AN: Sequel/follow-up to Tango (due to popular demand, lol). This will be posted in two, possibly three parts. Here's the first. :-)
The God of Mischief coughed and immediately regretted it as a foul tinge of metal formed in his mouth. A lung was probably punctured, no doubt by the ribs he felt snap earlier. He wasn't even quite sure how he was able to breathe or even remain conscious as the body he inhabited was now very mortal.
And very broken.
It hadn't been his wisest decision to take on Amora and the Executioner alone. In fact, he would have preferred to have left saving realms he toyed with to his brother, but damned if the hope of redemption didn't plague him.
Yet, the scene from not five minutes earlier replayed in his mind: when he had seen Amora enter the room with the control panel for the Tesseract-enhanced weapon, he knew he had a quick decision to make. If taken, Amora would become the greatest threat ever encountered with that kind of power. She could destroy worlds or bend mass populations to her will, becoming a universal conqueror with the mere threat of destruction alone.
There was no way in Helheim he was going to let that happen, especially when it had been an idea in the back of his mind first. He had fought hard to keep the evil thought from escaping, damnit, and he wasn't about to let her take credit for it.
Even if that meant the loss of his life.
So, without hesitation, Loki had informed Agent Barton (who had stupidly followed him to this section of the floating station in space) to tell Thor's woman, the scientist, she had minutes to get the portal back to Earth open. Agent Barton's yell had trailed him before it was silenced by the metal door sliding closed behind him. He used every ounce of strength he had to rip the door's control panel from the wall, disallowing anyone to follow.
It also meant he was locked in the room with the Enchantress, preventing her escape.
Pain brought him back to the current moment. Loki pushed the floor with the three fingers on his left hand that weren't broken, fighting for purchase with the slick floor. He had lost feeling in his right leg and arm, and he was unable to move either. Blood seeped from the wounds on his body, but especially from the one in his thigh as he dragged it along with the rest of his body across the floor.
He had to get to the control panel. There was no other option and no one else to aid him. He alone was tasked with saving all of humanity.
The irony was not lost on him.
The pounding on the metal door adjacent to him resonated in the small space he occupied. Amora, the Enchantress, his former ally and lover, spewed vile obscenities at him through the round, glass window. Skurge, her Executioner, also pounded on the door in an attempt to break free. Their powers were temporarily stripped, thanks to the magic guarding the room. He had set off the Asgardian spell—the last and only spell he had been left with—as soon as he had the chance.
He paused, summoning a small amount of energy to inhale. He winced at the pain that rewarded him for the effort.
Only a few seconds had passed after ripping the door's control panel from the wall when Skurge had attacked him. A well-placed kick by a steel-toed boot had slammed Loki into the door. Skurge had impressive strength and brutal fighting skills to rival even Thor. Normally, Loki could've taken him on, possibly even winning in a match (he was a Frost Giant, after all), but today was not a normal day.
Today, Loki was human, as he had been for quite some time, as part of his punishment as deemed by the All-Father.
At Amora's command, Skurge had whipped him around, splintering Loki's nose with his fist. Blinding white light had exploded behind his eyes, as a gush of blood streamed from his nose. Loki had managed to take two additional blows to his face before he was thrown to the other side of the room. Pain had erupted on his left side and he was dazed just long enough for Skurge to grab his arm and twist.
He howled in anger and frustration, at both the loss of the use of his arm and he had known he was going to lose this battle quickly and additional lives would be lost if he hadn't done something fast.
A blow to his right eye had been greeted with a sharp twinge and he had fallen to the floor. His breath had literally been kicked out of him not once but twice before his leg was impaled by a metal pole. Skurge twisted the pole back and forth, seeming to enjoy the screams of pain it brought from the fallen god, before he ripped it out.
Loki had then been hauled into the air, by his throat. His windpipe was slowly and deliberately being crushed by the demon kicking his ass. Amora's scream to finish him brought additional laughter from her Executioner.
Loki had clawed at the hand crushing his windpipe, in a futile effort to draw air. Skurge had brandished a long, serrated dagger, the divided blade gleaming. Set against a black encrusted handle made of jewels and strange runes, it was the demon's weapon of choice. Skurge's dark and twisted sneer reflected in the steel as he turned it in front of the fallen god, as a wicked taunt.
It was then that Loki had managed to reach into his tunic to reveal a carefully guarded vial. It had glowed with a protected enchantment surrounding it—the enchantment kept it from shattering in the fight. With what air he had left, he had spoken three words before throwing it past the man strangling him and into the cell with the weapon Stark had created.
The Enchantress had followed it, probably in an attempt to keep it from completing its purpose. The vial shattering had been music to his ears and a purple mist had risen within the cell. At her alarmed scream, the Executioner surged the dagger he was toying with into Loki's flesh, into the lower right portion of his abdomen. Any hope of recovery after the severe beating he had endured, any chance at survival, had been crushed for Loki had known a vital, human organ had been punctured. Skurge had known this too, yet still twisted the blade. Loki jerked and flailed his one, good arm against his murderer in response to the new, burning sensation he'd been gifted with because of the action. Skurge easily caught his fist and had crushed his fingers out of spite before dropping him to the floor. Loki had watched as the demon ran after his master, like a good slave.
The safety protocols of the station had kicked in and closed the door to the cell, locking the Enchantress and the Executioner in there with him on the outside.
Perfect. That had been exactly what he had hoped the fools would do. The purple mist turned to green, and he knew the spell had worked. It had taken their powers away and they were now as human as he was.
He was racked with coughs once again, spitting blood this time, as he compelled enough strength to pull himself toward his destination using just three fingers and his left knee as leverage. The control panel was a mere two feet away or less, resting on a raised dais. He just needed to get a little closer.
It was imperative he not fail. He knew the consequences if he did. He needed to set the timer to detonate the weapon. It was a happy coincidence, perhaps a lucky one if he believed in fortune, if the Enchantress and her minion happened to go with it. And they would, as the weapon would obliterate them and the floating fortress in space.
And him. He was going to die anyways, and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. Humans were such fragile creatures and he had often mocked their delicacy, the consequences of such looming over him now. Oh, how cruel fate was. If he didn't die from blood loss or because some vital organ was ruptured, he would from the blast of the weapon.
The God of Mischief would die a human, weak and broken, and completely alone. Justice would be served.
The screams behind him intensified. Magic or no magic, a tiny sliver of fear that his enemies would break the barrier to the cell before he had a chance to get to complete his mission rooted into his brain.
Loki prayed. He had never prayed to Odin before and vowed never to even begin to do so once the truth of his true parentage had been revealed to him. Today, however, he would break that vow. If the All-Father could truly hear his prayers, then right now he hoped Odin would listen and grant him his request. He wouldn't ask for forgiveness for all his past transgressions. He wouldn't even beg for his life to be spared. No, he would pray for strength. Just one more bought of energy was all he needed to reach the dais and raise himself just enough to do what needed to be done.
His vision clouded before him and a wave of nausea threatened to overtake him. This was it, his chance to do the right thing. He huffed and swung his arm up, his partially damaged hand hitting the top of the dashboard of the panel. He pushed, putting every ounce of strength he could into the action to lift himself up to stand. There before him, the red graphic of a circle glowed that, if touched and the code put in, would initiate the countdown.
The question was, had the Man of Iron trusted him enough to give him the right code? Stark had hesitated at releasing the code to him at the mission briefing, but acquiesced when he insisted he wasn't the bigger villain this time. Millions of lives were at stake and he had a vested interested in seeing this mission through and stopping the Enchantress. He only hoped Stark had believed him for he had truly been honest. Otherwise, it was all for naught.
Loki's hand shook as he palmed the button. He was greeted with the voice of Stark's AI, JARVIS, "Code, please." How polite.
He punched in the four-digit code he had been given with his unbroken index finger on the touch keypad.
"Please confirm," replied JARVIS.
He retyped the four-digit code, the tiny ounce of strength he had left quickly dissipating. Breathe, damn it. Just breathe.
The screen dimmed and flashed a countdown in big, white numbers, that were rapidly decreasing. JARVIS's accented voice reverberated throughout the room (and Loki suspected the station as well) as a warning, "Weapon armed. You now have three minutes, fifty-nine seconds to evacuate."
A small cry escaped his lips as his knees buckled and he fell to the floor. Stark had trusted him and millions of lives would be saved because of it. The rest of his teammates would be as well if they heard and heeded the warning.
He tuned out the incessant pounding on the door by the Enchantress and Skurge. No doubt they had also heard the AI's warning and knew of their impending doom.
His vision darkened, tiny pricks of color swimming before his gaze. He knew his end was coming. His extremities had turned cold, despite the warmth of his own blood pooling beneath him. His breath was shallow now, each intake bringing needles of pain into his chest.
He closed his eyes. He did not want to think of death. He did not want to think of his life and the actions that had brought him here. He did not want to think of his childhood and the happy memories he shared with his brother to bring him comfort.
No, he thought of her: his only saving grace and his chance at salvation in the last few months.
She had given him hope and honesty, a form of intimacy he could share with no other. She alone had trusted him, seen his true nature and accepted it, when no one else did. The idea that someone could believe in him and what he could do had been found with her. She had found redemption, a chance had been given to her, and she had given him hope that the same could be true for him.
He had wanted a battle of wits, a game of manipulation and seduction. Too long had he gone without challenging a skilled rival, yet just to see her had been enough to drive him mad with carnal need. She was just as talented as he in deceit and misdirection and that had intrigued him. From that day on the Helicarrier, when she had so smoothly fooled him, he the God of Lies, he had wanted nothing more than to make her his, to make her submit—but with a fight.
It had been a glorious battle to get into her bed the first time, but had rejoiced when he had succeeded. In the past, he had carelessly discarded a lover, using them for his own needs and then dismissing them from his mind. He had not cared of their feelings or growing attachment, for he had none. He erased them from his mind and found someone else to pursue as part of his games.
Yet, with her, he couldn't keep her from invading his thoughts and that had disturbed him greatly. How could one mortal, a Midgardian at that, so easily captivate him? To his dismay, he had sought her out again, slipping under the soft sheets to seduce her. Yet, instead of forcing her to submit to him, he had found himself on his back with a gun held to his head as she fucked him.
And if she had pulled the trigger, he would have walked into Helheim happy.
After that, he hadn't been so sure he won the battle after all and that appalled and fascinated him at the same time.
He focused on remembering the last night they shared: he had called in a favor with Stark, but he had truly wanted her. She had agreed to dance with him in exchange for what the rest of her team wanted, though he could have easily just given the information wanted to Stark.
They had danced and magic had been woven into the air to make her burn with need for him, though perhaps that hadn't been necessary. He had given her what she needed, the team taking care of the Skrull, and he had easily manipulated her into finding a secluded place for the night.
There he had claimed her, the memory of tasting her invading his brain.
That night, they had shared in secret, the rest of her team blind to their carnal activities. That night, she had seen his true, vile nature, and still offered herself to him. That night, she had had gifted him with honesty and a true confession.
Now, he thought of her stubbornness and arrogance. Now, he thought of her smile and the tears she thought he hadn't seen. Now, he thought of her.
For if love was truly just for children, then he had embraced becoming a child once again.
"You now have two minutes to evacuate."
He was ready. He was ready to face whatever eternal suffering was fated for him and he would gladly accept it.
And yet his brain still managed somehow to register another voice above and beyond just screams.
Thor. Thor! His brother had found him. Or was he just imagining it? Was his brain just tricking him to ease his suffering? Did it even matter? Loki's mangled laugh was wild and touched with hysteria, his amusement borderline maniacal. It was worth the extra pain and burning now welling in his chest and he choked on the pooling blood in throat as he continued to giggle.
His vision abandoned him, yet he wished he could see Thor smash through the door like it was flimsy paper. A steel, locked door would be no match for Moljnir, if it wasn't just Death playing the ultimate trick on him.
Loki was already fairly certain he looked like a mess, but Agent Barton's exclamation solidified his suffering was still rooted in reality. He felt strong arms lift him half off the floor and he felt knees at his back. The muscles in his face contorted in a wince, a silent gasp escaping as the knife was pulled from his body. He felt a gush of blood rush from his body in protest.
"Thor, buddy, you don't just pull a knife out!" protested Stark somewhere off to his right.
"Loki! Brother, please. Tell me where it pains you."
They had no time and what would it matter if he said he ached everywhere? There was nothing his buffoon of a brother could do.
"Guys, everyone else has already left and we have less than two minutes to get the fuck out of here," Stark announced. "Except them. They can stay in there and go ka-blooey. Jesus, Thor, is your brother even going to make it?"
"Why doesn't he heal? I thought you said he could heal?"
"Odin's… p-p-punishment. H-human," Loki answered Agent Barton's question in weak, strangled voice, proving he still had some life left in him.
"Brother, Father made you human? All this time…why didn't you tell me?"
"Didn't m-matter. C-can't…lie. All-Father took m-my—," Loki gasped, unable to finish his confession. He cringed at the memory of his greatest power being stripped of him by the All-Father. Painful and humiliating, indeed. Everything, every thought, every word since his punishment was carried out a mere Midgardian month ago had been honest and true for it was physically impossible to speak otherwise. No lie or falsehood had escaped his lips since that day, and yet it was still assumed he spewed nothing but lies. It was a painful lesson, forcing silence on his own tongue for it did not matter if he spoke the truth or not. They wouldn't have believed him, even if he had told him he could tell no lies. His reputation had preceded him and Odin knew the suffering he would endure.
"No kidding. He can't lie? Wow. Wonder what else Daddy All-Father did…"
"Not now, Stark. My brother needs—"
There she was. There was her voice—soft, yet defiant over his brother's gravel. Damn it, why was she here? She was supposed to be far, far away from here. That was the agreement he had made with Thor in exchange for his assistance on this mission. She was supposed to be safe and out of danger!
A sob rattled in his chest. He felt so betrayed. They probably assumed it was because of severe pain and trauma that brought tears to his visionless eyes.
They were wrong. The thought of Stark, Agent Barton, or even his brother dying with him didn't bother him. In fact, it brought him a sense of comfort and perhaps that's why he had chosen to laugh upon their entrance and discovering his sad, horrific state.
But, not her. No, not her. Never her! She needed to live, to survive. She didn't deserve to die! She didn't deserve his fate!
He had given her a gift, a truly wondrous gift that he didn't just bestow upon anyone, that needed to be cherished. Had she even realized yet what he had given her? If she had, why would she be here? Why would she endanger her life like that if she did?
His gift to her would be all for naught because if they didn't leave now, she would die with him.
Bleak desolation filled his soul.
Guilt rolled over him like boiling lava. Of all the mortals he wanted to save, despite not truly caring about their puny, fragile lives, he wanted her to survive. He wanted her to know love and perhaps a tiny bit of happiness. She deserved all of that and even more.
All the things he had ever wanted, but could never dare to have. Instead, he would be responsible for her death.
And that was the thought that truly broke him.
"You now have one minute to evacuate."
"That's it, gotta go," Stark announced. "Portal is open and waiting, boys and spider."
"L-leave me…pl…please," he struggled to keep the desperation and shame out of his voice. They needed to go now. "G-go."
"Not without you, my brother."
When Thor lifted him into his arms, he wailed in unexpected agony. White starbursts of pain zipped through his brain, through every limb, and through every vein. His breath left him in short, quick gasps and he was quickly losing the battle not to slip into unconsciousness and perhaps even death.
If Death was gracious enough to claim him, that is.
"Stay with me brother. You are not allowed to leave us just yet." Thor's arrogant whisper—or was it a shout?—was the last thing he heard before darkness finally overtook him.
Death, it seemed, was a kind maiden after all.