A/N: Okay, so Loki's death never really sat right with me. I was so convinced his death would turn out to be an important plot point in Endgame (I'm looking at you, Valhalla fan theories) but that never happened, so I had to write something to give it perspective. Hope you enjoy.

Loki had no idea what was going on. Normally that would irk him but this time, he felt it might provide him with an opportunity. And to be fair, if things had gone as planned for the Avengers, he'd be no better off than now.

Now there were two Tony Starks, one making a deliberate effort to disguise himself and abscond with the Tesseract, the other having a heart attack. Everyone was distracted by that one and so he was the only one to notice how wrong things had gotten.

Then the Hulk smashed through the door. The disguised Stark crashed to the ground, the briefcase popped open, and the Tesseract slid to a stop at Loki's feet.

As soon as events deviated, what happened next became inevitable. No one was watching him and so Loki, hands still bound, stooped to pick up the Tesseract. A moment later, he stepped back into the portal.

Sheer luck had given Loki a second chance but he wasn't going to waste it. With the loss of his army and the Scepter in the hands of the Avengers, he wasn't about to go crawling back to Thanos. He'd only done the Titan's bidding in order to gain control of Earth. Having failed that, there was no point in returning or in giving up this new power which had so conveniently presented itself to him.

With it, he could go anywhere. He could return to Asgard if he wanted, though with Odin well again, his chances of conquering that realm were slim.

He could go after the Infinity Stones.

It began as an idle fantasy. With their power, he'd be unstoppable. He could take over Asgard and Earth, be rid of the Frost Giants and Thanos and anyone else who stood in his way. If Thor tried to stop him, he would be dealt with too.

The more he thought about it, the less he saw his defeat on Earth as a setback and the more he saw it as a fortuitous circumstance. And with the Space Stone in his possession, no hiding place was out of his reach.

He began his search immediately. With the only known Infinity Stone on Earth under lock and key and the Avengers no doubt waiting for him to make his move, he decided to stay away from there for a bit. As for the others, they could be anywhere. If Thanos had known their locations, he'd had enough foresight not to tell Loki.

But fate was strange and so the first of the remaining Stones led him reluctantly back to Earth a year after the Battle of New York.

Before making his move, Loki made sure that Thor was not on Earth and the Avengers had other things to deal with. If all went according to plan, he would be in and out within an hour.

The building where the Time Stone hid was a tall, imposing structure, a mansion in the middle of mundane workplaces and apartment buildings, and Loki wondered if those who resided within had any serious intention to keep the Stone a secret. Could they be any more obvious? It was a wonder Thanos hadn't taken it already.

Loki strode up to the heavy wooden door. It seemed humanity was teeming with surprises; the place positively sizzled with magical energies. The door was slightly ajar and he recognized it as an invitation into a trap.

But he couldn't stop now, not when he was this close. Thanos was hunting him and with each day, he drew closer. He wanted his revenge and he wanted the Tesseract. Loki couldn't run forever and now the Infinity Stones were the only chance he had left.

So he cloaked himself in illusion, turning invisible, and entered the Sanctum Sanctorum.

The place was silent save for the distant click of an unseen clock which echoed faintly through the spacious foyer. He was reminded of the library back on Asgard where he had spent much of his time. Here, golden light streamed through the windows and a grand staircase ascended to the next floor.

The building would take a while to search but he didn't need to search it. The Time Stone would be with the master of this place and he allowed himself a grin. It was barely defended at all. It was true that whoever he faced was an unknown quantity and possessed the power of a Stone, but with his mind and the Tesseract, he would succeed. He thought about Thanos bearing down on him, death in his wake.

He had to succeed.

There was a high-ceilinged room, lit by flickering candles, which smelled of incense and this is where he found her. She had her back to him and she presented a very slight figure in yellow robes, sitting cross-legged on the floor. Her hood was down, revealing a bald head.

Loki slid a dagger into his hand and approached on silent feet, ready to drive it into her back.

"I've been waiting for you, son of Odin," she said, lightly.

Loki gritted his teeth. Of course it wouldn't be that easy. He raised the dagger to strike.

With a wave of her hand, Loki's illusion melted away and he was visible again. The woman stood and turned to face him. She had serene eyes, ancient eyes. From her neck hung a large pendant in the shape of an eye and he recognized it for what it truly was.

"I've been anticipating you for days."

Loki shifted his grip on the dagger. Not many could see through his illusions. He needed to tread carefully. "You are mistaken," he said. "I am not the son of Odin."

"Does it matter?" She took a step toward him, unperturbed, her gaze unwavering. "Would things have gone any differently?"

"I am not here to discuss motivation with you, witch. Now hand over the Time Stone."

"Ah. So that's what this is about. When Captain Rogers returned it to me, he did say to keep an eye out for you." She walked over to a small table where a teapot sat and poured herself a cup. "Tea?"

"What?" He trailed her across the room. "I don't think you understand the gravity of this situation. I am Loki, god of Asgard, and you will give me the Time Stone."

"I'm afraid I can't do that."

"Then I will take it." He drew a second dagger but he didn't immediately attack. He needed to see what she would do, needed to assess just what she was capable of.

"You are not all bad, Loki," she said. She didn't even raise a hand in her own defense. It was as if she were daring him to strike her down. Or as if she didn't believe that he would.

"You know nothing," Loki spat.

"I know you are capable of greatness, if only you would let go of your anger, your hatred." She studied his face. "If you would only learn to forgive."

Loki let out a breath that contained a hint of laughter. "You are a fool. You know nothing here. I am the one with the power and I will take the Stone from your corpse."

"Will you?" The woman shaped her fingers into symbols before her and when she drew her hands apart, the eye opened and a green light spilled from it.

Loki's eyes widened. He lunged for her, aiming a dagger at her throat before she could use the Time Stone, which bathed everything in green. In the same fluid motion in which she'd opened the eye, she drew a circle in the air, there was an explosion of gold sparks, and then he was nowhere.

Loki crashed onto a surface that was smooth as glass, black as obsidian, and which reflected the moving shapes in the sky. Jumping to his feet, he spun around but the witch was gone and with her any trace of the portal that had brought him here.

"How dare you," he growled and grabbed for the Tesseract in his pocket. She didn't understand the power he held and now there would be no escape for her.

The Tesseract's light was dim.

"What?" He smacked it but that did nothing and no portal formed. Wherever she'd sent him was not of his dimension.

There was movement behind him. Loki whirled, raising his daggers even as he dropped the Tesseract, and someone crashed into him. He caught a flash of multicolored sky, a glimpse of motion reflected in obsidian, and then he slammed into the ground, a blade at his throat.

"Is this another of your tricks, wizard?" The face above Loki was his own.

"Witch," Loki snarled. With a heave, he threw the imposter off, spun, and grabbed him from behind, now with his own dagger held beneath the other Loki's chin.

The other Loki shifted in his grip. "You're going to have to try harder than that, wizard. Thor and I are coming to Earth whether you like it or not. Warn them all, if you like." He jabbed an elbow into Loki's stomach, twisted out of his grip, and assumed a low center of gravity, both daggers in hand, ready to lunge upward.

But there was something inherently wrong with the image. Very few could see through Loki's illusions but being the God of Mischief himself, he recognized one when he saw it.

The imposter lunged straight for him. Loki turned on the spot and raised his dagger just as another image of himself appeared, prepared to stab him in the back. Improvising on the fly, the imposter slapped his hand aside, grabbed the back of his head, and brought a dagger toward his exposed throat.

They both were still. Loki gazed into the imposter's eyes and it was startling how bright they were. The imposter was an imperfect copy, his hair longer, and he possessed an altogether different presence, though one that remained true to Loki at its very core.

"So you're working with my brother," he spat the word like a curse.

"Your brother?" The imposter's eyes narrowed. "Is this not the work of that Earth wizard?"

"The witch," Loki hissed.

The imposter shoved him away and Loki quickly scooped up the Tesseract. The other Loki's eyes flicked to it.

Just before sending him through the portal, the witch had used her pendant. He breathed out softly. "Oh, this is perfect." It made sense now. "She used the Time Stone."

"The Time Stone? No one knows where that is."

"Thanos doesn't," Loki said. "I'm going to go out on a limb here and say you're my future."

The other Loki flipped one of his daggers and caught it. He gave an incredulous laugh. "I think I'd remember meeting myself." He cocked his head and pointed the dagger at Loki. "You have the look of defeat about you. Already have your run-in with the Avengers? My sympathies."

"I escaped the Avengers."

The other Loki raised an eyebrow. "Well that's new. You must have created a deviation point. A version of myself not bound by my past."

"From the sounds of it, I get the better deal," Loki said. "You're with Thor? You haven't killed him yet?"

The other Loki smirked. "I've given that up. Thor and I have…come to an understanding."

Loki couldn't believe what he was hearing. "An understanding?" He took several steps toward the other Loki. "Thor took everything away from me. From us. We are the rightful king of Asgard. They should all bow before us."

"Don't you tire of that endless campaign?" the other Loki said.

"I am glad I'm not destined to become you," Loki spat. "You're weak. You've lost your ambition. I vow I will never descend so low."

The other Loki's face hardened. "You don't get it. There is nothing left for us. Asgard is destroyed. Mother and Father are dead. And Thor…I can't believe I'm saying this, but Thor needs you."

Loki felt like he'd been slapped in the face. He didn't care about Odin, but Mother… And Asgard. "That's not going to happen. Thor doesn't need us. Do you know why? Because I have the strength to do what you apparently couldn't."

"Do you?" The other Loki examined his dagger, running a finger along the blade. "Because I'm reminded of what someone said to me long ago." He looked up. "You lack conviction."

Even though the Battle of New York had been a year ago, that agent's words had lingered in his mind. He'd tried not to think about them but on nights where he felt certain Thanos was a breath away, he'd dwelled on them. He'd wondered whether he'd really wanted to rule or if he just wanted to prove himself worthy, an equal to Thor. He'd wondered if he really wanted Odin dead or if he just wanted his approval. If he really hated Thor or just longed for his trust.

It didn't matter now, none of it mattered. He pushed those thoughts aside. He needed to stay focused on the mission.

"You are not all bad, Loki," the witch had said. But she knew nothing.

Behind the other Loki, a golden portal fizzled into existence. The sparks were reflected in his eyes and when Loki looked over his shoulder, there was another portal behind him. "So is that it? She brought us together for a chat?"

"Earth wizards like to meddle." There was irritation in the other Loki's voice at least.

"I'm going to give her a piece of my mind." Loki was itching to get his hands on that witch and teach her that nobody could presume control over him.

Nobody except Thanos?

Loki tightened his grip on his daggers. He would deal with that in time. He couldn't run forever. The question was, could he run long enough to find the remaining Infinity Stones?

He turned and stalked toward the portal.

"You do that," the other Loki said and when Loki looked back, he saw the exact mischievous grin he only ever saw in the mirror.

Perhaps not everything had changed, he thought as he stepped through the portal.

The witch was not there to meet him. Instead, he stood in a grassy meadow, a fine breeze caressing his face. But it didn't matter, as the portal closed behind him, because the Tesseract was bright and warm once again.

The entirety of the cosmos was open to him.

There was nothing he couldn't do.

No, he couldn't run forever. For the first time in his life, Loki was truly torn and for the first time the idea of life without Thor caused him only pain.

There was no one in the universe he hated more than Thanos. With every fiber of his being, he hated him. And yet, when the time came, Loki willingly sacrificed the Space Stone. For Thor.

"I assure you, brother, the sun will shine on us again."

They'd used to play in the gardens as children. Loki was a master of hide-and-seek. Frigga would praise him for his cleverness and scold Thor for getting so dirty and accidentally crushing the daisies.

He was too little, too late. Loki could see it in Thanos' eyes. He would kill Thor anyway. Even now that he'd gotten what he wanted.

For once in his life, Loki was out of tricks.

"I, Loki," he said, taking a step toward Thanos. "Prince of Asgard." He hesitated and glanced at Thor, whose gaze pleaded with him to stop. Loki tried to communicate with him silently. "Odinson.

I'm sorry, brother.

He couldn't back out now. "Rightful king of Jotunheim."

He'd discussed imaginary attacks with Thor during their youth. Thor thought it would be a grand adventure. Loki thought it would make Odin proud of him.

"God of Mischief." A dagger shimmered into existence in his hand.

He thought of his past, alternate self, who would rather have let Thor die than give up the Tesseract, who would never have dreamed of giving up his life for the chance to save Thor's.

"Do hereby pledge to you" – his heart was beating so fast – "my undying fidelity."

Thor had given him second chance after second chance. When no one else had believed in him, Thor had chosen to stay by his side.

Perhaps there was goodness in him after all, though he would never admit it. Was it a weakness, that it had led him here, to his death? Or a strength?

Either way, his story could not end here. After all, he was the God of Mischief.

He was Loki.

And he had one more trick up his sleeve.

Even as Thanos choked the life from him, there was another Loki out there somewhere. It was his turn now.

Numbness closed in on him and it was okay because Thor would live and he would not be alone.

Thor, he thought as the light faded.

Come find me.