up. My luck (if I had any in the first place) had all dried up.

 

A swarm of Outriders flooded the corridor, crawling over one another to get to me, running all over the walls and hanging upside down off the ceiling. I was as helpless as a cricket caught inside an ant colony. I fought back, of course, using the best of my magic to torch them, blast them away, or to shield myself. But, they just kept on coming, unstoppable, unable to feel pain or fear or fatigue, and too many in number. Whereas me, I felt all those things.

 

“How long can you keep going, Logi?” Midnight's voice bellowed from the far end of the corridor. “Do your best, this is true entertainment!”

 

I hissed angrily, summoning my daggers to my hands, slashing off arms, legs, and even a tongue, but still they kept on coming.

 

And then I tripped, falling backwards, and in that moment the Outriders were all over me. I was crushed beneath their weight as their claws dug into me and their jaws clamped down into my flesh. It was dark, suffocating pain. I couldn't even hear myself scream. The darkness grew even darker as the Outriders did their utmost best to tear me limb from limb.

 

“Outriders, desist!” I heard the muffled voice of Maw commanded.

 

Very slowly light returned as they climbed off me. My vision was blurry as I lay on my back, listening to my own raspy breaths.

 

The hideous face of Maw appeared over, peering down at me with an ugly look in his eyes.

 

“My...hero...” I whispered. “Kiss...me...”

 

But, it just wasn't my day. Instead of smooching me he grasped hold of my chin, pressing his fingers into the bits of the glass still stuck there. I moaned in pain.

 

“I warned you that I would tell Thanos all about you, Asgardian!” he said with a sneer. The surprise must have shown on my face because he added, “You said the words “Odin's sake”, did you not notice your own little slip?”

 

I hadn't.

 

“I had....my people know all about you...They'll come for me when I fail to report in...”

 

They wouldn't.

 

Ebony Maw patted the side of my face, purposely tapping the glass. More pain.

 

“Don't you worry about that,” said he, running a long finger lightly over my face. “For tomorrow we arrive at the Sanctuary. How blessed you are to be able to meet Thanos in person!”

 

 


 

 

AN: Loki wasn't able to narrate Supergiant's death because he didn't witness it, but I imagine that it was an impulsive action by Cull, spurned on by years of bullying and Loki's influence. He took her by surprise- she wasn't expecting it- killing her before she had chance to fight back. Loki spent all the time waiting for the moment to happen.

Now he's in real trouble. We all know what he looked like in Avengers.

Thanks for reading!

Anyone else heard Loki is getting a TV series? So excited!

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Child of Thanos: Part Nine: Falling Down

 

“Loki?”

 

Thor was not really expecting a response. Loki had lapsed into thoughtful silence some time ago and with a look of dreamy concentration was spinning his glass around and around on the bar, seemingly entranced by the shifting reflections of light and the repetitive soft scraping sounds it created.

 

While Loki was preoccupied Thor carefully inched his stool a little closer to Loki's. It was clear to him that his bother was more than ready to flee the bar and abandon the rest of the narrative rather than continue to open up about the events in the past which had wounded him greatly and Thor wanted to be ready to catch him should he bolt. He could see it in Loki's tensed body and although his face had a drawn, pinched look to it, his eyes were wide and feverishly bright, like two candles shining behind a bed sheet.

 

Thor's stomach churned at the emotion in those eyes: sadness, defeat, and fear. But it was the fear which caused Thor the most concern. They were safe here, seated near to a dusty old piano in a tiny bar on a insignificant planet in the loneliest corner of the galaxy, with no enemies around and nothing to hurt them or to be afraid of. And yet Loki had the pained-filled eyes and nervous look of a battle-weary soldier, one who had been fighting for too long without rest. Thor could only conclude that such an emotional reaction had to be triggered by his memories alone rather than from any external cue. It was enough to make Thor feel nervous himself.

 

Their culture had been one centred around glorifying war and raising up their warriors above all other peoples. The more battles a soldier participated in the better. The more they killed the greater their social standing. And if they returned home wounded and maimed then they were greatly celebrated before swiftly returning to the battle-field. Thor himself had thrived in such a world, but now as he warily watched Loki spinning and spinning the glass around he began to recall a couple of cases of “blood-exhaustion”, as it was called, of men who were too young to retire from duty, but were considered too weak-minded to be allowed to continue to fight, who lived on the fringes of society, hidden away and mostly forgotten about.

 

Thor didn't know why some warriors were susceptible to blood-exhaustion and others resistant. He had sometimes observed a similar worn look in the face of Tony Stark and yet in contrast the Cap, who had seen one of the darkest wars in the history of Midgard, had endured and overcome any trauma (more or less) ready to fight another day.

 

But, the humans, they said that talking about one's problems was supposed to help, to lighten the darkness a little, but as far as Thor could see Loki's mood had only worsened, become gloomier and more melancholy. Not for the first time Thor wondered if he was doing the right thing by forcing the truth out of him, if he was causing Loki more harm than good. However, his instinct told him that they should persevere.

 

He gave Loki's shoulder a prod sharp enough to finally shake him out of his reverie. The Trickster flinched sharply, but finally ceased his glass spinning to stare at Thor with hollow eyes, an annoyed look creasing up his forehead.

 

“Don't you think you should carry on now?” Thor asked him.

 

It didn't escape his notice that Loki's eyes flicked briefly towards the swing doors and back again.

 

“You know what happened next,” Loki said in a low voice. “I arrived on Earth, we had a touching reunion, and then it was back to Asgard in time for tea and cake. There were misadventures and shenanigans. Ragnarök happened. And now here we are. Any questions? Nope, didn't think so. Let's go find the Commodore. It needs fixing, right?”

 

Thor smiled thinly at Loki he held lightly onto his elbow.

 

“You were responsible for the death of one of their own,” he said, quietly. “What did they do to you?”

 

Loki slowly sank back down onto the stool, rubbing his hands together as he stared blankly into the distance, gathering up his thoughts and placing them in order.


 

Cull Obidson took a hold of my left ankle and dragged me first down the length of the corridor, with the remaining members of the Black Order and many Outriders surrounding us, and then down a long and narrow flight of filthy metal stairs. I knew that for the time-being I had no hope of escape, so I had no choice but to remain as limp and unresisting as a rag-doll as my already wounded face hit every step and as Corvus and Midnight took pleasure in stomping on my hands and arms as they followed us down. This was just the beginning of the humiliations I experienced at their hands.

 

By the time we had reached the bottom my clothes, hands, and face were coated in a mixture of blood and grime and smarting greatly, but this was hardly of any concern to me as my thoughts were more preoccupied with my impending doom. I was certain that Thanos would kill me, or if he didn't, then one of his children would.

 

Just for variety Corvus repeatedly kicked my side until I took the hint and rolled stiffly onto my back, Cull having relaxed his grip on my ankle just enough for me to do so before tightening it again to the point that my foot grew numb. Then off we set again. Somehow it worse being on my back; I felt more helpless. I was able to see their faces leering down at me and, though this might sound a strange concern, I didn't know what to do with my arms. It wasn't possible to keep them by my sides as naturally they wanted to slide above my head, but that would have been a too-passive look for me. For a very brief time I folded them across my stomach, looking as relaxed as if I had been reclining in a sun-lounger, but they did not like that. So Corvus and Midnight stomped on my face, heavy leather forcing the tiny shards of glass deeper into my flesh. Then they did it again. Excruciating pain exploded in my nose, blood gushed down my face....and when you can see two black boots rushing towards your face....it's not a pleasant experience...

 

My mind was too clouded by pain to really notice when we came to a halt, but I was hauled upright to kneel on the floor. It was dark and dingy and far too hot down there among all the engines and other unknown-to-me machines which kept the doughnut ship working, but I could see that we had stopped in front of a heavy, open door and beyond it was a tiny, empty storage room. No lights in there and the only way in or out was through the door with all the bolts hanging off it.

 

Oh joy, I thought, although actually I was not afraid of spending the night alone in that room. However, it turned out that I was wrong about being alone and the experience was far than I could have ever imagined.

 

I was forced to wait and watch as first they sent in a group of Outriders to line the back wall, pressed shoulder to shoulder, heads scraping against the ceiling, and with jaws bared and claws extended. Then they sent in a second group to scuttle up to the low ceiling and hang upside-down with one clawed hand pointing downwards.

 

By now I had cottoned onto what was about to happen.

 

“I didn't do anything!” I cried. “It was Cull who killed Supergiant – punish him!”

 

But all protests fell on deaf ears and I guessed that even as horrible as they were they felt some loyalty to one another (rather than to me) as I was hauled to my feet and given a sharp shove. I stumbled forward into the room, narrowly dodging the claws from above and only just being able to stop myself before I had fallen onto a set belonging to the Outriders against the back wall. I had only just time to turn around before more Outriders marched willingly in, filling every available space, on the walls or standing tightly packed on the floor, and all showing off their teeth and razor-sharp claws.

 

It wasn't long before there was only one narrow gap left in front of the door, allowing in a weak beam of light and Maw's soft, wet voice.

 

“I hope that you are standing comfortably because if you move so much as an inch the Outriders may assume that you are trying to escape and the consequences for you will be most unpleasant.” There was a high-pitched whine as the door began to close, but then suddenly stopped as Maw added, “Oh, and although you may feel tempted to use your powers to destroy your room-mates – don't! The Outriders share a single consciousness. Whatever happens inside your room is known to the Outriders on the outside, and therefore also know to us. Should you fight back we will know. Should you attempt to escape we will know. And in the unlikely event of you actually escaping we will know where you cower. No matter how long it takes we will track you down and destroy you and everyone and everything you care about. Good night. Do try to avoid falling asleep.”

 

One final Outrider was crammed into the gap before the door was swung shut with a loud clang, plunging the room into absolute darkness.

 

To avoid scratching my head I was forced to stand with my neck and knees bent. To prevent my arms from being cut to ribbons I had to keep them folded across my front. Every time I exhaled I could feel my sides pressing into the points of those impossibly sharp claws, so I would draw in a deep breath and hold it for as long as possible before releasing it.

 

The only chink of light was that from the thin crack above the door, but it was enough to allow me to discern all the shadowy figures crammed against me. All around the deep growls of the Outriders filled my ears. I could feel their hot, odorous breath on my exposed skin and every so often a globule of saliva would drop from above and splatter over me. The stench from this warm liquid was repugnant enough to make my stomach jump around in my body. My skin is crawling now just thinking about it.

 

I don't know for how many hours I was kept trapped in that hateful room, but it felt like an eternity. Before very long my legs began to shake from the exertion of keeping them bent; and the lack of oxygen, the overpowering heat and smell began to wear down my will-power and calmness. I was beginning to feel claustrophobic. All I wanted was to get out of that room. The rising panic and increasing pain in my body tricked me into viewing Maw's parting warning of retribution as less threatening than it truly had been and I temporarily forgot that the Outriders operated as a hive mind.

 

I began to transform myself into something small. I can't remember what form I was aiming for. I'm not even sure that I had fully decided at the time, I was just so desperate for some relief.

 

However, as soon as I began to turn and shrink ever so slightly the growls of the Outriders increased in volume and menace. Even if they didn't understand completely what I was doing, they were aware of something. It was enough to bring me back to my senses. I aborted the change, going back to my full height.

 

From that point on I focused on hiding on away in my own mind, away from the pain and the discomfort and my own misery. Silently, I recited every poem I could remember, slowly recalling each line and verse. And if reality broke my concentration or caused me to skip a line, I drew in a deep breath and started over.

 

Pain eventually rose into agony and not even poetry could distract me from my screaming muscles. With the heat I was terribly thirsty. I began to worry that I would never be released from the room.

 

My only real indication of time passing was by feeling the floor vibrating at various frequencies as the engines did their continual work. I tried to guess the meaning behind each rumble and shake, but it was impossible to know if I was right, and anyway it was impossible to think straight for very long.

 

I had thought that being trapped inside the spell of the Observatory had driven me slightly mad, but this was much worse. I was shaking so badly at this point that I knew that I didn't have long left before I fell, setting off the Outrider's attack. I clenched my teeth so tightly that I bit through my lip as the sweat poured down my body. It was hellish. One of the most hellish experiences of my life.

 

I have to get out, I have to get out, the repetitive thoughts were sounding through my head like an alarm. No matter how steely my resolve I was about to break, to shatter into a thousand pieces, never to be repaired.

 

Then came the sweetest of sounds: the screech of the door being swung open. Painfully bright light flooded the room, blinding me, but the incoming breeze was sweet.

 

The Outriders in front of me slowly filed out of the room. As they did my legs gave way and I fell flat onto my face, writhing in agony as my calf muscles cramped painfully, the blood surging through them like acid. I think I sobbed with relief.

 

I heard Ebony Maw's cold voice say, “We've arrived at The Sanctuary. Do you what you can to clean yourself up, unless you wish a spend another night with the Outriders.” Then he added in a tone that was both fretful and sneering, “You don't deserve to see Father, not looking like that. Hurry up!”

 

I pushed myself up onto my knees with trembling arms. Then I plucked feebly at my clothes to assess the damage. They were soaked in sweat, blood and foul smelling Outrider drool...and...and...I can't do this any more...

 


 

 

Thor reached out for Loki's arm, but the Trickster evaded his grasp and had dashed out of the swing-doors before Thor had even time to stand up.

 

“LOKI!” he bellowed, charging out after his brother. “Come back!”

 

Thor looked desperately left to right, up and down the silent town, but could not spot any sign of his brother. He spun round, craning his neck back, just in time to catch sight of a shadowy figure nimbly clambering onto the bar roof and disappearing out of sight.

 

It would have been easy for Thor to have leapt onto the roof in a single bound, but instead he held back for a few seconds before slowly scaling the wall so that Loki might have a moment to compose himself.

 

 

AN: Thanks for reading!

 

Chapter Text

 

Child of Thanos: Part Ten: 

 

As Loki scrambled clumsily onto the roof of the saloon bar, his breathing panicky and uneven, he found the memories of the past quickly overtaking him. Just as he reached the top it was not the small town he could see before him, but himself suspended six feet above a metal floor in a cone of milk white light, limbs outstretched and rigidly frozen in place.

 

His breaths caught in his throat as he knew what would follow – intense, overwhelming pain, like nothing else he had ever felt before; pain like fire and acid racing through his body, threatening to tear him apart and shatter his sanity. And after that there would be the crippling despair, the realisation that there was no way out, and the belief that if only, if only, he had been a little smarter, a little stronger, then he wouldn't be trapped in such a terrible situation.

 

Back then Loki had been unable to escape the pain -no choice, no chance, no hope - but now that it was being transferred through his memory his brain had launched itself into fight or flight mode with an intensity as though it were making up for lost ground. He would shake off the memory and the pain no mater what it took.

 

He could hear himself screaming as nearly every joint in his body was slowly pulled out of their sockets: arms and legs, shoulders and knees, elbows and ankles, hips, fingers and toes were all wrenched out, leaving him looking like a broken puppet for an interminable amount of time before being forced back into place and not always carefully.

 

The memory flooded his brain and overwhelmed his senses, snatching away his awareness of the present, the outside world, and his own actions. He was not conscious of the fact that he had made it onto the roof, or that he had transformed into a hawk, or that Thor was shouting after him.

 

What followed was a jumbled and muddled series of confused moments as the instinctive area of Loki's brain took over the controls completely and were unwilling to let go. There was Thor's voice, demanding and muffled; there were shrieks and howls, and further transformation. There was fear and panic and fighting, and after what felt like a long, long, time, exhaustion and defeat.

 

When he finally came back to himself, he was first aware of a heavy weight bearing down on him and then of the smell of singed fur filling his nostrils. The fog of confusion clung to him for a few moments longer before being panted away and he came to realise that he was in Wolf aspect. He had no idea when he had transformed or why, but he felt that it would be a good thing to remain as a wolf for a little longer. This body felt calmer than his human body had and besides which he was too drained to want to change again.

 

He tried to climb to his paws, but the weight on top of him gently pushed him back down. The hot hands which were holding him in place were also carefully smoothing down his fur. It wasn't a terrible sensation, and it's repetitiveness was soothing in itself, as constant as the ticks of a clock, giving Loki something outside of himself to concentrate on.

 

“It's okay, you're safe, you're safe,” he heard Thor's voice drone from somewhere above him.

 

[Thor...?] Even communicating that one simple word telepathically was a struggle, the word sticking inside his brain like treacle and refusing to budge. Thankfully, Thor still heard him.

 

“Loki? Are you back with me?” The relief in his brother's voice was unmistakable.

 

Once again Loki tried to move a little, but Thor was still holding onto him and underneath the pressure of Thor's arms squeezing him was a sharp soreness that affected every muscle in his body.

 

[Why do I ache?]

 

The god of Thunder finally released him and he was able to shakily stand on his paws. He could still smell burnt fur, but couldn't quite grasp at its source. He padded about a little to try and wake himself, to try and make sense of things.

 

“You were...you weren't making much sense...so I gave you a little shock...” Thor explained, sounding apologetic and worried. “I didn't know what else to do. And afterwards you just sort of....you were awake, but you weren't responding to me...How do you feel now?”

 

In answer, Loki flopped back onto the floor, resting his head on his paws. He felt odd, slightly floaty and not completely attached to his own body, as though his soul might drift away at any moment. But above all, he felt tired, a bone-deep weariness that would take time to shake off. He closed his eyes savouring the relative peacefulness of the moment.

 

Thor watched him for a moment before reaching across to gently tug on the tip of his ear.

 

“I owe you an apology, Loki,” he said in a low voice. “This is not good for you. Let's call it night.”

 

This suggestion startled Loki. He raised his head to say, [I'm fine.]

 

“You have an odd definition of fine.”

 

[But I am!] he insisted with a growl as he jumped to his paws, and nervously moved about in little hops. [This is my story, I want to continue telling it. This is what you wanted so you will listen.]

 

His voice inside Thor's head sound calm enough but the Thunderer was watching him warily; he had years of practise of reading Loki in wolf form and could easily read the signs that Loki was definitely not okay. It was all there in the bristling fur, the flattened ears, and the skittish movements. He would never say it out loud as Loki had never seemed aware of it, but it was always easier to see through the Trickster's lies when he was in animal form as he often failed to completely suppress the expressive body language of whatever animal aspect he had adopted. It was never an easy task to control those powerful instincts even during the best of times, but it was especially difficult when one was upset.

 

He shook his head as he said, “All evening you've been reluctant to talk, but now, after this, you want to carry on?” He tugged on the short strands of his hair before exclaiming in exasperation, “Why do you have to be so contrary all the time, Loki? I don't want you to suffer, but still you insist on arguing with me. Why do you have to fight me all the time, even when we're on the same side?”

 

Guilt gnawed at Loki's insides as he heard the hurt in his brother's voice. He began to turn about in small circles.

 

[I have to fight because if I don't...I'll sink. I fight because I'm alive.]

 

Thor placed a hand on his head before moving it under his jaw and carefully tilted his head back so that they were making eye contact.

 

“Of course you're alive!” he said. “But, listen, that attack you've just had, whatever it was, I don't want you to have another. And I don't think that you can avoid triggering another.”

 

[I think I can.]

 

Thor withdrew his hand, looking huffy.

 

“Alright then, genius, what trick have you got up your sleeve this time? And by the way if it goes wrong I won't hesitate to shoot a lightening bolt up your furry backside!”

 

[Oh, my, your heart is just overflowing with philia tonight, isn't it?]

 

Thor winked at him. “Just fighting to keep you on on your toes, little brother. And because you scared the crap out of me tonight. Don't do that again.”

 

[I'll do my best,] Loki said, before leaping out of Wolf aspect and clapping the palm of his hand against Thor's forehead.

 


 

 

It is always disconcerting to have someone else's memories jump into your own brain, particularly if they are not pleasant memories.

 

Thor felt like he was being dragged down deep into cold, murky water by a powerful current. There were brief flashes of dazzling colours and snatches of strong emotion darting around and bumping into him. At first he tried to fight it, but once he relaxed the memories were able to fully assert themselves around him.

 

He opened his eye only to see darkness. He blinked rapidly and his vision cleared to reveal to his alarm a Chitauri Leviathan lazily swimming in and out a field of black, jagged rocks floating in space. He had ducked behind a rocky outcrop before he remembered that he could not be hurt inside of Loki's memories and came out again to watch the monster in fascination.

 

This had to be the Sanctuary Loki had mentioned, not that it met Thor's idea of a Sanctuary in any way. It was dark, cold, and barren, an astoriod field in the middle of Chitauri Space. He looked upwards to the sky and although he could see glimpses of stars, they were mostly hidden from sight by the numerous floating meteoroids.

 

“Mighty Thanos, we have not failed you,” a reedy voice gushed. “We present to you the Agnere and the one who is responsible for the death of Supergiant.”

 

Thor turned about to see the members of the Black Order all kneeling down on one knee and necks bent, with the one Thor presumed to be Ebony Maw at the forefront, holding a small wooden box aloft.

 

And in the centre of the group was Loki, sitting slumped in the dirt, his eyes half-closed. Thor felt his heart in his mouth when he saw the pitiful state his brother was in. He was a bloodied mess, covered in countless scratches and deep, open gashes. From the way Loki had described his night locked in with the Outriders Thor had assumed that he had survived it physically unscathed, but that clearly was not the truth. Thor could feel his heart hammering away inside of his chest; it was one thing to hear about his brother being tortured, but it was quite another to see the result.

 

Even when dazed Loki still managed to smirk before hissing, “Tattle-tail,” at Ebony's back.

 

He was immediately punished by Corvus kicking him in squarely in the back, knocking him face down into the ground. Loki grunted loudly, but was able to push himself back upright before he was beaten again.

 

Thor gave into the urge to kneel beside him and tried to touch him, but of course his hands went straight through the image. His brother looked even worse up close. Now Thor could clearly see the boot-shaped bruises on his chalk-white face fully formed; the cuts which were old and mostly healed and the fresh ones still bleeding; he could see his dry, cracked lips, and dull eyes, and how he was trembling just from the exertion of kneeling upright.

 

Thor felt fury bubbling up inside of himself and threatening to burst out.

 

“You edited your narrative very carefully, Loki!” he shouted up towards the stars. “Because it wasn't just wasn't one night, was it? How long were you really kept trapped inside that hellish room, unable to move, starved and dehydrated? How many days, weeks was it? And what else did they do to you? Never mind, just tell me where he is.”

 

Somewhere in the shadows above them there came a soft hissing sound of which Thor could not even imagine the source. However it quickly grew louder as whatever it was approached them.

 

“Have you heard the good news?” said a voice that was both deep and gentle, rough but soft; qualities that lent it a confidence which demanded that everyone pay absolute attention to it. “The whole of Asgard, the golden city of so-called-gods, is in mourning for Odin's youngest son. Well, they call themselves gods. I call them pretenders. He tried to take the throne, failed. Tried to kill his brother, failed. Tried to destroy Jotunheim, failed. With all that failure bearing down on him no wonder he threw himself off the bridge.”

 

From out of the darkness came an opposing looking figure seated on a floating stone throne, held aloft with by bright blue jets position under the arms and its base. Ever the ready warrior, Thor knew an enemy when he saw one, he could feel it in the tightening of his scalp, the quickening of his heart rate. There could be no doubt that he was viewing Thanos for the first time, the founder of the Black Order and the cause of so much misery and death right across the universe.

 

Aware that Loki's memory could come to an end at any second, Thor stepped closer to the throne so that he might drink in every aspect of Thanos' appearance and search for any sign of weakness while the moment lasted.

 

But even knowing that Thanos could neither see or hear him, Thor still felt strangely nervous about staring into those merciless, cold eyes. He felt an instinctive feeling of dread washing over him as he could sense the Titan's desire to obliterate life on scale never dreamt of before. As an Asgardian it was his duty to protect the Yggdrasil and preserve the life of the Nine Realms, but here he was, face to face with the one who would happily destroy it all for the sake of his seeing his warped and twisted ambitions fully realised.

 

Conviction. Loki had spoken about the absolute conviction of the Black Order members, but now he could see it in their leader. There was something machine-like about Thanos, both in body and personality. He looked to be about eight feet tall and with a body more muscular than the strongest Asgardian warrior, a being built for war; a being who could not be reasoned with, a being who has decided upon his purpose and function and would carry it out with unwavering determination and ruthlessness. If anyone dared to push against him he would push back all the harder.

 

Thor was not fully aware of himself as he took several cautious steps backwards. He couldn't quite admit it to himself, but he was afraid. He knew and understood anger well, the rage of the battle, the need to punish the wicked and defend the weak, but fear? Yes, he had felt fear before, just not as frequently as those other emotions and never so strong before just because of one individual.

 

He was startled to realise that he had just walked backwards through Loki. It was the first time his brother had laid eyes on Thanos' too and he was sure that Loki would be just as frightened as he was, if not more. So, he was rather shocked to hear and see Loki chuckling without making the slightest effort to conceal or suppress his amusement.

 

A wave of tension rippled through the group. The Black Order all tightening their grips on their weapons. Maw looked like he was about to choke on his own disgust. All eyes were upon him and none of them friendly.

 

“Loki, don't...” Thor warned, quickly stepping in front of him as though he could actually shield him from Thanos and the others.

 

“You dare laugh at the Mighty Thanos?!” Ebony Maw shrilly demanded as Corvus, Midnight, and Cull stepped closer waiting for the order to execute.

 

Loki shrugged his thin shoulders, his facial expression showing no sign that he had the slightest awareness of the danger he was placing himself in.

 

“I'm sorry, but he looks so silly.”

 

Midnight wasted no time in smacking the back of his head sharply with the end of her three-pronged lance. Thor flinched when he heard the dull thwack noise as it made contact with the base of Loki's skull. Once again he was knocked forward onto his hands, but this time he stayed there panting heavily.

 

Maw waved two fingers pressed together and a cloud of dust and stones flew through Thor and wrapped themselves around Loki's mouth, muzzling him. If it prevented him from making further antagonising remarks than Thor was almost grateful for it.

 

“My apologies, Great Father,” said Maw, bowing so low that his face almost rubbed against the ground. “He is deranged as you can plainly see, a tormented soul in need of your healing. Although, of course, I dare not try to influence your flawless wisdom or judgement in any way, and please forgive me if I forget my place when I say that this one might have potential to be useful to you. If you will it so you can heal him and bestow upon him inner peace. And if not destroy him as you see fit.”

 

Thor rolled his eyes in disbelief. How many times in the past had Mother and Eir try to find a cure for the “tormented soul” who knelt beside him? Loki been confined to his chambers for weeks for complete bed-rest, had concoctions of natural herbs stuffed down his throat, was taught mediation by the Ancient One...In the end they ran out of ideas of how to make him feel better.

 

Thanos slowly stood up leaving the throne hovering behind him. A stillness descended over the group as Thanos silently took the box from Maw. He opened it up and momentarily allowed the yellow jewel to hang from his fingers, the limited light bouncing off its surface, and then carefully he placed it around his neck; a brief blast of invisible energy swept over the area, blowing back clothes and ruffling hair. Thanos had stiffened up as the power of the Agnere – or the Mind Stone as Thor identified it – before quickly becoming accustomed to it and relaxing once again. He smiled.

 

“You've done well, Maw, to bring me what I require. Now you may all go, but leave him.”

 

One by one the Black Order slowly backed away before disappearing from sight. Maw was the last to go, clicking his fingers as he went causing the dust to drop away from Loki's mouth.

 

Thanos slowly circled around Loki, like a vulture waiting for it next meal to hurry up and actually expire.

 

“It's okay,” the Titan said softly. “You're allowed to ask how I know who you are, Loki.”

 

Thor knew that he wanted to shock him, to psychologically dominate him, but Loki wasn't willing to give up so easily. If he was surprised then he didn't allow it to show on his face.

 

Instead he shrugged and said in a bored tone, “Why ask? Clearly your Outriders get everywhere, even evading the all-seeing gaze of Heimdall.”

 

“That pleases you,” Thanos stated in a tone that was ever so slightly disappointed at having lost an opportunity to upset Loki, but also impressed at his callousness.

 

Loki wore his you're a dolt look.

 

“Amuses me,” he corrected. “Heimdall thinks himself very important, when in reality he's close to useless. We may as well just invite our enemies inside...actually I did do that once...already feels like a lifetime ago...”

 

If he was about to launch into a retelling his life story then Thanos was clearly not interested as he jumped in and said, “The Outriders are the most efficient spies and assassins the galaxy has to offer. You can't see them, you can't feel them. But they're there, under your beds, hanging from your ceilings, gathering information.”

 

“I've seen them. Spent an interesting few nights with them. Did you know they're all called Herbert and enjoy Tennyson?”

 

Thor wished that Loki would stop making jokes. Thanos placed a massive hand on the back of his head and lent in close to say, “I know that right now you are very afraid, Asgardian. And that amuses me. Your people call themselves gods... but anyone can isolate themselves from the rest of the universe and claim to be a god. I could be a god. But when you do come out to play you're pitifully ordinary and weak, pathetic. As for me I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty. A true god mixes with the ordinary. And I know what true power is, I know what it means to be a prophet and now I am saviour too.”

 

Loki scoffed loudly. “By you're definition I'm a saviour too. Let's start a support group,” he said, mockingly.

 

Thor licked his dry lips nervously. Loki's silver tongue had turned to dirt and Thanos looked ready to crush him.

 

“You know Asgard mourns for the fallen prince and you know what I did, what I'm capable of,” Loki went on fearlessly, recklessly. “And, frankly, if you're going to kill me then just get on with it.”

 

Thanos looked like he was considering granting that request and Loki almost looked hopeful at the prospect of receiving a quick death, but then Thanos returned to his throne.

 

“I know exactly what you are capable of,” he said. “You killed your sister.”

 

“No, I did not.”

 

“Well, you manipulated Cull into murdering her. And as much I admire your ruthlessness I have to make an example of you.”

 

“An example for whom?” For the first time during the conversation Loki's mask of indifference had slipped for just a second and Thor heard the faintest ring of nervousness in his voice.

 

Unfortunately, Thanos heard it too and looked quietly triumphant.

 

“To your siblings, of course.”

 

“They're not my siblings...oh, my head...” Loki said, weakly, slumping forward, his hands clutching the back of his head. He was so pale now that he looked to be at death's door.

 

Thor sat on the ground beside Loki as close as he could get without actually sitting in the middle of him. He of course knew that this small gesture changed nothing for Loki, but he still felt he had to be close to his brother, to suffer the dark moments as much as he could along side him.

 

“Yes they are,” Thanos insisted in a calm voice. “Even if you entered into the Black Order under false pretences you still joined in with their work. You're one of mine and I intend to keep you, although you need a little breaking in first. A good father always corrects his child.”

 

The Agnere began to glow brightly, jumping around on the silver chain. Loki looked openly afraid now as he instinctively lent back. Thanos caught him by the throat, lifting him off the ground as he pressed the Infinity Stone to Loki's forehead.

 

Thor had to fight not to look away as the Trickster howled in agony as the jewel burnt into his flesh. He felt sick to his stomach to witness his brother in such pain and not be able to do a thing to stop it.

 

Thanos was completely unmoved by Loki's screams and frantic struggles for release. Instead he continued to hold Loki aloft, watching almost indifferently.

 

“Little god, it only hurts because you are resisting,” he eventually said, with a touch of impatience. “But, that is life, I suppose. A long series of painful decisions we have to make and then sit with the consequences whatever they may be. Allow me to be the one to make those difficult decisions for you. Give up your freedom and you will know peace. I only have your best interests at heart.”

 

Loki's flailing began to weaken and slow down as his screams quietened into a strange gargling sort-of noise, before they petered out into silence. His eyes opened wide were directed upwards towards the stars as they gradually turned from emerald green to an electric blue. He reached up a twitching arm as though he were trying to grasp at someone who wasn't really there.

 

All around Thor the scenery began to change slightly, looking softer, a little blurred.

 

“Loki...” he whispered, unable to stop himself.

 

Loki's eyes had turned completely blue and his arms fell limply to his sides and his legs stopped kicking as he looked directly at Thanos and rasped, “Father...I didn't recognise you...”

 

Thanos gave him a small smile as he loosened his grip allowing Loki to drop nimbly to the ground, immediately positioning himself into a humble kneel, head bowed. Thanos bent down to take hold of his chin, lifting it up so that he look Loki directly in the bright blue eyes.

 

“You're strong to have resisted for so long. And you're strong to have surrendered. Good job, Loki.”

 

This time Thor could not resist the urge to avert his eyes as he saw the smile spread across Loki's face as tears pored down his cheeks. The smile and tears were the sorrowful, bittersweet kind, the kind you experience after being rescued and forgiven for past transgressions, the kind you show when overwhelmed by love.

 

“Thank you, Father...” Loki breathed, tears dripping off his face.

 

Thanos' face became hard again. “However, I must stick to my word. I said I would punish you for killing Supergiant and I will. She was as much as my child as you are. Do you accept responsibility for your crime against your family?”

 

Loki bowed his head again. “I do.”

 

Thanos looked over his shoulder and shouted, “Come here, now!”

 

The black rock rippled like water and from it emerged a terrifying looking ghost-like creature. Wrapped in a grey robe it's eyes were concealed from the world; however its sharp, jagged teeth were more than enough to make a good impression on all those who had the good fortune to meet The Other.

 

“Master,” it said with bow.

 

Thanos waved a hand in Loki's direction.

 

“Take him away. Make sure his siblings see him receive his punishment. Some of them were quite fond of Supergiant, so its only fair.”

 

Thor bit his lip as he watched The Other float towards Loki, who still kept his head bowed, with his hair lying limp over his eyes. He felt so helpless, so scared for his brother. He shook his head, wondering just how badly damaged Loki was by his harrowing experiences.

 

And then he clearly heard Thanos say, “What the -”

 

Thor spun about sharply.

 

As Thanos had turned to walk away Loki had grabbed hold of his ankle. The Trickster's face was still mostly hidden by his hair, but his grin was all too clear to see.

 

“Oh...” Thor gasped.

 

“Master -” The Other began, but that was as far as he got before white hot flames burst out of Loki's hand and rushed up Thanos' legs and then his torso, wrapping tightly around him. The Titan bellowed in anger, swiping at the flames.

 

“YES!” Thor cheered, too wrapped up in the moment to realise that it couldn't possibly have a good outcome for his brother. “GO, LOKI!”

 

Loki jumped to his feet, green eyes glowing brightly and threw a knife at The Other. It hit the servant's shoulder knocking him backwards. After this he could have run away, made a break for it, but he didn't.

 

Thor's mouth dropped open when Loki instead began hurling verbal abuse at the flailing Titan.

 

“I'M GOING TO DESTROY YOU, YOU BULLY!” Loki screamed, hands clenched into fists. “STAND STILL AND FIGHT LIKE A BASTARD! FIGHT ME!”

 

“Loki, no!” Thor growled. “It's the Mind Stone! Get out of there!”

 

Even if Loki of the past had heard him, he would not have listened. As he continued to shriek and shout, Thanos was beating out the flames with his hands, seemingly unaffected by the heat. He was a Titan and they are nearly without any physical weakness.

 

Very soon he had extinguished the last of Loki's fire as The Other pulled out the knife, dropping it to the floor. Silently he turned about and effortlessly snatched at Loki's leg, brutally swinging him against the rocks. Before Loki could slide to the ground Thanos had taken him by the neck and smashed him back again against the jagged rocks. He repeated the action again and again, showing no sign of mercy.

 

Thor watched helplessly, opened mouthed, as with every smash Loki became more like a rag doll, limp and unmoving, powerless to stop the assault. Loki may not be as strong as he was, but he still possessed the strength of an Asgardian, and yet Thanos was throwing him around as though he were no more than a kitten.

 

Thor stumbled backwards as very quickly the details from the memory began to drop away and darkness began to spread out like a fog as Loki neared unconsciousness.

 

Finally, Thanos lifted Loki up again but hesitated just long enough to say, “This one definitely needs breaking in. He has too much spirit for the Angnere to affect him for very long. Weaken him, break him, just don't kill him.”

 

“I...will...be found....” Loki croaked, blood dripping down his head. Thor barely heard him.

 

A smile stretched Thanos' mouth into a thin gash stretching from one side of his face to the other.

 

“No one is coming you avenge you, Asgardian.”

 

He threw Loki forward, but Thor wasn't able to see what happened as the scene disappeared as suddenly as though someone had flicked off a light switch.

 


 

AN: Thanks for reading! Is it silly to say that I found this chapter a bit emotional to write? I think its because I know Loki is going to die. Thor is still optimistic that he can save Loki from his demons. However, he is starting to worry that The Kin did not “completely heal Loki as promised” or that Loki can't be helped, but the Kin are tricksters, so maybe he only misinterpreted Thor's wish.

 

Chapter Text

Child of Thanos: Part Eleven

 

Weaken him, break him, just don't kill him...

 

Thor didn't know how much more he could stomach. He was witnessing a confused and blurred montage of horror, a jumbled up mess of memories of torture which seemed to be dragging on forever. The piercing sound of Loki screaming in fear and pain was a noise he would never be able to forget. He felt like a coward when he could no longer bear to watch, closing his eyes tight and covering his ears, as the cold sweat trickled down his back.

 

And he couldn't shake the feeling that he was letting Loki down. He had been determined to watch every memory so that he could experience what Loki had gone through, so that he could tell Loki that he understood what had happened. If he had been there at the time, suffering alongside Loki, then nothing would have prevented him from fighting his way out. He could have saved Loki, protected him. But not in a memory. There was nothing he could do. He had rarely felt so helpless.

 

The Other took gleeful delight in conjuring up new grotesque ways to torment the Trickster; bringing him close to death before pulling him back again.

 

“Do you know what this knife is made out of?” it asked softly, holding the ornately decorated weapon in the palm of its hand. It stood directly underneath Loki, who was held frozen in the semitransparent beam of light. “Speak up! I can't understand you when you mutter.”

 

“Asgardian...enchanted...Uru metal...”

 

The Other lightly pressed the tip of its finger to the blade.

 

“A souvenir from Sakaar. Some say it is cursed. But I call it blessed because it possess the unique power to cut through any substance no matter how strong it is and then repair it. Diamonds, vibranium....cuts through them as though they were nothing before joining the pieces back together seamlessly, but stronger than ever. Why do you think that is?”

 

Loki's eyes had widened. He couldn't move, but the horrified expression on his face told its own story of a inner struggle for escape.

 

“Well?” The Other hissed. “What is it?”

 

“Surgeon's...knife...”

 

The Other smiled cruelly.

 

“Ah, so I could use it to cut through your bones, Asgardian. I did wonder.” The blade began to glow a crimson red, shining brightly in the gloom. “Imagine how easily I could cut through your flesh all the way down to the bone and then...”

 

“Please...” Loki whispered. “Please... I'm sorry...I'm sorry for betraying my siblings...I'm sorry...Please tell Father I'm sorry...”

 

Thor briefly closed his eyes. It was becoming too much to bear.

 

“Is this surrender, Asgardian? Is this submission?”

 

“Please...”

 

The Other grasped hold of Loki's jaw, pressing the knife blade against his cheek.

 

“A Trickster's tongue can never be trusted,” it hissed, lightly moving the knife blade over Loki's cheek and towards his mouth...

 

Thor broke. “That's enough!” he yelled at the ceiling. The memory instantly froze just as The Other was forcing Loki's mouth open with his thumbs. Thor dragged the back of his hand over his eye. “I-I'm sorry....I can't watch any more....I'm sorry....”

 

There was a moment of silence before he heard Loki's bitter voice say, [Knew you'd give up.]

 

The memory faded to black before stars reappeared and Thor found himself back in the present. It took a moment for him to regain his bearings and to quieten the growing anxiety within himself; the first thing he was aware of was a loud tearing sound. He blinked and looked about the roof.

 

Wolf-Loki had somehow managed to rip the poncho off his back and was now joyfully tearing it to shreds with his teeth and claws.

 

“Enjoying that?” Thor asked testily, as he looked around at the torn scraps of material scattered all over the roof. “Please tell me that this isn't nesting behaviour.”

 

RRRIIIIPPPP....Loki had torn off another large strip with his jaws, tail wagging just enough to be noticeable.

 

[The colours are good. It's tasty.]

 

Although, wolves could not smile Thor could still hear it in Loki's voice. Not that he agreed that the flavour of the colours were a cause for happiness, but quite the opposite.

 

“You're actually eating it?! Odin's beard, give it here!”

 

He made a lunge for the ill-used garment but Loki simply jumped back, dragging the poncho with him, shaking it from side to side like it was a dead rabbit.

 

[No. And I'm not eating it. Just tasting it.]

 

Thor thought about persisting, but then decided that he possessed neither the energy or the patience to argue with his brother. Dogs (more so than wolves) had always been a permanent fixture in the domestic and working lives of the Asgardians, and Thor knew enough to understand that an anxious dog would instinctively chew up anything in sight. The same could be said of wolves. And of shape-shifters, it seemed. So, maybe the destruction of his poncho was a sign of distress or maybe it was a bid for attention, although with Loki it was probably both. But, whatever the reason, or reasons, Thor wasn't going to argue.

 

“Fine. Keep it, keep it. Do what you like.”

 

He flopped down on the floor, aching head in hands, as he listened for further tearing sounds, but none could be heard.

 

[What's wrong with you?] Loki asked irritably, tossing the ruined poncho aside. [I pulled you out. What more do you want?] In his mind only he had the exclusive right to sulk and detested it in anyone else.

 

Thor shook his head. “I just need a minute.”

 

It was enough to trigger a furious response from his brother, although, if Loki were honest he would admit that he was just waiting for any excuse to start yelling at Thor, to unleash the anger he had kept suppressed for years. He leapt to his paws, fur bristling.

 

[Oh, for heaven's sake. It didn't happen to you, Thor! It happened to me! For over a year!]

 

He had finally said it, an unspoken, selfish, ugly cry of why couldn't it have happen to you instead of me? It was impossible to miss Thor's flinch as his shouting filled his brother's head, and it made him feel powerful.

 

He snarled loudly, rage filling every syllable of every word. [I was on my own and I survived. But, look at you shaking like a child just because of a memory, it's pathetic.]

 

Thor looked up sharply.

 

“And I suppose that you could've watched, could you?” he snapped.

 

Loki didn't even hesitate before he said, [If it wasn't happening to me then yes, yes I could.]

 

Thor shook his head in disbelief, once again wounded and disappointed. Loki stared at him for a moment, unable to resist drinking in the hurt. Then he threw himself down on the floor, heart pounding against his rib cage. He began to nip worriedly at his paws as a rather uncomfortable feeling began to wash over him. Some would call it guilt.

 

For a good five minutes they sat in pained silence, both coming to the dismal conclusion that their relationship was still in ruins, and with so much unexpressed anger and resentment on both sides, repairing it was impossible.

 

However, it didn't prevent Thor from offering up yet another heartfelt apology, even if he believed that it would fall on deaf ears, just as all his apologies had done in the past.

 

“You're right about me being pathetic and I'm sorry. I should have been able to watch until the end. And I'm sorry that I never looked for you, leaving you on your own.”

 

He turned away, head in hands again.

 

He didn't see Loki lifting up his head, blinking at him with brown eyes. And he didn't see Loki resting his head back on the paws as at first he had decided to ignore him. Nor he could see inside Loki's heart and feel his guilt growing all the more stronger.

 

Thor hadn't deserved that. The thought had popped unbidden and unwelcome into Loki's head, and he found that he couldn't stop thinking it.

 

What had Thor done to deserve such unrelenting callousness? Loki couldn't come up with an adequate answer. He would never say so, but Loki was still very much touched by the knowledge that Thor had cared for him day and night while he had been so ill, in spite of everything Loki had done to him in the past.

 

He raised his head again to take in Thor's appearance. He looked pretty awful, with his shoulders hunched and pale face staring at the floor.

 

The only other time Loki had seen Thor looking so sorry for himself was after he had been banished from Asgard. His distress had been understandable as Loki had known that he had rather twisted the knife in with his lies of their father's death and of their mother's disgust, but those things had affected Thor directly, so of course he would have been upset. But, now it was more than a little disconcerting to see his brother looking so sad on his behalf, even becoming teary eyed. Old memories began to stir up inside of him, memories not of shadows or shade, but memories of happier times. They had been friends for most of their lives, fighting side by side, and having fun adventures. Yes, there had been arguments and disputes, but mostly they had been firm friends. How could he have forgotten?

 

He flicked his ears back and forth as he considered how he should respond. This was it. He could make Thor suffer even more, tell that he really was pathetic and that it was all his fault. He could drag Thor all the way down, making him feel small and unworthy and broken and guilty....

 

He cautiously padded closer to Thor, placing a paw on his forearm to get his attention, and whining ever so slightly. Thor looked surprised to see him there. He didn't smile, just looked apprehensive.

 

[Oh, come on, cheer up, Thor, it wasn't – it wasn't so bad....] Hardly the most convincing lie he had ever told, but he was keenly regretting his own cruelty of bombarding Thor with the worst of the memories with the intention of making him squirm, to hurt him, and to make him feel just a small amount of the pain he had experienced.

 

He didn't want to hurt Thor any more. The realisation was surprising to him, but it was true. He was done with hurting his brother. The thirst for vengeance had been slaked.

 

He decided to change track. [And look on the bright side, we know that with the Mind Stone safely embedded in the forehead of the Vision and with the Tesseract destroyed, Thanos doesn't have a hope of succeeding. It's over for him. He's lost.]

 

“I suppose,” Thor said with a sniff, making Loki wince.

 

[It gets better. I promise,] he said, brightly. [Listen to this...Well, you know must of it already...]

 


 

 

As weak as I was I felt nothing but dread when I heard the sound of heavy footsteps slowly approaching. Thanos was coming, wearing a self-satisfied smile across his big, ugly head. He was still wearing the Angere around his neck, the almost too small chain cutting into his flesh. Although, my mouth was still hurting terribly I was determined that the Titan should not have the first word. Or the middle words. Or the last word.

 

“Please kill me...” I quietly rasped.

 

Once again he smiled. But then he took hold of the back of my head with one hand and the Angere in the other. It started to hum angrily as though there were a bee trapped inside of it. I knew this time it would take me completely, but there was nothing I could do to stop it.

 

“Eventually,” he promised.

 

“I'll do anything....”

 

“I know.”

 

“Yes.”

 

I always need to have the final word.

 

Thanos gave me something of a dirty look before pressing the Angere to my forehead. Only this time it did not burn me as I had no resistance left in me. Instead I felt the full power of the stone running through me, consuming my mind, washing away everything which would not be useful to Thanos...an odd feeling of being washed from the inside out, and then I stopped feeling it at all. In fact, I felt more like myself than I had ever done before; more self-assured and confident with none of those pesky doubts running around my mind. For the first time in my life I knew who I truly was: a child of Thanos. That was my single, clear-cut identity and it suited me well. It was peaceful and exhilarating at the same time, my freedom finally taken from me.

 

Thanos placed a hand under my chin forcing my head back so that he could look into my eyes. Seemingly satisfied he gave the order, “Release him.”

 

The light was turned off and I crashed to the floor. To be finally free, to finally be able to move again was pure bliss and overrode the pain I was in. I sat cross-legged on the floor massaging my aching limbs as Thanos and The Other conversed. I chose not to pay attention to their words. I didn't need to know.

 

“Loki.”

 

I looked up eagerly, just happy that he was paying me some attention. He looked unhappy in a fake sort of way.

 

“I'm sorry, Loki,” he said, not sounding sorry. “But I found a way to contact your family back on Asgard.”

 

My stomach churned anxiously as I thought of Odin, Frigga, and of Heimdall. Your face might have made a brief appearance in my mind.

 

“Oh?”

 

“I informed them of where you are and what had happened to you....but, well, they said that they couldn't care less. That they've been wanting to get rid of you for years and now they finally have.”

 

I felt like I had been stabbed in the heart. Although clearly a lie, while under the influence of the Angere it was the absolute truth, a confirmation that I was never truly loved or cared about. Hatred and bitter anger flowed around my heart.

 

“You want revenge,” Thanos stated.

 

Always.

 

“Yes,” I spat.

 

“You want to make Odin suffer.”

 

Obviously.

 

“Yes!”

 

“Then come with me,” he ordered. “I have a mission for you.”

 

I followed without a word.

 

 


 

AN: I was intending for this chapter to finish off the Child of Thanos story, but it was becoming a bit too long. So there is going to be another chapter or two. Part of the problem is that I'm a very slow writer, however, at least the next chapter is partially written.

There is such a thing as Secondary Trauma, which a person might experience from listening to a first hand account of traumatic situation from a victim. Loki doesn't understand how Thor can be so upset just by watching his memories, but hopefully he will be a bit kinder to Thor from now on.

Next chapter: Avengers or Loki Hits New York, whatever you wanna call it. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Child of Thanos: Part Twelve

 

The asteroid, christened by Thanos as The Sanctuary, was an impressive beast. It dwarfed all the other asteroids and meteoroids around it, and boasted a surface area to match that of the citadel back home. It was the perfect place to create an evil lair and was the perfect place to launch an invasion from. And the neighbours weren't bad either.

 

Some weeks had passed (no idea how long exactly) since I had fallen completely under the influence of the Angere and Thanos had spent the time preparing me for my first solo mission. Mostly he continually fed me lies about how despised I was by you and Mother and Father, and convinced me that I very much wanted the Earth. He also gave the sceptre, which boosted my powers considerably. But now it was the eve of the invasion of New York city and I was as ready as I would ever be.

 

For those final few hours I sat alone on top of a cliff to watch the Chitauri down below preparing themselves for battle. Well, I say preparing, but actually their activities seemed to amount to no more than scuttling about the rocks and growling at one another.

 

Mostly I was excited about the prospect about ruling a planet, but nervous too. It was the anxiety which convinced my subconscious more deeply that I was of my own mind. If I had felt nothing but happiness to be serving Thanos then I would have become suspicious of my own motivations.

 

However, I was no longer consciously questioning the obvious. For one thing I saw that Thanos was no longer wearing the Angere around his neck and that he had stopped wearing it the day he had given me the sceptre – I failed to link the two events together, even after he had demonstrated the sceptres mind controlling abilities. For another, on the day he had told me that I would rule the Earth on his behalf, I had replied that Odin and his armies would destroy me. He told me not to worry because it was my right to rule. I believed him. Nor did I feel concerned about the endless, endless questions about Asgard and the Nine Realms or the instruction to forget everything that I had told him....I'm sorry, brother, still can't quite remember what...It was a lock placed on my mind and a gag over my mouth.

 

Luckily for me help arrived in the most gentle way possible.

 

So, there I was, sitting on my cliff and brooding awesomely when a small ball of green light appeared from no where and darted around in front of my face and when I tried to swat it away it grew into the shape of a woman, barely distinct, weak and flickering, but still I recognised the shape of its hair and more importantly the sound of her voice.

 

“Loki, I knew you were alive! I never stopped searching for you.”

 

I rolled my eyes in irritation. Typical. There I was a god over a thousand years old, who had finally found the courage to fly the nest, and just when I was about to conquer my first planet, Mother had to show up in astral projection form and cramp my style. I bet that Genghis Khan never had to put up with visits from his mother while he was busy forming an empire.

 

“Hello, Mother,” I said, stiffly. I looked quickly around just in case The Other was lurking about. As entertaining as it would be to watch Frigga confront The Other, I didn't want to suffer the consequences of their interaction.

 

“Loki, we have little time,” her ghost said hurriedly. “But I've seen enough to know that the Titan gave you -”

 

Okay, she knew more than she should.

 

I waved my hand quickly, breaking up her projection and causing it to evaporate before my eyes.

 

“Sorry, Mother, but I don't have time to chat.”

 

Afterwards it briefly occurred to me that saying something as simple to her as “Help!” might have been prudent. But as I said, it was a only a very brief thought. Very brief and very faint. But it was the start of the doubts. Not that I would say no to ruling a planet or having the chance to humiliate Odin. That was part of the problem really; my willingness to go along with the plan only strengthened the Agnere's hold over me. Where it's will ended and my began, I couldn't say.

 

I should have informed Thanos of Mother's visit, but I didn't. As loyal as I was to my new father I couldn't quite bring myself to tell him about her. And I knew Mother's compassionate heart too well to expect her to understand The Mission. She would never accept that there were far too many people in the universe and that the numbers needed to be drastically reduced soon before it was too late. When I became ruler of the Earth I would keep her safe by my side and out of his sight.

 

Because it was true, wasn't it? He would have hurt her if given the opportunity.

 

I didn't like that.

 


 

 

“Are you ready?” The Other asked.

 

This was it. The big day come at long last. I span the sceptre around my hands in a show of cocky confidence.

 

“I am. The humans are cowering wretches, who have barely crawled out of the mud. They will easily fall before us.”

 

“Then do as you've been trained to do, Asgardian. Use the sceptre to rouse the Tesseract and wield its powers. Open the portal and transport yourself across the galaxy to Earth. Do it!”

 

Thanos was there too, of course, sitting on his stupid flying armchair as usual. I glanced at him for permission to proceed, which I received by a nod of his head.

 

I knelt on the floor and calmed my mind. It was not such an easy task to use my telepathic abilities across such a vast distance, but if it were easy anyone could have done it. And the sceptre provided a useful boost for my mind, increasing the signal as it were.

 

I breathed in deeply, in and out, searching across the galaxy for any sign – any feeling, really - of the Tesseract, the Asgardian treasure Thanos so deeply coveted. I didn't know why he wanted it. I was told not to think about it and so I didn't. All I knew that it possessed immense power and, going by the images I had been shown, was the most beautiful object in all the known universe.

 

I stretched my mind out across the galaxy, feeling my way through the darkness; the further I reached the more my head began to ache. And then, as feeble as a winter's sun reflected in a puddle, I felt a glimmer of it. The lightest touch, the fingers of a ghost brushing over the back of my hand and the weakest whisper of Loki....

 

Hello, I whispered back, You are magnificent..

 

“Search for it, take control of it,” The Other urged close to my ear.

 

Of course I lost the connection.

 

I looked at Thanos imploringly. “Call me Mr Picky, but I prefer to work in silence and not with some try-hard ghoul hovering over me and drenching me with dribble every time it opens its mouth.”

 

The Other made a noise of protest, but was swiftly silenced just by Thanos raising a hand.

 

“Get out,” he said, bluntly.

 

The Other paused only to growl at me before fading away. I was smirking on the inside, although there was little time for gloating over miniscule victories.

 

I breathed in deeply again, clearing my mind for the second time. This time I knew where to look and found it faster than before.

 

Even when light-years apart I was awe struck by the intensity of its power. It was like wind and flame all at once, reaching out to me just as much as I was to it. The presence of it circled around me, intoxicating me. It filled me with power and truth; I could even hear whispers of voices from the other side.

 

The Tesseract....it's misbehaving...

 

Oh, yes it was.

 

Mentally, I took hold of The Tesseract and The Tesseract took hold of me, but physically a portal opened up beneath my feet sucking me in.

 

It was a rough ride, there can be no doubt about that. The Tesseract showed me so much, it's true power. It showed me everything the universe could be and the best version of myself. All around me there was fire threatening to destroy me. Best ride ever. Nothing like another near death experience to blow away the cobwebs.

 

When the fire died away I found myself in another place. The SHIELD research facility in the Mojave Desert, of course. Marvellous.

 

“Sir, will you please put down the spear?”

 

What spear? Oh, yes, the sceptre. I had forgotten. Strange that.

 

It briefly occurred to me that Director Fury was right, peaceful surrender would be the best, and that dropping the sceptre and saying something like, “I surrender!” would be the wisest course of action. Then I remembered that if I did that then I wouldn't be able to rule the Earth, which is what I wanted more than anything. Oh, to serve Thanos, of course.

 

I launched myself across the room and before I knew it I had killed one half of the agents and scientists there and taken control of the other half. Father would be proud.

 

Of course I noticed Fury trying to sneak off with The Cube.

 

“Please, don't. I still need that.”

 

“This doesn't haven't to get any messier.”

 

I almost laughed at that. If only he could have seen the number of worlds destroyed, the amount of blood on my hands, and the pain I had endured just to get to this moment. A little more mess would not make any difference.

 

“Of course it does. I've come too far for anything else.”

 

I couldn't back down now. I wouldn't.

 

“I am Loki of Asgard, and I am burdened with glorious purpose.”

 

Dr Selvig stopped examining the body of the dead scientists. “Loki? Brother of Thor?”

 

Oh, he was so getting mind controlled. I'd been on the Earth for two minutes but already the natives were comparing me to you.

 

I could feel The Tesseract calling to me. So close and yet so far. But I would complete my mission; failure was impossible, I was certain of that. I could do it for Father, for all of us.

 

“I come with glad tidings. Of a world made free.”

 

I didn't like the way Fury was looking at me. Slightly afraid, but also with a look that he said he thought me mad. I didn't understand why. I thought that Fury would be glad to accept me as king. I could protect the Earth and its people far better than he ever could.

 

“Free from what?” he asked.

 

“Freedom. Freedom is life's great lie.”

 

I spun around to press the sceptre to Selvig's chest. He gasped as the power of the sceptre flowed through his veins, taking his mind. His eyes turned from black to blue and I knew he was mine.

 

I was starting to feel strangely breathless and worn out. It's funny what months of torture and a hop across the galaxy in a flame of cosmic energy can do to your body. But I couldn't stop to rest. It was my destiny to rule. Nothing was going to stop me.

 

I gave the order for Agent Barton to shoot Fury. We took The Tesseract and off we went before the whole facility collapsed in on our heads.

 

As I said before, absolute conviction is the most dangerous weapon in the universe. I believed myself to be entitled to rule the Earth and I believed it was my destiny. I would not be stopped. Nothing and nobody could stop me.

 

 


 

AN: In the the prelude comic for Thor: The Dark World it is revealed that Frigga was able to use her magic to track down Loki. She saw a vision of Thanos sitting in his chair and she saw him handing Loki the sceptre. She was able to make contact with Loki, but he refused to speak with her.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Child of Thanos: Part Thirteen: Avengers Assemble!

 

Thanks to Agent Barton and his colleagues we were able to escape the facility unscathed and made it to to one of his underground hideouts. It was a good one; lead lined and with enough power for Selvig and his team to begin work on stabilising the Tesseract.

 

It felt good to have so many people running following my every order, carrying out my will. It was as it should be.

 

However, what didn't feel so good was remembering the promise of further sessions with The Other should I fail in my mission.

 

You think you know pain? I'll make you long for something as sweet as pain...”

 

He couldn't have known that his threats only gave strength to the feeble voice of doubt at the back of my mind. First the appearance of Mother, and now this. It was still very weak but it was enough to form a thought or two, thoughts of how I could escape Thanos' wrath should I fail. Not that I would fail because it was my destiny and the will of Thanos, blah blah. But, should I fail then I would need an escape plan. The coyotes create dens with more than one concealed “back door” so that they can get out safely and confuse their enemies. Tricksters are no different; especially The Coyote of Native America, but to talk about him would be off topic.

 

“You okay, Boss? You don't look too good.”

 

The round of face Agent Barton was creased with concern; how very touching. It was wasted on me, however. I knew it was the work of the Sceptre and in any case it had been too long since anyone had ever truly worried about me that I doubted I could recognise it even if somebody sincerely expressed it.

 

I climbed wobbly to my feet.

 

“What do you want?”

 

“Selvig wants to talk to you.”

 


 

 

Eric Selvig was having the time of his life. The combined influence of the Mind and Space stones had freed his psyche of all moral concerns and now he could play mad scientist with wild abandon. He had everything he needed and everything he wanted. He was more than contented, he was...joyful. Yes, I had heard that the experience of being under mind control had left its scar, but you should have seen how happy he was at the time. His eyes lit up at the sight of me.

 

“Boss, this is wonderful. The Tesseract has shown me so much. It's more than knowledge, it's truth.”

 

His joviality was infectious. I couldn't help but smile back, even if did send pangs of pain running through my mouth.

 

“I know. It touches everyone differently. What did it show you, Agent Barton?”

 

“My next target.”

 

He said it without a hint of humour and yet Selvig chuckled all the same.

 

“Old stick in the mud. You have no soul.”

 

I had to agree with Selvig on that one. It seemed that the Tesseract was showing us what we needed to know or what we wanted to know. For Selvig there was the promise of being able to see whole new worlds and dimensions; for me, glory. And yet for Barton his visions were astonishingly humdrum by comparison. Practical, but dull.

 

Clint could hardly look less amused. I hoped that the children would not get into a fight.

 

“Just tell him what you told me,” he said, stiffly.

 

Selvig shot me an amused look, trying to prove that Barton's hostility wasn't going to dampen his mood, before going onto say, “The work on the Tesseract is going brilliantly, but I do need iridium if I'm going to stabilise it properly .”

 

“Iridium?”

 

“Yeah. It forms anti-protons. Found in meteorites. Very hard to get hold of.”

 

“Especially if Shield knows you need it,” Barton added. He was busy stroking the screen of a flat, hand-held computer....Yes, I know it's called a tablet. I didn't know if you knew. Why are they called tablets, anyway? Never mind. He pulled up a picture laboratory in Stuttgart, Germany. “Luckily for you two this old stick in the mud knows exactly where to find it and I've already come up with a plan on how to obtain it. Soulless? Just watch me.”

 

Selvig laughed. “There you are, you see! She shows us all the way forward! Leading us through the dark and into the light...she even told me that I would be able to think better if I worked without my pants.”

 

I tilted my head to one side. “I really don't think she did.” I looked sidewards at Barton. “You're not experiencing any urges to de-robe are you?”

 

“No.”

 

“Ah. Then it's just him.”

 

Selvig looked up his computer. “Just a thought, Boss, but if we lose you will be imprisoned by Shield for life. Or worse, executed. You know that they don't understand what we're trying to accomplish here.”

 

“Yes, the thought had occurred. My solution is to win.”

 

“Okay, but even if you defeat Shield...how is Odin going to react? From the stories I read as a child, he thinks that the Tesseract rightfully belongs to him. And from what I've heard of him, he's not afraid to doll out hefty punishments.”

 

Oh. I had forgotten about Odin...Hadn't I raised that point to Thanos? I felt more doubt, buzzing loudly at the back of my brain. Odin might actually kill me.

 

“Look, I'm very complicated. I'll figure something out.”

 

“If you say so, Boss. Now if you don't mind, I'd better get on.”

 

His doubts had easily been dispelled; mine, however, were lingering. Time to start creating back doors, just in case.

 

“One moment.” I smiled sweetly. “Just don't forget that although the safety of The Tesseract is our first priority, your safety is important too. The same goes for your colleagues. I wouldn't, for example, wish for your machine to blow up and hurt someone.”

 

“Boss, I know what I'm doing!” Selvig said with a laugh, patting my arm. “And more importantly, she knows what she's doing. She's showing me everything I need to know.”

 

“I can't rule over the dead. Well, I could, but I've no desire to.”

 

The doctor frowned, not understanding my persistence. In his addled mind everything was rosy.

 

“Well, if it would put your mind at ease I could build in a fail-safe, but that always comes with the risk that a saboteur might use it for their own purposes...” Selvig's eyes latched onto the sceptre. “I could...” His voice trailed off as he thought hard. “I could do that...” He slapped my arm again. “Leave it with me, Boss.”

 

That was the first back door taken care of.

 


 

 

“I impressed that you have formed a plan so quickly. I can see why Fury chose you to guard the Tesseract.”

 

“You will have to contend with Fury,” Barton told me. “As long as he is the air I can't pin him down. And he will be assembling a team.”

 

Team? How very interesting. Who could he possibly find to match me?

 

“Are they a threat?”

 

“More to each other. But if Fury can get them on track, and he might, then they could throw some noise our way.”

 

Call me childish but I was jealous that Barton still held Fury is such high esteem. I would have thought that while under the influence of the Agnere I would have been his favourite.

 

“You admire Fury,” I accused.

 

“He's got a clean line of sight.”

 

No, I don't really know what he meant by that either. I assume it's Hawkeye speak for for Fury being insightful...maybe.

 

My voice grew colder and he became defensive.

 

“Is that why you failed to kill him?”

 

“It might be. I was disorientated and I'm not at my best with a gun.”

 

I decided to accept that reason for the time being, but alarm bells were already ringing inside my head. This wasn't right. Barton should have killed Fury without hesitation, but instead he continued to revere the director to the point of defying orders. And now he was lying about it.

 

If Barton could resist the Mind Stone then anyone could. Once his usefulness was over I would have to dispatch him before he could betray me. It was time to create back door number two.

 

“I want to know everything that you can tell me about this team of his. I would test their mettle.” There are times, Thor, when in order to win the war you to have to lose the battle. Or least sabotage your own chances of winning. “I am weary of scuttling in shadow. I mean to rule this world. Not burrow in it.”

 

“It's a risk.”

 

I grinned. “Oh, yes.”

 

“If you're set on making yourself known it could be useful distraction. Oh, and I'm gonna need an eyeball.”

 

“Very well. Barton, gather your best men. Quiver your favourite arrows....” A scream from the lab. “And tell Selvig to put his trousers back on.”

 


 

 

“You know, last time I was in Germany and I saw a man standing above everybody else we ended up disagreeing.”

 

Oh, finally.

 

It was a case of killing two birds with one stone. We had travelled to Stuttgard to steal the Iridium for Slevig, but it also provided a good opportunity to meet the team Barton had spoken of. I already knew of Captain America and was quite pleased to learn that he had been selected for the team. Well, very pleased.

 

“The soldier,” I drawled. “A man out of time.”

 

He looked good, but I was on a mission.

 

“I'm not the one who's out of time,” he retorted.

 

Oh, burn.

 

The Quinjet hovered overhead, guns pointing at me. I wasn't afraid. They wouldn't fire with so many civilians around.

 

“Loki, drop the weapon and stand down,” a female voice over the PA system ordered.

 

I complied by shooting a ball of energy at the Quinjet. Too bad I missed this time.

 

While I was looking upwards Cap had thrown his iconic shield at me. It smashed against my chest, knocking me back, before flying off into the crowd. It gave Cap the opportunity to run forward and punch me in the face. I think he was perturbed that even with his heightened strength it had no effect on me other than to annoy me.

 

I swiped the sceptre downwards. He hopped back just in time, although there was a quiet tearing sound. I had slashed a tear in those stars and stripes, revealing those well defined super-solider abs. The Cap did not looked amused. He cocked his head to one side, eyebrow raised as he held up the torn material between finger and thumb. I laughed.

 

But, not being one to give up so easily he jumped forward, latching onto the sceptre and trying to wrestle it out of my grip. I wasn't going to let go so easily; although, I admit I was distracted when he suddenly jutted his head forward, pressing his lips to mine. He almost succeeded in obtaining the sceptre.

 

I grunted in anger, pulling away as I kicked him in the the chest. He stumbled backwards, but now he was laughing at my indignation. I leapt at him, intending to bring the sceptre down on his head. He caught it in his hands, an amazing demonstration of power as he stopped me dead in my tracks.

 

I spun around to get away, but he somehow pulling me back into his arms, taking the moment to steal another kiss.

 

“Enough!” I growled, pulling away.

 

“You started it.”

 

“You will kneel before me!”

 

“I never kneel.”

 

And then he gently removed my helmet, throwing it aside. We looked deeply into each other's eyes. We kissed hard. Everyone cheered.

 

Oh, and Iron Man might have been there too.

 

I allowed myself to be led away. All part of the plan.

 

 


 

And then there was you.

 

“You give up the Tesseract! You give up this poisonous dream! And come home....”

 

I was tempted. For a few seconds I really believed that only wanted for me to accompany you back to Asgard. But then I saw the rage in your eyes when I informed you that I did not have the Tesseract about my person and the hatred in my heart reasserted itself. Did you seriously think that the Cap would have allowed me to keep it if he had found that I was in possession of it? I suppose you want me to describe the incredibly thorough and sensual body search? Very well.

 

“Move an inch and I'll have to toss you off the Quinjet. Understand?”

 

I nodded.

 

“Good boy.”

 

Steve pinned me to the wall as those nimble fingers of his -artist fingers – ran their their way through my hair, gently ghosting over my scalp and triggering a pleasant tingling sensation from the top of my head to the nape of my neck.

 

Steve smiled at me. “Well, at least I know now it's not in your hair.” His hands, both gentle and rough, slowly moved down my neck to my shoulders. “Where next...?”

 

“Hold up, Cap,” Tony interrupted. “Don't forget he's the most powerful sorcerer in all of the Nine Realms - nay the universe! And we already know he has the power to seduce anyone. Let me help you.”

 

That's when you showed up. You always have to ruin everyone's fun, don't you?

 

Of course it's true! I did tell you that things got better for me...

 

Ahem, where was I?

 

Oh, yes, I was talking about you...

 

“Look around you! You think this madness will end with your rule?!”

 

The sharpness in your voice made me look. For the first time I could really see it. It was like being back on Tempest 7 – the curls of smoke, the explosions, the screams of terror...

 

It was too late for the Earth. The Chitauri would not stop until....when would they stop? That part of the plan had not been explained to me. Was I to be king of a ruined planet, so wrapped up in the delusion Thanos had placed inside my head that I wouldn't notice that half of my subjects had been destroyed or eaten? I would look like a complete fool.

 

“It's too late....It's too late to stop it...”

 

“No, we can, together.”

 

You almost broke me. I very nearly gave in. But with The Other watching my every move I couldn't be seen to be switching sides. And with the Agnere inside my head I didn't have the will power to anyway. I still thought that I deserved to rule the Earth, but I also thought that I really didn't want a planet whose population were easily amused by cat videos. Confusion and panic raged through my mind. I didn't really know what I was doing or what I should be doing.

 

So, I stabbed you. I had already tried to kill you earlier, one more attempt wouldn't hurt.

 


 

 

I caught the arrow in my hand and felt pretty smug about it. I felt less proud of myself when it blew up in my face. The Chitauri jet ski thingy (really, don't ask me what it was actually called) I was riding was destroyed. I tumbled through the air, but counted myself lucky when I landed back on Stark Tower, in almost the exactly the same place where I had leapt of it. That was when the Hulk leapt onto the balcony and pushed me backwards a window. I say pushed, but this is the Hulk we're talking about. It was like being hit by a tank. I flew over the room before smashing against the far wall and cracking my head off the bar as I fell onto the floor.

 

This quick succession of blows to my head was enough to loosen the grip of the Agnere over my mind just enough to give me some serious doubts about whether the subjugation of the Earth was really worth so much effort and pain.

 

I decided that it wasn't. Time to escape by the back door.

 

The Hulk leapt into the room, bellowing at me and pounding the floor with his fists, an enraged bilgesnipe about to charge. If I have learnt anything from reading the exploits of Eric the Unfortunate Beast Tamer it's when to stare a creature down and when not to. Now was not a good time to, but needs must. I was both desperate to win and desperate to lose.

 

The Hulk charged at me.

 

“ENOUGH!” I barked.

 

The Hulk actually looked surprised and slowed down to a halt, feet skidding slightly on the tiles.

 

“You are all of you beneath me!” I raged, mouth still powered by the Mind Stone. “I am a god, you dull creature! And I will not be bullied by -”

 

What can I say? The free part of my mind knew that I needed to lose, while the controlled part still believed itself to be deserving of a planet to rule and ton of respect and worship. The Hulk could not see the battle inside my head. He only saw a target.

 

You know how it feels to be smashed by the Hulk, to be walloped against every hard surface, and to see your life flash before your eyes. Yes, let's not talk about it.

 

It wasn't just the beating from the Hulk which hurt me. As I lay in my trench, I could feel the power of the Agnere desperately clawing at my mind, trying to keep a hold on it.

 

I twitched and jerked about as a fever washed over me, my body's attempt to purge the power of the Mind Stone from my mind.

 

You think you know pain....You'll long for something as sweet as pain...”

 

Know your place, brother!”

 

Through you we would forge an alliance of peace between our two worlds, but those plans no longer matter...”

 

No one cares for you, little god.”

 

Loki...”

 

Loki.”

 

Loki!”

 

You're gonna lose...”

 

I snapped my eyes open. I was back on the hellicarrier. That stupid agent...the one I stabbed...was lying dying on the floor, gun resting in his lap.

 

“You're gonna lose,” he told me, weakly, the life steadily ebbing out of him.

 

How impertinent. He was one who had lost, not me. I tuned to face him.

 

“Am I?”

 

“It's in your nature.”

 

I glared at him. What did he presume to know about me or my nature? He knew nothing! Time for a gloat.

 

“Your heroes are scattered. Your flying fortress falls from the sky. Where exactly is my disadvantage?”

 

And then he said it.

 

“You lack conviction.”

 

Such a simple sentence, but it angered me more than I could say. Perhaps because I knew he spoke the truth and that frightened me. Absolute conviction is the most dangerous weapon in the universe, but it could never be my weapon.

 

He struggled to keep talking.

 

“You lack conviction because you don't know what you want. You don't know and you don't care...so, in the end you'll lose....because your heart is weak...”

 

“THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH MY HEART!” I screamed in his face. “I KNOW WHAT I WANT! TO GO HOME, TO BE FREE! I'M STRONG ENOUGH!”

 

I felt like something had snapped inside my mind, like a piece of string, and once again my eyes jumped open. I was lying on my back in Stark Tower, soaked in sweat and blood and dust, but myself again. There was a ringing in my ears and pain in my bones, but my mind was my own again. I could see the mission for what it was, a disaster and a lie.

 

You know how this story ends. With you and your Avenger friends surrounding me, putting me in chains and muzzling me. Dragged me back to Asgard and threw me into a cell for the rest of my life. But, back on Asgard, exactly where I wanted to be after all that time and all that horror. I had made it home, not in one piece, but home all the same.

 

And only one person had the decency and the intelligence to try and talk to me, to ask me why I had attacked the Earth.

 

Yes, Mother. She understood, I think, even though I told her nothing. She still cared for me and saw the good in me when no one else did. If there is good in me...she could have been mistaken.

 

But, don't bother feeling sorry for me, brother. I survived, didn't I? I got away from Thanos, sacrificed myself to save you, ruled Asgard for a time, promoted the arts, oversaw the protection of two Infinity Stones, and triggered Ragnarök. Not bad for someone who had completely given up on life some years earlier.

 

I don't have anything else to add. Now you know it all.

 


 

 

Thor watched as Loki lay back down on the floor, head resting on his paws. He had closed his eyes and his ears almost lay limp against his head.

 

For a moment Thor sat in silence, unmoving and without any idea of what to say. But perhaps now was not the time to say anything.

 

He carefully put his arms around Loki's middle, pulling him onto his lap. Loki's eyes snapped open in alarm, but he still allowed it to happen.

 

Thor bent forward to place his arms around Loki's neck, holding him close. He could feel his brother's heart pounding against his chest and his muscles were all tensed up. He gently moved his hand up and down Loki's back, feeling him gradually relax.

 

He was a little surprised when he felt Loki slowly change back into his Aesir form, growing to fill his embrace and wrapping his own arms around Thor's shoulders and back.

 

To begin with both brothers felt rather embarrassed and awkward, but then they quickly relaxed in each other's arms. It seemed strange to them that a hug could feel so good, but it did, leaving them both feeling safe and warm and just like brothers again as though the past had been washed away. It made them feel like innocent children again when they could hug without feeling foolish. It helped that they were alone with no one to mock them; it was just a peaceful, private moment between two people who had been through hell together, and was never to be spoken of out loud.

 

Perhaps now was the time for words.

 

“Loki, I want you to remember that you are my brother and that I love you. I will always love you.”

 

Loki did not know how to respond to that. He supposed that he should say it back, but he couldn't. Not because it wasn't true, but because he didn't feel he could make it sound sincere. He had been told that he was incapable of such a thing, so he settled for a simple grunt of agreement.

 

He wanted to end the hug then, but felt Thor's arms tightening around him, so he continued to stand still.

 

“But, you know you've caused a lot of destruction and misery and death,” Thor went on, his voice low and slow, making sure that Loki took in every word. “So, I hope you understand that it hasn't been easy for me and for Mother and Father to see you turn bad.”

 

Loki was beginning to think that the hug had actually ended, and now it was more like restraint as his brother forced another lecture upon him. He also thought that he deserved it.

 

“I do,” he said, quietly.

 

Thinking that was it, he tried to step back but Thor was still holding onto him. Alarm bells began to ring

 

“Brother?”

 

Thor's arms squeezed tighter. His voice became ever softer.

 

“Especially for me. I've had to put up with an awful lot. Seeing you kill people, watching you die – twice! And I've not had the chance to express my true feelings. Not really. You see, when you truly care about someone it hurts when they do terrible things...Oh, and you called Coulson stupid.”

 

Loki somehow managed to break free of that iron like grip.

 

“Thor, if you've got something to say then why don't you just get to the poi – OOFF!”

 

He staggered backwards, hand pressed to his throbbing jaw.

 

Thor shook out his fist. “Ah, that did feel good. I should have punched you in the self-righteous gob years ago.”

 

Loki stared in disbelief at the blood on his fingers. He looked back at Thor. He raised his fists, boxer style.

 

Thor rolled his eyes. “Oh, bring it, little brother! Have at thee!”

 

With a scream Loki tackled him to the ground. And then the real fighting began.

 

 


 

 

Together they sat on the floor of the bar, resting shoulder to shoulder; they were battered, bloodied, and bruised, but ultimately more at ease with each other than they had been in a very long time. The fight had been brutal and without the use of godly powers; it been primal, without strategy or method, and fuelled purely by emotion – rage, sadness, regret – but, in the end, very cathartic for them both. What couldn't be expressed in words had been let out through their fists.

 

“Better?”

 

Loki sniffed pointedly, dabbing lightly at his bloodied nose with his sleeve.

 

“Loads,” he said, dryly.

 

He took a sip of his whisky. Finally, another drink.

 

Thor rested his head back against the bar, cheek swollen and eye already showing its bruise.

 

“Course you're feeling better. You've been wanting to give me a black eye for years, but just you've haven't had the guts to do it before. As for me, I feel fantastic. I should have punched you the moment you started banging on about being the rightful ruler of the Earth.”

 

Loki chuckled. “If only I had mindlessly used my fists to solves my problems...”

 

“It's true. If you had punched me a thousand years ago instead of keeping everything bottled up then maybe things would have turned out differently.”

 

“And what would you have done differently?”

 

“Alright, I bullied and belittled you, I admit it. Neither of us are perfect. But we can't go back, we can only move forward. And for what's it worth, you fight like a bear with a red hot poker rammed up its backside. Incredible. Next time we get into a scrap I'm going to sit back and let you do all the work.”

 

Loki smiled sadly, plucking listlessly at his sleeve. Thor gave him a gently poke to gain his attention.

 

“We've both lost almost everything and we've both been through hell, but look at us both, Loki, still standing. Things can only get better for us. We're going to get our people safely to Earth and everything's going to be okay from now on.” He held up a closed fist to Loki, grinning. “Brothers?”

 

“Brothers,” Loki agreed.

 

They bumped their fists together.

 


 

 

“This is the Asgardian refugee vessel The Statesman...We are under assault...I repeat we are under assault...Engines are dead, life-support failing....Requesting aid from any vessel within range. Our crew is made up of Asgardian families. We have very few soldiers here. This is not a war craft. I repeat this is not a warcraft!”

 

Thor looked around in despair and horror at the corpses of his fallen people; broken, bleeding and torn, their lifeless eyes stared at him accusingly. There was no one left alive. Gone. All gone.

 

You lead us here...to death...to destruction...You...

 

“No....” he panted, drawing in breath for a more drawn out, agonising scream. “NOOOO!”

 

He bolted upright on the mattress, sheets clinging to him, and struggled to regain his breath.

 

“What – what is it?!” Loki demanded, from his spot on the opposite side of the room. He had instinctively summoned a dagger to his hand and was looking around wildly.

 

Thor drew in another ragged breath, before flopping back down. He waved his hand dismissively.

 

“Uh, n-nothing, sorry. It was just a dream. Go back to sleep.”

 

“Dream?!” Loki snapped. “I thought you were being murdered!”

 

Thor grunted as the hardback edition of The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes hit him in the face.

 

“You're an idiot!”

 


 

 

A few days later and they had finished repairing The Commodore. Well, they took credit for fixing it when in actual fact there did not seem to be much wrong with it. All it took was for Loki to the thump the control panel with his fist and all the power came back on.

 

“Told you hitting sometimes works,” Thor told him, but Loki had his doubts.

 

However, both brothers failed to notice the brightly coloured blue and green snake crawling on board. They would discover it in good time, but not for now.

 

Before they left the planet Rainless for good they paid the barkeep a small amount of what they owed and promised not to claim the money Loki had earned in their card game. And of course they said their goodbyes to Doc Sheriff. He was a little tearful and more than a little touched when Thor turned down his offer of his two-headed horse, Har, who could still fly thanks to Thor.

 

“Why not keep him?” Thor urged. “I'm sure people will get used to him in time.”

 

As The Commodore took off the Doc rode along side them until he had reached his tolerance for heights and then he turned about, waving his hat in farewell.

 

They were met by the Statesman a couple of days later. Both were glad to be home again and to be able to wash properly and not feel overheated. Everyone else was just relieved to see them both alive and well and on better terms with one another. It was good to see them getting along so well and gave them hope that they might just make it to Earth after all.

 


 

 

I've lost so much in recent years. My mother, father, hammer, and home; secret sister killed my friends and tried to kill me, but managed to take my eye; oh, and my girlfriend dumped me.

 

I should just give up. Accept that the Norns hate me. Retire to some quiet planet and grow vegetables. I don't know.

 

But, I won't.

 

I grew up thinking that our destiny was to rule the Nine Realms with a blood-soaked fist of iron. To keep hold of the territories and win glorious battles for the sake of the Aesir. To wipe out trolls and monsters and giants and whoever dare oppose us.

 

I was wrong. It's taken me over a thousand years, but now I finally know what our true destiny is. I know who we truly are and where we're going.

 

The Sons of Odin are leading their people to a new home and new era of peace. Mortals and Aesir together properly at long last. And together we are unstoppable.

 

We'll get there eventually. Give us time.

 

 

 


 

AN: Phew! Thanks so much for reading and for all the kind reviews.

I might give this fic a little break while I work on my Christmas fics, but I'll soon come back to it.

In my first draft, I had the story end with the hug, but it somehow didn't feel right. For some reason having them fight made me feel better about it. Hope you don't mind that Thor punched Loki. His reasoning was that Loki needed to let out his resentment once and for all. Now they can really move on.

Thanks again!

PS I don't believe those Frostshield moments, do you?

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Passing the Time - Bifrost

 

[Majesty, come down to Hold 3. You will wish to observe this.]

 

With a summons as persuasive as that Thor wasted no time in dropping everything (the weights he had been lifting, leaving a dent in the floor) and took the elevator all the way down to the bottom of the ship.

 

Heimdall had been of course correct in his prediction: Thor would never have missed a sight such as the one which met his eyes when he entered Hold 3.

 

Instead of seeing a vast and gloomy, dingy empty space with a few odd crates stacked in the corner, Thor found himself stepping inside the Observatory of Asgard.

 

For a few seconds he was dazzled by the glare of golden walls, gracefully curving over his head and each covered by an intricate and complex pattern of swirling lines. And in the very centre of the room was Loki leaning on the Bifrost port and looking very pleased with himself.

 

Thor could hardly believe it. Loki had always been talented at creating illusions, but this was something else. It was so highly detailed and beautifully rendered that it was like being back home. A glance at the Watchman told him that even Heimdall was impressed, even if he still barely allowed it to show on his face.

 

Loki had still not said a word, but he was standing up straight now, trying hard not to let his mouth crack into a grin. Clearly he was about to burst with excitement, but Thor was not sure what he was waiting for.

 

Deciding that Loki was waiting for Thor to congratulate him, Thor walked over to one of the shimmering walls to inspect it more closely. It was beautiful, there was no doubt about that. Loki had outdone himself this time.

 

He raised his hand in order to wave it through the wall, expecting it to be like all of Loki's previous illusions – no more substantial than mist. But instead of those golden patterns washing over his fingers like water, he found it to be too spongy to penetrate so easily.

 

He looked up at Loki in surprise. His brother had given up on making any effort to conceal his pride and was grinning broadly.

 

Thor tried again, pushing his fingers against the wall. It was an odd sensation, and his brain was struggling to make sense of it. Not exactly solid, but not liquid or gas, either. Somehow it was all three states while being none of them all of them all at the same time.

 

Thor broke. “Loki, this is amazing!”

 

“I know!”

 

“Solid – well, solid-ish – illusions!”

 

“I know!”

 

“It's incredible!”

 

“I know!”

 

Thor pulled Loki into a bear hug, lifting him off the ground.

 

“Good job, little brother!”

 

[Aww, that's so nice!]

 

Thor immediately dropped Loki to the floor.

 

“Tina? Where are you? What are you?”

 

[Just behind you. I'm the Bifrost Port!]

 

“What?”

 

Thor began to feel that itch of doubt at the back of his mind, the one that bothered him every time someone was about to do something foolish. He was very good at ignoring it.

 

He narrowed his eye at Loki. “Why is Tina the Bifrost Port? What are you up?”

 

Loki smoothed down his clothes. “I would have thought that it was obvious.” When he looked up Thor saw that his green eyes were glittering excitedly, almost manically. He grabbed Thor by the shoulders. “Imagine it, brother, we could be on Earth by tonight!”

 

“I know, but -”

 

“Tina has already proved herself capable of being able to turn into anything.”

 

“I know, but -”

 

“And I was stuck inside the fabric of the Observatory long enough to understand the spells literally inside and out.”

 

“I know, but -”

 

“We have the Bifrost Sword, so why shouldn't we give it a try?”

 

Thor gently but firmly removed Loki's hands from his arms. He couldn't honestly imagine that it would work, but then he hadn't imagined that Loki would be able to create solid illusions. And, besides, Loki was practically buzzing with anticipation. Even if he said no, Loki would go ahead and do it anyway. He might as well say yes and stick around to watch the results.

 

“Fine. But, only if you're sure that -”

 

“I am. Heimdall, the sword, if you please.”

 

Heimdall tossed the sword across the room and Loki deftly caught it by the handle. Thor hastily retreated to the side and watched as Loki raised the sword above the port.

 

“Ready for this, Tina?” Loki asked.

 

[Yes, although, I've never been anything this complicated before.]

 

“Don't worry, I'm right here. You'll be fine.”

 

[Okay, then. Ready.]

 

Loki went to plunge the sword deep into the port when Tina cried out, [Woah, woah, wait!]

 

Thanks to his fast reflexes, Loki was able to stop, just before the tip of the sword went into the port.

 

“What?!” he hissed.

 

[Well, it's just....what if I blow up?]

 

Loki chuckled. “That won't happen. If this doesn't work then nothing will happen. It just won't work, okay?”

 

[Okay. Sorry to stop you.]

 

“That's alright. Don't do it again.”

 

Once again Loki raised the Bifrost Sword and once again went to drop it into the port when Tina once again interrupted.

 

[But if it does work, won't we make a hole in the ship? You said that the Bifrost was a powerful force of energy.]

 

For a second, Tina sensed a small wave of doubt cross Loki's mind.

 

“It'll just be a small amount of energy for this first time, Tina. Barely enough to singe the walls.”

 

[Alright, then.]

 

“Any other worries you wish to raise?”

 

[No, I'm good now.]

 

“Very well. Here we go.”

 

Sword was raised. Pause. Hesitation.

 

“I'm just going to move around to the other side...”

 

[Okay...]

 

“Because if something does happen – which it won't – but if it does, I don't want to splattered against that wall.”

 

[I understand. But it will be fine.]

 

Loki drew in a deep breath. As did Tina, Thor and Heimdall. In went the Bifrost Sword. Nothing happened, until the surge of golden energy rushed up through the port and expelled the sword, like a cork out of a champagne bottle, sending it and Loki flying across the Observatory.

 

Fortunately for Loki that although he had underestimated how far he would be sent flying, at least the sponge-like illusionary walls meant that he suffered no harm as he bounced off it and landed back on the floor. It was also fortunate that the Bifrost Sword missed him, but was instead impaled an inch deep into the wall just above him.

 

The whole Observatory shimmered green before fading and receding away to reveal the drab interior of Hold 3 underneath.

 

As for Tina, she had been blasted back into Trolley Aspect and was lying forlornly on one side, with one of her wheels bent out of shape.

 

“I don't think it worked,” Loki announced.

 

 

AN: Thanks for reading!

 

Chapter Text

 

Snake on a Spaceship – Part One

 

It was Monday morning.

 

“NOOOO!”

 

And that was scream of Thor Odinson, the god of Thunder, king of the Aesir, and lover of weddings.

 

In the future historians would say that he was the unluckiest of the Asgardian rulers. They will be right in that assessment. He is homeless, wandering aimlessly through space, and a couple of weeks into reign had suffered the humiliation and anxiety that comes from having 52 of his people abandon him in order to make their own way in the universe. He has no idea of their fate, but still prays for their safety and secretly hopes that one day they may be reunited and able to make amends.

 

He has also been experiencing nightmares – hence the “nooo” - but the imagery is vague and shadowy. They could just be dreams or they could be visions of a very bleak future.

 

[Wh-what is it?]

 

And that is Loki, brother of Thor, the god of Mischief, and secret fanboy of Captain America. He is also homeless, but is actually quite enjoying the experience of being lost in space with his brother. If you think this is strange then you should take into account that only few years ago he spent a year in the mercy of Thanos and his children – which really wasn't very merciful at all - then perhaps you being to realise that from Loki's perspective that most situations are more fun than the one he managed to escape. Dental appointments, for example. Also, he's just that kind of person. And if you are wondering where about in Thor's room he is stationed then you need not look no further than under Thor's bed. Which is exactly what the king did himself.

 


 

 

Thor hung over the side of the bed to peer into the shadows and found a wolf there staring back at him.

 

“Really, Loki, again?”

 

Wolf-Loki tilted his head sideways and flicked at his ear in a sheepish sort of way.

 

[Well, normally I would have woken early and returned to my own room before you woke up.]

 

“So, you've been having bad dreams again?”

 

[Same as yourself.]

 

Thor tried to laugh a natural sounding laugh. It didn't work. Loki would be more likely to confuse a stuffed eagle in a glass case as being alive than believe in the very fake laugh Thor forced out of his mouth.

 

“Me, brother? No, no. Not really. For me a bad dream amounts to no more than seeing myself going into battle without any armour on. I'm sure it was just that.”

 

He was lying through his teeth as it was becoming clearer by the day that they were no ordinary dreams, but until he understood them Thor had no desire to even try to describe them to anyone, even Loki.

 

Thankfully, instead of pressing the issue, Loki yawned and rested his head back on his paws.

 

“Don't go to sleep, it's breakfast time. The only decent reason to get up before lunch.”

 

[Go on ahead.]

 

“You promised.”

 

[No, I didn't.]

 

“Yes, you did! Yesterday in fact you said that you would be around at meal times. Come on, it's important that we eat together. Three months we've been stuck on this ship and not once have we shared a meal. Our ancestor must be ashamed of us. Along with all the other traditions we've broken.” Thor knelt on the floor and reached under the bed, dragging Wolf-Loki out. “Let's go. No need to be shy.”

 

[I'm not shy, I just don't want – Did you hear that?]

 

His sharp, pointed ears had picked up an odd sound that did not belong in the ship's sympathy of usual creaks, groans, and clunking. It was a gentle, soft hissing sound and yet Loki could not place where it had come from. His wolf form was a natural predator, able to sense even the slightest of rustles, and it was in this form that he felt calmest and safest; but now that he had heard something and couldn't explain it, it left him feeling wrong-footed.

 

Thor took the opportunity to gather him up in his arms.

 

“Don't try and distract me. We are going to breakfast. Together.”

 

[Thor, put me down! I don't need you to -]

 

They left the room, arguing. So, of course, neither saw the brightly coloured snake with iridescent scales slither lazily out from behind the cupboard and across the floor.

 


 

 

AN: Thanks for reading! Anyone remember that a snake crawled on aboard from planet Rainless? Well, this is he. Anyone care to guess his name?

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Part Two

 

It only took Thor a short while to wrestle Wolf-Loki to the dining hall and he did so gaining only two bruises and one scratch. Success. But, typically, as soon as they reached the doors Loki changed back into himself, without a hair out of place, and strode in as though he had wanted to be there all along.

 

The dining hall was already half full. There was Broge and Opla, in charge of preparing the food as usual; their children, Astra and Star and little Di were serving the food. At one of the tables was Volstagg's widow, Hildegund, surrounded by her many children, chattering loudly.

 

Thor led Loki to his usual table where the others were already waiting.

 

As soon as Bruce saw Loki a worried look creased his face which screamed that he would rather be doing anything else other than sharing a toast rack with the Trickster. Heimdall, and Eir greeted him respectfully, but fairly indifferently. Val gazed upon him frostily. Only Korg seemed happy to see him.

 

The children, however, were joyful. They gave a high pitched squeal of delight and scampered across the room to their favourite adult.

 

The charge was led by three year old Arthur, a child who seemed to belong to everyone and no one at the same time. He was able enough to announce his own name when asked, but would always fall silent when asked for his parent's names. The same reaction was garnered when asked about where he had lived or what his mother and father had done for a living, or if he had any siblings.

 

If anyone knew who his kin was they were keeping very quiet about it.

 

Arthur took a running jump onto Loki's lap. Di and Frin were not far behind, but it was Arthur who was the most demanding of Loki's attention. Every time one of the others wanted to say something to Loki, Arthur would interrupt with a question of his own or pluck at Loki's clothes and hair until Loki paid him some mind.

 

What surprised everyone was that Loki tolerated his presence for well over five minutes before putting him on the floor and ordering him to skedaddle to Hildegund, so that he could eat with her. Thor inwardly winced at the unconscious display of fatherly-like affection. Seeing the way Loki had patted Arthur's back to encourage him on his way had triggered a memory of Odin doing exactly the same thing to himself.

 

“Do you want some toast?” he asked, holding up the rack.

 

“No, thank you.” Loki had already taken a paperback from his pocket – The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes - and was flicking through the pages.

 

“Why not?”

 

“It's the wrong colour.”

 

“How can toast be the wrong colour?” Val asked, taking a large bite of her own slice. A large dollop of jam splattered onto the table cloth.

 

“It just is. I can't eat it.”

 

Opla came to the table carrying a bowl and self-satisfied smile.

 

“Your Highness, I made some jelly for you.”

 

Loki eagerly took the proffered bowl of bright blue jelly and wasted no time in scooping up large spoonfuls into his face.

 

“So, you are hungry then?” Val tittered.

 

“It's cold, it's sweet, it's smooth, and most importantly, is the perfect shade of blue.”

 

“You are without a shadow of doubt the fussiest and the poorest eater on the entire ship, Loki. It's fortunate you're not mortal otherwise you'd be dead from malnourishment.”

 

“And you from alcohol poisoning.”

 

Bruce had been quietly following the conversation. “I expect that the nature of your synaesthesia affects your appetite. When you can taste every colour the brain is tricked into thinking that there is food in your mouth and so it sends signals to the stomach to prepare itself for digesting food which isn't actually there. Your stomach must be constantly at work even when it's empty.”

 

Loki, who was already an expert on his condition, paid no attention to the mini lecture, and quickly scraped the bowl clean and held it up to Opla.

 

“I'll have more please.”

 

“So, I got the shade just right?”

 

“Absolutely. Serve me jelly like that everyday and I'll be your friend for life.”

 

Opla's face flushed red and she had a quiet fit of giggles, then she composed herself and said to Thor in a sombre tone.

 

“Majesty, I want to report a theft. Of six eggs.”

 

“Ah,” said Thor, unsure as to how he could sound more interested. “That's not so bad...”

 

“It's the principle of it! You know we can't waste food and we all to share what little resources we have equally. Someone has taken six eggs – this is the beginning of the end! Eggs today, anarchy tomorrow!”

 

“You should investigate,” Loki said blandly, flicking a page of his book. “Though I can't imagine that anyone would wish to consume eggs of unknown origin. Who knows what bottom they fell out of.”

 

He tapped the empty bowl with his finger, just to remind Opla that she supposed to bring him more jelly.

 

“I will look into it,” Thor assured her.

 

“And you'd might tell everyone that even if they do want to steal eggs then they could at least have the decency to put the egg box away neatly instead of ripping it to shreds and dropping it all over the floor for me to clear up.”

 

“I will.” And when she had walked away added, “That's an odd thing to have done.”

 

“What is, bro?” Korg asked.

 

Thor would have answered if Loki hadn't inadvertently disrupted the flow of conversation (as will often happen in large groups of people) and distracted him. He had just opened his mouth when he heard Loki tapping a large brown teapot with his knuckle and asking. “Tina, is that you?”

 

It was.

 

[Good morning, Loki. Did you want some tea? I see that you do, I can still scan your brain.]

 

By now everyone was used to Tina's presence on the breakfast table, in whatever form she happened to be in, and no one, not even Bruce, was shocked to hear her voice inside their heads. The only surprise now came in being caught off guard whenever they happened to come across her unexpectedly. Last week, Korg had almost dropped her into the toilet when he had been about to brush his teeth with her and she had suddenly informed him that he had not put enough toothpaste onto her. Thor suspected that Loki had put her up to it. He suspected that Loki put her up to a lot of mischief related things.

 

“I find it very intrusive when you do that,” Loki answered her testily.

 

[Yeah, but you also like it. Just a little bit.]

 

Thor snorted and quickly hid a smirk behind his hand. It wasn't quick enough; Loki glared at him before turning back to the teapot.

 

Although, his lips did not utter another word to her it was clear from his subtly changing facial expressions that they were conversing privately. Thor watched with interest as Loki's face turned from annoyance to coyness, then to disappointment, and finally to anger.

 

Loki slammed his book closed and stormed off, even before his second bowl of jelly had arrived.

 

“What happened, Tina?” Thor asked her.

 

The teapot remained silent.

 

Thor sighed. “I've warned you before about what he can be like. If he treats you badly then you must tell me.”

 

The teapot continued to remain silent. The others tried to ply an answer from her but the only thing they could get out of her was some rather lovely sweet tasting tea.

 

They would never know what the tiff had been about, but here is a rough transcript:

 

[Shut up!] Loki told her, face slightly red. Then he took in a deep breath and turned on the charm. [Don't forget that I know everything about you, T. I know what you think of me...]

 

Tina made a little noise of embarrassment.

 

[Anyway, where have you been for the past week?]

 

[In here. Getting to know the spoons.]

 

[Fine....] Loki suddenly sounded sheepish. [It's just that I thought we were room-mates. You should have told me that you didn't want to share any more.]

 

There was a long pause before Tina finally worked up the courage to say, [It's not that. I just thought that you wanted some space.]

 

[Liar. You know that...] Loki glanced at Thor. [You know I don't like being on my own.]

 

[Sorry, I -]

 

[You just can't bear to see someone having nightmares. You can't bear to watch someone experiencing emotions.]

 

Nothing.

 

[And now you're ignoring me. There's a surprise.] Loki closed his book in what he thought was a restrained manner and said, [ I worry for you, my friend. You've turned your back on a body that can feel and now you seem determined to rid yourself of your heart just because it hurts sometimes. Don't do it.]

 


 

 

Everyone was too distracted by Tina's sudden mutism to notice the gang of children leave the dining room. And why would they? There was nothing unusual about seeing the children dashing about the ship, hurtling up and down the corridors, scrambling on top of some things and jumping off others – all very normal.

 

And, of course, when you are small you are able to crawl and squeeze into places no one else can, secret places you don't want to tell anyone about, special places where only you can see things no one else would spot.

 

Like the snake skin.

 

They had all been playing hide and seek, and Arthur was one of the hiders. He'd known exactly where to go – behind a loose wall panel, where there was just enough space for a young boy to curl up in among all the wires and the darkness.

 

He'd sat there for a good ten seconds with his knees drawn up to his chin when he'd become restless. Ten seconds felt like a lifetime to Arthur and the excitement of waiting to be caught, but not knowing when, was unbearable. He'd shifted onto his knees so that he could lean forward and poke his head out without being too noticeable, when his fingertips brushed against something dry and slightly warm, hanging off one of the bundle of wires.

 

He hadn't know what it was. He'd thought it looked like an odd piece of torn parchment, but almost see-through and made up of lots of little circle shapes. It was nail white and not as delicate as it looked, something Arthur discovered as he'd plucked it off the wires and tried to tear it further.

 

He'd thought he heard a soft hissing sound from being somewhere close by, but being only three he soon forgot about it all when he heard the Seeker loudly calling his name.

 

Chapter Text

 

Part Three

 

Thor knew what he had to do: find the secret egg-eater.

 

Thor knew what he didn't want to do: find the secret egg-eater.

 

Thor knew that there some things he had to do even though he didn't want to do them. Such as finding the secret egg-eater.

 

Thor was not a happy god.

 

It wasn't that he underestimated the importance of discipline or of fair shares for everyone, but they were living in stressful times and every now and then rules would be broken. Besides it went against his forgiving and lenient nature to hunt down the culprit, not to mention that he himself was guilty of snaffling a biscuit or two when the cost was clear.

 

However, the situation had left Opla extremely upset and in a state of hyper vigelence over food supplies – she rarely let her guard down any more – so for the sake of her peace of mind Thor was determined to at least make a half-hearted effort to discover the identity of the thief. And if he happened to find them, then a simple “don't do it again” would be the only punishment given.

 

But by the end of the day Thor had to conclude that the investigation was going as well as he had expected it to: badly.

 

He had questioned of random Aesir and the same answer was always given.

 

“No, I did not steal one of Opla's poxy eggs. How dare you suggest such a thing! If you weren't the king I'd spit on your ancestor's memories.”

 

Thor retired to bed unsuccessful but satisfied that he at least tried. He soon fell deeply asleep.

 


 

 

The next day he awoke to find that there were two things different to usual about his room. The first was that his blankets felt much heavier than usual. The second was that he could hear a soft hissing noise, like steam blowing out of a kettle.

 

He sat up and was a little surprised to see that there was snake curled up on his bed. Surprised but not shocked because he straight away made the assumption that it was Loki.

 

The “Loki Snake” was curled up tightly, with its triangular head resting on top of its coils. It's eyes were closed and every few seconds it's thin forked tongue would flick outwards in between two sharp fangs before being pulled back into its mouth. Thor couldn't help but spend a few seconds admiring its rainbow coloured scales.

 

But he was still annoyed.

 

“Loki,” he childed softly. “I can just about handle you sleeping under my bed, but on the bed? No, that's too weird.”

 

He reached out his hands to pick the Loki-Snake, but hesitated.

 

“I will throw you into solitary confinement if you try to stab me,” he warned.

 

The snake's eyes still did not open. It could all be pretend.

 

“Final warning.”

 

He really hoped that if Loki was planning something then he would feel the need to confess. It was a thin hope.

 

No response but a soft hiss, which was the snake's way of snoring.

 

“Fine!” Thor huffed.

 

Bracing himself, he quickly gathered the snake up in his arms and then waited for the inevitable moment when Loki would burst back into his normal form with his dagger ready.

 

But the snake remained a snake. It also remained fast asleep, which was unusually relaxed for a snake, especially for a member of the Rainbow Death species indigenous only to the planet Rainless. This was lucky for Thor for although its venom would not kill him, a large enough dose would leave him with a massive headache.

 

Thor was no so foolish as to think that he was clear. Loki could be trying to lull him into a false sense of security.

 

However, he across the corridor and to Loki's room.

 

It was dark in his brother's room, but Thor could see well enough to be able to dodge in and around the piles of books on the floor. Once he had reached the bed he placed the sleeping snake on top of the blankets.

 

“Sweet dreams,” Thor muttered. “I hope you make things up with Tina soon so that you can go back to not sleeping in my room.”

 

And as is always the way with these farcical kind of tales, as soon as he had exited the room he was met with the sight of Loki exiting the elevator at the other end of the corridor.

 

Strange things began to happen inside Thor's head at lighting speed. Assumptions were shattered, mistakes were realised and corrected, all hitting him like a blow to the head from Mijolnir.

 

If Loki was in the corridor then he could not be in his room. Unless it was a trick.

 

And because he was in the corridor and not in his room then he could not also be the snake. Unless it was a trick.

 

And the only other shape-shifter onboard was Tina, but it wasn't likely to be her. Unless it was a trick.

 

Which meant it was a real snake Thor had picked up. Picked up and carried to Loki's room and placed in Loki's bed. Unless it was a trick.

 

Oh, dear.

 

And Loki was heading straight to his room and about to discover a huge snake snoring in his bed.

 

Oh, shit.

 

Thor hoped that it was all some sort of trick.

 

Chapter Text

 

Thor was panicking inside. He strongly suspected that Loki would object to a seven foot snake being cosily curled up in his bed. One half of his brain was yelling at him to come up with a plan, to find a way to prevent Loki from entering his room long enough for him to rescue the poor thing; the other half was yelling back that Thor was a warrior and deviousness just wasn't his strength.

 

By now Loki had spotted him and was only a few feet away. The mistrustful look on his face said: what are you up to and why are you standing outside my room?

 

With no time left to scheme Thor fell back on the old classic: looking casual. He lent against the wall with his arms folded and waved awkwardly. Perfectly casual, perfectly at ease. It was bound to quieten Loki's suspicions.

 

“What are you up to and why are you standing outside my room?” Loki demanded.

 

Or it would just make things worse.

 

“I was, uh, waiting to talk to you,” Thor said, slowly, hoping that as he stalled that the two opposing sides of his brain had settled their differences for the common good and were working together to create the perfect reason for Loki to stay out his room.

 

Tell Loki that there's a polar bear in there! screamed one half.

 

Idiot! Chastised the other.

 

“About what?” asked the Trickster, a perfectly reasonable question.

 

“Uh, uh, uh...” Thor began. Thankfully being under pressure did wonders for his mental faculties. “What is going on with you and Tina?”

 

Loki's face immediately clouded over and Thor knew that he had hit upon the perfect conversation for keeping his brother distracted. Jackpot

 

“It's nothing to do with you, Thor,” Loki answered, stiffly.

 

Keep him talking, his brain urged, now unified.

 

“Yeah, but she must have done something to have upset you. And she won't even talk to you, right? That's a bit harsh.”

 

The clouds on Loki's face lifted to reveal a rather miserable look. He shook his head sadly as he lent against the wall next to Thor.

 

“I don't know what's happened,” he admitted after a moment of silence. “We were friends, but yesterday we argued. I can't even figure out if it's her fault or mine.”

 

Thor considered his response before speaking out loud. Mostly he was surprised that Loki had a friend other than himself, but to say as much would only anger his brother.

 

 

“Perhaps it's no one's fault, just a misunderstanding between friends,” he said with a smile. He had sensed an opportunity. “If you want to stay friends why don't you be the one to apologise first? It might help.”

 

As soon as those words left his mouth, Thor wished that he had thought a little more carefully. Loki would never apologise to anyone; in his mind disputes were the always the fault of someone else. Thor waited, expecting a harsh rebuttal followed by Loki dashing into his room, but was instead surprised when he heard Loki say:

 

“Very well.”

 

Thor blinked. “Sorry?”

 

Loki looked irritated. “You heard me. Tina is a damaged individual and perhaps I did speak intensively to her. I need to be gentle in my interactions with her otherwise she'll just close down, just as she has done now.”

 

Thor blinked again. It was amazing that Loki actually cared enough about someone to want to apologise. But, still, it was a bit annoying that Loki was still leaning against the wall and not looking as though he were in any real hurry to repair his friendship with Tina.

 

“You should go now. No time like the present,” Thor prompted.

 

“Do you really think so?”

 

Yes, Thor inwardly shouted. His thoughts had returned to the plight of the hapless snake trapped in Loki's room. If Loki or anyone else caught the unlucky creature they were bound to kill it and Thor couldn't bear the thought of that.

 

Loki nodded, mouth set firm in resolution. Then he turned and headed back to the elevator. Thor resisted the urge to pump the air with his fist. He was getting good at outwitting Loki.

 

“Good luck!” he called cheerfully after Loki just as the elevator doors shut with a sharp ping.

 


 

 

Even before the ping had faded into silence Thor had scrambled back into Loki's room. He dodged around the piles of books and fell to his knees in front of the bed, desperately patting the blankets down, but finding nothing.

 

“Here, Snakey,” he called, softly, pulling back the blankets. The bed was empty. “Come on out. It's only me.”

 

What hadn't yet crossed Thor's mind was that the Rainbow Death had come from a very warm planet and that Loki's blankets were enchanted to be icy cold. The low temperature had simply been too uncomfortable for the snake to remain asleep, so once Thor had left the room the snake had blinked awake, yawned, and then had lazily crawled off the bed and onto to the floor to search for a warmer resting place.

 

Thor turned from the bed and began to search every dark place in the room: under the table, behind the book piles, and besides the chairs. And then his eyes fell upon the wardrobe, with its door open ever so slightly.

 

Cautiously, Thor shuffled towards the wardrobe on his knees and very, very carefully opened the doors. Then slowly, slowly, he removed the folded blankets from the bottom and smiled. Found it.

 

“What are you doing?” Loki demanded from somewhere close behind him.

 

Thor flinched so violently that he banged his head against the door. Then taking a deep breath he grabbed the sluggish snake and hid it behind his back as he stood up to face his brother.

 

To say that Loki looked angry was putting it mildly.

 

Thor did his up most best to look innocent.

 

“I thought that you were talking to Tina?”

 

Loki's expression darkened. “Really? You think I fell for that?” He raised his right hand, all aglow with green flames “This brings back memories of 1107, the last time you tried to steal something from my room. I seem to remember turning your hands into pig trotters so that you would be unable to pick anything up.”

 

Thor did not need a reminder of that rather painful incident.

 

“I'm not stealing anything!” he protested.

 

“Then what's that behind your back?”

 

Loki tried to look but Thor sidestepped.

 

“This old thing behind my back? It is, um, a – a draught excluder. But you don't appear to have any draughts here, lucky you, so I'll be on my way.”

 

Being sure to keep facing Loki, Thor tried to step backwards towards the door. But as he did so he saw Loki's eyes widen slightly. Loki dropped his fist, the green flames extinguishing themselves.

 

“Thor, it's a snake.”

 

“No, it 's a draught excluder.”

 

“I can see it's tail hanging down. It has scales.”

 

“Well, some draught excluders do -”

 

“Thor!”

 

Not knowing what else to do Thor reluctantly held up the snake. It was still very sluggish and dopey, slowly drawing its coils closer over Thor's arms. It's eyelids tiredly moved up and down, its beady eye looking dull.

 

Loki drew in a sharp breath, looking disgusted. Thor was oblivious.

 

“Great, isn't it?” he gushed, admiring the way the iridescent scales almost seemed to glow in the light.

 

“No, no it isn't! It's huge!”

 

“I know,” Thor agreed happily.

 

“Thor, it has fangs!”

 

“This is why I didn't want you to know about him. You must crept on board, didn't you?” he said in a baby voice, holding the snake's face close enough to his own that its tongue brushed against his nose.

 

Loki had to resist the urge to pull the snake out of Thor's grasp, lest it bit him or spat venom into his eyes.

 

“Don't bond with it!” he snapped. “It could eat a child!”

 

He had always been infuriated by Thor's love of snakes. Goats were Thor's animal, not snakes. All the gods had their special animal friends: for Sif, swans; Frigga, owls. Goats and sheep were for Thor. Whereas snakes and serpents were supposed to be his – Loki's – creatures. And he had used to love them as much as any god loved their sacred animal, until Thor had started showing an interest in them too. After that Loki had started to neglect them in his heart, well, not until after the stabbing incident. It had been typical of the old Thor to take snakes away from him, and typical of the new Thor that he was insensitive to the pain he had caused.

 

“You're exaggerating.”

 

“You've got to get rid of it.”

 

“No.”

 

“Yes. You can't keep it. Here give it to me.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I'm going to flush it out the air lock.”

 

Thor drew the snake closer to his chest.

 

“That's too cruel.”

 

“It was born cruel.”

 

“Rubbish. Nothing is born cruel.”

 

“But, look at it -” Loki moved his hand close to the snake's head. The snake hissed loudly. Loki moved his hand even closer. The snake's triangular head darted forward, fangs fully extended and dripping venom. Loki's fast reactions allowed him to move his fingers just out of reach, but it was a close call. “See? Woah!” The snake had lunged for him a second time.

 

Loki stepped back, hands encased in emerald flames.

 

“Loki...” Thor warned.

 

But Loki ignored him as he used his index fingers to trace a fizzing green circle in front of them. He then blew it towards the Rainbow Death. The circle sailed across the space between them, forming into a large bubble around the snake, fully encasing it. The bubble floated out of Thor's grasp, bobbing up and down, while the confused snake butted its head against the inside.

 

“Thank you for not killing it,” said Thor.

 

Loki shrugged indifferently. He rubbed his hands together as he looked up the bubble.

 

“It's very lonely, Thor,” he suddenly said. Frankly, he was surprised to have been able to sense any of the creature's emotions. He had been sure that all snakes hated him after his many years of ignoring them. “And its none too well. This ship just isn't the right environment for it.”

 

“What is the right environment?”

 

“I imagine it came from Rainless. Which as I recall was unbearably, stupidly, and pointlessly hot.”

 

“But, you can help me build a tank for it, right?”

 

Loki blinked at him. Then he laughed harshly. “Oh, no, not I. That creature of death is your responsibility. Either care for it or throw it off the ship. It's up to you. Doesn't make any difference to me.”

 

“But if the Elders find it then -”

 

“Then look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent underneath it*.”

 

“Sorry?”

 

“Remind them of who is king. Also, remind them that it was I who advised you first to get rid of it. I can do without another lecture on how a prince should behave.”

 

“And you won't tell them? I can also do without another lecture. And all that nagging.”

 

Loki looked thoughtful. “I may not, if you will owe me a favour.”

 

“Oh, come on, Loki! I saved your life on Rainless! I looked after you day and night. Surely you owe me something.”

 

“I did, but then you used it up by asking me to recount my tales of the Black Order. You should remember, it went on for several chapters.”

 

“Chapters? Look, Loki, if I am going to owe you a favour then not only do I want your silence, but I want you to help to maintain the secret. Understood?”

 

“It did try to bite me...”

 

Thor was hardly sympathetic. “Yeah, but you have the advantage of being near-immortal. It couldn't have done you any real harm.”

 

“And what of the safety of our mortal friends? Or are their lives disposable now?”

 

“Nothing is going to happen. We're going to build a nice warm tank for Charlie -”

 

Loki looked scathing. “Charlie?”

 

“And it'll stay in my room. I'll owe you a favour and neither of us will be pulled in for a talk with the Elders. But, most of all, no one is going to get bitten, no one is going to be flushed out of the air lock. Happy?

 

Loki bumped Thor's fist with his own. His brother made it all sound so simple and straight forward, but nothing was ever simple for them, was it?

 

It had occurred to him that now would be the perfect time to punish Thor for enjoying snakes more than he did. Except that Loki was no longer certain that Thor had done anything wrong. There had been no reason why they could not have both shared a love for the reptiles. It had been his only childishness that had led him to spurning them altogether.

 

Loki felt almost sick when with a jolt he realised that he was being reasonable. He was growing soft. Far too considerate and understanding of others. He wasn't sure that he liked or even welcomed all this personal growth. It was so ugly all this being kind to people.

 

Not that he had made up his mind not to take some revenge, more that he would think about not doing it. Or at the very least play a harmless prank or too, just relieve some of his anger.

 

However, it was not just Thor's acquisition of a pet which was annoying Loki.

 

It was the name Charlie.

 

Short for Charles. A popular name for humans. The name of human kings.

 

A bit like Arthur.

 

It seemed that Thor had a liking for human names.

 

Very much like Arthur.

 


 

*from Macbeth

Thanks for reading!

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

It wasn't difficult for Loki to use his magic to whip up a heated tank for Charlie. It should have been a ten minute job and would have been if Thor had been content with a basic tank. But the Thunderer was not happy with the size of the tank Loki had created and asked for it to be made bigger so that Charlie would have plenty of space to stretch out.

 

Fair enough, Loki thought. He could see that maybe it was a bit on the small size for a seven foot snake, so he enlarged it. The tank was now the length of Thor's room and took up almost half of the width. The table and chair were knocked over as the tank spread out across the floor.

 

Thor nodded approvingly, but then he said in an apologetic voice, “It could be taller. Maybe with two levels or three. It is going to be Charlie's home, so it should be an interesting environment for him to explore.”

 

Again, Loki agreed with his assessment and waved his hands so that the walls of the tank rose up to the height of Thor's chest. Another wave and the tank split into three separate levels connected by a series of holes and ramps and a secret tunnel or two.

 

“Perfect!” Thor praised, giving Loki a thumbs-up. “Although, it could be a bit big-”

 

“Thor, you did want Charlie to remain a secret, didn't you?” Loki patiently reminded him. “If I make his tank any bigger you'll be sleeping in the cupboard. That's not exactly discreet.”

 

“I know, but he's just so sweet, aren't you, Charlie? You need looking after properly.”

 

With no where to safely put Charlie Thor had been holding onto him as Loki worked. He laughed heartily when Charlie spat venom at him. The black goo arched over his shoulder and splattered against the wall.

 

“Give me time and I can convert one of the empty cabins into a real enclosure for him,” Loki offered.

 

Thor beamed at him. “Really? You'd do that?”

 

“Why not? I rather like Charlie and the way he tries to kill you every five minutes. I just to need to work out how to make the sand.”

 


 

The next three days surprisingly passed by without snake-related incidents. The Aesir kept themselves busy in whatever ways they could. Heimdall kept watch for the Earth; Val tried to take up knitting as a form of distraction from her cravings for alcohol; Bruce stayed in the lab, tinkering, and trying not to freak out; Korg ate a bag of flour; Tina was still hiding away somewhere in an unknown form, and Loki was still searching for her in between sessions of constructing Charlie's new sand-filled room; as for Thor, he spent most of his time trying to (unsuccessfully) train Charlie to play fetch, while also keeping him a secret.

 

On the fourth day Thor woke early as usual, muttered a few hasty prayers to his ancestors, and then looked under the bed to see if Loki was there. He was, this time in cat aspect.

 

“Did you sleep?” Thor asked quietly, just in case Loki was actually asleep. It was hard to tell when he was so tightly curled up with his eyes closed.

 

A few seconds passed before Loki replied.

 

[No.]

 

“Do you want to talk about it?”

 

[No.]

 

“Fine. We'll go for breakfast soon.”

 

[Not hungry.]

 

Thor ignored him. It was the same argument every morning, but he knew that Loki would be in a better mood once he had eaten something and had time to shake the bad dreams off. Instead he walked the two steps to Charlie's tank and had a look through the glass for his new friend.

 

He couldn't spot him on the top level, or on the middle one, but that was okay because the process of deduction told Thor that Charlie must be at the bottom somewhere. He crouched down to look, but still could not spot the snake. But, again, Thor was still not alarmed as he assumed that Charlie must be hiding somewhere amongst the fake plants he had put in a few days ago.

 

However, there was something which was worrying Thor. Loki had said that Charlie was very lonely. That bothered Thor. Loneliness was no good for anyone. If only he could find a way to help Charlie.

 

Then his eye caught sight of Loki enjoying his morning roll about on the bed. The obvious thought occurred to him. It would require tack and diplomacy, qualities Thor was not renowned for.

 

“You know, I'm worried about Charlie being lonely,” he began in an offhand manner.

 

[Hmm,] grunted Loki, wriggling about on his back and flexing his tail.

 

“If only there was another snake who could visit him,” said Thor. He was lying it on thick now and he knew it.

 

[Uh-huh,] said Loki, scratching at the blankets.

 

“Maybe a mate for him.”

 

[A mate?]

 

“Yeah, so if you don't mind-”

 

A choking noise came out from Loki's direction as though he were gagging on a hair ball. [You want me to mate with your pet snake?]

 

Thor was mortified at the thought.

 

“No!” he cried. “No, No! That came out wrong! That's not what I meant at all!”

 

[I should think so!]

 

“I meant mate as in friend or buddy, not what you....ugh, no!”

 

[Oh, thank goodness. What exactly do you want me to do?]

 

Thor shook his head and cleared his throat in an attempt to free himself from all the unpleasant imagery.

 

“Would you please turn yourself into snake,” he intoned carefully, “get yourself in there and ask him what's up?”

 

[What's up?] Loki echoed derisively.

 

“Yeah, you know, shoot the breeze. Chew the fat. That's sort of thing. Guy talk, but between two snakes.”

 

Loki's fur bristled.

 

[And I suppose you want me to buy him a drink as well? Play a friendly game of football?]

 

“Nothing like that. I just want him to have someone of his own kind to chat to. Go on. Don't tell that you're not curious to know what snakes talk about.”

 

Loki licked one paw and then the other. And then he said, [I'm a shape-shifter, Thor. I already know what snakes talk about and its boring. It's all: hey, do you know what's the best thing about having no legs? Not tripping over! They're all so bitter about not possessing limbs. Never ask them what they think of opposable thumbs. You'll never hear the end of it.]

 

“Fine,” Thor sighed. “I'll just have to content myself with singing your favourite song.”

 

Loki froze. [What song?]

 

“Just a little ditty about your nerves and how I know to get on them.”

 

He drew in a deep breath.

 

[Thor -]

 

“I know a song that'll get on your nerves, get on your nerves, get on your nerves! I know a song that'll get on your nerves all day long! And all night too, while you're trying to sleep.”

 

Geese honking at the top of their voices while being slowly butchered had nothing on Thor in that moment. He knew how to sing well and he knew how to sing badly. And he could sing badly very well.

 

Loki instinctively tried to place his paws over his ears, but it just wasn't going to work. Oh, the agony!

 

[Thor -]

 

“I know a song that'll get on your nerves, get on your nerves -”

 

Loki couldn't take it any more. The sooner he caved the less likely the song would stick inside his head.

 

[Alright, stop! I'll do it. Anything to make you shut up.]

 

Thor watched with smug satisfaction as his brother briefly turned back into his Aesir form before shrinking down again and then stretching out, turning into that of a snake with black and white scales arranged in a sort-of zig-zag pattern – an adder. He carefully scooped Loki up and opened the top of the tank

 

[Why am I doing this for you?]

 

“Because you're the best,” Thor replied as he placed Loki inside.

 

Loki saw Thor's mouth move, but hadn't caught the words.

 

[What did you say?]

 

“You heard me.”

 

[I have poor hearing, so speak telepathically.]

 

[I said that you're the best.]

 

Loki made some strange noise, something between a chuckle and a hiss, and then he pulled himself together.

 

[Where is he?]

 

[Try at the very bottom.]

 

Loki slowly slithered his way down through the levels, taking his time. Thor thought he was being obstinate, but really it always took him a few minutes to adjust to the snake's way of seeing. He had chosen a species with good eyesight and depth perception, but he was also receiving sensory feedback from the odour particles in the air. It took a little getting used to.

 

Tongue flicked out, tongue flicked back in, scooping in the flavour of the air. Sherlock Holmes understood the meaning of footsteps, knew what they meant by their size and depth, but snakes could get all that from tasting the air. He could taste that Charlie had been there fairy recently and had eaten some of the eggs Thor had pinched from the kitchen. Loki slithered forward, shooting out his tongue every second and following Charlie's odour trail down through the levels to the very bottom of the tank.

 

There he found himself navigating his way around all the junk Thor had placed there – the fake, plastic plants; the hair comb; the stuffed teddy bear - but he still could not spot the Rainbow Death.

 

[I can't find him, Thor.]

 

[Try by the rock. He likes to go there in the mornings.]

 

[Where did you get a rock from?]

 

[I just found it one morning.]

 

Loki crawled over to the rock, circling past the old shoe. If he had been able to perceive colours he would have seen that the rock had a pink tinged to it. He flicked his tongue out: the scent of Charlie was weaker here. Not good.

 

[Hello!] Loki called. [Anyone at home?]

 

[Hello, Loki,] said Tina the lump of pink rock.

 

Loki almost shed his entire skin there and then.

 

[Tina!] he cried, blinking blearily at the rock. [You're looking...well. Granite was always my favourite kind of rock.]

 

[Thank you. Although, actually, I'm quartzite. With some flecks of mica. But, you look great too!]

 

[Really? I've never liked snake skin.]

 

[Oh,] said Tina, uneasily, already unsure of what else to say. Thankfully, Loki was never short of words.

 

[It's a very organic look for you, Tina,] he said, crawling over the cracked flowerpot. [I thought that metal and plastic was more your thing.]

 

Tina hesitated for a moment before saying, [I'm trying to try new things. A little at a time.]

 

[Good for you.] Loki flicked his tail back and forth before blurting out, [I looked for you all over the ship. I thought that maybe you would never show yourself to me again. I thought that you must be very cross with me.]

 

[No! I thought you were cross with me. Well, you were, weren't you?]

 

[That's not your fault. I get grumpy sometimes and then I say things that I shouldn't. I'm sorry, Tina. Really.]

 

The pink quartzite became a little pinker, not that Loki was able to see that.

 

[I think maybe you're right about me..] she said, softly. [I do feel overwhelmed a lot of the time...]

 

[That's not true. I was being uncharitable -]

 

[Loki, I'm hiding as a rock inside of a snake tank.]

 

[Okay, so maybe it's a little bit true. But, in your favour, you chose to hide in the tank of a highly venomous, vicious snake. Not many people would be so bonkers as that. If it makes you feel any better I've been hiding under Thor's bed.]

 

Tina giggled.

 

[And what's so bad about being mad?]

 

[Ahem!] Thor thought loudly. He could have coughed out loud but then Loki would not have been able to have heard him. [Have you found Charlie yet?]

 

Loki attempted to roll his eyes at Tina, but found that he couldn't. So he settled for saying, [Thor's a twit. Have you seen Charlie at all today? Well, I say seen, but you don't have eyes.]

 

[Yes, about half an hour ago. He went that way.]

 

[Which way?]

 

[That way.]

 

[It would help if you could be more descriptive. Or be able to point.]

 

[I'm pointing with my voice, Loki. And I'm telling you that Charlie went that way.]

 

[Ah, I see.]

 

[Anything?] Thor asked, anxiously.

 

[Yes. Tina said he went that way.]

 

[Which way?]

 

[That way. I'm pointing with my voice.]

 

[That doesn't help at all.]

 

[No? That does surprise me.]

 

Tina huffed. [By the plastic cup.]

 

[Thank you,] said Loki. [Oh, and by the way, being a rock really does suit you.]

 

[Do you really so? Because I want to try stones next.]

 

[Oh, good grief. This is getting weird,] Thor thought accidentally very loudly. [Loki -]

 

[Stop nagging! I'm going.]

 

Loki reluctantly crawled off in the direction of the plastic cup. His tongue flicked in and out. Charlie had been there recently. He moved forward, turning his head from left to right. And it was because that he was looking from side to side and not downwards that he almost fell head first into the hole.

 

With a little wriggle here and a little wriggle there and with some careful flexing of his muscles, he managed to manoeuvrer backwards and was able to take a more considered look at the hole. Now to you and me the hole would look small, but to Loki in snake aspect it was like staring down, down into a bottomless well. This was a hole that ran deep into the ship. Charlie had gone where no snake had gone before or even should even think about going.

 

[Oh,] Loki said at first, but it didn't sound urgent enough, so he added, [Ah!], and then, [oh, dear!] for good measure.

 

[What?] Thor demanded, unable to see what was happening that far back into the tank.

 

[I've learnt something new about the behaviour of Charlie]

 

[What is it?]

 

[He can burrow. Really well.]

 

[What?!]

 

Thor bent down by the corner of the tank and lifted the whole thing up to see the hole on its underside.

 

[Careful!] Loki snapped, as he found himself sliding across the floor and was very nearly squashed by Tina and a rubber duck.

 

Tank still in his hands Thor looked down to see that there was a matching hole in the cabin floor. He dropped the tank. It fell back down with a loud bang.

 

[Careful!] Loki repeated. [You'll chip Tina!]

 

[It's okay,] said Tina. [I'm a 7 on the Mohs scale.]

 

“He could be anywhere on the ship! We have to find him!”

 

Thor waited impatiently for Loki to reach the top level before lifting him out. But then even in the midst of his panic he remembered that Loki had done it all as a favour to him. And because he had irritated Loki into it.

 

So, he held Loki the adder up in front of him and said in a loud voice, “Thank you for doing that.

 

[You're welcome. Oh, and Thor...]

 

“Yeah?”

 

[BLARGH! IT'S ME!]

 

“Ow...”

 

AN: Thanks for reading!

 

 


 

 

Cut Bit

“Tina, I'm sorry,” Loki said to the white porcelain mug in his hand.

 

But it was not her.

 

Sighing, Loki placed the mug to his left. Then he picked up the next mug.

 

“Tina, I'm sorry.”

 

Again, it was not her.

 

Another sigh. The mug joined the fifty other mugs he had already given an apology.

 

“Tina, I'm sorry.”

 

And so on and so on.

 

Chapter Text

 

Thor was beginning to panic. A venomous snake was the one of the last things that should be loose a ship. You can be sure that when Noah filled his ark with two of every kind of animal that the bitey snakes were kept safely locked up and not allowed to slither about unsupervised.

 

“We have to find him straight away!” he cried, running a hand through his shorn hair. It was beginning to grow out by now, but still hadn't lost that pleasant just cut feel to it.

 

“Yes...absolutely....”

 

Loki sounded distracted and not all filled with the same level of urgency that consumed Thor. The Thunderer turned about to see Loki practically lying on top of the snake-less tank with his arm shoved through the opening.

 

“What are you doing?” Thor demanded.

 

“Trying to retrieve Tina,” Loki grunted, doing his best to send waves of green magic down through the multiple levels. “She somehow got herself wedged in the corner at the very bottom.”

 

“Never mind that now! You've got to go after Charlie!”

 

“What?”

 

“You've go down that hole and catch him.”

 

“But why me?”

 

“Because it was your tank that he broke out of.”

 

“He's your snake.”

 

Thor opened his mouth to argue back, but then realised that he couldn't top that one.

 

“Why don't you be the one to go after him?” Loki suggesting, jumping back on top of the tank and putting his back in. He looked like a cat fishing on a riverbank. “Come on, Tina, make some effort. Try rocking. If you can't I'll have to try the sink plunger.”

 

Thor wasn't quite sure that he had understood Loki correctly. About the snake part, not the sink plunger.

 

“You'd turn me into a snake? Really?” he asked, wide-eyed.

 

“Really.”

 

Thor rubbed his chin. He did love snakes, so it would be an awesome thing to become one for an hour or two, but it would mean trusting Loki not to take advantage of the situation.

 

“Not sure that I trust you,” he said. “In fact, forget it. I don't.”

 

Loki shrugged. “Fair enough. Neither of us will go after him. We'll just have to hope he comes out at some point and that we spot him before anyone does.”

 

Thor gritted his teeth together. Loki was right.

 

“Fine,” he relented. “Turn me into a snake.”

 

Loki's eyes were glittering wickedly when he slid back off the tank, rubbing his hands together. A light green mist was spreading over his fingers and up his wrists.

 

“This is going to be joyful,” he grinned.

 

Thor braced himself as Loki slapped the palm of his hand against Thor's forehead. A wave of heat rushed down through his body. He was shrinking; bones melted and reshaped themselves; and his skin broke down into scales before smoothing out.

 

As he fell towards the floor all colours and sounds faded away leaving him in a world of fuzzy images and muffled sound; yet as soon as he tongue whipped in and out he could “see” perfectly.

 

[Wow!] was all he could think of to say. [What colours are my scales? Did you give me fangs? How long am I?]

 

Loki chuckled, not that Thor was able to hear him.

 

[Red and yellow. Yes, so be careful. A couple of meters. Fun, isn't it? Putting on a new skin.]

 

Thor gave his tail an experimental swish and had a go stretching his mouth wide open so that his fangs neatly unfolded.

 

[Not always. I still haven't forgotten that you turned me into a frog.]

 

[But you told me that it was a marvellous joke.]

 

Had he? Thor thought about it. He was quite sure that he hadn't found the incident the least bit amusing, but it somehow sounded familiar. And then he remembered.

 

[That's a line from your own play, you idiot!]

 

[Was it? That was a long time ago.]

 

Loki lifted up the corner of the tank, revealing the Charlie sized hole underneath. Thor slithered towards it and carefully crawled inside.

 

[Good luck,] Loki told him. [Take your time.]

 

 


 

AN:

Loki watches as Author sits at the edge of perfectly circular hole in the floor of the Statesman and sticks Chapter 51 onto a hook attached to a fishing line.

 

“What are you doing, you strange woman?” he asks.

 

“Fishing for reviews.”

 

“You'll never get anything with a such tiny, rushed chapter. You need to put effort in,” Loki tells her as she drops Chapter 51 through the hole.

 

“That's true, but I have been busy.”

 

“Oh, really.”

 

“Really! I've just completed a three hour online Health and Safety course. It was so dull I could feel bits of my brain breaking off. I had to do an entire module on Slips, Trips, and Falls. And then I had to complete a quiz on Slips, Trips, and Falls. Do you want to know the difference between a slip, a trip, and a fall?”

 

“I speak English. I know the difference.”

 

“Me too! But, I still had to read 10 pages on it! It was terrible, so terrible.”

 

Loki pats her head. “Aw, it's actually driven you mad, you weird thing. To think that a Health and Safety course could be so damaging. That's very funny.”

 

“Oh, a bite! A bite!”

 

Author eagerly reels in the review. She's always very grateful that people always write reviews for her rather badly written fic, even with all its plot holes, weak story lines, continuity errors, and rushed chapters.

 

Thank you so much for your support and patience! You're awesome!

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Loki was rather pleased with himself. Well, quite a lot pleased. He had allowed Charlie the opportunity to explore, because he himself knew full what it was like to be locked up and he couldn't quite bear the thought of a snake being so trapped; and he had allowed Thor the opportunity to actually be a snake and have a mini adventure of his own, which in turn gave himself the opportunity to have some peace and quiet without Thor fussing over him.

 

Since they had returned to the Statesman from the the planet Rainless Thor had gotten himself into the habit of nagging Loki about how much he ate or didn't eat, how well he had slept or hadn't slept, and demanding to know what he was feeling or not feeling. His brother's concern was touching, but he needed a break from it.

 

He waited until Thor had slithered from sight before leaning back over the tank and used his magic to scoop Rock Tina up and placed her in his pocket.

 

[What do you want to do today, Loki?] Tina asked.

 

“The same thing that we do every day, Pinky. Try to take over the world.”

 

[Uh?]

 

“But, let's start small with the dining hall.”

 


 

 

Korg was a rather simple being whiling away his days by doing simple things. He slept, he ate, he tried to start political revolutions but never finished them, and if a Trickster happened to spin him a yarn he would swallow it whole. And as we all know, yarn is never good for the stomach.

 

It was time for breakfast and Korg had almost reached the dining hall when Trickster came hurrying around the corner, looking flustered. He spotted Korg, his eyes lighting up, and dashed towards to him as swiftly as a pickpocket heads towards a bulging purse left unattended.

 

“Korg, there you are!” Loki cried, salvation and hope performing a tango in his eyes. “I've been looking for you!”

 

Korg was a simple being. He was also a compassionate being. If he saw someone in trouble then he wanted to help.

 

“Something wrong, bro?”

 

Loki nodded frantically. “Yes, there is, Korg, there is. I can't find Thor anywhere. I've looked all over for him.”

 

You are probably familiar with the tale of Pinocchio and how the Blue Fairy punished him for lying by enchanting him so that his wooden nose would grow longer every time he spouted a porky. Well, the Blue Fairy had long ago not only written Loki off as a lost cause but also deemed him a threat to life for if Loki had been so enchanted his elongated nose would have stretched out across the whole of the Nine Realms, knocking the very planets out of orbit. It really wasn't worth the effort.

 

“You haven't seen him, have you?” Loki went on, being careful to wear a look of desperation.

 

Korg went blank. Well, blanker. When you're made of rock facial expressions do not come the face easily.

 

Loki counted to ten before repeating, “Have you seen him?”

 

“Just thinking.”

 

“Really? I couldn't tell. It looks difficult.”

 

Loki waited for another ten seconds and was just about to abandon the scheme when Korg finally answered, “No, not since last night.”

 

“That is strange. Right, in that case, you search the attic while I'll go to the basement.”

 

Korg was only too eager to help.

 

“I'll go straight away,” he declared. “And don't worry, bro, we'll find him.”

 

“Thanks, Korgy, I appreciate it. Take your time!” Loki had walked three steps before he suddenly whipped around. “I've just thought of something. Korg, I've already spoken to Heimdall and he hasn't seen him, so there's no need to bother him again, right?”

 

“Right,” Korg agreed. It made sense; Heimdall was a busy man.

 

“And I've searched the dining hall so there's no point looking a second time, right?”

 

“Right.”

 

“Excellent. Be sure to pass on all of this information to anyone you meet.”

 

“Will do.”

 

“After all, we don't want to make fools of ourselves by not doing this properly, right?”

 

Loki laughed. Korg laughed. Then they went their separate ways. Korg to the attic and Loki to the not basement.

 

Instead he lurked by the plastic pot plants until the Valkyrie approached, then he practically jumped on her.

 

“Val, there you are!” he yelped, grasping her arms, all urgency and panic. “Where have you been?”

 

“What are you talking about? I've been in my room.”

 

“Then that is strange. Very strange. Korg's gone too.”

 

“Loki, what's -”

 

Loki pushed her away, away from the direction of the dining hall. “Never mind that now. Find Thor, I'll look for Korg. But, whatever you do keep this to yourself. Trust no one. Not even Heimdall. I'll explain later, I promise. Now, go!”

 

The Valkyrie nodded determinedly and dashed off in the direction of where ever her imagination led her to.

 

Two minutes later a large flock of sleepy Aesir drifted towards their breakfast. Aesir love to eat, so they were none to pleased to find Loki barring their way. However, once he had explained his tale of woe with tremendous drama and finesse, they all quickly forgot about satisfying their stomachs. They had a king to find.

 

“Split up and find the king!” Loki ordered. “Good luck, everybody! Oh, and by the way, I've already consulted Heimdall so no one needs to ask him, understood?”

 

They all understood and nodded in agreement. Heimdall was a busy Aesir, after all and they didn't want to disturb him. So off they all went, every soldier, every civilian, man, woman, and child, leaving Loki and Tina quite alone.

 

Loki chuckled loudly to himself. Not only was he incredibly proud of himself, but also pleasantly surprised at how easy it had been. He put that down to his own genius.

 

[How long do you think this will last?] Tina asked him.

 

“Not long. Long enough for me to enjoy my breakfast in peace.”

 

[They will be angry.]

 

“Yes, they will,” Loki chuckled again, full of glee. “I think that I can suffer their indignation better than I can suffer their appalling table manners. Come on.”

 

The dining hall looked quite beautiful being so empty and not being cluttered up the likes of Korg or loud-mouthed Aesir, who were in the habit of thumping the tables with their bulging fists and laughing heartily through their beards.

 

Unfortunately for Loki it was simply not his destiny to have the dining hall to himself uninterrupted. He had just been about to make a start on his bowl of blue jelly when Bruce Banner entered the room. He had woken up later than usual and so missed the clamour. He stumbled into the dining hall looking as he always did first thing in the mornings: hair messy, chin stubbly, and blinking stupidly until he had finished his cup of coffee.

 

He looked blearily around at the empty dining hall and wondered where everyone was. It couldn't be that he was too early because he could smell Hidlegund's cooking. He blinked again, and his time his vision was cleared enough to see that Loki was the only one there, books spread out over the table. Loki looked surprised to see him.

 

“Oh, Dr Banner, you're here. Tell me, have you seen any of the others this morning? It's not like them to miss breakfast. Perhaps we should go looking for them.”

 

Bruce blinked slowly. It was time for breakfast, but too early to get himself caught up one of Loki's shenanigans.

 

The scientist narrowed his eyes. “Is this a ruse to get the dining hall to yourself?”

 

Loki thought for a moment. “Yes,” he admitted.

 

Bruce shook his head, tiredly, rising his hands defensively. “Look, I just want to eat in peace and read my book. Be honest, will you try to kill me if I just stay on that side of the room, all by myself?”

 

Loki thought for a long moment. “No,” he decided.

 

“Good. Thank you. That's great.”

 

He shuffled off the table in the very far corner and began to reminisce about when life was much simpler. He had to go back many years.

 

All was peaceful for about ten minutes. Loki was immersed in his books, Bruce in his. Loki had three more spoons of jelly left when the door swung open for the second time and in barrelled Arty, running in his usual clumsy but eager way with several scraps of brown paper pressed to his chest.

 

Loki's heart sank when he saw the boy. Tranquillity had once again kicked him in the balls, screaming, “I'm not for you, Goblin!” He closed his book and pushed the nearly empty bowl away.

 

Arty looked around the room until he spotted Loki and then he made a determined bee-line straight for the Trickster. He dashed forward, head down, and bashed into one of the chairs, knocking it over. Bruce winced at the sight, but Aesir children are born hardy, even if they are just as clumsy as mortal ones. On Asgard, the phrase “child-proofing your home” does not the mean the same thing as it does on Earth. Quite the opposite. Arthur hadn't even noticed the chair, but instead continued on his merry way to his favourite grown-up.

 

Just like Thor, Loki thought dejectedly.

 

“Hullo, Arty,” he greeted unenthusiastically. “All's well?”

 

“I draw you a picture,” the boy told him, slapping down a crumpled sheet of baking paper in front of Loki.

 

Loki's mood instantly brightened.

 

“Really? For me? Thank you. Let's take a look.”

 

Loki looked and was a little disappointed. Due to his narcissistic streak he had been expecting some wonderful portrait of himself. Instead he found himself staring at a colourful series of squiggles, wriggles, and scrawls scattered all over the paper. Loki narrowed his eyes, trying to decipher their meaning. Thankfully, Arthur was in a chatty mood and willing to explain.

 

“This is a picture of you fighting the zombies,” said Arthur, pointing to a stick figure with two wobbly lines protruding from it's top.

 

“Ah, I see,” Loki said, even though he didn't. He assumed that Arty was referring to Hela's undead army, but he couldn't quite see it in the random green squiggles. It was a rather tasty shade, though. He might have to sample one of Arthur's crayons later. Thor wouldn't like it, but Loki did what he liked. Including snacking on crayons.

 

He looked expectantly at the child hoping to prod him into further elaboration, but none was forthcoming. Arthur just stared at him, clearly waiting for the praise and adulation of his artistic talent to gush forth.

 

The hungry look on Arthur's face brought back memories of Loki's own childhood artistry. He had never been any good, worse than Arthur; somehow being unable to get the grasp of selecting colours whose shades and tones complimented one another, instead selecting shades based on how well their flavours mixed together. There had been numerous drawings of Odin, Frigga, and Thor with bright green skin and blue hair, but only Frigga had been kind enough to tell him that they were wonderful, that he was wonderful.

 

Loki smiled at Arty.

 

“It's very good,” he said, warmly. He pointing to a long wobbly line and decided to make an educated guess. “I like the way you've drawn the Rainbow Bridge.” Arthur nodded happily, he must have got it right.

 

Loki then pointed to group of grey smudges.

 

“What are these blobs under my feet?”

 

“The dead people.”

 

Loki's heart sank even further. Drawing exciting battles was one thing, drawing dead people was another.

 

“Oh...There is a lot of them.”

 

“And this is Asgard on fire. And that's the fire monster destroying everything. And those are -”

 

“People on fire. Yes, I can see. Well done, Arthur, you've worked very hard on these. Do you mind if I keep them?”

 

Arthur nodded.

 

“Why don't you go and play?”

 

Arthur pouted. “No one wants to play with me. They're too busy.”

 

The heart that had sank was now drowning in its own sorrow.

 

“Can I have that jelly?”

 

Loki pushed the bowl towards him with a loud sniff.

 

He needed to talk to Thor. Thankfully, his brother was not far away. He could hear him singing to himself in the walls.

 


 

 

Thor was having a great day thus far. He had no idea that half of the ship was now desperately searching for him or that the other half had already given him up for dead and were lighting candles for him.

 

He had a little trouble at first manoeuvring his new body though the insides of the ship, but now he was gliding along beautifully. He had already mastered the slither, the shuffle and slide, and now the coil spring. He understood why Loki enjoyed shape shifting so much. He felt so good that he almost forgotten why he had turned into a snake in the first place.

 

It should also be noted that shape shifting into a body mass smaller than oneself can cause an alteration in brain chemicals, a temporary increase in all the feel good hormones. Basically, Thor was high on love which was perhaps why he began to sing to himself.

 

[ Snake or Aesir, either is fine with me because life is such bliss

So come and enjoy a hiss

Just before we kiss...]

 

Probably best if we don't ponder the meaning of the lyrics too much. Blame it on the oxytocin.

 

He had made it into the walls of the dining hall and was excited by how keenly he could taste the breakfast in the dusty air. There were wisps of porridge, a hint of bacon, and traces of toast there. Amazing.

 

He could also sense the vibrations of people talking and moving about on the other side of the wall.

 

His tongue flicked out as a set of footsteps approached the wall. He kept very still, not wanting to be discovered.

 

There was a flash of green of light and a circular hole opened up.

 

[We need to talk,] Loki's voice said.

 

[Oh, I don't want to talk. I'm busy.]

 

But Loki was not going to take no for an answer. His hand reached in through the hole and with amazing dexterity took Thor around the throat and pulled him through the hole before dropping him on the floor.

 

Bruce looked up briefly from his book, but then decided that he didn't want to know.

 

[What is is?] Thor asked impatiently. [I still haven't found any sign of Charlie.]

 

Loki shook his head despairingly.

 

[How can you spend so much time worrying about a pet when there are others who need you more?]

 

Thor was baffled. He genially thought that Loki was referring to himself. [What are you talking about?]

 

[Forget about Charlie for now. It's high time that you face up to your responsibilities.]

 

If you are thinking that this a rather hypocritical attitude for Loki to take then you are right, but Loki did so love to be hypocritical and hold others up to higher standards than himself, so that he might comfortable berate and criticise without having to try harder himself.

 

Thor swished his tail anxiously. [Do you think I'm neglecting my duties?]

 

[You know you are! I don't expect you to be a perfect father -]

 

[What?] Thor was so shocked that he almost unhinged his jaw it dropped so far open.

 

[-you had Odin for a role model, after all.]

 

[Shut up, Loki! What are you wittering on about?]

 

[Arthur, Thor. Arthur. Your and Jane Foster's son.]

 

[He is not my son.]

 

[Yes he is. Arthur is a human name. Of course Jane would give her child a human name. The point is that you're not spending any time with him. He needs you.]

 

Thor allowed his fangs to flex outwards, suddenly feeling aggressive.

 

[Or maybe he's named after King Arthur. Or Arthur Conan Doyle. Your favourite humans.]

 

Loki's own mouth gaped open.

 

[He's not my child!] he gasped.

 

[He's not mine!]

 

Bruce slammed his book closed before stomping over to join them.

 

“Listen to yourselves!” he snapped, cheeks tinged green. “You're arguing about which one of you has had a secret love-child. I mean, that is so wrong on so many levels. W-would you two just get yourselves to a family therapist and talk through all your issues?”

 

“Bruce -” said Loki.

 

“I have seven pHDs and I don't want to – I shouldn't have to listen to these kind of arguments! It's like being on the Jerry Springer show.”

 

[Bruce -] said Thor.

 

“The fact that the both of you could think so badly of the other is just so – I'm out of here. And I don't even want to imagine why you look like that, Thor. Just go to a therapist. Talk it all out. Now!”

 

He stomped off again, face screwed up in disgust. But even after he had left the room his words remained, buzzing in the space between the two brothers like a swarm of bees. They could either resume the argument or change the subject.

 

[PHDs?] Loki blinked slowly, watching as the door swung to and fro slightly after Bruce.

 

[Yep, seven of them.]

 

Loki folded his arms tightly.

 

[That's not something to boast about, surely? And shouldn't he be taking antibiotics or have some kind of cream?]

 

Thor laughed harshly through his fangs so that his breath whistled. [What? Do you even known what a PHD is?]

 

[Yes. Do you?]

 

[Yeah. It's a – it's like a medal for killing lots of trolls.]

 

[No, you're thinking of a STD. But, a PHD is just gross. Why do humans always want to show off about these things?]

 

[Maybe it's to do with sexual prowess.]

 

[Could be.]

 

[Like the more PHDs you have the bigger -]

 

[Their brain.]

 

[Exactly.]

 

Loki allowed his arms to drop to his sides, suddenly looking sad.

 

[So, Arthur belongs to neither of us. We will never know who his family is. Or was.]

 

[Seems like it.]

 

[Then he is truly alone.]

 

Thor was appalled at the very idea.

 

[No!] he cried. [He us. He has everyone onboard this ship to care about him. We're all one big, happy family here.]

 

[If you say so.]

 

Thor oscillated his head from side to side. [This has upset you. I can tell. He's an orphan. You're an orphan....]

 

[No. I'm fine.]

 

[You're not. I'm sensitive to these things.]

 

[You really are not.]

 

It bothered Thor that Loki still looked gloomy in spite of his words to the contrary.

 

[Quick, change me back!] he ordered so suddenly that Loki was startled.

 

[What? Why?]

 

[Just do it!]

 

Loki released him from his snake form with a wave of his hands, stepping back as Thor grew upwards. Thor looked grave as he moved towards Loki, placing his hands on his shoulders.

 

“I know what will cheer you up,” he said solemnly.

 

“I don't think that -”

 

Before Loki had the chance to defend himself or even finish his sentence, Thor had grabbed him around the waist and had flipped him upside down, shaking him up and down.

 

“Put me down!” Loki yelled, doing his best to kick Thor in the head, but missing each time.

 

“Not until you yield!” Thor sang, spinning around and jiggling Loki about. “Not until you try some positive thinking!”

 

“Alright, alright!” Loki conceded as his face began to flush red.

 

“Say it!”

 

Loki gulped in a breath before spitting out, “Everything will be fine! Arthur will be fine! Nothing is as bad as it seems!”

 

Thor laughed heartily as he placed Loki on the carpet.

 

“Ha, ha, there you go!” he said, slapping Loki's back. “Nothing like a shake up and a bit of positive thinking to get you out of your own gloomy head. Always works!”

 

“Moron!” Loki spat, flicking his hair back into place.

 

“It worked, didn't it?”

 

Above them the lights flickered feebly before suddenly going out. A second later and the emergency green lights had been activated, leaving the room with an eerie feel to it.

 

They couldn't see each other's faces in the dim lighting, but both knew straight away who the culprit was.

 

“We have got to find that snake,” said Thor. “Quickly, turn me back!”

 


 

 

Meanwhile, deep in the infrastructure of the ship, Charlie was having the best of times chewing through all of the important wiring. It was a very good thing to be a snake, he had decided, even if he didn't possess limbs.

 


 

AN: Aw, guys, you really are the best! I wasn't expecting so many kinds reviews for the previous chapter. LOL, I'm glad to know I'm not alone in my dislike of Health and Safety training!

Once again, thanks so much for your kind words and support!

And because I'm so grateful and because Loki knows no shame he will now flash an ankle for your naughty pleasure. Off you go, Loki.

 

[Loki pulls up his trouser leg, exposing his very lovely, shapely ankle]

 

[Victorian readers scream and faint.]

 

THOR: Loki, cover up that ankle now before you have us all arrested for indecency!

 

VICTORIAN BOBBY: Hello, hello, what's all this then? What's all this then? I've had reports that there are ankles being flashed in this here morally-deprived fic.

 

AUTHOR: Blimey, it's the law! Scarper! Next chapter will be distributed on the black market in brown paper bags.

 

Chapter Text

 

AN: I fell behind this week, so just a drabble until next Tuesday (hopefully).


 

Interlude: Story time

 

The hour was late onboard The Statesman. The Aesir and their friends had consumed their final meal for the day and now was the time for stories.

 

“I think Loki should tell us a tale,” the Valkyrie said, mischievously. “It's been a while.”

 

“That's true,” Thor agreed. “Go on, Loki, tell us a story that we haven't heard yet.”

 

Loki put on a show of reluctance just to whip up his crowd's enthusiasm, but of course really he loved telling stories and being the centre of attention. As the Aesir chanted his name and banged their fists on the table Loki created the illusion of a roaring fire burning in the centre of the room.

 

“Well, since you asked me for a story....” he began.

 


 

 

Long, long ago on Jotunheim there were no stars to light up the night sky; there was only the feeble light from a distant moon.

 

One day, Bilgesnipe was wandering around aimlessly when he came across a cave that was lit up by the blue luminous light of the plants growing on its walls. It looked tasty to the always hungry Bilgesnipe, so he crawled into the cave and took a lick. To his delight the plants was the most delicious thing he had ever tried. He took a large bite and swallowed the plant whole. But one plant was just not enough. He had to eat more, his stomach demanded it.

 

“Bilgesnipe, stop!” commanded the Chief of the Frost Giants. “If you eat too much it'll upset your stomach and you won't be able to stop pooing. Don't eat any more!”

 

“Nonsense!” Bilgesnipe retorted crossly, and continued to munch away at the glowing plants.

 

Soon he had stripped the cave of the glowing plants so that it no longer shone and then he went outside for a nap.

 

He slept deeply, however it wasn't long before his stomach began to feel funny and began to make strange, loud noises. Groaning, Bilgesnipe rolled onto his back, clutching at his churning tummy. He drew his legs closer to his body and...

 

BANG!

 

The round turd shot out of Bilgesnipe's behind like such force that it rocketed into the sky and stuck itself there on the blue canvas close to the weak sun.

 

Bilgesnipe moaned loudly, tears running down his face as his poorly tummy continued to cramp painfully.

 

Bang! Bang! Bang!

 

Three more spherical poos were fired out like canon balls and because Bilgesnipe had been rocking in pain the turds went flying upwards in different directions, sticking to the sky in different places.

 

The Chief laughed loudly as he watched Bilgesnipe's plight. Ashamed, Bilgesnipe rolled onto his belly and tried to crawl away, but the poos just kept shooting out and hitting the sky.

 

“Make it stop!” Bilgesnipe begged as – bang, bang, bang! - the excrement continued to whizz out of his anus.

 

“There is nothing I can do,” the Frost Giant told him. “You'll just have to be patient.”

 

All day long poor Bilgesnipe kept pooing those perfectly round poos. Then finally the sun went down and Bilgesnipe's stomach settled, having evacuated all of the luminous plants.

 

And as the sun went down and the moon peeped out and the darkness grew darker, Bilgesnipe's poos began to shine brightly just as the plants had done inside of the cave. Those poos would help travelling Jotuns to navigate their way in the dark for the rest of time and some of them had even formed constellations which amused the young ones.

 

Those poos had become the stars of Jotunheim.

 

But don't worry about the Bilgesnipe. As soon as he felt better he went off on his merry way having already forgotten his troubles.

 


 

 

The children had loved the story, but then children will love anything disgusting. They giggling and laughed all the way through. As for the adults, some laughed and some just looked bemused.

 

Thor was one of those who laughed.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Part Eight

 

The Valkyrie had been in the middle of searching both high and low for the king, on the upper decks and the lower ones, questioning every one she came across but with no success, when the lights had gone out. There was no doubt in her mind that the disappearance of Thor and the blackout must be connected. She was also beginning to feel suspicious towards Loki. Why wouldn't she? Tricksters were not to be trusted.

 

The Valkyrie decided to talk to Korg. The simple minded Kronan could be relied upon to impart the truth or what he believed to be the truth. And if Loki was behind Thor's disappearance then they would think of a way to get a little payback on the god of Mischief.

 


 

 

The sudden loss of lights had initially triggered a surge of moaning and complaining among the Aesir, but they soon settled down after they found ways of keeping themselves occupied during the blackout. It should be remembered that on Earth baby booms always follow periods of power cuts, which is exactly what the Aesir needed if they were to grow in numbers again. Perhaps it would be a silver lining to the disaster of Charlie the snake chobbling his way through the ship's essential wirings.

 

They were supposed to be searching for Thor, but they couldn't be expected to do that all day, right? Not when they could be partaking in more enjoyable activities. Although, of course, to those who were unmarried or unattached there was no advantage to be had and this left them feeling rather grouchy and lonely.

 

“Oh, for Odin's beard!” Thor snarled in the darkness.

 

Thor was very worried. There was an itchy kind of feel to the darkness. He tried flicking the light switch but nothing happened.

 

Hildegund was none too happy either.

 

“What is going on?” she demanded, sticking her head out through the serving hatch. “I just dropped the toast all over the floor!”

 

“It's nothing to worry about,” Thor assured her, even though it was.

 

“It's a disaster!” she declared, even though it wasn't. “I think it's going to be one of those days, Majesty. You know the kind where nothing goes right. It's got off to a bad start with no one showing up on time for breakfast. Well, apart from the Prince and Dr Banner. If they don't like my cooking then they should have said so instead of snubbing me en masse. Although, my Volgstagg always used to think very highly of my culinary skills. He used to say that I could make rocks taste as sweet as cakes if I every put my mind to it. Not that I ever did.” She finally paused, but only to chuckle briefly before chattering away again. “Of course, maybe they just prefer Opla over me. Not that I have anything personal against her, but I just would not make porridge in the way that she does. My Volstagg -”

 

Thor walked away from the hatch trusting the gloom to conceal his escape. He saw Loki's outline in the corner and drew closer to him to whisper, “We have to find Charlie before he can cause any more damage. I'll need you to turn me back into a snake so that I can track him down quickly.”

 

He waited for a reply, perhaps a snide complaint or some sarcastic comment, but nothing was forthcoming.

 

“Loki? Loki, I'm talking to you.”

 

He gave his brother's arm a poke and was most alarmed when Loki's whole arm dropped off his body and landed with a jarring clatter on the floor.

 

“Thor!” he heard Loki's voice scold from somewhere behind him. “It took Jit and her family ages to put that suit of armour in place and then polish it. They won't be very pleased with you.”

 

“Armour?” Thor stammered, straining his eye. “Why do we have an antique suit of armour in the dining hall?”

 

“Because Mike would just rust up in the swimming pool.”

 

“Mike?”

 

“The knight. It rhymes in some of the mortal tongues. Not in Asgardian.”

 

Thor shook his head. “Just turn me back into a snake.”

 

“Are you sure? Because Charlie does have a razor sharp set of fangs, not mention venom -”

 

“Have you ever known me to lose a fight? Just get on with it.”

 

Loki was suddenly illuminated by the presence of green flames dancing across his hands.

 

“If you insist,” he said, quietly. And then when he had placed Thor back inside the wall, added, “Take your time, brother.”

 

This time Thor did not take his time enjoying the experience. He went straight after Charlie. Or at least headed straight towards the place where he thought it likely Charlie must be.

 

As soon as Thor was gone Loki grinned. His brother was out of the way again and now the lights were out too; this was too good an opportunity not to take advantage. Yes, some weeks ago back on planet Rainless, he had promised himself not to hurt Thor any more, but what he had in mind was different. It wasn't evil, just low level mischief to shake things up a bit. Well, shake things up further. The people were still searching for Thor and the loss of lights had only increased their worry.

 


 

 

Meanwhile, Korg was still searching through the attic for the lost king. Yes, there really is an attic in The Statesman. He was rummaging around in the multitude of dusty cardboard boxes stored there, filled with odds and ends such as strings of broken fairy lights and old hats, but so far no sign of Thor.

 

Korg was just beginning to think that maybe it would best if he gave up, when he noticed a slight movement to his left. He shoved the boxes aside and was amazed to find a crimson snake there looking straight at him with its one beady, black eye.

 

Korg froze. The snake opened its jaw, its white fangs unfolding and hanging out ready to strike.

 

Korg raised a fist. The snake drew its head back.

 

[Korg, wait! It's -]

 

But hearing the voice inside his head only startled Korg into action.

 

“Wah! Take that snake!” he bellowed, lunging forwarding and punching the snake squarely in the head so that it flew across the room and struck the far wall.

 


 

 

[Why are you doing this?] Tina asked as Loki finished stretching the final piece of cling film from wall to the other and then securing it in place. It hung completely invisible in the dark and just waiting to ensure the unsuspecting Asgardian. And, of course, there was more than one cling film panel; there were many, one after the other, down the entire length of the corridor, and with bowls of custard placed in between each one.

 

“The ways of the trickster are complex and shrouded in mystery,” Loki answered primly. “We bring order, peace, and growth by causing carefully calculated chaos in the community.....but mostly I doing this just because I can do what I want and there's nobody available to stop me.”

 

[But you can't get out without setting off your own traps. You've boxed yourself in.]

 

“You too! But, fear not. I chose this corridor for a particular reason. Well, person. We'll be free soon.”

 

At the far end of the corridor one of the cabin doors slid open and out stepped a formidable looking old man, swathed in colourful robes and a miserable expression. Loki ducked behind a pot plant as the old man peered about, straining his eyes in the half light.

 

Confident and completely unsuspecting that anything humiliating was about to happen to him, he took three steps forward, straight into the first panel of cling film.

 

“What in the name of -” he growled, clawing at the adhering film as though he were fighting his way through a thick cobweb. The wrap did its job well, sticking itself to his clothes and limbs in long, light strips that fluttered as he pushed way his through.

 

“When I find out -OH!” He had just plunged his foot deep into the bowl of warm custard. With an angry, painful yell he tripped headlong into the second cling film panel and Mike the Knight. There was an almighty clatter and banging as the armour fell apart, each piece falling loudly to floor. The bowl had been tipped up along with the old man, splattering the sugary substance all over the old man, the floor, and the cling film panel, adding to its stickiness.

 

He lay stomach down with his robes in disarray, wrapped in cling film and soaked in custard.

 

Loki was laughing his socks off at this point.

 

[He's an old man!] Tina scolded.

 

“Don't worry,” Loki whispered. “He's one of the Elders. No one likes him.”

 

[I know but -]

 

“Shh! Help is arriving.”

 

Elder Dess had made such a commotion that it had roused the attention of the other Aesir on the corridor. Their cabin doors swooshed open and out they dashed, ready to help the senior citizen in need.

 

“Turn into a camera!” Loki ordered Tina. “I want to record this.”

 

Tina remained silent, stonily silent.

 

It was quite a sight to see so many members of the proud warrior race being defeated by cling film, an empty suit of armour, and custard. They yelled, they screamed, they slipped around and entangled themselves in the film that they could not see. However, what pleased Loki the most was a sound that he had not heard before. It was the sound of Tina laughing loudly and helplessly inside his head and unable to stop. It was infectious.

 

The intercom on the wall close to him buzzed. He pressed the button.

 

“Who's there?” the Valkyrie's crackly voice demanded.

 

“Father Christmas. Have you been naughty or nice?”

 

There was a loud fizzling noise, a sigh.

 

“Loki, Korg found a one-eyed snake.”

 

Loki raised his eyebrows. Then he drew in a breath.

 

“What sort of conversation are we having right now? Because if it's the dirty sort then, frankly, it's very odd that you'd want to bring Korg into it.”

 

“No, he really has found a one-eyed snake.”

 

Loki managed to suppress a laugh.

 

“Good for him,” he choked.

 

“What do we do this snake?”

 

“Leave him to me. I'll get rid of it.”

 

“So ruthless.”

 

“Well, it has caused a lot of damage and it could be very dangerous.”

 

“What will you do?”

 

“Throw it out of the airlock.”

 

In the course of this conversation Loki had forgotten to speak quietly and so had drawn a dangerous kind of attention to himself. He slowly looked over his shoulder to see a mass of sticky, bruised, wrapped, and fuming Aesir glaring at him with fire in their eyes.

 

“Val, I have to go,” he said in a strained tone.

 

“What is going on?” Val snapped. “Have you found Thor?”

 

“Not yet...” Loki whispered. “Okay, see you soon.” He whipped around to face his audience, flashing a winning smile. “It was just a joke,” he told them.

 

“LOKI!” his victims roared. “SOMEONE GET THE KING!”

 

“If you can find him!” Loki snorted. “And what would he do anyway? Take me into custurdy? Let's go, Tina.”

 

He nimbly dashed up the corridor towards the elevator, lightly hopping over the Aesir and dodging around their hands as they tried to snatch him.

 

Inside the elevator he collapsed into a fit of giggles.

 

“We should do this more often...” he gasped.

 

[Loki -]

 

“I have plenty of other ideas.”

 

[Loki, I can hear a hissing!]

 

That shut the trickster up. He fell silent long enough to hear the soft, almost soothing hissing coming from somewhere above his head. And then he looked up into triangular face of Charlie with his pink mouth wide open.

 

He just about dodged the first cloud of venom that the snake spat at him.

 


 

AN: Thanks for reading!

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Part Nine

 

Loki felt the hairs rising back on his neck as he stared at the Rainbow Death dangling down from the escape hatch in the ceiling of the elevator. It's mouth was stretched wide open as it hissed furiously, spitting out a burst of blank venom at Loki's face.

 

Sharp reflexes allowed him to jerk his head the necessary inch to the left, allowing the venom to arch harmlessly over his shoulder and splatter against the wall; but then something else – an instinct or automatic response - took over Loki's brain, freezing him to the spot.

 

It had been the image of Charlie baring his fangs and the way in which he had looked which had triggered the overactive pattern-making part of Loki's brain, causing it to yelp, “Outrider! Freeze!”

 

Loki's eyes fixated themselves to those fangs, white as bone, as sharp as knives and looking all too much like the claws and fangs of the dreaded Outriders. He drew in a sharp breath as his heart began to hammer itself against the inside of his rib cage, completely unconscious to the fact that Charlie was getting ready to spit again.

 

[Loki, snap out of it!] Tina cried.

 

Loki blinked, seeing the snake again, but it was too late. Charlie spat out a large globule of venom and this time it hit its target. Loki staggered backwards, yelping in pain, and desperately trying to wipe the venom out of his eyes before it could do any more damage.

 

Charlie lazily dropped to the floor, snapping its jaw in satisfaction.

 

[Loki, Loki, your eyes!] Tina sobbed.

 

“Don't worry,” Loki croaked. “I can still see...just about...Well enough to teach our scaly friend a lesson. C'me here, you!”

 

He dove on top of the snake, taking its throat in his hands.

 


 

 

Val had put two and two together and come up with a solid four. One did not need Sherlock Hoo (or whatever the name of Loki's favourite fictional detective was) to string all the presenting facts together to prove that Loki was behaving treacherously again.

 

One: the king had gone missing, but they only had Loki's word for that.

 

Two: The lights had been cut out. Now who could possibly be responsible for that?

 

Three: Korg had panically tracked her down to inform her that he had just defeated a snake up in the attic. A snake with only one-eye. A snake with only one-eye who could apparently speak; although it hadn't uttered a word since Korg had knocked it out.

 

Well, well, well.

 

Only two goals remained. The first was to uncover Loki's true motive – an impossible task where Loki was concerned for you could never be sure with Loki. It could be something as sinister as desiring the throne for himself or something as mundane as wanting the use of the dining hall all to himself. Or it could be both. And even if he did confess one could never be sure that it wasn't a lie to conceal his true motive.

 

The second was to punish him.

 

A wicked grin had spread over Val's face when she had found a tatty, but very red sock abandoned in one of the cardboard boxes in the attic.


 

 

The elevator pinged as it doors opened and out stumbled Loki. It would not be obvious from a fleeting glance at his neat appearance that he had been in a fight with a deadly snake, although the presence of the snarling, struggling ginger cat pinned under his arm might have attracted some unwanted attention. If this theoretical observer had lingered for a few moments longer they would have noticed that the trickster seemed a little unsure of his environment and was blinking blearily. They would have noticed the black spots of venom speckled over his face.

 

“Are we in the attic, Tina?” Loki asked.

 

Although, the venom had not ruined his eyesight completely, Loki found himself lost in a world of blurry outlines, as though he were submerged in water.

 

[Yes,] was the brief reply. Although only one syllable the disapproval was clear. Loki ignored it.

 

“Can you see Val or Korg?”

 

[No, but it is a big attic. And I'd rather you saw Eir.]

 

“There's no need. It'll get better on its own. It's already getting better.”

 

[I know but -]

 

“Stop it!” Loki snapped. “I've suffered much worse. I don't need help now.”

 

Tina said nothing more, but Loki sensed her presence shrinking further within herself and further away from him. It was a rebuttal much more painful than any words she could have used.

 

He drew in a deep breath. How could he explain himself? That he had always suffered from healing magic and that his time spent at the mercy of The Other had only made his aversion worse. That It had broken a part of himself. Healing magic and torture - it was all the same to him, really. One was as bad as the other.

 

“I just don't want...I can't....” was the best he could manage.

 

[It's okay, I get it. Really I do,] she replied softly. [You're an ass.]

 

A smirk slowly spread across Loki's mouth.

 

“Remember,” he said. “We can't let on that the one-eyed snake who is a fake and knows how to bore is actually Thor.”

 

[Or that the cat who is a bit fat and the colour of barely is actually a real serpent named Charlie.]

 

At the sound of his name the cat hissed loudly and began to wriggled under Loki's arm. It squirmed forward, latching it's pointed white teeth onto Loki's hand.

 

Loki jolted. “Stupid cat!”

 

[What?]

 

“Charlie bit my finger! Dumb creature. Anyway, just leave the talking to me. We need to get Thor back before they do anything irreversible.”

 


 

 

From their hiding places at the far end of the attic, Val and Korg heard the faint ping of the elevator.

 

She lent forward to say in a hush tone, “Remember, Korg, to let me do the talking.”

 

“Okay. But isn't this a little cruel? Pretending to have killed Snake- Thor.”

 

Val swung the old sock around. “It's just a little joke. Anyone with a set of eyes can see this isn't real. We're just doing enough to make our point.”

 

They waited until Loki approached, with a cat under his arm for some reason. Val stepped out from behind her cardboard box, Korg copying her.

 

“Hello, Loki,” said Val, all smiles.

 

“Yeah, hello, Loki,” echoed Korg.

 

It was enough to make anyone suspicious. Loki's sharp green eyes narrowed.

 

“Why do you have a cat?” Val asked.

 

“Because I found it. Must have sneaked onboard. You said that you found a snake?”

 

“Oh, yeah,” said Val, indifferently. “I stamped on its head first to crush its skull. Kinder that way.”

 

“You what?” Loki bellowed. Distracted, his grip on the cat loosened and Charlie leapt to the ground and dashed off into the darkness. Loki scarcely noticed.

 

“Don't worry, I didn't throw it's body out of the airlock. You can take a look at it, if you want to.”

 

With a flourish Val produced the red sock and swung it around, slapping it against the palm of her hand. To anyone with healthy eyesight it was instantly recognisable as a sock, but to the one with blearily eyes the distinction was harder to make.

 

Loki made a noise like a wounded animal. His hands grasped at the hair on his head, and in a choked voice croaked, “Val, what have you done?”

 

“Killed it. Like I said.”

 

The Valkryie gleefully resumed the whirling of the sock.

 

“Stop it!” Loki shrieked. “Val, you don't know what you've done.”

 

The noise was enough to rouse Thor. He had been placed on a blanket out of the way, but now he was awake. He raised his sore head, poking it above the top of the box that had concealed him from view.

 

[What is going on?] he asked, groggily.

 

From the horrified look on Loki's face it was impossible to tell if he was shocked or furious to see his brother alive and well.

 


 

Eir was neither pleased nor impressed.

 

She had been an enjoying her day off, choosing to spend it alone, when the whole ship fell into an uproar. And now her medical room was too full of people. Frankly, it was a tangled mess. She ran through a mental checklist:

 

The king had been knocked out and given a concussion – thanks to Korg – while in snake form – thanks to Loki.

 

The prince was recovering from a mild panic attack – thanks to Val and Korg. He sat shivering under a weighted blanket (Tina), clutching a warm drink and half-blinded by snake venom – by a snake called Charlie, who was now a cat and who had run off. It was also a little bit Thor's fault, who had been the one to insist on keeping a dangerous snake in the first place.

 

Next to Loki sat Elder Dext, who had severely bruised and covered in custard – Loki again.

 

And all around them people had been searching for the missing king – Loki once more.

 

Not impressed.

 

Eir felt compelled to set up an apology circle, sitting the victims/perpetrators on chairs and forcing them to say sorry to one another. It took Loki the longest to do so because he had the whole ship to grovel to, not that he actually regretted a thing.

 


 

 

Later that day, now fully healed and back in Aesir form, Thor was taking some time out for a drawing session with Arty. Not that he was much good with a crayon or with any drawing implement. They were disturbed by Loki flopping down heavily at their table, looking most put upon.

 

“That took forever!” he whined.

 

“Did you say sorry?” Arty asked, yellow crayon poised above the paper.

 

“To everyone,” Loki groaned, resting his head on his arms. “I really don't understand why I had to. So pointless.”

 

“And did you spot any signs of Charlie?” Thor asked, rubbing a blue crayon up and down over his piece of paper to create the look of a cloudless sky.

 

“No, but I shouldn't worry, Thor. Now he's in cat aspect he can't hurt anyone or cause any damage.”

 

How wrong he was.

 



 

 

Charlie the cat/snake was following his nose towards an enticing smell, an intriguing scent he had never come across before. He followed it into the toilets, pushing the door open with his paws, and from padded into one of of the toilet cubicles. There was cold water all over the floor, so Charlie leapt onto the seat and peered into the bowl.

 

There was something glowing an electric blue down there. Still hypotised by the smell Charlie pawed at the water. The Tesseract came floating to the surface, gently bobbing up and down.

 

Charlie stared at it hungrily.

 

Snakes have the wonderful ability to unhinge their jaws and it seemed that Charlie still possessed this ability in cat form.

 

He swallowed the Tesseract whole without feeling any apparent ill effects and went on his merry way.

 


 

AN: Before anyone mentions it, yes I've seen Captain Marvel, but I came up with the idea of Charlie being turned into a cat before I'd seen it....same goes for the other thing. I laughed very hard when I saw it happening on screen. Just a coincidence.

Also, did anyone hear the line, “Why would anyone want to be a filing cabinet?” I'm sure Tina would give it a go!

Thanks for reading! I've been a little under the weather, so feel that I've limped through this story. It could have been much better, so thanks for sticking with it!

 

Chapter Text

AN: Some anxiety in this one.


 

Tina – One

 

'I'm not going to need the cushions, Thor.'

 

'Past experience begs to differ.'

 

'It's going to work this time.'

 

'That's what you said about the last three times. But look at the Loki shaped dents in the wall.'

 

'Have a little faith in me, min bror. Tina does.'

 

[Just a little.]

 

If Tina could have swallowed nervously she would have done at that point, but that was the advantage of not having a flesh body – less anxiety. She watched – well, not exactly watched (no eyes) but somehow sensed – as Thor, Bruce, Heimdall, and Eir finished pressing cushions, pillows and blankets against the walls of Hold 3 while Loki swung the Bifrost sword through the air. She herself sat in the centre, once again in the aspect of the Bifrost port.

 

She didn't really understand what the Bifrost was and she definitely didn't understand how it was supposed to work, but according to Loki, if they could find a way to open it up they would be instantaneously transported to planet Earth, quickly, easily, and painlessly.

 

Loki strode towards her, looking overconfident as usual.

 

'Ready, Tina?'

 

She wanted to say no, but he would never accept that so she settled for, [As I'll ever be.]

 

Loki plunged the sword into the port and gave it a sharp turn. The others backed themselves up against the wall.

 

For a few seconds nothing happened, but just as everyone began to relax there was a bright flash of purple and pink energy. The Bifrost sword was embedded in the ceiling, Loki had landed in Heimdall's arms, while Tina was shocked back into trolley form, landing upside down.

 

'Are we at Midgard yet?' Loki asked, dazedly.

 

'No,' Heimdall answered, dropping him to the floor. He was more concerned about how to retrieve his sword. 'Not even close.'

 

'I wouldn't say that,' said Bruce. He wandered to the middle of the room and craned his neck to look up at the sword. 'We all saw the energy, right? We've got to be heading in the right direction.' He pulled out a notebook and pencil and began to jot something down. 'Loki, do you think that you could weave the spells together into a truncated octahedron?'

 

'Hmm?' Loki grunted vaguely, as Eir tilted his head back to inspect his eyes. Then he suddenly snapped out of his stupor with a shake of his head, knocking the healer's hands aside. His eyes flashed angrily, ' A truncated octahedron? A truncated octahedron? Are you insane, you mad mortal? No. Absolutely not no. Can't be done. Shouldn't be done. Can you believe him, Thor?'

 

'Pull yourself together, Bruce,' Thor said, although he had no idea what a truncated octahedron was.

 

Tina realised that she was going to have to accept the fact that she had been forgotten about. She lay on her side listening to the bickering. On the previous three occasions they had tried to open the bridge, either Thor or Loki had been quick to help her, but not this time. She was suddenly struck by the feeling that maybe they were deliberately ignoring her, although she could not understand why.

 

Bruce rubbed his neck, looking shamefaced. 'Sorry,' he mumbled. 'So, how about a hypercube?'

 

Loki drew in sharp breath. 'How dare you. You and I aren't going to get along today.'

 

[What is a hypercube?] Tina asked in the hopes that someone would notice her stuck upside down.

 

'It's also known as a tesser...' Loki began and then finally noticed her situation. Wordlessly he exchanged a slightly exasperated glance with Thor, who nodded slightly, then he walked over to her and righted her with one hand. 'Also known as a tesseract.' He turned around to scrutinise her. 'Why didn't you get yourself up?' he asked her.

 

Tina did not know what to say. It was now obvious what was going on. She could sense Eir looking at her with the same mixture of disappointment, frustration, and curiosity that Loki had.

 

It was true that she could have gotten herself up by turning into her Krylorian form, but that form was of the flesh and just not comfortable....it made her feel...made her feel...scared.

 

Thankfully, she was saved from having to confess by Thor.

 

'You can make the tesseract?' he asked, excitedly.

 

Loki's expression turned into one of pure irritation. 'We could make a tesseract out of paper mache and tin foil -'

 

'I'm not sure that I could,' Bruce admitted.

 

'But it would not be the Tesseract, the container of the Space Stone. Asking me to create a tesseract out of the all the spells needed to open the Bifrost is a bit of an ask. It would be like asking Batman to lift Mijolnir.'

 

'So not possible,' Bruce accepted, sadly.

 

'Batman...?' Thor was confused. 'Is he a friend of Iron Man?'

 

The tannoy crackled into life.

 

'Land ahoy!' sang the voice of overly enthusiastic pilot. 'Ladies and gents, this is Captain Lily speaking -'

 

'She's not a captain,' Heimdall grumbled, still worrying about the sword. 'She was a milk maid back home.'

 

'We're going to be making an unscheduled stop on planet Whoop, and no I have not made that name up. It's a Class.....A? No, a Class 1....maybe 2, yeah, let's settle for 3. Planet Whoop is a Class 3 planet, which means that we can picnic there, paddled in its streams, and have sex in the fields, but we are strictly prohibited from taking anything or leaving anything behind, so be sure to take your litter with you. It's going to be a glorious day by all accounts, so you'd be mad to miss up on this opportunity to stretch your legs. It'll take us about an hour and a half to land. That's an hour for us to actually land, but it'll take me about thirty minutes to find the operations manual and look up how to land this bird. You might want to strap yourselves in.'

 

Heimdall shook his head in despair. 'I'd better go and supervise. Her hands have expertly squeezed many an udder in her short life, but a cow's udder is not the same as a pilot's joystick.'

 

Thor stretched his arms up over his head.

 

'Thank goodness,' he laughed. 'I'm going to make a hell of a thunderstorm later. It's been too long.'

 

Bruce nodded. 'I'm just looking forward to getting some fresh air.'

 

'Tina, are you coming this time?' Loki asked.

 

Tina thought about it. [Maybe. If you could push me?]

 

'Very well.'

 

Eir looked incensed. She marched over to them and launched straight into her well meaning interfering rampage; something which she believed her status as head healer both obliged and entitled her to do.

 

'Don't enable her, Loki. We discussed this,' she said, sharply enough to make Loki look guilty. 'Tina, underneath that trolley form you are a perfectly healthy young Krylorian. You can walk.'

 

If Loki could not stand up to her then Timid Tina had no chance.

 

[Yes,] she squeaked in automatic agreement. [Yes. Yes. Yes, I could walk, couldn't I? Walk in the flesh, with all those feelings and heart beats and churning stomach and sweaty hands...Yes. Yes. I should walk for myself. Yes.]

 

She sounded convincing – not.

 

The Trickster tried to rescue her.

 

'I am happy to push you,' he said. 'Or I could carry you in my pocket.'

 

It was a valiant, but pointless offer.

 

'I just told you not to enable her,' Eir snapped. 'Were you not paying attention?'

 

'I was just offering to -

 

'Don't enable her!'

 

'-to help-'

 

'Do not enable her!'

 

'As her friend.'

 

'Loki, enable her do not!' Eir shouted. Loki flinched. She drew in a deep breath. 'I don't understand how you are not comprehending this, so pay attention, the both of you.' Another deep breath. 'You are both reinforcing this unhealthy behaviour. Tina, you need to learn to do things for yourself. And, Loki, you need to remember that there is a person of flesh and blood inside that trolley. She is not some multi-purpose tool you can lug round with you to assist you with your mischief. Have some respect for one another!'

 

Having forcibly laid down her commands and expectations, Eir swept away leaving Loki with ringing ears and Tina with the heavy feeling that the day was not going her way.

 


 

 

One very bumpy landing later and the majority of the Aesir were only too glad to get off the ship and allow their stomachs to settle.

 

Hildegung had to be supported by two of her children as she struggled down the gangplank, muttering, 'Oh, my goodness...my whole life flashed before my eyes...my goodness...'

 

Arty poked the back of her legs with his wooden sword.

 

'Walk the plank, walk the plank,' he chanted.

 

Broge, Opla's husband, was not at all impressed by the hold up.

 

'Madam,' he said, stiffly. 'May I suggest that you would not suffer such nausea if you did not eat so much?'

 

'You may not!' Hidlegund snapped back. 'How dare you insinuate that I eat more than my fair share? Especially as Opla herself is hardly stick thin.'

 

'You leave my Opla out of this. She just has big bones.'

 

'Keep moving, people!' the Valkryie shouted from the back of the crowd. 'We all want to get off as quickly and as safely possible. Keep going!'

 

The last to disembark were Loki and Tina.

 

After a lot of encouragement Tina had been persuaded to turn Krylorian, but she clung onto Loki's arm as tightly as she could and not just for emotional support. Walking was a surprisingly complex process and required a lot of thought when you weren't used to it. She stared at the ground, wobbly placing one foot in front of the other, all the while chanting with increasing speed and breathlessness, 'I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.'

 

'Just keep going,' Loki told her. 'Look ahead. I can see meadows and forests, and there in the distance, is the ocean. It's going to be a good day for both of us, but not if we hide away on the ship, yes?'

 

Tina didn't answer him, pouring all of her focus on walking and not on the colliding sensations of blood coursing through her veins, or the air rushing in and out of her nose and mouth and lungs, or feeling the sweat prickling her skin as she pressed herself against Loki's chilly body.

 

A gust of wind blew, strong enough to ruffle hair and clothes and sharp enough to send a chill running down the refugee's spines. For those who were always flesh it was a welcome refreshing sensation, soothing their souls as they breathed in the tang of sea air. But for those who had spent years as a shopping trolley it was an overwhelming assault, a cutting blast that nicked the skin and battered the face. It pushed her over the edge.

 

'Can't do it!' Tina yelled.

 

In her panic she pulled away from Loki and turned to run back inside the ship, but she tripped after only one step. Unfamiliar pain erupted in her hands and knees.

 

Tears of pain, humiliation, frustration, and sadness dripped down her face, stinging her cheeks. She had forgotten that tears could sting.

 

'Get up,' she heard Loki say.

 

She shook her miserable head. She curled herself up, covering her ears with her hands and shutting her eyes.

 

'That's not going to make the world go away.'

 

She ignored him.

 

'I'm going to be a trolley again,' she told him. 'Will you push me back to our room?'

 

Silence. The panic rose; her body was out of control, her heart hammering against her chest. The floor was too hard, the air too soft and cold. It was horrible, terrible, unbearable.

 

'Loki, please, I need your help! I can't do this, it's too much!'

 

She cried helplessly only stopping when she felt a finger lightly brushing her lips, making them tingle wildly.

 

“Shhh,' he hushed in a low voice. 'Calm yourself and just be still.'

 

She fell quiet, but she still gulped for breath.

 

'Seriously, I need you to calm down...now,' he said, in a strangled tone. 'Because...you're triggering me....'

 

He flopped down beside her, his chest heaving. He rubbed his face with the palm of his hands and then through his hair.

 

'If you feel safer as a trolley....I understand...' he said, breathlessly. 'But...you miss out on so much...'

 

Just hearing him say that was enough to calm Tina down, the pressure taken off her shoulders. She opened her eyes, blinking against the light. But the reduction in panic left room for the guilt to seep in, the guilt over her possible selfish attitude. It was always a worry for her.

 

'Like what?' she asked, tearfully.

 

Loki shrugged, as some of the colour returned to his face.

 

'Long baths,' he said, eventually. 'They feel quite nice. Flying. Reading, of course. Eating. Sleeping. Sex. Mostly sex, to be honest.'

 

She shook her head again. 'Why do you do it? Suffering all the pain that you go through? All the nightmares and panic attacks and flashbacks. You were tortured and controlled by the Black Order! How can you sit there and say that books and baths make it all worth while?'

 

Loki stared at her with hurt, wide eyes. His mouth opened and closed. He turned his gaze to the meadow stretching out in front of them.

 

'I didn't say that. I don't know the answer,' he muttered, darkly. 'I only know that suffering is part of life. Of every life. Without discrimination. We just have to hold onto the good things in our lives and not let go of them.'

 

Tina nodded silently. She joined him in staring at the beautiful landscape before them, at the blue sky and the yellow-green grass waving in the fresh breeze. Another gently gust of wind blew bringing the smell of the sea onto the ship.

 

'I can't feel the good things as a trolley,' she whispered.

 

Loki shook his head. 'No.'

 

'But I can't feel pain either.'

 

'No.' Loki rubbed his eye with the back of his hand before turning to look at her. 'And have you considered that while it's fine to be a trolley in a supermarket -because that's where trolleys belong – you can't be a trolley on a spaceship?'

 

'I know, I know, but I thought it was the answer. It would be life reduced, but still life. I thought I could live that kind of half-life and be happy.'

 

'But you weren't happy. You chose to come with me and see the universe instead. Beats wasting your life in a grubby supermarket.'

 

Tina fiddled with her hands.

 

'I'm going to turn back now,' she whispered. She smiled slightly. 'Will it get you into trouble with Eir for “enabling” me?'

 

'Whatever makes you feel safe, Tina,' Loki sighed. 'It really is fine.'

 


 

 

Unbeknownst to the Aesir and Tina herself, her trolley form contained a tracking disc and it was in full working order, even with all the shape shifting.

 

The Manager was not the type to simply let hooligans walk off with Starbury's property – heaven forbid, if they missed out on Star points and failed to be store of the year for the second time running – and so as soon as he had a lock on Trolley 34789 he had fed it coordinates into his second-hand company star ship and shot off to retrieve it.

 

He had known from his very first glance of the Aesir that they would be trouble and now he had been proven right. There was going to be hell to pay. And club points.

 

But, what a pain for this to happen in the middle of Performance Management week. He hated to miss out on PM meetings and watch his employees sweat as they were informed that they were failing to meet impossible targets. Maybe he could have a second PM week once he had returned. A surprise one. Yes, that idea cheered the Manager up considerably. He pushed the clunky star ship to go as fast as it could and sat back daydreaming happily about all the misery he was going to cause.

 

 


 

AN: I'm back, guys, back from soul-destroying battle with Hela. You see, she's not a queen or a monster, but the goddess of PMS. Seriously, look her face, her outfit, and tell me it's not the smug look of your hormones trying to get you to poison yourself on chocolate and tears.

Thanks for reading!

 

Chapter Text

 

Tina – Part Two

 

 

They sat in silence – Loki as himself and Tina back in trolley form - looking at the view before them, but somehow lacking the motivation to get up and move towards it. Inertia, it was a flaw they both shared. Besides, neither was keen for Eir to see Tina not in her Krylorian body.

 

However, it was not too long before Loki began to feel the familiar sense of unease stirring in his stomach and spreading out over his body; a feeling he carried with him all the time since finding out he was adopted. He needed to get up and do something to distract himself from all the nastiness floating around inside of himself.

 

Thankfully, distraction made a timely appearance in the form of Korg. He walked slowly up behind them, his face concealed by the tall stack of dinner plates he was carrying which rattled with every careful step he took.

 

The Trickster turned around to star at him in contempt.

 

'Go away,' he ordered the Kronan brusquely.

 

But as always, Korg's cheerful demeanour was as unbreakable as his body. It was one of the reasons Loki felt spiteful towards him. Today was worse because he had used up all his kindness for Tina, now he nothing left but a relentless, childish cruelty for Korg.

 

'Oh, bro, You'd miss me if I was gone.'

 

'Would I?' Loki asked, tilting his head to one side. 'Hmm, no. No, I would not. Not in the slightest. Go away!'

 

'Don't you want to know what I'm doing with all these plates?'

 

'I'm going to guess that it's because a trope of plate spinners has just arrived, but tragically all their plates were stolen by a gang of chefs looking to put them in their restaurant, so Thor has kindly offered to donate ours.'

 

'Nothing like that. We're having a picnic. Coming?'

 

Loki folded his arms, looking sulky. 'I hate picnics. Everything has to come with a napkin.'

 

Tina was equally unenthusiastic, but more polite.

 

[I've never been...I'm not sure that I want...]

 

'Don't sweat it, sis, no one's gonna force you,' Korg said kindly.

 

'Go drown yourself,' Loki told him.

 

Korg ignored him, instead asking Tina, 'But would you mind if I put these plate in you? For the picnic. '

 

'Throw yourself into the sea.'

 

['Course. Go ahead.]

 

Korg carefully placed the plates at the bottom of Tina, although several had already chipped from bumping against his chest.

 

Then he looked directly at Loki, spreading his arms wide.

 

'Someone needs a hug,' he said, stepping closer.

 

Loki backed away. 'Try, Korg, and I'll have you beheaded! Then I'll use your empty head as a flower pot!'

 

Korg jolted forward, quickly wrapping his arms around Loki. He held the trickster tightly, lifting him off the floor and not letting go even as Loki tried to stab him repeatedly. He only released him after a good thirty seconds, which felt far too long by anyone's standards.

 

'Better?' he asked.

 

'I despise you, moron. Always will. As I have said repeatedly, go away!'

 

Korg held up his hands.

 

'Alright, I'm going back to the kitchen to start bringing some of the the food out. We're having it by the big tree. If I knew the name of the tree I could be more specific. But I don't so I can't. Laters.'

 

Loki had waited until Korg had disappeared from view before he began to remove the plates from Tina, one by one. She could keenly sense his frustration and irritation.

 

[It's alright, really.]

 

'No, it isn't. Korg is a lazy idiot.'

 

[I am a trolley and I'm happy to help -]

 

'No.'

 

[I like helping out where I can so – oh, you don't have to -]

 

Loki started to toss the ceramic plates aside, each one breaking on impact against the metal floor.

 

'No plates means there's nothing for you to transport. I'm solving the problem.'

 

[Not really,] Tina said in a low voice. She hesitated before blurting, [I wish you wouldn't...] But she lost courage before she could finish the sentence and her voice faded away. She was unable to do anything as Loki slowly worked his way through the pile, smashing each and every plate.

 

Even if she had spoken up Loki would not have listened to her. He was caught up in the satisfying rhythm of snatching up one plate after the other and watching them break in unpredictable ways. Some broke into two jagged pieces with a zig-zag edge. Others cracked into more, smaller pieces. One merely lost a chip off its rim, while another shattered into uncountable shards.

 

As Tina observed him she felt his restless spirit begin to settle down again after being agitated by the presence of Korg. He didn't like people walking behind him, Tina realised, and with his sharp hearing had been aware of his approach long before she had.

 

If it made him feel a little more relaxed then she couldn't stop him any more than he could persuade her to stay in the flesh. She wanted him to feel better, but she didn't like the mess he was making, broken plates and fragments of ceramics scattered all over the floor. She didn't like witnessing his need for destruction and the anger and fear which had created that need in the first place. She didn't like that he would not even think of the servant who would inevitably have to tidy it all up or the confusion he had created.

 

It scared her a little.

 

The last plate destroyed Loki snapped out of his trance and seemed all the calmer for it.

 

'Let's go.'

 

He placed his hands on Tina's handlebar and began to propel her down the gangplank.

 

[Won't we get into trouble?]

 

'That's why we're fleeing the scene. But if we do get caught I will just say that you dropped them.'

 

[But I don't have hands!]

 

'Exactly.'

ooo

 

 

He had pushed her over the tufty grass of the meadow (not really suited to the wheels of a shopping trolley), neatly avoiding the detection of the Aesir in the distance, and was now pushing her through a dense wooded area of lofty trees with trunks of smooth yellow and blue bark.

 

[Where are we going?]

 

'Just following my nose. And my ears.'

 

The trees gradually fell away to reveal that they were nearing a cliff edge made of a chalky white substance. Beyond that was the blue ocean, glittering and sparkling in the sunlight. Purple sea birds wheeled and squawked in the sky and just on the horizon was a yacht, looking like little more than a dark dot.

 

[It's beautiful,] Tina said after a moment's contemplation.

 

Loki smirked. 'Good guess. Yes, you can sense it in front of you, but you can't see it in the same way I can. Or smell it like I can. Or hear the waves crashing against the rocks. Or feel the vibrations of those waves rising up through the cliff.'

 

[Why don't you describe it?]

 

He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply.

 

'It tastes like a cool slice of apple sliding down your throat. Smooth and sweet, but just crunchy enough to be satisfying and