Traveling via tesseract, no matter how many times he did it, was always…uncomfortable. The sensation defied articulate description, but felt an awful lot to Loki as if he’d been stretched to an inconceivable length, only to be snapped back to normal size at the last second. The power itself, too, felt alien to him now that he no longer controlled it; perhaps the wielder imbued it with some sort of essence that changed its resonance. Speculation really didn’t matter anymore, so why bother? Heimdall turned at the brothers’ arrival, and instead of the spiteful glare Loki anticipated from the gatekeeper, he received only a placid, brief glance of acknowledgement that almost seemed...piteous? He growled quietly into his gag. Thor shifted, drawing Loki’s reluctant attention.
“I would speak with you, Loki, before we go to Odin,” Thor began, setting the tesseract aside, “and if you would leave us, Heimdall.” The gatekeeper gave a deliberate nod before vanishing. Slowly, though without hesitation, Thor reached around the back of Loki’s head and unfastened the gag. Loki rolled his eyes.
“What good is giving me my voice when you intend to merely talk at me unendingly?”
Thor ignored the jibe. “What Odin intends to do with you, I do not know, but I want you to understand that, whatever his will, it will most likely not reflect my own.”
“So you would prefer I receive forty-nine lashings as opposed to fifty,” Loki spat, a slightly hysterical cackle punctuating his words. Truth be told, Loki wasn’t particularly concerned with Odin’s judgment. It couldn’t be worse than what was coming for him, now, from the greater universe. Thor grabbed his brother by the forearm and jerked him closer, so the two were almost nose-to-nose. In spite of himself, Loki recalled countless times they had been like this as children, staring each other down just before they would begin wrestling over whatever petty, brotherly spat was important that day. Time and again, their tussles would end with them in a pile, laughing together after the grudge had run its course. What had happened? When did that change? Everything he had done since letting go of his scepter over the wormhole seemed so, utterly pointless. Inexplicable exhaustion deflated his ego.
“Please, brother, listen,” Thor pleaded, laying purposeful emphasis on the familial word. “Father, as king, is bound by the law of Asgard to seek justice and follow it through but I, as of yet, am not. When you set The Guardian after me on Earth, I gave up myself not understanding how I had slighted you. But now, I do. My hubris leading to my exile created much destruction, and fostered much spite in you.”
“I think you may still have not learned your lesson,” Loki retorted, “as you seem to think me little more than some victim.” Thor shook his head vigorously and stepped aside to give Loki space.
“You have made your choices, and you should see the repercussion of it, but I cannot deny my hand in driving your desperation. You said as much yourself, several times, though I did not listen.”
Now, he had to pay attention, of all times? Already disheartened by his earlier nostalgia, Loki turned away to stare at the great expanse of the galaxy beyond the edge of the still-destroyed rainbow bridge.
Which star is it traveling past, now, to find me? How long until this ends?
A part of him was relishing the tortures awaiting him in preference to listening to Thor - his brother - any longer.
“After you were lost, father explained what had happened, who you truly were. Your plan was plain to me, once I understood everything, why you had done what you did. Your lineage changes nothing of how I care for you. I tried to tell you this on Earth, before Stark and the other intervened, but…that did not work as I had intended.”
I tremble to think how much more effective it would have been had that been your plan.
“My point,” Thor interrupted Loki’s musings, “is that I have always considered you my equal. My counsel. My comrade. And I will endeavor to mend this gap I have created between us, whatever it takes. Despite what you think, you are no monster, and your attempts to paint yourself as such do not suit you.”
It would be so easy. A nod here, a tremble of reluctance there, perhaps the application of misted eyes, and Thor would be pinned beneath Loki’s thumb for infinite amounts of manipulative fun. However, all his usual amusement was gone, stripped away along with the powers of the tesseract. His exhaustion deepened beyond mere flesh, to his core, breath leaving his lungs in a rush. He turned again to address Thor. Repentance and concern was in every crease of Thor’s forehead, reflecting the sincerity of his words. Had he more energy to muster, Loki probably would have found the shameless projection of sympathy disgusting.
“As ever, you speak your mind with no thought to how easily anyone can slip between your words and stab you in the back,” Loki remarked.
“Perhaps, but I still know you well enough to see when you are past devious amusement. I hope that is because we finally hear each other.”
All too well, he did, indeed. During their battles on Earth, all Loki had gleaned from Thor’s previous attempts to see reason was mockery and disdain; only now could he feel their intended impression. His elder brother, though his arrogance occasionally made him…obtuse, had never been one to be actively diminutive towards those he cared for, so why had Loki believed he was before? When he had left Asgard, it had been to find a purpose, a cause, anything to prove his worth, or at the very least, cleanse his blood of its heritage. That goal had been lost in the void of space, somewhere, replaced by The Other’s machinations.
The thrall of loneliness and loss of identity had made him the perfect shell to reform in The Other’s image; yet again, Loki had been played as a fool for the plots of others. He, the Master of Tricks, as some humans would call him. He was worthy of no other station than as an instrument to be played at his master’s wish, but sickened will doused any indignation he normally would have felt. Too late, he realized his place, and now the trap was well past sprung and upon him. There was nothing to do but mourn his stupidity.
“Just take me to Odin. I have no more patience for your quibbling,” tried though he did to be simply sarcastic, his teeth grit as he spoke, straining to ignore Thor’s magnanimous hand of goodwill. It wasn’t lost on his brother, either, but Thor chose to just clap Loki on the back, retrieve the tesseract and urge them both forward.
“There is time. Consider what I said,” Thor repeated, obviously aware his words had struck some kind of chord.
“No, there isn’t,” Loki whispered low enough even the man beside him couldn’t hear. Maybe, if he was fortunate enough, Odin would be incensed enough to just slay him on the spot and spare everyone involved any further trouble. Thor held up an arm to halt Loki, and held up the gag when he caught his younger brother’s attention.
“Appearances, you understand,” Thor said, though he made no immediate move to replace it. He was waiting for Loki’s acknowledgement and permission – letting Loki retain his sapience. The gesture was the final tap of the pick around his frozen conscience. Loki shut his eyes as he nodded, praying that would be enough to keep his rampant emotions penned within him. It would be too much for Thor if he knew he had something of his brother back in time to watch him be lost again, and it would be too much for Loki to let himself have the slightest minutia of his family returned to him in time to lose it again. It would be better, this way.
Their walk to the palace was uneventful enough. They’d arrived well into Asgard’s night cycle, so most people were off the streets. It was a relief for Loki; even in his depressed state, the thought of being paraded about as he was before the common folk of Asgard seared his ego. Thor, too, chose to remain silent as they walked, either to keep up the aforementioned “appearances”, or to give Loki space to absorb their conversation, he wasn’t sure. Upon arrival at the gates to the palace proper, they were halted by guards.
“My lord, if you could grant us a few minutes, we can assemble an escort for…the prisoner,” one of them suggested, clearly unsure as to how to address the incarcerated former prince.
“That is unnecessary. I have everything under control.” The guard began to rebut, but Thor cut him off, “Loki is my responsibility, and as such, it would be unseemly to hand off his delivery to father to anyone else. If you believe he has ill intent towards Odin, I assure you that if I am not enough to thwart any plans, no one will be.”
A twinge fluttered in the back of Loki’s head.
Already, hazy clouds began obscuring his vision, but the hallucinations were still indistinct. That handicap didn’t stop them, however, from filling his head with muted screams and villainous laughter. Time was even shorter than he expected. Suddenly, they were before Odin himself. The phantoms in his mind had distracted him from the tail end of their journey. He was unprepared to face the lord of Asgard; his original intent had been to cook up a few, good, barbed pieces of wit to rile the man further beyond what was, most likely, simmering rage.
“Have you nothing to say, Loki?” Odin asked, anger dulled but unmistakable in his voice. He sat before them on his throne in the audience chamber, flanked by Frigga on his right. In Loki’s periphery, he could make out Thor’s eyes boring holes into him. The last time the four of them had assembled like this had been the morning before Thor’s great ceremony, just before everything had fallen apart. Their mother had fussed over them both, adjusting their outfits and helms while the sons had tossed jovial barbs back and forth, Odin watching on with pride.
Another mental prod - more insistent and firm, this time. It wouldn’t be long…he had to be quick if he wanted to incite Odin to homicidal peaks.
“What would you like to hear, father,” he began, mockery coloring his tone, “as I can gain no greater pleasure in life than from making you happy. I suppose you’d prefer my remorse for the destruction of those base vermin in Midgard, yes?” He let his desperation leak into a fit of laughter to make him appear particularly unhinged. Odin’s eyes narrowed. Good. “Well, then, my lord, if you would so grant it, I fall before you,” he dropped to his knees theatrically,”contrite and anguished to have brought such shame and damage to your house,” he finished with all the spite he could muster. One of the elderly hands on the throne tightened its grip. Still not enough.
“Loki,” Thor tried, hand reaching for his brother. Loki’s well-placed, smug smile trembled at the corners, and he paused for the smallest moment, conflicted by his decision. Cursing his weakness, he stood and spun on a heel to address the empty audience chamber, back to his family.
“Idiotic, cowardly creatures they were, kneeling so I could all the more easily crush them under my boot. Running like so much cattle to the slaughter aimlessly in the streets of their great city.” Thor continued to make interjectory noises, so Loki turned to stare him down, fixing the best expression of cruelty he could think of on his face.
“Just like your friend, that pithy agent of augh,” he grunted, an excruciating pain knifing into his skull. A clap of thunder echoed across the audience chamber.
Instinctively, he understood he had left his family’s presence, but as to where he had gone, he had no idea. A facsimile of himself stood before him. Around them, there was no ground, sky, or barriers; only shifting color gave any sense of space. The scepter he’d wielded on Earth appeared in the other Loki’s hand, glinting maliciously from an unknown source of light.
“Such a lack of conviction, indeed,” Loki’s doppelganger said, punctuating his sentence by lancing Loki in a similar fashion to the agent he’d killed on the helicarrier, though from the front. In addition to the pain one would expect from being stabbed, the weapon felt as though it were superheated somehow, burning him from the inside out. Apparently unsatisfied with the efficacy in making his point, he lifted Loki up by the point on which he’d been speared. Wrenched gasps mutated into full-on cries of pain. Tried though he did to remain as still as possible, his legs had gained a mind of their own, kicking pointlessly at the air, further increasing his misery.
“Did you not think I would make good on my threat?” His tormentor spoke, though with the voice of The Other instead of his own. “The little princeling, thinking himself smarter than powers more ancient and battle-worn than his forsaken homeland. Even my master had thought to have seen a spark of malignity that could drive you to glory, only to watch you capitulate at the first herald of tribulation. Had you any conviction at all, you would have given yourself up to death in battle rather than permit me to find you in disgrace.” With a great heave, other-Loki cast him off the point of the weapon, skidding him across a gravelly field that had materialized beneath him. He was back on that spit of rock hidden away at the edges of the universe, where The Other had originally made his promise to hunt Loki down if he failed.
“Perhaps it would have helped you to see the multiverse as we envision,” The Other said, appearing from behind an outcropping of rock. Loki sent a bolt of energy at him in defiance; the creature swatted it aside, wheezing laughter echoing amongst the cliffs. With the wave of a hand, other-Loki strode forward and, with strength and ease Loki himself did not possess, grabbed him by the face and lifted him one-handed. The points of each finger holding him up pressed so forcefully Loki thought they would pierce directly through his skull. That pain was soon lost to a cacophony of noise; all manner of creatures from the deepest crevices of the universe, assembled for conquest. Monsters fed only by the consumption of entire planets, races of aliens that kill with a thought and turn their enemies’ corpses upon its compatriots, sentient plants spreading diseases virulent enough to melt flesh from bone. All of them, sweeping from realm to realm uncontested, until naught is left but slaves and barren soil. Earth, Asgard, Thor, ravaged beyond recognition, past the point of simple rot and decay – evaporated. He, Loki, despite his failure in The Other’s eyes, had still given them a foothold in the interstellar door; whatever happened from now on could be directly connected to his fatuous sentiment for revenge.
“Your arrogance comes at a cost you never could have measured,” The Other hissed at his ear, “and only when this is over will you meet death - slowly, and intimately; in every way we know you fear.” Vision upon vision of his possible deaths piled before him, inundating him with all their combined agonies until his mind could comprehend only plasma-hot sensation.
“The hatred you insisted to have had is but a pathetic, sodden torch that even my significant skill could not coax into something greater. And now, it will be the link to remind you, wherever you are, of what awaits you at the end of our contrivances. See what you have wrought, and squirm in vain against the tide of the cosmos before we decide to cut off your pointless-,” The Other was interrupted, and other-Loki vanished entirely; the expanse of space beyond the asteroid where he lay split asunder to reveal Thor fighting an unseen enemy, lightning arcing in haphazard directions.
“Release my brother! You shall not rule his mind any longer!”
Loki’s cry of pain was almost completely drowned out by a peal of thunder shattering the calm of the audience chamber. Thor shielded himself with Mjolnir and tightened his hold anew on the tesseract, blinded by a shape materializing before them. Once the light that had accompanied the noise faded, an unknown creature stood before the royal family, his face mottled and red, with a gaping, jagged-toothed mouth.
“Lord Odin, I am honored,” the man said, bowing towards the king.
“What business have you here?” Odin asked, already standing and pointing his staff toward the intruder, whose hands came up in suggestion of peace.
“I come only for your excess offal, here,” he said, gesturing to Loki, who was curled on the floor, shaking silently, “Our intent for him is much the same as yours…reparation. Surely you need not waste your own time doing so?” he finished silkily, though Thor easily noticed the malice tainting his voice. He shifted to stand directly in between the creature and Loki, still holding Mjolnir threateningly. Loki whimpered quietly behind him; Thor wished desperately to look back and understand what had happened to his brother, but not until the threat before him was properly assessed. A glance to Odin calmed him considerably; rather than handing him over to whatever unknown judgment, the elder king strode over to address the intruder directly, weapon still drawn.
“We will lay our own justice on him. It is none of your concern.”
“Is that so? Such a shame.”
The monster conjured bolts of energy and flung them at the two Asgardian men. While both shielded themselves, he slipped past them both with the fluidity of a spirit, grasped Loki by the neck and took off for the exit from the palace.
“Go, Thor! Leave the tesseract, I will stand watch over it,” Odin commanded, gesturing towards him. Wishing he had the time to question his father’s greater concern for the artifact as opposed to Loki, Thor tossed it over to Odin, using his free hand to begin spinning Mjolnir. He took off flying in the direction the man and Loki had left, and before long they were back in sight, heading towards the edge of the broken Bifrost. Just as the intruder had landed, Heimdall appeared, longsword swinging in a great arc for his opponent’s neck. He caught Heimdall’s weapon in the hand not holding Loki at the last moment as if catching a lazily tossed ball, and flung the guardian remorselessly over the edge of the bridge towards the water below. He turned and stepped back in time to retreat from Thor’s heavy-handed swing downward with Mjolnir, cracking the Bifrost anew with its impact. As he stood again, he caught sight of Loki, still being held up by the neck. His brother’s eyes were wide and pupil-less, his mouth slightly open and bottom jaw trembling. With a furious cry, Thor began summoning lightning to the hammer. The creature appeared unimpressed until Thor began swinging his charged weapon; an arc shot forth into his chest, causing him to drop to a knee. Loki fell face-first to the ground.
“Release my brother! You shall not rule his mind any longer!”
“Thor,” came a weak reply. Loki had unexpectedly been partially released from his thrall, though not for the better; he was shaking his head negatively, eyes still obscured by shadow, and anguish painted across his features. He did not appear to wish to be saved in the least. One of his hands clutched at a shoulder, and he curled himself inward with another grunt of pain. His captor recovered, stood, and grabbed hold of the vulnerable Loki once again.
“You so dearly wish to keep your useless chattel? Fine; he knows well his fate. It matters not where he wastes away until its arrival, though I would have enjoyed the entertainment of his company,” he said sinisterly, tossing Loki forward with unnatural strength, right into Thor’s chest. He caught Loki clumsily, and could only watch in horror as the creature revealed an orb of silky, restless dark vapors. Said mists enveloped him and he disappeared.
Both men crashed to the glittering ground below them from the force of Loki’s impact. Once the villain had disappeared, Loki’s breathing finally started to even out, though he still remained hunched.
“Are you hurt, Loki?” Thor gathered up the smaller man and set him on his back gingerly. Loki pawed at his left shoulder, mystified by the absence of a wound. He dropped his head to the ground with a thud, arms splayed to each side.
“No, only an illusion,” he mumbled. Thor knelt on his left, fixing his brother with a weary stare.
“I have never seen you so resigned as I did, just now. Your mockery of father and me…was that because of fear? Did you know that being would come for you?”
Loki had no idea how to answer the question. He was so tired of lying, misleading – but the truth seemed too impossible to be believed. And even if Thor took his situation in stride, it wasn’t up to him; his fate had now truly been left for Odin to decide. The Other had apparently found Loki’s existence pointless enough to leave him to simple imprisonment here in Asgard, to be driven mad by the psychic link he’d left behind. No one, apparently, could find enough impetus, either from mercy or anger, to just end him.
“You did,” Thor sighed, correctly interpreting Loki’s continued silence, “It seems already you are seeing the repercussions of your decisions. I would help you, you know. Surely I have made that clear.”
Loki sat up to give Thor a challenging glare, “Merely wanting to protect someone does not give you the ability to do so. This is far beyond your grasp. Is your ego not capable of understanding I have no desire to be sheltered and coddled?”
“Can you not see you are loved and wanted here?” Thor retorted, “This is not an attempt to reform you in my image, or treat you as some fragile treasure. I want to see you stand of your own volition again, a proud and defiant child of Asgard-”
“I am not of Asgard!” Loki cried over his brother. His lament came to a shearing halt as new pain slammed into the back of his head, forcing him to fold over, tangling his fingers in his long, dark locks. The visions from earlier returned, this time in a rush of images and sound, indistinguishable from one another.
And now, it will be the link to remind you, wherever you are, of what awaits at the end of our contrivances.
Hands shaking at his shoulders broke his reverie. His consciousness returned to him, he found Thor staring him down, searching his eyes, presumably for a spark of recognition.
“What has he done to you?”
“Taken advantage of my weaknesses,” Loki answered bluntly. He remembered the moment he’d first visited Midgard, to tell Thor about Odin’s false death. The shock in his eyes, the sag of his shoulders as he realized how complete his alienage was to be – or rather, as he had believed it to be. No one would believe it now, but Loki had intended to bring Thor back, once his plans had reached full fruition, if he had achieved his ideal in Odin recognizing his adopted son’s strength and ability to rule. Thor could be a bumbling oaf, but regardless of Loki's anger at the time, he didn’t think his brother completely incompetent. What he had done, however, was in actuality not far removed from the actions that had led to Thor’s banishment. A childish grasp for power, only to realize too late how stunted their reach and ability was. Was this how Thor had felt, bound to a chair in thin metal clasps, mortally impotent and alone?
“Is this what it look like,” Loki whispered, “the view from the bottom of a grave you dug yourself?” For the first time in ages, he truly assessed his brother. Beyond the obvious outward change of his outfit and longer hair, he carried himself differently, as well – his chest no longer puffed forward in empty masculinity, and all his old, irritating swagger mysteriously absent.
How he had grown in Loki's absence.
Meanwhile, Thor’s expression shifted from mere concern to sympathetic appreciation.
“I doubt it will be any consolation to you now, but your understanding proves you are no longer falling endlessly toward greater despair. That is more than you realize.”
Loki could not begin to understand how Thor continued to lobby so hard for him to redeem himself. This was the same man who just days earlier had watched Loki murder a friend right before his eyes before dropping him to the earth without a care as to where the limits of his seeming omnipotence ended. The man whose desperate last-ditch attempts to reconcile later had been rejected and returned on the points of daggers into his sides. Recalling Thor’s expression upon Loki’s capture only confused him further – his brother’s eyes had been dull, every inch of his demeanor guarded and brimming with rage. Even Thor’s incorrigible sense of responsibility couldn’t explain this level of magnanimity. Any questions and protests, however, were cut short by Odin’s arrival on the Bifrost. Thor offered a hand to Loki, which he took so his brother could haul him to his feet. His head still swam from its assault just moments before, and it took considerable concentration just for Loki to remain upright.
“What did that beast want with you?” Odin asked without introduction, “If you intend to bring danger to this realm, I would have you answer for your misdeeds at the far end of the galaxy.”
“Let the man speak for himself,” Odin growled, verbally crushing his son’s objection before he could finish.
Meeting Odin’s exceedingly intimidating glare made fear strike acutely enough to help Loki focus his thoughts. Everything he could conjure in his mind, however, were dull excuses and verbal dodges. Being unable to hoodwink Heimdall was one thing, but Odin was the one man Loki had never truly been capable of talking around. In fact, he never could even bring himself to try, even for petty household items broken as a child, so complete was the aura of power surrounding the king. This, of course, was no simple boyhood misadventure – Loki had committed mass murder on an Asgardian-protected population. Even if he had wanted to attempt trickery, it certainly wouldn’t work now. The sheer magnitude of what he had done froze him on the spot, now that it was overwhelmingly clear Loki was not going to be able to avoid comeuppance by neither death nor evasion. Thor shuffled restlessly at the prolonged silence between his brother and father. Finally, he chose to attempt interference once again.
“Loki’s mind seems to have been poisoned by the creature that was just here,” Thor began.
“Thor!” Loki interjected with an energy he’d thought diminished, “Did I not just tell you how I detest your attempts to shield me? The visions are new. The Other had no need of them when I was willing.”
“So you do not contest your complicity?” Odin asked.
“I did not earlier, in the audience chamber. Why should I say otherwise now?”
“True, but now, this is different. More honest. I was disheartened to see that you thought I could be chided into striking you down on the spot with mere theatrics. You know I am not that cruel.” Inwardly, Loki chuckled with black humor. Indeed, he was not capable of pulling the wool over Odin’s eyes even the slightest. Thor started and took an involuntary step back in alarm.
“What? Is that what that was? I understood you were afraid, but to attempt something like that…”
“Still you continue to twist your perception of me to suit your injured ego,” Odin continued on top of Thor’s surprise.
“You lied to me,” Loki countered, all the emotion from the day he had learned of his heritage all-too-easily resurfacing in his voice, “About everything I ever was. I suppose a man content in his identity as a mighty ruler would never understand how great an upheaval that is.”
Odin said nothing for some time, choosing to simply fix Loki with a deep, unreadable stare. Neither son could bring themselves to interrupt, or even give each other sidelong glances of anxiety to break the tension.
“Do you know what purpose the Odinsleep serves?” he finally asked. Loki finally shifted an eye over to his brother – he didn’t seem to know the answer, either. They hadn’t experienced it before Thor’s exile, and the concept was so rarely spoken of, the phenomenon was shrouded in mystery even to them.
“It is a burden of my rule, and the rule of every king of Asgard before me, as well. It serves many purposes, but the foremost of them is as a test.”
“Of what?” Loki asked.
“My skill as a ruler. If the realm is effectively organized, and I have been wise in my choices, it should not necessarily require my presence all of the time, and can withstand a certain amount of crisis. It is a deliberate stressor on the kingdom and my vision for it. They can come at inconsequential times, or greatly important ones. No amount of ability in foresight can accurately predict them, so I must act in expectation of these bouts.”
Odin paused, seeming to expect Loki to latch onto his train of logic. The point proved elusive, however, so he prodded his elder on with a shrug.
“While I do not regret the action I took with Thor,” he said, giving his son a rather pointed look, “It set in motion events much more consequential than they appeared on their face. And I have realized, in retrospect, that my choice of secrecy was incorrect. Wanting to protect you by hiding the truth has cascaded into the present in a way I did not anticipate. Too long, I tried to shield you both from certain truths of the universe. My investment in your happiness as your father clouded my judgment as king in preparing you both for succession.”
“Both?” Thor and Loki spoke simultaneously.
“That had been my intent. King is merely a title - one which Thor would have received, being the eldest – but the task of ruling requires skills you each possess. I counted too heavily on your closeness as brothers rather than explain myself outright. You may be separated by blood, but you are nonetheless two sides of a single entity that, when working harmoniously, is an unstoppable force. You have both lost sight of that. Instead, each of you tries to gain the skills you lack from the other in order to appear more worthy. Both of you have acted erroneously, but I, too, shoulder a good part of this disaster.”
Odin stepped forward to stand almost nose-to-nose with his adopted son. Loki ground his molars in attempt to reroute his anxiety, lest his body outwardly betray it.
“What are you saying?” Loki asked through grit teeth, pinning Odin with a stare meant to emphasize the rhetorical nature of his question. The king had never been one for much open expression; the fact his eye’s piercing squint slackened at all, or that the corners of his mouth slipped minutely from stern to sorrowful said more than enough on its own. Loki would never allow himself to believe what was happening, however, unless Odin spoke his sentiment aloud.
“I am sorry I kept the truth from you,” the king said, slowly and deliberately, “and even if you do not believe me, I still insist that keeping you in order to broker a truce between Asgard and Jotunheim was secondary to my interest in your well-being. You are no relic to be kept hidden away. I am ashamed of and disappointed in you, but that does not change the fact you are my son, and I still hold you dear.”