I looked at the man, part of him afraid, part of him angry. So this was the man who had tortured and humiliated Loki even though he knew he was ill because of what the Chitauri had done. This was the man who had ruined a good part of my friend's self-esteem, this was the man who had scarred him so severely. Just an old man with terrible clothes and an eyepatch. I vaguely wondered if Fury, with his harsh words and eyepatch, had reminded Loki of his father. No, not his father. Being a parent is a privilege, and this man had lost it long ago.
"I demand to speak to my son, mortal!" The man said, taking me out of my reflections.
I gave him a nasty look. I wanted to give a piece of my mind to that man, but I also wanted to get dressed.
"Thor!" I called. "Can you come for a sec?"
The god of thunder came, with a confused expression on his face, probably wondering what reason could I possibly have to ask him to leave his brother's side.
His eyes grew wide when he saw the newcomer.
"Father! What are you doing here?"
I quickly left for my room for in that house, and quickly put on some pants and a shirt, ready to get out there again. There was no way that man was going to get Loki again. He may have been the all father and the ruler of Asgard, but I was Loki's friend and I was not going to let him go back to that hell. There was no way.
When I got back out, Thor and his father where arguing heatedly.
"You have no place to question my decisions, Thor!"
"Of course I do! I am Loki's brother and if your decision decisions are harmful to him, then I must disobey them." His voice boomed in the whole room. It was a sight to be feared.
"And it is a nice sentiment. I am sure that the families of other prisoners feel like that as well. But that does not mean that they should be set free." The old man said.
"You know what they did to him!" I said not able to hold my tongue any longer. "You know how those aliens hurt him, for all that long. He's not just another prisoner - he's a victim, too, a victim not only of those Chitauri but of your lies as well."
The man scoffed.
"This is exactly what I could not let Loki suffer any other fate than the one he got. You give him a chance, decent conditions of living and he will poison the minds of those around him so he can be freed, and continue with his destructive crusade. I am sure you are a good man, mortal, but you have been a victim of Loki's mind tricks, as many other have been in the past. Now, let me pass so I can return the prisoner to his rightful place."
I stood my ground. There was no way this man was getting anywhere near Loki again. Not after all he had done to him: it had been cruel, it had been excessive, it had been torture. There was no justification. And the day he stopped standing up to bullies was the day he stopped being Steven Rogers.
"I'm afraid I can't do that, sir."
Thor appeared next to me, blocking the way.
"Father, I understand that you wanted Loki to pay for his betrayal but it has been enough. Let him live in peace. He has paid."
"I am sorry, son, but I cannot do that. It is my duty to protect Asgard and I cannot let a dangerous criminal be free."
Both Asgardians seemed to get angry at each other's words. I imagined they had tolerated each other's conflicting point of view until now because they were family, but it had reached a turning point. It was too much for Thor to hear his father saying that Loki should be in prison after what we'd found out, and it was too much for Odin to hear his son defending who he thought was a traitor and a criminal.
They went against each other.
There was a fight, but I could barely see anything, between the brightness of the tricks and the strength of Thor's hammer blaring. I positioned myself in front of the door of the room where Loki was, hoping to be some kind of last defense if Thor would be rendered defenseless. Odin was very powerful and strong but Thor was tremendously determined - it was an even fight.
At some point Banner cam down, startled by the noise, and I shouted that the old man wanted to take Loki away and he got angry and the Hulk went face to face with the so-called All father, but the Old man was strong, and he had been holding back with Thor, because he was his son, but not with the great green one. And at one point, Thor was on one corner of the room, trying to get out of some sort of magical prison with his hammer and failing miserably and Banner was trying to recover, back in his smaller human form after being knocked out and thrown against a wall. Which meant they couldn't help anymore. Which meant I was the only and last defense Loki had form a guy who wanted to take him back to prison to keep punishing him and... basically torture him.
A man, a bully, was trying to take away my friend back to hell, when he was barely whole.
Not on my watch.
"Stay away, mortal." the old man said. "I mean you no harm."
"Sir, with all due respect-" I started, but was cut off by the feeling of being transported by an invisible force.
Suddenly I was next to Thor, and couldn't move anymore. And then I saw him, Loki, standing on the doorway, breathing heavily. He was still incredibly pale and the incision from the operation was bleeding. Damn
"I appreciate the help, but this is my fight and I won't let anyone else fight it for me. Hello again, Allfather. Miss me?"
And so the fight begun.
There were flashes of green and golden light and I could hardly see anything. Sometimes I saw Loki winning, sometimes it was Odin who seemed to had the upper hand. After a while both Thor and I were free from our magical prison, the spells broken, and Banner was back to his green and enormous self.
Loki was trying to escape from his not-father's tight grip, on the floor, still bleeding. I punched the man. The hulk threw him to the other side.
I offered a hand to Loki, to help him up.
"It is your fight, Loki, but that doesn't mean you have to fight it alone."
He drew a small smile as he got up again and I saw the gratitude in his eyes. This time, the old man was in the corner and and it was the four of us (Thor, the Hulk, Loki and myself) who were towering over him. This was the end.
This was them, the bullied kids, standing up to their tormentors for one last time.
"We will fight for days if we have to." I said, solemn. "But Loki is not going back to Asgard. He's staying here with us."
"Please, father, it has been enough. Loki has been imprisoned long enough, has suffered at your hand for too long. But not anymore. He is protected by us, and by his own magic. Leave us be."
The man looked at his son on the eyes, knowing there was no way of convincing Thor to change his mind.
"You will regret this, Thor. All of you will live to regret your actions."
And then he was gone. And we could finally breathe.
Thor left his hammer and went to his brother, again. They hugged and I saw briefly that the blonde man was crying softly and whispering:
"It's over now, brother, it's over."
Banner became his old self next to me and tried to maintain the shreds of his pants in place, to cover himself a bit. He looked at the brothers, then back at me.
"We did good, didn't we?"
I nodded. I knew we where going to have to talk to the others, to Stark and Fury and the rest of the world, that this was only the beginning of a very long journey and that many things could go wrong. But we had done it. We had stood our ground in the front of bullies and we had prevailed. We'd set things right.
Of course, this didn't mean that all of what Loki had done in the past was forgiven. Of course not. He made some very bad choices.
But part of me felt that he'd fallen into that abyss because there had been no one to hold his hand, no one he felt he could count on. But he could count on us now, no matter what happened. After the old man left, Banner (fully clothed now) closed again Loki's wounds and the god thanked us our help, then went to sleep, tired. At least he was alive, and on earth. It was good enough. He would have time to recover now.
The next day all happened in a rush.
Fury, with a fully Stark and Romanoff on the side and a bunch of agents stormed in saying they had a lead that Loki, the escaped prisoner, might be near. We explained the whole situation, as calmly as possible, while a very indifferent Loki was held a gun point. He simply offered some tea to the man pointing the weapon at him. That smug idiot.
Romanoff was not easy to convince, kept saying that Loki should be imprisoned again. We refused, even if the man in question said that he wasn't all that bad on that glass cell, with a grin. Fury too said he would rather have the man locked up until everything was cleared. Banner argued that Loki was recovering from very delicate surgery and that he should have time recover before putting him on a place with no bed and no medical supplies like the glass cell. The surgery part piqued Stark's interest, who took out his helmet and asked for more info on the subject, having noticed Loki's enormous scar.
(Loki had just come out of the shower when Fury and the rest appeared, and was wearing only his pants. It was as if that shower had some secret power of summoning unwanted visits while one of us was half-naked.)
We showed him the ultrasounds and the metal thing that shocked. Stark seemed mildly horrified when he touched the thing and it shocked him, even through the metal suit, short-circuiting part of the suit. He couldn't believe the guy had lived with it inside. I told him I wouldn't have believed it either, if I hadn't seen it with my own two eyes.
"And you had that thing inside you for how long, exactly?"
Loki looked at Thor as if wondering.
"How long do you think it has passed since I fell from the bifrost in midgardian time, brother? Three, four years maybe... Then I guess it has been about two or three years. Trust me, not best years of my life."
Loki flashed a smile. Stark looked at him with a bewildered expression.
"How are you even alive after all that?"
"Well, I was not going to let them win, was I? It takes more than a electrified metal weapon that burns the tissue from the inside to kill me."
"Don't look so proud, Loki. You were as good as dead two days when you collapsed in Steve's arms two days ago. You'd be dead if it wasn't for us." The physicist said and smiled.
"And I am forever grateful for your help, gentlemen. I must admit, I probably would not be standing here today if it wasn't for your intervention. It is a debt I fear I will never be able to repay."
I was going to say about how there was no debt, that this was what good people did for each other and that of course he didn't need to repay us, after all he'd been through and... but Stark spoke first.
"You could start repaying that debt by promising you won't attack our planet ever again." He suggested.
Much to my surprise, Loki accepted without saying anything else.
"I solemnly swear that this planet that has saved me from death and isolation and the beings that in it live will never suffer any more harm from me, as long as I have my life and my will."
He seemed serious. There was a silence.
And then Stark smiled.
"Well, that's good enough for me."
Fury kept complaining, saying that we could do this while Loki was safely behind bars, but Banner warned that if they even tried the Hulk might come out to play, and to hold their horses while we explained. We talked about the incident with Odin, the treatment he received in Asgard and Romanoff (very surprisingly) suggested that we could keep Loki here as a political refugee of sorts.
"Not that I like you. In the least. But we have all things in our past we're not proud of. We all deserve a second chance."
"Your words mean very much to me, Lady Romanoff. You have my gratitude."
There were some fights as to what should be done with him after that, but he just left to bed, tired. He was looking better than yesterday, but was still too pale, too weak, too exhausted. He had been cut open only a couple of days prior, it was normal that he wasn't %100.
Finally, it was decided that he would live in Stark tower, under the custody of at least two of us. This, of course, did not include Barton, who was very angry at the whole situation. We told him that what the Chitauri had done to Loki had not been too different from what Loki did to him. We told him of the hells he lived in Asgard after we left him there. It was no use.
But one can never win all the fights, right?
Sometimes, Loki disappeared, bored of being watched.
He would then appear at the other corner of the world, pulling some prank to a kid or dazzling people with his magic.
And then he would be back, just in time for the moment when inevitably somebody from SHIELD came to ask about the whereabouts of the former criminal. Loki would appear behind them, sneak behind the serious agents and say one simple word:
The fact that he didn't want to conquer the world didn't mean that he was suddenly nice.
We were playing chess, some weeks after, when a thought occurred to me.
"Do you ever think what would have happened if Fury hadn't called you pathetic that first day, and I never went to apologize, what would have happened?"
"Well, I would probably be back in Asgard, probably dying or already dead. Thor would be angry but probably most of you would be relieved." he simply said, looking at the pieces.
He was completely recovered now, and had acquired a taste for black shirts and modern rock. He'd become one of us.
One of the few people I could call a friend. And he could have died. And I wouldn't have cared for him, not a bit, only for Thor. Terrifying.
"Well, I'm glad all that happened. I certainly would have liked not needing to see your insides and having to cut them with a kitchen knife, but still."
"Oh, come on, Steven, don't be shy. My insides are almost as pretty as I am, there's no shame in admitting it."
"Oh, yes, that was exactly what I was thinking while you were bleeding out on that table, such pretty scar tissue!"
We laughed. He kept smiling.
He winked at me, after tricking me and distracting so I would lose.
Somehow, it made me feel less alone in this strange time and age.
A/N: Sorry for the crappy ending, hope you enjoyed nevertheless. Reviews are love, hope you enjoyed the story as a whole. Keep an eye out for my other stories if you liked this one, hehe.
Love and post-shower Steve and Loki hugs for those who review!
THANK YOU for the love you've shown this story so far! You're da best!