It was over. They had lost, signs of their failure all across the whole universe. Tony sat there, staring at his hands waiting till he disappeared and joined Peter but the dust never came. Logically he knew he wasn’t going anywhere. He was one of the “lucky” few who had survived. The knowledge of that sat in the pit of his stomach as he stared at his ash filled hands.
This was his fault. He had known something was coming. He should’ve spent those six years preparing for the war. Instead he failed everyone. The whole fucking universe was destroyed.
He was supposed to protect the people he loved. Yet most of his friends and family were now dead. He hoped to God Pepper was okay but there was no way to be sure. And Peter.
Peter. The boy who’d always wanted to help. Had always gone to far and didn’t seem to have survival instincts. The boy who’d somehow made his way into Tony’s family. Who he’d finally begun to think of as a son. And he was gone.
How was he supposed to move on without his family. Had Pepper, Rhodey, and Happy even survived the snap?
He felt warm liquid drip down his face and realized he was crying. Finally, after what could’ve been minutes or hours staring at his hands he looked around. Everyone was gone, except for the blue skinned alien. She too was staring at seemingly nothing, face devoid of all emotions.
When she realized he was looking at her she too snapped out of her trance and stood up. “We must leave this place.” She informed him, black eyes unblinking.
“And do what.” Tony could hear the brokenness in his voice and it sounded distant. Like someone else was speaking for him.
She looked ready for a fight. As if they had not lost everything already. “Kill Thanos.”
Tony stared at her, trying to figure out her motives. True he wanted to end that things life as well. But they had already lost. Thanos had murdered half the universe. How did this girl think they had a chance? And what’s even the point of doing so anyways. So he voiced exactly that.
She didn’t seem phased. “Killing Thanos is my only goal.” She informed him. “It is my only mission.”
That wouldn’t work. Tony didn’t exactly want to get left behind on this rock but he also definitely didn’t plan on going after Thanos. Well maybe he would one day. But not yet.
“I’ll make you a deal.” He said as he grabbed her arm before she could walk away. She instantly went on the defensive so he held up his hands as a show of being nonthreatening. “You can go on your little mission but I need to get to earth. Can you help me do that first?”
She tilted her head for a minute and asked, “Terra?”
Jeez how many alien names were there for earth anyways. “Yeah sure that. Can you get me there?”
She stared at him once again expressionless and said nothing for a moment. “Very well. I shall prepare the Milano for the trip.”
Tony sighed in relief though it was unnerving that her face remained blank as they walked to the ship. When they got there she turned to him, “My name is Nebula.”
And so he introduced himself to her in response and it seemed like the start of a new friendship. If that’s even possible among all the damage around them.
Nebula set the ship up and drove it into space as Tony let his mind wander. He felt the ship speed up and watched in what would’ve been awe despite the circumstances of the galaxy around them. It truly was breathtaking that he was in space.
At some point Tony realizes he must’ve fallen asleep because suddenly he woke up feeling rested for the first time in a long time.
They spent most of the next few ‘days’ silently. Sure Tony tried to make conversation and cracked jokes but for the most part it was quiet.
It was peaceful. And calm. Which was of course why it didn’t last very long. They were probably on the ship for a week when one day they awoke to something hitting the ship .
Tony’s breath hitched. He didn’t know what he had been expecting but this was not it.
There were bodies. Everywhere. So many bodies floating all around them.
He looked around not recognizing any of said bodies but vaguely remembered Bruce recounting Thanos’ attack on the Asgardians. This must be it. He felt the nausea but all he could do was gag. “I think these are my friend’s people.” He said, turning to the seat next to him.
“There are no signs of life.” Nebula said with a shake of her head. “This is Thanos’ work.”
Suddenly a body floating past them caught Tony’s eye. Loki. Wasn’t he supposed to be dead? Nebula too seemed to have noticed him as she had instantly tensed. “We must get that body.” She told Tony.
“What? Why? He’s clearly dead. Besides he’s a criminal there’s no reason to take his body.”
“He is not a criminal. There was much done to him he could not help. And he is definitely not truly dead. Thanos would never allow him to die so easily.” Nebula said still staring at the body.
Tony took a moment trying to make sense of everything she had just said. “Why do you want to save him?”
“If you want allies to help destroy Thanos then Loki will be a formidable one.” Nebula said and To wanted to point out that they had stopped him easily enough and won before but she added, “if you think you have seen his full power you are wrong. At that point he was trying to lose.”
“Fine we’ll get his body. As long as you promise to explain everything to me.” Tony agreed, though still completely confused.
They soon figured out that Tony could gather the nanites he wasn’t using and send them to get Loki. The process took much longer than he wanted but soon enough Loki was on board and Tony felt at least ten times less safe than he had before.
Loki’s eyes were still open, face pale and drained. The bruising on his neck suggested he had been choked and based on the size of the hand Tony had a feeling he knew exactly who did it.
“Look I don’t know what you were expecting but he’s dead. Like long gone never coming back. Dead.” Tony told her and she rolled her eyes.
“Watch.” She ordered and for what felt like forever nothing happened, then suddenly his neck started glowing slightly and the bruising suddenly got better. Nebula looked relieved as if a layer of guilt left her and Tong couldn’t figure out why. “It will take time but in a few hours he will be healed.”
“Okay.” Tony said dumbly. “You said you would explain why he’s not a criminal now.”
Nebula closed her eyes as if it was a bad memory she didn’t want to relive. It was a weird change from her stoic expressionless face he has seen until now. “Many years ago my father found him crash into our planet after falling through the void. Thanos found out all about him. He used the mind stone to get into his head and find all his worst memories and feelings. His worst weaknesses. And he was also tortured, by my father and his children.” Nebula looked down, “including me. Thanos broke him down mentally and physically, just as he did all of us. But Loki lasted much longer than the rest of us. It went on for nearly a year until Thanos gave Loki an ultimatum. Either he would go to Asgard and destroy everyone in it he loved, including his brother, or he had to go to Terra, Earth, and get the Tesseract.”
“But he didn’t succeed.” Tony pointed out, still trying to process everything else he had just heard that said Loki was innocent the whole time. “And Thanos didn’t come after him until now.”
“He was smart.” Nebula said, “he realized all he had to do was make it seem like he wanted to take over your world. But father realized later he had strategically planned to lose. And my father wouldn’t dare attack Asgard as long as Odin was there, who would release Hela, the goddess of death, if he died.”
“So Loki planned to lose.” Tony repeated in shock. “It always bugged me why he was so compliant when we beat him.”
“Now that he has recovered from the torture he truly will be an enemy to be reckoned with.” Nebula said, “Provided he doesn’t want to kill me as well.”
“Well all things considered it sounds like what you have done is as much your fault as his is.” Tony told her. But suddenly he had an immense amount of respect for Loki. When he had been in Afghanistan if he had been alone he probably would’ve given in and made the weapons for them. Loki had survived on his own and stayed sane.
They stayed quiet after that and not too long after they heard Loki cough behind them. Nebula turned to him, “it is probably better I am not in the room when he awakens.”
Tony nodded in agreement and she walked out while he stared at Loki’s neck. Just a couple hours ago it had been completely bruised and broken while now it looked completely healthy beside slight discoloration. He would have to ask Loki about how his magic worked, now that he knew he wasn’t evil.
Loki’s eyes snapped open and Tony couldn’t help but jump when he started looking around, unseeing. He fought some unknown evil, which was understandable considering his last memory was being killed by Thanos.
Tony tried to wipe out the image of dead Loki and spoke to the god. “Hey. Hey. Hey Loki don’t worry. I’m not gonna hurt you. You’re safe.”
Loki continued to desperately gasp for air and look around but eventually he calmed down and seemed to collect himself. “Stark?” He asked in confusion. “How am I here? Or alive for that matter?”
“Oh yeah that. Well long story short we found your body hurtling through space and figured out you weren’t actually dead and brought you on board.”
Loki stood up, looking completely fine except for his slightly bruised neck, “I have to find Thanos before it’s too late.”
“Oh yeah about that.” Loki started at the man, eyes narrowing and Tony continued, “he kinda already did the horrible thing.”
Loki looked like he didn’t want to believe it but then he collapsed on the nearby seat, defeated. “So he’s won.”
“No. We’ll find a way to stop him. Maybe we can reverse it too.” Tony knew even he didn’t sound nearly as hopeful as he’d aimed for, but they both needed to believe that.
Loki closed his eyes again. “Do you know if Thor...” he trailed off but Tony knew what he was asking anyways.
“I didn’t see him in the wreckage. You have to have hope he survived.” Tony reassures him.
“Why are you being kind to me?” Loki asked genuinely, “last time I saw you I tried to kill you.”
“I guess you could say I learned more about you since then.” Tony watched Loki’s reaction as he spoke. “I found out New York wasn’t entirely your fault.” Or at all.
Loki looked somewhere in between shocked and relieved and yet angry all at once. “Who told you these things.”
Nebula stepped back into the room and told him, “I did.”
Before Tony could blink Loki produced a knife from who knows where and had her backed into a wall with the knife at her throat. “You.” He said with so much venom, “give me one reason why I shouldn’t kill you right now.”
Tony ran towards them quickly, “okay hold up. No ones killing anyone.” To Loki he said, “look I know she’s done some pretty shitty things to you before but she’s on our side.”
Loki looked like he wanted to argue but sighed and put the knife down instead. After all he had heard her screams too. “Fine.” He said still sounding angry. “Where are we headed.”
“Back to Earth. Hopefully we can find out who was snapped away and rebuild with what’s left.” Tony told him and Loki nodded.
“I just find out what happened to the remaining Asgardians and Valkyrie and Bruce.” Loki said before adding softer, “and Thor.”
“Well I don’t know about the others but I at least know Bruce is back on earth, if he didn’t get snapped away.” Tony told him and at least a little relief showed on Loki’s face.
Nebula, still staring at the god after his attack said softly, “For what it’s worth I’m sorry for what I did to you.”
Loki nodded in recognition but still didn’t speak much to her. Once they were all comfortably in the cockpit none of them spoke much, trying to save oxygen.
Over the next few weeks Loki slowly told Tony (and Nebula) the story of Hela and Ragnarok and why Asgard was destroyed. And how Thanos attacked their ship and took the Tesseract, killing many of the already small number of survivors.
“Damn.” To my had said when Loki finished everything. “When we get home I’ll buy you that drink.” He commented and Loki chuckled in response before asking how he got here.
And so Tony told his side of the story. It was painful and he knew he started crying when he spoke of Peter turning to dust, but he felt better when he saw the look of sadness and sympathy in Loki’s eyes.
“You know I really should’ve prepared better for this.” Tony had said one day. “Every since New York I’ve known something bigger was coming, but I didn’t prepare enough for it.”
“Don’t blame yourself, Stark. Thanos would’ve gone after those stones no matter how much you tried to stop him. He cares for nothing but completing that mission. He’s been plotting it for centuries.” And somehow that relieved Tony so much to hear that it wasn’t entirely his fault. That his kid wasn’t dead along with half the universe solely because he didn’t prepare enough.
After what felt like forever they felt the exhaustion setting in, and the oxygen running out. There was no way they would make it to Earth before that. So Tony recorded a message for his woman and Loki wished he could at least know if Thor survived. Once again he had somehow cheated death and yet here he was, about to die again.
The last day Tony recorded his message to Pepper it had felt so final. Oxygen was going to run out in a day and there was no way to make it to earth by then. This was the end. That ‘night! Tony and Loki sat in the cockpit with blankets wrapped around them as they fell asleep.
Suddenly a blinding light filled the room and woke Loki up from his slumber. A ball of light showed from the viewport. Was it a sun? Stark too seemed to have awoken from the light and was looking outside too. After a moment the light dimmed slightly and the could make out a woman. “Tony Stark?” She said through the comms and
Tony nodded, not comprehending what was happening.
“I’m here to take you home.” she told them simply an Tony looked at Loki wondering how exactly do you plan on doing that? But the woman simply disappeared rom view and after a moment the whole ship began moving.
Nebula came into the room in alarm and asked, “what is happening?”
Tony grinned in relief, “I guess we got a ride.”
When she still looked confused Tony just shrugged and relaxed back into his chair. They were going home now. The whole galaxy sped past them and they entered the Milky Say and passed the other planets. Before they knew it Earth was in sight and Loki suddenly felt nervous. What if no one was willing to forgive him for New York? What if Thor thought he faked his death again and was angry at him? What if Thor wasn’t there?
“Don’t worry Reindeer Games, I’m sure Thor’s fine.” Tony said seeming seeing Loki’s distress.
He nodded at that but asked, “What I’d the rest of you Avengers aren’t willing to forgive me.”
“At this point our biggest enemy is Thanos. Besides New York wasn’t your fault. Your in as much wrong as Nat was before SHEILD or Clint was while under the mind stones control.” Tony reassured him.
“I truly hope you’re right Stark.” Loki said eventually and as they landed outside the Avengers compound.
Nebula helped Tony outside the ship while Loki stood nervously out of sight from everyone outside. After Tony was greeted by Pepper he seems to realize Loki hadn’t come out so he questions, “Did Thor make it?”
Theo stepped forward and said “I am here.” Though he sounded confused on why Tony wanted him.
That’s was all that needed to be said as Loki walked forward eyes full of unshed tears.
Thor opened his mouth and suddenly was repeating Loki’s name over and over as Thor all but ran to when Loki was still standing on the ramp. Thor hugged him so much it probably hurt but Loki was so full of emotion he didn’t care.
“I’m sorry, brother.” Loki chokes out and Thor shushed him as he kept repeating you’re alive. “I thought it I let him kill me you would be able to escape.”
“That’s the dumbest idea you’ve ever come up with.” Thor said but he was still sobbing.
After an awkward moment from the rest of the group, Rhodey said, “we should get all of you checked out.”
They all headed inside, Loki felt the nervous glances from the Widow and Rogers but no one spoke to him and with Thor staying so close to him he felt relieved at the support. It made him feel like maybe, just maybe everything could be okay. That feeling only intensified when Stark and Bruce vouched for him and Nebula proved his innocence from the Battle of New York.
Those were his thought as he and Thor watched the sunrise together.
The sun will shine on us again.
Indeed it had.