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He knew dying would hurt; he knew that Thanos would kill him. He knew his play would be obvious.

He knew all of this, and did not regret the doing–only that it was before Thor.

(But would it not help Thor endure? Thor, who has endured every death and come out the other side stronger? Thor, the universe’s hammer, forged by tragedy–

This is only temporary.

He knows what Thanos does not.

Loki has been dead before. 

***

The dead have rules; Loki knows some of them. There is a reason that he needed Thanos to kill him–it means he has pain to cling to (and hatred and fury and fear, rank terrible terror, but he shoves it down–he is dead; Thanos cannot hurt him.)

***

Watching someone else be tortured is… not refreshing; he is not sure what it is. He cannot feel very much, dead–it has already been so long, already he is beginning to forget the warmth of the living. It would be so easy to let go, to slip away (would he see Mother again?)

Thor’s face, tears in his eyes, mouth silenced but pain filling the air

Loki twists the memory, hooks it deep within in himself. Thanos–Loki–Thanos caused that, with Loki’s death. 

We will walk beneath the same sun again, Brother–He promised. He cannot disappoint Thor, not again. 

What would Thor think of Nebula’s torture? 

That passes the time, a little, until he has a name–Vormir–and the knowledge that soon Thanos will take his daughter and the ghost he does not know about to the soul stone. 

I will be home soon, Brother; he hopes the intention reaches across the stars to where Thor is, brings him a comfort he does not understand. 

***

The dead have rules. Loki cannot stray far from the one who killed him, but he can go far enough–can slip his way up the path unseen by Thanos, by Gamora. He can go farther, if he is stronger (if he hurts more)–and is he not strong? Does he not have a wealth of pain? Has Thanos not caused so much suffering in his life? Ice cold fury surges through him, lets him claw away from his focus–

does he not hurt? has he not suffered enough? 

Jotunheim, “I found a babe”, “we are not brothers”, the queen is dead; long live the queen, Father–”my sons–”, “I did not do it for him–”

He would scream, if he had a mouth, if he had anything to express; the edges of the stone cliff begin to frost. He stares down at where no bodies have been thrown, can sense Thanos drawing closer again–there is not enough time, and he quivers with fury and pain and ache

he would rend the universe apart, if he could–

is that what you wish?

the voice is hot, warm; it sounds like Mother, he thinks, dazed, and nearly loses his fury and form, nearly slips away for good but–

(We will walk beneath the same sun again, Brother)

–does not. 

No, he sends back; now that he knows what to look for, he can sense the Stone, hiding in the very fabric of Vormir, waiting for an appropriate sacrifice. 

The stone seems to lose interest, but Loki will not let it ignore him–will not allow Thanos to have this; he clings tight to the spite that has driven him so far, for so long.

I wish more

and his soul quivers under the weight of the stone. 

Oh? the stone hums; time slows.

***

The dead have rules. 

A soul for a soul–needless, nonsensical, a petty way to play with those who wish the soul stone’s alliance.

Is this not more interesting? Loki asks, breath bated; Thanos and his daughter stand nearby, the soul stone’s guardian speaks, but it is so much white noise. He strains with all his being towards the stone.

There are greater things available than just the soul of a loved one–Loki knows this, learned it on his mother’s knee. 

(Remembers Foster, the Aether, the alliance that could have been–)

We are agreed the stone hums.

There is no warning; only pain, blinding white–

tinged blue, like Thor’s lightning; he shrieks joy and agony both

***

Dying hurts. 

Being born hurts more.