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Hel is Other People

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"As for me, I am mean: that means that I need the suffering of others to exist. A flame. A flame in their hearts. When I am all alone, I am extinguished"-  Jean-Paul Sartre, "No Exit"

 

“So what if I ate the cheeseburger?” Tony shouts, throwing a wrench at Loki’s head.  The bastard dodges it easily as he stalks closer. “That doesn’t mean I belong to you!”

“Oh, not to me,” Loki says lowly, a smile like honey slowly spreading its way across his face. “But with me? Surely you’ve heard of Persephone.”

“A cheeseburger isn’t some fucking mystical pomegranate, you smirking lunatic.” It isn’t, it just isn’t. Not even close. "You aren't even Greek!" he adds, throwing another wrench which is dodged just as easily.

Loki spreads his hands wide, posing like the showman he is. “I think you’ll find that a pomegranate symbolizes the fruit of the dead. Your cheeseburger, made of dead flesh, was topped with fruit. It’s close enough for the symbolism to bind.”

“Ah-hah! There’s no fucking fruit on a cheeseburger,” Tony says triumphantly, finger pointing accusingly at Loki. “I fucking win, no going back to crazy town with you. I stay here in my workshop, and you fucking leave before I call the Avengers.”

“Oh Stark,” Loki murmurs, almost affectionately. “A tomato is a berry, you ignorant fool.”

“Well shit,” says Stark, before the darkness claims him. The last thing he sees are the whites of Loki’s eyes gleaming with triumph and a smile like a knife, suddenly too close, arms wrapping around him.

Then he is gone.

Seven months earlier…

It’ll be a warm day in Hel before Thor will say, at least out loud, that he actually sort of enjoys fighting his brother. Oh, he didn’t enjoy the skirmish after his banishment, nor did he relish Loki’s madness during the Chitauri invasion, but…

“Bag of cats,” Bruce mutters through the comms. It is an apt description, loathe as he is to admit it. Fluffy, adorable, dangerous, trapped and growing more enraged by the second. That is definitely his brother.

Thor knows his teammates are not entertained by Loki, but these days there is no malice in the mischief, there’s just…

“Seventy foot tall marshmallow man. Who the fuck let Loki watch Ghostbusters?!” shrieks Tony, attacking a giant white monster with a terrifying visage, large eyes scanning back and forth in ceaseless sentry. For all its menace, the… marshmallow man is not actually destroying anything. It has not scratched even one vehicle. Thor is proud, almost.

Thor is amused, definitely.

But again, he will never, ever say it out loud. Not to his friends, certainly not to his brother, who even now is attempting to steal something powerful and dangerous. The theft is not something Thor is proud of, and he does wish to stop his brother and make him pay reparations, but these fights remind him of younger days, when Loki directed his mischief at their mutual enemies. Although, the marshmallow man is definitely a new addition to the bag of tricks. A terrifying addition.

Thor leaves behind the marshmallow man and concentrates on finding his brother.

This is the other reason Thor (is ashamed to admit that he) enjoys fighting his brother, because it is often the only chance he has to speak with his brother. These days there is also less malice in their exchanges. Perhaps something is healing. Perhaps someday they will meet off the battlefield.

Thor hates the little spark of hope within his breast. He wishes to snuff it out, but he can’t. Their mother had hope. He has to have hope, even if he says he doesn’t. He resents that light in the way he cannot quite bring himself to resent his brother.

His brother that he thought dead.

His brother who stole the throne unbeknownst to all and spent a year bringing great prosperity to the kingdom before abandoning it again in spite, returning its bewildered and warmongering king to the throne, just to show its people what they could have had if only they’d remained loyal.

Which is classic Loki; rejection always sat ill with his brother. Loki would spend great effort winning the affection, admiration, or respect of whomever had delivered the blow to his ego. Once Loki’d won his prize, he’d lay his victim low and throw it back in their face.

There’s a reason nearly everyone in the kingdom hated him. Over the centuries Loki managed to bring low anyone who slighted him (or whom he had imagined slighted him), and that was most. Again Thor can admit his brother's faults, even if it does not matter. Thor still loves his brother.

The Midgardian cat has taught him much about the nature of his brother, which is yet another thing Thor must never, ever say out loud. So many secrets to keep, it drives him mad at times. But yes, the cat. The phrase “bag of cats” was thrown around so often in regards to his brother that Thor finally decided to conduct research on the comparison. On first examination, the cat seemed a truly inappropriate creature to compare to his brother. Thor would have chosen a wolf, perhaps.

Then Thor met a cat. The cat was lovely at first and spent a good few minutes letting Thor pet its fur affectionately, only to turn around and sink needle sharp claws and fangs into his hand with no warning. As Thor blinked down in hurt amazement into wide green eyes, he felt a sudden understanding.

He has since adopted five cats and named each in honor of his brother. There is Silvertongue, a white, one-eyed cat that spends much of its time hiding under the bed. There is Skywalker, a blue Persian that will surprise Thor by jumping down on him from on high. There is Liesmith, a fat tabby that cannot (or will not) learn to use the litterbox. There is Hveðrungr, a bright orange menace that attacks him whenever he strolls down the hallway of his apartment. Finally, there is Loki, a black kitten that spends much of its time yelling at the other cats and pushing pottery off the windowsill.

Thor loves all of them dearly and buys them many gifts which are carefully ignored. It’s just like living with Loki again.

By chance he manages to find his brother, leaning against the wall in a stinking alley. “I’m here to stop you,” Thor says, half-heartedly. Loki snorts in amusement and turns his gaze back to the giant white monster he has summoned.

“I already stole what I came here for. I’m just… enjoying the view,” Loki says. Thor turns back to look at the thing as it lumbers its way through the city.

“It’s disgusting,” Thor proclaims, turning back to his brother. “Your heart no longer seems to be in this. You should come back with me to my apartment, talk with me. Maybe we can--”

“Back with you to your shoebox and your five cats. You’ve turned into a Midgardian matron, my brother,” Loki says, bitterly amused.

So Loki has been to his apartment? Thor holds his tongue but secretly is thrilled to know that Loki has shown some sort of interest in his life. Also, he is thrilled that Loki has not harmed any of his cats.

“They are good cats, as far as their nature goes. They are willful, violent, sullen, private and territorial,” Thor says with a twinkle in his eye. “I love them dearly.”

“Tell me you didn’t name one of them after me,” Loki begs.

“I did not name one of them after you,” says Thor, quite truthfully. I named them all after you, he doesn’t say.

“Thank the Norns for that. I would not wish to see my brother stoop to such a level of pathetic, sentimental--”

“Think fast, Rudolf,” Tony shouts, and blasts Loki. Thor turns an angry glare at Stark, but his brother is already charging out of the alleyway, magic glowing in his fists.

“I will ride your carcass like a sled down through the gates of Hel,” Loki shrieks, ripping at metal.

Tony says “Kinky,” before grabbing Loki around the waist and shooting upwards. Loki’s response is lost in the wind, but it sounds vicious. Thor sighs, exhausted, but follows after to protect Stark from his brother.

“Bag of cats,” he mutters as Mjolnir dutifully carries him upwards.