It was lonely at the Avengers Complex. Somehow, miraculously, you had managed to help restore half the universe and still ended up losing so much. You understood why Clint and Scott decided to spend more time with their family now, you even understood why Steve stayed behind - they deserved their happiness. Sometimes you worried about Wanda, but you hoped that she’d reach out if she needed you. Thor took off to go on some more space adventures, but that was definitely something you weren’t up for. Bucky did well with his court mandated therapy and Sam really came into his own taking on the mantle of Captain America. You were proud and happy for them as they all moved on, but you had no idea how to do the same. In your heart, there was still a gaping hole in the shape of Tony, Nat, Vision and most of all Loki.
You were surprised by the fact that the God of Mischief was the one you missed the most. Despite his history on earth, the pain he had caused, he had also saved your life and you were grateful for it. Where everyone saw him only as a liar and deceiver, you had gotten to know him on a deeper level over time. After a while, you understood why Thor was so ridiculously willing to give his brother another chance over and over again. By the end, he had been a true friend. He maybe could have been more than that if it hadn’t been for Thanos.
But there was no use in contemplating all the loss. You had to let go and the only way to do that was to throw yourself into work, coordinating missions, trying to find new recruits for the Avengers that had actually graduated High School already and helping Bruce with his research and the fact that they had cracked time travel.
It was during one of those late night sessions in the lab that you suddenly noticed a change in the air. Immediately alert and with your baton in hand, you stared at a portal opening up right in front of you. It was square with a glowing yellow hue, like nothing you had ever seen before. And at that time, you had seen plenty.
A man, dressed in a brown suit and tie with blond-gray hair and a mustache, stepped through first, followed by a figure in a gray jacket with an orange logo on it you couldn’t decipher. Shadows hid the features of the second person, but you would have recognized that frame anywhere. You dropped your weapon and sprinted towards him.
Your heart worked double duty as your mind wondered how any of this was possible. He was dead. Of course, Thor had believed his brother to have died before and had been utterly wrong, but this time had been different. Had it really just been another trick? Your head told you to be angry, but your heart knew that you would forgive him simply because it meant he was still here.
But just as you were about to envelope him in a fierce embrace, you noticed the confused look on Loki’s face. There was not an ounce of recognition in his eyes and you stopped dead in your tracks.
“How do you know me and who are you?” He asked looking you up and down in an unkind manner.
“I don’t understand.” You stumbled back a couple steps. He looked like Loki. He sounded exactly like him, smug and condescending but whip-smart. And yet, this was not the Loki you knew. Or at least not one that knew you.
You both looked at the second man hoping he would clarify things, while you regretted the fact that your weapon was now on the floor, halfway across the room. You should have been more careful.
“I’m Agent Mobius of the TVA and …”
“TVA?” You had never heard of it before.
“Time Variance Authority.” Mobius and Loki replied in unison, although Loki with a clear hint of annoyance. He seemed to not be a fan of them.
“That doesn’t exactly clear it up for me. What do you want?”
“We protect the proper flow of time, so when your time travel shenanigans had some unforeseen consequences and broke reality, we were assigned to fix it and now we need your help.”
“Why me?” It was true that you studied time travel further after the mission with the infinity stones was done. You never attempted it yourself though and you were certain that you didn’t even understand a fraction of what it really entailed … never mind its now very apparent ramifications.
“I’m beginning to wonder the same thing here, Mobius. Can we get on with it? Why do we need her?”
It was fascinating how alike he was to the man you once knew and how he crushed your heart with every word that discarded you as someone unimportant.
“This isn’t my Loki, is it? He’s from another time stream or whatever it’s called?” You asked instead of waiting for a response to your previous question.
“Your Loki? That’s absurd.” He seemed outraged at the mere suggestion of any connection to you, but Mobius ignored him.
“He’s a variant. Still the same Loki, just before you met him.”
You nodded, all of it making sense despite how strange it was. “But then I understand even less why you want my help. He doesn’t even know me.”
Mobius guided you away from Loki, who just watched you walk off together, not needing to be told to wait. The odd man clearly wanted to tell you something in confidence, but you were surprised that he would let Loki out of his sight for even second. You weren’t even able to do it; your eyes still glued to him and as you watched him play with the knives he had kept in a back holster, you were even more puzzled.
“You gave him weapons?”
“It was unavoidable. We need him and his unique Loki perspective to set time right … but back to your question. He’s not exactly big on trust.”
“Ain’t that the truth.”
“But he always trusted you.” You wondered how Mobius knew anything about your relationship with Loki, but he was right. The bond you had managed to forge with the trickster had been stronger and had led to a more trustworthy relationship than many others in both your lives.
“Again, he doesn’t know me. We never met; all our history is … non-existent.”
“That may be true, but you know him. I have studied every moment of his life and he has literally stabbed people in the back like 50 times, but never you. Somehow, you always understood him and that had earned you his respect. He thinks he’s always ten steps ahead, but with you to help us keep him in check, we might actually be able to accomplish our mission.”
“So, let me get this straight, you’re trying to manipulate the God of Mischief by doing what? Having me try to recreate our bond? Make him act against his nature?”
“It doesn’t have to go that far if you don’t want to. All we need is for you to let us know when he’s about to go off course, which we both know he'll eventually do.”
You studied the variant Loki across the room again. This was your chance to get back your best friend, even if you would have to somehow manage to bring forth everything that had made your relationship so special with a "new" person. Would it ever be the same or just a feeble attempt at recreating something that was long gone? Right in that moment, Loki noticed you staring at him and locked eyes with you. It was impossible to read him, he seemed so foreign and yet familiar at the same time, it made your heart ache all over once more. But for the briefest of seconds, you felt that spark again. That dare to try and make him yours. You couldn’t lie to yourself; you were curious to find out if it was possible.
“Yeah, it’s not like I have anything better to do.”
“Perfect, just walk through the portal with us and once we’re done, I’ll bring you right back to this moment. It will be like you’ve never even left.”
As you braced yourself for what came next, you hoped that Mobius was wrong. You were on a mission to set time right, but even more so, you were on a personal quest to get back your Loki.