AN: Hullo again lovelies. Here's the conclusion to this. Sorry it was so long coming, but life gets hectic. Anyways, this section is written in four parts: just after Loki's conversation with Coulson, as he's watching the destruction of Manhattan (between the encounters with Tony and Thor), after he gets Hulk-smashed into the tower, and leaving Earth with Thor.
Disclaimer: I don't own Marvel of Fullmetal Alchemist.
You lack conviction.
Twice in the space of a few hours. By mortals. He was beginning to wonder if he had the words scrawled on his forehead, and resisted the temptation to return and question human further. The man was close to expiring anyways, and the moment called for a well-timed escape as the floating fortress faced an eminent crash at the hands of his archer.
Loki slipped silently through the shadows, unnoticed while sirens blared and gunshots rang out in a cacophony. All the while he grinned at the chaos that had sprung forth by his hand.
It was glorious.
He did not think of the boy until once again in the company of his own men, safely away on an escape airship. As he watched the helicarrier belch smoke in a desperate attempt to holds its lofty position, his mind wandered back to that earlier conversation. He wondered whether the boy struggled on within the metal behemoth or if he had died in the crossfire. But why did he care? The boy had been wrong, after all.
Chaos. Overwhelming, consuming chaos. He had seen it begin from the top of the tower. Watched as the sky had torn asunder from the overwhelming power of the cube. Watched as the Chitauri streamed from the hole and descended upon the city. Watched as his not-brother's precious earth crumbled and burned. Watched while the Avengers attempted to assuage the battle, fighting a forest fire with a garden hose.
All the while smiling to hide the feeling of ill-ease that tickled at the back of his mind.
You lack conviction.
Three words. Three simple, hideous words. How could they and the mortals who wielded them, bring him to question his resolve, even while the Earth burned?
Because it's true, whispered the treacherous part of his brain.
It took him longer than usual to notice the second individual in the room, his mind preoccupied with the blinding pain that pulsed through his body. Once he spotted him, though, it didn't take more than a second to recognize the presence.
So he survived the helicarrier after all. Blond hair, singed at the edges. The stolen SHIELD coat ditched to reveal a black tank top while scars and burns, some very new, adorned the revealed skin. And his eyes...why did they look at him like that? Emotion that came so close to pity that it made he felt his temper spark to life.
"Do you still question my conviction?" The words were the first Loki had managed after his beating from the great green beast, but somehow he managed the smooth, conceited tone despite the raw fire in his chest.
No words came in reply.
"Yes." The reply came clipped, anger and pity seething at the edges of the one-word response. Loki would rather have been called a monster again. From high above came a concussive sound that ricocheted through the air. Then, as quickly as it had begun, it stopped. The world held its breath. "You've lost."
The boy settled down at the edge of the steps, continuing the watch Loki in his crater. Loki wondered if the boy would look so fearless if he'd seen him uncaged before the fight. But then, that hadn't stopped Stark. The very thought tasted bitter in his mouth.
"You know, for a lot of cultures, the color green symbolizes envy," the boy began, his carefully guarded gaze glancing over Loki's now-battered armor. "It's fitting."
"And what, exactly, do you believe me to be envious of?" This time his words didn't come as smoothly as he'd hoped, interrupted by a burst of pain.
Again, the boy managed to surprise him. Loki was jealous of many things. He'd owned up to that on more than one occasion. But this…this was wholly unexpected. If he hadn't been fighting desperately against the pain, he'd have laughed. As it was, he simply offered a short bark-like sound that could have been interpreted as dark chuckle.
"There is nothing to be envious of."
"But isn't there?" The boy shifted slightly, his eyes wandering towards the shattered windows. "You look down on us, in our pathetic, short lives. But in the end, we won while you can barely life an arm." Loki tried to defy that statement, he really did, but could barely slide his hands away from his chest. It still hurt too much.
"The Avengers—" he began, but was cut short.
"Are a response team," Edward finished, "You took this world by surprise and were beaten by a six-person response team. Can you imagine what would happen if they were ready? Because they will be, next time."
"You had it all. The genius. The tesseract. The army. And you still lost." Edward's voice quieted, ever so slightly. "You never had a chance."
"I take you still will not tell me this Truth," Loki said, "So perhaps you will enlighten me on what the final trade was. A life for a life, as the laws dictate, and yet you claim to have won." A long silence followed, and Loki wondered if the boy would answer at all, since he held no obligation. Instead he focused the tattered remains of his magic to rebuild the body that been smashed into Stark's tower floor.
"You were right about one thing," Edward finally spoke up, disturbing his concentration.
"I generally am. About which, might I enquire?"
"I'm not exactly a practicing Alchemist." Edward pushed his hands together, lining the gloved fingers one against the other. Loki knew the motion, although he had seen it but few times in his long life. A circle, made of the body. A preparation for a transmutation. He readied himself, not sure what to expect.
Nothing happened. The air didn't spark to life with the indication of alchemy. Instead, the boy let his hands fall to either side, resting them on the stone steps. The realization came to him, far slower than he'd have liked. It made him want to laugh again, but he didn't want to attempt it for fear of undoing the healing he'd already finished.
"So that's it? Your final solution?" The boy had given up his alchemy. And here he'd thought him brilliant, on par with any of the alchemists in the Realms. A master of his trade.
But no. He'd given it up, thrown away the only gift that set him apart from the rest of his miserable race. That would be like asking Thor to sacrifice mjolnir, and for what?
His little brother.
And suddenly, the taunting thoughts came to a halt. He wanted to throw all of the boy's words—his foolishness, his sentiment—back into that confident face. To grind away that self-righteousness grin…to…
Would Thor do it? The sudden, unwanted thought whirled into his head. Would he give up everything to save his younger brother, the monster, from himself?
He couldn't bring himself to think of the answer. In this moment the answer, either positive or negative, could potentially destroy the shattered heart he'd managed to piece together. (Although, not all the pieces are in the right places…)
"Foolish." He finally managed the single word, gathering together the rest of his scattered thoughts. "To lower yourself. To make yourself nothing."
"Thinking that I was above anybody was what got me into trouble in the first place. I'm just human, Loki. Stupid, weak, pathetic, human." The boy somehow managed to wear the derisive words as a badge of honor, something that, for all the glamorous words he spoke, Loki could not do. Monster. "And you're not that much different. So much heart. But you tried to leave yours behind, and that's why you lost. Because of sentiment." For some reason, the boy looked like he'd just told him the answer. To everything. And yet, Loki had never felt so far from the truth. Or the Truth, as the boy said.
The sound of crunching glass and Edward hauled himself to his feet. "They're coming."
"This is farewell, then."
"Maybe." Edward looked down at him again, with those golden, pitying eyes. "It's just chance we met again anyways. I was trying to find the tesseract, since my coming here was linked to that I think."
"So it was a lie? You not trying to get home."
"Half-lie," Edward confirmed, "But I don't really expect you to understand. Sentiment and all." Edward turned and walked beyond his line of vision. He had almost passed out of earshot when he heard the boy's last words. "But then again, maybe you'll surprise me."
They now stood in the center of an expanse of green in the depths of the city he had tried so hard to destroy. It was quite a farewell party, with all the Avengers turning up, plus a few others. They offered him looks ranging from hatred to amusement to pity. If not for the muzzle, he would have told them exactly how he felt about such looks.
How? In his forced silence, body still aching from his encounter with the beast, his mind still pounded frantically, scrabbling for an answer. How had he failed to this group? He had tried so hard to destroy them, to use his cunning silver tongue to turn them and let them break each other. And in the end, he'd had an army. And it was not enough.
He watched as Banner, in the company of SHIELD agents prepared the tesseract for their departure. Then, in the company of Thor he allowed himself to be led away from the group, searching desperately solution. He'd lost, he knew, but he wanted to know how. Desperately.
Finally, as Thor held the contraption that would take them home out to him, he looked into the eyes of his not-brother. Countless emotions echoed in the man's eyes: resentment, guilt, sadness… It brought back echoes of the earlier conversation, echoes of a question that he could not bear finding the answer for. Would Thor do it to save his brother?
Something in his mind clicked.
True power. He had taunted Fury with those words without understanding them himself. It had been in front of both of them at the time, but little did either know that the wielder had not been—had never been—Loki, but Fury. Or perhaps the man had known.
Sentiment. Could they really be the same? It was a dangerous game, the heart, so easily shattered. But these broken soldiers knew that, and yet they still stood up and fought on in such a way. They had won.
And Loki…he never could have that, could he? Someone else to pick up the splinters of an ice-cold heart. Someone else to rely on, to trust. Someone who trusted you in return. Sentiment…true power…. Perhaps it was impossible all along. For him, at least. Envious of humanity. How disgustingly fitting.
He reached out and took hold of the device. In an instant, the world melted away. In another, he knew he would return to Asgard. But between the moments, in the space where the whiteness took hold of them as they were thrown across space and time, Loki felt a hand on one of his armored shoulders. With it came a familiar voice, golden even though he could see neither eyes nor face.
"This isn't the end, you know…" There's still time to change. He could almost sense the unspoken words, but the voice had faded out for what he knew to be the last time. There's still time before this story becomes a tragedy. You have heart, after all.
And maybe, just maybe that was the Truth.
AN: Well, that concludes that. It's been fun! Thank you to xlunatica, The Sin of Justice, FiLau, LittleNK, Jason 123456, and Harryswoman for your kind comments. Not sure if any other pieces will follow (although I am heavily tempted to do a one-shot in which Loki gives Cloud Strife fashion advice…if you don't get what I'm saying, try comparing Loki's Avengers costume against Cloud's Advent Children, and you'll see what I'm talking about).