Author's Note: So this was hard to write, and I'm not entirely sure if it sucks or not, but hopefully I got the idea of this across well enough.

Chapter 18

Xavier sat across from Loki at a plain sheet metal table, bare lighting casting stunted shadows that gave the environment a far too harsh feel. But there was little to do for the circumstances, so he turned his attention instead to his subject, whose attention he found he had in return. Loki watched him with obvious mistrust, and Xavier wondered, as he did whenever meeting someone, what was hidden behind the guarded expression.

"I'm Charles Xavier," he finally broached an introduction. "May I call you Loki?"

He nodded slowly but narrowed his eyes. Xavier smiled pleasantly and continued unperturbed.

"Has anyone explained what I do, Loki?" A small shake in response. "I'm a mutant, mutants being humans who have developed certain abilities that other humans have not, due to a mutation of their genes. My ability is reading minds." A panicked expression flitted across Loki's face, but he held up a hand placatingly. "Rest assured I have no intent or desire to use this without your consent. Your… keepers have asked me to look into your mind to determine the nature of your psychosis, if there is any at all. But I have made my stance clear, I refuse to use my abilities on someone helpless and unwilling."

Loki looked down at that, to the cuffs around his wrists, linked to a loop in the floor. Then his eyes flicked back up and gave Charles a disdainful look. "Why not, certainly you think I'd deserve it. Everyone does."

"Even if that were the case and I did feel that way, it would go against my own morals. Also, I was under the impression you've already served a sentence, in your own world."

Loki stared back, weak malice fading immediately at the mention of his sentence, and settled back in the chair, making himself small.

Charles frowned at the immediate change in demeanor. "I think one thing you will find vastly different between our culture and yours is the nature of punishment." A small bit of curiosity was regained at that. "Your world focuses solely on pain and retribution. Here though, we strive for rehabilitation, if at all possible. Fixing the cause."

"Why?" Loki asked.

"Because those who do bad are not always themselves bad people. Our lives unfortunately, inevitably lead us to mistakes and offer far too many opportunities to change for the worse. We want to give the opportunity to change for the better."

Loki shook his head. "It is a foolish belief to think everyone can change."

"What's foolish is to think that everyone wants to." The trickster's eyes held his for a long moment, but Xavier's knowing gaze proved to be too much, and he looked away. "I'd like to enter your mind, if you'll let me."

Loki dragged his gaze back to the man, the mutant, and hesitantly nodded.

At first he was nothing. He felt nothing, saw nothing, remembered nothing. There was a certain bliss to it, peace from knowing no other way. Then memories began to trickle in, dread following close behind, and he became aware of his body piece by piece, until he opened his eyes and saw the sky.

It was a strange implacable color, like dusk and sunrise meeting, but he couldn't stare at it long. He couldn't tell if it was changing or not. But when he pushed himself up to look around it felt like the same maddening uncertainty. The air felt close, and if he closed his eyes it was like he was inside a small room, crowded in by something big on all sides. But he wasn't, he was surrounded by dirt, miles of dirt, soft to the touch and free of any impurities like pebbles or twigs. There weren't even hills on the horizon, in any direction. And the longer he stared at the horizon the more it blurred with the sky until he lost sight of it entirely.

He climbed to his feet and looked around himself at the emptiness, trying to find a landmark, something to gain his bearing should he lose it.

This is your world…

A whisper, quiet on the thick air, and he froze. He was alone, he'd seen that he was, it had to have been his thoughts.

…look what you've made for youself…

He whipped around and almost missed it, the ghost of a figure in the distance. A shadow that fades as he stared at it, leaving him alone again.

Built on lies…

…can't you feel it?

He shivered and turned until he saw it again, lingering longer this time, long enough for him to discern translucent lengths of hair flowing in its own wind. He watched her until his vision blurred the muddled colors together and he had to rub at his eyes, gone when he looked back up.

Let me show you…

He followed the voice again, still ethereally quiet, echoing unnaturally in the stale environment, turning to find not the figure but what appeared to be a small sword stuck in the ground a good distance away. He glanced around nervously as he made his way towards it, constantly looking over his shoulder, until he stood before the only object visible in this world and found it to be a small wooden practice sword.

Reluctant to touch it, he crouched down for a closer look and frowned.

You remember…

He flinched at the suddenness but growled in retaliation. Of course he remembered it, it was exactly like the ones he and Thor used when they learned swordplay as children. This one even had his symbol carved near the handle, two tangled serpents, biting one another's tails. It was a reminder of the beginning of his inequality with Thor, when he fell into shadow, obscured by Thor's golden light. Thor had bested him easily that day, and every day after that, gloating and lording, thriving, until Loki made his own way in his studies with magic.

…lies…

He scowled and stood tall. What lies?

The ones you tell yourself…

With that his vision changed, fading into the same memory he'd just had, only far more vivid, and he watched the younger copies of himself and Thor. He was on his back on the stones, having been knocked down for the last time that day. He watched from the side of the courtyard, and found himself standing opposite… Odin? He didn't remember the Allfather being present that day, in his memories it had been their instructor.

But that wasn't right, was it? It had been Odin, teaching, watching, praising his eldest. And as the young Loki stormed off, barely concealing tears, the older Loki realized another falsehood in his memory. Thor was hardly gloating. In fact, he looked abashed, and concerned, starting after Loki, only to be stopped by his proud father. Stopped from going after his brother. This whole time he'd remembered Thor so terribly incorrectly, and he couldn't hide from his own guilt.

His vision snapped back to normal, and he was left starring down at the play sword, surprised to find it ripped from the ground and splintered. A lie he'd told himself his whole life, that Thor relished besting him, shattered.

And that was how his time in exile went. The ghost would whisper, pull him toward something that had appeared in the dust, something tied to a memory. And every time it would tear him apart, make him relive it, make him doubt how he'd remembered it. His whole life, falsehoods to be tore down, and there was no rest.

There was no way to tell how long it went on. At one point he tried to run, bolting towards the blurred horizon until his legs gave out and he was left on the ground, gasping for breath. And when he looked up it was as if he'd gone nowhere, still surrounded by the desolation of his memories, slowly filling the bizarre landscape with destruction. A dozen lifetimes, thousands of years of memories, laid out for miles around him. In the end he simply obeyed the shadow, wandering hollowly to wherever he was guided, waiting, hoping for it to be over. He couldn't even remember how long his life had been anymore.

When it was done everything he'd thought he'd known had been torn apart and rebuilt, countless times.

He didn't know what truth was anymore.

He doubted everything.

Xavier was left dazed as he pulled away, the quality of the Asgardian's thoughts and memories leaving him in an echoic daze for a moment. When he finally settled himself he found Loki starring at him with a lost, desperate look. Before the professor managed to speak, Loki gasped a quiet stutter of breath and asked him in a small voice,"Does Thor still care for me? I know you can tell, if you talk to him, you can tell if his emotions are genuine. Please tell me if there's any emotion left for me in him. He said he did, after New Mexico, before I let go, but he hasn't this time. Not before my sentence, and not after my return." There weren't quite tears, but there was a desperate glimmer in his eye.

Charles gave a small nod, understanding of Loki's raw emotions after reliving such memories. "I'll see what I can do," he said. Loki gave one nod and slumped back in the seat, emotions drained. "I believe you deserve a chance to change, Loki. Do not throw away the opportunity."

He showed Loki to the door then, thanking him for such a unique opportunity, and called Thor in after settling his brother in the waiting area, taking note of the other occupants before closing the door.

Thor sat with nervous energy in the chair the other god had just vacated. "How is he?" he asked as Charles wheeled into place.

"His experiences have left him like unformed clay, its important his environment nurture this."

Thor gave a relieved nod. "He will get better then?"

Xavier nodded slowly. "If he truly wants to." Then he gave Thor a calculating look and leaned forward. "May I ask an odd question?" Thor nodded, and Xavier held his hand out, taking the Thunder god's in his own in a simple way to feel his emotions without fully invading his mind. "Do you still love your brother."

Thor's brow furrowed, somewhat taken off guard by the question. "Of course, I do not trust him, nor do I agree with him, but I will always love him as my brother."

Xavier smiled and sat back. "Good, he'll need that."

Thor nodded reverentially and stood. "Thank you professor, for you reassurance."

"Of course, it was a wonderful opportunity," he said, pulling the door open to show him out.

The guards were on the smaller god as soon as Thor exited, ready to bring him back to his cell. He gave Loki a knowing look in answer to his question, and was relieved when his motion was understood. It left Loki glancing at Thor with a subtle mix of confusion and amazement.

He spoke to the two other men for a few moments, thinking about the next opportunity he'd have to meet with Dr. Banner, then was met by Xavier. He handed the spy a sheet of notes he'd compiled after the session, documenting his opinion of Loki's state and a recommended course of action. The outcome surprised Fury, and he left him with the conclusion that they'd be changing Loki's intended treatment plan, making changes immediately.

He smiled as his car pulled him away from Avengers Tower, left exhausted by pleased with the days outcome.