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Run For The Shadows

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Loki’s final moments were crushing—as literally and metaphorically as possible.

He realized that he will hear that final crunch of his neck for a very long time in his dreams and nightmares, haunting him, Loki was sure of that. He wanted, no needed to see Thanos defeated. And, well, considering he was currently lying on something that felt hard—like packed earth and dusty, the taste of sand wafting up tickling his nose—instead of endless black; never drawing breath again, he might still have a chance in that.

No more resurrections? I’m sorry, have you met me?

It was in the hands of the Norns themselves when it was that he would take his final breath, and not some arrogant overripe grape who could not even use the gift of the Infinity Stones correctly, for creation instead of destruction. What a lumock. Why cull half a population when you could have given them resources and more planets to spread out on? Really, he didn’t think this through. Undeserving of the gift of the Infinity Stones. Loki was already somewhat waiting for karma to strike back, to show Thanos that his plan would not work. Everything was tied together, and this wasn’t a balance.

So. Where was he? Dusty hard ground, sand in his nose already, better to take shallow breaths; a bit of a stale wind in his hair and—is that a very pointy spear poking in his neck right now?

Not a spear.

But a sharp-sharp knife with Hela attached at the other end of it.

Oh my. “Hello, sister.” Better to start on a peaceful note.

He tried to be nice, he really did. But at the same time he felt that knife driving deeper into his neck and that was just—unacceptable. So he wished, and bet on the fact that his muscles would work in this realm just as they did when he was still alive; and tried to roll away from her reach, trying to ignore the pain flaring up from the injuries to his neck which had decided to remind him about their existence..

Turns out he could roll away, and get out of stabbing distance, but there was nothing stopping Hela from taking the few steps to follow him and to slam him back down. “Unhh.” That was just rude.

Not wanting to aggravate his injuries even more, or to look more pathetic in Helas eyes, than he probably did now, Loki decided to stay where he was. It’s not like he can die again—can he?

“What?” Loki snapped, looking up at Hela, then flicking hair out of his face where it had stuck during his lame escape attempt. His breath was already picking up speed, which didn’t bode well, being in Hela’s presence wasn't good for his blood pressure.

“I am unthinkably upset with you. And your brother. But mostly you.” Hela swished the knife through the air, to show it off. A moment later the knife was once again poking at him, at least this time not at his chin. He really didn't want anyone near his neck right now. Or ever, if he could help it.

Ignoring the sharp-sharp knife wanting to go through his flesh, Loki slowly tried to get up into a seated position, to take stock of himself. There was dirt under his fingernails and stale air in his lungs. His neck twinged and it was painful to swallow. Looking up showed a sky made out of clouds, dark and ominous; the light dim, as if almost absent in this realm. Everything was gray. And bare, save a few rock formations nearby and looming mountains in the distance. It made him think that this could be Helheim most likely. Since he was fairly sure that he was actually dead and this was not Valhalla with its merry feasting and never ending flow of meade, then this definitely was Helheim. Which made it the absolutely last good place to be but at the same time it held promise—getting from one realm to another was easier than becoming not-dead. He could do this; get out and to back to Thor, before his brother got himself into an even bigger trouble.

Observing Hela closer, now that she wasn’t actively piercing him through with the knife, revealed that she was slightly shivering. Loki personally did not feel the cold that much, never had. Probably another hint that he should have realized his jotun nature sooner. But shapeshifting was so natural to him, always, that he did not suspect it for a moment.

“Well. You did try destroying Asgard. Thor wasn’t about to let you do that.” His throat constricted on his brother’s name. Damn. Saying it aloud was so much different than just thinking about him, wishing to be by his side.

Hela drew back her knife a bit, so that it no longer was poking at him, looking him over, as if considering all of Loki for the first time. “And you? Would you have kneeled before me?”

He had to grimace at that phrase. No wonder Odin was so pissed off at his plans on ruling Midgard. They had had the same styling preferences and general persona. Though Loki wanted to believe that he pulled off the look so much better than Hela.

“Had you asked me that two years ago, sister.” Loki said, looking up at Hela, with a rueful smile. She had missed her chance for an ally in his persona. Right after Svartalfheim, or even earlier, after Midgard, he would have gladly gutted Asgard to its foundations and Odin with them—everyone on that wretched rock floating in space. But having fully enjoyed what Asgard could offer him under the guise of Odin in a time of peace his decisions regarding the realm had changed a lot, to a view she would not have accepted. “Well. My answer would have been much different.” He smirked, wanting to gloat more. Something was moving in the distance making the smirk fade into a frown. This was something that had looked to be a cloud, was now rolling down the far away mountains, gathering in the foothills. Churning, like a sandstorm.

Sensing danger he realized that it was high time to get out of here, they were right in the open, with no shelter of a defensible structure to aid them. Pulling himself back further, away from the still pointy knife in Hela’s hands, Loki started gathering magic for a quick getaway, only then realizing that it was responding sluggishly, too slow, not wanting to obey his command. Drat. So running it was. At least at the start before he could do something with the amount of magic gathered.

“This is where I leave you. Good luck ruling this place.” Loki motioned towards the wave of incoming whatever-they-were. “You won’t even have to change the name of this place.”

Hela turned to where he had pointed, frowning, before looking back at Loki, “What do you know about ruling, you little arrogant shit?” And then she started walking towards the clamoring cloud. It got louder and more nasty looking the closer it got to them.

Loki cursed under his breath, leaving Hela to her probable demise, as he was still gathering magic to lift himself into air, to fly over the herd, to let them pass by. Burrowing into the soil would take less magic, but weathering a stampede wasn’t on his to do list today; or ever.

Thinking about immediate future and the one a bit further ahead, he came to a conclusion that his list of his major tasks to do was simple and short for the moment.

point number one to do: get out of Helheim
point number two to do: Thor

Sweet and succinct, and the second item was bound to be definitely more pleasurable than the first one.

Loki didn’t waste time running away, he was still standing near the place he had woke up at. Looking to where Hela had gone, he saw her moving steadily towards the herd—it really was a herd, but of what?—Loki wasn’t about to interfere in her plans; she did try to murder him, several times over. Getting thrown off Bifrost, right into the void again was the worst; he did not enjoy trying to sleep on Sakaar, nightmares and dreams haunting him. And while troubled sleep wasn't the only reason to avoid it, it was still a good enough reason to stay awake. Thanos did take care of that particular nightmare fodder by adding to it something far more horrible. Loki had unconsciously been tracing the edge of the bruises near his clavicle. He could feel them inflamed and red, angry and painful.

The herd eventually got louder and louder; the stale air seemed to turn even worse with their arrival. Feeling the air become heavier, smelling more of death was when he realized what the herd actually was. It was souls, every single one that was trapped on Helheim, wandering lost and unable to escape from here. And they were hungry.

He considered moving into the opposite direction, to put distance between him and the approaching storm. But it was no use, the herd would reach him eventually. Better to hold ground, stock on magic and be ready.

He looked towards where Hela was still marching in the herd’s direction.

Loki did not try to apply logic as to why he was here with Hela, and only her; yes, they both did perish close to one other, but Thanos had killed many in between. Death realm had its own set of rules and paradoxes of time and space, he was sure.

“Damn it, sister.” Loki cursed again, turning and running after Hela, gathering more magic. It would take more to save two people.

He really was straining his heart like this, saving one sibling, now another. He hoped Hela would appreciate it, but did not hold out much hope for it. He knew Thor had grown to love the moments when Loki was in a position to save his life. He had done the reverse enough times to come to long when it was Loki that could save Thor.

The clamoring got even louder, the wails closer, making the ground shake. Hela did not cower at that, she was standing tall in the herd’s path, both knives drawn and in a loud voice pontificating something at them. The words did nothing to slow the herd down, nor enraged them. They were beyond speech or ability recognize words spoken to them.

Loki was now running at full tilt, but already he saw that the herd would reach Hela before him. He saw her at last falter in her speech, lowering the knives a bit. Loki cursed under his breath, adding a bit of magic to his speed to reach her in time. Hela had put the knives back up, her stance now more defensive.

He reached Hela at the same time as the herd did.

With a jump up, and then sharply down he drove into Hela, pushing her down, below, right into the soil, sending a working ahead, to create a path down into relative safety.

Loki felt claws and hands grabbing at his back, something slicing and a sudden pain, but before he even had a breath to gasp out, the soil had devoured them both, plunging them deep underground.

Hela was struggling, trying to get out of his grasp only to realize that there was no way out, they both were surrounded by darkness. Eventually stopping and going still Hela groaned, her breath harsh.

“You’re welcome.” Loki gasped out, acutely feeling the injury to his back; blood seeping through his tunic. That was not good. Now not only his neck was throbbing, but his back was bleeding.

They both heard and felt the stampede continue above their heads, too close for comfort. Loose soil fell into their little bubble of safety, threatening to ruin it, but magic held, protecting them both.

“Why did you do this? You could have left me to perish.” Hela spoke, a question in her voice.

“I could have, yes.” Loki replied, considering how much to share at the moment. “Consider it a favour. One I will have you pay back.” And he suspected that this favor will come in handy in Helheim. With how his luck was going lately, it would come into play at the most critical moment.

“Hmm.” Hela took in his answer without any further comments. The stampede was still going strong above their heads, not showing signs of stopping. Perhaps it would have been safer in the ground after all; if he had stayed flying it would take more and more magic to stay afloat, above it. He could have shifted into an animal, but he wasn’t willing to test his ability to shift back in this realm. Like this, burrowed under the soil, he only had to hold the protective bubble around them steady until the horror above them would pass.

Not long after Hela sighed and murmured, “Perhaps you are not the worst.”

Loki wanted to snort at that, but was holding himself still, against the pain, trying not to aggravate the wound. He could not hold the barrier and send magic to his wounds at the same time. His natural healing was doing its work, but it all was still feeling painful and too slow. He was inexplicably glad that upon waking Hela wanted to talk and stab later. He was also unsure if they could die on this realm. Probably no, every mistake would take them a step closer to becoming one of the mindless souls in the herd.

“High praise.” Loki replied. And not even mocking the praise. It somehow felt earned.

Eventually the herd thinned and stampede came to an end. He still held the barrier up to let the stragglers pass. No need to startle them all into turning around.

When everything was more than quiet he pushed the barrier up, shaking off the top layer of the soil that had kept them safe. Looking around everything was quiet and peaceful again. As peaceful as Helheim could get of course.

Loki got out of the hole in the ground first, wincing a bit at the pulling pain in his back. Not yet fully healed then. “Where to?”

“You’re asking me?” Hela huffed, turning her gaze away from the retreating herd of souls, finally looking at Loki with a somewhat dumbfounded look on her face. Not believing Loki would want to defer to her judgement.

“Well. You’ve been here longer.” Loki shrugged, already suspecting what kind of comment he was about to hear from Hela; since not that much time had passed since Asgard’s destruction and Thanos showing up. But at the moment they needed a direction to go in. And he needed to gather more magic if he wanted to get out of here. Healing his back seemed like a priority as well. His neck would keep, at last it wasn’t hard to draw breath, even if the bruises looked horrific.

“Not really. This place—it doesn't follow the same rules as the rest of the universe.” Hela put away her knives, grimacing. “Educated guess? Any direction would do.”

“Most likely.” Loki agreed, as long as this direction wasn’t the same as the one where the herd went. He started walking sideways, away from both where the herd came from and where it went. From not-that-quiet muttering coming from behind him, Hela was following.

Tense silence descended upon the, neither wanting to break it for a while as they were walking. With no clear goal to see, to wish for, they didn’t last very long in the silence.

Hela was the one who spoke, “Why are you here?”

Loki stiffened; not like it wasn’t an unexpected question, he was more surprised that Hela was interested enough in him to ask. Or to keep quiet about the dried blood on his back, showing as almost rusted stains on his leather tunic—then again she probably didn't have enough compassion in her to care about the injuries her rescuer had sustained.

“I’m dead.” He replied giving her a casual glance, which was bound to infuriate her.

“Don’t get smart with me, you little shit.” She snapped, glaring.

“Well, at least you already know how to be a big sister.” Loki snorted walking a little bit faster for a moment, to be out of possible stabbing range. From the enraged yell that came from behind him he did so right on time. His back wasn't yet fully mended to be assaulted by Hela again. He could still keep a good distance from her without hindrance, laughing at her curses.

Feeling Hela catch up to him, Loki sharply turned on his heel and held up his hands in surrender, “Peace, sister.”

“I should gut you where you stand!” Hela was definitely angry, one of her hands on the knife handle, ready to pull it out. “You impertinent—I can’t believe I’m even arguing with you.” He was glad that it didn’t take long for her steam to run out.

Feeling a tiny bit safer, Loki took a deep breath, relaxing his stance, slowly lowering his hands. “Got myself murdered,” he had to swallow, banishing the remembered constriction in his neck before he could continue, “By Thanos.” The bruises stung remembering the crushing sensation.

That stopped whatever motion Hela had started, her hands stopping the motion to withdraw the knife, hand stuck on the hilt still, clutching at it. With narrowed eyes, she asked, “Personally, by his own hand?”

Loki’s hand crept up, stopping below his neck, petting at his breaststone, not reaching the bruises, but oh so close. “Yes.” The response quiet, subdued.

“Then it really is a shame I didn’t get to meet you earlier. If someone like Thanos holds grudge enough to kill you himself—all my respect to you.” Hela inclined her head, this time definitely considering him something useful to her or to the universe, Loki could not guess. All he could see was that Hel was truly appreciating what she sees in him.

“Yes, well.” Loki cleared his throat, looking away, feeling extremely uncomfortable. He was used to feeling elated, even smug when a family member praised of appreciated him. But this time it was unnerving, feeling wrong. Squinting, he took a step sideways, not willing to speak about it more.

Looking in the distance, searching for something else to talk about, he noticed something. Tilting his head to the side, he shook it a bit, if it were only a mirage he was seeing. When it didn’t go away, he said, “There’s something there,” pointing towards the clouds on the horizon. It was like a glint, a shine in the far away distance; thin and sharp.

They fell into a more comfortable silence now, having a purpose in moving towards this glint. It was almost calling to them, unlike the herd of souls earlier.

As they got closer the glint gained a shape, several towers reaching up into the clouds. Architecture taking shape, growing and expanding, the tiny glint eventually widening into an entire palace. A palace in Helheim. What could possibly go wrong?

Hela was supposedly the Goddess of Death, but none of the souls in the herd obeyed whatever words she had spoken to them.

When they were halfway to the structure, the ground began to change, from dusty loose soil to a dark moss, softening under their feet. Dark green and blue and brown streaked the moss, showing its growth. Even closer to the palace, the most started to grow upwards, low ferns and eventually something that resembled blueberries sticking up, reaching towards the nonexistent sun.

Loki wasn’t about to try and taste any of the berries growing on the plants, their skin black and uninviting, but he could see how a desperate soul having arrived on Helheim would fall on its knees and gorge on the berries; only later to realize that having eaten something from this realm had bound them here forever, an eternity spent wandering the empty plains.

The blueberry shrubs grew in height as they walked even further towards the palace, eventually changing into cranberries, then raspberries, and other types of shrub berries, tempting them. But at the same time cautioning against eating the berries with their black leaves and thorns.

They were entering a sort of walley, the air temperature rising with every step they took; the palace starting to loom above them now.

Still only flora surrounded them, no other wandering souls or local fauna trying to eat them. Was it luck, or something keeping them at bay to ensure they would reach the palace unhindered?

“Not many things get this far I wager.” Loki observed, moving a fern out of the way, it’s leaves growing in all directions, tickling at their thighs.

“The plants have already eaten many, otherwise they would not survive growing in this realm.”

Loki had to snort at that; it was true that were nutrients in corpses, even if the bones were harder to chew up, even for the bigger predators. Yet another reason not to try and eat anything in this ‘garden’. “Better to be cautious then.”

Closer to the palace the wild growing this had thinned out, leaving only a carpet of moss to serve as a welcoming carpet. It also now was coloured more silver instead of different hues, especially where it bordered the palace walls. They had approached from the far left, the entrance and it’s silver moss shining brightly ahead. The palace up close was made out of rock, it was entirely overgrown by the same moss; reaching high in the sky. It measured at about half the height of Asgards own palace.

Its entrance was dark, no sounds reaching them from its depths. Loki exchanged a cautious glance with Hela, then lighted up a witchfire—it glowed a dull green, not reaching the shine it usually held, when cast in different realms. Death surrounding them was trying to extinguish any source of light. Before entering Hela drew her knives, keeping them low, in case of a warm welcome.

They traversed several corridors inwards, seeing patches of moss on the walls, shining the same silver. No guards or souls were floating about in the palace. It was eerie and silent. And dark. The only light came from up ahead: when they reached it turned out to be a great hall, in its size definitely rivaling Asgard’s.

The light was coming from above, but not from an immediately recognizable source. It just was; emitting light to brighten the palace hall. Which was empty save from a large black wolf snoring near an empty throne.

“Fenris!” Hela gasped moving forwards before Loki could even think to try and stop her. The great wolf woke at hearing her own name, growling in greeting turning her head to look at Hela, and only after that past her, to Loki.

It was then that Loki noticed the chain—it sneaked from Fenris’ neck to the throne, shining the same silver as the palace outer walls.

The throne was no longer empty. A dark entity without form was floating around it, circling it like smoke with no source. It left a chittering sound in its wake, making Loki’s hair stand on end.

“Welcome travelers.” The greeting came from the smoke as it slowly coalesced into a human form. The voice sounded like a corpse being dragged across shattered glass. Something made a repeated ‘tink’ sound in the air, tickling their awareness with the overwhelming feeling of wrong.

Loki swallowed down any fear he could have been feeling, “We thank you for your welcome.” It was of extreme importance not to speak themselves into a corner, or to demand anything. Especially before the entity could express its rules of them being in its domain.

Standing right next to him, Hela shouted, “Why is Fenris chained up? Release her!”

Loki could not roll his eyes hard enough. He knew Hela was used to ordering people around and getting anything she wanted in return, but this really wasn’t the place to do that. Though Loki knew that if it was Thor chained up to the throne in Fenris’ place he too would act just as recklessly. The confrontation with Thanos showed exactly how long he could stand someone hurting Thor.

“Is it not a wondrous pet?” The entity morphed into a more canine form, it’s form being as fluid as smoke itself; adapting to mimic the form its guests wore. Trying to appear familiar.

Hela glared at the entity without fear of repercussions. “She’s not a pet! I demand you release her!” Loki could appreciate her bravery if nothing else.

He wanted to hiss at Hela to keep silent, to think of the consequences as there was no way to correctly gauge in what mood the entity was; to guess if this whole confrontation was upsetting it or not.

“Grant me a favour and I will release her.” The entity said, it’s smoke reaching out to Fenris, as if petting her.

Loki took a deep breath wanting to say something soothing, but Hela got there first with, “What kind of favour?”

He could only sigh. At least it wasn’t an immediate agreement. He knew rather well that blind promises always ended badly.

After a moment of deliberation the entity said, “I will ask you to not extend your help to Loki when he is to die again.”

Hearing that Loki froze, stifling a gasp, eyes wide, shocked to the core, almost helplessly looking from Hela to the entity, very much not liking the situation. On the one hand, he was about to be almost granted his wish to get away from this realm, but on the other—he already had a guaranteed a ticket to get back here once more.

Also no one should miss the fact that this entity knew a lot more about the both of them than a simple guardian of Helheim should.

“What is your name?” Loki was avoiding looking at the entity while asking this, his gaze focused on Hela, suspecting and already knowing the answer.

He sometimes really hated being right about things.

“Hel.” The entity replied, some of the smoke twirling upwards to curl into Helas signature antlers.

But he was definitely as shocked as Hela herself at this, “How is this possible?” She had moved closer to Fenris, as if it was safer there by the wolf’s side.

Loki was observing both Helas from the sidelines, unwilling to go closer. One could be somewhat predicted from their short acquaintance, the other was a complete unknown to him. Even so, it didn’t stop him from commenting on it, “This place really does not obey the laws of time.” smiling a little sadly. Hela could see her own future right before her. It seemed unfair, being so confronted by it.

The entity, Hel, it was Hel, guardian of Helheim, the true Goddess of Death, said, “I miss my brother and wish for him to join me here,” smoky tendrils floated closer to Loki, soon enough surrounding him, curling tighter as if in a hug. The smoke should not have been tangible yet it was. Loki tried to breathe through the constriction, wincing at the pressure on his back where he had got himself injured earlier. The smoke immediately loosened. He hoped it didn’t go near his neck. There was no need to have a panic attack during their already uncertain visit. “We could rule together. Niflheim has not had a ruler in such a long long time, it would suit you well.”

The smoke drew back from him and gathered back on the throne, taking up Fenris' chain, showing it off, “Me in Helheim, you in Niflheim and Thor in Valhalla. Odin’s children in power.”

The sudden mention of Thor made him draw in a sharp breath. Gulping, he asked, almost in a whisper, “Thor’s dead?” This time it was Loki who didn’t think of possible repercussions when talking. Nonono, please no.

Hel turned her look from Fenris to watch him, as if judging his readiness for something. “Not yet. But soon if you will not leave here.”

Loki almost crumpled in relief. Thor was alive, he was fine.

“I promise you the favour you named.” Hela leaned down, petting at Fenris, avoiding Loki’s eyes as she said it, knowing that her promise doomed any future where she could have saved his life. Getting out of promises made to gods weren’t easy. Especially ones that deal with the weight of a soul.

“Glad to hear it.” Hel said, almost mimicking Hela’s voice. It coming from a swirling smoke mimicking a person sounded even more wrong.

The leash holding Fenris disintegrated, its tendrils floating away—also made of the same smoke. Loki was looking at Hela leaning into Fenris' fur murmuring something. He’d rather not look at Hel right now. He had no wish to return to Helheim any time soon. There was too much promise and potential in other realms to hide away and be forgotten in Niflheim.

Thinking about things, staring at nothing he missed the moment when the great hall they were in got a lot darker.

More smoke was flowing in, right through the door they had entered from. It was also seeping from the ceiling, suppressing whatever the light source was. Loki’s own witchlight still shone, just as dull as when he light it up; but now that the smoke was gathering it was almost fluttering at times. Finally he noticed that something was amiss. Looking around he frowned, looking towards the exit to see if it wasn’t yet completely blocked.

“We need to get out of here!” Loki hissed, moving closer to Hela and Fenris.

Startled by his words Hela quickly looked around, but in doing so was still avoiding his eyes—as if ashamed for the first time in her life—then prodded at Fenris to get up, gesturing to Loki, “Hop on.”

Loki was eyeing the entity now but it was getting harder to tell what was Hel and what was simply smoke. He hoped that it wasn’t all Hel, surrounding them making the air thick with it, perhaps to ensure that the time for Loki’s death came right now, without them getting out of Helheim first.

Without any more deliberation, he moved swiftly to the large wolf, touching her fur. “Oh Norns,” he muttered.

Saying that was definitely a mistake. Because the smoke around them screeched, incensed. If there was one thing that held even more power in all the cosmos than an actual guardian of dead things, it was the Norns. He had to smirk at that, that there was no lost love between Hel and the Norns. It was likely the Norns themselves that let him draw another breath after Svartalfheim; not even sending him here in the interim.

Loki held tighter to the fur, getting on Fenris’ back, right behind Hela. Shouting at both her and Fenris, “Go!” The wolf galloped away, right through the smoke and out the palace doors, trampling the moss. There were still no guards or other beings here to stop them. It was eerie.

Gaining distance they got past the ferns and berries before even thinking about slowing down. “Where to now?” Loki asked, looking back at the palace glinting in the far away distance behind them. Their situation wasn’t ideal, but they weren’t turning into mindless souls either.

Instead they had bargained away Hela’s favour to save Loki’s life when the time came. And gained Fenris’ freedom in return. He wasn’t sure if it was an equal exchange, no matter how nice Fenris was.

“The very opposite direction would be my choice.” Hela pointed. There was nothing immediately visible from where they stood in that direction. Yet.

“Fine. A good plan as any.” Loki nodded, turning his gaze away from the palace. Trying to put himself in Hela’s place, he went over the events in the palace. Meeting your own future self must have been unnerving. Loki didn’t know what he would to confronted with one of his own. But he could imagine several different scenarios. Some more fun, some more unnerving, but all very Loki.

It felt like a three day walk filled with endless dirt and clouds before something appeared in the distance. Loki hoped this realm wasn’t a circular mirage and they would actually get somewhere instead of coming upon the same silver palace again. It would be a clever ploy, something that wasn’t letting them get anywhere, and if he was completely honest with himself, that it was in Hela’s style, either the current, or the future one undeniably. Seeing the frown she sported, he had to make himself ask, “Thinking the same thing I’m thinking?”

“That this whole realm is mocking us? Then yes.” She stepped closer, to rub at Fenris’ ear, the wolf almost purring at the soft touches. Hunching over a bit, to touch her forehead to the wolf’s Hela cursed and quickly turned around face Loki, “This whole realm is wrong. I would never rule a wasteland! Where are all the souls, they should be doing my bidding, as the Goddess of Death! Instead of being a mindless herd running around aimlessly.” That last was grumbled, but Loki still heard it.

Taking a breath and slowly exhaling, he said, “Consider this like a bad prophecy. If you know what is going to happen, you have every chance to change it.” It wasn’t his job to placate Hela or organize her world dominance tour, but he was her brother after all, so he could at least say some soothing words. But as the youngest sibling he definitely reserved the right to be irritating as hell whenever he wanted.

“Don’t try to sound so all-knowing.”

Shrugging, Loki didn’t respond for a while. After another half a day’s journey, as much as they could tell the time passing in this realm, they came upon more mountains. But at least this time there was no vegetation, black or otherwise, and no silver palace looming above them. The mountain peaks were in clouds, a grey mist floating around lower hills, moving in a direction, unnaturally. All the wisps were floating towards a large cave, going in and in and in as if being sucked in. Nothing was coming back out, and closer to it they could hear a sound as if something was getting swallowed by quicksand.

They exchanged glances of ‘should we?’ but in the end decided to try their luck. If no one was following them to bar their movements, or to stop them from exploring, they could take this as a sign of going in the intended direction. He wasn’t sure it was good to be glad, but deep down he was. Hel did want him to return, and in order for Hela to fulfill the promise he had to be put in mortal peril first. To do that he had to get out of this realm as well.

First footsteps into the mist were easy, passing through it, but the deeper into the cave they went the whiter it turned. Looking back they still saw the grey of the outside, of the realm; then the entrance with its shadows and night-black surface. With every step the mist got thicker and thicker, until two more steps and they were suddenly falling.

They could really only blame themselves for this.

“I blame you for this!” Hela shouted at him. They both had been close enough to Fenris before the freefall, so they were now both holding onto the wolf’s fur, so not to lose one another. Wherever they ended up in, it was better to be together.

“Well, I blame you in return!” Loki yelled back, rolling his eyes. He knew that if Thor were here with them he would scold them to stop acting like children—but Thor wasn’t here, Loki could only hope that Thor would never find himself here—and since all three of them didn’t get to grow up together, Loki figured they could absolutely act like children whenever they wanted.

Before any more blame could be assigned, they suddenly felt fresh air. But only for a second, because right after that one perfect breath of lovely fragrant air, they were falling out through a waterfall and into a lake, making a huge splash.

Sputtering out the lake water he inhaled, Loki let himself float on the surface, just admiring the sky and the sun he could see. He knew this place. It was familiarly green and full of magic. Alfheim. Smiling to himself, he felt finally at peace. Getting out of Alfheim and into Midgard was easy. The paths between the Yggdrasils branches were always at his fingertips here.

“I think this is the time we took our separate paths further, don’t you think?”

Turning in the water, Loki looked at the bank, where he saw Hela standing, Fenris following her out of the water, the fur dripping.

“How about no!” Loki yelled still from the lake, scrambling to get out. Hela didn’t tarry and both she and Fenris were gone through treeline when Loki was finally out of the lake. Breathing in the magic of Alfheim, he dried his clothes and looking to the sky, shifted into a magpie.

Everything in the realm was so familiar, the magics of Alfheim whispering that they missed him. Loki had spend enough years on this realm learning magic and spending time away from Asgard, whenever Thor became insufferable. Eventually Thor would always track Loki down and they would spend a week here, together. Living in the wilderness without a care in the world, scaring away the rabbits envious of their fucking.

If there was one realm that really shouldn’t fall under Thanos hands it was this one. Soaring on the wind currents, Loki was tracking where Hela and Fenris were lumbering through the forest. Scuffing at their lack of elegance, the magpie did a swoop through the air, touching the treetops with its wingtips, letting the updraft carry him back up in the air.

There was a settlement in the near distance. He saw more in the plains, well away from the woods, with a sturdy road leading to an even bigger city in the far distance. The magpie cawed, almost matching Fenris’ speed—they had both slowed down once reaching the trail.

Flying over the settlement, Loki didn’t recognize it, but it mattered little. Landing in the square he shifted back, attracting attention of the locals, some of which he knew recognized him. It didn’t take another minute for Hela and Fenris to galloped in to the same square. Now everyone’s attention was on all three of them, most staring at Hela, some in curiosity others in terror. At least no one was giving that look to him, it was very refreshing to be on the side that was looked upon with hope and expectations.

“What’s your plan? What is your grand idea to make your miserable existence better?” Loki was gearing up for a rant. Green wisps surrounded his clenched fists, he was ready to throw something at Hela. Being out of Helheim greatly improved his strength. But without Asgard itself to draw her power from, Loki was sure he could trap Hela in a working similar to that he used on Odin. To neutralize the enemy until he could reach Thor and think of what to do with her.

Sliding off of Fenris’ back, Hela drew her knives and approached Loki, “I intend to rule! As always. And you won’t stop me!”

This definitely would have ended with spilt blood, probably on both sides, if Thanos hadn’t activated the Infinity Gauntlet at that very second.

Loki could only look over Hela’s shoulder in horror how elves and travelers alike were disintegrating. Anguished cries of the loved ones still left alive filled the square. Seeing that, he could vividly imagine the same happening in other realms and worlds and planets everywhere. It was horrifying and unimaginable. Seeing them turn into dust, falling on the grown, he could not help think of Thor.

Thor.

He was no longer caring about Helas plans of realm domination. “Stay here, try to rule if you wish, I care not!”

Loki’s only thought was now of Thor, praying to the Norns that he would not be turned to dust. He did not care so much about himself, only in that Thor would again grieve for him.

It was a lie.

Loki cared about himself living. Very much. But—if Thor was dead, then he really didn’t need to be alive any longer, did he?

Helheim awaited him. And getting from there to Valhalla would be only a little step.

Cloaking himself in shadows—in case Hela got angry once more and threw a knife at his head—Loki stepped into the Yggdrasils paths, running and stumbling to get to Midgard as soon as he could.

Where he landed it was dusty once again, but there was grass under his hands. When he clambered to his feet he saw mountains in the distance. And sun, bright and warm, scorching the earth a bit, but still allowing for the green to cover the plains. The only eyesore was the ton of corpses, interspersed with even more dust of who used to be people. Thanos hand was felt across all creation.

“Thor!” He yelled, as loud as he could, running across the battlefield towards where some of the still alive combatants were going. Yelling again, “Thor!” when he was closer, hoping that he was going in the right direction. Desperate to not be too late; not wanting to find just a pile of dust on the ground.

Dodging a few of the still surviving Thanos’ minions, Loki was gathering magic to create a locator spell for Thor. A copse of trees in the distance was rustling, attracting his attention, making him stop. The green at his fingertips dissipated. He gasped when he saw a large armed-in-red figure appear, coming through the trees. It was the familiar design of the Iron Man. Making himself move, a step after a step, he was soon running closer, noticing the others who were following the Iron Man figure.

“Thor!” Loki yelled once more, running even faster, not caring if the Avengers would try and attack him. It turned into a moot point when he saw Thor among them, Thor who took to the air—is that an axe?—and flew right into him, tumbling them both over.

Groaning, Loki hugged Thor as much as he could in the still flattened-to-the-ground state. “Thor.” He muttered, actively ignoring all of the other Avengers catching up to them, shouting questions. “Brother.”

After a very long moment, Thor pulled back, before getting to his feet, pulling Loki with him. His eyes not leaving Loki, hands clutching at his shoulders, as if saying I’ll never let you go. “Loki?” One hand reaching towards Loki’s neck, which he knew was still ringed with bruises. The run across Alfheim had distracted him enough to not feel them, but Thor pushing him to the ground made the pain flare up again.

Flinching a bit, Loki took a deep breath, “It was real.” Thinking of and immediately dismissing several ways to continue the sentence, he settled for the bare truth. “I woke up in Helheim. I was .. dead.” Another deep breath, but before he could say more, Thor had thrown his hands around him again, hugging him. Sheltering him from the world with an embrace. He would have laughed it off, it if weren’t the feeling of safety he felt in Thor’s hands.

Looking over Thor’s shoulder for a moment showed the Avengers varily looking at them both, but keeping a bit of a distance. Who previously looked initially to be Iron Man turned out to be Banner, but looking over the entire company he saw that Iron Man himself wasn’t even here. Neither was his hawkling. Instead the original group was bolstered with another in a suit similar to Iron Man’s and a warrior garbed like one of those still on the battlefield behind him.

Not wanting to look at any of them anymore, Loki hid his face in Thor’s shoulder. “You’re alive.” He murmured, relieved. Even the relatively short separation seemed like a lifetime to him now. If he could, he would never part from Thor any more.

A throat cleared behind them, which made Thor let him loose for the second time, but still keeping one hand clamped around his shoulder.

“What is going on?” It was the captain, taking a step closer to then, setting himself in charge of the others once again.

Thor responded in his stead, sparing him the need to say it aloud, “Thanos killed Loki.” But just hearing it made his breath hitch a bit.

“He looks pretty well for a dead guy,” Romanoff commented, also stepping closer, placing herself next to Rogers.

Rolling his eyes, Loki snorted, “Death doesn’t appreciate me.” Earning him a squeeze on his shoulder from Thor. It seemed that Thor saw through his bluffs more and more.

“Don’t jest. Getting out of Helheim mustn’t been easy.” Thor picked up the axe from the ground, as if preparing to leave their little gathering.

“Hell? You were in Hell?” This time the question was from Banner.

“Not the midgardian imaginings of a pit of damnations. Helheim is a realm where all the dead who didn’t die in a noble battle end up in. Valhalla is for those that do.” Loki explained. There were certainly exceptions to both, he was a living example of it.

“It was a noble death, brother.” Thor said quietly, sadly.

That prompted Rogers to say, “Loki is still considered an enemy to Earth, but I think at the moment no one is going to prosecute anyone about anything.” It was a startlingly kind gesture.

“I vouch for my brother! He has no ill will towards Earth any more.” Thor exclaimed, before growling, “We need to find Thanos and to undo what he has done.”

Everyone agreed, wanting to see Thanos defeated and their friends and loved ones returned. They all got eventually settled in one of the Wakandian buildings, where in happier times visitors of further tribes stayed. No one was of a mood to eat the food provided, congregating in little groups, careful not to voice any plans or ideas yet. Loki stuck close to Thor, wanting to leave, but knew that he would still want to help the midgardians.

When the Avengers dispersed, one or two at a time, to find if more of their friends had gotten wiped out of existence by Thanos, Loki prodded Thor into finding a more secluded place as well.

Snuggling together on a bed, strewn with pelts and pillows above soft sheets, they were very much reminded of their childhood; the entire Wakandian complex looking startlingly familiar in its technology to Argards early days.

“What did you see in Helheim?” Thor asked; his chin resting on Loki's shoulder, his arm circling around him where Loki was leaning on him.

“Dust and grey and things that should not come to pass. Hela.” Oh damn, Hela! Sitting up, Loki had to cover the gasp with his hand, turning to look at Thor. “Hela and I, and Fenris, we got out of Helheim together. We were in Alfheim when Thanos made half of the world die. I, my thoughts were only of you, so I left. I left her .. there.”

Thor only had a long suffering sigh to offer in response.

“I know, I know!” Loki shook his head, leaning forwards, back into Thor’s lap. “We can go to Alfheim and capture her. Without Asgard to boost her powers she’s not as powerful.” Rubbing at his eyes now, Loki let his muscles relax. Finally. He was with Thor, in relative safety.

There was Thanos to destroy yet. Don’t ever forget that.

Loki didn’t even notice his back tensing up until Thor had started running his warm hands up and down his spine. Exhaling loudly, Loki again relaxed, leaning back into Thor.

Being so close made him focus on both of them. No one would interrupt them, but just for good measure, Loki sent a working to keep the door to the room closed for the evening. He could feel Thor smirking just by the way his breathing changed.

Loki and Thor in a locked room was no mystery. And the only getting out would be out of their clothes.

Kissing up Thor’s clothed chest, Loki eventually reached his neck, chin and finally his lips. Oh they were chapped and weather worn, but Loki was determined to kiss them better. Wherever Thor was before he got to Midgard, it too had been dusty, and was that smell of molten metal? It would explain the axe at least. “I see you have a new toy. What does it do?”

From the way Thor bit at his lip, drawing the blood a bit, the question had been more insensitive than he aimed it to be. Damn. “Thanos.” Sitting back, putting a little bit of distance between them, Loki took a long look at Thor. “Yes, it is his fault that I died. And we will take that revenge on him together. Revengers, remember?” He was sure Valkyrie was somewhere out there; someone as scrappy as her would manage to survive. “Don’t let that monstrosity kill the mood. Thor. Thor? Are you even listening?” Loki wanted to both punch and hug him, both options were tempting. Leaning only a bit closer to Thor, he looked into his eyes. Loki wanted to know what Thor was so preoccupied by.

Thor was now staring at him, and instead of answering, he gathered Loki closer and kissed him; deep and sensual, a kiss that was telling i missed you, i loved you, there you are, never leave me. Melting, Loki relaxed in Thor’s arms, softly sighing.

Still not saying anything, Thor flipped them around, pushing Loki into the furs, looking down at him. With slow, deliberate movements Thor spread Loki’s legs, letting his palms run up from calves to his thighs, just touching. Then up, up his sides, reaching Loki’s chest, lingering there in the center, reminding them both what Kursed did, how the blade went through. Loki gasped, blinking, trying to clear his eyes from the sudden tears that gathered there. A little bittersweet smile had bloomed on Thor’s lips. Then he slid his hands up still, reaching Loki’s neck, lingering there, touching the clavicles, never closer. This time Loki could not gasp, just could feel the tears fall freely. Thor continued the exploring, sliding his hands down Loki’s shoulders, down to his elbows until reaching his palms and gathering both of their palms together and kissing at the fingers. The same fingers that had let go of Gungnir on that fateful day on the Bifrost.

Letting finally go of the fingers, Thor looked Loki in the eyes, seeing the tears and how they still fell from his eyes, in a never ending stream. Leaning forwards, Thor covered Loki’s body with his own, cupping both hands to Loki’s cheeks. Not ever trying to swipe the tears away, kissing Loki on the lips, on his cheeks and nose and forehead and finally on his eyelids, “I love you Loki.” Whispering to him.

Entwined together they fell asleep. Until the next disaster struck they were safe and together.

 

~~
Just being in each other’s presence was enough to keep any nightmares at bay. They woke to the morning sun, pressed close one to the other under a soft pelt. Thinking that a morning would be better for time spent closer than close. A new start to have a more vigorous getting back together. To start the process Loki wiggled his fingers and a green splash made both of their clothes disappeared. It was his favourite working in these matters, especially to preserve his favorite tunics in a non-ripped state. He did like to keep Thor’s cape in bed, it was a very exquisite feeling to despoil that particular symbol of Thor.

“I can feel you thinking naughty thoughts, brother.” Thor murmured in his ear, then licking at it.

Loki shivered, feeling his cock already being half hard just from anticipation. Wiggling about confirmed that Thor was similarly excited. “Only about you, brother.” He replied, moving until he could kiss Thor. He had truly missed his brother’s taste, licking at his lips, exploring his mouth.

“How about you put that silver tongue to better use.” Thor nipped at his bottom lip, the licking at it before bestowint a kiss on it.

“Mmm, of course.” Loki smiled knowing just how much they both enjoyed each other. Pushing Thor to lie on his back, Loki smirked at him before descending on his chest, licking and pinching at the skin. Laving his tongue over a nipple, he tweaked the other, enjoying the moan Thor could not keep in. Repeating the same with the other nipple, Loki added a cold breath, blowing on it, smirking at how Thor bucked his hips up.

Trailing kisses and bites and suck marks, Loki traveled down, down Thor’s pecks, his abdomen, leaving a tender kiss on his belly button, then lower, inhaling Thor’s scent when he reached his cock, the untrimmed hairs tickling at his face. Taking the cockhead in his mouth, Loki sucked, licking at the slit, encouraging the precome to flow. Holding onto Thor’s hips so his brother wouldn’t buck up in his mouth too fast, and not because he couldn’t take it—oh he could, and gladly did—but to tease Thor, to deny his wish to fuck his mouth whenever he wanted.

Swallowing Thor down, Loki stayed there, looking Thor in the eyes, smirking—as much as one could smirk with a cock down their throat—and then hummed. The vibrations made Thor almost shout, moaning Loki’s name aloud, burying his hands in Loki’s hair, making little motions with his hips, wanting to get even deeper into Loki’s throat. Humming again, Loki drew back, excruciatingly slowly, scraping his teeth lightly against Thor’s cock, until finally he popped off, a string of precome connecting his lips and Thor’s cock. Smirking again Loki stuck his tongue out gathering that string and swallowing it down.

Thor could not take anymore, rolling them both over to be on top of Loki, attacking his mouth with his lips, licking his own taste out, rutting at Loki’s hips now. Letting his hands slide down Loki’s hips, squeezing at them he bent lover, flicking at his cock with a teasing finger before grabbing his legs and parting them; holding one thigh up with one hand and letting the other prod at Loki’s hole. “Open.”

Indulgently smiling at Thor, he twitched his fingers to summon lube. They had experimented with all kinds over the years, finding that a concoction made on Alfheim was truly the best, it was warming and depending on the recipe could also tingle very pleasantly. It also had healing properties and in a pinch could be used in a non-sex capacity.

“You open me up.” Handing the lube to Thor, Loki stretched out, keeping his legs spread; reaching up he found a sturdy bar to hold onto above the bed. He knew how much Thor liked to tease too and a handhold would come in handy.

Opening the jar, Thor recalled good memories connected to it. Last time they got to use it was just before this entire mess started, on the Statesman, after their hug. Before that, an ill-advised tumble before going to Svartalfheim. And before that—it was a longer while back, their relationship had crumbled some time before the coronation, and unspoken agreement to be only brothers, to not come to the other whenever the mood struck.

Knowing how much Loki liked the stretch, Thor started with two fingers, pushing in slowly, making Loki gasp and arch his back. Rubbing and stretching Thor opened Loki, marveling at the tightness, already wanting to repeat everything they did the last time together. Loki had looked so good on his fist, insatiable. He could see Loki already trying to fuck himself on the fingers, wanting pleasure. Indulging him, Thor added more lube to his fingers and slid the third one in. Questing inside, he reached deeper until he came upon Loki’s prostate. Hearing the gasp-turned-moan from Loki, he started rubbing at it, wanting Loki to come from that alone.

“Thor!” Loki keened, moving his legs wider apart, clenching his hands on the bar above the bed, hearing it creak. “Thor, ahThorThorThorplease, please let me come!”

Smiling down at his brother, Thor added just a bit of lightning to his fingers, sparkling at the tips, making Loki come from the stimulation; to shout and clench up, squeezing down on his fingers, the cock still hard and aching wanting to come as well. “Good?”

Lifting one leg to try and kick at Thor, Loki fell back to the pillows. Thor caught the leg, kissing up the arch of the foot, then down the calf, nipping at the skin. His other hand was still trapped, fingers inside Loki. The orgasm had loosened him up, letting Thor add a fourth finger. Spreading them out, he looked at how perfect Loki was for him, ready to be fucked, impatient to have Thor’s cock inside him.

The second time Loki tried to kick at him, Thor zapped some more lightning, catching the leg, this time tickling, making Loki squirm. “Soon. A little patience, brother.”

For that he fingered Loki for a good while yet, teasing at the prostate with light touches, grazing over it, but no longer rubbing it, even if he knew that Loki would love to come again. And again and again. Truly insatiable. Locating the lube again, he gathered more to slick up his own cock, hard and profusely leaking precome.

Pulling out his fingers, he grazes at Loki’s rim, teasing it, pulling on it a bit, to emphasize how his hole was gaping already. The keening moan only added to it, Loki squirming again, wanting to be stuffed full. Moving closer, he guided his cock in, watching as Loki’s hole greedily swallowed him, pulling him in and in, until he bottomed out. That felt very good, especially the way Loki tried to clench on him. Thor touched a finger where they were joined, running it over Loki’s rim; red and stretched out filled with his cock. “Very good.”

“Ah, Thor! Move, please move!” Loki was still holding on the bar above the bed, using it as a leverage to fuck himself on Thor’s cock.

Thor hummed, then grabbed Loki’s hips to steady them, stopping their motion. Loki’s frustrated noise made him smirk. Sinking again in, he stayed there bottomed out. “You feel very good surrounding me. A good cock warmer, aren’t you?”

Huffing Loki wanted to kick at Thor again, but his legs weren’t cooperating at the moment as spread as they were. Thor’s large hands were warm and so pleasant on his hips, making them feel even more connecting. “No! Fuck me Thor!” He clenched down on Thor’s cock again, finally letting go of the bar, grabbing a pillow to lob at Thor’s head.

Letting the pillow hit him, Thor pulled his cock out, then pushed the same pillow under Loki’s hips. Guiding the cock back in, with a smirk on his lips, Thor bottomed out again. And stilled.

Groaning, Loki was about to throw another pillow, when Thor moved forward to bend him almost in half and started fucking him in earnest. In and out, pistoning his hips, hitting Loki’s prostate on every slide in. Going hard and fast, Thor moved his hands to bend Loki’s legs even more, holding onto them. A bit more lightning at his fingertips, zapping at Loki’s skin, making him gasp. “Better?”

“Finally.” Loki growled out being pushed and pulled back and forth from Thor’s thrusts. This was exactly what he wanted, getting a cock inside, to fuck him raw and aching. “Oh, yes, yes, Thor!” Shouting his approval, Loki was moving his own hips too, fucking himself on Thor’s cock in return.

Letting his fingers trail down Loki’s thighs, Thor reached for Loki’s cock, still fucking him mercilessly. Squeezing at the cock, he smeared the precome around, it was overflowing and drenching them both, making everything slippery. He gathered some on his fingers then gave Loki a taste, before repeating it and letting himself taste it too. Finally he started jacking Loki’s cock, out of rhythm, not letting him to settle between the cock and the hand.

“Fuck, Thor!” Loki yelled, holding on to the pelts littering the bed, wanting them to be flimsy sheets that could be ripped apart. He let Thor do all the work, but oh so impatient to come. Once was absolutely not enough. “Please, please I want to come, unhhh.”

Thor let his hand stop rubbing Loki’s cock, teasing at his slit again, then rubbing the glans, thrusting faster, he let a little lightning appear on his fingers, making Loki spasm and come all over his fingers, still rubbing at his cockhead, milking the come. His thrusts not slowing, making Loki moan in oversensitivity, he gathered all the come and smeared in all over Loki’s lips before leaning closer to kiss him, sharing his taste between them.

They still had time. Thor planned to wring out at least two more orgasms from Loki before he planned to come himself. Let Loki spend the rest of the day aching and wanting to be filled again.

This morning and the next few days would be spent here on Midgard, but after that they would travel to Alfheim to apprehend their sister. Preferably before she had taken over the realm.