A sudden disturbance jolted Amelia awake, the sound of rustling sheets and laboured breath loud in her ear, and she blinked disorientedly through the leaden darkness of the room, her mind still weighed down by the dense haze of sleep as she fought against the drowsy pull in exchange for conscious lucidity.
It became clear, rather quickly, why she had been roused from her deep slumber; the arm around her waist tightened and curled, dragging her closer to the agitated body behind her and a constrained noise of distress sounded, prompting Amelia to sit up sharply and switch on the bedside light.
“Loki”, she whispered as he clutched at her nightshirt, seemingly trying his best to tug her closer, “Wake up, you’re dreaming-”
Loki’s breaths were tight, his bare chest rising and falling with jerky movements as his insensible body experienced the torment of a particularly disquieting nightmare; his pale face was scrunched up in a tortured expression and his throat spasmed as retched gasps and grunts escaped him.
It was nothing new to Amelia. For months now, she had slept beside this man, waking in the early hours of the morning to find Loki ensnared in a grueling dream, often unable to break free from it without the help of Amelia’s voice coaxing him back to awareness; it happened several times a week, and Amelia had tried to encourage him to open up and talk about it, but Loki was nothing if not stubborn - too tight-lipped as a result of his towering pride to divulge the events of his nightmares.
“Loki”, she called out, her hands cupping his face in an attempt to get through to him and cautiously awaken the man from his imaginary plight, “Loki, it’s okay, you’re okay, it’s just a dream!”
She remained watchful, wary of any sudden movements - namely flailing limbs - thrashing in her general direction; at one point over the course of their relationship, Loki had very nearly punched her in the face, involuntarily of course, in the throes of a presumably violent nightmare, and had been exceedingly apologetic upon waking - not that it had been his fault, he hardly had any control of his floundering appendages throughout the duration of his aggressive dreams.
“Loki!” Amelia exclaimed, gripping the man’s shoulders to give him a cursory shake to awakeness, and his eyes shut tight briefly before flying open, wide and filled with hastily retreating remnants of horror.
Loki wheezed, shooting up into a sitting position as he fought to breathe steadily, a hand resting against his chest over his rapidly beating heart, endeavouring to calm himself; his eyes darted around the room, as though searching for the source of his terror, before landing on Amelia, accepting that they weren’t actually in any sort of danger, and he continued to take tremulous breaths.
Amelia gave him space for the moment, knowing how he hated to be coddled after stirring from a bad dream, but proceeded to soothe him with reassuring words, “It’s alright, it was just a nightmare, that’s all.”
He blinked his tired, glassy eyes, sharp respirations pacifying into a more balanced breathing pace, and he gave a wordless murmur, his bitterness and discontent culminating in an incoherent groan, that came matched with a sigh of relief that a nightmare was all it had been.
Loki kept his gaze on his fidgeting hands that lay twitching in his lap, purposefully avoiding Amelia’s attentive stare as he worked to banish the dreadful images he had witnessed in his mind, as he did almost every other night.
Eventually, Amelia deemed it safe to comfort him, shifting on her knees to wrap him kindly in her arms, and Loki appreciated the solace, his head falling voluntarily to rest upon her shoulder as he too returned the solicitous embrace. Combing her fingers gently through his long hair, Amelia nuzzled the side of his head, warm air leaving her mouth in puffs that tickled against his ear.
“It was just a nightmare”, she repeated, as she had many times before, and Loki released another sigh, sinking further into her tranquillising hold.
“Will you tell me what happened, Loki?” she enquired benignly, because she was so sure that bottling up his fears and worries was only causing further harm, bolstering the vivid, nauseating nightly visions he tried his hardest to dispel. Amelia had tried to convince him to recount the occurrences of his nightmares and her attempts usually received one of two results - either he claimed he could not recall them, or he straight up refused to disclose the details of the perturbing things he had seen.
“I do not remember”, he stated calmly, and Amelia was not surprised by this response - he was the God of Lies, after all. However, calling his bluff would merely agitate him further and likely lead to a mild fit of temper, which was not exactly how she wanted to approach the situation at three o’clock in the morning.
She could always gradually press for details once the sun was up, and Loki was in a less delicate state of mind.
“Well, whatever happened, it’s not real, okay?” Amelia reiterated, pulling back from the hug; she offered Loki a pointedly confident smile to highlight the authenticity of her statement.
Loki did not look persuaded.
Upon arriving at the main living quarters in the Avengers Tower, Amelia made a dramatic entrance, hopping into the room before spreading her arms wide and striking a pose, “Ta-da! I am here!”
Thor was the only one of the three inhabitants of the room who bothered to greet her with a smile, “Good afternoon, Amelia”, he nodded his head before turning back to the television show he’d been preoccupied with, while Tony was engrossed in something work-related on his digital tablet, and Loki’s eyes flickered briefly up from the book he was engaged in - but apart from that, he chose not to acknowledge her unnecessarily theatrical emergence.
Amelia did not take it personally, she had lived with the man long enough to begin to understand that Loki often preferred to let his actions do the talking when it came to showing affection - he would not make small talk or ask her about her day in the presence of others, but once they were alone, he would take her into his arms and bask in her warmth and closeness, and then he would listen to her ramble about anything that crossed her mind, listening intently like she was revealing the key to all-knowing wisdom and endless knowledge.
“I stopped by the patisserie on my way home from work”, Amelia informed with a sing-song quality to her voice, knowing that bringing treats would earn her a little more attention than she had received. She held up several paper bags, each containing a danish pastry for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Thor’s attentiveness was immediately diverted from the television as he shifted on the couch to face Amelia as she rounded the back of the sofa, “Oh! Did you get the, ah, swirly one-” he made a spiraling motion with his fingers, “-with the white icing?”
“One glazed cinnamon roll for the God of Thunder”, Amelia announced, holding out the paper bag that contained the said treat, which Thor took gratefully, his eye shining with indisputed delight.
“Thank you, Amelia”, he expressed with gratitude, remembering his manners, and promptly procured the sugary treat from the bag to give it several moments of admiration before he inevitably devoured it with enthusiasm.
Amelia crossed over to where Stark was sat at the dining table, focused intensely on his work - or so it seemed - and placed down to bags upon the surface, “An almond croissant and an apple trellis for the science bros”, one of whom was mysteriously absent - Bruce was likely down in the lab doing something, ah, science-related, no doubt.
“Thanks Bubbles”, Tony spoke without looking up from his work, a spark of appreciation in his voice, and Amelia rolled her eyes playfully at the nickname which Tony had grown fond of using for her - possibly on the grounds of the fact that she almost always presented herself in such a vivacious way.
Amelia approached the third and final occupant of the room, sliding down in the two-seater sofa where Loki was situated, his eyes skirting over the pages of the book - The Neverending Story - in his hands, and placed the final patisserie bag down in his lap.
“A pain au chocolat for my favourite mischief-maker”, Amelia declared, making herself cosy against his side so she could comfortably rest her head on his shoulder. She noted the small smile pulling at his lips and the pleased glint in his eyes; he did not speak, but instead he gave a nudge of his cheek against her forehead - an action so simple and yet so saturated with fondness.
Amelia couldn’t help but grin, “What part are you at?” she enquired, referring to the novel he was currently reading.
“The Swamp of Sadness”, Loki answered matter-of-factly, and Amelia cringed slightly.
“Ooh, not my favourite part of the book”, she stated off-handedly, letting her hand rest above his knee. She enjoyed such natural and relaxed contact, even more so when Loki dropped one hand from his book to cover her own, squeezing it gently with endearment as his eyes continued to glide across the page he was on.
Bruce Banner entered the room, giving Amelia a nod of salutation when he noticed her, and quickly spotted the remaining patisserie bag on the table, “Oh, sweet, is this what I think it is?” he spoke, gravitating towards the treat without a moment of hesitation.
“Your favourite”, Amelia declared with a wink.
“You are fantastic, y’know that?” Bruce responded, already taking his place at the dining table to consume the almond croissant Amelia had meticulously picked out for him.
Amelia’s response was a bashful grin, always happy to lighten up the day for the Avengers by benevolently bringing them their favourite sweets - it was the least she could do while they had to endure her often overly-spirited presence at a near constant rate.
Turning her attention back to Loki, Amelia looked up from where her head rested upon his shoulder to observe his face - he was blatantly aware of her scrutiny in his peripheral vision but paid her no mind for the moment, persisting in reading the fantasy story he seemed so interested in. The God of Mischief seemed a lot less tense than he had been that morning, now loose and relaxed as opposed to taut and upset from his nightmare, but even still, Amelia could make out redness in the corners of his eyes, betraying the fact that he was being deprived of sufficient resting time during the night.
Her hand subconsciously tightened on his leg, and that was when Loki slipped a bookmark into the page he was on, placed his book down, and turned his attention to Amelia, one of his eyebrows perfectly arched in an expressive way that implied he had picked up on her restless thoughts.
“Something on your mind?” he asked inquisitively, and Amelia gave him a small smile.
“I was just thinking…” Amelia began, “I’m off work tomorrow, and the weather’s gonna be nice… perhaps we could go for a walk in Central Park?” she shrugged weakly, trying to seem nonchalant but secretly hoping that Loki would spot the hopefulness in her voice - a walk in the sun could potentially help to ease his troubling nights, and maybe in such a serene setting, she could convince him to open up a little about the subject of his dreams.
Loki watched her closely for a few seconds, his eyes flicking between her own with curiosity, perceptive enough to know that a simple walk through the park wasn’t the only reason she wished for him to join her.
“If you wish”, he eventually replied, succumbing to the inducement of Amelia’s long, fluttering eyelashes, and Amelia smiled at his assent before nestling against his side, breathing in the pleasantness of his peppermint scent.
After a long day of work, Amelia was looking very much forward to curling up to Loki in bed that evening, and partaking in some titillating pillow talk before inevitably engaging in rather intimate activities-
The peace of the lazy afternoon was broken when Thor abruptly shut off the television and rose to his feet, head tilted back as if he had seen something incredibly interesting on the ceiling.
“What is it, Heimdall?”
Amelia frowned, very confused by Thor’s sudden seemingly aimless inquiry, and she looked to Loki to find his lips parted with curiosity as he watched his brother. Thor’s eye flickered back and forth as he listened intently to something that Amelia was deaf to, and slowly the God of Thunder’s expression warped into something like intense trepidation. A grim dissonance fell upon the room as all eyes watched Thor, everybody sensing the nervous tension that was promptly emanating from the man as he paid attention to what Amelia assumed was some sort of ethereal voice.
“...Xandar?” Thor expelled in an apprehensive breath, “Heimdall, who is doing this?”
There was a silent beat, and then Thor relayed a name.
Something was very wrong; Amelia rarely heard Thor sound so unsettled, but the thing that spurred her heart into a sporadic rhythm was the way Loki went still beside her; his eyes were wide and his lips were pursed shut - the usual pink of his cheeks drained to white as he appeared void of emotion - but something about this reaction filled Amelia with a sense of foreboding, because it was irrefutably parallel to the way Loki acted upon awakening from his nightmares.
Thor looked to Loki, a trace of urgency about him, “We must go.”
“Hold up, hold up, what’s going on?” Bruce interjected, rising from the table, and it seemed he too did not like Thor’s dire tone.
“Heimdall has witnessed a brutal assault on the planet Xandar, a being by the name of Thanos-” he directed this information toward Loki, “he intends to gather the infinity stones - we can not let that happen.”
Loki adopted a far off look, his eyes drifting across the floor as he became lost in his thoughts, and Amelia observed his face with worry as Bruce and Tony pressed Thor with questions about what in the hell was going on. Amelia touched Loki’s shoulder, pulling him from his wired reverie, and his deep green eyes met hers, full of what was unmistakably a lack of certainty.
“Loki?” Amelia asked softly, voice unsteady, but he did not answer her unspoken plea for reassurance, instead rising to his feet.
“What do you propose, brother?” Loki asked, his words calm and composed as always, but with an underlying darkness that Amelia was not at all fond of.
Thor, it seemed, was resolute in what had to be done, “We must go to Xandar”, he proclaimed, and Loki shook in head incredulously.
“You realise that by the time we reach Xandar, it will be too late. We have no ships that are capable of manipulating or navigating wormholes. We have quinjets-”
“We have the Commodore”, Thor reminded him, and Loki blinked a few times fast.
“Okay, yes, but it will still take time-”
“Then we will aid the survivors of the attack”, Thor spoke grimly, “and we will find out from them all we can about Thanos. We must gather intel.”
Loki fell silent and Amelia’s gaze fell to his fists which opened and closed rhythmically as he mulled on Thor’s plan, shaking his head again before a defeated look took hold of him and he pinned Amelia with an apologetic stare, “We may have to postpone that walk in the park, Amelia.”
The preparation was instantaneous - within just an hour, Thor and Loki were ready to depart, setting their sights skyward, towards the stars, where they hopefully would not find too much trouble. Amelia’s hands shook with her nerves, her brain quick to invent all the possible ways their mission could go wrong - who was this Thanos and why did the mention of his name leave Loki so disconcertingly rigid?
Loki had left for missions before, but only those pertaining to planet Earth, and never for more than a few days; Amelia was more than capable of going about her life without coming back home to Loki every day, but this time something felt different - something about Loki’s initial reaction scared her, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t going to be like any other normal Avengers assignment.
“Stark, Banner, I urge you to seek out Doctor Strange-”
“Who?” Tony swiftly cut Thor off, quirking an eyebrow at the name.
“He is a Midgardian wizard, a powerful sorcerer, and his skills may prove to be invaluable should anything happen in our absence”, Thor informed bleakly, “Thanos, if he cannot be stopped in time, will inevitably come to Earth to seek out the mind stone which resides with Vision. Find him, if you can, and warn him of what may be coming. You can find Doctor Strange at 177a Bleecker Street.”
Bruce rubbed his temple, “Ah, jeez. This is a lot to take in”, clearly he was not mollified by Thor’s advice to obtain as much help as they could.
Amelia paced back and forth off to the side as Thor suggested various courses of action, contemplating the threat that Thanos posed - the God of Thunder was visibly agitated, and Loki had appeared overwrought after Heimdall had contacted them, which meant this foe was powerful, but more powerful than two gods? Amelia couldn’t fathom it, and before she knew it, she was biting at her fingernails, which was something she only did when she was beyond anxious.
Loki had disappeared, Amelia suddenly realised, while Thor, Tony and Bruce were busy reviewing the situation, and she quickly scampered from the living quarters, looking up and down the corridor in search of her lover. She wasn’t entirely sure why, but her legs carried her to her and Loki’s room, where she lifted her hand to open the door only for it to fling open suddenly, startling her in the process and revealing the man she loved.
Amelia looked up at Loki, who briefly wore a very dismal look before he covered it up in an instant, replacing it with nonchalance; she wasn’t sure why he had come to their room - it wasn’t like there was anything in there that he needed for his mission - but it didn’t really cross her mind to ask, she was far too in need of some assurance.
“Loki”, she said, “please tell me that everything is going to be okay.” Amelia took his arm, holding onto him tightly as she pined for a promise that their mission would end successfully, and both of them would return unscathed.
Loki licked his bottom lip, mouth hovering open for a moment before he closed it, and his hesitance instilled fear in Amelia’s heart.
“Please. Tell me you’ll come back and it will be fine.”
Another few moments of discomfiting silence ensued before Loki smiled, his eyes warm and glinting, before he cupped her freckled cheeks with his large hands and kissed her, chaste and affectionate, leaving Amelia just a little bit dizzy. He broke the kiss but did not pull away, forehead pressed against hers as he stroked his thumbs against her skin.
“All will be fine, do not worry”, he told her, “We shall deal with the threat, and I will return, Amelia.” His words were confident and purposeful, soothing her fears in an instant, and Amelia sighed softly through her nose, finding the peace to return his pacifying simper.
Perhaps she had overreacted, read into the situation with her own fears, projecting distress where there otherwise was none, and Loki was actually optimistic that their mission to stop Thanos would go swimmingly - there was no doubt in his eyes, and Amelia felt just a little bit silly for believing differently-
Loki pulled her to his chest, lips brushing the side of her head as he whispered, “I love you.”
Amelia began to cry, and it took a lot of coaxing for her to let him go.
It took Thor and Loki one week to reach Xandar, and in that one week, Loki remembered the rationale for why he had despised sharing a bedroom with Thor as a child - the damn oaf snored louder than a roaring Bilgesnipe.
Precisely three days into their voyage through the dark depths of space, Loki considered opening up the airlock hatch and kicking Thor into the deep recesses of nothingness so he could go about the rest of the assignment in peace, but even Loki knew that doing so would not be such a smart idea - not if he wanted to stop Thanos. He would need all the help he could get.
Loki settled with dragging himself to the edge of his bunk and kicking Thor, who lay unconscious in the adjacent cot, in the side. The oaf didn’t awaken, but he stirred and rolled onto his side, silencing the snorting sounds from his throat, and Loki let his head fall back against the pillow, eyes slipping closed, and breathed, “Sweet Norns, some serenity at last.”
Roughly forty-two seconds later, Thor’s croaking snores began again.
Loki gave an infuriated groan, running his hands over his face in an irked manner, “No, no that’s fine. It’s not like I wanted to sleep anyway”, he hissed quietly, kicking the thin, flimsy cover from his body, and slid from his narrow bed to pad towards the cockpit and slump down into the pilot’s chair.
Even in the more isolated area of the ship, Thor’s bellowing snores drifted in like the external sound of an engine, and the God of Mischief tried his best to drown out the noise by staring into the empty reaches of the cosmos, counting the distant, twinkling stars.
He had not wanted to leave Amelia, but he had to keep her safe. Taking the Tesseract away from Earth would ensure that Thanos did not go looking for it in Avengers Tower - the mere thought of Amelia coming face to face with that monster was distressing to say the least, and he would do everything in his power to make sure that would never transpire.
His nightmares could not come to fruition.
The images plagued him. Perhaps it was for the best that Thor kept him up with his uproarious racket, at least this way his dreams could not afflict him.
He did not want to see Amelia die again, and again, and again at the hands of Thanos, nor did he want to be forced to watch the Mad Titan torture his brother while he watched on, powerless to stop him. He did not want to listen to their screams, begging for him to help them while there was no feasible way for him to reach them, trapped in a transparent encasing that would not shatter however many times he struck it.
He did not want it to become reality.
Loki had been too lost in the recollection of his nightmares that he didn’t notice when Thor’s thunderous, snorting breaths had ceased, and the sound of Thor’s voice from right behind him left him startled.
“Can’t sleep?” Thor enquired as he slumped down in the co-pilot’s chair beside his brother.
Loki gave the man a weary glare, “Not really, no.”
“You look tired, though”, Thor commented innocently, cocking his head and blinking sleepily before drawing his attention to the screen that displayed their flight progress and various other statistics.
“Do I now?” Loki responded, the drawl of his voice so deadpan that surely Thor would be able to pick up the sarcasm in his tone.
“You do, brother.” Thor was entirely oblivious, clearly unaware that he sounded similar to an unremitting explosion when he slept, and thus ignorant to the fact that Loki’s fatigued state was partially his doing, “You should get some rest. I have reason to believe that Thanos will not be an easy opponent.”
Loki blinked his eyes hard, trying to dispel the blurriness around the edges of his vision, “No… he will not.”
The proceeding silence lasted several minutes, but Loki knew from the way Thor kept glancing at him out of the corner of his eye that he was just dying to ask a question.
“What do you know of Thanos?” Thor finally asked, and Loki pursed his lips, not wishing to speak of his incarceration upon Thanos’s ship which had preceded his attack on New York over six years ago, but knowing that any piece of information may help them attain the upper hand over the Mad Titan.
Eventually, Loki released a sigh.
“He… he captured me. After I fell from the Bifrost”, Loki revealed, and Thor’s face hardened at the revelation, but he did not interject, “He subjected me to what seemed like endless torture - I don’t know for how long - it was… constant. I withstood the abuse for as long as I could, but I gave up hope that you would find me.”
Loki knew that his words had evoked guilt when Thor averted his gaze and dropped his head.
“...I am sorry, brother. If I had known-”
“I know, don’t get sentimental.” Loki swiftly cut him off, making a show of rolling his eyes, “Anyway, he- he was the one who sent me to Earth with the Chitauri.”
The few years in which he had been confined in Thanos’s ship and made to endure agonising treatment were like Hel - he had refused Thanos’s initial offer to serve under him, for he despised the idea of being subservient to the Mad Titan, and thus he had been made vulnerable to the worst kind of punishment. Thanos very quickly became aware that Loki particularly did not fair well when he was exposed to extreme heat, and so he spent his days screaming his throat raw as his body was subjected to heat torture.
Even when Loki had buckled under the pain and begged for it to end, going as far as to promise submission, Thanos did not let up, not believing for one moment that Loki would not try to double-cross him given the chance - and so the suffering continued, until Loki’s mind had truly been broken, and he was too afraid to deceive the Mad Titan.
Only then had Thanos’s torture abated, and Loki had pathetically sworn loyalty to him, terrified into compliance.
He hated himself for it, but he hated Thanos more.
“I will kill him for what he did to you”, Thor vowed, fire in his eye.
Loki smiled mirthlessly, “You’ll have to beat me to it.”
On the seventh day, they reached Xandar.
A loud, intermittent beep jogged Loki from his slumber; he sprung from his narrow bunk, changing into his black and green leather ensemble with just a wave of his hand and joined Thor in the ship’s cockpit all within the space of about four seconds.
He watched Thor tap a few buttons to disengage the alarm, before catching sight of the scene ahead, “An asteroid field?” Loki enquired, a little exasperated that the ship had startled him awake for something as menial as a sea of rocks.
Thor said nothing, staring hard at the view, and that was when Loki realised they had ceased movement.
“Why have we stopped? Surely you can navigate an asteroid field without much difficulty, brother?”
“It’s not an asteroid field”, Thor responded, his voice glacial.
Loki frowned, eyes falling to the control panel where a monitor revealed their estimated time of arrival at the planet Xandar.
You have reached your destination.
Loki felt his jaw clench, returning his gaze to the sight ahead - not just a sea of rocks, then.
It was Xandar, in pieces.
“He annihilated the planet”, Loki blurted out, not generally one for stating the obvious but somehow unable to stop the words leaving his mouth; his nerves spiked as he realised the power Thanos wielded with just one infinity stone - if he were to collect any of the others… Loki did not want to think about it.
“I don’t understand”, Loki continued, “Thanos seeks to decimate life, to take out half the population, not the entire population…” Glancing down, Loki found Thor’s hands clenched so tightly that his knuckles had turned white.
“Perhaps they chose to fight back”, Thor icily stated, “And he did not agree with their courageousness.”
Loki fell quiet, allowing Thor some time to simmer down as he himself dwelled on this development - with this display, they had a taste of Thanos’s capabilities, and it did not bode well for them, Loki knew when he was outmatched.
“What do we do now?” Loki asked calmly, “It’s not like we can summon Surtur to take care of this mess for us - we cannot compete with Thanos”, he shook his head, “The universe is doomed…”
Thor turned his head, gaze locking with Loki’s, “No, we still have a chance”, he proclaimed, and Loki gave a bitter smile.
“You are delusional, brother. Perhaps we may have stood a chance against Thanos before, but he has the Power stone now. We cannot defeat him-”
“Yes, we can”, Thor interposed, grabbing Loki’s upper arm and squeezing it as though offering reassurance, “We can defeat him. Together.”
Before Loki could repudiate, the ship lurched, sending the two occupants into a scramble to hold on tight until their ship stabilised itself. Loki grunted, surveying the outside of the vessel through the front screen, searching frantically for any sentient threats - but found none.
“What was that?” Thor groaned, rubbing his neck where it had whipped sideways upon the mysterious impact.
“An asteroid bumped into us, I think”, Loki answered confidently, before sending his brother an admonishing glare, “You’re in the pilot’s seat, stay alert.”
“You stay alert”, Thor countered childishly, before composing himself again, “We need to develop a plan of action.”
“You’re the king”, Loki drawled, “What do you propose?”
Thor rolled his eye, “You’re not being helpful”, he mumbled, “Gods, I wish I had my hammer.”
“Well you don’t have your hammer”, Loki affirmed, growing exasperated, “You hammer is gone forever.”
“But if I did have a hammer…” Thor trailed off, scratching his fingers through his beard, and Loki almost missed the glint of an idea in his bright, blue eye. Thor lit up, a new glow of resolution illuminating his face, and at once Thor began to skim the control panel, tapping buttons to input new coordinates, “I know where we must go next.”
Thor set a new flight path and pressed forward on the acceleration, only for the ship’s computer to emit a short, high-pitched sound.
“Huh?” Thor uttered, frowning with confusion.
“Did you stall the ship?” Loki sardonically enquired, “Input invalid coordinates?”
“No! These are the right coordinates!” Thor exclaimed, impatiently pressing a series of buttons in a rather doltish manner, accidentally hitting the switch that set off the surge of fireworks above the vessel.
“Turn them off!” Loki snapped, damning both the Grandmaster for his love everything dramatic, and his brother for being an absolute moron who thought pressing everything in sight was the solution to getting the ship to go.
They managed to eventually shut off the light display, and quickly found the source of the problem that elucidated the predicament of why their ship did not want to advance.
Outer fuel reserve damaged. Fuel tank empty.
Those were the words exhibited on the monitor, and both men stared at it in abject horror.
“...What?” Loki hissed, teeth grinding together, his jaw beginning to ache from how tightly he had clenched it.
“I- I don’t-” Thor’s mouth hung open for a few seconds longer, “Ah- the, ah… that must’ve happened when the asteroid hit us…”
They were stranded. Stranded in the middle of space, drifting aimlessly through an ocean of debris with a limited supply of food and water, while Thanos was likely on his way to Earth right that second to swipe the Mind stone from Vision.
“Thor”, Loki began, with surprising aplomb, “If we run out of provisions and die on this vessel, there’s something I need you to know.”
“Is it that you love me, brother?”
“No, it’s that I hate you. More than you could ever know.”
“Ah…” Thor sighed, running a hand over his face before tapping the monitor to investigate where they stood on the basis of communication capability, “Well, we could broadcast a distress signal and hope that somebody nearby might answer it-”
Loki, slumped back in the co-pilot chair with his arms crossed over his chest, waved his hand in perfunctory motion as if to say ‘go ahead and try’ because it wasn’t as though there was anything else they could try.
Before Thor could even lay a finger on the broadcast switch, the ship’s computer gave two short beeps.
“We’re… being hailed?” Thor murmured, a baffled expression on his face, and Loki shot up straight, eyes ahead as he searched for the source of the communications line. Appearing from around the edge of the planet debris was a ship, a little larger than their own, with a colour scheme of orange and grey.
“Answer it, Thor.”
Thor cleared his throat, accepting the call that came through, “Ah, hello? This is, ah, Captain Thor, of… uh, the Commodore-” Loki pinched the bridge of his nose at the way Thor’s lip curled complacently as he introduced himself - he seemed far too pleased with himself.
A voice erupted from the speaker system, “Copy that, this is Captain Star-Lord of the Benatar, are you in need of any assistance?” The voice seemed friendly enough, but there was an underlying tone of sombre prudence - which made sense, if they knew that they were floating through the remnants of an obliterated planet.
“Assistance, yes- our ship is damaged. Ah… permission to come aboard?”
There was silence for a few moments and Loki shared a look with his brother, a cumulative expression of trepidation that this Star-Lord would not agree to help them; but then their worries were abated.
Star-Lord, a man that turned out to be an absolute clown whose oafishness rivalled that of Thor’s, and his ragtag crew referred to themselves as the Guardians of the Galaxy, which in and of itself had Loki rolling his eyes so hard that they might have fallen out of his head if he wasn’t too careful.
They had been responding to Xandar’s distress call, a little too late, when they had come across the Commodore, visibly damaged and drifting suspiciously close to the meteoric remains of the eradicated planet.
Upon explaining the situation, Loki and Thor had learned that the green-skinned woman was named Gamora, and not only was she the daughter of Thanos, but she also hated him as much as they did.
“Thanos has the Power stone and he means to collect the other five”, Loki supplied to the ships occupants, apart from Star-Lord, who seemed to be in the middle of a pissing contest with Thor over who had more authority out of the two of them, “We know that the Mind stone is on Earth, and the Reality stone is on Knowhere. The locations of the others are unknown.”
Well, that wasn’t entirely true. Loki knew where the Space stone was. He held it on his person at the current moment, but Thor did not know that, nor did he need to know that.
“Thanos means to wipe out half of all sentient life in the universe”, Gamora spoke, crossing her arms as her mouth settled into an uneasy line, “If he possesses all six infinity stones, he can do it like that”, she punctuated her words with a snap of her fingers.
“He will not find them all”, Thor confidently remarked, suspending his childish competition with Quill for just a few moments, “The Space stone perished along with our home in the flames of Surtur.”
Loki pressed his lips together, “But that does not mean he cannot do inconceivable harm”, he would hate for Thor to think they were safe in that Thanos could not achieve his goal, especially when Loki was well aware the Mad Titan would ultimately come for him to recover the infinity stone, “We must remain vigilant, and do all we can to make certain he does not get his hands on any more.”
“You know”, Star-Lord interjected, a terribly smug touch to his tone, “I actually held an infinity stone once”, the man placed his hands on his hips, emanating vulgar superiority, “Whaddya think of that?”
“Nobody likes a show-off”, the sinewy man known as Drax grumbled as he passed by Quill, effectively silencing him before he could interrupt the serious discussion with anymore of his boastful ramblings.
“How do you plan to defeat this bozo then?” the talking racoon spoke up as he perched in the pilot’s seat, and it was a question that Loki definitely did not have an answer to.
“I need a new weapon”, Thor said suddenly, crossing the length of the ship to inspect the attached pod, “Loki and I will travel to Nidavellir”, he looked to his brother, an assertive smile on his face, “Eitri will craft me a new hammer and with that, I can hone my strength and give that bastard what’s coming to him.”
Loki cocked his head, raising an eyebrow, “So that was your plan.”
“Nidavellir? I thought that was a place of legend!” Rocket exclaimed, jumping up, “You tellin’ me that’s a real place?”
“Of course”, Thor spoke, “You’re the captain, aren’t you? We will have to take your pod, I hope you understand.”
The raccoon puffed up, looking rather pleased, “Yeah! You know, I am the captain, and I say you can take our pod on one condition… I’m comin’ with ya!”
Thor saw no problem with it, content to allow the talking raccoon to tag along with them; as Quill began to flounder on about how he was the captain and he didn’t approve, Loki became somewhat distracted, stepping toward the viewing deck to look upon the mass wreckage that the destroyed planet left behind.
They had dawdled for far too long - every minute spent talking with these so-called Guardians was a waste of time - Thanos could be closing in on Earth as they spoke, preparing to take what he thought was his, and to mow down anybody who stood in his path. Loki could not imagine that the Avengers would stand much of a chance against the Mad Titan - they would fall, one by one, and Earth would be completely vulnerable.
The thought of returning to Earth only to find it as a pile of floating rocks instilled a tense foreboding in his chest, kindling his nerves with consternation. Amelia would be dead, and Loki would not know whether she died a quick and painless death, or whether she suffered like his dreams foretold.
Lost to his thoughts, Loki did not immediately acknowledge the sensation of something touching his hand.
“You feel… a great fear”, said a soft voice from behind him, and Loki wrenched his hand away from the antennaed woman known as Mantis.
“What?” Loki snapped, eyes narrowed as the glow of her antennae faded.
“You are frightened that harm will come to those you love”, she continued to say, and Loki scoffed, noting that all eyes had turned to him, immediately summoning a dagger and pointing the sharp tip threateningly to Mantis’s neck.
“Do not touch me again”, he sneered, and within half a second, he had several blasters aimed at his face.
“If I were you, Grease, I’d put the knife down”, Quill warned, finger resting on the trigger of his blaster; Loki bristled at the insult. This man was, evidently, not as commendable as Stark with his nicknaming game, but before Loki could snap back in a far superior and witty style, Thor approached and forced Loki’s wrist down.
“Enough, Loki”, said Thor, “you may want to be a little more cordial to the people who rescued us.”
Loki shared a look of scornful derision with his brother, “Enough delay, brother. Now, are we heading to Nidavellir or not?”
Thor regarded him with a patient look, likely picking up on the urgency in his eyes - mixed with what Mantis had revealed just a few moments prior, Thor was clearly savvy to what was causing Loki’s agitation.
Turning to Rocket, Thor spoke, “We leave now, Rabbit.”
Amelia sat alone upon the wicker bench in the garden that had been Loki’s gift to her. She missed him dearly, wishing she could attain an inkling as to how his and Thor’s mission was proceeding. The atmosphere surrounding Avengers Tower was not the same since the two Asgardians had left, leaving behind a sense of apprehension in all their minds - Tony and Bruce were more alert, never in a playful or joking mood as Amelia had come to expect from them, and they were quiet, silently stewing in their unrest over Thor’s cautionary words.
Amelia had barely spoken to the two remaining Avengers since Loki and Thor had taken off in their ship - she felt like a nuisance, as though her presence was distracting for Tony and Bruce as they attempted to establish a backup plan should the Asgardians fail in stopping Thanos before he reached Earth.
They always looked so busy whenever she passed them in the hallways or bumped into them in the lounge, and never said anything more than a swift greeting before leaving them to their devices.
For the first time since Loki had come into her life, Amelia felt lonely.
She hadn’t realised how incredibly talkative she had been - no doubt making up for the five years she had lived alone - until the one she shared most conversations with had left, or she had forced herself to remain silent in company. It was difficult, wanting so desperately to just have a friendly chat, but knowing that she couldn’t risk sidetracking the two remaining heroes while they discussed strategic moves.
The garden always offered Amelia some respite from her mind whenever she felt anxious, but today it seemed that no matter how hard she tried to relax and think positively, her thoughts only wanted to bring her down.
I love you.
She had repeated Loki’s words over in her mind more than a thousand times by now, recalling the exact tone of his voice as he’d spoken - so soft and tender - and while it should have been something to soothe her, Loki’s declaration had done nothing but bring her distress.
Yes, Loki loved her. She knew he loved her - it was always so comprehensible in his actions - it was clear from the way he asked about her day and listened when she relayed all the pointless little details of everything that had happened to her. It was clear from the way he shared her company, content to sit with her in silence as he read, even when she inadvertently broke his concentration with her singing or humming. It was clear from his smile and the affection in his eyes; it was clear from the way he held her hand, embraced her softly, brushed his hand through her hair, or kissed her till she was breathless.
It was clear, and yet, he felt the need to state those three words.
It was uncharacteristic of him, and that was why it worried her.
It had sounded too much like a goodbye, as though Loki was under the impression that he would not return, and did not want to leave her without ever having confessed to Amelia, aloud, just how much he cherished her.
Reaching out, she caressed the red petals of the carnation bloom beside her, breathing in the sharp and spicy scent - like cinnamon - reminding herself of the nights she and Loki had spent curled up in that very spot, admiring the Manhattan skyline and the warmth of each other’s bodies.
She could not shake the feeling that Loki and Thor were barrelling headfirst into disaster.
Amelia hoped she was wrong.
Beep, beep beep, beep.
Loki clenched his fists, trying to put a damper on the quickly growing irritation at hearing the incessant little noises emanating from Groot’s gaming device. Why did the teenage tree have to come along anyway?
It seemed Groot was either impervious to Loki’s menacing scowls or he simply just did not care that he was causing a disturbance along Loki’s taut nerves - one thing was for sure, Loki was mere minutes away from taking that damned handheld and crushing it in his hand.
“Do you think perhaps you could turn that thing off?” Loki enquired coolly, his expression none-too-friendly, though he tried a polite approach, hoping the kid would have enough consideration to do as requested.
Instead, Groot shot Loki a dirty look, eyes squinting with disdain as he muttered the words, “I am Groot.”
Loki bristled with anger at the vulgarity, further vexed by the sound of Thor snorting in amusement.
“Hey- hey, come on now, Groot. Mind ya language!” Rocket snapped from the piloting seat, but otherwise did nothing to amend the situation.
And then, to add insult to injury, Groot poked his tongue out at Loki before nudging the volume button higher, making Loki wish he had kicked up more of a protest when Rocket invited the tree along to join them.
Loki seethed silently, thinking about turning Groot into firewood, but put on a more composed outward appearance, acting as though he wasn’t so bothered; he would not allow himself to be tormented by an adolescent tree.
He had more pressing things on his mind; he was all too aware of the time ticking on, reminding him that Thanos had to be close to Earth by now, and if they did not reach their destination soon, it would be too late.
Thor must have sensed Loki’s disquiet, for he turned to Rocket and amicably enquired, “Rabbit, can this pod move any faster?”
“I’m going as fast as I can”, Rocket answered, though he was sympathetic about it, and Thor nodded his head, clearly weighed down with worry just as much as Loki was.
After several more minutes, Loki stood, slipping from his chair to linger towards the back of the pod - the vessel was not large enough to offer any privacy, but at least back here, the sharp, shrill noises of Groot’s game were not quite as loud. He closed his eyes and focused, sifting through all the possible outcomes of their endeavour - even if Thor did acquire a new hammer which bore all of his concentrated, electrical energy, it may still not be enough against the full force of six infinity stones.
Which was why Loki had to protect the Space stone at all cost, with everything he had, even if it killed him in the process.
Loki was sharp-witted. He could fool even the cleverest of people with his tricks - but Thanos in possession of several infinity stones could be unpredictable. It would not be so easy to deceive the Mad Titan, and Loki was well aware of that.
He was adamant in his initiative, his mind made up. If, when the time came, his illusions were to fail, he would remain dutifully unwavering - regardless of what torture Thanos put him through - until the end.
Amelia deserved to live her life, and if that meant sacrificing his own, then it was worth it.
Perhaps he would even be awarded the honour of greeting his mother in the afterlife.
“Loki”, Thor’s voice drifted through his thoughts, and Loki opened his eyes to find his brother hovering beside him, “We will triumph over Thanos”, he said, “have faith. We are stronger in conjunction.”
It almost seemed, to Loki, that Thor was paranoid of his younger brother betraying him, for the thousandth time, and so took every available opportunity to plant the seed of cooperation in his mind - reminding Loki to stick by his side no matter what happened.
Loki observed his brother’s face, now a little more pleasant to look at after Rocket had generously offered Thor a brand new eye with which to see Thanos suffer when he delivered the final blow, and even though the colours of his irises were mismatched, it was still a more agreeable look than being comparable to their father’s visage.
Loki did not share Thor’s optimism.
Even together, their mettle was not invincible under Thanos’s destructive power. Doubt hung heavy in Loki’s mind.
A bitter breeze of laughter escaped Loki’s mouth, before his face fell into a more dismal, cheerless expression.
“Thor”, Loki quietly spoke, enunciating the word with a tone of grim significance, “If anything happens to me when we face Thanos, promise me you will look after Amelia.”
Thor’s eyes darted between Loki’s, his expression hardened as he absorbed his brother’s words, before obstinately responding, “Nothing will happen to you.”
With that, Thor rejoined Rocket and Groot at the front of the pod.
Amelia sat with Pepper Potts, watching the news broadcast with unbridled alarm - it had been barely half an hour ago when Tony had received a call informing him of trouble in the middle of Manhattan. An eerie, ring-shaped ship had appeared in the sky, sparking moderate alarm at the unfamiliar sight of it, before prompting outright panic as it lowered and began causing damage.
Tony and Bruce had left in an instant, prepared to confront whoever was behind the so-called attack, and Amelia had been left with Pepper - the both of them silently fretting over what the sudden appearance of this strange ship meant.
Was this Thanos? Had Loki and Thor failed their mission to stop him in time?
Amelia did not want to believe it, but the presence of this threat could not mean anything good.
On the screen, there were vague and fleeting images as the person behind the camera struggled to capture the heat of the fight while narrowly avoiding danger themselves - Amelia saw Iron Man and the Hulk, joined by two men she had never seen before - one of which wore a majestic, red cloak and hovered above the ground - and she could only assume this was the fabled Doctor Strange that Thor had spoken briefly about.
The foes they fought were incredibly ugly. In fact, one of them looked somewhat like Voldemort, with a slimy face and no visible nose to speak of; Amelia flinched as the creature seemed to get the jump on her friends, overwhelming Dr Strange and Iron Man while the Hulk was distracted with the other enemy.
Things seemed to brighten up when Spider-Man joined the fray out of nowhere, and Amelia clenched her fists hopefully, trusting that they would outnumber the creep - but it was unfortunately wishful thinking. Strange was seemingly knocked out, and the slimy, Voldemort-esque foe transported him swiftly to the ship - the last thing they saw was Iron Man soaring speedily through the air after the ring-shaped vessel and disappearing out of sight.
Amelia watched as Pepper ran her hands over her face, very easily understanding her restlessness - she knew nothing of Loki’s whereabouts, whether he and Thor were presently on their way back to Earth, or if they were even still alive. It shook her to the core to think Thanos had crushed them with ease and sent forth his minions to put his plan into fruition.
Pepper pulled out her phone and furiously dialled in the numbers, holding the phone up to her ear for several moments before her call was accepted, “Tony- don’t you dare tell me you’re on that alien ship!”
It was clear from Pepper’s resulting expression of barely restrained alarm that Tony was indeed on that ship.
They learned nothing more from Tony, as the call was quickly dropped, no doubt falling out of range as the ship continued to ascend through the atmosphere. Only hours later, after endlessly fretting, did they recieve any word about what was going on.
Bruce called, revealing that Vision had been found, and that he, along with Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff, and several others, had travelled to the previously undisclosed East African nation known as Wakanda, in order to figure out a way to safely remove the Mind stone from Vision’s head without destroying him in the process.
It sounded like a long shot to Amelia, but then again, Amelia was not a powerful superhero or a genius scientist capable of achieving highly improbable goals.
So she sat and waited - it was all she could do - beside Pepper, who shared a mutual fear of losing her significant other; while they did not speak much to each other, Amelia felt somewhat comforted by her presence, thankful that the woman chose to sit by her in their distressing situation.
Please come back, Loki, Amelia prayed to anybody that might be listening, you told me you would come back. Please don’t let it be a lie.
It had not been a consoling sight when the pod had arrived at Nidavellir, only to find the forge cold and barren, littered with broken parts, and the rings surrounding the dying star were frozen in place.
Thanos had slaughtered the dwarves - or, at least, all but one. Eitri remained, mourning his fallen comrades, and he explained that he could not craft Thor a new weapon, not unless the rings were thawed and the star was reignited.
Again, Thor was enraged by the devastation Thanos had caused, his fingers sparking as his anger mounted.
Loki had been the one to calm him, laying a hand on his shoulder, “Keep a clear head, brother. I have an idea.”
Thor did as Loki instructed, clutching the edge of one of the rings with one hand and utilising the acceleration of the pod to force the rings into motion. Loki observed from within the forge, feeling a spark of victory when the gate opened up, revealing the light and warmth of the star as it pierced through the cold darkness.
The celebrations lasted mere seconds, as the gate quickly closed up once more.
“Shit”, Loki hissed under his breath, hands landing on his hips as he searched his brain for another plan.
“How long does the forge need to stay open?” Thor enquired when he returned to the platform with Rocket and Groot in tow.
“A few minutes, perhaps”, Eitri answered bleakly.
Loki sighed; they needed to find a way to prise the gate open and keep it that way for a number of minutes, but the pod would not survive being in close proximity with the star, the heat would destroy it - melt it, even. They could not use the same trick again.
Thor stared at him in his peripheral, and Loki regarded him with a curious glance at the look of firm intent in his brother’s eyes - he seemed to have a plan, surprisingly, and Loki let his expression grow inquisitive, prompting Thor to speak.
“I could hold it open”, Thor said.
“Absolutely not”, Loki snapped, “It’s suicide, brother! You are resilient, but not even you could withstand full exposure to a dying star for more than a few seconds, let alone minutes. It will fry you till you’re a charred corpse, don’t be stupid!” Thor smiled crookedly at the reprimand, but his decision had clearly been made; Loki attempted to dissuade Thor with a sturdy stare, but the stubborn oaf remained unmoved.
“It is our only option”, Thor responded.
“And once you're dead, what are we to do then?” Loki spat.
Thor looked self-assured, almost positive he could survive his task, “Have faith in me, brother.”
There was nothing he could do to deter his mulish brother with his damned cocksure attitude; Loki paced back and forth by the forge as Thor rode the pod to the sealed gate and took his position, hands gripping the two levers to pull them together, poised to hold tight and take the full force of the star.
“The universe is doomed”, Loki mumbled under his breath for the second time since their journey began, and watched on with nervous unease as his brother prepared to undergo this self-destructive endeavour.
Thor seized the levers and pulled them inward. Loki held his breath as moments passed, and suddenly the light of the star shone forth, engulfing his brother entirely - but Thor did not crumble under what must’ve been the most intense searing pain imaginable. It had to have been worse than what Thanos put Loki through, and he looked to Eitri, who was peering into the bowl of Uru ingots, waiting for it to melt so that he might pour the metal into the cast.
The seconds passed slowly, and Loki could not imagine Thor’s agony, but still his brother held strong, grasping the levers with all his might. Loki clenched his fists so hard that his nails left indents in his palm; he could hear his brother’s shout, and with a fluster he turned back to the dwarf.
“How much longer?” he snapped.
“It is almost liquefied!” Eitri cried back.
Loki gazed back at his brother, “Come on, Thor…”
Only seconds were needed; perhaps he had been wrong to doubt the God of Thunder. Still, that thought did not set his nerves at bay as a split-second later, the gate slammed shut, and Loki saw his brother’s body drift motionlessly through the void of space towards the forging platform. He rushed forward, summoning a net of magic to catch Thor before he slammed into the ground, and set him down gently before dropping to his side.
“Thor! Brother, you fool, answer me!”
Thor’s eyes fluttered and his lip twitched, but he did not give any indication that he had heard Loki’s frantic words; Loki looked back to the forge, watching as Eitri broke the cast apart with a mallet, revealing the two heads of Stormbreaker.
“Is it done?” Loki called out, and Eitri darted around, flustered.
“The handle! I need to find the handle!” the dwarf exclaimed, before rushing off down the platform.
“Is he alright!?” Rocket cried, joining at Thor’s other side.
Loki observed his brother’s scorched body, his pink, singed skin, and the way Thor’s chest rose and fell in a way that was all too slight, and shook his head grimly.
“He needs the axe”, Loki breathed, and Eitri had yet to return; his brother was so close to death.
Just when Loki assumed the worst would happen, Groot screamed from behind them, and they turned in sync to find the teenage tree fusing his arm to the weapon, effectively creating a strong, sturdy handle, before severing his own arm, sacrificing it to complete the axe.
It was done, it was created, and Loki forgave the annoying tree for his affinity with mind-warping video games.
“Thor! Up, you oaf”, Loki snapped, shaking his brother’s shoulders, “The axe has been crafted!”
Thor’s hand twitched, the weapon flew through the air, and at once they were all engulfed in a bright radiance as the God of Thunder's strength returned anew.
It had been roughly two hours since they’d received Bruce’s call, and Amelia was still not faring well; she had a bad feeling in her stomach that simply did not want to subside, and her hopes had continued to dwindle with nobody to assure her. Well, Pepper was with her, but the woman had not said much other than offering to make some coffee.
Pepper clearly had a much stronger will than Amelia; she kept a clear head and an impressive outward demeanour of confidence, unlike Amelia, who had fought herself back from the verge of tears several times already, and sat rigid on the couch, hugging her knees just so her body would not visibly shake.
“I’m sure he’s fine, you know”, Pepper finally said, breaking the deafening silence so abruptly that Amelia almost jumped.
“Mm…? You mean Tony?” Amelia murmured, rubbing her eyes to clear the blurriness from them.
“Loki”, Pepper clarified, “I know how much you care about him, and though I’ve never really shared more than one word with him, I know for a fact that he’s quite irrepressible and can withstand even the most savage assault.”
Amelia blinked, biting her lip gently.
“He took the full might of the Hulk, after all”, Pepper continued, offering Amelia a small smile, and Amelia realised the woman was trying her utmost to provide repose.
Amelia nodded in acknowledgement, returning the smile crookedly, “Thanks”, she whispered, “-and, um, I’m sure Tony’s fine too. He’s, uh, like, really smart, and strategic… and he always thinks of something.” She knew her attempt at consoling Pepper was nowhere near as articulate as the other woman’s, but she hoped it would suffice and put Pepper more at ease.
Silence fell once more, and after an extended period of time that felt like hours but was, in actual fact, no longer than twelve minutes, Pepper suddenly sprung to her feet.
“That’s it, I’m done with waiting”, Pepper declared, before turning on her heel and heading towards the door.
“W-where are you going?” Amelia stuttered, blinking rapidly as she scrambled to her feet and staggered after her, not wishing to be alone for even a few seconds.
“I’m going to Wakanda, are you coming?” Pepper spoke, matter-of-factly, and Amelia’s mouth fell open.
“T-to Wakanda? Where the Mind stone is? Where all the fighting is probably happening?” Amelia questioned, wondering if Pepper had snapped.
“Yes”, the woman stated, walking purposefully towards the elevator that would take her to the operational helicopter pad.
Amelia stood, mouth agape, knowing it was an absolutely terrible idea to dive head first into the storm, but at the same time, all the waiting around and worrying was just not good for her heart.
“Wait for me!” Amelia cried, chasing after her.
“The Tesseract, or your brother’s head.”
It had taken mere moments for Loki and Thor to arrive with Rocket and Groot in the heat of a ferocious battle between allies and the Outriders. Stormbreaker, along with incredible power, also possessed the ability to summon the Bifrost at will, transporting them in a burst of prismatic colours to the very fields of Wakanda - Thanos’s current position.
The jump to conflict was instantaneous; they had charged across the battlefield, avoiding the bodies of fallen men, women and Outriders, assisting those who continued to fight. In the near distance, Thanos’s ship had landed, and Loki had needed only to share a look of mutual resolve with his brother before they both lurched into a sprint, tearing down every enemy in their path with bolts of lightning and precise slashes with sharp blades.
As the two brothers bounded towards the Mad Titan, Loki saw Avengers and Guardians alike, as well as those he had fought against in the Chitauri invasion six years prior, and yet now he fought alongside them for the fate of the universe.
Thanos’s ship was large, with its metallic legs protruding from the body of the ship and digging deep into the earth below, and as they had closed in on it, the sun was blotted out from the sky, casting a great shadow over the warzone. Onwards, they ran, spotting their ultimate foe below the sunless expanse of his ship.
When they were close, Thor had hurtled into action, streaks of white lightning fizzing around his body, before following the point of his axe to take out the mindless beasts surrounding Thanos, and Loki had followed swiftly, blasting the creatures with magical projectiles, until Thanos stood alone before them.
The Mad Titan had remained passive as he watched his waves of Outriders fall at their hands, supremely unconcerned, even smirking as blood was spilt and the beasts were fried, and then he had laughed as Thor and Loki faced him, taunting them, inciting them.
They had not counted on Thanos having already collected five of the six infinity stones.
Loki stood before Thanos now, his legs entwined with snaking roots - likely owing to the capabilities of the Reality stone - which left him effectively fixed to the spot, unable to sever them with his magically-enhanced blades, and he had tried; Thor hung from the vicious grip Thanos had on his head, barely conscious, his body beaten and his lungs grating for breath as the Mad Titan stared Loki down, waiting.
Fists clenched tightly at his sides, Loki stood, outwardly composed, as his thoughts rushed through his head at a million miles per hour - he needed a plan. He racked his brain, imagining and surmising all the outcomes of whatever spell he chose to cast or whatever trick he endeavoured to play, and yet all these ideas culminated in one undesirable consequence - his brother’s skull being crushed in Thanos’s huge palm.
Loki had prepared all of his tricks and strategies under the assumption that his own life would be the one in immediate peril; he had foolishly not accounted for the possibility that Thanos would use Thor to get to him - to get what he wanted.
“I assume you have a preference?”
Loki bristled at the amusement in Thanos’s voice. He needed more time to develop a plan - something that would ensure their survival and that Thanos would never get his hands on the final stone - but the Mad Titan was growing visibly impatient.
He needed more time!
“Oh, I do”, Loki responded, “kill away!” He held his breath once the words left his mouth, knowing he had barely seconds to devise an idea, and fought to stay cool-headed when he saw Thor’s eyes blink open, disbelief and anguish clear on his face. It stabbed at Loki’s heart, but he prayed that he would later have the chance to explain to Thor his intent to deceive Thanos.
Thanos had clearly not expected Loki’s answer, and arched an eyebrow before his lips curled maliciously, and he held the Power stone to Thor’s temple, letting the potent, purple energy creep into Thor’s brain.
Thor’s screams were instantaneous, and Loki felt his eyes grow wet. He watched his brother endure agonising torture for precisely fifteen seconds before relenting.
“Alright, stop!” Loki cried, looking upon Thanos with unimaginable hatred.
Thor coughed and sputtered, blood flying from his mouth in droplets as Thanos ceased the abuse, “We don’t have the Tesseract… it was destroyed on Asgard!” The God of Thunder’s words were slurred and blended with residual pain.
At that moment, Loki’s eyes met his brother’s and he could tell that Thor knew, from just the way his brother held his gaze, that he was completely wrong.
Loki raised his hand, pulling the Tesseract from its safe, dimensional pocket, offering it up in exchange for Thor’s safety.
Thor’s mouth fell open, “All this time… why?”
Loki steeled himself, lips pressed tightly together, and upon looking past Thor’s head, he saw a fast-moving blur of green swiftly approaching, and smiled faintly.
“I assure you, brother, the sun will shine on us again.”
Thor’s eyes twitched, his gaze begging Loki not to hand over the final infinity stone.
Thanos laughed, “Your optimism is misplaced, Asgardian”, he remarked, reaching forth for the glowing cube in Loki’s palm.
“Well for one thing”, Loki boldly began, head slightly cocked, “I’m not Asgardian. And for another, we have a Hulk.”
Everything happened too quickly. The Hulk leapt at Thanos, catching the Mad Titan off-guard and sending him tumbling to the ground, launching promptly into a frenzied assault. The roots that bound Loki’s legs decayed as Thanos’s concentration of the Reality stone’s power was shattered, and he dived for his brother, catching Thor before he hit the ground.
The Tesseract hit the ground in the commotion, springing out of reach, and now that Loki had Thor out of immediate jeopardy, his mind was a little clearer and swift to reinvent his initial scheme.
While the Hulk had Thanos distracted, Loki stepped away from his battered brother to mentally sift through the spells in his arsenal and, upon finding the one he needed, cast it subtly upon himself - a charm that would slow his breath and pulse dramatically, awarding him the outward illusion of a corpse to one not examining him so attentively; he set a delay of several minutes, fortified himself, and ventured to do exactly what he did best - lie.
Stepping back into the skirmish, Loki witnessed Thanos punch the Hulk into unconsciousness, tossing him away like he weighed nothing, and Thor mustered his remaining strength to deliver one final blow that barely phased the Mad Titan; Thanos once again called upon the Reality stone, ensnaring Thor with unyielding roots, forcing him in place on his knees - only then did Thanos face Loki once again, his expression that of ultimate displeasure, but Loki adorned himself with a charismatic smile, the picture of bubbling overconfidence.
It was all part of his plan. He aimed to rile Thanos to the point that the titan would strike him down dead, and when he was assured nobody was paying attention to his ‘corpse’, he would take the form of Gamora, the titan’s beloved daughter, and use the illusion to baffle and delay Thanos just long enough for Thor to retrieve his bearings - and his axe, which was presently embedded in one of the legs of Thanos’s ship - to land the conclusive blow.
“I must say, Thanos, I do admire your intentions”, Loki spoke, stepping closer with reckless and daring intent, “To rid the universe of half its inhabitants for the sake of those left alive, and at random! How considerate of you not to show favouritism.”
Thanos’s eyes narrowed, amusement plain on his large, purple face, and it was clear the titan did not buy Loki’s sudden turn of attitude in the slightest - it was no matter, he wasn’t supposed to be fooled by that.
“Admittedly, I have very recently come to see things from your perspective and I would be honoured if you would allow me to join you in your objective to bring peace and joy to the cosmos”, Loki continued on, taking slow, purposeful steps, measured, calculated, he lay a hand over his heart, the other resting innocently at his side.
“I, Loki, Prince of Asgard… Odinson”, his eyes flickered to Thor, who watched on with uncertainty of what to make from his brother’s display, “-the rightful King of Jotunheim, God of Mischief, do hereby pledge to you… my undying fidelity.” Loki bowed his head minimally, waiting several beats, before he conjured a blade in his left hand, and lunged.
The dagger was never meant to meet its mark, and it didn’t. With a glimmer of red from the Reality stone affixed in the gauntlet, the blade transformed into a flower - a white chrysanthemum - and Loki froze in place, allowing a misleading expression of fear to come over his face as Thanos chuckled at the ‘failed assassination attempt’.
Loki wondered briefly how he would meet his supposed end at the hands of the titan - there were many creative ways Thanos could choose to kill him, and many of which that could potentially be quite painful indeed, but there was a visible sign of impatience in on the titan’s face that led Loki to believe it would be over relatively quickly; Thanos was truly eager to get his hands on that final stone and accomplish his goal.
It would not happen. It couldn’t happen. Not when Loki had something to live for.
He pondered no further when Thanos seized him by the neck in a dense, uncompromising hold, and lifted him off the ground, his legs dangling helplessly as the titan’s purple fingers squeezed the life out of him.
“No-” Thor tried to protest, but was quickly silenced under the makeshift muzzle of his restraints.
This is rather tolerable, Loki thought, as he grappled in Thanos’s hold. It wouldn’t be too much of a bother to call upon his magic and reconstruct his windpipe before putting the rest of his plan into action - there were worser, messier ways he could have gone.
“You… w-will never be… a… god”, Loki choked out as a final ‘fuck you’ to the Mad Titan, whose eyes sparked with controlled rage, and he felt his trachea begin to give under the inexorable pressure.
Then Thanos smirked, and held the gauntlet to Loki’s forehead.
The final thing Loki saw was a flicker of gleaming yellow, and then his awareness drained, and all that was left was darkness.
Loki’s second to last thought was that the rest of his plan might not go as he had hoped it would, and his very final thought was of Amelia.
Amelia stared down at the remnants of the warzone as Pepper brought the helicopter down to land; what was presumably a once thriving, green field was now the image of lifeless chaos, the expanse of the pasture was cluttered with bodies - some human, some not - and the earth was displaced, uneven and ripped up, littered with shallow gorges and the explosive remains of wrecked, blazing ship.
Her heart hammered in her chest, climbing up her throat in horror at the devastating sight - she had never seen so much death in once place, not even in the vestiges of the Chitauri invasion many years ago, and it caused her chest to seize up, and her hands to shake, and her stomach to churn and make her retch.
When they landed, Pepper was off in an instant, searching frantically for Tony, leaving Amelia to stagger around like a headless chicken, on the hunt for Loki or Thor - because if she found one, she would surely find the other.
It was difficult navigating across the damaged plains with corpses strewn about the path, but she made her way to where she could see an assemblage of people is a variety of bright colours. She caught sight of Tony stepping out of his Iron Man suit so that Pepper could crush him in her arms, she saw Bruce lying on the ground, awake but exhausted, she saw so many she recognised - Spider-Man, Steve Rogers, Black Widow, that Doctor Strange fellow, and several others that she had never seen before - a talking raccoon, a sentient tree, a green-skinned woman hugging it out with a blue, cybernetic woman, a woman with antennae, a big, grey dude with bulging muscles, and a guy who just looked rather ordinary in a red, leather coat.
When she saw Thor, slumped down in a sitting position, leaning most of his weight against a pile of ship debris with an axe clutched loosely in his hand, she felt her heart judder, and reeled towards him with hasty steps.
“Thor! Where’s Loki?” Amelia exclaimed as she reached him, placing a hand on his arm because he really didn’t look too well, and she noticed with a start that Thor now had two eyes instead of one.
Thor seemed vaguely alarmed by her presence, eyes widening as he looked her over, “What are you doing here, Amelia?”
She ignored his question, repeating her initial enquiry as to her lover’s whereabouts, “Where is Loki!?” she demanded, her tone wild and panicked.
Thor said nothing, mouth hanging open, but his gaze filled with pain and regret as his eyes flickered to the largest mass of the ship’s wreckage, and suddenly Amelia couldn’t breathe.
“Th-Thor”, she forced out, eyes undeniably filling with tears, “Please, t-tell me he’s not…”
Thor’s lips wobbled for a moment, “We have not yet… recovered his body…”
Amelia thought she might’ve heard something snap inside her, and it may very well have been her heart fracturing, splintering into many pieces, at the very particular way Thor had phrased his sorrowful response. Recovered his body. Body. Implying that Thor believed him to be dead.
Shaking her head, Amelia looked to the fiery remains of the large ship, and in an impulsive move, she sprung off towards it, ignoring Thor’s shout for her to ‘stop! Amelia, wait! It’s dangerous!’ and instead increasing her floundering pace, determined to search through every inch of the burning debris if she so had to. She would find Loki, and she would find him alive.
As she navigated through the detritus, she cried out for her lover above the crackling sounds of the fire, “Loki! LOKI!” and listened hard through the echoes of her screams for any sound, any sign of life that might indicate Loki was somewhere amongst the rubble.
She screamed her throat raw, searching arduously for a hint of green and black, maybe even a sliver of gold, but her efforts returned nothing, and just when she was on the cusp of losing her mind, giving in and accepting Thor’s implications, she dropped suddenly, tripping down the edge of a shallow chasm. She slid down the rocky slope, her hands and arms becoming bloody as she tried to grip at the sharp rocks and jagged metals as she fell, before she hit a narrow stretch of smooth land, crying weakly as she curled in on herself.
Amelia wasn’t sure how long she laid there, shaking in miserable distress, but the ground, albeit flat, was not comfortable. Although her muscles protested, she pushed herself up onto her hands and knees, wincing as the raw, bleeding skin of her palms objected to her movements, and raised her head.
Before her lay a flower. A white chrysanthemum with lively petals and a bright green stem, as if freshly picked. Amelia cocked her head, confusion creeping through her distraught manner, because chrysanthemums were not at all native to Africa - so why was there a seemingly wild one right there?
Her gaze darted up, beyond the flower, and the first thing her eyes spotted was a reaching hand several metres away, connected to a still, unmoving body that was partially trapped under a slightly curved slab of metal.
Amelia jumped to her feet, forgetting the pain in her limbs, and toppled down to her knees beside her lover.
“Loki! Loki! Oh, God, darling, please- please wake up!” she cried, hands shaking as they hovered above him, afraid to touch him at first.
He was badly injured, pinned down by the smooth edge of the hunk of weighted metal, his eyes were closed and his lips were parted; Amelia concerned herself with finding the pulse point in his neck to ensure he was still alive, but she held her fingers to his neck and waited, and waited… and waited… and felt nothing.
“No”, Amelia wept, face wet with fresh tears as she shook her head, “No, no, NO-” she wailed in despair, taking in his hand her own, leaning over him to gently thread her fingers through his hair.
She saw the ugly, dark purple marks visible just below his collar, scanning his pale face to take in the many cuts and bruises that marred his skin, and hoped, with painful wrath, that whoever did this to her lover had suffered a painful, drawn-out death.
“Please… please”, she whispered, tasting the salt of her tears as she spoke, watching as they flecked down upon Loki’s face, “Please don’t leave me… please.”
A light puff of air tickled her cheek, and she heard the unmistakable sound of a rasping breath.
Sitting up at breakneck speed, Amelia cupped Loki’s face, “Loki? Loki, wake up- Loki?” she was sure she had heard him exhale, and she rushed again to take his pulse.
Amelia waited, fingers pressed to his neck, and put her ear to his mouth, her own heart pounding in her chest, until finally, she felt a pulse - just one, but strong - and another soft, gasping breath.
He was alive. He was alive.
Amelia screamed for the God of Thunder for several long minutes, willing the man to hear her cries, before she heard the sound of rapid footsteps - more than one person? - and called out again.
Within seconds, two heads appeared over the edge of the shallow gorge she had fallen into; it wasn’t Thor, it was two unfamiliar faces, the woman with green skin and hair that blended from brown to pink, and the human-looking man in the red, leather coat.
“Help me, please! He’s alive, he needs help!” Amelia called out, and the two of them skidded down the slope into the ravine with far more grace than she had done, and came to her aid.
“He’s trapped- please, help me-” Amelia wheezed, knowing there was no conceivable way she could lift the large, metal panel by herself.
“Whoa, whoa, you sit tight, little lady. Star-Lord and Gamora at your service”, the man, Star-Lord, exclaimed assertively, and moved immediately with Gamora to lift the heavy chunk of metal from where it dug against Loki’s ribs.
Amelia attempted to drag him out from under the wreckage, but Loki was ridiculously heavier than he looked, and it took Gamora’s help to lay him down, out of harm’s way.
“Loki”, Amelia whispered, her trembling fingers brushing his cheek.
Star-Lord grimaced, “Grease looks more than enough banged up”, he mumbled, “You sure he’s alive?”
“Yes”, Amelia sputtered, her face angry and impatient - she didn’t mean to snap at the people who had helped save her lover, but her fears and worries controlled her, “He is alive! His pulse is slow, but it’s there. We need to get him help, please!”
Gamora’s face softened at the pitiful sight Amelia must have made, “We will help him, just relax”, she tried to comfort.
“Maybe I can carry him”, Star-Lord suggested, and when he heaved Loki up over his shoulder, he winced at the strain, “Holy shit, this is like carrying a tonne of bricks…” But summoned enough strength to haul him up regardless.
Amelia staggered behind as they carried him, feeling the need to whisper the occasional, ‘please be careful’, when his head jogged a little too harshly.
Thor found them, swaying slightly on the spot with how drained and exhausted he was, but his eyes lit up with hope when he learned Loki was still alive.
They would find him help. He would be alright.
He would be okay.