All characters © Marvel Comics
Summary: In which Odin screws up royally, the Casket of Ancient Winters is stolen, and something is the matter with Thor. Set post-Avengers, before Surtr uses the Casket in the Marvel-verse.
Note: This is a gift-fic for the amazing writer Helennotoftroy. Get well soon!
It was not until they were halfway across the Atlantic that Tony strolled into the Helicarrier's main console room. Steve was sitting at the glass table, fiddling with a Rubik's cube. A bag of peanuts lay opened by his side.
Tony plopped into one of the rolling chairs across from Steve. "So what was that all about?" he asked.
"With Loki it's hard to say," Steve replied. "Apparently that's how he really looks." He scratched at the fresh bandage on his face.
Tony took a peanut from the bag, shelled it, and popped it into his mouth. "I'm not talking about him," he said. "I'm talking about you."
Steve almost did not meet that pointed dark stare. He sometimes forgot that for all of Stark's social awkwardness the latter was not as emotionally insensitive as he led others to believe. There was a reason Pepper Potts had worked for him for so long.
Steve set down the cube and sighed. "It's nothing," he said. "Just a little—"he broke off and sighed again. Tony waited patiently. "When I saw that much ice I was reminded of, you know."
"Hey, it's cool—no pun intended there," Tony replied, taking another peanut. "I have issues with caves and people dunking me. Aaaannd people handing me things, and chintzy bourbon and power outages and…well, actually I have issues with a lot of things, but who doesn't these days?" Steve gave something between an exhale and a chuckle.
"So how'd you get over it?" Tony asked.
"You came back. We're big men, Cap, and we can talk about our feelings." Tony seemed to consider. "Sometimes."
Steve rolled his eyes. "Running into Loki is enough to take your mind off of anything," he began. "But even that bastard noticed. For half the trip he was informing me of the different ways ice can kill people."
Tony snorted. "Figures."
"Yeah, swell. Just as I was about to stick my shield where the sun didn't shine…well, I don't know. Something changed," Steve said, giving a lopsided smile. "All that talk of hypothermia and frozen water puncturing your cell walls kind of made me realize that there are worse things out there."
Tony wore an expression that Steve typically only witnessed when he was creating files on his 3D database. Not surprised; only inquisitive. "You think Reindeer Games did that on purpose?" Tony asked. "I hate to admit it, but his asshole meter was pretty low today. Maybe it was the new makeover."
"I don't know." Steve looked down at his cube and shook his head. "There's a lot I don't get—that I don't think any of us are really supposed to get, but I know we could use Thor back on the team," he said.
Tony pushed back his rolling chair. "Agreed," he grunted as he eased himself out of it. "C'mon, let's take your mind off it, Cap." He grinned and clapped a hand on Steve's shoulder. "What are your feelings on the Blue Man Group?"
The traducing vox populi on Asgard claimed that the second son of Odin was inept at fighting. Quite the contrary, Loki could fight just fine. He simply preferred not to. Why sport all of those mangling scars when your head worked just as well? The few beings on Asgard who could ever provoke Loki into an actual physical match were, respectively, Sif and Thor. The rest he could send quivering with merely a wag of his tongue and nothing more.
As such, Loki could not remember being this sore since the good Doctor Banner had forcibly introduced him to a tile floor. Granted Thor's brute strength was a challenge to combat on a good day, but the energies from lost worlds made him increasingly unpredictable in battle. Although Loki himself was at the peak of his own power, he was already on battle-strategy number nine.
A fire burned in place of most of the forest—a direct result of Thor's lightning, so sharp and so hot that it had melted the surrounding snow and had set the trees ablaze. While fending off Thor with one hand Loki spent a good portion of his magic on smothering the flames. After all, fire was lethal to him now that he was wearing the skin of a Frost Giant. He hid in the smoke, but Thor spun his hammer and swept it back with a breeze. He tried calling to the animals of the earth in the Allspeak, but even they were afraid to come to his aid. All the while Thor fought fey and feral, using Mjölnir to coalesce the atmosphere and the land as one. This went on for some time.
Trees would not hold Thor. Neither would the Wind nor the Water. To some loose extent Loki could understand why Thor was fighting so hard; his brother was slowly being taken over from the inside out and was more confused and angry about that than he actually was with Loki. What Loki could not understand was why he was fighting just as passionately.
After roughly a day of trying to pin Thor down Loki had had enough. Sparring had never really been his thing. Loki licked the scars around his lips. Time to bring out the big guns, as he believed they said here on Midgard.
He beckoned the liquid fire from beneath the earth, the magma of quiescent volcanoes, and cooled it to form obsidian serpents. The magic protested against his skull but Loki ignored it and pushed; hundreds of snakes formed from ropy black matter, each as long as a river. They hissed and coiled around Thor, bearing fangs that dripped with the pollutions of the ground: pesticides, oil, sludge, acid.
"This might smart a little, brother," Loki said and made a gesture with his hand. The snakes sunk their fangs into Thor's flesh easier than a butter knife through cheese. When Thor's struggles weakened and slowed Loki walked over to him and placed his fingers at his brother's temples. The dark energy pulsed underneath Thor's skin, alive and tingling.
Loki faltered. He had gone through every possible scenario in his head, every possible outcome, but now that the figurative equivalent of the Big Red Button lay just beneath his fingers he still hesitated to push it. It would be so easy to simply leave Thor as he was. Why should he care if his brother fell from grace? It was what Loki had ever wanted and dreamed, after all.
And yet, there was something so unsatisfying about it. Who was Yin without his Yang?
At that moment Loki hated dichotomies with such a passion that he imagined the ground beneath him to crack with his anger. Two frustrated tears, dark blue, squeezed out and quickly escaped down the sides of his face before Loki even had the chance to register them. Curse the ancient Seid of Freya, curse the House of Odin. Curse Jötunheim. Curse Laufey for not having destroyed him at birth.
Loki took a breath and dispelled the corrupting magic.
For a moment he could feel Thor's essence, and, like he had always suspected, it was gold. Coruscating, molten. Like the threads the Norns spun at the base of Yggdrasil, like the Tiger's Eye amber of the great halls. Like Gungnir and Heimdall's teeth and the eyes of the fallen Kings of Valhalla. For a moment it warmed Loki and Loki found his rage momentarily forgotten. He felt, for the first time in centuries, good.
And then it was gone. The deed was done and Thor slumped to the ground with a groan. His red, red cape pooled around him, velvet mixing with blood. The igneous serpents gave a final flick of their tongues and returned to the earth.
Loki rose and stood over his brother. "Go find your little team when you can walk," he told him, though Thor was mostly lost to unconsciousness. "My work here is done." For a split second Loki's eyes flashed gold before dimming to their natural ruby red, as they had always been.
He barked something of a laugh then, splaying his fingers out before him. They were slender and blue—magician's fingers, but still his fingers right down to the bony knuckles. Loki wondered if they would prune again in Urd's Well.
Today he had saved Midgard from the weapon of his ancestors, along with freeing his brother from nefarious influences in the process. He had not done too shabbily in the end, horns and all. Loki wondered what Odin's face would look like when he discovered that he had almost turned his precious son into an agent of black magic. The image brought more exhausted laughter.
Thor would be alright. He would find his comrades and lover and proceed to stuff processed Earth food into his mouth and laugh along with them. Loki would return to Asgard. He did not expect anyone to thank him, but he preferred it that way. Loki did not believe in redemption any more than he did in love or freedom. That saccharine gold feeling of Thor's was merely fleeting, fading, being swallowed under Loki's own waves of blue and hoarfrost. It did not matter to Loki if his actions earned him a little more respect from those that he detested. He did not care if the Allfather was proud of him or not for what he had done. They were all lost to him, anyway.
Or so he told himself as Huginn swooped down and opened a portal to the place he had once called home.
Author's note: thank you all for reading! This, in all honesty, was a pain to write for numerous reasons, but I hope it turned out alright in the end. There are so many stories out there of Loki being possessed. I randomly had the idea to have Thor be the one possessed for once and wanted to see what I could do with it. I always have the compulsion to re-read and tweak my stuff even after posting, but I will try to keep my, ah, post-posting edits to a minimum. This will be posted at my DW account as well (fourteenpavanes). To Helennotoftroy: I hope you like it.