Who: Peter Parker, Loki What: crossing paths, part two or is it part one? When: Early July Rating: green, complete
“You guys again?”
It seemed like there was never any rest for the wicked - or, in this case, art museum thieves - but to be fair to them, it’d been four whole years since their last robbery attempt. Peter was catching up on the felonies he’d missed in that time-frame, and according to news archives online, there’d been a lot. Crime lords had changed hands and there were plenty of new faces on the scene, so it was almost comforting to find that at least some of the same offenders were up to their old tricks.
This time the group of criminals had raided a private collection of Renoir, and Peter made sure to only web up the painting’s edges so the brushstrokes weren’t damaged. He webbed up the thieves to a lamppost, too, having an easier go at rounding them up than last time. But to be fair, last time had involved Loki and some unnecessary knives and a lot of stress.
“Why don’t you...I dunno, volunteer at one of these places? I know this stuff’s nice to look at, but it’s not worth jail time, man,” Peter was saying to a surly looking dude who was very unhappy to be strung up in web fluid. He couldn’t so much as wiggle, and that was pretty awesome - Peter would have to tell Vision that this was the best formula yet.
“Do you ever shut up?” said criminal asked, and Peter shrugged.
“C’mon. If I did, you’d be bored. And…” A sudden chill ran up the side of his neck, and Peter turned around to find the source of his sixth sense acting up. It wasn’t danger, specifically, but he’d felt this note of a more casual warning before - and come to think of it, he’d felt it last time he’d rounded up the art thieves.
“Oh hey! It’s you!” Peter didn’t say Loki’s name aloud in case it caused panic among the criminals; he was learning, at least. He looked at the man standing a little in the shadows, and whether he was in disguise or not Peter definitely recognized what his spidey senses were telling him. But why Loki was here? He had no idea about that one. “What’s up? I’m just wrapping stuff up here, so no stabbiness or anything like that needed.”
What Spiderman saw was a very tall man standing in the shadows, with a wickedly delighted smile on his face.
What the art thieves saw was a teenager about Peter's age, idly eating popcorn while looking jaded as most Midgardians teens tended to do. It took about a hundred and fifty years for some Asgardians to hit the jaded part of their lifespan. Loki knew that from experience.
In fact, he considered that part never went away, unless they were Thor. His brother might never grasp the meaning of jaded until everything was burned down around them and mired in death and ruin. Which, sadly enough, happened, but he could only very faintly recall bits and pieces of it. And Thor seemed surprisingly ok here, give or take a few added...soft spots.
The same as he could only barely recall a single gossamer thread leading back to this Midgardian child. It was pleasing that someone remembered him with such...cheerfulness.
"Yes, it's me. Although I do not recall who you are, fully. Have you a moment? I could help you dispose of these...."
All of the criminals screamed when Loki (in his disguise) took out a single dagger and began tossing it up and down with one hand, the blade glimmering dangerously under the glow of the street lamp. He scowled at them for a second or two then looked over at a nearby webbed Renoir much more appreciatively. The webbing was very artfully done, and carefully avoided marring any paint strokes.
"...art thieves," he finished telling the spider-child. "How charming. This is a rather nice painting."
“Wait, you don’t…” It was just a month or two ago that they’d met for the second time, and Peter didn’t think his revealed identity was something the mischief god was going to forget anytime soon - especially since they’d made a pact to keep each other’s true names quiet. It was a mutual blackmail kind of thing, which, all things considered, had been a pretty decent arrangement.
Peter stopped thinking on Loki’s memory issues when he took out his dagger, quick to place himself between the stab-happy alien and the criminals. “It’s okay, guys! Don’t freak out, seriously, he’s just joking - and that’s a fake knife. Real fake. Super dull.”
Peter’s chattering only served to make the thieves more nervous, but Loki seemed drawn to the Renoir for the moment, anyway. Maybe he could take advantage of that. He’d safely webbed up the thieves and painting in place, so all there was left to do was for the law enforcement to take care of the rest.
“Yeah - the way he painted the water there is awesome.” Peter stepped up next to Loki so that the criminals’ view of whatever illusion they were seeing was obstructed, and he lowered his voice a little so it wouldn’t carry. “So what’s the deal, man? You really don’t remember?”
Loki remembered some details. The Spider-man's name was Peter Parker, he was on the network, and he was easy to track. It was much like the humming of bees the closer one came to a beehive. Not magical per se, but the boy was humming with energy that seemed almost boundless.
"It's real," Loki said about the Asgardian knife, while appreciating the painting. He threw the blade down with enough magically applied kinetic force that it stuck into the concrete. He nudged with the toe of a boot to wriggle it free, and used the same spell to call it back up into his waiting hand. It was palmed back into his dimensional pocket, not that he let the criminals see that happen. Instead, he began smiling back at Peter over his shoulder. Not maliciously, but more as though they were both sharing a cruel joke. A joke at the criminal's expense, as they squirmed around in the webbing like bugs about to be devoured.
Of course, the criminals guessed who it might be, although any bystanders would only see a teenage boy eating popcorn. One that was speaking to Spider-man with a low, conspiratorial whisper.
"Unfortunately, no. Not the finer details. Your name, is all. And something about hot dogs and these thieves...." Loki cast a pointed look at them and they all stopped wriggling, petrified with fear. He looked back at Peter and they began squirming around all over again. "I realize this is an inconvenience? I do apologize. I had a question or two, once this most unfortunate business is finished."
Loki ate some popcorn as he studied the painting further. The water was lovely, even with such loose brush strokes.
“Oh - great. That’s just great! Cool,” Peter said with a nervous laugh, thinking that was very un-cool. Though he and Loki had come to an agreement about keeping their identities quiet, that didn’t mean he didn’t worry about his name getting out anyway - he’d be a little stupid to place his full trust a trickster. Of all the things that stuck in Loki’s memory, why did it have to be that?
“I’d say this business is pretty much a done deal, right? You good? You’re all gonna sit tight till the cops get here?” Peter gave the webbed thieves a thumbs up, getting incoherent grumblings in return while they watched the knife in Loki's hand with wariness. Not like they had much of a choice, anyway. His web-fluid wouldn’t dissolve for another few hours, and he had to be on his way out regardless - the sooner he steered Loki away from civilians, the better.
“Hot dogs sound good now that you mention it. Or tacos. I could do with some tacos.” Peter gestured to a nearby alleyway, eyeing the painting still held in Loki’s grip. “You might want to set that down, though. Unless you want an angry hoard of art historians after you.” The same angry art historians who’d written to the New York Times about how Spider-man had been so disappointingly careless with the Monet and others the last time these criminals had to be caught - but hey, at least the paintings had been mostly in tact.
The blade gleamed as it twirled around, guided by nimble fingers. He soon put the knife away - in his pocket dimension, although the criminals saw his teenage visage literally tuck it into a back pocket - as it appeared to make the spider-child nervous.
"Tacos are messy. My wife-to-be from the marriage I've arranged for myself enjoyed tacos. I think." Loki stared blankly at the painting as though struggling to remember. It was fruitless, akin to waking up and trying to recall every detail from a dream. It all flitted away so quickly, it wasn't possible to grasp onto more other than those mere fragments.
Loki looked down at the popcorn baggie in his hand and silently sighed. Not only did he not want to be anywhere near the 'police' of Midgard, but all of this salt and dryness was leaving him parched.
"This popcorn is rather dry. I fancy an iced coffee. Know you where the nearest star bucks might be?" he asked Peter. "If so, lead on whilst in your ridiculous costume."
So sayeth an alien demi-god, who wears a cape and has massive horns on his golden helm.
“Starbucks? We can do that, yeah,” Peter said, relieved that the knife was gone and that they’d soon be leaving the criminals before they wet themselves. They had to remember how things had gone last time - not exactly well - and so a departure without anyone getting stabbed was a success in Peter’s eyes.
“All right, guys - I’m out, but the cops’ll be here soon to get you out of the sticky stuff. Get a lawyer, know your rights and all that.” Peter shot out one more web over the wiggling hand of one of the offenders, having no doubt the man was reaching for a weapon hidden in his pocket given the sharp tingle that ran up the back of his neck.
That taken care of, Peter felt safe enough to turn his back on the thieves, beginning to lead Loki down an alleyway. “And this? It’s not a costume, it’s tech,” Peter pointed out while he thought on the facts he knew so far. “So what’s up? I don’t think you came here just to hang out. Does this have to do with the time skip?”
The teenage version of Loki gave the criminals a smile that was as duplicitous as he was known to be. It was like an unspoken promise of bloodletting if they tried to escape, and also approval over thieving what looked to be some very fine art indeed. The criminals couldn't decide if they were scared or proud. And that was exactly what Loki wanted.
He focused on Peter and nodded that it was 'tech' before walking at a leisurely pace to the nearest Starbucks.
"I would not mind this...hanging out," Loki said, giving Peter an odd glancing at, since he imagined it might actually have to do with hanging on or off of things like rooftops. "But this very much has to do with the time skip. You seem unharmed by it and remember me. It appears that I, at an earlier point in the timeline, left before I could die. And thus I severed myself from what happened afterward. Thus I must resort to what is known as the slums to ask if your Midgardian sciences or fictions know of any such affliction."
He meant to say 'slumming it' for information, but a lot of Midgard's phrases were beyond the comprehension of his current self.
“Yeah, I made out all right. I mean, I woke up in a totally different apartment, but we’ve moved a couple times so it’s not so hard to get used to.” And as he’d discovered with Peter Quill, there had been several perks to the leap four years into the future. Detective Pikachu 4, for one. “I definitely remember you. Last time with these guys you decided to help a little too much with your knives. We met before that, too. In the Asgardian warehouse?”
Peter paused, turning down another alleyway and crawling up to the side of a low rooftop. It was a shortcut, and he didn’t often patrol around with someone who could keep up like Loki.
“So…what you’re saying is that you’re two different people? Like an overlap.” The closest Peter had felt anything similar were the memories of the battle at the Avengers upstate base - and the division that life and his own were mostly clear after he shook the dreams off. To have that line muddled didn’t sound fun. “Are you…okay?”
Asking Loki if he was okay wasn’t something Peter thought he’d ever be doing - not when he’d spent years afraid of him - but the trickster was maybe growing on him a tiny bit.
For Loki, keeping up was the simple matter of an effortless hop and hoisting himself onto the ledge to keep up with the Spider-man. He certainly wasn't winded. What truly made him pause was a mortal actually asking him if he was okay.
He blinked as though slapped and bowed his head to process that question, thinking through the myriad of feelings that were usually swirling within him. Not many of them were good, as was often the case at this juncture. It was difficult enough talking with his brother, who was now not his enemy (if ever they were) and didn't want to go through coming to terms with him again, even though Loki recalled tiny fragments of having to do that more than twice before. Typical of Thor to think of himself and not fathom taking that into account. Sigh.
Such thoughts made Loki wish that he could reclaim his older self. That he knew all the things having gone through Ragnarok and having the benefit of the dust settling in a new universe afterward. As much as he ever let dust settle, that is.
Loki felt comfortable lying, to brush off what his true feelings were. In this case, much like it was with the Valkyrie, the raw and vulnerable truth slipped out before he realized it.
"I have not been okay in a long while," he admitted, brow furrowing.
Things always felt off to him as though he never fit in. He knew the reason why. He raised a hand to stare at it, remembering the flood of blue coating his skin during battle on Jotunheim, and discovering that his entire life before was a lie shortly after. To say he went a bit mad was an understatement, and it was easily preyed upon by Thanos. Loki didn't like being preyed upon, he wasn't meant for that, he was meant to be respected and had lived with that lie in mind.
"I suspect that I will not be okay for a while longer. My memories are very much like a broken image overlapping another. And yet this universe certainly inspires one to want to be...better." Loki spit out the last word like it was something dirty, slowly clenching his fist and lowering it down to his side. He looked at Peter and asked, "Are you okay?"
It seemed like the polite thing ask in return.
Peter could relate - to some extent - on things not having been okay for a while. After the spider-bite, after Ben, it’d been one thing after another, and it often felt like trying to swim when the water was closing in over his head. He found no small part of him empathizing with Loki, especially if what Tony once told him about Thanos’ role in the Battle of New York was true.
“It’s okay not to be okay, you know?” Most of Peter’s struggles had come out of pretending like he was fine when he wasn’t. He’d put on a brave face through Ben’s death for weeks just to carry May through it - when six months later the dam had broken and there’d been ugly tears everywhere. He was lucky to have had Ned there at the time to watch bad movies and eat gross comfort takeout with him, but Asgardians seemed to deal with emotions a lot differently.
“When you say a long time, do you mean a few years? Or centuries? Cause I know you’ve been around for a while, man. That must make things harder.” Peter leapt from a fire escape and landed on the sidewalk, the Starbucks ahead of them down the block. He waved to a pedestrian on the other side of the street who called out ‘hey Spidey!’ and turned his attention back to Loki.
“Me? Yeah, I’m okay! Most days. And I think I’m a lot better here, too.” Tony was gone in that other universe. He wouldn’t be forgetting that one any time soon. “Second chances are pretty cool.”
The sight of yonder Starbucks logo was like a beacon of hope, and Loki was lured toward the doors as he listened to Peter. That it was okay to not be okay was a whole new world to him. He was so used to trying to make it seem like everything was fine, where putting on appearances was important. Royal sons had standards to uphold.
"I'm glad you are doing well on most days," was Loki's reply as they reached the door and he opened it with an idle wave of a hand, rather than touching the handle. "I find that second chances are welcome, as are third and fourth chances. And I did mean for centuries, yes. I always knew that I did not fit in, much like attempting to fit your round pegs in square holes. I never knew why until recently, for me, and that is when everything became much, much worse."
Even as he walked toward the cashier behind the counter, his attention was focused on Peter. He didn't need to look at the menu. That he liked iced mochas was already firmly lodged in his mind, whereas everything else was starting to register as a big fat green-and-gold question mark as time inevitably rolled forward.
"Perhaps I might talk to you," Loki mused aloud to Peter, "during those times when I am not okay? And worry not, no one can overhear us. Everyone else believes we are speaking about gaming devices. Not our personal issues."
Loki put in his order for a Venti iced mocha and 'whatever this young man desires' while holding a hand in Peter's direction. So much for not being looked at oddly.
Being not okay for centuries sounded like a rough way to spend eternity, and so it was a relatively easy decision to agree to Loki’s question.
“You could always message me on the network - might be easier than tracking me down in this city,” Peter offered after he ordered an iced cold brew. While befriending a former alleged supervillain maybe wasn’t his smartest move, Peter trusted the lack of warning from his spidey sense. He knew bad guys. He’d faced the Vulture and Thanos, and both of their psyches had been far from Loki’s. Neither of them had even wanted to be better for a second, but something told him the trickster was far different. “But if I run into any stolen paintings again, I’ll know who to call.”
They’d come a long way from that day in the Asgardian warehouse, honestly. Who knew that art thieves could serve as a bonding mechanism?