Date Finished: 5/4/2022

Rating: R

Keywords: Pregnant Loki, Female Loki, Doctor Strange/Loki

Spoilers: Thor: Ragnarok, Infinity War, maybe some for Endgame, but not really.

Disclaimer: These versions of these characters are probably unrecognizable to anyone who knows the canon better than me, but they still belong to Marvel and Stan Lee. Any elements taken from the original mythology technically belongs to no one and everyone.

Summary: Thor returns to Asgard after the battle of Sokovia to find Loki occupying the throne. As a Queen. A very beautiful, very pregnant Queen. It's a long story...

Author's Notes: This was swirling in my head since I recapped the first Avengers movie and it solidified a few days after seeing Ragnarok. I am not at all well versed in this canon and this is my first MCU story, so apologies for all the things I will no doubt get wrong. I'm learning.

Destiny - Part 3
by Diandra Hollman

Tony Stark hadn't heard the name Stephen Strange since college. They had never really crossed paths then - although they had probably attended some of the same parties - but neither of them had ever been much for going unnoticed. Tony had seen his name on the list of people SHIELD considered a possible "weapon" to be monitored, but he hadn't paid much attention to it. So he was still surprised when a portal opened in front of him while he and Pepper were out jogging one morning and a bizarrely dressed Stephen had hastily introduced himself and implored him to help save the universe.

Having seem more than his fair share of craziness in recent years, Tony followed him through the portal without a second thought to anything but the fact that he was ditching Pepper before they had finished their run. She had understood and given her blessing though, as always.

"So you're a wizard now," Tony said as he took in the eccentric mansion Stephen led him into.

"Master of the Mystic Arts," Stephen corrected.

"That's what I said. A magician."

Stephen sighed inwardly. "It's not really magic."

"Still would've gotten you burned at the stake 500 years ago. Sorry, you said something about the fate of the universe being at stake?"


Tony spun toward the familiar voice, startled by the sudden, unexpected presence in the room. "Bruce? Where the hell have you been?"

"It's a long story," Bruce said, embracing his friend. "Thor brought me back."

"Thor? You were on Asgard when it was destroyed?" He had heard about the settlement of refugees from Asgard on Earth, but he only knew what had been in the news.

Bruce flinched. "Yeah. I've been helping with the resettlement. And..." he glanced at Stephen, debating how much detail he should go into all at once "doing some genetic testing for the royal family."

Tony followed his gaze, eyeing Stephen. "And now you're helping a wizard save the universe?"

"You remember when Loki attacked Manhattan?"

A muscle in Tony's face twitched. "Of course I remember."

"You remember how Thor kept saying it wasn't the kind of thing Loki would do? That someone else must have been behind it? Well, it turns out he was right. That someone else is coming and he is a bigger threat than we have ever faced."

Tony straightened, squaring his shoulders. "Okay, I'm listening."

Bruce nodded to Stephen, who called "okay, you can come out now" over his shoulder.

Stephen kept his eyes on Tony as Loki entered the room. He had known Tony would not react well to seeing the god again no matter how well prepared he was, but he hadn't anticipated the speed of Tony's reaction.

Tony's face barely registered his shock before he tapped the arc reactor in his chest and his suit seemed to flow out of it to cover him, ignoring Bruce's pleas for him to calm down. Stephen stepped in front of Loki, conjuring shields and bracing himself for impact as Tony aimed a blaster at him.

"What do you want," Tony sneered. "What have you done to them?"

It took Stephen a moment to realize he was speaking to Loki. "He isn't controlling us," he said firmly. "Stand down, Stark."

"Tony, please," Bruce repeated helplessly.

Loki placed a gentle hand on Stephen's back. "It's all right," he said softly. "He can't hurt me. Step aside."

"He can't kill you," Stephen corrected. "He *won't* hurt me."

"I am not as convinced of that as you. If he hurts you, I may have to kill him and that might ruin our chances of defeating Thanos."

"What the hell is he talking about," Tony demanded.

"This is what I was trying to tell you," Bruce said placatingly. "Thanos. He was behind the Chitauri attack. He's coming and if we don't do something a whole lot of people are going to die."

Realizing that Tony was unlikely to shoot and was simply pointing his blaster at them in self defense, Stephen lowered his shields. "Show him what you showed me," he prompted.

Loki stepped cautiously closer to Tony. Tony pointed the blaster toward him. "That's close enough."

"I assure you I mean you no harm, but I really do need to come closer for this to work."

"It's okay," Bruce added. "He just needs to show you his memories of Thanos. What happened before the attack on New York."

Tony didn't move for several more seconds. His instincts warned him this could still be a trap. Loki had tried to take over his mind before - turn him against the rest of the team. But Bruce and Stephen both looked lucid and the closer Loki came, the more he realized that this didn't look like the same psychopath who had thrown him from the tower. He looked weary, broken...almost traumatized. Was it possible he had been controlled by someone else when he attacked Earth just as he had controlled Barton and Selvig?

The nanobots forming Tony's helmet retreated at his command, though the rest of the Iron Man suit remained. He lowered his arm, deactivating the blaster.

Loki approached him slowly, holding his hands up in a non-threatening gesture. "I just need to touch you for a moment," he warned.

Tony looked to Bruce for reassurance. Bruce nodded. 'Let him,' his eyes silently pleaded.

Tony stood tense, ready to fight if he needed to, while Loki pressed careful fingers to both of his temples. And then suddenly thoughts and images were flooding his mind. A strange alien with no nose hissing threats and driving large needles into him until he screamed. No, not him. Loki. He was seeing through Loki's eyes, feeling his pain and helpless terror.

A purple giant was talking about Infinity Stones and vowing to not only end Loki's pain, but give him anything he wanted if he would agree to help retrieve them. Starting with the one being held in a laboratory on Earth.

More pain. Stretched out over a seemingly infinite amount of time. So generalized that Tony couldn't tell where it was originating from. Increasing until Loki broke and cried for mercy.

The cascade stopped just as suddenly as it had started and Loki backed away, allowing Tony to crash to his knees, gasping. Bruce rushed to his side, steadying him.

Tony looked up to see Stephen fretting over Loki a few feet away, cradling his face and murmuring softly. Loki nodded and covered the doctor's hands with his own gently, sparing a glance at Tony. A sort of understanding passed between them as their eyes met. Loki was not innocent, but he was also not a monster. And for as long as they shared a common enemy, at least, he would be their ally.

"Okay," Tony panted. "What do we know about this Thanos?"


Stephen found Loki hovering beside Hela's crib, just staring at her as she slept peacefully. He wrapped an arm around the god's thin waist and pressed against his side.

"Can't sleep either?"

"I forgot about the naming customs of your world."

Stephen sighed. Honestly, he hadn't given it much consideration to her full name himself until Stark had asked with such obvious amusement if they were seriously naming her Hela Strange. "It's archaic. She doesn't have to take MY name."

Loki glanced at him, but returned his gaze to Hela. "Lokisdottir," he murmured. He shook his head. "It doesn't matter what we call her now. She will be Odinsdottir soon enough."

Stephen squeezed his arm around Loki gently. "It's just a name. She grew inside you. She will always be yours."

"Ours," Loki corrected.

"Well, as you once pointed out, my part was pretty limited."

Loki winced. "I...I was wrong to try to do this alone. I was wrong to do any of it."

"Hey..." Stephen reached his free hand to turn Loki's face toward him until their eyes met. "I have a lot of regrets in my life, but this? This isn't one of them."

Loki leaned into the human's touch, brushing the scarred palm with his lips. "He will come for you."

"I know."

Loki straightened suddenly and grabbed Stephen's wrist, dragging him from the nursery with an abrupt "come. I need to show you how you can hide the time stone."

Stephen didn't resist being dragged from the room, but he protested at Loki's words. "It's safer with me. I found a spell to prevent anyone taking it from me..."

"That's not enough," Loki interrupted. "It needs to be hidden somewhere only you can access." He held out his right hand, palm up, and a glowing blue cube appeared on it. "Like this," he finished.

Stephen reeled back at the sight of the Tesseract. "Is that..."

"The space stone. I took it from the palace vaults before Asgard was destroyed. I used it to escape."

Questions raced through Stephen's mind, but the first one he gave voice to was "does Thor know about this?"

"No. He believes it to be lost in the burning remains of our world. But as Thanos excels in finding what is lost and the stone cannot be destroyed..." He cast the spell to return it to the pocket universe where he had hidden it. "Hiding it is safer than allowing him to find it."

"He could just torture you into revealing it," Stephen noted with horror.

"I have no doubt he will. Just as I fear he will do the same to you. But I know you would not let anyone else bear the burden of the time stone for you." He sensed Stephen was about to protest and continued before he had a chance. "I know you swore we would face this together, but I think it would be best if we didn't. We may make a formidable force together, but we are also each other's greatest weaknesses."

Stephen's argument caught behind his teeth and he practically growled in frustration. Loki was right. He had been driven half mad by his inability to spare Lorelei's suffering during Hela's birth. He had threatened Stark with bodily harm if he harmed Loki. Thanos could easily force him to hand over the time stone by doing just a fraction of what he had already seen him capable of in Loki's memories.

Loki cupped Stephen's face between his palms as he kissed him softly. "Please," he whispered.

Stephen nodded and pressed their foreheads together, squeezing his eyes closed and taking shuddering breaths, trying to force the memory of his lover's pained screams from his mind. "Stick to the plan," he murmured.

Loki, guarded by some remaining Asgard warriors, his brother and Dr. Banner, would take a ship to intercept Thanos. He would play the part of a prisoner - a traitor - and offer to help Thanos find the remaining stones in exchange for his freedom. It was a hail Mary plan at best, but given Loki's history with the Titan and talent for trickery it was their best chance.

Loki's lips twitched in something that might have been a smile.

"Okay," Stephen said. "Teach me."


Thor found Loki in a quiet corner of the ship, gazing out of a window at the distant stars.

"We were always warned against forming attachments with the humans," Loki murmured by way of greeting. "We were told our biology was incompatible, reproduction impossible. I suppose I understand why now. Odin hoped to avoid another Hela."

"You know that's not the reason relationships between Aesir and humans are discouraged," Thor rumbled. "You tried to warn me with Jane. Their lives are so short, they believed us to be gods. Our worlds are too different."

"*Our* world no longer exists."

Thor sighed. "The truth is...I broke up with Jane because I am a coward."

Loki turned to his brother, certain he must have misheard. Thor waved a hand in warning before he could interrupt.

"Humans are fragile. When we nearly lost Jane to the Aether, I was reminded of that. I realized I couldn't bear it if I were the reason her already too-short life was made even shorter. And even after I knew she was safe, I dreaded the thought of having to face her mortality again. I didn't want to put her at any more risk. Nor did I want to watch her wither and die of age."

"What sort of monster you must believe me to be," Loki said quietly after a long pause.

Thor smiled weakly. "Loving someone is never monstrous."

Loki turned back to the window. "He would be better off without me."

"Are you certain of that?"

Before Loki could respond, he noticed movement outside the window. Another ship - an all too familiar ship - was moving toward theirs. All the fear he had been suppressing knotted tightly in his stomach. "He's here."


"I'm going for a sandwich. Can I get you anything?"

Stephen looked up at Wong, hovering in the doorway of the nursery. "No thanks, I'm not hungry."

"You have to eat something."

"I will."

Wong waited another moment, then shrugged and left.

He was almost to the front door of the sanctum when a meteor crashed through the ceiling over the main entrance, obliterating part of the grand staircase. Stephen was beside him in the next instant - casual street clothes already replaced by the robes he had come to think of as his uniform - and together they peered into the crater to find Bruce Banner prying himself from the rubble and regaining his bearings.

"He's coming!"

"What happened," Stephen asked, already dreading the answer. The look on Bruce's face as he and Wong helped him from the crater confirmed his fears. The plan had failed spectacularly.

"He sent his army in first, before we could try any negotiation. It's a little fuzzy after that, but I saw the ark explode after Heimdall sent me back."

Thor. Loki. The strongest warriors the Asgardians could spare. All dead.

Deep down, Stephen had known it was inevitable, unchangeable. And he knew what needed to happen next.

He conjured some clothes for Bruce and thrust them in his hands. "Call Stark," he said numbly. The order wasn't really directed at either of the men beside him. He didn't particularly care which of them followed the instruction. He was already focused on the task he had been dreading since Lorelei had returned from Asgard.

He felt Wong reach for him, but brushed him away. He was halfway to the nursery when Bruce's voice reached him. "We don't know he's dead!"

Stephen didn't even pause in his stride. He did know. He gathered Hela and the Eye of Agomotto. He wrapped the infant tightly in her blanket and managed to one-handedly open a portal to the cliff in Norway where Odin had awaited his children months - a lifetime - ago.

Wong appeared in the doorway to the nursery before he could step through, but made no move to stop him. When their eyes met, he simply clenched his jaw and nodded minutely - as if he were giving Stephen permission to do what he had to. Stephen nodded back, clutched his daughter to his chest and stepped through the portal before the tears finally broke free and spilled down his face.

He stayed in the present for a while, kneeling on the grassy cliff, crying silently so he didn't alarm the infant. He didn't protest this time when the cloak bent to wipe away his tears and tightened around his shoulders in its best approximation of a hug. He couldn't stop thinking about all the times Dormammu had blown him apart. His body tearing to pieces so suddenly that he almost didn't have time to register the pain. Almost. Had Loki been conscious when the ship exploded?

When he had composed himself again, Stephen set the infant down on the grass so he could open the Eye of Agomotto and activate the time stone. With one hand on Hela, he turned time backward to the day she would come to know as her birthday.

The Bronze Age farmers were suspicious of the man in strange clothing speaking a strange tongue who stumbled upon their village. But they could see his obvious distress and concern for the child he had brought with him. They offered him food and shelter. After he had sent up the magical equivalent of a signal flare - a message to Heimdall's predecessor that Odin's presence was requested at his location - Stephen accepted their hospitality.

Night fell and Stephen waited until he was reasonably certain all the villagers were asleep before he returned to the cliff. He had researched Hela's history exhaustively once Bruce had confirmed her identity, trying to understand how Odin had come to find her, but he could find nothing contradicting the story that she truly was Odin and Frigga's child even though there was no accompanying evidence of Frigga having been pregnant. He had finally found an explanation in a collection of nearly forgotten Norse myths: a story about a strange man in strange clothing speaking a strange foreign tongue appearing in a village in what would one day be Norway carrying a child. The villagers took him in, even though it was clear to them that he was running from some unspeakable danger they could not understand. They sent for a doctor, but as the closest one was a day away, he arrived too late. When they woke the next morning, both the man and the child were gone and the intricate symbol that always accompanied visits from the gods was found burned in the ground by the cliff. The meaning of this was probably hotly debated for months or years afterward, but over time it became little more than a footnote in history.

Stephen waited for Odin, telling Hela stories she couldn't possibly understand and singing lullabies she wouldn't remember to pass the time. He was most of the way through the story of Loki, the Asgardian Prince who started out a villain but became a hero when the bifrost touched down. He stood and faced Odin, prepared to give the speech he had planned, but his words died when Odin's eyes narrowed and he spoke in a language Stephen didn't recognize.

'Of course,' he thought. 'Allspeak doesn't cover languages that don't exist yet.' Odin probably never mentioned this incident because he couldn't explain how a man clearly not of this world had somehow deliberately chosen him to bequeath his infant child to. How did he explain finding Hela to Frigga? The same way he explained finding Loki centuries later?

It didn't matter. Stephen could tell Odin anything and everything and he wouldn't understand the words. But maybe he could grasp their meaning.

Stephen abandoned his speech and spoke from the heart - as one father to another.

"This won't make any sense to you now...in fact, I don't know if it ever will...but this is your granddaughter. Her mother...your son..." the words caught in his throat for a moment. "She is all that I have left of him. And even though I know this means I will never be a part of her life, it also means that she will have more of a life than I can give her and she will never have to face...the horror that is coming for us now. Please..." he held the stirring infant out to the Asgardian king. "Allfather...take her."

Odin didn't understand a word the bizarre human was saying, but he was clearly distraught. He feared the child was some sort of sacrifice, but it didn't look like any sort of normal human ritual. 

As the child was pressed into his arms, the human kept saying the same word over and over. Hela. Hela. Then, once Odin had the infant securely in his arms, the man stepped back, made gestures similar to ones he had seen his wife make on occasion, and disappeared.

He blinked down at the infant - a girl, swaddled in fabrics that were unfamiliar even by Asgardian standards. "Hela," he murmured.


For a blissful moment as Stephen regained consciousness he didn't remember where he was. Then he opened his eyes.

Right. Ebony Maw. The sadist from Loki's memories had taken him captive.

He had arrived back in present day New York to find Tony had joined Bruce and Wong. Tony was midway through an apology that he still couldn't get through to Steve Rogers when the unmistakable sounds of an attack began to drift in from the street.

Thanos had once again sent one of his minions to retrieve a stone for him.

They had fought and lost. The last thing Stephen heard as Ebony Maw strangled him into unconsciousness was a hissed promise that death would be a mercy compared to what the sadist had in store.

And now he was hovering helplessly in mid-air, surrounded by dozens of needles all poised to impale him. Like an Iron Maiden without the coffin shielding the torturer from the sight of the victim's gruesome end.

The sadist was apparently just waiting for him to wake up as he began rambling the second Stephen opened his eyes about his devotion to Thanos and his plan to deliver the time stone to him without Stephen's "vaguely irritating person" still attached to it.

Stephen's breathing grew shallow as one of the needles began to slowly drill into his cheek. Pain bloomed across his face but he stubbornly swallowed the cries crawling up his throat, grunting with the effort. He couldn't give the sadist the satisfaction of screaming. He couldn't...

A second needle drove into his other cheek and he barely stifled a yelp.

"Painful, aren't they," Ebony Maw practically cooed. "They were originally designed for micro-surgery."

'Oh, god, this is it,' Stephen thought feverishly. 'This is how I'm going to die.' If he could hold out, maybe he could at least stop Thanos. The protection spell he'd cast on the stone made removing it from his body impossible, regardless of whether he was dead or alive. One more death to save billions of lives. But he couldn't use the time stone to save himself this time. This death would be final.

A sudden movement behind Ebony Maw caught Stephen's attention through the haze of pain. He had just enough time to register Tony Stark's voice and the fact that he was standing on the bridge of a spaceship before Tony blasted the nearest wall and Stephen was sucked into the vacuum along with Thanos' minion.

The next few seconds were a blur he couldn't really process, but he felt something catch him and sling him back across the floor of the ship.

"You're okay, Doc," a voice said from a distance. No. From beside him. Tony was crouched over him, pressing on his shoulder. "I know" he added and Stephen realized belatedly that he was whimpering. He tamped down the noise, but could do nothing about the full body trembling and tears that erupted from him. He had thought he had grown numb to such feelings after his experience with Dormammu, but at least then he had been in control. And after the first thirty or so deaths, he had stopped fearing the temporary oblivion before the time loop restarted, confident that it would only be temporary.1

"Is he okay, Mr. Stark," a young voice asked.

"Just give him a minute."

The cloak inserted itself beneath his head and Tony's steady hand rubbed comforting circles in his shoulder. It helped. But he needed to stop this. He needed to get up.

"No you don't, just lay still a minute," Tony said and Stephen realized he must have said that out loud.

"Can you get us home, Mr. Stark," the kid asked.

Tony sighed and his hand stilled on Stephen's arm. "The ship is on a pre-programmed course. Even if I could hack it...I'm not so sure turning around is a good idea."

Stephen pulled himself upright. "He was meeting Thanos," he mumbled. "We can't bring the stone to Thanos."

"If we turn around he'll just follow us all the way back to Earth. He's coming after the stone either way. You saw what they did. What they can do. Maybe if we take this to him we can minimize the damage. He won't expect us to confront him on his own turf."

There was a logic to Tony's argument. All Stephen was doing was delaying the inevitable. Thanos would keep coming after the stone. Staying away from Earth might minimize some of the collateral damage.

Stephen finally focused on the teenager hovering beside them, looking uncertain. "How old are you?"

The kid startled a little "Uh...eighteen," he said in a cracking adolescent voice.

Stephen stared at him incredulously.


"Jesus, Stark," Stephen groaned.

"I know, he's young, but he's one of ours. He's an Avenger. And that little plan to save your life just now was his idea."

The kid stared at Tony, wide eyed, for a moment. Then he composed himself, cleared his throat, and held out his hand to Stephen. "I'm Peter Parker."


"For what it's worth, I'm sorry about your daughter," Tony said later when he grew bored of watching the ship move along its plotted course and went to find Stephen where he had retreated into a quiet corner. "And Loki," he added as an afterthought. "I mean...he did try to kill me. He killed a lot of people. And from what I understand, so did she. But I know how much they meant to you."

Stephen's gaze met Tony's briefly before sliding away. "I ran through so many possible scenarios, looking for a way to prevent this. But every one ended up here eventually. Thanos was always going to come after us. Anything I tried to do to hold on to them just delayed the inevitable." He took a deep breath and faced Tony. "I will do my best to prevent Thanos from taking the time stone, but I doubt it will be enough."

"Hey..." Tony gripped his shoulder again, his eyes penetrating, his face determined. "I got your back. Whatever happens next...you won't have to face it alone."

'You are no stronger than I am,' Stephen thought. 'He will kill us both.' But he just smiled weakly and said "I know. Thank you."

"Mr. Stark," Peter yelped, running past them to the bridge and gawking at the planet looming into view just outside.

Tony and Stephen joined him as the planet drew closer. They were approaching at alarming speed.

"Shouldn't we be slowing down?"

"I don't think this rig has a self park function," Tony said, scanning the controls and running over some quick logistics in his head. It was designed to be flown by a giant. "Here, kid, put your hand inside that steering gimball," he instructed, doing likewise with the opposite gimball. "We're going to have to land it ourselves."

Hours earlier

If he was honest with himself, Loki had known all along their plan was doomed to fail. He just hadn't expected Thanos' army would cut them down so quickly, before they even had a chance to attempt it.

He tamped down his fear, keeping his eyes on Thor as Ebony Maw babbled about salvation and the universal scales tipping toward balance. They were the only ones who had escaped the initial attack and he knew that wasn't by accident. Thor was barely conscious, swaying on his knees, breath wheezing through bloodied lips in a way that made Loki wince.

"You cannot run from destiny," Thanos intoned. "You cannot deny Death of her due."

Thor groaned as a giant hand wrenched his head up.

"Where is the Tesseract?"

"You're wasting your time," Thor slurred. "We don't have it."

"You have a choice," Thanos continued, ignoring Thor. "The stone, or your brother's head."

Loki had feared he and Stephen would be used against each other. He hadn't anticipated Thanos would use his brother. It hadn't occurred to him that Thanos might think he still felt loyalty to his family considering the events that immediately preceded his fall from the bifrost. He had been practically radiating anger and hurt when Thanos had found him then. Thanos had exploited that rage, amplified it.

He forced his face into a neutral, almost bored expression and hoped his eyes didn't betray his true emotions. "I don't know where it is."

"Always were a terrible liar," Thanos mused. He flashed the glowing purple stone on the gauntlet encasing his left fist at Loki before pressing the stone to Thor's temple. Thor screamed and Loki felt the sound go right through him, tearing his resolve to shreds within a minute.

"Stop!" His mind raced as Thanos removed the stone from Thor's flesh, straining for a way to salvage whatever he could of the plan. "You're right. I know where it is. I can take you to it."

"Loki no-" Thor began, his protests dissolving into a gurgle as Thanos shook him with the hand still on his head.

"You have already failed to bring me the stone once."

"I was captured."


Loki deflated a little. Of course he knew Loki had been freed long ago. Wait... Loki's mind raced. If he knew that...he must have been watching somehow. And the only reason he would care what happened to his prisoner after his failed mission was if he still played an important role in the Titan's plans.

A movement from the corner of his eye caught his attention. Banner - still in his Hulk form despite being seemingly knocked unconscious - was coming to.

Thanos saw it too. But he had barely released Thor and turned toward it when the mutated human was caught in a beam of transport energy and shot from the ship. Loki spotted Heimdall among the bodies. He was barely alive, but he had managed to summon his last ounce of power to save the mortal.

No. He did more than save Banner. He sent him to Earth to warn their people. The humans and what remained of the Asgardians. Loki's eyes met the sentry's for a moment and understanding passed between them. Necessary sacrifice.

Thanos ripped a spear from one of his "children" and plunged it through Heimdall's heart. Loki calmly maintained eye contact until the life drained completely from the warrior, even as Thor shouted threats of vengeance and started to lurch to his feet. Ebony Maw quickly subdued him, binding and gagging him with bits of broken machinery.

"I will give you the Tesseract if you give me your word that you will let my brother live."

Thanos chuckled. "You would trade something so powerful for the life of one man?"

'No,' Loki thought. 'Not just for him. For all of the people who need him to fight for them. Because he might just be their best chance at defeating you.' He turned to Thanos, squaring his shoulders, his chin lifted in defiance and said "yes."

"Foolish," Thanos mused. "But I can grant your request, Asgardian."

"I am not Asgardian. I am Loki, son of Odin, rightful king of Jotunheim...mother of the Goddess of Death."

The smirk on the Titan's face at that moment brought everything into sudden focus in Loki's mind. You cannot deny Death her due. He had spoken of Death many times while he'd held Loki captive and always with that same reverence.

He wasn't speaking metaphorically.

"That's why you rescued me. Why you waited so long to enact this plan. You had to wait for her to be born."

Thanos held out his hand. "No more tricks. We both know the Tesseract is not far. I give you my word. Give me the stone and I will leave this ship without laying a hand on your brother."

Loki heard Thor's muffled protests, but he refused to look at him. His brother didn't understand. He hadn't been a prisoner of the Titan - seen his determination, his devotion to the cause he was convinced was noble. They had no leverage. He could kill them both and - after ravaging the Earth and torturing Stephen into giving up the time stone (he would break eventually) - use it to resurrect Loki and recover the Tesseract.

This was the only card he had left to play. He had to make sure Thor lived. And he held no illusions that he would live long once he gave up the one thing he had that Thanos needed.

Loki held out his hand and summoned the Tesseract from the pocket dimension.

It was almost anti-climactic, he thought as the Titan plucked the cube from his hand and crushed it in his enormous fist, breaking the stone from its housing.

Thanos sighed and grunted in a way that was almost orgasmic as he added the stone to the gauntlet and felt the rush of power. Maw babbled about might and nobility like the mindless sycophant Thanos had made him into.

Loki held back the bitter laugh that threatened. "They really believe this story you've told them, don't they? That this is all for the greater good? They don't realize that it isn't really *balance* you're after. What you crave is power. God-like power over life itself. To be loved and feared..." He gasped as the giant's hand closed around his throat suddenly, lifting him into the air. He struggled instinctively, clawing at the hand futilely.

"You always were a disappointment," Thanos sneered.

Somewhere beyond the sound of the blood rushing in his ears he heard Thor's muffled screams. 'I'm sorry, brother.'

He felt the bones in his neck give way and everything went black.


He opened his eyes to a world of mist and shadows. He blinked down at his body, which was still in his Asgardian male form and still dressed in his leathers. Then he turned in a slow circle, taking in his familiar surroundings. The landscape was entirely featureless but for a section of a path beneath his feet. He had been on the path to Hel once before, but he hadn't reached any destination before he had been sent abruptly back to Svartalfheim for reasons he hadn't understood at the time, but was pretty sure he did now.

'The queen of the realm didn't want me.' But who was the ruler of Helheim now?

He froze as he heard footsteps further down the path and a figure began to slowly emerge from the mist. He was torn between relief and fear as that figure grew closer and he recognized the woman he had expected to never see again.


She stopped in front of him. Close enough for him to see clearly but not enough to touch. She looked so much like him and Stephen that Loki wondered how he hadn't noticed it sooner. "You'll forgive me for not being overjoyed to see you, mother." She stressed the last word like it was a curse.

"You survived," he said stupidly.

"If you can call it surviving. Without Asgard I was forced to retreat to this prison our father banished me to for nearly two thousand years."

Loki flinched. "Look...I know what it's like to discover your whole life was based on lies. But your father...the one whose blood runs in your veins...he loved me more than I deserved and I suspect even that pales in comparison to the love he had for you. He surrendered you to Odin to spare you from a fate we both believed would be unimaginably worse than the one you had already seen."

She smirked in a way that was deeply unsettling. "You really don't understand, do you? You think you saved me from Thanos." She chuckled low in her throat. "Who do you think convinced that idiot that the universal scales of life and death needed to be balanced?"

Loki stilled as his mind struggled to comprehend Hela's words. "You..."

She laughed. "He is a very proud and ambitious creature. I'm sure you of all people understand men of his sort are the easiest to persuade."

Sickening realization washed over Loki. Her attack on Asgard hadn't been the beginning of her plans, but merely one step toward a larger goal. "You would destroy billions of people...for what? Revenge? You can have it. Take me instead and put a stop to this. I deserve whatever punishment you see fit to submit me to for the rest of eternity. This is all my fault and mine alone. I am the monster who made you this way. Do not make billions of innocent people suffer for my mistake."

She cocked her head. "Your time with the humans has changed you."

"Stephen changed me. Or rather he...he fixed me. Because he refused to believe I was beyond redemption. He may not be without fault, but he is a good man. And while it might be quite obvious you are my daughter, part of you must also take after him."

"Hmm. See, that's the problem. The part of me that is human died long ago."

Loki took an instinctive step back again as Hela flicked her wrist and allowed the illusion she had used to disguise her true appearance for centuries to melt away. The entire left side of her body had withered into a grey, mummified corpse, a jagged line defining the sharp contrast with her still beautiful, living half.

"Yes, Frigga was just as horrified as you are now at first. She believed the decay was the result of some previously unknown disease. When Odin had my DNA tested, she realized it was nothing she could cure and she contented herself with teaching me to hide it."

"I'm..." Loki fumbled for better words than the ones that immediately sprang to mind and failed. "I'm sorry."

Hela's lips twisted into a lopsided, cruel imitation of a smile. "Not yet," she murmured. "But you will be."

Loki felt himself wrenched powerfully backward. He gagged and struggled to breathe, thrashing against the walls that had suddenly formed around him. The walls gave way and when he opened his eyes it was to the sight of Thor's face.

"I knew it," Thor sobbed, drawing Loki into an embrace.

"Give him some air," a voice said and Thor's grip loosened slightly.

Loki struggled to speak, struggled to tell Thor that Hela was alive, but all that came out was a strangled jumble of sounds. Just that effort exhausted him though, and he passed out in his brother's arms.


True to his word, Thanos had not "laid a hand" on Thor once Loki stopped breathing. He had simply retreated to his ship with his children, from which he had blasted the Asgardian vessel apart. Luckily, knowing better than to trust the Titan, Thor had managed to drag Loki's body into an escape pod before Thanos fired. He had taken them back to Earth, where, after a lot of consoling, Bruce had convinced him that Loki wasn't coming back this time and they should consider keeping him in a cold storage tank at the Avengers building until Thor and (hopefully) Stephen were ready to bury him.

Thor had placed him in the tank gently, carefully arranged his limbs, kissed his cheek and vowed to avenge his death. Then he had joined Bruce in Wakanda, where the Avengers were guarding the one remaining Infinity Stone on Earth. It turned out to be the last stone Thanos had to collect. Even though Thor managed to drive Stormbreaker deep in the Titan's chest, they had failed to stop him from snapping half the universe out of existence.

What remained of their group returned to the Avengers building in defeat to begin the slow process of assessing the damage. A process that was interrupted when Bruce noticed that Loki's body had reverted to Jotun form. Minutes later, he had thrashed back to life.

"How is that possible," Bruce asked much later, after Loki woke again and related his conversation with Hela.

"Thanos is a thousand years old," Thor mumbled. "Hela has been gatekeeper of the underworld for centuries longer. If he came close to death as Loki has..."

"She was angry," Loki rasped. "Odin had banished her after centuries of using her as a weapon against Asgard's enemies. She probably believed she was continuing his work."

"By killing half the universe," Captain Rogers finished incredulously.

"No, he's gone off script," Natasha said flatly. She jerked her chin toward Thor. "You said it yourself. He believes he has become a god. He's not doing this for her anymore, if he ever was at all; he's doing it for his own glorification."

"We caused this," Thor murmured.

"No," Loki spat. "We couldn't have done anything to stop it." He closed his eyes. "I am inevitable."

Steve frowned. "What?"

"It's what he kept repeating while he was holding me prisoner. Before..." Loki looked warily at the people he had fought only a few years earlier. "Before he sent me to retrieve the Tesseract. 'I am inevitable.' He knew we couldn't stop him."

"Strange sent Hela back before Thanos arrived," Thor argued. "He couldn't have known he would win simply because he spoke to her a thousand years ago."

"No, he didn't know he would *win*," Loki agreed.

"We're still trying to locate Doctor Strange," Steve said, breaking the silence that followed. "He and Tony were taken away by a ship that arrived just after you...died."

"Don't bother," Loki said flatly. "The only way Thanos could have taken the time stone from him is if he were dead."

"You don't know that," Thor argued. "You gave up the Tesseract before Thanos killed you."

"I gave up the Tesseract *knowing* he would kill me." He turned to his brother, meeting his one good eye and inwardly cringing again at the knowledge that it was his daughter who had mutilated the other one. "I did it to save you. Our people needed you more than me."

Thor's face crumpled just a little. Knowing that Loki had put that much faith in him - had sacrificed himself so Thor could help defeat Thanos - made his failure sting all the more.

Colonel James Rhodes stuck his head in the room. "Hey, uh...that thing we've been monitoring? It just stopped sending the signal."

Natasha straightened and turned to Bruce. "Can you reboot it? Send it again?"

He shook his head. "We don't even know what it does."

"Fury did. That's good enough for me." Natasha turned on her heel and marched from the room. Bruce shot the rest of them an apologetic look before following her.

Minutes later, Carol Danvers landed on the lawn outside the compound.


By the time Carol returned with the weathered ship in tow, Loki was strong enough to join the rest of the group, which now including Stark's fiancée. She had been contacted once Carol had located the vessel fleeing Thanos' home world.

Carol hadn't provided many details - only that Stark was on board and reported the ship carried three survivors. No matter how many times Loki told himself Stephen couldn't possibly be one of them, he couldn't shake the flicker of hope he felt as Carol set the ship down on the grass.

The hope was dashed when Stephen's cloak followed Tony out of the vessel and flew to Loki, settling on his shoulders. He didn't need to see the blue skinned woman or the odd creature that looked like an Earthen raccoon hovering just inside the ship for confirmation.3

He staggered, his knees going weak as the full weight of his grief crashed down on him. Thor barely managed to keep him upright. The cloak rippled and squeezed around him, as if it were offering consolation. Or perhaps it was also grieving and taking its own comfort from someone who shared its loss.

Tony broke away from Pepper as she was helping him into the compound and staggered over to the Asgardians. Without saying a word, he embraced Loki. If anyone found the sight of Tony Stark hugging his former enemy odd, they wisely remained silent about it.


Nebula was able to provide a possible location for the "garden" Thanos had always spoken of - the place he was bound to retreat to once his genocidal plans had been carried out. Thor managed to convince Loki he needed to stay behind while they went in search of it as he was still recuperating from his latest death. He vowed to bathe Stormbreaker in the Titan's blood after forcing him to reverse the event they had all come to refer to as "The Snap".

Tony stayed behind as well and, when they were both alert enough to speak, they discussed what had happened over the course of the past couple days. Loki talked about Hela and the revelation that Thanos believed - at least initially - that he was doing all of this for her. Tony agreed with the Widow's assessment that whatever influence Hela may have had initially, Thanos was well beyond it. Tony talked about meeting a group of aliens led by a human-god hybrid and fighting the Titan on his long dead home world. Stephen had used the time stone to view possible futures, but warned that there were too many variables to know for certain how the fight would turn out. Like Loki, Stephen had given up the stone he guarded to save a life: Tony's.

"The last thing he said before he turned to dust was 'tell him I love him.' I didn't understand why until I saw you out there."

When Tony fell asleep, Loki wandered out to the computer station where the screen displayed the constantly growing number of Thanos' victims. He pulled up Stephen's photo and stared at it for a long time. It was obvious he had known this would happen - that Stark would return to Earth without him. But was that the extent of it? Had he seen a path to victory over the Titan or had he merely decided that allowing him to win was the lesser of evils? How much worse could the alternative to letting him kill half the universe have been?

The answer to that was obvious. He could have destroyed the *whole* universe. For all they knew, if he had failed his first attempt Thanos could have decided his plan wasn't radical enough. That he needed to reboot the entire universe. In that case, Loki knew, Stephen would have considered this an acceptable sacrifice. Saving half the souls was better than trying - and failing - to save them all.

Was it better this way, Loki wondered? To have Stephen just slip away without suffering? To not have to watch him grow old and wither slowly away?

The team returned with one stone, which Carol had already identified as the space stone - formerly the Tesseract. They had found it buried inside an abandoned hut. According to Bruce, it had been buried for at least a century.

"He has the time stone," Loki concluded. "He wants us to know what he did. He used the time and space stones to scatter the rest of the stones across the universe and then escaped somewhere in time."

"The future," Nebula agreed. "He wants to live in the universe he created."

"So how do we find him," Steve asked.

"We can't."

Everyone turned to Tony, who looked frail suddenly, slumped in his chair as he was finally forced to accept defeat. "It doesn't matter how far he goes. He has a time machine and we don't. Unless we can work out another as-yet-undiscovered method of traveling through time he will always be out of our reach." He looked grimly at Steve. "It's over."

Slowly, painfully over time and one by one, the surviving heroes of Earth had to accept that they couldn't snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Some of them stubbornly vowed to continue the search for Thanos and the time stone, but most of them recognized that he would never be found so long as he didn't wish to be. And even if they found him, they would need all of the stones to reverse The Snap. Stones that could have been hidden anywhere, anytime throughout the universe. For all they knew, he had hidden them on planets that had since been swallowed by black holes.

They all went their separate ways and life - or at least the half of it that remained - went on.

Loki became the new master of the New York sanctum. He even formed a sort of bond with the cloak after it spent days, weeks and months consoling him whenever he was struck by a random pang of grief or something Wong called "survivor's guilt". Together, he and Wong headed what remained of Earth's sorcerers. It didn't matter that there were fewer of them. Their enemies had been equally decimated. As promised, the half of life that Thanos claimed had been entirely random.

He became something like a member of the very team that had formed to fight him. They didn't quite trust him at first, but Thor's reassurances coupled with seeing Tony consoling him over the loss of one of their own went a long way toward convincing them he could be an ally.

Tony retreated to upstate New York with Pepper and nobody heard from him after the first couple weeks. Carol took off for other worlds to offer assistance. But the rest of them occasionally checked in with each other. Offered support. Commiserated. Steve even formed an official support group for survivors, though he couldn't really convince anybody from their team to go to the meetings.

Thor took it the hardest. He blamed himself for not stopping Thanos. For convincing Lorelei to let Hela fulfill her destiny. Loki wasn't convinced he could have done anything to stop what happened, but he had his own share of doubts and feelings of responsibility to contend with so his efforts to reassure his brother were mostly futile.

He didn't remain celibate, but when he did start seeking out partners again he found himself favoring women, often in the guise of Lorelei. That way they couldn't inadvertently remind him of Stephen. He developed something like a casual relationship with the Valkyrie, who found both Loki and Lorelei equally attractive and was uninterested in making what they had about more than just sex.

"We're not built for relationships with them," she told Lorelei once after a rather acrobatic session. "We feel loss too deeply and their lives are too short."

"I know," Lorelei murmured, still trying to catch her breath.

The Valkyrie looked at her with sympathetic eyes. "He's drinking, you know."

Lorelei sighed. "I know."


Fifteen months after The Snap, Lorelei volunteered to act as surrogate for an Asgardian couple struggling to conceive. She told herself she did it as a way to atone for her part in Ragnarok, Thanos' attack on the Ark and the Great Death, all of which had utterly decimated the Asgardian population. When she began to have flashbacks and wake up in the middle of the night crying she believed she really was. At least this one couldn't do as much damage as Hela had. It didn't even share her genetics.

Wong fretted over her like a mother hen. She suspected it was because he was one of the few people who knew what had happened to her last time and he felt duty bound to keep her safe in Stephen's absence.

On one of her bad days, when she couldn't even bring herself to get out of bed, Wong called Thor. Thor had curled up beside her, forehead pressed against hers. He smelled like a tavern, but his presence still comforted her.

"I'm forgetting what he looked like," she whispered. "The sound of his voice..."

Thor gathered her hands in his, squeezing in a helpless show of support.

"I found one of his shirts this morning and..." she blinked and fought against a fresh surge of grief. "And I realized I can't even remember how they used to smell when they still smelled like him." She took a shaky breath. "It's absurd. I always knew it would come to this eventually. That our time would be brief. But I..." Her throat closed around the words, threatening to choke her.

Thor squeezed her hands, his own eyes becoming watery and Lorelei was struck by the oddity of the sight of the different colored artificial eye Rocket had given him behaving just as normally as his real one. "Nothing can prepare you for it," he said. "No amount of time can ever be enough. You told me that."

"Promise me...promise me that if this birth goes as the last one did you will not try to save me."

Thor squeezed his eyes tightly shut, as if he could block out the words.

"Please," she begged. "Please just let me die."

Thor promised, though Lorelei didn't know if she could believe him. She was all he had left. But she was of no use to him. They were of no use to each other. They were both too lost in their own grief and self blame. They would be better off, she told herself.

She delivered the child in an Asgardian hospital. This time, she let them give her drugs for the pain. Thor and Valkyrie coached her through labor, but when she passed out in the middle of delivery they were shoved aside so the doctor could perform an emergency c-section.

She didn't even know she had bled out until she opened her eyes to the world of mist and shadows again. She sighed with relief and followed the road until she came upon an ornate golden throne with green gems laid into the detailing, highlighted by black trim. It was empty.

"Back already?"

Lorelei turned to the source of the voice. Hela stood behind her, arms folded beneath her breasts.

"You thought you could gain better favor if you took this form?" Her tone - and the sneer marring her beautiful features - made her feelings about such a strategy clear.

Lorelei didn't waste time answering the accusation. "I want to see him."

The corner of Hela's mouth twitched. "Him?"

"You know who I am referring to. Please, just let me see him."

"Look at you. Reduced to begging for one more glimpse of a human. A mortal."

Lorelei opened her mouth to argue, realized the futility of it, and stopped. Instead, she slowly knelt on the ground.

Hela's eyes flashed. "What are you doing?"

Lorelei lowered her head. "My Queen. I beseech you to have pity on me, though I know I don't deserve it."

"Stop it," Hela hissed.

"I cannot reverse the damage that was done to you," Lorelei continued. "And I deeply regret the suffering I caused you. You may punish me for that as you see fit. I only ask that you first allow me to see your father one last time."

As before, she felt herself being suddenly wrenched backward. She didn't have time to protest before she found herself prostrate on a cold table.

He. Loki knew even before the broken sob spilled from his lips that he was back in his Asgardian male form again.

Hands pulled him up and he collapsed into his brother's arms as Thor helplessly tried to soothe him.


He became reckless after that. Taking on dangers with no regard for his own safety, openly inviting death. When that wasn't enough, he took matters into his own hands. He successfully returned to the road to Hel more than a dozen times in as many months. On most of his visits, Hela had refused to see him. The times she did, they had variations on the same argument, with Loki begging for mercy from an increasingly annoyed goddess of Death.

When he finally got close enough to touch her, he used the opportunity to push as many memories into her as he could. Stephen reverently kissing Lorelei's pregnant belly. Stephen singing to his infant daughter about "when I'm gone". Stephen pulling Lorelei back from the brink of death after Hela's birth. Stephen curled around Hela, waiting for her to disappear, reaching for Loki's hand with naked relief. He even threw in the memory he had made Stark show him: the one of Stephen saying "tell him I love him" before crumbling into dust.

Hela was obviously thrown by it, blinking in confusion as she tried to process the memories that were not her own.

"Please," Loki said wearily. "Just let me see him one more time."

"He's not here."

The unseen force yanked him backward before he could demand an explanation and he gasped back to life on the bed in the Sanctum.


Loki startled at the unexpected voice. He hadn't resurrected in front of anyone since the Asgardians had stopped checking on him. Given up on him, really.

He focused on the man sitting beside the bed. Steve Rogers. There was blood on his hands and Loki wondered if it was his or if he had nicked himself while pulling the knife from the god's chest. The knife was nowhere to be seen now. Loki wondered idylly what the captain had done with it.

"You need to stop doing this," Steve began.

Loki huffed. "Did my brother send you?"

"No. Look...I never actually met Stephen Strange, but I think I know enough about him to know that he wouldn't want this."

"If he were here, I wouldn't *have* to do this."

"You really think killing yourself is going to accomplish anything?"

"Thanos' entire plan rests on an idea our daughter planted in his head. Clearly she has influence over him. I can't think of a better way to gain an audience with the Goddess of Death."

Steve's hard expression melted into one of realization. He had assumed Loki's motives were purely selfish. Guilt, regret and the desire to be reunited with his dead lover. "You think she can get through to Thanos? Get him to reverse the Snap?"

"No, but what do I have to lose in trying?" Loki dragged himself to sit on the edge of the mattress, wincing as the clothing that had become glued to his skin with dried blood came unstuck. "I thought if I could find Stephen maybe he could reason with her. Convince her to help us. But she claims he's not in Hel."

"I thought you said Hel was the realm of the dead. That everybody ends up there."

Loki nodded. It had been quite the realization for the human Avengers that the afterlife was nothing like their Earth religions depicted (though not all that dissimilar to any of them either).

"So where else could he be?"

Loki sighed. "I don't know. It's possible she's lying." Possible, but unlikely, he knew. If Stephen was in Hel, he would have found a way to gain an audience with her. And she would not have been so surprised by the images Loki showed her. She would not have been so quick to dismiss his claims that her biological father loved her - would still love her. She would have seen proof of that herself. Loki produced another knife and raised it slowly. "If you like, I can ask about the others this time."

Steve's hand closed around his wrist, squeezing hard until the blade dropped from his fingers. Normally a human wouldn't have disarmed him so easily, but he was still weak from his recent death.

"No! No more killing."

"If you would prefer a more humane method..."

"Whether they are with your daughter or someplace only Thanos knows about, killing yourself isn't gonna bring them back."

Loki chuckled humorlessly. "When we first met, you tried to kill me. Now you won't allow me to kill myself. Tell me you don't appreciate the irony, Captain."

"I wasn't trying to kill you. I was trying to stop you." Steve let go of Loki's wrist slowly. "I believe in justice." His eyes softened a bit. "And I know that sometimes what looks like an enemy is really just another victim."

Loki bristled. "Is that all I am? A victim of Thanos? A weapon he used once and discarded?"

"No," Steve said softly. "You're a survivor. Thanos took more from you and Thor than he did the rest of us. And I get that you want to make him pay for it. But there has to be a better way." He paused, took a deep breath. "Which is why I'm here, actually. Tony and Nebula have been working on a plan to locate Thanos. We were hoping you could help."


"That's the first step. Hopefully then we can find a way to trap him or force him to come back to the present. Tony thinks you might be able to literally get inside his head and trick him into trapping himself."

Loki doubted it, but his own plan was getting him nowhere. Maybe it was time to try a new angle. And now that he no longer feared death, he had no reason to fear Thanos either.

"You don't have to decide yet," Steve added. "Tony and Pepper invited me to dinner tonight. Come with me and you can talk to him yourself."

His instinct was to say no. It was obvious the captain was merely trying to give him some sort of purpose. Keep him from killing himself again. But if his first encounter with these particular humans had taught him anything, it was that they could not be underestimated. Together, they might just find a way to defeat Thanos. Or at least, to paraphrase what Stark had once vowed to him, avenge the fallen.

He nodded slowly.

The tension in Steve's shoulders relaxed a little. "Great. I'm sure Morgan will be thrilled to meet you."

Loki's forehead wrinkled in confusion. "Morgan?"

1. It bothered me that he bounced back so quickly after being tortured and briefly shot into space like nothing had happened. I know it's a superhero movie, but I thought I should give him a minute to recover from ALMOST DYING.

2. Did I get this wrong? I feel like I probably got this wrong.

Througout this story, I have been pulling threads together from three different canons: the MCU, the Marvel comics and Norse mythology. This is especially apparent with Hela, where I used the mythological description of her being half dead and the comic book interpretation that her cape gives her powers AND hides her corpse half and turned it into something else entirely by implying that she looks like this because the dead side is her HUMAN half. She is also merged with the comics character Death here and Thanos' motivations are somewhere between the comics and the MCU. Loki's ability to resurrect is also from the comics, where his healing abilities make him all but unkillable.

3. This is where the differences between my story and canon start to be dictated by the changes I already made. Because the Asgardians already made it to Earth BEFORE the beginning of the Infinity War, Thor had no reason to interact with the Guardians yet. Rocket and Groot would have ended up on Titan with the rest of them. And the cloak...I mean...why did it have to get snapped along with Stephen anyway?

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4