“How do they fare?”
The question penetrated the heavy silence, though the words themselves were barely above a whisper. Yet the stoic Gatekeeper gave no indication he had heard the voice, or that he was even aware of the young man sitting on the bridge mere feet behind him.
His mastery of magic made Loki one of the few who could ever hope to catch the Gatekeeper unawares, but Heimdall did not start when the silence was broken, because Loki did not come to him with ill intent or a cloak weaved of Seiðr to shroud himself.
Loki came to him with eyes glazed with regret and shoulders, sharp and thin like plucked wings, bowed by the weight of his self-induced isolation.
Heimdall could not be taken by surprise by something he had come to expect, as he had come to expect Loki.
With each nightfall the prince appeared like a shadow cast by the setting sun, bringing with him a sombre silence reminiscent of the evening Loki first stepped foot onto the fractured bridge since its ruin.
It had been a mere three days after the tragedy that a presence, unseen and unheard yet felt none the less, joined the solitary All-seer.
Although, it remained unclear for many moons after if it was a lost son seeking home that lingered on the bridge, or a restless spirit come to seek closure.
It had been four months before the magic had been dispelled and Heimdall saw Loki for the first time, standing ragged and silent with his eyes fixed on the golden realm burned orange by the drowsy dusk-light.
No words had passed between them, and Loki had fled at the first sign of dawn. After that the lost prince returned each night without guise, question or explanation, and Heimdall never asked. The way Loki simply sat, and gazed unwaveringly at the palace with such an expression of anguish…even Heimdall hadn’t the heart to cast him out.
It was a further six months - of silence, longing, hesitation – before the trickster finally spoke, and it seemed to be the first words he had uttered since he had pleaded with Odin whilst dangling above the abyss, for his voice was rough with disuse.
“How do they fare?”
“They are well,” Heimdall offered. Loki didn’t look at him and Heimdall did not turn away from the distant speck in the galaxy at which he stared, but that did not mean he was not watching Loki closely as he sat with one leg dangling off the edge of the bridge, eyes fixed unwaveringly on one of the tallest palace spiresg.
Silence reigned again, yet Heimdall waited, knowing the standard questions were soon to follow as they did each night.
“How is mother?”
“The Queen is in good health. She spent her day in the gardens, diligently tending to the *calendula flowers.”
“After his time in the Odinsleep he is once again sure of foot and mind, slowly righting the follies of your brief reign,”
Loki flinched. He knew Heimdall only spoke bluntly, but it was still a stinging reminder of his dalliance into madness during his time on the throne. There was a pained silence before Loki mustered up the courage to ask his final question of the night.
“Thor?” The name alone was difficult to choke out passed the tightness in his chest.
“He has immersed himself in his duties for his impending coronation; he has redeemed himself in the eyes of his father and his people and has proven himself worthy of succession.”
Loki broke off, as if unsure if he even had the right to ask such a question. But he seemed to steel himself, for he asked with so much hope that it was hard for even the God of lies to mask completely.
“Do they miss me?”
Heimdall turned his head to look at the prince, only to see Loki, for the first time, staring straight back at him, green eyes imploring him for an answer.
Heimdall cast his eye to the palace, to the towers at which Loki resolutely stared. Green eyes followed, but unlike Loki, Heimdall could see the way Odin cradled his mourning wife in the privacy of their chambers, the way regret lined the king’s face more heavily each day, and how each night at Thor’s window, a soft flicker of light would be lit.
“They do,” Heimdall replied.
Loki’s head turned sharply, his fingers twisting in his tunic as if unable or unsure whether to believe the All-seer. He felt no doubt his mother would miss him, for the loss of a child was great for a mother, especially one as tender and caring as Frigga. Odin. Loki could understand his regret at seemingly causing the loss of a life by his own tactless rejection, but Thor... Thor said to love him that he should never doubt. But they were neither brothers by blood nor even race. And the things he had done to wrong him; lied to him about the death of their father, threatened the existence of an entire realm and almost killed him…Thor would soon be king, and traitorous Loki would be but a mere memory.
“Sheds tears for you.” Heimdall boomed, effectively hushing the startled trickster. “Each night he cries. For you, Loki. Each night he lights a candle in your memory, in hopes to guide you home, and yet you linger here and stare, seeking me to soothe your loss through questions, and for answers with which you do nothing.”
He pinned Loki with a sharp, unblinking stare and the prince could only fold beneath the weight of it, diverting his eyes,
They lingered in silence, before Heimdall asked a question of his own.
“So, what do you intend to do, Loki Odinson?”
Unsure green eyes looked back to the palace before the man stood and turned away, his back to Asgard, to face the Realm-keep.
“Thank you for your service Heimdall, but I do not require it any longer,” Loki murmured, fading in a translucent shimmer of green. Heimdall waited, then turned back to stare into the expanse of stars laid out before him.
With a wave of his hand the candle sitting on the balcony’s balustrade flickered and died, then the lost prince turned to enter the room where the sounds of sorrow were muted by distance.
The weeping stuttered, and a voice, veiled with fragile hope, muttered, “Loki?”
The trickster smiled; the first in a long while. “I am home, brother.”