‘’Whose idea was it to lock Birger up in a cell so close to Freya?’’ Tony asks. He stares at the corps on the ground. Birger’s pale eyes are wide open, and blood is still seeping from his neck, that’s been cut open by a knife. The cut rope lies next to him, but the knife itself is gone. ‘’And why was there a knife? Did anyone check Birger?’’
He kneels down by the body, still warm. ‘’We thought you did,’’ Bruce says, fidgeting. ‘’Steve put him here immediately.’’
‘’Damn, Birger,’’ Tony says softly, closing the elf’s eyes. He is not sure how to feel about Birger’s sudden death: he actually kind of liked the guy. Birger helped him figure out his magic, and helped him free Loki. And sure, he stole the necklace, and he’s betrayed Loki once, but Tony…
Well. It’s not the time to be thinking about that. ‘’FRIDAY, close off the entire building. Do you have visuals on Freya?’’ he says.
‘’Negative, boss,’’ FRIDAY answers. ‘’I think she’s hiding herself.’’
Steve sighs. ‘’Avengers, find her. Everyone moves in groups of two. Go.’’
‘’I’ll stay here,’’ Frey announces. ‘’This is one of my subjects, after all. I will make sure nothing happens to the body.’’
Tony stands up. ‘’I’ll stay here as well.’’
‘’I will stay with you,’’ Loki announces, but Strange gives them a look.
‘’We might need you, Loki. You know her best, and another sorcerer will be an immense help against her.’’
‘’We don’t have time for discussions,’’ Bruce says, pushing up his glasses nervously, but his voice is steady. ‘’Strange is right. Tony can handle himself, and the sooner Freya is caught, the safer we’ll all be.’’
Tony and Loki exchange a look. Tony quickly nods at him. He knows Loki doesn’t trust Frey, not fully, but well, Frey doesn’t have magic, and Tony has one of his gauntlets, if not his suit here. Then they leave, Loki pairing up with Thor.
Frey crouches down next to Birger, putting the elves’ hands over his heart. ‘’What are elven funerals like?’’ Tony asks.
Frey looks up at him. ‘’We don’t have many of them,’’ he says, voice even. ‘’Elves live a very long time, you are aware, because of the magic that runs through their veins, as opposed to simply being gods. Most of the times, the bodies are burned. You have never witnessed one of these cremations, I take it? You were very young when your mother took you away from Alfheim.’’
Tony shrugs, and shifts to his natural form. He’s with Frey now, and it hurts less because of the still-poisoned wound. It’s gradually healing, but it’s still more comfortable to be in his elven form. ‘’I don’t remember all that much about Alfheim, besides some of the daily stuff.’’
Frey smiles at him, and tears a piece off of his own clothing to put over Birger’s eyes. ‘’I can imagine. Growing up here must’ve been very hard for you. How did your mother take it?’’
‘’She died shortly after getting here,’’ Tony says. ‘’I was adopted by a human. I got used to it, quickly, I think. I missed her, of course, and I missed Alfheim, but… but this is my home now.’’
Frey rises, and lays a hand on Tony’s shoulder. ‘’I understand that, and I do not mean to intrude on your chosen home,’’ he says. ‘’But I would enjoy it if you visited Alfheim sometime again, soon. I can teach you about the elves, and the Vanir. You are a prince there, now, you know.’’
‘’I thought I was a bastard,’’ Tony says, eyebrows rising.
A smile is his answer. ‘’I loved your mother,’’ Frey says. ‘’I may not have told her, but I did. In my own way. She kept you hidden from me, which I can understand. It is not the elven way to get bastard children, and I must imagine she had a hard time because of it. That is confirmed by the fact that she left Alfheim immediately after telling me, without giving me even a chance to think about what to do with you. I confess it may have had to do with my reaction – surely you understand I was quite shocked to hear I was a father. But I am not an elf – I am Vanir. Any child of mine I will legitimize.’’
‘’You have more?’’ Tony asks.
Frey smiles wryly. ‘’I’m afraid to say you were an accident.’’
‘’People have called me worse,’’ Tony tells him.
Loki would sneak around, but as he is walking with Thor, that hardly is an option. ‘’She will look for a way out,’’ Loki states, ‘’But not somewhere obvious. She will look for a way to get to her ship.’’
‘’There is no way out for her,’’ Thor says. ‘’Tony made sure of that.’’
Loki lets his magic go his own way, stealthily searching for a hidden person. He wants to stay with Tony, even though it may not be the most logical course of action. But after everything that has happened on Alfheim, Loki is not sure he wants Tony out of his sight for even a moment. They have enemies, both of them, and Loki is acutely aware of the danger, now that one of them is freely walking in the Compound.
Then he feels his magic tingle, a slight warning. Loki manages to shield Thor and him just in time as a blast hits them and Freya comes into view. ‘’Thank you, brother,’’ Thor says, and then charges toward Freya. She evades him with ease, though.
‘’You were better with that hammer,’’ Freya sneers, and a fire spell grows in her hand.
Loki hits her with a spell of his own before she can finish it, but Freya ducks just in time. She throws another spell at Thor and then one at Loki in quick succession. Loki chooses to defend himself and trusts Thor to duck.
What he didn’t count on, though, is the knife that immediately follows the spell. It’s still dirty with Birger’s blood and something else, and Loki feels it pierce his stomach. He curses as he feels the explosion of pain, and is unprepared for the blasts that lights up the room. Freya, Thor and himself fall down a floor, as the one they are on collapses.
When Loki manages to sit up, Thor hurries to him, small cuts on his face but apparently unharmed. ‘’Where is Freya?’’ Loki wheezes.
‘’Are you alright, brother?’’ Thor asks, a worried look on his face. He helps Loki get the rest of the debris off him, and eyes the knife in Loki’s stomach gravely.
There is no time to recover. Loki watches the ruins of the Compound, a few lights still flickering on the ceiling as the other Avengers come to join them.
It dawns on Loki. ‘’She is going to take revenge on Frey,’’ he says.
Tony moves, when he first hears the rumbling of the building that’s starting to collapse. ‘’We have to leave,’’ he tells Frey. ‘’The entire building is going to come down on us.’’
‘’My sister is here,’’ Frey says calmly, and Tony turns around to see Freya in the opening, hair as red as blood swinging behind her. Her face is streaked with grime and there’s an expression on her face that Tony’s not sure he wants to interpret.
‘’Frey,’’ she says, walking towards them. Her fists glow with unreleased magic. ‘’How nice to see you, my dear brother. And this elf that Loki’s so fond of is with you. You’ll be happy to know Loki’s been stabbed and is well on his way to death, as we speak, because of the potion that was on the knife.’’
Tony steps towards Freya, but Frey stops him with a hand on his shoulder. ‘’I’m going to kill you for even daring to touch him in the first place,’’ Tony snarls at her.
‘’Freya,’’ Frey greets, as if nothing has happened. ‘’This is my son, Egil. Or he goes by Tony now, I hear. He’s your nephew.’’
Freya eyes him in distaste. Tony stares back defiantly. ‘’Since when do you have a son?’’ she sneers.
‘’Just give up, Freya,’’ Tony says. ‘’You’re not going to get away. We protect our own, and you hurt Loki more than once now. You’re going down.’’
Freya laughs. ‘’I don’t think so,’’ she says, and the world explodes.
Tony’s eyes flutter open and close. Everything hurts, and he decides the world can wait. He keeps his eyes closed, nearly falling into the darkness of sleep again, until –
He sits up immediately. Frey stands above him, hoisting him up by his sleeves. Beside him are Steve and Strange, watching him with surprised faces. Tony realizes he’s still in his elven form.
He lets Frey help him up and grimaces at his fellow Avengers. ‘’Just for the record, this is exactly what I was going to tell you guys,’’ he says.
‘’What are you?’’ Steve asks, looking over Tony.
Tony shrugs. ‘’Half elf, half Vanir. We can do explanations later. Where is everyone else? What happened with Freya?’’
‘’I have put Freya in the Mirror Dimension, for now,’’ Strange says. He holds up his ring. ‘’I imagined that would be safer for now. As for the other Avengers – they have gathered in the med bay. Luckily, that part of the Compound survived the fight. The entire west wing has been demolished.’’
Tony closes his eyes, remembering Freya’s words. ‘’Loki?’’ he asks.
Steve shares a glance with Strange. ‘’It doesn’t look too good,’’ Steve says hesitantly. ‘’He was fine, for a while, but then he collapsed.’’
‘’Freya poisoned him,’’ Tony says. ‘’Bring me to him. I want to see him.’’
Loki is deadly pale. Freya’s silent form is on the bed beside him, her soul locked away in the Mirror Dimension thanks to Strange. Tony doesn’t even glance at her as he drops to his knees next to Loki. The other Avengers stare openly at him. ‘’What the heck, Tony?’’ says Rhodey.
‘’You are elven!’’ Thor exclaims, clearly shocked.
Tony would have expected to care more about finally showing them his real colours, but as it is, he’s more worried about Loki. He takes one cold hand into his own, staring at the bloodied bandage around Loki’s middle. His eyes are shut, and if he didn’t know better, he’d think Loki is actually dead.
‘’Just tell me how Loki is,’’ he says. ‘’Bruce?’’
Bruce visibly needs to reign in his own surprise, but manages to answer. ‘’Well, whatever was on that knife has pulled him into a magical coma, is the theory for now. He’s also lost a lot of blood, but that isn’t the main cause that he is like this right now.’’
Tony turns his head to look at Strange. ‘’If it’s magical, can’t you do something about it?’’
A chagrined expression appears on Strange’s face. ‘’It’s not responding to my type of magic,’’ he says.
‘’Only Freya will know what it is,’’ Frey says. ‘’Maybe she knows how to cure it. She is paranoid, after all.’’
‘’It’s probably not a smart idea to remove her from the Mirror Dimension,’’ Rhodey says, still glancing at Tony every now and then. Tony gets it’s harder to grasp for him, because Rhodey’s known him for a very long time. He doesn’t have the time to bring it gentler, though.
‘’How dire is Loki’s situation, exactly?’’ Steve asks. ‘’Can we wait, or is that not advisable?’’
Tony wants to sneer at Steve for even suggesting they don’t save Loki right this moment, but then Bruce butts in. ‘’Not advisable, definitely not. He’s worsening with every moment. If we don’t do something now, I expect he’ll be dead within the day.’’
Something in Tony’s heart constricts. Loki can’t die, not after all this. Not just because of his bitch aunt who didn’t get what she wants and is now throwing a tantrum. Not now that they know each other’s secrets. Not now after Tony has finally told Loki that he loves him. Not now. Not ever.
‘’I will go and talk to her in the Mirror Dimension,’’ he says resolutely.
Everyone starts talking all at once. Tony closes his eyes and lets it wash over him, until he’s done with their remarks.
‘’Shut up. I don’t care if you think I’m being illogical, or not the best person for the job. Freya has done nothing but torment us since I met her. She’s tried to kill me, what, three times now? Four? And now Loki’s in real danger of dying. I’m not going to let it happen. I will take the suit and go to Freya, and she’s going to answer me. Understood?’’
‘’You can’t take a Sling Ring,’’ Strange says immediately, ‘’or she may get away if she manages to take it from you. The Mirror Dimension is not safe, Tony. The real world may not be affected, but your astral form can be. If she manages to kill you, you will die in the real world. Are you very certain about this?’’
‘’You’ll just have to open a portal for me,’’ Tony says. ‘’I’m certain. Loki would do the same for me.’’
‘’After this, can we talk about the fact that you’re apparently not human?’’ Rhodey asks impatiently.
Tony sighs. ‘’I’m from Alfheim, actually. It’s a long story. Let’s first make sure we get Loki back.’’ Frey puts a hand on his shoulder.
‘’I would prefer it if you didn’t kill your aunt,’’ Frey says.
Immediately, all eyes are on him again. ‘’This is your dad?’’ Steve asks, dumbfounded.
Tony sighs again. The explanation part of this is not going well up to now. ‘’Biological one, anyway. Howard had enough chances to ruin my childhood, don’t worry. Anyway!’’ He claps his hands. ‘’Can we just focus, now? Let’s get started on saving Loki.’’
Everyone kind of scatters, after that, but Tony remains by Loki’s bedside a bit longer. He suspects Thor wants to remain beside his brother, as well, but Tony is glad for the privacy. He draws figures on Loki’s hand as he focuses on his face. There are bruises that stand out on his pale face, and he doesn’t look as peaceful as he does when sleeping. Tony misses him, suddenly, just wants him to open his eyes and kiss him and spend the night with each other again. Relearn each other, get to know the new parts.
And the nights with Loki are great, of course, but the days are just as fantastic. He can talk with Loki for hours. He can stare at him for hours. And if he ever wants that again, he’ll have to teach Freya a lesson. And if he has to deny Frey his demand, then he will. Because if Freya gives him any reason at all to kill her, Tony will.
Tony needs Loki to come back to him, and he doesn’t care how.
Loki isn’t sure where he is, at first. But that is only until he recognizes Birger, staring at him. For a moment he is confused, because he is certain that Birger is dead. But that feeling leaves very quickly, because that notion is ridiculous. Birger is standing here before him, and Birger is very much alive.
‘’Come on,’’ Birger says, and Loki joins him, ‘’that dwarf convoy I told you about brought their magic gems. Do you want to have a bit of fun and see if we can get them?’’ Birger’s hair shines an auburn red, today, and his eyes are nearly white.
‘’Stealing from the dwarfs,’’ Loki drawls, ‘’my, my, you are ambitious.’’
Birger smiles at him, and Loki enjoys the mischief. ‘’With your help, I can afford to be ambitious,’’ he says. ‘’Though, of course, I’m pretty amazing myself.’’ He slings an arm around Loki, who feels a lot more at home in the forests of Alfheim at the moment than he has ever done in Asgard.
‘’Perhaps you should study more magic and look in the mirror less,’’ Loki tells him.
‘’If I do that, it’s only because you’re a bad influence,’’ Birger quips back.
It’s easy. It’s a friendship Loki has never had. And he can almost pretend he’s at home.
And Loki doesn’t remember anything beyond being two hundred years of age and not feeling at home in Asgard, but feeling safe in Alfheim, with other magical beings. He knows nothing beyond the fact that he enjoys mischief, and that Birger has been a good friend up to now.
He doesn’t remember Tony, or Thanos, or any of what has happened. Of what is yet to happen to him.
Loki follows Birger into the darkness, and doesn’t look back.