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We're A Mess Now, Huh?

Chapter Text

 


"Don't hold your breath waiting for me,

'Cause I may never come home,

No, I may never come home,"

-Elliot Moss "99"


 

May 24th, 2011:

Thor knew what he was doing when he brought Mjolnir down onto the Bifrost Bridge. He knew from the first strike, the first ring of breaking crystal the raw sorcery was stored in as it sputtered and fizzled beneath their bodies. How the Bifrost functions has been taught in every school at a young age, it is basic knowledge. He knew what he was doing when he decided to break it.

Loki is a fool.

He believes he could have stopped this if he'd had just paused to think. He knows Thor. He has known him for hundreds of years, there is little that Thor does now that surprises him. (Before. Before Midgard. Before Miss Foster, before—) He knew that the elder would react with something drastic, but he'd hoped…

(A fool's hope, and he is. He is a fool.)

He'd never imagined Thor would—

He never thought Thor capable of such stupid—

He's never liked heights much. Shapeshifting offers a freedom that can't be found else-wise, but he's never enjoyed flying. It's always felt raw and knotting, like he's been stuffed full of cotton and told to breathe. Thor could always climb trees with ease and Loki could oft find him on the roof of Gullpalasset, enjoying the air against his face. Loki hated it.

This is no different.

It's not the first time he's been a witness to an explosion. He's spent to many years hobbling behind the Idiots Three and Egotistic Sif to have otherwise. He's caused more than a handful personally. But it's the first that he's been privy to one over the Void. He's terrified of falling. He hates heights. This—

All that he can find comes from his throat properly is a high pitched wail of terror as his arms grapple for something—anything—to hold fast to. The wind is sharp against his face, the chill between his fingers. His lungs are tight— he can't breathe.

Loki's right foot nicks the edge of the broken bridge before a weight closes around it and he's jerked to a stop painfully. Gungnir is still gripped in his hand, chill metal slick against his fingers. Thor's hand wraps around the other end, causing the spear to slide in his fingers from the sudden weight, and Thor's grip jerks at Loki's sudden inability to hold him. His grip is weak.

Slack.

Loki's buzzing senses, hardly focused on anything, blearily process the presence behind him to be Father. His sedir is familiar to Loki; a harsh, powerful aura that always portrays the aura of less. He hardly cares on this. All he can focus on Thor.

Thor is slipping.

He's going to fall.

No.

Loki catches the staff with his other hand, trying to pull his older brother up to safety, but his grip is to lax. To weak. (Loki, why can you not be like your brother? Loki, why can you not be stronger? Loki, why are you always— ) No. Not Thor. Norns, please. Loki needs him. He's not supposed to die. It has to be Loki.

He's the monster.

He's the Jo—

He has to die.

It can't be Thor.

"Thor!" His voice barely sounds like his own. It's not calm (flat), collected (voiceless), and level (dead). It's desperate. Wet. Pathetic. Loki releases a hand towards the blond, trying to outstretch his boney fingers far enough for the elder to grab hold of. "Take my hand!"

There's too great a distance. The wind is blowing haphazardly.

No.

Stop.

This can't—

No.

Thor's eyes flash wildly, and he looks past Loki for a moment towards where Odin is standing, his eyes frozen. "Loki—" The blond shouts and stretches his hand up towards him. The edges of their fingers touch, almost enough for Loki to pull him up by, but a gust of wind knocks his hand away and causes him to slip further, hand wrapping around the edge of the golden spear. His eyes are hollow with fear and the dull realization.

No.

"Brother!" Loki cries, "Please! I didn't mean for it to go this far!" Loki was supposed to die. It was never— " I'm sorry! Please! Take my hand!"

Thor stares up at him, "Loki, I can't, I'm slipping! I'm sorry!"

"Don't let go! Don't—!" Loki shouts, but his voice cracks, (stupid, pathetic, can't you control yourself long enough for—?) " Please!"

Thor's gaze flicks away from him to Father, "Father, I'm sorry. Tell Mother I'm sorry." Thor's grip slips.

Stop.

No.

Anything but—" Thor!"

Odin, behind them, is quiet for a second. Loki can hear him straining for breath and he's filled with a sudden sick anxiety. "I will." Their father swears, "You have made me proud." Oh, how that stings. Five words Loki has yearned for since childhood.

Thor was not the one who was supposed to die.

No.

Thor can't fall.

No.

Thor can't—

Thor's grip slips further and he strains for breath, widely meeting eyes with him, "I'm sorry, Loki."

No. Stop. THOR IS NOT SUPPOSED TO DIE! (What can Loki say, what can he say beyond goodbye? Thor is slipping and they—) "Thor, don't leave me—!"

Thor's grip slips and he tumbles back into the Void, expression resigned to his fate and Loki is suddenly frozen in time. Where is the bloody hammer? Why is Thor not even trying to save himself, why can't he grab his sedir, why is he so USELESS! Thor was not supposed to die. Norns. Stop. Please. Stop. Stop. STOP!

Loki quickly loses sight of him. Red cape visible for only a moment longer. Thor is gone. Thor is—he's hollow with a numb shock and pain. How will—? Loki's hand stretches out towards Thor and a loud, guttural howl escapes him, fingers straining to reach the elder.

Thor is gone.

Thor is—

He's not coming back.

Thor is—

Norns, help him, he can't do this. His mind screams for him to jump, but Loki can't get his body to follow. He jerks upwards suddenly, and his breath heaves out in gasping, choked sobs. No one comes back from the Void. No one comes back. Fath—Odin has tugged him up back onto the Bifrost bridge and Gungnir is wrangled from his grip, set next to them calmly.

The scepter hardly matters. Not now. It hardly ever did , just another burden for Loki to bear because Mother couldn't—Loki is not a king. He is a jester, and everyone laughed at his attempt to claim his birthright. His life has been nothing but a joke for everyone and Loki refuses to let there be a punchline. He can't do this. Norns know he can't do this. He's too tired, there's so much pain. So much hurt and it doesn't go away.

Thor—

Thor—

Loki's body is jerking towards the edge of the bridge before he can properly process what he's doing, but he hardly cares for it. If he dies, he dies, what has he to live for, now? Odin's hands wrap around his chest and drag him back, strapping his hands next to his sides. His aged fingers are clawing around him as if desperate and panicked.

No!

Loki lurches forward again, but Odin's grip is iron, and Loki can't escape it. He's too weak. Always too weak.

"No, Loki," Odin whispers, his voice is drawn with something that Loki doesn't understand, nor does he care to. He's drowning. He's suffocating and oh, Norns, he wants to die.

Not Thor. Why did it have to be Thor? Loki heaves out gasping breaths, and can feel the raw expressions flickering across his face. There is no composing. No hiding. He feels so incredibly bare. "No." Loki mouths as a chant, " no, no, no, no—"

"Loki." Odin avers, his voice is deceptively level.

Loki wants to hit him.

Odin's grip refuses to lesson. " Loki, son." The word burns. A severe in his stomach that doesn't relent. The chaos that he's been tumbling into for days now begins anew and Loki cannot ground himself. He chokes on breath he can't find and doesn't care to. Nothing matters. Not anymore.

Fratricide.

He's committed fratricide. He...was... Jotunheim. (Fratricide and attempted genocide). Oh, Norns. He doesn't deserve to live. (He hasn't since his birth, it's why Laufey left him there to die and why no one wants him, he's just a lowly—)

Death.

Death, death, death.

"Loki," Odin sounds pained, "please, my son, please."

Loki cannot gather himself together. It hurts to much and he is so raw. "I'm not your child," Loki whispers. He belongs to no one. He is no one. He has no identity. He is Loki, he is alone, and he is going to drown.

000o000

In retrospect, Loki doesn't remember much of anything of the journey back to the palace. He thinks that Odin nearly dragged him there, but everything is fuzzy and he doesn't care to look back. It hurts. It burns.

Thor wasn't the one who was supposed to die.

Thor wasn't—

Odin doesn't, despite how his despairing thoughts insist, drag him to the dungeon to rot in chains. Instead, he leads him to the royal family's wing and directs him to sit on the couch as he finds Moth—Frigga. Loki only does what he commanded because he's too numb to do anything otherwise.

Shock, the less chaotic (and how small it is) part of his mind offers as explanation.

He's disassociating, but he doesn't care.

Thor.

Thor is d—

He doesn't remember the conversation of how Odin explained about Thor. He doesn't care to. Frigga weeps with something raw, but Loki's to hollow to follow her. His paren—the king and queen both shed tears, but Loki doesn't follow. He stares at the ground, his feet; his body limp. Lax. Weak.

Thor was there. He was right there and Loki didn't grab him.

He couldn't.

Weak.

Frigga's hand touches his shoulder, and Loki flinches to it. He doesn't deserve her warmth. Not after what he did. Monster. Monster. Murderer. Murderer— If she knew, oh how quickly she would turn a blind eye to him. The lesser son (not son, never son). He killed—

"Loki," Frigga's voice is gentle. Calm. It sickens him. "Dearheart, please, will you look at me?"

No.

Looking to her face will only remind him how unworthy his is.

" Son," (how it must burn her to utter the word). His head lifts slowly and he locks eyes with his moth—Frigga's wet ones. They're raw and she blinks back several tears as their gazes meet. She cups his face and he resists the urge to draw back, only because he knows it will hurt her. A tear slips down her face. "Oh, my dear one," she murmurs, "what did we do wrong?"

Loki stares at her.

Frigga's eyes squeeze shut and unspeakable pain crossing over her face, "My darling son," she whispers, "please."

Loki wants to scream. It's bubbling in his chest and wraps around him like a noose. He wants to shout at her for letting Thor leave to stop him. For letting him take Mjolnir so many years ago. He wants to yell at her for taking him, and how because of it, she's responsible for her son, her actual son's murder. (Loki killed—). This is too hard. He can't do this. He wants to die. It hurts to much, it's too numb for him to comprehend. How can he hurt this much and feel nothing?

Frigga exhales slowly as Loki remains mute, and sinks down beside him on the couch. Her lips are thinned with concern and Loki doesn't understand it. Everything is buzzing, and he feels faintly ill. He wants to—he doesn't know. Not for the first time since the reveal, since the hand, he has absolutely no idea what to do.

Thor is dead.

The thought stings, and Loki nearly draws back from it, but that's foolish because it's a thought. It can't harm him, but it feels as though it will.

Thor is dead.

He's not coming back. Not tomorrow, not next week, not next year. His body will be floating through the cosmos cold and iced for the rest of eternity, and he will not even receive a proper funeral. This is all his fault. If Loki hadn't been so stupid, so reckless, then Thor would still be alive.

Loki was the one who was supposed to die. It was never meant to be Thor.

Why? Why!?

Frigga's hand cups his own, and this time Loki does flinch to it, drawing away from her like a startled cat. Frigga's fingers draw back a little, and shame ripples through him. He does not deserve this comfort, but she wants to offer it for her own sake. He is depriving her, and how wretchedly selfish this is.

Not that much else can be expected from a monster.

A Jotunn.

He's not even— This is to painful. He wants it to numb, he wants everything to quiet. It's loud, it's far too loud. His mind is a mess, a battle arena with few survivors, yet he doesn't have the slightest idea how to fix it.

"Loki," Frigga breathes his name in a bare whisper, and he once again finds his gaze drawn up towards her. Her blue eyes are searching his face, parsing it, but there's nothing much to see. Loki doesn't have the energy to make any expressions. He wants to sleep. ( No. He wants to find the bloody Time Stone and fix this. It's on Midgard, yes? Somewhere.)

Fath—Odin steps into view beside Frigga and rests a hand on her shoulder, expression hard to place. He doesn't feel any desire to try and unweave it. There isn't a point. Not anymore. After what he's done—all his fate resides in is the executioner's block, now. He killed the Crown Prince of Asgard.

He killed his brother.

Loki tried to use the Bifrost to wipe out an entire race and it's—A monster. That's all that's in the mirror, now, no longer an empty face with hollow eyes, it's a monster with bloodied hands and a promise of death.

Perhaps it's terrible that he's relieved.

Odin won't want to wait. It will be soon.

Execution. He's not honorable enough for much else, he supposes, and it was hopelessly foolish of him to wish for a heroic death. Oh, this hurts.

"Son," Frigga's hand smooths something under Loki's eye, and he nearly jumps. he'd forgotten she was still touching him. He's not sure why she did that. Loki's not crying. There isn't enough room for tears with the awful emptiness that resides in his chest.

All that pressure.

"Thor's...Thor's," her voice keeps cracking, and he flicks his gaze away from her face. Loki can't bear to look at it; this is the mother of the man he killed. "He's at peace now," she whispers, "all will be well, I'm certain it was painless."

Ha.

Loki's not a child anymore. She can't placate him with her empty words, he knows what happens to bodies that fall through space. The collapse of lungs in the midst of burning and freezing isn't painless. It may be swift, but the few minutes of life are excruciating. This wasn't supposed to be him.

"Loki, please," Frigga's voice breaks, and she releases a hand to press against her mouth.

He thinks he's going to implode. His sedir is raging enough to swallow him, and he wouldn't fight it.

" Say something," Frigga pleads. The broken note in her voice makes Loki hesitate, makes the clawing pain in his throat lesson for just a moment. He means to open his mouth and say something reassuring, but his gaze flicks to Odin before Loki can, and all that falls out is: "When am I for the axe?"

"Loki," Frigga chokes on the word, horror drawing into her stance. She releases his face at last, and Loki tries not to shuffle back from her. He doesn't want her touch. Murderers aren't allowed comfort. The words are fitting, despite their brutality. A honest question that tastes bitter on his lie-swept tongue.

Odin's eye closes and his expression flickers with something that looks close to physical pain.

He doesn't understand why.

There's so much that he's missing. Body language Loki can't pay attention to, breath shifting, speech patterns—all things he would have listened and looked for only days ago. Now he is far too tired. Loki just wants to sleep.

"My son," Odin's voice is soft, but his fists clench at it. Liar. Loki not their child, and he has no idea why they keep up this facade. He wants them to stop, he has . "Now is not the time to pass judgement for your actions," Odin adds. He looks frail.

It makes him sick.

Loki tilts his head up a little, "When will be, then?"

"Loki, please," Frigga reaches her hand out towards him, but Loki draws back from it. Frigga's hand freezes and then pulls away; Loki wishes she'd actually touched him, and hates himself for it. "Dearheart, not now. I just lost one son, don't make me—"

" I am not your son," Loki spits. The words are sour, "I am the offspring of Laufey, and I killed your son. Would you have me bear the title of Odinson with such actions on my back?"

"Yes," Frigga doesn't hesitate, "Loki you are more than—"

"Fratricide," Loki's voice sounds sickly and vindictive, "genocide, taking the throne of Asgard, patricide—and a dozen more I'm sure the court will come up with, I am not innocent! I am a monster."

"You are our son," Frigga counters, though she seems unsettled.

Loki should stop, but now that the words are coming out, they don't seem to stop: "This is the basest of sentimentality. You know what I am. What I've become. There is nowhere for me save a dishonourable death at the hand of the executioner. You're weaving a lie so thick you're going to choke on it. No one will vouch for me on the court, and I'll be soon to join—"

"Loki, enough," Odin's voice is stiff, and Loki snaps his jaw shut. Heatedly, he turns his head away, flicking his gaze to the floor, "why do you say this?"

Loki barely restrains a laugh, "It is the truth, All-Father,"

"It is not—"

"It is the truth that I want!" Loki hisses, "I wanted to be better, I was meant to prove to you that I—I could have done it. For you. For all of us."

Frigga closes her eyes softly, and Odin leans against Gungnir heavily, "Loki, no," Odin murmurs, and leans forward to rest a hand on Loki's shoulder. Loki stiffens at it, "this is not what I wanted. You have already done enough; I think it best if you get some rest."

Loki bites back a bubbling laugh.

Frigga places a hand on his knee, "We're going to be okay," she whispers, "we're going to be okay."

Two weeks after Thor's funeral, Loki still can't take her seriously.

000o000

June 2nd, 2018:

Perhaps he's hopelessly optimistic, but he had been hoping that the damage done to his hand wouldn't be quite this bad. The wires are misaligned and twisted in a way that he knows he won't be able to poke at properly unless he is given some sort of thin tool. Maybe a small stick, and he has his doubts that in this dank tunnel will have much vegetation lying around.

There is the possibility that he could use one of the stray pieces of metal or debris, but he doesn't have a strong desire to go hunting. His body is exhausted, and the most he can do is slump against the stone and attempt to look like he's doing something other than trying not to vomit.

Productivity is not something he's claiming much of right now.

It is pathetic.

Simply raging forward to take the Tesseract after his body lacked the adjustment it needed was what gave Barton his opening, and, ergo, now the hole in his hand. He's never been more grateful for the fact it doesn't have pain receptors, because he's certain it would be agonizing. As it is, it's merely annoying.

It keeps twitching.

"Sir?" A voice questions, and Thor tilts his head up to look at the Barton, standing in front of him with a conflicted expression. His face is shadowed strangely in the pale lighting of the gray, crumpled tunnel and it reminds him abruptly that this is hardly accommodations worthy of anything lesser than rats.

It was what is available, and he's learned better than to push. Even if this place does smell of decomposing skin. Gripped in Barton's left hand is a wad of paper, and Thor draws himself together trying to make it seem as if he's been contemplating the mysteries of the universe instead of quietly picking at his hand.

"What?" Thor questions. He doesn't mean for his voice to snap, but that's what it does regardless. He came here to hide from the people, and he didn't expect to be found so quickly. This is ludicrous; he's supposed to be leading an army, but instead he's hiding from it.

Barton doesn't seem bothered by his tone, lifting the paper out to him, "The map of New York City, as you requested."

Did he?

It sounds faintly familiar.

Thor nods and lifts out his flesh hand to grasp the item from the man's hands, noting with a far off sort of fascination how thin the paper feels. Distantly, blurrily, he can make out faint images of holding thicker paper and talking to someone, but it, as much before he returned home, has faded.

Thor struggles to unfurl the map with one hand and ends up letting it fall open and spreads it across the ground, biting at his lower lip a little as he determines where would be the best spot to lead his father's army in from.

Barton still hasn't left.

Thor looks up, "Did you need something?" He questions, tone clipped.

He doesn't have much patience for the stupid questions the mortals seem to have a never ending supply of. It is, admittedly, one of the reasons that he was trying to hide here. That, and the headache is growing worse again and the dulled lighting here helps somewhat.

Barton's head has tilted a little, "You look sick, Sir. Maybe you should lay down," He suggests softly, and Thor's stomach does something funny at his tone. It sounds... sincere, and Thor struggles to remember the last time he heard something like that properly. Sincere in care, at least—Gamora's recent words were sincere, but they are still sharp and sting—and the oddity of what Barton said makes him pause.

Laying down would indicate that he's weak, and Father must know that he's getting better. He hasn't spent these last few years getting perfected for nothing. He'll see. Thor has worth. He deserves to be saved.

Thor sits back a little from the map and stares Barton down carefully, "I have not the need for sleep, Man of Hawks," he assures, "your concern is unneeded."

But not unwanted, and it's a little sickening to realize that.

Father has cared for him, as have his siblings, and he is selfish to think otherwise. Their concern has been in helping him improve, and he so desperately needs too. He was a disaster before he fell, and they have made him better. The process of change is always painful.

Barton doesn't relent, and Thor can feel irritation building in his chest. Mortals. Why Terra of all places did the Tesseract and Time Stone have to be located? Terrans have a habit of making themselves nuisances, and he has very little desire to deal with it at the moment. His patience is waning, he knows this, and this is likely why Father sent him here.

It is a test.

Like so many others he has overtaken. The amount of trust Father has placed in him is immense, and he will not fail him. He cannot. He doesn't dare to imagine what will become of him if he does. He blinks to ground himself and holds Barton's stare with his own.

"You are dismissed," he says pointedly, and Barton hesitates again, before sighing.

"My apologies, Sir. I feel terrible about your hand, is there something I can do?" Barton explains, and Thor flicks his gaze towards the wires again, thinning his lips. Ah. His concern isn't real, Thor knows this, but it's nice to pretend.

He glances towards the map, throat suddenly dry as he realizes that Barton is still aware of the damage he has caused. That means he was looking at the weak spot, and knows how pathetic he is; how much arrogance he had to leap at the armed soldiers the way he did. Most of them did not survive, but Barton's quick hand and true aim was enough to delay him.

But he has the Tesseract, and that is enough.

Even if Thor was forced to use the scepter to walk away in a generally whole singular piece.

Barton isn't going to leave until Thor gives him something to do to fix it, and he tries not to be annoyed by this. This is just what the scepter accomplishes. He isn't quite sure how the mind control works, truthfully, Father didn't see it fit to explain to him, and Thor hadn't asked. He's learned to not to.

Besides, magic was always...Thor can't recall the name, or the face, and breathes out quietly as he realizes this person must be from before he fell. Magic was always their, whoever they are, department. They knew it. Thor does not. Not as well.

"If you could bring me something thin and long, it would not go amiss," Thor admits at last, and Barton immediately perks at this.

The man stares at him for a second, and, with a collected voice asks: "Like a screwdriver?"

A what?

"I...am afraid I don't know what that is," Thor says through gritted teeth, and Barton shrugs.

"I'll get one, hang on," he instructs, and turns on his heal at last to finally leave Thor in peace. When the archer's quiet footsteps have faded out completely down the wet tunnel, Thor allows a thin breath of relief to escape him. His posture slumps some, and he rubs at his ribs dully to try and ease the discomfort.

His recent training session with Midnight was brutal, and he couldn't quite keep pace up with her. Humiliating, but at least Father saw it fit to give him a chance to make him proud. This is his redemption.

He will lead the forces to collect the Stones and then gather the people to perform the purge before Father arrives to conduct it. Terra, in the greatest honor, will be among the last to have been balanced by Father's own hand rather than the Gauntlet.

With the Aether taken from the Collector, and Father having taken the Power Stone, they are closer to performing the act now than Father has been before. All that will be left when Thor finishes here is the Soul Stone.

Given this, he cannot, under any circumstances fail.

This is to important to Father.

To him.

Thor flicks his gaze back down to the map. New York City's layout is strange to him, and he's not quite sure why. He hasn't seen many city layouts for previous attacks. Typically, he hasn't been the person in charge, and didn't need to know.

Focus, moron.

He's looking for the Time Stone. He knows that it resides with the Terra's Sorcerer Supreme, but the exact location is still evading him. It must be close, because he can feel faint wisps of its presence from here. Nothing unusual for a Stone, though, he could likely find one from anywhere on any planet. They have such a strong aura it's humbling.

If he is to attack as a distraction to steal the Stone, then he will need to focus it within New York City and possibly the city Queens; the edge of city Brooklyn wouldn't go amiss, either. He can't see the Time Stone being much further than that.

There. An attack plan. That was all he needed to finalize, and he did so. When he offers his report to the Other later, he will finally have something to give that isn't a wane in their progress. Yes, he got the Tesseract, but that is not enough for them.

And Thor's fine with that.

He thinks he's fine with that.

He's been told he needs to be.

Everything, oh, everything hurts when he's given a moment to think on it. Thor bites at his tongue sharply and rubs at his forehead, running his left hand through his short hair to try and calm himself. The sensation is numbed a little, and Thor sighs deeply, tilting his head back against the column again.

The rough brick is digging into his back in uncomfortable places, but the armor he's wearing serves as a buffer. Distantly, he hears a rat scurry across the ground and quietly wishes for clean water.

Perhaps Barton was right, and he is getting ill, because everything feels wretchedly wrong. There's a pressing need in the back of his mind for something, but details on what it is are lost to him. It's aggravating, though, like an itch he can't quite satisfy without clawing off his own skin.

He flicks his gaze to the cracked ceiling and focuses on breathing for as long as he dares.

"Sir?"

Thor bites at his gums sharply and looks up to see Barton again, holding a small package of odd looking daggers some five minutes later. Their edges are blunted in a way that can't be helpful, or provide a swift death. Thor's gaze quickly flicks up towards the archer, suddenly wary.

This is not an attack, yes?

Could the mind control wear off that quickly?

He wishes he knew more details on it, but he doesn't. His blind trust is always getting him into trouble, but trust in Father is never meant to be misplaced. Barton walks forward and squats down next to him, offering the weak daggers to him.

Thor's flesh hand clenches around the edge of the thin paper again. Why is the sensation so odd to him? It is not as though he has spent his entire life with different paper.

Barton apparently picks up on his confusion or discomfort, "These are screwdrivers," he explains and lifts one out of the package, "I wasn't sure what size you'd need," he adds and Thor hesitantly takes the tools from the archer, sitting up a little straighter. His spine groans with displeasure, but he stuffs the sensation to the side.

He flicks the map closed and shuffles a little so his arm is better under the dim lighting of the damp tunnel. He's heard multiple people refer to it as an abandoned subway line, but the meaning behind that is lost to him. He bites at his lip and turns his hand up to the light. The bullet didn't go through cleanly, so he's going to have dig for it.

Grand.

Barton sits down next to him, and Thor can't help the tensing that grows in his shoulders. He tries to not let it actively show, but he's guessing from Barton's puzzled face that he isn't having much success.

After taking in a deep breath to brace himself, Thor lifts up his left hand to begin to dig into the cybernetic palm of his right to dig out the bullet with the screwdriver. The tool keeps poking at other things, and it sends jolts of discomfort up to his shoulder.

Barton doesn't say anything, quietly watching Thor with something close to fascination and another emotion he can't quite place. It's not quite sickening, but it does make him self conscious. He's not proud of his arm; it is a constant reminder to him of failure. Of disappointment. Had he not discouraged his father so much, he would have been able to keep his hand.

That is the way it works.

He's grown used to it now.

Thor manages to dig the bullet out of the palm properly, but before he can set the screwdriver down to pull it out, Barton's left hand has reached out and plucked the whole bullet away. The archer's shoulders hunch a little, and he thins his lips setting the bullet down in between them. "Sorry about that, Sir," he says, shaking his head, "I wasn't myself then."

Thor's fingers tighten around the screwdriver, "Are you now?" He shouldn't care. These are mindless morons to be used for his purpose, and when his father arrives, they might not survive the purge. Somewhere, distantly, there's a weak part of him that is terrified by the thought.

He ignores it.

Barton shrugs, "I would say so."

Thor nods, and returns back to his task. The archer has already given him what information he needed on Terra's defensive tactics, and Thor doesn't need to talk to him anymore. Terra's defense system, as predicted, is weak. They do not have a single army that can form together fast enough to be effective, and their first line of defense seems to be five or so mortals.

Five.

Thor isn't concerned with them much.

He jabs at a live part of his hand without intending to and gasps sharply, pulling the screwdriver away and clenches his right hand into a fist. The jolt is making his forearm twist and pull in a way that's disgusting and he hisses, flicking his gaze away.

Barton's lips thin with concern. "Does it always do that?" He questions.

Thor barely withholds an open laugh. No. There was a time it was flesh and doing so was quite impossible. Now it is more frequent than he cares to admit. He wordlessly shakes his head, flexing his fingers to get the metal to jerk back into place.

After a moment, it does, and Thor returns to his repairs.

Barton remains by his side for most of it, wordless, and glares off anyone who approaches with a question or statement. If the need arises, though, he takes the message for Thor and returns to give him the most important details. Thor is grateful for it, but he'd never breathe a word of that.

It takes him nearly half an hour to finish, but when he's done his hand feels less unbalanced and awkward. It is a relief. He breathes out slowly, and replaces the screwdriver from where he took it, handing the package back to Barton. "Those are effective," he notes thinly, but his voice sounds flat.

"Yeah," Barton agrees, but his gaze is distant. After a moment, he shakes himself from his reverie, "I should get going. Selvig had something he wanted me to look over. Get some sleep."

Not likely.

Thor watches Barton rise to his feet without a word, and the archer gives him a final nod before walking off again. He disappears down the tunnel at a slower pace than he did before, but it's still hurried. With purpose.

But with both feet he was born with. Thor can't draw up memories of the last time he walked with both his own.

He didn't plan to dose—only remain seated for a few more minutes before getting up and walking after Barton—but he must have, because he jerks awake at a slight noise. It's different than the rats, and any of his men would have announced themselves by now. Experience has taught him better than to wave this off as paranoia, and his right hand wraps around his sword hilt.

His left gently reaches within his bloody to draw lightning from.

He staggers to his feet, and snaps the length of the sword out rapidly searching the shadows for the source of the noise. It really could have been something in the distance, but he'd rather be a fool than dead.

Nothing immediately jumps out, and Thor represses a sigh.

He really is far too paranoid, then.

It was nothing.

It's always nothing. Well then, it got him up and that's something. He can finally get moving and rejoin his men in the larger shaft of this tunnel to watch Selvig complete his task. The mention of that man's name keeps making his headache worse, and he can't wait until he'll be able to leave him behind. For all the brilliance of his mind, Thor would love to leave it so he can think straight again.

He exhales the stale air stiffly, and then turns to grab the map of New York City, but freezes with surprise as he sees a person standing behind him. That—it was not simply paranoia, then. What on the—!?

The man is roughly Thor's height—lacking a few inches—with long black hair hanging over his shoulders freely. He's dressed in leathers and loosely armored, but Thor can immediately spot over five openings for brutal injury should the need arise. His face is thin, and his entire appearance is haggard. He's barely above gaunt, and it shows predominantly in fingerlessly gloved hands.

His entire presence radiates a dull power, and something within Thor whispers that it's familiar.

But it can't be.

Thor's never met this man in his life.

( And yet, he is so, so very familiar).

Green eyes are rapidly searching him before settling on his face, and his features flicker a little. It's hard to tell with what because any emotion seems to have been drained utterly dry from him. There is very little for Thor to guess from, and this unnerves him.

Who is he? How did he get in here? Is he an ally or enemy? This isn't one of the five mortals that Barton warned him of; that much he is certain of. He saw photos of them, and none looked as cadaverous as this man. Does he work for HYDRA?

No—he can't, the crest on his shoulder isn't for any Terran faction Thor knows about.

They stand in stillness for a few seconds before Thor levels his sword with the man's chest. The dark-haired man's eyes flick towards his right hand for a second, and then widen slightly. Thor wishes that people would stop gawking at his cybernetic hand, he knows of his failure to keep it, he would like to stop being reminded. At least his missing foot is hidden in his boot. He wasn't given his replacement eye for the invasion, so that is hidden by the eye-patch.

"Identify yourself," Thor demands harshly.

The young man stands still for a long second before forcefully pushing down the tip of the blade and moving forward rapidly. Thor stiffens, hand drawing on the core of electricity, but stops with surprise as, rather than attempt to gut him, the young man throws his arms around Thor tightly in an embrace.

What... what…?

The weapon drops a little in his grip, the tip of the blade touching the dirty stone floor beneath his feet. The young man breathes in raggedly, "You smell terrible," he whispers. There isn't a bite to his voice, but his accent is thick, and his voice rattles something in Thor's head. The headache increases tenfold, and Thor has to tighten his grip around his sword to prevent himself from rubbing at it.

This drastically uncomfortable, but he has no idea how to ask the man to stop. Or if he should bother with that, and instead just gut him and be done with it.

"I thought you dead," the man appends, "but this whole time...it doesn't matter. You're here now," the younger man draws back at last, and Thor tries to dissemble his face to hide his great discomfort, but judging from the slight furrow of the younger man's brow, he wasn't fast enough.

He thought that Thor was dead...but Thor doesn't even know him.

The young man appears to do his best to ignore it, instead sweeping his gaze across Thor again, "You look awful," he notes out loud, "we should return home, I can help with—Thor? What's wrong?"

Home is the Sanctuary.

It isn't...wherever this man is thinking of.

Thor's hand tightens around the hilt of his sword, and the young man's lips part a little. He wets his lips, "You don't know who I am." The statement is flat.

Should he!?

He is so familiar, but Thor's memories of him are faint. Non existent. He can remember him better in dreams than memory. Thor shakes his head a little, taking a step forward so the blade is closer. The man doesn't back up, remaining perfectly steady.

Why is he so familiar!?

"Should I?" Thor demands, and the young man's breath catches a little. Does he work with Father? Some unknown Terran acquaintance that he was supposed to work with? Father would have mentioned that, though, wouldn't he have? It would have been utterly foolish for him not to. How is Thor supposed to know who he is to trust if he didn't?

"Yes," the man's voice is thin, but there's a desperation in it, "Thor, please, this isn't funny."

"Do I look to be in a gaming mood, Terran?" Thor counters, but is admittedly unsettled. How does this stranger know his name? Why is Thor hesitating? He should just slay him where he stands. It would be so much easier.

The man's jaw audibly snaps shut, and his posture grows more rigid. Hidden. He breathes out slowly, evenly, and clenches his fists by his sides. His next words are careful, "I am Loki of Asgard, you are my older brother."

Thor's sword drops a little.

Loki.

Loki?

The name is so familiar, so precious. He remembers, in the beginning, begging for such a title, but as time has passed the memory has faded. Dulled. He can't—Loki can't be his sibling. The thought is ludicrous. He'd remember if he had a younger brother, and nothing is returning to him.

This man—Loki—is a liar.

But—Asgard. That name is equally familiar, within touching distance, but he can't quite grab at any of the memories. They are out of his reach, as so many have been since Father cleansed him.

"Liar," Thor hisses, and flicks his wrist to jerk the weapon up once more, "you are not my brother, and Asgard doesn't even sound real. Lies will not be enough to sway me, moron. I am the son of Thanos, and you—"

Loki makes an audible noise of disagreement, and Thor's gaze heatedly moves to him. " What?"

Loki is staring at him strangely, but with a weird sort of clarity that makes Thor want to hit him. It's then that it occurs to him that he has no reason to refrain. He swipes his sword at Loki's face, but the man dodges out of the way, backing up a step.

Any answers he have will be fraud, and Thor has no reason to let him live. If he is not going to work with Thor and help him succeed in Father's vision, then he needs to be removed entirely. The Midgardians learning of this any faster is not what is needed.

Wait.

Midgardians?

What the—?

He's never even—!?

Focus on the battle, you dolt.

Thor swipes at Loki's neck again, but the man ducks in a dip so deep backwards that his hair touches the floor. Thor swipes the sword through his chest, but it doesn't hit anything solid. Light fizzles, and Thor mentally curses.

Sorcerer.

Excellent.

He turns, looking for Loki, but there's nothing here but the shadows and faint whispers of the larger gathering of people to the hall on his right. Where, where, where— ?

A hand attempts to grab at his scalp, but Thor twists out of the grip and jerks his right hand out to wrap around Loki's neck tightly and squeezes. He drags him off of his feet, and Loki sputters, grabbing at his forearm tightly.

Thor doesn't release his hold.

He tightens it.

"Brother," Loki's voice is weak, "please," his eyes are wet, and something in him shifts a little at the tears. This all feels unconnected to him, and he can't ground himself. He must be ill; this is all a fragment of his sick mind trying to conjure up something interesting for his feverish dreams this time.

Loki's hand snaps out towards his forehead, and Thor rears away in surprise, dropping him. Loki slams hard into the ground on his hands and knees, and Thor readjusts his hold on his sword. He moves forward and prepares to take his head, but Loki jumps to his feet, lifting his hands in an "X" shape in front of his chest and snaps his wrists out, drawing two daggers.

"You have to remember," Loki breathes, "we've been siblings for a millennia. You have to remember! "

He doesn't.

He remembers none of that.

Thor dives at him, remaining silent. Loki side steps him, and Thor feels his irritation grow. How hard is it to actually hit him!? "We thought you dead," Loki continues, lifting his hand up to block Thor's slice towards his head with an arm guard, "we buried you, we mourned you. How can you remember none of that!?" Loki's voice is raising in frustration.

"I don't remember anything from before seven years ago!" Thor hisses out, "So shut up! Whoever you knew is dead, and he's not coming back. Let the dead rest in peace!"

Loki chokes. "You are my brother—"

"No, I am NOT!" Thor draws up lightning from his core and sends it towards Loki's face. Rather than immediately obliterate him like Thor was first expecting, Loki's daggers drop at his feet and he lifts up his hands to catch the bolt in front of his chest with sorcery. The light glows, illuminating his face for several seconds before Loki draws his hands apart, dissipating it.

Unsettled, but not convinced on waving a white flag, Thor draws up another bolt along his fingers, letting it travel across his spine and chest to gain energy before firing it at the dark-haired man.

Loki dives out of the way, and the wall rattles loudly charred bits of brick exploding in every direction. When the dust has settled, Thor can't find Loki anywhere. He swears softly, and keeps a firm grip on his sword, listening for any signs of where the man disappeared off to.

A foot slams into his lower back abruptly, and Thor cries out with pain and surprise as he topples forward before the edge of a staff slams into his upper back, causing him to fall forward fully. He manages to catch himself before his head can ram against the ground.

A knee digs into his upper back as his father's scepter is thrown across the room—Loki stole it. Loki stole his father's prized possession— and the tip of a dagger presses against the back of his neck, "Please don't make me do this." Loki says, "Stop, and think."

"I don't know you!" Thor snaps, and jerks his shoulders up to off set Loki before rolling out from under the hold. He leaps to his feet and kicks his sword into his hand, diving at Loki again.

Loki summons the dagger from the floor and catches the edge of Thor's blade with it. The weapon reminds him of his own, and Thor draws the thin knife from out of the hidden frays of his armor and, as Loki is distracted with beating back his blade, slams it beneath Loki's ribcage, where Thor noticed a thin stretch in his armor. Loki gasps immediately, and his grip slips allowing Thor to cut his face deeply.

This is wrong.

This is wrong!

He has maimed, hurt, and damaged people before. Why does this bother him so?

This. Is. Wrong.

Thor draws his weapon back, and Loki breathes in raggedly, pressing a hand against his ribcage. Something in his stance has changed, and when his green eyes flick towards Thor's face, they seem oddly defeated. Dead.

Thor flexes his hand around the hilt of his sword, but he can't get himself to bring it up to finish the job. Father would be so furious, he has trained him better than to be distracted by weaknesses, but Thor...can't. This all feels so muddled, and a distant part of his mind is screaming at him for drawing Loki's blood.

But he doesn't know him!

Loki breathes out slowly, but there's a hitch to it that's oddly wet, "I'm sorry, Thor," he murmurs. Thor tilts his head, puzzled, but Loki looks up at him and smiles grimly, "You really aren't going to learn, are you?"

What—?

The Loki in front of him fizzles out of existence.

Thor's body tenses sharply, but before he can raise his weapon in his defense or in an offense, something slams into the side of his head. It's Father's staff again; Thor recognizes the gold tipped metal with ease, not that it helps him much.

His entire world sways, and Thor gasps sharply at the sudden flaring pain, and crumples to the hard, dirty cement. Everything is blurring, and his ears are ringing, but he can distantly make out Loki's hand grabbing around his left wrist and beginning to pull him towards something. His entire mind seizes with panic, but he can't get his body to work through the pain.

Get. Up.

This is hardly the worst he's been through. It's simply a headache.

He can't get himself to move. Everything feels paralyzed. Panic begins to cloud his mind, and he barely hears the loud shout behind him before Loki suddenly drops his wrist. An explosion rings in the background, and Thor's body twitches a little in defense.

Nothing hits him.

He breathes in deeply, trying to ground himself, and squeezes his eye shut deeply through the pain. Focus. There are other sensations beyond sight he can use. He can taste blood on his tongue, along with something faintly stale. The ground is rough beneath his skin, and the temperature of the room is cold.

His hearing provides the most answers, though: he can pick out the sounds of shuffling feet, and Barton talking loudly in the background. He seems to be trying to convince Loki to step away from him, but not finding great success.

Guns fire, and Thor's body tenses again, but he hears the sound of the metal slamming against a solid wall. Loki makes no noise of discomfort. That...that can't be right. Thor peels his eye open slowly, carefully, and squints at the light as he tilts his face towards the general direction of the noise.

Loki is standing in front of him, hands lifted and projecting a faintly white shield. The bullets are scattered at the base of the shield, and Thor quietly curses. His men are unable to prevent his abduction— abduction, Father would weep if he could see how pathetic Thor is now—because they can't lay a finger on Loki.

Loki says something, letting the shield flicker before falling, and Barton releases an arrow towards his face. Loki catches it mid flight and lifts his head as if unimpressed before it explodes. Loki's thrown across the room, slamming into the back wall, hard. Thor twitches his hand a little, relieved.

Barton is suddenly by his face, and taps at his shoulder. "Are you hurt?" He demands, rolling Thor up a little. At his touch, Thor lurches back instinctively, and forces himself, at last, into a sitting position.

"I'm…" Thor breathes out sharply, trying to find some sort of weapon. Barton grimaces as he sees something on Thor's head, and it's then that he realizes that blood is leaking from his hairline all over his face. The gash must be nasty. Did Loki mean to hit him that hard?

"You'll be fine, Sir, we've got you," Barton reassures, and rises to his feet, lifting out a hand to help Thor to his.

Thor grasps it with his cybernetic hand, trying to ignore Barton's obvious discomfort, but they don't get any further than that. Loki's hand grabs Barton's shoulder and bodily shoves him away. Barton stumbles back several steps, and Thor's eye widens as he realizes Loki is once again holding the scepter.

The Mind Stone is in there! If Loki has any inkling of the power he's now grasping…Thor needs to get up.

With one hand, Loki flicks the remaining agents off their feet, and with the other tips the edge of the spear against Barton's chest. Barton gasps and draws in a tight breath as his veins glow a brief blue and Thor watches the surge return back to the Mind Stone.

Loki pulls the scepter back, and Barton stumbles several steps, only steadied when Loki reaches out to grab his upper arm. Barton looks up, and Thor feels his stomach coil with dread. "What the—" Barton swears sharply, looking as if he'd just been doused with cold water.

This is Father's most pressing mission for him yet and he's failed after only fourteen hours.

What will Father take now?

Loki releases Barton, studying him silently. Thor watches dully as he lifts up the spear and... pulls some sort of blue wispy light from it. He holds it in his palm for a second, as if trying to mold it before it slips from his fingers like running water.

Curse this headache!

Loki turns back to him, and grasps his cybernetic hand. Immediately, every muscle in him releases, and Thor bites sharply at his tongue. His paralysis had nothing to do with his head, then, it was Loki's sorcery. Loki pulls him to his feet, and Thor swiftly moves his hand down to grab a weapon, but Loki catches his wrist.

"I'd rather you didn't," Loki says thinly, eyes lingering on his head for a second. Thor twists in the grip, and Loki's eyes close with what looks like an exhaustion beyond Thor's comprehension.

"Let me go," Thor demands harshly, "when my father hears of this, he will not give you quarter. There will be no rock, no barren moon where he cannot find you. He will make you long for something sweet as pain."

Loki stares at him, "You're delusional."

Thor openly gapes, "I am not—"

Loki starts to drag him forward, but Thor delivers a hard kick to the back of Loki's calf. Loki staggers, and Thor doesn't let up the advantage once he's gained it. He pulls out of Loki's grip entirely, twisting free of his hand and grabbing at Loki's wrist to twist it behind his back as he takes the staff with his other hand.

He drags Loki to the nearest column, and slams him up against it. "You are a nuisance," Thor breathes, "I'll take pleasure in your death."

"No—stop," Loki hisses, squirming, " think. You know me , I can see it in your face."

"I don't care who you are!" Thor hisses, slamming him against the stone again.

Loki stiffens beneath him, releasing a soft moan, tilting his head forward to rest against the rough column. It looks like an admittance of defeat, but Loki instead begins to murmur: "Your name is Thor Bor Buri Odinson, you are the son of Odin Borson and Frigga Freysdottir by blood. You are the Crown Prince of Asgard, wielder of Mjolnir, and a friend to our people, you're—"

Thor twists his wrist up, and Loki releases a sharp cry.

" Liar," he hisses.

He hears the sound of several guns cocking, and remembers that there are other people in the room. The agents under the scepter's control. Thank all that is good in this world, he still has the advantage.

"Sir?" Someone prods behind him; not Barton.

Thor glances at them, "Where are some restraints?"

Four people lift up handcuffs, but Thor knows it will be ineffective. Barton, still looking slightly disoriented, lifts up a length of cord, and Thor reaches for it. He doesn't know if this means that Loki's attempts to deter the control were unsuccessful or not, but Barton has apparently decided to stick on his side. At least—for now.

Thor wraps Loki's wrists several times, managing to get about halfway up his forearms before the cord runs short. Loki's breaths sound wet.

"If you think this means I've spared you," Thor whispers to him, "you would do well to reassess that. Your fate hangs in the balance; you could be useful to my father's plans, or I might give you a swift death."

Loki is quiet, then: "You're still a terrible liar. We both know what the truth is, Brother."

No, stop.

How dare he assume—!

Thor slams him against the wall again, and Loki silences. "Shut up," Thor demands, "breathe another word and I won't hesitate to take your tongue. You are now a captive of Thanos. Man of Hawks, Delancy, and you two," he gestures towards them with one hand, and shoves Loki towards Barton-distantly, he notes the discoloration of the stones, slick with Loki's blood-and then snarls, "find somewhere to detain him."

Barton grabs his arm; Loki stares at Thor levelly, "I'm not fabricating; we can still leave, Thor. You can come home—"

Something in him jolts, snapping with a hollow click at the words. They sound familiar, a faint whisper of a memory to draw at, but Thor can't quite reach it. Only mixed words, but he can hear Loki's voice there.

Can I come home?

I'm so sorry.

Stop. This isn't his. It's not right. Loki must be messing with his mind. He takes a step forward to make good word on his promise, but Barton roughly grabs at Loki's hair, tugging his face out of Thor's sight.

"Shut up," Barton hisses to the dark-haired man. Thor shakes his head rapidly, glancing at Barton who gives a weak grimace, "There's no need for that, Sir," The way the title falls from his lips is hesitant, almost careful, and it makes Thor pause.

If Loki did release him...he has no idea what the implications would be. He rubs at his headache a little, and turns to the men, "Take him," without any hesitation he adds: "and find a gag."

Barton and the others drag Loki off at gunpoint, and Thor releases a loud noise when they've left. This makes no sense. That man is not his sibling! He would remember. He would know.

But, then again, he knows so little now.

Thor squeezes his eye shut and tries to wave off the man's words off as the ramblings of a madman. Yet, it sounds so familiar, so right; and it disorients him. If it is a lie, it is the most well crafted one he knows of.

But it must be wrong.

...Right?

000o000

" Who are you child of, Asgardian?"

" I am Thor, son of Odin, devil's spawn!"

" Who is your father, Lord of Lightning?"

" I...son of Thanos, he rescued me from...the Void...he…"

" Who is your Father, boy?"

" Od—Thanos. Thnns."