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broken wings.

Chapter Text

The sky was a dark and menacing grey, framing the jagged and black trees which had long rotted. The only light came from a strange spot in the sky, creating blue shadows in the otherwise dreary and colourless realm. Everywhere there were mountainous peaks and rushing rivers, but they had none of the light and cheer of the living world; rather, they were very clearly dead and deserted, populated only by the many shades that realmed Helheim. The entire place looked as though the living world had just rotted and died away, and everyone there was permanently stuck in a black-and-white filter.

In the distance, there was a palace built from the blackest of blacks, entirely formed from onyx and obsidian. It was so dark, it appeared to only be a shadow of some other majestic castle, though it was unmistakeably its own building. Upon closer inspection, once could see the beautiful gems and silver inlaid in the palace walls, though there were also bones of the once-living and terrible (but beautiful, all the same) skulls lying around the palace walls. Standing guard at the gigantic double doors were two skeletal guards, clothed in armour and holding spears. Crowded around the palace were several chattering shades, and a few menacing ghouls, all of whom made no attempt to enter. They wouldn’t dare, not while knowing the dangerous being that resided inside.

However, once such dead being had none of the fear the others did. He strode through the doors, ignoring the guards that were helpless to stop him (for what could dead do to another, who was also dead? They would simply fight forever, unable to kill or wound the other). His raven black hair hung loosely around his pale face, as though to hide the many bruises that decorated it. Though he had a visible limp and his slender body was battered and bruised, he still walked with a regal air. His self-assuredness caused the other shades to move away from him, in fear of what had just entered the realm of the dead.

As he entered, his steps echoed against the pure black floor. He looked around with sharp, emerald green eyes, though it seemed as though he had no care for the architecture. He smirked softly upon seeing artwork hanging on the walls that he particularly liked, but otherwise his cold expression never changed. At last, he was before a throne, and before the being who sat upon it. Flanking her were four more guards, though like the ones at the doors, they were more for decoration than anything. As many in the realm of the dead were not aware of their own demise, they feared for their non-existent lives as most did. However, this one was fully aware he was dead, fully aware that he was among the dead in the realm of Helheim. He knew that the being who sat on the throne was far more dangerous than the foolish guards who surrounded her, but he chose to say nothing.

“Well?” the being on the throne purred, leaning forwards. She was dressed extravagantly in sweeping black robes and armour, a silver crown perched upon her head, a black veil covering half her face. The other half was once of inhuman beauty, with blood-red lips, pale skin, and smoky eyes that seemed to shift and change. The man that stood defiantly before her had his eyes resting on the crown, his lips turned upwards into a smirk, knowing full well the disrespect he was showing. He wanted her to know that he knew she was a queen, but refused to bow or kneel regardless. A small revenge on death.

“Do hurry up,” she continued, her eyes gleaming with newfound hatred for the disobedient dead in front of her.

The man (for she soon realized that he wasn't a shade, in fact, he seemed quite solid. Who was this person, and why was he in the land of the dead?) eventually spoke up, green eyes boring into the queen's. "I'm not dead."

She snorted. She had heard this argument far too many times that it was almost ridiculous; those who had actually been brave enough to tell her this to her face were usually burnt to ashes before they could beg for mercy. But this one... interested her, quite a bit. He really didn't seem dead. And he had none of the fear that most shades who faced her did.

"Then pray tell, why are you in my realm?" she decided on asking, her hands swirling with green magic. The man looked surprised to see it, before he schooled his face into a more neutral expression. So he was talented in lying and negotiating, then. She'd never seen an innocent man be able to hide his emotions so quickly. Her interest and curiosity in the man grew rather quickly. Who was he?

He shrugged, looking almost defeated as his shoulders sagged. "I might as well be," he deadpanned. "So I came to ask you, goddess of death, for a favour." He looked into her eyes, and the queen tilted her head. It was not often that mortals hoped for death.

"Do tell," she drawled.

His eyes looked hollow, empty, drained of hope. She had seen this many times in the realm of the dead; perhaps if her heart had not hardened over time, she would've gone insane from seeing it so often. Curse her father for sending her here, curse him for giving her this awful job. She may have been a killer, but that no way prepared her for the empty looks she received from the victim's perspective. At least when she was the one doing the killing, all she saw was blood and a scarlet blade. 

"Kill me."

She paused at the request. Kill him? Well, that she could do, of course... but she did not like taking orders from anyone, no matter what the order was. Then she reminded herself this was a request. An odd one, but she would do it.

"If you insist," she decided, with a serpentine smile.

There was a brief hesitation while the not-dead man stood there impatient and waiting, wanting. With a slight frown, she rose from her throne and swept down the steps, moving close to the man. He wasn't even shivering, rather, he seemed calm and relaxed. With a wave of her hand, the queen summoned her weapons, beautiful black swords with intricate designs. She stepped slightly closer to the man, who was watching her with his startling emerald eyes. He didn't even close them as her blades glided towards his face.

They sliced through his neck, through flesh and bone, as though it were paper. His body followed immediately after a moment's pause, collapsing to the ground. He made a few jerking motions and gurgling sounds before he lay still, his body rapidly losing blood, skin turning white and cold.

The goddess looked passively down at the man, as though what she had just done and witnessed was nothing more interesting than watching an ant roast to death under the rays of a magnifying glass. After another moment's hesitation, she reached down with her flesh hand, moving to touch the now-dead's face. It was still warm, though cooling at a rapid pace. So he had been alive, then (as though the blood hadn't proved that already). How strange; she had been under the impression that the alive couldn't enter the realm of the dead. Though, she could feel magic sparking within him; perhaps he had managed to find a hidden pathway? It was rather unlikely, though, she'd never heard of any secret pathways that connected the living realms with the dead one.

"Guards," she called, and two of the four walked closer to her, their swords drawn. She rolled her eyes; they were past warriors, once-honourable figures who had never managed to accomplish their life's goal. Who had fallen in battle, who had died unhonourably, who had been killed by their sworn enemies. Who had watched friends and family die before their eyes and done nothing, who had seen the horrors of war and yet done nothing to stop it, many of whom were half-responsible for several of the shades that now roamed Helheim. They thought that by protecting their now-queen, they could retrieve their lost honour. They were still trying to live their old lives as warriors and war generals down where everything was already dead.

"Take this man, and dispose of his body," she ordered, for he was already starting to rot and stench. There was one good thing that came out of ruling the dead, and that was the fact they never smelt, never starved, never grew sickly, and never wanted for anything. In their minds they held the illusion this was how "life" always was and would be, so they never tried to protest or change anything. The living were not as complacent. They grew ruffled easily, their anger leading to rash behaviour and decisions that eventually turned into protests and hatred towards their ruler. 

The guards obeyed, and their queen sighed with relief as the decaying body was removed from her presence. She ascended the steps and sat back into her throne, flicking her hand and allowing two replacement guards to come out from the shadows and take the vacant places. She hummed and leaned back into her throne, her hands clutching the armrests of her throne--one hand skeletal, one hand flesh, both contrasting with the pure black onyx that the throne was constructed of--the strange man's memory already gone from her mind.

It had been two days.

The queen perked her head up at the sound of the opening doors, which never happened very often (due to her subjects very reasonable fear of her). She raised a perfectly groomed brow as the man strode up to her throne, not an ounce of fear in him. He seemed somewhat familiar, though the queen could not exactly place where she had seen him before. Though what memories she could recall, this man had been irritating and an annoyance. That was usually not a good impression for anyone to leave (especially not on the goddess of death) so the queen was growing less inclined to see his face. Though, it was surprising that someone who had annoyed her was standing still very defiantly before her, and strangely, still very alive.

She could not recall allowing anyone to leave her palace alive before.

Her swords were stained scarlet with the blood of a million enemies, and a million more innocents who had dared venture into her palace (some were alive, some were already dead. When they exited, however, they were all dead). Even her guards got on her nerves remarkably quickly, and though she couldn't exactly kill them, she could cast them into greater depths of Helheim, where only the greatest monsters roamed. It was not a fair fate, but then again, life wasn't fair, so why should death be?

"Hel," the man addressed her as, and her lip curled. Everyone in this realm was meant to be subservient to her, to bow down to her, to respect her and to grovel. Anyone who treated her with this blatant disrespect would be killed instantly. This man dared to treat her like this? Who was he? She would rip his throat out.

She summoned her swords, but the man still did not look afraid. Grudging respect overcame her bitter anger and hatred. It was not everyday she met someone who did not fear her. "If you remember clearly, I came to you, two days ago, with a request." He still did not bow, did not kneel. His emerald eyes burned with anger, though she saw darkness and self-loathing behind them. 

"Oh? I do have to deal with thousands of dead entering my realm everyday, forgive me if I do not remember you," she replied scathingly.

The man chuckled darkly, which only piqued her curiosity. Who was he?

"I did not think I left that little of an impression," he drawled, cocking his head to the side.

"Enough. I am still a queen, though as you are alive, perhaps not your queen. But we are still not equals. You will address me respectfully and properly, unless you wish to die," Hela warned, and the man only laughed at her threat.

"Die? That is exactly what I came here to do."

"Who are you?" Hela demanded.

He bowed, still mocking, though apathy clear in his voice and in every movement. "Loki, of Asgard. Or perhaps of Jotunheim, if that title appeals to you more."

Hela scoffed, realizing rather quickly that this pathetic worm was... her brother? Son of Odin, as well? No, only a trophy of Odin. Odin would never take a Jotun for a son, not as a real one, anyway. He was not even a good father. She also realized very soon that Odin had probably tried to wipe all memories of her existence--and what better way to do that, then replace her with two sons?

"I care not for your title in the living realms," she said instead, carefully choosing her words now. The wrath of Odin was not one she wished to experience, not again. "Who are you, really?"

"I believed the one who came here, asking to die." He paused, and then continued, "And you killed me. You swung your swords, and you cut my head off. But, as you can see, my head is still very much upon my shoulders. Which leads me to believe, I did not die. And, when I came here first, fully intending to be dead, I was somehow alive. But how? I had been tortured and beaten and starved, and I had tried very hard to die, and I managed it. But for some reason, it did not work. And then, when you cut my head off, I fully intended to die. But I did not. So tell me, Hela, goddess of death, queen of Helheim--why is it I cannot die?"

Chapter Text

Hela was at a loss for words.

Never, in her entire time as goddess of the dead (and she had been down here in this dreadful realm for quite a while, mind you) had she ever met someone unable to die. Especially not someone who did not die after her own blades cut through their neck. Whoever this was made a good point. Why was he not dead?

"Well?" he asked, impatiently, and Hela would have killed him for his impudence--except death was what he wanted, and he'd already proven that Hela couldn't kill him. "What am I, queen of death?"

She forced herself to look indifferent, uncaring. "I know not what you are, but your very existence is a mistake," she said coldly. "A Jotun runt, taken in by an Asgardian king. What good could you have expected to come from that?" she laughed at him, and he bristled with fury, eyes beginning to glow a bright shade of green. Yes, he made his weaknesses too clear--he had emotional vulnerability, which was never good in any warrior. But then again, what could one expect, from a man who wasn't even a fighter? Hela knew that he must have endeared great belittlement and torturous bullying when he was young, simply because he was not strong enough, not brawny enough, not brave enough, and chose to play with magic and tricks rather than blades and fists that a real warrior was expected to use.

"Believe me, I know what a disappointment I am," the man said coolly, hiding his hurt behind an indifferent mask.

"So why do you come here, asking to die? Why kill yourself? Surely you know that is no honourable way to die," Hela replied, eyes fixed on his, gauging his reaction.

He shrugged. "I have nothing left to live for."

She leaned forwards in her throne, eyes boring into his. He stared back, posture still straight, his hands folded in front of him. His face looked as though it were carved out of marble, his green eyes chips of emerald. He was definitely a royal, but he obviously knew he wasn't the prince of the realm he thought he was. Royal all right, just Jotun as well. "Surely not?" she asked, her voice fake honey and sugar. "A prince of two realms, and a would-be king over another--oh yes, I know about what you've done on Midgard--I would think you still had plenty to live for. Your brother cries for your return, as well."

His face shifted into one of slight longing. "He mourns me?"

Hela shrugged. "Why does it matter to you? I thought you had nothing left to live for."

His expression became one of cold detachment once more. "I don't," he spat. "I was simply curious." But the look that had been on his face was far from just curiosity. It was homesickness, and aching for warm arms and kind eyes, words that would assure him it was all right. That he was still needed, still wanted.

"Death isn't a good way to escape your crimes."

"I have committed no crimes--at least not willingly."

Hela did not argue with him on this. Now that she was paying attention, she could tell what he had been through. She could see who had stuck their talons into his mind and influenced his decisions, who had tortured him until he'd broken and forced him to bend under their will. After experiencing such horrors, it was no wonder he was not scared of her. In fact, he probably welcomed the sight of her, of death. Whatever he had done while he'd still been alive, he had done under stress and pain and the threat of more torture.

"Ah, but I suppose the great and just Odin Allfather cares little for your word? After all, who would trust the God of Lies?" she leered at him, and for the first time he flinched in her presence. "I know Asgardian justice. They are corrupt liars, and care not for a rightful sentence as long as they have a culprit. You know me, don't you?"

He took a deep breath. "I do," he said, finally. "The firstborn of Odin Allfather. Rightful heir to the throne. And..."

"Continue," Hela said, now amused.

"...the Executioner of Asgard."

When he told her about Thanos and the Black Order, she didn't know what to think.

They were technically siblings now, she supposed. Though, to be fair, he was the son of Laufey and not Odin. But these things were minor technicalities, weren't they? After all, Odin had raised him as his own (so he claimed) and treated him the same as Thor (a blatant lie, this was clear). The three of them were all children of Odin, regardless of their true parentage. After all, who was Hela to judge Loki about his true parentage? She was a true child of Odin, and yet that hadn't stopped him from banishing her to Hel for millennia and leaving her there to rot. Odin Allfather cared not for his children, he only cared for power. For his kingly title. He would kill and banish anyone who got in his way, even his own children.

Though he did like Thor. Hela wasn't sure why. She'd watched him for a while, and saw nothing but an arrogant, spoiled boy. Grudgingly, she had to admit, he would have been a better King than her (after all, he did love his subjects, no matter how stupid he was at ruling) but Loki would have been even better than him. She saw no reason why Odin hadn't put him on the throne--other than the fact the god of mischief had the blue blood of a Jotun.

So, she decided, that Loki was now her little brother. Her baby brother.

She left a shade in her stead to rule (what was there to rule? The subjects were too afraid to speak to her, to protest against her, to ask her for favours--they thought of her more as a goddess they could pray to, but who would pray to the goddess of death?) and brought Loki (he'd told her his name after she'd revealed her own) to a smaller, more private room in the palace. There were not even guards there, though the likelihood they would even understand the matters the two gods talked about was very unlikely.

As Loki sat, his hands laced together as he stared down at his feet, Hela couldn't help but understand why Odin had taken him as his own. He probably wanted to repent. He felt guilty for having done such terrible things to his daughter, and upon seeing a Jotun who looked so similar to the daughter he once loved, he had to take him. What a selfish move, but Hela could understand it. Loki did resemble her in many ways, after all. Perhaps Odin had done it on purpose. Raised Loki similarly to Hela, so he could pretend at some times they were the same person. A pity that, like with her, he had completely ruined his relationship with his adopted son and molded him into a self-hating monster.

Loki told her all about his childhood (she grew angry at this, for she too had experienced similar tauntings, though she couldn't imagine how they would have been like if there was an older, golden brother to outshine her always), including the punishments he sometimes received from Odin, or from others while Odin and Thor turned a bind eye (she grew furious upon hearing the tale where his lips had been sewn shut). They bonded over their hatred for their so-called family, particularly Odin, who had abandoned both of them and left them to suffer by themselves. Loki told her about his plan to force Thor to be worthy again (send down the Destroyer so he'd try and protect his mortal friends, thus earning Mjolnir back) but had just been punished for it. He told her about him begging Odin, asking if he truly was equal to Thor, and being told no, Loki. He told her about how he'd let go of the Bifrost, and fallen into the void, into the clutches of them.

Thanos had caught him, had tortured him and broken him and forced his way into Loki's mind. Had starved and beaten the young god, until Loki was weak enough that he could be controlled and influenced by the Mind Stone to do Thanos' bidding. As Loki spoke about what the Mad Titan had done to him, he began to cry silently, and Hela pretended not to notice his tears. However, she couldn't ignore his little whisper when he said, "And they didn't even mourn. They didn't even bother to look. My so-called family, they didn't bat an eye to my disappearance. They had already forgotten about me."

Loki then talked about his plan, how he would assemble Midgard's heroes by pretending to kill one of their loved ones, how he would invade in a flashy and obvious way so he could easily be taken down, how he would only open a small portal so that the Chitauri couldn't swarm the realm all at once. He spoke about how he tried to get Thor to realize he was being manipulated and controlled, but the oaf simply thought he had gone mad from grief. He talked about how, when the Titan's control on him had finally been broken, he'd been gagged so he couldn't speak in his own defense, and had had his magic locked by seidr-restricting cuffs. 

And then he stopped talking, but Hela could guess what had happened next. She saw the truth in his haunted eyes.

He looked at a loss for words, probably remembering his... well, death. Hela wasn't even sure how he'd managed to kill himself--with cuffs on, being securely monitored, and having an overprotective Thunder god there probably didn't make it very easy. But her questions vanished when Loki continued, very shakily now, "And then I exploded myself."

Hela blanched. If he was saying what she thought he was...

He caught her eye and forced a smile, showing his teeth. "Oh, no need to worry for me, dear sister," he purred. "I'm perfectly fine and whole. Besides, that was what I wanted, anyway." He spread his arms, gesturing to himself.

"You're a madman," Hela grinned back, slowly.

"Of course I am. It takes one to know one, after all."

Hela tilted her head. "So you exploded yourself. How did you manage it, with the cuffs on you?"

"Odin made a perilous mistake, thinking those could hold me. Frigga refused to help him make them, and his own magic is subpar at best. I suppose that's what you get, for thinking that brawn is always superior to brain," Loki answered. "They were easy enough to shatter with my own seidr." His face grew closed-off, wary. "Of course, I didn't have much of it left after my... experiences... but it was enough to create a nice big explosion for me to die in. Go out in a bang, as the mortals say."

"That sort of death usually creates a stir in my realm. People usually die in the most boring ways. Surely death by explosion--particularly a magic explosion--would've caused uproar down here?" Hela asked, semi-serious.

"You know how the dead are. Boring. I'd be surprised if they'd react to anyone's deaths."

"Yes, but usually victims tend to react positively when they sense their murderers have also died."

Loki narrowed his eyes, and he made a movement to stand abruptly, but seemed to think better of it. "I'll have you know, no one died on Midgard while I was... there," he muttered.

"How you jump to conclusions. What about the countless others you have slain? I'm sure you did not think much of it, but every one of those people had a life, were a life. I'm sure you felt something when you came down here. People always do, no matter how innocent they thought they were. If they were truly innocent, they wouldn't be here." She smiled at him, and he shivered slightly under the weight of her words. They were not exactly accusatory, but it came close. "After all, I know how it felt when I first was banished here." She said the word so easily, as though the wounds her once-father (well, he was still technically her father, but she cared so little for him it didn't really matter) had left had already healed. "Hatred, anger, euphoria that the one that had killed them was with them as well. Imagine their surprise when I became their ruler."

They continued talking, almost like old friends, though they'd never seen each other before this (Loki hadn't even really known she was his sister, and Hela hadn't even been aware of his existence). As Loki had already spoken about his life, Hela talked about hers. How she'd been trained as a weapon since birth, used by Odin, and when everything backfired and the realms began to fight back, he pushed all the blame on her. Confused and alone, as she'd just been following his orders, she didn't know how to properly defend herself against Oidn's manipulative tactics. She had never really been taught about strategies in court (perhaps Odin had never really intended for her to takeover the throne, maybe he'd thought he could keep it forever if he tried hard enough) so she was unprepared against the accusations they filed against her, the double-meanings in their words when they accused her, and the half-hidden meanings of their claims when they confronted her. When she looked to her once-father for help, he only stared back coldly, silently, as though saying, You brought this upon yourself.

"So, both cursed and forgotten children of the golden Odin Allfather," Loki laughed when she'd finished, his voice self-deprecating. "At least you had a purpose. I was just a shadow."

She shrugged towards him; she'd long grown indifferent towards the role she'd played. She had spent millennia wallowing in her sadness and guilt over something she had had no control over. She had spent so many years blaming herself rather than Odin, thinking that she had been the guilty one, the one who was at fault. Perhaps if Odin hadn't been such a liar, a manipulative snake, she wouldn't have turned out this way. But it didn't matter to her now. She had been queen of Helheim for far too long to even care anymore.

He sighed and leaned back in the chair Hela had drawn up for him, though it had to be terribly uncomfortable, for there was no cushioning, just solid obsidian. "He told me horror stories about the Jotnar when I was a child. Did he never think to tell me that they weren't the monsters everyone thought them to be? To make it less horrifying when it was revealed I was actually one of them?"

"Odin has always been a liar."

"Even to his own children, I suppose. Though not the golden Thor. No, he was always the better."

"The firstborn," Hela said humorously, though there was no real bite in her voice.

Loki glanced over at her curiously. "You don't hate Thor for any of it, do you?"

"No, it's not the child's fault. He is not like you, or me, or his father. I think Odin purposely organized it like this; he'd rather hurt you with the realization than Thor. I assume you were the smarter sibling, and could actually figure it out. While Thor... he is by no means stupid, but he has none of the intelligence you do. I've seen him."

Loki flushed slightly at the compliment, and he muttered at his hands, "Not like that did me any good. Couldn't even fight off Thanos and his mind control... even if I told Thor the truth behind what had happened, what I'd done, I doubt he'd believe me. After all, I'm the god of lies. Who believes the god of lies? No one smart." Loki sighed and buried his head into his hands, the picture of a man defeated. "Besides, he might even call me a weakling for being unable to do anything. That's what he usually does, anyways."

"I think you're underestimating yourself, and overestimating Thor. Barely anyone can resist Thanos, especially not when he has the Black Order with him. If I had this banishment lifted, perhaps I could give him a piece of my mind..." she sighed, and addressed Loki. "I suppose both of us are at a loss."

"At least you have something to do here. I'm just stuck."

Suddenly, Hela smirked, her hands beginning to swirl with green seidr. "Not exactly," she murmured, her smoldering eyes lighting up, her mouth tilting upwards and showing her pearly white teeth. "I happen to be the queen here. And you happen to be alive. I could just... banish you from Helheim."

Loki's eyes widened. "So I can't--"

"--can't come back here? Precisely." She walked closer to Loki, who was still sitting in a stunned silence. "What do you say, brother? Want to go back and give Thanos a piece of your mind?"

He smiled too, and it was then anyone could have recognized the two were undoubtedly siblings (well, not really, but they were both raised under the treacherous snake Odin). Their smiles were almost exact replicas of each other, both a bit too wide and showing a bit too much teeth, and their eyes shining with a bit too much evil to be a real, innocent smile. Their smiles were one that promised mischief, destruction, and revenge.

"I do," Loki grinned, and Hela stepped closer to him and placed her glowing hand on his chest.

"Get our dear father to lift this banishment on me too, if you please," she added, and Loki smiled at her.

"Of course, dear sister," he replied easily.

"Then let's proceed." She stepped even closer, so now they were almost nose-to-nose. Her hand (the skeletal one, which made the entire thing even more eerie) dug into Loki's chest, and he winced slightly at the pain. "I, Hela, goddess of death and ruler of Helheim, hereby banish you, Loki Laufeyson, from my realm."

Her voice was soft, almost a purr, but it held power and strength. Loki had barely time to say anything, before he exploded into a blaze of green power, but power that did not belong to him. It seemed to tear him from the side out, and he closed his eyes on instinct as he began to fly upwards (or downwards, he'd lost all sense of direction so he couldn't really say). His body was a blur of just green and silver, and as it tumbled over itself again and again he found he was unable to open his eyes, unable to feel any of his limbs, and oh Norns was this what Thor had experienced when Odin had cast him out? He suddenly felt a lot more pity for his not-brother when all of a sudden, the spinning sensation stopped, and he was instead falling downwards.

He flailed, his eyes snapping open, and he caught glimpses of a pale blue sky and a blazing white sun when he very suddenly made contact with something very hard and very unwelcoming to his body. He grunted as whatever it was folded underneath him, and he heard someone scream, "Oh my God!"

He coughed and rolled over onto his side, propping himself up by his elbows. He looked around blearily and his heart sunk as he recognized where he was, and the people who were staring at him in a panic.

Of course. His dear sister had a penchant for tricks as well, it seemed.

He was back on Midgard.

Chapter Text

mentions of attempted suicide, brief details

"O-oh my god, are you okay?" the woman repeated, and Loki squinted up at her.

"Yes, I'm fine, thank you for your concern though," he said, and he peered down. "If you wish for compensation, though, I'm afraid I have none of your mortal currency on me at the moment." He got to his feet and leapt easily off whatever it was he'd just crushed under his body, dusting off his armour and glaring down at the ground. He was sure Hela was laughing at him now. Though he had to admit, she couldn't exactly have sent him anywhere else. He was a criminal on Asgard, a genocidal maniac in Jotunheim, and everywhere else was honour-bound to report him to Asgard if they found him there or risk war. Midgard was the only realm that regarded him as a criminal, but didn't exactly have the means to capture or imprison him for long periods of time.

"Well--that's good--but--what are you?" she asked breathlessly, and Loki blinked at her.

"You do not recognize me?" he asked (probably sounding like a bit of a narcissist) but the woman only mutely shook her head no. He sighed; perhaps this was better. "I see. Well, mortal, I am a go--a Jotun," he said, quickly refraining from using the word "god." He wasn't a god, not anymore.

"A--a what now?"

"A Jotun," he repeated, now completely disinterested in the conversation.

"Yes--but what is that?" she asked, now sounding eager and curious. "Are you..." her voise hushed, and you leaned in, eyes sparkling behind her glasses, "Are you... not human?" Her eyes gleamed with excitement, and Loki rolled his eyes before remembering he was to be nice to these little worms.

"I suppose you could say that," he drawled. "Now, why are you still here?"

"Um, that's kind of the law here. I hit you with my car, so I should be... uh, punished? Because I committed a crime? Though you don't really seem hurt at all, and you were the one who crashed onto my car, so I suppose they could say that you should be the one that's punished. I--I don't know, though, I assumed that you called the police so I should just wait here, but I don't think you really needed it--" she stopped rambling as Loki held up a hand, irritated at her prattle. She fell into a confused silence, and Loki sighed.

"I said, I am fine, mortal," he muttered, three seconds away from connecting his fist with her face. Norns, she was annoying. He had been taught to be a gentleman with women, but he wasn't having the greatest time at the moment, and his day had been rather dreadful. So he really had no patience for whatever she was saying.

The woman's face grew hopeful. "So you aren't planning to--to charge me?"

He stared at her. "I do not believe my message could have been more clear," he said loudly, hoping to drill the message into her thick skull. His fingers were itching for his daggers, though he didn't think stabbing someone would get him anywhere near to mending his wrongs. "Please leave me, and go on with your day."

"So--okay, yeah, I get the message," the woman said finally, and Loki sighed with relief that she would leave. "I'm just gonna..." with an awkward wave, she backed away from him and slid into the driver's seat of her crushed and ruined car (Loki would be surprised if she was still able to drive that, it looked wrecked, though he supposed that was his fault). The woman revved the engine and sped off, nearly crushing Loki's toes. Spitting curses at the woman as he stumbled back, expecting pain in his foot, he glared after her receding car, half-wondering if he should chase after her just to slit her throat in revenge.

No, he decided finally. I've a job to do.

He tested his foot. It didn't hurt at all, though he supposed that was expected from a go--Jotun. Norns, he really had to stop calling himself a god--all it did was bring on a wave of sadness and homesickness; it really wasn't good for him. Though, he had expected a sort of dull ache...

A theory began to form in his mind. He looked around him, making sure no one was about to see what he was about to do, and then he summoned his daggers.

With a deep breath, he brought them to his throat and pressed one of them deeply into his flesh. Blood began to pool as he cut through skin, dripping onto his fingers. Closing his eyes, he reminded himself, this is just for a theory, don't think those thoughts, calm down, don't think--and then his knife was cutting through his flesh, cutting through his bone, and he was reminded in flashes first of what Thanos and the Black Order had done to him, then what Hela had done with her black swords (though to be fair, he did ask her to kill him). He took a rattled breath (though it was very difficult, considering that his throat was in shreds) and realized with amazement that his throat was actively healing itself, though he had remembered his healing factor being nowhere that quick. He wrenched his knife out of the way just as the flesh closed and healed completely, though his own blood still stained his skin and hands and the blade he'd used.

His throat had closed its wound on its own. And, even more surprisingly, he hadn't felt any pain.

Now, this may have been normal for ordinary daggers. He'd heard that Jotnar had faster healing factors than Asgardians did, so maybe that explained why he'd healed so quickly? But this wasn't any ordinary dagger--it was one that he'd crafted himself, and infused with his own magic. He'd breathed life into this dagger. It should have been enough to kill anything, no matter how fast their healing factor was. In fact, he'd created it in mind specifically for him, in case one day he wanted to cut his throat. And he had done just that, just now.

He had shredded his throat with that dagger. But he hadn't felt any pain at all.

He had a sneaking suspicion he couldn't feel pain anymore. His body wouldn't even allow him to die, knowing he had been banished from Helheim. Banished from the realm of death, where his soul was bound to leave for as soon as his body's heart stopped beating. He'd never heard of being banished from Helheim before. Was it even possible? Well, clearly it was, Hela had just done it to him. But what now? If he did die, where would he go? Was that why he healed so quickly, and felt no pain? His body simply wouldn't allow him to die? Because there was nowhere he could go?

Now, wasn't that sad. In order to die, he'd have to become honourable enough to go to Valhalla, which likely wouldn't happen for ages. His blood was tainted with far too many crimes for that to happen. He really hadn't been thinking the deal with his sister through, had he? He wanted to die, and now he'd just made that harder for himself.

Just to confirm, he lowered the blade to his pale, almost white, wrist. With a clean slice, he opened the flesh up to the bone. Blood spilled from the wound and dripped to the sand below his feet, staining his snow white flesh a bloody scarlet. But just like before, the wound closed remarkably fast, within seconds, even, leaving nothing but unmarred flesh and blood stains. There wasn't even a scar. Amazed, he prodded at his flesh, and again felt nothing. It was true, he supposed--he couldn't die.

Well, he never was able to die, but now no one could kill him and send him to the realm of Helheim like before. Now, he was forever stuck in the living world, until he managed to make it to Valhalla.

What a sneaky way to get him to turn into a hero, he supposed. He wanted to die, so force him to become good and honourable before he could. He laughed breathlessly to himself, half-tempted to shove his dagger into his heart and rip his body open until it was forced to die.

But he had been sent her for a reason. To fix his wrongs. To stop the Mad Titan.

And... to end his sister's banishment. He was sure that even as queen, staying in Helheim forever couldn't be fun.

He took a deep breath to gather his bearings, before taking a look around him (idiot, he should have done this first. Norns, he was stupid--was all that studying a waste on him? Had his brain shriveled away?) and scanning his surroundings. There was nothing immediately threatening, but nothing interesting, either. He was standing on sand, and everywhere he looked, there was more sand. There was a wide, dusty road where he supposed the car he'd hit had come from, but there were no other vehicles in sight. With a sigh, he began to walk.

It was not at all fun. The one reassurance, though, was he couldn't starve to death here. His mouth wasn't even parched, and he felt as though he had just eaten a large meal. It appeared as though he was suspended somewhere between being alive and being dead--not requiring anything that a living person would need, but also being allowed to walk the living realms. He found that he enjoyed the privilege. After all, now he never wanted for anything. And, if Thanos caught him again, he couldn't be tortured... at least not physically.

At last, he spotted buildings in the distance. He picked up the pace, and was somewhat disappointed to see it was a small town. He cursed himself, wondering if that effort had been a waste and the place was abandoned, when he spotted a door opening and an old woman exiting the house with a bag of trash in her hands.

"Excuse me," he called, and the woman looked up.

"Oh, hello," the woman greeted him, albeit a bit awkwardly, before continuing on her way.

"Er--" Loki stared as she continued to walk, and then said again, a bit more insistently, "Excuse me."

The woman looked up again, pausing and placing her hand on her hip. "Yes?" she asked, a bit irritably. Loki bristled, but then reminded himself of his place. Be nice to the ants, he thought tiredly. Remember that?

"May I ask where we are?" Loki asked politely.

She frowned at him, but then told him, and he groaned inwardly. He was far, far away from New York. Why had his sister chosen to send him here, of all places? He grimaced to himself, thanked the old woman, before finding a place to sit and think. How would he get to New York? He barely remembered any of it, so it wasn't as though he could teleport there, and teleporting such long distances was risky. The desert was quite remote, so it was unlikely he would be able to take a plane there, and they probably wouldn't let him on, anyway.

Ah, but he did remember Stark's tower.

Bad idea, he chided himself. The mortals that lived there had nothing but bad memories of him; appearing so suddenly would likely startle them. Plus, he'd get arrested, and another plus, he really was not willing to look at Odin Allfather again in the eyes after hearing about the old man's crimes. He probably wouldn't be able to see him ever again without remembering what he'd done to countless realms, using his own daughter as a weapon. He didn't want to think about what might have happened to him if he hadn't found out he was Jotun and gone berserk--would Odin have used him, too? He already tried to use Loki to manipulate other realms to his will, to agreeing to obviously biased treaties and signing agreements that didn't benefit them. So, Thor was Odin's war weapon and heir, and Loki was his lying schemer, his hidden snake.

But he did want to see Thor. Wanted to ask him if the god had mourned him. Wanted to ask him if he'd thought of him, remembered him, asked Odin if he could come back. Probably not. Loki had betrayed him. Had sent the Destroyer after him. Of course, he'd done it for good reason, but Thor hadn't known that. He'd thought Loki was jealous, evil, scheming, had just wanted the throne.

He clenched his jaw, so hard his teeth ground together. He hated this damn realm, hated the damn mortals, and hated Thor. Why had he even bothered to try and save them? Why hadn't he just done Thanos' bidding in the first place? It would have saved him a lot of torture and humiliation. Besides, it wouldn't have turned out differently. He'd failed, and Thanos was winning. He'd failed because he was the god of lies, and no one trusted him without his gag. He'd failed because, even if he told the truth about Thanos, who would believe him? A liar, a snake, perhaps this was what Odin had planned all along. To mold him into a monster no one would believe, so that even when he spoke the truth, they'd punish him and call him a liar.

His heart ached. Hela, take me back, he thought tiredly, though he knew she could not hear.

He continued to sit, mulling things over in the sand and the hot sun, before coming to a conclusion.

He couldn't change anything, sitting here like a fool and doing nothing. He had to at least try something, even if it got him killed. Actually, scratch that--he couldn't die! So really, what was there to lose?

Lifelong imprisonment, a voice whispered at him. Seeing him again. You want to look Odin Allfather in the eyes again? What about Thanos, the Mad Titan? What if he finds you again? What if he--

"Oh, shut up," he muttered at himself, and then teleported.

He appeared right in front of Avengers Tower, staring at the floor just before the building.

It was night time, but many people were still out and about. Street lamps glowed faintly in the dark night, and he could make out the small forms of bugs buzzing around the light sources. The Tower was large and obnoxious, each window glowing with light, and the letters which were written on the side of the building gleamed in the darkness. He looked around him and saw a few haggard faces, a few people bustling by, and several cars packed in the road just behind him. Perhaps it was the darkness, or the business, or maybe it was because he looked so different from the madman that had attacked New York a few years ago, that no one recognized him. No one feared him, or gaped at him, or pointed fingers at him. It was nice, at least for a little bit.

He looked down at his feet. He remembered this place, very clearly. It was here that the green beast had picked him up like a rag doll, and smashed him repeatedly into the ground. It was here that the control on him had been broken, and it was here that the mortal heroes had surrounded him with their various weapons, demanding he surrender.

It was here that Thor hadn't bothered to listen to him, had gagged him, and had chained him like a dog.

He grimaced, pushing the memories from his mind, before staring up at the tower.

He was here now. It hadn't really put a strain on his body (and what new theories this caused! Was being near-dead, but still alive, a state in which he could sap all his magical resources but have them replenish so quickly that it did not even affect him? Or was his seidr now just limitless? The possibilities were endless!), and he found that he was now alert and ready. But what to do? He couldn't just teleport in, he'd have no idea where he was going and would probably cause alarm (unless he concealed his presence, but that wasn't the best way of convincing them he wasn't a threat). He couldn't just stay here, it was awkward and annoying and he'd hate to have them find him just standing here confusedly when the morning came.

So, he did what many others would do, and simply rang the doorbell.

"Who, in fuck's name, is ringing the fucking doorbell at this ungodly hour!" Tony Stark roared, being roused from his bed by the constant chiming noises. He'd thought he told JARVIS to mute all noises and sounds during the night so he could finally get a good rest, but it appeared that his artificial intelligence system was incapable of following orders!

He rubbed his eyes and glared up at the ceiling, exhausted. He had stayed up for the past week working on projects, surviving on energy drinks and coffee alone. Pepper had finally convinced him to get a good night's rest, and he was actually having the time of his life sleeping, before someone or something had decided to wake him the fuck up! Now his head ached, his mouth felt dry, his eyes were bleary, and he couldn't even properly greet anyone in his night wear! Who thought it was acceptable to wake up Tony Stark at 2 AM in the morning?

"My apologies Sir," Jarvis said, and Tony sighed at the sound of his voice. "I simply thought that the person at your door is... a particularly alarming individual."

"Is it the paparazzi? Fuck that. If they wanted to wake me up at this time, they should have prepared to see me in my night clothes," Tony grumbled, smoothing back his hair and trying his best to flatten his uncooperative beard. Why did it choose now to be particularly gross and scruffy? "JARVIS, I didn't even think we had a doorbell."

"Oh, we don't."

Tony blinked in confusion at the ceiling, but brushed the cryptic answer off with a sigh. "Okay, whatever. JARVIS--"

"Sir, I advise you do not greet the visitor in those clothes."

"Oh yeah? And you prefer I wear my Iron Man suit? Hell no. If they wake me up past midnight, they're getting past midnight Tony Stark, alright? No need to fancy myself up, they've seen worse." He yawned again, cursing himself for suddenly growing so weak for sleep. Damn, he knew it was a bad idea to sleep properly for once. Now he would be craving it all the time, and he was Tony Stark! He didn't need sleep! He groaned and rubbed his head again, still frustrated with his bad case of bed head. "JARVIS, are the others there?"

"Steve Rogers is getting into more proper clothing, and making his way downstairs. The others are still sleeping soundly," JARVIS reported, after a short pause. Tony rolled his eyes. Typical that he and Steve were the only ones who were woken up. "I suggest you do the same as Mr. Rogers, and--"

"I'm not even going to brush my hair," Tony crowed, and JARVIS made a mechanical noise of disapproval. Tony glared up at the ceiling. "First you wake me up, now you criticize me for not wearing proper clothes. What are you, my dad?" He shook his head. "Can't wait to go back to sleep after this."

He slammed his fist into the elevator buttons and leaned against the railings as it slowly began making its way down. Steve was on a lower floor than him, so he should arrive earlier, he reasoned. Maybe he could deal with the paparazzi, and Tony could just go back to sleep--

He stumbled to the front doors and wrenched it open with dramatic flair, his eyes half-closed so he didn't exactly register who was standing before him. "Take your shots," he said loudly, gesturing at himself as he suppressed another yawn. "You fuckers interrupted my beauty sleep. Be thankful if I don't have all of you fired, pronto--"

"Open your damn eyes, Stark, and take a good look at who you're speaking with," a smooth voice interrupted him, and Tony's eyes snapped open at the sound of it. He let out a small squeak and stumbled back, pointing at the owner of the voice very accusingly. "You--I thought you were dead!"

"Oh, so did I. Until a few days ago, of course."

"Don't say cryptic things like that! Ugh, I need a drink."

"It appears as though you need a few more hours of sleep, as well."

"Yeah, thanks for that, fucker," Tony grumbled, clutching his head. He was way too sober and sleep-deprived to be dealing with this shit. He sighed and looked up at the ceiling. "JARVIS? You could've warned me, buddy."

"I do remember telling you that you ought to change your clothes, Sir," JARVIS responded, sounding very disapproving. Tony grunted in assent at this; he couldn't deny JARVIS had said that.

"What interesting choice in clothes you have, Stark," Loki drawled, his emerald eyes dancing with humour and mischief. "I suppose I am one of the lucky few to get to see you in this state? Or, perhaps, is there someone else? A girlfriend? A boyfriend? Perhaps..." Loki leaned forwards, his breath hot on Tony's ear, "...the ravishing Captain America?"

"Nah buddy, he's a hundred percent straight. Believe me, I've tried," Tony said without thinking, before remembering it was Loki, genocidal and insane god Loki, who was speaking and joking with him. The man who literally threw him out a window was now standing right in front of him, smirking and talking as though nothing had happened between them. Bullshit. Tony took a wary step back, pressing a hidden button on the band around his wrist to call for one of his suits. No way was he leaving himself defenseless in front of Loki. Maybe there weren't any gigantic, very high-up windows for Loki to throw him out of this time, but Tony had no doubt that Loki could kill him easily with nothing more than a handkerchief. And Tony had a lot of those.

"So... why are you here?" Tony asked, desperately trying to stall so someone, anyone, could get down here and face Loki with him. Or until one of his suits got to him. It was taking remarkably long, considering the suits were in the same building as him. He also wanted to avoid getting his throat ripped out by Loki for as long as possible.

Loki smirked. "Would you believe me if I said I wanted to make amends?"

"Nah, probably not, but then again, you don't have a reputation for being particularly honest, do you?"

Loki's face hardened, and Tony suddenly felt guilty for a fraction of a second, wondering if perhaps he should have said something else. "Ah, yes, my reputation precedes me," Loki said coldly, his eyes gleaming, face now an expressionless mask. "Of course, who would believe the god of lies?"

"Woah, woah, hey. C'mon, don't be like that," Tony said, and Loki snarled at him. "Woah, man, since when did you start getting so defensive about your title? It was just jokes. Like, you didn't seem to care about being god of lies, god of mischief, whatever, when you were invading our planet here--"

Loki glared. "Watch your tongue, or I will rip it out," he warned.

Tony put his hands up immediately. "Watching my tongue," he said.

Loki folded his arms and glared at him some more, before sighing. "I wish to speak with my broth--with Thor," he said, and Tony wrinkled his nose at the request.

"Yeah, sorry, big bro isn't really up to visitors right now," he answered, gesturing at the ceiling. "Kind of sleeping, snoring himself away, you know how it is." He grimaced, it was way too early (late?) to be dealing with this. "Come back tomorrow, I'll be sure to leave a message. Right now, I really just want to sleep, so if you could kindly fuck off until later, that would be great." Tony shot the god one last smile before storming away. He was not expecting his own suit of iron to come flying towards him, and unprepared, he was knocked flat onto his back.

"Ouch," he gasped as the air was knocked out of him. He wriggled under the heavy suit of armour, but eventually gave up. Maybe he'd just sleep here...

He suddenly heard a burst of laughter erupt from behind him. "What's so funny?" he demanded.

"Oh, nothing," Loki answered, and though Tony couldn't see him, he was sure the other was wearing a smirk on his face. He could practically see those sharp teeth flashing at him. "Well, I don't really have anywhere else to go, so I suppose I'll just stay here in your Tower. That is, of course, if you are amenable?"

"Fuck no! You tried to kill me!"

"Yes, well, those are minor difficulties. I'm sure we can forget about it, hm?"

"You're seriously insane," Tony grimaced, and shook his head as he noticed the elevator descending, somewhere in his peripheral vision. "You'd better fuck off before Steve sees you here," he warned tiredly. "Come back tomorrow. I'm serious. Not in the mood to deal with you right now."

Tony half-expected the god to just laugh at him, or to get angry that a mortal was trying to command a god, but he only heard Loki's mocking response, "As you wish," before there was just silence. He wriggled a bit more and twisted, and was almost disappointed (but also relieved) to see that Loki was no longer standing there.

"Hey, Tony, what happened?" Steve demanded, rushing over to where Tony lay. "Is there a problem?"

"Nah," Tony forced a smile, and finally got the suit off him. "I was experimenting and created a bit of an accident."

Steve's face fell into one of both amusement and annoyance. "I thought something bad was happening," he complained. "Do you know how hard it is to get into this suit? It's tight!" Grimacing, Steve shot Tony a smile. "Well, if all's well, I'll just be going back to sleep. Be more careful next time, Tony. Good night."

Tony sighed and smiled back with a little wave. "Yup. Nighty night, Steve."

As soon as Steve left, Tony shook his head with disbelief. Things had just gotten ten times more complicated, and a million times more difficult.

"Reindeer Games really just out there to screw us over," he sighed, rubbing his forehead. "JARVIS?"

"Yes, Sir?"

"Tell Fury to organize a meeting for tomorrow. And tell him it's important."

"Yes, Sir."

Chapter Text

"Alright, Tony, what's up?" Steve asked, eyebrows furrowed with concern. "You come to us saying you arranged a meeting with Fury and SHIELD, when we know full-well you don't like them getting caught up in your business. And you were outside of your room crushed under your Iron Man suit yesterday at 2 AM in the morning. What's going on?"

Tony shrugged. "I'll tell you guys in the meeting," he said evasively.

Steve frowned at him, but didn't press him to say anything. Tony was grateful for that--he didn't think he could explain what happened twice. He didn't even know if he could explain it once. It was just so... confusing. Why was Loki back? How was Loki back? Tony had seen him die, as had the other Avengers. They'd given him and Thor hell for it--saying that the cuffs should have been designed better, the cell more secure, Loki more monitored. It was bullshit, all of it. Thor had actually looked ashamed when the Avengers and SHIELD had complained to him, but Tony shut it down real quick. He couldn't handle them being annoying and complaining to him, not when he funded their entire organization.

Tony grimaced at his hands, the memory coming unbidden to the front of his mind. He hated that he could remember it so clearly; how Loki had easily snapped the cuffs and stared right at them as they rushed into the room, ready to stop him from escaping or creating chaos, when he just...

The look on Thor's face had been awful. It was a look of pure devastation and pain as he watched his brother explode into a billion pieces in front of him. There wasn't even a body left for him to collect and send off in a funeral; there was no blood, no remains, nothing. Every remaining memory of Loki's body had vanished into a swirl of green smoke. Though perhaps that pointed to the now-theory that Loki had just teleported away.

Tony had asked to find a way to contact Thor, but no one had a space phone or something. Fury seemed to immediately get a feeling about who the meeting was about, but stayed silent and asked no questions (surprising, the SHIELD leader was usually very nosy).

The Avengers assembled just watched the clock in a few more minutes of silence, until the door slid open. Behind it was Fury and two silent SHIELD agents, who were decked out in suits and black sunglasses. Fury gestured at them, his face stormy behind his eye-patch. "Well?"

"Er--" Tony pushed himself off the chair he had been sitting in and strode towards the open door in a faux imitation of confidence. "Shall we?" he asked the other Avengers, who were eyeing each other in discomfort. Tony had never called a meeting before (in fact, he hardly ever participated in them) and he definitely had never been the first one to start a meeting. The Avengers watched him in an uneasy silence before they, too, pushed themselves out of their chairs and followed Tony into the meeting room.

"So, Stark? I'm a busy man with little time for chit-chat," Fury growled.

Tony hesitated, not sure how to phrase what he'd seen yesterday without sounding like a hallucinating madman that had very interesting nightmares and a bad case of sleepwalking. But Fury and the rest of the Avengers were staring at him both impatiently and curiously, and he didn't really have much time to word it nicely. So, he just blurted out, "I saw Loki last night."

Denial. "Don't be an idiot, Stark. He's dead."

"Yeah, but I saw him last night. He rang the fucking doorbell at 2 AM. Steve saw me after I told him to leave. I called a suit and it crashed into me, and then Loki laughed and disappeared." Okay, maybe he was leaving out some parts of their conversations, but he didn't really want to admit that he had been so tired and sleep-deprived that he'd allowed a criminal to just leave without trying to capture them or alert SHIELD. And then he'd lied to Steve when he was asked what had happened.

"I saw him," Steve confirmed. "But he said it was nothing."

"Didn't want to worry you. Besides, couldn't have done anything at that point."

"You don't even have a doorbell," Fury snapped.

"Yes, well, Reindeer Games has magic so I wouldn't think--"

Fury raised his voice. "You're being ridiculous, he's dead--"

"You think he's dead, but he's had history of--"

"Tell me this, Stark," Fury snarled, a vein bulging in his forehead as he stood and slammed his hands hard against the table. His one eye bored into Tony's, but Tony stared defiantly back. "What man, even if they were a god, can come back from the dead? If there was even a chance, would Thor look so devastated? So anguished? So in pain? Wouldn't he be regulating Loki, to see if the bastard came back? What you are saying right now, Stark, is just bullshit. Bullshit is spewing from your mouth, and you're just--"

"I'm not lying, he's alive. I saw him!"

Fury glared at him and laced his fingers together, leaning forwards, his one eye bright and piercing. "Stark, you have a history of being a dangerous individual and a liar. Forgive me if I do not believe you, especially since we saw Loki die right in front of our eyes. Even Thor confirmed it. You are just trying to stir up trouble, aren't you?"

Ah, this pissed him off. "Why in fuck's name would I try and stir up trouble?"

Fury rolled his eye and let out of a half-huff of laughter, though his face was still cold and serious. "You're always trying to play the hero, Stark, but you've got nothing that makes you a hero. You're just a man, a self-centered and arrogant billionaire who thinks he's better than everyone else. You think you're so special because you've got an iron suit? Please."

Tony snarled and barely refrained from storming out of the room. It would be rude and unprofessional, especially since he had been the one that had called the meeting. Why was Fury trying to provoke him? "I'm not young me anymore. I'm not the Merchant of Death. You know what I've done. I fucking fund your entire organization? And you have the guts to say that shit to me? Please. As soon as I cut your funding, you're done. The Avengers are done. Hell, I could become a villain again if I wanted. But you know what's stopping me? The fucking fact that I don't want to be a deranged maniac and enemy of the nation like fucking Reindeer Games."

He finished his rant, breathing heavily, glaring at the Avengers who were watching him uneasily as though they expected him to explode and become Villain Iron Man right in front of them. He gave them each a pissed-off glare, plopping back down into his seat (he'd stood up sometime during his rant). As he did, however, he heard a silky voice sound from behind him:

"Ouch. I take offense to that."

Tony jumped to his feet again and whirled around at the sound of the voice, yelling an outraged, "You!"

"Yes, me," the man said, smiling at him, amused.

Fury slammed his hand against the table, furious. Tony spun around to face him, mouthing the words, "I fucking told you so." Fury ignored him (as did the other Avengers, much to Tony's annoyance) and drew his weapon. Clutched in his hand was his gun, and it was pointing right towards the man that'd just appeared, seemingly out of nowhere (probably out of nowhere) in the Avengers' conference room.

"Loki," Natasha said, and it was clear she was forcing calm into every syllable. Loki gave her a gleeful smirk, and she continued carefully, hand tight around her gun, "What are you doing here?"

Loki's grin widened, and he turned his unnervingly green eyes onto Tony. "I was invited back, was I not?" he asked, his voice light and amused. "I recall that the Man of Iron did tell me to come back tomorrow..." he addressed Tony, who was staring at with shocked, wide eyes. Fuck. Everyone was going to get so mad at him. "...this is tomorrow, is it not? I would have appeared back in your Tower, but I sensed that you all had left it. Quite annoying, for I now had to track you down. Tsk, if only you hadn't seen me last night..."

"Wait, wait, wait," Tony gaped at the god, who turned to look at him, eyes wide and filled with faux-innocence. "So you're saying... okay, you know what, explain from the top. What the hell are you doing here? I thought you died? You know, exploded and all that jazz? Thor was devastated, by the way," he added, just thinking that maybe Loki needed that reassurance.

Loki grimaced at his words. "Perhaps it will be easier if I explain it all to you slowly," he said, and then gestured at the seats. "Maybe you all should sit down. There is, after all, a lot to say."

It had taken a lot to get the remaining Avengers to sit.

Tony didn't trust Loki whatsoever. He didn't trust him an inch. If he had to pick between a toddler or Loki with his armour, he'd pick the toddler in an instant. Toddlers had no respect, were crazy and chaotic, recalcitrant, and all-around little demons, but Loki was worse. He was the literal embodiment of chaos. At least toddlers weren't pissing people off on purpose; in fact, they were quite cute when they were actually listening and being nice and not shitting their diapers. Thankfully Loki had never shit his pants in front of them, but he never listened, was always damn rude, and loved creating chaos and making lives hard. Fuck Loki, not literally.

But still. He wanted answers and an explanation, and okay, maybe he wanted to rub it in for a bit longer that he had been right. He'd already grinned at Fury a couple of times, but received nothing in return but harsh glares. Fury was no fun. Tony really had considered cutting funding a few times before.

"So?" Natasha asked, and Tony could tell that she was trying to act indifferent to their new situation, but he could tell how tense and worried she was. Clint, on the other hand, was full-on glaring at the god sitting at the other end of the table. Both of the assassins held weapons: Clint had one hand on his bow, and the other was fiddling with a few new knives he'd received from Tony as a birthday present. Natasha was hiding it a lot better; she had knives and tasers concealed in her clothes, and a gun held in one hand but half-hidden behind her chair and uniform. The other Avengers were all warily watching Loki. Tony had summoned his suit (thankfully it hadn't knocked him over again this time) but had decided not to wear it (it wasn't exactly comfortable).

Loki stretched out on the chair, long legs folded. He smiled at them all, his body elegantly slung across the chair, though still seeming put-together and well-presented (unlike Tony, who was doing pretty much the exact same thing but instead looked disrespectful and like a bum). "Ah, yes. I did promise you mortals an explanation."

Fury grunted. He'd gotten over his shock and denial remarkably fast, and was now just angry again. His gun was still out in the open, and he was still pointing it straight at Loki (who looked more amused by this than scared). "Yeah, you did promise us an explanation," he growled, his finger twitching over the trigger. "Now start explaining."

Loki rolled his eyes, suddenly serious. "I am not your puppet," he said in a low voice. "I am not the weak god that you defeated a while back. You listen to me now, and you listen well--I am doing you a favour, explaining. I could very well leave you in the dark about your current situation. You continue to behave and act as though you can control me, control someone like me, and I will tear off your tongues and your heads with them."

"Woah," Tony exclaimed, holding up his hands in a calming gesture. Loki turned his green eyes on Tony's, and Tony gulped at being the subject of interest for the probably-angry god. "That escalated quickly."

"Not the same weak god?" Fury asked, and then barked with laughter. Loki's dark brows furrowed, but he didn't make any moves to rip out Fury's tongue. "Alright. Sure. Though, I will say, if you decide to do your tearing off my tongue and head thing..." Fury waved his gun around, "...I'll just shoot your damn head off. How's that sound?"

Loki's lips curled upwards. "Good luck trying," he said, voice dangerous.

bang sounded. Tony jerked backwards into his chair, and most of the other Avengers had similar reactions. Tony looked accusatory at Fury, who had fired the gun. Tony then looked at Loki, who was laughing loudly as he pulled a crumpled bullet out of an already-healing wound. Tony's eyes widened to see the god's complete indifference to one of their strongest and most-used weapons, and suddenly grew uneasy. Bullets had affected Loki back in the Battle of New York--so then, it must be true, that Loki was not the same? And he looked better too--stronger, healthier, more sane (though no less of an annoying and mischievous bastard).

Loki raised his eyebrows at Fury, who was frowning. He then touched his forehead, and his fingers came back with dots of blood. The wound had closed so quickly that there hadn't even been ample enough time to bleed. He studied his fingers for a moment before looking back at Fury, and saying in a very dry voice, "I suppose I did wish you good luck, but I must admit I didn't think you'd be so stupid to actually try."

Fury sneered at Loki, his fingers tapping restlessly against the gun now that he knew it was useless, and most of the weapons he had against his disposal probably were, too. "Why not try if you'd already wished me luck?"

Loki rolled his eyes and sighed. "Is my brother here?"

"No, he just left for Asgard," Tony answered, and Loki grumbled curses under his breath.

"That complicates things... no matter. I will visit Asgard later. I suppose you lot still need to be explained to... very well. I think first I shall answer your--probably many--questions... and anything you have missed, which will likely be many things, I will further explain. And then you will inform me about what your realm has started doing--building any weapons? More superhumans? Hopefully... there will be others..."

"Er--what," Tony half-asked.

"We don't owe any explanations to you," Clint spat, body still rigid with anger.

Loki regarded the archer with a sad, almost-pitying look, and replied, "Then let us think of it as a trade. I do not owe you an explanation, and you do not owe me one. But we shall freely give explanations, because that would be the most useful thing to do, for both our interests."

"Eat shit. You don't owe us anything? You invaded our fucking planet. I think that at least something is owed," Clint snarled.

Loki ignored his anger. "Actually, foolish mortal, I likely have saved all of your pathetic lives. I have likely saved half of your pathetic realm. But no, let us talk about how am the villain here." He glared and then paused, thinking over his words, "Though of course, you will not understand me unless I explain."

There was a short hesitation as they pondered Loki's words, but eventually Tony was the one to give in. "Fine," he decided with a sigh. "I guess it's question time, then? First one! Why the fuck aren't you dead." Loki sighed at the question but allowed Tony to finish asking, "Why can you suddenly heal so quickly? Why do you look normal now?" Loki wrinkled his nose at the half-insult, but Tony wasn't done, "You literally exploded and then now you're alive again and showed up in my fucking Tower without permission--hey, yeah, were you even actually dead? Or were you just faking? Can all gods superheal and resurrect?"

"First," Loki said, cutting him off before a stream of further questions, "I am a Jotun, not a god. Know me now as Loki Laufyeson, for if you speak of me as Odinson ever again I will rip out your throat for certain." The Avengers exchanged looks at the proclamation, but did not interrupt until Loki had continued, "Second, I am both dead and alive. I did die, when I exploded myself, but I did not remain dead. I cannot die. I can choose to return if I wish--I only just realized that--but Hela, my and Thor's sister, decided to banish me from Helheim. Since I obviously am not good enough of a soul to go to Valhalla, which is for honourable warriors, I cannot die at all. My body actively prevents my death, so I am in peak form always. It constantly regenerates, so I suppose I am now immortal until I become honourable enough to go to Valhalla as a hero. And no, not all gods can do this. I do not think anyone can do this. It is my first time hearing someone be banished from the afterlife itself. And I showed up at your Tower unannounced simply because there was no other way to inform you mortals of my presence. And I needed to talk to you all and explain, like this. And to Thor, though he is not here right now."

"So... we can't kill you, you can't die from starvation or thirst, or anything really... until you become a hero? So why are you deciding to help us? Don't you want to be immortal forever? Seems pretty lucky to me..."

Loki scoffed. "There is no fun in an immortal life."

"So now you're basically unkillable?" Natasha asked, intrigued.

"I could always resurrect--I think I have done it before, but after leaving the realm of the dead I cannot remember them anymore. However, this is not resurrection--this is complete immunity and immortality... for now, anyways." He said this in a bitter tone, as though wishing that it wasn't like this.

"So, Laufeyson, eh?" Fury grunted, and Loki turned to him with a calm expression on his face, though his eyes were cold and hard, warning Fury to watch his words. Fury completely ignored this warning. "Thought you were Thor's brother or something? What happened? He disown you or something?" Fury watched Loki carefully, seeing if this could be used against him. A weakness?

Loki glared at the mortal. "I was... adopted," he said, spitting out the word as though it were poison. "I learned quite recently that my father was actually of the race that I had been taught to hate my entire life. And I was of them, as well." He gave Fury a cool, impassive look. "Let us just say... Odin Allfather knew how to manipulate these feelings of betrayal and hatred."

"Yes, completely reasonable reason to commit genocide," Tony muttered.

"Both Thor and Odin Allfather have attempted exactly the same as I have, only on more stupid levels. Thor was arguably more destructive than I was, since the Bifrost was destroyed before it could do any real damage." Loki shrugged. "In reality, it is the Allfather's will to have the Casket kept away from them that will kill them. And they have the audacity to claim that I destroyed their realm? Asgard has been trying to destroy Jotunheim from the beginning. When Jotunheim came here, seeking power, Asgard destroyed them there too because they could not bear to see another realm more golden than them."

Tony blanched. "Excuse me, come again?"

"Asgard and Jotunheim have fought on this puny realm before. Many of you were killed ruthlessly. And somehow, I am the despicable villain to be told in your stories. A thousand years on from now, I will be remembered as nothing but legend to your people. I will be seen as only a being of books and myths." Loki tilted his head. "What reason do I have, to gain your trust and respect? I only need give that to the other realms, who live long enough to remember my name and my crimes. Thus, you must realize by now there is no reason I would waste my breath lying to such insufferably short-lived creatures like yourselves."

"You know, you aren't really convincing us you want to make amends," Tony grumbled under his breath, but Loki heard him.

"I said I would explain and answer your questions, truthfully. I never said I needed to make amends with your realm. There are many others that require my attention as well, but I can easily cater to them as soon as I have finished with you lot, and the dirt place named Asgard," Loki replied smoothly. "Anything else to ask?"

There was a hesitation, and then Natasha spoke up carefully, "You said you had saved all our lives... I find that hard to believe, considering you invaded New York and sicced an alien army on us. And tried to steal the Tesseract, mind control us, and rule over us as a what, now? Benevolent dictator."

Loki grinned wide, showing his teeth. "Yes, well, compared to your own species I would have been rather gracious and kind."

Tony blinked, slowly. "Are you... shitting on our president right now?"

"Stop being so self-centered, foolish mortal. You are not the only creature living on this realm," Loki snapped in reply, but didn't deny what Tony had said, and there was still that massive shit-eating grin on his face. "But, Romanoff--you don't mind being called that, do you?--I do not mean the ones only living in New York. Half of all of you would be dead and gone, or dying, if I had allowed the Mad Titan to come here personally. He would take the Tesseract ruthlessly, and then gather the remainder of the stones--for I remind you all that I allowed two of them into your possession, and far away from him--and Snap. Half of the universe would splutter and die out, for that is the might of the Infinity Stones used together. I thwarted his plans, but what did you fools all do? Gag me, bind me, so I could not warn you, could not warn Thor and Asgard and all of the remainder of the universe. So I killed myself, for what was there left to live for? Thanos would have me dead regardless. But I was sent back here--for what, I do not know. But I do know I am back, and I am somewhat alive, and a bit of time has passed--I gather that time passes very quickly in Helheim--and now I can warn you all. It is up to you if you believe me or not."

Loki finished his speech and watched them all carefully, gauging their reactions. They all stared at him, and then Tony raised his hand and asked blankly, "Okay, I hate to be the one to admit I don't know something, but who's this Thanos, Mad Titan person? What are the Infinity Stones? What the hell does the Snap mean?"

Loki sighed and leaned his head back; he was already growing tired from all this explaining. "Thanos is a Titan who wishes to wipe out half of all life from the universe, and he is known as the Mad Titan. It took the collective armies of all the Nine Realms to defeat him before. The Infinity Stones are powerful artifacts, objects, whatever you want to call them... they are capable of great power, and aid Thanos in his quest to snap out all life. That is what the Snap is--the event of where half of all life is obliterated and turned into dust."

Tony gaped. "Oh."

"Yes, indeed, oh," Loki said, amused. "He likely did not expect for me to run off with his Infinity Stone, betray him, warn you lot, and kill myself, but I have surprisingly done all of these things." He scanned all of them, and grinned at the looks on their faces. "I see you all do not believe me. No matter. I will take my leave now, if you have no further questions."

No one said anything at all, and Loki just smirked, waved his hand, and vanished in a cloud of green.

"The bastard!" Clint growled, as soon as Loki had left. He rubbed his lips and glared threateningly at the spot Loki just was. "If he dares to try and shut me up like that again, I'll fucking kill him. I swear it. I'll murder him."

Tony rubbed his lips too, absentmindedly. "Already realized that isn't possible."

"An expression, dumbass!" Clint snarled.

Tony held up his hands in a gesture of peace, and gave Clint a grin. "Hey, come on. Just a bit of his voodoo, nothing we can't handle."

"He glued my fucking mouth shut!" Clint screeched, and Tony laughed dryly.

Oh, Loki. His mission to make people believe he was the good guy all along was doing terribly.

Chapter Text

As soon as he appeared, he was met with guards.

As expected.

He was a criminal in their eyes, anyway.

The guards surrounded him in a loose ring, eyeing him warily, their weapons in hand. Loki paid them little notice, instead redirecting his gaze to Heimdall, who was staring at him silently (though there was a slight glint of coolness in his eyes).

"Greetings," Loki said, inclining his head slightly in a gesture of respect. The guards scoffed at this.

"So, the runt prince has come to beg for forgiveness?" the guard sneered, and Loki could not even be bothered to get offended at such a low-handed insult. The guards around him chortled with laughter, and the guard that had originally spoken continued with a grin on his face, "Knew the stupid and weak mortals could not keep you forever... but now that you are here, face the might of Asgard!"

"Do not think we will go easy with you, just because Prince Thor is here," another guard added. "He hates you, Jotun runt. He hates all Jotnar, and that includes you. An abomination." The guards laughed and cheered at this, and one spat at Loki's feet.

Loki sighed silently to himself. How annoying. He really wished he could kill them all, but that wouldn't really do much to absolve him of his crimes, and Heimdall was watching him. Loki had frozen Heimdall solid before, and now that he actually respected the man he didn't want to do anything that would warrant more disappointment. But these guards... killing them might be worth Heimdall's disappointment with him.

"I request an audience with the Allfather and the Allmother, and their son Thor, prince of this realm," Loki said, raising his voice slightly. Though he was still respectful while he spoke, he made it clear that he was no longer the child of Odin and Frigga, no longer brother of Thor, no longer prince of Asgard.

Though that may change. Who knew what may happen? After all, Hela had been rejected to Helheim, but still did not push her birth family away.

Perhaps Loki would have to make a visit to Laufey and Jotunheim after, as well.

Ah, wait. He had killed Laufey. And attempted to kill all of Jotunheim--not once, but twice. One time with Thor and his idiotic group of friends, and once by himself, with the Bifrost. He gritted his teeth at the reminder of his failed attempts, but now he was glad that he hadn't succeeded.

"Pah! Like they would meet with a criminal such as yourself," a guard shouted at him, though Loki noticed that he hesitated to run him through with his sword. "Once a monster, always a monster. Nothing will amend your greatest sin--your blue blood."


The guards immediately froze and ceased all talking, and Loki looked deeply into the eyes of Heimdall, who had frozen the guards with just one word. He had once craved for power like that, and for the respect of everyone like that. Now, he realized how ridiculous his wishes had been. What use was there, to wield power, when everyone only bowed their heads out of fear? That did not make a good king, and despite what he'd said and thought before, he did still love Asgard. The people of Asgard should not be punished for Odin's lies, for the nobles' disrespect. They may have hated him, but at least they hated in silence.

"Loki," Heimdall addressed him, and Loki noticed how he had avoided calling him 'prince.' Clearly, he had already lost the right to that title--though, fair.

"Yes. I ask permission to speak with the Allfather," Loki repeated.

Heimdall eyed him, though his expression revealed nothing. What are you thinking? Loki itched to know. He was usually very good at reading emotions and intentions, but when he looked at Heimdall, he saw nothing. Perhaps he was even better than Loki at hiding his emotions.

"I will see what I can do," Heimdall answered, and Loki arched a brow. It was surprising that Heimdall was not demanding his execution, like most in his place would have done. Did he know what Loki was trying to accomplish, or was he, for once, going to trust him?

The guards spluttered with confusion, but Heimdall silenced them once again with another reprimanding look. "Urgh," one of them muttered in dislike, glaring at Loki, who stood primly in front of them with a smirk on his face. "Arrogant brat thinks he's still a prince, hm? Hope Odin Allfather will deal justice to him, or I shall cleave his head from his shoulders myself." Loki raised his eyebrows at the proclamation, though the smirk did not fade from his face.

"Why, thank you," Loki purred, and bowed deeply.

"Do not make me regret it," the Gatekeeper warned darkly.

"Of course not."

If Loki had been surprised when Heimdall had actually agreed to his request, he was even more so at the fact that Odin and his family (not Loki's, no, they were never really Loki's family) had agreed to meet him, to talk with him. Loki had expected that they'd completely forgotten about him, rebranded him as criminal. None of them had mourned him when he'd fallen, and none had mourned him when he'd died.

None had looked for him. They had forgotten him. A bastard son, a monster of blue blood who hid himself behind the illusion of an Aesir. A liar, a trickster. Never to be trusted, and never to be loved. He was just Loki. Not Odinson, not Laufeyson. No family to call his own.

He bit his lip harshly. No. He would not allow himself to be controlled by his emotions again. He was Loki, and even though he rejected his Jotun family as well, his genes claimed him as Laufeyson. So Laufeyson he would call himself. He was still him, with all his strengths and imperfections. If Odin and his family could not see that still, then they had deserved to lose him as their son, as their brother.

They did not deserve him. He did not need them. These were words that he hammered into his head constantly, trying to convince himself that no, he was not broken because he had no one to love. He was not angry or upset or frustrated that the Norns had to be this unfair, had to grant him such a lonely life.

The guards had ordered chains on him, and Loki was too tired to really argue with them, so he pretended to put them around his wrists. Instead, he'd created identical copies, though they were just illusions, and wore them that way. Loki couldn't bear to feel the chains against his wrists, not again.

When Thor practically flew into the room, cape flapping and hammer in hand, his eyes and face filled with desperation: Loki felt pity. He almost felt ashamed of himself for denouncing Thor as his brother, for ever thinking that Thor had not loved him--but those thoughts vanished quickly enough as he remembered every painful word and action Thor had said or done towards him. They vanished as he came to the chilling realization that though Thor might pretend to act devastated and desperate for him again, he hadn't searched. Hadn't mourned. Didn't care.

If he remembered that, if he told himself that, then maybe Loki could pretend that it was all right. That he didn't love Thor either. Didn't want his not-brother back.

And wasn't that so cold, the word 'not-brother'?

"Loki!" he cried, and that one word, one name, was filled with so much relief and happiness that Loki almost believed it. Believed that Thor loved him. But if he believed it, then he might end up loving Thor back--and no, he couldn't, they weren't brothers anymore. He couldn't allow himself to be tricked.

Thor rushed forwards in a blur of silver and red, and wrapped his strong arms around Loki in a tight, crushing hug. Loki grumbled and squirmed and tried to push Thor away, but only halfheartedly, because he, too, was enjoying the warmth of the hug. The reminder of the old days, where they were still brothers, where they still loved each other. He missed it, but what he did not remember in any of those hugs was Thor breaking into sobs.

"I thought you dead!" his not-brother openly sobbed into his shoulder, and Loki sighed as he stroked Thor's soft hair reassuringly. I missed you too, he thought, annoyed, to himself, but of course he could not say it. His brother had not missed him.

Not-brother. His not-brother had not missed him.

Norns, he had to remember to correct himself like this.

"I cannot believe this," Thor said breathlessly, pulling back, and his eyes filled with pain. "No, I cannot allow myself to believe this. This is another cruel trick that the Norns are playing on me." With a shake of his head, Thor stepped back and slumped against the wall, and Loki felt a bit sorry for him. Though at the same time, he wondered about Thor's words. "Ever since you fell... I have had these visions." He lifted his hand, as though he wanted to caress Loki's cheek, but stopped himself. "This is the first time they have not disappeared with touch..."

Loki stared at him. "Thor, it's me," he insisted, confused. "I'm alive."

Foolish. Why would he care if you're alive? Why would he why would he why--

"No," Thor said, smiling sadly at him. "I hoped... when Heimdall said it was you... but no. This must be a cruel trick of my head. But I will cherish this moment, for it has been a while since I have seen you in my dreams, brother." He shook his head. "I wish you would come visit me more. Tell me, how is Valhalla?"

Loki barked with laughter, and Thor jerked back in surprise as the younger swept closer to him, eyes boring deeply into his. "Valhalla? Are you that stupid? My soul is not for Valhalla. I appeared in Helheim to face our dear sister. She then banished me, and now I am here. Alive. I cannot die. Can you understand this, Thor?"

"Brother, please," Thor laughed lightly, though his eyes held a spark of hope. "Let me just enjoy this moment before you leave."

"I am not your brother," Loki spat, which looking back was an extraordinarily harsh thing to say in that current moment. No sooner had the words left his mouth did Thor begin to cry again, and he once more felt a pang of sympathy within his heart. Damn it. Damn it all. I hate this I hate myself I hate Thor and Odin and--

"Not brother by blood, but brother by heart," Thor insisted, determined, and Loki sighed at his proclamation. "But it does not matter now... no, I shall just enjoy this for a while."

"Thor!" Loki shouted, and Thor started. "It is me. I am alive. Truly."

The god stared at him a bit longer, and then shook his head again, mournfully. "No. I saw it. Nothing remained from that explosion, Loki. Nothing. I smelled the stench of death in the air. You were really, truly, gone."

"I am standing right in front of you!" Loki said furiously. "Our--your sister sent me back."

"We do not have a sister," Thor replied, semi-patiently, as though speaking to a small, inept child.

Loki bit his tongue to stop himself from screaming, Yes we do! Just Odin mistreated her and used her as a weapon, and then banished her to Helheim forever! But you wouldn't know that, because Odin has always been careful around you. I wondered where I learned to lie from? Thor had already lost his brother, he did not need to lose his father as well. Besides, Loki knew Thor would never believe it. He was strong, powerful, and undoubtedly worthy, but he was sometimes just a little naive and unintelligent. Loki did not hold that against him, he knew now that Odin had likely done it this way on purpose, but Thor's heart would be crushed if the truth was revealed. He had lived his life one way, and now suddenly Loki knew that his life was just a lie. Firstborn? Only heir to the throne? Please.

"Ask mother. Ask Odin," Loki offered, and Thor's brow furrowed. "Tell them... to arrange a meeting with me. There are many things I would like to say, and more things that I need you all to know. We must... prepare the realms for war."

"War?" Thor echoed. "There is no threat. The Chitauri have been defeated. And you--" Thor cut himself off, looking guilty.

"Do not worry for my reaction," Loki muttered, feeling slightly annoyed at Thor tip-toeing around him. "I know what I have done on Midgard. And I know what the Chitauri have done. But trust me on this--it was not done by my own hand. In fact, I have done everything in my power to stop them from winning the war." Thor frowned, confused, and Loki continued sharply, "Arrange the meeting, and you will all understand. I do not know how to prove to you that I am real and alive, but you will simply have to believe me."

"Believe you?" Thor echoed.

"Yes, believe me," Loki repeated, and his mouth stretched into a sickened smile. "Ah, yes, right. I am the god of lies. The trickster. The unhonourable. How could you believe me? How could someone as golden as you, prince of Asgard, heir to the throne, the great god of Thunder believe someone as wicked as me, the god of lies and mischief and chaos?"

Thor gave him a small smile, and Loki's hurt almost dissipated as Thor said, albeit quietly, "I believe you. Brother."