It was the biggest gamble in the universe and Loki prayed desperately that it would succeed. This was absolute madness. Madness beyond anything he could have dreamt but Loki had to take the chance that they could survive and win. Half of the remaining Asgardians had been brutally and efficiently slaughtered, the power of Thanos and his Children brought down on their ship, while he’d been forced to watch.
He could only silently hope the others made their way to safety and that the quick plans he’d made upon realizing whose ship had found them would succeed. It had taken far too much for him to pretend to not care about Thor’s pain, mind mentally calculating the best way to set off each of his schemes.
The look on Thor’s face, when Loki pulled the Tesseract out of one of his pocket dimensions, was surprisingly painful. That look had nothing on Thor’s You really are the worst brother that followed. Loki couldn’t reveal the plan, could only take Thor’s disappointment, even as he hoped Thor might understand he did have a plan as he offered him a reassurance.
Thor was in no shape to help advance his plans, the Hulk was waiting for his cue and Heimdall knew what to do if everything failed. If this last attempt didn’t stop Thanos before he got his hands on the Space Stone. Unfortunately Loki knew it was going to fail. They were destined to lose this but Loki didn't give a fuck about destiny. Not anymore. The remaining royal family would be wiped from existence if they completely failed and that couldn't happen. The Beast couldn’t hope to go against the Mad Titan and Loki’s silver-tongue would only get him so far. He hadn't survived this long only to die at that purple monster's hands.
That was why he had such a risky, suicidal plan mixed in with everything else. He almost wanted to laugh at Thanos’s words, a hysterical and maniacal laugh, as he mentally steeled himself.
“Well, for one thing, I’m not Asgardian. And for another,” Loki thought back to the first time he’d had Anthony Stark’s full attention focused on him. The amusing way the mortal had threatened him and Loki couldn’t resist borrowing one of his lines. “We have a Hulk.”
He flung himself towards Thor, everything in him screaming that he needed to get Thor out of the line of fire, as the Hulk roared and attacked Thanos with everything he had. Loki had experienced the power of the Green Beast, had been laid humble by it and witnessed it turned on his brother who had very nearly won. That same brother had lost to Thanos and Loki knew the Hulk didn’t have a true hope to win this one.
It would take a miracle he didn’t believe in and certainly couldn't count on.
Loki slipped back into the shadows, into the darkness of the damaged ship, as he traveled over to Heimdall and offered what little comfort he could give the gatekeeper all the while cloaking them. Despite everything he respected the ancient god who had, no doubt, watched him brought to the Realm Eternal for the first time and had kept his silence. The powerful god had fought bravely, violently and with every last ounce of his power to protect them as one by one the Asgardians fell. Heimdall wouldn’t survive this and they both knew it. There was no fear in his eyes, not here at the end and after such a valiant fight, and Loki lowered his eyes in deference for the sacrifice Heimdall was about to make.
“May you find your place in the halls of Valhalla, where the brave will live forever.” The words fell from his mouth, soft and solemn, and meant only for the god who lay before him while he continued to conceal their interaction with his magic.
Gold eyes met his green and something like a smirk tugged at Heimdall’s lips. “It was an honor to serve my King and my Prince to my last breath. Protect our people and offer your brother guidance. Asgard needs both of you.”
Emotion slammed into him, pushing some of the horror of the situation to the back of his mind, as his eyes burned and threatened to spill over. This really was it and fear threatened to choke him. Loki nodded, clasped Heimdall’s hand and bowed over it with another soft prayer before he traveled back to Thor as the Hulk started to lose. He gripped his brother, using his magic to create replicas of them to buy them precious seconds, as his muscles tensed in preparation.
Sure enough the Hulk slammed to the ground and did not get back up.
Thanos had truly beaten the Beast and their lives hung by a thread. He could hear Heimdall calling upon the Allfathers as Loki felt the swell of dark magic gathering before he flung them through the space separating them and the Hulk. Loki had a second, a mere second, to see the furious shock on Thanos’s face as the Bifrost wrapped around them and flung them from the Mad Titan’s unholy fury. He felt a kind of crushing relief as they were taken away and sent to one of his most important allies.
It had been the only place he could think of when he’d first taken Heimdall aside before they had been boarded.
The dark energy dug into them, pulling and tugging violently, as Loki felt Thor shuddering in his grasp. He didn’t hesitate to wrap his magic around his brother, shielding him from the bulk of the damage caused by such darkness, as stars and planets flashed by them in a rush. They needed to get to Earth, they needed to let them know of the horror that was coming and Loki needed to seek out Anthony Stark once again. He knew the mortal had seen into the Void, knew the kind of wonders Anthony was capable of creating and Loki hoped he’d taken the mortal’s measure correctly.
After so many meetings he couldn’t have failed to read Anthony and it was that assurance that he held onto as they traveled closer to their destination.
He hadn’t been idle while he’d been playing at being Odin. Loki had traveled to Midgard countless times, met with Anthony Stark every chance he could and did his best to prepare who he had known would be an important ally. Anthony was the only mortal worth anything on that rock as far as he was concerned and the only one worthy of being made aware of the true threat to the universe. He just hoped that Anthony was ready now despite the little warning they had received.
If Thor’s tales were to be believed when he’d thought Loki to be Odin then Anthony had been killing himself trying to find a way to protect his Realm shortly after Loki had left for his punishment and after multiple meetings where he’d seen that passion first hand Loki doubted Anthony's fire had burned out even if it had been months since their last contact. Months of being out of contact with his mortal as Loki focused on Asgard.
The universe needed Anthony’s kind of tenacity and creativity to survive. Loki had realized it in the Penthouse of Anthony’s Tower even as the influence of the Other had urged him to throw Anthony through the window after the mortal had insulted him.
Loki had thought they had more time to prepare and bolster their defenses. He hated being wrong.
His mind tumbled over each step he’d taken to get to this point. Their message should have gotten out, the warning of Thanos’s hunt for the Infinity Stones shouted out along with pleas for aid, and he hoped others in the universe would rally to the call. If nothing else they would know that The Collector needed protection and so would the Infinity Stone in his care. They would know that Midgard was next.
Glass shattered as the ground rushed to meet them and they slammed into Earth with all the grace of a giant meteor making landfall.
Loki closed his eyes, pushing past the aching pain racing through him at the rough landing and dark magic still pulsing against his own, as a glance over revealed the Hulk shrinking back to Bruce Banner. Good. We need the mortal’s mind more than the Beast’s strength and rage.
He could hear Banner babbling about Thanos as he checked Thor over and immediately set about using his magic to heal as much of damage as possible. Thor would need to travel to Nidavellir, they were in desperate need of a dwarf forged weapon, to replace Mjolnir and ready him for war. The other Infinity Stones needed to be secured, he knew Earth held two, and communication would have to be made with the remaining Asgardians as well as anyone in the universe who might be able to come to their aid.
Hopefully Midgard was prepared for the war Thanos was about to bring down on their heads as he sought the two Infinity Stones hidden on Earth’s surface.
“We need Anthony Stark.”
Loki needed his cunning, brilliant mortal.
All of the talking around him ceased when he raised his voice and Banner stared at him with wide, disbelieving eyes. He could feel Thor’s stare burning against the side of his face and waved him off. They didn’t need to know how close he’d gotten to Anthony Stark or how the two of them had countless hours going over contingencies to combat Thanos. The ideas Anthony had for a new Iron Man suit had been brilliant, all in preparation for Thanos, and Loki hoped it had been completed. Anthony would need it.
"Why do you need Tony?" Bruce looked suspicious and Loki almost rolled his eyes. He'd just helped to save all of them. Shouldn't that have earned him some kind of trust?
“Is he not the one who designs Midgard’s defenses? Is he not one of your Realm's protectors?” he needed Anthony’s mind and his drive and the kindred, vicious need to protect that which he considered his. There was little need for him to explain, in full, why he wanted Anthony Stark and Loki wasn’t going to disclose the fact that Anthony had known about Loki for years.
They certainly wouldn’t trust him or Anthony if he revealed any of it and that would be counterproductive to his plans. “Earth is about to be invaded and I know Anthony Stark would be useful in preventing its destruction or do you know someone else of genius intellect, capable of fighting against invading forces and with a proven record of winning?”
It was a relief when the second-rate sorcerer used his magic to open up a portal after only staring at him for a few moments. Loki stepped close enough to see over the mortal’s shoulder and through the portal he’d conjured. On the other side, actually outside of his workshop for once and looking rested, Anthony stared back at him with wide brown eyes that held a hint of pleasure at the sight of him.
He wanted to step through the portal, wrap his arms around Anthony, grab Thor and hide them somewhere the Mad Titan could never reach but neither Anthony nor Thor would allow it.
Something on his face must have clued his mortal into the seriousness of the situation. Loki almost felt bad when that wide-eyed look turned to realization and he could see the way Anthony forced himself to push everything else aside to focus on them. To focus on him and the bad news he brought. Anthony would make a magnificent King.
“Hey, Reindeer Games. It’s been awhile.” Brown eyes showed determination and resolve as Anthony took a step towards the portal. “How bad is it?”