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Chapter 5 – Unearth

When Loki stepped out and closed the door behind him, he felt a sudden rush of excitement. He took a deep breath to calm himself and continued forward, past the dark hallway into the living room.

"A little light won't hurt."

As soon as he opened the switch, a grimace worked its way into his expression. He had been far too busy tuning out their talkative host, Tony Stark, who toured them around, to notice the chamber greatly reminded him of his older brother.

Actually…

It literally screamed Thor.

"Wonderful," Loki sarcastically cheered. "How gracious of our host to house us in this… vivacious living space that caters to all of my brother's preferences."

As if the red curtains weren't enough, there was also a large enough bar in the corner, a chaise lounge by the window, a wolf pelt on the floor, some workout equipment in the other room, and old trophy decorations, stashed in the opening of the wall by the window, that looked like it came from an era where Vikings used to worship them.

Loki shook his head, "Very vainglorious and obstinate."

He had a strong aversion to boosting Thor's ego.

Why?

Don't get him wrong, Loki understood why people gravitate to his brother like a magnet. Thor was like… sunshine and hope…. and the Norns know he admired Thor and practically worshiped him in his youth too, but Odin's beard; Thor didn't need any more compliments that made him a reckless dolt with a stubborn streak.

"I should get out of here."

Loki eagerly walked to the door, but got distracted by a sturdy, well-made stand on the table. He ran a finger on the ancient pattern and realized what it was for.

"A stand for Mjolnir," He deduced. "One would think it's a piece of furniture more than a weapon."

He rolled his eyes and quickly made his way out of the room. He didn't care if he slammed the door in his annoyance. His anger was justified. He didn't need any more reminders of what he couldn't achieve.

It only fueled his jealousy, and that wasn't a good thing.

"Where should I go to next?"


oOo

Tony's anxieties kept him awake.

Darkness and fear lingered on in the back of his mind as he paced around his lab and tinkered with anything and everything he could get his hands onto. It bordered unhealthy, but it kept him grounded.

But oh, was he at his breaking point.

Life wasn't the same, not after everything he had been through. He never said anything to anyone, not even to Pepper. Not yet. He was afraid of what they'll find, of what they'll say— if they knew he was unstable.

Unstable… he hated that word.

It annoyed him how vulnerable it sounded.

You see, Tony had this way of dealing with situations in the most unconventional way, which, of course, were convenient for him and him alone.

Like what he was doing now.

"Sir, I insist that you get some rest." Jarvis urged. "You do not look well."

"Are you saying I'm dirty?"

"Only in the politest way possible, Sir." Tony had to laugh at that statement. Jarvis was, in fact, one of his greatest achievements. "A good night's rest will help replenish your mind. You are in no fit state to continue with this research."

"I am in a fit state to argue with you."

"Always a pleasure, Sir."

"Besides, if I'm not going to do it, then who will?"

"With Dr. Banner's help, his insight on the equation would be 30% more efficient in theory and 70% more accurate in execution."

"I do need an extra hand," He contemplated, but quickly trashed the idea. "But no thanks. Let the green guy get his beauty sleep. He deserves it. Besides, we shouldn't stress him out. Fury will have my hide for that."

"Captain Rogers is awake, perhaps he could join you?"

"Nope. Pass."

Timidly, Tony picked up a wrench and played with it as he drifted with his thoughts. He had this odd belief in himself that giving into his problems and emotions were a sign of giving up on… well… everything, and that just wasn't how he dealt with life.

If he was honest, being a Stark had its curse and its privileges.

"Sir, Mr. Loki is out of bed."

"What?"

"Should I wake the others?"

"Wait, hold on."

Tony blinked out of his musing, placed the wrench away, and pulled up a hologram from the table. It was a footage of Loki waiting patiently for the elevator. Tony rolled his eyes and wondered why the most interesting of things came at him from nowhere…

He wasn't complaining though.

"Should I restrict his access to the elevator?"

"Only if it's headed to the ground floor," He mumbled and pulled out another footage next to the one currently on the table. It was Thor, sleeping soundly like a goofball. Tony grimaced and rubbed his forehead.

So big brother was asleep and baby brother was wandering around unsupervised.

Great.

Just… great.

"Sir, the elevator is almost up."

"Yeah," Tony decided. "Let him through."

He watched as Loki entered the elevator with a smile and pressed the floor to the main living room. Interesting. He observed the Norse god and saw him in a different light. Loki looked… calm and— Tony wasn't sure how to describe him actually. Because Loki didn't look intimidating… like… at all.

Especially with what he was wearing.

"Sir?"

"Just keep your eyes open, Jarv." Tony ordered, noticing a slight shift in tone. "Something tells me that baby brother knows exactly where and what he's doing."

There was that feeling again.

He knew he was about to do something foolish and it would probably get him in a heap of trouble, but he just didn't care. He walked over to a cabinet in the corner and took out a glass of champagne and poured himself some.

"He has reached the living room, Sir."

"Dim the lights, Jarv."

Tony eyed Loki from the tinted window and shook his head at the trickster's boldness. He downed the champagne and decided enough was enough and walked out of the lab.

"I'm going to talk to him."

People said he was smart, but no one ever said he was wise.


oOo

Loki traveled with confidence down the eerie hallway to the living room and found a brief sense of comfort from the silence. He walked down the stairs and eyed the pretty lights, behind the glass windows, illuminating the floors.

"Peace and quiet," He thought.

This was a good way to get to know their host better.

He went to the bar first and gently laid a finger on one of the bottles. Tequila? Whatever it was, Thor seemed to like it earlier on. Vodka, Rum, Margarita, and Whiskey— He hadn't heard of those words before, but it looked like something he would pass on.

The ale and wine at home was enough.

But… he was curious.

Loki picked up a glass from the shelf and poured himself a small amount of Tequila. As soon as he brought it to his lips and took a sip, he stuck his tongue out in disgust. It had a strange burning sensation full of spices.

"Mortals are creative, I'll give them that."

He sealed the bottle back up, cleaned the glass with a wave of is hand and placed both objects back on the shelf. He preferred his own brewed concoctions, but he did occasionally enjoy wine during festivities.

Especially the wine from Alfheim.

Like a cat, he moved on and made his way around with ease.

He made his way up the stairs to where the telescope was and moved it around. Good thing Thor didn't break it. He took the cap off and looked through it, letting out a silent gasp of amazement as it showed him some of the stars.

This is why Loki loved to travel.

He loved learning.

But he was curious to know more, so he moved on and eyed the roof top where they had fought on earlier. He tilted his head and noticed a reflection on the window moving towards him. Loki grimaced when he recognized the figure.

"Oh joy," He thought. "To be reprimanded in the middle of the night like a foolish child."

With the figure fast approaching, Loki's annoyance slowly faded.

"I wonder…"

With a smirk, Loki waved his hand and disappeared.

Tony was so startled, that he nearly fell off the stairs. He did manage to grab the railing as his legs gave way.

"Shit!" He cursed.

Loki and Thor were so alike yet so different, Tony thought.

First the bar, then the telescope, then bam! The motherfucker disappears out of thin air! Tony was about to yell for help at the discovery of that kind of teleporting powers, when he noticed a green flash outside on the rooftop.

"Little piece of shit," Tony cursed again. "Going to give me a heart attack."

"Sir, do you need assistance?" Jarvis asked.

"Only if I die."

"There is a possibility of that, Sir. He is outside and the rooftop is approximately the same height to the ground from which you fell six months ago."

"Don't get cheeky, Jarv."

"Is there anything you want me to do?"

"Get my suit ready," He panted as he made his way downstairs. "And record that anomaly from earlier should he ever do it again. Okay? Good. I'm going to settle this walking around business… and who knows, maybe I'll ask him if I can experiment on him. Better yet, I need my repulsors, Jarvis."

"Should I ready your will and testament, Sir?"

"I guess so."

He quickly made his way outside to see Loki was up to.

Loki, on the other hand, laughed at the thought of distressing their host as he reappeared. At least there was some meaningless amusement to ease the tension. So while the mortal made his way to his location, Loki took a courageous step forward to the edge and looked at the streets below.

"Midgard is strange and exhilarating."

The twist and turn of red and white lights below brightened. In Asgard, those lights would be equivalent to lit torches and braziers.

"These people don't even know who we truly are, yet they open their homes to us." Loki thought as he felt a smidge of regret for worrying Tony. "They're far more accepting than I thought they'd be."

When he heard the sound of footsteps, he smiled.

"This would be an interesting conversation."

Loki turned and gave Tony the most innocent face he could muster. Loki could tell that Tony was about to give in to that type of innocence, but alas, the man was almost as stubborn as his brother.

"Mr. Stark…. you are awake."

"No shit, Sherlock."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Are you out of your goddamn mind?!" Tony marched up to him like a troll. "Is it try to give Tony a heart attack day? You just disappear into thin air and expect me to be calm?! What do you have to say for yourself?"

"My apologies for startling you." Loki continued his charade. "I did not notice you."

"Right, because I was so stealthy earlier."

"You were quiet…"

"That's sarcasm, dipshit!"

Loki blinked in pretend confusion and lowered his head to make the act more believable. In truth, Loki hated confrontations like this, but he learned early on how to deal with them through a mixture of half-truths.

He raised his hand and rubbed his arm.

"I think I find your language revolting." He voiced. "I did apologize."

"Live and learn, Kid."

Tony huffed when he felt the rush of worry and excitement fade, replaced with guilt and foolishness. He messed with his hair and mumbled to himself that he wasn't cut out for this, and seeing Loki look at him that way made him feel like he was the bad guy.

"Why are you outside?"

Loki blinked, truly confused, "Am I not allowed outside?"

"Not without your big brother."

This confused Loki, if people knew who Thor was, surely they knew about him as well. Why was there any need for secrecy? They could easily pretend they were the present Thor and Loki. It was beyond odd.

Some things were unravelling that Loki did not enjoy one bit.

"It wasn't my intention to break your rules."

"I guess I'm on edge." Tony admitted, noticing the slight change in the atmosphere. "And you disappearing like that made me a bit… stressed out. How'd you do that?"

"Do what?"

"Teleport."

"Ah," Loki chuckled. "Magic."

"You have to change that answer each time we have this conversation."

"It will be the same answer each time." He smiled at the mortal's curiosity. It was not unlike his own. "For there is no answer other than magic."

"Still not buying it."

So far so good, Tony was on good terms with Loki and hopefully, if it continued this way, no one would have to scrape his body off the sidewalk in the morning. He placed his hands in his pocket and tapped his foot.

"What made you leave your room?"

"My brother and I would often seat ourselves in high places and see the view of the city." Loki gave him a true, straightforward answer. "In this case: your city. It is remarkable and I could not help but see it in full. I was not planning on walking among them, that I can assure you."

"So you stand on the very edge hoping to see what's below?"

"Height does not bother me." Loki shrugged. "I have done worse."

"Yeah," Tony agreed. "I could tell."

Loki felt his courage and mischief slipping away as the mortal continued to stare at him. It reminded him of the way his people stared at him. It was… unnerving. Unconsciously, Loki fiddled with the hem of his sleeves and looked away, hoping the mortal was done with his inquisitive questions and simply leave him to his musings.

Apparently, that wasn't the case.

"You're not a very open person, are you?"

"No," Loki had to laugh at that bold statement. "People rarely ask what I am up to. They tend to leave me to my thoughts and be with my brother instead. I admit I am not good company."

"I can relate to that." Tony sighed. "So… are you… okay now?"

"Hmm?"

"You slept for almost a day."

"Ah," He nodded. "I am well, and I have slept long enough. It's not every day that you get sent into the future— much less to a world I know little of. But strange that you are awake while the others are not."

Shit.

That backfired quickly.

"Not every human needs rest." Tony excused. "Besides, I'm working… and you should be with Thor."

"Can I not have a moment to myself?"

Tony wanted to roll his eyes and palm his face, or even throw a fit. He was confused and bursting with questions! Hell, Tony just wanted a distraction— far away from his anxieties! He wasn't even mad that Loki was here— he was just…

Excited.

"Screw this." He said. "Are you always like this?"

Loki blinked, "What?"

"Like this! That!" Tony gestured. "Innocent, Civilized, Poised? Mister, my voice is sex?"

The young god tilted his head.

"Oh god! You don't even understand!"

"This is the first time I've met you." Loki chuckled at the man's odd behavior. "Pardon me if I find this topic alarming."

"We said we know Thor, right?" Tony took the cue when Loki nodded. "Okay, good. You know we're his friends, right?"

"Yes, I've heard this before."

"Earth's mightiest heroes and all that jazz!" He continued. "And it's bugging me, because we barely know who you are. You see my point? It's a two way stick here. We both know nothing about each other."

"A correct assumption." Loki realized. "Pray tell, what do you suggest?"

"A compromise."

"Go on."

"Tell me about yourself, and I'll tell you about me?" Tony shrugged as the wind blew against them. "Want me to sugar coat it more? Or is it tempting enough for you?"

"I suppose it doesn't hurt to say a few things—"

"Good!" He grinned and gestured. "Can we do this inside? It's getting a little chilly out here."

Loki liked the cold, but he didn't want to impose on his host, so he politely followed Tony back into the main living room. At least he was going to get information, but Loki knew that Tony was going to do most of the talking.


oOo

(Asgard's Dungeons)

Loki sat on his bed and tightly wrapped his sheets around and over his head to hide his figure, but it did little to ease the taunts of his other cellmates. He could hear their vicious teasing and their unsated lust roaring like a wild boar.

It was pathetic.

He lowered his head even further, and tried to push away the dark thoughts filling his mind, but it always found a way back into the surface.

"Better to be lost in illusion that not." He thought.

So Loki waved a hand and let the illusion drown him. It enveloped him and not a moment sooner, he was back in his regular room and not in that white cell.

The taunts of the other prisoners were gone and drowned by his delusions.

"Pathetic." He told himself.

After the conversation he had earlier from his unwanted guest, he could no longer think straight. What had she done to him to render him this way? What did he do to the Norns to deserve this kind of punishment?

Loki could withstand taunts and torture— it was never his weakness, but love and compassion, it was where he always faltered in.

"You are the last person I ever expected to come here."

"And you are one of the last person I expected to see here."

"Sentiments."

"Call it what you may." She said. "You know my words are true."

"It's always good to see you, Sif." Loki mocked. "But the dungeons are no place for a lady such as yourself."

"It's not for a prince either."

"I beg to differ."

When Loki thought about it now, her demeanor with him at that time was almost… passive-aggressive. It was never pressing, nor was it too easy. But oh, did it rile Loki to his breaking point. She had always been biased for Thor and her bond with him had only strengthened in time.

But little did others know that there had been a time where they too had been good friends.

Yet that was way into the past, when they were but innocent children.

Now… her loyalty was completely with Thor.

"Have you come here to gloat?" Loki pushed himself off the bed and walked up to the barrier. "Because that isn't how I remember you as."

"Why did you do it?" Sif asked.

"Do what?"

"Harm innocent people."

"There was a time when you waged war upon others as well." Loki attacked. "How come you to speak of innocent people when you slaughtered your way into them too and rejoiced come morning after with ale and… what was it? You nearly started a second war?"

"They weren't innocent." Sif growled.

"Weren't they?"

"They pillaged and slaughtered—"

"Yet they have families that you slaughtered as well." Loki chuckled. "Justice, was it? An eye for an eye? A life for a life?"

"I am not here to speak of my past." She tersely hissed. "I speak of yours. Does nothing of it matter to you?"

"I think you know full well what drove me."

"I know you."

"Thor thought he knew me, but he was wrong. What makes you think you know me better than he does? My own mother doesn't…"

"Is this what you turned into?" Sif disappointedly shook his head.

Loki rolled his eyes and turned away from her.

In truth, at that time, he couldn't handle any emotional strain. Not from anyone. Not from her. He could tell she had been manipulating him, pushing him towards the edge of his comfort, only for him to break.

But that wasn't the case.

Loki knew was he was getting into, and he let it happen.

"Such a fool," He chuckled, clenching his fists. His head lowered further, and his hair covered his face. "Played like a harp…" He pulled the sheet down to cover himself further as he slowly slipped to his side on the bed.

Oh, he hated her for that.

"The All-Father is wise." Sif voiced. "He does not make decisions idly."

"Yet he did."

"Your crime was grave."

"That's what brands him as a fool." Loki retorted, crossing his arms and still turned away from her. "I was not given fair trial. Where were you when that happened? Did he even ask why I did what I did? That is no way for a king to rule."

"You think him incapable—"

"He is incapable." He hissed. "If there was a proper trial, you wouldn't be here to ask me why I did what I did!"

"I've known you for centuries, Loki, but this isn't who you are… what you are…"

"This again."

"I know," Sif repeated in a whisper. "Thor told me."

That was enough to set Loki in flames.

Thor could never keep his mouth shut and it pissed Loki off that he would tell Sif of all people. He could handle Fandral, Hogun, or Volstagg, but her?! It was all the more reason that he should hate every single being in the universe.

Loki's emotions rose, and his illusion flickered.

Peeking through the gap in the sheets, Loki could see the illusion of his room and the reality of his white cell, merging together. He was exhausted. Mentally… emotionally… physically… He just wanted to die.

"Freedom is life's great lie."

Loki let the illusion fade and the moment it did, he heard the taunts of the other prisoners once more.

But he didn't care.

He just couldn't bring himself to.

"Thor told you," He voiced. "And you know. So where does that lead us?"

"I was wrong." Sif crept closer.

"Trying to appeal to me won't work."

"The Jötnar— we were taught to fear, to dislike, and to bury in blood and ashes. But if we only knew what they were… not all of them are monsters as we claim to be."

"But I am, don't you see?" Loki grimaced. "I have accepted that."

"I have not."

"Why?"

"You are Thor's brother." She named. "Loki, Son of Odin and Frigga. Mischief Maker. Trickster. Silver Tongue. You are called by these names, but you are no criminal."

But he was a criminal…

Even before he fell into the void…

Regicide, patricide, genocide… Norns know that his other crimes were small in comparison… him trying to take over earth was just another activity added to his list of sins.

The only reason she said he wasn't a criminal, because she was just as much in denial as he was. So many excuses could easily be hurled into the air. Perhaps she said those things because of her loyalty to Thor. Perhaps it was to rile him, to change him— again, she could be doing it for Thor.

Her actions always reflected Thor.

It her decision, based on what Thor liked…

But again, her first question lingered on in the back of his mind.

Why did he do it?

"Remember the boy that Thor and I grew up with?" Sif asked. "The one who followed him around, and asked to be taught the same thing, because he wanted to be justlike his brother."

"That boy is dead." Loki admitted. "He died when he fell off the Bifröst."

It was the truth.

The only truth he was able to fully say, because no one (other than him) knew the darkness behind those words.

Norns…

Why did he do it?

"I still remember him." She voiced. "I can still see him. The boy who talked his way in and out of trouble, who lead us to many adventures despite our denials that he had no part in it… the laughs we enjoyed, the times we cherished, the memories we created… that boy who loves Thor as deeply as he does…"

"Enough." Loki growled. "This is getting us nowhere."

No one should know the truth.

No one should know the real reason.

"Thor never stopped caring." Sif declared. "He is stubborn and believes in you no longer, but deep down, he cares. He would do anything to see you safe and alive, yet his stubborn pride prevents him."

"That's just testimony to how things have changed, Sif."

"I do not accept it."

"Perhaps you're in denial."

"Perhaps I am." She refused to back down. "You are not what you believe you are."

"Then what am I?"

"Not this." She clenched her fists. "All I see in front of me is a coward, waiting for his end. That was not the boy I remembered."

But that boy died so long ago…

His shoulders rose up and down, laughing at the very idea of it. Sif had been so annoyed when he had done the same thing then. Egging on her was marvelous, yet it left a bitter taste in his mouth as it had never done before.

"He grieves for you."

"The mighty Thor?" Loki cocked his head and snorted. "Did you really think I would believe that?"

"Thor is no fool." She raised her head in defiance. "He loves you, yet he doubts— he doubts himself and his trust in you. He does not know that boy still lives. The only reason he holds on to hope is for the Queen's sake."

"Why?"

"Because she still has faith in you."

Loki grimaced at this knowledge.

"She is a fool as well." He said. "They should've put me on the axe."

"What has changed you so? What has burned into your heart that you stopped caring? What had we done to warrant such distrust and anger? Why did you do it?"

He knew why…. He knew exactly… why….

"If you fail, if the Tesseract is kept from us… There will be no realm, no barren moon, no crevice, where he cannot find you. You think you know pain? He will make you long for something as sweet… as pain."

Loki buried his face on the pillow and wept in silence.

"I did not stop caring," He thought. "I just do not want to. The moment I start is the moment I lose everything."

He just wanted an end.

"Just know, Loki," Sif placed her hood back on her head. "Thor will come."

No.

No he won't.


oOo

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