Title: A Lane to the Land of the Dead chapter 14/14
Pairing/Characters: Teamfic. No Pairings. Loki, Thor, Avengers, Original Male Character. Brief non graphic mention of OMC/OMC
Tags:
Gore, violence, strong language, angst, self harm, torture.
Summary:
5th part of the Teamwork series, but this is written like a standalone fic, so if you haven't read the others you will still be able to understand it.

Loki has been an Avenger for two years, but as a new threat pushes him away from the team, they begin wonder just how much they can trust him.


~0~

CHAPTER 14

~0~

Nick Fury wasn't having a particularly good day.

He sat at his desk looking at a list of potential new recruits for the Avengers, shuffling papers, and hoping someone would be suitable to add to his currently depleted team.

Loki was gone and there was no date set for his return, Thor had returned to Asgard without saying whether he would be back, Stark had suddenly announced that he was leaving the city and no one should bother calling him unless the world was about to be invaded by creatures from Mars, and even Banner was talking about taking time out to travel to some plague ridden village in the middle of nowhere.

He'd sent Coulson out to make contact with several who seemed to fit the profile, but every report he received back indicated that the potential new recruits were even more dysfunctional that his present team members. He really hadn't considered the possibility that he could do worse than a pair of Norse gods, one of whom had spectacular mental issues, a man who turned into a giant green monster when he got angry, and... Tony Stark, but apparently he could.

He ran his hand over his head and sighed as he threw another manila folder down onto the growing rejection pile.

The air in room rippled, and Fury looked up as green light began to glow at the centre of the disturbance. There was a bright flash and Loki appeared in the room.

Fury eyed him for a second, taking in the slightly tattered state of his cape, the dirt that streaked his face, and the slightly wild look in his eyes.

"The wanderer returns," Fury said, as he leant back in his chair, attempting to appear relaxed when he felt anything but.

"I want them," Loki growled, his chest heaving. "I know you have them here. I can sense them."

"And what exactly do you want?"

"The tesseract and the sceptre. Give them to me, now."

"I feel like we've been in this situation before," Fury said as he stood up and walked round the desk. "So you tell me, when you show up here looking like you've gone all super villain again, just why I should hand over two weapons of enormous power to you?"

"You will give them to me now or I shall tear this building apart looking for them."

"I don't respond well to threats," Fury stated calmly.

"This is no idle threat, this is a promise" Loki hissed.

"While you continue to behave in this manner you will receive nothing from me."

Loki took another step closer to Fury. "Give them to me or I will let Thanos continue with his plan to destroy Midgard."

Fury paused, and then said, "He's coming here?"

"Yes."

Fury moved back around his desk, sat down, and rested his chin on his hands. "Tell me what you know, and maybe, just maybe, I will consider your request."

Loki ground his teeth together and said, "We have not the time for explanations."

"You will tell me how you got this information or you will get nothing from me."

Loki closed his eyes and dropped his chin to his chest, trying to contain the bubbling rage that covered the sea of grief that burnt inside him. After a few deep breaths to steady himself he opened his eyes and began.

"After William's death I needed some time alone. I felt so terribly angry that I knew returning to Midgard would not be a good idea, and I wasn't sure I would even be welcomed if I did return, so instead I set out to travel the realms, and I could hear the voices of the people crying out for help."

"You went to help people?" Fury asked.

"I am a god, Fury, or have you forgotten that?" Loki asked, as he tilted his head questioningly. "When people are in need they call for us, and sometimes we answer."

"They asked for help against Thanos?"

"Not at first. Sometimes it was giants destroying villages or trolls stealing crops," Loki continued. "I followed the voices, travelling further than I ever thought possible, and I heard stories in the outer reaches. Tales of small disturbances where single creatures emerged."

"Creatures? What kind of creatures?"

"The Chitauri."

"You're sure it's them?"

Loki moved his hands through the air, on top of each other and around, and something appeared in his hand. He threw it towards him, and said, "Quite sure."

Fury jumped back as the severed head of a Chitauri soldier landed on his desk. He glared up at Loki, and said, "Let's go get the tesseract."

~0~

"What makes you think he is coming here?" Fury asked as he walked down the corridor with Loki at his side.

"The portals are moving through the realms, getting closer as he perfects his device. I am not sure how he is powering it, but currently it appears he can only transport one being at a time."

"How do you know that?"

Loki raised an eyebrow. "Because if he could transport more than one Chitauri he would send his entire army. He would not dally, he would come directly here with more forces, and the fact that he has not, proves that he cannot."

"And you're sure he's coming to Earth?"

"The scene of his greatest defeat?" Loki asked. "Thanos will not stand for it. Believe me, he comes for his revenge."

Fury stopped outside the entrance of the science division, and asked, "You can stop him?"

"I cannot kill Thanos. I am not powerful enough, no one is," Loki replied. "We know that one day he will perfect his device, and he will use it against Asgard to take my son. I cannot stop that, but I can delay it."

"Have you considered the idea that this might be what makes him take your son?"

"I have given Thanos enough reason to take him already. He does not stand for failure, and one day he will make me pay for my defeat on Midgard."

Fury opened the door, allowing Loki to enter first, and walked to the bench where a scientist waited.

"Is it ready?" Fury asked.

"The sceptre's been brought down from the archive," the man said, as he keyed a code into a metal case.

Fury felt some trepidation when he saw Loki's eyes light up at the sight of the sceptre. As Loki picked it up and a grin slowly spread across his face Fury's heart began to pound. "That brings back… memories."

"Where is the tesseract?" Loki asked, finally dragging his eyes away from the sharp blade.

"They're disconnecting it now," the scientist said.

"Are you sure you can do this?" Fury asked seriously. "Wouldn't it be better to regroup and send all the Avengers after him?"

"Only I have the skills to tap the power of the Tesseract," Loki replied.

"But maybe with a whole army, rather than just one man, we can kill him?"

"Thanos will not be killed. No matter what we do he will still be alive to take William."

"Don't you even want to try? This could save your son."

"He is already dead. It cannot be changed, no matter what we do, our plans will always be thwarted." Loki said, lowly. "Stark will die, my son will be born, and he WILL be taken."

The door opened and a man entered carrying a silver case, which he placed on the bench.

"Open the case," Loki snapped.

"I'll give you the key code," the scientist said. "You need the case to transpo-"

"I need no case, open it now!"

The man quickly turned the case towards himself and tapped in the code. He opened it, and revealed the blue glow of the cube within.

Loki smiled, grabbed the tesseract out of the box, and vanished in a flash of light.

Fury sighed, and the scientist asked, "Problem, sir?"

"No. Just not looking forward to explaining this one to the council."

"You trust him not to turn on us, now he has the tesseract?"

"He killed his own son to save us," Fury said. "We owe him the chance to prove himself."

The scientists looked sceptical, and Fury added, "Sometimes you have to have a little faith in people."

~0~

~0~

When Thor had gone back to Asgard Tony had hung around the tower for a while longer, and then after a few weeks he realised he couldn't stand just waiting. He called Pepper and talked it over, she told him he needed a holiday, and she was right, he hadn't spent any time away from the tower in far too long.

The next morning, before anyone else was even out of bed, Tony gave instructions to Jarvis to inform everyone that he had gone to Malibu, that he was fine, and please don't call unless the world was ending.

As he flew away from the tower Tony was hit by the sudden feeling of loss, like he was leaving something behind; a time, a place, his team… it felt like it was all ending and everything was falling apart.

~0~

He spent his first few days in Malibu so drunk that he ended up falling asleep outside in the early hours of the morning and only woke up when the sun was high in the sky. He spent the second few days applying expensive cream to his skin to heal the obvious sunburn, and tinkering with a few long abandoned projects in his workshop.

He called Rhodey at the weekend to apologise for being a shitty friend who didn't call enough, and they hung out some evenings, talking about work and comparing suit stories.

Tony was starting to feel almost like his old self when he received a cryptic call from Fury, asking if he had seen anything suspicious or if he had any unusual visitors, and Tony yelled at him to get off the line.

One morning Tony woke with an idea for a new weapon for his suit, and as he worked on it feverishly the days and nights started to blur into one long passage of time that was punctuated only by the deliveries of food that Jarvis ordered without being told, and a few snatched hours in bed regardless of the time of day. He was on a roll, and he didn't want to stop, because stopping meant thinking, and he really didn't want to do that.

~0~

It was 2am when Tony decided to take a break. He'd been working for 6 hours, and it was too early to sleep, but his eyes hurt, and he wanted to feel the cool breeze on his skin.

He poured himself a drink, not alcoholic, he wanted to keep a clear head while he was working on the important circuitry, and went outside.

It was dark, and as he sipped from his glass he listened to the soothing sound of the ocean waves as they hit the cliff below, and felt the tension ebb out of his body.

Something smashed into his chest, knocking the glass from his hand, and forcing him onto his back. He felt cold, clammy skin on his wrists as they were held down, and then the light of the arc reactor illuminated the face of a Chitauri soldier.

"Shit!" Tony cried as he started to struggle, trying to buck the creatures weight off him and pull his wrists free.

The Chitauri let out an abrupt wail, and Tony watched as the tip of a blade exited through its eye socket, stopping just millimetres from Tony's cheek, dripping black blood onto his skin.

The body of the soldier was lifted by the blade sticking through its skull, it was tossed to the side, and Tony saw Loki stood before him, the blood smeared sceptre in one hand, fixing him with a stare more predatorial than the one the Chitauri had given him.

Tony swallowed and asked, "You aren't going to kill me, are you?" Loki rolled his eyes in response to the question, and Tony suddenly felt better when he realised this was still the same petulant, sulky Loki that he missed so much, even though he did look like he'd turned evil again.

"What are you doing here?" Tony asked as he climbed to his feet. "I thought you were in Asgard."

"I have not been in Asgard for quite some time," Loki replied.

Tony looked down at the sceptre. "I assume dad gave you permission to take that, and you're the reason for his weird phone call a couple of weeks ago asking about visitors or if I'd seen anything strange?"

"He allowed me use of them, yes," Loki replied, taking a wavering step to the side, his knees almost buckling underneath him.

"Hey, whoa," Tony said, as he grabbed Loki's arm. "I think we better get you inside."

"I am well," Loki said, as he leaned onto Tony's shoulder.

"Inside, now, and I'm not taking no for an answer."

Loki nodded slowly, and allowed Tony to lead him back inside the mansion.

"Is this blood?" Tony asked as they moved into the house and he saw Loki in the light for the first time. His armour was streaked with black and red, his cape hung in scorched tatters, and a stream of crusty red dust clung to the left side of his neck.

"Most of it is not mine," Loki replied.

When they reached the kitchen Tony pulled out a chair.

"I will stand," Loki said, eyeing the chair.

"No, you will sit down before you fall down, because you are way heavier than you look and I am not hauling your dirty ass onto one of my nice, clean couches if you pass out."

Loki sighed, and slumped down onto the chair, then as Tony's hands moved to his helmet he asked, "What are you doing?"

"This has to come off," Tony said, as he took the helmet from Loki's head and placed it on the counter top. He winced when he saw how the hair was stuck to his head with caked blood that was still flowing sluggishly from the open wound on his scalp.

Tony grabbed his first aid box from a cupboard, and held a clean piece of gauze to the wound. Why hasn't this healed?"

"It is superficial. Healing such a trifling injury is not a good use of my time nor energy."

"Superficial?" Tony asked as he took the cloth away, then grimaced. "I can see your skull!"

"It is not important."

"Will you heal it? Consider it my Christmas present this year."

Loki sighed. "Very well."

Tony inspected the wound again and was satisfied it was closed. "OK, are you gonna tell me what's going on now? Where the hell did that Chitauri come from?"

"It was sent by Thanos."

"You went after Thanos? On your own?" Tony barked.

"I did."

"You could have been killed!"

"No, I could not," Loki replied.

"Did you kill him?"

"That was never my aim. I went to destroy the portal device he was creating, but in order to locate it I had to wait until he used it again. Once I destroyed the device I followed the creature. You know the rest."

Tony sighed as he threw the wad of bloody gauze in the bin and said, "OK, you jump in the shower. I'll sort you out some clothes and order some food, and then it's off to bed with you."

"I cannot stay," Loki said sharply. "He may have sent more of his army. I must track them and kill them."

"You need to rest. You're in no condition to fight. If you go back out there like this you're going to die. At the very least you need to eat something."

"I have eaten."

"And what exactly have you eaten because I somehow doubt they do Chinese takeout where you've been."

"There was a plentiful supply of carrion."

"Carrion?" Tony asked, and then he realised what he meant. "Oh you didn't? The Chitauri? You ate the Chitauri?"

"Well, not their hearts," Loki replied quietly with a weak grin pulling at his lips, and Tony couldn't help but laugh.

~0~

Tony rang his favourite pizza shop and offered them a thousand dollars to open up at 3am and deliver him 6 pizzas, an offer which the owner was only too happy to accept.

When the food was delivered they ate in companionable silence for a while, until Tony brought up the fact that Loki had smelled like a Bilgesnipe when he first appeared, which prompted a mild hissy fit that Tony was almost certain was thrown simply for Loki's own entertainment.

At 4am Tony announced that it was time for Loki to go to bed, after he watched his eyes drift shut for the second time, with his mouth half full of pizza.

Tony showed him to the guest bedroom, and as he was leaving Loki called his name, and asked, "Will you stay with me for a while?"

He turned back and looked at the god, stood in his bare feet in an impersonal cavernous white bedroom, wearing just an AC/DC T Shirt that was both too big, and too short for him, and a pair of cotton pyjama bottoms Tony had found at the back of his wardrobe. For someone who arrived looking like a vision of death not two hours ago, Loki looked more like a scared and vulnerable child now.

"Sure," Tony replied, and he lay on top of the sheet on one side of the bed, while Loki climbed under it on the other.

They lay for a while, bathed in the relaxing glow of the arc reactor, and Loki let his tired mind wander. He thought of all the death he had witnessed, and would witness in the future, and his chest constricted tightly as he fought to hold back his emotions.

Stark was going to die at some point and he would be by his side when it happened. He wondered what it would be like and imagined the quiet moment after a vicious battle, finding Stark crumpled among the debris of the city. He imagined kneeling by his side with a knife in his shaking hand, the other Avengers looking on in silence as he carved open his friend's chest and ate his heart.

Perhaps they would try to stop him, to save him from the anguish that would follow, but he would fight them to the last and fulfil the prophecy of William's words. He would eat Stark's heart and condemn himself to a lifetime of torment for he knew it was nothing less than he deserved.

Tony heard an unmistakable hitch in Loki's breathing and asked, "You OK?"

"No," Loki replied, his voice cracking with emotion even on a single word, as a tear rolled down the side of his face and ran into his hair.

Tony had seen Loki cry before, but usually it happened when he was in pain, the day he discovered that My Chemical Romance had split up, or in the middle of a screaming fight with Thor when tears would get him what he wanted.

More often than not it was when he'd drank enough to send him into his 'emo drunk phase' which always started with cries of "No one loves me" and ended up with him singing while tottering round the room with a half empty vodka bottle in his hand.

Tony had never seen Loki cry real tears of emotion.

As he watched another tear slide down Loki's face in the half-light of the arc reactor Tony wasn't exactly sure what to do. Was he supposed to hug him like Pepper undoubtedly would? That would probably end with him sporting a black eye. Should he offer comforting words of advice like Bruce would probably do? That also seemed like black eye territory.

Awkwardly Tony reached out a hand and patted Loki on the shoulder. "It'll be OK."

Loki cast a glance at the stilted hand that rested on his shoulder and let out a small chuckle, then murmured, "You have a good heart, Tony Stark. Never let anyone tell you differently."

Tony was even more confused now. He was used to accepting compliments from top fashion magazines and super models, but this was Loki. Loki called him annoying; Loki called him a dullard, an oaf, and a pinch faced troll. Loki ridiculed his height and his facial hair, and never once had Tony been upset about it, because that was just how Loki was.

Actually, there was that one time when Loki had insulted JARVIS and Tony had thrown a book at his head, but he tried not to think about that too often as the pictures of him fighting Doom in a baby pink Iron Man suit, which Loki had magically repainted in revenge half way through the battle, would probably haunt him till the day he died.

He decided to handle it the way he handle pretty much everything Loki said to him.

"Getting a bit mushy there," Tony quipped. "You aren't going to kiss me, are you?"

"Only in your dreams," Loki laughed.

"Yeah, yeah," Tony said playfully. "You know you love me."

"I do not!" Loki exclaimed. "If anyone loves anyone it is you. There have been times when I have seen you out of the corner of my eye and wondered why a Dwarf is in the tower."

Tony laughed, and then asked, "You're gonna stay, right?"

"I don't know," Loki replied honestly. "I doubt I would be welcome after the things I have done recently."

"Steve and Bruce will be fine with it."

"Agent Barton-"

"Will get over it," Tony interrupted.

"I would not be so sure," Loki replied.

"Meh, my tower, my rules," Tony said. "If he doesn't like it he can take a hike."

Loki let out a snorting laugh.

"I'm sorry for what I said to you, you know," Tony said quietly. "I was angry and upset, but that isn't an excuse. I shouldn't have brought New York up."

"I am sure I deserved it," Loki mumbled.

"No, no you didn't. Not that, and I'm sorry," Tony said. "I'm not sorry for smacking you in the face though, you totally deserved that."

Loki laughed again and said, "That I did."

"So you'll stay?"

Loki pondered for a moment, and then made his choice. The future may be inevitable, but he would stay on Midgard and enjoy the time he had left with his friend, no matter how short it was.

"Yes," he replied. "I will stay."

~0~


NOTES:

Thought I would just answer a few questions here since people can't see my replies when I answer people

1) I have no idea if this series will continue, simply because I didn't even expect to be writing this fic! If I think of a plot it will, but I would never write Tony dying. William could easily have been lying about Stark dying in battle, he might have even died of old age for all we know! Having said that it could never go back to being all fluffy and funny, but that's OK cos Marvel phase 2 starts soon, and from everything I've read about that I think it is heading into darker territory too.

2) I really didn't realise just how miserable this fic was until I was half way through posting it! My first draft was mostly dialogue and not enough description, the second draft added in another 6000 words of description, and while this was always the end I had planned I really didn't know just how depressing it was until I was half way through posting it! No idea why, but I am sorry about it being so bloody gloomy!

3) Thanks to everyone who has commented on this fic. I appreciated every single one of them, even if I haven't replied to some of them. (Must confess that posting this fic made terribly miserable, which is half the reason I haven't been replying haha!)