He Without Sin

Thor's Arrival

"You have to know, you're making me even more curious than I already was," Tony told said, looking at 'Luna' sitting across from him. The meal was done, dishes being cleared away and dessert menus being laid out. He leaned back in his chair, eyes locked to hers and an easy grin on his face.

She smiled and shook her head at him. "I don't think there was anything I could have done to put you off on that regard. Had I shown up and told you everything, you would only wonder why."

"True," Tony relented. "Guess the only thing to be do is pursue my curiosity."

"And I believe you would come to that conclusion either way, as well."

Tony laughed and she shook her head fondly. "Alright, so, dessert!" Tony proclaimed.

She reached for her menu, but stopped abruptly and stood. Her head whipped around quickly, before she dropped the menu. "I have to go."

"Wait, what?" Tony sat back up. "Why?"

She didn't reply as she rushed toward the door.

Tony moved to follow her. "Hey!" He grabbed her wrist.

She turned toward him in surprise. "I'm sorry, I have to go," She told him urgently.

"Why, what's up?" He questioned.

"I..." Luna shook her head, staring off into the distance. "It has nothing to do with you," She said softly. "I just have to go."

Slowly, worriedly, Tony released her and it was only a moment before she had rushed out the door.

Loki was panicking. Loki was completely and utterly panicking.

He had missed it last time, but he couldn't ignore it this time if he wanted to. After becoming so use to the energies on Midgard, the swell of dark energy was too strong to ignore. He had only one thing to compare it to, Thor's arrival. The All-father had sent him, just as he had last time. Only this time was worse. So much worse. He felt chilled to the bone, frozen with dread and fright and hope and not sure what to do with any of it or how to handle it. He wasn't surprised when, after quickly leaving Stark's company, he found himself on a rooftop in sight of Stark Tower. He had reverted to his male form almost instinctually, cloaking himself so that he was unseen, arms wrapping tightly around himself.

He was shaking and pacing, waiting, but not sure what he was waiting for. Thor was coming. Thor had to be coming. (Thor always came.) But he didn't know what that meant. He didn't know what to expect. Was Thor coming to kill him? Finally? After all that Loki had done, all the betrayals and horrors he had committed, was his brother finally coming to be done with him?

Thor didn't know (Thor was to not know) why Loki had done all that he had. That Loki still thought of Thor as his brother, that Loki loved him (resented him), that Loki never wanted to betray him. Thor would never know if he killed Loki before he could tell him.

Loki wasn't surprised when Amora arrived after him, sad and conflicted eyes meeting his own. He could feel the shroud of her magic keeping her cloaked as his was. "Loki," She said softly.

"I can't go," Loki said softly. "I can't go to him. I can't face him, Amora." Loki wrapped his arms tighter around himself, shaking his head. "He hates me. I betrayed him! I--"

"You don't have to go anywhere, Loki," Amora said soothingly, pulling him into a hug.

"I can't do this Amora," Loki said with absolute anguish in his voice. "He doesn't know. Thor never knows. And it'll be worse if it does."

"What are you talking about Loki?" Amora pulled away from him slightly, looking at him with confusion.

"I betrayed him, Amora!" Loki exclaimed. "He thinks I stole the throne from him and got him banished on purpose! And we fought. Twice we fought! He thinks I tried to take over Midgard. He thinks--"


"I stabbed him, Amora!" Loki yelled, tears in his eyes. "I never got the chance to... He must think I'm a monster. I AM a monster! And the All-father has... has probably told him everything. What if he's coming to kill me?"

"Kill you?" Amora repeated. "Loki, you're not making sense."

The far off crash of thunder made them both fall silent. The sky began to rapidly fall dark and they both turned to look at Stark Tower, knowing that to be Thor's destination. They watched as the lightning flashes came closer and the sound of thunder became louder.

Loki closed his eyes, feeling the storm around them. He whispered, a clap of thunder drowning out his words. "I can't face him."

"Loki." Amora's whisper sounded choked. He opened his eyes to watch her, keeping his gaze resolutely away from the sky, where he knew his brother approached. Amora's eyes were glued to the image of Thor and she stepped toward the edge of the roof, towards Thor, watching.

Loki didn't look at Stark Tower until he saw the red and gold colors of Iron Man streaking through the sky. He watched the mortal as he landed and went inside, but he was still frozen in place, unsure what to do.

"Loki," Amora whispered. His eyes turned back to her as she held out her hand to him without turning to face him. She couldn't see Thor anymore, but she couldn't seem to look away either. Loki hesitated as he reached out to take her hand, knowing where they were going and dreading it. He closed his eyes just as Amora teleported them, unseen, into Stark Tower.

"Man of Iron," Thor greeted with strained exuberance. "It is good to see you again."

"Hey, big guy!" Tony replied as the armor peeled itself off his body. "Long time no see. What brings you back?"

"Not good news, I'm afraid." Thor sat heavily on the couch, looking sad and weary. "My brother has escaped from his imprisonment."

"What? How?"

Thor looked away, obviously deep in thought. "I am not certain," He began hesitantly. "But he has been free for some time. My mother was covering for his absence with an illusion."

"Okay, what?" Tony asked as he moved to his bar. "Why would she do that?"

"I do not know." Thor rested his elbows on his knees and pressed his fist to his lips. He closed his eyes a moment as he took a deep breath. "I begin to suspect that something is happening more than I have been told."

Tony poured himself a drink and leaned against the bar. "Okay, tell me what happened, start to finish."

Thor turned back to the mortal man. "My father bade me to leave Loki with him as soon as he was returned. A week later he was placed into a cell and my father forbid anyone from visiting. My father was the only one to see my brother, but he would not say anything except that Loki needed time to come to his senses. My mother seemed to disagree with my father's opinion, but she never spoke of it."

"So all we've got is more questions and no answers," Tony sighed. "Let me ask you something about your brother. After you guys left, there were a lot of things that didn't make sense."

"Like what?" Thor asked with a confused look on his face.

"Well for one, almost all of those alien bodies disappeared," Tony told him. Thor's brow furrowed with more confusion. "For another, very few people died during the attack. All the damage was mostly to buildings."

"That cannot be so," Thor said.

"Yeah, that's what we thought, but it is." Tony downed what was left of his drink. "Even those agents we thought he'd killed when he first arrived turned out to be alive. Their deaths were faked."

"My brother has always been one for tricks, but I cannot imagine why he would do such a thing."

Tony let this information sink in between them, watching Thor's contemplative expression. It was clear that he didn't know much more than the rest of them, which meant Tony was still without answers. He sighed, before getting Thor's attention again. "So, I have a theory." Thor looked to him with sadness and the barest thread of hope that Tony could say something that might make this all make sense. That could somehow fix this entire situation.

It was not a weight that Tony wanted to bare.

"Alright, so, I've been working under the assumption that there was something else that Loki wanted," Tony admitted. "I have no idea what, but he had to attack Earth for a reason, right? And I can't see any reason to let those agents live, to tell us where they were, which he did, unless he had something else in mind for the end game."

"What could your Shield agents offer?" Thor asked. "Did he take them only to secure the Tesseract?"

"Even if he did, he wouldn't have to tell us where they were," Tony argued.

"I'm afraid I have no answers for you, my friend." Thor sighed heavily.

Tony thought for a moment. "So, what do you think he's going to do?"

"I do not know," Thor replied. "I only know that I must find him."

"Well, listen, I've got room here, so if you need somewhere to stay..." Tony shrugged.

Thor smiled and stood, moving to stand before Tony and slapping a hand on his shoulder. "Thank you, my friend!"

Loki couldn't do it. Standing there, hidden (as invisible as he always felt in Thor's presence, as ignored as he feared to be in Thor's presence), watching his brother just made him more shaky. He longed to reach out to Thor, his body was primed to run. He needed Thor. (He needed to get away.)

Standing here gained him nothing. He knew that Thor would not know anything. (Thor is not to know.) Eavesdropping on this conversation only wrecked his nerves. Shaking his head, Loki decided to leave before he... well, he wasn't certain what he was building up, but it was probably best not to do it.

Amora couldn't take her eyes off of his brother. Her look was one of love and heartbreak. He knew he shouldn't leave her there. (Shouldn't trust her there, alone with his brother.) But he couldn't stay another minute, couldn't spare a thought for anything other than how he thought he might fall to pieces if he stayed in that room. So he left.

He didn't return to Victor's castle, however.

Loki teleported to one of his apartments. The white one that he had taken Raven to when he first found her. The one that he keep all the precious things he took from Asgard that he hadn't trusted in the presence of the villainous man. (Or in the presence of Amora, if he was honest, as this was a place she did not know of.)

He went into his bedroom, reaching into the wardrobe, which was actually empty, because as often as he visited his apartments (safe houses), and did check on each of them regularly, he had not spent a night at any of them in months. Clothes and the like were all at the castle. And Loki could use his magic to summon those if need be, no need to scatter them. The only thing in this heavily warded hiding place was the bag his mother had given to him. He had unpacked everything that was practical to do so in the castle-- healing tomes and the like-- but the personal things, he kept hidden here. He could have kept them hidden on his person, but some things he just didn't like hiding away like that. He needed to know these things existed somewhere in the real world and were not hidden by his magic.

There were only a few things inside. A mirror, one of a magically connected pair that could be used to contact his mother, a couple of healing stones (he kept them hidden in several of his apartments as well as in the castle), and a set of boxes that held very important memories. He took those out.

These were important. They were important to Loki. (Sometimes Loki thought they were more Loki than he was.) These were his lies and these were his truths. They couldn't tell him what Thor thought, but they could tell him what he'd said. Or, what he hadn't said, at least.

Loki opened the red box, small enough to fit in the palm of his hand when he'd pulled it out of the bag, but big as a suitcase when he opened the lid. There were books inside, each one labeled with a different person's name, all different sizes. He reached for the one that had Thor's name on it. The only thing that would ever be in this books were lies, so Loki just had to look for what he feared and hope that he did not find it.

Looking through this book never failed to hurt Loki in some way. He could fool himself sometimes, lie to himself, but this book never failed to tell him what he knew. This book could not lie about what was already lies. (He wondered briefly what he would have found had he looked through Odin's book more often or more thoroughly. Wondered what he would find if he looked now, but dared not do it. Some part of him would fall apart if he had to let go of the small thread of hope that still wound strongly around is heart with the All-father's name on it.)

Look searched for the words 'I love you', for the word 'brother'. If it was here, that would mean it was lie. Things that were true did not appear in this book. Things that became true disappeared from the books. Hope was a heavy burden sitting just on the edges of his heart.

Loki couldn't really keep the hope from turning to heartache, though.

He wanted to be happy when he didn't see the searched for words or anything that indicated Thor's affection to be a lie, but that really didn't mean as much as he wanted it to. The book would only tell him what he knew was a lie. (Or what his magic could reveal to be so.) And it couldn't tell him what his brother did think. This couldn't tell him if Thor thought he was a monster. It couldn't tell him if Thor hated him. (Loki knew it was possible to both hate and love someone, after all.) It couldn't tell him Thor wanted him dead or would never trusted him again.

Loki was curled up in a ball before he realized what he was doing, tears falling from his eyes. Loki had never not known what Thor thought. Thor had always been completely transparent to him, whether by design or perceptiveness. This... not knowing... was the absolute worse thing. (Though if Thor did hate him, that would easily become the worst thing, but Loki had to try not to think of that.) Thor so rarely lied to Loki and even when he did, he rarely did it well. How could Loki not know whether or not is brother wanted to kill him. How could he not know whether or not Thor loved him still.

Loki reached for one of the other two boxes, pulling the blue one closer. The one filled with Loki's lies. The only thing he found inside of that box was a mirror. "Thor doesn't want you." He told the reflection. But he wasn't brave enough to reach into the box and see if he found the lie. If it was a lie. (If he thought it was a lie.) "You are not Loki," he told the mirror. "I am Loki."

It was something he had said many times, but he never knew where he would find the words later. Loki was someone loved by Thor. That had always been true. He hadn't even been Loki before he was loved by Thor. (Children on Asgard were not named for a few weeks, and Frigga had told him that Thor loved him as soon as he'd seen Loki.) Who would he be, if that wasn't true? If he became someone not loved by Thor? Surely that being could not be Loki. Loki couldn't be something not loved by Thor. The only option would have to be that there would not be a Loki, but he didn't know what that meant, either. He had only ever defined himself by definition of what Thor was (what he wasn't).

Loki suddenly felt the unbearable need to have his brother. To know that the connection between them still existed. He shifted into his brother's appearance, but the Loki in the mirror did not change, of course. (It could, but it did not. Loki was not Thor, but he wasn't trying to be at the moment, and his magic knew things like that.) "I love you, brother," He said in Thor's voice, but his own sadness made it lack the right inflection. It sounded like a punishment. Like Thor loving Loki was a punishment placed on the thunder god. That thought made Loki break into tears again, and it was all the worse for hearing it in Thor's voice.

Loki suddenly knew, with absolute clarity, that he couldn't do this. (He didn't know what 'this' was exactly-- it was everything, or anything, but he couldn't do it either way.) He stayed their, on the floor, for a very long time.

"I can't find, Loki," Amora said as soon as she teleported into Victor's lab. The Asgardian was looking more ragged than Doom had ever seen from either of them. They had thus far seemed impervious enough that he really did believe them gods. While he couldn't break past whatever magic sealed off their rooms, the cameras he had installed in every room of his castle still functioned. They seemed to need less sleep and food than mortals. In the first weeks of their stay, Doom did not see them sleep even once. They could have, of course, only slept when he did or slept when they were out, but after staying up one week straight to watch them on his cameras and timing how long they were gone during that period, it seemed improbable. They also seemed to think nothing of skipping meals, especially if distracted. They could go as long as weeks without food or eat everyday with no ill consequence that he had thus far seen.

The restrooms connected to their rooms seemed completely superfluous, as well. He did not know if there was some magic that they used instead, but they seemed to have little need of bathing. They could sweat, as he witnesses during their sparing, but their bodies didn't seem to produce all the access oils that a mortal one did. Aside from blood or sweat, their bodies rarely seemed to need cleaning. They mostly seemed to do it for pleasure, and just as with eating or sleeping, it did not need to be a regular occurrence. The scents that their bodies produced (something like ice and mint from Loki, something stiff and floral, but unlike any plant on Earth, from Amora) their odor did not change. And they produced no waste at all. Not once in all the months they had been guest in his castle did he see either of them make use of a toilet. (Doom was a scientist, after all, and he could do more research than simply opening things up and taking them apart. He studied those in his home as closely as he could.)

Now, knowing that these beings were magic, he could have been fooled, of course. Loki, at least, was well aware of the cameras in his room and had (seemingly) taken no steps to disable them. He occasionally smiled at them or made some other obvious and outrageous gesture when he thought Doom was watching. (He often had been.) Amora had not done anything to bring attention to the fact that she knew she was watched, but he had listened to the gods conversing often enough to know that she was no fool. And they neither seemed to take offense to the watching or did anything to discourage it. If they were crafting illusions to fool his camera or otherwise tricking the information he was gathering, he had no way of knowing it.

Since the moment they had appeared in his life, they had been as impeccable and impressive as he expected any god to be. He had not seen them come to any harm that they did not inflict upon themselves, but Doom had tried numerous times, creating more and more powerful bots to face off against them and coming up short each time. They could be knocked down, but he had yet been able to cause either creature to bleed, strong and fast as they were.

It was, therefore, completely jarring to see Amora standing before him as she was, eyes red and tear stained face. He had seem emotion, the barest hints of, anyway, from Loki. Mischief and amusement most prevalent, determination and a semblance of affection, but not much more. (There was more when Loki had exposed his true form to him, but Doom had not been able to decipher what it was that the trickster god felt during that exchange.) Amora had been even more of an emotional enigma. Aside from the occasional moment of anger at her fellow god, she had been all amusement or complaints, and he knew she did not mean half of her complaints. Insults and complaining came to her as amusement and mischief to Loki, both natural and feigned, an image more than an attitude. Truthfully, he did not think them capable of emotion the way that human beings were. If there was emotion to either of them, he would have expected it to be Loki. Something that could alter it's shape so easily could just as likely alter itself, he supposed.

Doom had never thought it possible that either of them could cry.

Doom decided not to bring attention it, though. He was not exactly one for comfort and didn't know what a mortal could say to comfort a god even if he were to try. "What do you mean?"

"I mean just what I said," Amora answered, her voice slightly elevated in either concern or anger. "I looked for Loki and cannot find him." Irritation, Doom decided, was what he heard in her voice. That was at least familiar. Doom had learned to ignore her complaints, she made them like she was a spoiled princess appalled to be cast out from her royal trappings. (Which Doom found amusing, knowing that Loki was the actual royalty and she was not.)

"Why were you searching for him? Has something happened?" Doom asked his questioned even as he prepared to search for the other god's tracker.

Amora pressed her lips together more tightly and a long stretch of silence made him think that she would not answer. "We were together, but he got upset and left. When I tried to find him, I found my magic was blocked from finding him."

"That is unusual?" Doom questioned.

"If it were not, would I be here telling you to look for him!" Amora yelled.

"You have not told me to do anything of the sort." Doom didn't really know why he was antagonizing her. It was something he and Loki did often, but his conversation with Amora had never quiet been the same. Usually, he responded to her by ignoring her complaints and speaking calmly, but he couldn't stop himself from trying to pull everything he could out of her. Emotion, information, it was equally valuable research to him and he wouldn't waste an opportunity to gather a wealth of it.

"Then do so!" She replied. Doom had taught both her and Loki had to monitor the trackers not a day ago, so he knew that she would be able to tell he was doing so by looking at the screen. She was either not looking or too distraught to pay attention. Interesting... but also unnerving, what had her so distracted?

"What upset him?" Doom asked, turning back to face her. She was staring off in the distance, but turned to face him when he asked his next question. She looked like she was only now realizing something very important. Perhaps forgetting he had not been privy to whatever apparent calamity had caused this upset in them.

"Thor... Loki's brother... he has come," Amora said quietly.

Doom recalled Loki mentioning he was hiding from other gods. (And something apparently worse that wanted Earth.) He wondered if there was something particularly frightening about this god or if his arrival was just the first of many. Doom needed to put more focus into his creations. He had several prototypes that he had deemed too lethal to send against the Avengers, but had perhaps just found use for.

"He is in New York," Doom answered. "He has places there, yes? As you do?"

Amora glared at him, but the effect was somewhat ruined by the watery red eyes. The woman looked hurt, but not angry. "Where! Tell me where so that I may retrieve him."

"If he is somewhere you cannot find him, maybe he does not want you to," Doom answered. "I assume this god... Thor... was not made aware of Loki's presence?"

"No, but... " Amora paused and looked away. "We were together and he left. He blocked me from finding him. I... I didn't follow him right away. I don't know..."

Ah, guilt. That was the urgency. Doom closed the tracking feed. "If you believe him to be upset, you might want to leave him to it for a bit. You hardly seem in the condition to do him much good."

Amora looked for a moment as if she may argue, but did not. She disappeared in a flash of green, instead. Doom sighed. He needed to get more information on this Thor.

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