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The End of Infinity

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Earth-200004: October 2016

 

“It’s gym class, Mr. Loki. You can’t try to hang onto me while I’m running around the room like an idiot for an hour; my shirt isn’t nearly loose enough to cover you, and it’s going to be uncomfortable for both of us.”

Midgardian logic. Loki fought valiantly against its lies, but ended up zipped into a backpack against the edge of a noisy, sweaty room anyway.

Dark. And cold. Loki’s serpentine form didn’t appreciate the sharp change from the warmth of Peter’s shoulders to the gloomy environment of his empty backpack. And he couldn’t feel the boy’s chest rising and falling as he breathed, couldn’t hear his mumbled curses or half-formed ideas.

He didn’t miss them, but the cave felt empty without his newfound minion.

Bored and irritated, Loki reared, stretching his long neck up toward the pinpricks of light he could see through the zipper. He mashed his snout against them, threading his tongue through and smelling the air outside. He could taste Peter on the plastic. Loki smacked his jaw, trying to clear the pungence out of his snout, and folded himself back down to the base of the backpack.

He wasn’t really trapped; it’d be easier than conjuring to get himself out. It was unclear why Peter had even zipped the bag in the first place—a Midgardian muscle memory, perhaps?

Either way, Loki didn’t have to feel claustrophobic. He supposed it didn’t even need to be dark; he could shove zipper open a few more inches for illumination if he needed.

But he didn’t need it. The dark was fine—better than fine. He was the God of Mischief, this was his domain.

His domain. Where every time he turned around, some hateful part of his subconscious thought he was going to feel Thanos take him by the throat. See a purple glow flare through the veins on Thor’s head and turn his breaths to screams.

His domain.

Loki hissed, hating the weakness he was submitting to, and slithered over to the edge of the zipper track. It took almost no effort to wriggle the dangling bit of plastic up a centimeter or two. Loki sniffed at the light, then shoved his head completely through the hole and looked around.

He was atop a structure resembling a series of benches with a view of practically the entire room. Slitted pupils narrowing, he scanned the throng of students for any sign of the two he recognized. The Midgardians had divided into pairs, and Loki figured if he found one he’d find the other.

Indeed, there they were, the closest set to the bench-contraption Loki roosted upon. Ned held Peter’s ankles as the latter folded himself repeatedly to his knees. Loki cocked his head, unnerved by the somewhat ridiculous-looking ritual, but most everyone in the room wore the same confused expression, so Loki dismissed it as just another piece of evidence toward the lunacy of the adult human.

The two looked like they were talking, and a niggling curiosity as to what their words were was all the reason Loki needed to slide out of the backpack and begin to make his way down the stairs of the bench-thing. It was steel—cold and rough against his scales.

When he reached the lower tiers of the benches, he was nearly trod on by an excitable group of females, and ended up flipping beneath the benches to wrap around the support rods beneath. But he could hear the discussions now, amusing as they were.

Ned sounded like he was in the middle of a tirade. “... there'd be screens around me, and I could swivel around because I’d be your guy in the chair!”

“I don’t need a guy in the chair,” Peter sighed, sounding exhausted. Loki wondered if he got any credit for causing that, or if it was just the stress of extroverting.

Heavy treading alerted Loki before the boots came into view, and he shrank tighter around the rods beneath the benches as a pair of legs blocked his view of the spider-children. “Looking good, Parker,” said a voice that seemed to belong to them, before the behemoth moved away.

Ned chuckled, and Loki flicked his tongue at the retreating form.

To Loki’s left, another conversation had begun. “Now see, for me,” came one voice, sounding thoughtful. “It’d be F Thor, marry Iron Man, and kill Hulk.”

Loki snorted, losing his grip on the underside of his bench and slapping onto the tile floor of the gym. Was this what Midgardians talked about? No wonder Thor was so fond of them—though Loki didn’t hear his own name on that list.

If someone could kill Hulk, he’d be surprised—

Well, not anymore.

Loki’s amusement soured, and he dropped his head back to the floor, slithering a little further beneath the bench contraption.  

“What about the Spider-Man?” came another voice. Loki looked up, and he saw Peter do the same out of the corner of his serpentine eye.

“It’s just Spider-Man,” laughed the first voice.

Peter frowned, and Loki stifled another snort.

But the other girl continued, sounding excited. “Did you see the bank security cam on YouTube? He fought off four guys.”

Loki flicked his tail. The boy could handle more than that—and if he couldn’t, he would by the time Loki had finished with him.

“What about that ATM stuff, though?” came a third voice. “What if something happened to him?”

The second girl, the one Peter was making pretty obvious googly-eyes at, shrugged. “I bet he’s after them right now. I mean, that’s his job description, right? Friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.”

Loki scoffed.

The first girl laughed, saying, “Oh my God, she’s crushing on Spider-Man.”

Through a haze of laughter, googly-eyes shrugged and said, “kind of.”

“Gross. He’s probably, like, thirty.”

“You don't know what he looks like. Like, what if he's seriously burned?” That from the third girl, who seemed to be the most sensible of them.

“I wouldn’t care,” googly-eyes said, “I would still love him for the person he is on the inside.”

When Ned suddenly straightened up, his eyes fixed on the trio on the bench, Loki knew things were about to go South very quickly.

“Peter knows Spider-Man!” rang through the gym like thunder.

Everyone froze.

And then, simultaneously, every eye turned to Peter, every assignment dropped from busy hands, and every voice silenced, waiting for what the boy would do next.

All things considered, what Peter did next was considerably admirable, in Loki’s opinion. He didn’t disappear, stab Ned with a shoe or convenient sharp object, or even flee the room. He simply scrambled to his feet, mouth flopping like a fish, and observe the eyes upon him wildly.

“No, I don’t,” he stuttered, shrinking beneath the accusatory gazes. “No. I... I mean…”

Ned, still being extraordinarily helpful, clarified, “they’re friends.”

Loki would have face-palmed if he had palms. Or a face.

The boy, the one who’d been throwing barbed comments at Peter all day—Flash—slid into Loki’s frame of vision with a smirk of a chuckle. “Yeah, like Coach Wilson and Captain America are friends.”

There was a smattering of laughter and Loki hissed, his eyes narrowing.

Peter desperately tried to find his voice again. “I’ve met him. Yeah. A couple times? But it’s, um... through the, uh, Stark internship…”

An internship? Right, that was the boy’s cover for his superhero work. Loki slithered forward a bit more, trying to get a better view of Peter and Flash’s movements and their faces, if he was lucky.

Flash looked decidedly unamused.

“I’m not really supposed to talk about it,” Peter growled through clenched teeth, glaring pointedly at Ned.

He looks nervous, Loki observed. Not just natural, embarrassed agitation, but true anxiousness. Almost fear.

How old was Peter?

Not an hour ago, Loki had cracked open everything Peter’d thought about the universe. He’d hollowed the boy out and overfilled him with information neither of them knew what to do with. Not an hour ago, Loki had told him the world was ending.

And now Peter’s own little world was collapsing, too.

Flash moved forward, and Peter moved back, almost imperceptibly. “Well, that's awesome ,” he cooed. “Hey, you know what? Maybe you should invite him to Liz's party. Right?”

The object of Peter’s googly-eyes nodded, seemingly oblivious to tension between the boys. “Yeah, I'm having people over tonight. You're more than welcome to come.”

Peter’s voice came out higher and a bit breathy. “You’re… having a party?”

Flash advanced again, and Loki noticed the way the kid’s jugular popped prominently when he lifted his chin like that. “Yeah, it's gonna be dope. You should totally invite your personal friend Spider-Man.”

“It's okay,” said Liz, and Loki was almost grateful, until: “I know Peter's way too busy for parties anyway, so…”

Could they not see the conflict on Peter’s face? Could they not see the way his hands had automatically reached to shoot webbing? Could they not see the fear— because Peter was too busy for parties. And Loki could only take partial credit for that.

“Come on. He'll be there. Right, Parker?”

Flash lifted a hand for a purpose Loki’s mind filled in for him, and the already on-edge Peter Parker cringed away.

Enough.

In half a second, Loki was out from beneath the benches and across the room, rearing and hissing with a touch of magic in his voice. The snarl carried, deafening in the large room, and Flash scrambled backward before his hand made contact on Peter’s shoulder.

A shriek echoed Loki’s hiss, breaking the spell of his sudden arrival. He didn’t know who it came from, and he hardly cared.

Chaos—sweet and satisfying and utterly contagious—exploded through the room as Loki flared the hood his snake form hadn’t had until moments ago. His pupils were mere slivers within emerald eyes, and Loki drew on years of experience appearing as the genuine incarnation of evil as he swayed, his hiss continuing.

“Holy fuck—” Flash yelped. Loki struck the air before him, relishing the terrified screech that tore into the air.

“What’s going on here?” The heavy, thudding footsteps again, and Loki turned his head to see the man—Coach Wilson—stagger to a halt as he saw him. “Holy—what sort of snake is that—Peter, get back!” Then, louder: “Everyone stay calm!”

But Loki didn’t want everyone calm. He wanted them running, he wanted them fearful, and he wanted them away.

With another tingle of magic, the illusion of venom gathered on Loki’s fangs. He didn’t care if it was anatomically inaccurate; it was dramatic and it got the job done.

“Hey!” Peter hissed behind him. “What are you doing?”

Loki turned, a smirk drawing his mouth wide as his tongue flicked over his fangs. “I thought you’d prefer a break from the cccenter of attention?” he said around the teeth.

“But—”

“He wasss going to ssstrike you,” Loki spat, whipping his head back toward Flash.

Peter was quiet for a moment, before softly clarifying, “he was only going to put his hand on my shoulder, Mr. Loki.”

Loki paused. “Oh? Well, no matter. Thisss isss better than that ssstupid backpack anyway.”


 

Part of Peter wanted to sprint from the room and never come back, never look at his overwhelming, inconsiderate classmates again. And the other part of Peter watched them all scatter to the edges of a room and wanted to laugh.

Loki would have been absolutely terrifying if any of that hissing aggression had been directed at Peter. As it was, it was directed for him, and Peter had never grinned so wide.

Unnecessarily, excessively, Loki—villain, criminal, God of Trickery who appeared in the nightmares of children— was rearing and spitting and defending him.

“Peter!”

Ned was grabbing his arm, pulling him back, and Liz had scrambled up on top of the bleachers on the other side of the curling snake. Michelle had stood from her spot on the wall, actually migrating a bit closer to the snake, her head cocked in interest.

Peter considered pulling away from his friend, but there was no reason to bring more suspicion to himself. So he allowed Ned to tug him away from Loki.

Coach Wilson was circling the snake in a wide berth, looking utterly at a loss for what to do. Peter could see Loki’s pleased smirk from across the room.

“Did you see?” Ned was saying. “It just—appeared out of nowhere! You’re lucky it went for Flash and not you. Although you do have experience with venomous bites… Oh! Maybe the snake’s radioactive, too!”

Peter grinned, any irritation at his friend disappearing. “Snake-Man. Spider-Man’s eternal nemesis. Thanks for that, by the way.”

“Really?”

“I was being sarcastic.”

Ned punched his shoulder—well, tried to. His gaze was still fixed on Loki, so the friendly blow missed. “C’mon, dude. I was doing you a favor! Didn’t you hear; Liz has a crush on you!”

Peter took a step back, eyes widening.

Ned nodded pointedly.

“Shit… you’re right!”

“Uh-huh. But you would have totally ruined your chances if the snake hadn’t come and rescued you.” Ned gesture wildly at Loki, who was now zipping after Coach Wilson. “So I guess it did some good, after all!”

Peter watched a snake chase his coach around the gym floor and grinned. “Yeah, he said. “Some good after all.”

Loki could have easily caught the man. He probably could have easily caught everyone in the room, and killed them without blinking. But Peter thought that perhaps that wasn’t what the God of Mischief preferred.

Maybe, instead, he preferred to strike inches from skin, wink at overwhelmed boys through serpentine eyes, and listen to the chaos a snake could cause.

By the time animal control arrived, Loki was long since curled beneath a teenager’s shirt. But he was still laughing.