He enters the flat just in time for something to shatter. It’s followed by Jade’s loud, indignant, “John!” and a door slams open as wind races past it, rushes down the stairs, passes him and slips out the still-open front door, carrying the sound of laughter with it.
Loki doesn’t sigh. He does close the door behind him.
One of the doors in the hallway opens and the landlady pokes her head out. She looks up, then turns to him. She smiles. He gives a small one back.
Jade is cursing upstairs.
There’s a shriek.
“Yes,” he says. “Although I am quite curious as to what he’s done this time to warrant such a response.”
Mrs. Harrison chuckles. “As long as you paint or repair the walls if he’s done anything to them.”
“Then I hope it will not come to that,” Loki says, “Since John will perhaps…see it fit to give the décor his own brand of improvement.”
The old lady makes a face.
Loki inclines his head slightly before making his way up the stairs. The door to his flat is open, and from where he is, he can see something sticky and pink splattered all over the carpet. Jade is still yelling.
John is definitely cleaning the mess up when he gets home.
He pauses by the doorway to see Jade sitting on the floor with her hair, ears, shoulders and arms covered in whatever the pink goo her brother has created is. Rose is beside her, gloves on, trying to take out as much of the mess as possible.
Jade’s aforementioned ears – the dog ones – flick back as she hisses when Rose accidentally pulls out her hair along with the pink goo.
Rose sighs, puts the goo and hair in the plastic bag beside her, and looks up at Loki. She inclines her head politely. “Welcome back, Loki.”
Jade looks up too, her annoyed expression clearing up for a moment as she gives a little wave. “Heya,” she says. She pulls a bit of hardened goo and takes her hair with it. She hisses again.
“I am going to kill him,” Jade says through clenched teeth as she tosses the gunk into the plastic. Rose hums. “It’ll be a Just death, it’ll stick,” Jade says.
“What did your brother do this time?” Loki finally asks, crossing his arms and leaning on the doorframe.
“Tripwire,” Jade says, “Connected to a bucket of…this – ” she flaps her arms uselessly to indicate the sticky pink goo all over her shirt. Some of it drips to the carpet. Nobody but John is going to clean that, Loki’s making sure of it. “ – that was hung on the ceiling.”
Loki looks up. True enough, there’s an overturned bucket held only by a bunch of thick strings attached to a miniature pulley system.
“He calls it Tubby Custard,” Rose adds.
Jade snorts. Loki frowns, confused, but doesn’t pursue it.
“I think it’s just hot gum.”
“Where did he even find hot gum?” Jade seethes. She lets out a cry as another lock of hair comes away with the goo.
“Factories, I assume,” Rose says. “He has unlimited access to the city.”
“So do I,” Jade says. “I’m making sure he knows that.”
“Did the teletubbies puke in here or something.”
All of them turn to the hallway, where Dave stands with a plastic bag from one of 7-elevens around. Loki tracks the rapid movement of his eyes from behind his shades as he takes in the carpet, Jade and Rose and then the ceiling.
“Egbert?” he asks.
The girls nod.
“Hot gum,” Rose repeats.
“Ugh.” Dave’s nose scrunches up. “That’s nasty.”
“He is cleaning this up alone,” Loki says. The corner of Dave’s mouth lifts just very slightly.
“I’m making him pay.” Jade goes right back to seething. She crosses her arms, not caring about the mess on the sleeves. The shirt is ruined anyway.
Dave moves past Loki, giving him a small nod, and makes sure not to step on any of the gum on the floor. One puddle makes him stretch his legs too much and he almost imbalances, but he quickly moves his feet and he steadies. Loki still doesn’t move from the doorway.
“I’m going to go all around Earth and destroy everything that has to do with Ghostbusters.”
Dave’s head swivels to her direction. Rose is smiling. Loki lets out an amused huff, lips turning up. He does love Jade’s mean streak when she’s pushed.
“Aw, man, you’re gonna break his little nerdy ghostbusting heart,” Dave says. “Can you really look at that bucktoothed puppy face and kick it?”
“I will knock those buckteeth out at this point, I swear to god.”
Dave snickers. “I’m staying out of this.”
Rose hums again. “Neutral.”
They all turn to Loki. The god straightens and follows Dave’s example of maneuvering around the gum puddles, except with much more grace than the younger man. He doesn’t imbalance even once.
“So long as he leaves me and mine out of it.”
Jade grins and raises an eyebrow. “And if he doesn’t?”
“He will be eating nothing but cake for a week.”
Rose’s head snaps up. Dave looks disgusted. Jade throws her head back and cackles.
“Dude.” Dave adjusts his sunglasses. His mouth twitches and his shoulders shake, trying to suppress a laugh. “Harsh.”
“It will be Betty Crocker.”
Jade laughs harder. It’s a good thing she’s near-immortal, or else she would have suffocated.
He had let go and he had fallen. Fallen and fallen and fallen for such a long time that he’d forgotten what breathing was like and if he even remembered how to do it. If he needed it. (It felt like he didn’t. He didn’t feel like he needed to see either when everything was just dark dark dark black black black empty nothingness this is where you belong in the empty in the nothing what are you doing here little princeling)
And then something had reached out. Tendrils. Tendrils of magic, faint, but he had known, in a small moment of lucidity, that whatever it led to, it was powerful. And it startled him so much in his nothingness-not-existence where everything was empty and there was nothing, that the mere presence of something had his instinct rearing, screaming DANGER and GET AWAY and he was pressed with a suffocating need to get somewhere safe that he thrashed. Clawed into his core, into his magic, into the something of nothing and willed himself to be somewhere very far away. As far away as he can from whatever it was that was surrounding him –
The concrete was hard as his spine slammed against it. Loki’s back arched and he let out a cry of pain, eyes screwing shut as everything crashed against his senses. The feeling of tiny pricks all over his exposed skin, over his face; the chill that was slowly seeping into the leather armor he was wearing; the horrible, horrible smell of too many things at once; his blood roaring in his ears from his head getting knocked on the ground; and pain, everywhere, all at once, his spine, his back, his limbs, all twisted in ways they shouldn’t be, and warmth pooling underneath him until he realized that the warmth was from his own blood.
He had stayed there until he passed out.
The next time he’d woken up, he had taken a few minutes to register that above him was Sky, below him was Ground, the drops of water falling on him was Rain and that it was cold.
The sky was the darker shade of blue of pre-dawn. He tried to move his limbs and found that they had righted themselves. There was still blood underneath him, but it was no longer warm and most of it had been washed away by the rain.
For the first time in years, Loki sat up. He took the time to observe his surroundings, Alley, and after a few minutes of struggling to stand, he settled for supporting his body weight on the wall beside him. He hobbled to the mouth of the alley and looked around, thanking the Norns that there was no one around to see him in such a state.
His memory was still a little fuzzy, still dredging itself up whatever void it’d decided to hole in when he was still floating in nothing, but he could identify that he was in a human city. Midgard.
Finding himself too tired to be displeased by his location, he racked up his brain on the best course of action. A pulse of magic helped him change his clothes, making his head spin for a moment, but he managed. He unsteadily walked under overhangs, still using walls to support himself, and found a hotel. Thankfully, he had enough magic to falsify a card and let the machine accept it. On a whim, he booked for a week, as it would be a hassle to continuously try to find shelter.
He collapsed on the bed of his room, not bothering to clean up or change his clothes. He didn’t wake up for at least three days.
Once he was functioning and his brain didn’t feel like it was stuck under tons of ice, he assessed his situation, trying very hard to keep his discomfort of being on Midgard from affecting his decision. Cloaking himself from Heimdall’s sight was done as soon as he had his magic properly returned, although the act had probably lost its intended effect since he’d been on Earth for more than 24 hours uncloaked. So far though, no one had come for him (no one will come for him, bastard son - ) and if he moved fast enough he might be able to evade further surveillance.
Midgard was also vast, and unfamiliar to Asgardians. It was, strategically speaking, the perfect place to hide.
And since his safety was his top priority – his only priority, as he still needed to sort the rest out – it would be more favorable for him to stay.
He did. Falsifying more information was easy enough, and he bounced from human to human who was kind enough to offer help to a bewildered stranger, taking advantage of said kindness, until he was able to settle himself in a small, but polished and furnished flat under a Mrs. Harrison. The first few months of not drawing attention to himself were easy, as he spent most of his time recovering the rest of his magic and learning everything he could about Midgard. History alone was a wide topic to cover.
And then, four months and thirteen days since Loki fell to Earth, he felt it.
Magic. Overwhelming, powerful magic that tainted the wind itself, making it suffocating for him to breathe for a few hours, but the humans hadn’t noticed. In fact, they seemed to be breathing better despite the polluted Manhattan air around them.
A few weeks later, the news even reported that the air was observed to have a large amount of pollution lifted from it, and the toxicity was lessened significantly. And if that didn’t raise alarm bells in Loki’s head, then the feeling of that powerful magic getting closer was.
It wasn’t in the general area, that much he knew. It was probably on another island, but it was moving, and it was moving fast. The magic around the air was condensing though. The effects still lasted, and it appeared to have bought the planet’s poisoned air some time before it turned deadly, several centuries at most, but the magic itself was gathering. It had been scattered from its source and now said source was recovering and moving.
Towards where Loki was. Scarily fast.
He couldn’t think of anyone in Asgard whom he personally knew that controlled the winds. Or even had magic this powerful enough to affect the air itself. Magic was not looked at in pleasant light in the Realm Eternal.
Was that it, then? Did the AllFather send someone with association to Asgard who knew magic, incredibly powerful magic, to hunt him down? Someone he didn’t know so that he had no idea how he might exploit their weaknesses?
He set up more cloaking and protection wards around the flat that night. It never hurt to be careful. There was a chance that the new mage had less experience than Loki, or that they weren’t here for him at all. Midgard was a loud little realm and attracted all kinds of trouble.
He debated moving cities for a while, but decided that the best move would be to stay put. He was as hidden as anyone in the Nine could – he was cloaked against Heimdall, for Odin’s sake – and if he moved, if he exposed himself or even showed the slightest action of running, he would draw attention to himself.
Two days later, the magic was definitely in the city. Loki stayed in his flat.
It was a week before he decided it wasn’t looking for him. It wasn’t even doing anything that remotely looked like it was scouring. It was just…moving. From place to place. Restless.
And he was also running out of food, and so as not to freak anyone out or alert it of his presence, he had to walk.
That was how he met John Egbert.
The boy had nearly barreled into him on his way back to his flat, and Loki confirmed that he was neither Asgardian nor after the god of mischief. For one, he was dressed in a ridiculous outfit that was blue all over and a very impractical windsock hoodie. He was also looking for people named Jade, Dave and Rose.
Loki had told him he knew none of them and brushed the boy aside.
“You felt like magic,” John had said. Loki stopped in his tracks. “I thought you might be them.”
For the next few days, John followed him around like a puppy, and Loki had threatened him with death several times if he wasn’t going to stop. John had blinked and laughed at the threats. When Loki tried to slam the door in his face, John turned into wind itself and let himself inside the flat anyway.
That was when the keeping-out wards got put up. John took to hanging outside his door, befriending the rest of the building’s inhabitants in the process, and hovering outside his window. When asked if he had anything better to do, John shrugged.
“Not really. I don’t know where the others are. I can’t feel them. And this isn’t my universe,” he’d said. Then adjusted his glasses. “At least I think it’s not. I mean, I definitely remember Earth being destroyed.”
That had piqued Loki’s interest. But John was still unwelcome. And still infuriatingly outside of his flat every time.
Whenever he went for a supply run (Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Once, he had gone out of his home to hunt, to conquer, and now he was getting out of his home to go to Walmart to pick up a box of tea, a carton of eggs, and a box of milk.), John tagged along. They attracted attention due to the boy’s ridiculous outfit, but after the first minutes of shock, everyone just gave them a wide berth.
John helped with the shopping, surprisingly. And looked at the cake boxes (Betty Crocker, Loki noted) like they were the most disgusting thing he’d ever laid his eyes on.
Eventually, shopping-helping turned to helping Loki out with several Midgardian things he didn’t quite get, like majority of the realm’s electronic appliances, clothing (the casual part of it), pop culture references and food. That microwaves were evil and that he needed to get a real oven was one of John’s first lessons.
Since the boy couldn’t quite help with a lot of stuff in the flat with the wards, a number of those were taken down (just the ones that kept him out, actually).
Loki couldn’t remember when John actually moved in. He figured it was sometime around his neighbors started calling the boy his little mutant brother (the black hair and mischievous disposition, apparently), and then his landlady said that he had to put the boy on the lease if he was sticking around.
The rest just fell into place after that.
Six months and twelve days after Loki fell, another burst of magic fell to Midgard. John disappeared for a while and returned with who he introduced to Loki as his twin sister, Jade.
(“Twin paradox sister, I think?”)
A month after that, the magic pulse was stronger, and this time the twins came back with another set of siblings. Dave and Rose.
(“Paradox ectobiological twin,” Rose said.
“Slime sister,” Dave said.)
They were curious children, all of whom harbored magic cores near parallel to his own. Dressed in childish outfits. And could fly. And had somehow claimed his flat for their own. Loki had been too busy being fascinated by them to notice that they camped out in his living room every night, and that John’s presence during shopping runs had turned to four adolescents following him to Walmart.
Mrs. Harrison, once again, pointed out the lease.
Still, there was something to be gained here. This much magic in these children who happened to fall under his roof – if he were to be friends with them, should the need arise, they could aid him. They seemed to be loyal.
When they were asked what sort of mages they were and where they had come from (Loki added them to the rent, it was only fair), John had made a face.
“M’not a mage,” he’d said, “I’m an Heir.”
Loki raised an eyebrow.
“It’s a title,” Rose explained. “Each of us have titles correlating to our class and aspect, which indicates what we can do as god tiers.”
It figured. Of course they were gods.
“I’m an Heir of Breath,” John said. Loki’s mind worked out the implications. That explained the magic in the wind when he fell to Earth.
“Witch of Space.”
“Knight of Time.”
“I am a Seer of Light.”
“We’re from…another universe, you might say,” Jade said. “Another reality. This is definitely not our earth. It feels different. We’re out of place, but...at the same time not.”
Loki’d seen stranger. And the concept of other realities wasn’t foreign to him. A lot of books on magic had proposed the theory of travelling to other realities by complex spells.
“What about you, what are you?” Dave asked, straight-faced.
Loki’s lips twitched. “The God of Mischief.”
Dave’s eyes widened behind his shades – Loki could see it clearly. His vision wasn’t as weak as humans’ tended to be – and Dave leaned back slightly. The god grinned. At least someone recognized him.
Five gods rent a flat in Manhattan. That sounded like the start of a bad joke.
John does clean out the gum out of the carpet. Nobody helps him.
The next morning, Dave stomps out of the bathroom without a shirt, holding a dryer in one hand with chocolate powdered milk all over his face. He doesn’t have his shades when he stomps into the kitchen, where Rose and Loki are making breakfast since it was their turn.
John grins, rising out of his chair while Dave throws the dryer at him. John turns to wind before it can hit him, of course, and escapes through the open windows, cackling.
Jade chooses this moment to enter the kitchen, freshly dressed, looking smug as all hell.
Dave is still glaring at where Egbert was. He straightens after a moment and tries to wipe the powder off of him.
“Ghostbusters goes?” Jade asks as she opens the fridge, not even looking at Dave.
He makes a small angry noise and gives a stiff nod. “Ghostbusters goes.”
Well, if the Avengers suddenly find themselves on a mission to find where all of the missing Ghostbusters merchandise have gone, Loki isn’t interfering as long as neither Dave or Jade get caught.
Tony Stark stares at the reports on the screen. The team – Avengers, whatever, they’d just gotten together to stop that one insane Amo-something lady who had a thing for Thor and they didn’t really have a time to argue about group names – had been called in when S.H.I.E.L.D got massive readings of energy from all over the globe, too fast to be caught by teams of agents who were arriving via quinjet. By the time the agents had gotten there, there was another energy spike across the world and there was nothing they could find to indicate what had caused it.
So the Avengers (minus Thor; Asgard business) were assembled to see if they could catch whatever it was. They couldn’t. It moved way too fast.
When the team had been brought in for debriefing, the damage caused by the energy spikes was…
“You’re serious, right?” Tony turns to Nick Fury, who is living up to his name as he tries to drill into Tony’s head with his single eye.
Clint is snickering. Even Steve looks like he wants to laugh.
For some reason, the Avengers had unknowingly assembled to stop the global destruction of Ghostbusters DVDs and several other merch. And failed, of course.
The last time Loki had gone together with them on an excursion, it was when they’d all complained about camping in the living room and fighting each other for the couch, and so to remedy this, they all went out to buy beds. Since none of the children were familiar with this Manhattan, Loki had taken them out, provided they didn’t wear their ridiculous pajamas. They were more than happy to comply.
Jade still wore a black and blue dress that had stars on it. But it was a step down from god tier clothes. (Also, Loki was fond of dressing to impress. Jade being his favorite started early on.)
They’d gotten the beds after four hours walking around the mall and for the first time in history, Loki felt the incredible strain of being a parent. A parent to god-children. One of whom would suddenly start talking and not stop, another who would laugh at the strangest things ever, another who wanted to make a house at the pet shop, and the last who was thankfully the voice of reason out of all of them.
“We might take some time to wind down from…everything we’ve been through. Overstimulation when you’re used to so little can make one’s mental state a bit frazzled,” Rose had said. Loki’d understood that. So he let them be.
Except when they got home, they were arguing about rooms again.
The flat only had one guest room, and it would not fit four beds, and nobody wanted to be roommates with John Egbert when he was overexcited about being alive and being on Earth and was in the mood for pranks.
Loki rented the other unit. With permission, Jade renovated.
As for other outside walks, they’d relegated chores. The upside of having four new wards was that Loki no longer had to go shopping himself. So supply run was usually down to Rose and Jade, because if Dave did it, there would be an overabundance of apple juice; if it was John, they wouldn’t have anything to do with Betty Crocker. Frankly, the boys were useless.
Every now and then, Loki went to the library to borrow books. A few weeks into the kids staying at his flat, Rose started coming with.
Today, though, everybody’s decided to come with him. It’s been nine months since Loki fell, about five since John arrived , three since Jade and two since Dave and Rose. Everyone still isn’t very good with dealing with Earth, mostly due to culture shock (“How do they not have sylladexes?”), and every now and then, everyone looks at the sky like they’re expecting something to fall out of it. For different reasons, of course.
Also, there is the fact that a month ago, Amora had come with a Chitauri army that arrived via Tesseract. They were lucky enough to not have their flat destroyed. (Also, Loki had a hard time telling all of them to stay down, because so much was going wrong.)
Everyone’s jumpy. The kids might have abandonment issues. So Loki doesn’t fault them for following him in an honest-to-god line to the library.
They’re mostly quiet, thankfully. He makes his way to the now-familiar history section and pulls out a few books. Rose is in her usual beanbag seat by the kid’s section no one really uses. Jade is browsing the books and has chosen to sit in front of a shelf, a dog book opened to a page of a huge white hound; she looks wistful and the ears on top of her head are drooping. Dave has a stack of magazines and newspapers and goes over to sit beside his sister, claiming a red beanbag. John is still browsing.
A moment later, Jade grabs a bright green bean bag and sits beside the fair-haired siblings.
After half an hour, John claims the blue one and grabs one of Dave’s magazines.
Dave carefully kicks a dark green beanbag towards Loki’s direction. He ignores it.
Loki borrows one book on Egyptian art history, Rose borrows two on mythology and one on fantasy fiction and Dave tries to borrow the entire plethora of magazines and newspapers he’s chosen. He’s not allowed. He settles for one of those ‘year in review’ books.
They go for lunch in a little café. They make a spectacle of themselves when Dave suddenly transitions from talking to ranting to rapping and then Jade starts drumming beats on the table. John sings a tune and Rose harmonizes. Loki leans his head on the glass of the window they’re seated beside and looks at the sky as it starts to rain. The kids don’t stop singing.
He wonders where in the time of being really angry to really tired did he resign himself to the fate of living and putting up with these self-made gods, but he’s not complaining. They’re decent kids, and they have no qualms with trickery or magic. And they would be an advantage to his side.
The library outings become frequent since then. Loki does not have to call them, since everyone keeps a schedule of when he goes there and they get themselves ready and tag along. Somewhere along the way, it starts to be a ritual. At exactly three in the afternoon on a Thursday, all of them go to the library and read until dinner. Afterwards, there’s a fight to see if they eat out or have dinner at home. (The fight mostly consists of rock-paper-scissors, winner getting three. With Loki constantly conjuring credit cards, they didn’t have to worry about money.)
Dave Strider reads and reads and reads. Magazines, newspapers, almanacs, Guinness record books, year books, and every now and then he reads one or two of Loki’s chosen history books or asks for the cliff notes version of it.
“This universe’s timeline is different,” he says. “I can feel it. I just want to know everything about it. And – it’s 2012. My Earth didn’t get to live beyond 2009. I wanna know.”
So he reads. And he thinks it’s a little rad that mutants take on a whole new meaning in this universe other than just a few extra appendages, or a lack of melanin, or different eye color (or blood color, he thinks and tries not to dwell on it), and that they aren’t as despised as he’d expected them to be. He finds the Avengers a little funny, because – okay, as far as ridiculous outfits go, god tier pajamas were definitely topnotch, but at least they were comfy.
He reads articles about the New York invasion, about survivor accounts, about the super friends and the heartwarming stories of family being separated and thought dead and reunions.
(And he tries not to think that what these people have gone through is nothing compared to what he and his friends have. Nothing compared to being thirteen and watching as meteors rained down the sky and knowing that there was nothing you could do but save yourself. That everyone in your city was doomed. Nothing compared to the Reckoning destroying your entire planet. Nothing compared to years and years and years of jumping around time until you didn’t know what came first and what came after. Nothing compared to never getting to say goodbye to your parents and meeting a version of them that wasn’t really them. Nothing compared to seeing your friends die over and over again and remembering. Nothing compared to universes destroyed and scratched and put together wrong left and right. Nothing nothing nothing –
Dave Strider tries not to be selfish. But he’s tired. And he’s angry. And he’s lost in a new universe that isn’t his home and will never be his home and he doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t know how to be angry. His Bro never taught him. His Bro taught him how to not to be anything other than a warrior raised for a battlefield.)
He finds that he doesn’t quite care if he’s a little careless with his sunglasses as long as he’s in the flat. He’s had doubts that Loki’s had super-vision for a while, and when it was confirmed, there wasn’t really anything to be done about it. His friends have seen more than red eyes. (Like him, bleeding on the floor, dying, fighting, crying, being a generally pathetic mess who couldn’t keep himself from flinching whenever he opened the fridge or the oven or the cupboard, jumping around puppets, crying over a dead brother-father who he didn’t love but didn’t hate.)
He watches the news and doesn’t ask whenever Loki keeps to the house whenever there’s news of Thor being on Earth, or if the Trickster god feels his presence. Dave knows a thing or two about fathers you could never please. About brothers who shone so bright that you didn’t notice you were drowning in their shadow until you couldn’t breathe.
(None of them asked either, but during the first few times that they got confused, Rose had whispered that Thor is Loki’s brother. The god confirmed in a short, clipped “Yes.”)
He tries to make himself comfortable and he finds fun and laughs when he wants to because he knows how important that is now. He still catches himself putting on that blank face, but when he feels like laughing his head off at something, he doesn’t hesitate. This world is safe as it can be. This is a world without the Game. This is a new life.
Dave Strider is working hard on being happy.
John Egbert doesn’t sleep so much nowadays.
He doesn’t need to. He hasn’t needed to for a very long time. The day he died on that quest bed was the last time he had ever needed sleep. (And if he thanks Vriska for making his demise as painless as possible, nobody needs to know.)
But it’s not so much as he doesn’t need to as much as he also doesn’t want to. Because if he does, then he can see it – can see the Condesce arriving in her ship while his friends fall over and kill each other, can see Jade getting crushed by her own tower, can see Dave getting stabbed twice, can see Karkat falling in the lava, can see Terezi and Gamzee choke and claw at each other, can see Rose die saying goodbye to her mother, can see Roxy cry because she feels so, so alone, can see Dirk blame himself for everything that has happened.
And John – John has messed up so much. Terezi had instructed him on what to change, and he did that, but somewhere along the way of it actually working and going well, Vriska alive and Gamzee subdued and everyone good and well on the meteor and on the way to fighting Lord English and Jack Noir and the Batterwitch, they’d hit a rip and suddenly everything was blinding and he was falling, falling, falling and then scattering into the wind he really was, right before he hit the ground.
Suddenly Earth was well again. It was around him. It was dirty and it was hot, but it was Earth.
But it wasn’t his Earth. He was lucky enough to follow instinct and hone in on the nearest point of magic at that time, which turned out to be the God of Mischief who was now their sort-of guardian.
He doesn’t know where the others are and is thankful that Dave, Jade and Rose are here with him. He’s thankful Loki is letting them stay. To be fair, he was quite desperate and clingy when he first fell around here.
He notices that Dave is trying to catch up where this Earth was different and where they’d left it off since it’s been years since 2009. He reads along when he’s bored. He thinks that with just a few alterations, this would have been where their Earth was.
This Earth is fascinating, and he’s glad that the Ghostbusters still exist in this universe, but is bummed that he’d pissed his friends enough that they wiped out every single one (he checked and then sulked) of its merchandise. He figures he had it coming. But he was getting restless. He could only pace and look at the sky waiting for something, anything, to fall out of it (the Condesce’s army, the Reckoning, Lord English, Jack Noir) before he got stir crazy and decided to relieve stress by setting up a few good pranks.
That was a perk of living with Loki. God of Mischief, and John’s new hero next to Colonel Sassacre, and he was totally fine with playing a good joke or two.
Sometimes John thinks Loki is as lost as he is. That’s okay. At least they were all lost together. He had a feeling the others were lost too. None of them belonged to this world. This was just a tiny safehouse for them.
The whole Amora deal freaked him out for a while (the Condescension, the Condescension, the Condescension is here) and he’d turned to wind the moment the others, and a few civilians they’d run into, were safe. He didn’t materialize for about two days. Then Jade dragged him to their living room and distracted him with the Avengers. She liked Iron Man. He liked the Hulk. Dave shrugged. Rose said she would have cheered for Amora if the Enchantress hadn’t destroyed the buildings near them, so if Loki was an Avenger then he’d be her favorite. Loki snorted. (And John is so onto the ‘secret’ lessons he’s giving Rose. He just knows it. Two magic-loving nerds nerding it out. He loves them both.)
John sometimes goes out at nights, flying unseen throughout the skies of New York, just taking everything in. Sometimes he doesn’t return for days, although he makes sure that everyone knows he’s going to a…it’s definitely not a roadtrip, but it’s a worldwide travel for days on end. Not everyone can fly around unseen like him. Loki still loves his seclusion. So they don’t push.
He doesn’t tell them he’s been around Stark tower more than three times. Jade would love the place.
Rose Lalonde sees.
It’s hard not to; it’s her job, it’s her title. But being on this new Earth has made things overwhelming.
She can see it – Light, Fortune, Fate – all around them; around everyone whom they pass on the streets; around their neighbors; around the children that run and stick their hands into unsuspecting pockets. So much light, swirling in and out and around their heads. Some have had Fortune smile on them, others have not.
Where in the meteor, the only thing she could do was sense and see which course of action would bring out the most favorable result, here on this new Earth, she can see fortune itself on the beings that inhabit it. She thinks it is because of the Game – she was a necessary asset in order for their sessions to strategize, but it couldn’t be giving her everyone’s fate-reading because that wasn’t necessary. But as a Seer, it should be in her capacity, and now that they were out, here it was.
Sometimes she understands why Loki likes to hole himself up in their flat.
It’s a small mercy that she can only sense her companions’ fates, Loki’s included. That may be something afforded to gods – to creatures so long lived and with so wide a range that anything and everything could affect their fortunes. She stays in the house and only goes out when necessary, and preferably with her friends.
None of them have been very smiled-upon by fate. All of them had lost something – them in the game, and Loki somewhere sometime he does not want to say. Rose does not press. Rose will not press. Above all, she understands the pang of loss.
Loki is a curious creature, and she knows he is not lying when he claims he is the God of Mischief. That comes with other titles, she has read that much – God of Lies, of Deceit; Bringer of Ragnarok; Mother of Monsters; God of Fire. But also, it comes with another side to the coin – God of Life, of Mind; Bringer of Beginnings; Bringer of Fate. A deciding factor for the scales of Fortune to tip. He is, in his own way, their counterpart in this universe – they brought the end of the universe with them and were tasked to birth a new one; he is to be the bringer of Ragnarok, the cleansing of everything before the universe starts all over again, or the one to ensure it is never brought back, or even that it never comes to pass.
If there is anything Rose has learned from the Game, it is that fate is never set, not for as long as people pull their own strings.
Loki hasn’t had much favor in that department, for everyone seems to want to pull his strings for him, and maybe that is the source of the heavy cloud of drowning around him. They all have that same cloud around them. Jade hides it with her smile. John hides it with his pranks. Dave hides it behind his aviators and that mask which has been crafted from birth. Rose goes about her day and avoids it as much as possible. She does not talk about her mother, she does not talk about Kanaya, she does not talk about the friends she misses dearly and the hope that she will see them again. (If they landed here and found each other, what were the odds of everyone being able to find themselves as well?)
Loki is like her. He doesn’t talk either, but there is that somber gait to him, that hint that he might have once walked like a prince, but was now nothing more than a runaway, scarred by too much and wary of too many. Rose sees the purple lights, numerous, swarming him whenever they watch the news and he catches sight of Thor.
When, one night, she catches him watching the late news about another attack taken care of by the Avengers, she asks him why. She doesn’t expect him to answer, of course. But she knows Loki can sense her ability to see and knows that even if both of them didn’t want secrets out in the open, she would know. She could see. It is not something she can turn off unless she wanted to be blinded, and even then, Terezi was a powerful seer despite her lack of sight.
“He is my brother and at the same time, he is not,” Loki says. He doesn’t turn to her. “I loved him.” Rose looks down. “I still do.”
The purple swirls of betrayal pulse and brighten. And then they’re joined by gold. By blue. So much blue that it drowns out the rest of it. The heavy cloud lifts for a moment, and then it settles again.
Rose nods and doesn’t pry. At the very least she knows that Loki is fiercely loyal, until you give him a reason not to be.
She doesn’t sleep well either. More than once she’s caught John flying out, restless, and she doesn’t call him out on it or tell the others. It is his choice to tell. She knows the restlessness and she knows that they’re all unable to sleep for the same reason. John was also there with her when they found their parents dead.
(She hopes she never meets Jack Noir again. For both their sakes.)
Their resident Trickster is also on the no-sleep bandwagon, so she asks if he would be willing to give magic lessons.
He gets this look in his eyes that she reads as suspicion, sadness, laced with curiosity, and a childish, childish hope. Rose almost reaches out and tells him she’s being very sincere, because she knows that look of rejection everywhere. (Remembers it from the time she was mocked by her peers due to her love for the uncanny, the occult, the fantastical and the magical. And then she mistook her mother’s actions for mockery as well. She tries not to think about that.)
To her surprise, he agrees.
So they practice. Initially, of course, Loki asks her what she already knows and discusses theory. She shows him her knitting needles, conjures fire and fires a few shots that break a few glasses.
“Wands are often poor conductors of seiðr.” He says as he inspects her knitting needles. “Mostly because magic isn’t so much as a thing to be control, but more of a part of one’s make-up. Using a funnel would be most ineffective in using a waterfall to put out a fire.”
He doesn’t sound condescending. Nor does he look it. He is stating facts and Rose is glad that she will also find no mockery here. “Take John Egbert, for example. His seiðr is more attuned to wind, and according to him, it took him a while to master it – involving a lot of threats to his life – and that is understandable. It was necessity that allowed him to learn, and he did so wonderfully. But the core principle is that you are magic. John is as one with the wind as it is with him. That is why he can so easily become it.”
Rose considers this. “So should I wish it, I can become light?”
“John is an Heir of Breath. To my understanding, an Heir becomes. It is easier for him. You are a Seer.” He does that small smile that he gets when something genuinely fascinates him. “And you have seen plenty, Rose Lalonde. Your wands are not conduits, they are fetters.” He tilts his head, and in the dim light, Rose thinks the green of his irises glow. “You have seen far beyond anyone should.”
Rose’s breath hitches as she thinks Grimdark. Maybe it is still festering under her skin. Come to think of it, she doesn’t know how they got rid of it, and she’s been wielding magic ever since the Game started and broke the rules of reality as she knew it.
You are magic.
DNA codes can hardly be rewritten once they’ve been woven into your blood and flesh.
“I can feel it,” Loki says. He’s turned away towards the window. “It is a powerful, powerful thing. Wherever did you find it?”
Rose licks her lips and draws in a breath.
“Sometimes magic can be enhanced, if it does not clash with your own seiðr,” Loki says, “Like a new limb.”
She exhales shakily. “I was desperate.” Rose doesn’t look up. He doesn’t say anything. “And angry. He killed my mother.”
Loki doesn’t answer. She notices he’s rather still.
Then he nods. He turns back to her and continues to discuss theory like they hadn’t talked about anything else at all. He says that most of her magic is instinctual (like the rest of them), and that is good. Instinct is a good place to learn from. But most of instinct is also to destroy and to protect. Fight or flight.
He teaches her a few spells and begins her with runework. By the end of the week, she knows how to heal scrapes and burns. It’s rather useful.
Jade Harley can feel the turn of this Earth, the plates so very slowly shifting and breathing, can feel the soothing of the wound of its pollution whenever her brother spreads his magic to the winds, can feel all of the eyes of so many other creatures in space on it, and it feels wrong.
It’s not home. It will never be home. But Jade doesn’t have anywhere to go. (And wasn’t that ironic, that she could go literally anywhere. She lives and breathes and is Space itself, and somehow that’s not enough for her to run run run.)
She doesn’t want to be fickle, she really doesn’t, but she’s grown up in an island all by herself, and then suddenly she was with her friends, and then they were ripped from her, again and again and again and suddenly she’s back on Earth, with so many people, but none of them are the ones she’s looking for and she doesn’t like it. Doesn’t like being surrounded by so many strangers when the ones she wants to be with are either dead or not here.
She doesn’t want to be ungrateful, but she just misses everybody.
She misses Becquerel, and that’s a little funny because they’re one now. But she misses his companionship, she misses playing with him. She misses her guns and she misses her gardens and she misses her science experiments in her labs and god, she just wants to go home.
But her Earth is destroyed. Maybe this was a consolation from the Game, since they’d wrecked it as best as they can. (Three or maybe even four sessions converging, and that was never supposed to happen. But then everyone on every session was very eager to raise their middle fingers to the sky too, so maybe their inherent stubbornness helped with that. She doesn’t regret it. She just regrets they’re not here and there’s nothing she can do about it.)
They’re all out of place here. It’s not their universe, and there are niches shaped like them but not quite. Like a shirt that’s just a size smaller. It doesn’t quite fit, or it does if you force it, but it’s uncomfortable.
She tries her best though. She tries to fit in here. She gets a bit of fun choosing from her alchemized dresses stored in her sylladex and looking rather fabulous. (She’d seen Loki’s approving smile. If people were going to stare, she was going to make it worth their while.) She reads gardening books and wishes their flat had a backyard, but it doesn’t, so she just buys a few pots and sets them out on the window sill. She pauses by pet stores and thinks about Becquerel, but there’s a warmth in her chest that reminds her he’s not quite gone, and that just like before, he was always going to be there. Bec’s always been there for her.
She buys herself a flute and relearns her way around it. She walks around the city, even if it’s by herself, to see the land she knows as well as herself. She feels its every shift and breath with her heartbeat, she’s entitled to at least walking around to see it herself. It takes her a while to get her bearings on where everything is, but after a few weeks of walking, she’s confident enough to teleport from one street to the one across it, from one building to another, and then from Manhattan to Chicago and then back to their apartment.
Once, she goes down at night to fetch herself a glass of milk and finds Loki and Rose on the couch both drawing sigils in the air, leaving light in the wake of their fingers and forming beautiful runes. Rose’s were violet and Loki’s were green.
She stops by the stairs, but they don’t appear to be bothered by her presence. Rose offers her a small smile and Loki nods in acknowledgement. Figuring this isn’t the weirdest thing she’s seen in her life, she makes her way to the kitchen, gets her glass milk and then returns to the living room.
Rose is still drawing, although Loki has paused and is looking at her runes. Rose draws a circle, and then looks at Loki. He nods. She draws a line and then –
Jade nearly drops the glass of milk. Rose isn’t on the couch anymore. The violet runework has disappeared too, at the same time she did.
Loki smiles at the where Rose was sitting and then erases his own runework with a flick of his hand. “Good,” he says.
“This isn’t permanent, is it?” There’s Rose’s voice where she was just sitting a few seconds ago. Jade feels for her presence and is relieved to find that Rose’s coordinates have remained unchanged.
“It is not. Although I think we will have that lesson for another night. You have exhausted your seiðr enough.” Loki is drawing sigils in green light again, over the spot where Rose had sat. When he’s finished, Rose flickers back into existence again. Jade mouths a small, “Whoa.”
Rose yawns and nods. “I do feel tired.”
Jade takes a gulp from her glass and asks, “Was that an invisibility spell?”
Rose smiles and nods. “It was,” Loki says. “One of the basic cloaking practices for young magic workers.”
“I had asked for lessons,” Rose says. “I saw an opportunity to learn from the greatest sorcerer in all of the nine and took it.”
“You’ve been reading.” Loki gives her a look Jade can’t quite read, but Rose seems confident.
“Small facts,” she says. “Nothing else.”
The god doesn’t remove his gaze from her for a while before turning away and leaning back into the couch. Jade makes a note to not read Norse mythology without Loki’s permission. That stuff was probably like the tabloid gossip of Asgard.
Rose turns to Jade. “You know, he is also very skilled in skywalking.”
Loki gives her another look, but there’s no venom behind it. He looks away after a second.
“Skywalking?” Jade asks.
“It’s similar to your teleporting,” Rose says. “But the scope is wider. Planets. Realms. Galaxies. The entirety of the Yggdrasil in a few steps.”
She’ll have to get on reading up on what Yggdrasil is. Loki hasn’t reacted. Must be a go-zone with reading.
Jade’s ears perk up with the mention of realms and galaxies though. The most she’s teleported has been planet to planet, and even then it takes concentration. Galaxies and Realms in a few steps? That sounded handy and fun.
“Skywalking is to me what manipulating space is for you, Jade,” Loki says.
“He is labelled Sky Walker,” Rose adds.
Jade blinks. “Isn’t that – ”
“Where do you think the name Luke Skywalker is from?”
Jade mouths another “Whoa.” And then follows it with a “Loki Sky-Walker. Oh.” She turns to the god, who looks a little amused but tired.
Rose looks at him too. He levels it with a glare that softens after a minute.
“Can you teach me?” Jade asks. Rose grins.
Loki sighs. Still, he nods.
Jade turns to Rose this time. “Rose, you just took my childhood and made it more awesome.”
Loki is the son of none and the brother of (Thor) nobody.
He is a monster, a liar, a fugitive, and an unwanted son.
Although, somehow, his new charges beg to differ.
Loki sits at the dinner table and nobody screams or yells when the apples suddenly sprout legs and run. They all jump; Dave leans back until his back is pressed against his chair, Rose’s eyes go wide and looks fascinated by the tiny legs, Jade immediately starts chasing one and once she catches it, she cooes over how cute it is, and John is beside himself with excitement, yelling, “How did you do that?!”
Nobody tells him his magic is out of place, or that it is abhorrent, or deceitful, or evil, or disgraceful. They think it magnificent and wonderful. Spectacular. Something to be shared and reveled with. If he has any doubt of the seiðr that flows through their veins, it is moments like this that he convinces him that he is among people who love magic as much as he does. Who are magic themselves.
It’s…it suspends his sense of normality, for a little while. But then John pulls pranks and nobody hates him for it, Dave reads and nobody berates him for such ‘effeminate behavior’, Rose asks him to teach her magic and Jade asks him to teach her to skywalk. What Asgard loathes and despises, they embrace.
He thinks they would never fit there. Neither would he. But they fit here, in this little self-made home of theirs that’s a pretty little flat in Manhattan.
He likes it more than he thinks he should.
To them, he is not a monster. They say they’ve seen worse. Rose says she’s been one. They’re not in a position to judge.
(“I planned the eradication of an entire race.”
“You planned,” Dave says. “We wiped out our own planet.”
“By accident,” John says.
“But people died.” Dave shrugs. “All you did was plan. We actually executed and we didn’t even plan squat.”
Rose helpfully says, “I’ve had real demons under my skin.”)
To them, he is not a liar. Mostly for lack of trying, because there is a Seer under their roof. Lying sort of loses its intended effect when said Seeing isn’t even a learned art one can merely cloak themselves from, but an innate ability as natural as breathing itself. He doesn’t lie because he doesn’t need to. Rose does not need to pry, she never does. She just sees, and Loki is helpless against it. It chafes against him, enrages him sometimes, but Lalonde doesn’t pry. She never does and she never will. She doesn’t tell and she asks if she wants to know. Lalonde respects him. And he’s thankful for that.
To them, he is not a fugitive. He’s just someone who needs a safehouse. A sanctuary. One day he will tell them, because there is no point in keeping secrets when it is bare to see, but it is his story to tell and Rose does not give it out if he does not speak of it. But one day. One day he’ll explain. And he hopes they don’t turn their faces away like his not-friends.
(“It’s like we’re all on witness protection program,” Dave says.
John sits up. “Hey, aren’t we sort of fugitives to the Batterwitch too?”)
To them, he is not an unwanted son. He is someone who deserves better than what he has lived through. Whether or not the rejection is his fault does not matter.
(“We don’t really have fathers in the…conventional way,” Rose says.
“I was on an island, alone for most of my life,” Jade says.
“Actually, I think the only one who had a normal relationship with his dad is John,” Dave says. “I know a thing or two about shitty bros…dads. I am never calling him that to his face. Oh my god. But technically, he’s my dad. That is a weird fucking thought to have. I never want to think about that again. Jegus.”)
To Rose and Jade, he is a teacher. To John, he is a fellow prankster. To Dave, he is a fellow wayward.
To them, he is a guardian, a survivor, a friend.
It shouldn’t matter, because Loki doesn’t have friends. Except it does matter.
It matters because they know he’s magic and it doesn’t make him less of a person, they know he’s not here for a good reason and it doesn’t make him less of a friend, they know he’s done bad things and it doesn’t make him a monster, they know he’s a disappointment and it doesn’t drive them away.
It drives him insane. But he doesn’t kick them out of the house.
Dave suggests they make a support group. John chucks the couch’s throw pillow at his head and says, “We already are a support group.”
Five gods rent a flat in Manhattan. It ends up being a makeshift support network.