?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
02 October 2012 @ 10:00 am
Fic: The Poison Rain 7/14  



Thor returned below, hoping he could get the gate location from Loki this time. If it could be found and destroyed, at least any lingering influence on Loki through it could be eliminated.

Thanos, you attacked Earth and you threaten Asgard - for those things, I will bring you to battle. But this attack on my brother will be avenged, this I swear.

His thumb rubbed the handle of Mjolnir absently, until he realized he had called it to him without thinking.

Loki stood in the middle of his cell, a small blue flame twisting and swirling around his hand, dancing between his fingers with agile grace. He lifted his eyes to note Thor's arrival without surprise and continued what he was doing, commenting, "I feel I should give you a task, as you clearly have nothing else to do than bother me."

Thor moved up to the barrier. "You could tell me the location of the gate so I could destroy it. That would leave you unbothered, and I would have a task."

Loki's smile was fleeting but amused. "Impressive negotiating."

"So? Where is the gate?"

Loki kept his gaze on the small touch of foxfire darting between his fingers. "Persistence is one of your strengths, but it becomes weakness, when it causes only annoyance," he advised.

"There is a part of you that wants to reveal it," Thor coaxed. "You want to stop Thanos; I know you do."

Loki chuckled and the little flame winked out. "No, you believe so, because you are a sentimental fool."

Thor looked at him and shook his head. "I am not so easily provoked, brother. Nor is sentimentality an insult, not when it springs from affection."

"It makes you soft and weak," Loki sneered. "And blind."

"Hatred and anger do all those things as well, yet you embrace them with a fervor equal only to your lust for power." If he thought that the chiding would have an effect, he was wrong, since Loki smiled.

"They are far more satisfying."

"Are they?" Thor challenged. "They ended you here."

Loki's eyes roamed the interior, for a moment giving Thor hope that the grimace was a sign that Loki was reconsidering, but then Loki's gaze drifted upward to where Thor now knew the tesseract was. "This is not an ending. Only that pause in the story when the hero thinks the villain is trapped and defeated, before the villain reveals his next act."

"Are you the villain?"

Loki chuckled bitterly. "I am not the hero, am I?"

"You could be."

Loki's laugh turned more genuine. "Where is the fun of that?" But his eyes flicked away as his grin twisted into a grimace. "The hero cape fits you so much better, anyway."

Thor ignored the tired attack, and groped for something new to say to him. "There is still time, Loki. Thanos is the villain, not you, and he has not yet moved against us. If you tell me where the portal is, I can close it and keep everyone safe."

"You are insufferable," Loki snorted and turned away, folding his arms. "I already gave you your answer."

"You jested. But this is not a time for levity."

"Oh, I don't know, I thought beneath your bed was particularly amusing," Loki grinned and chortled to himself. "It is not my fault you share not in the joke."

Thor felt the slow seep of anger and frustration building beneath his skin. Loki had to tell the secret; he had to reveal it, not only for Asgard, but for himself, and he was so cursedly stubborn. "Where is the gate?" he growled, not meaning to but lifting Mjolnir as if he could threaten Loki within the chamber.

Loki's chuckle grew into full-fledged laughter. "And what will you do if I refuse? Put me in prison?" He held out both hands to indicate the bare walls of his cell. "Or let me fall to my death? Again?" His eyes narrowed and he stared at Thor in scorn. "You have no leverage. I have nothing you can take from me."

"You say that - I know you believe that - but you are wrong, brother," Thor said. He set Mjolnir down by the nearest pillar and returned to the front of the barrier. If his mother was right about what his heart truly felt then their one chance might be in convincing Loki that Thanos intended to take everything. "Loki, what happens when Thanos and his army take this place apart? When all of Asgard lies in ruins? Whatever your anger at me or Father, you know our people have no part of it. They loved you as their prince. We hear it every day, brother. There was mourning when we thought you dead, and jubilation when we learned you lived. You would not wish harm on them all."

Loki's face revealed nothing of whether he agreed or not. "When Thanos conquers the Nine Realms, he will give Asgard to me."

"No, he will destroy it. You know this! Mother said you learned more about the war than I -- and you know if that monster wins there will be no Asgard left to rule."

Loki gave a little uncaring shrug. "Then it will be ashes, if that is its fate."

Thor struck at the barrier, frustrated, then turned back to strike at the only weakness in Loki's armor. "And Mother? Who has tirelessly championed you, who believes you can be reclaimed? Will you let her fall, let Thanos murder her? Or will you kill her yourself?"

"NO!" Loki cried, looking anguished, and whirled away, panting. Thor could see his profile, and his jaw worked without words and his eyes were closed in distress. "I will save her," he whispered in promise. His shaking hand rose up to his head, to clutch at his hair, and his shoulders curled inward as he drew unsteady breaths.

At first, Thor believed he'd won a victory, getting Loki to admit that he cared about someone -- anyone or anything. But before Thor could follow up on the break in Loki's consuming madness, his enemy struck back.

Loki let out a gasp as if he'd been stabbed. He tore at his tunic, pressing his hands against his chest over his heart, and he stumbled to one knee.

Thor watched, confused and alarmed, but also wary. It would be like Loki to feign some sort of problem.

Yet when Loki looked up, Thor saw surprise and pain on his face, and did not think he was pretending. "Loki, what is happening?"

"Oh, it burns." He slumped forward, curled over, both hands bracing himself on the floor.

"Loki, I - what can I do?" Thor asked, feeling suddenly helpless against this sudden turn of events. He didn't know what was happening, but something was very plainly wrong, and hopefully Frigga or Odin would know what to do. "I will fetch Mother."

"No need," Loki answered and his voice was smooth. He straightened and rose to his feet as if nothing had happened. "A moment's weakness," he said coldly. "It passed."

If Thor hadn't been staring right at him, worried, he wouldn't have seen it, but in that moment Loki's pale eyes changed, flickering black as a night with no stars.

Thor took a step back, suddenly chilled. He had not truly believed, he realized, but there was proof of a fell influence. There was a shadow on his brother's mind that had tightened its grip, punishing him and closing the crack that had let the light escape.

Loki smiled, and there was nothing of Loki's usual mischief or teasing, it was only cold corruption. "You cannot fight this power. Embrace it and it will give you peace."

Thor shook his head. "No, this isn't peace. This is destruction. It is destroying you. You must fight, brother."

Loki ignored that, inviting, "There is no need for us to fight. There are many realms, enough for us both to rule."

"Never."

"Always so stupidly brave. Right to the end."

Thor returned to the front of the barrier and glared at him, eye to eye, declaring boldly, "You speak in Thanos' voice with Thanos' evil. But I know Loki is still within and I will never stop fighting until I bring him forth again and cast this stranger out."

Loki smirked. "You simply cannot bear that I have grown beyond you, can you? I am not your little shadow anymore, starving for a crumb off your table. I have my own light and my own power, and it will be glorious to behold when I take what belongs to me."

Thor put his hand flat against the barrier. "So now I must starve for crumbs of the brother I once knew? Please, Loki, you are strong; my brother would never surrender to his people's worst enemy. You must fight with all your formidable cunning and strength and come home. We are waiting for you."

Loki seemed moved by that declaration briefly, as his eyes flickered and his fingers twitched at his sides, before he hardened himself against it again. "Odin waits not. He wants me gone. Or dead."

Thor was shocked by that claim. Of everything Loki had said that was the most horrifying. "No! Father does not wish that! He said himself that he wants you seated again in your chair at the family table."

Loki sniffed, and folded his arms. "I doubt that. He knew what would come, when he stole me away." His expression soured on some darker thought. "And he made sure we played our roles."

Thor knew what Loki was saying. Brotherly enmity was an ancient story, even in Asgard. Selvig had mentioned it to him on Earth - tales of other gods, even tales of Thor and Loki themselves, corrupted by time and distance, but all predicting the same result. "We need not play those roles," he murmured.

Loki chuckled once. "Even the mortals know it is inevitable. I was born to be the villain of your story." He hesitated and added with a distant look to his eyes, "If only Mother had hated me for sullying her golden child, we might have all slotted more neatly where we belong."

Thor was glad that at least Loki was acknowledging his mother did not hate him, and as he started to speak, he realized that Loki was also tacitly agreeing that he was not quite as separate as he wanted to be.

"You are not my enemy or a monster, because it is not who you truly are," Thor insisted. "You were no more born to be a villain than I was. There is no inevitability, no destiny, only our actions that define who we are."

Loki's lips lifted in a bitter smile and he shook his head. "And yet, my actions seem unimportant to you. Sentiment will be your undoing, Thor."

"If my sentimentality brings you back, I will pay that price," Thor returned. "I will not surrender this fight, Loki, even if you have."

Thor expected another cruel response, but Loki said nothing, merely turned away. In the moment before he turned his back, his skin looked grey and thin, his eyes shadowed and sunken, and Thor realized Loki was using illusion to make himself appear better than he was.

"Loki?" Thor murmured, in concern. "Mother is right. You are unwell. All that dark energy you wielded on Midgard and this poison in your mind, it weakens you."

"Your concern is noted, but unnecessary." Loki faced him, as if to prove he was well, and in fact, he looked restored. But Thor had seen the truth, and no amount of illusion would erase that.

"You are fading, Loki. This cannot continue."

"Have you been listening to tragic sagas again? Such melodrama." Loki taunted, "I know you find thought exhausting, but it is not exertion to do nothing but think in this place of mortal dullness." He gestured with both hands at the cell with a sneer.

"If you dislike your surroundings, you should have considered the consequence before you plotted murder and destruction."

Loki rolled his eyes. "Says the hammer-wielding fool who went to Jotunheim looking to kill and destroy. I hope the air is breathable up there on your moral high ground."

Thor retorted, "I recall you told me to go."

"As if you ever listened to me." Loki's gaze sought the far wall distantly in memory. "If you had left Jotunheim when I told you to, none of this would have happened! Father wouldn't have intervened, you wouldn't have been banished for being a fool, I wouldn't have discovered--" he cut himself off, falling silent and for a moment, pressing his lips together as if nauseated. His eyes dropped to the hand he held out, curling his fingers into a fist.

Loki walked away, and for a moment, a silence fell. Thor was about to apologize for acting so intemperately in Jotunheim, but Loki inhaled a deep breath, regaining control, and turned back. "I should thank you. Your actions tore away the lies, so I could finally understand why I never had a true place in Asgard."

"You did! You gave it up!" Thor objected, remembering again how Loki had let go, letting himself fall.

"Did I?" Loki retorted. "I did not steal the throne from you - you were exiled, Father had fallen and no one knew when he would rouse. I planned none of that. Mother did not tell me to fetch you from Midgard; she told me to take up Gungnir. I did as she asked, and everyone turned on me. Your friends proved they were no friends of mine. Heimdall disobeyed me. Father," he started and corrected himself quickly, "Odin roused to save you, but abandoned me." His eyes were dark with hurt and he demanded angrily, "What place did I have? Tell me that. All anyone wanted was you returned, and me gone. So - they got their wish. And now they can all burn."

The last words were spoken quietly, but with an intensity that brightened his eyes. It was more chilling than his usual ranting, because Thor knew he meant it. Worse, he had some cause, since Thor knew the Warriors Three and Sif had come to Midgard, and that meant Heimdall must have helped them.

"Nothing to say?" Loki taunted.

Thor stepped closer to the barrier. "I … knew nothing of this. I believed--" he started.

Loki finished for him with a bitter inevitability. "You believed I stole it, too."

But that was as if Thor had no cause to believe that, which angered Thor right out of his attempt to remain calm. "You lied to me!" Thor roared at him. "You told me Father was dead! When that proved false, what else was I to believe?"

"All I wanted was the chance!" Loki shouted back, holding both fists at his sides as if he wanted to strike the barrier but was holding himself back. "For a little while! I knew it would not last, but I could be a better king than you!" He heaved a breath. "And I was. Or I could have been if everyone hadn't betrayed me." He flung his hands out, in his cross draw to throw his daggers. Thor saw the metal flash and ducked out of the way, only belatedly realizing they couldn't be real.

Loki laughed as the illusory blades harmlessly dissipated against the barrier and Thor straightened, Mjolnir in his hand.

"When I am free, those will be real." Loki's smile was cold but amused. "Avenging things is popular on Midgard. And I have so much more to avenge than they do."

Another dagger formed in his hand but this time it had some physicality to it, or at least its power interacted with the barrier, as he dragged the edge across the surface, cascading a shower of sparks. Loki's eyes fixed on Thor. "The Nine Realms will kneel before me or they will be dust."

"You will never leave this cell, brother, until you let this madness go."

"I will leave it when I choose." He set the point of the dagger against the barrier and started to push. Thor watched, at first curious, and then with growing alarm as Loki leaned against it, jaw clenched in evident pain.

"You think you have power?" Loki demanded. "You think you know what power is? You know nothing!"

The sparks turned into lightning, twining up his arms. And still he didn't give in, throwing his power against the barrier, which glowed brighter and brighter. "Loki, stop it!" Thor shouted. "Let it go."

But he didn't, forcing everything he could conjure into a narrow blade straight into the heart of the barrier.

He was going to break it. Both were under terrible strain - the wall flexed and let out a wail of warning, as Loki turned ashen with the effort to break what should not be breakable.

Either the wall would give or Loki would -- Thor readied Mjolnir, in case the wall did, while hoping Loki would let it go.

The barrier undulated and snapped like a whip, hurling Loki into the opposite wall with enough force it would have shattered had it been stone. But the wall was unaffected, and Loki hung there for an instant before his body slithered down the wall into a heap on the floor.

"Loki!"

Loki lay at first terrifyingly still, and then he groaned and Thor let a breath of relief. "Loki! Are you hurt?"

Loki raised his head, pushing up with one arm. His expression was dazed. "I almost succeeded..."

"No. You must not try it again," Thor ordered anxiously. "Do not be a fool."

But Loki wasn't listening. His eyes seemed clear but sad as he looked toward Thor, and he murmured, "We were young once. Where did that go?" Then his gaze went unfocused, eyelids sinking shut. "I think … I can sleep now…"

He slumped flat on the floor, and his outstretched hand went limp. "Loki?" Thor called, but there was no answer. But after a moment, he saw Loki's chest rise in slow breaths, and was relieved. Not that the hit should have killed him, since Loki had survived worse, but still, there was so much about Loki now that seemed uncertain it was a relief that he slept.

He didn't want to leave, unsettled by the memory of Loki's face both in torment and then with a stranger's eyes looking out. All along he had thought the worst he could face would be to lose his brother to madness, to face Loki as an enemy, never his brother again.

But now, recalling that glimpse of exhaustion and looking at Loki's motionless body inside the cell, Thor realized he might instead lose him to that other darkness: not of madness, but of death.



Part Eight