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Winter and Spring

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Chapter 1

Odin’s defeat of Jotunheim has far reaching consequences that not even the All Father could have foreseen.

When he takes the Casket of Ancient Winters—Odin speaks gallantly of the safety of others, but what he does not say is that it is more about punishment then it is about protection—it plunges Jotunheim into eternal darkness.

It also seals Laufey’s fate.

“You’ve killed us all.” He informs the All Father that very last time they see one another.

“A civilization can live without power, a lesson you will all soon learn.” Odin replied coldly as he left. “And you have no one to blame for yourself.”

Laufey merely laughs and it is a deep, choking sound laced with a dark, bitter resignation.

Less than a month later the once great king is dead.

The war had been a costly one, a last twofold gamble on Laufey’s arrogant part to boldly assert his authority and--more importantly--to stave off his reigns growing unpopularity. It had been an attempt to keep the wolves at bay that coveted his crown while sating Jotunheim’s growing lust and demand for power and excess. (For how easily they forgot their displeasure when Laufey overthrew worlds for their vanity.)

Instead the war damns Jotunheim, crippling it beyond repair without the casket and the people who had eagerly bayed for the blood of other worlds now bayed for their kings in retribution for his folly. The Frost Giant Nál leads a rebellion that storms the once great palace and with his own hand he slays Laufey and in doing so declares himself the new king. He has Laufey’s body displayed on the palace gates for all to see in a challenge and as a warning to others.

Heimdall sees. He sees everything that happened and more and informs Odin.

When Nál (secretly) contacts Asgard to negotiate the casket’s return he is rebuffed much to his poorly concealed rage.

“Your violent act of treason and disposition of your rightful king does not prove your people have changed or are truly repentant, let alone deserving enough to warrant the caskets return.” Odin informed him. “Laufey is responsible for a great many atrocities, but the burden of responsibility is also shared by all Frost Giants. His actions were, in part, in response to the demands of his people. And if I were so inclined to return the casket, I would only do so to the rightful and worthy king of Jotunheim.”

“I am the rightful and worthy king of Jotunheim!” Nál roared.

“By the rules and authority that governs all Nine Realms you would technically considered a regent as you posses no official royal blood.” Odin said caustically. “Even if I were to consider negotiations, I would only do so with Laufey himself or his descendant. Your actions have served no one but yourself and they are for naught.”

“Laufey’s sons are dead. His dynasty is no more, today beings a new one.” Nál’s bold declaration is met with scorn.

“A lie. And an insult. You dare presume to fool me?” For Heimdall has seen everything. He’s seen Fárbauti steal away in the night on the day of her husband’s death, taking with her Laufey’s sons and rightful heirs to the throne. He has seen Nál and his forces searching the barren lands of Jotunheim for her and her offspring and been unsuccessful in locating them. He has seen Nál‘s (rightful) confidence in the knowledge that they have been permanently banished, unable to seek aid from anyone.

He has also seen the last of crafty Fárbauti, for she has used sorcery to hide herself even from his eyes. She is nothing if not through. It’s not an arrogant assumption on Nál’s behalf to believe Laufey’s line is doomed but Heimdall doubts, though he keeps this to himself.

“You choose more poorly then your last king. I will not return the casket to you nor will I negotiate either. Your actions have been for nothing.” Odin decrees and that is the last they speak to one another.

“Jotunheim fosters a great rage and resentment my King.” Heimdall warned. “And crippled they are even more dangerous. They are a force to be reckoned with even more so now and that force will grow.”

Odin says simply and grimly “I know.” He walks away, heavy with the knowledge that the loss of Laufey is hardly a victory or a thing to be celebrated.

So Heimdall watches Jotunheim, seeing changes over the years that are so small that not even the All Father with all his wisdom could see them.

He waits patiently, watching those changes come towards Asgard like a wave and he smiles in welcome.

 

 

 

 

Fárbauti dies a year after her husband.

Jotunheim, for the time being, might have been against them but that does not mean everyone turns their backs to Laufey’s line. Fárbauti is one who is underestimated, both reviled and loved, for she is a strong queen which most tended to forget (until reminded) as she is perceived, in the same breath, to be a weak one. She was not as physically strong as most Frost Giants, but the power of her sorcery was crushing. Though she cared for Laufey she had not returned his feelings of love (she was pragmatic, their marriage was politically motivated and she had been satisfied with it) and she had given him two strong sons.

But she had also given him a devastatingly weak one. A halfling, a tiny, weak thing who’s very birth is a disgrace to Laufey. What is an even bigger betrayal is that she will not allow him to be killed as was customary for such things.

“He is mine.” Is all she says to justify her decision and her refusal to kill it is the only true issue of contention in her long marriage. She names him Loki and to Laufey’s shame and surprise he does not die within a few years as his kind always did.

Fárbauti, like Laufey, see’s the king’s death coming and she leaves him to his fate because she cannot save him but she can save Helblindi and Loki. (Býleistr, her middle child, had disappeared during the war to her great grief) She can retreat and wait in order to win.

Her own time was running out, her health had been fading (another strike against her in the eyes of the people) and the harsh conditions of their banishment coupled with Jotunheim’s declining environment worsen it.

She spends her remaining time wisely, secretly making arrangements far away from Nál’s eyes and ears. The reach Fárbauti has at her disposal is considerable and she makes much use of it, secreting away to the homes of others on favors and goodwill. She makes Helblindi memorize names of other noble families, memorize the secrets of them that he can use to barter his way into their graces for protection or favors.

Such tactics are crass and beneath Laufey’s line but it’s necessary and, as Fárbauti tells Helblindi, temporary.

“All kings must go through a journey to make them into who they are.” Fárbauti says, gripping Helblindi’s face in her hands as she lectures harshly. “Yours is fraught with hardship. These times will be a true test of who you are. We are left with nothing and yet there have been kings who have forged their way to power with even less. This will only mean that when you take back your rightful crown, your reign will be unrivaled in the history of Jotunheim because this journey will help you find that power. Are you a true king my son?”

“Yes.” Helblindi says in awe.

“Then be a great one Helblindi and nothing less. Learn from the mistakes of your father, you are meant for more.” Her words are a meant as a warning as much as encouragement, for she see’s in her son the seeds of self destruction that were in her own husband. It worries her, because Helblindi takes after Laufey in so many wrong ways and coupled with his newly found position as (former, for now) king with Býleistr gone, she sees the potential for history to repeat itself. Potential that grows daily as she inadvertently fills his head with entitlement, her own anger and bitterness at Nál unintentionally making her words poison as she attempts to encourage Helblindi to take back the crown.

Loki is too young to remember but Fárbauti whispers to him in secret.

“Little one, I confess that I do know what your purpose in this life is. I could see so clearly the meaning in your brothers but for you I must admit that I am blind. I think that perhaps yours is so great that I cannot comprehend it. What I do know is that you are meant for so much more then what Jotunheim will tell or allow you to be. I see strength in you; you need only to remember that you have it.”

When she dies she has Helblindi swear he will keep his brother with him and keep him safe.

He does so reluctantly and Fárbauti dies a faceless, disgraced queen that leaves her sons to wander Jotunheim, its cold future in their hands.

 

 

 

Hardships define a person.

That is what Fárbauti lectured Helblindi about constantly. Hardships could either make you into someone great or someone weak. You had a choice as to who it would forge you into.

Helblindi is defined by many things but primarily his resentment. As he grows into manhood so too grows his impatience, his anger and his bitterness. Living on the scrapes of good will of others or those who feel a pitiful obligation towards the Laufeysons enrages Helblindi. It’s humiliating and degrading and it does nothing to sooth his wounded ego.

“That should be me sitting on that throne.” He rages to Loki and not for the first time either. “Every day that traitor rests upon it disgraces me even more. What am I brother? I, once a prince and future king of Jotunheim and yet here I am, reduced to nothing more than a peasant beggar to the very people meant to serve me. Wandering from one noble home to another and taking shelter like some kind of a frightened child in the face of a nobody like Nál. How am I to command respect when forced to live like this?”

Loki says nothing. He has no words that will comfort Helblindi and any attempt to provide it will only be rebuffed violently. His brother’s monstrous temper had become even more erratic and had grown over the years. There were days when he quietly feared for Helblindi’s sanity. Every attempt, every plan to make leeway in seizing back his crown had ended in failure. It weighed heavily on his brother and his embarrassment and frustration only fueled his aggression.

“Am I never to be King little brother?” Helblindi despaired in a rare moment of sorrow. They sat outside the once grand home of Liulfr, Lord of Wolves, who had welcomed them a few months ago and provided shelter and support for the Laufey sons. Helblindi laughed bitterly, using his finger to trace patterns into the smooth white snow they sat in. “My options dwindle steady every day. I have no army, and not enough support to form one. I… I have nothing.”

“You have me.” Loki offers softly and as much as he fears his brother he aches for him in that moment and relates to him. Loki loved Helblindi and if he lost his brother he too would be left with nothing. The scope of that mere implication is more terrifying then anything he could ever imagine, even his brother’s volatile moods.

Helblindi chuckles ruefully. “You are nothing little brother.” He speaks with a brutal truth, his matter of fact tone making Loki flinch inwardly. “Nothing at all.”

And yet he’s not. This occurs to Helblindi later, sitting in Liulfr’s library and woefully looking at an ancient book containing beautifully rendered drawings of the Casket of Ancient Winters. Helblindi yearns to possess it, not only because it rightfully belongs to him but because if he had it he wouldn’t need an army to retake his throne. He could destroy worlds with the casket, Nál and those who followed him (out of fear, despair or genuine support, Helblindi did not care for their reasons, merely their actions) wouldn’t stand a chance against him if he had the casket. The only reason Nál had been able to take control is because Odin had taken it away.

That is when an idea occurs to Helblindi.

“Odin will never give you the casket.” Liulfr said calmly. “He won’t even negotiate with you for its return. Not after what Laufey did.”

“But I am not my father.” Helblindi said boldly. “The only reason Odin will not negotiate is because he has been given no reason to believe or trust us. I will give him one.”

He could engineer one, and Liulfr is actually impressed at Helblindi’s strategy once he explains it. It’s brilliant actually and more importantly, it could work. He agrees to assist Helblindi with everything and he possesses the kind of reach to achieve what needed to be done.

For the first time in years Helblindi feels excitement, a rush of eager anticipation. The answer to his problems had been, in a way, foolishly simple.

Now he could seize back his throne because all along he had possessed something that he could barter with.

He had Loki.

 

 

 

Helblindi’s plan takes a year to implement and execute.

Liulfr deliberately ensures that Nál learns of a secret pathway to Asgard, one that could be used without the aid of magic and one that the Asgard’s powerful guardian, Heimdall, cannot see or even knows about. (There are many more pathways like it but Helblindi does not share this even with Liulfr. It is a family secret for only those of Laufey’s dynasty to know.)

It’s a temptation that provokes the kind of response Helblindi had been hoping for. He personally sends forth word to Odin about the small party of Frost Giants that Nál dispatches, hoping to steal the casket.

It works far beyond his expectations but also has unforeseen consequences. Thor Odinson arrives on Jotunheim and panicked at what he could be doing, Helblindi sends warning to Odin but it is too late. Thor’s rash actions ensure a war between Asgard and Jotunheim which delights Helblindi (it will make what is to come so much easier) but there is also a setback when he learns Thor has been banished by his own father.

“Calm yourself.” Liulfr ordered a panicked Helblindi.

You calm down!” Helblindi snarled. “This will have all been for nothing again without the Odinson.”

“He will not stay banished my lord. The All Father will not allow his only son and heir to remain gone forever. He is doing this for a reason. We must wait.”

They wait for half a year before word reaches them that Thor has indeed returned and Helblindi can finally breathe easier.

He then reaches out to Odin to arrange a secret meeting. Perhaps the All Father is curious, or see’s value in such a meeting, or even has a desire to see and revel in what his conquest of Jotunheim has wrought but either way, he surprisingly agrees to it with relative swiftness.

Helblindi, utilizing the same path Nál’s forces had, slips into Asgard and by mutual agreement meets Odin alone at the Bifrost. Not even Heimdall seems to be there though he doesn’t doubt for a moment the guardian is watching.

“We are at war with one another.” Odin says. “I am not inclined to return the casket given our circumstances.”

Helblindi eyed him pleased to see how tired the All Father looks. “You are at war with Nál.” He corrected. “You and I are not.”

“And I should believe you why? You, the offspring of the very father I defeated. Am I to believe you harbor no feelings of ill will at all?”

“Oh I do. I would be a liar to say otherwise, and cold hearted to feel differently. But those feelings are milder then you would think and I will admit they are due to loyalty and love. However I’m objective enough to see the sides of all matters. My father was the architect of his own downfall; even I cannot fully hold you responsible for that. You were at war, responding justly to a challenge and you won fairly. I cannot begrudge you that.”

Odin contemplated that for a moment, studying the Frost Giant before him and unable to gage his level of sincerity.

“Besides in the hierarchy of things, whatever personal grudges we may hold to one another, they amount to nothing when it is our people at stake.”

“Our people?” There, a common nerve hit just as Helblindi had been hoping for.

“Yes,” He said. “Our people. Asgard will not be the only one affected if you go to war with Jotunheim. My people would suffer more losses then perhaps yours. We have a common goal All Father, neither of us wants this battle, it is far too costly and my people have suffered enough.”

“You’re not asking for the casket.” Odin realized.

“I am asking for a chance and for assistance. You and I both want to stop this war before it starts. If you want to ensure that I need to be restored to my throne. I am not you enemy Odin, I am your ally.”

Odin clearly has doubts but he is intrigued. It’s the perfect solution, the least bloodless and that is the problem, it is to perfect. That Jotunheim would welcome back the son of their former king was highly unlikely, but from what Heimdall has seen of the Frost Giants over the years and of Nál’s rule, they would not outright reject Helblindi as they would have years ago. Nál did not inspire the people, nor did he implement changes that would make them prosper or ease their hard times, he did not have the proper tools available to do so. Helblindi on the other hand…

“You are not an ally if I cannot trust you.” Odin finally said.

“True. And yet I’ve already helped you. Who do you think it was that warned you of the Frost Giants attempt to retake the casket? Or of your sons brash retaliation? Nál cannot possess the casket, the consequences would be devastating for all Nine Realms. And I knew Thor Odinson’s actions would lead to war, it is why I sent word to you. I vividly remember our last war; I don’t want to repeat it.”

“Hmm.” Odin, as predicted, is impressed by that. “What do you propose?”

“An alliance. Imagine it All Father, Jotunheim and Asgard, two of the most powerful of all the Nine Realms joined as one, a force unlike anything that has been seen before. How inspiring would that be, two former, mortal enemies uniting as one in peace.”

“And all that would take is Asgard putting you back on the throne? You want Asgard’s power and armies to directly interfere in your world affairs.” He says nothing of the casket, but the implication for it to eventually be returned hung heavy in the air between them. “I fail to see how your word alone guarantees an alliance, grateful though I may be for your earlier warnings.”

“True, given our history a mere pledge does seem to be a rather empty gesture. But what about uniting our houses into one?” Helblindi asked slyly, lip curling into a vicious smile.

“You would marry my son?” Even Helblindi cannot blame Odin for the skepticism (and amusement) he doesn’t even try to hide.

“Hardly. For starters your son would never agree to that and I doubt my own people would be that accepting.” That much at least is not a lie. The fickle people of Jotunheim might be willing to accept Helblindi back, even if it is by the force of Asgard’s army, but accepting their king married to the future king of Asgard would be asking too much. The image of Helblindi selling himself to the enemy that had condemned their world and offering it up in return for his crown would be damaging beyond repair.

It would take but the littlest of adjustments to circumvent that.

“I believe there is someone else more suitable to your son’s tastes, someone who will not make the prospect of a political marriage to a Frost Giant so unappealing as to be unlivable or that much of a sacrifice. My youngest brother Loki.”

Odin was once again surprised. “You have a younger sibling? This is the first I’m hearing of this.”

“That’s because Laufey never acknowledged him. He is a known secret to the Jotun, a halfing who should have died or have been killed as a disgrace. My mother and I did not allow that.”

“Why?”

“He is my brother.” Helblindi feigned offense. “I don’t care what our culture’s views and demands are. I will not let my own brother be killed simply because he does not live up to their barbaric standards.” It’s the perfect thing to say, the Jotun’s beliefs were seen as nothing more than savage and backwards to the Asgardians--a truly hypocritical viewpoint considering Asgard’s own customs--and it impresses Odin. “Loki is a little smaller than your son and is a powerful sorcerer. He would make a worthy companion.”

Odin considered for a minute and finally said “I will meet with this Loki first. If I find him to be favorable and if Thor is willing, I am inclined to agree to your terms. I make no promises.”

It was all Helblindi could do to restrain the impulse to yell in triumph. He’s so excited that he can barely contain himself and when Odin secretly travels to Jotunheim via the secret path Helblindi had disclosed in another bid for trust (Heimdall however is ever vigilant, the All Father had made that abundantly clear.), he forces Loki to wear the finest leathers and armor of royalty, adored with the furs of wolves long extinct and finished the look with a rich green cloak.

It is all borrowed from Liulfr but it has the desired effect of making Loki look impressive enough by Asgard standards.

“Brother,” Helblindi said to him with an affectionate, gentle tone that was undone by the frightening intensity in his red eyes. He gripped Loki’s arms, his large hands almost engulfing them completely and though he didn’t squeeze, the threat that he could at the slightest hint of displeasure was very evident. He waits patiently until Loki finally looks at him, face rigidly blank. “This is important, do not disappoint me. Everything hinges on this meeting. I am depending on you, haven’t I taken such great care of you?”

Loki just stares at him and Helblindi grits his teeth when he doesn’t say anything immediately and when he finally does speak, it is in that gratingly flat tone he’s had ever since Helblindi told him of his plan. “Yes.”

“Then repay me Loki, show me your gratitude. It’s not such a terrible thing I ask of you, you owe it to me, your brother and rightful king.”

Loki has no idea what Helblindi honestly expects him to do. Oh his brother has told him what to do (be demure… show respect and reverence towards Odin… impress him… show intelligence but don’t be obvious... don’t be boastful… try and feign curiosity and hope about Asgard) but how to do it is another matter entirely. His brother expects him to be appealing and charming and beautiful and so many things Loki has never been or encouraged to be and the pressure is unbearable.

It feels like the most transparent and horribly constructed façade ever created and Lok is so thoroughly unnerved and sick at the prospect (at incurring his brother’s wrath or worse still, it working) that he is sure that the meeting with Odin is a disaster.

The All Father is not what he expected (he looks so old and tired), he is cloaked in simple, travel robes yet he still retains his powerful, intimidating presence. Loki can’t bring himself to look at him much, let alone speak to him. They sat in Liulfr’s large guest room by a roaring fire and Loki has no idea what to say so he says nothing, painfully aware that that was about the worst course of action considering the expectations.

Odin does not help. Apart from introductions they haven’t said much to one another in the last hour save for a few inquires on Odin’s part.

“Your kinds touch is harmful to us.” Odin said thoughtfully. “How do you propose to overcome this obstacle?”

“I can… change my appearance to that of an Asgardian.” Loki offered, suppressing a wince at the remembrance of the tortuous hours Helblindi had forced him to endure, practicing transforming, a task that wasn’t as easy to accomplish as his brother had been hoping for much to his irritation.

“You must look like them.” Helblindi had said furiously. “He can’t touch you otherwise and he’ll find you unappealing enough if you look like you normally do. Acceptance among the Asgardians will come easier if you look like them and they will be more inclined to corporate.”

“Show me.”

Loki offered his hand which Odin took and there was only a brief flash of pain as the beginnings of frost bite began to set in before abruptly stopping. Within moments Loki’s Jotun features melted away into the visage of an Asgardian. He can’t tell if Odin is pleased by what he sees as the All Father keeps his face carefully blank and Loki maintains his transformation for the rest of the visit and they speak no more.

When Loki looked at him one last time unable to stand the quite anymore Odin suddenly smiled. He nodded once, satisfied, before he took his leave without even informing Helblindi who demanded “Well? Did he like you?”

“I don’t know.” Loki said honestly.

“If you have ruined this I will slit your throat.” Helblindi coldly promised as Loki calmly removed the magnificent, horned helmet that had been made for him as he transformed back.

The threat only made Loki feel even more strangely peaceful.

It’s a short lived sensation; to his utter shock and disappointment Odin contacts Helblindi a few days later with a simple message.

“He’ll do. Thor has agreed.”

Chapter Text

Loki sits on the railing of the balcony to his room and looks out at Jotunheim.

The landscape is cold, not just in temperature but in every way imaginable. It is gray and barren and ugly, he can’t picture the pure white of the snow, glittering like diamonds in the suns or the magnificent ice formations, slick and gleaming in shapes that would take ones breath away. It’s an achingly lovely image, whispered in words to him when he was younger by Fárbauti, words that must be true (his mother had sounded so sad and wistful) but for the life of him he cannot see that beauty now, not even the bones of it.

“I’m going to change that Loki.” Helblindi had bragged brazenly. “I will carve Jotunheim into an image so grand and magnificent that Asgard itself will look like nothing more than an unpolished stone. You will weep when you see it.”

Only he won’t, because Loki will not be here anymore after today.

Jotunheim is utterly still and quite, it’s soothing and even the ugly starkness of it is a comfort, its familiar and its home. He then looks down at the great drop below and for a split second he envisions himself simply sliding off the rail and into the air, falling with only the wind against his body to embrace him. It’s not the first morbid thought he’s had but like all the others it’s a comfort and a temptation. Imagining his brother’s reaction makes him almost smile even at the pang of guilt it causes.

“Loki!” Helblindi suddenly called out, shattering the peaceful mood and making him tense. With a resigned sigh he looked over his shoulder as Helblindi burst into the room uninvited.

His brother’s new appearance is something that still startles him, for instead of a Frost Giant, Helblindi has been reformed into the image of an Asgardian. It had been by request of Odin, a “gesture of good faith” as he had called it. In actuality it had been a veiled order, if Helblindi was to stay in Asgard with Loki for the time being, then he too would be required to make the same sacrifice as his brother and must wear the same image. Part of the justification is the very one Helblindi had used, it was about acceptance in Asgardian society (the fact that Loki is not allowed anything in his life anymore and now must strip away his very image to conform makes him want to scream and never stop), another larger part is safety. Helblindi is to powerful in his own right and Odin is ever cautious, he is showing a lot of trust with this endeavor but he does not trust them completely. He would be a fool to demand anything less than this. With Helblindi in an Asgardian appearance, it limited his powers drastically, his height is also stunted though he is still much taller than others, standing at an impressive seven feet with his strength greatly reduced from its normal power.

Odin knows the power of the Frost Giants and he will take no risks.

Helblindi had been enraged, for the first time since their negotiations he had protested vehemently but in the end had to concede or there would be no alliance. He is still so angry about this indignity and it is truly ironic that it was Loki that had to cast the spell to make him into this new image.

It had given Loki a rather vindictive streak of pleasure to do that, though he had been extremely careful not to let even a hint of that show.

His brother does look rather handsome and powerful in his new form, but it does little to comfort him and his looks are marred by the constant scowl on his face. A scowl that has been temporarily replaced by a smugly delighted expression considering what would happen today.

He held a small, ornate chest in his hands and placed it on the bed.

“Look what I have for you.” He said pleased, as if this were truly a special present given for a truly special occasion. He opened the chest and pulled out more clothes that had been made for Loki. Finery made of silks and leathers, fur trims and other lush materials, its elegant and yet tastefully subdued and plain. “Isn’t it lovely?” He asked mockingly.

Loki doesn’t bother responding and Helblindi is far too excited to notice or care. His grotesque enthusiasm isn’t contagious, if anything it reminds Loki of how ill he feels, how ill he’s felt for days.

“I don’t feel good.” He had confided to Liulfr a few nights ago. They are not friends in the least but he felt as though he had to tell someone or he would go mad. Liulfr, for the first time ever, had looked at him with something that had almost resembled sympathy.

“How do you feel?” He had asked.

“Cold. Numb.”

Liulfr had nodded approvingly. “That’s… good actually. Hold onto that sensation my lord, it will… help.”

It has in its own way, and yet he fears it won’t be enough because every hour that draws closer to the ceremony is wearing on his nerves in the most unbearable way imaginable.

Helblindi is anxious in his own right despite the façade of arrogant confidence he projects. It shows when he prepares Loki himself, as if worried his brother is to foolish to dress himself and will somehow make a mistake in his own appearance. Loki suffers through the indignities silently, he rather feels like a doll at this point.

Rather fitting all things considered.

“There now!” Helblindi said once Loki was dressed. “Hopefully this will satisfy the Odinson.” He eyed Loki critically and frowned, lifting his brother’s chin up with a crooked finger so he could look him in the eye. “You could try and look somewhat enthusiastic you know. This vacant, deadened look is not becoming or appropriate.”

Loki doesn’t try and Helblindi scowls displeased, gently tracing Loki’s face with a finger in a gross parody of affection and he tenses, for how often Helblindi’s gentleness was a trick. “Do not test me little brother.” He warned darkly and he needs no words to convey that even though Loki cannot be marred--especially on this day--he wouldn’t let the occasion stop him.

“I’m nervous.” He said by way of excuse and that appeases Helblindi who was just amused.

“So am I brother, so am I. But what a great, wonderful day this is for the both of us. It is the beginning of a new era, we are creating history today. Your life now has meaning Loki; you should feel honored to be helping your king.”

The cruel irony is that Helblindi’s words are not lies; Loki should feel honored, should be glad to be of service to the rightful king of Jotunheim and it is his duty, like everyone else’s, to assist in any way he can.

This cold knowledge doesn’t help, if anything it makes it worse as he feels selfish and ungrateful because it doesn’t feel like an honor, it feels like a sacrifice, one he’s not sure he is ready to make because that little thing--as Helblindi kept referring to it--that his brother is not even asking him for is his life.

And yet he does owe him that. Loki is not a fool, he’s acutely, painfully aware that his life isn’t worth consideration by Jotun standards and that Helblindi hadn’t been forced to keep him around despite his mother’s words. In a strange, twisted way he knows that his brother does love him, if only a little. That he kept Loki alive and with him was a testament to that. That he could trade away his life without hesitation or care was also a testament to how much he didn’t matter either.

It hurt only a little by now, a mere shadow to the physical pain Helblindi could casually inflict and had done so quite liberally in the past.

Loki looks at his brother and not for the first time, marvels at the strange contradiction that Helblindi is.

Frowning at his stare, Helblindi grasped Loki’s face between his hands and looked at him with such an open, earnest expression it makes Loki’s breath catch.

“You have to be perfect today Loki. I need you to be perfect.” Helblindi said softly and very, very serious. “Can you do that for me?”

It’s so important to his brother, he needs this to work and Loki realizes with an ache in his chest that he holds Helblindi’s very sanity in his hands. It’s yet another unfathomable burden he’s being asked to shoulder in such a short amount of time and he begins trembling as he grasped Helblindi’s wrists.

“I-“ And he can’t even finish, he has no adequate words to express how he can’t do this, he can’t be this perfect thing and he can’t be that last option to get Helblindi’s crown. His feelings are so overwhelming and he has no way to voice it. The pain in his chest grew sharply as Helblindi’s eyes narrowed, because Loki realizes—or rather accepts--for the first time that even if he could articulate everything, it wouldn’t matter. The finality of it all steals his breath away.

It wouldn’t matter. He had no choice.

Helblindi stroked Loki’s face tenderly. “You believe this a fate worse than death little brother, and yet it is not.” He assures with such a terribly affectionate tone and it makes it all so much worse. “There are worse fates then being the whore of an Asgard king. For if you fail, oh what I will do to you…” He leans in and whispers a just few of the things he would do, and when Loki tries to recoil Helblindi forcibly keeps his head in place so that he can continue to lovingly detail such terrible things. When he finishes he smiles at the expression on Loki’s face, his brother is stunned at the darkness in his heart and Helblindi is pleased. Let him carry this reminder with him long after this day, he had more to fear from Helblindi then he did a simple obligation.

Loki stood frozen as his brother pressed a kiss to his forehead and then released him with one last caress.

“Be ready, they arrive within the hour.” He ordered as he departed.

Loki watched him go, fascinated that he should feel upset and yet he doesn’t. He just feels detached from everything. With his brother’s words ringing in his ears (how eloquently Helblindi could speak of such atrocities, such as happily watching his brother getting raped to death, with the veiled threat of participating himself out of sheer hate) he calmly goes to a basin and vomits, the sharp, acrid taste stinging his throat and tongue.

When he finished he straightened up, wiping at his mouth with a shaking hand and he saw himself reflected back in the mirror mounted on the wall before him.

A complete stranger stares back, looking haunted and lost and weak.

Loki shatters the mirror with his fist feeling a vicious amount of satisfaction at watching the image crack and fall to the stone floor. He then sits down calmly among the glittering shards, waiting away the last few minutes of freedom he wouldn’t possess again.

 

 

 

Asgard wedding customs dictated that the betrothed was to be escorted by his or her husband to the wedding ceremony. As such the Odinson, via the secret pathway, was to arrive at Liulfr’s estate under the veil of nightfall, in order to avoid discovery from anyone associated with Nál.

“Why such a foolish risk? Surely it would be easier if we went to them.” Helblindi complained. He, Liulfr and Loki were waiting outside the grand home for Thor’s arrival. The night sky was pitch black as no stars shone on Jotunheim anymore, but the moons cast enough light on the white snow that one could still see clearly. It had begun to snow and Loki marveled at the feeling of it on his new skin, content to ignore the two Frost Giants for as long as possible.

“It is a test my lord.” Liulfr explained as Helblindi paced. “Not of you but of Thor. After his sons last disastrous visit, I would imagine Thor must earn Odin’s trust back and prove himself worthy. To allow him to travel unsupervised to Jotunheim for such a great responsibility and not disturb the peace is another of the All Father’s lessons.” Liulfr’s expression of derision showed what just what he really thought of Odin’s teachings. It was an expression he was quick to lose when he noticed something on the horizon. A cloud of snow dust, kicked into the air by the hooves of horses.

“My lord, here they come.” He warned straightening up.

Helblindi quickly grabbed Loki by his arm and roughly pulled him to his feet. The two brothers stood side by side, watching the oncoming storm draw closer in a whirl of gray snow, black and red flashing in the cloud.

“The Mighty Thor, God of Thunder.” Helblindi said into Loki’s ear, smirking at how rigid Loki was and squeezing his wrist in a warning to relax. “You’re going to be the consort to a God Loki, a king in your own right.”

If he thought that would stir up feelings of gratitude he was wrong, all Loki felt a small flare of resentment that was quickly suppressed with dread the closer his soon to be husband got. Within a few minutes the Asgardians were there, pulling up short at the gates of the estate.

There are four of them, and as the snow settles the one in the lead, wearing a shockingly red cape that contrasts dramatically against the gray gloom, dismounts and strides forward without waiting for his escorts. Helblindi quickly moved forward to meet him halfway down the walkway.

“Sire.” Helblindi greeted, bowing respectfully and Thor just stands there with such an arrogant look and stance that Loki can see it plainly even from where he is. Thor eyed Helblindi with an expression of sever displeasure and disappointment.

“Are you Loki?” He asked in a deep voice.

Helblindi gave him a cold smile, smarting at the disrespect but having little choice but to let it go for now.

“I am Helblindi Laufeyson, seventh ruler of Jotunheim and the rightful king of this realm.”

Thor bears his teeth in a grin that is anything but friendly. “Not yet you’re not.”

And oh how that cut Helblindi deeply, he recoiled with such a murderous expression of anger that he has to choke it back with all his willpower and he is left utterly speechless. Thor, damn him, appeared pleased by this reaction until one of his companions—a grim and seriously looking fellow with dark hair—called out in warning against this behavior, “Thor.”

Properly and reluctantly contrite, Thor cleared his throat and made an effort to appear more official and diplomatic.

“I am Thor, son of Odin and the next ruler of Asgard.” He announced proudly. “I am here for Loki Laufeyson.”

Helblindi gritted his teeth, swallowing hard before speaking. “You seek my brother. Loki!” He called both in introduction and summons.

Loki felt as though he were rooted to the very spot he stood on as everyone looks at him, he’s only able to remember how to move when Liulfr puts his hand against his back and gently pushed him forward.

“You are a prince my lord. Accept this not as your duty to your brother, but to your people, and take solace and strength in that.” He whispered and though Loki will never see Liulfr again, for that one bright instant he has never been more grateful to anyone. That small offering provides enough strength in him to steel himself and walk forward to his brother’s side.

He can’t quite bring himself to look at Thor until he is by his brother and when he finally does meet the God of Thunder’s gaze head on, he does so with an unwavering and resolute conviction he doesn’t actually feel but none the less projects.

Thor is, Loki reluctantly admits as they looked upon on another for the first time, devastatingly handsome. The fact he carried himself in a manner that spoke of a man who flagrantly knew this was also apparent. With golden hair, chiseled features and a muscular build he is a little bigger than Loki in height and he radiates strength. It’s overwhelming and attractive, and yet intimidating and frightening and so many other things that he’s left unable to define it to even himself.

This man is powerful, more powerful then Helblindi and that alone immediately makes Loki wary.

Thor’s eyes are a stunning shade of blue, reflecting a staggering amount of confidence, they are open and expressive and he reads a hundred different emotions in them as Thor stares back critically, and when he suddenly smiled he is even more beautiful.

Despite this Loki is nauseated because Thor’s smile is lascivious, he likes what he sees and he walks closer to Loki, deliberately crowding him as if to truly measure their differences in sizes, thoroughly enjoying experiencing it himself.

“Well, well, well,” Thor said chuckling, “You are small for a Frost Giant.” He slowly circles around his betrothed, like a predator stalking a prey and enjoying toying with it. He blatantly runs his eyes over his body and Loki bears through it stoically while Thor hums with appreciation, stopping once more in front of him.

There is a long moment where they just look at one another and for a split second Thor’s gaze suddenly softens just ever so slightly. He tilted his head in curiosity, reaching out and brushing his fingers down the contours of Loki’s jaw with such gentleness that Loki is surprised and even more unnerved. He shivered involuntarily, both at the unexpected touch and at the coolness in Thor’s fingers.

“Your skin feels normal, it’s warm.” Thor marveled. “Tell me little giant, do you feel the cold as I do?”

Loki swallowed hard before finding his voice. “No. I do not”

“Ah! It speaks! So it can talk!” Thor grinned in jest but it faded almost immediately, in its wake a more serious and appropriate expression befell him. He seemed to be thinking for a moment before reaching a decision, nodding in acceptance and offering his hand.

“Loki Laufeyson,” He began officiously. “I am here to travel with you to Asgard for our ceremony, to ensure your safety and protect you honor. Do you accept my invitation to take this journey with me?”

Loki imagined he could feel Helblindi’s gaze burning into him in that moment. Closing his eyes with a sigh, he steeled himself anew and reached out, taking Thor’s hand. “Y-yes.”

Thor’s grip is firm and he’s not even utilizing a fraction of his actual strength which is entirely disconcerting. He leads Loki to where his friends are awaiting and introduces them as The Warriors Three. Helblindi is assigned to ride with Fandral, who puts forth a rather magnanimous effort to not look uneasy, and though he fails he doesn’t protest. Thor then helps him onto his own horse to personally ride with him. He deliberately runs his hand down Loki’s inner thigh in a lewd manner and it’s all Loki can do to keep from instinctively kicking him in sheer disgust—his skin crawls at the sensation--then anger as Thor chuckles and climbs onto the horse in front of him.

“Hold on.” He instructed smugly, deriving far too much amusement from how uncomfortable Loki was, and he barely has enough time to reluctantly warp his arms around him before Thor urges his horse into an immediate run, sending them into the night with a jolt.

The wind whips past them, sharp and cutting and Loki almost feels like he’s flying. Thor is a steady anchor against the elements and he watches Jotunheim pass by in a whirl. The gray pallet is a fitting goodbye for his mood.

With a shudder Loki looks away, involuntarily burying his face into Thor’s shoulder so that he does not have to look at Jotunheim anymore as he can’t stand the sight.

He breathes deeply and forces himself to feel nothing.

Chapter Text

Asgard is breathtaking.

The contrasts between it and Jotunheim are unbelievably shocking to behold. Loki isn’t sure what he had expected (truthfully he had never really considered it as he had more pressing issues to dwell on) he hadn’t cared enough to even wonder what it might look like. Oh he had heard plenty of stories, while the Frost Giants by large loathed the Asgardians, their descriptions of Asgard itself were far kinder then anything their realm was described as in return. Then again it was hard for even the Jotun to deny the beauty of a realm this large, powerful and revered.

Fárbauti had described it as one of Yggdrasil’s most shinning of stars—though something akin to jealousy had tainted her voice when she had said it—Laufey had, surprisingly, reluctantly agreed, quick to add that it was also a monument to self indulging decadence.

They had both been right.

Asgard is grand, there are so many magnificent buildings, so much gold and stone and glass everywhere and the colors. Loki has never seen so much color before in his life, Asgard sparkles with it and it’s overwhelming and dizzying, it actually hurts his eyes and gives him a headache.

He thinks that he does a rather admirable job of not gawking at everything like some kind of enraptured child. He hates that he’s actually impressed and curious about this city that is now his new prison.

“Well little giant, what do you think?” Thor asked as they sped toward the palace, the warm wind feels so foreign of Loki’s skin that it’s almost unpleasant.

Loki doesn’t want to compliment Asgard, neither does he wish to issue insult and his answer is perhaps not the most eloquent but it’s all he can think of in compromise. “It’s bright.”

Thor laughed uproariously. “That it is,” He said with a hint of pride in his voice. “That it is.”

The palace looks to be made of hundred gleaming white spires, extraordinary and yet foreboding at the same time. It seems to take forever to reach and yet they arrive far too soon much to Loki’s dismay. They enter into some private gardens, stopping at a fountain where several servants awaited. As soon as they pull up to a stop Loki slides off the horse quickly, least Thor have to touch him again.

Thor doesn’t take offense, merely smirking in infuriating amusement as he dismounted. The Warriors Three and Helblindi didn’t follow suite, instead, per Asgard custom, they would depart taking Helblindi with them as Loki was to be alone.

Loki’s stomach flips at that prospect, the servants look serene and unbothered to be assisting a Frost Giant and he doesn’t trust them at all. Even with the baleful look Helblindi is giving him he’d rather prefer his brother’s company then to none at all in this alien place.

“Loki,” Thor said, bowing courteously. “I take my leave of you now until the ceremony. These people will assist you.” He gestured to the servants and as Loki turns to sullenly go to them Thor grabs his hand and brings it to his mouth, placing a kiss to the back of it. “Until then little giant.” He said in a suggestive and mocking manner.

Loki watches him go stone faced and is glad to be rid of him.

He’s on his own now and everything passes by in a blur. The servants are the perfect example of politeness and professionalism; they escort him to a lavish room, offer food and drink--which he declines, the mere thought of it makes his ill—and without being asked await outside in case he needed anything, giving him space and time to reflect. One of the women however, returned with a large, gilded box that she opened and presented to him.

“These are what are customarily worn for the ceremony.” She explained as Loki stared at the folded material. “Do you wish to wear them?”

He almost said yes out of automatic instinct even as he burned with embarrassment and anger at this latest indignity, but at the last moment he registered how she had phrased that.

It was a question.

“I have a choice?”

“Yes.”

It’s such a little relief but it feels enormous in the wake of everything. Loki pulled his cloak closer around himself and said “Then no. I will wear what I am wearing now.” A rather pitiful rebellion but it none the less makes him breathe easier. He will stay here in Asgard, he will marry an Asgardian, abide by their demands and customs but he won’t be dressed in their clothes and by them.

He will not sacrifice every facet of his identity no matter how hard they or his brother tried to make him. He couldn’t.

After that he is left truly alone for the rest of the wait. This is meant to be a time for reflection and personal preparation but Loki has already had so much of that he feels anymore will truly drive him mad. For lack of anything better to do he does nothing but study his surroundings, noting that for all the seeming extravagance he’s witnessed, Asgardian designs seemed to be more along the lines of the Jotun. The rooms are large and echo as they are very sparsely decorated.

He wonders what his brother is doing right now. He can picture him with such crystal clearly clarity in his mind, consulting with Odin about retaking Jotunheim. Although upon further thought he deems this unlikely. From what he has seen of Thor, the God of Thunder most likely would demand a full test from what he has essentially bought, bedding Loki first to see if it was truly worth it.

That thought makes Loki want to claw his own skin off.

He can’t tell how much time passes before the servant eventually comes to collect him, leading him through an empty, golden hallway until they reach a door that would look more at place in Jotunheim then here since it is so large. The servant takes him over to a bench located next to the door where he’s instructed to wait and left once more utterly alone.

But not for long.

He’s sitting there, staring at the odd, glossy floor and concentrating on keeping his mind and emotions completely blank—and seceding for the most part—when he senses Odin rather than hears him approach. He doesn’t turn to acknowledge the All Father but he goes rigid, stoutly ignoring him even when he calmly sits down next to Loki uninvited. It’s the first time they’ve encounter one another since that fateful visit on Jotunheim.

Neither one says anything for the longest time and Loki thinks with a pang that being alone wasn’t nearly as bad as this.

When Odin speaks it does nothing to alleviate the tension in the air.

“How are you Loki?” He asked and despite his best efforts a surge of anger flares in Loki at such a foolish inquiry.

“I’m fine.” He replied flatly.

“Hmm.” Odin says no more and Loki wonders how long he must endure this uncomfortable torture. He has far too many troubles on this day then to worry about making a mistake in front of Odin and it eventually grows to be too much that even he cannot resist asking, “Shouldn’t you be with your son?”

“I thought it best to give him space, especially on this day. He has… been through much lately, his own doing of course but it makes it no less easy. I think he still harbors much childish resentment whether he realizes it or not.”

Loki realized that Odin was referring to Thor’s banishment and he does so with a hint of sadness. He did not like having to teach Thor whatever painful lesson he had been forced to, no parent enjoyed hurting their own child even if it was for their own benefit, but it had to be done.

There is clearly a much deeper, unknown issue to this story than anyone had known but he does not pry because truthfully he does not care. Instead, in the long stretch of silence that follows it begins to dawn on him why perhaps Odin was here. He is giving Loki an opening.

“May I ask you a question All Father?” He asked, seizing the opportunity presented but still unable to look at him.

“You may ask whatever you wish. Such is your right now.” Odin allowed.

Why?” He asked wearily and to his credit Odin does not insult him by pretending to not understand Loki’s true meaning. However he hesitates tellingly before responding.

“Thor has made mistakes. To start a war is a great responsibility and burden; to stop a war is a greater one still. He is attempting to make amends by marrying you.”

Loki’s throat aches from the bitterness at that. “So I am to be your son’s punishment.” A physical embodiment and constant remind of his guilt, how wonderful.

“No. You are to be his salvation, a guide that I cannot be and one he will listen to.”

This does nothing but make Loki feel worse although the thought of someone like Thor listening to him made him want to laugh out of genuine amusement. He says nothing more and Odin waits for a little while longer in case he had anything more he wished to ask. When it becomes apparent that he doesn’t Odin stands with some difficulty and takes a deep breath.

“Thank you Loki.” He said quietly (although why and what he was being thanked for Loki couldn’t begin to guess) and left, Loki barely notices him go, to absorbed at staring at himself in the reflection of the horned helmet that he held in his lap. He runs his fingers over the cool metal and distorted image.

Duty, consort, king, whore, punishment, salvation… so many words, so many expectations that he can’t possibly live up to. He notes with wry amusement that at the very least he has so many options that he’s bound to satisfy at least one.

The anticipation of everything has left Loki feeling wrung out and raw and now at the last moments of everything--as the giant doors next to him began open up so that he could be escorted to the ceremony-- he feels oddly peaceful. Liulfr’s words echo across his mind and he straightens, as determined as he could be at this point.

For Jotunheim, not for Thor or Odin or Asgard or even Helblindi, but for the Frost Giants he will walk in there and represent his people with a dignity he did not feel or was allowed much of.

He has so little pride left, and everyone will continue to take it little by little as if they had the right to, but he will not let it show. That will be his satisfaction, denying them a view of the cost.

Loki takes a deep breath, slips the helmet over his head and stands.

For Jotunheim.

 

 

 

The ceremony is phenomenally anticlimactic.

Asgard wedding ceremonies differed from Jotunheim’s as greatly as their cities aesthetics. In Jotunheim the ceremony was reserved for very few people- the two who were being married, the high priest conducting the ceremony, and a single family member from each side to witness.

In Asgard it would seem that many people were allowed to witness what Jotun’s considered a private, extremely intimate affair. The vast throne room was filled with people who stand off to the sides observing. The mood is morose; their bright, handsome prince was marrying a monster, their enemy, what cause for celebration was this truly?

They stare at Loki as he walks through the room, stoutly ignoring them, a mixture of surprise at his appearance, curiosity, and disgust reflected in their judgmental eyes. Other then looks however they do nothing else, not while in court and not while under the watchful eye of Odin All Father, who presides over and conducts the ceremony from his grand throne.

Thor awaited at the bottom of the stairs looking regal in his polished armor, he’s far more subdued and somber then he had ever been. For all his bravado and posturing, he conducts himself with a reverence befitting of his status throughout the whole thing, with nary a hint of his earlier misbehavior. The Warriors Three stand off to the side on the stairs to bear witness, from the other side so do Frigga, Helblindi and a dark haired woman Loki does not know.

The actual ceremony itself is extremely simple. Whereas on Jotunheim vows, personal words and pledges between the two parties would be exchanged, prayers would be given by the high priest, and each was to feed one another a special bit of herbs as well as wine, here Odin does all the talking. He speaks of loyalty, of bonds, of duty and of peace and hope. He speaks about the greatness of both their houses but nothing of love.

Loki cannot decide if this is merely a part of Asgard custom or if Odin was providing a small mercy by that omission but he’s glad for it. He and Thor do not touch (that much he knew was tradition) until they have are required to cut one another’s palms with a dagger and join hands, mixing blood. It’s disgusting but Thor’s hold on his wrist is at least gentle, and he makes an effort to make the cut a shallow one. Loki returns the favor even though he’s rather appalled at having to do this.

Frigga comes forward and places her cool hands onto their clasped ones, healing them.

He doesn’t look at Thor once and after that they are declared joined forever and that is the end of it. Loki is surprised that he feels no different than he had before. The whole thing is cold and clinical.

The celebration after isn’t. (Yet another difference from Jotun customs, in Asgard it would seem everything was a cause for celebration.) It’s a raucous affair; music is played loudly, alcohol flows freely and in great quantity, gluttonous amounts of food are present (Loki is rather horrified at the sheer volume of food he knows will go to waste, such a precious resource on Jotunheim and yet here the Asgardians treated it as nothing.) there’s dance and laughter and several brawls break out and only half of them are in good sport. Thor deliberately goes out of his way to start some of them, for no other reason than he desires battle. Whatever decorum he had possessed during the ceremony is gone completely as he revels in the party. A feeling that is shared by the rest of those who attend, apparently Thor’s rather undesirable choice in husband didn’t matter for the moment, so long as the mead and revelry kept going to keep them distracted. Nobody has said anything derogatory (yet) though Loki suspects those in attendance wouldn’t be rude enough or foolish enough to do so now. Mostly he is ignored, much to his relief.

“Barbaric aren’t they?” Helblindi observed, marveling at the chaos around them. “Complete savages and yet they possess the most formidable warriors in all the Nine Realms.” He raised an eyebrow as Thor threw a cup to the ground with a joyful bellow, The Warriors Three who surrounded him laughed uproariously. “Your husband seems to be enjoying himself.” He mocked.

At least one of them was. Loki pushed his food around listlessly and Helblindi frowned at him in annoyance, for he disliked being ignored and his brother didn’t even seem to be listening. Thor soon re-joined them, as he does he deliberately drops a large apple onto Loki’s plate with such force it splashes the gravy from his uneaten food making him jump.

“Is the food not to your liking little giant?” Thor asked chuckling at Loki’s scowl.

“It’s fine.” Helblindi answered automatically for him even though really, it wasn’t for either of them. The sauces for the meat are too rich for a Jotun’s pallet and the wine tastes to sweet.

“I did not know Frost Giants could speak through others. Interesting.” Thor said narrowing his eyes at Helblindi who returned the look with a cold one of his own in warning.

The Odinson would be a true test of Helblindi’s diplomatic skills and schemes, Loki observed thoughtfully and with a sinking feeling, his brother was patient and knew he would have to sacrifice a certain amount of dignity in order for this plan secede. But knowing and reality were two entirely different things that he’s not sure Helblindi was prepared for. He could already see the greed in his brother’s eye, the impatience eating away at his resolve now that he was so close. He fears that Helblindi will be his own worst enemy now, he was to territorial. Any perceived challenge to his power of any kind would not be welcomed.

And Thor, with his own vast amounts of power, would be just what his brother would instinctively rebel at.

“I would have words with you and your father regarding Nál.” Helblindi tried officiously and pressed his lips in anger when Thor dismissed him without even so much as a moment’s consideration.

“Not today giant. We will not speak of wars or bloodshed on my wedding day. We’re here to celebrate!” He raised his glass up with a grin and cheers were returned at this declaration. He remains with Loki for the rest of the evening at their table. Per tradition they are presented with lavish gifts from the guests and Loki is surprised that for each one given, it is clearly meant for both. Weaponry (swords that go to Thor, daggers meant for him) shields, pieces of armor, food, drink (both Asgardian and Jotun) as well as volumes of books.

Thor accepts it all casually, the spoilt prince accustomed to receiving such gifts and having expected it.
Loki watches the gifts steadily accumulate in a discarded pile, torn between being appalled at the sheer excess and amazed by it. He also eyes it nervously, because he knows this signifies that for him and Thor, the evening was coming to an end.

He’s rather futilely hoping that Thor will be so absorbed with the celebration that he’ll stay longer, or even become so drunk that he won’t be able do much of anything let alone remember what will most assuredly be a disastrous night. Luck has never been on Loki’s side however, and today is no different he morosely notes when Thor—who has steadily gone more quite as the last of the offers were made—abruptly stands. For the first time his bravado seems to slip as he refuses to look at Loki, hesitating for a moment before wordlessly gesturing for him to follow.

Perhaps only now Thor was finding the prospect of bedding a Frost Giant less exotic the closer the time came to actually going through with it.

Loki stiffened, swallowing dryly before he shakily rose to follow. When he did Helblindi suddenly seized his wrist in a bone crushing grip which sadly, at this point, did not startle him anymore.

“Brother,” Helblindi hissed and that strange, awful gleam is back in his eyes. Perhaps Asgardian faces are simply more expressive then a Frost Giants, but that expression of almost madness--tinged with something even more awful, desperation and hope-- was so ugly and harsh on Helblindi’s handsome face that Loki is stricken by the sight of it.

“Remember, nothing else matters. Just make him happy, make sure he is satisfied.” Helblindi ordered.

Sickened (because he knows this) Loki ripped his arm out of Helblindi’s grip and left his brother there without looking back, unable to look back. The delay has allowed Thor to disappear amongst the crowd by a few extra seconds, but the God of Thunder is not hard to follow as he boisterously ordered that the music not stop simply on account of his departure and for everyone to continue to enjoying the festivities. Everyone cheered so loud that Loki’s ears rang and the crowd parted in deference, allowing him and Thor to pass by untouched.

The looks in their eyes are sharp and critical and Loki did not care in the least about their opinions. The perception of Asgard should be a logical concern but in the grand scheme of things, right at this very moment, it was amazing how little such big issues should be.

Thor’s stride is purposeful and doesn’t falter; neither does he bother to see if his new husband is following him, apparently confident that his directive will be followed. (And how Loki hates him for that alone, that he either knows or just assumes he will be able to order him around and Loki will have no choice but to obey.) They leave the grand hall, at once leaving the suffocating amount of people, the too loud music, and the rancid smell of the food behind. It’s wonderful and awful all at once. Loki is watching the floor and does not notice that they do not go to Thor’s chambers, but instead descend downstairs and outside into another garden that was close by. He’s to busy collecting his thoughts and is somewhat reassured and confident that at the very least he can maintain a stoic composure and won’t do something as undignified as panic.

It’s only when he hears Thor come to a stop does he look up and falter.

Thor stands at the side of the most majestic horse Loki has ever seen. It’s beautiful, breathtakingly powerful looking and larger than most horses, it possessed eight legs with a gray coat that looked so soft it shined. It’s a special creature and the sight of it stuns Loki.

When he realizes that Thor is intending it to be his gift he is shocked speechless.

Thor can’t even look at Loki; he appears deeply embarrassed to even be presenting an offering, let alone such an extravagant one and when Loki says nothing and does nothing he clears his throat, explaining roughly, “Sleipnir belonged to my father. He was given to me on my coronation.” Thor chuckled, patting Sleipnir’s neck affectionately. “I’m afraid however that our temperaments are not well suited for one another.”

Loki cannot move or find his tongue until Thor frowns, perhaps wondering if the Frost Giant is unimpressed or ungrateful which is the very last impression he wishes to give. “I-I did not get you anything.” Loki stammered, he feels so completely embarrassed himself to be receiving such a wonderful gift that it leaves a strange mix of misery and delight in its wake.

Thor just looked confused. “You were not expected to.” He sounds amused that no one told him this even though in reality they had. As if Helblindi would have left anything to chance.

Loki finally came forward, approaching the horse reverently and reaching out; despite Thor’s claim about its mood it remained docile enough, looking at him curiously, its calming manner almost infectious. Loki stroked its mane, marveling at the muscle he could feel in its… his… neck and the softness of the hair.

Mine, Loki thought and it’s an odd concept, utterly foreign and yet he finds that he likes it. This unique, strange animal is an exceptional gift, he might not be able to keep it--for the future is far too uncertain and not in his favor--but for this moment he enjoys it.

“Thank you.” He said quietly and it feels horribly inadequate but it’s all that can be said.

Thor nodded satisfied; apparently his self consciousness had passed now that the awkward moment he had anticipated had not developed (and neither had he been forced to suffer the embarrassment of others witnessing his generosity, even if it was forced by tradition) and in its place his earlier confidence returned. He grabbed Loki’s hand away from Sleipnir and grinned once he had his attention.

“Well, with this we are finished with the festivities, shall we conclude our business little giant?”

It was hardly subtle or courteous, and neither was it meant to be. As Loki looked at him he could plainly read the want in his eyes. For Thor, this is merely a matter of lust, a right he now has and is eager to exercise. In its own twisted way, Loki supposes he should take it as a compliment, and perhaps something he can use. Thor desired him, or rather his Asgard body, he’d given no indication that he cared for him beyond that and Loki was fine with this. Perhaps he could hold and satisfy enough of Thor’s attention using sex, but if he had no interest past that then that meant he would leave Loki alone.

The prospect of that is bliss even as he feels his legs weaken in fear.

“Very well.” Loki consented.

Chapter Text

Thor’s chambers are, unsurprisingly, lavish and magnificent. Dripping in gold’s, silks and tapestries that practically glow in the light of the flames that came from the torches, mounted on the walls around the room. There is no northern wall in order to allow for a sprawling marble balcony and a stunning view of Asgard undoubtedly reserved for only those of royalty. There are merely pillars and heavy curtains that could be pulled closed to shut out the world for privacy and to ward off the elements. It feels gloriously open and it wasn’t even a fraction of its true size as there was a door to the east clearly leading to more rooms.

It’s fit for a king.

Despite the lush extravagance Loki noted how there were no personal touches, no decorations of any kind. Several chests were piled in the room, as well as well used stacks of weapons that were obviously Thor’s, denoting that he’s clearly just moved into these chambers, perhaps even this was his very first day in them.

“Do you like it?”

He doesn’t jump at Thor’s smug voice, but the heavy sound of the door closing is depressingly final and loud, making something in his chest involuntarily tighten. He goes rigid with determination as Thor slowly stalked closer, coming to stand directly behind him, so close he imagined he could feel the heat coming off his body.

“It’s beautiful.” Loki answered; even though it’s true it grates to say because Thor clearly knew the answer already, he just delighted in making Loki acknowledge it out loud.

“Hmm. Feel free to change whatever you wish, half of it is yours now.” The generosity is superficial, for Thor is far too distracted. Loki could actually feel Thor’s eyes running over his body again as he began to circle him in an echo of their first encounter, only this time he now has the right to touch. A hand presses down onto his shoulder (Loki is proud that he doesn’t flinch) and leisurely trails across his back, slowly and appreciatively, sliding across his chest and stomach. It’s feels hideously invasive and repulsive and it lingers unpleasantly with heat and remembered pressure.

“I have been told,” Thor continued with a grin, delighted at Loki’s stone faced expression. “That you have never lain with anyone. Is that true?”

It was amazing that he could still feel embarrassment at this point. “And who would I have possibly lain with?” Loki demanded archly, it’s as close to outright disrespect as he’s ever gotten but he can’t help it, there really was only so much humiliation he could take in one day.

Thor chuckled, and how he could sound so conversational and casual while continuing to try and--and secede in--intimidating Loki with his own body was beyond him. “I suppose that is true. It would be physically impossible for someone of your stature to couple with another Frost Giant.” From behind him, Thor began deftly removing the clasps that held Loki’s cloak onto his shoulders, letting the material slip to the floor. It was ridiculous that the loss of its weight should leave him feeling so exposed, even as Thor came back around and began tugging at the knots of his tunic, undoing them at a torturously leisure pace.

Evidently Thor saw it as his right (or perhaps it was, Loki suddenly realized he did not know) or he simply enjoyed the task of slowly removing Loki’s clothing piece by piece by himself. Either way Loki did nothing to assist him and would do nothing to assist him. He did not want to be here, he did not want to participate and if this was his only means of defiance and his only way to express it then so be it.

Thor finally undid the last knot and opened his tunic to expose a small portion of bare flesh. Loki shivered when he touched his skin, running his warm palm over it with an uncomfortable amount of gentleness considering his greedy aggression and he resists the impulse to push him away. Thor’s hand travels further up, over his bared neck, cupping his cheek for a moment and then slipping behind his head to grip his hair.

“Tell me little giant,” Thor touched his chest again with his other hand, leaning in close as if to kiss him. His gentle grip became steel when Loki instinctively tried to recoil, forcibly keeping his head in place. He didn’t kiss him, but his lips brushed against Loki’s as he spoke. “Is it true what they say about Frost Giants? That you are both man and woman?”

It was a subject Loki had been dreading, the question sent fear lancing him and when he tried to jerk away again Thor’s grip remained and even tightened in warning. Loki gritted his teeth, heart pounding but he responded with a steady voice. “Yes.”

“And yet they refer to you as he, as a prince and brother. You identify as such.” Thor tilted Loki’s head back and began to kiss his throat. The completely unexpected pleasure that action caused made it hard to concentrate for a moment.

“Y-yes. I prefer that.”

“You have to choose between one or the other?”

“No. I could simply indentify myself as female if I so wished. It’s not uncommon for Jotun’s to go half their life as male and then spend their other half of life as female and vice versa. Some identify as one gender, others as both at the same time. It’s just a matter of preference.”

Thor’s hand slides lower, from his chest, down his stomach and lower still, slipping and between his legs and Loki gasps mortified when Thor grips him. He then choked when Thor’s hand rubbed against his sex, slowly and sensually, sending pleasure thrumming through his stomach tightly. It’s fast and unexpected and his legs weaken at it, he wanted to run in disgust… he wanted Thor’s hand to press harder

“Hmm… I don’t feel anything womanly.” Thor observed with a smirk, teeth nipping at Loki’s ear teasingly. “Is this part of the illusion of your appearance?”

“Y-yes.”

Thor abruptly took his hand away and Loki gasped in relief and loss, closing his eyes as his face was gripped.

“And how do you prefer to be taken?” Thor murmured, breath hot against his lips. “ As a man or woman?”

The best course of action would be to leave that up to Thor, after all that was what Loki was here for and letting his new husband choose would undoubtedly please him. Surely he would have a preference.

And yet Loki could not bring himself to say the words, he gripped Thor’s wrists, bracing himself in case he was forced otherwise.

Not that… not that…

“As a man. Please. As a man.” Loki whispered, resisting the impulse to pull away when Thor kissed him in response. It’s awkward, Thor is greedy and Loki has no idea what he is doing and responds only half heartedly, choking as Thor shoved his tongue into his mouth. He’s fairly sure he’s not doing a good job but it seems to please The God Of Thunder enough as he breaks away, breathing hard, eyes bright with lust.

“Get on the bed.” He ordered roughly.

The bed is overly large, much larger then what was necessary to accommodate two people and Loki feels even smaller as he laid down on it, tensing as Thor crawled over him eagerly, pressing his body down against him.

It’s claustrophobic and somewhat terrifying (and inexplicably, rather humiliating), an odd mix of vile pleasure and disgust turns Loki’s stomach as Thor’s hands and mouth were everywhere, pulling off his clothes and panting in arousal as he pushed Loki’s legs apart to settle between them. He flounders, unsure what to do (what would be pleasing, what he was allowed to do, what he wasn’t…) and responds only tentatively, ruthlessly suppressing the building panic when he felt Thor’s hardness press against his thigh and he began to thrust against him. It was difficult to ignore the knowledge that this was going to hurt and he wasn’t sure how to best respond to minimize the pain.

Thor abruptly stopped, pulling back and looking down at him, chest heaving, an odd, unreadable expression marring his face as he looked at Loki intently.

“What?” Loki asked, worried he had done something—or even not done enough of something—to displease him. It’s a rather foolish question in hind sight, after all laying there passively or simply holding onto Thor was not much of a response and one that had undoubtedly been noticed and not appreciated.

Thor touched his face for a moment and Loki suddenly realized he is shaking uncontrollably.

“I’m not going to hurt you.” Thor said frowning.

That moment is an epiphany for Loki.

For Thor this is a primal exercise of power and dominance, he enjoyed intimidating Loki, flaunting his strength and size as it made him feel powerful. He might take vicious delight in ruthlessly tormenting and teasing him but the prospect of bedding someone who was actually terrified was apparently unappealing. Even if it was a Frost Giant.

It’s somewhat of a weight lifted off his chest.

“I don’t think that is a promise you can keep.” He finally replied, it’s the most neutral thing he can think of to say (because he’s not sure if he believes Thor. His new husband might mean what he says but his intent and what he inadvertently does were two different things) but also the most truthful.

Thor sat back, unable to resist running his hands over Loki’s legs as he did so but Loki didn’t mind for once, for now it’s such a relief to have Thor off him that he breathes deeply. The God of Thunder glanced at the night stand and a contemplative look crossed his face.

“Perhaps not.” He agreed, leaning over to pick up something. “But there is a way to make things easier.” He teasingly waved a large green bottle in front of Loki to show him what he held before he pulled the cork off. The scent of sickeningly sweet alcohol filled the air as he took a drink.

Loki propped himself up with an elbow, watching puzzled as Thor finished taking his fill and then held the mead at him again.

“Drink.” Thor ordered, his tone however was more of offering than command.

Loki tried to push his hand away. “I don’t want it. It’s too sweet.”

“I’m not asking for your opinion on the taste little giant. You’re going to want the effect.” He says the last word with such suggestiveness and a wicked grin that Loki frowns uncertainly. Thor leaned forward and began trailing kisses along his shoulder and neck. “Trust me,” Thor whispered into his ear, voice husky with desire and making Loki shiver. “It will help. You’ll be relaxed and it will make you feel good.”

Loki somehow doubted that, but it’s a temptation that proves to be to enticing as he became acutely aware of how exposed he felt with his legs spread open so wantonly against Thor. The stab of shame he felt was too much and he grabbed the bottle from Thor, The God of Thunder’s laugh practically reverberated around him he began drinking. It tastes foul and it burns so much he has to stop for a moment to cough, his stomach churned and he’s worried for a moment that he’s going to be sick. It momentarily distracts him from Thor, who was biting and sucking at the junction between his shoulder and neck, fingers pinching and rolling his nipple into hardness. He then pulled Loki up and into his lap with a growl, hands sliding into his pants to grip his ass as he bucked against him.

Loki began taking huge swallows of the drink, trying to ignore the taste and the feeling of that hardness rubbing against him. Thor unexpectedly grabbed the bottle, forcing it away from his lips and splashing mead down him. Loki’s snarl of annoyance turned into a gasp when Thor used the tip of his tongue to lick a long, wet trail through the splashed mead on his chest and up to his mouth to end in a devouring kiss where he could taste the honey from the drink.

“Not so fast little giant,” Thor grinned against his lips before taking a drink. “We have plenty of time.”

He slipped the bottle back into Loki’s hand and Loki drank deeply, clinging to Thor as he was pressed back down onto the bed again.

 

 

Thor had been right, the mead helped.

It didn’t alleviate his feelings it just… muted it. Everything seemed a little less worrisome, a little less embarrassing, a little less terrifying and overwhelming. It was easier to concentrate on physical sensation (which seemed heightened) without feeling tainted by enjoying the pleasure.

It’s a little easier to forget momentarily that technically he is a thing being used.

What’s bewildering however is that Thor isn’t using him; he’s demonstrating a rather impressive amount of restraint and patience considering his earlier behavior. Attempting to put him at ease (although no amount of alcohol could achieve that) and distract him with pleasure once he’s removed all of their clothing.

The world is slightly hazy and he feels wonderfully languid. Thor’s large hands send warmth spreading throughout him, making his body come alive in ways he hadn’t thought possible. The slick sensation of skin sliding against skin is delicious, leaving him gasping. And when Thor wraps his fingers around his growing erection and begins gently pumping, Loki’s cry is swallowed by Thor’s kiss and he moans instead. Thor’s touch is deliberately, tortuously gentle, its far to light and teasing to be of any satisfaction and if anything makes him acutely, almost painfully aware of how desperately he needs release.

“Touch me.” Thor whispered into his ear and Loki does, wrapping his arms around him, marveling at the powerful muscles he feels under his hands, the smoothness of his back and Thor feels so good. His shoulders and arms are tense, practically shaking in a testament to how much he is holding back and it inexplicably excites Loki that he should hold this kind of power over him. He willingly kisses Thor, raking his fingers through his hair and bucking into his hand wildly.

“Please, oh please, harder.” He’s too far gone to feel shame at begging, though he takes a sliver of satisfaction at the gasp this elicits from Thor, the way his heart is racing and he’s pressed so close that Loki can feel it against his own chest.

He close, so close that he almost comes and Thor suddenly released him and pulled back, quickly reaching for something else on the nightstand.

“Wha-what are you doing?” Loki gasped, he feels empty, as if he were about the fall apart. His muddled mind couldn’t understand what Thor was going for, he couldn’t possibly be getting the bottle mead again seeing which Loki had already consumed it in its entirety. (He had a vague recollection of the bottle rolling away somewhere but he didn’t care enough to dwell on where.)

“Trust me. You’re going to like this.” Thor assured with a smugness that is undone by the way his voice wavers and at least it’s somewhat reassuring that Loki isn’t the only one affected by this lust to such a sever degree.

Thor uses the oil he had retrieved to coat his fingers and leaned over, trailing kisses down Loki’s chest and stomach and even the inside of his thigh in promise. He places a hand against Loki’s abdomen to hold him down and slowly pressed a finger into his entrance. It’s not exactly painful but neither is it pleasant; however Loki’s body is still relaxed and trembling with pleasure so when Thor slowly stretched him and the slide of his finger going in and out it wasn’t too bad until he pressed in another. The discomfort made him grunt and flinch and that’s when Thor leaned in and took him into his mouth.

Loki shouted, back arching as sheer molten pleasure exploded within him, it’s so electric and unexpected that it sends any coherent thought scattering. When he tried to instinctively thrust into that exquisite, wet heat Thor pressed down on his abdomen, forcing him to stay still, he’s practically sobbing and begging and it’s so wonderful

He doesn’t last long, it’s rather embarrassing but he’s never experienced such astounding sensation before and Thor is good, running his tongue along the underside of his cock, lapping at the head and taking in almost the entire length into his mouth. He even tolerates Loki grabbing onto his hair in a white knuckled grip though he easily resists all attempts to make him go faster. Loki is so distracted and overwhelmed he doesn’t even notice those fingers in him anymore, stretching him.

“Thor… I can’t… I’m going… oh god’s… oh… oh!” Loki gasped and it’s too much. He comes with a choked cry, body going so rigid he thought he would snap and break into a thousand pieces and all he can see is white and he can’t hear anything…

He doesn’t pass out exactly but he does drift away for a bit, as he comes down from the wave of bliss his body is practically vibrating and he can’t seem to get enough air. It feels like his heart is trying to leap from his chest and he doesn’t have the energy to move.

The next thing he registers is Thor climbing over him, wiping at his mouth before lifting Loki hips, dragging him forward with a wild look in his eye. Loki is so dazed he doesn’t realize what is happening until he feels Thor’s cock pressing into him.

It’s like being splashed with cold water and brings him back to reality instantly and he tried to jerk away out of instinct.

“Ssssssh, relax.” Thor soothed, panting like some kind of ragged animal and even though he’d done his best to prepare Loki it still hurts. The shock of the invasiveness of it and the sharp pinching and discomfort is so alien that it washes away any pleasure. However his mind and body is still dulled by the mead and sensations and while he tensed (though he willed himself to try and relax) he consciously knew it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Loki gritted his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut, forcing himself to endure as he held onto Thor’s wrists with the same force as his hips were gripped.

It’s not easy, Thor moved slowly, pushing in inch by inch and it’s so agonizingly slow it just prolongs the whole thing but he’s aware enough to recognize the small mercy for what it is. Finally, after what feels like forever he’s fully sheathed inside Loki and he collapses on top of him with a gasp and just stays there, burying his face in his shoulder and allowing time for him to adjust.

Loki doesn’t know how long they stay like that, but after awhile the pain fades and though the strangeness doesn’t he’s a bit more used to it. Everything feels so surreal, his body no longer feels like his own anymore and he can’t even think, every contrasting sensation feels overwhelming… pleasure, pain, the softness and coolness of the sheets against his skin, the heat and weight of Thor…

Thor who is now the one shaking uncontrollably.

Loki,” He gasped, gripping the sheets so hard they tear. “I have to… God’s I can’t-

He’s not going to be able to contain himself when he begins, Loki recognized, and come morning he would be the one in pain but Thor is providing a profound kindness and one he’s inclined to return now. So he reaches up—inwardly bracing himself—and runs his fingers through Thor’s hair petting him.

Move.” He whispered and Thor shuddered completely wrecked. He began to slowly move, short thrusts that can’t be more an inch or so. It’s still painful but it’s dulling now and Thor has to desperately bite Loki’s shoulder in order to maintain control. The pain from that action actually almost feels good.

So do Thor’s movements, the drag of his cock sliding in and out of Loki is gradually turning from a strange full sensation into one that feels wonderful. When he wraps his legs around Thor’s waist it seemed to make Thor snap and he went wild. He began thrusting frantically, hard sharp thrusts that rocked Loki and the sound of skin slapping against skin was almost as loud as Thor’s grunting. The display should have been obscene and yet Loki is astonished to feel himself growing hard again. He feels bold enough to explore Thor’s body, running his hands over his chest, stroking him.

“Oh yes.” Thor hissed, throwing his head back and he’s beautiful.

It’s too much, it’s raw and savage and feels fantastic and Loki falls back, allowing Thor concentrate on himself for awhile and to take his fill. He reaches between them to take hold of his own erection and frantically strokes himself moaning and panting. The sight seems to excite Thor further if his groan of approval was anything to go by. It’s all building again and when Thor changed the angel of his thrust he hit something deep inside Loki that sends such an explosion of pleasure through him he shrieked and came instantly. It was nothing like before, this time making the first seem like a mere shadow and this time he does pass out for a few moments.

When he comes to (even more exhausted and how that could feel so wonderful was beyond him) he’s vaguely aware that Thor is still moving, holding onto his hips to force him down and meet his thrusts, completely unconcerned that Loki is limp and has no energy to even move. Through the delightful afterglow, Loki vaguely wonders how long Thor could possibly go on because he doesn’t think he can take much more. Thankfully he doesn’t have to worry for much longer because Thor finally, mercifully comes with a roar and Loki can actually feel the warmth of his seed spreading inside him.

Thor carefully pulled out of him—Loki winced and groaned because that hurt—and collapsed next to him, breath coming out in gasps.

They lay there like that for awhile, the only sounds were their harsh breathing evening out and it seems so loud in the quite room. Loki could feel the sweat cooling on his body and it’s uncomfortable, with each passing moment that exquisite pleasure was fading and leaving behind a bone deep tiredness that descended over him like a weight. Along with it comes a sobering sense of awareness and focus.

He doesn’t know how to feel.

There’s a faint trace of embarrassment and shame, and yet he also feels an eerie sense of calm that for once isn’t born from a self induced state of numbness. Perhaps it’s due to relief and acceptance (he’d done it, this horrible day was over and to end like this…) this was now his life. It’s an end and beginning.

And yet he feels horribly off balance, Thor had been considerate and it would have been so much easier if he had been the savage Loki had been expecting. This unknown is somehow scarier than the alternative (at least then he could anticipated what to expect) because it introduces an uncertainty he hadn’t counted on.

He could feel Thor’s seed running down his legs and out of him and it makes him feel somewhat sick.

After awhile Thor dragged himself out of bed, Loki can’t even look at him so when he returns with a wet cloth and cleans them both (his skin feels excessively sensitive and he shivers at the contact) he’s only mildly surprised, unable to muster enough energy for anything more than that because he feels so wrung out.

Thor simply tossed the cloth away and fell beside him, looking at Loki thoughtfully, perhaps sensing his pensive mood.

“Are you alright?” He finally asked softly, as if anything louder would shatter the semi-peaceful mood.

Loki still doesn’t look at him or respond for a few minutes. “I don’t know.” He finally said truthfully.

It means so much more but Thor has no way understanding that. Loki himself is too tired to dwell on it anymore and so he rolls away, turning his back to his husband so that he could look out at Asgard (easier, it made it easier to not think) as he drifted off.

Thor eventually wrapped his arms around Loki and fell asleep, snoring lightly without care or a fraction of the worries Loki must shoulder. He doesn’t want to be held or even touched by Thor as he feels far too ambivalent about him but he allows it with a quiet acceptance that feels peaceful.

It’ll do for now.

Chapter Text

The next morning finds Loki in pain.

He feel’s utterly miserable. His body is sore, limbs ache (his hips in particular are a source of discomfort, and he is fascinated at the dark coloring of bruises he see’s marring his new skin) and it’s uncomfortable to sit. That pain alone proves to be especially humiliating, and he can barely look at Thor without feeling a supreme sense of shame at how good last night was and he feels tainted by it.

The only thing that tempers his feelings of upset and distracts him is the ragging pain in his head.

Thor presents the complete opposite in appearance and mood. Whereas Loki is glum and looks as worse as he feels (he had made an effort to make himself presentable but had failed), Thor is jovial and looks radiant and rejuvenated. He wakes early but allows Loki to sleep in until late morning before he forces him to rise and join him for breakfast. Loki is surprised and desperately relieved that Thor does not attempt to initiate or demand sex first thing upon awakening, his body is to sore that he doesn’t think he could have endured it.

Thor was endlessly amused by Loki’s obvious misery, or rather the cause for it, and he took a rather vicious delight in being deliberately louder than necessary. He speaks in an overly garish volume, and with an exaggerated manner he clatters the tableware when they sit down in their chambers dining room.

It secedes in exacerbating Loki’s headache but he refuses to show any(more) distress than he already has. Thor’s immaturity has him secretly entertaining fantasies of throwing something at his head; the goblet of water Thor has been forcing him to drink since he woke was tempting. Instead he stoically shoved it away, ignoring the plate of cut fruit before him as well. The table was overflowing with food (the complete excess is beginning to disgust Loki) and nothing looked appealing, an opinion that was clearly not shared as Thor ate voraciously from everything.

“You should eat little giant.” He spoke through a mouthful of food.

“I’m not hungry.” Loki muttered.

“Hmm.” Thor says nothing more, but he does hand over a cup of tea at Loki with the unspoken command to drink it. The faint scent of medicinal herbs permeates the air, and when Loki drinks it the tea is tepid but tastes blessedly plain and it does settle his stomach somewhat. Loki sips at it half heartedly and Thor wordlessly and discreetly pushes a small plate at him that held a folded cloth that had been soaked in water. Loki’s body feels shaky and the light is hurting his eyes so he accepted the offering, slumping back in his chair and pressing the wonderfully cool cloth against his eyes, holding it there.

It’s a rather undignified display but Loki is past the point of caring and Thor doesn’t appear to mind.

Time passes by in silence; Loki toyed briefly with the idea of perhaps attempting conversation--as surely that was expected of him--but he doesn’t know what to say and doesn’t have the energy to really try since speaking meant having to endure Thor’s voice. Thor didn’t seem to feel obligated to converse either, instead he seemed content with quiet, unbothered (or perhaps not noticing) that his new husband has barely said six words at all since wakening. He was too absorbed in himself, invigorated by last night’s activities and radiating a prideful, smug satisfaction.

Loki tries not to resent him too much for it.

The quiet is interrupted with the sound of their chambers door opening and footsteps approaching. A servant appeared in the doorway and bowed respectfully.

“Sire. Lord Helblindi Laufeyson is here to see his brother.” He announced.

Loki tensed; pulling the cloth away from his eyes and straightening up, and though he’s already dreading this encounter he is also secretly relieved to see his brother again. Thor frowned annoyed but sighed and gestured for the servant to see him in.

When Helblindi enters his eyes immediately seek out Loki, who takes great interest in carefully and deliberately folding the cloth rather then look back even as he can feel his brother’s critical gaze on him.

“Lord Helblindi,” Thor greeted perfunctorily, not even bothering to spare him a look and he even continued to eat without pause which could have (and undoubtedly was) construed as rude. “What brings you to our chambers this fine morn? I was under the impression Jotun’s were not permitted to see their family for some days after their wedding.” Thor’s tone conveyed that this was one tradition he approved of.

“How unfortunate it should be then, that my brother did not have a Jotun wedding and there for that precedent does not apply.” Helblindi said without hesitation as he approached. “I came to see how Loki is doing.”

And oh, if only that seemingly familial concern were for Loki’s well being and not for Helblindi’s own political motives. It wasn’t surprising and yet Loki is taken off guard at how bitter he felt. After all he has done for him, for what he sacrificed last night, why, for once, could Helblindi not spare even a momentary genuine thought and concern for him? Today of all days no less. He pressed his lips together tightly and refused to look at his brother least his feelings reflect on his face.

“See for yourself,” Thor invited flippantly and smirked. “I have not ravished your precious brother.” He assured.

Helblindi went to his Loki’s side, mouth opening to speak before he frowned. He grabbed Loki’s chin and forced him to look directly up at him (Loki kept his face carefully blank) taking in the dark circles under his eyes and his sickly demeanor and parlor. He then noticed and recognized the tea and anger sparked in his eyes. “Are you drunk?” He demanded outraged, alarmed at the implications of that.

The lingering hurt and disappointment looses Loki’s lips more than it should and he pushed Helblindi’s hand away. “No brother, I was drunk last night. Now I am merely hung over.” He said wearily and matter of fact.

He doesn’t say it with the intent to be funny, and he and Helblindi are surprised when Thor laughs at that. The amusement is not shared as Helblindi glared in silent rebuke at Loki.

Helblindi inwardly worries; if Loki deliberately drank himself into a stupor last night (he curses himself for having not anticipated that and ordering his brother against such a course of action) it could have been perceived as an insult, never mind the possibility that it could have drastically affected his actions. He’s upset that his brother would take such a foolish risk when he knew what was at stake.

Loki flinches at the expression of disgust Helblindi gives him.

“Did my brother perform to your expectations and satisfaction?” Helblindi demanded, taking his own vindictive satisfaction at the expression of complete pain and embarrassment on Loki’s face, for if his brother could be trusted (and that he had been drinking was testament enough that he couldn’t be) then he wouldn’t have had to ask.

Thor paused in his eating and looked taken aback. He wasn’t bothered that Helblindi had asked such a question—and had, actually, anticipated being asked about it later—but because he had asked it in front of his very own brother. It strikes him as rude and undignified to discuss this matter in front of the very subject they are talking about instead of being privately consulted on it.

“Tell me giant, is it customary where you come from to be so forward about such crass matters?” Thor sniffed.

And Helblindi, damn him, cannot resist. “You mean a business transaction?” He retorted coolly and Loki was instantly panicked and horrified. He grabbed his brother’s wrist in an iron grip in warning. Thankfully, mercifully it’s enough to get through, Helblindi visibly pauses for a moment, clearly recognizing the need for restraint and he slips his hand into Loki’s, squeezing it in acknowledgement.

A dark expression crossed Thor’s face and the tension in the air is palpable as he slowly rose, the look in his eyes was thunderous and Loki scrambles to diffuse the situation before it got any worse.

“A jest!” He blurted out awkwardly with a small and forced laugh to match. “A Frost Giant’s sense of humor is all.” He lowered his voice cautiously. “No offense was intended husband.”

It’s not much, and one would have to be a blind fool to convinced by that claim, but it’s enough. Thor’s jaw tightened and he cast Loki a long, unreadable look (Loki returned it unwaveringly) and took in the brother’s clasped hands before he inclined his head once, accepting the out that has been offered, and Loki releases the breath he had been holding.

“A jest.” Thor echoed carefully, “A poorly made one then.” But it wasn’t, because its true and it must sting to be reminded of it.

Helblindi smiles chillingly and though he doesn’t apologize, for civilities sake, they both let it go.

Thor tossed his napkin down on the table. “If you’ll excuse me,” He said stiffly. “I have duties I must attend to.” When he addresses Loki, it’s with a softer and genuinely regretful disposition. “In Asgard, after the wedding, there is a week of celebration for the parties involved. I apologize Loki, I’m afraid given our realms current situation, my presence will be required and that tradition is a luxury and privilege I cannot afford. You however can, you will be permitted this week of rest and relaxation before your lessons are to be begin. I encourage you to use your time freely as you see fit. Asgard is yours now, and she will welcome you.”

Loki doubted that but he nodded. With one last glare at Helblindi, Thor left and Loki slumped back in his chair in relief.

“You shouldn’t let him provoke you.” He chided Helblindi.

“He is a brute and a savage.” Helblindi dismissed blithely as he helped himself to an apple from the table. “He possesses more power and strength then intellect, which is really all that matters I suppose. It’s not my fault he does not like the reminder that he has bought you.”

Not for the first time, Loki wonders if his brother’s cutting, careless words are deliberate or just ignorant.

Helblindi looked at him in contemplation for so long that Loki grew (even more) uncomfortable. He unexpectedly reached down and Loki stiffened as the high collar of his tunic was pulled away from his neck, exposing the dark smattering of bruises where Thor had bitten him in the throes of passion.

Helblindi smirked in cruel amusement. “Well, I guess he was satisfied.” He mocked and Loki smacked his hand away unable to withstand even the ghost of his touch as he tried to hold back a wave of shame. Helblindi went and sat down in Thor’s vacated chair in a rather ungraceful manner.

“You let him get to you to easily.” Loki persisted, unwilling to let them be distracted from the subject at hand. It’s a dangerous gamble to press his brother but the issue is too important to let fall by the wayside. He will not let Helblindi’s temper ruin his own chances at the very crown he deserved simply because Thor’s mere presence grated him. “Like it or not he will be the one you will have to deal with the most. Insulting him will merely cause delays, he’ll just drag out the process longer to annoy you if trifle with him.”

“Technically I will have to deal with Odin more than he. Thor does not possess the title of king yet.” It’s a weak retort at best, Helblindi merely arguing back out of habit and instinct. He will never outwardly concede anything to Loki, but that he does not get angry, and only puts forth a half hearted effort, is his way of acknowledging the point and error of his way. It’s enough to put Loki at a temporary ease.

The silence between them lasts only for a few moments, Helblindi began cutting the apple and eyed Loki displeased.

“Well… how did it go?” He asked, frighteningly calm.

Loki sighed, unable to feign ignorance to the new and abrupt change in subject and sensed the true issue of contention. “It was Thor’s idea that I drink.”

“Why?”

“He is Asgardian. That is all they do anyway is it not?” Helblindi cannot tell if Loki is joking, being sarcastic, or if he is being sincere, for his expression and tone is too neutral to tell and he scowled in warning.

Loki did not test his luck further. “It was his way of celebrating.” He explained. “He deliberately wanted me intoxicated.”

“Whatever for?”

“His amusement.” The lie slips out effortlessly, it’s simply easier to mislead Helblindi then deal with any one possibility he would come up with if he learned the real reason. He can already anticipate Helblindi’s assumptions if he knew the truth. (Loki had been too rigid, to unpleasing, not receptive enough, hadn’t tried hard enough and Thor hadn’t had a choice but to get him drunk, because how else could he have possibly derived any pleasure? Loki must have done something wrong.)

It was enough to mollify Helblindi. “That’s it? I assume he didn’t lie with you like a woman.”

That, out of everything, brings a white, hot stab of agony that it takes Loki’s breath away. The hangover must have been affecting his control, because the flare of rage that wells up within him almost had him hurling a plate, a goblet, anything at Helblindi for daring to bring up such a personal subject. (Stupid. How stupid it was he hadn’t anticipated it when he knew it would be an inevitable question.) The impulse is stunning, the barest shred of self preservation restraining him.

“If he had,” Loki said through gritted teeth. “I would not be before you now, would I? I would be lying in bed crippled in pain and most likely unable to walk.”

And how utterly satisfying would Thor have found the volumes of blood that would have resulted from that way of coupling? Or Loki’s own screams of pain? Oh yes, that was still a prospect that loomed over Loki, weighing down heavily on his soul and his brother’s callous disregard to that particular topic--as well as him using it as a hidden tool—still opened up raw wounds that had never really healed.

For the first time ever, Helblindi took in the expression in his brother’s eyes (and was, truthfully, rather surprised to see such sentiment so openly expressed) and wisely did not press the subject, muttering “I was just checking. I should know when that happens.”

Why? Would you care? Loki wanted to ask, wanted to but didn’t because he knew the answer.

No.

“I don’t think you have to worry, Thor’s desires are not seemingly inclined that way.” Loki said flatly. Another lie (he has no idea what Thor prefers but he will never take the chance and ask, least he not like the answer and outcome) but one that secedes in mercifully ending the discussion and as Loki’s anger faded all that was left in its wake was bone deep wariness and sad reaffirmation that his brother will never change.

They sit in silence for awhile after that, Helblindi eating contentedly, assured and comforted that everything was going accordingly. Loki drank the remaining tea, physical aches ebbing away as the medicinal herbs took effect.

The atmosphere feels deceptively calm. This is how it should be, Loki thought wistfully, he and his brother, united and dinning as family in a palace. And yet it all feels to surreal and false.

“I meet with Odin today. I must brief them on Jotunheim’s history and current political climate.” Helblindi confided smugly but with such undisguised joy under his usual guise of confidence that Loki smiles weakly.

“I’m glad.” He said, and he means it.

When Helblindi takes his leave he places a kiss upon Loki’s brow, stroking his face wordlessly in a gesture that almost resembles affection.

“Don’t disappoint me little brother.” Helblindi said.

“Take care.” Loki advises in return and then he is alone.

Alone.

And Loki smiles.

 

 

 

 

For the first two days Loki does not leave the chambers.

He has no desire or reason to. After Helblindi leaves Loki immediately retires to bed and stays there for the entirety of that day. He is not tired, neither does he feel physically unwell (anymore, perhaps it was due to the tea, for his aches and pains everywhere have greatly diminished), he simply does so because he can. It feels freeing and marvelous to not have anyone around, to be truly alone and away from eyes watching him, judging and demanding. The weight of expectations and responsibilities seem but a distant concern for now in the silence and stillness and this privacy feels like bliss.

Loki does not sleep; instead he deliberately stays awake to savor every moment.

It’s practically the perfect day.

When Thor returns that evening they dine together but speak very little. Thor retells the events of his day (boring trivial matters, hours upon hours of enduring talks of inane politics involving Jotunheim, as well as tending to Asgard’s various needs. Loki does not fail to notice that Thor does not attempt to hide that he had found it all dull but had none the less valiantly withstood it since it was expected of a future king) and he even asks what Loki did.

“Nothing.” He said simply.

“Nothing?” Thor echoed puzzled. “At all?”

“Yes.” Loki knows that he could elaborate, but he has no way of explaining properly what today has meant for him and Thor wouldn’t understand anyway. He wonders if Thor thinks him lazy, but his husband seems to mull over that for awhile before shrugging in acceptance, perhaps attributing his confusion to their cultural differences.

After their meal an inescapable awkwardness descends. There is literally nothing to do (no books to read, no games to play and all their belongings had been unpacked and set up for them) but perhaps talk but both are far too unfamiliar and uncomfortable and to foreign to adequately attempt to get to know one another properly. Neither knows how to even begin. Loki has no idea what married spouses do with one another or what’s expected and Thor seems equally at a loss. There’s an odd sense of obligation that they should be together but intricacies of what they should be doing remains an unknown.

For lack of anything better to do they have sex.

And though he doesn’t feel like it, Loki none the less initiates it because it’s the only thing he knows they can do. They each sit in lush, overly large chairs near the fireplace for an hour before he is unable to stand the tension anymore and he gets up, wordlessly going to Thor and kissing him with feigned enthusiasm but not much skill. Thor responded instantly and hungrily, surprised but delighted and approving of this particular solution. After all this was something he knew and enjoyed.

It hurts. For all of Thor’s gentleness and preparation (which he still finds off putting) Loki’s body is still too sore and raw from last night and there is much more discomfort then there is pleasure. He doesn’t have the luxury of drink this time to cloud his perceptions which is a blessing and curse. While he’s still uncomfortable, he is a little less embarrassed to have Thor remove his clothes and touch him, and he feels a bit more assured in what he can do.

However the whole thing is something he endures rather than actively enjoys. Thor’s lusts were not easily sated, his endurance prolonging everything and he’s a bit too enthusiastic and unintentionally rougher than before. Thor flips him onto his stomach and takes him that way, which is fortunate for Loki as he is able to grimace and grit his teeth without worrying about Thor seeing. This new position makes him feel strangely vulnerable and yet when Thor lifts his hips, forcing him to his hands and knees it also secretly excites him. He tries not to dwell too much on that but it (as well as Thor’s hand) is enough to bring him to climax.

Afterwards feels a little less shameful then before since he hadn’t enjoyed it as much and like before, he turns his back to Thor. He’s extremely uncomfortable and tense when Thor wraps his arms around him and holds onto him, stroking his hair and arms gently.

Sleep doesn’t come easily.

The second day Loki explores the chambers.

They are huge, containing vast and glorious rooms upon rooms upon rooms. He doesn’t even know what a fraction of them are for—other than a useless display of extravagance—and he is certain they won’t be using them.

It takes all day to fully explore everything. He actually has doubts that these rooms are all a part of their chambers, wonders—more than once—if he unknowingly left the confines of their room and into other areas of the palace it goes on for so long, but he does eventually reach an end.

It’s all rather ludicrous, but there is one room that he is pleased with, a library. He notes scornfully that compared to other, more useless but spacious rooms, this one is smaller, however it is the biggest library he’s seen. (He takes pride in that Jotunheim has libraries that could rival any of the Nine Realms, even Asgard’s). It is filled with books covering so many topics that he loses count. There seemed to be plenty devoted to sorcery and so he takes several of those with him.

The second day is also the first time he asks for something.

“Is it customary for servants not to be seen? Or to enter unannounced?” He inquired that night at dinner.

“Inside royal private chambers? For the most part.” Thor replied. “Is that not so on Jotunheim?”

“No.” And it bothered Loki immensely. He hadn’t noticed it until today; or rather he hadn’t fully registered the implications. The bed was always freshly made when they returned from breakfast, the food they ate always cleared away while they were out of the room, fresh linen for the bathroom was always there, their clothes and whatever else that happened to be about was always carefully put back or taken away. And yet he had never seen or heard a single person. The effect was not comfortingly unobtrusive and Loki had found it profoundly disconcerting, as well as eerie, that people could enter and leave without his knowledge. He took it as a rather profound violation of his privacy rather than a royal right.

“Would it be possible for them to announce themselves? Or set up some kind of schedule so I know when they come, perhaps both?” Loki asked.

Thor shrugged. “If you so desire, I care not either way. You can summon the servants who attend to us if you want and see if they are to your liking and change them if they are not.”

“No. I just want to know when they are here.”

That evening proves to be easier than the last; Loki takes up residence on the chair near the fireplace again, pointedly ignoring Thor as he read from the books he had taken. Thor appeared more at ease as well now that the responsibility of entertaining Loki was out of his hands, and he spent the evening checking and polishing his vast collection of weapons and armor.

They speak no more than they had the previous night.

Though he hadn’t seen Thor talk to anyone, true to his word, the next day the servants knock and await permission to enter. They are reserved, formal and rigidly professional. They don’t bother Loki and everyone ignores one another while they perform their tasks efficiently.

Loki is immediately at ease with this new arrangement.

That third day he finally leaves the chambers to ride Sleipnir.

It’s wonderful. Sleipnir has clearly been anxious with being confined to the stables. He’s jittery but welcomes Loki, and despite being warned again about his temper (the fact the horse gives the stable hands so much trouble greatly amuses him) Sleipnir gives him no issue, perhaps because Loki knows what he wants and gives him it, the chance to run.

And run he does, the entire experience is exhilarating and leaves Loki’s heart pounding in his chest. Sleipnir is unbelievably powerful and runs so fast that the wind makes it’s difficult for Loki to breathe, it stings his eyes, makes it impossible to hear anything but a roar and he loves it. Asgard passes by in a whirl, the dazzling colors blurring together into one incomprehensible tone as Sleipnir flies through the city, down the streets, through alleyways, using the cityscape as an obstacle course for hours, uncaring of the people he startled or frightened (the shrieks of surprise and obvious distress just make Loki grin harder) before they finally leave its limits and into the open fields that surround the city.

When Sleipnir finally slows and stops atop a hill that overlooks the city, Loki dismounts and sits on the grassy ground to observe Asgard as it glitters like some kind of jewel in the afternoon sun.

This is mine.

It hits him suddenly seeing the sheer scope of the city laid out before him. This realm, perhaps the most powerful realm in Yggdrasil, now in part belonged to him, its power now his. It’s an odd feeling considering he hadn’t been destined or expected to have a fraction of it on Jotunheim. And now he is in a possession of authority and power, (Jotunheim’s enemy no less) that surpassed anything from his home realm. Ironic really.

And yet… and yet perhaps the bigger irony is that his new title comes with power that is not his to wield. Loki is no fool; even if he wasn’t obligated to put his brother, his king, first and foremost and act as his stead, it would be a constant battle to exercise any kind of real authority. The Asgardians will never accept him, they might defer partially out of reverence to Thor, humor Loki with scraps of false fealty, but they will never willingly bow to Frost Giant, never really listen to him and feel true respect and reverence in their hearts as a king was rightly due. Loki finds that aspect out of everything is something he is indifferent to. He can’t decide if it’s because he’s used to such views in regards to himself or if he truly does not care for their approval.

What a cruel illusion, he marvels; he is finally made a king but will never truly be one. It was amazing that he could come so far in life and yet make no true advancements.

Despite fate’s joke at his expense, he felt a small flare of excitement as he watched the palace.

Jotunheim could be this powerful.

At the height of its prosperity, Jotunheim could have rivaled Asgard, had been on its way to doing so before its own greed and vanity had been its undoing. Restored it could be as revered as Asgard, Jotunheim could be Yggdrasil’s most gleaming star.

Loki mused that perhaps did have a little power, and in his own way possessed more than Helblindi ever could, even if it would be used through him. The prospect of Jotunheim being as glorious as Asgard is before him lifts Loki’s spirits and he traces the faint scar on the palm of his hand.

He could find dignity in that.

When he returns to the stables long after night had fallen, Sleipnir is restless and he believes he knows why. When Loki looks into the horse’s soft eyes he reads a strange level of intelligence in them. He acts on impulse but without hesitation, holding his hands over Sleipnir’s ears and whispering a spell.

“Go, return when I call you.” He ordered and to the servant’s indignation he lets Sleipnir run off into the night.

“My lord-“ The stable hand sputtered as Loki walked away.

“Leave him.” He said coldly without sparing the man a glance.

Sleipnir was his to do with for the time being, and he would be granted whatever freedom he desired.

Despite the late hour Thor isn’t in their chambers and he doesn’t return for the rest of the evening.

Loki sleeps soundly.

Chapter Text

The rest of the week passes by leisurely enough if not dully and it leaves Loki feeling on edge.

He uses the time to explore the palace and Asgard itself (despite his best efforts he cannot help but be impressed and enamored with what he sees) deliberately avoiding others and staying in the shadows. He hears whispers amongst the people about Thor Odinson’s strange new husband, how strange he looks, they find his appearance striking enough, but compared to the tall, muscular builds of the Asgardians with their light hair and beards, Loki must look somewhat exotic. Some speak derivatively of how he looked almost womanly by their standards (if this is meant to be an insult he fails to see how, but he finds himself pitying Asgardian females for what they must endure on a daily basis); others speak suspiciously of his appearance, which bears not a trace of a Frost Giant which they find more off putting then assuring. That his new visage should be fostering more distrust then acceptance is grimly amusing.

They find him weak, they find him cold, nobody is quite sure what to make of him as he had yet to make any sort of appearance before the public and speak to anyone and this only fuels more wild speculation.

“You will need to ingratiate yourself with them.” Helblindi said when Loki seeks out his brother to dine with one day. “We can’t afford the public to be against us too much.”

“I don’t know how to do that.” Loki admitted with a frown. “And I don’t think I care that much.”

Helblindi actually sympathizes with this but only to a degree. He cares very little for Asgardian opinion but he recognizes the need for it. “You should. Like it or not their perception matters. You will have to do whatever they want and be whatever they want. You would do well to remember the lessons of Laufey.” He said bitterly and Loki has no words to refute that.

The reminder, if anything, is frightening.

Asgard tolerated them for now but just barely, Loki could just imagine that they would require but the littlest excuse to turn on them, regardless of the All Father’s authority. It wasn’t that far of a stretch to imagine that in their attempt to avert one war, a civil war would erupt in its place.

And Odin and Helblindi expected Loki to somehow circumvent that? The sheer gall it took to place that kind of expectation on him took Loki’s breath away in anger. Such a thing was expected from his brother—and Loki is frustrated that Helblindi’s solution was merely for him to simply be what others wanted, as if it were as simple and easy as changing ones clothing—but Odin was either a fool to place that much faith in him, or he simply wasn’t as wise as everyone thought.

He tries to change the subject but can’t think of anything to say. He wants to ask Helblindi what he has been doing as of late and what progress has been made for him even though he already knows, but Loki has a desire to hear it from his own brother’s lips. Just so long as he talked to him.

What stills his tongue is that Helblindi seems distracted. He is more subdued than he has been in awhile and it is impossible to tell if it is truly because his mind is preoccupied, or if it’s another one of his more deceptively darker moods (perhaps sparked by speaking of the past) where even the littlest, most benign thing could make him erupt. He quietly leaves Helblindi’s company least he inadvertently trigger that temper.

He goes to the sparring grounds—which he had come across quite by accident a few days ago—to observe the fighting, concealed from the eyes of others by a hidden alcove in the domed ceiling surrounding the grounds. The practice is fascinating to watch, Asgardian fighting possesses an elegance and variety of styles to it that is lacking in Jotun battle tactics and it appeals to Loki. He wondered if this would be a part of his “lessons” and finds that not to be an unappealing prospect.

Thor is unexpectedly there today with his friends and Loki studies him thoughtfully. The God of Thunder fights fiercely but with obvious restraint, the brutal power he possesses shimmering just under the surface that he keeps reined in, in another testament to his strength. Despite this it’s clear he’s in his element, his confidence, joy and laughter seem more real than it ever has before. Here amongst friends, out of the public view, he is relaxed and carefree in a way that he isn’t around Loki.

And yet there is also a melancholy air about him in the quieter moments when no one is looking, so fleeting it was barely noticeable and Loki wonders if he isn’t just imagining it until Thor sits down, watching his friends spar. Without the distractions around to keep Thor occupied, there is a thoughtful, saddened look in his eyes as he appears lost in a memory.

It’s a shocking contrast to how he normally is and an intriguing one. Loki watches him out of the corner of his eye that night at dinner and there is not a trace of any lingering problem that might be under the surface nor any sort of hint as to what might be disturbing him.

He supposed he could always ask Thor if something was bothering him—since it would most likely fall to him to fix whatever he might find displeasing and it might be best to make sure it wasn’t him that Thor was unhappy with—but he does not feel comfortable with that. As it was he and Thor mostly move around one another, very rarely speaking to each other. It is perhaps not the most normal of arrangements, but it’s one they have found a balance in and though his husband is hard to read, Loki believes Thor is content with the way things are.

Then again Thor just seemed pleased to have sex available to him whenever he desired it and that Loki hadn’t made any demands or disrupted his life. He does make some effort, often regaling Loki (whether he cared or not) about his day and exploits, thoroughly detailing every aspect of politics involving their dealings with Jotunheim and Helblindi even though Loki never asked for it. It’s a surprisingly thoughtful courtesy, and one he is secretly grateful for.

Despite the glimmers of kindness however, he is beginning to feel like some kind of kept pet that Thor could use at his discretion and promptly ignore at his leisure. Loki does not mind being left to his own devices, what he resents the way in which Thor accepts his presence in his life, that he could find the situation so easy to live with and benefit from it so profusely. The disruption to his life was none existent while Loki bore the brunt of the consequences and he hates that almost as much as he hated himself for having to make it that way for Thor.

Something must have reflected on his face because Thor suddenly asked “Are you alright?”

His voice made Loki jump slightly. “Yes.” He said shortly.

Noting his agitation, Thor raised an eyebrow. “Are you anxious about tomorrow?” He guessed.

“No.”

It’s not a lie. If anything he is actually grateful that his “lessons” will begin tomorrow, if only because it will give him something to do. He doesn’t think he could handle another week of wandering and simply waiting to get fucked by Thor.

His husband doesn’t press the issue, and later that night when Loki is pulled to bed, Thor indulges in an extraordinary amount of time in kissing and caressing him but doesn’t take it further, apparently satisfied with holding onto him. Thor appeared to be a bed partner who enjoyed closeness for the sake of it, his constant need to hold Loki to him, to touch him and entangle their legs together was something Loki found to be annoying though he does nothing to dissuade this. Instead he lies there and endures it with a long suffering sigh.

Tonight however Thor seemed to be in a strange mood, in the silence he observes Loki with such a scrutinizing look that it secedes in making him even more uncomfortable.

“You are nothing like your brother.” Thor observed rather spontaneously.

Loki scowled. “I know.”

Thor laughed. “I meant no insult little giant, quite the opposite in fact.” He traced the contours of Loki’s face with a feather light touch, as if measuring the difference with his own fingers in contemplation. “Your Asgardian forms bear little resemblance to one another, why is that? Was that deliberate?”

“No, I merely cast the glamour; I did not put any thought into how we would appear.” He could have, but at the time it hadn’t occurred to him. Loki didn’t think he and Helblindi actually looked that different (and indeed, appeared more related now than they ever had before) they still bore the same hair and eye coloring and certainly stood out enough. Their differences in build however perhaps undermined their resemblance, for Helblindi--ironically enough--looked more like an Asgardian given his height and bulk.

“Your personalities are as different as your looks.” Thor commented. “The difference is as day and night. And yet you are close?”

“In our own way.” Loki replied evasively.

“Hmm… you are like how my brother and I were.” The saddened comment slips out by accident, a thought given voice without realization and Thor only registers that he has spoken out loud when Loki pulled back to look at him.

“You have a brother?” Loki asked surprised. This was the first time he had ever heard of there being another heir to Odin. It’s a rather explosive fact in and of itself given that clearly not even Helblindi had known this.

Thor for once looked extremely uncomfortable, having had no intention of divulging that. “I… I did.” He finally said, and before Loki could inquire he was quick to add firmly, “I do not wish to speak of it further.”

The lapse into silence for a little bit and Thor, either out of guilt or realization that he perhaps owes and explanation, eventually reveals, “His name was Balder. I think you would have liked him Loki, everyone did. I will tell you of it one day, but not now. It’s too painful.”

The raw sadness is genuine, it’s the most truthful Thor has ever been and Loki’s mind is awhirl with questions, his lips burn to ask questions but he reluctantly lets it go, rather unnerved by this new side he is witnessing.

In an unspoken concession he allows Thor to onto him tightly, as if the past could be drowned out by their closeness.

Perhaps Thor had more burdens to bear then Loki had initially thought.

After awhile he returns his embrace out of pity and both drift off into sleep.

 

 

 

 

Loki’s lessons are a complete disaster.

It’s a slow process that steadily builds over the course of several weeks but the end result is all the same. In one moment of rage he destroys years of Helblindi’s hard work and scheming.

It is, Loki reflects back on later with an almost perverse sense of awe and pride, a rather impressive achievement all things considered.

His appointed teacher is called Ulfr. It would seem that in Asgard even the scholarly types were just as imposing as their warriors.. Ulfr is neither handsome nor ugly and despite his richly made robes, jewelry and overly coifed hair and beard, he is the plainest Asgardian that Loki has seen. Though his stone faced expression never wavers, he still seemed to somehow look down on everyone with sheer distain.

Loki dislikes him immediately and the feeling is entirely mutual.

When Thor introduces Ulfr to him, he does so in an awkwardly formal manner, denoting his respect for the other’s prestigious position (whether its genuine or simply portrayed because it was expected can’t be gleamed) but Loki immediately observes that there is a clear disconnect in terms of any real camaraderie.

“Ulfr is well known as one of Asgard’s greatest teachers. You are most fortunate Loki, he will make you wise to many things here.” Thor proclaimed.

Loki raised an eyebrow at that but said nothing.

Ulfr’s knowledge is indeed vast and admirable; he speaks at great length not just of Asgard’s history, but of all the Nine Realms as well. It is fascinating but grating to listen to, interesting for what it shows of Asgard (the history retold through the eyes and perceptions of others was always particularly revealing) but irritating because Loki already knows almost everything Ulfr lectures about. He’s well versed in the ways of the other realms, of their cultures and customs, the blatant assumption that he didn’t because he was from Jotunheim was enraging.

This is not limited to Ulfr either he is beginning to realize. Loki had never even been asked what knowledge he possessed, not even by Thor. His husband’s ignorance stings less than the others, simply because at least it bore no malice, just genuine thoughtlessness. However it also hurts a bit more because of that.

It does no good to inform Ulfr of what he knows, he is not believed and Ulfr simply dismisses the rest with a “It’s better if you learn it from us.” It’s amazing how without words Ulfr could clearly convey just how little regard he held Jotunheim. It’s almost artful.

Loki holds back his tongue least he strike the man for his insolence. He spends the first few weeks’ so thoroughly board and angered that it was almost depressing, the warring emotions and restraint leave him exhausted at the end of the day.

“Are you learning plenty?” Thor asked one evening and Loki is struck once more at how much of a pet he has literally become, something that needed to be taught the proper and civil ways before he is viewed as acceptable.

“I am learning many things about everyone.” Loki said curtly, his tone effectively warning against any further conversation on the subject and Thor wisely heeded it.

At least Thor was honestly curious and naively hopeful, perpetually confused as to the source of Loki’s discontent. That Loki should frustrate Thor in turn by simply failing to talk to him (or rather elaborate on anything) was fitting.

The animosity between Loki and Ulfr simmers for awhile as they wearily circled one another like wolves. Ulfr is never outwardly rude, instead he is a master in subtly, it is the little cutting comments, insidious and seemingly beige but with a thousand insults ingrained in them.

You probably don’t know…

Is that what they believe on Jotunheim…

That is not the correct way…

That is not suitable…

You’re very well spoken for a Frost Giant…

Is that how your people behave…

It’s does a phenomenal job of wracking Loki’s nerves. For the longest time he’s not entirely sure if he is merely taking things to personally, perhaps becoming unjustly paranoid over trivial matters. The prospect of an accusation of him being too sensitive about it only upsets and offends him even more, keeping him silent.

He doesn’t know why he’s allowing it to rattle him to the degree it does, at heart its nothing he hasn’t heard before in one form or another. It just seems worse and intolerable coming from an Asgardian.

It wears on his new found resolve and patience.

In a strange way some good does come out of it, and in a twisted fashion Loki supposed he should be grateful to Ulfr, for if it wasn’t for him than Loki would not have, for the first time in his life, demanded something for himself.

It happens after a particularly trying day, he and Ulfr had an actual altercation over the others casual and deliberate manner of referring to something Jotun as barbaric. That Loki should be lectured at constantly by people who exalted and celebrated a savage lifestyle of barbarism of their own (the sheer amount of praise they placed upon battles and brutal fights was disturbing) incensed him. It proves to be one insult to many and he surprises himself by retaliating for the first time.

It’s a spectacularly futile endeavor and one that leaves him more angered and frustrated than ever, simply because of the vindictive pleasure he knew Ulfr had to have secretly derived from upsetting him. He storms out, more furious with himself for slipping and allowing that viper the satisfaction of seeing the effect he had on him. That Ulfer does nothing to stop him speaks volumes.

Loki stalks the grand, cold halls, the eyes of the Asgardians bear into him like needles and it is all he can do to not lash out and blind them with the magic they revered and so scorned in the same breath.

It would be so very easy, the fools had no idea and yet he stays his hand and hates himself for it.

He was just so tired of being offended and insulted, of feeling and being so wildly out of control of everything. He wants, he needs to be in control of just one thing in his life. This longing descends upon him like some kind of madness, leaving him trembling as if he will fly apart if he doesn’t get it.

Be it coincidence or fate guiding him it mattered very little in the end, for Loki eventually travels to the sparring grounds. He watches the fighting; the thrum of energy continues to vibrate through him and he needs desperately to release it.

The fighting resonates with something inside him at that moment and he has a sudden, wild impulse that is undoubtedly fueled by his anger but he none the less gives into it almost immediately. He will later look back and marvel at his actions, wonder where this strange, brazen, uncaring behavior momentarily came from but it never the less leads to him to a rather small but pivotal moment in his life.

The sparring grounds were not occupied by very many today; however The Warrior’s Three are there. Though Loki does not know them personally he knows of them and their relationship to Thor, it helps his resolve not to waver as he feels more confidant approaching them than a random Asgardian.

He speaks to Volstagg first. The rather large Asgardian is separated from his two friends, humming to himself while chewing an apple as he considered the array of weapons at his disposal for his next match. He does such a poor job of concealing his surprise and shock at seeing Loki that it would have almost been comical if he were in any other mood.

“Y-Your highness!” Volstagg exclaimed, thoroughly taken aback at Loki’s presence. It is the first time he has seen Thor’s husband since their marriage ceremony and truth be told if he had not been there and witnessed the wedding with his very own eyes he wouldn’t even have believed Loki existed. Though eagerly pressed for the more bawdy details of their relationship, Thor had been stead fast in his polite refusal to discuss it or many aspects of his marriage in what appeared to Volstagg as a genuine courtesy to his new husband.

His friend seemed surprisingly unaffected by his new marriage, his attitude was no different than before and he hardly ever spoke of Loki. When he did in those rare moments it was only to express confusion at what he viewed as his husband’s odd silence or some Jotun mannerism he did not understand.

If anything Thor spoke more (and only in complaints) about the brother than he did Loki which Volstagg had found entirely too humorous. A good natured feeling he was decisively lacking under the chilling eyes of the Frost Giant. This was actually the closest Volstagg had ever been to him and as far as he could tell Loki bore more resemblance to the thoroughly unnerving and aloof shadow the rumors around the palace said him to be, rather than the quiet and serene countenance Thor had described him as.

He cannot fathom any reason for why Loki would suddenly appear now and he need but take one look at him to know that the Frost Giant is riled by something.

Volstagg fears this does not bode well for himself.

“What are you… I mean how are you… I… umm… it’s a pleasure… or an honor…” Volstagg is mortified as he babbles helplessly and was unable to stop, completely unsure how to properly respond or what the proper conduct was.

“You are the one called Volstagg?”

His voice sounds so normal and not at all what he was expecting and it’s startling. It immediately quiets Volstagg who responds with a less than confidant “Yes?”

Loki just looked at him for a long, uncomfortable moment as if assessing what he sees. “You are known as one of this realm’s greatest warriors I hear.”

And that brings a rush of pride. “Oh!” Volstagg laughed (a touch hysterically and over the top he thought with a wince). “Well… I do not like to brag-“ A blatant lie, for Volstagg loved nothing more than to do just that.

He’s cut off swiftly. “You are friends with my husband are you not?”

“Y-yes sire. The very best, we are like brother’s he and I.”

Loki’s jaw clenched. “Then if that is the case, I would have you teach me the ways of your realms fighting.”

“You what?”

Of the many things Volstagg could have thought of for Loki’s purpose for being here that was not it and he recoiled. He stared dumbfounded before sputtering for clarification, for surely he had been mistaken, “You want to learn how to do battle? To fight?”

“Yes. Is that a problem?” Loki snapped.

“I… well… no… or… actually I do not know.” Volstagg admitted helplessly. “Would you pardon me for a moment my lord? I must consult with the others.” He practically fled to Fandral’s side.

Loki watched as Volstagg whispered frantically to the fair haired warrior of their group and his tempter flared anew at the perturbed looks that were thrown his way. They strode over to him and the newcomer bowed cautiously as he introduced himself.

“Sire, I am Fandral, friend and brother in arms to your husband, it is an honor.”

Loki highly doubted that, but at least Fandral could project a façade of politeness that most of Asgard seemed to lack. He felt his spine involuntarily straighten and resolve harden under the wary gaze of Fandral and the ever growing prospect of being denied.

“I’m sure.” Loki replied icily.

“Volstagg has informed me of your request my lord-“

“It wasn’t a request.”

Fandral wavered at that. “Pardon?”

“Are you refusing me?” Loki demanded haughtily, unwilling to play these prolonging and ridiculous games of words any longer.

Not one for the finer aspects of diplomacy, Fandral thought, and he can’t decide if he’s relieved or not that Loki had cut away all pretenses and gotten to the heart of the matter.

“No.”

“But you are not agreeing either.”

Fandral inwardly sighed and as Volstagg shifted his weight nervously behind him. He does not fault his friend for making this his problem, they are treading in very delicate waters here and Fandral is unsure how to handle this without causing some kind of incident.

“Yes.” He admitted but was quick to add, “May I speak candidly sire?”

“Very well.”

“Do you not know how to fight?” Loki’s eyes narrowed and Fandral hastily explained “I mean no insult my lord and I imply nothing with my question. I am merely trying to understand. You yourself must see the position you have placed us in.”

And Loki does. There are a thousand questions that such a seemingly benign order as this raises and no one will believe the truth, that Loki has the simple desire to learn. Instead such a course of action will be met with suspicion, it will be viewed as subterfuge. By demanding to know their methods of battle Loki is demanding valuable secrets to the most cherished and powerful aspect of Asgard’s culture. The thought of such knowledge in the hands of a Frost Giant would be met with a fierce resistance that the mere prospect of it gave Fandral a headache.

This left him in a rather unenviable position. By acquiescing to this demand he is accepting responsibility for a possible traitor. However refusing to obey the command of his future king would be an unforgiveable insult given their realms tentative relations.

There was also the consideration of what Thor might do if he learned his husband was displeased or had been insulted, a slight that not even friendship would grant reprieve from.

Loki understands this all too well, the best course of action would be to defer to the one that caused the least amount of trouble for everyone. He should rescind the order or simply lie, claim he doesn’t know how to fight.

The mere thought of doing that leaves such a sour taste in Loki’s mouth that it nauseates him and he can’t bring himself to say the words. It would be debasing himself further to claim he didn’t know how to fight, he would be viewed as someone even weaker then he already was. The halfing Jotun who couldn’t even defend himself.

Enough.

“I have been trained by Jotunheim’s greatest warriors.” Loki declared coldly. “I could easily hold ground against three of you.”

Fandral takes one look at him and doesn’t doubt that for a moment and unease and disappoint churns in his stomach. “Yes, well,” He finally said, “I suppose that leaves us with the true question at hand here. Why?”

Prove that this is not some secret Jotun plan, justify yourself and convince me that this will be worth the trouble and not the whim of a spoilt prince…

And that, Loki found, was fair. Reciprocity in this situation would be required for mutual trust.

“You’ve battled Frost Giants before have you not?”

“Indeed, a vast many.”

“You have seen how we fight then. We rely on brute strength and the strength of numbers, as our size does not allow for stealth. Our offense is primarily magic based, our connection to The Winter our greatest asset.”

Fandral nodded, wincing as he recalled all too vividly the thunderous sounds of the Frost Giants footsteps, the way it had made the ground tremble, the unbearable sting of the ice and snow and wind they commanded with their very hands.

“Asgardian methods of battle are not so reliant on magic and you are much more adept when the situation merits it. I find it interesting and I would like to fight as you do.”

Damn that glamour, Fandral scrutinizes Loki but cannot read him with any sort of real certainty that would put him at ease. He seems genuine but that means nothing, only that The Frost Giant was perhaps gifted at deception.

Intuition his tells him Loki is being truthful, yet he remains ever cautious.

“Alright,” He finally said with a blinding smile and air of joviality that was so blatantly forced it made Volstagg wince as Fandral spoke to him next. “Such a wonderful and unprecedented opportunity we have before us my friend. An exchange of cultural knowledge!” Fandral pointedly addressed Loki. “For surely as we are willing to teach you our ways, you would be equally amenable to showing us how a Frost Giant does battle.”

Oh, oh he was a clever one this Fandral. For the first time Loki actually felt a bit of admiration for one of these Asgardians and he almost smiled. How very well played indeed.

Loki looked at him and without hesitation nodded, a swell of excitement rising within him at this precious opportunity.

Appeased for now, Fandral motioned for Loki to follow him, hoping with everything that he has not just made a grave mistake.

 

 

 

“By demanding to be taught you agree to abide by our rules. Despite your status, you are not a prince here but a novice and you will be treated as such. Although like Thor, because of your status, much more will be expected from you.”

Fandral is brisk and efficient as he speaks; a cool air of authority surrounded him with not a trace of his lingering unease apparent. He is someone very much in his element here and is confident and comfortable and Loki can appreciate his no nonsense way.

“I understand.” Loki said.

“I don’t think you do. You are starting at the very bottom my lord. As far as I’m concerned you don’t even have the skills of a child. No matter how ridiculous or insulting or seemingly simple something is, you will be expected to comply.”

It’s a veiled warning. This might be a true part of the process but it would also be a test designed to gauge his dedication and sincerity, any questions or complaints would merit an automatic expulsion.

Loki was surprised to find that he did not have a problem with this.

“I understand.” He repeated firmly.

Fandral leads him to the third warrior of their group, a serene looking man with a quite but perpetually dignified air surrounding him. He doesn’t even raise an eyebrow at their arrival and indeed, seemed to have been waiting, perhaps warned ahead of time by Volstagg.

“My lord, meet Hogun the Grim. You will never find a more worthy teacher, or a more dreary fellow in your entire life.”

Hogun ignored the good natured teasing, focused solely on Loki as he nodded in greeting. His gaze is appraising but not judgmental, critically observing weak and strong points where as Loki openly stares, unable to help it as he makes a realization.

“Hogun will begin your training and will also be the one you teach in return about Frost Giants. He will have you master the basics first before he even considers teaching you defense. Once that is done Volstagg will teach you offense while I will teach you about weapons. That will be a long time before that happens.” Fandral warns and takes his leave.

“Come with me.” Hogun commanded politely, leading Loki to a private sparing camber that was empty of people and equipment.

“You are not Asgardian.”

Loki doesn’t mean to simply blurt that out and he turns red, appalled at himself for having done so but he cannot help it. There is nothing about Hogun’s appearance and behavior that suggests he is anything but Asgardian (although his manner of speaking would have given it away), there is just something slightly off about him that sets him apart from the others. Loki is at a loss to describe how he can see it but he can and is rather pleased to see someone else who is not from here.

A ghost of a smile flickered across Hogun’s face. “No,” He agreed. “I am not, although I have been here longer than I have my homeland.”

He doesn’t elaborate and Loki does not press the issue further though the questions burn the tip of his tongue.

They practice for hours. Hogun forbids him from using magic for the time being although he has Loki thoroughly demonstrate what he can do with it. (Loki does not reveal the true extent of what he can do, he has not even shown that to Helblindi.) They take turns attacking one another in a mutual exchange of information, comparing differences in approach and what they did. It gives Hogun a better idea of how to best handle his new duties and Fandral had not exaggerated, he has Loki do simplistic tasks over and over and over again even when it’s clear he has mastered it.

It’s invigorating, Hogun is strict and harsh but never condescending and when Loki leaves he feels lighter.

It’s a feeling of elation that Thor evidently shares much to Loki’s surprise.

“What is this that I hear tell of you are learning to fight?” Thor asked that evening with such a look of excitement that it throws Loki for a moment. “Is this true?”

Clearly you already know the answer to that, was what Loki wanted to say but instead he goes with the safer answer of “Yes” and he is not prepared for the beaming look of joy Thor has at this response.

“How wonderful!” Thor crowed and with a blinding grin he grabbed Loki, yanking him over to where he sat with ease and making a startled Loki stumble and end up straddling his lap. Thor’s hands rest on his hips, large and warm and when they slide up his torso, slow and sensual it makes Loki tense and grab onto Thor’s shoulders.

“How fitting for a king, I will have a husband who will be as fine a warrior as I.” Thor declared with an expression of such pride it makes Loki’s breath catch. He looks into Thor’s face and see’s not a trace of mocking or suspicion in it which, quite frankly, leaves him bewildered. Was Thor truly this naive? This arrogant? Did he not see this as the possible ploy it could be? The problems that lie with this course of action?

He just looks happy, which upon reflection perhaps was not that surprising. Thor was a warrior first and foremost, raised in a cultural that prided itself on strength and fighting, on sheer psychical power. Now there is finally a thread between them, something they have in common which happened to be his most favorite and the most important thing to Thor’s heart.

Loki and Helblindi had both assumed Thor would want a subservient spouse, someone who would never argue and just be there. Through sheer accident Loki has perhaps stumbled across something far better that would secede beyond their expectations in appeasing him.

Loki looks into his husband’s eyes and sighs, brushing a strand of his golden hair out of his face.

“You are a fool.” He said and Thor laughed.

“That I am.” He agreed and his eyes seemed to darken with desire as Loki ran his fingers over his lips thoughtfully.

“I don’t understand you.” Loki admitted.

“Nor I you.” Thor replied, his grip tightening just so before sliding down and slipping into the front Loki’s pants. Loki gasped as Thor stroked him with well practiced skill, the warmth of his hand felt so good and it was thoroughly distracting as he was pulled down and kissed hungrily. “I like that.” Thor confided in a husky whisper that sent a raw shiver of pure pleasure down Loki’s spine, he involuntarily and instinctually rose to his knees and began thrusting into Thor’s hand.

Thor’s grin faltered as he growled in approval, “Oh yes.” The sight of Loki above him, clinging to the back of the chair as an anchor as Thor pleasured him was the most erotic thing he had ever seen and he becomes so hard it’s almost painful. Loki’s head was thrown back, eyes shut tightly as he panted and thrust against Thor, slow at first, then gradually faster and more desperate.

Loki is too far gone to care about how ridiculous this must look, such a shameful display of wanton desire and yet he whines, deep and needy and reaches down grabbing onto Thor’s hand.

Faster… faster…” He gasps, encouraging Thor’s hand to squeeze harder and the sight of him, fucking himself so desperately against him was enough to almost make Thor come right then and there.

However Loki comes first with a cry, body going rigid as he recoiled, spilling into Thor’s hand and he would have perhaps fallen backwards had Thor not grabbed him and jerked him forward, ravishing his mouth with such brutality he could taste blood.

“Watch me.” Thor whispered and it’s less a command than a desperate plea and Loki complies in astonishment, body limp and trembling uncontrollably as Thor began stroking his own aching hard member inside his clothing.

Loki turns red, breath catching at such an obscene display and yet when Thor began groaning uncontrollably and he felt excitement well up within his chest. He watched his husbands face, the movements of his hand on his member and this feels wonderful and new and seeing Thor come willing apart before his eyes was intoxicating. This time he kisses Thor willing and greedily, drunk on a new sort of control he had never before felt. His body feels weak and yet he feels amazing.

Slower.” He commanded and Thor grunts in frustration but complies and oh, oh how that makes Loki’s heart pound. He grabbed onto that golden hair and pulled his head back, whispering commands into his mouth… harder… come on… faster… lighter… slow down… not yet… he keeps the rest of his kisses feather light, denying Thor pleasure, teasing him relentlessly. He’s astounded at the amount of power he has at that moment, how much he enjoys it and feeling Thor shaking with restraint would have made him hard again if he had the energy.

“Loki, please,” Thor groans and that does it. He feels Loki, forehead pressed against his, nod and it takes but a few, hard and quick strokes before he finally comes harder than he ever has before and Loki’s mouth against his feels like he is stealing away his very breath.

Afterwards they sat there in silence; the weight of Loki, limp and languid, pressing against Thor pleases him and he feels no inclination to move anytime soon. He actually discourages Loki from doing so when he feels the other stirring and begin to pull away.

“Not so fast.” Thor said tiredly, keeping Loki’s face pressed against his shoulder and neck and he could feel him scowl.

“We’re disgusting.” Loki complained.

“It’ll wait.” Not for long but for now Thor was enjoying the moment, that sated relaxed sensation was something he savored and could never get enough of. “If you keep moving like that,” he added when Loki squirmed, “There is a very distinct possibility I will take you either here, the baths or our bed. Perhaps all three places.”

He huffs out a laugh when Loki immediately freezes but the moment is broken, for like always he remains tense and Thor sighed.

“I think you’ll do just fine.” Thor muttered sleepily and it takes Loki a moment to realize he’s returned to their conversation from earlier. Of course he would.

You’re the only one, Loki thought ruefully.

Chapter Text

Helblindi waits.

He waits each day, sitting inside Asgard’s golden palace and amongst its riches and spoils and seethes.

For each new day bears the same, stark disappointment.

“Not yet.”

Odin Allfather sits upon his magnificent throne and everyday he speaks those two words that continuously dash Helblindi’s hopes.

“Why not?” He shouted.

And Odin looks down on him with his one eye and speaks firmly. “It is not the right time yet I should think.”

“What do you wait for!?” Helblindi ragged. “You have the power, the superior force and the casket. What more could you possibly need? I want my throne.”

“In due time Helblindi Laufeyson.” Odin remains, as always, infuriatingly calm. “However I was not inclined to rush into war at the behest of my son, and I am no further inclined to do so anymore under your order.”

“You would go back on our agreement?”

“No. But our agreement did not specify a time limit. Be patient son of Laufey, you will get your crown in due course. But I will spare as much bloodshed as I can before I restore you to your title.”

Pushing Odin does nothing but seemingly make him delay further and so Helblindi bites back his tongue and tries to not let his bitterness become overwhelming. It’s a difficult effort, especially given how he is tasked to work with Thor daily, gathering information, formulating (or rather arguing endlessly) plans while keeping a close watch on the political situation on Jotunheim.

It’s a long, laborious and vicious cycle. The only reason he can think that Odin orders this arrangement is that it is his attempt to force them to learn how to work with one another. As the future kings of their realms, Thor will be the one Helblindi would be dealing with primarily and they could not go a single day without disagreeing about something and were barely civil as it was. Helblindi secretly worried this was some kind of cruel test of Odin’s and that if they fail it will prove to the All Father that their realms cannot form a lasting treaty.

The thought of that and what it would mean for Helblindi’s future is terrifying.

The only thing that he takes solace in is that Nál cannot take on Asgard yet.

Oh he will make an attempt. Helblindi takes vicious satisfaction in that Nál is in a very precarious situation. Thor had issued a call to war, one Nál cannot support and yet he must answer to save face. The decades of hardship had not been any easier on Joutunheim’s false king then they had been on Laufey. Nál had lost key and crucial support over the years, there is unrest and he knows any army that he forms will not hold against the forces of Odin and his weakness will be exposed for others who desired the throne. So far the only reason Nál has seemingly and publically stayed his hand is because he has not yet found a way to traverse worlds. It’s only a matter of time until he finds another crack like the one Helblindi had lead him to, but it gives Nál precious time to try and figure out of a way to strengthen his position.

It will be a futile endeavor. Helblindi and Thor scheme to ensure that, sending messages to Helblindi’s allies to further support for his cause while spreading dissent. They also work to quash any possible uprising from rivals. It’s a fine line; Nál cannot be allowed to gather strength for his cause but he cannot become so weak as to be disposed of yet, not by anyone but Helblindi. The power vacuum the king’s fall would create would set them back years and would ruin Asgard’s chances of averting war.

Helblindi counts on that at the very least. Out of everything he is secure in his own position and necessity, for all of Odin’s posturing the All Father needs him as much as he needs Odin. It’s a stalemate that reassures Helblindi when the days grow long.

“I do not care for these political games.” Thor complained. “Whispering from the shadows through others, playing mind games and toying with lives like this. It is disgraceful.”

“And yet your father seems to prefer that method son of Odin.” Helblindi said bitingly. “How ironic your culture is built upon war mongering and honor in confronting your enemies, and yet your father does not practice what he preaches.”

Thor narrowed his eyes and warned, “Do not presume to know my father’s heart Frost Giant.”

“Advice you yourself should consider.” Helblindi replied, smiling at the frown on Thor’s face. “If you disagree with such methods raise the issue to Odin.”

To his disappointment Thor doesn’t rise to the bait. “Your attempts to sow discourse between my family are as transparent as they are pathetic. This is your one and only warning, do not presume our relations will spare you should you attempt to meddle in affairs that are not yours.”

And Helblindi, embarrassed that his ploy had been so clumsy, feels bold in that moment out of sheer defensiveness and he allows his frustration and hate to get the better of him. He stands inches from Thor’s face, holding out his arms in clear invitation. “Go ahead.” He whispered looking right into his eyes in daring, wanting Thor to strike at him. He did not fear the God of Thunder and he would never bow down to him and he would be damned if Thor thought otherwise or believed himself better.

They stay locked like that for a long moment, neither moving, and the very air crackled with electricity.
To Thor’s rage Helbilndi then smiled and stepped back, satisfied in the knowledge that Thor could never raise a hand to him, not without destroying everything.

It’s a hallow satisfaction, for Helblindi is bound by the same restrictions.

“My biggest fear son of Odin,” Helblindi confessed in a hiss. “Is that this is our fate. Forever bound to torment one another and never able to do a thing about it.”

He privately hoped that kept Thor up at night as it did Helblindi

When he leaves he deliberately knocks over the goblets of disgusting wine that had been set out earlier, letting them shatter on the marble floor, the liquid splashing out like blood.

“Pick that up!” Thor demanded outraged.

“No. That is the job of a servant not a king.” Helblindi said without sparing him a glance and he hears and feels Thor’s roar of anger and the smash of Mjolnir hitting the table.

Helblindi feels as though he is dancing on the edge of a knife and he despairs. On Jotunheim he is no one, someone entitled by birth and blood to respect and authority (to say nothing of loyalty) and yet he is scorned and ignored by the very people meant to serve him. On Asgard he is someone but in the same breath nobody. He is acknowledged as Jotunheim’s ruler, treated somewhat as such with his accommodations and yet it is all so superficial. He is still looked down upon has no further respect or power then he had before.

He is the same as always, a would be king.

All he wants is to be respected, taken seriously and matter. There had been precious few moments in his life where he weeps at how far he has fallen, how unfair it all is, and in these hallowed halls of Asgard he does so more than a few times. This place is nothing but a stark reminder of how close he is to salvation and yet Odin keeps it just barely out of reach.

It’s a constant, degrading reminder. The All Father is indeed as cruel as they said.

When word reaches Helblindi of the uproar Loki has created, his first reaction is anger. He’s alarmed at anything that could possibly jeopardize his plans and Loki’s actions could potentially do just that. However he’s also thoroughly bewildered since Loki had understood how important it was they not cause trouble in Asgardian society and his brother is not a fool and had never acted out of sort before.

Why?” He asked the next morning as the dined together in Helblindi’s chambers.

And Loki doesn’t even look up from stirring his tea as he replied without hesitation, “Because it pleases Thor.”

That surprises Helblindi. “W-what?”

“It is important to Thor to have a spouse that can fight like him. I saw an opportunity and so I took it. I can please your future ally as you wish, learn valuable information that can strengthen our armies once you have them, and increase our standing and acceptance amongst Asgardian society.”

“How is this supposed to help our cause? Already there are vehement protests in Odin’s elite calling for these lessons to stop immediately.”

“It will pass.” Loki speaks with a surety he doesn’t actually feel but dares not to let show. That has always been the key to dealing with Helblindi, not to let anything show on his face. “Eventually they will see it as a diplomatic gesture of peace. We freely exchange information with them, and I am making an effort, the first, to know them and work as them. Would you not want such a courtesy extended to you?”

Helblindi opens and closes his mouth but cannot find the words to refute that, he stares at his brother stunned and Loki just sits there calmly eating breakfast without looking at him.

“Do you want me to stop?” He finally asked after the silence became too much.

“I… n-no. Of course not.” Helblindi muttered, although he would and he secretly inquires to Odin later about the matter.

“I apologize for the disruption my brother has caused your court.” He said humbly. “He will withdraw if it causes offense.”

“Hmm.” Odin’s face was ever a mask although he appeared to be contemplating it for a moment. “No. I should think not.” He said simply and that is all he speaks on the matter.

Helblind is left with his stomach in a knot, the discomfort of it coming uncomfortably close to a feeling of jealousy. That Loki had conceived of a solution that would greatly benefit them eats at Helblindi.

He doesn’t have much time to dwell on it, for unexpectedly Thor comes to him a few weeks later with a surprising announcement.

“You must come with me,” He announced urgently. “Heimdall demands an audience.”

Thor does not know of the reason for the guardians summons and Helblindi cannot refuse even if he had wanted to. Curiosity outweighs fear and so he, Thor, and a few of Asgard’s finest guards ride out to the Bifrost. Heimdall is inside the teleportation chambers, a golden statue staring off into the distance and taking in all and everything.

This is the first time Helblindi has ever seen Asgard’s guardian and he is immediately overwhelmed with such a feeling of terror it leaves him rooted to the spot, unable to move or even breathe.

This man, this creature, was beyond powerful. Odin did not possess a fraction of the might Heimdall did and the contrast and realization was both awesome and terrifying to see. To be in the presence of someone so powerful that it was incomprehensible for anyone was humbling.

That Thor, that no one in Asgard including The All Father (if their behavior was of indication) did not realize or notice the extent of Heimdall’s power, astonished Helblindi. He stared at Thor appalled as the God of Thunder impatiently gestured for him to come forward. His body language was too relaxed, to comfortable, with nary a clue of what stood before him.

Helblindi swallowed and forced himself to approach where then he stood awkwardly. The silence goes on seemingly forever before Heimdall finally speaks, voice rich and grand and resonating.

“I cannot see you Laufeyson. You stand before me and it is the first time I have laid eyes upon you, or heard your words.”

Helblind is immediately nervous and apprehensive and he cannot think of a proper response beyond “Yes.” It’s nothing new; Fárbauti had taught her sons many spells and one of the first ones had been how to hide themselves. She had viewed Heimdall as potentially one of their greatest threats, if he could look upon them and their plans it would mean disaster for them so she had robbed him of his greatest asset, the ability to see and hear them. It was a course of action Helblindi understood all too well, if Heimdall knew the truth it would be the end for him.

Odin had conceded that he and Loki could retain the privilege of behind shrouded from the guardian’s sight. Not for diplomatic purposes, he had revealed Heimdall had agreed to it before hand, willingly and without prompt.

It makes Helblindi uneasy, for Heimdall is an unknown element to his plan. There was no reason for him to have given in so easily and readily and Helblindi cannot be sure if the guardian had noticed that the same spell that hid him had also hidden the Frost Giants that had attempted to steal the casket.

If he had noticed he has never said anything and that makes Helblindi suspicious.

He cleared his throat. “You summoned me?”

Heimdall finally turns his golden eyes to him and his gaze is terrible and wonderful.

“Not I sire, another. Liulfr, Lord of Wolves calls forth from Jotunheim. He demands an audience and has important news to speak of to you.” Heimdall can see him even now, standing alone in the empty wasteland of Jotunheim. The fierce winds that would make even the stoutest of Asgardian warriors bow whips the snow around the Frost Giant who does not yield. Instead he continues to call to the sky, as he has done for the past hour.

“Heimdall! I beseech thee! I must speak with Lord Helblindi! Bring him forth to me!”

“What news?”

Heimdall looks away at Thor’s demand, focusing back on his prince. “I do not know. He will only speak to Prince Helblindi.”

It takes a fair amount of debating on what to do before a decision is settled upon. Helblindi initially wishes to go to Jotunheim to meet with Liulfr, a course of action Thor supports but will not allow unless he can accompany him. It’s hardly out of concern for Helblindi’s well being (and if there was any, it was strictly for political reasons), it was simply because he did not trust him.

“He cannot go to Jotunheim.”

Helblindi and Thor are mutually startled at Heimdall’s calm proclamation.

“What? Why? Is it a trap?” Helblindi demanded.

“No. Neither are you a prisoner here,” Heimdall was quick to add, staving off Helblindi’s next line of thought before it could even be formed. “You have a choice. But it is in your best interests for you not to go just yet my lord, and that is all that I will speak of on the matter.”

True to his word he refuses to elaborate and chilled, Helblindi heeds his caution. That leaves a single option and Thor is even more outraged at the proposal that they bring Liulfr to Asgard. However the diplomatic course of action merited that Thor not only concede, but allow Helblindi his private meeting. Thor does not even attempt to delay by demanding they ask his father, it would be childish and he knew what Odin would do.

Knowing that did not make it any easier to accept.

They both make compromises; Liulfr would be brought to the Bifrost but would not be allowed to go beyond or to stay any longer then required. In exchange Helblindi would be allowed to speak to him alone, Heimdall forbidden to listen in or watch but he would have to divulge what was spoken about.

“I will not be responsible for this.” Thor declared before storming out.

Heimdall opens the Bifrost in a brilliant explosion of light and color that is simply dazzling to behold in the glittering chamber. He collects Liulfr and pulls him to Asgard, depositing the Frost Giant inside the teleportation chambers with them and to Liulfr’s credit he did not appear surprised at his change of location. As the whirling noise of the machine gently powered down Heimdall stepped away from the pedestal, hands resting on the hilt of on his magnificent sword in a relaxed manner and he closed his eyes, bowing his head and appearing to be asleep

“You’ll forgive me if I don’t take you word.” Helblindi said to him and instantly recast Fárbauti’s spell, enveloping Liulfr in it as well and rending Heimdall blind and deaf to them even though he was in the same room.

Heimdall does not as much as flinch.

“What is wrong?” Helblindi wasted no time, “What is so urgent that you could not contact me through other more discrete channels?”

“It couldn’t wait and I thought the matter to be of great importance-“

“So you shout it to the heavens for all to hear? For Asgard to hear?” Helblindi snarled in frustration. Restricting and controlling as much information as he could was vital, anything that benefited or threatened him did him no good if Odin learned about it at the same time as he did. Helblindi could not use that information, the delay and secrecy was his most valuable asset in this realm.

“Yes.” Liulfr said, firm but calm as he watched Helblindi pace anxiously. “Firstly is that word has reached Jotunheim of Loki’s marriage.”

“That is hardly surprising; we were counting on that to happen anyway.”

“The populace is rather sharply divided on the matter. There are those that believe it to be nothing more than a trick on Asgard’s behalf. A majority however believe it true, there are those that fear what this could mean, and there are others that hope.”

“And Nál?”

“The former.”

And Helblindi smiled slow and vicious and pleased. Good, let the false king sit on his stolen throne and tremble, heavy with dread and knowing that his destruction was on the horizon.

“You need to be cautious my lord,” Liulfr warned. “Nál will not wait for you to strike first now that he realizes your plan. He need not worry about Asgard if he can rid himself of Laufey’s descendants.”

The possibility was slim but nevertheless very real. While Helblindi could not conceive of a way in which Nál could save himself given the current circumstances, that didn’t mean there wasn’t a way and that clever Nál could find and exploit. If he could rid himself of Loki and Helblindi he might be able to arrange something with Asgard, perhaps ally himself with them. The House of Odin contained many possible traitors that would be more than willing to help rid its realm of its new Jotun allies, even if it meant conspiring with another Jotun.

One could never be too cautious in these dire times.

“I will handle that.” Helblindi said confidently.

“Hmm.” Liulfr hesitated. “The second matter is a bit more complex. Deep in the north there have been stirrings of a rumor. It is but the barest of a whisper really, nobody will willing speak of it.”

“You cause this disruption because of a rumor?”

“Yes, because the rumor concerns a Frost Giant. A Frost Giant who is claiming the name of Býleistr.”

It had been so long since Helblindi had heard that name that it takes a moment before realization strikes and when it does it hits hard, sending a chill through him and leaving him dizzy.

“That’s impossible.” Helblindi said hoarsely, the shock clear on normally masked face. “Býleistr is dead.”

“Can you be certain of that?”

“He disappeared years ago; no one knew what happened to him. Not my father, not my mother, no one-“

Can you be certain of that?” Liulfr repeated firmly.

He can’t, in one blinding moment of horror, hope and despair Helblindi realized that he could not say for certain that Býleistr was dead. There was too much mystery surrounding his sibling’s disappearance, to many unanswered questions, to many unknowns. It was possible even if it were unlikely.

“He…. he would have contacted me. All these years-“ Helblindi said weakly.

Wouldn’t he?

“It’s of little consequence either way.” Liulfr interrupted. “Whether he is your brother or not is also irrelevant in the long run. It’s what this development could possibly mean for your future that you should concern yourself with.”

Liulfr was right, what it meant was utter catastrophe. It did not matter if whoever was a fraud or not, what tentative support Helblindi was gaining in Jotunheim would be in peril if another son of Laufey suddenly appeared. The conflict this could potentially cause could derail everything, especially if that someone could successfully overthrow Nál first. If that happened and it really was Býleistr then he had a legitimate claim to the throne. Jotunheim’s monarchy was the same as Asgard’s in that regard, when Laufey ruled Helblindi had not been guaranteed succession, his father would have eventually had to have chosen between he and Býleistr.

Why now? Helblindi wondered and the answer came to him instantaneously.

Word of Loki’s marriage had reached Jotunheim.

“Can you find out more?” Helblindi demanded.

“It will take time. As I said it is too early yet still, and the silence and secrecy to thick. However it’s somewhat suspicious for how carefully it is being concealed. That alone makes me think there might be something of merit to it.”

“Do it. I need to know if there is any truth to this. If it is my brother I cannot let Asgard find out and I will need to sever as much support as I can before he can even get it, force him to come to me.”

“You need to be careful how you play this game my lord,” Liulfr cautioned. “You are not taking into account something.”

“And what would that be?”

“If your brother is alive and going to vie for the crown, it is not you he will attempt to contact.”

“Who-“ And suddenly Helblindi feels as though his entire world has shattered in that single instant and he is left reeling in the wake of his epiphany.

Because he realizes it will be Loki that Býleistr will try and go too secretly. He will bypass Helblindi entirely (because that is what Helblindi would do in that situation) and go to the one who had the power, who had the authority, the one who was married to the prince and future king of Asgard.

Helblindi had nothing to make himself the more viable prospect, not when it was Loki who possessed Asgard.

He was the same as always, a would be king with nothing but his name

The spell that hid them was ripped away so abruptly that it would have perhaps startled even Odin. Heimdall however does not flinch, instead he calmly opens his eyes to look at a visibly shaken Helblindi who pointed at him.

Send him back! Now!” Helblindi all but screamed at him, to panicked to care about anything. He then fled, feeling as if he were suffocating inside the chamber and as he did the sound of the Bifrost humming to life vibrated around him. Once outside he see’s Thor moving towards him, mouth moving but voice lost to the explosion of noise signaling Liulf’s departure. It gives Helblindi a precious few moments to try and compose himself.

“What is wrong?” Thor demanded, alarmed at the Frost Giant’s pale and haunted look. “What news did your Jotun comrade bring?”

“I… I…” Helblindi falters, mind racing with too much information, to many plans and possibilities. He takes a few precious moments to compose himself before lying, “The death of a beloved alley. A close friend, nothing more.”

Thor, mercifully, believes him. “Oh.” Is all he says, and perhaps uncomfortable with what he mistakes as Helblindi’s grief, lets the subject rest. He even reluctantly complies with Helblindi’s request for privacy, walking a good distance away to stand with the horses and leaving the Frost Giant to sit on the edge of the Bifrost, looking out at the waves of the ocean.

The torrential sounds of the waters, the colors of the Bifrost set against the starry sky make for a bold and beautiful atmosphere of peace that does nothing to sooth Helblindi’s disquiet. He has never felt so small then he does in that moment, haunted by ghosts.

It’s not him, it can’t be him, not after all this time, not now, not after all this,” Helblindi whispered to himself in a mantra. Rationally he knew it was foolish to get so worked up about a phantom, to be so upset over an unconfirmed suggestion. It was so ludicrous he should be laughing at it and yet it shook something deep and ugly within himself. That it would be Loki who would be the one sought after in any scenario, burned resentment through Helblindi. It was nothing more than another hateful reminder of where he stood in life. His brother was now a more vital key then he had anticipated, and for that alone he was also a crucial weakness.

The sound of Heimdall approaching makes him tense. He wonders for a brief, wild moment about what the guardian knows. Did Heimdall see what was happening on Jotunheim? Had he glimpsed at the Frost Giant who might be claiming the name of Býleistr? He would know the truth one way or another if he had seen it and yet Helblindi wonders if he would ever actually say anything even to Odin.

“My lords.” Heimdall intoned, and his eyes seem to look at them yet through them simultaneously, forever and always taking in more than anyone could comprehend. “You must return to Asgard at once.”

“Why? What is wrong?” Thor demanded striding over.

Heimdall looks at Helblindi whose emotions are instantly eclipsed with shock and dread at the guardian’s next words.

“Your brother has just attacked his teacher.”

Chapter Text

It is amazing how utterly calm Loki feels.

He should be panicked, he should be worried, desperate, frightened and host of other emotions that anyone else would be overwhelmed by.

Loki feels none of these and he distantly wonders if there is something supremely wrong with himself but ultimately dismisses it as irrelevant at this point.

What was done was done and Loki calmly awaits his fate.

He isn’t alone inside the vast, private waiting room he’s been escorted to. Two guards stand vigil near the only door, their alert and intimidating posture is beguiled by the subtle tension marring their faces.

They are afraid of him.

Although it was hardly warranted it none the less gives Loki a supreme sense of satisfaction.

He ignores them for the time being and pointedly keeps his back to them. He sits next to the fire pit that was in the middle of the room, not for need of warmth, but for the simple fact that he enjoys watching the flames. He finds the movement memorizing and it sooths him.

It’s also the only thing to look at in this chamber, empty of art, furniture or anything meant to be comforting. It’s sterile, intending to put one at unease; instead it has the opposite effect on Loki. The flickering golden glow against the emptiness, the sounds of the fire consuming the wood—which sounded louder against the backdrop of silence--was comforting.

It all has a rather dream like quality to it.

It’s a stark contrast to how the rest of the day has been like. He can recall everything about it with a vivid clarity that makes him wince.

Ulfr’s muffled screams still ring in the back of Loki’s mind sharply and while he regrets nothing it’s still not quite satisfying considering the cost.

The worst thing about it was that this outcome could have been avoided.

Loki had found something almost resembling a balance. His training with Hogun had provided an outlet for his turbulent emotions, it gave him something to look forward to, and however small it was nonetheless vital. He wondered if Hogun perhaps knew this, they weren’t friends but there was a fragile, unspoken connection between them due to their status.

“Did you hate them?” Loki asked one day. He doesn’t know what posses him to ask that but Hogun’s response surprises him.

“Yes.” He replied honestly. “There are days, rare though they may be, that I still resent them.”

“Truly? But why? You are beloved among them.” Loki sometimes envies him this.

“But I am not truly one of them. That is a fact I can never escape from and would never be able to even if I wanted it. And there are many, despite my status, who are eager to remind me of that. Asgard does not welcome easily, and her embrace can be cold and done more out of pity than the benevolence she likes to believe herself giving.”

Hogun’s face betrays nothing, however his eyes look far off in memory, recalling past struggles and hurts. Whatever had brought him to Asgard had not been by choice and yet he had made the choice to stay.

Loki asked, “What happened?”

A ghost of a smile, “I met Volstagg.” He actually lets out a rare chuckle at Loki’s expression. “He was rather difficult to dislike.” Volstagg, with his hopeless enthusiasm and good heart, who had taken a liking to Hogun and deemed they should be friends for no other reason than “because”. Volstagg, who had trained with Hogun, never once looked down upon him and was the first to refer to him as brother. They had been through many adventures together, each having something to prove. Volstagg had been expected to become a warrior but had never been thought of or encouraged as someone who could do more beyond simple solider. He would have been the first to admit that he had done himself no favors in that regard, he had been too young and scared and enjoyed food and drink too much. While he had used the taunts and jibes as motivation it had worn on him. They had both gone from one looked down upon as an outsider and the other referred to derivatively as Volstagg the Voluminous, to Hogun matching and then surpassing Asgard’s finest warriors, while Volstagg was now known as the Lion of Asgard.

Volstagg had shown him everything Asgard could and should have been.

Hogun continued, “I met him, then Thor, then Fandral. They are my family and they are all I need.” He smiled, somewhat wistfully. “Damn the rest.”

Loki wishes he could.

His lessons with Hogun had given him confidence and serenity that he had not expected to find. While his days with Ulfr are no easier (and indeed, getting harder by sheer virtue of what they are venturing into) they don’t weigh down on him as heavily as before, or at the very least affect him on a constant daily basis.

More and more he had found himself retaliating against the other, little bursts of rebelliousness that are petty and childish but none the less serves to delight him. He is deliberately late on several occasions, knowing how much it annoys Ulfer. He even find the courage--fueled mostly by spite after a particularly bad day-- to completely miss a day of his lessons, claiming illness when he is asked about his absence and (deliberate) lack of notice. (He dares not do it again, but he cannot deny the vicious satisfaction knowing that Ulfr must rage in silence, for he knows Loki was lying but cannot do anything or call him on it) He also questions Ulfr incessantly with foolish inquiries that are so blatant it’s obvious that he is mocking his teacher for his ignorance.

Ulfer endures it, he had no choice much like Loki, and they continue to snip at one another, neither yielding and both at a unspoken standstill.

It perhaps would not have gone any further if it hadn’t been for the touching. Which made this whole situation all the more ironic since it wasn’t Ulfr who had started it.

It begins on that disastrous day Ulfer started to tentatively introduce him to political court of Asgard.

There were so many of them, all such grand families, such powerful gods and warriors, all such important links in a chain that supported and protected the house of Odin. Each and every one such a terrible weakness in that chain, for every one that was there by oath of duty and loyalty there was another there, clinging out of greed and entitlement.

Loki looks at Asgard’s monarchy and see’s Jotunheim’s reflecting back in every faucet that it’s disturbing.

Unsurprisingly, the majority don’t even try to hide their distain, their eyes are hard and their smiles are as fake as the airs of faux respect they deem themselves entitled to. Ulfer’s smile is biting… he is enjoying himself. He commands a great deal of reverence among the Asgardians here, his position as a royal tutor being viewed as a prestigious and important one. Loki hadn’t realized just how much until now, and he couldn’t deny being surprised at how highly they seemed to value education.

Loki stands before them all and falters. The mixture of curiosity and revulsion in the eyes of the Asgardians intimidated him and he would later berate himself for allowing it to shake him.

Lord Dagfinnr is the first of many to follow, “You look so normal.” he had commented, and Loki’s blood runs cold at how offensive such a comment was and how no one saw it as such. (And indeed would be puzzled why he could possibly find that insulting since they were the normal and how privileged he should be that he was as them.) He gritted his teeth and was so distracted by resisting the urge to lash out at him for his words that he did not fully realize Dagfinnr had casually reached out to grab his hair.

Loki recoiled at the first brush of his fingers and his appalled expression was enough to give Dagfinnr pause.

“Ah, apologies.” He explained, “I’m merely fascinated.”

“I don’t care.” Loki snapped harshly. “Do not touch me.”

Dagfinnr looks annoyed but nods in agreement and moves on. He is not the only one that day, others take his hand in greeting and when they release it their touch is deliberately lingering—Loki feels as though a snake has slithered over his new skin—trying to figure out the mechanics of his illusion, fascinated by how authentic it felt, trying coldly and clinically to figure out something.

It starts there.

That evening Loki looks so miserable that Thor takes notice and, alarmed, demands to know what it is that ails him.

“I… made a fool of myself.” Loki admitted, remembering with a wince at how awkward and rigid he had become over the course of the day with everyone at court, far to rattled by the covert prodding and touching and the weight of their eyes and judgments. He had been nothing at all like the regal, imposing figure of authority he was supposed to project and secretly fantasized about being, even though there was no hope he was ever going to be that.

“I’ve done worse.” Thor blithely assured without a care. “Worry not husband, you need not concern yourself with the petty minds of those sycophants.”

But he did, Loki knew all too well how vipers like those could do the most damage. Thor was privileged to have never lived through the consequences of that. While Loki does not care what they think he needs to command a certain amount of respect that will discourage any true political discourse and he has no idea how to do that. Thor seemed to be of the opinion that Loki’s position and title alone should automatically merit it, while Helblindi merely thought he should simply do anything they wanted. But he cannot be what they wanted and while he would defer and conform to their wishes as much as he could (something that he was finding, much to his dismay, to be much more difficult than he had expected. How easy it had seemed in hind sight) he would not tolerate being treated as a thing for everyone.

He couldn’t do that, not when he had already made that sacrifice for his brother and people with this arrangement.

And so Loki flounders, he cannot retaliate beyond telling them to stop touching him and he’s acutely, painfully aware of how childish and unreasonable he sounds. But there will be instances (to many to count, to many to be coincidence) where someone will jab at his back, touch his arm or his shoulder in passing, brush past him, ghosts of touches that seem innocuous enough at face value but are none the less deeply unsettling in a way Loki cannot properly explain to an Asgardian.

He gradually becomes even more tense and more than once he came see Thor looking at him out of the corner of his eye in worry.

Everyone finds Loki’s cold and aloof manner off putting and in return he finds their informality and the liberties they take infuriating and disrespectful.

“They do not like you.” Ulfr scolded.

“I’m aware of that.” Loki snapped, hardly in need of the reminder and in his bitterness his words were freer then they should have been. “And what would you have me do, whore myself out to them as well? Do you think me a fool or that my ears are deaf to the whispers behind my back?” Loki had heard them, those vile rumors that spoke speculatively and invasively about Loki’s supposed sexual habits, for surely he had enchanted the Asgard prince somehow or perhaps his unnatural state of being both genders was somehow different in a way that had people wondering in disgust, lewd awe and a never ending curiosity and desire. (Loki had been taken aback at just how revolting they seemed to find his duel gender and it cuts because to him, to every Frost Giant, it is normal.)

It was humiliating.

“Stop being so dramatic. You believe this to be a hardship? This is what you, what countless others before and after, have had to and will endure. Take it as a compliment, your kind is viewed as less than desirable.”

It was disturbing that, in his own way, Ulfr was trying to and honestly thought he was helping with that suggestion.

It all comes to a head in a rather spectacular and suitably dramatic fashion. There is nothing particularly special about the day that it happens, nothing that (seemingly) builds to that particular moment when Loki simply snaps and he surprises even himself with his instinctive reaction.

He is enduring a mid-day meal with Ulfr, Lord Dagfinnr, his wife Lady Kelda, and the widow Gunnvaar when it happens. It’s a tedious affair and Loki is miserable, still lost on the particulars on why he had to do this and truthfully not caring. He had wished to eat with Helblindi, whom he had not spoken with for a few days and he longs for his brother’s company, not these creatures. Gunnvaar looks as perpetually board and annoyed with everything as Loki feels. She was but one of the few whom he had met that, while she didn’t appear to like him, she also didn’t appear to dislike him either. She was polite, respectful, did not condescend and seemed to be here out of obligation then actual desire.

It was all just another useless step in a dance of politics Loki did not understand. Ulfr was not one for explaining much and indeed, he would often deliberately withhold information. Many of these endeavors were nothing more than veiled tests to see how Loki could handle himself in an unknown (but important) situation and adapt to it. Jotunheim and Asgard might have differing customs but at heart the same principals of conduct when it came to royalty and politics would surely apply. Ulfr’s method on teaching was designed to observe and, if required, correct anything undesirable and show him the proper manner and how to react.

It would do Asgard no good to have a king that could not handle himself appropriately in foreign and strange situations.

Loki knows that by Ulfr’s opinion he is failing those tests, his rapidly growing apathy perhaps his worst enemy.

“Do you like our realm my lord? The differences between ours must be immense.” asked Lady Kelda.

“It’s adequate.” Loki replied blandly and he’s rather pleased with this polite and truthful response even though Ulfr is clearly not.

He pointedly ignores him.

“Adequate?” Dagfinnr echoed with a scoff and he gestured to their surroundings. “This is adequate compared to where you come from?”

And in this Loki has learned well from them, for words were just as devastating a weapon and could be used without impunity if yielded cleverly enough. He is becoming a master with them. “The implication of those words could be taken as dangerous my lord, for they tread closely to an insult.” Loki said coolly as he pushed his food around his plate. “It’s as if you thought my realm were a retched wasteland. But surely such thoughts hadn’t occurred to someone such as educated as yourself, let alone would it occur to that someone to allow those thoughts be spoken out loud.”

He gives Dagfinnr a cold look and is satisfied enough by the brief flicker of hesitation in his eyes. “Of course not your highness,” Dagfinnr said smoothly, smiling but mouth tight with either annoyance or anger. “That is not at all what I meant.”

Loki feels a little better after that, even when Kelda incessantly inquires about his magic, a topic he refuses to elaborate on and makes that abundantly clear. Not solely because Ulfr had warned him against speaking on such manners because it wouldn’t “well received” (already they viewed his magic with suspicion) but because he had become well aware of Asgard’s seemingly contradictory viewpoint on it. It left Loki utterly bewildered, magic was used freely in so many ways and yet held with such little regard, indeed, unless utilized in a very specific manner it was viewed as an unworthy element in battle and considered a cheat and cowardly.

Trickery and nothing more.

He will never understand Asgardians. While Loki could somewhat logically understand the biased against his heritage and gender when compared to their society, the same could not be said about their viewpoints on magic. It’s just another facet of his being that he must suppress and one that he resents the most. On Jotunheim it is not so, magic is simply another aspect of life there, as vital and necessary as any limb.

Here it is not so, and yet Odin is one of the greatest wielders of magic. It’s a source of never ending confusion for Loki.

There is something grotesquely invasive about Kelda’s, and everyone’s, interest in his magic given the demeaning way in which it was viewed in their society. It’s here he becomes agitated, bristling at Kelda’s oblivious questions, the sickening fascination with his appearance which isn’t flattering but demeaning. Gunnvaar is the only one who takes notice of his behavior she raises an eyebrow but says nothing.

That pivotal moment that changes everything happens after the meal is concluded. Ulfr, Dagfinnr and Kelda are behind him (he had refused to stand when they did, a blatant sign of disrespect that Loki could not bring himself to care about. He was content with simply dismissing them and be done with it even if etiquette said otherwise.) talking in hushed tones. Loki isn’t even listening to what they are talking about and is lost in thought when he feels the faintest whisper of a touch against his hair.

An unexpected burst of wild fury explodes within him that is so brutal and intense he is momentarily blinded by it and he just reacts. He leaps to his feet so quickly and with such force that his chair is knocked over, the sound of it hitting the floor mingling with the startled gasps echo in Loki’s ears.
In the same instant he whirls around, picking up a goblet of wine from the table and hurling the entire thing into Kelda’s face.

The entire thing is surreal, he feels like he is standing outside his body watching the events unfold in such a slow pace. The goblet strikes Kelda with such force it shatters and she screams more in surprise than actual pain and fell down in her haste to recoil. The liquid has thickened somewhat and is shockingly red and vivid, nothing at all like the thin translucent red of the wine it had been and Loki is vaguely aware of why, for in his anger he’s lashed out on every level and the wine had become blood.

The sudden silence is devastating as everyone is frozen in shock.

And Loki stands there, numb to any emotion aside from raw, cold fury. Kelda sits sprawled on the floor stunned, hand raised to her beautiful and wounded face, the blood staining her gown and face gave the illusion that she was grievously hurt. Dagfinnr is the first to react, lunging towards Loki and he is stopped with a single command and gesture.

Don’t.” Loki snarled pointing at him in warning and Dagfinnr obeys, perhaps out of nothing more than instinct for a flash of fear passes over his face as he pulls up short and steps back.

Loki feels an empowering rush course through him, for in that one glorious instant he feels like a true king. There is no hesitation or doubt and the authority he exercises is indisputable and they know that and respond to it even if it is out of fear.

One moment is all Loki needs to be satisfied that Dagfinnr will not move or retaliate and he turns his attention to Kelda who cringes.

“Sire-“ Ulfr started, face red.

And Loki does not even spare him a glance as he ordered “Be quite. If you, if anyone of you touches me again, I will be the last thing your fingers will feel.” With that he storms away, least he carry out his threat as their mere presence was temptation enough.

He isn’t followed and he walks with no true destination in mind. He is shaking from a strange mix of anger, excitement and satisfaction and he has the sudden uncontrollable urge to just laugh although he doesn’t know why.

He refrains and eventually finds himself in the palace gardens where he sits down and waits.

Ulfr finds him but a mere few minutes later.

Have you lost your mind?” Ulfr shouted, face a deep red and twisted with vicious expression that betrays a thousand tumultuous emotions. He looks unkempt and ugly in that moment and Loki stands, unwilling to allow the Asgardian loom over him. “Do you have any idea of what you’ve done?

“Yes.” Loki said coldly, taking Ulfr aback. “Spare me your lectures and your sanctimony teacher, for I have no use or care for either.” And Loki turns his back to him and wishes it were that easy to dismiss Ulfr who sputters at this turn of events.

“You stand before me and believe yourself somehow above consequences for such an act?” Ulfr demanded. “An act that would be considered one of war? You are not king-“

Yet.” Loki snapped and Ulfr is even more enraged at that reminder and already this encounter is clearly a point of no return. There is a dangerous element in the air, emotions to volatile and cracking facades, allowing true feelings to slip through. Loki feels as if he is falling and it’s exhilarating and terrifying as everything spins out of control so quickly.

“Hear me Ulfr and heed my words carefully. Yours and their mistake is that you look at me and see nothing but a title you owe nothing to but you forgot one important fact. I may never be your king but I am not some consort sent here to be trained and be used at whim for your amusements. I am Loki Laufeyson, crown Prince of Jotunheim and the descent of a line of royalty older than any from your realm. I am the husband to Asgard’s future ruler and at my worst I may be nothing but even then I am still above you or any of them.” Loki is shouting uncontrollably by the time he finishes and Ulfr’s face contorts into one of such rage and hate that matches Loki’s.

There is no turning back

“You are an animal!” Ulfr snarled viciously. “A savage who has no right to taint our realm with your very presence, you who should bow down before us and this is how you repay efforts to make you acceptable? Throw it back in our faces you ungrateful-“

“I merely responded in a way your people only seem to understand. How galling you must find it, with all your posturing and bragging and devoting such hard work all your lives to clawing your way to such heights, and I, a savage Jotun, manage to surpass all of you by fucking my way to the very top.” Loki grins madly even though everything feels so wrong and he can’t stop. Neither of them can, instead shredding at nerves and drawing more blood, uncaring of the consequences, mutually assured destruction.

“What you are is a disgrace and a blight on the house of Odin. Eventually they will see that and your actions today undoubtedly will help with that realization. You can proudly cling to your status as a whore all you want, in the end they will grow tired of you monster, and your head will join your fathers, adorning the wall of your ice palace before we destroy your kind.”

It isn’t even the words that cause Loki to grab Ulfr’s throat, the insults roll off him like every other one he had endured before. It’s the tone and Ulfr’s sudden demeanor that enrages Loki, so calm and knowing, so assured that it shakes something in him, a splinter of insecurity and fear and in that instant he wants nothing more than to break that smug countenance.

He completely takes Ulfr off guard. “My head for your tongue.” Loki hissed and in that instant shows him just what kind of trickery his magic truly was.

He rips Ulfr’s tongue out. Not literally, but from Ulfr’s perspective that’s what he thinks and feels and see’s. Ulfr’s earlier insult rings true in this instant, Loki feels like some kind of out of control animal and he pours every vile and vindictive feeling into the curse that he lays upon him, taking his eyes as well for good measure.

Ulfr screams. He screams and screams and screams and gurgles, clawing at his face, recoiling and falling to the floor in a heap as he rolled around.

And Loki looks down at him, chest heaving and he flees.

He runs blindly with a simple need to get away. The golden palace is suddenly suffocating and Ulfr’s screams, echoing and dying the further away he gets still ring to sharp in his ears. He runs outside and whistles and in moments Sleipnir is there running and he only slows down enough to allow Loki to jump onto his back before he is racing away.

Without being told he takes Loki out of the city, into the hills overlooking Asgard and atop one that Loki favored. It held but a single tree that was adorned with golden apples that Sleipnir always enjoyed. As soon as they approach Loki fumbles and dismounts, stumbling away from the horse before his legs give out entirely and he collapses to the ground boneless, staring at Asgard in horror.

Rationality is a terrible thing. Already it is descending on Loki, the adrenaline, the blindness of righteous indignation and anger was washed away and all that was left was the horrific implications of what he has just done.

Asgard gleams in the sun like some cruel taunt and Loki cannot bear the sight of it. He grabs his head and leans forward, pressing his forehead to the cool grass and rocks back and forth in an attempt to stave off the nausea.

Oh what have I done? He thought and he could have started screaming. He has just damned Jotunheim and his brother all because he couldn’t control himself and the guilt is crushing. He might have been able to have gotten away with what he had done to Kelda—who he was reasonably sure was only wounded in pride—but attacking Ulfr in that manner was inexcusable. There was no way to lie about circumstances, not when it happened to soon after Kelda and not when he used that particular hex.

Loki savagely berates himself for being so stupid and careless and he despairs.

He will be lucky if Helblindi doesn’t murder him on first sight and present his head as penance to Odin, a course of action Loki could not fault him for and the only one he could think of that would perhaps salvage this situation.

He stays out there for hours and loathes himself for his cowardice. He briefly entertained a fantasy of simply leaving, of taking Sleipnir and departing this realm and going somewhere new where he would not be known and he could fade away.

The thought doesn’t last long much to his misery. It takes him until long after the sun has set and the stars rise in the sky before he gathers enough resolve and courage to face his one and only option and truly accept it is the only solution.

He has to back.

Loki is terrified to do so, not because of what will undoubtedly happen to him, but because the thought of seeing what his actions have wrought is enough to make him physically ill. The horror surpasses that which he felt when he first married Thor. He just barely manages to piece together enough resignation to return and the only thing that allows him to do so it the decision that he will walk back there of his own volition. To be dragged back by the guards would be a further disgrace, the least he can do is show them true Jotun pride and not waver before them, submitting to punishment with his head held high.

He owes Helblindi this and even if he can’t he has to try and salvage the situation. The thought that Helblindi might have been captured and held for Loki’s crimes spurns him on.

He strokes Sleipnir’s face, mournfully noting that despite his best efforts he will greatly miss him and he sighed.

“Time to go back.” He said firmly.

Sleipnir takes him to the gates of the palace, after which he lets the horse run off again. He’s faintly surprised to discover that the closer he gets the calmer he feels. It’s a wonderfully numbing sensation and he takes it as acceptance. The palace is surprisingly quite which wasn’t what he was expecting and Loki manages to simply walk in, not encountering any guards until he gets to the great hall.

Two Asgardian warriors immediately and wordlessly lead him a waiting room, a third disappearing swiftly without much notice to undoubtedly tell others of Loki’s return.

“My lord,” One of the warriors says as he holds open the door politely but it is very clear this wasn’t a choice. “By Odin’s command you are to wait here until further notice.”

“Where is my brother?” Loki asked when he saw the room was devoid of anyone save two other guards.

The Asgardian is truthful when he replies “I do not know, he was last with Queen Frigga,” and Loki finds a small measure of comfort in that.

When the great door finally closes leaving him with nothing but the sounds of the fire and his own thoughts, he sits down and waits. After awhile some kind of commotion occurs beyond the doors. Despite how calm Loki feels his heart races and he tenses in anticipation when he recognizes Thor yelling indiscernibly, it goes on for a few minutes before he evidently leaves.

Hours pass and finally, finally the door opens up and someone walks in.

It’s Helblindi. He looks disheveled and the expression on his face is thunderous, it’s actually a comforting sight because he doesn’t appear as murderous as Loki knows he feels, which meant he was keeping up appearances for the sake of propriety.

It means not all is lost and Loki lets out a sigh of relief and looks up at his brother unflinchingly.

He falters at what he sees, for there is something about the way he is looking at Loki. Underneath all the fury there is a flicker of something that was almost like fear, Helblindi has been deeply and profoundly shaken by something and Loki knows him well enough to sense it had nothing to do with what their current situation.

Loki is more unsettled by that than anything.

Helblindi is so enraged that his voice trembles, speaking in such a low hiss it’s a whisper. “Well… what do you have to say for yourself little brother?”

And because Loki is feeling particularly suicidal in that moment he replied calmly, “I didn’t use their methods of combat against them.”

He’s fairly sure Helblindi would have knocked out several of his teeth for that had Thor not chosen that moment to come bursting in. He throws open the doors, uncaring of the noise as strides in, red cape flowing around him.

Leave us!” He barked and it’s clear that it is an order that he will not accept being disobeyed in this particular instance.

Helblindi gives Loki one last poisonous look that is laced with a thousand threats (and, what stricken Loki the most, disappointment) and walks away without another word only to be replaced by Thor.

Loki doesn’t (and can’t) look at him, instead keeping his eyes to the floor even though he can feel Thor’s own heavy gaze upon him. A long, tense moment passes by at an agonizing rate before Thor unexpectedly sighs and sits down next to him.

Loki feels too exhausted to be nervous or tense anymore, now he just feels weary in body and spirit.

“My mother managed to remove the curse.” Thor finally said, and he sounds so conversational about it that it makes Loki scowl. It’s as if Thor was merely retelling his day to Loki in their chambers instead of discussing a disastrous political scandal. “It took her several hours of course and she had to consult your brother. Rather impressive really.”

Loki says nothing and both sit in another long bout of silence.

“Did he deserve it?” Thor finally asked quietly.

He doesn’t respond at first. “Maybe.” It’s not easy to admit, but Loki had plenty of time to think on it and with reflection came a certain grudging truth. While Ulfr might have deserved to be punished Loki couldn’t deny, even to himself, that the one he has inflicted was perhaps out of proportion and certainly not that of which a king out to set the right example should have done. Not when it had been so personal and not when he should have just walked away.

However Thor seemed pleased with that response and nodded with a smile, offering his hand to Loki’s shock.

After hesitating he accepts, mostly because he feels like he can’t not and he doesn’t want to cause anymore offense then he already had. Thor’s hand is large and warm and holds his in a comforting grip that does nothing to dispel his unease. If anything it heightens it, even when Thor’s thumb caresses the top of his hand in a soothing manner.

“What is going to happen now?” Loki asked.

“Nothing… officially.”

“What?”

“Circumstances were found to be more in your favor.” Thor said, clearly quoting someone else even as he smiled and further explain in the wake of Loki’s expression, “The widow Gunnvaar told us what happened.”

Thor can still remember her vividly in his mind, ever regal and composed in front of Odin and he, holding up the goblet of blood to them in a mock toast. “Your husband was displeased.” She was all she had said with a smirk. “I do believe Kelda has long been overdue to have something thrown in her face.”

“She said the cup slipped from your grasp.”

Loki is bewildered and before he can think better he asks “Why?”

“You are very, very lucky Loki, for Gunnvaar has no love for Kelda or Dagfinnr and she is of higher regard then they. She is viewed as an unbiased party to the events.” Thor and Odin had both known she had spoken a blatant lie for no reason of loyalty to Loki but of petty amusement and to further wound Kelda’s ego. However Odin had no proof to call her story into question.

Despite this there was one issue she hadn’t lied about.

Thor is looking at Loki with a contemplative expression that makes him frown, although he careful not to tense or recoil when that expression becomes displeased and he slips his hand away to rest it on the back of Loki’s neck, running his fingers through his hair.

“I did not know.” He explained with a restrained growl. “You should have told me.”

“Would it have mattered?”

“Yes!” Thor was outraged. “They have no right to touch you like that or in any manner. You are mine.”

Loki doesn’t know if he should be offended by that or take it as a compliment; it’s just another depressing reminder that he is a possession to Thor and yet its relieving to know it had been an offense and gross violation of how he was supposed to be treated.

“How wonderfully that would have undermined me in the eyes of your realm,whining to my husband about what would be viewed as a trivial matter and one I should handle myself. How special should I be then? To expect the rights of a king yet having my husband carry out my whims, demand and expect even more preferential treatment for me when no one else warrants it.”

Thor grudgingly accepted that and took Loki’s hand again.

“Well they won’t do it again now.” Thor said with subbed joviality that it makes Loki snort.

“What of Ulfr?” He asked, dreading the response.

“Special consideration has been allotted given the nature of your exchange.”

And that is the very last thing he has expected because he understands in a single moment what hasn’t been said.

“He told you the truth?” He asked appalled. “Why?”

“You frightened him.” Thor said simply which was a rather grand understatement considering how traumatized Ulfr was by the experience. “The fool is to terrified to lie, and seeing as which this is the first time you have ever acted as such it is viewed as a rather extreme and--while not wholly justified-- justified enough circumstance. But Loki,” Thor squeezes his hand, for Loki’s attention had wandered in his stunned state and when he looks at Thor his husband has a grave expression. “There will be no more second chances after this. Leniency is being given for the sake of alliance. I cannot sway my father or anyone else if you act out of turn again.”

The All Father had deliberated long and hard on what to do about Loki’s actions and ultimately it had been Frigga who had convinced him that, no matter how wrong it felt or seemed, they could not punish him. To punish Loki would require acknowledging that he had attacked Asgardians and the circumstances would be irrelevant. The reaction would damn their alliance and if they caved to public pressure for punishment (whether given willingly or not) it would further devalue the Frost Giants in the eyes of Asgard and place them in a higher position over them then they already believed themselves to be. It would also sanction their bigotry in the minds and heart of Asgard and Frigga sees a hundred thousand ways in which this prejudice will be the end of them all.

Above all she had been moved and proud of Thor’s unwavering defense of his husband, insisting (not unjustly) provocation had to have been caused. She had also been perturbed by Helblindi’s lack of a defense, instead offering only token resistance and completely unconcerned with what might happen to Loki, only caring about righting it.

There had been a gleam in Helblindi’s eye she had not cared for and for one moment she thought it was almost as if he wanted Loki gone.

She had wrapped her arms around Odin and whispered all this into his ear and more. “Husband, look upon your son and see what I see. He has already had one love taken away by your actions, you cannot give him another and then punish that love for something he views as unjust. You will foster nothing but more resentment.” Frigga beamed with pride at her son that has grown so much before narrowing her eyes at Helblindi, she grasped Odin’s chin gently and turned his gaze upon the Frost Giant in warning. “Be careful, I do not trust that one.” She kissed his check and ordered, “My love, exercise mercy.

“Ulfr will not be punished for his words, but he must also not speak of what has happened. The same for Kelda and Dagfinnr. They have taken an oath of silence.” Thor explained.

Loki feels like he can finally breathe and he can hardly believe it. “It will get out.”

“As rumor but nothing more, it will probably solidify your standing at least and make others reconsider should they attempt to meddle with you.”

“T-thank you.” Loki sputtered, unsure if he is thanking Thor or fate itself for extending him this one precious reprieve. It was more then he could have ever hoped for. “I am sorry.” He added even though he isn’t and it’s said because it’s mostly likely expected and alleviates any possible doubts. He feels no remorse for Ulfr or Kelda, only for what would have happened to Jotunheim.

Thor nods believing him. “Come, it’s been a long night.”

They return to their chambers and Loki doesn’t see Helblindi on their way back and he can’t begin to guess if it’s because he has been ordered away for the night, or because he cannot bear the sight of his sibling. Perhaps it is for the best, as relieved as he was to see Helblindi he was assured by that alone and does not want to deal with him anymore, not today.

In the privacy of their chambers Loki shakes uncontrollably. Teetering on the edge of disaster, beginning to fall only to be ripped away from it just barely has left him exhausted and the entire thing is a wholly unpleasant sensation. He feels disconnected from everything and when Thor lies down next to him in their bed he grabs him, pulling his husband down for a crushing kiss.

Thor makes a surprised noise in the back of his throat but an approving one none the less; he obediently lies back, allowing Loki roll atop him and kiss him.

It’s a reward, the only way to show thanks he can think of. It’s also an anchor, because in that moment Thor is something that grounds him and he’d like to forget for a moment about what a disaster today was and a thousand emotions he doesn’t want to deal with. (Guilt, shame, terror, delight, savage glee…)

“Fuck me.” Loki said and it’s not an order but an invitation that he has never given before in this manner.

Thor grins ecstatically and takes the offer with enthusiasm. There’s an edge to their coupling this time, wild and eager and Loki is deliberately and pointedly more vocal and receptive than ever before. Thor feeds on this response, becoming more frenzied by it. When Loki claws his back, leaving long scratches in his wake Thor savagely pulls his head back by his hair and bites his throat.

“Oh… so good… you feel so good.” Loki whimpers desperately into Thor’s ear and Thor shudders in a tell of how much that turned him on. And because Loki is feeling generous (and he hadn’t exactly spoken a lie, Thor was doing an excellent job of helping keep him in this moment and forgetting) he feeds Thor’s ego with breathy whispers and round about compliments and when they are done he doesn’t protest and allows Thor to collapse across his back, kissing at his throat and nipping at his ear.

“That was fantastic.” Thor said breathlessly with a grin and he laughed uproariously when Loki rolled his eyes.

Later that night, head against Thor’s chest and listening to him snore and the sounds of his heartbeat, Loki lies awake and ponders the future, fearing that today has just shown how ill equipped he was to this task.

He isn’t looking forward to the inevitable confrontation with Helblindi.

Chapter Text

For five days Loki is kept from the eyes of Asgard and confined to his chambers.

He is not contained by bars, or chains or spells, the unofficial banishment is an unspoken order and instinctual knowledge that he should not risk showing his face. Not while the rumors and speculation were so new and running rampant, not when they had no idea what or how big the reaction will be. Best to let emotions die down before allowing him to be seen by the public least his mere appearance ignite hostilities that had not yet had time to simmer down.

For five days The House of Odin waits, holding its breath in anticipation and nothing happens. There are no riots, no calls for action against the Frost Giants, there is nary any discontent and while rumors abide there is nothing concrete to warrant public reaction to Odin.

Thor says nothing but the tightly worried expression that mars his face gradually fades into one of relief, relief that grows with each passing day and it is an emotion that Loki shares. He feels as if a fist has been squeezing his heart and stomach, its grip only loosening bit by bit as the days go by uneventfully.

Loki does everything he can to be the picturesque example of the concept of being meek. The thought of being so much as annoying to anyone, even in passing, was terrifying. It’s utterly irrational (which he fully realizes in the back of his mind) and yet the fear of consequences for any action that could be perceived as being possibly out of line keeps him thoroughly in check. He is the ideal spouse in those following days (Helblindi himself would have even been impressed), cooperating without hesitation, without question, he differs to whatever Thor or anyone wishes and remains utterly quite, trying to be as unobtrusive and unnoticeable--expect when its required otherwise--as possible.

Privately he wavers from between gratitude and being intensely resentful. He isn’t even sure who he resents more, them for their benevolence and discretion, which had allowed him to so narrowly avoid disaster, or himself for being so pathetically grateful. He’s rather disgusted with his behavior and yet he finds cannot act in any other manner.

His own cowardice repulsed him.

He is very, very careful to not let any of that show.

What he cannot hide is his surprise when Hogun visits him on the third day.

“I hadn’t believed Frost Giants were as stupid as Asgardians said. Congratulations for proving them right.” Hogun bluntly said.

Loki is too taken aback to be offended, he’s also more than a little shocked that Hogun had actually said that and he stares at him with his jaw hanging open in a rather undignified manner.

“I had a bad day.” Loki offered weakly.

Hogun was supremely unimpressed. “Fandral wants your training to stop immediately because of this.”

Loki feels as if he has been physically hit at that announcement. “Oh.” Is all he says and really, he shouldn’t be this stricken because it is actually nothing more than a culmination of Fandral’s earlier warning. Attacking someone in any manner was more than reason to cease teaching him. What stings the most is that he has no justifiable cause to be angry at the loss even though he is.

Hogun merely watched him with such an unreadable expression that it makes Loki want to squirm. After a moment Hogun finally, slowly, approached and stood over him for what felt like forever, long past the point of being uncomfortable and it was thoroughly intimidating.

Loki is not expecting to suddenly find himself on the floor, the chair he had been sitting in having been kicked out from under him. He flailed ungracefully and before he could even register what had happened that Hogun pinned him down by placing his boot on his face.

Have you lost your mind!?” Loki shrieked, attempting to get out from under him but the pressure Hogun applied in warning discouraged much movement and he’s to shocked to react much.

“What would you do if I were to call you a whore right now?” Hogun asked, eerily calm, “That is all you are good for is it not? Too small to be a threat, laughed at by your very own people, your only worth is that for bedding. I am Asgard and the position you are in right now is right where your kind belongs. I’m rather enjoying this, do as I say and I might let you up. What shall I have you do? Kiss my hand? Eat off the floor? Perhaps lick my boots clean?”

It’s thoroughly humiliating position to be in and Hogun’s words, so matter of fact and cruel and a shocking contrast to the man he had known, are just daggers to his already shredded pride. Loki is outraged and his hands tingle with frost, a sensation that is only stopped when Hogun, fast as lightening, lifts his boot and grabs Loki’s jaw in an iron grip, forcing him to look directly at his eyes as he pointed at his face.

That,” Hogun said vehemently. “That right there will get you and all of us killed. That feeling, that instinct to react to an attack and insults, you forfeited it when you married this very realm. That reaction is why we are here right now, it is what guided Thor’s actions that day he went to Jotunheim and issued a call to war and it is one you will have to choke on and learn to accept such onslaughts.”

“You would have me do nothing even if I were attacked? I should let the whole of Asgard spit in my face and thank them?” Loki snarled, still stung by this rather harsh and unexpected lesson which does nothing but rub salt into wounds.

“No. What I would have you do is be more clever about it.” Hogun said firmly and he then pulled Loki up effortlessly, righting the chair and forcing him to sit down once again. “You have a choice between being a strong king or a weak king. Which one is easier to fell? The strong one with many enemies, or the weak one with whom his very own people do not respect and can make him do tricks at their whims because you fear them more? From what I understand your father was both. The next time you wish to retaliate you had better exercise more cunning and thought. There are subtler ways to achieve the same result you want and those ways can be even more devastating and intimidating.”

Loki, shaken and unwilling to believe Hogun was actually advising what he was, asked, “Why are you telling me this?”

“Because you will eventually break. It could be weeks or months or even years but it will inevitably happen and you will lash out again. And I am the only one here who understands that.” Hogun looks at Loki critically for a moment before turning his back on him, walking away. “You are suspended from training for a month, after that it would be in your best interest to tread carefully around Fandral.” At Loki’s disbelieving expression Hogun gave the barest whisper of a smile. “Whether you end up failing or not, our mutual exchange of information is beneficial to us all. It would be foolish not to take as much advantage of it as I can should it fall apart.” All remnants of his smile faded and was replaced with a frown. “But know this my lord, for better or worse I made a vow to protect this realm and its people and I live my life by that vow. I empathize with your plight, but if you become a threat I will not hesitate to deal with you.”

Loki nodded, oddly fine with this for at least with Hogun he knew where he stood.

“I don’t like your friends.” Loki told Thor later.

Thor merely grinned jovially. “Ah! I take it Hogun was correct about something in your conversation. I often find myself not liking him very much either when that is the case. He can be annoying astute.”

Hogun’s visit had proved surprisingly illuminating and not at all what Loki had been expecting, and so to could be said about Helblindi’s inevitable visit.

Loki has been dreading seeing his brother. The prospect of explaining and groveling for his forgiveness left a bitter taste on his tongue, and as worried as he was about Helblindi’s reaction (a myriad of which he could have, neither of any would be pleasant) he was also experiencing a new emotion. He was actually depressed at the thought of talking to him.

He finds himself more perturbed by this than anything.

When Helblindi arrives Loki is as honest with him as ever when he explains why. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?” Helblindi scoffed in disbelief before snapping, “Not your not.”

And since that is true to, Loki says nothing and he wearily watches his brother pace, noticing for the first time just how worn Helblindi looks. Understandable given the events of the past few days and yet there is an edge to him, a chip in his normally predictable cold and iron façade that betrays an unease he is not accustomed to seeing in his brother.

“Are you alright?” Loki asked puzzled.

Helblindi opens his mouth to deliver a scathing response but he stops and he just stares at Loki haunted. He finds that more unnerving then anything and becomes even more alarmed.

“What?”

“Loki,” Helblindi finally asked, “Do you love me?”

In that instant Helblindi is pitiful, there is the barest flicker that only lasts for moment but it reveals a weakness that shocks Loki. He is genuinely afraid and worried that Loki might not love him.

“Yes, of course.” Loki replied bewildered.

Helblindi seized his arms in a bruising grip and shook him. “Do you? Would you do anything for me, no matter what? Am I not your king?”

And now Loki feels it, a spark that ignites an outrage so fierce that that it chokes him.

“You would doubt that, after everything? You would doubt me after everything I’ve done for you?” Loki demanded shoving his hands away, shoving his entire brother away. Helblindi’s eyes flash and in the blink of an eye he lunges, grabbing Loki’s throat.

Answer me little brother!” Helblindi snarled and Loki irrationally fears that Helblindi might actually strangle him and he grabs his wrist in prevention and warning. (For a split second, deep down he has a sharp, wild impulse to push, to let Helblindi carry out his threat and perhaps even call out to Thor, just too vindictively see what he knows will happen) He doesn’t know where this desperate need comes from, or why it is so important to Helblindi to have this assurance verbally but for now he appeases him because at heart he knows Helblindi will follow through with his threat, consequences be damned.

“Yes my lord,” Loki gritted out.

And at that, the madness seems to ebb in Helblindi even as the uncertainly remains on some level. He let’s go of Loki’s throat before unexpectedly pulling him into a fierce hug.

Loki doesn’t know what stuns him more, the very act itself (so very rare in his lifetime) or the fact he can feel Helblindi trembling and he perfunctorily returns the embrace.

“Helblindi what is wrong?” Loki asked softly, anything that would actively trouble Helblindi to this degree is enough to make Loki feel doubly worried. That his brother is shaken to show this degree of emotion spells trouble for them all.

“Nothing.” Helblindi whispered, not attempting to even hide the fact he is so blatantly lying. He can’t and as he expected, Loki does not call him on it. “Please Loki, I can forgive you just this once but remember this boon and remember, no matter what I am the only one you need and should listen to. I am nothing without you. Remember that your loyalty has always been and shall be to me.”

Loki will, because his loyalty is a shackle and Helblindi is counting on that. When he leaves he is less burdened, somewhat assured, but no less uneasy. It has been but a mere days and he has a burning desire to know, to speak with Liulfr or anyone from Jotunheim. He needs to plan.

When Loki is finally alone he sits on the balcony and watches Asgard. He wants nothing more than to call Sleipnir forth and go riding, it would certainly help to clear his mind but he refrains.

Instead he waits out there, until nightfall and he hears Thor’s moving close by and he calls out “Is there a problem with Jotunheim?”

Thor joins him and his expression of confusion is all the conformation he needs. “No, none that we are aware of.”

“Have my actions hurt Helblindi’s cause?” This is Loki’s greatest fear and the one that has been plaguing him as a possible explanation for his brother’s strange behavior.

Thor snorted. “Hardly, your brother does a good enough job of that himself daily.”

The sarcasm is soothing in its own way but it does nothing to settle Loki. That night at dinner he notices Thor casting looks his way, for the first time he seems a bit nervous about something, unsure of his words.

“Speak your mind.” Loki ordered calmly, but in such a manner that it’s clear there is nothing Thor could say that he won’t tolerate. (Even if that is a lie.)

“There has been much discussion lately on what to about your lessons.” Thor said carefully and with more tact then Loki would have given him credit for. “It has been decided you must continue, but I admit we are at a loss as to how to proceed.”

How thoughtful that I should have been included in such talks, Loki thought sourly but he merely nodded, not looking at Thor and keeping his gaze on his food. It wasn’t surprising that they would want him to continue but the prospect sends a pang through Loki.

“We are having trouble securing you a new tutor.” Thor explained and Loki can feel nothing but vindictive satisfaction at that and he wants to smile but doesn’t. “I… I think I might have a solution to that however. Would you be willing to meet with them?”

He finds it bizarre Thor would be asking his permission, as if he had a choice to begin with and had the option to say no. He nods but Thor doesn’t look relieved or happy at his consent, instead he appears more pensive. A mood that doesn’t lift for the rest of the night.

It doesn’t suit Thor, Loki decides critically but he cannot find a proper moment to ask so he says nothing and leaves Thor to his thoughts.

 

 

 

Thor doesn’t broach the subject again for a few days however there seems to be something that weighs heavily upon him. It’s subtle but Loki notices and worries that he is doing something wrong although for the life of him he cannot figure out what. It bothers him more than he would care to admit.

“Are you unhappy?” Loki asked.

Thor, admittedly through no fault of his own, interprets the question wrongly and is amused although puzzled. “No. Are you?”

“No.” Loki lied and became alarmed when Thor just looked at him for a moment before frowning a little. He excused himself, wondering if perhaps he hadn’t replied fast enough or if he hadn’t been sincere enough. (And is rather inexplicably annoyed and angry that Thor might have noticed.)

He avoids Thor, and Thor in turn avoids him until he suddenly says to him one evening, “Tomorrow morning.”

Loki doesn’t even bother to feign ignorance and merely nods.

Thor seemed inexplicably anxious about the entire venture. It’s the first time Loki has ever seen his husband act as such and its telling, although what it reveals he cannot decide. He’d like nothing more than to embarrass Thor, make an impression so horrid it would disgust his husband and whoever was foolish enough to want to teach the barbarian Jotun since this was clearly so important to Thor.

It’s a petty, childish and vindictive impulse that he cannot afford to indulge. The closest he gets is by deliberately dressing in a drab manner. Nothing ornate or colorful adorns him, no gold or silver or armor and the material is nothing like the fine silks and sturdy linen that make up royal garments. It looks almost casual by Asgardin standards. Thor looks at him and starts to say something but stops, no demands that he change or make himself more presentable come forth and Loki is almost disappointed. He doesn’t push his luck and he waits instead, sitting in one of the large chairs by the fireplace after breakfast that morning when Thor eventually takes his leave.

He hadn’t felt anything in regards to anticipation but here and now; where the silence and stillness stretch on for so long, it begins to make Loki unwilling feel some of Thor’s anxiety. When he heard the door opening it’s like a jolt to his nerves and he leaped to his feet.

Thor came through first, saw him and smiled.

“Ah! Loki, allow me to make introductions.” He stepped to the side and held the door open in waiting.

To Loki’s surprise a woman cautiously enters, a woman he recognizes from his wedding. She is clearly not a scholar if her manner of dress was of any indication. While she does not have a weapon (visible) she wears the armor of a warrior, not so much that it would appear as if she were going to battle, but enough to denote her status. She is stunning, tall and slim and possessing an elegance that is seemingly (by Asgard’s standards) more suited for court than for battle. Her long hair is not the golden tones of her realm, but is as black as the night and Loki is stunned to realize she is the first Asgardian he has seen that has that coloring. She would be breath taking if her aloof and tense expression and posture was not marring her demeanor.

She stands there in that suspended moment, regarding Loki with the same critical eye but let’s nothing of her thoughts show.

Thor, oblivious—or simply choosing to be—exchanges a quick look with her before moving forward, despite her clear reservations the woman follows without hesitation.

“Loki, I want you to meet one of Asgard’s finest warriors who also happens to be one my oldest and dearest friends, the Lady Sif.” The pride and affection in Thor’s voice is genuine and when he looked at Sif it shown also on his face. “She has agreed to become your new teacher.”

Both look at one each other, two wolves warily circling one another and assessing.

Sif nods at him in greeting and said formally, “My lord.”

Loki says nothing in return.

The silence is devastating, Thor’s hopeful look melted into an unsure one as he took in both Sif and Loki and he’s rather unashamed in his next course of action. Perhaps not the best but he can’t think of anything else to do. “Yes… well… alright then! I shall let the two of you get to know one another better.”

The sharp and alarmed glare Sif gave him would have been enough to melt steel, Loki’s was no better and he quickly retreated, quietly shutting the door in his wake.

Loki is utterly at a loss as to what to do and say and its very apparent neither does Sif. Since they very well can’t just stand there they both sit down by the fireplace. Sif’s posture is rigid and she wrings her hands in her lap, she noted that Loki hardly moved, looking everywhere but at her. She opened her mouth a few times to say something, anything, but cannot find any words.

It’s so spectacularly awkward that they sit there in silence for twenty agonizing minutes. Just as Sif was about to get up to go throttle Thor, Loki broke first and finally said something.

“I thought women were not allowed to be warriors in this realm.”

Sif jumped, surprised that he had spoken and Loki watches out the corner of his eye wearily as she bristled defensively in an automatic reaction, mouth opening to snap something in return when she wavered, realizing that it was a question not an insult.

“W-well no. There are no laws that forbid it however it’s not encouraged.” She explained. “Is that not so on Jotunheim?”

Loki was confused, “No.” And Sif suddenly realized what a foolish question that had been considering Frost Giant’s and their gender and once she thought of that particular topic she blushed. Already she could feel a headache forming at the daunting prospect of this task.

Thankfully, mercifully, Loki moved onto a new subject. “You volunteered to teach me?”

“No.” She blurted out the truth without thinking and gritted her teeth. “Tho- er… your husband asked me to.” And she had agreed even though she would not normally have, because it was Thor, and because he had finally come to her even though he still could not look her in the eye and that grieved her deeply. But he had spoken to her. That alone had demonstrated just how important it was to her friend and she is grateful for this chance.

“Thor is either a fool, or more devious than I thought him capable of to ask you to be my tutor.” Loki said flatly. He doesn’t know if he should be impressed or curse Thor for this action. By asking his friend to teach Loki, he effectively issues a constant warning to his husband against any possible violence he might want to or even thought about committing against his teacher. No matter what the circumstance, Loki will always be confronted with that fact that Sif is Thor’s friend, there is no reason or excuse Thor will tolerate should any harm come to her.

The amount of resentment he feels at that moment is overwhelming.

Sif nodded, having suspected this and she approved of such a tactic. “He can be clever when he puts his mind to it.” She steeled herself and plunged ahead. “I’ll be upfront right now with you however since we should be under no pretenses if this is going to work. If you ever at any point presume to use violence against me for any reason, I don’t care who you are or your relationship to Thor, I will not hesitate to rip your eyes out of your head.”

When Loki looks at her, face unnervingly blank and she looks him straight in the eye and concludes firmly, “But do not mistaken my intent. While neither of us wants to be here, I will not issue cause for you to want to harm me if you do the same.”

Loki studies her and despite her cool and composed attitude, he can read just under the surface that she has just as many misgivings as everyone but she has resolve and seems sincere enough in this venture.

“Such noble words and intent, they mean nothing to me.” He said looking away and Sif nodded in acceptance of his challenge.

Prove it first. Such cloying, diplomatic sentiments have been heard before.

Loki admitted. “I don’t trust you.”

Sif’s smile is wry. “Then we are even.”

But they are going to try, neither has a choice. For proprieties sake they remain there for awhile longer even though they don’t converse beyond that. When enough time had passed Sif stood and tells Loki “I am as new to this as you. I will need two days to plan, be ready by then.”

When she leaves she closes the door behind her, denoting her intent to speak with Thor privately.

He doesn’t anticipate Thor returning until much later, so he retires to the library, the one place he is never bothered and the one place that never ceases to calm him and relax him. He climbs to the second story, where there is a forgotten alcove between the bookcases. It had been meant for some useless decoration that Loki had taken and thrown out onto the ground of the first story the day he had discovered this place. He sits in the alcove and settles back, the quiet, the golden glow and the rich scent of the bound books lull him into an almost trance like state.

He has two days to enjoy every moment of peace he can before he has to face Asgard again and he intended to make the most of it.

 

 

 

“Well?”

The instant the door closed Thor was there, anxious and eager and with such an expression of hope that Sif is tempted to lie but she owes him the truth if only to spare him.

“I don’t know Thor.” She sighed as they began walking aimlessly. “I can’t read him properly. He certainly isn’t one for words.”

“He’s like that all the time, that’s just his way.” Thor blithely dismissed and Sif frowned because that wasn’t normal, the Frost Giant was to quiet for her tastes and his refusal to look at her for very long was disconcerting. Whenever he did his blank and cold look seemed to be searching for something on her face, for cues he was having a hard time interpreting.

Perhaps such was simply their ways; Sif didn’t know and certainly could not tell based on a single meeting. For that reason alone she could not provide the assurance Thor was looking for, that she and Loki could get along well enough to make his idea work.

She was already apprehensive enough about the endeavor, she knew what Loki had done to Ulfr and the fact he wore the appearance of an Asgardian disturbed her. It would be so easy to forget what he really was and to let down her guard and she cannot afford that. Loki was an enigma and meeting him she realized she didn’t know if she was capable of understanding him, despite what Hogun had said when she had meet with the Warrior’s Three at a tavern the previous night to express her doubts.

“I don’t want to disappoint Thor.” Sif said.

“Thor is setting himself up to be disappointed.” Hogun had said bluntly but with that maddening calm that softened his ruthless observations. “The best you can hope for is to lessen that disappointment.”

“What do you mean?” Sif demanded, unsure if she should be offended or not though she could feel a hard knot forming in her stomach.

“Thor’s plan is clever but he hasn’t thought it through fully, although this may work in his favor. You’re going to see things he is blind to and if this whole marriage is some Jotun conspiracy to bring down Asgard you will be the one close enough and objective enough to recognize it. However,” Hogun gives her a meaningful look. “If it’s not… well, Thor thinks too much with his heart and his cock that I’m afraid he doesn’t use his mind or eyes enough. Understand?”

And Sif does all to well, because once upon a time she had been in that position, an arranged marriage that she could not escape from until she finally had. It was one of the reasons why Thor had asked her, because he superficially thought that perhaps she could relate to and sympathize with Loki on that level. It was noble but misguided; she could still vividly remember the unbearable pressure of duty, the guilt of family honor and the shame she still shouldered for rejecting it. Thor had never been in that position, or at least on the powerless end of it, and he couldn’t fully know the magnitude of what he was asking because when Sif looked at Loki she could not see any of that simmering under the surface and that was frightening, not assuring.

“Why does it have to be you?” Fandral interrupted bitterly. He was outraged Thor had asked her and had been quite vocal about it for awhile. He had even gone so far as to try and forbid Sif from accepting and was now sulking because they had all laughed uproariously at him. But because he was clearly worried for her well being Sif had taken pity and not given him a concussion for such a demand. “It is completely unfair that he should put you in this position. Why not Hogun? He is already teaching him.”

“I am not Asgardian. It would not be proper for me to preach of its culture and history.” Hogun dismissed. “You’ll do fine Sif. He isn’t difficult to teach.”

“Tell that to Ulfr.” Volstagg cackled as he devoured more roasted boar.

“How do you do it?” Sif asked curiously since Hogun was clearly unafraid and not at all worried about teaching a Jotun. And thus far had not had issue.

“Don’t play him for a fool and don’t let him wander blind. Establish your standing and the rules and don’t be afraid to be offensive if you have to be, he will let you get away with anything so long as you’re being honest for a reason. I stood on his head and he didn’t care because it was for his own good.”

The silence is deafening and Hogun only noticed because of the looks he was receiving.

You did what!?” Fandral practically shrieked in dismay as a piece of roasted boar fell out of Volstagg’s slackened mouth.

“I was making a point.” Hogun explained defensively. “It was part of a lesson.”

Fandral had groaned and dropped his head to the table while Sif had laughed but secretly she had taken his words to heart. Words however meant nothing and made things seem deceptively easy. The cold reality was harsh and even more uncertain.

“Thor.” Sif stopped and faced her friend, searching his face. “Why me? I who has never taught anyone, who has never had the desire to or the skill. What do you possibly think I can accomplish that your more well qualified scholars cannot?”

Thor’s expression was thoughtful for a long moment as he composed a truthful answer. “I trust you.” He finally said simply. “I think your struggles and the discrimination you face daily might mirror his. You know of better ways to navigate and handle society and court that those doddering officials don’t.I don’t know what it’s like Sif, it’s a different battle for me and I cannot worry about him, his possible actions and the actions and words of those back biters of court. Not when I have my own duties.”

Sif cannot help but be moved, for in that instance she can see that for all of Thor’s short sightedness, it is not entirely his fault. It would be so much easier if he didn’t love Loki (and he does, she can clearly tell that although she doesn’t understand why) and yet she thinks, even if this ends up being a disaster, it is for the best because it would perhaps be even worse if that were the case.

“How you can be so thoughtful and so thoughtless is beyond me.” She sighed and Thor grinned, blinding and bright and happy. “He had better be worth it.”

“Well he was certainly worth it last night, he can do this trick with his tongue and breath that makes it as cold as-“

Stop talking this instant!” Sif ordered shrilly, slapping the front of his face lightly in reprimand. “I do not ever need to know of such things.”

Thor laughed as she stormed away and he sounds so much like he had before Jotunheim and Midgard and Jane that it warms her heart.

“It will be worth it Sif!” He called out.

“I know!” She called back although her mind says otherwise.

It will only be worth it if it works.

Chapter Text

Jotunheim is as still as death.

She is barren and empty in the seemingly everlasting night; quite save for the sharp whistles of the wind that blew across the dunes and icy crevices. The snow, ever gray and dull, scatters through the air like sand and the echoes of ice crumbling ring out in an occasional but constant ominous stream.

It is an icy hell suspended forever in a state of withering.

Býleistr Fárbautidaughter opens her eyes to it and sees everything as nothing less than marvelous.

There is a beauty to its ugliness and everywhere she looks she sees the potential in the damage. Jotunheim is ashes, but she can see what is forming beneath it will make realms tremble in jealousy and her smile is as cold and vicious as the very surroundings.

Movement interrupts the still atmosphere as something soars just feet above the ground. Býleistr offers her arm as always, letting the snow owl land on it.

Brynja was a rare creature, a relic from a time of prosperity long since ended. The years had decimated such creatures of beauty from Jotunheim’s ecosystem, while not fully extinct they would be by the time Býleistr would fix their realm. Too few remained and they were another unfortunate casualty to Odin and Laufey’s war of vanity and honor. As if there had been a difference between those two concepts.

The two kings had been so similar it amused Býleistr as much as it enraged her. She stroked Brunja’s chest in contemplation, it would seem the snow owl had found and consumed some hapless prey whilst out, for she is covered in drying red blood.

“It suits you.” She clucked at the owl. “Well?” She demanded without tearing her eyes away from her pet. The Frost Giant who had been attempting to approach unobtrusively froze and bowed.

“My lord, we found it.” He announced.

And they have, just as Býleistr had known then would despite the doubts of the others.

She had never possessed that gift for magic Fárbauti had. It ran strong in her bloodline and she could perform some but nothing to the degree that her mother and little Loki could. Her greatest asset instead was her mind, the knowledge that she possessed of the land was unrivaled. The weather and constantly changing grounds could not fool her no matter how much snow and quakes disguised it.

The constantly shifting looks however were also an aid, almost as vital to Býleistr as her secrecy. She left nothing to chance, for when she was discovered (and she would be, it was inevitable.) the one thing that made her valuable enough not to be killed immediately was her ability to locate fissures between the realms. Those precious schisms that Nál was so desperate to get his hands onto, for he understood something fundamental about them that nobody else did, that they were the key to Jotunheim’s future.

And Býleistr knew of every single one on Jotunheim. Knew of which ones were hidden from Heimdall’s eyes, knew of even more on other realms, ones large enough to bring forth an army and others small enough for only one.

This was Býleistr’s gift, so greatly underestimate and she could and planned to wield it with devastating force.

It had taken several days to locate the pathway and dig to its location. The north had several hidden in its icy wastelands, and only then a precious few that lead to Asgard. The massive crevasse it was in had been miles deep, filled with snow and Býleistr had privately feared it lost.

But it wasn’t and Býleistr strode through the narrow, miles high hallway of ice to where a group of Frost Giants were clustered around what appeared to be a small cave. She shoved them out of the way, throwing another uncaring into the wall and leaned over peering in. It was seeming nothing out of the ordinary on the surface, and yet when Býleistr reached her hand in she could feel it. A wind was blowing gently but in the opposite direction, it was as if the cave were pulling the air into it. There was also a shocking contrast in temperature, nothing of the biting cold of Jotunheim, instead it is slightly warmer and it tingles unpleasantly.

Býleistr grins viciously and stands.

“Burry it.” She ordered walking away, ignoring the grunts and sputters of surprise. Despite their confusion and anger however they did not question her, they would do as she said no matter how unusual the command. Because everything she did she did with a purpose and disobedience would incur a wrath that frightened even the stoutest of warriors. (Already whispers of what she had done to Angrboda were spreading. They speak in hushed words of unspeakable atrocities, how she had murdered the Frost Giantess and consumed her heart and blood in order to gain her power.)

“Why?” Einarr asked. They sat atop the crevasse, waiting as several Frost Giants worked to conceal the pathway again using the recently removed snow. Einarr’s loyalty was unlike any others, and as such he was the only one afforded such rare privileges, such as being allowed to sit with and question Býleistr.

“I requite several days to plan and I will not risk the pathway being accidently discovered or used before by anyone but me.” Býleistr said, seemingly devoting more attention to Brunja then Einarr as she meticulously groomed the owl. “I need information. Where he is, the layout of the palace, the schedules of the guards. Then and only then I will send word to my brother.”

“What are you going to say?”

“I don’t know.” Word of her (possible) true identity had reached further and sooner then she had anticipated. Liulfr was not as stealthy as he thought; his inquires had reached Býleistr’s ears and it had not escaped her attention that thrice now, allies she had tried to (or had being thinking to) covertly secure to her cause had been killed or had thrown in their lot with Helblindi. (And their purses were undoubtedly the fatter for it.) The circumstances of all were innocuous enough, after all Býleistr could not expect to rally everyone she wanted, and death was nothing new to Jotunheim even if it was by blade or poison and yet… and yet Býleistr cannot help but suspect. Suspect those around her and her very own brother. Helblindi was a cunning beast but his weakness was that he was desperate. And his actions betrayed just how desperate he was. He had had years to build alliances, to form some kind of resistance against Nál and he hadn’t because he couldn’t. He lacked the strength and conviction required to lead, if he had possessed those qualities then he would not have failed.

He had possessed plenty of tools at his disposal, the wealth of Fárbauti’s knowledge pertaining to the secrets of Jotunheim’s most privileged and elite families, the clout of his heritage which still meant something even in these turbulent times. Býleistr had done more without possessing a fraction of that while Helblindi had squandered it by not being savvy enough to do more than use it for shelter and make futile, weak gestures towards something greater. Like a deluded child with a hopeless dream but no real skill.

Securing Asgard as his ally and weapon was an incredibly bold and powerful move and one that had enraged Býleistr. How pathetic, how truly and utterly pathetic that Helblindi would conspire with the very people that had lead their own to ruin under the guise of betterment for Jotunheim. That he would have the gall to wield one of the most powerful armies in all the nine realms against his own home was not simply arrogant but were the actions of a traitor.

He was allowing Asgard to finish what it had started so many years ago, offering up Jotunheim when it was at its most vulnerable to be devoured. Worse yet, and perhaps laughable in a truly pitiful way, Helblindi was doing so under the impression that he was clever enough to play Asgard when it was entirely (frighteningly) possible it was the opposite. Asgard was possibly taking advantage of him, using his greed to ensnare Jotunheim as its own personal trophy, to be used as an example of what happened when you defied the All Father.

They would not be allied with them; they would be chained to Asgard, as its puppet.

And Helblindi would stand before them all as a braggart, smugly thinking himself a savior.

A true king would not allow such a thing.

And Býleistr certainly would not have sold one of her own, let alone her own brother, to them as payment for their blood stained army. She did not care if he was a halfing and that she did not know him, even if it meant to death of them all, she would have cut Loki’s throat first and would not have even given them the body as an insult.

But now, now Helblindi has irrevocably changed things with his strategy and how Býleistr loathes him for it. While it is making things easier (for Nál is panicking now, it is making him sloppy and frantic) because Býleistr can predict, manipulate things to her advantage and make progress more than ever before, Asgard is something she cannot simply ignore or even (as much as she preferred) take on.

Býleistr hated them with a passion that could scorch the very surface of Jotunheim itself. While she would like nothing more than to sever ties with them completely, she was pragmatic enough to recognize that it was an impossibility now. Asgard will never leave them be, not unless Jotunheim was truly a lost cause and there is no way to fool them into thinking it is. Helblindi had affectively (whether he realized it or not) linked the two realms together inescapably through Loki. If Býleistr or Nál had Loki murdered in an attempt to break Helblindi’s alliance with them, Asgard would not simply go back their word, but instead they would descend down upon them for having killed one of their own royalty (even if it was only by marriage and even if it was a Frost Giant) and they would still seize Jotunheim, using the death as an excuse to the other realms. Loki would be nothing more than a martyr. Helblindi to could not be killed, for his death would be used in the same manner and there was no telling just how much Helblindi’s own interference was keeping them at bay for now.

There were no feasible ways to sow discourse either, attempting to make it look as if Loki and Helblindi were conspiring to strike at Asgard from within. That was the only solution that would truly make Asgard turn a blind eye to them and end any possible, so called alliance.

And yet Býleistr stays her hand in this course of action for two reasons. The first being that is too difficult—almost impossible—to orchestrate and control from a different and already weakened realm.

The second reason is because she had been starkly warned against such a plan.

She could still vividly remember that dream she had had. A dream of a nameless Frost Giant, appearing through a harrowing snow storm, saturated in blood. He had stumbled before her, falling to his knees laughing, offering up his own eyes in his hands, his empty sockets weeping blood.

And Býleistr had felt terror unlike anything before, so shocking and paralyzing that it still made her shiver to remember.

“He burns like the sun.” The frost giant had whispered. “And with him you will burn even brighter. Tread carefully your majesty, for the two of you can build a path free of chains and endless death and rebirth. One mistake will end it all.

Býleistr had awoken screaming. The message had been clear, Heimdall was watching and she had felt his power even here, so unlike anything she had felt or known possible, and had trembled.

And yet, despite her suspicions and hate, she cannot help but consider his veiled words. Something else was going on here, something far bigger then Asgard and Jotunheim and a battle of would be kings. The guardian was watching, perhaps blind to her but not to the changes around and he was allowing certain things to happen. But to what end she could not guess. And why he would wish for her to follow his lead was beyond her.

It was only with a great amount of reflection and a guarded heart she had decided, for now, to have faith. Because Heimdall’s meddling heralded something grander and he had frightened her more than Odin ever could have. He had spoken to her for a purpose, a purpose that he had made clear without words that the All Father was not a part of.

And that out of everything had intrigued her more than her hate motivated her, and so she did not automatically disregard his wishes for that alone.

With such bitter and harsh feelings choking Býleistr, she made a choice to listen to him for now. She was going to have to learn to live with Asgard (and how that burned her heart) as their ally. And if that were the way things were to be, then she had resolved that they will do it not in their shadow, but have them be in the shadow of Jotunheim.

And the only way to do that was not through Helblindi, selfish, arrogant and vain Helblindi, but through Loki.

“There is no way of knowing what sort of influence your brother has had on him.” Einarr warned.

Býleistr replied, “And I won’t be able to know unless I speak with him.” She cannot properly plan until then.

“You have nothing to offer him.” Einarr pointed out, not unkindly. Býleistr had many things in her grasp that made her just as viable a candidate for king even without Asgard. She had growing allies, ambition and an intelligence and ruthlessness that made her lethal.

She could bring forth armies from other realms and was already forming treaties.

But it would all be or nothing if Jotunheim were made a casualty, caught between Asgard and Býleistr’s armies.

However with Asgard’s support her reign would be absolute. And the only way to get that was if Loki decreed that she should be king, not Helblindi.

“I have one thing to offer that not even Helblindi can or will give him.”

“Oh? What would that be my lord?”

Býleistr grinned savagely. Helblindi was nothing more than a dog, obediently following the orders of his master. He would not risk displeasing them by releasing Loki from his obligation no matter what the circumstance, even if he was condemning his own brother to a fate worse than death. For Býleistr cannot fathom a worse fate then essentially being sexually enslaved to those savages. Her own womb forced to carry one of them and birth a half breed child, tainting and weakening their line with the blood of Asgardians.

And all at the behest of your king and brother.

“I can offer him freedom from his marriage.”

Chapter Text

Sif proves to be a surprisingly apt teacher.

Loki has no idea what to make of her. She is brusque and strict (perhaps to the point of stilted harshness, but Loki need only hear the snide whispers from the men who mock her aggressive tone to understand why. The lack of respect stuns him) her manner more suited for training hardened warriors then royalty, but she is staunchly professional and her expectations, for the most part, are more than reasonable. Within a week Loki learns more from her than he ever had from Ulfr, vital things he needs to know and hadn’t realized he had been missing.

True to her word on the third day after their first meeting she shows up at their chambers before first light. She enters uninvited and unceremoniously grabs Thor who--like Loki--is fast asleep and yanks him out of their bed, dumping him on the floor along with the covers.

Thor’s bellow of surprise jolted Loki into instant waking and Sif pointed at him. “Be ready in five minutes my lord. We are to have breakfast and then your lessons will properly begin.” She whirled around without waiting for an answer, departing for their dining room. “You are not invited.” She called back sharply to Thor.

Thor’s positively gobsmacked expression as he watched her leave was enough to almost make Loki laugh out loud.

Instead he dresses and leaves his thoroughly annoyed and grumbling husband behind to meet Sif in the dining room. She is already eating a light breakfast of meats and cheeses and fruits, the presentation of it all was significantly smaller than normal and he wonders if that was by design or simply due to the early hour. He cautiously sits next to her and Sif blatantly watches him with sharp, judging eyes that miss nothing and it makes him uneasy. He selects a few cheeses (the ones that don’t taste wrong to his pallet) and settles for his customary tea.

Sif lays out her intentions plain enough. “Four days a week.” She declared. “I have duties elsewhere that I am obligated to and that is all the time I can spare for your lessons. They are to begin at dawn and will end only when I see fit so you best be prepared when I arrive. The days that you are not to be in my company are yours to spend as you see fit, but I advise you utilize your time with further studying on your own for at least two of them. My status here is as a mentor and on Asgard this means that I am above only to you. You will be expected to follow my instructions but that does not mean my word is absolute, you are free to ask questions but a custom here is to ask them wisely.” There is no need to elaborate on the unspoken for Sif does not suffer fools gladly.

Loki nodded although privately he scornfully doubts. They eat in silence for a bit before Siff asked, “Is it true Jotuns eat animals raw? That they drink their blood?”

Loki was taken aback, appalled both at the question itself and what it revealed Asgardians foolishly believed. “We only drink the blood that we don’t bathe in.” He snapped back sarcastically. “And that only depends on whether we’ve fornicated with them or not.”

And Sif cannot help but laugh. “Well that’s assuring. But I ask not for the sake of being callous, I cannot suss out what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to your kind. I had wondered if perhaps that was the reason why there is no Jotun food before me.”

She sighed in the face of Loki’s puzzled expression and privately cursed Thor for such tiny but crucial oversights.

“You don’t like our food do you not?” She gestured to his meager amount on his plate.

Loki was immediately uncomfortable and leery with this course of questioning. “It’s adequate.”

“I grant you credit for such a diplomatic answer. However that is not the point, you live in a gilded cage but that does not mean you aren’t free to make demands. And the demand that they feed you appropriately is not an unreasonable one least you become ill from such a drastically different diet.”

What Sif does not say is that it’s also a luxury and right. Simple and little things such as having your favorite foods were comforting and familiar especially when you had nothing. It’s perhaps also a bit cruel, nothing more than a reminder of a home and culture you couldn’t return to and of a life you no longer had. But while it might be torture, it was no worse than suffocating your entire identity for a culture that would do its best to ignore your own.

It is also a very subtle but crucial tactic for the future. Demanding small and seemingly innocuous things for oneself allowed for the testing of boundaries, Sif knew firsthand just how maddening it was to not know where the limits were, that unknown that could do more damage to nerves than anything. By pushing without appearing as if that’s what you were doing, it would lead to making one feel more comfortable and assured in their place. It could gradually lead to bigger demands and rights and--more importantly--freedoms they either didn’t have or didn’t think they had.

Sif will not tell him this however. As it is she is not entirely comfortable enough with Loki that she does not wish to risk making him aware of how much freedom he could have, how much she could grant him. But she will keep the possibility open for later.

She gestured dismissively to the food before them. “You’ll have to speak to Folkvar about this. In Asgard we have what is called a head of household, they are in charge of the servants that attend to you and it is their duty to ensure that all your needs and desires are met. I doubt he knows much, if anything, about Jotun food so you will have to educate him. He will see to it that you get it even if it requires he travel to Jotunheim to acquire it.

“I don’t think-“

Sif could guess what he was about to say and she interrupted with a firm, “I expect to see something by the end of the week.”

Loki scowled because Sif’s tone and manner are stunningly arrogant and ignorant considering what she is ordering him to do. She is commanding that he contradict everything he has been told not to do and inwardly he panics.

After they finish eating Sif takes him to the library and orders him to tell her all he knows about Asgard and its history. It’s not an easy feat and its one that takes hours because Sif has his recite everything. She fires off question after question, testing him, trying to trick him, correcting misconceptions or flat out informing him on what was wrong.

“You are rather reasonably informed. That will make things easier.” She said approvingly before dropping a large book in front of him that was so heavy it made the table rattle. “Read that. All of it. You have a general knowledge of Asgard which is good, but this details our history more thoroughly and accurately than anything scholars could teach you. It has in depth accounts of important battles, events and key aspects that define our culture and might help you understand it. And the more you know the less likely history will be to repeat itself.”

It is only later when he is reading it does Loki fully understand what she means. He pours over every page, engrossed by the gruesome tales that forged Asgard into the empire it was now. It is fascinating to see how blood soaked their history was, how much was built on the bodies of their own people and the sheer treachery of the politics is almost awe inspiring. It’s also illuminating, for it shows him how devious they could be and it details all the conspiracies and actions they had enacted that had brought down houses and kings. It provides cautionary tale after tale of what he should look for or avoid least it be used against him.

Thor bemoans his choice of reading that night when he sees the book.

“Bah! That odious tome is the bane of all Asgardian children. It is required reading for us all and we must memorize it as younglings.”

“You don’t think it’s worthwhile or interesting?” Loki asked curiously as Thor leaned over him from behind, flipping through the pages idly.

“Worthwhile perhaps but I’d describe it as more tedious than interesting.” Thor recalled himself as a child, struggling desperately for hours to memorize its contents and unable to do so. He remembered throwing an almighty tantrum in sheer frustration, tears stinging his eyes and feeling hopelessly stupid and inadequate (the first time he had ever felt so) before Frigga had calmed him down and helped him with an endless patience that he will forever love her for.

Loki asked, “Do you remember anything from it now?”

Thor grinned, “Just the tales of battle.”

“Of course.” Loki said dryly and Thor chuckled, placing an affectionate kiss to his head before leaving him be.

The next day Sif takes him to the throne room.

“Do you know anything about our monarchy?” She asked, ascending the grand staircase to the throne though she doesn’t sit in it. Loki stands on the stairs halfway up taking in everything. It is the first time he has been here since his wedding and it is his first time truly taking in everything. The magnificent room is empty of even the guards (Sif’s doing) and it is so grand and huge and opulent that Loki feels smaller than ever before.

“Only the barest of facts.” Loki replied, clearly distracted. “Odin is your king, the All Father, Frigga his queen. I haven’t read enough into your history book to learn much about your current system beyond that.”

“Then allow me enlighten you with some facts that are not in your books. Odin is not just the All Father, he is the most powerful ruler this realm has ever seen, his authority absolute and undisputed. Do you know what that truly means my lord? Never in all of our history has there been a king to possess the kind of power he does. Each descendant from his bloodline has gradually had more power than the last. He is unrivaled and Thor has it within him to one day surpass Odin.”

Loki was stunned at this revelation which appeases Sif, she felt comfortable enough to tell him this much without fear of it being used against them. For if the Frost Giants truly were considering striking against Asgard, than they would know what they truly were faced with.

“Asgard is solely ruled by the word and orders of its king and queen. There are several noble houses however that are somewhat a part of our governing. They are the oldest and most trusted of bloodlines of our realm and they are allowed to be Odin’s council and are often the ones to carry out his orders. While their opinion and arguments might hold sway with the king, it ultimately falls to Odin to make any decisions even if it decisions that go against their wishes. There hasn’t been much discourse with them while he has ruled.” She paused meaningfully, attempting to find a more polite way of phrasing what she had to say next before ultimately finding there was no better way than to be blunt. “They will be now that you are here. Thor’s rule will not be as harmonious with you as his spouse.”

“Do they have the power to usurp him if they wanted to?” Loki asked calm enough but inside he fears. Bad enough it should be his family should have fallen once but to responsible for bringing down another kingdom (one that would turn on their realm like wolves) would be a shame unlike anything ever heard of before and it was a thought he could not bear.

Sif considered the question for a long time. “I don’t think so.” She said carefully. “They could certainly try but whether they secede and how much damage results from the attempt is another matter entirely. The only solution that would satisfy them is if he had never married you to begin with. The next best opinion would be confining you to you chambers indefinitely and never giving any sort of power to you. That is not even a remotely realistic opinion however.”

“Not that I particularly advocate being locked away from your precious societies eyes, but why would that be?”

“Twice a week, possibly more often depending on the need, the people of Asgard are allowed to come forth and present grievances to the royal family that they wished resolved. Disputes, issues of justice, all matters that must be resolved and the duty of listening to the people and issuing judgment falls to Queen Frigga. She decides what the king deals with and what it is important enough for him to hear. The All Father may seemingly govern alone, but without the queen he could not rule as effectively as he does. Thor cannot rule alone and he is expected to be king, if this were any other circumstance you would be expected to take over the same duties Frigga sees to, such as attending to the people.”

Loki’s smile is brittle as he walks up the stairs to the throne. “And yet I am a Frost Giant.”

“And yet you are a Frost Giant.” Sif agreed solemnly. “They will not willingly give you that kind of authority. Nobody will and yet they cannot afford not to.”

Loki looked at the throne before him and the bitter longing he feels at its meaning for him and his family catches him off guard. “Where is your queen’s throne then if she is so special?”

“You are looking at it, the throne is meant for both of them. It may not seem so, but she and Odin are considered equal.” It is Sif’s turn to be bitter. “Even though in reality they are not.” Because despite how vital Frigga was, despite how powerful and important she would never be allowed to rule on her own should anything happen to Odin. She would have to appoint a king, Asgard would accept nothing less.

“Could you not allow your noble houses to take over Frigga’s duties then when Thor becomes king?” Loki asked.

“A logical arrangement but one that Thor or Odin would never concede to. It would be chaos.”

“Why?”

Sif chuckled, “Read further into your book later for the answer. There were originally fourteen houses and now there are seven. We’ve had several civil wars because they were given that kind of power and their meddling and greed was their undoing. It’s restricted now for a reason.”

“Could Thor not appoint someone else to handle those duties then?”

“Possibly. But if we are to truly be allied then they must allow you some kind of authority. And though I dearly love Thor, there are simply some aspects of ruling he has no patience for.”

“I don’t think on Jotunheim we would be as considerate if the situation were reversed.” Loki mused; indeed Helblindi would have never allowed an Asgardian any sort of authority over them.

“We believe ourselves better than Jotunheim,” Sif said wryly, “As such we are required to set an example, for those who don’t know better.”

Their arrogant benevolence would be their undoing one day, Loki reflected as he ran his fingers over the golden armrest of the throne. He cannot decide which is worse, Asgard with its smug self righteousness or Jotunheim with its self destructive greed.

Sif takes him on a tour of the palace. Although Loki had gone a great deal of exploring on his own, Sif nevertheless shows him everything, meticulously explaining the function of every hall and room. The only place they do not go into are Odin and Frigga’s chambers though she shows him where it is.

The tour lasts all day and their last visit is to the equivalent of a war room.

“This is where you brother and your husband spend most of their days.” Sif announced as they entered.

It’s startling to actually behold the place where Thor and Helblindi go to decide Jotunheim’s future (truthfully he had never really considered or cared where it was they went) and what he sees makes him freeze for a moment. A large geographic map of Jotunheim is sprawled out onto a table in the middle of the room. It is covered in stone pieces that are carved into numerous, faceless Frost Giant’s. There are also houses and palaces and village structures and Loki recognizes every single one of them. Helblindi has used his magic on the map, for there is a transparent illusion covering it so that the mountain ranges could rise above and show just how insurmountable or treacherous they were, the landscape constantly shifting to match Jotunheim’s ever changing face.

It’s a physical blow to see it rendered like that before him, crude as it was its home and Loki’s breath catches with a longing that pierces his very heart.

Sif realized her mistake almost immediately. She watched as Loki reverently ran his fingers over the map, over and through those ghostly illusions as if he could somehow grasp his homeland in his very hands. It is the look on his face, fleeting and heartbreakingthat makes her flinch and she is alarmed to find herself feeling something for him in that moment. Whether it was empathy, guilt or sympathy she couldn’t say and she did not wish to dwell on it any longer.

“Look at this.” She ordered (not unkindly) in an attempt to distract him. It mercifully secedes and he joins her, standing before another grand map that has been pinned to the wall. There are scribbles and diagrams written directly on its face and other notes pinned to it. It’s a mix of Thor’s haphazard mess of thoughts and plans and Helblindi’s cleaner more precise organization.

“What is that?” She asked, pointing to what appeared to be a sprawling genealogy chart that Helblindi had clearly done, for it is written in the most ancient of Jotun’s languages.

“Nál.” Loki said flatly. “It is a list of his allies and how they are connected to one another.” It is an impressive, intimidating network that shows just how thoroughly the false king had ensnared Jotunheim. “Those loyal to our line are also in there.” Loki narrowed his eyes as he noticed something odd about the chart.

“I don’t really understand it.” Sif admitted.

“I doubt any of you could; only a Frost Giant would be able to fully comprehend its function.” The look she gives him clearly orders him to try and explain. “It’s a type of strategic charting system that is used to monitor the current state of matters and anticipate changes. The loss or acquiring of an ally affects and changes the entire pattern, as do the death or defeating of opponents. It is believed you can anticipate and better plan based on the changes. It’s also used to keep track of matters.”

Sif tried to follow the endless, looping lines and frowned. “It’s certainly complex.” She commented, unsure if she should be in awe of it or find it hopelessly and needlessly complicated. She could only imagine what Thor thought of it.

Loki only half listened; he was distracted by a realization of what was off about the chart. There were several names and lineages he knew for a fact had nothing to do with Nál or Laufey’s line on there. Several have seemingly no connection to the entire political situation at all (and it is apparent Helblindi isn’t sure how they affect things either) and Loki is concerned at their inclusion although he can’t define why.

He looked at a note, written in ancient Jotun (another oddity, that Helblindi would write in his own language out of habit or simply to spite and frustrate Thor wasn’t surprising, but to use such an archaic system struck him as wrong) and with a start he recognizes the writing as not being Helblindi’s. All it bears on it are locations that seemingly mean nothing.

Brother, what are you doing? He wondered confused and suspicious.

Sif’s eyes miss nothing. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know.” Loki admitted and that’s all he will speak of on the matter. They leave and Sif, ever cautious, speaks with Thor later that night in private while Loki sleeps.

“Do not let the brother write in Jotun.” Sif warned.

“You would have me cause a diplomatic incident over such a simple matter of writing in his own language?” Thor asked amused.

“I would have you be careful Thor. Even if he translates what he writes that does not ensure that is what is actually written. So either learn Jotun or tell him he must write for all to understand.”

Well that’s going to cause contention. Thor cannot figure out a way to avoid having it seem unjustly paranoid or unreasonable to make such a demand, but it’s a cautionary one he accepts as perhaps for the best. Eventually he settles on the simplest and most direct approach, he orders Helblindi to stop it, reasoning that if he had tried to be courteous about the matter than the Frost Giant would have been suspicious, where as this way Thor simply comes off as childish and he was none the wiser for it.

Helblindi, predictably, vehemently opposes this and Thor takes a rather unreasonable amount of delight in riling the Frost Giant. The last thing he wants is for Helblindi to simply ignore his directive (which, given the natural progression between the two, would be exactly what he would do) and for Thor to lose face by essentially running to his father to enforce his demand like a child. He manages to achieve his goal in goading Helblindi into such a frenzy that it sends him to Odin to resolve the matter.

To Thor’s relief his father sides with him although Thor had a perfectly reasonable argument even if it wasn’t entirely true. He simply claimed Helblindi was setting up a language barrier that was making it difficult to work in an efficient manner.

The utter rage on Helblindi’s face at Odin’s decree takes Thor aback in that moment and he thinks that perhaps if Odin wasn’t there Helblindi would have spit in his face for this.

Helblindi is still smarting about it days later when eating lunch with Loki.

“Where is your master?” Helblindi asked sarcastically, his temper more surly than normal which Loki takes notice of.

“Keep your voice down,” Loki said warily. “She is outside.” He had been permitted to dine with his brother with her permission since today they weren’t going anywhere. Instead Sif had once again taken him to the library and dropped another book before him with the same order to read it.

“Tell me everything that is wrong in it.” She ordered and had left him to his own devices for the most part. The book continued Asgard’s own writings on Jotunheim, on Frost Giants and their history and Asgard’s own battles with them. Loki had developed a headache from his rage at what was in it. “This will take days.” He had said to her.

“How fortunate we have an abundance of them.” Sif had replied.

“How fare your lessons?” Helblindi asked even though he truly does not care and Loki knows this so he only gives the most cursory of answers.

“Well.” When his brother makes no further conversation he adds, “We took a tour of the city yesterday.”

Helblindi, who hadn’t yet and no intention of doing so, merely smirked. “And?”

Loki shrugged, “It was-“ fun, “interesting.” It was the first time he had truly seen Asgard from within and he does like and appreciate the city--so different from anything he had ever seen or imagined anything capable of being--even though he loathes it to. He had ridden Sleipnir for the all day excursion and had and raced Sif, who had been proving a point, and despite Sleipnir’s speed she had beaten them every time thanks her extensive knowledge of the cityscape.

“How fares things with Jotunheim?” Loki asked tentatively and Helblindi scowled.

“Slow going.”

It is perhaps not the best time, but Loki cannot resist because there will be no appropriate time given the subject he must raise. “May I… may I ask you something brother?”

“Fine.”

“Your chart, the one for Nál, there are several names that have no business being on there. Who are they? What are you planning Helblindi?” It has been bothering him for days that his brother was possibly secretly scheming and taking selfish risks. For that is the only reason he can think of for those names being there, names of powerful but highly untrustworthy families who were neutral to the entire political climate for selfish gain as they profited from the misery and desperation of their own people. But it wasn’t their disgraceful and dishonorable status that caught Loki’s eye, it was the fact he knew they had alleged connections to other realms.

Loki cannot begin to guess what Helblindi is doing, but that he would be so bold to do it in front of Thor speaks volumes to his motives and recklessness.

Helblindi starts and Loki is secretly pleased to have surprised his brother.

“You… how do you… you saw-“ Helblindi spluttered and he is so completely taken aback that it rattled him and he is angered. Angered that Loki questioned him, angered to have been caught and called on it and it only takes a moment for him to reach a crucial realization, why it was Thor had suddenly made that seemingly superficial demand that interrupted his plans.

Helblindi looked utterly blank for a moment before a shockingly violent expression twisted his face and for all the anger Loki had known him capable of, it’s perhaps one of the darkest looks he had ever seen on his brother.

“Did you tell your husband what you saw?” Helblindi demanded, voice course and ugly with hysterical fury.

“N-no.” Loki is at an utter loss as to what he had said or done to have warranted such a vile look of contempt. He knows missed something vitally important although for the life of him he doesn’t know what. Loki’s baffled expression is genuine enough that Helblindi believes him and he needed to only look at the door where Sif was to understand what happened.

He doesn’t need to know the particulars all that mattered was the end result.

Helblindi lashed out in a sweeping motion, violently smacking the goblets of wine they had been drinking at Loki, who recoiled so hard he almost fell out of his chair. While the attack itself wasn’t unexpected (if anything it’s the lack of a physical blow that’s more disconcerting and surprising) what he’s not expecting is to be soaked with wine. He vaguely recognizes in the back of a mind what a bitter irony this is (no wonder Kelda was so taken a back; it’s not a particularly pleasant sensation) and he sat there shocked; dripping wet with wine running down his face and his soaked clothes clunging to his skin unpleasantly. It all feels strangely humiliating in a way he can’t define. Helblindi lunged at him, grabbing the back of his chair in a white knuckled grip that had wood cracking and leaned so close he could feel his brother’s hot breath against his face.

You stupid, stupid abominable wretch,” Helblindi snarled with such vitriol, spittle flying and Loki doesn’t even recognize his brother anymore in that instant as he cringed. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done? If you bring that simpering whore anywhere near my business again I will break her neck do you understand?

When he pulls back Loki, in a move that surprises even himself, instantly latches onto his brother’s wrist.

“Touch her and you will regret it.” As soon as the words leave his mouth, so cold and urgent, Loki realized it sounded like he was personally threatening Helblindi instead of stating a blatant fact that eluded his brother in his anger. In a way he supposed he was, for he while did not exactly care for Sif he could tolerate her company and there were times where he appreciated it in the same way he did Hogun’s. The thought of harm coming to either of them does not sit well with Loki. He doesn’t think he could sit idly by and feign ignorance to Thor should his brother do something rash, something foolish in what amounted to a tantrum and he doesn’t doubt for a minute Helblindi would carry out his threat. He needs Helblindi to understand this, to understand all is at stake with these bursts of mad rage. He cannot simply do away with those that got in his way or annoyed him; Loki could hardly afford that and had far more cause so why could his brother not see this?

Helblindi stared at him, eyes impossibly wide and turbulent before he ripped his hand out of Loki’s grasp and stormed away, fearing what he would do to his brother if he remained a moment longer.

The door slammed shut and Loki is left shaken.

Sif entered a few minutes later, alerted by the commotion and she demanded “What happened?” when she saw Loki’s state as he futilely tried to clean himself.

“A slight mishap nothing more.” Loki replied tightly and he is suddenly inexplicably angry at her when she just looks at him with an unreadable expression. He felt angry at Helblindi and himself and once more at just how unfair and overwhelming it all was. The emotion washed over him like a wave and is subsided just as fast leaving him worn.

“If you’ll excuse me, I have to change.” Loki said through gritted teeth as he stood with more dignity than he actually felt or had. He threw his napkin onto the table and when he went to his room he slammed the door on Sif’s face and can’t bring himself to care.

Sif neither calls him on it nor brings up the subject of his brother again that day to which he is grateful for. She ignores the whole incident for his sake and leaves him be with his studying and the quiet of his library.

It’s hours later when Helblindi came to him again.

He entered the library quietly, subdued to the point of being meek. His arrival was unannounced by the servants, so clearly he had come into the chambers unknown to them. Others might find it surprising but Helblindi, for all his size and brash loudness, was quite capable of being crafty when he wanted to be. There were probably only a few places in the palace that he could not get into unnoticed.

Loki pointedly ignored him and continued reading even when he sat down next to him.

“I… I’m sorry.” Helblindi finally offered after a long moment.

“You ruined my clothes.” Loki replied flatly.

Helblindi snorted, “I’m sure you won’t have any problems procuring new and better garments.” The sarcasm is only half hearted at best, and completely undone by the undercurrent of self deprecation. “Is she listening?”

Loki shrugged and flipped to a new page.

“I don’t have to justify myself to anyone Loki, least of all you.” Helblindi began quietly.

“You are your own worst enemy Helblindi. I had asked not to question your standing or upset you, but because I worry for you.”

Helblindi scowled. “You have no faith in me.”

“I’m here aren’t I brother?” Loki snapped and there is no argument against that.

Helblindi played with the sleeve of his robe and looked at his brother shrewdly. How he hated being here, hated being in this position of appeasing and explaining to Loki. Resentment burns his throat and its all the more bitter at how everything has inadvertently conspired to put him in this position, himself included. After his fit of anger had passed Helblindi had carefully considered this precarious new situation. He cannot explain to Loki the true meaning of those names, just how they really relate to the grand scheme of things. For those names are of families Helblindi must either secure for himself or do away with entirely (secretly or with Asgard’s help, he has not decided yet), because they are potential and powerful allies to Býleistr. Helblindi’s secret communications with Jotunheim, veiled in their own language, had forewarned him that his brother was not above seeking the help of such degenerates. Indeed, Helblindi could see the value in them and how they could tip the balance if utilized properly or at the very least cause more chaos and delays. While he has used Asgard to dispose of several of Býleistr’s allies and opportunities--with Asgard being none the wiser to what was really going on--it was a constant and delicate balancing act. He has to battle information Asgard gathers with his own secret intel and the conflicts in the two are sometimes too much to risk Helblindi’s desires, forcing him to deal with it on his own. After all, Asgard will not simply dispose of someone on his word and Helblindi has been constantly forced to engineer and manipulate situations to his benefit. It is the reason why he was… or rather had been… writing in his own language, to disguise these activities.

But he hadn’t taken chances with it, he had been communicating and writing in a very, very old form of their language, even if someone here could read Jotun they wouldn’t have been able to recognize or understand their most ancient of tongues.

Loki is so still in the silence and when he sighed his shoulders slumped, when he speaks he cannot help but sound so very, very tired and wounded. “Why, for once, can you not have faith in your own work? In everything that you’ve done so far and accomplished?”

Helblindi’s lip trembled, “I do.” The expression in Loki’s eyes when he finally looks at him sparks new feelings of resentment, “You would begrudge me cautionary measures? I act only in our best interests tis all.”

If that were true you would not be hiding what you are doing, Loki thought, you would not be sitting before me lying.

“Your scheming will be the end of us.”

“Perhaps it will be our salvation, did you not stop to think of that while here in your golden chambers, in your silken bed adorned with the finest clothes in all of the realms and with a crown that I gave you?”

All of which I received on my back, Loki thought scornfully and he quickly steers the conversation away from that wound which will never heal. “I am merely saying Helblindi. You may owe me no explanation, and it is within your right to do as you wish and I am left but to obey those wishes, but all I ask is that whatever you are planning you tread carefully.”

“I did not ask for your opinion.” Helblindi said sullenly but after a moment he makes a small concession and offers his hand.

Loki takes it and Helblindi says “You want me to have faith and trust them when you don’t?”

“I can afford to. You can’t, that is the price you paid when you set us on this course. If you are unwilling to pay it, Jotunheim will and it will do so in blood.”

Helblindi clenched his jaw. “Fine then. I… I will stop. All I ask is that you trust me no matter what.”

“I do.” Loki ruefully reflected that now they were both liars. Because while he loves his brother, he does not trust him for Loki knows Helblindi better than Helblindi knows himself. He cannot resist what was in his very own nature.

Loki kissed the back of Helblindi’s hand and pressed it to his forehead, squeezing it tightly in apology.

Jotunheim before all.

He will not let Helblindi’s hubris be their downfall and if he has to save his brother from himself then so be it.

Chapter Text

It’s done.

Býleistr’s letter had been painstakingly constructed with elegant lettering that was written on heavy and rich parchment. It was a formal declaration of her identity, a request for a meeting and an invitation with a bold assertion that her claim to Laufey’s bloodline could be supported.

And that is not a lie, Býleistr had proof. It was etched into her very skin and it was in her very own blood. She was counting on Loki’s magic being strong and that he would be confident and satisfied enough with his own skill to be able to tell if she was faking anything.

Assuming of course he would even consent to seeing her and that they could even reach a meeting arrangement that they would both agree to, for Býleistr was not about to leave anything to chance. She was not entirely unconvinced that any meeting that does result from this would not be some elaborate trap on either Loki or Helblindi’s behalf.

Blood meant nothing, family meant nothing and loyalty itself meant nothing, not anymore. Not when everyone was reduced to tearing at the crown like ravaged and desperate dogs after scraps.

But when Býleistr looked out at her broken realm she knew it was a risk that would be worth it if it succeeded.

The letter had taken longer to pen than she had anticipated. She hadn’t been able to find the proper tone for it; her words were to cold, to formal and too hard but what else could she be? What galled her the most was that she knew what she had to do and the problem was it went against her very being. Appealing to a sentiment of familial bonds that neither felt would be futile—such an act would have offended and caused Býleistr to laugh if their positions had been reversed—but a gesture of genuine honesty would perhaps gain his consideration and attention.

Býleistr prided herself on being pragmatic and she knew honesty could be as affective a weapon as deception. She had no issue with being honest about matters--when it was suited her needs—and indeed, she took a rather vicious delight in using it against deluded fools and enemies. But here, writing to Loki, it required an honesty about herself that she was uncomfortable with. She considered it a vulnerability that she found distasteful but ultimately necessary and she had struggled with that the most. She did not want to betray anything that could be used against her no matter how inconsequential, but she had to open if only a little.

She hadn’t succeeded entirely but it was enough and she did not want to linger anymore on the task least more doubts (about herself) took seed.

I don’t know you… I don’t love you… but sometimes a small part of me that I can allow such wistfulness, wishes we could have had the chance… but in the end it changes nothing… I can be your salvation because I will not sacrifice a single Frost Giant to Asgard… I can heal Jotunheim and you can either be with me or against me…

Býleistr sealed the letter with her own blood and whispered a spell that would only allow it to be opened and read by those born of Fárbauti. Einarr, as he had been for days, was patiently awaiting her in the main hall with the others and did not appear surprised when she finally appeared before him.

“How long will it take for the storm to pass?” She asked curtly.

Einarr replied calmly “It shouldn’t last more than five days.”

Býleistr scowled, five days meant a seven day delay, for it would take another two to re-locate and unbury the pathway to Asgard. But since little could be done about the matter she didn’t bother to dwell on it.

The north was notorious for its horrendous blizzards; the kind that not even of Frost Giant’s connection to The Winter could control or withstand. The snow and ice were stirred up in piercing winds that could shred the skin of even the strongest Jotun. There were whispers that such storms were Odin’s doing, a punishment he occasionally meted out on a whim to remind them of their place.

It was a foolish belief but not an unwarranted one. After all, such frightening storms hadn’t occurred before the All Father, only after he had ripped out Jotunheim’s very heart when he claimed the casket as his own.

Such storms could be a boon when one wanted to hide or disappear but now was not such a time. The unexpected blizzard had sent Býleistr and her followers fleeing into the lost mountain estate of Arnlaugr Sovereign of Ravens. Several years ago the Frost Giantess, last of her line, had chosen to commit suicide rather than allow herself or her ancestral home to fall into the hands Hildr and her clan. Hildr had artfully arranged a decade’s long campaign to bring down the widowed and childless Arnlaugr (for their families had been bitter enemies for generations) and with the downfall of Jotunheim she had finally been able to achieve her goal, forcing Arnlaugr into a position of marriage to herself if she had wanted to save her bloodline.

Arnlaugr had chosen a goblet of poison over disgrace. It had been a last act not of despair but of spite and defiance.

Býleistr revered her for that. Arnlaugr had ended her once great and powerful bloodline by her own hand and terms rather than let her enemy have victory over her. Her body still lay in rest in her chambers, forever frozen in time and it is the one place no one enters out of respect.

Arnlaugr’s estate had been constructed into the very mountains themselves, which made it ideal shelter against such storms, and its accessibility now was only through a series of well concealed caves so one could be out here for years and still never find them.

And because Býleistr admired the Sovereign of Ravens so—and despite the squalid condition the magnificent estate had fallen into—she had resolved to make this place her own during her battle and where she planned to rule from there when she acquired the crown.

Einarr straightened up when Býleistr came and stood before him, the expression on her face thoughtful and serious. The eyes of the other Frost Giants, anxious and confused, watched the two silently and the tension in the air seemed to hum. Einarr had to look up at Býleistr as she was several inches taller than him, and his breath caught when she held up the letter.

Don’t fail me.” She said coldly and it’s all the words needed between the two of them. For Einarr understood the gravity of the situation like no other, he understood the honor it was to be given such an order as it demonstrated the enormous amount of faith his king had in him to entrust such a precious task to him.

Einarr nodded once, accepting the letter and her hand, kissing it reverently in promise. When she pulled her hand away he discreetly slipped the ring she wore on her finger off per their silent agreement, as it too would be delivered with the letter as a final offer of proof.

The ring, a family heirloom, appeared to be nothing more than a plain metal band. The appearance of simplicity was deceptive however, for along the inside of the band bore the intricate crest of Laufey and Fárbauti’s family lines, twined together to form a new symbol.

Býleistr left and Einarr watched her go, clutching the cold ring in his hand tightly. Only when the sounds of her footsteps had faded did one of the other Frost Giants, a warrior by the name of Hjortr, scurry up to Einarr anxiously.

“You are to go alone?” He asked almost in awe and Einarr merely grunted in response.

It’s neither a conformation nor denial and though neither knows it, it’s a critical and crucial moment for what was to come.

“What about the guards? The wards? How are you to possibly get in unnoticed?” Hjortr only realized too late that such questions were too obvious, to forward and eager and he shrunk back at Einarr’s (unsuspicious) glare.

“It’s all been sorted.” Is all he would say on the issue. Býleistr has been careful, guarding her secrets well and only telling her followers what they needed to know so none of her plans were easily decipherable. Einarr did not know how she had quietly accumulated her information (and suspected he did not want to know) but she would not risk sending him to Asgard unless she was absolutely sure and had thought through everything.

“Be prepared,” He ordered as he left the great hall. “The instant the storm passes you are to be out digging.” He smirked. “We are going to Asgard.”

Long live the king.


“Her name was Angrboda.”

Helblindi paced calmly within the golden confines of the Bifrost as he listened to Liulfr speak. Like before they are veiled from Heimdall, who appeared to be resting, and like before Liulfr had been summoned to Asgard under the same restrictions.

This time however, Helblindi had pre-arranged the visit under the guise that Liulfr had vital information pertaining to Jotunheim and Nál. Information—as far as Thor and Odin were concerned—that he will not disclose to anyone but Helblindi, the excuse being he does not trust those of Asgard.

Helblindi had already formed several fictional stories in which to choose from to relay back to Thor about what Liulfr supposedly said. In reality the Lord of Wolves was there to impart vital information he had gathered on Býleistr. Information he had not wished to risk passing along in any way other then verbally and directly to his liege, away from the eyes and ears of Jotunheim.

“Who is she?” Helblindi asked.

“She was a very, very powerful sorceress who dwelled in the east. Your brother killed her.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. She had no allegiance to Nál or anyone and was a recluse from all accounts. I think Býleistr killed her for her identity. I can tentatively confirm at least three other instances where she might has done this before.

Helblindi huffed out a sardonic laugh. “So I now have a sister instead of a brother. A sister who has been reduced to nothing more than a parasite.”

“A clever parasite.” Liulfr corrected. “Taking the life of another in every sense imaginable is infinitely more difficult than simply creating a new identity. However the benefit is it could potentially be more secure and faster if you wanted to build and manipulate existing powers to your needs. It certainly explains why she is so difficult to track. And how she was able to remain hidden for so long while quietly acquiring the clout she has.”

“Misdirection and nothing more,” Helblindi mused, “We are wasting our time attempting to unravel her deceptions.”

Liulfr agreed, “The issue at hand is what she is going to do. Býleistr has made many an enemy with her activities. Her thieving ways conspire against her for she has a few spies in her mists. None of them are wise to who she truly is. They are by products of her making political changes to suit her needs under the faces and identities of others. One of those spies is acting under orders of an acquaintance of mine who owes me a favor. Her solider is attempting to infiltrate Býleistr’s inner circle and according to his reports, your sister is going to attempt to contact Loki very soon. ”

“She is not simply going to come through the Bifrost and announce herself or her intent, not when she is attempting to bypass myself and Odin. So how does she plan on accomplishing such a task?” Helblindi looked at Heimdall and the answer came to him in a blinding flash. “She is going to use a pathway. That’s the only way she could possibly get to Asgard without being seen.”

“The pathway you used?”

“No. Heimdall is aware of that one and he will be watching it, she has to know that.” Helblindi grinded his teeth in rage, “She has another way here.”

Liulfr raised an eyebrow. “If that is the case then could you simply not just meet and stop her at the very entrance?”

“I can’t begin to predicate which pathway she is going to use.” Helblindi snapped, choking on so much helpless frustration that he wanted to scream. There were only a few pathways left but Býleistr could utilize any of them and Helblindi simply did not have the ability watch them all. He certainly didn’t command the kind of power to be able to intercept her at all possible locations at any given time. Not without raising attention and questions he simply could not afford.

“Do you know when she is going to move?”

“Three days.”

“Is there any way to have her killed before then?”

“No. Her location is so remote and in such treacherous terrain that if you don’t know where you going exactly it could take weeks to get to. There is also a storm blanketing the north that is expected to lift in day’s time but it is preventing any sort of travel for now. Quite frankly it’s a miracle we were able to get this amount of forewarning as it is.”

Three days, three days to stop her, to plan and execute that plan. That kind of restriction left so few options but Helblindi was desperate and backed into a corner. It made him more cunning and ruthless and he practically vibrated with excitement as he looked at the Bifrost and a brutally effective solution occurred to him.

He did not have to stop her from getting to the palace; he simply had to stop her from reaching Loki .

Helblindi could not be with Loki for every single minute of the day. And whoever Býleistr sent, they could not simply walk into this realm as a Frost Giant; they would most likely be disguised to appear as an Asgardian. While that meant that potentially anyone who approached his brother could slip him a letter or a verbal message, Helblindi was willing to wager that Býleistr would not take such a risk. Instead she would simply do the most logical and unobtrusive thing and leave a message in his chambers.

What Helblindi needed was distraction, something that would divert the eyes of everyone and allow him to go by completely unnoticed. He needed chaos.

“Send word to Nál,” He ordered Liulfr. “There will be an Asgardian who wishes to conspire with him to assassinate the crown prince of Jotunheim.”

Liulfr raised an eyebrow as understanding dawned and he commended, “It’s an elegant if not dangerous game you’re playing here sire. What are you to do about him?” He gave Heimdall a look of unease.

“I have something that should work. All I need is thirty seconds to open the Bifrost, it should give me enough time.”

“And Loki? What if he is killed?”

“I hope he is,” Helblindi said scornfully, “If Loki should be slain in an attack by Nál, why Prince Thor would be as inconsolable as he would be enraged as his beloved lay slain in Asgard’s very own palace. After that, he would rip Jotunheim apart and deliver me my crown before the warmth had left his body.” Helblindi’s lips twisted in bitter longing as he walked away from Liulfr, lifting the spell that hid them and Heimdall’s awoke immediately.

“Send him back.” Helblindi ordered.

“As you wish my lord.” Heimdall intoned, his golden eyes watching the prince with such a knowing look that it unnerved Liulfr.

Helblindi set to work immediately. He settled almost instantly on Lifa Fenrirdaughter for three key reasons. For starters, Asgard would not suspect a woman and Helblindi needs that blind eye if his plan is to work. Despite Lifa’s age and status, she is not married and there for will not be missed, and she belonged to one of the noble houses that was a part of the All Father’s council. It’s a simple matter of bribing her servant into slipping a potion into her evening wine. (The servant will later be found days later, having been killed with a dagger to his heart) Helblindi waited for the appropriate time for it to take effect before he entered her chambers and found her lying on the floor, her body paralyzed.

She remained definite to the very end, eyes burning with hate that never betray fear and she managed to summon enough strength to spit in his face.

Helblindi merely laughed and the spell he used on her is one of the darkest and most forbidden from Muspelheim. It left her body alive and pliable but her mind and soul were gone. Helblindi then slipped his mind inside hers and effectively became her.

The next day, using Lifa’s body, he used a pathway and traveled to Jotunheim, riding to the ruined palace of his father to meet Nál. The false king sat on the once magnificent but now crumbling throne, seemingly alone but it was an illusion. If one listened close enough they could hear the sounds of several guards hidden around the icy ruins and those guards were ever vigilant. Their noises could easily be mistaken for the natural sounds of Jotunheim’s landscape.

Not that Nál required the protection. While his age and the years and toll the throne had taken on him reflected in appearance, he was still one of the largest and strongest Frost Giants in all of Jotunheim. He was still an imposing presence despite his tired and worn look.

“I hear tell from a wolf that you have a proposition for me.” Nál said and though he spoke softly his voice was deep and low and it reverberated off the icy walls.

“An opportunity.” Helblindi corrected coolly and confidently.

“Or a trap.”

“You and I are alike,” The bitter irony of that burned. “For we are desperate and both our thrones are in danger. Nobody wants this alliance between our realms.”

“The All Father does.”

“Odin is a fool.” Helblindi’s venom wasn’t feigned. “His desires do not reflect those of his people. His age has made him weak in body and spirit. Everyone knows his time is coming to an end. Why do you think he has not attacked you yet? He’s afraid and he does not wish to relinquish the throne to his son.”

Nál was ever suspicious but a seed of intrigue has been planted, for it is a plausible explanation for why Odin has not invaded or attempted to provoke him.

“You want me to gather an army of my finest warriors all at a location of your choosing, based on nothing more than your word? Do I look that much of a fool to you little one?” Nál’s scorn was understandable and not unexpected; Helblindi would suspect an ambush himself if their positions were reversed.

“You don’t need an army when you have the element of surprise. You’re not attempting to steal something this time so the Destroyer will not be released, not where innocent people will be caught in its mindless wake. They will not be expecting a direct assault and no one will be willing to fall on their sword to protect a Frost Giant. I can get you into Asgard. Surely a tactician such as yourself –possessing the warriors you do—can figure out a way to make the most of this opportunity.”

Nál’s smile was biting and cruel. “You would betray your own king?”

Helblindi scowled, “You are one to talk of such matters.” And Nál merely laughed mockingly.

The offer was a risky one but as expected it proved to be too tempting. Nál was not burdened by sentiment or loyalty; he had no qualms of sending others to their deaths. While he would never risk large numbers of what little military support he had, the loss of a small band of his best warriors on a suicide mission that could turn the tides of war was something he had no issue with.

“If you can achieve such miraculous results,” Nál said, “Then surely you can arrange to have the sons of Laufey be at an appointed place and time to guarantee a satisfying conclusion to our temporary alliance.”

“Consider it done.”

Nál had him—or rather Lifa—swallow a smooth, almost translucent pearl before he left.

“If you’re lying to me,” Nál whispered, “Then that egg will grow into a snake and it will devour you from the inside. It’s a slow, agonizing death and you will be awake for every moment of it until there will be nothing left but bone. Only then will your torment be over. There is no way to remove it and once it hatches it immediately lays hundreds and hundreds eggs in its wake. Any attempt to remove the snake will cause it to burst into more. It is the most perfect form of devastating destruction ever created and only I can rid it from you. Keep your word and serve me well little one and you have nothing to fear.”

Even though Helblindi was not at risk, he still could not suppress a shiver. For Nál, Majesty of Serpents, was more powerful and knowledgeable than even Odin in this. His was not a desperate and pompous threat but a promise. If Lifa had truly stood before him and betrayed him, she would have suffered a death that was worse then what Helblindi had done to her.

He left Jotunheim (delaying a few hours in order to lose the guards he knew Nál had following him, hoping to find the pathway he had used) and once on Asgard he demanded to not be disturbed and left Lifa’s body in her (locked) chambers.

The next day he sent word to Loki, that on the following day he wished to have lunch with him at a specific time and place. He was thrilled when the servant returned and confirmed Prince Loki’s agreement.

The next part, the waiting, was the simplest out of everything and yet was most difficult to endure. Helblindi watched the time come closer and waited nervously with baited breath.


Thor was an enigma to Loki.

He felt indifferent to his husband for the most part, which he considered an improvement over the resentment he had initially felt for the longest time. It’s still there, flaring up at the at the most inconsequential things. Thor’s gestures of affection--the touching, caressing—still annoyed him more often than not, mostly because he didn’t understand it. He still thought Thor was rather foolishly deluded and yet there are times when he makes Loki doubt if only for a split second.

The first time he looked at Thor a little differently with something border lining on fondness was the day he burst their chambers and came up behind Loki, wrapping an arm around him and uncaring that Loki was attempting to read.

“I have a gift for you husband.” Thor announced, his beard gently scraping Loki’s ear as he spoke and Loki was about to bat him away in annoyance when Thor brought his other arm around and in his hand he held an apple.

Thor grinned when he felt Loki freeze for a moment before he grabbed the white apple that still glittered with crystalline frost, for it was as cold as ice.

“Where did you get that?” Loki demanded and Thor pulled him out of his chair and into the next room where a servant was placing the last of four small chests onto the floor. Thor strode over to one of the chests and flipped the lid off carelessly, revealing it to be filled with more white apples that were being kept chilled by the snow packed in it.

“A trader from Alfheim,” Thor explained in answer to Loki’s expression. “He says it is fruit and yet it will melt unless it is kept frozen.”

“It doesn’t melt, it withers.” Loki corrected numbly. “That is why they only grown on Jotunheim. The climate is the only one suitable for it to flourish. They are considered a delicacy.”

“I tried one and I care not for it. But my tastes matter not, they are yours to do with as you wish and I’ll have Folkvar store them for you.” Thor said dismissively and that was that.

Except it’s not, Loki had stared at the apple in his hand until he had felt it beginning to soften and the frost began to turn to water before he had carefully placed it in the snow and closed the lid with gentle reverence. Thor’s gift left him thoroughly confused; he was resentful of it (just another reminder, a scrap of his homeland,) unreasonably delighted by it and thoroughly lost as to the reason Thor had given it to him.

“Why?” He asked that night as they lay in bed.

“I thought you might like it.” Was Thor’s only reasoning and he wasn’t in the mood for sex which frustrated and further confounded Loki.

The next morning Sif entered their dining room and found Loki with his elbow propped on the table, chin resting in hand as he idly rolled an apple around in front of himself, watching the darkening sky beginning to turn to the colors of morning. He didn’t bother to acknowledge her presence.

To others he would appear to be ever the petulant ice prince, but several weeks in his employ had granted Sif more insight than others. The same insight Thor undoubtedly had because she could tell by his body language that he wasn’t dispassionate but instead was pensive about something.

“What is that?” Sif asked curiously.

“A gift.” Loki replied blandly and without sparing her so much a glance he rolled the apple over to her with a flick of his wrist.

Sif picked it up; astounded that it was so cold she could barely stand to hold it. The warmth of her fingers caused her flesh to stick to the apple slightly as she examined it. “It’s beautiful.”

“Thor gave it to me. I have dozens more.”

Sif was surprised but pleased to learn that. “That was kind of him.”

Loki shrugged and in that moment Sif understood the source of his discontent and against her better judgment she felt a twinge of sympathy.

She could only imagine how she would have reacted if the enemy she had been forced to marry (one she had only barbaric expectations of) had given her a gift. Given their realms relations, she would have viewed it with never ending suspicion that would have gnawed at her and put her—even further—on edge. Was it a trick, a ploy to gain affection and appreciation? Was he trying to make her more pliable for manipulation? Every possible worst case scenario would have run through Sif’s mind and she would have never believed the true intention of it. That it was simply a gift and nothing more.

Sif treaded carefully with her next words. “I suppose, given your position, generosity can be rather disconcerting.”

“Given my position, generosity could perhaps be merely a testament to my skills.” Loki volleyed coolly and he was inordinately pleased with himself for how board and cold he sounded which perfectly masked how utterly bitter he really felt. He rather likes this façade, it feels comfortable and assuring.

Sif raised an eyebrow, “Sarcastic yet biting, clearly your learning. I don’t know whether I should commend you or be worried on all our behalves.”

“Neither do I.” Loki admitted, catching the apple when Siff rolled it back to him. He used a sharp knife from the table to cut a slice out of it and Sif noted that his movements with the knife were quick, fluid and assured, betraying his hidden skill with it. She made a mental note of that as she accepted the offered slice and hesitated. The inside was a dark shade of red, so dark that it was almost black and it was rather off putting. However while Sif was many things, she was not a hypocrite and for all her lectures about tolerating their cultures she couldn’t refuse to at least try it.

She was not tolerant enough to suffer attempts at politeness by actually eating it when it tasted so vile. It was bitter (so much so she almost gagged) and the juice made her jaw tingle and she spit it out onto the floor.

“Ugh, if that is what your pallet is used to then it’s of little wonder why you don’t like our food.” She said as Loki laughed at her reaction.

Life was not easier and yet Loki felt as though he was beginning to settle a little. Perhaps he was becoming more accustomed to things or he was simply finding his footing in this place, but either way it was a relief. He will never admit it, especially since he still does not trust her fully and he will not give Thor the satisfaction, but Sif was a great aid to him that he is profoundly grateful for.

“Do you know how to hunt?” She asked one day. He is used to her deceptively nonsense, random questions by now, so the abruptness of it fails to surprise him anymore.

“Yes.”

“Alright then,” She gave him an illustration from one of the books they were studying from. “I am hungry and I wish to eat this tonight. I don’t care how you acquire it, be it by magic or weaponry but I expect you to hunt it and bring it to me.”

“You want me to feed you?”

“I want you to get out beyond these stifling walls. You need to do something that does not involve royal duties and I want you to exercise your mind and body while honing your skills. This,” She gestured to the books stacked around, “Is monotonous.”

“Yet vital.”

“So is this.”

He doesn’t understand what she means until she sends him off. He felt rather like a child being given a deceptively complex task, one meant simply to keep him occupied because Sif was to board to deal with him and too lazy to go acquire her own supper. However once he traveled into the woods he discovered that the quite solitude of it pleased him. Away from the eyes and ears of others, the oppressive surroundings of Asgard’s aesthetic, the forest differed in every way to Jotunheim’s harsh and barren environment and yet there was a simplicity to the nature that he enjoyed, one sorely lacking in the city. It also proved to be challenging. Hunting an unfamiliar animal in this unfamiliar terrain required more skill then he had anticipated and the experience left him frustrated but strangely content.

“I didn’t get it.” He sullenly told Sif that evening and she didn’t seem surprised or annoyed.

“So I see. There’s always tomorrow.”

It became a routine. Every few days Sif would send him to hunt for whatever small game she designated, the only stipulation being that if he were to use a weapon he could only use one. She assigned him the weapon and it was his responsibility to learn on his own about the animal and how to track it in this new territory.

It was a rather spectacular disaster, his endeavors most often than not ended in failure and yet he reveled in it. It was challenging and exciting and no one was around to witness him fail and he was allowed to develop his own methods, free of Asgard’s or even Jotunheim’s influence.

It was marvelous and allowed a privacy and freedom that he relished. To her credit, Sif never asked for him to hunt for leisure or to prove himself and she made it clear that whatever he managed to get (if he ever did succeed) would be consumed. He wondered if she had actually done research into his culture because of that or if it was her way of justifying the task as anything but the small mercy it was.

“Is this how you learn to hunt on Asgard?” He asked Sif.

“No. It is tradition and a duty that usually the father carries out. It’s seen as a rite of passage and an important bonding experience.”

“So your father taught you?”

Sif’s lips tightened, “No. My father refused to teach me, so my brother learned from him and taught me in secret. Or he tried his best at least, he is a scholar at heart and cared not for the sport and was rather poor at it. Balder later helped me develop my true skills.”

Loki was surprised that she had revealed something about herself and that she had also mentioned him. He couldn’t resist asking, “What happened to Balder?”

Sif looked grieved that her words had been so careless. It had been out of habit because she was still not used to Balder not being here and the reminder stung her heart. “It is not for me to say.”

Loki scowled in frustration. “It is not my right to know?”

“You should ask your husband if you’re so curious.” Sif said sharply, her temper getting the best of her in that moment. It faded almost immediately in the wake of Loki’s utterly blank expression and she sighed, because it was a cruel remark to have made when she knew he would never ask Thor. Sif was the one he was supposed to be building a rapport with and feel comfortable enough to ask such questions.

“You mistaken grief for subterfuge.” She explained more kindly. “We do not speak of it because it is too painful, not because we are withholding information in order to hold some kind of advantage. His existence was not a secret, not like yours was Loki.”

“I was a secret because my mere existence is a source of unimaginable and great shame to my family. That they didn’t and don’t kill me is considered a crippling weakness and dishonor on their part.” He supposed that was, in part, why he was so curious about Balder. Beloved Balder who was never spoken of or known but missed and had clearly been loved.

“I am considered a stain,” Loki continued, perversely pleased at her appalled expression at how casual his degrading words were. “Grotesque and unworthy.”

“Why?”

”My size and stature.”

“That is a very poor reason for such vile regard.”

“And your culture views me or you for that matter as anything but for the same reasons?”

Sif found that she could not argue against that which annoyed her. There was no denying that Loki was hardly the ideal aesthetic in this realm and it was uncomfortable to realize that it is because of the same reasons that he is reviled on Jotunheim. The same reasons she herself was often laughed at before being smugly dismissed in the eyes of her peers. That the two realms shared the same capacity for senseless biased was depressing.

She contemplated Loki for a long moment, calculating and weighing the risks of revealing such private matters to him. It was such a delicate and private issue and yet she (unwillingly) shared that burden and was equally entitled to the choice of talking about it or not. However she was undecided on whether she wished to take on the responsibility of the risk. Loki hadn’t been technically wrong; he was entitled to know of such information but it was not as simple or black and white as that. Nothing ever was and it was especially so given Loki’s heritage and their strange situation. Telling him about the circumstances of Balder would seem innocuous enough, but every bit of information, concealed or revealed, was always a gamble, was always potentially something that could be used to manipulate or be used against them.

However not telling him could also cause more damage in the long run.

Sif rubbed her head in an effort to stave off a headache. Already she felt tired of this never ending spider web of politics, where every word had to be considered before being spoken, for the damage or good it could cause could be critical but not apparent until much, much later.

“You make me long for the battlefield,” She said tightly, “It is easier out there.”

Loki raised an eyebrow, unsure how to take that.

If I tell you will my words make it to your brother’s ears?”

“They will only on his order.”

She hid a smile of approval, pleased that at the very least Loki was underhanded enough to manipulate his position with such little tricks as that. It was perhaps childish but it showed the prince was not entirely a mindless servant of his brother but was, whether he realized it or not, finding ways around his restrictions and rebelling.

A minute passed before she took a deep breath and steeled herself. Ultimately her decision was motivated by love rather than practicality, she did not wish for Thor to go through anymore pain by talking about it.

She will tell Thor later that she has spoken about Balder, in case Helblindi or Loki decided to use it to manipulate him into charging into Jotunheim prematurely.

“Balder was Thor’s older brother but he was not a crown prince of Asgard. That is most likely why you have never heard of him.”

“Was he not a son of Odin or Frigga?”

“He was. But he renounced his title when he came of age.”

Loki was shocked by that. “Why?” He cannot fathom anyone willingly rejecting their crown. Helblindi would sooner die then do so and to try imagining him doing otherwise was laughable.

“I don’t know why.” Sif said mystified, recalling the uproar his announcement had caused. Balder had been unyielding with his decision despite the pleadings of both his parents. He’d merely smiled that infuriatingly calm and all knowing smile, looking entirely too pleased with himself as he rejected the title of Odinson. Despite that he hadn’t been smug about the issue which had demonstrated he hadn’t been doing it to be spiteful. “Balder was forever a mystery to everyone, he always had his own reasons for doing things even if no one could sort out why.”

“Thor would make a much more suitable king then I.” Balder had later confided in her. “I want him to be king.”

“You think yourself unworthy?”

“I think of myself as the shift that begins the avalanche. No more Sif,” He had whispered, “I want to be the change. This time it will be different, this time it will end.”

Sif felt that he had revealed something critical to her with that but to this day she still could not decipher his maddeningly cryptic words. There were rare instances where she hated him for that and felt shame over it.

“How did he die?”

His words, echoing her own from not so long ago, startled her. “After Thor issued his call to war and was banished, Balder traveled to Jotunheim on his own in order to make a bid for peace. He was killed by Nál’s forces. Heimdall witnessed it.” Sif explained flatly and Loki recoiled in surprise.

It’s the truth but with the seed of a lie in it. No one to this day knew exactly why Balder had gone to Jotunheim. Odin had explicitly forbidden travel to the realm after Thor’s banishment and Balder was not one to go against his father’s wishes and so that is the only explanation they could think of for his actions.

And yet--what had always privately bothered Sif--was that Balder had traveled with them to Jotunheim on that first ill fated trip. He hadn’t discouraged Thor and had, she suspected, actually encouraged his rash plan. It was ludicrous really and wholly against his very nature. But she could still recall the two of them huddled together in the chamber Thor had destroyed in his fit of rage, Balder whispering to his agitated brother. At the time she had thought that he was soothing his Thor’s temper, as so often was his duty since he was one of the rare few who Thor would actually listen to. But time and reflection had left her wondering in a dark part of her mind just what words had passed between the two. She loathed herself for her suspicions but she had knew Balder, knew him better than anyone even Thor, and she could tell that Balder hadn’t been surprised that Thor had been banished.

But everything had been happening to fast that it had not left her enough time to realize or ask. The last time they had seen one another Balder had promised that he would make everything right and had squeezed her hand, kissing her on the forehead with trembling lips.

Goodbye my friend.” He had whispered mournfully and it was but hours later that the Bifrost had opened and taken him away.

By the time anyone had realized what had happened it was too late. Frigga’s screams of anguish had echoed in the halls of the palace and Sif had been summoned to help consol her. It was a duty she never wanted ever again.

“I want my son! I want my boy back!” Frigga had sobbed before Odin had finally arrived and collapsed in his wife’s arms, hugging her fiercely.

It is the only time Sif has ever seen the All Father cry.

As soon as she could she had slipped away, ridding out to the Bifrost in the middle of the night.

“Why?” She demanded to Heimdall who stood in the golden dome with his hands folded before him. His magnificent sword, only one of two means of opening the Bifrost was gone, denoting that Odin had already come and exacted the only punishment he could by taking it.

“He was going to go whether it was by my hand or another’s. There was no stopping him.” Was Heimdall’s maddening justification.

“You directly disobeyed the orders of your king.”

“Have I?” Heimdall had asked.

Sif hadn’t bothered to ask what his cryptic words meant, for Heimdall’s mind and methods were to complex and vast. He possessed a great many years to learn how to bend the rules to his whims.

“How did he die?” She had whispered.

Heimdall’s eyes, so ancient and regretful, had gazed at her with empathy she hadn’t thought him capable of.

“Do you really wish to know? To have that knowledge weigh upon your heart and mind?”

She did because it did worse not knowing. So Heimdall had told her of how the Frost Giants had besieged Balder who had put up little to no resistance. He had spoken bluntly of how Balder had been beheaded, his body cut to pieces to be passed around and sold as war souvenirs.

“He felt no pain.” Was Heimdall’s only consolation and he never spoke of how Sif had broken down and wept before him which she would always be grateful for. It was the one and only time she had allowed herself to grieve for her dearest friend.

It was all for naught, because her close relationship with Balder had always, always been misinterpreted and subject to rumor. She (and he) had not cared that everyone assumed Balder was courting her in secret. Even Thor and the Warriors Three had thought that the case and Balder’s death had cast a shadow over her that she could not escape. She was no longer his grieving friend, but a woman in mourning for her lover, someone to be treated like glass and how she loathed that perception.

It had damaged her relationship with Thor, who could scarcely look at her, burdened by a guilt that was not his to shoulder as he believed himself the cause of her beloved’s death.

Loki noticed her pensive mode.

“I have caused you distress with my questions, I’m sorry.” He said.

“It’s… that’s not…” She sighed. “It is not your fault Loki but this is why I am telling you, I don’t want you inadvertently asking the wrong questions at the wrong time. It reopens old wounds that will not earn you favors. Balder’s death is one of Asgard’s greatest losses but if there was any good to come from it, then it was that it made Thor a better man. It ended his banishment and taught him humility. It was a price no one expected, not even Odin and Thor-”

Was broken because of it, such an unfair cost that would forever haunt him and never heal.

“Does not like to be reminded of it.” Sif finished with instead, because Thor had managed to piece himself back together into a man that would have made Balder proud but it was still a fragile foundation. One she did not want Loki or Helblindi thinking they could manipulate or attack. “Speak no more of it Loki.”

Feeling exhausted, Sif tore the page out of a book and gave it to him. It’s a silent order for him to leave her be and Loki took the page that bore the illustration of an animal and departed without another word.

The conversation left him conflicted and bewildered. So much now makes sense but simultaneously doesn’t. Why does Thor not hate him, a Jotun, one responsible for his beloved brother’s death? How can one change that much by a death?

Loki eyed his husband that night over a silent dinner, attempting to gleam something from him. Some kind of hidden sign of insincerity or disgust but he can’t see anything which made him scowl in frustration.

“What?” Thor eventually asked with his mouth full and brow furrowed in worry.

“It’s nothing.” Loki muttered but he find that can’t leave it be.

What he couldn’t resist was the urge to push a little, his desire to know and understand getting the best of him. Perhaps he also wished and hoped to get a reaction that he expected from his husband instead of the never ending and infuriating unknown.

Feeling somewhat emboldened Loki waited until Thor was in bed when he approached him. His husband was sitting against the pillows and ornate headboard and appeared lost in thought until Loki appeared and sat next to him on the edge. He watched Thor for a long critical moment during which Thor’s expression shifted from uncertainty to worry. Finally Loki effortlessly slid towards him and slowly straddled his lap, deliberately settling himself against Thor’s sex.

Thor was unsurprising pleased which was what Loki was counting on. He was always more pliant when it came to their coupling.

Loki slowly ran his hands over Thor’s chest, his torso, down his arms, fingers kneading the muscles he felt and he marveled at the sheer strength of it. Thor’s size was a source of fascination to him; he had discovered there was a part of himself that secretly enjoyed it as much as he resented it. His fingers danced over Thor’s skin, lingering on the warmth and flawlessly smooth sensation that was so unlike Jotun flesh which was cool and rough.

Loki could feel that Thor was half hard from his touch but he made to move to take it further and he was relaxed. He even leaned back in an unspoken submission, allowing Loki his leisurely exploration of his body, head tilting when Loki’s cool fingers trailed his throat, stroking his cheeks and lips. His other hand splayed against Thor’s chest, feeling his heartbeat, the breaths he took, the vibrations of his contended hums of pleasure.

This felt strangely more intimate then anything they had done before and once he and Thor were lulled into a sense of comfort Loki finally asked “Do you hate me?”

Thor didn’t react or move and yet it felt as if he had gone very, very still in that moment. He looked at Loki through heavy lidded eyes and even though he did not understand the source of the question, he never the less replied with a soft “No.”

“Why not?”

“Should I?”

“You started a war with my people,” Loki whispered into his ear, stroking his chest, “You’ve suffered losses because of them. Why would you care?”

Thor tensed as he realized Loki knew and he fought the instinctive impulse to shove him away. Instead he took several deep breathes and when Loki leaned back he looked at him directly, studying him.

Loki’s expression as always was veiled, eyes bright and searching. While Thor normally liked that mysterious quality of his husband, it made him uneasy now.

“Do you hate me?” Thor finally asked with a frown.

Loki faltered, caught off guard by the turn this had taken. “No.”

Thor smiled in a horribly brittle manner that didn’t suit him at all. “Liar.”

Loki felt as if his heart stopped for a brief moment in terror before he saw that Thor (astonishingly enough) wasn’t offended or angry. In that moment there were no barriers, it was one chance to say his peace with no repercussions and when he thought back on everything it’s with a sort of clarity that lead him to a stunning conclusion.

He grasped Thor’s face between his hands, “Only sometimes. And I don’t entirely blame you for it.”

With that, he rolled off of Thor and onto his back to stare at the ceiling and neither moved or spoke for a long time. Things felt too raw just then, to real with the barriers of their carefully constructed façade unexpectedly stripped away by the stark reality of it all and their willingness to finally voice and acknowledge it.

Thor felt a heavy mix of regret, sadness and relief weighing upon his heart. This was a pivotal moment between them and not for the first time he was at a loss as to how to proceed and make things better.

He wasn’t entirely sure they could be made better and he doesn’t’ want to lose again.

“You and I are not so dissimilar I think.” He finally offered. “I to follow the vision of my brother to better our realms and I have been bound by chains of duty since birth. I was never going to marry anyone of my own choosing but… I had a lifetime to make peace with that. It was a rather trivial matter to me until I met a woman on Midgard.”

Loki felt his interest stir at that admission. “You loved her?”

“Yes. I still do.” Thor confessed, sounding grieved and guilty even though Loki found that the revelation didn’t bother him. “She taught me many things. I would have liked nothing more than to have made a life with her. I would have shown her Asgard, the wonders of Yggdrasil and all the realms of its branches.” His voice turned wistful, eyes far off in memory, “But it was not meant to be.”

“If you were given the opportunity would you have married her?” Loki asked.

“No. Because I have learned that nothing is that simple or easy, there are no choices that do not have consequences that affect all. I made a sacrifice when I left her but it was one that my position and duty dictated I make. My life and heart are not my own, they belong to Asgard and marrying you benefits us all.”

“I am chained with the same shackles of obligation.” Loki confessed thoughtfully. “But unlike you my life had no meaning. I suppose marrying you gave it some. I don’t have to like it though.”

Thor chuckled, “No you don’t. But I’ve learned that it does not mean you have to be miserable.”

“Is that how you find solace in our marriage, by choosing not to be unhappy?”

Thor flinched at that, unable to suppress an unreasonable spike of hurt. “Well… no. But I am also not unhappy with our arrangement and consider myself fortunate all things considered. I could have ended up having to wed someone like your brother.”

The mere thought made Thor shudder in revulsion and Loki couldn’t help but laugh. He looked at Thor in consideration and it felt as if he were looking at someone new.

“You would have married him to make this alliance work.” Loki realized, “Because of your brother?”

Thor was silent for so long that Loki thought he was going to answer, and when he does he speaks slowly and carefully, divulging a secret that he had not told anyone. “When he was a child Balder once told me he had a dream, a dream of Asgard and Jotunheim united as one. It was his fervent wish that we make peace with one another; he said that it would free us all. I thought him a fool and laughed at him. Now… now I believe his was a vision of wisdom beyond anyone’s. And I want nothing more than to achieve that vision in honor of his memory.”

It’s a beautiful and sad and enraging sentiment and Loki rolled on his side to face away from Thor, uncomfortable at how similar they now were and apparently always had been. Thor had sacrificed his life in the same manner as Loki and all for his realm and brother.

“Do you resent your brother?” Loki asked flatly.

“No.”

That at least Loki could say he felt vindictively and unreasonably resentful over. Because there is not a day that goes by where he didn’t begrudge Helblindi even if he can’t blame him entirely either.

He tensed when Thor suddenly rolled on top of him to trap him in a rather ungraceful hug.

“I do not know why but I find my heart drawn to you.” Thor confided in a husky whisper. “And I take it as a sign that I am doing the right thing that I should find myself so contended with you.”

“Your blind acceptance is impulsive and irrational.”

Thor grinned, “I can’t be expected to change completely.”

“I don’t know why you’re so enamored, you don’t know me.” Loki said thoughtlessly only realized as the words were leaving his mouth what a mistake they were. He instantly became wary when he felt Thor pause again.

“Hmm… a fair point.” Thor conceded much to Loki’s surprise. “I suppose I have been rather remiss.” He hesitated for a moment before asking, “Would you care to spend the day with me tomorrow? We can go riding or travel to another realm and you can tell me of your homeland and customs.”

Wouldn’t Balder be amazed that he, Thor Odinson, was willing to listen to anything pertaining to Jotunheim that did not involve war mongering or derision? He could easily imagine his brother’s laughter as well as his bright smile of joy.

“I have to hunt in the morning.” Loki said, “And after I am having lunch with my brother.”

It is something he is actually looking forward to. It’s the first time Helblindi has sought him out, has been the one ask Loki to eat with him. He’s rather childishly pleased by the prospect and he would not miss it for anything.

Thor’s disappointment was so keen that Loki imagined he could feel it since they were pressed so tightly against one another. He sighed inwardly and grabbed Thor’s wrist and squeezed it.

“Afterward.” He promised, “I’m free then.”

He could make the effort if Thor was willing to. And while he still had his doubts that his husband could fully understand the scope of matters, the least he could do was try. Thor’s philosophy was well meaning but misguided. Everything about it hinged on hope, but what he failed to realize that it was dangerous to hope in these uncertain times. He could not choose to be happy if everything fell apart which was an all to real and persistent possibility.

Loki wasn’t sure if he could bring himself to care in the way Thor wants if only because it’s all too fragile.

Thor buried his face against Loki’s shoulder and breathed in deeply, obviously pleased with his response.

“Your time on Midgard taught you many things.” Loki stated.

“A great many, I am thankful for it as much as I despise it.”

“Will you tell me of it?” Loki was curious to know what events could have shaped Thor into who he was now. “What was the name of your love?”

He could feel Thor smiling against him. “Jane. Her name is Lady Jane Foster of New Mexico.”

“I fell from the Bifrost, into a desert land at night…”