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13 November 2014 @ 01:31 pm
The Ice Demon and the Hydra, part 10  



The night before they were about to ship out to attack the Hydra HQ, Loki followed Steve into Stark's workroom, finding to his surprise that Stark was busy measuring as Barnes was watching him in bemusement, as Stark flitted around him. Barnes glanced up to see Steve and Loki enter and his smile broadened. "Hey! Good to see you!"

"What's going on?" Steve asked. "I thought you were going to ship back to New York?"

"Well, I was going to, then Mister Stark here--"

"Howard," Stark interrupted and without looking up from his measurements of Barnes' shoulders,both arms and single hand, and scribbling them on a notepad. "I'm thinking that I should be able to design a better prosthesis for Sergeant Barnes than anything he'll get from the Army or off the street in Brooklyn. Something light and strong… " his voice trailed off as he concentrated on his measurements.

"From here, I can also keep up with the news better," Barnes said. "They've told me I can assist upstairs and listen in to the reports. I wish I was with you guys."

Loki felt a stabbing of guilt that he'd ruined Barnes' chance to go with them after Schmidt by cutting his arm off. He knew James didn't blame him for that, but it was still a weight on him that he might have chosen the wrong action.

"You fell off the damn train, Bucky. I just-- I still can't believe you're alive," Steve moved closer to squeeze his good shoulder.

Stark bumped into him and blinked, belatedly figuring out that his place had been pushed aside. "I'll just, uh, start calculations. Excuse me." He wandered away and nobody else said anything, or much noticed.

Loki and Barnes' eyes met, sharing the secret. They'd used the story that Loki had given him a blood transfusion of his own blood and that had helped heal him. Barnes had to live in this world, and while he would eventually tell Rogers that he wasn't quite as normal as he'd been, for now he wanted the healing to be Loki's doing. Loki had refused to "donate" his blood to anyone else, thrown someone across the room to make his point, and Phillips had ordered him left alone.

"I'm so lucky, you know?" Steve said, looking from one to another. "My oldest friend and you-- my newest. The one most like me now. You saved Bucky's life and mine--"

"Well, you saved mine first, Steven, it seemed only proper," Loki returned lightly. "We're a team, are we not?"

"Not anymore," Barnes said with a disappointed grimace. "I've been sidelined."

Steve shrugged. "Not for long. War won't last forever. And after that? We can be a team in peacetime, right? You'll have your fancy new arm from Stark and you can be part of bringing some of these bastards to justice. We can all bring some light back in the world again.

It was a bit ridiculous how for just that moment, hearing Rogers talk, Loki wanted to be part of that. Once Schmidt was dead, and the tesseract was safe, why did he have to leave? His family clearly didn't care where he was, so why not stay here? He could help Arendelle, or he could stay with these new friends he'd made. Or why choose? He could do both, couldn't he?

"And you--" Steve turned to Loki with some excitement, "Just think if you could really crack the secret of that blood of yours. If someone can figure out how it works and duplicate it. Instead of making super soldiers, like Schmidt wanted, it could heal people. That would be so amazing, wouldn't it?"

Which was where the fantasy fell apart, because of course it wasn't his blood that had healed Barnes. That was a lie. Not that it mattered, because if it were true, he still would have no part of Steven's plan.

His jaw tightened. "I will not submit to testing and being experimented on. Not ever again."

Steve looked horrified at the thought. "No, of course not! Oh, Jesus, no, we'll have to make sure that doesn't happen again."

Barnes touched Loki's arm with his hand. "You risked exposure to save my life. Don't think I don't understand that."

"You know I risked less than you think, James," Loki corrected brusquely. "But in any case, all of this wistful dreaming will never come to pass until we kill Schmidt and stop his main plan of attack. If we fail, this world will become immeasurably worse, not better."

"You won't fail," Barnes declared. "I mean, c'mon, Captain America and the Ice Demon. If that's not a team up for victory, I don't know what is. You two are gonna kick his ass so hard they'll hear it in Detroit."

Steve grinned. "Hell yeah. That's what this is all for. This is why I agreed to that crazy serum in the first place. We'll get him and bring you back a trophy."

Barnes smiled and shook his head. "Just bring yourselves back. And put that fucker down. That's all I want."

They heard Agent Carter's voice from the end of the room, calling, "Gentlemen, it's time. We're leaving for the airfield."

"See you on the other side, Bucky," Steve said. They embraced tightly, Barnes with a one-armed hug, and Loki offered his hand. But Barnes ignored that to hug him, too.

"Good luck. Take some down for me."

"We will," Loki promised.

They headed out, and Rogers called as they were leaving, "Hey, Stark. I expect Bucky to have a great new hand by the time I get back!"

"Bring me back that power source of Schmidt's and you've got a deal, Cap," Stark called back. Loki had no intention of letting him have it, but he kept that to himself as he smiled a greeting at Agent Carter.

Her eyes went right past him like he wasn't there to find Rogers, and Loki snickered at the way Rogers cleared his throat and pulled back his shoulders a little more as he got close to her. There was a strange urge in Loki's fingers to take their heads and force their lips together, to get it over with, but on the other hand it had been highly entertaining to watch them dance around each other for these months.

But they seemed determined to wait until after the war, though he didn't know if they had spoken about it and decided or it was silently understood, but Loki respected that. Even if it was a little disappointing to not be able to smirk at them canoodling in the corners. Of everyone they deserved their happy ending, and Loki wanted to give it to them if he could.






Steve saw the giant flying wing's engines flare and knew it had to be Schmidt with his payload of death. He started to run, crashing through enemy soldiers, leaping as necessary, letting nothing slow him down.

He saw movement above-- Lukas was running on the highest catwalk. He had no opposition up there, running across the thinnest beams and wires as fleet as a gazelle, as if he weighed nothing.

The plane was accelerating, and Steve leaped for a chain to swing himself closer, above the fray.

He was still too slow. At least Lukas was ahead, but Steve didn't want him to get aboard and have to confront Schmidt alone.

He wasn't going to make it. The flying wing's acceleration was building, heading now for the straight runway out of the hangar.

A car horn beeping made him look down to see Phillips driving an open-top car with Peggy in the passenger seat. Tucking up his legs, he flung himself into the car as Phillips did something which shot them across the tarmac.

Glancing up, he saw Lukas hurl himself onto the top of the wing, just before it cleared the hangar entrance and went outside.

The car was gaining on the craft, just enough, beneath it now. The timing would have to be perfect -- but it was. He jumped from the car and grabbed the landing gear, as the mountain fell away beneath him.

He'd made it and now he could stop Schmidt. Carried inside the plane as the landing gear retracted, he saw the bombs neatly labeled for their destinations: New York, Washington, London, Berlin.

At first he saw no resistance and wondered if Schmidt was the only one aboard, and whether Lukas had made it inside somehow or he was still clinging to the outside. But then he had to no time to wonder as Hydra enemies were all over him, trying to launch the bomb planes.

He hurled his shield at yet another black-clad enemy, only to have it caught in a bare hand. Steve's gaze snapped up to the face in shock, only to see Lukas there, lifting his brows at Steve. Somehow he'd changed his clothes to a leather outfit of mostly black with touches of green and gold, and a long coat. Steve had the odd thought that it looked more right on him than fatigues ever had.

Lukas threw the shield back at him. "'Ware your friends, Steven."

Steve caught the shield. "Sorry. What the hell is--" He started to gesture to the new outfit, but a new squad of enemies attacked, interrupting. They tried to launch the mini-bombers and Steve threw himself at one to stop him, while Lukas threw -- fire? Jesus, he was throwing fire and setting the rocket ablaze too early so another mini-bomber exploded in its cradle. Then Steve was fighting for his life, to get control of the little bomber as it launched into the air.




Loki reached out a hand as if he could pluck Rogers off the flying craft as it fell out of the plane, but there was nothing he could do. Rogers had to fend for himself, as enemies swarmed like the mindless locusts they seemed to be.

But they were impediments to Schmidt and the tesseract, and Loki was long past tired of waiting.

"You think you serve a god?" he snarled, kicking one hard enough he tumbled over the railing into the hole. "You think that human freak is anything close to a god? What will you think when I take his ugly head off his puny mortal body?" He slammed two heads together with a satisfying crash, and without pause, let them go and threw a dagger at the one coming up behind him.

"I have had the worst year of my entire life, on this benighted excuse for a planet, and the only reason I would not gladly watch it all burn to ash is because of that man who just foolishly threw himself out of a plane, and his friends." His elbow went square into another's throat and he fell like a stone.

Loki glanced around for more enemies and found none, taking a moment to catch his breath.

"And because I made a promise. It seems quite thin at this moment, but I will keep it, Elsa," he murmured.

He climbed the narrow stairs, finding an enemy there to knife to death, before he found the command deck. Opening the hatch, he was immediately shot at by one of Schmidt's tesseract-powered guns and he ducked back down. It had no black powder to blow up from afar, but the dark energy in it was even easier to grab if he was quick enough to seize it before Schmidt fired it.

"Is it you and me again, mein Dämon?" Schmidt called. "As it should be, a fight between gods."

"You are a mortal freak with delusions of grandeur," Loki retorted loudly, "There is only one god on this planet: me."

"Your age is past! This is the age of Hydra, the age of--"

In the middle of Schmidt's proclamation, Loki threw himself out of the hatch, hand thrust out as he reached for the power in the weapon.

Only to be caught by surprise when he found far more power than he expected, and the strength of it surged through him and threw him like a doll against the back wall of the command deck.

He fell to the floor, shaking his head to try to clear it, and had the vague satisfaction that at least Schmidt's weapon had blown up as well. He'd thrown it from him in time, but at least he didn't have it anymore.

Schmidt unholstered his pistol and held it at Loki, his blood-red skin and monstrous nose flaring with his breath. "It is mine," he hissed. "Mine."

Loki's eyes cut to the ovoid device to the side of the room - the tesseract was in there, had to be. If he could only get to it--

Schmidt shot him. The power of the projectile shoved him back into the wall, stinging. He didn't stop either, unloading his weapon at Loki, and moving forward until he was close enough to kick Loki in the head.

Oh, I had forgotten how strong he is… Loki thought dazedly from the floor. He started to lift himself up, and that shiny black boot caught him square in the stomach, flipping him over onto his back like a landed fish, gasping.

"You are weak, Dämon. Your power is mine."

He pulled a dagger from his vambrace, but Schmidt kicked it away, so the blade went spinning. Schmidt kicked him, the power of the blows driving deep into his flesh, as if his spells on his leather were nothing.

What was wrong with him? He felt as if he couldn't breathe, could barely move - he could fight better than this. But his body felt sluggish and reluctant, and his hands were shaking. Fear. It was fear.

Get angry, this is not the time to be afraid of this mortal. You are stronger and better in every way, and you do not cower to such as him.

Except he remembered. Electroshock, over and over, until he knew little else. Those hands holding him down while they put the bolts through his wrists. The liquid agony they'd flooded his body with to keep him weak. Constant endless waking nightmares or hallucinations of this creature touching him in other ways.

GET UP. Or you will never hear the end of getting killed by a mortal. You'll go to Hel just for the humiliation of dying so stupidly.

That was enough to spur him to push himself up again, unwilling to be easy prey on the floor. But Schmidt's boot caught him in the head again, this time behind the ear, and the pain was instant and acute, flaring in the side of his head. He dropped back to the floor, his small gains obliterated.

He thought it was a hallucination at first, caused by the blow to the head, as the front window shattered and glass shards flew everywhere. But no, it was really happening, as a mini-bomber slammed into the command room. Schmidt was hurled to the back of the room with explosive deadly force.

Steve Rogers was at the controls, and he grinned at his success and the way Schmidt had gotten whacked, but the grin disappeared as his eyes met Loki's.

He jumped out of the mini-bomber and rushed over to him. "Oh my God, are you all right?"

"Fine," Loki insisted, but had to clutch onto Steve's arm as the plane whirled sickeningly round him as he tried to stand. "Oh."

"You're bleeding," Steve said with dismay, touching the side of Loki's neck which only then did Loki realize was wet.

"He kicked me." But that wasn't important. What was important? Everything seemed to slide out of Loki's reach, except for holding onto Steve's arm so he didn't fall.

"C'mon, let's get you in a chair," Steve urged him forward. The fierce, cold wind blowing through the shattered front window smacked him alert and relieved the pain briefly. The pilot's chair was, remarkably, still in place, off to the side from where the mini-bomber had plowed through the window. It was with some relief that Loki sat down, even though the controls floated around dizzyingly, before he blinked them back into place.

"We need to get control of the plane. You know German, can you figure it out?"

"Yes," Loki agreed. "Certainly." Probably. Maybe. It could not be that hard, could it? It would be easier if his head didn't hurt though. The entire left side of his head and neck throbbed, and spiked with every breath. Hopefully it healed quickly.

Forcing his concentration on the console helped him push past the pain. The radio was simple, and seemed to be functional. The flight controls however, were a problem. "There is an autopilot function, locked in. And the controls are damaged," he answered and frowned. "We will have limited control, even after I break the autopilot."

Steve grimaced. "Can we ditch it?"

"Send it into the ground? Yes. I believe so. But." He stopped, looking up at his friend. "If the plane goes down, you will die."

"We stop Schmidt. Millions of lives will be saved. I'm okay with that bargain."

"I am not. I can send the plane down. You take a parachute and a tracker. The Allies will find you. Even if the Germans find you, the war is almost over. You will be fine."

Steve shook his head. "No. I won't let you die alone."

"I won't die. Unlike our friend in the back, I am actually immortal." He tried a smile, but Steve didn't buy it.

Steve shook his head. "I know you can die," Steve said softly. "And I'm pretty sure if this plane crashes, you will."

"Of the two of us, you have Carter and Barnes and all your friends, and your world to go back to." He pointed to the pocket where he knew Steve kept his compass and the photo of Agent Carter. "Of the two of us, there's really no contest about who is the better man."

"No," Steve protested, shaking his head. "That's not true."

Loki smiled sadly. "Ah, Steven, do you think they called me the Ice Demon because I was good? I might have been the Snow Angel, but I was the Ice Demon, and I murdered mortals before your country existed. But this, I will do for you. Go."

Steve shook his head in angry denial, still bravely resisting what had to be done, but before Loki could find a better argument- a third voice interrupted from around the nose of the mini-bomber.

"No!" Schmidt shouted. He sounded a little breathless, but unfortunately not dead. Loki twirled the chair, as Steve stood in front of him protectively, shield held out.

"You can't fight us both!" Steve called, his voice strong enough to rise above the wind.

"I think I can," Schmidt returned, and held up what he was carrying. The tesseract case.

"No!" Loki shouted. "You are mortal, it is not for you to wield!"

With a mad grin, Schmidt opened the case. The blue cube of power shone like a star in the middle of the command deck, washing the entire room in otherworldly blue light.

At his side, he heard Steve gasp at his first sight, caught by its beautiful streaming power.

But Loki didn't forget it was dangerous, and especially since there was zero possibility that Schmidt could wield it. "You ignorant fool! Stop!" Loki lurched from his chair, having to grab the back of it as blinding pain shot through his head at the sudden movement.

"You would have kept it in a church!" Schmidt shouted in scorn. "But it is mine! And I will burn you all! The world!"

"Don't do it!" Steve yelled. Loki threw himself at Schmidt, knowing he wasn't going to be in time. And he fell short anyway, slamming to his knees.

Schmidt grabbed the tesseract with his bare hand. For an instant he grinned widely and called out, "All this power!"

But his delight turned to pain, and he screamed, as the power of the tesseract overwhelmed him.

Reality tore open, seiðr burning, the frayed ends snapping like a tiger's claws shredding Loki's senses. He wanted to scream, but then it was over. In only a few heartbeats, Schmidt was gone, without a trace. The tesseract dropped to the floor.

It was only a little ways away. And it was shining so very brightly. Loki knew he could handle it. He was a god, wasn't he? Not a fragile mortal to be so easily overcome. With that in his hand, he could stop this plane. Stop the war. Stop all the wars.

Before he'd crawled two steps nearer, Steve's hand grabbed him by the collar and hauled him back again. "No, don't do it!"

That snapped the allure and Loki blinked, breathing hard as if he'd been running.

"You with me again?" Steve asked in concern, and offered his hand to help him stand. Loki was glad for the help, climbing to his feet. He felt heavy and tired; even the echo of that wild backlash made him feel scoured raw.

"I am," Loki agreed. "Now we need to fix the plane and--"

But as he turned, his eyes swept where the tesseract had fallen. Panic filled him instantly -- the tesseract was gone. There was a gaping hole in the floor where it had been. Its bare power, unleashed, was melting through the metal. If he didn't catch it, it would pass all the way through the hull and fall to the ground. He would lose it, forever. "No! I have to catch it before it's gone!"

"Wait, Loki! Let it go!"

Steve grabbed him again, but Loki shoved Steve off and rushed for the hatch. He threw himself down the ladder chute to the bottom, landing roughly. Everything inside him wanted to heave itself free, but he pushed the nausea away, to hurry into the large cargo bay.

"Where is it? Where is it?" He looked around frantically, hoping he'd beaten the tesseract. When he looked upward, he saw the hole where it had come through, and tracking downward saw it had eaten halfway through the floor.

Heedless of what touching it might do to him, he threw himself at it.

Too late.

The last steel between the tesseract and the outer air dissolved into nothingness, and the tesseract fell, as icy wind shot through the narrow hole.

"NO!!!" he howled in fury, slamming a fist into the bulkhead.

The hole was too small for him, but the hole where the mini-bomber had blown up was not, and he launched himself into free fall after the tesseract.

The wind was frigid and the ice beneath him looked unforgiving, but he kept his eyes fixed on the tesseract's bright glow as it landed onto the ice below him. It ate its way into the snow and vanished.

He marked the place by eye, as he landed hard and fast. The force of it smashed all the ice and snow beneath him. There was no land beneath, the ice was a layer only above the sea, as the ice cracked and he plunged into the water.

It was bitterly cold, and so dark he thought he'd gone unconscious from the shock and pain of his landing.

He was sinking.

He opened his eyes turning all around, desperately searching for a bright glow falling into the deep. But the water was freezing and dark as ink. There was no star or sun or tesseract visible anywhere.

No, I lost it. It's down here somewhere and I lost it. It's gone.

He swam, in the direction he thought it might have fallen, and there was still nothing but darkness in every direction. A faint light gave him some hope, but when he swam toward it, he found it was the surface.

His head broke through and he drew in a breath of the frigid air, as the droplets rolled down his face from his wet hair.

I could dive again. It must be under there.

But he knew it was gone. He had been a tiny bit too slow and it had slipped away.

He found a thicker piece of ice to haul himself out of the water and stand on the floating iceberg's edge.

A bright orange light in the sky caught his attention in the west, and his eyes widened. It was the engines of the flying wing at the horizon- the last gasp of their fire as the plane went down.

The full folly of his decision hit him then, worse than the blow when he'd smashed into the ice.

Steve.

He'd left Steve on the plane. He'd left Steve with no choice but to crash it himself. Which of course, Steve had, because he had to stop the plane from dropping its payload of a bomb that would kill millions of people.

And Loki had left him, to dive for a rock that was already at the bottom of the sea.

It was supposed to be him. The one who could survive, the one who was immortal, the one with the blood on his hands -- while the hero should be the one standing on an iceberg waiting for rescue.

Faintly he heard distant groaning of metal and ice, and knew it was the plane sinking beneath the cracked ice. The cockpit was open, the sea pouring in. In a few minutes, if he wasn't already dead from the impact, Steve Rogers would drown or freeze to death.

I killed him. I killed Captain America. With my greed and recklessness and stupidity.

The one who was supposed to show these mortals a new path in the wake of this terrible war is dead; the hero that should have been, now cruelly taken away by a trickster god of the old days who shouldn't even be here.

Why did I come? I meant to help, but all I did turned to death and sorrow and suffering.

He kept watching that place where the plane had gone down until his eyes turned dry as bone. The cold bit at him, but he felt none of it, not even the icy droplets that slid down his cheeks in place of the tears he couldn't shed.

He could wait for the inevitable plane or boats or whatever small human craft would come search, but what was the point? To tell them that Rogers was dead? They knew that already. To tell them Loki was no kind of hero? Well, they should have known that, and they certainly knew it now. There was nothing for him in this Realm and all its mortal death.

He was too tired to use his own paths, so that meant it was time. He stripped off his own shroud of invisibility, tattered as it was, and said the words, not loudly, but hopefully loud enough to get his attention if the Watcher was there. "Heimdall. I'm ready. Open the Bifrost. It's time to go home."

Home to his father's anger, no doubt. But Loki didn't care about that. Whatever Odin did made no matter, compared to the knowledge of what Loki had done. What he'd allowed to happen.

He was still a little surprised when he felt the power build above him. But it was a relief when the Bifrost opened and snatched him away.




To the epilogue