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Et Geist Fra Fortiden

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When Hela had envisioned her death, she underestimated the sheer amount of pain that would be induced in the actual moment it happened.

Returning to Helheim was like being forced back into a prison cell. You know that you inevitably will be dragged back, no matter how long or bright the day of freedom feels. Yet it still hurt. She still couldn’t smother the small, naive part of her that so desperately believed she would never have to see this place ever again.

She walked through the entrance into Helheim, cradling her face in agony, stumbling through the valley of eternal battle, knocking into the statues still roaring of vigor, tripping over the silent stone corpses at her feet.

She continued her descent until she found her throne, if it even could be called that. It was a raised chunk of roughly carved stone, draped in a thick black cloak. It had been Odin’s only gift to her when he tossed her into prison. To give her the throne that she had so desperately craved for eons, but nothing to rule over. The irony was not lost on her.

She crawled under the cloak, wrapping it around her trembling shoulders, hands curling around the fabric so tightly that her knuckles became white. The names of all the dead residing in her realm were etched upon the tattered fabric, constantly shifting and fading. It was her gift from Odin when she became his executioner and held the official title as the Goddess of Death. It was a physical reminder of the ability she had gained.

She remembered the names and faces of every life she took. At first it was a matter of honour, but when trapped in Helheim it became maddening, driving her to the very brink of insanity. Such a curse, for her to blink and see all the dead gaping up at her, to hear their whispers far in the distance and feel their breath down her neck at the same time. The cloak was a training device, something to take on the burden of the dead. It had frayed during her short absence.

She thought of her army, the way they crumbled to dust the moment the Eternal Flame within them began to extinguish. She thought of Fenris toppling over the edge Asgard and descending into the darkness below. Would they join her here? She thought, with hope in her heart. Likely not, they had been transformed into something inhuman, soulless and unthinking, everything sacrificed in the eternal flames when they were reborn. She stared down at her hands, noting the charred black exterior of her fingers. She rubbed them together trying to wipe away the soot, and instead she watched the flesh smolder and slide apart to reveal the stark white bone beneath. But there was no pain. Just shock. She found herself gasping for breath, curling in on herself further and further, until the cloak almost suffocated her.

Dying wasn’t something that happened to her; it wasn’t supposed to be possible for the Goddess of Death to be claimed by the very thing she controlled. Yet here she was, trapped again, and there was nobody to blame but herself.

Her body burned, every fiber of her being ignited and restored in an instant. When she opened her mouth, what came out was charred black. It was all gone, she realised. Asgard was gone, and this realm was all she had. This cold kingdom, filled with her victims. She was trapped, once again.

In the neverending halls of Helheim, her screams echoed.

--

 

When Loki turned up a few days later, Hela simply couldn’t keep herself away, hoping that some of her misery could be satiated in seeking out her brother. Curiosity possessed her into seeing how her youngest fool of a brother died. He was bent over on the grand stairs that lead up to one of many thousand nameless temples, still rasping for breath.

“Why isn’t this a surprise?” Her voice echoed around him. He glanced up, watching as his sister approached with slow and careful steps, a cruel smile on her face. “And here I was, hoping to have had the satisfaction of killing you myself.”

Loki tried to speak, but found his voice strangled.

“You…” He croaked. “Should have perished with Asgard.” Hela gave him a wolfish smile.

“Should have done a lot of things.” She said. Loki keeled over, chest heaving as his hands felt around his bruised neck. She knelt down, head tilted as she observed him rasping for his breath. “Quite amusing how that Silver Tongue of yours is what got you killed.”

“How did you know?” He asked confused.

“Call it a gift.” She said.   

“The being who killed me, the one they call Thanos--”

“I’m not dense, I know of the Mad Titan.” Hela said cutting him off. He looked at her utterly shocked, and she had to stop herself from rolling her eyes and scoffing. “This is where the dead from all across the universe go, after all. There is no shortage of recent casualties wailing about a purple Titan with a golden gauntlet and warped genocidal tendencies, intent on restoring balance.”

“So you know.” Loki said. “You know of his destructive power, of his goals and desires for the universe, and his rage at anyone who stands in his way.”

“I’m not as perceptive as Heimdal, but yes. I’ve gathered a fair amount of knowledge on the one they call Thanos.” Hela said.

“So why would you waste time on Asgard trying to restore your powers?!” Loki shouted. “You should have been trying to stop him!”

“If this man is truly the man that the dead speak so gravely of, then I would likely have crossed paths with him, when my path of conquest overlapped with his path for… what was it again? Balance?”

“Something like that.” Loki said.

“Well, as father once said, a wise king never seeks out war.” Hela said turning away from Loki. He hurriedly followed after her.

“But this goes beyond war! His plans are annihilation of all the realms as we know it!” Loki said.

“Well, since we’re already dead, we’ll be safe down here won’t we?” Hela said uncaring.

“You command this realm! Surely you can get us out of it!” Loki tried. Hela stopped in her tracks, whirling around to face Loki, her hand jabbing him hard in the chest.

“Us? Now where do you get off on asking me for help?” She hissed. “Why I would ever help the same little runt who killed me? Why would you even assume that I want to rejoin the living who so violently cast me out again?!”

Loki balked at her sudden anger, stepping backwards to try to maintain distance between them, only for Hela to step forwards, stopping only inches away from his face, snarling.

“Does it not occur to you that I might wish to side with this Titan? Like you once did?” Hela asked, her head tilted curiously. Such strong terror overtook Loki’s face that Hela couldn’t stop herself from smiling.

“You would never dare.” Loki gritted out. “You may be a tyrant but you are not as insane as him. You do not want to set out to restore some notion of balance into the world, you just wish to reap the glory of conquest and violence! You would never--!” Before Loki could finish, there was a black knife digging under his chin. Hela’s smile was gone, replaced with a cold glare.

“Don’t dare to presume anything about me, dear brother.” She said smoothly. “Now, go away. This place is endless, surely you can find other leisures for the rest of your afterlife that don’t involve bothering me.”

--

Much of Hela’s time in Helheim was spent wandering. She wasn’t sure why, as there was nowhere left to explore after many a millennia spent trapped here. Yet there was something therapeutic about merely letting her feet carry her in whichever direction they saw fit. There was something gratifying in focusing on nothing in particular except for shuffling her feet along. By the time she had stopped, she found herself staring out over a grey sea, her feet firmly planted in the grey sand. The waves lapped at her heels, and she closed her eyes, savouring the sensation of the water and the sounds of the waves breaking apart at her feet. The sea carried nothing and took away nothing, it merely existed because it always had in Helheim. It was older than her and eternal. She longed for a breeze to tickle her face just as it had done long ago on the rocky, icey shores of Midgard. She longed to smell the sea salt and savour the taste of the ocean and the life it brought in, to set her eyes on the orange sunset once more. Instead, she had to make do with this black and empty water, with grey skies and a stagnant wind. She wasn’t sure how long she stood there, her hands curled around her cloak. After a while, she heard the shuffling of sand behind her, and felt the presence of a person who was waiting to be acknowledged.

“Frigga.” Hela said, not turning. She didn’t even have to to confirm it was her, her adoptive mother was always undeniably easy to sense. She never sulked in the shadows like Loki or command the presence of the room like Odin did, she merely kept her head bowed and her very being inoffensive and meek.

“My daughter.” She said, walking towards Hela. She always called her that, even though there was not an ounce of blood shared between them. Hela’s mother had died in birth and Odin had spent all of a short century mourning her before moving on to court the lovely Frigga. Goddess of Love and Marriage, of Fertility and Household. It was as though overnight, the courts changed from a place of war and battle into something as clean and perfect as she was. Hela was young when she met her, and she sneered at her insistence to fulfill the role as Hela’s step-mother, instead seeking solace in her weapons and fighting, training for the role of Odin’s executioner. Hela imagined she had very little to do with her imprisonment, yet her idleness in her husbands actions towards Hela’s banishment still filled her with hatred of this woman, who insisted on being her mother.

It was apparent when looking at the two of them now, that there was not even a hint of relation. Frigga was soft and kind, with a warm presence and mirth always radiating from her. Rich golden curls cascaded down her back with shining grey eyes to match, with tanned skin and round features. Hela by contrast was pale and gangly. Completely angular, tall, with long limbs and sharp features, a hard jaw, long nose and sharp cheekbones. The long dark hair framed her face, and her green eyes screamed of a fiery danger not present in Odin, likely inherited from her unknown mother.

Hela remembered her surprise at sensing Frigga’s presence in Helheim, the circumstance surrounding her death being very fitting yet also so cliche. Dying while protecting a Midgardian mortal. Hela sneered with disgust at her pathetic death, so typical for a goddess of love. Frigga didn't bother ever trying to seek out Hela in Helheim, likely too terrified to face her own cowardice. It seems that after Loki’s entrance, followed by half of the Asgardians who had fled, Frigga was in more of a talking mood.

“What do you want now?” Hela asked, staring out over the misty sea. “You can’t very well banish me again from beyond the grave, can you?”

She knew that made Frigga wince. Good, she thought. Let her be reminded of the pain she caused, let her face the consequences of what she had turned Hela into by trapping her in this place. Her hands were clasped together and her fingers fiddled with her golden jewellery. A sure sign of her trying to regain control in a situation where she was uncomfortable. Hela couldn’t contain her smile at watching her squirm.

“You ignore Loki’s pleading.” Frigga said.

“He’s already dead. There is no point in trying to appease those whom have passed on into this place.” Hela said. “Why should I care of the presence of this Titan?”

“The nine realms are in peril.” Frigga continued. “Perhaps more. You saw the Asgardians who entered this place, same as those from the other realms. This Thanos is--”

“None of my concern.” Hela finished. She cautioned a glance at Frigga. She didn’t look surprised at Hela’s words, perhaps slightly disheartened. “I don’t have the honour of controlling the nine realms, therefore, I couldn’t care less about protecting them.” She said simply.

“He threatened your people, attacked your brothers, and he has already stripped you of one.” Frigga spoke softly, and carefully. Always knowing how to tiptoe around Hela’s temper.

“My brothers.” Hela repeated mockingly. “A remnant of a family you kept me barred from. I could say you stripped me of them when you imprisoned me.”

“Do not hold resentment for actions they knew nothing of.” Frigga said. “Innocents should not be made to suffer for our mistakes.”

“No, but I will hold resentment against you.” Hela snapped. “You, who kept me away from them, as though I were a bloody stain on the pristine image of Asgard you had fooled yourself and all others into seeing."

“Your father had no intention of making you suffer. He merely wanted the mistakes of the past to be forgotten, in order to move on to a better future.” Frigga lamented. It was well rehearsed line. One that Odin had no doubt drilled into her in order to make her feel better after leaving Hela to rot.

“And I was one of those mistakes.” A statement, not a question. Hela already knew the answer. “The past must be acknowledged so that you can learn from it. Burying it under gold and locking it away only prolongs the time until someone comes back to claw it out for all to see.”

“You are wise, far more than your father was. You would have made a great queen.” Frigga said, an inkling of pride seeping into her voice.

“Another word of false flattery and I’ll toss you into the river of weapons to drown.” Hela said.

“You have every right to your anger, Hela.” Frigga said. She could not bring herself to look at Hela, directing her gaze at the vast sea instead. “But this goes beyond your spite, the cosmos are in danger of collapse. Can’t you put aside your hatred for me and your father to at least try to better it?”

“Put it aside?” She repeated numbly. There was a dangerous stretch of silence, and Frigga knew she had overstepped her bounds. Hela turned to her, green eyes blazing, and she strode towards Frigga, her hand reaching out to grip her golden dress and yank her closer, as if she could force her to see the truth of her mistakes by looking at Hela. Frigga’s face flashed briefly with fear and it made something feral in Hela rear its ugly head. All her anger spilled out in an instant. “You expect me to put aside centuries upon centuries of being left alone in the dark until my strength gave out and I ceased to exist except as a hazy memory?! You abandoned me. No, worse than that. You left me to die! You let that fool’s fear trap me here, like a caged animal until I would crumble and be forgotten. My ambitions were for greatness, to lead Asgard towards its full potential, and when I told him that he looked at me like I was some… monster.” Her throat burned and her stomach was tangled in knots. She took a shaky breath, desperate to steel herself. “I was your child.”

“You still are.” Frigga said, her hand rising up to cup Hela’s cheek. Hela shoved her away, eyes flaring with a primal anger.

“Don’t you even dare!” She snarled. She was trembling, her eyes burning and throat twisting around her words. She was almost on the verge of tears, but she had long forgotten how to cry, only letting her misery and sadness manifest in murderous wrath. That was the only way she had managed to survive in her prison for so long, the only way to maintain sanity when surrounded by the dead. “You weren’t there. You cannot even fathom the horrors of watching the world pass by, while your name is reduced to ashes.” Her voice was trembling, as were her hands. Frigga rose up from where she had been thrown down, dusting the grey sand off her dress. “When I returned to Asgard after my absence, I thought they’d hail my return. The firstborn come to claim the empty throne and restore Asgard to its glory. Yet they didn’t even know my name, they looked at me like I was an invader. Could you even comprehend such pain of having your own people forget you?”

“Oh Hela…” Frigga’s eyes were glassy. Hela didn’t want her pity. She wanted her wasted years back, she wanted to be accepted again. She wanted her father and mother to love her.

But it was too late for that.

“This is your chance to be better than we were, to rise above our mistakes.” Her hand came up to Hela’s face, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear.

Hela stared at her gentle hand as it pet her hair, and then she slapped it away. When she spoke, her voice did not waver, and it was thick with venom rather than tears. “I hope Thor dies. I hope that beast of a Titan rips him apart piece by bloody piece, and when he arrives here I will make sure that he suffers for eternity the same way you and father made me suffer.”

Frigga said nothing. There was nothing more to say. This was Hela’s final answer. She would not help.

--

The conversation with Frigga haunted Hela over the next few days. She refused to admit to anyone, not even herself, that she was actually considering rising up and returning to Midgard. Now instead of wandering in Helheim, she spent all her time pacing back and forth, circling back around the world while muttering to herself, like a madman possessed.

Why should she bother helping the same people who had imprisoned her? Why should she offer help to a realm she had no control over? If anything, she should be shaking the hand of the Titan who killed her brother for doing the Nine Realms a favour.

And yet, despite all her rational thinking, she still couldn’t smother the small voice that sounded eerily like Frigga’s that kept urging her to do the right thing. Rise above our mistakes, that was a certainly a tall order for Hela to try and accomplish. It didn’t feel fair that she should have to be the bigger person, she was the one who was locked away for so long. Why couldn’t her father have just stuck around long enough to erase this Titan and then kick the bucket and leave Hela’s conquest uncomplicated? Why did Loki’s magic have to have been so strong that it stripped him of so much power? Why did she actually end up missing the same man who locked her away to die? It was all very tiring and confusing.

It wasn’t that killing Thanos scared her, that was the easiest part of her thinking. It would take no effort at all to wipe someone like him off the map. What did scare her was the idea of facing her brothers and being rejected.

She sought out several soothsayers, asking them each time what the choices were, which path to take, what the runes would spell for her, only to keep getting the same frustrating response; which was that she already knew what she had to do. Resisting the urge to bash their dusty, old brains in, Hela stormed off, seeking solace and advice from the one person she was certain was the absolute worst to ever talk to about regarding the right thing to do.  

Loki was moping around in one of the temples and was completely taken by surprised when she stormed towards him. She yanked him by the back of his neck, moving with great speed and urgency down the halls of Helheim.

“What are you doing?!” He cried out, squirming violently. He summoned several knives, trying to fling them towards Hela, who shrugged them off with ease. “Where are you taking me?! Release me this instant!”

“We are going to talk.”

Loki stared up at her as she dragged him down the seemingly endless halls. When he realised she was still waiting for an answer, he nodded quickly, trying to scrambled to his feet, only for Hela knock him back down and yank him across the floor by his cloak. It didn’t take long to find Heimdall either, he had picked out a spot somewhere high up on a mountain and made no verbal complaints when Hela demanded his presence. By the time she had collected the both of them, she swiftly led them both to her throne room, and stomped over to her seat, making herself comfortable. The two of them shared a puzzled look, but Hela ignored them, instead staring at her jittering leg. After what felt like an eternity, she gave a hefty sigh and tossed her cloak from her shoulders.

“Now,” She said, sitting cross legged on her throne. “Tell me everything you know about this Titan and these stones.”

For a moment it seemed like they didn’t understand her, and Hela was quickly regretting going through the trouble of finding them, but then Heimdall spoke.

“We will tell you all.” He said.

And that they certainly did, neither of them sparing any detail in their knowledge of the Titan. They mapped out his goals, spoke of his children, talked of how many other planets and realms he had devastated, while Hela merely sat in complete silence, letting her mind digest the information. The longer they spoke, the more sour her expression became. It was increasingly clear what was to be expected of her to do, and she did not like it one bit.

After Loki and Heimdall had finished recounting their knowledge of the Titan, right up to their grizzly deaths, Hela had decided. She gave a weary sigh and loudly cursed all the Norns. She knew exactly what she had to do.

“We are going to Midgard.” She said firmly. “I’m going to kill that Titan, find my idiot brother, and you-” She pointed to Loki. “-will say nothing the entire trip, lest I tear out your tongue. Understood?”

--

Escaping Helheim was actually fairly easy, crafting a portal was much more simple now without the suffocating shield that Odin’s life force had surrounded Helheim with. What was difficult, was actually having the nerve to step out of the portal and into Midgard once more.

Instantly, Hela recognised the drastically changed atmosphere on Midgard during the centuries that had passed after she and Odin had initially claimed it.

Firstly, the climate felt much warmer, as her memories of touching down on Midgard were seeped in ice and stone. The people had been hardened warriors seeking to conquer and explore just as she and her father had, but they were weak and mortal, so they had trouble conquering their own realm. Hela and Odin barely had to kill anyone to establish themselves, and they were instantly held up as gods, as they should be. Everything the mortals had done from then on was done out of a desire to appease Asgard and avoid their wrath.

Now, just like when she returned to Asgard, nobody even knew her name. She supposed she should be getting used to that.

She stepped through the portal, taking a sharp breath, trying to steady herself out in the open amongst the mortal Midgardians. Asgard kept her source of power, and now that it was gone, it was difficult not to feel a little exposed.

Each aesir had something that gave them strength. Loki was strongest with his words and manipulations, thriving off the misery and chaos he caused in others. Thor gained his power from the strong winds and turbulent skies, the thunder and lightning giving him power able to take down whole armies.

Not all their power had to come from Asgard, and Hela was no different. A goddess of death on the battlefield is always at her strongest.

The green fields where the portal had opened were littered with the bodies of dozens soldiers, as well as hundreds of strange looking creatures with no eyes, but several rows of red teeth.

Hela took a deep breath, letting her body be filled with the sensation of newly invigorated powers, hands running over her hair to summon her antlers. There was so much death, so much blood watering the green grass, so many wide-eyed soldiers still clinging to their spears, ready to fight beyond the grave.

She couldn’t help the cackle that burst from her lips as she held out her arms, the essence of bloodshed and slaughter filling her bones and flesh with a renewed strength. It was utter ecstasy. Heimdall and Loki shared a nervous look, but neither said anything.

Few humans even noted her appearance, many too focused on holding off the hoards of seemingly infinite creatures. Those who did stared at her openly, uncertain of who she was, wary of the portal she opened, and of the confidence she seemed to exude in such a seemingly dire situation. There was a blonde woman and a bald soldier clad in red who watched her approach. They said nothing, only gripped their weapons more tightly and eyed the group warily. She barely regarded them as she strode forwards, summoning her swords, eyes narrowed at the bestial army pouring through the small gate.

“Seems we’ve arrived just in time.” She said.

“Remember, no attacking the Midgardians.” Heimdall said, giving Loki and Hela a certain look. He drew the Bifrost sword from his back and prepared his stance.

“I’ll try my best.” Loki joked, summoning two long sabers, and giving them a quick spin and toss.

“Show off.” Hela said with a roll of her eyes. She lept forwards, over the two women who had watched their entrance, and landed directly in the thick of the crowd of alien creatures who barely stopped in their slaughter to acknowledge her presence. She spun into a flurry of blades, not even caring to glance at where they landed, too joyous to bring herself to stop. The faster the beasts fell, the more came, as though they were utterly endless in numbers. With each spill of blood, slicing of bone, with each life stripped by her, Hela felt herself grow bolder in strength and power.

After a while, the monsters simply weren’t a large enough challenge. She glanced at the oncoming circular war machines rolling through the green fields, crushing both creatures and soldiers alike, and Hela smiled. Now there was a true challenge. She abandoned her weapons, instead placing her hands by her sides, eyes closed as she desperately tried to feel the unfamiliar tug of the earth beneath her. The metal was different here, but moundable all the same. The machines swerved closer and closer to her, and with a shout she raised her hands, summoning huge spikes straight from the ground, impaling the battleships. For a few moments they remained upright, pinned by her spikes. Then she drew a breath and retreated her hands back to her hips, drawing the gigantic swords back down into the ground, and let the machines topple into each other in a fiery carnage as they fell.

She closed her eyes and thanked the Norns that not all her powers had been lost after Surtur’s destruction. From behind she heard a struggle take place, and watched as the blonde woman and red-clad warrior began to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of creatures that were moments away from clamouring over them. While combating them, they also had to try to fend off a woman Hela recognized as a daughter of Thanos, coated in blue paint and sporting protruding horns, who fought them both with ease. The bald warrior was barely keeping the woman at bay with her spear, and the blonde was doing all she could to keep the alien creatures out of the warrior’s way rather than get involved in their battle. Hela sighed, thinking of how Heimdall would likely be very unhappy if she let any Midgardians die when she had the opportunity to let them live. How annoying. Hela walked towards them without much urgency.

“Get down.” She said bored. The women glanced up briefly but Hela had already began her summoning, and with a wave of her arm a rain of swords fell from the sky. The blonde, thinking ahead, gripped the body of a creature and leapt over the warrior, protecting them both from the waves of weapons cascading down. The daughter and her minions, however, was not so lucky. After a few long seconds, until Hela was certain they were all dead, she stopped her piercing rain and waited for movement from the warriors. They emerged from underneath the pile of bodies, gasping for breath and coughing, coated in the thick, blue blood of the monsters.

When Hela turned away from them, the army of Midgardians had finally taken attention and stared at her in dumbfounded disbelief.

“I’m Hela.” She introduced herself, absentmindedly driving her foot through the skull of a monster who was still twitching on the ground. “I’m looking for my brother.”

One of the scruffy-looking warriors blinked at her strangely, not quite terrified but still wary. Hela missed the days when people actually looked at her with genuine fear.

“And who would that be?” He asked.

As though he was waiting on a que, the annoying brother she was not speaking of approached her, panting and out of breath.

“These creatures… are rather ghastly.” He said, wiping a grisly splatter his shoulder and shivering. “I could do without the copious amounts of gore.”

“You!” A blonde man shouted, immediately dropping to a defensive stance.

“Ah, the soldier.” Loki straightened up, eyes narrowed into a glare as he evaluated the man up and down. “You look… less patriotic than usual.”

“You know each other?” Hela asked.

“Acquaintances.” Loki said quickly.

“You’re here with Thanos again.” The blonde woman said, snapping her batons together.

“You’re mistaken.” Loki said, holding his hands up. “I’m only here out of peace.” He tried a charming smile, but it came across as slimy as ever.  

Hela elbowed him hard in the ribs, forcing him to double over, and turned to the blonde woman. “I don’t care what you want to do with this one, you can have him.” She said.

“Hey!” Loki cried out, indignant.

“I need the other one.” Hela said.

“Which other one?”

There was a loud crack and roar of thunder, as though the sky itself was being torn apart. The skies were a clear blue, yet a bolt of lightning struck down in the center of the battle. Appearing from the spine of his own lightning, in all his might, was the god of Thunder himself.

“That one.” Hela said.

Thor roared for Thanos’ head and charged forwards, his new weapon dealing a devastating blow against a wave of the snarling creatures, rendering them to a pile of smouldering ashes. Hela couldn’t help the anger that bubbled inside her; since when did he get to be so powerful?

Thor rose up high in the sky once more, dropping down and evaporating half of the enemy numbers in a matter of seconds, and toppling several war-machines in a fiery inferno. The battlefield flared so bright with lightning that most of the Midgardians had to shield their vision, but not Hela. She watched Thor’s ascend to the sky, his complexion darkened by the fires that burned behind him. Images of Odin flew through Hela’s mind, standing over his unwilling subjects, wordlessly destroying and causing utter carnage, conquering all. She stood still in a strange mixture of shocked awe and envy, trying to ignore the nervous knot in her stomach as she started to approach him.

Loki and Heimdall were trying to talk to her, to say something, but Hela couldn’t quite hear them, her mind far away in Helheim, remembering how Frigga had talked of being able to put the past behind them, to help protect her brothers, for the greater good. Frigga had said nothing of whether Thor would even accept her after all the pain that she had caused. Who’s to say he wouldn’t try to kill her again the instant he saw her? It’s what she would do, if faced with an enemy who had risen from the dead. Thor seemed better than that, but right now, he acted like a man possessed. Vengeance? Wrath? The legacy of his father’s power? She could only guess.

When she was only a few feet away from Thor, the anxiety truly began to set in.

He turned and faced her, his arms slick with alien blood.

“Hello brother.” She said, trying to deliver one of her icy smiles.

He stared at her wide eyed, his grip on his weapon slacking for just a moment. Then, in a literal flash, he had thrown himself across the battlefield, and Hela ducked down, rolling under his aim of attack, but to her surprise, it was not her he had aimed for. Instead, he completely devastated the remaining battleships in a flurry of his red cape and electric lightning. He descended, and turned to face his sister.

“Hela…” Thor braced his new weapon and held it out before him in an accusatory manner towards Hela, forcing her to keep her distance. “You--”

“Brother, you made it.” A voice cracked behind her.

She turned her head to see Loki, his eyes wet and his hands trembling as he clasped his knives. The expression of relief was apparent all over Thor’s face.

“You’re alive.” He said breathless.

“Just barely.” Loki said with a laugh. Hela narrowed her eyes, and rose to her feet.

“No time for a happy family reunion.” Hela said, gesturing to the orange portal which had just opened before them, and at the giant who stepped out of it.

Thanos stared at the blazing landscape before him, his eyes scanning for something or someone, completely oblivious to the Asgardian presence. Thor and Loki stood beside her, frozen with shock at seeing him in his violent glory again. Loki’s hand unknowingly rose to his neck, as if to check if it was really untwisted, and Thor gripped his new axe more tightly, digging his heels into the grass.

But Hela was not frozen.

She charged in, her elbow making firm contact with the side of Thanos’s jaw and making him pummel through the nearby trees. When he came to a stop he shook his head, and glanced up. Thanos was still for a moment, his eyes considering Hela. His expression shifted, from one of mere annoyance to something more akin to… admiration?

“Lady Death?” He asked, voice hopeful. Hela tilted her head.

“You have nice manners, but that’s not quite my title.” Hela said as she drew her blades and prepared herself. “It’s the Goddess of Death.”

Thanos narrowed his eyes at Hela, before his gaze lingered on Loki, his mouth curling in disgust.

“The failure has returned. I thought I snapped your neck.” He said.

“I’m afraid I undid that. I couldn’t stand having him stink up the entirety of Helheim with his mopeyness.” Hela answered. Loki shot her a look, but he said nothing.

Thanos rose and stood still for  a moment, before he began to make a slow walk towards them. As though he had all the time in the world, she supposed. And that he had, if the glittering green stone in his gauntlet was any indication.

“Do we have a plan?” Loki asked anxiously.

“Kill him and destroy the gauntlet.” Hela replied simply.

“Easy enough.” Thor growled.

Hela glanced at the two of them, armed and poised, ready to leap into the fray. This is what Asgard could have been at one point, she thought briefly. The pride of the Odin’s kin ready to lay waste to any enemy who intrudes their way. Thanos gave them a look of contempt, yet his face was uncaring. Clearly he didn’t think them worth dealing with. He would realise his mistake shortly enough. Thanos held out his gauntlet, letting a flash of colours fall over them, and the last remaining members of the Asgardian royal family leaped into battle.

To Hela’s surprise, they moved in a cohesive whirlwind. Despite never once being able to spar with one another or ever gaining a true feel of their capabilities, they instinctively maneuvered around one another. Her and Loki knew exactly when to time the speed of their attacks, allowing for short pauses to step back or even duck and allow Thor to plant a hit against Thanos. Her brothers steered clear of her wider swings and spinning maneuvers, and when she managed to summon a whirlwind of swords they didn’t dare interfere. Both Hela and Thor knew to keep Thanos’s attention solely on the two of them, allowing for any brief opportunities for Loki to sneak into the corner of his vision and launch a sneak attack.

It shouldn’t have been so joyful, this was a battle to the death, it was tiring and felt almost futile as Thanos kept shrugging off or evaporating all of their weapons and blows. And yet it was so freeing to fight so freely and for a true purpose again. Not to conquer but to protect. Hela had no time to dwell on the thought, the fight demanding her full attention. When she misstepped over the corpse of a soldier and lost her footing, the battle instantly became deadly. That short misstep was all it took, and within seconds, it seemed any advantage the siblings had gained against the Titan was lost.

Thanos quickly spotted her mistake, and managed to move to the side just in time to avoid her blow and backhand her with his gauntlet. She flew several yards, landing into a nearby tree, crying out in pain. That was the first direct blast he had managed to land on her, and it was needless to say she had underestimated the sheer raw power that the gauntlet possessed, even when in an unfocused counter attack. He looked at her, firing up the stones once again for a lethal blow, only to be forced to jump out of the way of Thor’s wide swing as he aimed his axe directly at Thanos’ jaw. But Thanos saw it coming, and the gauntlet was quickly turned towards Thor, dealing a powerful punch that threw Thor out of sight of his kin.

The Titan turned back around to Hela, fingers curling slowly into a fist as he approached her. Hela jumped up on her feet, flipping gracefully away from him, drawing a nearby sword she had summoned earlier from the tree. She stood tall, ignoring the wet, trickling sensation running down her scalp and sticking in her eyes. There was definitely some internal bleeding of sorts caused by that gauntlet, perhaps even a few broken ribs, but she wasn’t going to lie around and give up so easily. If her limbs were still attached and if she could wield her sword, she would keep fighting. Hela side-stepped around him, circling to best figure out a vantage point, and that’s when she saw it.

A serpent, unnaturally gold against the shrubbery that surrounded them. It had gone unnoticed by Thanos, but was now coiling up ready to strike, needing an opening, a distraction. Thanos noted her pause in movements and turned towards where she was staring, which was when she charged forwards. He whirled back around to her, meeting her attack by destroying her sword into a thick batch of red smoke that burned her hands. She couldn’t feel the pain however, instead she found herself smiling.

He even gave them a smoke screen, how generous.

The golden snake quickly writhed up Thanos’s arm and within seconds had wrapped itself securely around his neck, and with a golden flash, Loki now had his legs wrapped around his head, hoisting a knife high above his head, ready to strike down savagely into his skull.

Then their idiot brother had to come charging back into the fray.

Thor had quickly returned, utilizing the speed of his lightning to push forwards, roaring triumphantly as he did so. This caused Loki to hesitate for the briefest of moments, but that was all it took. Thanos picked him from his shoulders and threw him in the direction of Thor’s path, knocking them both down together.

“Little shits!” Hela growled, summoning another sword and driving it deep into Thanos’s side while he was distracted. He cried out in pain, and Hela dropped low to avoid another swing from his charged gauntlet and spun back, leaving her brother to take over. Thor threw himself back into the fight undeterred by the fumble with his brother, and went on attacking Thanos with all his might. The clear sky rumbled and each step he took was greeted by the crashing sound of thunder and lightning, not even for a single moment did he dare to let up. It appeared to be working for all of five seconds, until Thanos grew tired of having to keep dodging and gripped Thor’s weapon with his gold gauntlet.

“He’ll crush it!” Hela shouted, sprinting forwards. Thor’s eyes flashed with panic, he instantly recognized his mistake but he was too slow to pull away. Luckily for them, Loki was looking out where they weren’t.

There was a loud whistling noise and Thanos barely glanced up in time to move out of the way of a speeding knife, escaping with with just a sliced-up cheek. The second his grip on Stormbreaker loosened, Thor retrieved his weapon and jumped back, far out of his reach. Loki clicked his tongue annoyed.

“Brother, please be more careful. You just lost your old weapon a few days ago.” Loki said, summoning a new pair of knives. Thor made a noise in response, something between a laugh and a grunt.

“Enough of this!” Thanos shouted. He pressed his hand flat against the ground, his focus completely centered on Loki. The stones glowed dangerously, their powers being summoned simultaneously mixing their respective colours into a rainbow. The ground beneath Loki’s feet turned to sand, quickly pulling him towards Thanos’s direction. Wordlessly, Hela and Thor jumped forwards, both reaching out for Loki’s arms. For a brief moment, they had him in their grasp, feeling the desperate dig of his nails trying to cling on to the two of them. But Thanos’ strength was too great, and he finally tore Loki away from his siblings.

“I’ll have to tear you apart all over again, just so that you can understand your place in this futile world, you worm.” The time-stone flourished with a threatening green and Thor watched in horror, seeing the old bruises and wounds around Loki’s neck beginning to open up. But not just those, old scars around his ribs and stomach began to weep as well the signs of his torture rising up and out of his skin,  tearing Loki apart as they did. He was choking, hands rushing up to his throat, red eyes staring helplessly at his brother, and that was all it took for Thor. His concern for his brother blinded him to how powerful Thanos still was, and the moment he was within arms reach of Thanos, he had lost.

He jumped high into the sky, Hela shouting after him, Stormbreaker charging dangerously as ascended. Thanos drew his hand away from the soil, curling the gauntlet into a tight fist and drawing back, summoning all the strength of the stone. Just as Thor dropped down, Thanos concentrated the entire power of the gauntlet into one hit against Thor’s chest. Thor choked, Stormbreaker dangling uselessly from his wrist, the charged power still crackling as it hung limp. When he fell, Thanos let the earth beneath him shift under Thor, forming tight chains that crawled over him, effectively keeping him immobilized. His screams made Hela wince.

Thanos turned to her, now the sole figure for him to focus his power on. The last sibling left to be dealt with. She didn’t hesitate to summon her blades and guide them towards Thanos’s skull, but it was futile. The element of surprise had been lost, and the swords only hovered fruitlessly in front of her, being destroyed over and over again, her arms burning as they struggled against the blue hue that held them there. She clenched her teeth so hard that she could taste her own blood.

“You seemed interesting at first.” He said with a chuckle. “A real fighter, maybe even someone on equal footing with me.” She could feel her hands trembling, as they kept summoning swords, desperately pushing every inch of her magic and mind to drive them into his skull, but nothing happened. Thanos leaned down and Hela tried to swat him away, only for the same blue magic to press her down. His hand quickly reached down, wrapping around her throat. “I hate to do this to you, Goddess of Death, to kill someone so powerful yet with so much potential left. But you’re in my way.” The stones glittered and everything hurt. Hela would not cry out, she would not give into the tyrant’s sick desire to watch her squirm and suffer. She roared in anger, trying to mask the crushing pain he was inflicting upon her.

Thor twitched from where he lay, but only managed to turn his head, his broken arms desperately trying to move to pick up Stormbreaker. Loki watched on too, his body planted into the dirt, legs twisted and green robes stained red. He watched on with the same terrified expression Thor held and Hela wanted nothing more than to punch those stupid faces off. This was not at all what she had meant when she wished to be looked upon with terror.

“Initially I was supposed to just restore the balance by killing one out of two, but you complicate things. I’ll just have to kill you all to make it even.” Thanos said.

Thanos tightened his grip and Hela struggled, continuing to kick out and scream to numb the pain. Nothing happened. The metal grip around her throat tightened to the point where she was gasping for breath, her shouting silenced. Her lungs burned yet her fingertips felt icy, and something foul-tasting was forming in the back of her throat. Thor and Loki were shouting, but their voices echoed, faint and distant against the sharp ringing in her ears. She let her eyes close, envisioning Surtur and how hard she had struggled against him until the very end, throwing all her magic against him in futile effort. It was too similar now, everything was so close and just within her reach only to be torn away from her again, the moment she tasted freedom. She would not let some second rate Titan strip it away from her now.

She pressed her hands out flat against the ground, nails gripping hard into the dirt, reaching out for her magic, not trying to summon any weapon, but rather a strength, a strength to give to her brothers. Healing was never her greatest skill when it came to magic, but she was still proficient at it. At the insistence of her adoptive mother. She couldn’t see to her brothers expressions to see if it worked, but she had to try, she had one final chance to redeem herself, to survive and show her strength. To be what her father could not.

She opened her eyes, and with her every ounce of magic and strength, she gripped Thanos’s arm and threw him over her head, slamming him down behind her. The grip he had around her neck was gone for and she rolled over, choking for breath.

“NOW!” She rasped. Thor leapt forwards, freed from his chains, driving the axe down deep into Thanos’s chest and Loki followed close, driving two knives into the sides of Thanos’s thick neck. For one glorious moment, Thanos was still, the threat to the universe evaporated for a mere moment. Thor and Loki let out a sigh of relief, but Hela still stared.

And then, to their shock, he drew breath.

Hela sprung to her feet, cursing her brothers. The Titan rose up, mouth still moving despite Loki’s knives choking him, his chest rising and falling with Stormbreaker still firmly nestled inside it. He raised his gloved arm above him, hand bared against the blue sky. Hela picked up a nearby spear discarded from one of the fallen soldiers, not daring to rely on her depleted magic in that moment, and trudged forwards. His fingers moved, and Hela drove the spear deep into his skull, neatly between his eyebrows.

She glared at him unblinking, twisting the spear deeper in just for good measure, watching his ugly shocked expression fall, replaced with something empty and dead, something she recognised well. Her shoulders sagged with relief, and she fought the urge to collapse into the ground. She glared at her two brothers, trying to blink the black spots out of her vision.

“You…” She panted. “Are such MORONS!” She withdrew the spear from Thanos’s head and tossed it angrily towards them, watching Loki duck out of the way with ease. “Did father never teach you to always aim for the head?! What the hell were you thinking?! He could have snapped his fingers and we would have been done for!”

Thor and Loki stared at her in confusion, as though they couldn’t believe her actions. Neither could she, if she were to be perfectly candid about it. It was easier to act angry at their incompetence than to relish the strange feeling of being a saviour. After a long beat, Thor shuffled towards her.

“Hela--”

“Don’t say anything, please.” She said holding up a hand, sudden exhaustion overwhelming her. “You’ll ruin it.”

Before long, the Midgardians around them took notice, the last sounds of the battle echoing around the grassy field. She’d never been in a fight where the instant the leader died, the supporting soldiers died as well. It made things a lot easier, not having to worry about cleaning up.

Suddenly here was an arm around her shoulder, and she very soon found herself in the crushing embrace of Thor, who was staring hopelessly at Loki who seemed just as shocked as she was.

The Midgardians stared at the three of them in a strange awe.

“So, who’s your friend?” The blonde, male soldier from before asked, gesturing towards Hela.

Thor opened his mouth to reply, but was promptly cut off by a blood curdling scream. The daughter of Thanos whom Hela had struck down earlier in her battle stood hunched, plentiful amounts of black knives and swords impaling her body. It seemed she was not quite so dead after all.

She stared at the crumbled corpse of her father, and choked, drawing in a sharp breath of pain.

When she glanced up, the look in her eyes startled Hela. It was the same expression she had seen on her brothers when they first met, one of betrayal and anguish, of instantly recognising your enemy. Never breaking eye contact with Hela, she tore free of the spikes that impaled her, pulling one of the long black blades from her shoulder, and leapt forwards with such speed that the Midgardians around her barely had a chance to react.

Panic seized Hela’s chest. Her body moved of its own accord, gripping Thor’s and Loki’s armour, hoisting them both high over her head and tossing them far into the distance, now placing herself in the path of the charging girl, who was bleeding freely. Hela turned to her and struck out at her with her hand, a flurry of swords embedding their way into the daughters skull and throat. She didn’t fall instantly, stumbling for a few sickening moments, her eyes wide in shock at the very notion of being bested, this time, truly dead.

There was a fragile moment where the others were caught staring at the speed and sheer violence of the scene that just played before them. Hela was faster and more brutal, clearly the better fighter, but the woman had caught her by surprise. Hela didn’t think of effectiveness in striking her down, didnt think of anything other than pulling her brothers out of harm's way.

It was so sentimental it made her scowl.

Hela tried to breathe a sigh of relief at the sight of her brothers out of harm's way, but was quickly rendered breathless by the pain in her abdomen. She glanced down, blinking at the sight of her own black spear protruding from her stomach.

The sight of it barely startled her, but it made the Midgardians nearly faint. They stared on at Hela, eyes blown wide, utterly horrified. She merely clicked her tongue, slightly annoyed. Impalements were rather bothersome injuries, they completely threw you off balance and if you weren’t careful, they could pin you down in a vulnerable state. She gripped the handle of her spike and ripped it from her stomach smoothly with a wet noise, causing everyone collectively around her to grimace.

“Oh really.” She said resisting the urge to roll her eyes. “It’s barely anything.” She said tossing the sword aside. Strangely, her middle still felt wet, the pulse in her wound growing stronger and stronger rather than evaporating. Now that was odd.

“Sister…” Loki spoke slowly, his eyes never leaving her stomach.

Hela glanced down, almost unbothered when she noticed something very severe.

The wound had not begun to repair, in fact, the blood wasn’t stopping.

“What’s happening?” She asked, trying not to sound as panicked as she felt.

“You’re no longer on Asgard.” Thor reminded her somberly.

She thought back to just a few days ago, when Thor was attacking her with the golden sceptre, how easily she had shrug off his stabs and slices, her injuries and his attacks gone before they could even manifest. Normally, her own spikes would never even be able to pierce her skin. Normally, it wouldn’t hurt. Normally, she wouldn’t bleed a single drop of blood. Yet here she stood, dying. It wasn’t a good look.

She began to feel lightheaded, watching the world slowly begin to sway around her. The last thing she remembered was a voice calling out her name, and then blackness.

Chapter Text

When Hela came to, the first thing she could feel was her pulse in her stomach. That, and the uncomfortable itch of the new robes she had been dressed in. She twitched her fingertips, feeling the bones slowly click after however long she had laid there immobile, and felt the tug of a needle in her hand. She opened her eyes, initially blinded by the pure white that exploded across her vision, but managed to blink into focus an assortment of tubing and wiring entering her back of her hand.

Her first instinct was to yank it out, but a voice spoke before she could.

“I do not recommend pulling out your drip.” Thor’s voice rumbled. “The healers do not appreciate it.”

Hela turned to look at her younger brother, shocked at the visible difference since she had last seen him. He was bent over in his chair, elbows resting on his knees, hands woven together in thought. He looked hardened but his hands were trembling, coated in her dried blood. He looked utterly rugged and exhausted, like Odin would after a long and bloody battle. Victorious in one sense, yet mourning in another.

“So.” She said breaking the silence. Her voice was more hoarse than she remembered. “This is what it’s like, living on Midgard.” She stared up at the white ceiling, listening to the soft tones of the machines working next to her. “Have to say, I’m not overly fond of it.”

“You’ll adjust.” Thor said. “I have.” Hela glanced around the open room, spotting a few other soldiers and healers at work, but no sign of the trickster.

“Where’s our little runt of a brother?” Hela asked.

“He’s busy.” Thor said flatly, not offering any more details. “You’ve been out for nearly three days.”

Hela’s rose up quickly, hissing loudly at the tugging ache in her stomach, hands instinctively curling around her middle. Thor’s eyes flashed with worry, and he leaned over, stopping short when she gave him a look that should have incinerated him on the spot.

“Three days?” She repeated. “That’s impossible, even if I’m not on Asgard and at my most powerful. That’s just, that’s not… from a mere spear?” She said confused.

“It’s a surprise you even lived to tell the tale.” Thor said.

“Don’t insult me.” Hela said bitterly. She shook her head, rubbing her hands tiredly over her face, noting the risen black veins now painfully apparent under her almost translucent skin. “This is so pathetic, just a few days ago I was shrugging off your attacks like they were nothing and now one little impalement has me completely immobilized?!”

“You overestimate yourself sister.” Thor said. “With Asgard gone, you cannot expect yourself to fight as you had done a few days ago. All Asgardians draw strength from Asgard, it’s no wonder you might be a little less… active after it’s destruction.”

Hela flinched at that, momentarily having forgotten about the destruction of her homeworld. The pain from the memory of being crushed by Surtur’s blade stung more than her actual wound.

“It really is gone then.” Hela whispered. She glared up at Thor, her voice tight with anger. “Your hatred for me was so great you were willing to sacrifice our home, just to ensure my destruction?”

“It was not about hatred.” Thor said adamantly. “It was about securing the fate of our people. Can you deny that you would have followed us to slaughter us once we left?”

Hela said nothing, and Thor took that as an confirmation. He sighed and leaned back in his seat, rubbing his temples.

“Asgard is not a place, it’s a people.” He started.

“Oh yes, I’ve heard that lovely little tid bid before.” Hela sneered. “Tell me, what people are even left after that Titan got a hold of your ship?”

“You’re angry.” Thor said tiredly.

“No shit.”

“You need not make this harder than it already is.” Thor said. “I just…” He trailed off, his foot now jittering as he considered his words, eyebrows knitted in frustration. “I have already spoken to Loki and Heimdall about what happened after Thanos took our ship, but I cannot make any sense of it. Why did you revive Loki and Heimdall? Why did you even bother coming to Midgard at all?” Thor asked, and the question caught Hela off guard. She was silent for a while, her full lips pressed in a thin line as she considered her answer.

“I didn’t think I would be impaled and choked out in doing so. Believe me, if I had, I would never have arrived.” She said. “Honestly, it’s your own fault for not seeing an attack like that from miles away. And you say father called you the best warrior in Asgard.” He narrowed his eyes at her, as though he could see through her nonchalant attitude. It made her squirm. He was a perfect stranger to her, why did he see so easily through her? After another long silence, when she was certain he wasn’t buying it, she spoke. “Frigga convinced me.” She said quietly.

“Mother?” Thor asked leaning forwards. “Was she well?”

“She’s dead, what’d you expect?” Hela bit back.

“Why was she in Helheim?” Thor asked confused.

“Valhalla is for Midgardian warriors who perished in the heat of battle, Thor, not just any old god who foolishly sacrificed themselves.” Hela said. “She’s not suffering, if that’s what you’re wondering. Nobody suffers in Helheim, with the one obvious exception.” She said smiling.

“Frigga was not your real mother, was she?” Thor asked.

“Oh, what gave you that impression?” Hela asked sarcastic.

“Who was she then?” Thor asked voice low. “Your… true mother.”

“Don’t know.” Hela said. “Died during birth I was told. Why do you care anyway?”

“I believe this is what Midgardians refer to as, ‘breaking the ice’.” Thor said. “If we are to be family now, then I would like to learn more about you, sister.”

Hela couldn’t contain her bark of laughter at that. Thor’s expression was utterly crushed, Hela almost felt bad.

“Family?” She repeated. “Us? Now really, you can’t be so naive can you?” Her smile faded. “I’m certainly not. Just get it over with already, stop bothering with any of these false pretenses of family. I know you’re just going to toss me back into that prison again.”

“No.” Thor said firmly. “I’m not going to do that, never again.”

“That so?” She asked one eyebrow rising.

“Yes.” He said. “Though you may not wish to explain why you returned to kill the mad Titan, it is clear that there is still something redeemable in you. The battle was proof of that. You can do good sister. It is not too late.”

“You speak of me like you’ve known me all your life, when in truth, I am nothing more than a stranger.” Hela said. Thor cringed a little at that. In his silence, Hela knew the answer and leaned back down in her bed, eyes closed, ready to be done with this conversation and embrace a dreamless slumber.

“You do not have to be.” Thor said, reaching out to grip her pale hand in his own. His hands were warm, yet gentle, careful to not jostle the canular. He was pressing his lips together and his eyes glossy. Hela silently prayed to the Norns that he did not start weeping. “I am no conqueror or prince or even a king in this moment that I speak to you now. I am merely a brother speaking to my sister.” She kept her eyes trained on his hands, not daring to glance up, least her emotions get the better of her. “Please Hela, our family is already broken enough as it is. Allow me to do right, where our father did wrong.” His voice broke. She was rendered speechless, utterly taken aback. He had reminded her so much of Frigga that it frightened her.

She reached up, arms wrapping around her brothers neck and pulled him into a silent embrace. She closed her eyes, savouring the moment. There was a long pause, and she thought for a terrifying moment that he would push her away and take back all his words, seeing Hela once more for the monster that she was again. Instead, Thor’s strong arm wrapped around her shoulders and he buried his face into her neck. After a while, she could hear sniffling, and feel a wetness against on her shoulder. She sighed, running her fingers through his short hair.

“Don’t be such a whelp.” She said softly. “There’s nothing to be sad about.”

--

Over the next few days, Hela stayed in the healing shelters of the king of the region on Midgard now known to her as Wakanda. Initially, she was confused at their eagerness to even treat her wounds, certain that Thor would have already alerted them to her hostile takeover and subsequent destruction of Asgard. she knew she would eviscerate them if they tried to imprison her, but she was still certain they would at least try.

Instead, they placed a magic damper over the room to try to numb her powers by just a fraction. Any efforts on her part to summon a weapon of any sort resorted in a twisted hunk of metal that would splice into her skin and have to be dug out by the healers later. Her young brothers worked efficiently, she thought scowling.

The speed at which her injury was healing was also leaving much to be desired. Her brothers insisted that the climate on Midgard was very different to the one she had been used to on Asgard and while her wounds would still manage to repair at a rate far superior to the Midgardians, it would take far longer than the amount of time she was well accustomed to. That in combination with the so called miracles of the young scientist healer Hela had acquainted herself with, should have meant that Hela would be ready to leave in less than a day. But instead they hemmed and hawed over her wounds, conjuring up ideas of a fevers or infection that forced her to stay longer. Hela observed the other Midgard warriors with wounds far more severe than hers walk out without so much as a scar or stitch on their body, while she still laid there, gauze laid down so thick on her stomach she may as well have been mummified.

‘Keeping me weak so that they can control me.’ She thought, observing them. It was intelligent, she hated to admit. She allowed the shoddy excuses and over-abundant vital check ups, if only to ease their minds. If it gave them an illusion of control, it would make it far more enjoyable later to shatter it.

Much of Hela’s time was spent merely observing others from a distance, more specifically the young healer who always entered looking colourful and cheery, even during the first few days after the battle when her own face was bandaged and her arm wrapped in a cast. She was always delighted to speak to the scientists and the soldiers, except for when it came to Hela. Any time she was forced to spend around Hela was always abrupt, without so much as a word spoken between them. Hela didn’t take insult at that, but she thought it rather funny, having someone so young be so awkward around her. One day Hela decided to appease her boredom.

“Do you have to play that trite music so loud?” Hela asked annoyed. The girl jumped, it was the first time Hela had spoken to anyone other than her siblings, but her look of surprised was replaced with one of indignation.

“It’s Beyoncé.” The girl said as though that explained everything. She rolled her eyes and tapped away at her clear blue screen, the music was more muted now. “Honestly, all these aliens and none of you know anything about the true goddess of earth. Even that stupid wizard knew who she was.”

Hela looked at her confused.

“There are gods on Midgard?” She asked.

“Not literally, but they’re so perfect they may as well be.” She sighed longingly, a soft look in her brown eyes. Midgardian culture was still far out of her sphere of understanding, Hela thought.

“Girl.” She said. “Tell me, what’s taking so long to restore my wounds?”

“First off, I’m not ‘girl’, it’s Princess Shuri to you.” The scientist corrected Hela. Her eyes were guarded, her dark hands instinctively drawn close to her chest. “Secondly, I don’t know anything about your freaky alien biology so trying to rework my nanotechnology for your physiology is taking time, it's completely different to anything I’ve ever seen. I mean, talking to the big blonde guy, he was talking about taking the blast of a dying star and I thought he was kidding, like it sounded like some deep band lyrics but no, he really did just take a supernova to the chest. And what’s even weirder is that this was explained to me by a racoon, like a talking racoon! I mean what the fu--!”

“You’re rambling.” Hela interrupted. Shuri shot her a look and tapped away at her screen.

“Basically, we’re just going to have to heal you the good old fashioned way, with stitches and tape.” Shuri explained. “You’re still healing very fast.”

“It doesn’t feel like it.” Hela said annoyed. “Why do other soldiers walk out before me?”

“Not everyone got a spear through the stomach.” Shuri replied.

“And it has nothing to do with the fact that you’ve placed several guards outside of my door or sealed off my magic?” Hela asked. Shuri stopped momentarily, to give Hela a look.

“That would be the work of the skinny weasel who keeps messing with my tech.” Shuri clarified. Hela couldn’t contain her smirk at the way she referred to Loki.

“Weasel?”

“He’s insistent that all this,” She gestured to the white lab. “Is the work of magic and keeps tearing apart my tech to prove it. How insulting! This is far more sophisticated than just waving your hands and having everything at your fingertips.”

“He’s curious, our magic is the only explanation he has to rationalise the world around him.” Hela said thinking aloud. “Siblings can be quite the headache.”

“Don’t I know it.” She muttered. Hela considered her for a moment.

“Princess…”

“Yes, scary white lady?” Shuri replied cheerily.

“You’re a reasonable intelligent young girl.”

“I sure am.” Shuri said with a smile of pride.

“May I ask you…” Hela trailed off. “You’re not going to imprison me again are you?” She asked. The question seemed to cause Shuri to pause in her work, and she glanced up from her screen for the first time to try to look at Hela, but she had turned her gaze firmly to the ceiling. “I know you see me as a dangerous being, and I don’t deny my own savagery when it comes to my crimes, but I’d rather be executed than to ever be forced into that darkness again.” Her voice was quiet, and she had to swallow the thick lump in her throat just to keep speaking. “You can speak to them, to my brothers and the other warriors to ensure that they don’t do that? Or at least do the honours of killing me before they come to claim me?” She would not let a mortal see her so weak, and yet here she was trembling, hands fisted in her bed sheets.

Shuri was silent for a long moment, which Hela seemed to take as silent acceptance that this was certainly what was going to happen to her. But then, to her surprise, Shuri sat down next to Hela. She still didn’t quite meet her eyes, but instead focused on a large piece of decoration behind Hela on the lab wall.

“You said, ‘again’, have you been imprisoned before?” She asked quietly. Hela thought about if she should answer Shuri at all. This was a perfect stranger who was more likely trying to appease her morbid curiosity rather than offer any real comfort. Why should Hela let her be privy to any information about her life? Then again, what harm could the past do to her anymore?

Shuri sighed after a long while, knowing that she was probably not going to ever get an answer out of her, and that’s when Hela spoke.

“Yes.” She said. Shuri stilled in her movements, now looking directly at Hela, who fixed her gaze to the white ceiling. “My father threw me into prison many thousands of years ago, because he was worried I was growing too strong for him to control.” Hela explained. “He did so believing that Asgard, my people, would have been better off forgetting my own existence than to have to face their past conquests and violence against the other realms. When he died I was freed, but nobody remembered me, and my own brothers didn’t know I existed.”

Hela sneaked a glance to Shuri, who was chewing on her lip in thought, her eyebrows were furrowed. Likely considering the same thing Hela was just before, how much should I tell this perfect stranger?

“You sound like my cousin, Erik.” She said finally after a long silence. “His existence was hidden from Wakanda by my father, but he died before I could ever ask him why.” Shuri explained frowning. “Erik also came back out of the blue, demanding the throne, and he nearly killed my brother to get it.”

Hela thought of when she tossed Loki out of the Bifrost and took Thor’s eye. It was impossible not to flinch.

“We were terrified, and then we found out our father had killed his, in an attempt to keep Wakanda’s existence a secret. It changed how I saw my father, how I saw Erik.” Shuri trailed off.

Hela remembered back to the throne room, smiling at Thor who sat on the throne staring down at her in utter disbelief.

‘Where do you think all this gold came from?’ She asked him.

“I imagine your cousin and I would get along well.” Hela said jokingly.

“Hard to now. My brother killed him.” Shuri said, quietly. Hela didn’t hide her surprise at that. “His wounds wouldn’t have been fatal if my brother brought him to me, but Erik insisted against it. Wishing to die rather than imprisoned, like his ancestors, he said. After that, my brother promised he would never let something like that happen again, promised to be better than our fathers mistakes.”

‘This is your chance to rise above our mistakes.’

Hela suddenly felt very weary at remembering Frigga’s voice, uncertain of why she was even discussing such personal matters to a young mortal.

“Why tell me any of this Princess?” Hela asked.

“I don’t know. I guess I don’t like the idea of what happened to Erik happening to another person, I’d hate to see it repeated. Why’d you tell me about being imprisoned?” Shuri asked.

“Touche.” Hela said.

“I didn’t know aliens were well versed in French.” She said with a grin.

“Maybe not my brothers, but I have standards to set.” Hela replied smoothly. That got a little chuckle out of the princess. “You’re very wise for someone so young.” Hela said quietly. “But not scarred by the trauma’s of experience. That’s very rare.”

“Thank you?” She said, uncertain how to reply.

Hela stared at the young girl, eventually turning over on her side away from her. Shuri took that as her cue to stand, and go to the door. Before she left, she stopped, turning to face Hela one last time.

“I cannot promise what action your brothers will take against you, but... I hope you don’t end up like Erik did. Just know that there is always another way.” She crossed her arms over her chest in a W shape and raised her chin at Hela.

Hela blinked, stunned into silence, watching as Shuri hurried out the door.

Mortals were growing to be stranger and stranger each day.

--

After her conversation with Shuri, Hela began to develop a strange kinship with the young Princess. She’d use Hela as a guinea pig of sorts to test various smoothies and shakes, which Hela always accepted despite their foul taste, and even bought her a pair of designer slippers for her to use when she was more capable of walking again. Shuri goaded about how they were designer, but all Hela noted about them was the ugly green and red colour scheme. She said as much to Shuri, who then began to bring Hela various fashion magazines for her to ‘get some real taste’. When she played her music, she even showed Hela how to work the Kimoyo beads to change the music and lighting and all other manner of objects, something she was certain she had not seen any of the other soldiers recieve. Hela didn’t blame Loki for being curious and eager to tear the tech apart. this certainly was similar to their respective manner of magic on Asgard.

Hela spotted him occasionally, lingering in the background of the white lab, always fraying at the edge of her vision until he was shooed away by Shuri before he could destroy something else. Today, he had decided to be braver than usual, and actually approached Hela’s bedside.

“May we talk?” He asked.

“We’re already talking.” Hela said not looking up from her book.

“Properly, in private, preferably without interruption.” He said, inclining her head at Shuri who was frowning in his direction Hela glanced over at her and gave her wave, almost to let her know that Loki’s presence wasn’t an ill tiding this time. Shuri looked like she was ready to protest, but said nothing and went back to her experiment with a face of scepticism. Hela tapped a few buttons on her Kimoyo beads, letting the curtains fall around her bedside.

“Since when did you gain the trust of the young Princess?” Loki asked, his eyebrow raised.

“It’s easy to gain someone’s trust when you don’t spend every waking moment trying to ruin their technology. Is this really what you came to talk about?” Hela asked.

“I thought we could have a heart to heart, now that you’re effectively pinned down and not capable of murder.” Loki said.

“Confidence like that will get you killed.” Hela warned, shutting her book.

“Oh, it already has.” He pulled a chair up from the corner of the room and sat down beside Hela, kicking his feet up on her bed.

“You’re taking advantage of the fact that I am bedridden to whine about your issues with father and I see right through it.” Hela said annoyed, shoving his feet from her bed.

“We have more in common than you would assume.” He said.

“You mean other than the fact that you pilfered through my wardrobe?” Hela said, peering at his boots. “Are those mine?”

“Mother said I could have them.” Loki said with a shrug. “It’s vintage.”

“More like thievery.” Hela grumbled.

“Take it as a compliment sister, you have exceptional taste.” He said smiling.

“Why are you so quick to call me that?” Hela asked.

“Call you what?” Loki asked.

“Sister.” Hela said. Loki’s relaxed posture seemed to stiffen a touch, and his arms crossed over his chest, in an effort to curl in on himself. “We’re actually the two siblings with the least in common, we don’t even share the same father.”

“But we have the most in common in being tossed aside by Odin, don’t we?” He asked smiling. It was a hollow expression, clearly a masking of a much deeper pain. Hela wasn’t going to press, she had had enough of lengthy discussions regarding her father and imprisonment, but apparently, Loki was just getting started. He summoned a knife but Hela felt no anxiety, she was certain that even in her state, she could easily have him impaled on the wall within a second if he even tried it. “You know I am actually a Jotun.” Loki said.

“I heard stories from the dead, that’s how I learned of anything happening outside of Helheim.” Hela said. “Vague tales of Odin adopting a frail child after the long war. Sounded very out of character, to save a child out of the ‘goodness of his heart’, as Frigga would say.”

“Ah, you had it all mixed up.” Loki said. “I wasn’t adopted to be his son, but a pawn to control the Jotuns. If I recall correctly, he told me my only birthright was to die.” Loki said.

“Now that does sound like father.” Hela said nodding.

“I find myself still angry after his death. I know I should be like Thor, and only recall the generous times when he was like a true father.” Loki wasn’t smiling anymore, his green eyes lost in thought, glassy with regret and sadness. The knife twirling between his fingers faltered. “But all I remember were his lies, and I still hate him for it. It’s so utterly confusing. I shouldn’t feel love or grief towards the man who kept so much from me, yet I can’t feel anger or outrage either because he raised me. With his last words, he called me his son and said he loved me. When I think of that, I can’t even blame him for everything that happened. I only think if I was...” Loki said.

“Normal?” Hela finished. “If only I was a decent child who never questioned father just like Thor, if only I had clung to his coattails and obeyed his every whim and word, if only I wasn’t a failure.” Hela picked absentmindedly at a stray piece of thread on her blanket. “I can’t offer much in the way of empathy, Loki.” She said. “I always knew what I was to him. The honourable, strong firstborn, until one day I wasn’t. I spent too long in the dark fretting over what I did wrong and how I could redeem myself before I realised that it was never about trying to be better than him or to please him.”

“What was it about then?” Loki asked, his voice tinged with an edge of desperation. Hela, for the first time since their conversation had began, noted how haggard he had looked. His skin was paler than usually, flaunting a more grey complexion and the circles under his eyes were so dark she could have easily mistaken them for bruises. She recalled the whispers of the dead in Helheim, the minions of Thanos speaking of an Asgardian who fell from the sky and landed into the palm of the Mad Titan, ready to be moulded and turned into the ultimate weapon. She realised that, even though Loki was never physically imprisoned, he too had spent many long years in the dark desperately wondering about where he went wrong. The only difference was he never got the closure Hela found in her many millennia in prison.

“I think it was about trying to understand myself.” Hela admitted. “I realised that to him I would always be the bloodthirsty monster he would never allow to escape, and that I would always chase after greatness and conquest. Once I accepted that, it eased the pain a little and made it all the more easier to cast aside the grief and turmoil I felt inside. Because I knew I could either try to fight it, and be in agony, or accept it and embrace that this was who I would always be.”

“What if you never understand it though?” Loki asked. “What if the part you want to accept is the part that causes everyone pain?”

“Then, I’d say fuck everybody else and crush who tries to convince me otherwise.” Hela looked at Loki, and felt a strange urge to reach out and take his hand into her own. She fought it, and kept her hands resting in her lap. “You care an awful lot about what Thor thinks of you, don’t you?” Hela asked.

“I can’t help it.” Loki said sadly. “First it was father, then Thanos, and now him. I’m always chasing after someone’s approval.”

“Except for your own. For someone seemingly so wise, you’re denser than a sack of bricks.” Hela sighed. “It takes time. Besides, if it was easy to figure all this out, we’d be an exceptionally boring family. What would you write plays about then? The joys of frolicking with father?”

“How did you know about the plays?” Loki asked.

“Thor gave me a programme. The Tragedy of Loki of Asgard.” Hela proclaimed. “A tad trite if you ask me,

“It was more a character drama.” Loki admitted. “A therapeutic way to vent my frustrations.”

“A self sacrificial death, twice, how quaint.” Hela said sarcastic. “If you ever write a play about my tragedy, please, don’t make it so corny.” Loki gave a small chuckle, not a sarcastic huff or cold laugh like when he had watched Thor drop down an entire flight of stairs, but something genuine and actually happy. It hurt Hela, to realise how little she had heard of that happiness.

 

“You’re much more fun to talk to than Thor.” Loki said. “I can’t crack a single joke about dying without him looking like he’ll burst into tears.”

“He’s too soft, that trait is never good for a king.” Hela said. “Too much compassion will only get you hurt.”

“That compassion is what’s kept us alive. He sees something good in the both of us.” Loki said.

“Good is subjective.” Hela said. “He also said Odin was a good father, which we can both confidently deny.”

“He was certainly a good liar.” Loki said.

“But too sympathetic.” Hela said. “He could never commit.”

“Did I tell you he fell into the Odinsleep when I confronted him about being Jotun?” Loki said.

Hela gave a small huff of laughter. “That sounds like him. He was always fond of sleeping away his problems.”

“Or tossing them away.” Loki said, his hands clasped together in front of him, his voice was agonisingly evenhanded. “Too much love to outright kill his children, but not enough to actually honour them with the truth.”

“That was his way.” She admitted, her gaze falling over to the white ceiling once more. There was no sadness in her voice, no angry tears or screaming like there had been when Odin initially tossed her into her cell. Just a painful recognition of his actions.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive him.” Loki said quietly.

“Me neither.” Hela replied.

A silence hung over them, almost suffocating the room as they sat together, their one binding trait being the summation of their trauma caused by one man in their lives. It was different to when she had talked to Thor, their talk had ended in happiness and tears, of looking to a fresh start ignoring their fathers past mistakes. But with Loki, it was like comparing old wounds, knowing that eventually they would heal and fade, but still kicking yourself for ever letting them be inflicted upon you.

“What have you been reading to keep you occupied?” Loki asked, quickly changing topics. He plucked the book from her bedside table, giving it a quick flick through.

“Shuri found a copy of the Edda for me, a collection of poetry about us.” Hela said. “It’s actually quite amusing. Midgardian recounts of Asgardian tales are certainly imaginative.”

“Is there any truth to them?” Loki asked curious.

“You’ll have to tell me, the stories barely mention me.” Hela said annoyed. “There’s a great deal here regarding you. You’re something of a favourite amongst the Midgardians to write about.”

“I’m honoured.” Loki said skimming through the pages with his eyes narrowed.

“I like the one where you entertain the giant’s daughter, Skadi, by… oh what was it again?” Hela said, snapping her fingers in thought.

“Tying one end of a rope to the beard of a goat and the other end to my testicles and squawking until she howled with laughter?” Loki read aloud, wincing.

“Yes that one.” Hela said cackling. “Is that one true?” Loki opened his mouth but Hela quickly cut him off. “Nevermind, it’s funnier to leave it up to imagination.”

“The drawings too leave much to be desired.” Loki said frowning, as he lifted an image of a troll-like creature in a jester costume, dancing with a goblet of wine.

“I think it captures a very accurate likeness.” Hela said.

“Thanks.” Loki deadpanned.

“What about the one mentioning your… courtship, of the great Svadilfari. You didn’t really turn into a mare and become pregnant did you?” Hela said unable to contain her grin.

“That was a joke.” Loki said firmly. “I didn’t expect Odin to take me seriously when I brought home a horse and said it was my child.”

“You know, there are some more recent ones in there too.” Hela lied carefully.

“Such as?"

“Something regarding you becoming a concubine for some crazy, eccentric god on Saakar?” Hela said and smiled slyly, cautioning a glance towards her brother. He immediately rose out of his seat, tossing the book in Hela’s face.

“One myth at a time sister.” Loki said rushing for the exit. She gave a hearty laugh as he slammed the door behind him.

--

When the rest of the Asgardian survivors had been found, Hela had managed to start walking a few paces up and down the lab. She had even managed to peer out into the hallway, where Thor was cheering and shouting, and she was able to enjoy Thor’s rambunctious over-enthusiastic song and dance from a safe distance. He kissed Heimdall on the lips, as well as a human man clad in purple, and a few other unlucky souls who happened to be in the nearby vicinity. Thor didn’t give Hela a crushing embrace like he had done to Loki, who quietly begged Hela for help as Thor squeezed the life out of him and Hela watched uncaringly. It was hard to join in with the celebrations when you were the terror the Asgardians were trying to flee from. She turned to return back to her bed when she heard Heimdall speak.

“It’s not just the Asgardians. Korg and Valkyrie have also survived.” He told Thor. Hela stopped in her tracks, and couldn’t help but recoil at that title. The last Valkyrie, still alive and likely eager to reap her revenge. Only Loki seemed to sense the danger in their reunion, and he tried to reassure Hela that they were there as protection and that if Valkyrie was to try to attack Hela, she would have to destroy the four of them first. Somehow, Hela was not reassured. She wanted to ask about the Asgardians who would be entering the lab for medical treatment, but held her tongue, instead lying back against her pillows, eyes closed, hoping that the incoming Asgardians and Valkyire would quietly ignore her, and give her a moment of solace before being forced to face her violent actions.

No such luck.

Hela could hear her before she saw her. She was laughing about something, and Thor’s deep voice rumbled heartily in the hallway as they approached. Hela could already feel her shoulders and muscles coil with nervousness as their footsteps approached. She gulped thickly, exhaling her nervousness before sitting up straight, her hands clasped in front of her. And then, Valkyrie entered.

Immediately upon seeing her, she froze, her eyes blown wide.

“The fabled Valkyrie.” Hela announced. “It certainly has been a while.”

“More like a week actually.” Korg corrected. “I mean, if you go by earth standards and not freaky Saakar time standards.”

“Why isn’t she dead?” She asked Thor dumbfounded, unable to tear her eyes away from Hela.

“I thought the entire foundation was destroyed.” Korg said surprised. “Unless, she did some freaky portal magic to escape. That’s pretty common with you folks isn’t it?” He chuckled.

“No, I certainly did die.” Hela explained. “I just managed to crawl out of Hel.” She said with a smirk.

“...As in metaphorically or?” Korg asked confused.

“She returned to help us.” Thor said, almost in disbelief himself.

“Bullshit.” Was Valkyrie’s eloquent reply.

“She murdered the Titan firsthand and brought Loki and I back to Midgard.” Heimdall said, just a statement, painfully neutral as always. Hela resisted the urge to pout, he could have at least made it sound more majestic.

“I don’t care.” Valkyrie said. “Her head deserves to be mounted on a spike.”

“How imaginative.” Hela drawled.

“When’s the execution?” She asked

“There isn’t going to be one.” Loki said. “Your need for vengeance is blinding you to the fact that she’s--”

“Good?” Valkyrie finished. “Oh, yes! Please forgive me your majesty! She’s so honest! She’s perfect, she's our saviour! She’s the same woman would just as easily have seen all of us murdered if we stood in her way!”

“Not any more.” Hela spoke, drawing Valkyries attention.

“Is that so, you old hag?” She asked sarcastically. Hela ignored the insult.

“Asgard is no more, so my wish to rule the nine realms and conquer the rest is no more either.” Hela explained. “I am a simple Asgardian just as Thor and Loki are.”

“So then, explain to us.” Valkyrie said arms crossed over her chest. “What ARE you going to do once they let you out of this cell? In fact, why did you even come back?”

The question lingered in the room like a foul odour. Hela noted the curious expressions on people’s faces. It had been a concept saved for far later down the line. What to do with the goddess of death who saved half the universe yet killed several of its inhabitants herself? Imprisonment was certainly not an option and she would tear them apart before they dared to put her in chains again. The sad truth was that Hela didn’t know what would be done with her after her injuries were repaired.

“I suppose,” Hela answered after a long silence. “I’m here for the same reasons you are. Trapped doing the right thing despite everything else that should say otherwise.”

“Now you want to do the right thing?!” Valkyrie asked. She stormed closer to Hela’s bed and Thor joined her side, grabbing her shoulder trying to calm her approach. She easily shrugged him off. “You slaughtered all of them! All my sisters! Like they were nothing!” Hela didn’t react. She really ought to have brought herself to care but to her, the Valkyries were but one obstacle in the way of her freedom. She would have struck them down a thousand times over if it meant that she would have escaped.

“It wasn’t personal, I assure you.” Hela said. “I merely saw you as a hindrance, the one thing blocking me from my freedom. You couldn’t begin to understand the desperation I felt when fighting your Valkyrie.”

“You’re right, I couldn’t imagine it and I don’t even want to hear it.”

“You’re really not even going to try to be sympathetic at all are you?” Hela said. “You don’t want to think about the unfairness of Odin locking away his eldest daughter to rot and what that would have done to her mind and made her so desperate for escape, you just want to see me as this big evil being out to get you and your precious Valkyries.” Hela sneered. “Get over yourself.”

“One more word and I’ll slice your throat.” Valkyrie warned dangerously, drawing her Dragonfang. Thor placed a hand on her wrist, trying to lower her weapon.

“Please let us all calm down for a moment.”

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.” Hela said her voice tight with frustration. “I’m trying to be honest.”

“Your honesty would be better appreciated if I actually gave a shit about you or thought that you were genuinely sincere about a single word that left your mouth.” Valkyrie snapped.

“Valkyrie, can we perhaps withdraw our weapons for the time being?” Thor asked carefully, trying to pry her hands open to remove Dragonfang from her grasp. She snatched her hand out of his grasp, eyes still trained on Hela. “Let’s try an apology perhaps?” Thor suggested.

“An apology won’t bring back the dead.” Valkyrie said simply.

“Besides, I can’t bring myself apologise for fighting for my freedom.” Hela added.

“Oh the sincerity is just radiating off you!” Valkyrie said sarcastic.

“So what now?” Loki asked. “How can Hela make up for the pain she inflicted upon you, Valkyrie?”

“By dying.” She replied simply.

“Cute.” Hela deadpanned.

“It is in both of your best interests to not kill one another.” Heimdall spoke. “Valkyrie, like it or not, Hela Odinsdottir is now of the the few remaining members of the Odin family line, her survival is key for Asgard. Hela, the Valkyrie are an essential part to Asgard, you know we need her to rebuild Asgard.” Heimdall tried.

“Do we? Last I recalled, Asgard was doing just fine without them.” Hela said unable to draw her gaze from Valkyrie.

“They were also doing perfectly fine ignoring your existence. Nobody wants to be reminded of the king’s greatest mistake.” Valkyrie snapped.

“Val, please…” Thor tried.

“Why are you so adamant to defend her?! She killed the warriors three! They were your friends and they died protecting Asgard, she murdered them in cold blood! How can you just stand back and accept her as anything less than a demon after all of that?” Valkyrie asked, pointing an accusatory finger towards Hela.

“I...” The words caught in Thor’s throat and even Loki seemed to waver for a moment. These warriors must have been important to Thor, and she struck them down without even an ounce of hesitation. For the first time, Hela was beginning to resent her brutality. “I can forgive her.” He said after a long moment.

Valkyrie stared at Thor in deep shock, as though he had transformed into a monster before his very eyes.

“How?” Valkyrie asked. “How can you find any ounce of… compassion or forgiveness for that?”

“I have to try.” Thor ground out.

Valkyrie shook her head and Hela felt the need to somehow focus Valkyries anger back onto herself before she left Thor for good.

“I should make one thing adamantly clear,” She said breaking the silence that followed. “I don’t ever expect your forgiveness, it is true that I killed your soldiers, but I did not command them to march into certain death. That was all Odin’s doing.”

“Don’t try to spin this on that old bastard!” Valkyrie spat. “He’s just as bad as you!”

“Don’t you hate Odin for doing that to you? Are you still loyal to him, even beyond the grave? Even after he hid the deaths of your loyal soldiers to hide his mistake? After he cast you out of Asgard for daring to question his judgement?” Hela asked.

“I understand that he was an old fool who barely knew how to control his children and sent in the Valkyries to do his dirty work.” She replied.

“At least we’re in agreement on something.” Hela said baring her teeth in a angry smile. “I do wonder, why did you even bother coming back if the Asgardian royalty disgusts you so much?”

“Because the promise of driving my sword through your heart was too much to pass up.” Valkyrie said, raising her weapon.

“THAT’S ENOUGH!” Thor roared, completely silencing the room. “I have had enough of this bickering! There will be no more bloodshed, we have already lost too many of our people and you two are really trying to further reduce that? You both just acknowledged how Odin’s mistakes led to the suffering of your people, and yet you still continue his petty squabbles?”

“This is not some petty issue!” Valkyrie defended. “This is--!”

“Not justice! It’s mindless vengeance!” Thor said desperately. “Nobody expects you to forgive Hela for what she did to your soldiers Valkyrie, I will not try to convince you that she has changed from the woman you fought a few days ago. But ask yourself, what does her death gain?”

Valkyrie bit her lip, the hand wielding her Dragonfang now shaking with uncertainty. Thor gently took this as a chance to loosen her fingers which were wound tightly around her weapon. Valkyrie let him, chest rising and falling with adrenaline and heartache. Thor placed his hands over hers and gripped tightly.

“Asgard is not a place, it’s a people, and you both are a part of my people, for better or worse. If either of you die, then an essential part of Asgard dies with you.” Thor’s voice was strong, yet laden with emotion. “So please…I beg of you, both of you, no more killing.”  

After a moment, Valkyrie closed her eyes and let out a shaky breath, trying to gather herself. When she opened them, she looked over to Hela, brown eyes shining with something Hela recognised well. Hatred, and sorrow.

“The only reason you are still alive is because Thor sees something in you, and I respect him. I don’t know what and I don’t even want to try to imagine what’s going on in that twisted mind of yours.” Valkyrie said. “But if Thor says you’re to live, then I’ll trust his judgement as king, and as a great man.”

“Thank you.” Hela said.

“I don’t want your thanks.” Valkyrie said. “I still loathe you for what you did to my sisters. Know that the moment you slip up, the moment this facade starts to fade and Thor thinks you’re no longer worthy, I’ll be ready.”

W ith those final words, Valkyrie left the lab.

Well, Hela thought, at least that was some sort of resolution.

--

By the end of the week, Hela was capable of standing and walking all on her own for longer durations of time. But her paths were exceptionally limited to the lab and bathroom, and she itched to go exploring, but she knew that the magical barrier and guards posted nearby would restrict her greatly.

So when Loki came to inform her that they were going to a meeting, Hela had to restrain herself from practically hollering with relief. The meeting at hand required the presence of all the warriors and guardians who took part in the battle against Thanos (who Hela had now learned referred to themselves by a name so trite and clichè as the Avengers) to come together and report on important events that had occurred in their absence regarding the stones and to plot their next plan of attack.

She picked out an outfit that caught her eye from a particularly old edition of Vogue, a Chanel black dress-suit with white trim and silver buttons along the jacket. Due to the magical barriers, she had to ask Loki to replicate it for her which he did graciously, adding his own flair in the form of gold snake cufflinks. Loki wore a bespoke black suit, and it took a long morning of convincing before Hela and Loki had finally coaxed Thor into wearing jeans and a shirt with a grey cardigan, with a pair of gaudy bright red sneakers Shuri had loaned him instead of his favoured outfit of flaming shorts and a bare chest. The two of them linked their arms through with Hela’s in order to steady her and walked at the same slow pace as she did, careful not to exhaust her. Hela grit her teeth, fighting against every frustrating urge to swat them away, but instead graciously took their hands. While it looked pathetic to hold onto their hands for support, it would have probably been more pathetic to have collapsed before even attending the meeting.  

“You look good, sister.” Thor commented as they walked. Hela bristled slightly at the compliment, wavering for what she should say.

“I know.” She said, head held up high.

“No compliments for me?” Loki said pouting.

“Nope, you still look like a witch.” Thor said smiling.

When they entered, the others were dressed in a somewhat similar manner. Many sporting more casual appearances than the ones Hela had seen with them on the battlefield, cleaned of the blood and grime. Hela almost didn’t recognise some of them. Hela noted that neither Shuri nor the child clad in red and black spider webs was attending the meeting. Too young to attend something so akin to a war council, she thought. They gathered around a wide black table, with a large sprawling glass view of the Wakandan landscape behind them. At one point it must have looked breathtakingly beautiful, with the orange and purple sunset casting a soft glow over the grass, but so shortly after the battle, it was an utter devastation. They took their seats, and Hela prepared for what was easily the most boring two hours of her life.

There were so many introductions Hela almost wished she was as unintelligent as the large, grey creature in the corner so that their names wouldn’t stick. Words like ‘accords’ and ‘Sokovia’ kept cropping up but Hela was barely listening. It was largely irrelevant Migardian business, an assassination or two here, some dead parents over there. All rather standard and bland for her taste, nothing that couldn’t be seen every other Asgardian theatre production. She noted Thor and the man called Bruce’s grave expressions as they listened to the Captain recite the series of events that occured in their two year absence, thinking vaguely that for a team that supposedly fought so well together they certainly had a lot of underlying issues. But then again, the same could easily be said for her family, so she held her tongue.

After that, Thor explained what had occurred to him in the past three days. From the death of their father to the destruction of Asgard, and his time as a gladiator on Sakaar. Hela briefly noted a few glances her way from the other Avengers as he spoke of her taking his eye and trying to execute Asgardians, but didn’t meet their eyes. The scientist called Bruce tried to chip in every now and then but his contribution was largely unnecessary. He could barely remember what had happened for most of it.

Then the obnoxious Star Lord opened his mouth and began to speak and Hela found herself formulating a new plan for murder, just for the one Midgardian, she was certain her brothers might make an exception. He was far too cavalier for Hela’s taste, he had little to no manner or decorum in regards to the meeting. At least Loki and Hela sat straight and kept their feet firmly on the ground and not propped up on the table. He droned on about how he managed to save the galaxy through the medium of dance (which Hela later realised meant he used it as a method of distraction rather than actual fighting technique), then moved on to how he had killed his own father who also happened to be a god-like deity who tried to take over the universe. The little woodland creature whom Thor had come to name Rabbit promptly told Quill to ‘stuff it already’ after he began to drone on about the narrative of some outdated film. Hela immediately made a mental note to list the rabbit in her good graces. King T’challa cleared his throat, likely getting ready to inform them of what was happening in Wakanda prior to Thanos’s conquest.

To Hela’s eternal surprise, he completely glossed over his own events and merely asked if anyone else had anything else to offer to the meeting.

Likely the matters of their country were to remain private, even if they were now out in the open. The wound left by his cousin was likely still fresh. He felt no need to explain himself to strangers who were not even natives of his country. Hela admired him, he reminded her of a king she had struck down long ago, in the other realms. Utterly duty bound to his traditions and his people. That was a weakness, but T’challa managed to make it work as his strength.

Then there came the mention of the issue regarding Loki’s presence back on Midgard. They referred back to his failed conquest of Midgard which had resulted in numerous deaths, and they also questioned his loyalty to Thanos. They had no clue what to do with the stranded Asgardians Valkyrie had brought either.

It was boring to listen them list casualties, but it was funny to watch them squirm at his very existence. Loki himself was preoccupied with painting his nails with a rich green polish he had borrowed from Hela, who had subsequently borrowed it from the young princess. She wasn’t sure the young Princess would approve of her lending it forward. He looked utterly uncaring of the conversation taking place about him.

“He tried to use two of those stones to conquer the earth under Thanos’s direct order!” Tony shouted. “How do we know he won’t just try to do that again? We have no proof that he’s not Thanos’ little cronie!”

“Thanos murdered him in cold blood!” Thor shouted back. “Why should he work to avenge the corpse who killed him?”

“Are they always this...?” Hela trailed off, trying to find the right words.

“Thick, moronic, doltish, hopeless?” Loki offered.

“All of the above.” Hela said, resting her chin in the palm of her hand. Loki pursed his lips as he tilted his head, observing his long nails.

“Usually. Occasionally one of them will make a good point but it takes a few hours to get there.” Wordlessly, Loki reached over, taking Hela’s spare hand and began painting intricate designs against the black sheen of her clawed nails. Hela let him, if only to have come away from this meeting with something pretty to show for it.

“Draw something phallic and I’ll gut you like a fish.” She warned. Loki scoffed and continued painting.

“He summoned an alien army into a heavily populated city. We were lucky that we stopped him before the death tolls reached the thousands, but there’s still a hole in New York City that he has to answer for.” Rhodey said, pointing at Loki.

“I understand that.” Thor agreed. “But he has changed since then. He is no longer under the command of Thanos or his physical and mental torture. I would not have brought him to Midgard if I thought he was still a threat.”

“Tony, I’m not defending Loki, we all know how dangerous he can be.” Bruce started.

“Banner, the next words out of your mouth better be ‘that’s exactly why we’re going to throw him into some pit where he can’t climb out.” Tony warned. Bruce made a face and adjusted his glasses.

“He helped get us a ship for the refugees and he didn’t try to side with the bad guy this one time!” Bruce tried. “If Thor trusts him then we shouldn’t completely write it off, I trust Thor and his judgement. Even if it comes to someone like Loki.” Hela and Loki did not miss the soft look in Thor’s eyes as he observed his friend sticking up for him. The siblings glanced at each other and Loki gagged silently.

“Ow.” Tony stared at Banner as though he had transformed into the Hulk before his very eyes. “Where did my old scientist Bruce go? Who actually thought rationally and with a clear head and didn’t just follow the word of the biggest guy in the room? Maybe being knocked around for two years in space as the Hulk actually caused some nerve damage that should be evaluated.”

“Don’t joke about that.” Bruce said seriously.

“I’m not joking. That’s the only explanation I could possibly think of for you wanting to side with the god whom you pummeled into the ground like he was a rag doll!” Tony said.

“That was Hulk! I barely knew anything about Loki, other than he was a homicidal maniac!”

“And that’s not enough to imprison him?! Am I speaking another language here?”

“No.” Drax replied. “You are still speaking English, Mr. Tin Man.” Tony threw him a dirty look but said nothing. “I agree with the small scientist. I’ve trusted Thor wholeheartedly in the long time that I’ve known him.”

“You met yesterday.” Peter said.

“And I would lay my life down for him in a heartbeat.” Drax said earnestly.

“Okay, if the weird aliens could maybe just, shush for a second. This is grown up talk?” Tony said gesturing to him and Bruce.

“Do not insult my friends!” Thor snapped.

“I thought we were your friends!” Tony said.

“I’m allowed more than one group of friends!” Thor said frustrated.

“Wow, this guy is actually a bigger jackass than I am.” Rocket said absentmindedly, as he was digging through the cables in the table. “And for the record, I agree with the little scientist and Drax. Thor knows what he’s doing, I mean, he is an idiot who took the blast of a freaking star and nearly died for it, but still. He’s an honest guy.”

“Thank you, sweet rabbit.” Thor said, bowing his head, hand pressed against his chest. Rocket gave him a little nod and went back to destroying the table.

“We’re not saying he’s not an honest guy.” Natasha said. “What we’re saying is that Loki most certainly isn’t.”

“But he knows Loki best, he wouldn’t bring him back here if he thought he was just going to try to take over the earth again.” Bruce tried again.

“Are you really hearing yourself? This is Loki we’re talking about here. He tried to transform you into the Hulk just to kill all of us on that helicarrier, he singled you out as the point of weakness from the start!” Tony yelled.

“So did Wanda but she’s still on the team!” Bruce fired back. Tony made a face but bit his tongue on that. Hela’s interest was piqued at that, the singular member of their team who actually used some form of mental manipulation magic. The witch hadn’t attended the meeting, instead spending the entire week holed up inside the labs, working tirelessly on restoring the Mind stone. Hela would have liked to meet her, if just to see if all the excitement surrounding her was true.

“We’re not trying to argue schematics here, I know how crazy this sounds--” Bruce said.

“You really don’t.”

“Tony, you’re being a real pain in the ass here--”

“Oh, quite the opposite, I think I’m the only person in this room actually thinking rationally about what’s happening!”

“KNOCK IT OFF TONY!” Bruce shouted, the room collectively seemed to become silent as they observed Bruce trying to breathe in and out slowly, his fists at his sides now unfurling and the green vein tensions in his head dissapaiting.

“Come now Banner.” Thor urged. “Sit down, you need not strain yourself further.” The doctor waved a hand tiredly at Thor but sat down regardless, head in his hands as he tried to regain his composure.

“While I won’t dispute that Loki may have done some useful things for you in the past, he is still a powerful being, and under Thanos he was capable of world domination.” Strange spoke. “Maybe he’s not powerful enough to over take the earth again, but he could easily betray any one of us the moment it suits him. At the very least we should imprison him in some realm or dimension where we can monitor his activity constantly.”

“I will not imprison my brother.” Thor said. “Hiding our issues is not the same as dealing with them, and besides all of that that, he is just the same as any of the other Asgardian refugees!”

“Except for the fact that he could kill all of us in our sleep if he wanted to.” Natasha added. Thor ignored her.

“He, like all of the other Asgardians, is searching for a new home and even further, I think he could be a vital part to our team!”

“No.” Steve and Tony said in unison. Thor ignored them too, his eyes lighting up as he spoke, almost possessed by the idea of Loki and him fighting side by side again, now with his friends.

“He can be very amenable on our team! With him directly under my watch, I can ensure he doesn’t do anything fiendish again and his powers could actually be useful! He can transform into any number of animals and trick people into admiring him and then stab them! He can use the big bendy horn helmet as a weapon! Oh! He can also do “get help”! Loki, stand up and let’s show them!”

“Loki joining the Avengers is completely out of the question.” Natasha said firmly. “I know you want to watch him do good Thor, but we can’t accept someone who tried to enslave the entire human race.”

“It wasn’t even the entire human race, it was ALL of Midgard. So self centered.” Loki tutted. Hela snorted behind her hand. Thor’s excitement immediately dissipated and he frowned at his siblings.

“You could at least attempt to take this seriously!” He scolded.

“Why? None of you seem to be, otherwise you would realise that trying to imprison me is pointless.” Loki said simply as though he were stating fact. He held up Hela’s hands and smiling in appreciation of his own work.

“I’m actually surprised you speak so highly of him when it was his magic that ultimately killed your father.” Strange asked, his head tilted. A sore topic if ever was one, Loki immediately froze, smearing green paint on Hela’s nails as Thor jumped from his seat and smacked his hands down firmly on the wooden table, hands sparking blue and buring the table. The sorcerer reacted to Thor’s outburst with little reaction than the raise of a thin eyebrow.

“I know my own brother.” Thor’s voice was grave. “Nobody knows better than I do the deceit and betrayal he brought upon our people. Do not lecture me on what he is capable of. Though in him you see a deciever, I see the man who refused to turn his back on his people, and returned to save them at their most desperate time of need when all hope was lost!”

“But then he invoked Ragnarok and escaped with a powerful weapon without your knowledge.” Strange finished. “You say he’s different now but I haven’t seen anything to support this. He’s barely listening to what you’re saying now, even as you fight to save his honour.”

Thor’s expression soured when he turned to Loki and Hela, he was now working on braiding her thick black hair, and trying to weave in a green silk ribbon he had summoned in between the plaits. Loki glanced up briefly when he noticed they were waiting for a response from him.

“If I tried to defend myself, you’d all just shoot me down.” Loki said. “Better to leave my defence to the words of someone you can actually trust.” He smiled and turned back to Hela.

“Perhaps if you actually acted like you wanted to stay here and change for the better, they’d be more inclined to listen brother.” Thor said through gritted teeth. Loki just shrugged.

“I have a rather sore throat after that ordeal back on the ship, I really should be resting my voice.” Loki said.

“Please don’t joke about that. It was very traumatic.” Thor sounded very, very tired.

“It’s not that we want to harm your brother, Thor, it’s just that, maybe we need a monitoring period. Not prison, but just… keep him somewhere we can keep an eye on him.” Steve started.

“Nah, forget it Rogers. He’s just blinded by sentimentality and family love.” Tony said. Thor glared at him. “Like a certain someone else we know.”

Steve sighed, savouring the moment of agreement while it lasted. The man with the metal arm shuffled awkwardly from where he stood in the corner of the room, and  Hela was intrigued by his silence. She was watching him the entire time the Captain had earlier recounted his story of trying to save his dangerous friend despite his numerous attempts to kill him and many others in the room. He looked like he wished to be anywhere but here.

“It’s never as black and white as you want it to be Tony. Even if we throw someone like Loki into the equation.” Steve tried again. “With Bucky--”

“You’re still not off the hook for that.” Tony snapped. “I have all the proof I need that he’s beyond hope. Same goes for the weasel.”

“Hey!” Loki said annoyed.

“Before we get onto the topic of catching up on old cat fights,” Strange interrupted. “We should also discuss what will happen to your older sister, who took your eye and tried to kill you on numerous occasions throughout the past, oh I don’t know, 72 hours?”

“Yeah, good point.” Tony said.

Hela tried not to openly react to them mentioning her for the first time. The long talks with Loki and Thor still echoed in her mind, the wound in her stomach aching as she sat, thinking of all the pain and trauma they had caught up on. Maybe Thor could change his mind and decide to hand her over, she didn’t know. Her brother was terrifyingly unpredictable to her. A new entity unlike her father and mother.

“This issue with my sister is a family matter.” Thor said curtly. “It should be delegated to Asgard what is to be done with her.”

“Cause it went so well when you did that with Loki?” Tony said. “Look, Asgard is gone! We’re all here and we can judge them both right now.”

“Asgard is not a place, it’s a people!” Thor said, his voice rising. “They suffered at her hand, and so they shall decide what is to be done with her. This includes me, my brother, Heimdall, Valkyrie and the citizens who escaped. You Midgardians will have no say in the matter.”

“Uh, I think we do, Point Break. You brought her here and now you’re seeking refugee for not only her and your brother, who is an established threat, but a sizable portion of Asgardians who are basically, mini versions of you with your strength and capability. The ball’s not in your court to negotiate.”

“When did we begin to get sports involved in this?” Drax whispered to Peter, who just shook his head.

“Are you trying to dangle the fate of my people over my head like some bargaining tool?” Thor said with anger in his voice. Blue lines crackled from his fingertips, prompting Bruce to stand and urge his friend to calm down.

“I’m not heartless, but you have to understand the situation from our perspective.” Tony tried. “You’re bringing essentially, a small army of mini gods similar to you and your siblings, and both of them are bloodthirsty monsters who’ve tried to kill you!”

“You can’t call refugees with nothing left an army!” Bruce said. “They’re just families! Women and children!”

“We can’t underestimate any potential threats--!” Tony began.

Wordlessly, Thor strode over to the door and left, slamming it shut behind him before anyone could get a word in edgeways. An uneasy silence rested over the room. Hela sighed and glanced over at Loki, who had sat down next to Hela and said nothing, his face painfully taut with control. She noted the tightness in how he gripped his hands, and the anger bit back in his jaw. It seemed Tony’s disrespectful words struck something deep within him also.

“Nice one, Tony.” Bruce said.

“He’ll get over it, that was a childish thing to do.” Tony said, rolling his eyes.

“You have no manner of speaking Mr. Stark.” T’challa spoke up now, actually taking a stance for the first time since the Avengers began their tirade.

“Why am I always the bad guy?!” Tony said annoyed. “I was just saying the truth.”

“He is a king who wants what is best for his people. He is desperate but you cannot expect him to beg for your assistance.” T’Challa explained, his voice soft but dignified, the voice of true royalty.

“We’re not asking him to beg. We’re just asking him to maybe put these two on a leash!” He pointed at Loki and Hela. “And some restrictions on his people coming over to earth.”

“You would cage his people as though they are a threat, because of the mistakes of few.” T’Challa said, shaking his head. “You have no morals.”

“I didn’t ask for the lecture.” Tony said. “And I’m sorry, I know Wakanda has been out of the loop for, uh well forever, in case you just happened to miss the huge invasion of New York that took the lives of hundreds of innocents and almost reduced the city to rubble, that was one of their ‘mistakes’! But, nah, I doubt you remember that, probably not, cause you were busy hiding behind your castle and walls watching the rest of us fight on. As for the other one, did you miss the part where Thor said she was going try and achieve a conquest of ALL the realms in the known universe, and killed all of his friends AND some her own people in the process.” Tony said. “Does that put a damper on your ‘morals’,  oh wise king?”

“Their entire population does not deserved to be cast aside due to the fear of a few. I have no gratitude for conquerors or tyrants, and I do agree that some form of punishment is likely required here for the two of them, but I will judge based only of what actions I have seen today. They have done much for us to be grateful.” He narrowed his eyes at Tony. “Which is currently, more than anything any of you Avengers have tried to do for us.”

“What did we do?!” Tony asked, shocked that the tables were now being turned against him.

“You said you were happy to help us.” Steve said in a confused tone.

“That was before I was forced to lower the protective barrier around my country and hundreds of my people were slaughtered because you could not bring yourself to make the sacrifice needed to save the entire world.” T’Challa did not need to name the person he was referring to, they all knew of the witch's reluctance to destroy the Mind stone.

“Leave Wanda out of this!” Steve snapped. “Taking one life to save the rest of the world is not how we do things. We always look for another way, and this time we found a solution and we took it willingly.”

“Yes, because that worked so splendidly.” Loki muttered going ignored by largely everyone.

“If this is your magic Loki, knock it off, it’s giving me a headache.” Hela growled.

“I can delightfully say, that this bickering is happening completely devoid of my own interference. Makes it all the more fun to enjoy.” He said with a smile.

“Only at the very end, when countless soldiers and innocents had died did she take the action necessary. And even THEN, you!” T’Challa pointed at Strange. “Gave up the one stone that would render that action completely void!”

“Well maybe if Shuri could have worked her magic like she said she could, we would have been able to destroy the mind-stone without harming Vision and hey presto, the world was saved!” Tony shouted back.

“You dare to insult my sister, a child, in such a way?” T’challa asked, his soft voice now harsh with anger at Tony’s disrespect.“After all she has done for you? She was injured trying to save your teammate!”

“ENOUGH!” Hela jumped from her seat, hands slamming down against the dark table and sending off a brief, green wave of magic, which rendered them all silent. “You’re all bickering like children and Loki might find it amusing, but it’s pissing me off. I’ll say this only once and I’ll say it nice and very clearly, so that you can all understand and don’t misinterpret a single word of it.” They stared at her unblinking, hanging on her every word.

“There is only one person to blame for the chaos caused today, and that is Thanos. He is the one who invaded, he is the one who killed your soldiers and your teammates, he is the one who forced you to give up the stones, and though you ALL made mistakes which could have prevented his actions, it doesn’t matter anymore. Do you know why?”

Silence. She didn’t really expect them to respond.

“Because he’s dead. His immediate threat to you is nonexistent, so there is no point in arguing about what should have been done. It. Is. O ver .” Hela sighed heavily and fell back down in her seat. Loki was staring at her curiously. It was starting to annoy her, like everything else about him.

“Loki, go after our brother. Calm him down before he accidentally destroys something.” Hela said, waving him away. Loki opened his mouth to protest, but all it took was Hela giving him a single look for him to shut up and go scampering out of the room after his big brother. She turned her gaze back to the Avengers and sat up straight in her seat. “Since you were wise enough to insult the King of Asgard, I’ll have to act as his representative and speak for his behalf, and try to get us back on track to the real discussion.”

“That doesn’t sound smart.” Bruce mumbled. Hela shot him a look.

“I might not be the best at diplomacy, but I guarantee you I won’t storm out of the room in a huff like a teenager. Besides, this is the perfect chance to learn for myself how things are dealt, in real discussions and not just bloody screaming. Though we’ll just have to see.” She gave a sharp smile, noting the way Bruce tried to shift away from her gaze. “Now then, if you Midgardians are adamant not to take in the refugees--”

“That’s not what we said!” Tony said. “We just meant that--”

“Then I’d like to hear other suggestions for locations, preferably on a nearby realm that we would be able to evacuate to.” Hela interrupted, eager to cut Stark off before he further insulted himself.

“Xandar might be a good idea. It’s fairly faraway but still in the same galaxy system, lots of Terrans and other species all mingling together.” Rocket suggested.

“Yeah, but the big purple dickhead destroyed it in order to get to the Power stone. There’s nothing left.” Peter reminded everyone.

“What of Mars, the planet next in your star system?” Hela asked. “That seems rather void, is it ready for population?”

“You know about Mars?” Natasha asked.

“Why wouldn’t we? Just because we don’t have time to care for your outdated technology does not mean we are inept.” Hela said snippily.

“Last I checked, they haven’t even sent humans up there. Barely an atmosphere.” Sam said. Hela made a face.

“Then Mr Stark, I’m afraid we’re stranded on Midgard until we find a more suitable place to settle down.” Hela said. “You can kick us back out into space, wandering in the cosmos, always vulnerable to various threats until we either starve to death, are murdered by pirates or even just crash, but something tells me that even you have more of a conscious and good faith than to let that happen to our people.”

Tony bristled, but said nothing. Hela took that as her cue to continue talking.

“I know a main concern you have is of the strength of Asgardians.” Hela addressed.

“We’d just like to monitor them, just until we can clear them of any threat.” Rhodey said.

“You’ll do no such thing. There’s no negotiation on that. They need medical aid and housing, not to be treated like wild creatures you have to domesticate.” Hela said. “The only true threats, according to you ‘Avengers’, is Loki and I. Thor would not appreciate your poking and prodding at his people, even if it is with a supposed ‘just cause’, but I think he might be more understanding if it came to trying to monitor us.”

“Would you and Loki be okay to be monitored until such a time where we can all collectively agree that you’re no longer a threat?” Steve asked.

“I doubt your group would ever truly be able to collectively agree on anything.” Hela said, unable to resist one final insult. “But yes, if it means you will take in our people. We will agree to a quarantine period of sorts.”

“We can agree to those terms.” Steve said nodding.

“Uh, since when did you decide collectively what the group wanted?” Tony asked.

“Your method is getting us nowhere, we’re just running around in circles and bickering about nothing. At least this way we can agree on something final.” Steve said.

“Well, you haven’t asked the opinions of everyone else about this.” Tony said smugly.

“All those in favour to Hela’s proposal, please raise your hand.” Steve said in a tired voice. Every hand was raised, with the exception of Tony. He made a face but sat back down, arms crossed over his chest.

“On the topic of the people of Asgard, I think it is vital we speak not only of the supposedly dangerous siblings, but also the one you consider your ally, Thor.”

“What about him?” Bruce asked.

“Well obviously, he’ll have to leave your Avengers group immediately.” Hela said pointblank. At that, there was a surge in response. Nearly everyone aside from T’Challa leapt out of their seats, already protesting Hela’s words. The little tree creature even looked up from his game.

“You can’t decide that for him!” Bruce blurted out.

“It is something he will have to decide eventually. With our fathers death and my…” Hela struggled to find the words, her nails curling inwards into the palms of her hands. “My, indiscretion, he is the heir to the throne and no longer a prince but a king. A king’s duty should be to his people first and foremost, not some little group charged with protecting one meager realm.” Hela said. “Surely none of you could really be so naive?” She asked rather surprised.

“We’re not!” Steve said defensive. “But Thor is an essential part of the team! He’s one of the strongest members!”

“I don’t doubt that, seeing the state of all of you.” Hela said almost snickering. “But his priorities are not here.” Hela said. “For you to request them is completely selfish, especially after all his people have been through. You’d really ask him to lay his life on the line for a team who barely acknowledges his presence until they need him?”

That seemed to struck a nerve deep in the team, and they all sat back down, silent in thought.

“We’ll talk to Thor about that at a later date.” Tony said. “For now we’re in agreement, you and Loki will be taken into our custody and the Asgardians will have refuge on Midgard.”

“If possible, there’s a very specific location my brother would like for our people to settle.” Hela said. “The Sorcerer knows where this is.” Strange’s eyebrow rose.

“Norway, where your father died.” He said.

“Where we first conquered Midgard.” Hela corrected. “I’ll point it out when Thor gets back.”

“We’ll do our best, but we don’t usually take requests.” Tony said.

“Well, we’ll just have to be the exception then won’t we?” Hela said with a charming smile that made him shudder.

“We should shake on it.” Steve said holding his hand out to Hela, who instinctively stepped away from him. She glanced at him back and forth from his offered hand to his face, “You know how to, shake hands right?” He asked.

“Of course I do.” She snapped back. She just wasn’t used to actually accepting them. More often than not, whenever she witnessed Odin seal a contract with a handshake, he’d use the other arm to slice the person in two. It felt bizarre to actually take part in a diplomacy and not just outright trickery. After a long moment of considering, she accepted his hand with a firm grip and gave it a single shake. This would be the first step in the right direction she decided. The first one in a long while. When Steve went to pull away, Hela gripped him by the back of his neck and leaned in close, her voice so low against his ear that she knew only he would hear it.

“I will warn you Captain, that if words gets out that even a single Asgardian was treated without the proper decency and respect that they deserve and end up being mistreated by your people, you and every person in this room will be held personally accountable and then nothing will stop me or my brother from breaking out of our cells and hunting you and every human being even remotely associated with you down, and tearing you apart limb from limb.” Hela glanced at Bucky who stood in the corner of the room, his eyebrows furrowed as Hela spoke privately to Steve. “Starting with that one.”

Hela pulled away, smiling widely, as Steve stared at her unblinking, opening and closing his mouth ready to say something, but unable to form actual words. Some habits would still have to take a while to break, she figured.

Thor entered the room, looking far less agitated and even slightly cheerful with Loki in tow behind him, his usually combed hair thoroughly ruffled, no doubt due to Thor giving him a ‘noogie’, which Rocket had shown him how to perform. He looked at Hela shaking hands with Steve and looked surprised, yet pleased.

“Have we come to an agreement without me?” He asked.

“Yes.” Hela said as she tapped away at her Kimoyo beads, raising up a map of Midgard. With her fingers, she zoomed in on Norway and spread the map down flat on the wide expanse of the table, scanning the map for a moment before raising a 3D landscaping of a long, but small island in the Arctic ocean, west of Norway, east of Greenland. She pointed with her perfectly manicured nail at the spot. “Jan Mayen,” She said. “That is our new home.”