“What the hell?”
Tony blinked again but a bright and warm scenery before him stood still so clearly. He looked down at himself, checking out his soft hoodie over his t-shirt and favorite pants. He saw many things as he walked, golden palace with weird design, familiar buildings like they were from New York City yet something told him it was not the case. He saw people, living, arguing, celebrating, fighting, hugging, playing.
“I thought mother was joking.”
That voice made Tony paused like it had frozen his muscles. He slowly turned.
Black hair, green clothing, color of green and gold.
Loki was leaning against, one second it was an ivory wall, another it was a tree, seconds later it was a lamp pole on NYC street. At first, Tony thought this was Loki who might have somehow survived everything after getting away with the Tesseract.
The clam gleam in those eyes told Tony no just like how this place told him he was not on earth.
“You died, Point Break told me.”
“So did you.” Loki crossed arms, blowing a black lock of hair off his own grumpy face.
“So this is afterlife, huh? How come you’re the first to greet me?”
“I don’t care about mortal concept of afterlife, Stark, but maybe somewhere in the universe, you’re being greeted by your loving mother and the daddy issues generator, but not here. The only Starks here is you.”
“What -- wait -- No fucking way.”
“No stories ever truly end, but forms changed. When you die, there are many others you continue in other worlds. The you whose form has changed must start new beginning in the place that suits the form. You may say that you’re now a soul, so you have to be in the world for souls.”
“Then why am I the only Starks here? Where’s my mother and father?”
Loki shrugged. “There are various worlds for soul forms just like there are for souls with physical forms. There might be a soul of you who died defeating Thanos reuniting with your family and waiting for your friends to join you fifty or sixty years later after your arrival. This world, we let mortals call it Valhalla, the world for warrior souls.”
“Seriously? And you’re surprised you see me here when I should be the one who is surprised? The last thing you did was copying my line, yes, your big brother told me that too, sweetheart, knew I left impression on you. Then you tried to kill Thanos with small knife!”
“Peasant, at least I aimed for his head!”
A beautiful woman sighed. Tony had no idea how long had she been here. She was ethereal, her eyes decorated with wisdom and serenity even the atmosphere in this place could not give to him nor the trickster. The way she said Loki’s name, Tony believed he was looking at the both gods’ mother.
“Forgive him, he’s been lonely since no warrior souls here can beat him in verbal fights, and it’ll be far too long for his brother to come here.”
“I’m not lonely!” Loki argued weakly. He looked even more like a child than back when he led Chitauri to earth. The two alien gods always looked more like children than adults, Tony figured it was because their society prided itself in being content more than anything, to stay childish was one of the evidences of their perfection.
But Loki did not have that haunted aura anymore, only a beauty grace that showed even through some wrinkles on the clothes on his tall frame. Tony had been a real billionaire who buried his head in big charity as well as over-consumption before he learnt some life lessons, Loki was a true royalty it annoyed Tony enough when the thousand years old brat smirked from a dusty floor, battered, right now he wanted to find a mud and drag the guy down just for fun.
“So what is this place? Am I gonna have to rest peacefully for eternity --”
Loki smacked Tony forehead.
Loki fucking smacked his forehead.
“You have lovely hooves, reindeer, but --”
“Seriously, Stark, if there’s eternal boredom, gods would find a way to be gone for good long before your great grandfather even learnt how to spill bullshit.”
“Loki.” The mother, Tony remembered Thor said her name was Frigga, chided her youngest son before turning to Tony. “What he means is, oh.” She stopped mid-sentence, tips of her fingers touched those bright lips in delicate manner as a light shone behind, for a moment Tony wondered if it was Carol.
Then someone dashed, or should he described as being pulled so fast and hard since they obviously had no control over the speed nor direction, toward Loki that they knocked each other to the ground.
That someone also had black hair, green-gold clothes.
“What the fuck?”
And a glowing blue cube, the Tesseract.
“We were waiting for him.” Frigga unhelpfully explained, the corner of her mouth obviously lifted up as the new arrival got up on his feet.
“Kill me now.” Tony murmured.
“You’re already dead.” The Loki from welcome party snarled.
The silver muzzle Thor had put on his little brother was now around his neck like a persistent necklace, cuts and bruises were quite healed. Comparing to another Loki, the new -- old -- the after New York City Battle one dressed a lot more heavier. Confused gaze laid on his doppelgänger, so, of course, knives out.
“Who are you?”
“I’m you.” Loki seemed like he was trying with all his might not to insult himself. “You know I’m telling the truth.”
“No, no, no, that’s not how it works. You have to tell him embarrassing secrets only real Loki knows.” Tony interrupted.
“You want to stab that mortal in the face but he’s also such an entertainment to watch.”
The after-NYCB Loki went silent for a long moment before finally nodded.
“Is there anything about you that’s not homicidal?”
“Where am I?”
“Valhalla.” Frigga spoke warmly.
“Then why am I here? Why are you here, mother?” Tony could see that sharp face turned paler.
“I’m here because of my past, present, and future, my dear boy.” Frigga walked to him, cradling her boy’s face between palms. “But you’re brought here because the Tesseract and other complications.”
“You’ were not supposed to be able to escape but thank to Stark and his green giant.” Loki rolled eyes while tilted his head at Tony’s direction.
“The suitcase, it was you.” The other Loki mumbled.
Tony bowed. “At your service but actually not for you, villainous prince.”
“We sorcerers know time has infinite power. Numerous versions of each soul shall never meet each other because they are too different, except for you, you and I, we’re impossibly close, you’re me whose timeline is intervened.”
“That’s why I was pulled while traveling by the Tesseract. You’re actually me, and you’re dead?”
“He does look offended.” Tony whispered to Frigga. She chuckled.
It was a weird picture to see, two Loki arguing. Maybe the guy was not as narcissistic as the Avengers had expected.
“He always the best at surviving.” Frigga moved closer to Tony, whispering back, her eyes focused on two sons. “Lies, tricks, knowledge, stealth, everything he possess to get back alive.”
“WHY IN THE NINE REALMS WOULD YOU DO THAT???”
Tony snapped the attention back to two trickster, the after-NYCB Loki was furious, the other looked plain tired.
“He’s the Titan! He’s the unbeatable, inevitable. I’ve done everything to survive his hands!”
“Yes, I had been there --”
“But you decided to die for nothing. You decided to choose weak path to keep some worthless dignity that in the end of the day, no one cares!”
Tuned out Loki could out dramatic yelled himself, Tony memorized.
“In the end of the day, the meaning of being God of Lies you hold --”
Then the Loki threw the Tesseract at other him, right into the forehead.
Tony, who had created arc reactor in a cave, who had witnessed massive destruction caused by aliens, who had fought off fire human and homicidal robots, who had bonded with half-robotic woman while they were drifting in a space only to be saved by the most powerful torch human, Carol. Tony who had snapped his fingers to defeat Thanos and befriended talking racoon, still had hard time processing what he was seeing.
“I did all that to be more.” Loki looked at Frigga. “You haven’t felt the true rage and everything that followed after that, I have. I am aware that we are totally different and I don’t care if you are going to have other path. But, if I am here, like this, you can’t leave. You have no your own independent timeline from mine. The Tesseract brought you here because our souls pull us together.”
“Then I’ll consume you.”
The after-NYCB Loki charged at the Loki. Knives met knives, the Loki swang his leg, attacking the opponent right in the rib while his palm shove the other’s chin up hard. The angry sorcerer caught Loki’s wrist, twisting it and flipped him over his shoulder, crashing him to the floor but the Loki pulled the other down and kicked his stomach. Their movements were fast, determined, and willful.
“I do hate to humiliate myself but you did mention about our worthless dignity.” The Loki gritted teeth before decking the other with elbow, he took the knife from raging Loki by the blade. Frigga grasped loudly as those long fingers bled but still held the blade tight
“Wait, he’s already dead, he can’t die again, right?”
“When you cannot die, pain stays longer.” Frigga stepped forward. “Loki, please, calm down.”
“Why are you here?” The after-NYCB Loki asked from the floor, hand clutching the side of his head. “Why didn’t Thor or Odin protect you? Or are you here because of me?”
“It doesn’t matter, my dear.”
“Then what does matter?”
“The fact that I will not let you consume me.” Loki who stood tall pointed the knives down. “If you consume me, I do not know what path you’ll choose, when we die, I might not be able to be here again. I refuse that.”
Tony moved the moment he recognized how people were going to end someone with knife. He reached, arm extended as far as he could.
A beam fired from his -- armored hand -- disarming Loki’s knife away. “Wow, I’m still Iron Man.”
“You’re annoying, meddling, nosy --” Loki who was now as angry as the one on the floor started.
“Bitch, I’m hero, deal with it!” Tony countered. “And I have to ask again, do you have anything that is not homicidal? Even to deal with yourself!? For fuck’s sake, reindeer, you defenestrated me and I believe in you more than you do!”
Loki looked just as offended as when the after-NYCB Loki learnt about his alternate self’s death.
“Thor was devastated because of your death. He looked for you everywhere, hoping someone would be you in disguise. It was the last thing he held on. When he stopped looking for you, he cared for nothing, not the people, not the world. I know that little shit on the floor doesn’t care, not yet, but if you’re ready to kill to be with your mom, I know you gotta care about Thor’s happiness as well.”
“You fucking do.”
“I don’t, Stark.”
“You do. You god damn do. For a God of Lies, you suck at lying.”
“Don’t make me throw the Tesseract at you as well. I’m good with throwing things.”
“Yeah, like tantrum?”
“That’s it, mother, I have to kill him.” Loki almost moved.
Frigga stopped him with only her hand on his shoulder. “Loki, please.”
Her plea was everything, Tony could see.
Eventually, Loki caved in. Tony held up his triumph fist high.
“I can go with you.” He spoke to the other Loki. “With suitable medium, I can leave this place and you won’t be pulled back here since we’ll be together.”
Everyone turned to the Tesseract. The Loki went to pick it up.
“I do not know what you’ll become, but I can observe.”
Slowly, Loki kneeled down, handing the blue cube to other Loki. Tony guessed observing this version pained Loki more than someone else capable of comprehend. This was him after the defeat, waiting for the confrontation of punishment but somehow fate, or comedic bunch of heroes unintentionally gave him chance to escape. This was Loki Tony had idea what to make of. Would he become the brother Thor mourned? Would he become another threat to the galaxy since Thanoa in his timeline was gone?
That moment, Tony realized.
Death was not the final destination. He stood in the place of souls, not knowing a lot of things even afterlife could not provide answers.
There was no peace, only more questions to wonder, journeys to look ahead, friends to wait.
He wanted to know.
So he grabbed the Loki’s wrist.
“Take me with you.”
Two pairs of green eyes looked at Tony like he grew a second head, which wouldn’t be the weirdest thing here.
“Stark, when we’re in the Tesseract, we can’t do much beside talking to my other self.” Loki frowned. “For Heimdall knows how long.”
“But you all will come back to me eventually.” Frigga hugged the Loki from behind, he let go of the Tesseract to touch her arm gently. “I’ll wait for your tales.”
Tony turned away for a moment to hide his smile. He coughed.
“Hate to remind you again and again, Loki. I’m Iron Man. I can’t just let something this powerful go with you, let alone two of you. Giving chance doesn’t mean blindly doing it.”
“So what? I’m going to have the most annoying chaperons with me?” The after-NYCB Loki’s anger came back.
“You just called yourself annoying.” Tony stated.
“And with that, I’m agreeing with Stark.”
“I’ll drop the Tesseract into the bottom of the ocean.”
“Then we’ll just come back here and you’ll be pulled to me.” Loki gloated without a beat. “Hope your journey is entertaining, myself. I heard Stark gets bored easy.”
Tony took the long, pale hand.
“Genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist, Iron Man, and God of Lies and Mischief, if we’re boring, we don’t deserve the titles at all.”
Loki touched the Tesseract, Tony felt the pull.
To the new journey.