Loki had unfortunately discovered that murder was supremely unsatisfying. Once you killed someone, they stayed dead.
Most of the time.
Unless they were him, then all bets were off. So far Loki had refrained from killing himself - or failed to kill himself, thought that had been a very long time ago - so it didn’t come up often. Last time he’d encountered himself, he’d tried to kill that other incarnation, but eventually he decided that it wasn’t worth the effort.
That was a lie.
It was a lie he told himself, but still a lie.
Loki hadn’t killed that other incarnation of himself because that self was… happy. So many versions of Loki were miserable. Or dead. One or the other. Sometimes both. Not that Loki knew that when he decided not to kill the Other, but since then, he’d learned that most Lokis were absolutely miserable.
The ones that weren’t… well they generally had lover who made life worth living. A few of them were still with Thor, strangely happy as brother co-consorts of New Asgard. Many had found love among the humans of their native universes. The sheer number of Loki’s who had somehow wormed their way into Anthony Stark’s bed was staggering.
Loki had a “been there, done that” attitude towards Stark, to borrow a human saying. He’d kept Stark as a pet for a couple of years, and that was enough of that. He just wasn’t as interesting while he was being controlled, and now this version of Stark hated Loki with a nearly unrivaled passion.
Best not to dwell.
Honestly, there was nobody in his native universe who could live up to Loki’s standards. Not even himself. Not that he’d done that. It was tempting, but… There was a good chance that the universe might destroy itself if he touched another Loki from his own universe. That level of destruction wasn’t worth the opportunity to have sex with a younger version of himself.
It was a close thing though.
Loki had never denied that he was narcissistic.
However, he was at a bit of a loose end now. As the bearer of five Infinity Stones Loki was the single most powerful being in the universe. He’d hunted Thanos down and killed him in a spectacular fashion, scattering the Titan’s remains across the stars. That had been great fun, but now… What did he do now? Ruling the universe was certainly an option, but… Would that really be any better than ruling Midgard? Alone?
It had been years since his consort’s death. A murder he had decided was better off not avenged. He’d spared the Other and the Walker, despite the blood on their hands, because they had what Loki did not.
Once, just once, his consort had spoken to him from beyond the grave. It might have been just a vision brought by the Aether, but the Reality Stone warped the universe. It might have been him, or it might not. Perhaps… just perhaps he could see him again?
Loki summoned the Aether from his body to form the Stone. A deep crimson glow, so small, yet so powerful. For a moment, he could make reality into whatever he wanted. To see his face again…
Loki looked up. He hadn't activated the Stone. Or had he?
The shade of his dead lover shrugged. “Of a sort.”
Loki bit his lip and reached out, though he didn’t try and touch. “What do you mean?”
The god laughed. “That sounds like something I would say.”
The shade gave Loki one of his own smiles. “I know.”
Despite the tears in his eyes, Loki laughed. “I miss you terribly, my dearest.”
“I know that too.” The ghost reached out and brushed his fingers over Loki’s cheekbone. “Fate has been very cruel to us.”
He sighed and nodded. Leaned into the caress, only barely felt on his skin. “I would join you, if I could.”
“You will, darling, but not just yet. We’re waiting for you, but your story isn’t over. You can find yourself again. Find me as well. You have the power to do anything.”
A tear slipped down Loki’s cheek. “Not anything.”
“No. I suppose not.” The shade of his dead king sighed. “You once sought me out in other worlds.”
“I did. But it wasn’t the same.”
“No. But it doesn’t need to be the same. There are others that are farther away. Other Toms that need you just as much as you need me.”
Loki looked into his king’s beautiful crystal blue eyes. “Others?”
He nodded. “Others.” The shade leaned in and placed a cool kiss on Loki’s cheek. “You have a power that few have ever borne. Use it.”
And he vanished.
Flitting between dimensions was easy with the power at Loki’s fingertips, even though he only had five of the six Stones. The Soul Stone held a power he didn’t entirely understand, and at this point didn’t particularly want, even if he could have gotten it. However, it was very much on his mind, and perhaps that’s why he ended up where he did.
He was certain this was Midgard, but the barren, rocky landscape with its carved stone stairs reminded him forcefully of Vormir.
The black-clad figure sitting on those stairs reminded him forcefully of himself.
He was dressed in Midgardian clothing, black jeans, black short sleeved shirt, heavy black boots. He was slim, far more slender than Loki, as though he’d never gotten quite enough to eat in his life. Long black hair spilled over his shoulders and face. The figure cradled something in his hands and his shoulders shook.
Loki approached, trepidation in his heart. His own voice, weeping, echoed across the empty stone plane.
When he was within a few yards, the slim incarnation looked up. Loki’s eyes went wide. He was so young; only a few centuries or so into his lifespan. An adult by tradition, though not fully grown. Tears poured down his cheeks, his eyes reddened, as though this young god had wept for hours. Loki looked to his hands. Cradled in them was an amber colored gem.
“How did you…” But Loki stopped speaking; he knew how to acquire the Soul Stone now.
“I didn’t know. I didn’t know.” The younger Loki’s voice was ragged. He bled anguish, hemorrhaged pain. “He just…” Another bout of weeping overcame him, the younger god bent at the waist, crying over the Stone. “He just… fell.”
Loki’s heart broke. He hadn't realized that he still had enough left of his heart to break, but break it did. He could sense the power of four Stones. Mind, Time, Space, and Soul were in the possession of this beautiful child. Seidr burned in his veins with a barely controlled fire. “Did he say anything before he fell?”
The young Loki hiccoughed. “He said… he said he loved me. That I was supposed to carry the Stones, not him. That this was the only way to…” He broke down into tears again. “He promised… he promised he’d never leave me.”
Loki knelt down in front of the younger version of himself, took the youth’s hands in his own and wrapped the youth’s slender fingers around the Stone. “He has never lied to you. Have faith.”
The young god blinked away his tears and looked, really looked at Loki. “Who are you?”
“From the future?”
“Listen to me. Even if your love is dead, he is with you still. He may only be a shade, but he still stands with you.” Loki wasn’t sure how he knew, but he was certain that he was right. “You must go on. You must defeat the Titan. It can be done.”
“I can’t, not alone. I was so alone before he came into my life, and he…” He took a deep, sobbing breath. “He made my life worth living. He was my sun.”
Loki wiped away one of the child’s tears with his thumb. “I understand. I do. But you can go on without him. If I can, so can you.”
The young god shook his head and wept. Loki’s heart ached for this bereft lad, trapped between childhood and adulthood with the burden of so much power on his slim shoulders, his support gone. Loki pulled the child into a tight embrace. It’s what his king would have done, when he still held his compassion; before the world robbed him off part of his soul.
The youth clung to Loki, sobbed on his shoulder. The Stones in Loki’s possession resonated with the Stones in the child’s, singing to one another. Between the two of them, they held all six Stones. The three Stones they both possessed harmonized in the back of Loki’s mind. They weren’t quite the same, just as he was not the same as this child. This parallel world was different enough that the Stones weren’t compatible with one another. Loki couldn’t take this Soul Stone to complete his set, nor could he give his own Power and Reality Stones to the young god to complete his.
“Listen to me. You can go on. Use your heartbreak, use your pain. It will make you stronger. Something precious was taken from you, but don’t let that stop you from living.”
The young Loki nodded. “He wouldn’t want me to give up.”
“No, he wouldn’t.”
The younger Loki pulled away and looked him full in the face. “How do you do it? How do you face life without him?”
He looked down, then back up at this younger incarnation. “I… I take life one day at a time.”
“And that’s enough?”
“It has to be.”
The young Loki nodded. “I can do this.”
The elder nodded. “You can.”
The younger god got to his feet, and Loki stood as well. They were the same height, though the younger version was narrower in the hips and shoulders; not quite filled out. He didn’t have the build of a warrior, not even to the extent that Loki had at that age. Perhaps this version of himself had been allowed to devote more of his studies to magic? He was incredibly powerful.
“Is… Does it get better?”
Loki swallowed hard. “Easier. It gets… easier.”
The younger incarnation nodded. “I’ll do what I have to do. If… if I can’t be with him, at least I can destroy the Titan. Keep our world safe.”
“If I can do it, so can you.”
The young Loki looked up, his pale eyes wide and full of tears. “You did it?”
“Alright then. So can I.”
Loki smiled, and the younger smiled back. “Good luck.”
“You as well.”
Loki drew on the Tesseract and teleported away. Out of that universe, to find another.