Homework? What homework? -poker face-
Anyways, got to see The Dark World last Friday. I enjoyed it mightily, even though it suffered from pacing errors and emotional imbalances. That, and Jane Foster spent way too much time sleeping and not nearly enough time romancing SCIENCE. Still, I can appreciate an aborted love triangle when I see one.
Full spoilers for the movie ahead. You have been warned.
He hadn't meant to be stabbed. He'd cursed his stupidity the minute he felt the blade slice through his chest, damaging organs and nerves beyond repair. He'd still won, in the end, damning the Kursed to the same Hel that the Dark Elves had done to so many of the Aesir, but that had been nothing but quick thinking and sleight of hand. There'd been no plan, no ulterior motive.
It had been a reaction, more than anything, seeing Thor being pummeled into the ground. A stupid stupid reaction from the centuries they had stood side-by-side (and oh, it would be quite a lie to say that he hadn't loved standing beside him in combat once more).
As he laid there, blood pooling beneath him in the dark soil, he was surprised at his lack of…panic. Fear. The pain was nothing, in comparison to the months in the hands of the Chitauri. In fact, he could almost welcome it, knowing that for once, it would really be an end.
Thor was there, looking down from him, hands holding him tightly enough to ground him in life, even for a few seconds longer. He was mumbling something, in the haze that came with Death's approach. An apology? For what, he couldn't fathom. (Always a liar, even in his last seconds…but this time, only to himself. This time, Thor got the truth.)
His mind cleared, ever so slightly, and he was a breath away from his last. In one breath, what could he say? Even now, he was still enchanted against speaking of Thanos, of betraying the 'trust' that had been given him. There was perhaps something he could offer, only now as death loosened the geass the bound his soul, some hint that may sway the future of Asgard. But no, this moment was his, and he would take it for himself.
Thor continued to speak, trying to reassure him that he would take word to father of his deeds. Except it was to Thor's father, not his own. He would be seeing his own father, soon enough, in whatever Hel was prepared for souls as wicked as his own. (Although, he had died a warrior's death…perhaps Frigga would be waiting for him, at the end of his long journey. It was a beautiful thought.) Suddenly, he knew what he wanted to say.
"I didn't do it for him." And it made him sad, to see that Thor was still dumb enough not to understand. To not fill in the blank. I did it for you.
Because in the end, through all the pain and betrayal, through Thanos, the Chitauri, and Midgard, Thor had somehow come to doubt that his words before the failed coronation to be a lie. Never doubt that I love you.
Darkness closed in rapidly, and he let it take him. There were worse last sights than his golden brother. Perhaps some of his radiant light would lead on to whatever lay ahead, if there was anything at all. In the end, it did not matter. He was free…from Asgard, from Thanos, from himself and the web of lies that he had spun and spun until it had ensnared him wholly. And that was okay.
He fell, and fell, and fell…and then, to his surprise and horror, he landed.
The place he knew well—a barren rock so far that not even the light of the stars could reach. And of course, he was not alone.
"You thought you could escape through Death," the creature hissed, stepping forward, "Do you not think that we would have foreseen your cowardly escape?"
It hadn't been a cowardly escape, but it still brought pain as his last shard of hope shattered. There would be no escape now. There had never been a chance.
Still…he squared his shoulders, leveling the monster with a glare. "Do your worst."
The creature moved—faster than he'd remembered, and suddenly its hideous hand was reaching out and wrapping around his throat. He could feel the psychic tendrils reaching out, digging into his mind. Images and emotions passed in a fury, and Loki wondered if this was the true beginning of his punishment, to watch as his mind was torn apart bit by bit. But it was not so, because suddenly the probing stopped and Loki was back on the rock in The Other's grip. He risked a glance down, only to find a cruel smile spread across its features.
"You have not outlived your usefulness yet, Asgardian," it hissed, suddenly dropping him. He tried to catch his balance, but was too shaken at having his mind pulled apart again to let it happen. But he did not even need to ask what it was that The Other demanded. He had seen it within the images of his own mind: The Aether. "You will bring it to us…and perhaps we will be merciful enough then to let you die."
Loki didn't agree. He didn't have a choice.
And then the hand was reaching at him once more. But instead of grabbing at his throat once more, it touched briefly on his chest, where he had been wounded what already seemed like years before. Searing pain flooded his body from head to toe, and if The Other said anything more, he did not hear it above the sound of his own screaming.
When he next opened his eyes, the scenery had changed. He was back on Svartleheim, gasping desperately for breath. Somebody stood over him, clad in gold, and for a moment he mistook him for Thor. But no. As his vision cleared, he could see that it was one of the palace guards. There were shouts, apparently surprised at his arousal. He only wished that he could be as surprised.
His chest still burned from The Other's touch, a solid reminder of what awaited him if he failed again. They would not let him die, there would be no rest until Thanos had taken the Nine Realms. He had tried at some resistance before—for Frigga, if for none else—but now there was nothing in Vahalla above of Hel beneath worth torment worse than death.
He had made up his mind. It was a simple manner to dispatch the guard, now that he had his magic back. His body still ached with his second attempt at death, but there was no time to rest.
With absolute solemnity, he assumed the form of the guard and turned once more for Asgard.
The throne room lay in shambles, with Odin standing beside the remains of his golden throne. He looked…older, than Loki remembered. Older than before his fall, certainly, but even older than the last time he had seen the Allfather, at his trial and sentencing. He wondered, briefly, what the cause of that was: Asgard's destruction, Frigga's death, Thor's treason. (He refused to let himself think that he could be numbered among those reasons.)
His original plan had been simple enough: slip into the throne room, catch Odin unawares, and slit his throat before he had a chance to call out. From there, it would be a simple matter to ransack Asgard of its remaining gems and returning like a beaten dog to Thanos's call. Not even Heimdall, locked away for treason of the most high, could stop him now.
And yet, as he approached, he was struck by an urge—a whim, at the best. It was a harmless one, or so he thought, and so he didn't stop himself from speaking aloud to the silent king.
"We have returned," Loki said, projecting the unfamiliar voice through his magic. Odin didn't turn to look at him. "Thor and the mortal woman had already left for Midgard." There was a pause, and suddenly Loki's thoughts were scattered. He gathered together them quickly before forging onward. "We did, however, find a body."
Odin seemed to catch his meaning, half turning with a blank look. "Loki."
Loki felt a grin twitch at the corner of his mouth, hinting only at the overwhelming insanity that wanted to engulf him. He was standing at the crossroads again, the one he revisited every night in his nightmares as he hung over an abyss. It always ended the same way. Always and forever, with two small words.
But Odin remained silent.
"And the body?"
"A wound from the front," Loki supplied, wondering where this line of questioning went, "From what we gathered, he died honorably."
"But where is the body." There was something sharp to Odin's voice, something so jagged and broken that Loki almost recognized it. He lapsed into silence too long, and suddenly Odin's mask of calmness.
"Where is my son's body!?"
Loki jumped, surprise wholly unfeigned. "Left behind in Savartlheim. He died as a traitor."
And Odin…Odin roared. He hadn't seen his father so fierce since just after their unfortunate venture to Jotunheim, but now the rage was mixed with something else. Something bitter and painful and stabbing that Loki felt his conviction shatter thoroughly. He turned like a coward and fled, his assumptions about Odin shaken to the core.
The minute he was a proper distance, he cloaked himself in shadows and returned to the throne. Odin no longer stood, instead sitting on the broken steps, his great frame looking smaller than Loki had ever imagined him capable of. His hands were held up to his face, like he had often seen his father do as a child, when he was deep in thought.
It took him too long to notice the tears that ran freely down his face. Odin made no move to wipe them free, staring blankly out past Loki, to the shattered opening before him. Loki watched on bated breath, the fierce, deep bitterness and hatred conflicting with confusion just enough to immobilize him.
"Frigga…" Odin spoke the words softly, just loud enough for Loki to hear. "What have I done, Frigga?" There came no reply. Loki wasn't foolish enough to expect one, even though some part of his heart desperately yearned anyways.
"I'm so sorry, my love." This was said softer, almost as though in prayer. "Take care of my boy. I thought that one day, perhaps, there would be time for a second chance. But life it too short, for those who deserve it. Give him…give him my love. He is probably still too angry to hear it, because I was too proud to tell him while I could. But…Loki, I—" His voice wavered and broke off, and then there was silence.
Loki hadn't realized until then that he had been holding his breath, looking away as he fought back a feeling that was suddenly threatening to engulf him. But now he looked and saw why Odin had fallen silent, as he lay on the steps of his throne. Memories came to him, unbidden, of the last time he had spoken with Odin and still called him father.
The Odinsleep. Brought about by need or grief or fatigue. Whatever reason, it had come upon him just then, laying himself open to whatever Loki was about to do next.
With purpose, Loki stepped forward, still cloaked in shadows, and approached the throne and the prone form of Odin Allfather.
Thor came back. There was no surprise there. He was ever the dutiful son, at least had become more so since his fall. But Loki was prepared for that, and as he had observed before, there was never a time when Thor did not fall for that trick.
He had played his role as the Allfather well, spoken the words that Thor most wanted to hear. And when Thor himself spoke his desire to return to Midgard, his elder brother merely saved him the trouble of finding an excuse himself. (He tried his hardest not to think on how…unperturbed his brother seemed at the death of his mother and younger brother. Perhaps he sought solace there, on earth. Perhaps he was merely satisfied that Loki had somewhat redeemed himself, and died an honorable death.)
There were enough pieces, swinging in an out of alignment, without his oafish brother around to mess up the delicate workings. That aside, Thanos would soon hail war and bloodshed upon them all, and he would need an ambassador and firm foothold on Midgard. They were weak, but they'd proven themselves somewhat in the incidents a year past. That aside, they had a Hulk.
He knew Thanos's end game: the annihilation of life for the sake of his 'lover'. But between now and then stood only the Infinity Gauntlet and the Six Infinity Gems. He had narrowly avoided capturing the first, had Loki not failed so despicably. Still, the vault now held both the Tesseract and the Infinity Gauntlet—two items of such great power that there was great risk to bringing the Aether as well. It was better to separate the gems once more…but to where was a task he would have to set his mind to later.
Beyond that, there was more planning to do. Only he knew the stakes, but there was no way he knew to remove the geass placed upon him. No way to tell another mortal soul of the horrifying magics that bound his soul. But Odin slept, and Loki from the throne would play the long game and prepare—even if none other in the Nine Realms knew it yet.
Yes. Let Thanos come. When the Chitauri ships loomed against Asgard's skies, they would be ready. He would be ready.
The convergence had ended, Thor had left to Midgard, Heimdall had been reinstated as their guardian, and Odin Allfather reigned. All was well in the Nine Realms.
And from his throne of Asgard, Loki Odinson smiled.