The roaring and raging echoed throughout the ship, accompanied by the banging of powerful fists upon metal. The six Thors stood in the corridor outside and listened, their faces grim. Some were bloodied and bruised, some scratched and scraped. They waited, muscles tense and ready to react should the prisoner succeed in pounding his way through the airlock’s dense vibranium hull. Infinity Thor’s hand hovered over the red release button, his eyes fixated upon the door. With every strike, the metal barrier seemed to give a little more.
“Just do it,” Dark Thor muttered, wiping away the blood trickling down his upper lip. “He’s too dangerous. We can’t risk it.”
“But he’s one of us,” said Ragnarok Thor, who had a patch of fading frostbite on his cheek. “He is us.”
“Not in this world,” said Young Thor. He was still pale with shock, listening to the howling and hammering of the intruder who had suddenly appeared on their ship just half an hour earlier. “Not in our life. He is a Frost Giant. He cannot be one of us.”
“Perhaps he is from an alternate universe,” said Avenger Thor, flinching a little as the prisoner seemed to throw his full weight against the door, causing everything on the wall to rattle. “One where Asgard fell to Jötunheim and our father was Laufey’s prize.”
“And this is the result,” said Ultron Thor flatly. “A hybrid prince, sired of an Aesir and borne of a Jötunn. Thor Laufeyson, perhaps.”
“Regardless of who or what he is, he does not belong with us,” said Dark Thor. “He is not part of our timeline or our universe. His mere existence could be more of a threat to us than Thanos. He must be destroyed.”
Infinity Thor’s hand inched closer to the release button, but his eyes were full of turmoil.
They all turned to see Loki standing in the dim corridor, his face tight with fear and determination. He was dressed in a roomy green tunic and loose, dark trousers—the only things he preferred to wear these days.
“Let me talk to him,” he said as he approached. “None of you speaks Jötnin. I do. I can try to reason with him.”
“Don’t be a fool, Loki,” said Ragnarok Thor sharply. “You are seven months pregnant. If he were to hurt you…”
“We would never forgive ourselves,” finished Avenger Thor, looking almost nauseated at the thought of sending Loki—so precious and heavy with child—into the airlock to face the wrath of their Jötunn twin.
“It’s too risky,” Young Thor agreed. “Look what he did to us. All six of us, at the same time.”
Loki spread his hands wide in a reasoning gesture. “No doubt the sight of six different versions of himself in an unfamiliar form frightened and confused him,” he said. “Would any of you have reacted differently if you were in his place?”
There came no answer. Only a thoughtful silence.
Loki strode forward to stand beside Infinity Thor and gently touched his arm. “You must let me see him, Thor. He will not harm me.”
“Are you certain of that?” he quipped. “Perhaps in his universe you are his tormentor, his greatest enemy.”
“Or perhaps I am his half-brother, whom he loves as deeply as you all love me.” Loki turned and regarded each Thor with a look of cool, quiet desperation. “Listen, I know I can reach him. Don’t kill him like this. Even vermin deserve a better end than suffocating to death in outer space.”
After several long, uncertain moments punctuated by foreign-sounding curses and the beating of fists against metal, Infinity Thor sighed and lifted his hand away from the red button.
“How long do you need?” he asked.
“As long as it takes,” said Loki. “I will knock thrice to let you know I was successful.”
“And what if you’re not?” said Dark Thor.
“I will be. There is no other alternative.” Loki took a breath, exhaled, and pressed the intercom button. “Thor. Róadu thig. Thad er ég, Loki.”
The banging suddenly stopped, as did the screaming.
“Loki?” came the sharp, concerned voice from the speaker. “Er thad í raun thú? Hvad ertu ad gera hér?”
Loki smiled a little. “I may be different from the Loki you know,” he continued in Jötnin, “but I still love you more dearly than anyone else in this universe. Will you speak with me, Thor?”
“Who were those men that attacked me?” demanded the Jötunn. “Why did they look like me? What sorcery is this?”
“I will explain everything,” said Loki, leaning his pregnant belly against the door, “but first you must calm yourself. I cannot guarantee your safety if you are violent and out of control.”
“Those Aesir pigs are the ones who are violent and out of control,” Jötunn Thor grumbled. “They attacked me as soon as they saw me. I never got the chance to draw a weapon. It wasn’t very sporting of them, to be honest.”
Loki grinned at the familiar sound of indignation; apparently it was a trait shared by all of the Thors, no matter their universe or place in time.
“I’m sure it was just a misunderstanding,” Loki said. “They are very protective of me.”
“I am protective of you, too. Er… the Loki in my world.”
“Then that is one thing you all have in common.” Loki paused, listening. There was nothing from the other side but silence. “Is it alright if I come in and speak to you in person, Thor?”
“Yes, please. I want to see you. It has been so long.”
“I need you to give me your word that you will remain calm and peaceful, and that you will not harm me.”
A beat passed, then the Jötunn spoke: “I give you my word that I will be peaceful, Loki. And I would sooner die than harm you.”
Loki turned to Infinity Thor and nodded. “He agrees to behave. Open the door.”
Infinity Thor narrowed his eyes—one hazel and one blue—at Loki. “And what about you? Will you be safe?”
Loki grinned. “As long as no one accidentally purges the airlock, I don’t think I could be safer anywhere else aboard this ship.”
With an amused quirk of his lips, Infinity Thor reached over and pressed a button, unlocking and opening the door. Loki stepped inside, and it closed behind him with an automatic whoosh.
Jötunn Thor’s skin was a pale blue and his hair white-gold, his eyes a captivating shade of violet. He was as handsome and well-built as all the other Thors, though he was slightly taller and thicker. Undoubtedly this was a result of his mixed breeding, being half Frost Giant and half Aesir. Loki felt very small and vulnerable standing before him, this huge warrior clad in fur and leather and steel, his bare arms and chest covered with familiar lines and markings.
Thor was less impressed with Loki’s appearance.
“You… you are an Aesir?” he grunted, confusion and hurt creasing his features. “How can this be? In my world you are a prince of Jötunheim. Loki Lítillfrost, you are called. A runt like me, yet unlike me, beloved of our people.” He shook his head and the plaits in his platinum-blond hair dragged across the dark fur of his cloak. “This is all wrong. King Farbauti would never suffer a full-blooded Asgardian to live in his kingdom.”
“I’m not Asgardian,” said Loki firmly in the Jötunn tongue. “In this universe I am a sorcerer, a shape-shifter, and I change my appearance as needed. I was born a Frost Giant… though a small one, just like your beloved prince.”
That seemed to satisfy Thor. He pursed his lower lip and nodded slightly, then his gaze drifted downward. “And is that an illusion as well?” he asked softly.
Loki rested his hand on large, round belly, rubbing it affectionately. “No. This is real.”
Thor’s fearsome demeanor immediately shifted to something more gentle and reverent. “Is it mine? I mean”—he pointed toward the door—“was it made by one of those versions of me?”
“Would it please you if it were?”
Tenderness glowed in the lavender hues of Thor’s eyes. “More than you could imagine. It is all I have ever wanted. From the moment I first saw the Loki of my world, I have wanted nothing more than to love him and be loved by him… but the king would never allow a half-breed like me to marry his son.” He hung his head. “It is a foolish dream. One that, I think, shall never become a reality.”
“Or perhaps it shall.” Loki stepped forward and touched Thor’s hands, shivering as his pale-skinned illusion began to disintegrate, starting at his fingers and then spreading up his arms.
Thor smiled delightedly down at Loki and clasped his hands, watching his Jötunn form reveal itself. “Look at you. I don’t understand why you would hide your loveliness beneath such a plain-looking mask. You are as beautiful and stunning as my Loki.”
“Then let me be your Loki,” he whispered, staring at Thor with his ruby-red eyes. “I am not a fatalist, Thor, but I believe the Norns have sent you across multiple realms and realities to help us defeat Thanos. I think it is your destiny to become our ally. Fight alongside us in this war, then stay with me and your brothers once we’ve rid the universe of this Mad Titan.” He squeezed Thor’s large, rough hands. “Your dream can be a reality. What is denied you in your world is freely given here.”
Thor’s mouth twitched. “The Aesir are not my brothers.”
“They could be.” Loki guided Thor’s hands to his stomach, pressing them against its firm, tight sides. “And this could be your child growing in me someday.” He smiled gently. “What do you say? Will you join our family and help us destroy the force that threatens its very existence? Will you share in our victory and our love?” He lowered his voice to a murmur. “Will you be gentle with me the first time we lay together?”
Thor exhaled a long and shaky breath and gazed at Loki tenderly. “For you, my prince,” he vowed, “I will do anything you ask of me.”