Who: Loki & Thor What: rescued from the simulation When: during gamewide plot Notes: red warning for extremely glossed over mention of past torture
The long fall from the broken Bifrost felt like an eternity. Nothing but the endless dark, suffocating, all encompassing.
He fell with the intention of dying. His shame and self loathing cut so deep, that death was preferable to living.
But death did not lay its hand on him. Instead, a fate worse than that had him in its clutches: Thanos.
Loki could weave words like magic, and could talk his way out of almost any situation. Yet all of his promises and assurances were for naught. Thanos demanded compliance, often through force. If one of his minions failed, Loki could hear their screams from afar. To make matters worse, Loki's attempts to fast talk his way out of trouble didn't exactly inspire confidence.
When his turn came, he wondered if those who had screamed earlier were still alive to hear him.
It was a relief whenever he made it back to his cell, after begging for death or pledging himself to Thanos' foolhardy cause, a choice made more and more convincing when they showed him the scepter.
Now Loki was but a shadow of himself as he was slumped on the floor of his cell. His forehead was tinged brown from burns, part of his accursed Jotun physiology. While they hadn't discovered his dirty secret and still thought he was Asgardian, his suffering only made them do it more. Dark shadows were circled beneath glaring eyes, his bared teeth stained brown from old blood. Both knees were bent up at a sharp angle and one arm was draped over them, his back against the wall the only thing keeping him upright.
Thanos already showed him the scepter he would soon wield. It was an illuminating experience, one that cut through the pervasive darkness of the poorly named Sanctuary.
Having familiarity with old relics, Loki knew at first glance that the scepter was special. He knew it would help him get his revenge against all those that cast him out. The family that he believed betrayed him. They were only a lie sold to him that once, in his childishness, he wanted to believe...despite always feeling different.
By the time his "mother" used spells to find him, he shut her out without any hesitation. He had no one and no ties to bind him. All that he had left was a simple act of compliance which would free him from the shackles of Asgard. The exchange of an ancient trinket for a throne of his own to rule from. But therein lay confusion. Despite how reasonable this all seemed, even to his twisted mind and aching heart, a faded memory insisted that he didn't want the throne. He only wanted to be seen as an equal....
Every time the memory returned it was snuffed out. Loki quickly forgot it, and felt glad to set Midgard on fire simply to watch it burn, simply to make Thor suffer.
It felt right here, where nothing else did. This place, that scepter, it all radiated power. If there was one thing Loki wanted, it was to be as powerful as his brother. The relic would serve him on that path, and also appease Thanos enough to let him go. Any day now. Days blurred together so that he lost track of the passage of time, entirely. As his obsessions of grandeur grew, all else fell by the wayside. The meager food scraps he was offered were left untouched and rotting by the cell door.
The scepter was the key to everything, more than the tomes he poured over in the royal libraries in another lifetime. Being near it was to be shown one's true path, to listen to dark whispers that made an already angry snarl inside him grow, thorny vines threatening to choke anyone who dared get too close.
Thor didn’t know what he expected when going into Loki’s mind but this? This wasn’t it.
Sure, in the past he’d idly wondered exactly what was in his brother’s mind. How did Loki think of things? What were the ways he filed information? In Thor’s case, it was a free for all really. His thoughts went everywhere and made no real sense. If he was hard-pressed to describe it, it might have been some sort of a cavern, filled with things , with a throne in the centre, maybe a crown hanging over an arm, dangling dangerously close to falling off.
Oh and weapons -- how could he forget the weapons? Cudgels, hammers, axes .. no guns. Guns were dumb and useless but a hammer? Oh, there was his childhood weapons, the first ones created specifically for him, other weapons various chief of guards gave him, all of it.
So when he went into Loki’s mind, reluctantly putting on that VR equipment, he expected to see something like a library, or maybe even a labyrinth, with secrets carefully hidden away.
A cell though? A prison cell?
What in the blazes is this?
How was it that this was where he was locked in?
“Oh Brother,” he said lowly to himself, gingerly walking over to the cell. The Loki on the floor, he had to remember, was his brother. It was hard though. Gone was the confidence, the swagger, the mirth. What was left behind was ...well, a shell. Was this what Loki truly felt? It made Thor feel bad, profoundly so. This was not how he wanted to envision his brother ...but was it really about him? No. Not really.
Clutching the bars, he peered in curiously. Loki hadn’t noticed him as yet but then again, no one else had. Thor didn’t know if there were guards, or someone else that would be stopping him. He had no idea if there was a time limit to this process or worse -- that Loki had a version of Odin lurking around.
That would not be well. Thor knew what Loki’s opinion of their father was.
With a quick glance, Thor hissed. “Loki. Brother. Magic the door so that I do not need to break it down.”
In the grand scheme of things, Odin was the far lesser evil. Loki knew he could escape Odin.
There was no escape from Thanos. He knew it even as he sat in that cell, that there would be no stopping the Mad Titan or his ambitions. Already, he had been shown things both great and dire. Things he couldn't look away from. Things he never wanted to see, until the line was blurred between what was real or imagined. He was himself...and yet not.
Loki thought that might actually be better, considering everything he knew before was a lie.
At the sound of Thor's voice, Loki's gaze shifted toward the cell door. At first it was unfocused and as awareness dawned, his head tilted with curiosity. This must be another cruel trick of his still fragmented mind, already played out a few times. The rescue and the inevitable disappointment, when it was revealed as a ruse, to test his trustworthiness. It was reluctantly commendable to continue in that vein. The Ebony Maw and The Other were very thorough with their efforts. If only those efforts weren't taken out on him.
Speaking of effort, it took some for him to stand and move. He managed both, but with less grace or silence than he usually possessed.
"Alas, I can not," Loki said. He gestured with both hands to show that his palms were empty, operating under a past belief it wouldn't work no matter how hard he tried. As he grasped hold of the bars, his voice changed from its usual soft tone into a venomous hiss. He sounded every bit the cornered snake, ready to strike. "What more, you are not my brother. Nor are you real. Even the Mighty Thor would not be fool enough to enter Thanos' lair alone. Away with you, for I will not fall for this trick again."
"Thanos?" Thor blurted the name out and then quickly looked around, as if saying the name alone would conjure the Mad Titan.
The fear, the very palpable and real fear, it was in Loki's eyes and that, more than anything else, troubled Thor. How long had Loki been in this reality?
Although he'd been explained the risks this...this was not exactly what he had expected. Loki truly believed in what he was saying. He truly thought he was awaiting another torture. And if they didn't get out soon….well, Thor wasn't going to entertain that.
"Forget him," Thor said, gripping the bars of the cell tighter, the smooth coldness seeping into his palms. Was it getting colder? "It is I, Thor, as real as ever. I have come here to save you, and I will not leave you behind. You have the most powerful mind, a mind capable of doing… this. Loki, you are simply trapped in one of Stark's games. This is not happening. Wish these bars to be those ropes of licorice we enjoy and let us flee."
It was rather cold in there. Cells tended to be cold. If that observation had been made out loud, then Loki would have wasted no time - even past what had been done to him prior - making fun of a Thor. Illusion or not. In the meantime, Loki was left blinking profusely at this claim and then his face screwed up from the sheer disbelief.
"...what?" he asked Thor, grasping the bars with white knuckled fists. "Who? Honestly! Do you expect me to fall prey to such a simple trick after I've pledged to do the Mad Titan's bidding? I don't want to go through that all over again. So you've guessed that I like licorice. Bravo. Now prove you're real with something only Thor would know, and I will believe you."
He really hoped it was something that wasn't plucked out of his mind already, since that felt a bit picked apart. Everything suddenly felt...very wrong and very surreal. Nevertheless, it was better to be cautious. Already familiar with how illusions worked, Loki unclenched one hand from the bar and reached through, poking a finger at one of Thor's big beefy biceps. This illusion didn't dissolve as anticipated. A soft 'eh' sound was made afterward, along with a muttered, "That's ever so slightly squishier than I remember, actually."
Thor glanced down at his arms and frowned. "You know I am sensitive about that," he said, trailing off. He was not nearly as large as before, but it'd only been a few months. Okay, maybe a month of serious training. A few weeks.
So he might have had several poptarts for breakfast.
It was a lifestyle change, really.
But he wasn't going to argue that. Was that footsteps he was hearing? Curse Liki's overactive imagination.
And how would he argue with his brother when his brother generally won all their arguments? If Loki believed this to be true, Thor wouldn't be able to convince him otherwise… or maybe….
"Taylor Swift is a goddess compared to Katy Perry. Throwing shade never turned anyone less gay is lyrically flawless rather than comparing onself to a paper bag, floating in the sky."
Truthfully, Thor was a sight for sore eyes, and it wasn't that he looked awful. He was in great shape actually? Far better than Loki, who looked like he lived off a diet consisting of bird seed and damp air.
As he listened to his brother, Loki stared at him. His eyes widened more at the sound of approaching footsteps, but he was trying to focus entirely on what was being said. As though a very opinionated puzzle piece suddenly snapped into place, he scoffed loudly and his mouth opened automatically.
"It's a plastic bag floating through the wind," he told Thor. "And you've entirely missed the point about the fireworks, for it's a ballad about self-empowerment. In comparison, the other minstrel was preaching that everyone needs to calm down. I've half a mind to tell her that I'll damn well calm down - after far too many of her oh-oh-oh's - when I feel like it. And I don't."
Loki's eyes went round as saucers as everything suddenly made sense again. The footsteps stopped in mid-step, and the bars instantly went limp as noodles between them. Their surroundings were quickly covered up by a dense grey fog, as effective at covering things up as any large curtain would be, especially those dropped on a stage to hide the scene of a great tragedy.
"Ahhh...right. This mess is of Stark's making." Loki tried to hide his embarrassment that Thor saw anything. It was easier to pretend it never happened. Their family was fantastic at pretending certain things never happened, so why should this be any different? He smiled a little tightly at Thor and said in a bitterly sarcastic way, "How refreshing not to be the cause of a catastrophe." This time. "I suppose we need to escape now?"
Thor watched in wonder as everything went back to normal. He knew his brother would be able to do it. The fact that Strange had been indifferent made Thor feel like he had succeeded where others had failed… not that he wanted anyone to fail.
"Escaping would be nice. Returning home would be even better. You know, Sif is quite worried for you. Val too," he added for good measure. "And so you are aware, there are situations that have come up that are not your doing. Take the… um… well…oh! The reality stone debacle. That was Jane's fault."
Loki kept his expression neutral at the mention of the Valkyrie, who had been seeing to various tasks for the past two months. He missed her with a desperation that was akin to burning, and yet he didn't want that to show. Instead, he looked a little thoughtful....and a lot sneaky.
"Your intended's sense of focus and determination can sometimes be a cause of chaos itself," he told Thor, his words carefully measured. "That's why I like her. Although, I can't allow us to leave yet. Not until you vow never to tell anyone what you witnessed here...or until I take care of this little problem, myself. Loose lips sink longboats, after all."
Thor raised his brows. "To whom would I share this story?" Of course, he could think of many people. Jane, for one. Val, for another.
But even though a jovial answer was on the tip of his tongue, he couldn't bring himself to say anything. This was a vulnerability, an intimacy he'd witnessed that was beyond words. In all honestly, Thor was unsettled, knowing that this lurked in his brother's psyche. A resolution had lodged itself in his soul -- he would be a better brother to Loki. He had to be. They were the only two left.
"I will say nothing."
Loki lobbed the most exasperated stare in his arsenal at his older brother. Telling Jane, just for starters. Brunnhilde already knew, but she had her own demons to deal with. One's seidr wasn't aligned toward death and bloody battlefields without some emotional repercussions.
"Thank you." The exasperation faded into resignation, but he knew Thor was a man of his word. It was deeply embarrassing to be seen in such a state, and he imagined Thor's friends wouldn't believe a word anyway. He simply didn't want to hear Stark's quips or be questioned by anyone else. It was difficult enough to tell how much he wanted to do, and how much the scepter made him want it.
Loki grabbed hold of Thor's shoulders, fingers clawing in as though his older brother was a cliff's edge that he was dangling from. In truth, however, he was about to drag them both out of this mess, the quick but messy way. Waking up groggy was not an option, when they might be needed immediately.
"Do us a favor?" he warned Thor. "Don't sit up quickly or you'll vomit. I've seen you vomit. It's horrendous. It's akin to those sludge monsters that I told you couldn't be thwarted by hitting them with a hammer. Yet you tried, regardless."
With that, the fog began to spin around them in a dizzying circle. It suddenly closed in on them, forcing them up and away into an abrupt wakefulness.
Before Thor could even ask what Loki meant, there was spinning and physics and inertia and other words that he knew only peripherally and before he could stop himself, he was indeed vomiting all over Loki’s shoes.
Well. His own too, but that didn’t both Thor. He had very clear memories of his other life, where vomit was a close friend. One couldn’t drink enough to drain an entire village of alcohol without occasionally allowing it to come back up again.
He peered down at the puddle and sighed. “I would not be able to defeat that with a hammer. I agree with you, brother.”
To Loki, it was both ironic and a form of amusement that they were laid out toe to toe even at a time like this. And what was even worse than seeing Thor vomiting after drinking a village dry? Hearing it and then feeling it hitting his formerly fine velvet slippers. It was a good thing that he could magic the sick off them both in an instant. He did just that, as the clinic walls finally seemed to stop spinning around the wrong way.
Loki pushed himself up with both arms to sit up. His gaze was fond and there was a soft smile pulling at the corners of his lips as he spoke, "I'm not cleaning that up. Oh, and I hate you."
That was a lie.
He absolutely, unequivocally did not hate Thor at this moment. Not even a teeny tiny bit.