They stood in a quiet spot in between damaged, abandoned buildings. They had successfully retrieved the Mind Stone but had lost the Tesseract and were discussing what their best options were. They couldn't go back to their present time without the Tesseract or everything would have been in vain, but they only had one pym particle left for each of them, for the return trip.
"What is it, Scott?" Steve sighed.
Scott was staring at something. Or rather someone. Tony and Steve turned around. There stood Loki, with the Tesseract clasped in his hands, still chained and muzzled. He didn't do anything, was just standing there. Steve held the shield defensively. Just in case.
"What do you want, Reindeer Games?" Tony asked. Loki only grunted.
"I think," Scott mused, "he maybe wants the gag off."
"That's not safe," Steve shook his head.
"He obviously wants something from us," Tony countered. "He could have gone to anywhere, but instead came here to us."
"I could do it," Scott offered, "If you guide me through unkeying those things."
Tony nodded. "It could work if you turned real small and got into the mechanisms. First the muzzle and then the shackles."
"Guys," Steve protested.
"Got any other ideas then, Captain?" Tony asked. Steve sighed.
"Okay," he nodded, "but be careful, Scott."
"I will," Scott smiled. He turned the helmet on and walked towards Loki. Halfway he disappeared, turning really small. Steve could only just see him with his enhanced sight, watching him climbing up Loki.
Loki frowned a bit, looking at the ant-size figure climbing up his pants, but otherwise stayed perfectly still.
Scott climbed over Loki's body and then disappeared behind his head towards the muzzle.
Tony was talking now, holding a hand on his earpiece. Steve tapped his own earpiece and Scott's voice started talking in his ear too. A few minutes later Scott appeared again on the top of Loki’s head, just in time as the muzzle fell off.
Loki took a couple of breaths through his mouth, sounding relieved.
"You know, you should really wash your hair some day." Scott remarked.
Loki grunted, not really looking pleased. “It is not like this SHIELD of yours lets their prisoners take care of their personal hygiene.”
"What do you want from us?" Tony asked, losing no time.
"I want to make an offer," Loki said, "I will give you the Tesseract if you take me with you."
Well. That was unexpected.
They knew Loki was dead in their future. And even if they undid the Snap, he would stay dead, because Thanos had killed him way before The Snap happened.
Bringing this Loki with them could be dangerous. But they really needed the Tesseract. They were so close. So so close.
They needed to find a solution fast. Bruce probably already got the Time Stone and would soon return to their present.
They didn't have much time left.
The others would give them so much shit for it if they did this. But it would mean they could bring everyone back. Bucky. Sam. Clint’s family. Peter. T’Challa. So many people.
Steve, Tony and Scott shared a look.
“How do we know you are not gonna run with the Tesseract once we have brought you with us?” Scott asked.
“I promise on my mother,” Loki said, honestly - as far as a God of Lies could be trusted to be honest.
Tony remembered Thor talking about his brother after he had died during the Convergence. Loki and his mother had indeed been very close. Though this Loki didn’t know his mother was also dead in their present - the future.
Tony wasn’t the one who was gonna tell him. And seeing the look on Steve’s face he wasn’t gonna either. Scott probably didn’t know.
How was Loki going to react when he saw their Thor? Tony absolutely did not want to think about it.
Steve sighed, “I really hate this.”
Tony nodded, “Me too. But it’s not like we have another option, do we?”
“No, we don’t,” Steve said, and Scott agreed.
“Can I get the shackles off then?” Scott asked, still standing on Loki’s head..
“Yeah, go on,” Tony nodded.
Scott jumped to Loki’s hands and disappeared in the mechanisms. After a few moments, the shackles fell on the ground. Loki rubbed his wrists.
“How are we gonna take you with us, actually?” Tony wondered, “We don’t really have a spare suit laying around.”
“I could turn into something small,” Loki said, “that one of you could keep under your suits.”
And then Loki turned into a bright green little snake. No larger than the size of the flat of a hand.
They stared at it.
“Who issss offering?” Loki hissed.
Tony and Scott both looked like they didn’t really wanted to do this. So Steve sighed “Goddamnit,” and kneeled down so Loki could slither up his hand and arm. Feeling the small snake draping himself under the collar of the suit, on bare skin, made him shiver.
He nodded to Tony and Scott that it was okay. They got their Quantum Realm suits ready.
A few moments later they were on their way to their present time.
Back to the future. 2023.
And then they were in the compound, on the platform. Steve focused on getting Loki from under his collar and putting him on the floor.
It is only after that that he looked around, and looked at his team members. His eyes landed on Clint. No Natasha.
Clint. No Natasha.
See you in a minute.
No. No. Please not her.
Loki transformed to his human form, gagging, gasping for air. He got the Tesseract from wherever he put it and shoves it in Tony and Steve’s direction. Tony picked it up.
First there was a stunned silence, and then the yelling started.
“What the fuck is he doing here?!”
“YOU HAD ONE JOB!”
“He had the Tesseract! What were we supposed to do?! Let him run away with it?!”
Steve didn’t really pay attention to the shouting contest going on. Neither did Clint. Thor was too busy staring at Loki to join in.
Steve walked away, letting his feet lead him to anywhere. He found a place at the lake.
Natasha. His best friend for so many years.
See you in a minute. She had winked. Smiled.
And now she was gone. Gone.
Loki didn’t know what to say. What to think even. He was still a little bit nauseous from the Time Travel.
Thor stood before him, but he is not the Thor Loki had left behind.
His hair a mess,his beard just plain horrible. And he was, well, Thor was fat.
Thor grimaced, but he also looked on the verge of crying. And then he picked Loki up, just like that, and hugged him very tightly. A bit too tightly. His ribs were screaming. His muscles were screaming. His body hadn’t yet healed much from the trashing he got from the Hulk.
Norns, he really didn’t want to pass out in front of all these Avengers or whoever they were.
He was feeling very tired, now. And kind of hungry? But first of all he wanted a shower. He can’t remember the last time he got a shower. Certainly not while he was a prisoner of Thanos. Or invading Midgard.
“Hey, Thor, Buddy. Maybe you should put him down. Yeah like that, very slowly.”
Loki grunted as a thanks. The man that turned small smiled softly.
“Hey, how about that shower now?” And Loki didn’t have energy to be offended or to argue so he just nodded.
“Excellent. I will bring him back, Thor, no worries.” the guy led Loki away, to an elevator. “I am Scott, by the way,” the guy introduced himself.
“Loki,” he replied shortly.
“Yeah, I kinda got that.” The elevator opened and they got in.
“Could you get us to the suits, Friday?” Scott asked to nobody. A voice coming from the walls replied. It must be a disembodied servant like he had encountered in Stark Tower.
“No problem, Mr. Lang.”
“Great,” Scott smiled.
“What year is it now, actually?” Loki asked.
“2023. Eleven years later.”
“Ah,” Loki nodded. Eleven mortal years wasn’t that long so he wondered what in the Norns had actually happened that Thor looked like this.
The elevator made a sound and the doors opened. Friday led them to a room, which turned out to be a bedroom with an adjacent bathroom. A huge bathtub, large shower, sink, and toilet.
“You, eh,” Scott sounded a bit nervous, “You know how the shower works? Or the bathtub? Because honestly, Stark did a number on those.”
“I think I can figure it out,” Loki answered.
“Yeah okay. You can put your, ah, clothing through the chute to be laundered but I don’t know if they could get those stains out.”
“I would prefer that you burn these,” Loki said, because he really wanted to never wear this armour again. So many bad memories were attached to it.
“Ah, okay. I could get you some clothing -”
“Right. Magic pockets, huh?”
“Hmmm.” Loki started tugging at the many straps of his armour. Scott left the room, talking with Friday about ordering dinner.
After showering and washing his hair three times, he also took a bath and enjoyed the warm water. He might have fallen asleep at some point.
“Hey, magic boy.”
Loki was going to kill Stark.
“Any chance you could help us putting together a device to wield the Infinity Stones?”
“Give me fifteen minutes to get dressed.”
It still took them till the next morning, pulling an all nighter, to finish whatever they had made to contain the Infinity Stones, infusing the Iron Man technology with Loki’s seidr.
Loki left the Avengers to their devices after that, successfully avoiding Thor. He was too tired to go to sleep. He busied himself with inspecting the Time Travel platform, wondering how the in the Norns the mortals had figured out what nobody in the whole Universe had worked out.
That was when he noticed he was not alone. Nebula was here too. Something about the way she acted made him decide to not let her know about his presence. He quickly pulled an invisibility spell around him.
Nebula walked towards the screens and started pushing some buttons. The screens came alive, with flickering lights and soft, beeping sounds. The platform itself also began to whir very softly.
What was she doing?
Loki remembered her from his imprisonment with Thanos. Her and Gamora. Thanos was dead. Nebula was one of the good guys now, having defected a long while ago. That was what Stark had told him while they worked together last night. Loki had sensed the truth in the mortal’s words. He seemed very fond of her.
But something was not right. Something was very wrong. Acting on instinct Loki walked to Nebula and pulled his spell away when standing next to her.
“Hello, Nebula. Fancy seeing you here. You remember me, right?”
Nebula startled. “Go away,” she snapped.
Definitely doing something that he was not supposed to know about.
Loki took quickly a closer look at the screens. The platform was indeed starting up.
“You don’t need a suit?” Loki asked politely.
Well, he had tried to do it the nice way.
He grabbed her hands before she could push any more buttons, and quickly immobilised her before she could start fighting him. He placed his hand on her forehead to pull out memories.
No no no no no.
He could no let her do that.
Thanos was dead in this timeline and he had to stay that way.
Friday directioned him to a holding cell where he could place Nebula and then she helped him shut down the platform.
He could only breathe a relieved sigh after the platform and stopped whirling and the screens went all blank.
They were all safe now.
Then something else attracted his attention.
Birds. There had never been many of them. But now.
A couple of birds were busy chirping at each other outside. Loki stared at them. Had it worked? Had they done the impossible and Undone the Snap?
“Loki!” Captain Rogers, followed by a couple of other Avengers, walked towards him with large strides. Barton was among them, ignoring him. That suited Loki just fine. They would have their confrontation sooner or later anyways. Now was just not the time.
“Can you get us to Wakanda? With a portal?”
“I could try. What does this place looks like?”
Friday jumped in, showing some visuals and geography of the country and Loki send them on their way.
He went to find Stark to inform him about the Nebula situation, only to find him talking on the phone with a young girl. “Daddy will be home soon, darling.”
Loki talked to Colonel Rhodes instead. It was an awkward conversation.
After, he went outside. People had started to arrive at the building, greeting their loved ones emotionally. He went to sit at the lakeside, thumbing through a book. His thoughts astray. He didn’t know what to do, didn’t know what he wanted. He could go anywhere. Anywhere but home.
It was getting dark when Thor finally found him.
“We need to talk, Loki. A lot has happened since the Battle of New York.”
“I know.” Loki nodded. “Fancy a cup of tea meanwhile?”
“Yes,” Thor smiled softly, “Bruce has a vast collection in the kitchen.”
“Let’s go take a look then,” Loki smiled back. And he let Thor lead them to the kitchen.