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The gift of Loki

Chapter Text

(1) Gungnir: Spear that Odin used.

(2) Ergi: Nordic word meaning literally effeminate or unfit male.

(3) All-Tongue: It's a language in which, what is said, is understood by each species in its own native language.

(4) Silvertongue:  Nickname received by Loki thanks to his mastery of rhetoric and the ability he demonstrates to always know what to say in a given situation.

 


 

Darkness, it was everything Loki could see. It was so thick that it consumes everything and so deep that he did not know where the darkness ended and he started.

When Loki let go of Gungnir(1), he had been prepared to die, but what he did not predict, was that his magic kept him alive, condemning him to wander through the space between the worlds, falling into an interminable motion.

He was a monster, and his sentence was established by that void; he was going to be consumed little by little until all that was left of him was nothing more than a glimpse of life, the shell of what was once a man.

He falls for so much time that even this one lost its meaning. It was in that void that he thought he had lost what little sanity he had left. Until he forgot that there was once light, touch or happiness.

He who no longer had a name or soul wondered how he had arrived at this point? How was it that everything had gone so wrong?

Having already lost all hope, suddenly something changed.

The speed of his fall, which had been a constant throughout all this time, began to accelerate and an unbearable heat hit his senses, when before he had only felt a gelid cold.

Then came the blow, one so strong and strident that he thought he had died at last.

An intense and painful light penetrated his eyes. They were not used to anything other than darkness.

It was there that he realized he was still alive, he could still feel pain, and death, he had supposed, would have ended his torment.

"Where am I?" He thought.

When he regained his vision, he could see a large crater surrounding him, and outside it a glimpse of a sandy wasteland.

He lay there for a long time, still stunned by the blow.

When he felt the thin mist that covered his thoughts disperse, he felt more able to assess his situation.

It caught his attention to discover that he could not feel anything below his neck. It was as if the muscles and skin that once formed part of his body, no longer existed. Still, he tried to move them, only to reaffirm their complete uselessness.

He knew what that meant, he must have broken his spine. Not feeling parts of your body has never been a good sign.

He realized that he was not terrified of being paralyzed, as he should have. Maybe the fall had affected his nerves too?

Continuing with his analysis, he remembered that he was carrying a bag of provisions tied to his body but quickly realized that not being able to reach them was the same as having nothing.

"Well, sustenance is not a possibility then," Loki thought.

Without having anything better to do, he concentrated again on his surroundings.

According to his position, he had a direct view towards the sky, which he noticed, was of a bluish atmosphere.

"I guess I'm lucky, I could have landed somewhere worse, someplace without oxygen for example… "

He tried to guess the name of the realm he was in.

"Vanaheim, perhaps? No, the gravity force is not the same. Svartalfheim? No, the type of soil is different"

In the distance, almost out of his angle of vision, he could glimpse some vegetation. It was far from abundant and it was almost dry, but he recognized it as Midgardian.

"Such irony! Landing on the same planet to which my brother was banished... "

His train of thought inevitably veered to that place that had once called his home and the people who in another life had been his family.

"Nobody will ever find me here. Surely, they think I'm dead…"

It was not as if that reflection distressed him. The truth was that Loki had no desire to see them, he felt that at last, he had finished with them. Even if he could come back, he would not be welcome, that was never his home, to begin with.

When Loki let go Gungnir, he had made the decision to die because he thought there was nothing left for him in Asgard. All his life he had tried to fit in, to be what his father and his people expected, but his nature invariably got in the way. He always knew there was something wrong with him, only that he was not sure what it was.

He could never reach his expectations, and, many despised him for it. He tried to change, to be like most, but later than sooner, he realized that no matter how hard he tried, he would always be different in their eyes.

That revelation awoke an intense aversion against his people. He proposed to himself to make pay everyone who had despised him. He was going to show everyone that he was not someone that could be taken lightly, he was not going to be mocked by anyone.

His personality then changed. He began to withdraw into himself and in his studies of magic. On the outside, he acquired the facade of someone aloof and controlled, but on the inside, he was someone suspicious and distrustful. He turned rhetoric into a weapon against anyone who confronted him and planned discreet revenge against those brave enough to become his enemy.

Soon, rumors began to spread. They called him many things, including the god of deceit, god of bad luck, and even Ergi(2)

The problem in this kind of situation is that if a person is told something for a sufficient amount of time, there comes a point where inevitably a part of him begins to believe what is being affirmed. And Loki despite all his apathy, was not indifferent to this rule. He became his reputation.

And then, he started to play a role, he was always good at that. However, where did the performance end and the real Loki begin? He did not know it anymore. After a while, the role was already part of his personality.

At this point, even the close relationship with his not-brother was affected.

Thor was someone bright and loved by everyone, everything that Loki would never be and that made him win his most complete grudge. He did not want to be just a shadow, the dark part that was projected from all that light.

Thor, in spite of all his virtues, was, in fact, a blind person. He never saw the true origin of his brother's hatred and when faced with his negative change of personality, he simply walked away.

All this resentment finally settled on the day of the coronation and all the events that would later be unleashed.

Loki recognized himself, that when he discovered his true origin, he had completely lost it. He felt such a deep hatred against the world and against himself that he had even gone so far as to want to exterminate an entire race, only to prove that he was not one of them.

Well, there was no point in thinking about that. Those were reminiscences of someone else, a person who had been lost forever in the void”

He stayed there for a long time, in that forgotten wasteland. He hoped that by then his magic would have healed him, but it was not the case. He felt it flutter inside him, but he could not call it, it was as if it simply refused to make his appearance.

"Maybe my magic, like me, does not see any purpose in healing me," he reflected. "It's possible that it thinks that by not doing so, it's doing the universe a favor.

I should have died in that void. Actually, I should have perished in Jotunheim, in that temple where I was left by Laufey to rot. Everything must have ended there. It would have been a suitable destine for a monster like me"

 


 

Loki lost track of time, stopped counting the times when the sun hid in the sky and re-emerged. His time was spent between conscious spaces and moments vanished in dreams, so much so that it was difficult to differentiate when he was sleeping and when he was awake.

"How long will it take me to die without water or food?" He thought rambling. But far from being afraid, his speculations were no more than a morbid curiosity.

"Well, it does not matter, the only certainty I have is that I'm going to die, that's the only fate that awaits me."

The inevitability of the end made him think of his own life and the paths that led him to his current situation.

At first, when analyzing his circumstances, he had blamed his family for his fall into the abyss, he believed that due to his deceptions and injustices, his actions had triggered him to lose all hope and decide to let go.

"They tossed me into the abyss" He had thought.

But after repeating it so much in his head, that argument began to lose consistency, until something in his heart told him that that was not the whole truth.

"Well, if I'm going to die, it would be good if for once, I could show myself honest… even if it was only with myself"

The truth, it was time to stop justifying himself. He was not a child anymore for continue to burden his failure to others.

It is true that in the beginning the contempt and hatred of others led him astray, but at the end of the day, it was his own decisions that marked his destiny. He was responsible for his actions, nobody else.

"How strange to be rambling like this… In Asgard, I never gave myself the time to analyze my feelings in this way. How ironic that I had to stay paralyzed to find the necessary calm, which would allow me to give some sense to this tangle of thoughts" Loki said with a touch of humor.

   


 

 The days piled up one after the other when he noted it. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the silhouette of a man, a Midgardian who watched him, hidden from one of the grooves of the crater.

"Has he come to kill me?" Loki thought. "Well, it wouldn't be too bad, on the contrary, it would accelerate a process which otherwise, will be agonizingly slow."

But the man just stared at him from afar, analyzing him.

After what seemed to be a long time, he finally seemed to gather his courage and left his hiding place, stopping without further ado in front of Loki's limp body.

Once in his direct line of sight, Loki could have a better look at his appearance. The Midgardian wore a primitive outfit composed of skins and leathers. His torso was naked, but a splendid cloak covered his shoulders, probably from an animal he had hunted himself. His boots were tied with bows that reached up to his knees, and in his belt, he wore a dagger that looked of iron, which he grasped from the handle, without wielding it, as if he were undecided as to whether he should use it or not.

The man and Loki looked at each other curiously and then, to the surprise of the second, the Midgardian extended his hand.

"Hello, my name is Tony from the Stark clan. I don't know who you, are and, I really don't think you're from around here because of your clothes. Why have you been there so long without moving? Are you a god? A demon? Several days, ago I, saw that something fell from the sky, and I heard a big blow. Was that you? Can you even understand a word of what I'm saying?"

Thanks to the All-Tongue(3), Loki could understand him perfectly, however, he stared at the man in a daze. After having spent days in the most complete silence, his senses did not appreciate the apparent talent that this man possessed (Stark, his brain provided), to expel such amount of words in what seems only a second.

When he had gathered his wits again, Loki chose one of the questions and answered.

“I am not a God, maybe I was one at another time, but that person no longer exists. If you come to kill me, I will not stop you, on the contrary, you would do me a big favor," Loki said in a neutral tone.

"Kill you? Why would I do that?" Tony said with strangeness "You haven't done anything to me. Unless… Tell me, are you a threat?" He said suspiciously.

A bitter, resigned laugh made its way down his throat. "Even if I wanted to, I could not. I'm completely paralyzed, I can't move and I doubt I'll ever do it again"

Tony was silent for a moment.

"And if you could?" He finally said.

"If I could what?" Loki snapped confused.

"If you could hurt me, would you do it?"

Loki looked at him bewildered. If he had complete control of his body and strength, would he attack him? Would he kill the one who had witnessed his weakness? Would he end the life of this person without much consideration, as if it were just an annoying insect? “Maybe the person I was before wouldn't have thought twice, but now…

"No… I wouldn't," he replied, after a long pause.

Tony then looked at him, scrutinizing his face with piercing eyes. Seeking that truth that he believed words could elude.

"All right, I believe you," He said after he finished his exam.

Loki flinched like someone had given him a slap in the face. Nobody before had released those words so lightly. He had earned the title of the God of lies and had become accustomed that everything that came out of his mouth was put in doubt. For a person to give him his trust that easily, was not something he was used to experiencing.

Tony for his part, remained indifferent to the great surprise of his interlocutor. To have been able to leave without words at the famous silvertongue(4), was a feat of which he remained completely ignorant.

"Well, ‘ex-god’ Tony said "Are you're going to tell me your name? If you don't want to, it doesn't matter, I have a talent for nicknames and just by looking at you I already have several prepared…"

"It's Loki," He said interrupting. He was sure that any of these "nicknames" would be at the lowest, exasperating and/or humiliating.

"A pleasure to meet you. So… tell me how could you have fallen from the sky?"

Loki was tempted to simply tell him that it was none of his business. He had always been a reserved person and this man hoped that just by asking, he would be willing to tell him each of his secrets. But he was just too tired… and besides, just thinking about a rhetorical battle with this man made his head throb.

And then with a sigh, Loki told him about his origins and his fall, to then explaining how, by complete chance, he had ended up colliding with the planet earth. It was a rather undetailed and brief account of the events, spoken in a disinterested tone, almost mechanical.

However, ignoring any reluctance on Loki's part, Tony did not refrain from interrupting him with questions of all kinds, which Loki responded by Olympically ignoring all inquisition about the reasons that had triggered his fall in the first place.

Tony showed special curiosity about his extraterrestrial culture, and then Loki agreed to tell him about Asgard, his people, and advances. He talked about their customs and discoveries. He tried to describe those unique landscapes and in doing so, it was as if he were there again. His story then acquired a somewhat melancholic tone, and the shadow of a great sadness threatened to envelop him, but then, as he caught a glimpse of the amazed face of his spectator, with astonishment, he realized that those feelings began to recede.

"Wow!" Tony said "All this is amazing! Another planet! What you call technology! Magic! I can’t even imagine it. Would it be possible for humans to ever achieve such advances? I Hope so.

You see, I'm an inventor. Through my creations, I have tried to improve the life status of my tribe, but the truth is that there is not much I can do when we are dying of hunger and thirst.

For a long time, my people and I have been fighting for our survival, but I am sorry to say that things are not favorable for us. Diseases, lack of food and water, keep my tribe on the verge of disappearance. 

But, I guess I should not complain, everywhere is the same, there are people with even worse luck than ours…"

That last sentence surprised Loki.

"Why do you say that everywhere is the same? Is the earth going through a period of crisis?"

"Period of crisis… It is a way of putting it" Tony said sitting next to him as if suddenly a great weight had settled on his shoulders "I don't know if you have noticed, but we are not standing on a very fruitful ground. Where you look is dry and sterile, but the issue is that it is not just here. However far I've come, or explorers I've asked, it's the same everywhere, there's only scarcity.

With my tribe, we have come to the conclusion that we are witnessing the death of the earth. The elderly, says that with each generation is worse, they assure that a time will come when everything will dry completely, which will mean the extinction of life, animals and humans alike.

Distressed for the inevitability of that prediction, I have dedicated my life to trying to find a solution to this problem, but I have not yet found anything.

Looking for information, on one of my trips, I found some old writings. They speak of the land of before, one teeming with water and food, a world where people had their needs met and a large culture.

In their records, you can see precisely when things started to change. There was a phenomenon that they called ‘the warming of the globe’, a generalized drought that began to spread to all corners.

Once it had begun, it could not be stopped and soon humanity witnessed a process that although slow, left only death around it.

Soon, what remains of humanity began to panic. Wars were unleashed by the supremacy of the few resources they had, only causing more people to perish.

The records end there, abandoned.

My theory is that after the wars, little was left. Humanity survived but barely, and those who remained had to start over, create a new society with the remains. That's why, if we ever had technology like the one you describe, it doesn't exist anymore"

Upon hearing this, Loki felt a twinge of visceral pain in his chest. It took several disconcerting moments to identify it as empathy.

"I… I didn't know" It was all he could say

"It's ok, it's not your fault"

But it wasn't? Loki had been a prince of Asgard, that meant he had sworn to protect all it vassal kingdoms. This, of course, included the earth.

How it was possible that he hadn't find out about their situation before? It was not as if he had cared much at that time, but he hadn't heard anyone from Asgard even mention the matter.

Did Odin know? It seemed unlikely that he would remain ignorant. But why hadn't he done something then? “Maybe he just didn't care” whispered a small voice inside his head.

The one that should have known, was Thor. When he was banished, he had to have had witnessed the human dilemma. But it is not as if he had discussed with Thor his experience on earth. After his exile, they only saw themselves again in the Bifrost, and not precisely just for conversation, but to face each other in that final battle, whose result led him to let go of Gungnir and fall into the void.

But it was not worth thinking about that. Nothing good could come from reliving the past, or from asking questions that would probably never be answered. He decided then to focus on more present matters.

He still felt that lingering sense of empathy nagging him. It wasn't common for him to succumb to that emotion, it was never an impulse that came naturally in him and yet there it was, stinging him straight in the chest.

He had to do something about it, it was becoming really unbearable… And at that moment he remembered it.

"Stark, you said your tribe is starving, right? Do you see a bag that is tied to my hip? There you will find some food. I remember that there are vegetables and some bread. That bread is a special one, it is designed to make an Asgardian recover his strength and be able to keep up for several days, I suspect that for a human it would be even longer. It is not much, given that it is intended for a single individual, but I think it could help"

Stark's face lit up suddenly full of joy, but then he looked at Loki and his expression changed to one of apprehension.

"And what about you? You said you couldn't move, so that means you haven't eaten anything, right? Just wait, I will reach for something… "

"No," Loki said, with a hard voice that stopped him in his tracks "It would be a waste. You could feed me now but what good would it do? it would only prolong the inevitable. If I can't move, how am I going to fend for myself? How can I obtain sustenance in a realm that is already austere? No… it is better that you bring all the food to your people"

"Oh no! I'm not going to have any of that!  Right now I'm going to give you a portion of that bread and I'm going to feed you with it myself. And if you don't want to, I'm going to… poke you in the face with a stick until you get tired and end up yielding. If this becomes a battle of attrition, I have everything to gain, I have all the time in the world. I can keep up until you end up surrendering just for how annoying I can be"

Loki didn't plan it, it just slipped out of his mouth, a loud laugh that made him feel dizzy. This was not an ironic smirk like the one he usually dedicated to the people of the court in Asgard. This was a sincere laugh, in its purest state. A rich sound, which at that time it was impossible for him to contain.

When was the last time he had laughed like that? He honestly couldn't remember.

When he had recovered from his outburst, he tried to compose his face in one of seriousness but still could be noticed a dim treacherous light of fun that danced in his eyes.

"I have the feeling that you are someone who is not used to receiving negatives, yes?"

"I do receive negative, it's just that I decide not to pay them attention," Tony said with a smug smile on his face.

"Very well Stark," Loki said after a moment "I'll let you feed me this time if you wish, but I have not changed my mind, I still maintain the futility of this agreement"

Stark then proceeded with care, to remove the food from the bag and to deposit portions of food on the cracked lips of Loki.

When he had finished, he left to his tribe, but not before giving Loki the vehement promise of his return.

After that unexpected encounter, Loki felt lightheaded, with a strange sensation in his face, a slight tingling, especially in the places where Tony had touched him. Could it be… contentment?  He considered it and then shook his head. "Sentimental nonsense." he thought.

 

 

Chapter Text

After the meeting, Loki could not stop thinking about Stark. He remembered the Midgardian with that ingenious eloquence and that irritating impetus. Surprised, he realized that he had really enjoyed his company.

How much time had passed since his departure? Loki had no idea; however, it did not matter, he was sure, Stark was not going to come back.

After all, why would he? Everything that Loki could have given him, he had already taken it, whether it was food, knowledge or just having been able to satisfy a whim.

But far from feeling resentful, Lok just felt grateful. While he lay alone in that bare wasteland, the fact of recalling their conversation had given him a pleasant distraction for those monotonous hours that crawled slowly, accumulating one after the other.

That man had taken him out of that apathy he felt had consumed him little by little. It seemed to him that although small, that gesture had allowed him to be something more than a being that although alive, had considered himself already dead.

He was convinced that Stark was not going to return, and it was for this reason that his heart skipped a beat, when suddenly he heard sounds of footsteps approaching and then that unmistakable figure appearing before his eyes. 

“Stark!”

“Yeah! one and the same. Why so surprised? I said I was going to come back, didn’t I? And call me 'Tony' please! We are friends, and they are referred to on a first name basis.”

"Friends?" Loki said.

"Of course! We have even shared food together if that is not friendship, I do not know what it is" Tony said, with a smile of fun.

He then approached the still amazed Loki, and then looking directly into his eyes he said this time in a serious way.

"The bread you gave us did wonders for my people. Thanks to it we were able to reach new recollection sectors, many of which we couldn't before because of our fatigue and weakness. Those people who were sick, recovered from ailments that we thought were mortal. We had never felt so strong. All thanks to you! On behalf of my tribe, you have my most sincere gratitude" he said, putting one knee on the floor, then bowing deeply.

Loki was far from considering himself a humble person. He was never an individual who showed too much modesty when talking about his achievements, or someone who had reservations to monopolize the attention of people willing to exalt his virtues.

But now, seeing the enormous esteem and gratitude that Tony was giving him, he only felt a huge discomfort. There was something in that speech that made him feel enormously anxious, an emotion that, coincidentally, seems a lot like mortification.

Stark spoke of him as if he were a hero as if he had saved the life of his tribe in a brave and disinterested act. But Loki was not a hero, he was many things, but that title was definitely not among them.

All he had done was to give something that from the beginning, he had considered lost. There was no sacrifice. He had not done any extraordinary or honorable feat that deserved such acknowledgment.

"Get up," Loki snapped, unable to express his confusion in anything other than irritation. "No need to kneel, I didn't do anything..."

"Of course you did!" Tony said interrupting him "It may have seemed a small gesture for you, but it meant the world to us. I don't give my thanks to just anyone, so just accept it, okay? God! You're even more stubborn than me and that's saying something!" Tony said irritably.

A voice in his head told Loki that he ought to be offended by the nerve of this man, but it was immediately stifled by a sense of fun that arose from witnessing that irreverent and brazen attitude. Definitely Stark had some mischief inside him.

"Speaking of gratitude," Tony continued cheerfully "I have a present for you."

Loki watched as he walked away, to appear moments later with a curious object, a kind of transport that pushed to position in his direct line of sight.

Being able to appreciate it in detail, Loki noticed its structure: It was built with wooden framework, being possible to glimpse two circular blocks on each side accompanied by an axis and in its middle part, a support that made the base for a seat.

It took him a few seconds to recognize it but when he did it, he felt as if his breathing had frozen. In Asgard, they were not common and its design was something primitive, but there was no doubt... it was a wheelchair.

But how was that possible? From what Tony had told him about this realm, the available technology was almost nil. They had not yet invented the wheel and, therefore, the concept of "vehicle" was even more foreign.

"I designed it and everyone in the tribe helped to build it. We have never done anything like this, but what can I say? I am a genius. Also, being able to talk to you, gave me many ideas for its construction"

Was this for him? Had those of the tribe put all that effort into inventing something completely new just so he could move again? That meant he was going to be able to leave this place, stop being a complete invalid! An aid that, although it did not completely solve his situation, gave him an opportunity to survive.

He felt a knot settle in his throat and a strange emotion overwhelmed him, one that made his eyes itch and his chest contract. Was it a surprise? fear? joy? Loki supposed it was a bit of all of them.

Tony helped Loki position himself in his new chair and together, they emerged from the crater. Once positioned, he could see the landscape that surrounded him, for the first time since his fall.

What he witnessed was far from being a beautiful sight. It was a place too sterile, almost a desert and yet Loki thought it was impressive.

He saw how the dawn arose behind the imposing mountains and that sky of incredible blue color that stretched across the horizon. He closed his eyes, feeling the soft rays of sunlight caressing his face and the sound of the wind rippling on the sand. Everything seemed new, unreal. He felt as if he were a blind man seeing for the first time, or perhaps like a prisoner who has been granted the freedom that he had thought irretrievably lost.

Loki opened his eyes and felt over him the silent gaze of Tony resting on his face. In it, he noticed an almost palpable joy, a satisfaction that was also reflected in a small but sincere smile.

"Thank you..." Loki said in a mutter, one so soft that if he had not been close enough, Tony probably would not have heard it. It was a simple term, but Tony could appreciate in it all the veracity and the sincerity that it contained.

"Let's go, the tribe is waiting for us"

Together they left then, to a new beginning.

  

Chapter Text

The road was hard due to the steep terrain and the limitations of his wheelchair, but in less time than he thought, Loki saw in the distance a small settlement composed of several tents arranged in a circular way. He saw it in the middle of a hollow, in a clearing hidden among the mountains.

When they arrived at the camp, Loki suddenly visualized several people gathered. They were standing near the entrance, motionless as if they were waiting for something to happen.

The small crowd, seeing them appear, seemed to brisk and then moved by a sudden impetuous clamor, exploded in a thunderous round of cheering.

They clapped with vehemence and shouts echoed among the people. Some children tried to approach the newcomers with an innocent curiosity and the adults greeted them waving their arms in enthusiastic gestures.

Loki's first thought was that Tony should be very famous to be received that way by his tribe, a kind of hero among them. But when the dwellers completely bypassed Tony, directing all the attention to him, Loki couldn't contain in his face, a look of genuine and total surprise.

The elders were the first to approach him. They gave him the most warm welcome.

“If you choose it, you can stay and live with us. You are part of the tribe” They assured him.

Then, the other members approached. Loki saw a parade of faces, all with friendly smiles, expressing the utmost respect and cordiality. Some patted his shoulder (apparently forgetting that he was unable to feel it) and others came personally to voice their sincere gratitude.

Loki was unable to articulate any word during the whole process. He just stood there, looking at everyone with his mouth open, immersed in the most supreme bewilderment.

He only came out of his reverie, when Tony began to laugh softly, apparently, mocking his shocked face. Loki, finally reacting, fixed him with one of his best angry glares.

Interrupting what presaged to be an incipient argument, suddenly, a teenager came forward. He was a young man with an affable face and an agile body. At that moment, a light of admiration radiated directly from his eyes.

"Oh! Wow, You're 'He', I can't believe you're actually here. I am very excited! I see that you are using the artifact that we built, has it worked well? I also helped in its construction! I hope not to bother you, but I simply can't contain myself, I have to ask: are you capable of doing magic? That would be pretty awesome! I'm so honored I..."

"Hey kid! just breathe."

"Oh, ye...yes, Mr. Stark! Sorry. I'm Peter, from the Parker clan" The male child seemed to be overly nervous around Stark. Maybe he idolized him.

"I just came to thank you," Continued the boy, more calmly. "You saved my uncle's life. He was very sick. The healers told me there was nothing else to do, but then, thanks to the food you gave us, he recovered completely!

I wanted to tell you, that I will be there for whatever you need. I owe you a debt of gratitude and I will do everything possible to repay you” He said very seriously with a brief bow.

Debt? Loki found himself bewildered again, but this time, it did not take him by surprise. He prepared in his head a scathing comment, determined to make the boy desist that ridiculous notion.

He opened his mouth to speak, but just at that moment, Tony sensing what was coming, with a sudden movement, quickly push Loki's wheelchair, moving it away from the place.

"Come, I want to introduce you to someone," Tony said, trying to hold back a smile.

He signaled in the distance and then a woman approached, appearing from the crowd.

"She is Pepper Potts, one of my greatest friend. "

"I finally meet you, Tony has talked a lot about you," She said in an affable way.

“Nothing good, I gather” Loki said, with a snort.

"Humm, in fact, it's the opposite. Since Tony arrived, he has not stopped talking about you, naming how fantastic and wonderful it was to meet you and how terribly handsome..."

"Wow, wow! surely Loki does not want to hear that..." Tony said, with a nervous laugh and a slight blush on his cheeks.

With a mischievous smile, Pepper ignored him completely.

“Besides, Tony is not who to speak badly about anyone, you would be impressed by the number of crazy things he has done and from which I personally have had to rescue him...”

"If you permit it, I would really like to continue later this conversation about these 'crazy things' you talk about," Loki said amused.

"Fantastic! You have known each other for what? 5 minutes? And you are already planning to have fun at my expense. I think that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, you are going to get along just fine!" Tony said, irked.

"It's been a pleasure to meet you, Lady Pepper" Loki said and surprised himself by not hearing a hint of sarcasm in his voice.

At that moment, he realized that it was not just her, he had actually enjoyed meeting all that lunatic group of people who were part of this tribe.

All of them, with that enthusiastic disposition, had received him without reservations, as an equal. They did not care if he was paralyzed, or even that he was not human. They had offered him a place to call home.

A very faint expression like a smile flickered around his mouth and something in his eyes softened slightly.

Tony, who chose precisely that moment to pose his eyes on him, was suddenly unable to avert his gaze.

"Wow!" He thought, "That expression looks very nice on him."

Stunned, he was suddenly invaded by a sudden certainty.

"I want to see that smile again... maybe one day I'll achieve, to put it back on his face again..."

 


 

After that fervent reception, the people of the tribe, prepared for Loki one of the tents and they endeavored to supply it with everything necessary for his stay.

The tribe had decided (with no room for protest), that they would take care of him. Peter had volunteered as well and assisted him in his daily tasks, offering his help and support.

Even Pepper went regularly to verify that everything was in order, taking care of the distribution of his food and ensuring his comfort.

Tony, for his part, visited him daily in his new home. He even convinced him to take him regularly, on quiet morning walks. He pushed the wheelchair while both were engaged in extensive and invigorating conversations.

They talked about the most diverse subjects and despite coming from different worlds, Loki found himself enjoying enormously the company of a man who rivaled him in wit and eloquence.

Loki began to look forward to those visits, surprised by the ease with which they fell into a pleasant routine.

Time passed. Far away were those first lonely days in the empty sand.

Loki had helped and had been rewarded with the first true friendship of his entire life.

He realized that, for the first time in a long time, even more than he could remember, he really felt free.

Despite the irony of being trapped in a paralyzed body, he felt that freedom filling him completely as if something in him has loosened as if someone had opened a new window inside of him.

He felt as if fate had given him the chance to live a new life, one in which he was allowed to be what he wanted to be and not only what others expect of him.

In this reality, he was not a prince, not a son, not a brother; not even a being consumed by the abyss. Here, there were no unfulfilled expectations or roles to play.

This was a world, where he could begin to heal those fissures that for years he had seen opening little by little into his conscience.

With a gentle pulse of warmth radiating from his chest, Loki knew exactly what he had been given: The opportunity to start over.

Chapter Text

(1) Norns:  Are female beings who rule the destiny of gods and men. 

 


 

Thanks to Loki's bread, the tribe with its recent vitality, managed to stock up as it had not done for a long time. Before the food was barely enough to survive, now instead, they even managed to secure supplies for days to come, managing their food in a fair distribution system that benefited all the members.

But nothing is predestined to be eternal and soon the tribe was faced with a great dilemma.

They noticed it gradually. The hunting group began arriving with fewer and fewer animals and the collectors reported one day, that most of the surrounding trees and shrubs did not have more fruit to harvest. The moment they feared had arrived: the resources of the sector were running out.

A trio of elders visited Loki. Contemplating him with a gloomy air, they explained the situation in worried tones.

"Tell me, have you developed agriculture yet?" Loki asked them, after rummaging through his memory for some solution to the problem.

"Yes, we have tried, but nothing that we had planted, has borne fruit. The truth is that this land is too arid and it rains very rarely, and when it does, what we can collect is barely enough to supply all of us. It would be impossible to maintain a crop under these circumstances"

"And you still keep the organic food that I gave you?"

"Yes, we only consume the bread, but we keep the rest. We were thinking of using it for some eventuality"

"Good. This food is quite resistant, I have the idea that if you plant it, it will be able to grow with very little water and even in a land like this"

The vegetables were then cultivated and the tribe waited expectantly to see the results. They didn't have to wait too long, Loki's food took root and grew. The new plants gave the soil new nutrients and this made easier for them to plant some local herbs, which also grew.

Realizing the success of the venture, people began to work on their personal crops and despite being a laborious job, they felt excited. They began to embrace with enthusiasm the idea of staying in a fixed place and thus procure food for themselves.

Loki and Tony immersed themselves in the task of designing a new water storage system. The idea was to make the most of the austere precipitation and to devise an efficient method of irrigation for the new harvest.

Multiple ponds were then built to collect the rainwater and soon, several canals could be observed, flanking the surroundings.

Everyone helped. Pepper, who was an expert organizer, distributed the different tasks according to the attributes of each one of the members of the tribe, draw upon their personal talents. This caused some of the people to begin to specialize.

New professions such as blacksmithing and goldsmithing originate, which improved the casting and molding techniques for the construction of new tools and weapons.

Peter, who was part of the hunting group, organized a team to investigate more remote locations. He hoped that with the new tools, they would be able to hunt animals that were previously out of their reach.

The quest was a complete success. When Peter's group returned with much more food than any of their other raids, the tribe celebrated for days.

Noting that everything was going well, Loki then proposed the possibility of building more durable homes to replace the unstable tents.

He wasn't what one might call a construction expert, but dusting off some past knowledge and aided by Tony's inventiveness, together they managed to develop a mixture that was then used to build sturdy houses that would protect them from the inclement weather.

For the first time after a long time, the tribe began to progress.

Mortality decreased due to the nutritional capacity of the new crops and the tribe began to grow in population. New babies could be seen in the arms of new mother

The times were changing, his nomad days were in the past.

If possible, the esteem for Loki did nothing but grow. People went to visit him and, amazed by his apparent knowledge, they began to ask him for all kinds of advice.

Loki appreciated the attention, made him feel useful whenever he managed to offer a helpful solution to their problems. It reminded him of those times in Asgard, when he, in spite of all his antipathy, was recognized for his intelligence and accurate judgment.

The change in the relationship he had with the tribe was gradual, so much so that Loki did not realize it. It started with small gifts of gratitude for the help given and then one day, without warning and to his greatest dismay, people began to call him "God Loki"

At that moment, he thought that the Norns(1), must have been having a great laugh at his expense.

When he spoke with Tony, he simply shrugged and smiled amusedly. His advice was that he should simply ignore them all. He was of the opinion, that there was nothing to do when a thought had spread and generalized among all the members of the tribe.

Loki refused to accept it, simply on principle. He tried to contradict them and correct them, but eventually, even he had to surrender at their insistence.

It was Loki against a whole tribe and eventually, they won the battle.

 

Chapter Text

(1)Æsir: Nordic gods living in Asgard.

 


 

Time passed. Now the tribe had several plantations covering the surroundings and several houses could be seen flanking the land.

The people, had captured some animals to domesticate them and use them as farm animals. They had started with livestock.

Each family now cultivated their own farm and had everything to obtain sufficient food and live a comfortable life.

Sitting on the sand, in the distance, Loki watched them work the land, while their senses enjoyed the landscape and silence.

His nose tingled with the scent of the freshness of the fields and the breeze cooled his skin.

At his side, Stark daydreamed in a placid lethargy.

Near one of the plantations, Loki spotted, two children, running from one side to another across the field. They were chasing each other, probably playing some kind of Midgardian game.

They laughed while accelerated their career and suddenly, one of them (his brother, Loki guessed), noticing that the other was going to win, knock him down in a playful way. Both fell and lay with their backs to the sky. Loki, heard them groan in pain and then suddenly explode in loud barks of laughter.

The parents who worked in the vicinity approached the children still in pain and after making sure they were well, helped them to stand up.

The mother approached the boy who seemed the youngest, the same one that had knocked down his brother. She watched him for a moment and then, admonished him for his actions, urging him to be more careful. However, her look was not severe, as his son, she kept in her eyes a playful light, one that despite the adulthood, it seemed not to have disappeared from her face.

After the small speech, dismissing him, she placed a tender kiss on his cheek.

The face of the boy suddenly lit up and then running, he reunited with his brother and father, who this time, had also joined the games.

The mother saw him go away, turning her head from side to side with an amused smile. Finally, with a sigh, she met with the rest of the family.

Loki followed them with his eyes, watching them laugh and have fun in the sun.

A curious sensation made the mouth of his stomach ferment. There was something in that scene that made him feel disturbed, uneasy. His breathing accelerated and suddenly, he was overcome by the growing need to run, to escape from everything. Maybe if he could have moved his body, he would have done it, but since it was not the case, he forced himself to calm down, to shake off that suffocating sensation.

It wasn't like it was the first time he had felt this. Many times before he saw himself in a similar situation, and each time that happened, he forced himself to bury that feeling, pushed it away and thus continue with his life.

"You know exactly which emotion this is, and that's why you don't want to face it." Someone whispered viciously inside.

Ignoring that voice, Loki made a last desperate effort to banish his feelings, but this time, it was in vain. His treacherous mind began to ramble...

Unable to contain the force of his conscience any longer, Loki stopped fighting. He felt suddenly, dragged by a turbid sea of sensations that shook him, taking him from one place to another.

His thoughts, as if they had a will of their own, called the memory of those who he had once called his family, appearing as ghostly images inside his head.

He waited for that reaction of hatred that came immediately after evoking their memory, and he surprised himself by not finding anything.

He saw them clearly as if they were standing in front of him, so strong, imposing and brilliant.

They looked at him directly, with eyes that seemed to pierce him, but he looked away. He did it out of fear, he realized, trepidation to find in them only disgust and disappointment.

But, it was enough of cowardice, he was tired of escaping. The time had come when he had to face his past, his fears. He had to stop fighting against an enemy that in the end was no one but himself.

Loki then, let their eyes meet and when he did, his family gave him one of the most resplendent smiles he had ever seen. Their mouths curved in a sincere gesture, without pretensions or judgments.

However, looking at them in detail, Loki could also perceive something very subtle. Behind that expression, there was a feeling similar to longing, a sadness that spoke of wistfulness and a deep-seeded longing.        

A chill ran through him. He felt exposed, as if suddenly, he had been left naked in a vacant field, only with his emotions for clothes. As if with that smile, they had opened a door to look directly into him.

Memories then, assailed him from another time, one in which he had loved and had been happy. A time, where illusions were taken for granted and hate was not the predominant feeling. Moments, that made him remember, that in his heart, in the place saved for his family, there was once, something more than just an empty space.

 


 

Loki was dreaming, he was squirming in his bed twisting the sheets with his limbs.

He was in his room in Asgard, but his dreams took him far beyond the walls of the palace. They transported him to a desolate realm, an image of an empty world.

There was only ice around him and miles of snow stretched on the horizon.

He was alone, someone had abandoned him there, but he could not remember who. He had seen his silhouette move away in big strides, and he could feel a gut-wrenching desperation as he got lost from sight.

"Come back! Don't go! Don't leave me!" He had screamed in his mind.

In that desert, he lay there, without knowing how long, until the hunger made his bowels ache and a deep sadness made his eyes fill with tears.

He could feel the cold tearing him apart, but not from outside, the coldness was coming from inside of him. Where his blood was supposed to be, there was only ice.

"Come back, come back..." He kept repeating in his mind again and again, like a mantra, a plea.

"Comebackcomebackcomeback" Until the thoughts lost their meaning, until all that really mattered was that blinding whiteness, until he felt himself fading away, dissolving into nothingness, until...

He woke up drenched in sweat. A cold sensation spread from his stomach to his trembling limbs. Consecutive spasms ran through his body and his skin felt numb as if he could still feel the sharp snow and the glacial wind whipping him in the face.

He must have been screaming, because moments later the door to his room opened and quickly his mother sat next to him.

He told her his dream while sobbing in her skirt. Loki's heart ached. Frigga's hand was soft against his hair.

She seemed for a moment surprised by his story and then as if the understanding had reached her face, her eyes shone moved.

"Loki, please don't cry, it was just a bad dream. Nothing and nobody will hurt you. You will never be alone again, I promise. Even if I am not by your side, I will always be there for you. My love will be so great that it will reach you wherever you are, it will accompany you wherever you go, even in your darkest moments. My boy, I love you with all my soul, never forget that, whatever happens, never forget it."

He smiled at her and then she rubbed his back and dried his face.

Loki never again dreamed of ice deserts again.

 


 

This had happened a long time ago. Why did he remember it now?

How long has he not allowed himself to think about her?

He remembered her as if nothing had changed. He saw her beautiful and brave, with her eternal kindness and will of steel.

His mother... how he missed her...

And then he found it, there it was, hidden among some of the folds of his heart. The affection of his mother had accompanied him all this time, only he had been too blind and stubborn to see it.

His mental scenario again began to change...

 


 

Loki and Thor had snuck out from one of the palace grounds. They had escaped, fleeing from the result of one of the pranks that they had played on their new tutor.

It was an innocent one, some small mischief destined to get them out of the boredom and tedium that lesson had brought.

Once safe, protected by the foliage of the garden, Loki relived the prank again, and Thor laughed, oh, how they both laughed. Strong enough to make their stomach hurt and their eyes water with tears.

When their laughter had exhausted, tired, they stayed there for hours lying on the grass, just enjoying each other's company.

A bird called far in the distance, with a long tinkling song and the fragrance of the flowers was a soft and soporific balm.

Time lost its meaning and nothing else in the world mattered, except the warm presence of that figure at his side. Loki found himself flooded with that feeling of security that the mere presence of his brother could provide, as if nothing bad in the world could touch him; as if when he was present, the world was an impregnable place, a fortress with no more dangers than being discovered in one of the new jokes that they had been planning.

In that state of contentment, Thor had interrupted the silence.

"Never doubt the affection I have for you, brother." He had said suddenly.

That took him out of his slumber. It was such a sudden phrase that Loki thought he had imagined it. But when he fixed his eyes on his brother, in his eyes he found a deep well of fondness, a look with an intensity that he knew was dedicated only to him.

Thor didn't say anything else. He must have found something in Loki that pleased him, because he closed his eyes again and rested his palms on the back of his temple, as he returned to his lethargy, humming softly.

Beside him, Loki froze, not knowing how to react to this sudden demeanor. There wasn't a hint of embarrassment in that phrase and the expressed sincerity reach him like a bolt through his chest.

Not knowing what else to do, he went back to lean on the grass. In his mind, still danced the words that his brother had said.

Thor had told him not to doubt his affection and Loki didn't. At that time, he had believed him with all the candid feeling of youth and the confidence given by a friendship not yet tined by resentment.

Loki had believed him, and if he was honest with himself, he still did.

 


 

The memories continued. Circulated through his mind, like pictures of sensations and colors passing in front of his eyes.

They were out of control, wild, like a parade of images, without order or meaning.

  


 

Loki was sitting under a tree, near the palace's training camp. He looked towards a fixed point, without paying attention to anything specific. In his brow, there was a deep groove and his hands held a branch that he was breaking, again and again, applying in each motion more strength than was truly necessary. Several other remains of branches were on the floor around him, already pulverized, the result of his effusive gesture.

Just two months left before he could reach the age of majority, which meant that he could finally go to the same missions his brother was going to, the ones that had been previously denied due to its "dangerousness". That is why he had given himself the task of practicing, of becoming better. He wanted to silence all those voices that called him "weak" behind his back, he was going to show everyone how wrong they were.

That afternoon, he had been practicing with the sword. He knew it was his weak point, so he had devoted it special attention, training and striving to improve his technique.

However, his teacher seemed annoyed. He corrected him again and again and forced him to repeat the same poses, without even giving a clear direction to follow.

The lesson reached an algid point, when Loki confronted him, alleging his inability to teach.

The professor, offended, refused to continue imparting his class. When Loki demanded to know why, he simply pointed out, that someone like Loki, with such a thin and not very muscular build, so different from the other Æsir(1) of his age, simply did not have what it took to learn the art of the sword.

That had happened in the afternoon and it was late night when Loki was still in training camp, feeling sulky and humiliated.

In the midst of all his resentment, his father had found him. Looking at him for a moment, without preamble, he had given him a small engraved dagger.

"Use it well," he said. "Remember that one doesn't choose the capabilities that existence has predestined for us, but we can choose how we take advantage of those gifts that she has decided to grant us. I undoubtedly know, my son, how much you still have to give.”

His father left as he had arrived, suddenly and silently, however, his visit had left him something much more important than just the dagger he now had in his hands. Smiling, he ran his fingers along the sharp edge and noticed with his touch the subtle runes that decorated his handle.

Loki had practiced with that dagger until he became an expert until he was the best thrower that Asgard had ever seen. But always, in each battle, he carried that first dagger, using it as an amulet, as a talisman of good luck. It was a reminder of what his father had said that day, a reminiscence that even at a time when he had felt weak, someone had thought he was strong.

 


 

Loki was overwhelmed. What was happening with his mind that at that moment he began to think about them? Where did all those memories come from?

It was as if, right then and there, a veil of hatred had lifted over his eyes and those memories that his rancor had decided to erase, resurfaced again from a hidden and dusty place.

Nothing was different and yet everything. Loki felt warm, all over. There was nothing but this warmth, engulfing him completely, arising from within.

"I do not forgive them" Loki felt obliged to admit in a whisper.

There were still too many dark thoughts and old memories chasing him. His mind still couldn't free himself from the shackles of resentment of unfulfilled expectations, nor could he heal from his soul all that bitter disappointment.

However, he was also aware that his family had not always brought him pain, the bad did not erase everything good that he had ever lived with them. Hatred, it didn't imply that he couldn't also remember the love he had once had for them (the one he still had.)

Pain burned in his chest, but his heart was lighter than it had been in ages.

Loki didn't forgive them, but the future looked a little brighter now. He didn't forgive them, but maybe he would, someday.

  


 

Minutes passed. Loki closed his burning eyes and remained very still. His breathing wobbled and he just stood there in complete silence.

At his side, Tony awoke, stretching out his arms in broad gestures. But his motion stopped midway when he noticed Loki's expression.

"Hey, what's wrong?" He asked worriedly.

And then as if a valve had been opened, the words came out in spurts.

Loki told him everything. He told the whole chain of events that had led him to crash into the earth and as he had never done before, he referred to his fall and to his decision to let go.

He spoke of what he had just experienced and recalled his family, telling this time, the good and bad moments experienced.

He talked about his past and what he thought would be his future. Of his old life and of the many tangles that he had left unsolved. All those unfulfilled longings and feelings that were left into oblivion.

He spoke of what he wanted, all the time like in a kind of trance, a catharsis that did not allow him to leave anything inside.

Tony listened attentively, without interrupting, sensing that this was not the time for words. Something inside him told him that Loki just needed him to be there for him, to be heard, to offer his presence and support.

When Loki finished speaking, he let out a trembling exhale. A part of him relieved, a part of him still in pain.

Repeating his story, it felt as if he had torn off an arrowhead that had been buried in his chest for a long time.

The soft air floated over them and there was a comfortable understanding. That silence kept only to those people who share an intimate familiarity. That trust granted only to those who have a deep bond of friendship.

Tony, then, leaned forward into Loki's space, his eyes intent. Slowly, he reached out, gently, and swept Loki's hair aside as one might draw back a curtain, tucking it behind his ear. In doing so, his knuckles brushed his cheeks, and he let his hand linger there, in a comforting gesture.

Loki stiffened for a moment, but then, feeling the warmth of that hand, his body relaxed under that gentle touch.

So they lay there on the sand unmoving. A nervous warmth spread through him, and he felt a fluttering in his chest, like a moth beating its wings against a glass.

Loki's hair, long and undone, rippled behind him in the breeze and the sun shining imposing, in the distance, casting clear flashes that reflected in his midnight color strands.

The clouds above, mottled gray, ran lazily over the sky and a harsh light cast long shadows just below where Loki and Tony were sitting.

Suddenly, Loki felt very aware of everything that surrounded him, of the calm of nature and the comforting presence of the man at his side. He let the sounds wash over him and was filled with a deep, cleansing sense of peace.

He couldn't describe what he felt at that moment. A strange feeling crept up his spine. At the same time, it was familiar and completely unknown to him. It robbed him of all his thoughts and ideas, leaving him lost. He had no idea what was happening to him.

What emotion, in particular, had overcome him? It was hard to discern.

He only knew that he had been seized by a deep wistfulness, as big as the vast landscape that stretched before them.

His eyes met Tony's and then he found himself paralyzed, trapped in the depths of those unfathomable brown irises.

Only with the sound of the wind to fill the silence, Loki lost the notion of how much time had passed, he remained fixed, as if captivated by some kind of charm.

There was a moment, a very fleeting lapse of something, in which Loki felt a deep desire, a kind of rapture, a longing that in spite of trying, he couldn't give a name.

But then, like a shadow resting on him, that desire was overshadowed by a paralyzing fear. He felt trepidation of his own thoughts, of seeing what was in the depths of his heart. He felt small and helpless in the face of a feeling so complex and intense that he thought, if he had given himself to it, he would have been completely consumed.

Loki then looked away from those bright eyes, and the spell broke.

Tony blinked too as if shaking off his trance, and then, lowered his hand from his cheek.

A thousand words flashed inside Loki, but none of them came from his lips.

"Thank you," Tony said suddenly, getting ahead of him.

"For what?" Loki asked confused.

"For trusting me" And then, a heartbeat later, he added, "For being my friend."

"It's nothing..." Loki said somewhat uncomfortably.

"For me, it's far more than nothing," Tony told him.

Nearby, the plantations stirred gently with a passing breeze.

When Loki spoke, it was barely more than a whisper. "For me too."

Chapter Text

The progress the tribe had made, which was now a village, had aroused the jealousy of other remote tribes.

The situation was tense and many times they found themselves in need of reacting to attacks that were designed to rob them, harm them or simply gather information about their success.

This was how the enemy tribes learned of Loki's existence and their apprehension only increased. How was it possible for the village to have a personal God who blessed them with wisdom and good fortune? What made this village so special that it was favored over others?

Tensions continued until everything reached a decisive point. The enemy tribes decided to unite and declare war. Their goal was to seize the ‘God Loki’.

Loki knew everything about battles. Not for nothing, he had grown up in a warrior society dominated by the importance of combat and excellence in his military training.

He was aware of everything that involved the struggle for survival and the sacrifices necessary to achieve success. He knew, of the powerful force generated by the ideals of freedom and of the price that certain people are willing to pay to obtain power.

Loki understood all this, and it was for that very reason, that he could not avoid a twinge of uneasiness that settled heavily on his stomach as he recognized the great danger that lurked on the horizon.

What did it matter what other Asgardians said about the glory in battle? The truth, the only great legacy of a war, was death. The losses were always greater than the profits and the experience, left marks that even time never managed to erase.

And yet, despite all his abilities, all those battles, Loki saw no other way out. The confrontation was inevitable.

What else could the village do against enemies who wanted to dominate them and kill them? There was only one way left, to fight and protect.

It was a fact that war brought pain, but it was also true that it was a valuable tool that served to get rid of tyranny. Something that allowed to defend the most valuable, the life of those who made your home.

Tony, who was a respectable figure among his people, would definitely go to the fight.

A wild and irrational part of Loki, wanted to convince him not to go. It did not matter that it was cowardly or ignoble, but something inside him was screaming.

“The body of humans is so fragile” His mind never tired of reminding him “It would only take a small blow to the head or the edge of a knife piercing his skin...”

But his most logical part, recognized that this was only a useless longing. Loki knew, that inside Tony, inhabited the soul of a warrior. For him to sit idle while watching his people perish, it simply was not part of his nature. Asking him would be like demanding him to renounce an important part of his being.

He then, kept silent.

Life, had taught Loki, that it was more useful to be a realist than a dreamer. What was the use of wanting? What was the use of asking? When the result would be the same, Tony would leave and there was nothing he could do about it.

It did not matter that sharp anguish, like the weight of chains tightening on his heart, tying him from within, or those cravings that seemed to want to explode from his chest. He took all those feelings and hide them in a remote place.

The days after the announcement of the war, were used in preparations and training.

Time passed faster than expected, that anguished rapidity of those who await an inexorable fate

The routine remained unchanged. Tony and Loki continued doing their morning walks and spending time between leisure and research of new technologies.

Without agreeing, none of them spoke of the impending departure, only enjoying each other's company and making the most of each moment together. Treasuring that borrowed time, one that they knew was a gloomy countdown.

However, on the eve of his departure, when everything was imminent, the truth hit Loki squarely in the face, leaving him totally at lost. He felt as if a thick haze had settled in his mind, a sense of unreality that made him perceive himself from the outside, as if for a moment his body had separated from his consciousness.

He watched the dawn fall uneasily, it was time to say goodbye. The next morning, very early, Tony would leave with the rest of the group to go to battle.

"This was really happening? This was going to be the last time I would see him? Was he going to leave as everyone else had done before?"

He felt an anxiety that made his stomach twitch, refusing to settle. The visceral sensation of something rotten ran through the mouth of his stomach, making him feel nauseous and dizzy.

Impotence and anger made their way from his entrails, shoved against one another, making him feel suffocated; as if someone was squeezing the base of his throat. 

And Loki, as he always did when he could not deal with his emotions, put a mask on his face. He made a wall that would protect him from any feeling or emotion. Inside those sheltered walls, he could pretend that nothing mattered, that none of this had any meaning for him. Protecting himself from something he knew, to give it room, would irretrievably damage him.

When they said goodbye, Loki's mask was firmly in place. He was courteous and aloof, speaking only just and disregarding any attempt by Tony to get him out of his indifference.

They’re chatting like strangers rather than saying any of the real things, and they both knew it.

When Stark, angry, tried to confront him, Loki's mask broke and the rage seemed to radiate through each of his pores.

"If you're so willing to leave, better leave at once. I hope you are satisfied when a sword crosses your chest or an arrow is keyed in your skull. You have no idea what you're are facing, you ignorant mortal."

Loki ignored the twinge he felt when he saw Tony's wounded and resigned look, as they took separate paths.

Lying on the bed of his abode, he also ignored the itching of his burning eyes and the pain he felt somewhere close to his heart. Like a great thorn of guilt sinking more and more against his chest. 

When finally his consciousness vanished, his dreams were plagued by strange and disturbing nightmares. All fragmented disordered and disconnected. But always in each of them, a disturbing and desperate fear. Horrible visions of inert bodies and spoils of bloody battles.

Rest did not arrive that night for Loki.

 


 

It was early morning when Loki felt the door of the entrance to his house burst open.

Waking up in a jump, he heard hasty footsteps and then, as if it were an apparition, he saw Tony's figure, positioning himself directly in front of his bed.

For a moment, he seemed to want to say something, opening and closing his mouth, but instead, unable to find the clarity to give voice to his thoughts, he began to walk the room from end to end, in impetuous strides and nervous gestures.

Loki, looked at him first stunned, and then incredulous.

“What was going on? What was the meaning of this erratic behavior?”

"Tony, what are you doing?" Loki finally said, when he could not stand the expectation anymore.

Upon hearing those words, Stark jumped, surprised, as if that voice had taken him out of the deepest meditations.

He rubbed his face, trying to recover with that a little of his composure and then, finding himself a little more lucid, he raised his eyes to focus completely on Loki.

"Ok, I can't do this any longer. I got tired of pretending as nothing happened. I'm leaving and this could be the last time..." Tony had to stop there, if he didn't, his voice would start to vibrate.

Loki noticed the deep anguish that at that moment invaded his face. There was something slightly vulnerable around his mouth and his face was open, raw, with emotions so sharp that seemed painful. His body contracted defeated, as if his mind had reached an insurmountable limit, one that threw him into the abyss of impotence.

Loki gasped, and Tony's feelings seemed to project from his heart to his.

An intense need invaded him, one that urged him to intervene, to comfort, one that made him want to erase forever that anguishing bitterness.

"Tony... it's alright. Hey, Tony, look at me, everything is alright, okay?" Loki said softly.

That seemed to reassure him.

"Loki... I know you don't want me to leave, but I... I have to."

"I know" Loki sighed "I understand. You leave because you think it's the right thing to do. You are a man of honor, a hero from head to toe (even if you do not believe it yourself.)

But the thing is, that I am not, I am someone selfish, a jealous being who...  would like you to stay here, out of danger, with me…"

Surprise reach Tony's face and then, a somewhat sad smile settled on his lips.

"No, you've misunderstood, I don't... Loki, I'm going to tell you something. I don't want you to get mad or freak out, okay? In fact, if you do not agree, you can even ignore that this conversation happened at all. It's just... I didn't want to leave without being able to tell you..."

Something in his voice, something in the air, made Loki tense, making his face heat up.

"Loki..." Tony murmured, his gaze unbreaking "You...?" His voice trailed off suddenly.

"Phew! Ok, this is harder than I thought" He said, running his hand through his hair.

"Do I... what?” Loki supplied, urging him to continue with his speech "For Norn's sake! What has this man so nervous?"

Stark did not respond, instead, approached slowly.

Loki stiffened. He found himself surprised, nervous. His heart beat hard against his chest.

He couldn't say why, but suddenly he was afraid of the intensity of that gaze, of how quiet everything had become.

The man sat next to him on the bed.

"Tony," He said narrowing his eyes "What are you doing?"

There was melancholy in his eyes now; melancholy and something else, maybe fear?

"Why was there fear in his eyes?"

"I... I wanted to tell you something important. I know you think I'm going to protect the people of the village, but I want you to know that that is not the reason. The truth is that I... I want to protect you..."

At that moment Tony's fingers landed on his chin. Brown eyes rested on those bright green orbs. Those eyes looked at him with a burning intensity, full of chaotic emotions and an almost palpable hope.

His face came closer until it was inches from his mouth.

"I shouldn't be doing this." His words were mere murmurs under his breath, and Loki could not tell if they were meant for him to hear, or just for himself. "This could ruin things, I shouldn't... Ah, but..." He shook his head, a small, guilty smile on his lips. "I can't control myself, it seems."

"Tony..." The rest of the words trapped in his throat; letting escape in its place, a trembling sigh.

Stark looked down for a moment, as he seemed to gather his thoughts. When he looked up again, his expression softened and fear left his eyes.

"I'm going to kiss you, Loki... I'm going to do it right now, if you do not want this to happen, it's best if you say it now..."

His brain froze. His eyes widened and all his thoughts were caught by that tender and passionate gaze. His breathing stopped when Tony's face began to slowly descend to his, cautiously, giving him more than enough time to back off.

The world stopped abruptly when he felt the brush of Tony's breath touching the surface of his trembling lips, a fleeting moment before the other man's mouth settled over his.

Loki's skin bristled. It was as if a shock of electricity had passed through him, sending tingles through his spine.

He found himself overwhelmed by a multitude of sensations, as he had never experienced before or even thought himself capable. He felt dizzy, and strangely euphoric, like a drunkard, or a man in a dream. Everything that existed in the darkness of his mind, at the limits of his senses, was Tony, and it seemed almost as if he were the only thing that really had existed.

Despite the confusion, somehow, he felt relieved. He didn't know what to do with all this, he couldn't comprehend what on earth was occurring, but suddenly he found himself wishing, feeling an irresistible longing to get more of what was being offered.

He realized that he had been waiting for this for a long time.

How long had he felt this way? How long has he longed for this, in the depths of his dreams? He couldn't say.

He felt that at last, he had been given the answer to a question he had never dared to ask before.

"You know?", Someone who curiously sounded like Tony, laughed in the back of his mind, "despite all your scrutiny, Loki, sometimes you are very unobservant."

After that brief and chaste touch, Stark stepped back slowly to analyze his face, to study his reaction. What he saw made a smile fall on his lips. Those eyes looked at him with intense passion, bright eyes full of emotion.

Soft lips caressed him once again, moving with extreme care, almost with sacred adoration. His head was supported by a pair of strong hands radiating a heat that spread all over his face.

Loki shook himself out of a contained anxiety, then closed his eyes and surrendered his senses to the overwhelming intensity that ran through him.

The feeling coiled inside him, filling each of his cells with explosions of sensations that turned his whole body into putty. In a pulsing entity of nothing but warmth and pleasure.

He gasped loudly, amazed, and the mouth that held him captive swallowed the sound completely. A tongue explored the seam of his parted lips, and he gave a hesitant permission for further invasion, opening wider.

Tony came in like a whirlwind, like a soldier returning home. So ferocious that Loki's bones felt as if they were on fire. The renewed heat exploded in his veins in the next second. The burning, like lava, poured into his mouth in a river of desire and he felt dizzy with the sensations that vibrated through his cells. He was being completely possessed, devoured, taken. He was being broken and reformed. He was being kissed directly towards his rebirth.

Loki wanted more, wanted everything at once, needs to be closer.

Tony's fingers curled into his hair holding him. Those hands were burning against his head, keeping him warm, completely unbalanced. He was being singed, from the inside out, in a conflagration of emotion that was turning his whole being into a pool of pulsating blood and vibrating sensations.

Stark's lips remained close to his, long after the kiss ended. Tony tilted his head towards him so that their foreheads touched, caressing the side of his face.

When Loki opened his eyes, he found himself on the receiving end of the most beautiful expression he had ever seen. No one had ever looked at him with that impressive mixture of ecstatic exuberance and hopeful tenderness. Stark's gaze was brilliant as a diamond, two huge spheres watching him with evident devotion.

"I love you. I've loved you for a long time." Tony said.

Those words vibrated through Loki, down to his core, moving through him like an earthquake. His breathing quickened and a shiver of passionate joy passed through him.

He tried to swallow the knot that had formed in his throat “I love you too” He said, this time without fear. Daring to pour out his whole being, all his heart to another soul for the first time.

Tony breathed a sigh of relief at that, and then a smile of pure joy made its way to his lips.

The tips of his rough fingers framed Loki's cheekbones with care, brushing long strands of hair from his pale face, smoothing his long, dark strands with a trembling hand. He traced all the curves of his face, with delicate affection and fervent passion.

Loki allowed the man to touch him as he pleased, leaning towards his touch, marveling at the kaleidoscope of emotions that only that contact was capable of provoking him. He closed his eyes, submerging himself in all those sensations, drowning himself in those sweet caresses.

After a moment, sighing contentedly, Tony buried his face in the crook of his neck, breathing in slow and calm puffs, ones that made Loki feel the back of his neck bristle.

Silent dust motes danced erratically near the window and the light of the stars swept through the room, covering everything in a bluish glow.

They both remained silent, motionless as if they were part of a paint of ethereal strokes, or perhaps as if they were in the middle of a melancholy dream.

"You better come back to me. Return unharmed, or I'll never forgive you" Loki said suddenly, with a voice that reverberated throughout the room.

When Tony raised his face, it was to give him a penetrating and determined look. Those sharp eyes settled on Loki's, full of determination and overflowing intensity.

"I promise, even if I have to cross the whole earth, or even hell itself, I will come back, this is my vow to you Loki, I swear, I will return to your side."

Tony at that moment, had the certainty that he would never see anything so beautiful, like the smile that Loki gift him that night.


 

The next morning, found Loki in Tony's arms. His head resting against his chest moved in a rhythmic sway, product of that deep and serene breathing; and the comforting warmth of his body, made him feel wrapped in a soft blanket of pleasure and emotion.

When Loki opened his eyes, he met Tony's gaze already on his face, watching him with a deep smile and bright eyes full of affection.

"It's time, isn't it? You must go" Loki said resigned.

“Yeah, but I still have some time left and I would like to take advantage of every second I have, to spend it with you”

Stark put a hand on his cheek and approached to give a soft and warm kiss.

Their lips were still together when suddenly, the door of the house opened with a bang.

"Mr. Stark, are you here? The troop is ready. They are looking for you..."

Hearing Peter's unmistakable voice, Tony jumped.

"Hey, kid! We were just... ehemm...well..."

Peter looked at them, noting the closeness of their bodies and their lips still swollen from the kiss.

An uncomfortable silence extended for a moment.

"God, I was starting to doubt it was ever going to happen," Peter commented in a fervent exclamation. It seemed he was only just resisting throwing himself at them in a hug. "I think Miss Pepper won the bet, after all, I must tell her! you just... continue with what you were doing, I'll tell the troops to wait a moment," Said Peter with a smile from ear to ear, running off.

"My, my" Loki said after Peter left, with a mischievous smile on his mouth, "I think, that I should personally apologize to the troop."

"And why would you do that?" Stark said, smiling too.

"For make them wait. I plan to keep you with me much more than just a moment."

Apologizing, Loki had said,  But he did not look like he was sorry at all.

 

Chapter Text

Tony's troops had placed themselves in a strategic sector near the village and since then they had fought tirelessly protecting the borders of their home.

Several days had passed since the conflict and Tony could already see the results and wear that the skirmishes of his enemies had generated.

"So this is War," He thought with an anguished sigh, going through the tents that kept the wounded, and feeling the fatigue and tension that seemed to have accumulated in his joints.

His body seemed to retain still the echo of the battles. As if the impression of that moment continued resonating inside. Grim and sharp, clinging like two firm claws to his conscience.

Helping the healers, he worked hard to assist in any task that might be useful. He wanted to do something, anything that would take him out from those gloomy meditations.

However, looking at those laid bodies, Tony could not help but review in his mind, the events of the last days.

The strife had not been easy. Several lives had been lost under the brutality of the combat.

The enemy was fierce. They may not have the same technology in armament as the village, but any deficiency, they supplied it with their large number of soldiers and a tenacity that made him wonder where did all this hatred and rancor come from?

Tony, had tried to do his best to help plan the attacks and organize the combat tactics. His strategy was simple: Try to end the fight as soon as possible and with the least amount of casualties, on both sides of the conflict.

"We are going to win with strategy and not with brute force" He had told the soldiers "If you have to kill to defend yourselves, do so, but if you can avoid the unnecessary death of one of your enemies, forgive their lives. Remember that in a war there are always two sides of the story, there are no good or bad, only people trying to defend their ideals”

The struggle had left many losses, however, the efforts of the village had not been in vain. The result of the last battles had given them a clear clue as to who had the advantage; the enemy was finally retreating.

For the first time in a long time, Tony felt hope sizzle in his chest. If everything went well, the war would end soon and they would be victorious.

If luck was on his side, he could return home and see the man who had not abandoned his thoughts even for a single second during all this dispute. He, whose memory was enough to produce a sweet feeling of happiness and comfort, each time his soul was lost wandering on turbulent roads.

"Loki... soon we will see each other again, I'm sure of that. And when we do it, when this battle is over, I hope this world will be a different place. Together, we will make of our home a place where we can live in peace”

His meditations were suddenly interrupted, by the presence of one of the soldiers entering unexpectedly in the tent.

"Sir, we found a group of archers trying to infiltrate the camp"

"Archers?" He said surprised.

"Yes, they were hidden in the mountains, but we manage to capture them. They managed to do some damage to the base and some people were injured, but fortunately, there were no major losses"

"I'm glad," He said relieved.

Reflecting on what happened, Tony had a sudden idea.

"Would you be so kind as to bring the leader of the group? I'd like to have a few words with him"

Nodding, after a moment, the soldier escorted the prisoner inside the compound.

Seeing him enter, Tony could not help to take notice on his appearance. He was a middle-aged man with light brown hair and a toned body.

At that moment, his blue eyes showed a sharp and fierce look. One with such intensity, that it seemed to Tony as if he were watching the unfathomable eyes of something wild, a glimpse of an indomitable animal.

Strangely, the image of a hawk crossed his mind for a moment.

"Hi! How are you? My name is Tony Stark" He said happily, extending his hand.

The man remained silent, without making any attempt to acknowledge the gesture.

“You know? When someone introduces oneself, it's cordial to say hello and say your name”

If possible, the archer glared at him with an even more lethal gaze.

"Whoa!" Tony said, raising his hands in a pacifist gesture "I understand that you do not want to talk, in your situation I would do the same. But believe me, when I say that I don't want to hurt you, I just want to talk to you"

The man let out an ironic snort.

"Just talk? I know how this works, Stark. You will say anything to get information, but then, when you have what you want, you will kill me along with my people.

There is nothing you can say or do that is new to me. Believe me, Schmidt has already tried everything”

"Schmidt?"

"You don't know? He calls himself Red Skull. He is the man who started this war"

"What do you mean?" Tony said, feeling a cold chill at the back of his neck.

The archer hesitated for a moment, but then, a resigned sigh made its way down his throat. "Well... there is no point in hiding it. If there's one thing I'm sure of, it's that all this will end soon" There was something strange in his voice, Tony was sure. Maybe it was regret? remorse?

“Schmidt is an ambitious man,” The archer told “Some time ago, he undertook the task of convoking and convincing each of the tribes to join and fight in this war. He wanted to have the greatest military power and gather as many allies as possible. His purpose was to defeat your village and thus, seize your technology and your God.

Naturally, some tribes, adhered to his cause, with promises of power and wealth, but others... He needed to be more persuasive..."

The man's voice was expressionless, however, when he spoke again, his eyes had acquired a strange brightness. Looking at it, Tony could not decide if it was a halo of sadness, anguish or just something that was close enough to madness.

“He sacked their houses, seized their goods and burned their crops; and without feeling satisfied with any of this, he took each of the children of the tribe as hostages. Helpless children torn from the arms of their mothers, the perfect blackmail to create exemplary minions. New soldiers who would obey any order without opposition.

You can imagine that after that, there was no tribe that refused his demands"

"I... I'm sorry. If there was something, anything, I could do to help..."

The archer, looked at Tony with an indecipherable expression.

"Help us? And how do you plan to do that? Even if you were as honest as you claim to be, you and your village have shown us that you don't care about anything other than yourselves. You could have helped us, but instead, you denied us access to your technology and weapons. Maybe with your support, we could have defeated Red Skull, but you hid in your small village as if the rest of the world didn't exist"

"Hey! And how were we supposed to know about Schmidt? Or that you needed help? We lived our lives quietly and suddenly, the next thing we knew, was that we were at war. We were attacked, what did you expect from us apart from trying to defend ourselves? Even at the beginning of all this, we tried to negotiate, reach an agreement, but there was no answer from you."

"Of course there was no answer!" Said the man "Did you expect that Red Skull would have allowed us to negotiate? This war was exactly what he wanted. Do you think he would have left unpunished such a challenge to his authority?”

They both looked at each other with piercing eyes; and their agitated breathing, a product of their mutual outburst, was expelled in angry puffs.

For a moment, it seemed no one will yield in this bizarre gazing contest, but then, feeling calmer, Tony let out his breath in a long sigh.

"Well... you're right about something," He said, after a moment "We could have shared our knowledge with you, but we didn't.

If that had been the case, maybe everything would have been different... You may have had the means to defend yourself and even, we could have prevented the beginning of this war”

The archer looked at him bewildered, totally surprised by his words.

"But... it's not too late” Tony continued, with renewed conviction “We can still do something. With your help, we will end this conflict. I have all the security that together, we will succeed in overthrowing Schmidt”

The archer's face lit up suddenly, but it was only a fleeting expression. In a blink, his face changed to one of resignation and sorrow.

"It's too late. there's no point... Red Skull already won"

"Why do you say that?" Tony said, with an intense foreboding crawling up his spine like a hundred ants. 

The man just kept silence.

"Oh! come on! You don’t owe Schmidt anything. As you say, he doesn't care about anything other than causing harm and suffering. He is an authentic tyrant who will not stop until he destroys everything on his path to success"

When he saw that the archer was still silent, suddenly, realization dawned on him.

"He has your family, isn't it?" He said, with an intense anguish that pierced through his chest "You don't want to talk because you're afraid of putting them in danger..."

The defeated look the man gave him,  was all the confirmation Tony needed.

"I promise that if you help me, I will do everything in my power so Red Skull and his allies are defeated. Your family will not have to worry about his threats anymore. Schmidt will lose, I swear it by my village and for all the lives that will be saved when that happens, you have my word"

Tony saw a parade of emotions cross the face of his interlocutor. He sensed that at that moment, a great struggle was developing inside him.

"Okay... I'll tell you what you need to know" The man tightened his jaw and his expression only become more determined.

“Listen, Red Skull had deceived you. This fight, all these battles, are just a distraction. He, with a select group of his best soldiers, will try to infiltrate your village. They will enter on the south side, through one of the most unprotected accesses. It will not be difficult for them to do so, because they have a great advantage; a very powerful weapon that can kill your best soldiers in just seconds.

If you ask me about this weapon, I can't tell you. Anyone who has seen it, didn't survive to tell the story. But I can assure you that it is very lethal, so much that it seems out of this world.

While we are talking, Schmidt is already in motion. At this very moment, he should be arriving at your village. If you are going to do something Stark, I advise you to do it now. Maybe if you wait, it will be too late.”

Tony's eyes widened in horror, but he did not let his feelings dominate him. In an instant, he was throwing orders, preparing the weaponry and organizing the departure.

However, before leaving, the archer stopped him.

“Stark, I'm going with you. I can't stay here without doing anything, not while there is still some possibility of freeing my family. I am a good fighter and I can assure you that I will not rest until this conflict comes to an end and justice is done for all the innocent people who suffered and perished under the dominance of Red Skull”

"Of course, your help will be more than welcome," Tony said in an affable way "You and your people, are no longer my prisoners. I will give the immediate order of the cessation of the attacks. From now on, we are allies”

The archer gave him a brief nod and his face softened.

“Let's hurry, there's no time to lose” Tony said, and immediately, they both ran to meet with the rest of the soldiers.

"Hey, Stark," The archer said, as he trotted alongside him "It's Barton"

"What?" Tony said, confused.

"My name, is Clint Barton," He said, with a small smile.

"Nice to meet you, Clint," Tony said, also smiling.

The wind was blowing strongly, and in the distance, could be seen the rosaceous dawn behind a bright fringe of clouds.

The road seemed endless, but when they finally reached the meeting point, without losing more time, they got on the horses and left to the village.

As Tony galloped, the adrenaline made his body tremble and his agitated mind, went from one thought to another at a dizzying speed.

"What happens if Schmidt wins? What if something happens to Loki? What if I don't arrive on time...?"

His heart beat hard and the anxiety of before, now transformed into pure nervousness.

“Just hold on a little more Loki, wait for me, I'm coming...”

 

Chapter Text

Loki was waiting expectantly in his room. He knew something was wrong. He could feel the restlessness like a storm on his head, threatening and dark.

He stiffened and tilted his head, listening, searching for the source of the intense foreboding that curled in the pit of his stomach.

He didn't have to wait too long. With hurried steps, Pepper and Peter, unexpectedly, entered his house. 

"Mr. Loki! They're here!" "The enemies are invading us,” They said in unison.

"What happened? Tony's troop was defeated?" Loki said, unable to avoid the intense panic that appeared in his voice.

"We don't know, we haven't received any news from them," Pepper said, speaking calmly, but Loki could see her hands trembling slightly.

"The enemies broke the walls on the south side." She continued. "It was a small but powerful group. In a short time, they defeated the majority of the soldiers. Those that remain, continue resisting, but it is clear that they will not be able to stand for much longer.

Loki, most of our soldiers are not here, they are fighting with Tony. We have almost no defenses. If they manage to enter the village, I'm afraid we will not be able to face them."

Loki cursed softly "So what shall we do? Come on! think, what can be done?" He reflected with exasperation.

“Peter, I need you to gather everyone in the main square. The enemies will attack us head on, but we are more than them. We will have more chances to survive if we stay together.

Tell all those who have not taken up arms yet, that they should do so now. Shovels, pikes, sickles or spears, anything that could be used to defend themselves.

Pepper and I, will also be there. Once you're done, meet us”

"Of course, you can count on me, Mr. Loki," Peter said, grave and solemn, bowing his head in a slight nod, to then, run out.

Loki felt his blood boil. A mixture of anger and fear made his nerves bristle and his heart beat wildly as if it was about to explode from his chest.

"We are not going to stay without doing anything," He told Pepper "we are going to fight!"

She stared at him for a moment. The lines of her eyes deepened and her mouth tightened in determination.

"Yes," She said "We will fight until the end"

Then, grabbing the end of his wheelchair, Pepper took Loki quickly to the meeting point.

"Tony..." Loki's mind, couldn't help but wander towards his memory "Don't you dare to break your promise. Please... be safe..."

 


 

In the main square, they all gathered together.

Those who had experience brandishing weapons, had aligned themselves, surrounding the others like a human wall; while the rest, crouched behind, very close, as if their mutual proximity could protect them from any danger.

They all waited for the enemy.

The hearts of the people began to throb with force, and the exalted energy spiked through their limbs.

Loki looked around, the view, was not a hopeful one. His gaze swept each one of those faces with worried trepidation.

He saw children crying holding onto their mothers' skirts, while their parents tried to hold their weapons in insecure defensive postures.

He observed inexperienced adolescents trying to appear more courageous than they felt, for the sake of their families.

He saw people with hardly enough strength, whether due to illness or age.

And finally, his sight was diverted to the villagers who had positioned themselves in the first line of defense. Loki saw them as they really were: men who had never experienced the rigor of a battle, trembling under the weight of their sword.

He saw stern faces everywhere. Everyone was afraid, to the unknown, to pain, to death.

Pepper and Peter were also at his side, but their faces were so hard, with such a sour expression, that it seemed as if a shadow of darkness had descended on their features.

In the distance, Loki heard the war cries of the invaders, the metallic sound of their weapons, and their footsteps reverberating like drums on the sand.

The battle was upon them, the enemies were not far behind.

The people of the village heard them too, and a general tremor went through each of the inhabitants. Suddenly, a wave of fear invaded them; one that made their chest tighten and their senses vibrate in commotion.

"How are we going to defeat them?" A man shouted, suddenly.

"How are we going to protect ourselves?" Said a mother with a baby in her arms.

"What are we going to do now?" Someone said in a whisper.

Despair slowly began to arise in the group.

Agitated, the clamor of the crowd was heard with vehemence. The set of voices, a mixture of dread and anguish, echoed in growing tones and their words overlapped one another in a confused uproar.

The atmosphere changed: The air felt heavy, the result of the sudden tension and in the eyes of the people, could be glimpsed a bitter shadow of defeat and resignation.  

Loki knew that look. It was one that allowed him to recognize before a battle, which were the soldiers who would lose their lives. Those who even before fighting, had already surrendered. A self-fulfilling prophecy that predisposed them to death.

He knew he should do something, but what? In Asgard, it was usual for the general to give a short speech before each battle. He, along with Thor, was usually designated for that task.

Loki was accustomed to standing in front of the soldiers and using his silver tongue to recite harangues with such solemn and fiery content that it could even arouse the most reluctant public. 

But now, could he do the same? What could he say? What were the correct words? These people weren't warriors, they were simple villagers who wanted to protect their home. They didn't believe in glory in battle or in the loyalty to the king. This time, Loki didn't have prepared speeches or embellished words to give them.

And yet, something in his chest told him that this was not the right path. For once, Loki wanted to grant something truthful. He wanted to give them words of truth, words of life. 

At that moment, Loki knew the promise he would make: He would protect those lives at all costs. He didn't know how, but he had that certainty. He would help to defend his new home.

"Remain calm," He said slowly, over the tumult. The exalted group, upon hearing those words, immediately fell silent.

All eyes turned on him and Loki suddenly felt very aware of their piercing gazes.

"Listen, I... I don't know how this battle will turn out. I don't know if at the end of the day, we will be victorious or if we will have to face defeat"

His heart was pounding, but he spoke what he needed to say, what his soul needed to express.

“And yet, despite everything, I see you standing here, confronting the uncertainty, the unknown, facing the danger of death. Maybe now you just feel hopeless, but I want you to know that this act makes you more than any hero, stronger than any famous warrior. The fact of being here, transforms your bravery into something more powerful than any weapon that at this moment you may be holding in your hands."

And Loki really believed it. In his time in Asgard, he had thought that the only important strength was that of combat. Nothing else mattered, except that fight that allowed to validate your existence.

But the people of the village had demonstrated to him how wrong he was.

They, with their courage and cleverness, had shown him the enormous inner strength that drove them. He had been able to witness this mysterious power, which allowed them to create and build, to survive despite the difficulties, to fight for a land that they transformed into their home.

They had taught him that there are intangible forces that grow from the inside. Some, which are hidden in the depths of your dreams and then resurface to make way for a feeling, an impetus. Something so unfathomable and powerful that is able to face any obstacle, confront any enemy.

When Loki spoke again, his voice was firm and his eyes brightened with conviction.

"The path we have chosen is dangerous. On this day, you may be presented with dilemmas that seem insurmountable, choices you never wanted to face or fears that at the moment seem impossible to overcome. But we are not allowed to surrender, we have an obligation to face the difficulties. It is necessary, because we have something that is worth fighting for, beyond fear or uncertainty.

I have now, something worth fighting for..." He said in a whisper.

"We are here to fight for our future, for our friends, and loved ones, we have the right and duty to fight. Our goal is neither victory nor power, but peace and freedom. We will do it together, whatever happens, we will fight for our home... "

When Loki finished his speech, the change in the environment was immediate. The ovation was not rowdy, like the battle cries of the soldiers in Asgard, but it was infinitely truer.

The people smiled at him; and their bright, hopeful eyes looked at him so openly and gratefully that Loki felt shaken, as if a cold breeze had met his skin.

Those feelings that the villagers tried to share with him, Loki perceived them in such an intense way, that it reverberated to the deepest part of his being, penetrating his skin and senses. Making him feel a strange and comforting warmth that began to bloom in his chest and then engulf him completely.

Moved, without yet erasing that gentle smile on their faces, the villagers took each other's hands. In their minds, a certainty, a promise.

"Even if death finds us, even if we face defeat, we are not alone. No matter what fate brings us, we will face it together "

Overhead, the dawn slowly poured over the mountains and those first rays of the rising aurora caressed their faces with a comforting warmth.

A shadow moved in the distance and a group of silhouettes seemed to approach.

When the villagers turned again to face the enemies, this time it was with a brave stance "Let them come! we are ready!" Suddenly, someone said from the crowd.

Vehement exclamations of support, echoed among the people; and fervent war cries resounded all over the esplanade.

After a small moment, the enemies appeared on the horizon. They were here, the battle had begun.

 

 

Chapter Text

(1) Seidr: A form of magic practiced by magicians and sorcerers in Asgard. It's characterized by extracting its power from the great Yggdrasil tree.

(2) Yggdrasil: It is a perennial ash tree or also known as the great tree of life, whose roots and branches join the different worlds.

  


 

In a matter of seconds, the invaders raised their swords, and rushed forward, roaring at the villagers.

They ran too, taking the offensive. The blades of their weapons glowed dangerously and the sun, hardened their grim features.

Both groups came together in the middle, in an intense explosion of sounds and colors.

Everywhere there was confusion and struggling bodies. The swords clashed with each other, in rumbling metallic sounds.

The villagers fought with ferocity, dodging sword thrust and brandishing their weapons bravely. An unprecedented power radiated from them, emerging even more powerful when they saw their home being invaded.

In the midst of the revolt, three villagers took Loki to the back, to the farthest place from the battle. Positioning themselves in front of him, they acted as a shield, protecting him from any attack.

Seeing this, Loki stifled a grunt. These men were willing to give their lives for him and Loki couldn't do anything to stop them. If only he could fight, help in the combat... but no, he was trapped in a wheelchair, waiting helplessly for the outcome of the battle.

His mouth tightened in frustration and his insides twisted with helplessness.

Pepper, along with other villagers, took refuge behind a barricade, raised with old farm-carts upturned. From there, they riddled the soldiers with hunting arrows and spears.

Several other barricades had been erected around the main square. Its objective was to corner the enemies and attack them from different flanks.

Peter also stayed in the back, intercepting any attack aimed at the most unprotected villagers. He fought with two short swords, repelling blows and using his agility to surprise those soldiers who managed to approach the group of civilians.

The chaos escalated. The hubbub of voices was heard even beyond the hills and the fervor of the fight was leaving fallen bodies everywhere.

Suddenly, some soldiers lit several torches that came dangerously close to the wooden barns and the houses with thatched roofs. His goal was to set fire to everything in his path, burn everything they found.

Seeing this, the inhabitant's hearts skipped "Fire!" They thought frenetically.

The villagers, thanks to their efforts, had been able to collect enough rainwater to supply the canals and ponds that bordered the village, but they could not boast of having water to spare, it was still a scarce commodity. If the flames managed to spread, they didn't have enough resources to contain the fire. If the invaders fulfill his aim, everything would be lost. Everything for which they had fought, would be transformed into nothing but ashes.

Sensing the imminent danger, a group of brave men barreled at full speed into the soldiers, knocking them down with their bodies. They fell backward, hitting the ground in a loud crash, raising a great cloud of dust.

The torches fell from their hands, skidding across the floor, consuming themselves with the friction. However, one of them reached their initial target. One of the houses was touched by the fire, causing it to spread at a dizzying speed due to the flammable material.

Acting swiftly, a group of villagers race to put out the blaze.

They tried to help but soon, despite their efforts, everything turned into chaos. Each individual gave themselves to the task to suffocate the flames with any means at their disposal, however, there was no teamwork, only scattered groups that hindered and interfere with the work of their peers.

Pepper then, came running up. She quickly ordered the distribution of tasks and organized the people so that they could extract, in the most efficient way, the water from the ponds. It was a battle against time and Pepper took advantage of every second.

Several people lined up to pass the buckets of water while a group volunteered to stay near the flames and face the fire with the water provided.

The intense heat made sweat trickle over their eyes and their lungs scorch from the smoke. But it didn't matter. They continued to struggle against the burning scenery, even when it seemed their bodies were going to be completely swallowed by the powerful flames.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the fire finally gave way. They had managed to contain the blaze and to prevent it from spreading through the rest of the village.

A feeling of sorrow spread among the villagers, at seeing that burned debris. It was a reminder of what could have been, of what could have happened had they not been successful.

If the soldiers had achieved their goal, remains like these, were all that would be left of the village. It could have been the fate of their crops, their houses, even, they could have been the charred bodies of their children, husbands or wives.

The villagers looked at the soldiers, and an unprecedented rage came from their hearts. Burning them from within. As strong as the flames they had just faced.

They then, launched themselves, roaring like beasts, against the enemies.

The force was such that some soldiers retreated, howling in pain and screaming for help.

"Attack you cowards! They are only peasants!" A general shouted angrily.

The enemies regrouped, but the villagers were ready. Acting with haste, they did not give them time to attack. They rushed upon them like an avalanche, using their weapons precisely and a resolution that radiated through each of their pores.

The soldiers, being overwhelmed by such ferocity, began to retreat. The village was finally gaining ground.

Seeing all this, Loki felt it: that tiny little flutter, that spark of hope that made its way through his chest, like a warm and comforting light.

Just a little more and they would get the victory. The enemy had underestimated them. They did not count on the implacable strength of the inhabitants of the village.

But suddenly, a small tumult of voices was felt among the invaders.

A man appeared on the horizon, walking calmly, edging closer to the battlefield.

Loki didn't know him, but still, as he laid eyes on him, something curled in his gut, making him feel nauseous and dizzy.

There was something very wrong with that image as if a strange energy was floating in the air around him, forming a dangerous and disturbing aura that made Loki wake up, an intense and macabre foreboding.

"It's Red Skull! We are saved!" The soldiers shouted.

When the man approached, a loud and bone-chilling voice rang through the heavy air.

"Villagers! I see you armored and ready to fight, but I want you to know, that you have sealed your doom. Today you have only readied yourself to die"

He made his way easily, knocking down anyone who got in his way. Advancing decisively, going in a straight line to where the civilians were.

But someone blocked his way. It was Peter, who had stood firm in front of this new enemy.

“Well, sir, I'm gonna stop you right there. I can't let you pass. I'm sure you understand" He said, raising his chin and looking Schmidt directly in the eye. His gaze was defiant, mixed also, with a bit of fear. But above all else, an intense determination was reflected from his soul.

Without saying anything else, wielding his two short swords, Peter charged.

Loki tried to warn him, tried to tell him to desist from this confrontation, but everything happened very fast.

Red Skull stopped the attack, using his sword as a shield, resulting in both weapons colliding in a metallic rumble that reverberated through the air.

They separated and Peter rushed to attack again, but Schmidt didn't give him an opening. Calmly, he stopped each of his attacks, dodging the edge of his swords as if they were both involved in a strange and coordinated dance.

The confrontation continued for several minutes. Peter struggled as best he could, grunting and shouting for the effort as he wielded the blades from side to side and tried to deflect his enemy's thrusts. But it was clear who had the most experience in combat. His body began to resent the constant loss of energy and his movements became increasingly slow and erratic.

"It's enough" Said Red Skull, with a smile "It's been good training, but I think it's time to end it"

Lunging forward with blinding speed, he disarmed Peter. And then, using only his bare hands, grabbed him by the neck, lifting his whole body with his grip.

Peter struggled, trying to separate those hands from his neck and panting from the effort of trying to get air into his lungs.

Schmidt squeezed harder and harder, determined to extract every last breath of that body in his hands. Taking his time, he stared at Peter's face, as if spellbound, watching as life slowly slipped away from those eyes that, just a moment ago, radiated so much vigor.

"Alright Stop!" Loki shouted.

Red Skull heard him and stopped short.

"Well, well. Is not that our mighty God?" He said in a tone, full of sarcasm.

Changing his attention focus, he placed Peter's body back to the ground, making his heels touched the floor. Schmidt loosened his grip, but his hand remained close to the boy's neck, not releasing it completely, restricting his movements.

Peter could breathe again, but he was weak and disoriented. Red Skull's grip was the only thing that kept him standing.

"Leave the villagers in peace, it's me who you want. I will go with you. There's no need to continue this madness" Loki said, his voice hard.

Schmidt chuckled.

"What makes you think you can negotiate with me? I'm not going to deny that I'm interested in you, but no, that it's not the only reason I'm here. Actually, I enjoy the roar of battle, the shedding of blood, the conquest and absolute submission of my enemy.

I'm going to take you, of course, but first I'm going to have my battle. I am a conqueror; I will not stop until I dominate each and every one of the tribes. And when I do it, everyone will recognize my power, I will be like a God. No... even more...”

"You? A God?" Snorted Loki "I've never seen a more pathetic human"

The immutable face of Red Skull snapped for a moment, turning a grimace.

"I think…" He said slowly "I must give you a lesson in superiority, after all"

"That's it..." Loki thought, "Forget the boy, focus on me"

For a moment, it seemed as if Schmidt was going to release Peter and go to him, but unexpectedly, he stopped his motion. Looking at Loki fixedly, he scrutinized him with piercing eyes.

"Mmm... It may seem strange, but I think I recognize something in you. Yes... I'm not mistaken. There is something in your eyes, something that speaks of experience, of having seen incredible things, horrors that few have come to witness. Your eyes are those of a warrior, a murderer...

You know? I had thought about offering you an opportunity of redemption, showing you where is your place, teach you a little humility. But when I saw you, I realized that it is useless. You are not like any other. The methods that I normally use, wouldn't work on you. You are used to pain. The physical suffering I intended to cause you, would have little if any effect on you.

But I think I have a solution for this little dilemma... Torture for you doesn't mean anything. But... what do you say about someone else's pain? Someone, who you clearly cares enough about to try to save his life?” He said pointing emphatically to the figure of Peter, which was still imprisoned in his hands.

"Tell me... Would you mind terribly If I remove a limb? Or two?"

Loki's body tensed and fear fell slowly down his spine.

"You wouldn't dare..." He said, trying to make his voice sound steady, but failing miserably.

"Oh? Do you really want to test my word?"

Red Skull brought his sword close to Peter's arm.

Frantically, Loki searched his mind, some way to help him, but he didn't find anything.

Negotiating was useless and his paralyzed body felt more than ever, like a cruel prison "Why? Why did he have to be so weak?"

Peter tried to get away, but it was useless, Schmidt held him with an iron grip.

After a moment, he stopped struggling. Standing very still, he accepted his destiny.

Red Skull, aligned the edge of his sword at the juncture of his wrist.

"NO! STOP!" Loki shouted, not caring anymore, the hint of desperation that appeared in his voice.

But the man, just smiled at him, without even wavering an inch the grip of his sword.

His arm gained momentum...

Suddenly, a strange sound was heard, like the whistle of an object through the air.

Schmidt only had a few seconds to throw himself to the side and dodge the arrow that was aimed directly at his heart.

With that movement, he released Peter, who fell to the ground.

He was sore and weak, but undoubtedly safe.

The light of the sun blinded his eyes for a moment, but Loki could see shadows at the distance, just where the arrow had been thrown. When his gaze cleared, his heart pounded violently against his chest. Tony and his troop, appeared over the horizon.

Loki closed his eyes, took a long breath and then released the air slowly, feeling a great relief go through his senses. They were safe, reinforcements had arrived.

He saw Tony, brave and bright, galloping on his horse. All the hero that he really was. Beside him was a man who was not part of the troop, an archer. He was the one who had fired the arrow that saved Peter.

Who was he? An ally, no doubt. A silent thought of gratitude, crossed at that moment, through his mind.

Loki's musings were interrupted, suddenly, by a loud growl.

Red Skull was watching Tony's Troop, with such a sour face that seemed as if he have swallowed a whole liter of decomposed milk.

"Surrender," Loki told him "You and your people, no longer have any chance of victory"

Schmidt contracted his face in frustration, but suddenly, something changed; a mischievous crooked smile settled on his lips.

"I think you've earned the honor. I'm going to show you something truly special"

Red Skull rummaged in a bag that was tied to his belt. Inside, he pulled out a wooden chest, adorned with the figure of an ominous tree.

When he opened it, a shining light was projected from within, tinting his face in bluish tones.

There, resting in the confines of the chest, the imposing form of a crystalline cube could be glimpsed.

Its bright form emitted electric flashes and within its translucent walls, you could see something swirling in its interior, A kind of energy that seemed to come from its very core.

When Loki recognized it, the air seemed to get stuck in his lungs.

"The Tesseract? What is it doing here on earth? How was it possible for this human to find it?"

"I only use it with especially fierce enemies. Only a touch will disintegrate your bodies completely. Behold! Here is the cube of the Gods, be witnesses of real power, of my power"

But there was something wrong. The light radiating from the Tesseract behaved strangely. She flickered inconsistently as if she were going through different energy changes. And suddenly, with a jolt, the walls of the cube seemed to widen.

Loki knew immediately what was going to happen.

"Stupid Mortal! You have no idea how to use the Tesseract. It is responding badly to you. Don't you realize? It's going to explode! You are going to kill us all!"

"Do you think you can trick me so easily? I am not an ordinary man. I will not give this power away. There's nothing you can do to stop me"

The cube began to shine with increasing intensity, emitting a disturbing sound, like a shriek.

Loki was running out of ideas. If he didn't do something soon, everyone would die.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Tony's troop running towards them, with their weapons raised, coming closer and closer.

Loki felt real fear when he realized that, if they approached, they would also be trapped inside the explosion.

He tried to scream, to warn them, but his voice was caught within the growing uproar.

Loki shuddered with fear and rage, until his whole body was consumed with feverish chills that left his cheeks burning and his breath short.

It was a matter of time, at any moment, the Tesseract would explode and take with it, any hint of life that found in its way.

Loki felt as if the world had stopped. It was as if all the sounds had gone out, and he could only feel the sound of his heart pounding in his chest.

Everything was so fast, he didn't know how it happened.

He felt a familiar warmth surrounding his body, one he'd been terrified he'd never feel again. His magic! his Seidr!(1) It was within reach again, permeating his being with its power.

He perceived himself, renewed and strangely euphoric. It was as if he had been deathly ill and suddenly, woken up completely well again. Or as if a limb, he'd never known were missing, had been restored. Everything was now seen with new clarity. He could think, could see, could feel. 

With his magic restored, Loki felt hope bloom in his chest. He was no longer helpless, now he had the possibility to fight, to be able to defend himself and his new home. He had a weapon to wield against the invaders. The opportunity to make a difference in this battle.

He called his magic, and it came to him. He felt her dance inside him, float and go over his body in a gentle flutter. But... something wasn't right. When he touched his Seidr, Loki knew it.

Although part of his magic had returned, it was still damaged. His Seidr had been replenished, but only a small part, one that was infinitely weaker than it had been before. His power was there, but it was just a spark. Something unstable that could be put out at the slightest provocation, vanish, if it were brought to the edge of its limit.

Worry soon became the predominant emotion. Would his magic be enough to stop the threat? Could his crippled Seidr contain the ancient power of the Tesseract? Loki did not know... but what he did know, was that there was no time to doubt.

Failure was not an option. His magic was going to be enough, it had to be enough.

Loki then released a great bolt of energy. It was a green light that crashed into Schmidt, ejecting him several meters backward.

His body crashed into one of the barricades, breaking the wood, to then collapse to the ground with a thud.

The Tesseract fell from his hands, crashing to the ground. Where it kept shining dangerously.

Ignoring Red Skull, realizing that he must do something soon, Loki's magic concentrated.

His Seidr, went towards the cube, trying to wreathed that pulsating energy, struggling to contain in some way its power.

But the Tesseract, rejected Loki's Seidr again and again, dispersing his energy by barely making contact.

Both magics began then, a silent battle, striking each other like lightning, forming a confusion of colors and blinding flashes.

Heavy drops of sweat ran slowly down Loki's temple and suddenly, the flow of his power began to waver. His magic was failing. His reserves were running out by leaps and bounds.

But he could not surrender now, not when the resolution of this battle could mean the difference between the life and death of all present. Just a little more, he had to strive a little harder...

Loki gritted his teeth, reached into his core, and pulled, extracting, squeezing every last drop of magic. The effort made his body tremble and his vision narrowed.

This time, the magic of his body was expelled in a powerful energetic wave, reaching the cube with a blow, achieving that his power merged with that of the Tesseract.

If someone had asked him, he could not have described what he felt at that moment. It was as if the cube was communicating with him, singing, showing him a whole new reality. For a moment, Loki was no longer himself, he was another being, one who was completely united with its power. The Tesseract had accepted him and his magic. And suddenly, Loki knew exactly what he had to do.

The green light of his Seidr shone brighter, separating from the cube, surrounding it, and then, with a twist, the Tesseract disappeared. His magic had vanished it as if it had never been there.

Loki only felt it. He sensed the energy of the cube being contained within one of his pocket dimension. It was a great explosion. So powerful, that he could swear, to have felt a slight vibration within the channels of his magic that connected with the branches of the great tree of Yggdrasil(2).

The danger had passed. He made it. He had managed to contain and isolate the power of the Tesseract.

After that, Loki called his Seidr again, but only emptiness resonated. His magic was again out of reach, depleted again.

Well... it didn't matter anymore. Everyone was alive, and honestly, that was more than he had any right to expect. His Seidr was a fair price for all the lives he had been able to save today. He regretted his loss, of course he did, but Loki also knew that had things been different, he could have lost infinitely more...

As if it were a distant echo, Loki heard the sound of something metallic and heavy footsteps approaching quickly and threateningly.

Fixing his eyesight, Loki saw the figure of Schmidt running towards him. His face disfigured with rage looked at him with unfocused eyes and his sword drawn, shone as if reflecting a thousand suns.

The villagers who were defending Loki, with a shout, rushed towards Red Skull, but they stood no chance. He pushed them with his sword, throwing them through the air, knocking them out of his way. 

Schmidt arrived where Loki was and in a matter of seconds, he was already leaning over his body, with his weapon aligned, ready to end him.

He raised his sword and in a broad movement, the blade began to cut through the air, pointing directly at his head.

With his magic exhausted, Loki understood that he had no way to defend himself.

Those seconds before the sword connected, passed slower than they should.

Some people, when confronted with the certainty of death, say to experience different revelations; some, relate how they saw their life pass before their eyes, others say, be enlightened with the truths of the universe or even, possible angelic encounters and celestial choirs.

But Loki, at that moment, didn't have any of those epiphanies. Instead, only an immense tranquility circulated through his mind. He had no unknowns to solve, not even anger, only a quiet acceptance that numbed his senses.

"Ah! So this is the end..." He thought "I only regret one thing; not being able to see Tony's face once again..."

He closed his eyes and prepared for the blow, but... this never came.

When he opened his eyes, he saw Tony standing behind Red Skull. His sword, pierced from end to end in his chest.

For a moment, Schmidt stood there, perplexed. He seemed not to feel the wound and looked at the tip of the sword that came out of his chest as if nothing were happening, almost with curiosity. He stood there, dazed, but then, a light of understanding reached his eyes. He stifled a moan, and with a last sigh, fell to the ground, from where he didn't move anymore.

To the enemies, that vision was enough. Yielding to panic, they ran away in terror, only to be cornered by Tony's troop. Finding themselves with no way out, they released their weapons, falling to their knees, fixing their frightened eyes on the imposing figure of Loki. 

Stripped of their weapons, they were reduced with ropes and taken into custody.

It was over. They had won the war.

The people had glassy eyes of shock, pain, and exhaustion, but a look of accomplishment illuminated their features.

"You came back," Loki said to Tony, smiling.

"As you see, I kept my promise," He replied.

Suddenly, Loki felt as if the world around him began to spin.

His breathing became heavy and he felt the adrenaline dying down in his system, as the agitation of the fight faded.

Apparently, the use of his magic had taken more effort than he had anticipated. He had pushed himself to the brink and had overextended himself badly.

The weight of exhaustion was felt by his body and his head throbbed. With one last look at Tony's troubled eyes, the earth vanished, and he sank into oblivion.