Loki tired of being back in Asgard approximately three hours after he arrived. At first, the looks of mingled anger and fear from nearly everyone he passed were entertaining. Actually, they were still entertaining. If the entirety of Asgard would have looked at him that way, Loki was fairly sure he could have spent months amusing himself. If he could not be their king, he was content to be their boogeyman.
But Odin looked at him with disappointed condemnation. Frigga looked at him with a sorrow so deep that Loki couldn’t meet her eyes. Sif and the Warriors Three stared with varying mixtures of hurt and betrayal. And Thor…
Loki would have avoided speaking to Thor if he could have. He could not, because Thor came to visit him every day in his cell and refused to stop. Loki had tried screaming the worst insults imaginable at him. He had tried not speaking. He had tried physically attacking Thor. Nothing worked. Oh, Thor might storm out of the cell, or rain curses and fury down on Loki, but he was always back the next day.
Until one day, he wasn’t. Three months, two weeks, and five days into Loki’s imprisonment, Thor was late. He usually visited Loki sometime after midday, and if Loki didn’t do anything to chase him off, would stay until just before dinner. But the day passed and Thor was nowhere to be seen. Loki worried, and was furious at this worry.
It was Thor’s fault. Although he was not Loki’s only visitor, he was by far the most persistent, and Loki had come to expect his presence the way he expected the sunrise. And now that sunrise had not come, and Loki could not help but worry that something was very wrong.
Which was why he nearly seethed with fury when Thor walked in the door shortly after dinner, dressed in Midgardian clothes and carrying a plastic bag.
“Hello, brother!” Thor said, even more cheerful than usual. It did nothing to help Loki’s mood.
“Putting the Tesseract’s energy to good use, I see,” Loki sneered.
“I wished to check in on my friends,” Thor said, and that just infuriated Loki further. That Thor could call that band of lunatics and idiots his friends was disgraceful. “I was not able to see them all, but Tony Stark insisted that we see one of their Midgardian dramas projected onto a screen. I brought you back a snack.”
“I don’t want it.”
“Yes, you do,” Thor said, cajoling. He sat down on the cushioned bench that stretched out from the windowsill and tossed the bag to Loki.
Loki caught it more from instinct than anything else and stared down at it. Through the clear plastic, small puffs of yellow and white crunched against each other. “What is it?”
“Corn kernels, heated until they explode and coated with butter and salt,” Thor said. “They are delicious.”
“I doubt it,” Loki said, tossing the bag aside onto the bed and glaring at Thor. “So tell me, how is Midgard? Still cleaning up the dead?”
Thor looked at him, lips tight and expression disappointed. “Where did this cruelty spring from, brother? You were not always kind, but you were never cruel.”
Loki laughed, high and wild, and threw the nearest book at Thor’s face. It didn’t connect (of course it didn’t), but he felt better as he hissed, “How would you know? You only ever notice me when I’m causing trouble for you.”
“You know that isn’t true,” Thor said, in a patient tone he hadn’t possessed before his banishment. “Loki, I know that I have not always been the best brother to you, or the best friend, but whatever those creatures did to you-”
“Get out!” Loki growled, tossing a bolt of magic towards Thor. It would do little more than sting briefly, the wards around his cell ensured that, but it was satisfying nonetheless.
Thor looked at him, the magic still crackling across his shoulders, and then got up with a sigh. At the doorway, he paused. “I will not be visiting tomorrow.”
That startled Loki out of his fury, and he just barely kept himself from asking why.
“I am going on a hunting trip.” Thor hadn’t turned to look at him. “It should not take long, however.”
Then he was gone, and Loki was left contemplating the scorch mark his magic had left on the wall next to Thor.
Without Thor’s visit to mark the time, the day passed slowly. Loki’s cell had windows, of course, high and arching and giving him a lovely view of the Bifrost that was still under repair. But watching the sun arc through the sky was hardly entertaining. He paced, and he read, and he paced more.
Loki’s cell was not actually that bad, he was forced to admit in rare moments of self-honesty. It was nothing like the suite of rooms he had lived in as a prince, possessing none of the elegance and personal touches that he’d become used to. It was just one room with a tiny, separate room for the privy, and a small garden with very high walls. It was comfortable, but ultimately utilitarian. The combined weight of his favorite books (brought by Fath-by Odin) made the lone bookshelf sag. The wardrobe only had room for about half of his clothes (mostly his favorites, brought by Frigga). The trinkets he’d collected from around the nine realms (brought by Thor) had reduced the desk to a cluttered storage space.
He would have to live in this room for 300 years.
-“You have no right to impose any kind of punishment on me,” Loki snarled up at Odin. “I’m not a citizen of Asgard.”
“Would you prefer to be given to the Jotuns?” Odin asked, face impassive. He looked as imposing as ever upon the throne, sending a thousand different emotions skittering through Loki’s heart. “I do not believe they know of your role in Laufey’s death, but I doubt they would be overly welcoming, given that it was your plan that sent him into Asgard. And they have been informed who sent the Bifrost through their capital.”
Loki absolutely did not want to be sent to Jotunheim, even though he was fairly sure that Fathe-that Odin was bluffing. He tried a different tactic instead. “Why so lenient, Allfather? There was a time when invoking your wrath would guarantee years of agony. I killed your shining firstborn, and all you’re going to do is lock me in a cell? Going soft in your old age?”
“You aren’t being punished for the actions you took during Thor’s banishment,” Odin said, something immeasurably sad flashing across his face for a moment. “You were not well, and should not have been given so much power so soon after…”
“After you finally told me the truth?” Loki spat.
“While you were in a vulnerable state,” Odin amended. “You are being punished for your attempt at taking over Earth.”
“As if you care one whit for the humans!” Loki snapped, surging against the magic that bound him into a kneeling position. “You would never have noticed my presence on that backwater if Thor hadn’t been so pathetically fond of it!”
“You are responsible for the deaths of thousands of people,” Odin said, growing more rigid the longer he spoke. He was drawing on that royal image, Loki knew. “Innocents, Loki, a people who we have never had any quarrel with. Some of our nobles are calling for your blood.”
“I’m surprised you aren’t,” Loki said, voice low and sibilant. He was shaking, he realized distantly. His stomach was churning.
Odin’s face was inscrutable when he said, “Thor suspects that you have been brutalized by the creatures-”
“Since when do you listen to Thor about anything!” Loki howled. Actually howled, like a wounded animal, and he had the strangely calm though that maybe something really was wrong with him. He’d been having that thought more and more, the longer he was in custody.
“-he suspects you were brutalized and not in your right mind,” Odin finished, anger flashing in his eye. “His argument was compelling. You have him to thank for the leniency of your sentence.”
“Because you have no more reason to pretend to care for me?” Loki said.
“Because you are my son and I expect better!” Odin snapped, finally unleashing the shout that had clearly been building in him for the entire conversation. “Because I did not raise a monster! By the Norns, Loki, I thought I was leaving the kingdom in wise hands, and I awoke to find that Thor had been killed, the Bifrost shattered, and Jotunheim’s palace was in ruins. I expect better of you. And then you attack Earth, and for what purpose? To make your brother upset? These are the acts of a petulant child, not a king! Not my son!”
“You are not my father,” Loki growled, voice low and almost animalistic.
Odin was silent for a long moment, his expression inscrutable. “If that is what you wish. But I am still your king.”-
Loki had been in the cell ever since, aside from weekly walks outside. Within the cell, he could still use his magic, though it was muted and near useless for anything besides bright flashes and little tricks. Odin’s magic was strong, and it wrapped around the cell like a fortress. Loki flicked at it sometimes, just to see the ruins blaze gold.
Outside the cell, his magic was bound completely, as he was never let out without heavy gold cuffs, also laced with Odin’s enchantments. Not just Odin’s, either; Loki recognized the spellcraft of some of the best mages in Asgard. Odin was taking no chances, apparently.
Thor’s hunting trip lasted three days. Frigga visited on the second day and the two of them sat together, making idle chitchat and pointedly not discussing anything important. The only unexpected moment came when Loki asked about Thor’s hunting trip.
“Hmm?” Frigga said, a look of confusion flashing across her face for a split second before it was smoothed away. “Oh, yes. Hopefully, he’ll bring back something interesting.”
Loki knew that tone and recognized that confused look. A lie, hastily covered up. Thor had lied to him. Loki’s hands curled into fists. He was probably in Midgard, then, bending his little mortal tart over something. Loki did not sulk, he was above sulking. But if he was more withdrawn and snappish than usual over the next day…well, he couldn’t be blamed.
Somehow, Midgard had come to mean more to Thor than anything else.
Loki had prepared all manner of snide comments for when Thor returned, and they all fell away when Thor finally appeared in his cell. His skin had a harsh, red tinge to it that meant a sunburn, and there was a gash in his forehead that must have gone down to the bone. The wound had been stitched and aloe had been rubbed into the burn, but it was still startling to see. Thor had apparently not been on Midgard after all, because there was nothing on that planet that could do this to Thor.
“Thor?” Loki said, sitting up from where he was sprawled across the window seat.
“No worries, brother,” Thor said, sitting down beside Loki and leaning back with a tired sigh. He looked incredibly satisfied, that was the strangest part. It was the kind of bone deep weariness mixed with contentment that Loki had only ever seen on his brother a few times, usually after a particularly intense fight.
“How was the trip?” Loki asked, staring down at Thor. This close, his brother was giving off heat like a fire.
“Perfect,” Thor answered, his eyes closed. “It went perfectly.”
And then the giant oaf fell asleep half on top of Loki and refused to be roused, no matter how many times Loki kicked him. He finally gave up and let Thor sleep on the window seat while he curled up in bed. It was a bit like being a child again, building little fortresses out of the furniture and then taking a well-deserved nap in them. Loki didn’t mind those memories. They were safer, and he could lose himself in them without a thousand poisonous thoughts flooding in.
When he woke the next morning, Thor was gone.