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[FIC] Time Passing By

Fandom: Avengers (2012)
Pairing: Loki/Steve Rogers
Rating: PG
Word Count: 3201
Summary: The years take both Steve and his estranged daughter from Loki, in different ways, and Loki faces the fact that he might have to change on his own.
Notes: Longer than I expected, with the daughter playing a bigger role than I expected. Feedback welcome.
Also on AO3

Loki gazed out the window upon the cityscape before him. In the two centuries he had walked among them, the Midgardians had evolved rapidly. Homo superior had overtaken homo sapiens in great numbers, and an entirely different world was born from it, one that lauded innovation over conformity, natural talent over practice. When Loki walked among them, he was no longer a god above them, but one of them. Once a prince, he had fallen to the place of a commoner.

He tore himself away from the window when he heard a groan behind him. The great Captain America, not so great now, awoke slowly, as he did these days. His youth had finally faded, after three centuries on this world, and his body was giving out. He was hooked up to tubes and wires, one of them a psychic alarm to let the hospital telepaths know instantly if he should suddenly cease to be.

Loki approached the bed, and he took up one of Steve's hands in his own. It was worn, scarred, covered in liver spots and blue veins. He had deteriorated to this stage far too quickly. The serum that had extended his life had given out, and the years were catching up to Steve. He seemed to shrink in on himself in front of Loki's eyes.

At last, Steve's eyes opened, and he looked around. It took him a long moment, his eyes resting on Loki, before his lined face broke into a smile. "Good morning," he said, but his voice was weak and husky.

"It's almost evening," Loki said, voice gentle. He could be nothing but gentle around Steve now. They would no longer fight. They would no longer argue. "You slept all day."

Steve looked at him, confusion crossing his face. But he came to some acceptance after a moment. He noticed Loki held his hand, and he squeezed. Loki barely felt the gesture.

"You didn't stay all that time, I hope," Steve said. He stiffened slightly, before relaxing with a sigh.

Loki rubbed the fingers of Steve's hand as lightly as possible as Steve relieved himself. He was afraid of breaking the delicate skin. "Don't worry, I've been keeping busy." It struck Loki deeply that he was still able to lie with such ease to Steve. A scant five years ago, Steve might have noticed the lie, but now he smiled up at Loki, face serene.

The bags at Steve's bedside dripped liquid into his veins. Pain relief, the doctors said, and medication. Loki had come to know what each of them were, how often each bag had to be exchanged. It was, for once, a piece of knowledge he cared little for.

"Has Peggy dropped by?" Steve asked.

"She did. While you slept." In truth, Loki had not seen her for 3 years. Last he had heard, she was living in Antarctica, part of a commune comprised entirely of ice mutants.

Steve looked happy, though. Loki helped him raise the bed so that he could eat. Everything was processed into a paste that Steve could drink down. A nurse interrupted them, and with careful telekinesis, she shifted Steve, lifting him up, and redid his sheets and exchanged the containers that held his waste.

"I'd like to go to a museum," Steve said. His eyes were closed, and Loki had thought he had fallen asleep. "A baseball museum. No one plays anymore. It's a little sad."

And before Loki could respond, Steve really fell asleep. Loki took up his position by the window and watched as the city lights brightened the night sky, hiding the stars.

Steve woke once more in the middle of the night. He called out for Loki, and he was at Steve's side in a second. "I had a bad dream," Steve said, voice trembling. "You'd left. I think I'd killed you. As we fought."

And once Steve very nearly had. Loki stroked his brow, shushing him, reassuring him it had been nothing more than a dream.

"Get some more sleep," Loki said, "and we can go to the museum in the morning?"

"What museum?" Steve said as his eyelids closed. Loki listened to the small noises Steve made as he fell asleep, the snorts and grunts, the whistle of air through his nose, and at last, the

Loki, exhaustion finally overcoming him, slept in a chair at Steve's side that night.

In the morning, the psychic alarm went off, absolutely silent, and Loki was awoken by the rush of doctors that filled the room. Loki was shoved off to one side. He held himself back, biting through his lip, to let the doctors work. And then the time of death was pronounced, down to the last second thanks to the psychic alarm.

The wind assaulted him as he strode into the commune, feet crunching on the snow. He had worn a coat out of habit, though he had foregone any other outdoor wear. Steve didn't like to see him without one.

Two young men approached him. "Stop right there," one said, his skin sheathed in ice. "We're going to have to ask you what you're doing here."

"I'm looking for Peggy," Loki said, voice hard. He had no time for these children.

The second one, his skin a pale blue, glanced at the first. "Think he's a norm?"

Loki clenched his fists.

The first shook his head. "Not wearing just that."

The second young man ran off, while the first kept an eye on Loki.

After some time, at least the better part of an hour, he saw Peggy approach through the snow and wind.

Her skin was deep blue, criss crossed with swirled patterns. Loki hadn't seen her like that since she was a child.

"What do you want, Loki?" she said. She crossed her arms, and she glared at Loki. Her eyes were blue. Loki had forgotten that they were.

"Peggy," he greeted.

"It's Peg now," she said. She jerked her head, and the first young man retreated. Peggy jerked her head, and Loki walked with her. He noticed they moved away from the commune.

"What are you doing here?" she said as they walked. "I thought we said our goodbyes."

"We had," Loki agreed. "But I came because of Steve. His condition progressed faster than we had thought. He died yesterday." He kept the quaver from his voice.

Peggy stopped. Loki turned to look at her. Her expression had softened, something that hadn't happened when she was with him for years. Not since she was a little girl.

"The funeral?" she asked

"In two days time," he said. She nodded. She would not cry. She would not give into her emotions. He had taught her the folly of that, at least, despite Steve's wishes.

"I'll leave immediately, then." She looked back to the camp for a moment before returning her gaze to Loki. "Will you be there?"

Loki took his time to respond. "No," he said at last. He had not decided until this very moment. "You may have that day."

Peggy laughed once, derisively. "I told Dad you couldn't rewrite a thousand years of godly upbringing. Fine. Have it your way." She turned from him and marched back to the camp without another word.

Loki stayed where he stood in the snow long after Peggy had disappeared from sight, quenching the urge to strike out and feeling a calm emptiness in its place.

The snow melted the instant he set foot on the Bifrost. The great Heimdall, dressed as always in gleaming gold, stood at the gate. He neither greeted nor stopped Loki, and he passed the gatekeeper.

Odin, Frigga, and Thor were waiting at the entrance to the palace. Frigga walked down the wide steps to Loki, and she enveloped him in a hug. His head rested against her shoulder. It had been ages since she had embraced him in such a manner.

"We are happy for your return," Frigga said, a whisper in his ear. "We were worried you would never come home."

Loki had not set foot in Asgard before this in too long, not even when he had been forgiven of all crimes a hundred years ago. He looked past his mother to Thor, who, when he met his eye, tumbled down the stairs to embrace him, too.

"Heimdall told us of your return," Thor said. "And your loss." Loki could feel Thor's sincerity. He, too, had known Steve well. But at the mention of Heimdall watching him, Loki felt an anger flare, an anger he hadn't felt since he'd first tried to overtake Midgard. He squashed it down until it was hidden away, somewhere deep inside him.

Odin, still at the top of the stairs, nodded once before going inside the palace.

A feast was held in Loki's honor. There was food aplenty, shows of strength between warriors, and many a story, all much older than Loki cared to remember, from his youth.

And when the festivities were over, he retired to his rooms, freshly cleaned, but unchanged since the day he left.

Loki found the day particularly pleasant, so he spent the day reading in the gardens. However, this allowed Thor to find him.

"Ah, Loki," Thor said, approaching him. "I haven't seen you for days, brother."

Loki bowed his head to Thor. "Sire," he said. He did not want to battle Thor again over the position of Chief Minister of Thor's royal cabinet. Tempting as the position was, Loki did not want to embroil himself in Asgardian politics again.

But instead of starting up the usual argument, Thor took a seat beside Loki. "What tome is this?" he asked.

"Yet another book of spells. No matter to you."

Thor bowed his head and did not speak. If Thor would not talk, it was all the better for Loki. Their relationship as adults would never reach the same ease it had once had as boys. Thor's duties as king preoccupied him, and Loki busied himself with study and meditation.

At last, Thor spoke, but his words were hesitant. "Heimdall has received word. From Midgard. He believes you should visit."

Loki had not thought of Midgard for centuries. "Why should it concern me?"

"A letter, he says. Left at the grave of Steven Rogers, addressed to you."

It was easy, now, to not react to Thor's words or Heimdall's actions. While he had no right to spy upon a dead man's grave, Loki understood, even if he disagreed.

He thanked Thor, and when he did, Thor smiled. It brightened up his face, and Loki wondered when his brother had begun to look old. Loki hid his own aging by finally growing a beard, which he carefully maintained every morning. It was a ritual that calmed him.

He did not visit Midgard that day, nor the next. He let the days pass, one by one, until he could stand it no more.

Midgard was almost empty. He did not know where the people had gone, but he did not feel death about the place, despite the crumbling buildings, unrecognizable to Loki. There were still a few stragglers around, but they shied away from him. He caught mere glimpses, a tail here, a fiery arm there. For a moment, Loki wondered what this world had been like, at the height of its prosperity. He had seen it sprout, and he saw the corpse, but the blossom must have been sublime.

He felt a strange familiarity in this place. It wasn't of the landscape itself but the barrenness that struck him.

He found, at last, the graveyard Heimdall had spoken of. The tombstones had crumbled almost to dust, mere stone lumps in the middle of all the weeds. He picked his way through until he saw a leather pouch tucked in front of one stone. His name was stitched on the front.

Inside, he found two letters. One, wrinkled and aged, had a broken seal. The other, much newer looking, had never been shut. He opened that one first.

You should have stayed for the funeral. Dad had written you this letter. I opened it. I had every right to, you'd already left. I guess it doesn't matter now anymore. It's too late.

I've come to realize I take after you a lot more than I wanted to. But that's an asset in this kind of world. So I can thank you for one thing, if nothing else.


It took Loki a long moment to look at the second letter. He could not recognize the writing as Steve's anymore, though he had no reason to doubt that it was. It was dated at the start of his rapid aging.


Part of me thought I could go on forever. I've seen more friends die than any man should. But I've been fortunate in that I've never buried a child, and I've never buried you.

I've tried to give you free reign. I've tried to be understanding. And I know you have been putting in effort, too. But I do have one request. Please, find a way to make things work with Peggy. It won't be perfect. I know that. You know that. But if nothing else, try at this. Not for me, but for you.

I love you, Loki. I always have, and I always will.

How many years had passed? Loki had lost count. He didn't want to figure it out. It didn't change a thing.

He knelt at the grave, fingers running over the worn stone. Part of him was surprised even this much remained, when so much had been lost to time. He tucked the letters back in the pouch and put it in his coat. He was about to stand when, suddenly, he felt a sharp point press into his back.

"Stand slowly," someone said.

Loki obeyed, hands raised above his head. He turned around at a sharp word from the stranger, and he met his daughter's eyes.

It took her a moment, but she pulled back the ice spear, eyes wide, when she at last recognized him. Time had not left her untouched. She looked much older than Loki had at her age, not yet an old woman, but her youth was long gone. She still sported her jotunn skin, not using her magic to cover it up.

"So you came for it, after all," she said. "I thought you were stealing it." Loki was very aware that, while it was no longer pointing at him, she still held the spear in a ready position.

"Heimdall saw it, and I came," Loki said. "I did not expect to find you here."

"So you did go back to Asgard."

Loki realized that she wasn't watching him, but their surroundings. Her eyes would cross his face, but only in passing, to see what was beyond him.

"Dad always said he thought you would. That's why he wrote the letter, you know."

"I am sorry," Loki said. The words were paltry, but he meant them. And when Peggy scoffed, he didn't feel the anger he once would have rise up. "What happened here?"

"Overpopulation," Peggy said. "War. Loss of resources. Those who could left Earth. The rest?" She shrugged a shoulder, indicating the landscape with a wave of her spear. "We do what we can to survive."

"Come with me to Asgard," Loki said. "You can leave this behind. Thor - your uncle - hasn't seen you since you were a babe."

Loki expected her to argue. He expected her to be surprised at his request. But she smiled, surprisingly gentle, and shook her head. "Earth is where I belong. It's my home. I grew up here." She looked up at the sky for a long moment before continuing. "I thought you might have understood that, at least. When the one thing keeping you here was gone, where did you go? Your home."

Loki nodded, once. For all his lies, for all his trickery and quick wit of his youth, he could never find the words he needed when it came to Peggy. That had been Steve's strength.

"What now?" he said at last.

"We go our separate ways." Something caught Peggy’s attention. She straightened, turning her whole body to the right. She cast a glance back at Loki. “Maybe you should get going.” She began to run.

It had been years since he had last trained for combat, but Loki was still strong. He followed her.

But when he finally caught up with her, she was already standing over the corpse of a giant bear, ice spear lodged through its neck.

“You know,” he said, as he circled the corpse, “you make too many assumptions. Did it ever occur to you that I only go where I am most tolerated? With your father dead, I lost my home.”

Peggy slung the bear across her back. It dwarfed her, and she shook underneath it for a moment, but then she began walking.

“And did it ever occur to you,” she said, “that maybe I’ve found my own home? Here? And I’m working for them?” She set the bear down with a large sigh. “Papa... you cared for Dad. That was all you could do.” She looked at him, and her expression was sad. “And he needed that the most in the end. I couldn’t stand to see him die. So I left. But you stayed. Because you were so devoted to him.” She looked off in the distance, this time in a definite direction. “I don’t think you’ve changed at all since I last saw you. When you figure things out,” she met Loki‘s gaze, “how to live without Dad to temper you, I’ll still be here. And maybe then I’ll understand you better.” She picked up the bear again, and Loki did not follow her.

He didn’t linger on Midgard. When he reached his rooms, he tucked the letters away, not bothering to reread them.

Thor sought him out. “Did you find what you were looking for?” he said.

Loki shook his head. What he was looking for was long gone, a dream he had still managed to taint. “But if the cabinet position is still open,” he said, “I’d like to try that. On a trail basis.”

Thor was ecstatic, and he talked for a long while about the improvements they could make to Asgard.

Loki only half-listened. He remembered something Peggy, or perhaps Steve, had said to him once, that a thousand years could not be undone by a few. But he’d lived another thousand, and in a thousand more, maybe he could break from his mold.

He found the anger inside of him. He let it rise, just briefly, and old feelings of hate for Thor, for Odin, for what Loki truly was resurfaced. Thor chattered on, and Loki could feel the resentment challenge Thor. Why did Thor get the throne? What made him better? Was it because he was Odin’s true son?

And then he let them go. Thor’s talk became benign. And Loki, instead of an emptiness, felt relief.

It would take another thousand years, but he had the time. Time was all he had left.