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The Waves and the Shore

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The sound of water is the only thread connecting New Asgard to the old. When Thor closes his eyes, he can see the Bifrost stretching out over the sea, leading into a golden city encircling a golden palace. He can hear the musical hum of the Rainbow Bridge beneath his feet as it leads him to the dome and spike of the Himinbjorg, where once Heimdall stood waiting, sword in hand, eyes fixed on the stars beyond the edge of Asgard where the waters roared and fell away into the dark.

The waters of Midgard, by contrast, are gentle and finite. They submit to the boundaries of space, sand, and rock. When Thor opens his eyes, he sees a cold corner of the Atlantic Ocean lapping at a white sand beach and a pier in need of repair. The water jostles but doesn’t threaten the fishing boats bobbing on its surface, stacked high with fishing nets and crates for crab and lobster. Here the water speaks in a hush instead of a roar. At least the smell is the same. A briny scent, sharp as a whip on the air, clearing Thor’s head of his journeys. The scent is the first part of home that has always come to greet him, no matter where that home might be or who is there waiting for him. Or who isn’t.

Today the Queen of Asgard has deigned to make an appearance on the docks, looking as different from the last queen as possible. But the days of golden crowns and flowing silks are long past. The queen now wears a sweater and boots and carries a fishing rod in one hand. Old memories keep Thor outside its range when he steps forward to greet her.

“Your Majesty,” he says.

“You might’ve called,” she replies, ignoring this.

“You were worried?”

“Annoyed,” she corrects breezily. “The Guardians’ ship made a mess when it dropped you off.”

Thor surveys the patch of flattened and burned grass visible even from a half-mile away.

“I can see they aren’t staying. What about you?” She asks, her gaze as flat and sharp as a blade.

“Not this time. But they’ll be back for me. I’m not staying long. I just thought--” Thor pauses. It’s strange how difficult it is for him to be back here. “I thought I should check in. Should I have called?”

“Obviously. But you have a habit of missing obvious things.” The queen was a Valkyrie once, a fact that is always obvious in the set of her shoulders and the danger that lurks in her eyes. But the shoulders loosen a little and the danger dips far beneath the surface as she sighs and asks, “How have you been? Good, I hope.”

“Good,” he confirms. “And I see Asgard is prospering with you in charge. I knew it would.”

“Watch it,” the queen snaps without heat, pointing her fishing rod with a hint of menace. “Don’t you dare take credit for my rule.” The effect is entirely ruined by her grin. “Come to dinner,” she says, turning on her heel. “Oh, and Thor?” She pauses, looks over her shoulder. “Welcome back.”

***

Much later, when the sun has set and all the cottages are lit like candles in the dark, Thor sits high above the water line. The cold wind carries the sound of waves, and the distant smells of fire, fish, and salt. On the docks below, Asgardians are repairing nets and crates. A few are laughing together around a fire. It’s a pale reflection of the grand halls and feasts they once would have had. The smoke is far off, but his eyes sting all the same.

He’d thought his time away would help heal the lingering rawness of his mind and heart. It has, to an extent; he’s laughed quite a bit today and smiled his way through a welcome dinner in the town hall. Genuinely, for the most part. Although his smile slipped a little when he perceived the constant current of relief in the eyes of his fellow Asgardians. Relieved, no doubt, that he is no longer the angry drunk up the hill. And, he suspects, relieved that he isn’t here to reclaim the throne. In the dark he wonders, again, what his father would have said to his abdication. But Asgard is not a place, it is a people. And in his absence, the people are safe, happy, and well.

Perhaps his family just isn’t cut out to rule. Seeing as he’s the only one left, it was up to him to make the right choice. He thinks he did.

Strange that the right choices often felt as hollow as the wrong ones. It’s a thought that leads him unaccountably to his brother, as many of his thoughts do. His mind turns to Loki’s pained smile as he shoved a blade into Thor’s side; his blank terror as he aimed a dagger at Thanos to save Thor. To save everyone, if he’d succeeded. He didn’t, of course. The memory rings hollow too.

So many hollow choices. Perhaps that’s why Loki didn’t distinguish between right choices and wrong ones for so long.

Thor sits in the damp grass and the cold wind until the fires on the beach are all doused and the docks are empty and silent. He knows Korg or Valkyrie or any number of the people in the town below would offer and have offered him a place to stay, but he spreads his coat on the grass and lays back to watch the stars, drifting off with the sound of the ocean in his ears.

His dream is a familiar one.

Odin, the All-Father, wearing a simple linen suit in the style of Midgard. The sky is light, but tumultuous, as though lightning might flash at any moment. Odin is speaking, but the sudden thunder is too loud and covers his words.

Thor strains in frustration, desperate to hear him. But Odin is walking away. The wind is warm on his face when he hears at last, I love you, my sons.

The thunder rumbles, the lightning strikes—but suddenly, all is silent.

Thor wakes to icy wind and the first hints of pink in the sky. He flexes his fingers, grimacing at their stiffness. God or not, it was a mistake to sleep outside. And on top of his coat, no less. Rubbing life back into his fingers, Thor listens to the waves. The sea has a soothing sound no matter which planet he finds himself on. Perhaps it’s the rhythm, the predictability. The gentle assurance of drawing away and immediately rushing back.

The ground trembles beneath him in rhythmic beats; someone is walking nearby. Approaching, he thinks. He begins to hear the murmur of voices mingled with the waves below. A woman’s voice is the first to become clear.

“Are you sure we’re in the right place?”

“You saw the sign. This is New Asgard,” replies a man’s voice, more distant than hers, and much harder to make out. It still makes Thor freeze in place. Something like fear is creeping up his spine, but he can’t identify why.

“Depressing,” the woman replies.

A long pause as though the man can’t disagree. “Less depressing than the apocalypse that wiped out the original.”

“True,” the woman allows. “If you prefer fishing to death. Honestly not sure if I do.” Her words sound like they ricocheted off a smirk. “Are you sure he’s here?”

“Fairly certain.”

“You’re gonna have to define ‘fairly’ for me.”

“I’d be completely certain, only I haven’t done this in a long time.”

“What, teleporting? You do that all the time.”

“Not using him as my destination.”

“Ah.” She clears her throat. “THOR!”

“Shhhhh!” Comes the immediate interjection. “It’s the middle of the night!”

“Dawn,” she retorts. “And what do you think will cause a bigger stir, announcing yourself in advance, or appearing like a ghost with no warning? That’s an excellent way to get yourself killed, Loki.”

Thor isn’t quite sure how the world can spin when you’re already lying down, but it manages. His chest is heavy and his throat tight. He wants to yell something, anything, to demand that they explain who they are and what they think they’re doing, but he’s suddenly terrified of the answer. He clenches his fists to quell their shaking and breathes deeply. The pink light is edging towards gold; there’s enough to see by. He jackknifes upright, then to his feet, hand already extended to call Stormbreaker. He learned a long time ago never to take chances, no matter what you may think is true.

“Oh,” says the woman’s voice, “There he is.” The voice matches a slender figure of moderate height. Her shoulder-length hair gleams gold in the sunrise, framing keen eyes locked on him. She is dressed, rather troublingly, in a leather and a style that looks distinctly Old Asgardian.

Glass shatters in the distance, the air vibrating as Stormbreaker rushes to meet his outstretched hand. The man pulls the woman out of the way suddenly enough that she stumbles. As the axe whizzes past her and slaps into Thor’s palm, he finally lets himself look at the second, taller figure.

Even in the dim light, and even after nearly ten years, Thor recognizes Loki. He’s still grasping the woman’s arm as she rights herself after the near-miss with the hammer, but he’s staring at Thor with wide eyes and a locked jaw. He looks…different. The last time Thor saw him he’d been staring at nothing as blood trickled between his lips, his neck twisted at an unnatural angle. But the difference goes far beyond alive or dead. Now Loki looks older. Not in his face as much as his eyes. He looks at Thor like Mother or Father would have, with concern and a measure of understanding. Thor blinks, but can’t make the image clarify into anything he can comprehend. They stand, unmoving, their breath clouding in the early morning air.

“Brother,” Loki says at last, and takes a step forward. He sounds terribly uncertain. Thor sees the woman maneuvering to keep herself beside Loki. On a battlefield, the movement would alert Thor to two allies moving defensively, but here and now he only sees…

The ground shakes when he drops Stormbreaker. The distance between them amounts to three big strides. For the first time since he’d wept over his broken body years before, Thor embraces his brother. To his surprise, Loki embraces him back.

He’s weeping, of course. He’d wept for years after he’d thought Thanos killed Loki. He’d been forced to leave Loki’s body floating among the stars and thought of him every day, alone out there. Loki had always hated to be alone in the dark. Pressed tightly to him, he feels Loki’s shoulders shake. Thor hasn’t seen his brother weep since they were children. He’d come close after Mother died, but Loki always clawed his way out of the tears with rage before Thor could see his weakness. All that seems like such foolishness now.

“You’re alive,” Thor finally manages to say, pushing Loki back an arm’s length to look at him. His face is wet and the unsettling older look is still in his eyes. The smile he gives is much less bitter and twisted than the ones Thor remembers.

“I’m alive,” he agrees, “But I need to explain—“

“How,” Thor interrupts him. He can feel the icy wind turn colder and pick up speed before he even registers his anger. Thunder growls distantly as the clouds thicken overhead.

The woman, watching at a distance, snaps her head up. “Loki—“ she says, a question in her voice.

“I thought you were dead for years, Loki. Again.

“Thor, it’s not what you think—“ He winces when Thor’s grip on his shoulders tightens.

“Our people struggled here and I couldn’t help them because I was drowning. Because Mother died, and Father died, and Heimdall died, and half our people died, and you were the last one, brother, but you made me think you died too.”

“I’m not—“ but Loki is struggling not to cry out in pain now, Thor’s grip has progressed past bruising and is threatening to do far more damage. Thor can’t quite bring himself to care. All he can see is the muddy stream of the years that passed him by while he wept and struggled alone. The sky flashes with distant lightning, growing closer. Thor can feel the electric charge building between his fingers now. He ought to—

“Alright then,” the woman’s voice comes from behind him, reminding him of her existence. Her fingers are on his temples, a green light glowing beside his eyes, and then—

They’re sitting in a diner in New Mexico. Jane is opposite Thor, with Darcy and Erik crowded on either side of the tiny table. A warm coffee mug is in his hands.

“This was the first time I tasted coffee,” Thor says distantly. His head feels stuffed with cotton and white noise. He shakes it, but can’t focus.

“It’s not bad,” the woman’s voice comes from beside him, and he sees that she’s displaced Darcy in the red and silver chair. She sits like a child, slumped back, feet on the table’s edge. Thor stares at her, trying to remember who she is and why he should be wary of her. He should be, he’s sure.

“Do I know you?”

The woman tilts her head to give him an appraising glance. “So you’re more than just muscle. Your mind is stronger than I thought. Not sure how long I can hold you like this, so let’s make it count.” She swings her legs to the floor and leans forward, elbows on the table. “Loki needs to explain some things to you. He hasn’t wronged you, at least not in the way you think he has. So do me a favor and listen to him. Alright?”

Thor blinks at her, then looks around at the quiet diner. “Loki?” He asks.

The woman smiles like she’s holding back a laugh. “Or maybe I spoke too soon about your mind. We’ll see, I suppose. Just don’t hurt him, or you’ll have me to answer to. And believe it or not, he’s the nice one.” Her smile is spiky and unsettling. She plucks the coffee from his hand and takes a drink, humming in appreciation. “This is good. Or your memory of it is, anyway. Thanks for sharing.” Her strange smile becomes a grin. “Another!” She bellows, and the mug smashes against the floor.

Thor feels like he’s flying or falling or both. His eyes snap open and Loki is in front of him, rubbing his shoulder. The woman steps away from Thor, but stares at him as she crosses her arms. “Remember what we talked about,” she says. Her bright smile is a threat.

Thor blinks in confusion. “What?” He finally says. “Loki, who is this?”

Loki looks at him warily, then shares a lengthy look with the woman in question, who shrugs as though they’ve had a conversation instead of merely locking eyes. Maybe they did.

Thor’s head hurts.

“Let’s sit down,” Loki says, and Thor is quick to nod his agreement.

***

The Queen of Asgard only curses a little when Thor knocks on her door before the sun has quite risen. Her curses become far more colorful when she sees Loki standing on the other side. A dagger is in her hand and against his throat before Thor can move in front of him.

“You miserable coward, I knew it. I knew you left us, you snake, you—“ she switches into Asgardian curses that nearly make the hair on the back of Thor’s neck stand up. The woman with Loki raises her eyebrows at the language, but looks half-approving. Apparently she draws the line at daggers, however, because she taps Loki on the shoulder. He obligingly disappears. The woman smiles condescendingly at the dagger now pressed against thin air.

“Back up,” she says sweetly.

“And who exactly are you?” Valkyrie replies. Her hands are barely containing the violence in her voice.

“Her name is Sylvie,” Loki says, from behind them. He’s seated in the chair closest to the fireplace. A twist of his hand and the fire leaps to life. “And she doesn’t much like daggers in her face. So if you don’t mind.” He gestures toward the dinner table against a far wall and beckons three more chairs to pull themselves into a semi-circle around the fire.

Valkyrie looks at Thor. He’s not sure what expression he’s wearing beyond something exhausted, but whatever it is prompts her to shrug and tuck her dagger into her sleeve. She shoots one last appraising glance at the woman named Sylvie before turning away.

Thor steps toward the chair beside Loki, but Sylvie intercepts him and slides into the chair as swiftly as a blade. Surprised, Thor settles for the next seat over.

“Why does everyone you know attack you on sight?” Sylvie mutters.

Loki shrugs. “You did the same, as I recall.”

“Not true,” Sylvie contradicts immediately. “I waited until you annoyed me to attack.”

A smile ghosts over Loki’s face. “Not a long wait, then.”

His smile warms Sylvie’s expression--or at least defrosts it very slightly--when she answers, “Not long at all.”

Thor stares at the pair of them, his brow furrowed. “Are you two…?” he begins, wondering too late how he’s going to finish the sentence.

“Irritated?” Sylvie interrupts, crossing her arms. “Absolutely. So let’s get on with this.”

“My house, my rules,” says Valkyrie, dropping into the chair furthest from everyone. “So if you’re going to fight, take it outside.”

“Your kingdom, technically. So what you say goes.” Thor gives a rueful smile as Valkyrie acknowledges him with the stilted parody of a royal wave and bow.

“I’m sorry,” Loki interjects, “Her kingdom?”

Thor nods. “I abdicated.”

“You what? Why?”

Thor can’t find words to explain the years of aimless despair that elapsed before his abdication, or the final struggle against Thanos, or the new purpose he’d found with the Guardians. And he’s not certain he wants to share all that with the man who’d deceived him yet again. So he shakes his head and whittles the truth down to its smallest component.

“It seemed like the right thing to do.”

Loki studies him for a long moment. “You’re different,” he concludes softly. “How much of that is my fault?”

“Some of it,” Thor answers truthfully.

“Too much of it,” Valkyrie adds, her voice edged with dangerous promise. “So start talking.”

“Well,” Loki begins. “I’m not…him. The Loki you remember.”

Thor is already shaking his head. Valkyrie’s eyes trace a line that seems to run from the nearest liquor bottle to Loki’s head. Sylvie gives Loki a look and mutters something about the point and getting to it.

“I’m sure you remember the time travel you and the Avengers attempted,” Loki continues quickly.

“What?” Valkyrie says, sitting up straight and looking both horrified and delighted.

“Attempted?” Thor says, scoffing just slightly.

“I knew you were up to something stupid—“

“I think you mean, succeeded.

“—just as soon as Hulk or Bruce or whatever he calls himself now showed up—“

Loki’s pointed silence eventually encourages the two of them to follow suit. He begins again. “Well there was a mistake somewhere along the line. Stark was trying for the tesseract, and I got it instead.”

As Loki continues, Sylvie smiles behind her hand and murmurs something that sounds to Thor suspiciously like, “Glorious purpose.”

***

“You saved the universe?” Thor asks, hours later. He’s on the edge of his seat.

Loki shares a meaningful look with Sylvie—something they do very often, it seems—and nods. “Well. We saved the universe.”

"Multiverse," Sylvie corrects smoothly.

Thor looks at Sylvie as if for the first time. “And you. You’re…him?”

“You’re not really getting this whole multiverse thing, are you?” Sylvie smirks, but not unkindly. “The answer is yes…and also definitely no.”

“Oh. Well that... clears it up then,” Thor says, giving up. He lapses into thought, thinking of a broken ship and a broken body bleeding sluggishly on the floor. When he speaks, it comes out in a whisper. “So he’s really dead.”

Loki nods slowly. “Yes. I’m not precisely the brother you remember. But I am your brother. And I know about what happened, even if I didn’t live it all.”

“Or die it all,” Sylvie adds helpfully. Loki grimaces.

Ignoring Thor’s sad look—or perhaps in response to it—Valkyrie chimes in suddenly. “So I can’t help but notice that there’s a thing happening here.”

“I’m sorry,” Loki says, pointedly ignoring Valkyrie’s muttered, not yet you’re not. “But what are you talking about?”

“This thing,” Valkyrie elaborates unhelpfully, pointing loosely between Loki and Sylvie until Thor finally catches on.

“Is she… are you...” Thor stumbles over the question, wondering about the etiquette of the situation when your brother from another reality seems to have a thing with a version of himself from yet another reality. It was probably easier not to think about it.

“Oh,” Loki says, and it might be a trick of the firelight, but Thor could swear he looks the slightest bit redder than he did before. “She’s my…” He trails off, looking at Sylvie with an expression reminiscent of a drowning swimmer politely requesting a life preserver.

Sylvie, long since having curled herself into an improbable pretzel in her chair, leans heavily on her palm and regards him with a merciless smile. “Oh, I’d like to hear this. Your…what?”

Loki steels himself and looks at Thor with an imitation of confidence so impressive that it might even have fooled someone who hadn't known him since childhood. But when he says, “My…girlfriend,” his inflection turns up toward a question.

Sylvie makes a sound like she’s just seen a terribly repulsive insect, but she doesn’t contradict him. And her smile edges just the slightest bit towards something sweeter. Or perhaps it’s another trick of the light.

The sound Valkyrie makes indicates that she’s not only seen the repulsive insect, she’s ready to kill it and have it for dinner. But when she flings herself out of her chair, she only marches to the door and steps outside. “This is where I leave you,” she says. “I wanted the story, now I’ve got it. Call me when you’re ready to throw him into the ocean.”

“Thank you,” Thor says, mainly to all the things she hasn’t said rather than the ones she has.

“Thank you,” echoes Loki. Valkyrie fixes him with a forceful stare until he adds, “Your Majesty.” She smiles like a shark and shuts the door behind her.

When Thor turns back, he finds Loki leaning over to Sylvie, speaking quietly. His hand is on her arm. The picture is so jarring that Thor stares very rudely until Sylvie turns and gives him a pointed look.

“I think your brother would like to speak to me,” she says. “Why don’t you make yourself scarce for a few minutes.” Loki looks like he’ll protest, but Sylvie's hand comes up to cover the one he's laid on her arm. “You had to do most of the talking today. My turn.” She shifts, threading her fingers through his.

Loki's sigh is pained, but he squeezes her hand before releasing it to stand. "Very well," he says. "But be nice." Thor is not at all sure whether the remark is addressed to him or to Sylvie.

With a flourish, Loki vanishes.

"Perfectly good door," Sylvie calls loudly, pointing at the nearest one. "Several, in fact!" But there is no answer. The irritation in her voice is stained with a smile, so she abandons both and turns back to Thor expectantly.

Thor turns in a slow circle, peering suspiciously into the corners of the room.

“For all I know,” he says at last, “Loki could still be here.”

“He’s not,” Sylvie says flatly. “So what do you want to say to me?”

“Girlfriend,” Thor thinks aloud, and can’t help his laugh. He studies Sylvie. “You know him…well?”

Sylvie shrugs, dropping her chin into her palm as punctuation. “Unfortunately.”

“You…love him? He didn’t, I don’t know, do something weird? Mind-control? He has a history, you see…”

Sylvie lifts her head, taken aback. She stares at him hard until Thor feels vaguely ashamed. “A history of mind-controlling romantic partners?”

Thor shakes his head vigorously, suddenly defensive of his brother. “No, nothing like that. A history with…attempted world domination. Involving mind control.”

Sylvie huffs a laugh. “Oh, well that’s a bit different, isn’t it. And I know about all that, if that’s what you’re worried about.” Sylvie seems able to read his expressions easily, and nods at his lingering uncertainty. “You’re not convinced. Still worried about me.” She sighs heavily. “Bit insulted by that, actually, but okay.” She unfolds herself from her chair, an air of inevitability heavy on her shoulders as she approaches Thor. “You’re the show and not tell type, right? I’ll show you once more and then you can tell me: could he control someone who can do this?”

Her fingers are at his temples again—

A flash of green light—

Twisted scraps of metal float past the jagged tears in the hull of the ship. Thor doesn’t want to see the burned and frozen corpses that drift between the pieces, bumping gently, soundlessly against the ship and the debris and each other. A slow motion apocalypse.

He looks down and finds Loki’s colorless face and limp body. His eyes are red; the blood vessels burst when Thanos broke his neck.

“This is…grim.” Sylvie is beside him, looking ashen herself as she looks down on Loki’s lifeless body. She shakes herself and looks up at Thor. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t controlling where we would go. I just pushed you into a memory of love. This wasn’t where I thought you’d take us. We can go.” She reaches for his temple, but Thor drops to his knees, hand clutching the cold leather of Loki’s tunic.

“Oh,” Sylvie says softly. “Of course. You realized how much you cared about him when he died trying to save you.”

She kneels beside him, laying her hand on Loki’s chest alongside his. “Do you love your brother?” She asks in the endless silence.

“Yes,” Thor whispers, fingers clutching tightly. There are hot tears in his eyes, but this time he’s more aware of the line between memory and reality. The pain is real, but the moment is not.

Sylvie watches him and nods. “Well then. Maybe you shouldn’t question why someone else would.”

The gravity of the memory increases; Thor feels the tears begin to fall as he bends toward his brother. He struggles against the memory’s grip, looks at Sylvie instead. She’s an incongruous part of the picture, untouched by the ash and blood and smoke. Watching him.

“It’s different,” Thor insists.

“Is it, really?”

Behind him, the memory begins to shift. Thanos is pressing the power stone to his skull, until pure pain branches out, slowly crushing him. Loki stands before them, watching until his face cracks and he yells, Alright, stop!

The memory flickers again, and Loki is broken and silent on the hull of the lifeless ship.

“He’s my brother,” Thor says in a hollow voice. “I have to love him.” At last the memory overpowers him and he bends under the weight of his grief. His tears fall on the leather of Loki’s clothes, sliding away in the grip of the ruined ship’s weak gravity.

Sylvie’s hand is light on his shoulder. “No, you don’t,” she whispers, kneeling beside him. “But you do.” Much more softly, she adds, “And so do I.”

Flying, falling—

Thor is standing in a house in New Asgard, tears on his face as Sylvie pulls her hands from his temples.

“Okay?” She says, and Thor isn’t sure whether she’s asking about the tears on his face or her confession in his memory. Fortunately his answer is the same in either case.

“Okay,” he replies, and swipes at his damp cheeks. Sylvie is abruptly awkward. She gives the impression of someone who never learned how to be at rest. It reminds him a little of Loki. Thor regards her carefully. “Maybe it’s him I should be worried about,” he says at last.

Sylvie laughs. “I’m sure he’d be delighted that you’re worried for him. I can’t enchant him though, so no need. Can’t play the player,” she throws in like it’s a joke he’ll understand. He doesn’t, but he laughs anyway. The sentiment is clear, at least.

“Right,” he says, feeling lighter for the first time since his arrival. He extends his hand, several hours too late, but in his defense, their first meeting hadn’t been an ideal time for introductions. Her hand feels tiny when she slips it into his. “Sylvie,” he acknowledges.

“Thor,” she says with a smile—a real one this time. “It’s nice to meet you.”

***

Much later, after Thor and Loki have talked the day away and Sylvie has learned more about the two of them than she could have thought to ask, and shared more about herself than she would have thought possible, she sits by the water and wonders if this is the timeline for her after all. Thor seems nice. Even New Asgard isn’t so bad once you get past the fish smell.

It’s after sunset when Loki comes to find her. He doesn’t even fuss about the sand when he sits beside her on the beach. She doesn’t even fuss when he reaches for her hand.

“Thank you,” he says. “For coming with me.”

“Lucky for you, I didn’t have anywhere else to be.”

She leans into him and listens to the sound of the waves. Earlier Thor had talked on and on about the sound of the Asgardian Sea when it plunged over the edge of the world. Loki remembered it too. Sylvie thinks that she can also remember it, at least a little.

“You shared so many memories today,” she says. “A lot I knew nothing about. Where’d you keep them hidden all this time?”

Loki shrugs lightly, but Sylvie learned a secret about him a long time ago. With Loki, it’s not body language or even words that carry the deepest truth. It’s the eyes you have to watch. His eyes are suspiciously misty when he answers.

“Oh, the same place I hide everything. In my heart.”