Disclaimer: Marvel owns these characters. I do not make any money from this work.
It's been five months since the Chitauri incident. New York City is still recovering, rebuilding. The last thing Director Fury, Agent Hill, and the newly returned Agent Coulson expect is for Thor, God of Thunder, to pay a visit. Even less do they expect him to be so adamant about speaking with Captain America. He has a request, it seems, that only the First Avenger can fulfill.
Director Fury sends Clint Barton to retrieve Captain Rogers from wherever the hell he rode off to. It takes a few days, but Barton and Rogers return to the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. Clint hasn't told the super soldier much, only that Thor has returned and needs to speak with him.
Steve isn't sure how he feels about being called back. He was just starting to get to know the world again, to feel more comfortable within it. The nightmares were coming less frequently, and his drawing was getting better. But if Thor needed to speak with him, then of course he'd return.
Once they've landed on the Helicarrier, Rogers and Barton head directly to the bridge to meet the god and Director Fury. As soon as they walk in, Agent Phil Coulson rises from his seat at the conference table and turns to face them. He's been both dreading and looking forward to this moment.
Steve stops immediately. "You're alive?"
"Yeah," Agent Coulson says almost guiltily. Then adds, "Surprise." The look of betrayal on his hero's face is almost too much to take. "Director Fury and I knew you all needed a push. To be fair, I did almost die, and I was unconscious at the time he told you I…" He swallows, unable to finish the sentence.
Captain Rogers scowls then gives one sharp nod. "I'm glad you're not dead."
"Does Stark know?" He remembers how much the agent's death had affected the billionaire.
"I woke up in the hospital to a huge flower arrangement from him and Pepper." Coulson decides not to tell his idol about the Captain America teddy bear that came with it.
Steve nods again. Then he adds, "I'm sorry about your baseball cards. If you still want me to sign them…"
Phil's face lights up. "Really? Gee. Wow. That'd be great, just great."
Clint rolls his eyes and smiles at Thor. All he gets from the god is a puzzled and impatient look.
"Later," Director Fury interjects. "Right now, I'd like to hear from Thor."
Steve turns his scowl on the Director. "For future reference, I don't like being lied to."
The Director looks the super soldier straight in the eye and says, "I don't care." He takes a seat. Coulson, Barton, and Rogers all do the same. Thor remains standing, arms crossed, a concerned furrow to his brow. Agent Hill also remains standing at what is normally Directory Fury's station looking out over the personnel on the bridge. "Thor," Directory Fury prompts. "You wanted to speak to Captain America. Here he is. Why don't you tell us what this is all about?"
"It is about my brother."
"Loki," the Director clarifies.
"Did he escape?" Clint asks, a hint of worry in his voice.
"No. He is safely locked in a dungeon on Asgard. His magic has been neutralized. He can hurt no one now. But he wishes to speak to you, Captain Rogers."
"Me?" Steve asks, and Thor nods.
"Why?" Fury knows the God of Lies must have an angle. He wants to know what it is.
"I have no idea. I enquired, but he would tell me nothing. He simply said he wished to speak with the Man Out of Time and nothing more. The next time I visited, he repeated the same phrase, this time adding that it was important. Every time I visited him thereafter, he would say the same words. 'I must speak with the Man Out of Time. It is important. Please bring him to me.' The same words every time. Even so, it was the use of the word 'please' that struck me most." His blue eyes look directly into the equally blue eyes of the super solder. "I have no right to ask after the destruction he wrought. But if there is a chance that speaking to you will return my brother, what choice do I have?" His voice is steady, but there is a plea behind his gaze.
"I don't like it," Fury says flatly.
"Neither do I." Steve knows the look Thor is giving him. He understands the helplessness the god must be feeling, has felt it himself. "I'll go."
"No," Fury and Coulson say together as relief floods over the god.
"It's not your call," Steve reminds them.
"Cap," Clint begins. "I know you're curious and you want to help, but you need to be careful. I know what Loki is capable of."
"I know, too, Clint. I was there when the Chitauri came."
"Yeah, but he didn't take over your mind, make you his puppet."
"No," Steve acknowledges gently. "No, he didn't."
"My brother was not always like that."
"I'm sure he wasn't." But Steve doesn't know if that's actually true. "I need you to tell me anything and everything about him that might be useful or important. I don't want to walk in there blind."
"Anything you need, Steve, so long as you will come."
"And you have no idea what he wants?" Fury asks again.
"None," Thor replies.
Fury turns his focus to the super soldier. "I don't think you should go, but it's your call."
Captain Rogers nods. He's already made his decision. Nothing is going to change that now.
Coulson suddenly feels the need to warn his hero. "Just don't forget he tried to kill me."
Steve looks at the brave agent so newly back from the grave. "I won't." How could he forget? "I'll be sure to sign the cards before I leave." He returns his gaze to the one man in the room bigger than he is. "Thor, why don't we go somewhere more private, and you can tell me all about your brother."
Loki's story is more complicated and sad than Steve expected. He supposes he should have known better. But in war it is so much easier to paint your enemy as completely evil and foreign, as not quite human. That's what they did with the Nazis. It's what every soldier in every war does. It's the only way to not go insane with guilt about killing your fellow human beings.
And with Loki being an alien and having the same feelings of superiority that the Nazis had, it was even easier to dismiss him in that way. But the brother that Thor describes is more complicated than that. And the circumstances around his birth and his adoption make the Trickster even more sympathetic. Steve knows he isn't getting the full story, knows he is getting it all from the loving, the betrayed, the guilt-filled brother's point of view. The super soldier decides he should speak to the parents and to a few friends and acquaintances in Asgard before meeting with the Liesmith. It will give him a more complete picture to arm himself with.
Given what he's learned about the culture from Thor, Steve decides to go to Asgard in full Captain America uniform. However, given what he's learned about Loki from the same source, he also carries civilian clothes in a small bag. He'll decide what to wear to meet the Trickster after speaking to the other Asgardians.
Steve opts not to be carried by Thor to New Mexico where the gate to the restored Rainbow Bridge is. Instead, Agent Barton flies them in one of the Quinjets. It's a fairly short flight, but the super soldier still uses it to learn more about Loki's home, the one he grew up on as well as the one he was taken from.
After travelling the Rainbow Bridge, which is indescribable and leaves Captain Rogers glad to be back on solid ground even after so short a trip, Thor introduces him to Heimdall, the All-Seeing.
Heimdall is an imposing figure with dark skin and yellow eyes that match his gold armor. His beard is neatly trimmed. His posture is straight. He is silently strong and confident but also polite. His voice is smooth with just a hint of an edge.
Steve asks him about Loki.
It is clear Heimdall does not trust the Trickster, has not trusted the Trickster since he began losing sight of the god for brief periods. It did not help that Loki has always been very clever, perhaps too clever for his own good. Steve doesn't quite get why either of those two items would lead to distrust, but it could be a cultural thing. Still, the super soldier can't imagine anyone not wanting some form of privacy from Heimdall's gaze.
But Steve also learns that Loki was always looking out for his brother, trying to reign in Thor's impulsiveness or, if he could not, defying his brother's wishes by ensuring Odin was informed. The God of Mischief seems to have spent much of his life getting Thor out of trouble.
There are horses waiting outside for them. As they ride to Odin's palace, Steve is struck by how grand and cold Asgard feels. It's beautiful, too, but he could never live here.
When they arrive at the palace, Thor takes Captain America to the throne room to meet his parents. They are sitting on their thrones when the men arrive. Neither of them stands, and that irks Steve Rogers. But he reminds himself it's probably how royalty acts.
Odin is imposing. The metal eye-patch catches Steve's attention immediately. The king exudes authority and power. There is a hint of wisdom and forgiveness, too, but only a hint. Far more prevalent are expectation and judgment.
Frigga, on the other hand, exudes warmth and elegance. She appears regal yet kind. Her smile is visible as they approach, and there is hope in her eyes. She seems truly happy to receive the visitor from so far away.
Once they are within 20 feet, Thor kneels to his parents. Captain America gives a very short bow.
"Rise, my son, and introduce us to this Midgardian."
"Father, Mother, this is Steve Rogers, also known as Captain America, a great warrior of Midgard."
"Welcome to Asgard, Captain America."
"Thank you, Sir."
Frigga speaks. "Thank you for coming, Captain. Loki asks for nothing but to speak to you. Your arrival gladdens my heart."
Steve doesn't quite know how to respond. "That's kind of you to say, Ma'am, but I'm really just here out of curiosity more than anything else. I can't imagine what he'd want to talk to me about."
"Neither can we," Odin replies. "You should be wary, Captain. Loki can be cunning and deceptive."
"Yes, Sir. That's why I wanted to speak to you before meeting with him." He pauses before beginning to ask the questions that have been nagging at him since Thor first gave him Loki's background. "First, I'd like to know how you came to adopt him."
The All-Father explains how he found the small, blue baby that had been left exposed to die. He tells how the child turned pink as soon as Odin touched it. His story is very much like the one he told his son what seems like ages ago.
Steve listens carefully and wonders how much the Trickster was told. "Thank you. Now I'd really like to hear about the day Loki discovered he was a Frost Giant."
Odin's demeanor changes, becomes more defensive. "He was upset."
Well, that's helpful, Steve thinks. "Where were you when he asked about it?"
"I happened upon him in the room where we keep the war relics. He was touching an item I had won during the war with the Frost Giants."
Now Steve knows the Trickster was trying to connect to his past, trying to make sense of what he had just learned, which probably wasn't much. And the only connection the god had to that part of himself was a war trophy. "And what did he ask? What did he say?"
"What do you think?" Odin is getting angry.
"I'm just trying to understand, Sir. Did you answer his questions?"
"I did." The answer is cold.
"Immediately and clearly?" The Captain knows he is pushing, but it is the only way to get to the truth.
Odin hesitates. The image of Loki screaming TELL ME replays in his head. "This all occurred after I had exiled my son to Midgard. I was about to go into the Odinsleep. Indeed, I answered Loki just before collapsing into it."
"So you exiled your son, but you answered Loki," Steve points out.
The All-Father is losing patience. "Yes. That is what I said."
The fact that Odin doesn't seem to understand the significance of those words speaks volumes to Steve. "Did you tell him the same story you just told me…about how you found him?" He hopes his voice sounds curious rather than accusatory.
"Yes. He wanted the truth, so I told him."
The Captain nods then turns to Frigga. He smiles at her. "Ma'am. I was wondering if you or anyone else ever told Thor and Loki stories about Frost Giants or their world when they were boys."
Frigga smiles back. "Of course. The stories about the war and their father's victory were some of their favorites."
"Were there any non-war stories about them? Anything about their history or culture?"
"No," Thor answers. He's beginning to understand.
"So, if I may ask, why not tell Loki about his true parentage when he was growing up?"
"We did not wish him to feel different," Odin answers haughtily.
"And was he…different?"
Odin replies with a no at the same time that Thor and Frigga say yes. The Queen describes the differences. They are the same things the Captain has heard from others. Loki was more cerebral, calculating, introspective. But he was as fiercely loyal as any Asgardian, she explains. He and Thor used to be inseparable.
The Captain thanks them and asks Thor if he can speak with the Warriors Three. He is taken to them and to Sif. He wasn't expecting Sif. Thor told him about her, of course, and he had seen the file on New Mexico that included her. But he didn't expect to be so attracted to her in person. She reminds Steve of Peggy with her dark hair and fair skin. But he's here on business, and that means ignoring any feelings he may be having. Besides, she seems to have an interest in the God of Thunder.
Steve asks Thor to leave. He knows how the Avenger feels about Loki and doesn't want the warriors to censor themselves because of it. Thor goes, and the Captain learns that these great Asgardian warriors, especially Sif, never really accepted the Trickster as one of their own. They allowed him to hang around only because Thor wished it.
Steve decides he doesn't like Sif after all. She seems to see Loki as a rival for Thor's affections and admiration rather than someone who could share them. Peggy would never have been that harsh.
In the end, it is quite obvious that no one trusted Loki except his immediate family, and even they betrayed him with their lies however well-intentioned they may have been.
He's heard enough. The Captain finds Thor and asks if there is somewhere he can change. When he meets Loki, he wants it to be as Steve Rogers. Based on everything he's learned, the Trickster will expect Captain America to come in all forthright and judging and feeling superior the way most Asgardians would. If instead Steve Rogers, the kid from Brooklyn, the Man Out of Time visits, it may cause Loki to lower his defenses and possibly give away his end game. At least it's worth a try.
"Is this a safe place to store my uniform? I don't want to take it with me." Steve is in khaki pants and a blue, white, and green plaid shirt with thin red lines.
"Yes," Thor answers. "What of your shield?"
"You said he was chained up."
"Then I guess I don't need it."
"There are those who still believe he is quite dangerous."
"Are you one of them?"
The God of Thunder thinks for a several moments. "Yes," he replies.
"Then I want you within shouting distance, but don't let him see you. If it makes you feel better, you can take my shield. But I'm not taking it with me when I visit Loki."
Thor eyes him suspiciously. "Why not?"
"It'll just put him on edge. I want Loki relaxed. The more relaxed he is and the more he underestimates me, the more likely I am to get the truth."
Thor nods. He and Steve head down to the dungeons where Loki awaits.