Chapter 6: Just talk…
When he felt presence again Loki refused to open his eyes, or to move from his curled position. He knew where he was, what waited. He just refused to acknowledge that it was actually happening, again. Asgard was supposed to finally be safe…. To be a haven from them. They weren't supposed to get to him there. He let out shaky breaths.
"Now, now… where did your pride go? There is no need to be afraid…. Not yet."
The Other's voice, he had learned to know it blindly once. There had been a day when they had taken him from Jotunheim. Then they had dripped a stinking acid in his open eyes. It had burned and burned and they hadn't allowed him to close his eyes again until his sight had been completely burned away. It had taken days to heal, weeks maybe, he couldn't tell light from dark that time. The memory made his heart pound again. The hopeless darkness, relying on just his other senses for what they were worth. He bit on his lip, never again. He wouldn't go through it again. He pushed the fear inside back and sat up from the ground, he was in control now. He eyed the creature with the deepest hatred he could find. Fury was the easiest way to cover for fear. And fear was there, because if they could get to him in Asgard than there would be no place where they couldn't get to him. It meant he would never be safe from them and he hated not having a solution for problems.
"There you are. We have some talking to do…" the Other said with a smile as filthy as its teeth.
"You never talk. " he hissed. "You threaten and you hurt, never talk."
He crouched together in an attempt to cover his weak spots, his vital organs, the places that would hurt the most. It was useless, but instinctive. If the Chitauri planned on hurting him they would, simple as that. It had been that simple from the start and he didn't see why it would have changed. The creature snorted, gripping a nearby rock almost compulsively.
"How unkind of you. If you just say what we would like you to say then why would we hurt you? Don't you find that illogical?"
The grin widened. Loki wished to smash its teeth out and make sure it couldn't ever grin or smile again. But he held no such ability so he just gave it the darkest look the trickster had ever given and willed the Other dead in silence.
"Then talk…" he spoke with angered voice.
The anger boiling inside was driven by utter hopelessness, he was angry with himself for being so powerless, for being so weak. Like when his father reprimanded him as a child, when all of Asgard mocked his children, including his own brother. If that anger would snap inside, he would lash out, murder, do irrational things that scared even himself. It came with the most horrid consequences, the death of Baldur, nearly killing Thor, madness. But this, this was even worse. Because even lashing out would not help him, would not change anything. The Chitauri could shield themselves from his magic, cast it back at him even. He held no power to them. The Other kneaded the rock under its hands as it started to speak.
"We gave you back to your family. We lifted the shrouding spells that left you untraceable for them. We would like you to pay for this kind gesture… with a gift of Asgard."
Loki narrowed his eyes. They had allowed him to be found. That was why nobody had come before, not after falling into the void, not after escaping. They couldn't find him. While he squirmed in pain, Odin Allfather, the almighty king of Asgard could only watch and do nothing. He had been powerless. That was why things were kept quiet, admitting that Loki could not be found was admitting that something mastered magic better than his.
"All I will ever bring you from Asgard is its executioner to grand you a quick death." he spat to the Other.
The grin faded from its eyeless face. They had needed him for the Tesseract, he knew it was what they wanted, they would let him back to Asgard so he would be near it to retrieve it for them. But this time, this time they could try their worst, he would not get it for them. His mind could shatter into so many pieces that it would never mend again but he would not give Asgard's most powerful weapon to these filthy rats.
"Some words from Asgard's little prince…" the Other sneered, clearly not impressed.
Loki watched as it moved to stand in front of him. These things didn't deserve the Tesseract, didn't deserve a living body, a sun to warm their twisted ugly faces on. They deserved only the deepest darkness of a god-forgotten corner of Hell.
"You ruined it yourselves." he breathed angrily. "You can forget the Tesseract because you will never gaze on it again!"
The Other bent over, face inches away from him.
"We gave you an army."
"You gave me nothing. That army wasn't mine. I wasn't 'fit' to lead it for you until you had almost broken me to a puppet. Only to get you that damned cube!"
The echo died away into the emptiness around them, this abandoned rocky planet.
"You fed off my grudges for your own good. But once you let Thor get me back, you lost." he sounded a lot more determined than he actually felt. "All you may have is war. And you will lose again like on Midgard. But this time we will not leave a soul alive."
Wishful thinking, but he would do anything to make it the truth, if he could.
"We will break you again." The smug mask of the Other twisted to a sadistic grin. "We will take your soul and rip it apart, destroy your body, we will make you a puppet again! But this time you will end like no more than a broken doll. Your mind will be nothing! You will be nothing!"
Loki's lips thinned and staring back coldly became hard. Because how could he not remember how long it had taken to piece the little bits of will he had together again on Midgard. To find courage to decide for himself again, it had taken much longer than the physical wounds. His skin had mended long before that. He had endured it on Jotunheim for it seemed useless, they had wanted nothing of him to make the burning stop.
"We can see to it that you will not even recognize your family, that you can't discern friend from foe. You will know only pain and learn to be obedient to those that hurt you like an animal. You will murder your family without remorse for you will not recognize their faces even as they lay dying." the words cut deep inside him, the stinking breath brushed over his face. He felt sickened, the way it spoke of these things, so genuine. It enjoyed knowing that it was true, that it could make its words truth. The darkest corner of his mind opened to him and whispered a solution. He would get them their Tesseract, he would have their greed be their downfall. He would put hell, destruction and death in the illusion of their precious weapon and it would wipe the Chitauri from the universe. Justice served, and they would be lucky with such swift deaths. His eyes darkened with near madness. So it would be done.
"I don't believe you…" he said with a feigned wince.
He put just enough of a shiver in his words to give the Other the idea that his fašade was crumbling. It greedily picked up on the fear it thought to sense.
"Surely you must know by now what we are capable of… You never had a choice."
It grabbed a fine long needle from its garments.
"But if you wish I could give you proof."
He eyed the steel as it moved to nudge against his jugular.
"No." he breathed nervously. "I wish you to die as slowly and painfully as one can."
He took a breath to threaten it more but choked on it as a sharp pain ripped through his stomach. His eyes widened as he crawled backwards instinctively. The Other twisted it once, pushing it deeper into his flesh. Loki let out chokes and gasps, his muscles pulled at the lean needle frantically, his magic flooded to it to push it out. The Other stepped away contently. Loki whimpered as his fingers found the cool steel and jerked it out of the wound. His breaths were too shaky, too shallow to satisfy his lungs. His soul was much more sensitive to pain than his body back on Asgard. His body had hardened in the experience of it, his soul was based on more basic senses. It was like standing near fire without clothes, it scorched much more easily.
"Bring us the Tesseract. Be wise."
"Never!" he clenched his hand around the puncture wound, despite the pain he had to play this right, he couldn't let them have suspicions.
"You would have more of this? You would let us rip that skin until you have none left? Would you really have your mind and body broken for a weapon you care not for?"
He sat up straight again, ignoring the sharp sear it caused.
"I care not for the Tesseract. I merely have a problem with the fact that you want it. You deserve not even a glance on it. You are not worth it."
"How foolish Asgardian. You will reconsider. I will show you my good will. You get three days to contemplate. Make a wise decision for I will not have patience forever!"
Its hand struck him hard in his face. As he fell back the world around him imploded on him. His ears rang with a high pitched screech that seemed to come from his skull. It split his skull as unbearable as it was. He could not breath and he would suffocate if he didn't inhale air anytime soon. But he couldn't find how. How did one breathe? He felt a sudden warmth reach him, it was a hand on his shoulder, gently but desperately shaking his body. He remembered, his eyes snapped open, still blind and he inhaled life to his body with a deep suck of air.
"Loki! Come on."
Thor's voice echoed through the fading screeching. His soul slowly knitted to his body again, light flooded back to his eyes as he blinked several times. Thor's hand shifted from his shoulder to his back to help him roll on his side.
"Your bleeding. I will get a healer. Don't move." he sounded panicked.
"Thor?" he mumbled.
His ears finally stopped ringing and the blurs started to fade from his eyes.
"No healer…" he spoke hoarsely.
His throat was dry and ragged. Thor turned around and walked back as he heard Loki talk, kneeling in front of him again.
"No healer? But you are wounded, there's blood all over you!"
He managed to get up on his elbow.
"It's only a small injury." he tried to sound ensuring but his voice was still hoarse and he burst out coughing. "Just get me out of the hall."
Thor nodded and grabbed his arm by the wrist. His other hand secured behind his back as Thor pulled him up. He barely managed to stand on his feet and winced at the ache in his stomach. Thor all but dragged him the last few feet to his room and pushed the door open. He helped Loki move to his bed and lowered him there. He crashed down on it on his back and only barely made the effort to pull his legs on the matrass as well. He saw Thor leave his vision for a short moment before returning to hover over him.
"What happened? Did Sif attack you?"
He felt Thor's fingers tug at the buttons of his vest frantically. His hand was heavy as he brushed them away.
"I'm fine. It's not a large wound Thor." he didn't answer his brother's questions with that.
He pushed himself up against the pillow with his elbow and looked at Thor's face, he was clearly worried, eyeing the darker stain on his vest with sorry eyes.
Loki avoided his gaze again and undid the buttons himself. The tunic under it was stained brown-red with blood across his stomach. It was wet and warm and stuck to his chest. Thor seemed to twitch at the sight, protectiveness renewed.
"I never saw anybody in the hallway. I just heard you scream and I saw all the blood and I… I was afraid when you didn't breathe….." his blue eyes filled with tears. "What happened?"
Loki stretched a hand to comfort Thor, swallowing around the lump in his throat.
"Don't cry I'm fine. It just looks bad. I…." he couldn't say he never saw the person either, the wound in his stomach proved that his attacker was facing him when stabbing him. He slipped his hand of Thor's leaving a bloody smear on it. His brother looked at it with a sense of horror before wiping it on his trousers. Loki stalled from giving an explanation, pulling the lace of his tunic loose slower than necessary while going by scenarios that were even remotely possible. Telling the truth was far from an option. He knew that if he told of the Chitauri and their threats they would lock away the Tesseract to somewhere safe. And somewhere safe meant out of reach. And he knew that he would suffer consequences for that. But then who could he blame? Who could he accuse of an attack on his life without placing the death sentence on them? He threw off the vest and tunic. Thor held out a wet cloth he had picked up when he brought him in. His eyes were still asking him an explanation.
"There was nobody. Not now."
He carefully wiped the blood from his skin leaving only the red speck that was the actual wound.
"Nobody? But how then? You weren't wounded when the Bifrost brought you in. That wound looks fresh."
Loki stared at the puncture, red rimmed and bruised around the edges from the force of the Other's fist, it was barely a millimetre across, if he put a finger over it, the wound was gone, and yet it had cost him little short of a litre of blood.
"It's because I'm exhausted Thor…"
He said, his mind putting little puzzle pieces of his lie together for him if Thor would ask for any of it.
"I'm having trouble maintaining magic."
Which was not too far from truth. He felt the jotun under his skin lurking closely, if he hadn't been controlling it for centuries without even knowing than he would have already been a lot more blue. But he had enough strength left inside to pull off healing spells and the like.
"Maintaining magic? What does that have to do with this?"
Thor looked so utterly confused that his entire forehead was crooked in a frown. Loki put the cloth that was now a bloody pink on the bedside table. The bleeding had stopped and he was clean enough to prevent infection.
"It's come to a point where recent healing spells falter and give, so the wounds return to heal normally. When there are a lot of these injuries one could die from the sudden amount. But, this was the only one, a jotun hunter got me less than a month ago."
Thor looked absolutely horrified, he stood up and grabbed the cloth.
"You mean that you are so tired that your magic just gives up on you?"
He sounded hoarse. Too keen to stay by Loki's side he threw the small cloth back towards the bathroom to properly put it away again later.
The younger nodded.
"Yes, basically. I should have realized it sooner but…. Well I miscalculated."
Thor's eyes screamed pity at him, and Loki felt guilty because he was lying. He knew however, if he told him what really happened it would even be ten times worse, combined with his rage for revenge much like with the jotuns.
"Then you must sleep." Thor said sternly. "Everything else can wait, I will not have you get worse than this."
His face was grave and determined, Loki couldn't even bring himself to argue.
"Thank you." he whispered.
Thor looked at the small wound that was perfectly centred in the middle of his brother's stomach.
"Will you need a bandage for it?" Thor asked doubtfully, his knowledge of wounds was very below standards.
Loki shook his head silently. Thor looked at the red stain in the sheets where Loki had collapsed when they came in.
"Are you sure?"
He nodded with a thin smile.
"It looked worse than it was Thor."
He grabbed his tunic from the other side of the bed and made to put it on.
"You can't wear that now." Thor protested.
Loki arched an eyebrow.
"But that stain is far from clean, you might get an infection, you might get sick."
Loki shivered. A jotun, he spent more than a year on Jotunheim and now he was cold. The fatigue and blood loss did that to him.
"Just take this." Thor grabbed a long sleeved shirt from his own closet. It was black, laced down half the chest to be worn casually, golden loop rings in the fabric for the cords, golden clasps around the tips as well. It was suitable.
"I hate it, it's too small, too narrow. You may have it, I will have this washed for you. We should get you to your room."
Loki quietly put the shirt over his head, trying not to rip the wound open again. He pulled it a few times to have it shape around him better. He stood up and gave Thor a nod that it was all good and he stepped out. The first thing he saw out in the hallway was the small pool of blood against the left wall. His blood. Thor followed his eyes and nudged him to go on.
"I really wouldn't do that to yourself right now." he whispered.
The wind outside blew in through the open slits of the windows to their right. It sent cool late afternoon air in. With it came the smell of food. The cooks had started cooking for the evening. It smelled so good. His stomach suddenly growled like a wild animal. It begged to be given a share of whatever smelled so damn good.
"Oh wow…." Thor sighed. "Are you hungry?"
Loki laughed, knowing that around Thor he didn't have to be embarrassed of it.
"Well yes, the last thing I had to eat was a spider, a month ago, and I am pretty sure it was poisonous. There was something about the taste of it. Never got sick though…"
He pushed the door to his room open and crashed on his bed, a bit too roughly, he thought when he felt a warm trickle of blood in his shirt. Thor smiled at him.
"I'll get you something to eat when you are well rested."
"You may want to tell the kitchen personnel that first. Because I could eat more than Volstagg at the moment."
"I don't think there is such a thing as hungrier than Volstagg." Thor mused out loud.
Loki kicked his boots off and rolled on his back, he was too tired to even crawl under the blankets.
"Do you need anything?"
Loki lifted his head just enough to see Thor staring at him awkwardly.
"Or should I just go…"
"I'm good. I bet you have better things to do than run around crazy to help me."
"Then I should just…" Thor gestured at the door. "Sleep well."
He grabbed the doorknob and then turned around again.
"I'll make sure nobody will disturb you as you sleep." He assured him.
"Well, thank you." Loki decided to get under the blankets now that he could momentarily muster the energy to do so.
"One more thing…"
Loki groaned at Thor as he turned around again.
"What is it?"
"Must I tell father and mother of you? They would want to know, and I rather tell them myself than have Sif confront them."
"You might as well, it's not a secret anymore since Heimdall, Sif and Volstagg know."
"Volstagg? Him too?"
"Yes, Sif made the revelation for me. He was a bit too mind-blown to think anything of it though."
"Oh, well…. Then I'll just tell them. Sleep well…." Thor finally shuffled out of the door slowly.
Loki watched the door fall back in its place slowly as Thor disappeared and let out a heavy sigh. His trousers were uncomfortable under the sheets, too tight and warm. He struggled to get them off without moving too much under the blankets and threw them away to the corner of the room. He listened to Thor's footsteps moving away from his room and shut his eyes, the sunlight still shone through them in bright orange. He reached out into the room with his magic and pulled the curtains in front of the windows, immediately it darkened before his eyes. The adrenaline rush that came with the wound and tension was gone and the fatigue weighed down doubly as heavy. Now that he was ease he felt the wound pulse and ache continuously. He slipped his hand under his shirt and probed until his fingers found the deep puncture. The length of the wound reached at least half way into his body. The magic under his skin flooded towards it, ready to be used when called upon it. He let it knit the ripped vessel and tissue slowly, too fast made for ugly scars that would stay weak for at least a month. The pain faded as his flesh pulled together again. Now he could at least sleep easily, no worries of ripping the tender flesh open again in his dreams. Sleep easily, not when he knew that the Chitauri could come for his soul whenever they pleased. Loki shook his head, pulling his legs to his chest. They had promised him three days, and thinking like that would leave him restless. He relaxed his muscles and dug his face in the pillow. It felt comforting to have the material under him actually give way. He let out a content sigh and wrapped the blankets around him like a cocoon. Exhaustion folded darkness around him and left his mind hazy. It promised a dreamless sleep, rest, ease, comfort. And he knew this time as he felt the small booklet under his head and pillow that the feeling of his bed was no illusion. That it would still be there as he woke up again. Within five minutes sleep had drowned his senses and the world was forgotten….