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when i sleep

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To be honest, Peter wasn’t sure why Tony let him hang around, since Peter was very obviously a walking hazard. It wasn’t just the fact that Peter had gotten into a fight and accidentally revealed his identity to the leader of an underground black market alien supertech ring and then helped kill a purple alien from another planet and temporarily died in the process, it was the little things, too. For someone smart enough to literally engineer his own web fluid and superhero suit, Peter could be very dumb.

It started out unnoticeably: he would drop a wrench onto his foot accidentally, or he would ignore the impulse to catch something thrown at him.

(“Why didn’t your Spidey senses tell you about that?” Tony asks once after Peter gets hit in the back of the head by a flying apple. Peter just shrugs, to which Tony comments something about Peter’s senses getting to choose what is and isn’t a threat. It just escalates from there when Tony gets dared to test out his theory, only to have Peter judo flip Tony out of fear because Tony entered a room too fast. It wasn’t Peter’s fault that his spidey senses only had one setting, and that the setting was “danger”).

Then it got bigger: Peter forgot what 3+2 was. He watched Natasha come down the hall towards him and then didn’t move out of the way, causing her to have to literally jump over him to avoid being hit. He kept webbing his backpack to various things in New York only to come back horrified each time it was stolen, as if he had some crazy high hopes for the morals of New Yorkers. Tony just laughed at him.

The Avengers had started playing bingo. Or, as Shuri called it, “Dumb Bitch Juice Bingo”. The rules were simple: each time the avengers caught Peter doing something stupid, that was a mark on the card. They would be able to collect whatever had been deemed worthy as a prize (which ranged from a piece of bubble gum to a brand new phone not yet on the market). It was mostly for the bragging rights. The cards reset whenever someone got a bingo, and the prize would change. Clint was one square away from bingo, and the prize this week was the ability to drive any of Tony’s cars for a week. Clint had been eyeing that red Ferrari ever since Tony had bought it.

So every time Peter comes over to the Avengers Compound, Clint follows him around, waiting for something bingo-worthy to happen. But everything is so mundane – dropping lab equipment, singing along to songs at full volume in the training room showers, bumping into inanimate objects and then apologizing profusely – hardly bingo-worthy. Even when Peter starts sleeping over at the compound (much to everyone’s delight, as bingo just got way more competitive), Peter doesn’t really come out of Tony’s lab that much, let alone interact with anything long enough for someone to win bingo points. And then a paper ends up on the kitchen counter.

It seems boring at first, nothing particularly fun or joke-worthy, just a permission slip for one Peter Parker to go on a field trip to… a field trip… oh, oh this is rich. This is good. Clint checks his bingo card. The space he needs to tick off stares back at him, blue letters egging him on. “Peter forgets a school-related event. Does not include turning in homework.” Clint scrawls May Parker’s signature on the bottom line (not that the school checks anyway) and mails it to Midtown Tech. A field trip. This is definitely getting Clint that bingo.

With every passing day, more Avengers move into the compound. Ever since Tony invited the Avengers to live at the compound for safety reasons, the number of people living under one roof has nearly tripled. Between the new superheroes and the medics needed to help said superheroes, the whole building was getting close to being crowded. Clint had moved in on day one with his wife and kids, followed by Bruce, Natasha, Steve, Pepper, and Tony (though Tony almost lives at the compound anyway, with the amount of work he does there). Then came almost everyone else, save for Black Panther and Shuri, who actually had a country to run. Carol and Thor joined their crew later, and then finally Peter.

They end up becoming one giant dysfunctional family, so it’s no surprise to anyone when Peter dashes out of his room and through the kitchen, complaining about missing the subway to school, mumbling to himself all of the downsides of shoddy public transportation. The Avengers are draped in various places around the kitchen and living room, many of them just milling about before starting the morning. Carol clips back a short “if you think New York’s is bad you should see LA’s” before throwing a piece of toast at Peter’s head. Peter catches it just as the elevator closes. Clint immediately stands up, grinning widely.

“And that, my friends, is a bingo.”

Tony’s head jerks up from its place looking down at the coffee pot. “You’re a liar, Barton.”

“Oh F.R.I.D.A.Y.,” Clint hollers. The AI springs to life above them with a whirr. “What is happening at Midtown Tech today?”

“A field trip, Mr. Barton.”

“And which one of us goes to that school?”

“Mr. Parker.”

“And who forgot about that?”

“Mr. Parker.”

“Thank you F.R.I.D.A.Y.” He takes a big bow, twirling his hands in the air. “So, that would be ‘trying to drink a chemical in the lab instead of his water’, ‘forgetting simple math while solving a college-level equation’, ‘calling Tony dad’, ‘telling someone he barely knows that he loves them accidentally’, and ‘forgetting a school-related event’.”

Tony grumbles to himself as he drops the keys to his Ferrari in Clint’s open palm. “Well played.”

------

There’s a space reserved in the bingo board, right in the center of the board. Instead of a free pass, Tony has put a challenge. Literally the hardest challenge. “Peter gets caught making out with someone.” With anyone else, this challenge would have been over as soon as it had been set. Most of the Avengers had been caught kissing someone; ever since everyone moved into the Avengers Compound, they have been rediscovering what personal space means.

So the space receives the most coveted prize of all: Tony Stark admits on live television that the winner is a better superhero than him. Naturally, everyone wants to win. The problem is Peter; the kid is so clueless, so innocent, that there is no way in hell he would make out with anyone, let alone get caught doing it.

“Mr. Parker has entered the building.” F.R.I.D.A.Y.’s voice rings out clearly into Tony’s personal lab, causing Tony to look up from his work. His hands are slick with oil being used to make repairs to Peter’s new web-shooters – an early Christmas present. “Mr. Parker requests access to the lab.”

“Peter!” Tony calls, huffing as he shoves the web-shooters into a nearby drawer. “Stop doing that! I gave you highest level clearance for a reason.”

A tuft of brown hair, wavy and unruly, peeps around the corner. “Sorry Tony. It just feels so weird to come barging in when you’re working.”

“I appreciate it, kid, but you’re always welcome.” Peter takes off his jacket, shaking off the snow onto the floor. Tony probably should mention how much of a slipping hazard that is, but he doesn’t.

“How was school today?” With anyone else, Tony would never do this. How could he keep up his facade of being nonchalant if he asks teenagers how their days are? But with Peter, everything feels natural.

Peter explodes into life, his flushed cheeks glowing under the flourescent lights of the lab. “It was good! I had a calc test today which I thought went well, and then I got to go to decathlon practice. And Ned and MJ were there and they kept whispering jokes to me and I wouldn’t pay attention to the questions accidentally, and then Abe kept pressing the bell to tell us to stop laughing, making Mr. Harrison really mad. And then Flash got put in because Ned had to leave early which sucked but we did really well on the practice competition.”

Tony smiles softly as Peter joins him at the lab bench. He pushes his hip out to bump into Peter, who bumps back. “I missed you,” Peter says on an exhale, the words curling in the air like smoke.

“Missed you too, kid. The lab is so quiet without you. F.R.I. doesn’t have your pep.”

“I heard that,” the A.I. responds, causing Peter to bark out a laugh.

“So,” Peter says, eyes shining in Tony’s direction. “What are we working on?”

Tony points to the web shooters. “Merry Christmas.”

Somewhere along the line, Peter transitions from fixing the release mechanism on his web shooters to just plain talking to Tony. It’s comforting, the way they’ve gotten close, because Peter can geek out about science with Tony in a way he can’t with anyone else. Even Ned gets sick of yet another Peter Parker lecture about quantum physics (Ned is more of a comp sci kid himself – Ned could hear about that for hours), but Tony, well Tony never gets tired of it. So here Peter is, rambling about the multiverse theory, with Tony listening, smiling proudly.

“So if there’s infinite universes, then there has to be at least one where –” Something is wrong. The air turns thin and the lights brighter as Peter’s senses dial up to eleven. The hair on the back of his neck stands up. He feels like he’s going to pass out, or that the entire building is about to collapse on top of him.

“Kid?” Tony tries, watching Peter’s eyes turn wide and panicked.

“Someone’s hurt, I think,” Peter manages to get out.

“F.R.I.D.A.Y., scan the building for anyone who may be injured,” Tony immediately says, launching into hero mode.

“No signs of injury within the building,” the A.I. reports, “but there is an unidentified life form in the backyard.” Tony and Peter look at each other before rushing to the elevator.

--

Loki rockets into consciousness suddenly, like a bright light turning on. He’s taking gasping breaths in, but each inhale burns on the way down, scalding hot and poisonous. Something blooms on his throat and he feels like he can’t inhale properly. He gives it a tentative touch and hisses at the contact. A bruise in the shape of a comically large hand, an imprint where grooves of the metal touched pale skins, has formed around Loki’s neck. Each finger has its own imprint, a dark blue-purple contrast to the skin underneath. He reaches out toward the bruise with his magic, but he doesn’t feel the familiar tug on his heart that comes with Sedir. Apparently, it doesn’t work here.

Wherever here is.

There is nothing for miles. Loki has landed in endless desert, the ground and the sky both shades of orange and red. The air is thick and green, swirling around him as Loki tries to shovel as much air down his throat as possible. This is, he realizes, some sort of afterlife, or rather a waiting ground for the real one.

He closes his eyes and sighs out softly, no longer as worried with taking gasping breaths, especially since the combined factors of the warm, stinging air and the painful bruise makes it hard to breathe in the first place.

Thanos is still out there, he realizes. Thanos is still parading around this universe trying to play deity, and here Loki is, useless and dead, stuck in some weird liminal space until whatever higher power actually exists decides what to do with him. He briefly wonders if Thor prayed for him the way he prayed for Odin, if he asked for Loki’s soul to go to Valhalla. He doubts it. They never got along, exactly, but Thor was still his brother.

Now Loki is alone.

He has never truly been alone before. He had his mother, and when he didn’t have her, he had Thor. Or Thanos. Or the Chitauri. Or the Grandmaster. Now he has no one. Self-destructive tendencies don’t really do well when there’s no one to keep them in check.

Maybe, Loki considers, this is his own personal Hel. He has done enough bad things to warrant one, he supposes. He did attack the most populous city in the U.S. He starts walking forward into the nothingness, stumbling around with his eyes closed. When he was alive (that’s such a weird sentence to him – when he was alive? He still feels alive), closing his eyes had helped him think. He hopes it will do the same now.

You really are the worst brother.

You will never be a god.

Loki’s eyes snap open. He has to get home.

--

There are two figures in the distance, which is weird because if this is in fact Loki’s personal Hel, that doesn’t make any sense. The green air is clearing now, turning a more sheer color so that Loki can look into the endless nothing over the mounds of orange sand. But at the same time the sky is getting dark, turning a cloudy grey that dulls everything around Loki. If this is nighttime, he won’t be able to see much longer.

He keeps walking towards the figures, hoping beyond hope that they can help him find a way out of here. “Hey!” He calls out, reaching for a dagger hidden in his cloak. It’s not there. “You there!” The figures don’t respond.

Upon closer look, one of them is on the floor, sprawled out with limbs stretched in awkward positions. The other is running towards the one on the floor, stumbling with every step.

“Loki!” He hears in the distance, the sound of Thor’s voice echoing against the barren landscape. It is unlike anything Loki has heard before from his brother. The voice is sad and longing, full of pain. Loki is running now.

The figure on the floor is him. The other is Thor.

He watches thor drape an arm over his chest, blood dripping out of his mouth and onto illusion-Loki’s clothes. Real-Loki scowls hard but ignores it. Thor is sobbing (like proper heaving and crying, fingers trembling wildly against Loki’s armor). They had never said “I love you” to each other the way other brothers do. Now Loki regrets it.

The image fades and Loki is alone again.

Loki doesn’t know what he’s looking for, just that he’ll know it when he finds it. His magic may not work here, but his intuition for magic does.

It is night here. Or at least what passes for night. The sky is grey now, but the sand is still glittering orange, and everything is visible. Which is good for Loki, who really doesn’t want to do anything but walk around right now (logically he knows he should sleep, but the unchecked self-destructive tendencies are making it very hard to listen to logic).

Loki takes a long breath in despite the protests of the bruise around his neck, which isn’t healing. He supposes he is healing the way he would without magic, now that he has none. Well, none except–

Except…

As if the landscape he is in has listened to what he wants, a lake appears on his right. Loki rushes over to it, kneeling down in the sand, his hair (greasy and matted from death) hanging into his face. His reflection stares back at him, cheeks crusted from tears that dried up hours ago, and Loki tries not to focus on the bruise that’s blinking angry colors back at him. Yellow has now mixed into the blue and purple to create some weird collage. Loki carefully traces the print of a giant thumb on the left side of his neck, wincing slightly.

He looks tired. Purple bags sit heavy under his eyes and there is a crease forming in his forehead and between brows. His eyes are dull and his lips are curled down in a frown, probably permanently. He watches himself in the lake, reaching inward towards his heart, where he knows the magic will be hiding. He feels the tug and holds it. He feels the magic begin to pry itself off, slowly, and it feels like someone is trying to rip an organ out of him. A scream gets caught in his throat and comes out a whimper.

His face morphs weirdly, stuck in time. He suddenly looks ageless, some mix of very young and very old. The magic finally detaches, bursting out of his chest. Loki makes a grab for it, getting enough control to open some sort of window back into the real world. In his haze he tries to think of a place to land safely, and the Avengers Compound comes shining into view before him. Loki jumps through.

--

The first thing Loki feels is the Sedir coursing through him. The second thing he feels is a weird sensation around his heart, as if someone has removed it from its casing and left it in the cold. He tries to cover it in magic again, but nothing sticks. Instead, he conjures a mirror.

His reflection is exactly what Loki fears it will be. Instead of the face he saw in the lake, a much younger man, practically still a boy, stares back at him. His hair is short and floppy, draping casually in layers and ending at the top of his neck. His eyes are young and bright, his cheeks slightly flushed red. Gone are the eyebags, the fine lines, the crusted cheeks. He looks…weak. The bruise is still there, its purple, blue, and yellow colors reminding him of what just happened.

It has been years since Loki had seen himself like this. Ever since he joined Thanos, when he realized the kind of respect people as young as he got on Earth (not that he was young – in fact, he was over 1,000 years old – but time moves differently on Earth than it does on Asgard), he began to cloak his age, to make himself look 30 instead of 17. He wants to be feared, and children are not scary.

But now here he is, back in his original body, the cloaking magic used up to bring him here.

He vanishes the mirror; it’s too hard to face what he looks like now.

Loki looks at his clothes and sighs. Despite being dirty and torn from fighting Thanos, dying, and then coming back to life, they’re also too big for his small frame. He’s shrunk a couple inches, he notices. He conjures some clothes for himself – a pair of ripped jeans, black boots, a long sleeve black turtleneck to cover the bruise, a green bomber jacket with a furry collar. He supposes he should add accessories too, just to be able to blend into his surroundings, so his nails turn black and his ears sport a pair of black studs. He looks passably normal now, he supposes, though still slightly off, like he doesn’t quite belong here.

He doesn’t quite belong anywhere.

He hasn’t even considered what to do now that he’s landed here. In the moments of pain, the Avengers Compound seemed like the best place to land (this choice may have been in some part influenced by the fact that Thor is at the Avengers Compound, not that Loki will admit it), but now Loki realizes that some of the people who hate him most in this world are right across the backyard.

Suddenly, Loki is overwhelmingly tired. Maybe death does that to you (Loki wouldn’t know). Maybe… maybe he’ll just take a nap right here on the lawn. Something in the back of his head – logic, maybe – is screaming that this is a bad idea, but it’s weak and drowned out. Maybe he’ll just… Loki doesn’t remember lying down, but he hits the ground all the same.

--

“Are you okay?” Peter tries, kneeling by the boy on the ground. He looks around Peter’s age, give or take a year. Peter touches his neck to find a pulse, and recoils in shock at the boy’s ice-cold temperature. “He’s so cold, Tony. Maybe hypothermia?”

“Maybe,” Tony replies. “But he’s got none of the other signs of it. Maybe he’s just like, dehydrated or something.”

Despite the situation, Peter can’t help but laugh at what a terrible doctor Tony is. “I think we’re a little past dehydration. We should probably bring him to Medbay.”

“Woah, kid. We have no idea who this is or what he’s doing here. For all we know he’s pretending to be sick until we bring him inside, where he’ll try to kill us and take over the compound. He’s not supposed to have gotten onto the property in the first place.”

“But he’s sick, and we can help him. We can’t just leave him here if there’s something we can do! I’ll keep watch on him to make sure he doesn’t kill us when he wakes up.”

Tony sighs. “I guess I’m not talking you out of this. Be careful, Pete. You promised no more dying.”

With Peter’s super strength, the kid is easy to pick up, but the hard part is not smashing him into any walls on the way to the infirmary. There were about five near misses.

During the day, the medbay one of Peter’s most visited spots because of how many stupid stunts Peter pulls (he’s even made friends with two of the nurses named Kyle and Dahlia, who have sworn to keep Spiderman’s identity a secret). But now, in the late hours of the night, the whole thing is empty. There aren’t even any patients in medbay at night, as they get moved to the sleeping quarters. Peter places a hand on the nearby scanner, careful not to drop the boy in his arms. The doors open and the medbay blinks to life, fluorescent lights flickering on. Peter glances around for an unused bed and finds one rather easily, placing the boy down into it.

Pillows, Peter thinks. He’ll need a blanket and pillows.

Peter grabs a pillow from a nearby table and gingerly lifts the boy’s head to place it underneath him. He also grabs a couple of blankets, trying to drape them over the boy’s limp body. But he can’t quite reach over the edge of the bed, so Peter leans over, his chest almost connecting with the boy’s.

“Get your hands off me.”

Peter tenses, feeling the point of a knife dig slightly into his skin. If he so much as breathes the wrong way, there will be a sudden absence of spider-themed superheroes. Peter removes his hands from the boy’s sides and holds them up in the air. “If you promise not to stab me, I’ll even move backwards,” Peter tries. The knife moves somewhat at Peter’s comment, and Peter is able to move at least some distance away.

“Who are you and where am I?” The boy demands, eyes boring into Peter. His eyes are green, but unnaturally so, and Peter can’t help but be reminded of the slime he watched as a kid get poured on celebrities at the Nickelodeon kids’ choice awards.

“Woah, hey, man. Don’t kill me. I’m Peter and you’re just in a medical ward. You passed out on the lawn, and I didn’t want to just leave you out there. You were so cold, and I –” Peter feels it again, the tug at his nerves, the hair standing up, and he moves right just as a knife whizzes by and embeds itself in the wall behind him. “Okay I would really like to not die right now, if possible. You have another knife?!” The hand that isn’t occupied holding a second dagger reaches for a third. “Where are you keeping all these knives?!”

This is exactly the job for Peter’s web shooters, which are conveniently sitting upstairs in Tony’s lab.

Those green eyes, all toxicity and menace, bore into Peter. He wants to look away, but doesn’t, because looking away will only show weakness. “Okay can you please put down the knives?” Peter practically begs.

“Daggers,” the boy answers back, but they disappear from his hands all the same.

“What?”

“They’re not knives. They’re daggers.”

The kid’s voice feels ancient, tinged with some sort of unplaceable accent (it’s close to British but not quite there). His voice doesn’t crack the way Peter’s does – it doesn’t really show any signs of aging at all. It’s the voice of someone who has seen unimaginable grief and come out the other end; Tony’s voice sounds the same way sometimes, when he thinks Peter isn’t listening.

“Aren’t they kind of the same thing?” Peter asks, pulling at the fingers of his left hand nervously.

“A knife typically has one cutting edge and a dagger has two. A dagger is also symmetrical vertically.” The boy is sitting up now, watching Peter’s nervous tendency with those eerie green eyes.

“But, like, throwing knives are a thing.”

“You could throw anything if you’re not a coward.”

“Touché,” Peter responds, smiling brightly. The other boy looks taken aback at this, and then blinks as if being reminded of something long forgotten.

He scowls widely. “Don’t tell me this is the medbay in…” He doesn’t finish the sentence, but he doesn’t have to. Peter looks down at his shoes. The boy says something in a language Peter doesn’t understand, but his tone makes it sound like some sort of curse.

“Are you okay?” Peter asks, eyes soft and wide again, full of the most genuine concern. “Do you feel hurt or anything? Broken bones? Cuts? How did you even get into the compound area? No one is supposed to be allowed here without clearance, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen you before. Oh my god, I didn’t even ask your name! I’m so sorry that’s so rude.” Peter’s babbling, spurred on by fear, pauses so that the boy can interject his name.

“I’m Luke, and I’m not exactly supposed to be here. The Avengers and I have a...complicated history.”

“Oh,” Peter says, and his hands drop to his sides. What could this kid have done to warrant attention from the Avengers? Let alone bad attention? Maybe he was a superhero?

“Do you have anywhere to stay, Luke?”

Luke’s eyes drop to the floor. “I don’t think so.”

“Well you’re welcome to stay with me until you recover! I won’t even tell the Avengers.”

“I’d appreciate that, Peter.”

--

Loki had really gotten himself in quite the mess this time. He trails Peter quietly, watching the hallways for any loose Avengers deciding to take a walk around the compound. His hands itch to summon daggers but he doesn’t, because he really should be re-adjusting to his magic in smaller bouts rather than just trying to summon items randomly. They reach the elevator with no hiccups, and Peter places a hand on the holograph scanner that pops up. “Peter Parker and guest,” he announces.

“Cleared,” a voice sounds, and Loki’s eyes snap up to the ceiling.

“That’s just F.R.I.D.A.Y.” Peter explains. “She’s Tony’s A.I. She kind of runs the whole place. Private room, please. Also don’t tell Tony about Luke.”

“Okay, Mr. Parker,” the voice sounds back. “Welcome, Mr. Luke.” Loki doesn’t reply.

Surprisingly, they make it to Peter’s room without getting caught, which seems to be more of a shock to Peter than Loki.

“Wow I really thought we’d have been caught by now. Like, usually there’s at least one Avenger just roaming the halls around here. I wonder where they all are.”

“Well it is two in the morning according to that clock,” Loki counters, quickly ending Peter’s ramblings with a point towards the clock hanging in the hallway.

Peter laughs loudly in response, and Loki finds the corners of his mouth turning up at the sound. It’s a contagious noise, all soft and airy. It makes Loki feel sort of weird; there’s something tugging at his stomach.

“Oh shit, I didn’t even notice. Wow you’re probably so tired. Let’s get you to bed. You can sleep on the bed and I’ll take the floor,” Peter remarks while opening the door to his bedroom. It’s small, but it has a desk littered with papers and a queen size bed in the corner.

“Nonsense,” Loki says, refusing to look at Peter. “The bed is big enough for both of us.”

Peter’s face turns bright red and he looks down. “Oh – okay. I mean – if you’re ever uncomfortable – just – just let me know.”

Loki creates a pair of pajamas for himself when Peter’s in the bathroom, but the shirt still is a turtleneck in order to cover the bruise. Loki realizes he can no longer perform illusions to change his physical form when he stands in front of the bathroom, trying in vain to turn the bruised skin back to its normal color. He’ll just have to let it heal regularly.

If Peter thinks the turtleneck is weird, he doesn’t say anything.

They lie on opposite sides of the bed, infinitely far apart but still not far enough. Loki wonders briefly why Peter has been so kind to him, if it was fear that drove him to want to help Loki. Loki does not understand this random kindness. Peter turns, facing Loki’s back, and Loki feels Peter’s eyes watch the space where his hair meets his neck. “Luke?” Peter asks, and Loki flips around to look him in the eyes. “Are you okay?”

Loki is silent for a moment. “I’m not sure.”

--

“It is 6:30, Mr. Parker,” F.R.I.D.A.Y.’s voice rings out. “Shit!” Peter jumps up in bed, slamming his head into something cold and hard. “Fuck!”

There’s another word in a voice that’s not Peters, in a language that’s not English. Peter blinks back the morning cloudiness from his eyes to see Luke rubbing his head on the other side of the bed.

“Oh god, sorry Luke! I forgot you were in the bed as well,” Peter says, already hopping out of bed and dashing for the bathroom. “I have to go to school. I’ll get F.R.I.D.A.Y. to bring some food to the room or something. Just – it’s probably best if you don’t leave the room. Make yourself at home. Feel free to do whatever you want in here. Okay bye!”

The door slams behind Peter, and Loki is alone.

“Mr. Parker instructed me to ask you what you would like to eat, Mr. Luke. My scanners indicate that you are not of this planet,” says F.R.I.D.A.Y. as Loki grudgingly gets out of bed.

“Fruit would be nice.”

Loki decisively ignores the A.I.’s last comment, summoning the clothes he wore yesterday back onto his body.

“The kitchen will deliver fruit to your door.”

There’s a knock at the door. That was fast, Loki thinks, and takes a step towards the door before an all-too familiar voice rings out.

“Peter?”

He sounds so much more tired now. So much older.

“Pete? Banner wants your opinion on his latest project. I don’t understand it, really, but I’ve been told you will.”

Loki feels like he can’t breathe, like all the air in the room has been sucked out towards the man on the other side of the door. He’s going to suffocate in here; Norns, he’s going to die in here, and he is stuck between so badly wanting to open the door and not bearing to. Loki can feel his heart speeding up violently.

“Peter?” Thor calls again. Loki holds his breath.

“Tony and Banner are worried about you, especially since the whole Thanos snap thing.”

Oh no, oh no, oh no. Loki tries to turn invisible but that doesn’t exactly work (apparently the whole new “not being able to change his appearance” rule includes not having an appearance at all, but doesn’t include summoning clothes at will), so he settles on second best. Teleportation.

He’s panicking hard, can feel the fear bubble in his chest, and he’s trying so desperately to think of an easy place to go, searching for anyone who may be of some help to him at all.

The doorknob turns and Loki squeezes his eyes shut, vanishing from the spot he’s standing in just as Thor’s head pokes out from behind the door.

Thor is left feeling like he’s just missed something important, and Loki is standing in the middle of a crowded school cafeteria.

--

Since Peter has basically moved into the Avengers Compound on weekdays in order to give May the opportunity to work late-night shifts without having to worry about him, Peter’s really gotten to understand more of the building’s security. And there was lots of it. Which is why it surprised Peter that Luke had seemingly made it past all of the security.

It’s not that Peter doesn’t want to see Luke, it’s just that he doesn’t understand how Luke made it out of the Avengers Compound, took the hour-long subway ride, and walked right into Peter’s school unnoticed.

Luke’s eyes blink open and immediately lock with Peter’s, whose face curls in with worry. Ned follows Peter’s gaze and asks, “is he new?”

Luke is already marching towards them.

Dressed in the same outfit Peter found him in yesterday, Luke exudes an air of immense importance and purpose. But amidst other teenagers, he just looks sort of…emo.

“What Thanos snap thing?” Luke asks Peter, despite the obvious missing context, slamming his hands down on Peter’s lunch table.

“I- How did you-” Peter starts.

“What is the Thanos snap thing? What does that mean? Answer me!”

Luke’s eyes look sort of on fire, but more like toxic waste set ablaze, and they look really, really scary.

“It was a couple months back,” Ned starts, and Luke turns his gaze on a terrified Ned. “This evil purple space guy came and got all these space rocks and–”

“He got all of the infinity stones?” Luke asks, rounding on Peter again. “He did the snap?” Peter nods slowly. Luke signs suddenly, sitting down across from Peter at the table. His eyes have returned to their normal glittering green. “Of course he did.”

“The Avengers stopped him,” MJ adds, scooting closer to Luke from her place farther down at the table. “Hey, I’m MJ.” She nods to Luke.

“Luke. Pleasure. What was that about the Avengers?”

“They stopped him,” Ned supplies. “There was this huge battle; it was all over the news. It was a miracle nobody died. I’m surprised you missed it.”

“I haven’t exactly had any contact with the outside world for a while,” Luke says, stealing a french fry off of Peter’s plate. “These things are disgusting,” he remarks, taking another.

“How did you find out about Thanos?” Peter asks tentatively.

“You mean despite the fact that the name is known and feared across the universe? Banner is looking for you. Thor popped by your room to check if you were there.”

Peter turns beet red, Ned blanches, and MJ remains unphased. “C’mon,” she says, holding out a hand accusingly at Peter. “It’s not like you were doing a good job of hiding the fact that you’re clearly Spiderman.”

Peter turns a deeper shade of red at the comment. Luke looks unimpressed. “Spiderman?”

“Shhhh!” Peter and Ned say loudly. Luke steals another fry. “Peter’s a crime-fighting vigilante. One of the Avengers,” Ned supplies. Peter smiles at the mention of his dysfunctional family.

“You like being an Avenger?!” Luke scoffs.

“They’re like my family,” Peter answers. The bell rings, and Peter looks down to fetch his backpack from under the cafeteria benches. When he looks back up, Luke is gone.

--

So Loki had died in vain.

He eats his fruit bowl angrily.

So Peter is friends with the Avengers. Correction: Peter is an Avenger. Loki would consider being upset if he had somewhere else to go.

(Plus Thor is here, though Loki won’t admit that he is one of the reasons this place isn’t so horrible after all).

Loki flops down on Peter’s bed and watches the door this time, waiting for more unsuspecting visitors to just show up. When none do, he searches the room for something to keep him entertained. His eyes land on a laptop balanced on top of a pile of papers on the desk.

It’s been a long time since Loki tried to use Midgardian technology. The last trial hadn’t ended so well, with Loki blowing up the phone because he got frustrated. He grabs the laptop and flips it open. “Name,” the laptop says, causing Loki to almost drop it. He lets magic seep into his vocal chords, pitching his voice higher and lighter.

“Peter Parker.”

“Voice activation confirmed. Welcome, Peter.” The laptop flickers to life. Loki punches Spiderman???? into the search bar.

So apparently Peter – Spiderman – is somewhat of a local hero. There’s a couple videos, and Loki watches them all. And then he stumbles upon an article; MASKED VIGILANTE MISSING: When Will Spiderman Return? Identity of Hero Still Unknown. The words hit Loki right in the chest, and it feels like someone has just shot him with a laser.

The world doesn’t know. Peter doesn’t want credit.

Loki has never experienced this before. All his life, he had tried to be the best, the favorite. He can’t imagine giving up all that praise to live a normal life. Peter could be loved by all and he chose not to tell anyone that Spiderman was him. He chose not to.

There are two ways of getting power: Peter’s way and Loki’s way.

Loki slams the laptop shut.

--

Peter comes home in that ridiculous costume that Loki has seen all over the internet, swinging in right through the window.

He whips off his mask, grinning widely. “No sense in hiding, I guess. I mean you know now so it’s a little late.”

“I didn’t know what Spiderman was,” Loki deadpans, hardly looking up from his place lying on the bed.

“Oh,” Peter says, no less deflated than before. “Well he’s like another version of me, but like he fights crime and stuff, and–”

“Yeah, I looked you up. You’re sort of internet famous,” Loki says, casting a glance over at a blushing Peter.

“Oh,” Peter says again. “How did you look me up? Do you have a phone?”

Loki sits up and points at the laptop on the desk. “I just used that.”

“Wait, how did you get in? That thing is voice activated. Tony actually made it for me with his technology.”

“Peter Parker,” Loki says back at him in a perfect mimic of Peter’s voice.

“Woah! That’s so cool! How are you doing that?”

“It’s really simple magic, it’s mostly for beginners actu–”

“You can do magic?! That’s awesome, dude!”

“You can’t?”

“What? No! I wish!”

“Then how do you stick to the walls?”

“Oh well I was bit by a radioactive spider and I got all these weird powers. I can lift, like, a ton of weight, and my hands and feet are sticky. I designed the web fluid and the web shooters myself, though.”

Peter takes off a web shooter and launches it at Loki, who catches it smoothly and looks it over. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen tech this advanced,” Loki says, perhaps a bit too loudly, because it looks similar to the tech he sees on planets he visits (when he was trying to rule them, but he doesn’t think about that).

“Hm?” Peter says, going for the button on the front of his suit that collapses the entire thing off of his body. Loki looks down at the web shooter and decisively doesn’t look up until the rustle of Peter putting on normal clothes stops.

“Last time I was here the technology wasn’t this advanced,” Loki states plainly, because if Peter is about to know he’s an alien, he might as well know.

“Last time you were here? You’ve been to the Avengers Compound before?” This boy is so dense, Loki thinks.

“Last time I was here on Earth, Peter,” Loki sighs, exasperated.

“What do you mean, here on Earth? Did you get snapped?”

“No. I haven’t been to Earth in... I think it’s been 6 or 7 years.”

“So did you just take, like, a field trip to space for a few years?”

“I’m from space,” Loki supplies. “I went home.”

“Woah. I mean, not that I have anything wrong with aliens. I’ve been to space before. It was cool. My friend Thor’s an alien. Maybe you know each other.”

“Not all aliens know each other, Peter,” Loki says, because he might as well have fun.

“No, I didn’t mean–” Peter is beet red. Loki laughs for the first time in a while.

“I actually do know Thor.”

“Oh.” Peter climbs on the bed and they sit in silence.