- Alternate Universe
This is a sequel to Families.
Loki went to see Vili after he had transported himself and Banner back to Norway. He finally found him in his room. “They have been informed and have not protested our plans,” he reported. He looked at the bag Vili was packing. “Have you decided where we will go first?”
“We will start with Alfheim,” Vili replied.
Loki was surprised. He had not expected that Vili intended to start with the home realm of the light elves. “Alfheim? Why? I would have thought Vanaheim. We had the closest relationship with them.”
Vili sighed. “We had a close relationship because Frigga was a war bride from Vanaheim and the war did not end in as clear a victory as Odin’s wars with others realms. I’m not sure how they will react to Asgard’s destruction, not after Frigga’s death. Alfheim on the other hand has the advantage that Freyr, Frigga’s brother, is the Prince consort. I’m hoping that it will make them more sympathetic to our cause.”
Loki froze. He had not considered that going to the other realms would mean seeing Frigga’s brother. He had sent messages with the news about Frigga’s death and his condolences, of course, while posing as Odin after the victory over Malekith, but he had not seen him in person.
Vili looked up when Loki remained silent. He took in his expression, trying to guess what he was thinking. “I think it’s important that he get to see you, so no, you can’t stay here,” he said gently. “Now, go on, pack your bag. We will leave in an hour.”
Stephen stepped through the portal to the Institute. Wong had luckily agreed to keep an eye on the Sanctuary for him while he got trained in using and controlling his newly enhanced senses. He had come online as a Sentinel shortly before Thanos reached Earth. Learning about Sentinels and Guides from the X-Men and Doctor Sandburg had been fascinating. He’d remembered a few cases of out of control senses he’d heard of as a neurosurgeon and had found himself wondering if some of them might have been other Sentinels, coming online but not having the knowledge and help to understand what was happening and how to deal with it.
The promised training really couldn’t come soon enough for him. He had lost count of the number of times he had almost zoned on a portal or some other spell. His stay at the Institute would also give him an opportunity to spend time alone with Tony Stark, to get to know him better and prove himself to the X-Men, so that they would hopefully stop running interference, as they had during his previous visits before and right after the invasion. He had already been intrigued when Tony, as he’d asked to be called, had actually greeted the Cloak of Levitation as an individual when they had first met. As a result, the cloak had taken a liking to him as well and would sometimes seek him out to spend time with him.
Stephen couldn’t quite decide how he felt about it he the cloak returned smelling faintly of Tony.
“Good afternoon, Doctor Strange,” Hank McCoy greeted him. It seemed he had been waiting for him.
“I’ll show you the guest room we’ve prepared for you and let you get settled in. The actual training will start tomorrow. King T’Challa will have arrived by then. Colonel Rhodes is already here, of course.”
Stephen stopped short. “They’re training here as well?”
Loki had let Vili lead the way to Alfheim, curious if he would take the same way he was familiar with or if he might learn something new. The path had turned out to be familiar to him, though it was rare that he saw someone navigate it as confidently as he did.
Alfheim was beautiful. He had never told anyone on Asgard so but he preferred the palace with its slender, almost delicate seeming architecture to the pretentious, golden floors and walls of Asgard. The towers reminded him a bit of the trees that surrounded the capital, tall and seemingly wispy but actually older and stronger than they appeared.
They were being expected already. (NAME1), one of the members of Queen (NAME2)’s council, was waiting for them. He bowed to them. “Prince Vili, it is good to see you again. Prince Loki, your arrival will be a pleasant surprise to Prince Freyr.”
Loki very much doubted that. He figured it was just (NAME1) being polite to their guests but, for the sake of diplomacy, decided not to call him on it.
They followed him inside, through long corridors, open on one side to give an unobstructed view of the forest, until they reached the throne room. Two thrones were in the center of the room, directly opposite the entrance they came through. Sitting on one of them was Queen (NAME2), her long red hair contrasting sharply the dark green tunic she was wearing over simple brown trousers. Freyr was sitting on the throne beside her, clad in a similar tunic in red. Loki had forgot just how much he looked like his sister, hair the same shade of blonde, the same eyes. He stopped short, struck again by the loss of the only mother he had ever known.
“Loki!” Freyr exclaimed. “You’re alive!” He jumped up, crossing the space between them with long strides and pulled him into a hug.
Loki froze, unsure how to react. It had been a long time since he had been touched like this, gently and completely non-sexual. Touches between him and Thor were rarely gentle, not in a long time. There was some affection there once again but that did not translate in the way they touched: they pushed and shoved each other or threw things at one another, they did not exchange gentle touches. The Grandmaster had quickly taken notice that he preferred gentle touches and had enjoyed using them to make him fall apart but they had rarely been non-sexual. He was pretty certain that the last one to touch him like this had been Frigga.
Freyr pulled back a bit but left his hands resting on Loki’s shoulders. “It’s so good to see that you survived. When I heard…” He broke off, shook his head. “Losing you and Frigga at the same time…it was such a heavy blow.”
Loki stared at him, unsure how to react. As her brother, surely he most know…? “I’m not… I’m not Frigga’s son.”
“Yes, you are. She may not have the one to give birth to you but that doesn’t mean that she loved you any less. She considered you her son, from the first time she held you.” His smile was bitter-sweet. “She was so proud of you. Sometimes it felt like most of her letters were about what new spell you’d mastered or which lessons you’d succeeded in.”
Loki had to close his eyes, afraid that he would start crying. He had wondered if she’d been disappointed that he had not been what Asgard had expected from one of their princes.
“Come, my love,” (NAME2), having joined them without Loki noticing, “give him a moment.” She smiled at Loki. “Welcome to Alfheim, Prince Loki.”
Vili stepped up to them, steadying Loki with a supportive hand to his back. “Thank you, Queen (NAME2). I’m sure we will enjoy our stay.”
Stephen first got to see Tony Stark at dinner together with some of the teachers of the Institute. He’d been relieved to hear that they would not be eating in the mess hall with all the students. That would have been stressful enough for him on its own, now as an untrained Sentinel, he doubted that he would have been able to eat very much, no matter how well prepared the food was with people with stronger senses in mind.
T’Challa and Rhodes, the other two Sentinels he would train with, where also there. Rhodes was even sitting beside Tony, the two of them discussing something they had been working on together.
Stephen cleared his throat to get Tony’s attention. “Tony, you seemed interested in learning more about magic from a scientific point of view. As a surgeon, I was a man of science myself before I became Sorcerer Supreme, so if you’d like, I could tell you a bit about it after dinner.”
“Oh, I don’t want to be a bother, you are probably kept very busy as Sorcerer Supreme,” Tony said. “Loki brought the document the Asgardians mages prepared for the UN. I’m working my way through it.”
“Did he?” Stephen asked, forcing himself to sound pleasant.
“And Alexander has been in contact for me to ask questions,” Tony added. Alexander, a red-headed young man around 20 years old, had shown up for the fight against Thanos, wearing a flying suit Tony was very curious about and yet also using magic. Tony had asked to get a good look at it after the fight but Alexander had denied the request. “Sorry but the suit is actually my Pop’s. I’ll have to clear it with him first,” he’d told him.
“Also, T’Challa has suggested that we go see a movie in an actual cinema today.”
Stephen glowered at the smug smile T’Challa shot him.
(NAME2) had invited them to an informal sitting room. “You’re family,” she had explained. “Even if the reason for your visit is not purely a family matter, I see no reason why we have to stand on protocol.”
Loki and Vili weren’t about to protest, not if it meant that they could sit together on comfortable couches instead of having to stand for the whole of the conversation. It also made it feel less like them begging another sovereign for assistance and more like a conversation among family, no matter if it was more the former. It was also very different from Asgard where everything had been about shows of strength. As much as he had hated that, Loki found the difference now jarring.
“What happened? We only know that Asgard was destroyed and then that Asgardians were fighting against Thanos,” Freyr said.
“Odin is dead which freed Hela, his daughter, from her prison. We lost many of Asgard’s warriors to her forces and were only able to defeat her by destroying Asgard,” Vili explained. “The remaining Asgardians, the ones we were able to bring to safety, are staying on Midgard for the time being.”
“Asgard the planet is destroyed but Asgard the people still remains,” Loki said. “Thor is king now. He intends to restore Asgard, to build a new home for us somewhere.”
“Thor is king?” (NAME2) repeated. She exchanged a long look with her husband. “How is he doing? I imagine it’s hard to assume the throne under such circumstances.”
“Quite well, given the circumstances,” Vili assured them. He has taken the loss hard, of course, as we all have, but he has support. He has the support of the council he formed, made up of Heimdall, Loki, one of Thor’s Midgardian shield brothers, a Valkyrie and myself. Thanks to his time on Midgard, he also has good relations with them.” Not too long ago the mention of having Midgard’s support would have generated amusement or scorn, many other realms having considered them as too backwards to pay much attention to. That had changed now that Midgard, with just a little help from Asgardians, had managed to defeat the Mad Titan.
“And you, Loki? How are you doing?” Freyr asked.
“Me?” Loki was startled by the question. “I’m fine. I’m… relieved that Thanos is not a danger any longer.” That was an understatement, of course. He’d spent a lot of time fearing the moment Thanos would come for him, to make him pay for failing to bring him to Tesseract and losing the Mind Stone.
“Understandable,” Freyr said. He squeezed Loki’s forearm. “It’s impressive how well you dealt with what happened, especially considering how young you are. Both you and Thor.”
“Thank you?” Loki replied.
“We are thankful that you have come here to personally tell us what happened and to give my husband peace of mind where the fate of his family is concerned but I’d like to know what else has brought you here,” (NAME2) said after a moment.
“Of course,” Vili replied. “As we mentioned, Thor intends to build a new home for our people. We wanted to be sure that Alfheim will remain our ally, whether Asgard is still on Midgard or has established a new kingdom.”
“With Thor as the new Allfather?” (NAME2) asked.
“With Thor as the King of Asgard, just as you are Queen of Alfheim,” Vili replied.
(NAME2) looked him in the eye, trying to judge his sincerity. Then she nodded once. “Let’s see what you need.”
T’Challa straightened his clothes once again. When he’d everything ready to return to the US for training, he had not just informed Lehnsherr and Xavier but had also sent a private message to Tony, asking him to go see a movie with him, to help introduce him the US culture. He’d been relived that he’d been alone when he received the reply agreeing to go. He was sure Shuri would have teased him mercilessly otherwise. Never mind what she or Okoye would have said about the way he had hesitated over what to wear before deciding on the suit he was now wearing. Then, taking after a deep breath, he left his guest room. He and Tony had agreed to meet at the front door, then go pick out which car to drive. He wondered if he could talk him into taking one of the motorcycles he’ d seen there.
He stopped inside the front door for a moment, then, making sure to smile charmingly, stepped out to meet him.
Tony was standing there with Alex Summers, Peter Maximoff and Kurt Wagner.
T’Challa frowned slightly. Were they here to see Tony off? Or perhaps to warn him to be respectful? As an older brother, he could certainly see himself doing so if some boy (or girl, for that matter) was about to take Shuri on a date. “Good evening.”
“Ah, hello, T’Challa,” Summers greeted him. “We’re ready.”
“‘We’?” T’Challa had a bad feeling about this.
Tony smiled happily. “Yes. The guys want to see the movie as well. It will be nice, a family night out.”
Well, what could he say to that? “Which car did you want to take?”
Loki slowly walked through the market, listening to Freyr tell him about the home he had found here on Alfheim. Vili was back at the palace with (NAME2), ironing out the details to their new alliance but they had agreed to let him and Freyr leave, to catch up. It was nice, not just because Freyr had some similar interests but also because he could reminisce with him about Frigga. As much as he denied Odin as his father, to others and to himself, he had a harder time denying Frigga. Freyr was right, she had loved him. He might not be Odin’s son and might be unwilling to claim Laufey as his father but he could accept being Frigga’s son.
He stopped when one of the market stalls caught his eye.
“Loki?” Freyr asked.
“There is something I have to try and make up for.”