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There Are No Coincidences In This World

Chapter Text

The sound of a page turning was music to Loki's ears. It was one of his most favorite sounds, but he would never admit that to anybody out loud. One noise he did not particularly enjoy was the one he was about to hear in a few seconds.

BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!

"Brother! I know you are in there!"

Loki grinded his teeth and gripped the edges of the book tightly until his fingers started to cramp up. When the assault on his door persisted, he set the book down and got up from his chair to greet his "guest." Upon opening the door, Loki saw that the other male was dressed in the same armor he always wore, but he seemed to be on a mission.

"Greetings, Brother!"

"To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?" Loki deadpanned.

"My friends and I are going on a quest! You should come with us!"

"Another one?" Thor seemed puzzled by this and Loki shook his head. "And how do your friends feel about me coming along?"

"I do not understand."

"Oh please, Thor. Even you are not that much of a fool. They do not want me there. Everyone and their grandmother knows that."

"Oh come on, Loki! It is somewhere we've never ventured before! And you can read those boring tomes any time."

"And you and your stupid friends can go gallivanting any—” Loki scowled at Thor when a smirk spread across his face. "Shut up, Thor."

"We shall see you at the Bifrost in one half hour!"

"But I never agreed to this! Thor!"

The only response he got was the man's booming laughter, which echoed throughout the corridors. Loki heaved a sigh and hit his head on the door frame a couple times in frustration. He entered his room again and started getting ready. Whenever Thor's mind was made up, and when he made other people's decisions for them, there was nothing that could be done.

~*~

After twenty minutes, all six members of the traveling party were gathered at the Bifrost. As they entered the golden sphere, they saw Heimdall stationed at his usual post. Without any verbal cues, he ascended the dais and slid his golden sword into its sheath.

There was a spiral of colors as the Bifrost awakened, then a beam of light shot out of the cone-shaped point and pierced the sky. The six Asgardians were yanked forward into the rapidly spinning doorway, and within seconds they had reached the other side.

As far as Loki was concerned, he was the only member of the group who had been left in the dark about where they were going. When he took in their surroundings, his face contorted in fury.

"Alfheim?! Thor, you said we were going somewhere we've never been!"

"I know. We haven't seen all of Alfheim," Thor said with a grin on his face.

"You stupid...I should not have come here."

"Then why did you?"

Loki turned his gaze towards Fandral and scowled at him. He wanted to slap the smirk off his smug face.

"Alright, we are going on ahead. Loki, if you want to stay here, you can."

"Fine. I'll hold the fort," Loki said petulantly as he sat cross-legged on a rock.

Thor merely shook his head and gestured for the others to follow him. Fandral had barely taken a step before falling flat on his face. While they had been arguing, Loki used his magic to tie Fandral's shoelaces together.

"LOKI!"

"Hehehe..."

After the others disappeared from sight over the hillside, Loki cradled his chin in his palm and sighed. He wished he had brought something with him for entertainment, but the thought had not occurred to him. Loki figured they were actually going somewhere interesting, not just another opportunity for Thor to show off.

"Stupid Thor."

A water droplet landed on Loki's nose, then several more on the top of his head and rolled down his scalp, through the collar of his shirt. The dirt became speckled as the rain descended harder by the second, and the sky continued to darken. The storm clouds were growing nearer, and a low rumbling could be heard in the distance. Loki got up from the rock and wrapped his arms around himself.

"Stupid Thor."

Loki held a hand up to cover his eyes, and after wandering around for several minutes, he was able to find a small cave opening. Once inside, he created a flame and held it in his palm. He uttered a spell and a majority of the rain water dried away from his hair and clothing. And people told him that learning magic was a waste of time.

After taking a few steps, there was a clattering sound. Loki lowered his hand that was holding the flame and he saw that there were bones littering the floor of the cave. Whether they were animal bones, or if they belonged to something else, he was unsure. He managed to find the edge of the cave and felt his way around until he got to another opening.

He walked inside, and at first there was nothing of interest. He suddenly reeled back when he nearly walked off the edge that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Loki took the flame in his hand and separated it into two. He then tossed one into the abyss to see what was down there, if anything.

The flame revealed stone structures, staircases, old pottery, other artifacts. There was an entire city built inside the cave. A staircase was crafted around the perimeter of the ledge and it led down into the ruins, so Loki used his other fire to help him see his surroundings. Once he made it to the bottom, Loki created several more flames and left them floating in the air.

From what he had learned in his schooling and outside reading, Loki knew nothing about any hidden ruins on Alfheim. The construction didn't seem consistent with the architecture the Elves were known for using, even the techniques that had long been abandoned.

Loki picked up a broken piece of pottery and brushed the dust off. There was writing of some sort, but it was nothing he recognized. It wasn't the script the Elves used, they were not Runes, it wasn't the language of the Vanir. Loki glanced around and saw that the writing was on the buildings and walls like graffiti.

This was not the same as other cave drawings and writings discovered by historians. There was something...different...about this place.

The room started to get darker, and at first Loki thought his flames were going out. When he turned around, he saw that the small fires were being drawn upwards to the far wall. Loki climbed on top of old houses and ascended another staircase until he reached the wall. There was a perfect circle carved into the surface, and inside the circle was a large painting. From what Loki could tell, the image appeared to be of a bird, except there was no body.

Loki laid his hand on the wall to see what kind of paint was used, and the lights went out.

~*~

Thor and the others had just claimed another victory for Asgard and were now heading back to "The Fort." The fact that they were soaked to the bone did not seem to bother them in the slightest.

"Well, I think the Elves will be pleased with us! We did them a good service today!" Thor boasted.

"I agree. And I am sure there will be a scrumptious feast awaiting us when we return."

"Volstagg, do you ever think about anything besides food?" Sif asked. "Honestly..."

There was a loud rumbling from the area they were headed, and the five stopped walking for a moment because the ground was shaking so much.

"Thor, was that you?" Fandral asked.

"No." There was more shaking.

"Isn't that coming from—?”

"Loki!"

When they reached their destination, the sixth member of their group was nowhere in sight, and the rumbling persisted. They decided to split up and search for him, Thor choosing to go alone.

"Thor! The noise is coming from this cave!" Sif shouted, followed by Hogun.

"Is Loki inside?" Thor asked, slightly out of breath.

"I do not know. He may have gone in to avoid the storm." Thor ran past her and entered the cave. "Thor wait! We don't even know what is in there!"

Thor couldn't see a thing. Just darkness. He raised Mjolnir above his head and blue sparks shot out, hitting the ceiling of the cave and spreading throughout the interior. When he saw the doorway at the other end, Thor headed towards it. The quakes were making his teeth rattle, and it was becoming harder for him to remain on his feet. Thor fired another lightning bolt inside the room, and what he saw made his heart stop.

Loki was hovering in the air, limp as a rag doll, and he was being pulled into the wall. There were curved markings on his forehead, hands and forearms that were glowing blue. The same color as the wall painting behind him. Thor kicked off with his feet and held Mjolnir in front of him as he flew in the air to the other side of the room.

"LOKI!"

Thor wrapped his arms around the smaller male and pulled as hard as he could to try and free him from the unseen captor. Suddenly they were falling and Thor grunted in pain as he crashed through the roof of a house. As he sat up, he gasped when he saw that the wall painting had attached itself to Loki's back. It seemed to be alive, glowing brighter.

There was a burst of light, and then multiple lights floated upwards and phased through the ceiling. When Thor reached for one, he could have sworn it looked like a feather.

"Thor! Thor are you alright?"

"Yes Sif, I am alright."

"What about Loki?"

"I do not know, I shall ask him. Loki, how do you fare?" There was no response. "Loki?"

Thor lifted the other male to look at him, and he appeared to be sleeping. But something about all of this seemed wrong. Thor shook Loki's shoulders and didn't get any reaction.

"Come on, Loki. This is not the time for your jokes." Thor placed a hand on his cheek, and the skin felt like ice. "No. Please don't be dead. Please."

"Thor, we need to leave. We do not know what caused the earthquakes, or if it is finished," Sif said. "Maybe the Healers can help him." Thor merely nodded.

~*~

After making it out of the cave, Heimdall opened the Bifrost and brought them home. Even though he was using Mjolnir to fly to the Healing Rooms with Loki, Thor's world was moving in slow-motion. Once Loki was brought in, Thor was told to wait outside while the Healers examined him. Sif stayed with him, saying this is more important than getting drunk with the Warriors Three.

"It is all my fault, Sif."

"You cannot blame yourself for something like this, Thor. You could not have known this was going to happen."

"This would not have happened if I hadn't pushed him into coming with us. He wouldn't be..."

"Loki is going to be fine. He is going to wake up and call you an idiot, just like he always does."

"You are right. Thank you, Sif."

Thor and Sif looked up when the door to the Healing Rooms opened and a woman approached them. Thor walked up to her to ask how Loki was doing, but closed his mouth when he saw the solemn expression on her face.

Chapter Text

Thor clenched and unclenched his fists as the woman merely stood there silently. She seemed hesitant to say anything, as if the only thing she could tell him was bad news.

“How is he? How is my brother?”

“It would be better if you saw him, yourself.”

She turned around and entered the room, expecting Thor to follow her. He looked over his shoulder at Sif, and she too accompanied them. They continued to the far corner of the room, and there were curtains drawn. Even though the Healers had yet to tell him any news, Thor was hoping the sense of privacy didn't mean...

The fabric was pulled away, and Thor had to hold back a sigh of relief when he saw that Loki was still breathing. He was much more pale than usual, almost as white as the bed sheets, but he was still alive.

“He looks so peaceful,” Sif said quietly.

Thor nodded and brushed a few stray bangs from his forehead. He recoiled at the ice-cold sensation, as if it burned him.

“Why is he so cold?”

“He is dying.”

Thor and Sif turned their attention towards the source of the voice and saw an older woman standing at the foot of the bed. She was the Elder Healer.

“Dying? How? I thought you were able to heal him! That's what you do, is it not?”

“Thor,” Sif scolded.

“There is nothing to heal,” the Elder Healer commented. “Just an empty shell.”

“He is breathing, meaning he is still alive,” Thor retorted. “My brother is not an empty shell!”

The door slammed open, and clacking high heels echoed in the room. Sif took a few steps back as Frigga rushed over and knelt next to the bed, clutching at Loki's hand.

“Perhaps we should discuss this elsewhere,” Thor murmured.

“No. I wish to know what happened to my child,” Frigga said with a slight tremor to her voice.

Thor had been watching his mother, so when a hand pressed against his forehead, he nearly jumped out of his skin.

“Pardon me, Your Highness. I need to know what you saw,” the Elder Healer said. “Try to remember it as vividly as you can.”

Thor closed his eyes and concentrated on what happened inside the cave.

It was dark, and the ground was shaking. When he first walked inside, he stepped on some bones, but he wasn't sure if they belonged to animals or Elves. He used Mjolnir to help him see, and he found another room. Loki was inside, being pulled into the wall. He was glowing, and there were blue lines on his arms.

There was a painting behind him, and it looked like wings. When he pulled Loki out of the wall, the painting came with them. It was glowing too, and then it exploded and disappeared through the ceiling. Loki wouldn't wake up, and he was so cold.

The hand on Thor's forehead moved away, and Thor felt like he couldn't breathe. He was lightheaded and sat down on the bed behind him.

“Thor, are you alright?” Sif asked.

“Yes. I am fine.” Thor looked at the Elder Healer, and she seemed to be very deep in thought. “What has happened to him?”

“I do not know what that place was. But what I do know is that the lights you saw were Prince Loki's memories.”

“His memories? How can you be sure?”

“That painting you saw in the cave, when it appeared to attach itself to his back...it had fused with his heart. Powerful magic laid dormant in that place, and when it felt Prince Loki's magic, it latched onto him like a starving animal with scraps.” Thor and Sif looked at each other with wide eyes. “If my hypothesis is correct, Prince Loki's memories seem to have scattered throughout the Nine Realms. And if they are not found, he will die.”

“How will I know if I have found one? What do his memories look like?”

“Feathers?” A voice said from below. They looked at Frigga, who was holding a pale blue feather between her fingers. “It was stuck to your cape.”

“What a coincidence,” Thor chuckled, taking the feather from his mother.

“There are no coincidences in this world,” the Elder Healer said. Thor looked at her with a puzzled expression.

“Maybe you unconsciously grabbed one,” Sif suggested.

Thor shrugged, not really sure what she meant by that. He placed the feather on Loki's chest, and it was absorbed into his body. Frigga let out a gasp.

“He feels warmer.”

“I wonder how many of them there are,” Sif muttered. Thor quietly excused himself and headed towards the exit. “Thor, where are you going?”

“Getting ready.”

~*~

Thor could not remember ever packing for a trip this quickly in his life. He just hoped he had enough possessions with him...and the right ones. When he opened the door to his room, he stopped short. His four friends were standing outside with their own packs.

“My friends, what are you all doing here?”

“Waiting for you,” Fandral answered.

“Look, I appreciate the notion, but this is my burden. I am the cause of all this, so I am the one who will go—”

“Shut up, Thor,” Sif interjected. “Enough with this stubborn act. You need our help whether you want to believe it or not.”

“Alright. But I cannot just abandon my duties to Asgard for...I do not even know how long this will take. I must tell my father about this journey.”

“We shall meet you at the Bifrost shortly.”

As he watched his friends go, Thor went in the other direction to the throne room. He left his belongings outside, excluding Mjolnir, then entered the room empty-handed. When he was several feet away from the dais, he got down on one knee and set Mjolnir on the floor.

“What is it, my son?”

“I am sure that you have already heard about Loki.”

“Yes. Such a pity.” Thor furrowed his eyebrows at the man's comment. “The point, Thor.”

“It is my fault this has happened to him, and while I do not wish to neglect my duties to Asgard, I also cannot neglect my duties as an older brother.” Thor curled his hand into a fist, trying to get his breathing under control. “I have been told that Loki's memories are scattered throughout the Nine Realms, so I must search for them. If I do not, he will die.”

“No.”

“What?”

“One life in exchange for hundreds is no contest. I cannot allow you to go.”

“But Father—!”

“Send someone else in your place if you must, but you are to stay here,” Odin said as he stood up from his throne.

“Do you not care about him? Are you not concerned about his well-being?”

“He was supposed to be dead long ago!”

“What are you saying?” When he received no answer, Thor got up from the floor and climbed the stairs. “What do you mean he is supposed to be dead?!”

“Enough!” Odin narrowed his one good eye at him. “This discussion is finished!

Thor breathed heavily through his nose then stomped out of the room. He grabbed his pack from the floor and headed towards the Healing Rooms.

~*~

When he opened the doors, he saw that Loki was no longer on the bed at the far end of the room. He wasn't anywhere. Thor walked up to the nearest staff member and asked where he had been moved.

“Prince Loki was taken by your friends. They came and got him just a short while ago.”

Thor ran out of the room and nearly crashed into someone. When he righted himself, he saw that he had almost knocked over his mother.

“Mother, I am so sorry.”

“You should be more careful, Thor.”

“Loki has been moved. I do not know where my friends have taken him—”

“They did not tell you? To the Bifrost.”

“What? But Loki is in no condition to travel with us. He is not even awake.”

“I know that, but it was my idea. You can't really expect to keep track of all the feathers you collect. You saw what happened to the one you brought here.” Thor pondered over this, remembering how it was absorbed into Loki's body. “It would be much easier if Loki was with you, and you know this.”

“Yes, I know. I just...I am worried something will happen to him. He is so vulnerable this way.”

“I trust you to take care of him. That is your job as his older brother.” Thor smiled at her, but it went away just as quickly.

“Father does not want me to go. He said it would be better to let Loki die.”

“I shall handle your father. If there is anyone in this world he will listen to, it's me.”

“Thank you, Mother,” Thor said as he drew her into a hug.

“I wish you the best of fortune in your journey.”

After pressing one final kiss on her forehead, Thor departed from Frigga and went to join his friends.

~*~

When he reached the Bifrost, he saw that they had brought one of the horses from the stables. He figured it must have been in case Loki remained in his comatose state for sometime, and they wouldn't have to carry him everywhere.

Heimdall was waiting inside the Observatory, and when they approached him, he remained stationary.

“Because this is a unique operation, it will require a unique means of transport,” the Gatekeeper said in his booming voice. “Prince Loki's memory fragments are scattered throughout the Nine Realms, but there are other worlds outside those known to us.”

“What do you mean?” Thor asked.

“While this universe exists, other universes exist simultaneously. There are other Asgards besides our own. Other Midgards and Alfheims...”

“So what you are saying is there could be two different versions of us?” Fandral asked.

“Yes, and no. These other universes may not always follow the same flow of time as we do. They could be in the past, the Asgard of your father's father. Or the Asgard that will prosper after your lives have ended.”

While they were carrying on their conversation, Thor climbed up on the horse and once comfortably situated, Hogun passed Loki up to him. Thor wrapped his arm around Loki's middle, keeping a solid hold on him in case the travel between worlds should become perilous.

“Heimdall, how will we know if we have found one of Loki's feathers? Will they always be in a world we visit?” Sif questioned.

“I cannot say. Only Loki will know. Because they are a part of him, he will be the one to feel their presence.”

“But he is unconscious. How can we expect to find them if he is not awake to help us?”

“The first place to look is for signs of unnatural phenomenons.” Sif was about to interrupt him, but he stopped her. “You will understand my meaning when you see it.”

“And how do we let you know when we want to travel to a different world?” Thor asked.

“The same way you always contact me,” Heimdall replied with the smallest upward curve of his lips.

Before Thor and the others had a moment to prepare themselves, Heimdall had already opened the doorway, and the beam of light shot through the darkening sky. They could feel their feet sliding across the floor as the wind gusts coaxed them towards the portal. The horse noticed it too, and Thor had to try and calm it down when it attempted to buck them off.

“Good luck.”

Chapter Text

The sky was dark, and the clouds were heavy with rainwater. Woodland animals were gathered at a nearby watering hole for a drink, but a disturbance from above made them scatter, quickly disappearing into the trees as if they had never been there.

The clouds separated, and a pillar of light struck the ground. As the colorful rays dissipated, all life seemed to go quiet. The wind ceased in its gusts, the leaves of trees and bushes stilled. The animals that had been so eager to let down their guards for just a short moment, were silent as the dead.

Only the figures on top of the hill showed any signs of awareness. The four standing at ground level took in their surroundings, keeping a firm hold on the weapons they held in their hands. The man on the horse was pulling on the reins, because the animal kept stomping its hooves and snorting.

Judging by his frustrated expression, this had been going on for quite sometime.

“Which one of you picked this horse? It is a menace!”

“Sif did it,” Fandral said.

“What?! I did not, Fandral!”

“I think, perhaps, it would be wisest for you to tone down on all of the shouting,” Hogun suggested. “We do not know what may be watching. Or listening.”

“Right. Sorry,” Sif mumbled. “But I'm still not the one who picked the horse,” she hissed before stomping on Fandral's foot.

“At this rate, if I cannot get it to calm down...” He looked ready to give up. “Here, somebody help me with Loki.”

Hogun walked over and managed to catch the unconscious figure that was nearly dropped on the ground. Once the blonde had hopped off the horse, it galloped off, vanishing into the woods with the other creatures.

“Sorry about the horse, Thor,” the red-haired man said.

“Think nothing of it, Volstagg. It was too much effort to deal with and would have gotten us killed, anyway.” He walked over to Hogun and took Loki from him. “So, where are we? Any ideas?”

“Judging by the environment, this could be Vanaheim, Alfheim, Asgard, or Midgard,” Sif said.

“This definitely isn't Asgard, we are sure of that,” Fandral said.

“Oh? And how is that?”

“Does this look like Asgard to you?”

“Not our Asgard. Remember what Heimdall said? We may end up in Asgard, but it could be in the past, or the future. Who knows where he'll send us?”

“I am still trying to wrap my head around all of this,” Fandral chuckled and rubbed the back of his head.

A drop of water splashed on his hand. He looked up, and he squinted when another drop landed in his eye.

“Seriously, Thor?” Sif remarked.

“What? It's not me.”

“Well, can't you...turn it off or something?” Fandral asked.

Thor grumbled under his breath, then he closed his eyes. He breathed through his nose slowly, and his brow furrowed in concentration. For a few seconds nobody moved, and then Thor cracked an eye open. Nothing had changed, and it was still raining. Actually, it was raining harder.

“That usually works.”

“We should get Loki out of the rain,” Sif said as she pointed towards the woods. “Since we do not know what is in there, let's just stay near the edge.”

“Right. Good plan.”

~*~

After they made sure all of their belongings were secure, they picked up their packs and headed towards the woods. What had been deafening noise before went completely silent, because as soon as they crossed the threshold into the forest, the noise of the rain was gone.

Thor propped Loki against a tree and wrapped a blanket around him. He wiped some wet hair out of his face, and he released a sigh of disappointment because he was cold again. Thor looked out towards the open valley and saw that the rain hadn't seemed to let up, but it was still completely silent within the forest.

“It's a bit strange about the rain, is it not—?” When he looked over his shoulder at his friends, Thor saw that they had not yet gotten settled. They were standing completely still, as if they were...frozen. “My friends, what is wrong? Is this place insufficient?”

He approached Sif, and when he laid a hand on her shoulder, it felt as if she was made of stone. Thor pulled his hand back, and when he looked at her face closely, there was no movement of her eyes. None of his friends were moving. But why was he?

Thor stepped away from the others and walked back over to the tree where he had left Loki. For a moment, he clutched at his wet hair and tried to get his breathing under control, but he was finding it nearly impossible.

Thor looked down at the other male. Ever since he had saved him from that thing in the cave, if he could call it “saving,” Loki's outer appearance had not changed. If it wasn't for the slight movement of his breathing, Thor would have believed that Loki was frozen, too.

He got down on one knee in front of Loki and placed a hand on his shoulder. Thor could even feel his cold skin through the blanket. Thor had to try not to take out his frustrations by squeezing Loki's shoulder.

“I need your help, Loki. They are not moving, and they could be dead.” Thor clenched his other fist and took in a shuddering breath. “There is something in these woods that has frozen them, but for some reason we are immune. I do not know how to help them. Please Loki, tell me what to do.”

He stood up with a huff and stomped out through the trees. The pounding drops made his eardrums ache, but he didn't care. His soaked cape was weighing him down, but he didn't care. He was clenching his hands so tightly, that his nails were cutting into the skin of his palms. But he didn't care.

“WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?!”

For the first time since he arrived, Thor had free reign over the storm. Lightning flashed across the sky, and thunder shook the ground beneath his feet. Thor knew that now was not the time for this, however. He needed to focus on figuring out a way to save his friends from whatever was holding them captive.

He turned around and entered the forest, and the sound of the rain vanished once again. Thor wiped at his face and rubbed the water out of his eyes, but no matter how much he tried, he couldn't think of the cause as to what was happening. But then he remembered something that Heimdall had told them: the first thing to look for would be strange phenomenons.

“What if this is because of Loki's feather?”

Thor didn't know where to start looking, or how vast these woods actually were. And he had no idea whether or not he was the only life form that was still able to move. He didn't even know where they were!

Thor knew it would do him no good to just stand there thinking about it. He looked around to make sure there was no one, and nothing, nearby. And after one last check to see if Loki was...okay...he ventured into the woods.

~*~

Several minutes passed, and Thor didn't cross paths with any other creatures. This both relieved him and unsettled him. He remembered their horse running in here, so it would be inevitable for him to see it at some point. Unless something happened to it.

As he continued through the labyrinth of plant life, Thor became more and more on edge. It was almost as if he wanted to find something potentially life-threatening. Anything was better than this eerie stillness and feeling of helplessness.

“Maybe it is not here. I have been searching for a long time, and still I find nothing.”

As if in answer to his musings, a faint light shown through the trees up ahead. Without any hesitation, Thor approached it, and when he reached the edge of the trees, he had to gather himself.

It was almost as if he had entered an oasis. The grass beneath his boots was soft and dry, as if the rain had not touched it. A shallow brook cut through the center of the area, which opened into a small lake with water as clear as glass. What surprised Thor the most was all of the different bird songs around him. From where he was standing, Thor could count at least twenty birds flitting about.

He spotted a large shape on the left side of the watering hole, and he had to resist the urge to roll his eyes when he realized it was the horse. But he now knew why he hadn't seen any animals earlier. They were all here. But why? What was so significant about this place?

At the very center of the circle, on a mildly steep hill, was a large tree surrounded by thick shrubs. The tree had a bent and twisted trunk, and the branches were covered with red berries. The shrubs also had similar red berries. As Thor looked closer, he could see a bluish light coming from a hole inside the trunk. He had a feeling he knew what it was.

When he tried to reach for it, something blocked his hand from even touching the tree. He pulled his hand back, because whatever was barring him made his hand go numb. He made another attempt, and this time he kept pressing forward. There was some sort of barrier around the tree.

“No. No no no no no. Why won't you...let! Me! Pass!”

Thor pulled Mjolnir from its holster and struck it against the barrier. The shock waves thrummed throughout his entire body and into the ground. The water sloshed behind him, and the animals fled into the forest. There seemed to be no affect on the barrier, but a creaking sound made Thor look down.

The shrubs around the tree turned out to be holly bushes, and they were growing like vines. A few tendrils inched across the ground before wrapping around Thor's ankles and cutting through the material of his boots. The sharp points of the leaves scraped the skin of his legs, but he had no time to worry about it.

Thor held Mjolnir towards the sky and called upon the storm, sending a lightning bolt down and striking the tree. He did so again and again. He had to reach up and cover his mouth and nose when the smell of rotting flesh filled the air. He had no idea where it was coming from, because he figured he was the only living being who had not run away.

This time there was creaking from above, and now the tree branches were moving towards him. If he thought the holly leaves were pointy, then he was sorely mistaken. The thorns on this tree had to be an inch long, and they were trying to fillet Thor.

He brought another lightning bolt down on the tree, and for a few seconds it recoiled. He reached for the feather, but the branches lashed out at him faster than he could blink. Blood was running from his scalp into his eyes, and the stench of decaying flesh was making him nauseous. By now the holly was up to his knees, and it was trying to pull him to the ground.

Knowing this would probably be his last chance, Thor struck the tree once more. He did not wait for the tree to react and he pushed forward as hard as he could. He stuck his hand inside the trunk and grabbed the feather, and when he pulled away, he fell backwards and landed on the ground.

The holly retracted and the tree branches, for the most part, straightened themselves as much as they could with regards to how much damage Thor had inflicted. Once he was certain the plants wouldn't attack him again, Thor got up from the ground, brushed his hands on his pants, and returned to the forest.

Chapter Text

The journey back to his friends seemed much shorter to Thor than the first time when he was venturing inside. Of course, before he had been focused on intently observing his surroundings. This time he merely had his gaze turned ahead of him, and he wasn't really searching for anything.

When he reached the spot where their group had entered the woods, Thor's heart sank upon seeing that his friends were still immobile.

“How can this be? I retrieved the feather, and the magic seems to have stopped affecting the trees. Then why has nothing changed...?” Thor visibly wilted as he looked down at the feather he clutched in his left hand. “Oh.”

He turned towards Loki, who had unsurprisingly not moved a single inch since Thor left. He knelt in front of him and lowered the blanket down to his elbows. Thor took in a shuddering breath, and then he held the feather up to Loki's chest. It vanished through the fabric of his shirt, just as it had before.

“So, I think the best way to go about this would be—” Sif's voice cut through the silence.

“Sif! Thank the Nine you are alright!” Thor shouted as he stood from the ground and immediately embraced his female companion. “All of you!”

“Of course we are, Thor. We have barely even started—”

“Good gods, Thor. What happened to you?” Volstagg asked.

Sif managed to lean away to see what her friend meant, and when she saw the blood, a gasp escaped her lips.

“A tree attacked me,” Thor answered with a slightly noncommittal shrug.

“Clearly we have missed something.”

“I hate to interrupt your conversation, but Sleeping Beauty is awake,” Fandral said.

Thor nearly barreled over Fandral in his attempt to quickly get to Loki. He lowered himself into a crouch next to him, and he had to refrain from touching him. The others soon were gathered around at a safe enough distance, silently watching.

Loki still had his eyes closed and looked like he was having a bad dream. He was squirming and appeared to be trying to relearn how to use his limbs. There was a collective intake of breath as the first hint of green was visible. With the slowness of molasses, Loki blinked open both eyes.

“Loki, thank goodness you are awake! How are you feeling?” Thor asked eagerly.

As soon as the man on the ground took in the appearance of the one who addressed him, his eyes widened. He attempted to back away from him, only to have his means of escape prevented by a tree.

“Thor, don't get so close to him,” Sif scolded. “Even if he did know who you were, anyone would be startled by all of the blood covering your face.”

“Oh. Yes, I forgot about that.” Thor wiped his face and head with his cape, hoping he had made some improvement to his appearance.

“Loki, my name is Sif,” the woman said in a soft voice.

“Who is 'Loki'? Why do you keep calling me that?” Loki asked sharply, occasionally darting his eyes towards Thor as if he was worried he might try to attack him.

You are. That is your name.”

“Oh...” Loki nibbled on his bottom lip.

“Loki, how much do you know about yourself?”

For several seconds the young man was silent, and judging by the look on his face, the question made him uncomfortable.

“I don't...um...” He scratched the back of his head. “I don't think I know anything. Except my name, I suppose.”

“Well, that is why we are all here. To help you remember everything about yourself.”

“But who are you? And why would this be of any relevance to you?”

“As I said before, my name is Sif. This is Fandral, Volstagg, and Hogun,” Sif said, gesturing to each man respectively. “Where we come from, they are also known as The Warriors Three. We are your friends.”

“And this big lug is your older brother, Thor,” Fandral said jovially, slapping Thor on the back.

“My brother?” Thor nodded with a smile on his face. “And...where exactly do you...we...come from?”

“Asgard! One of the Nine Realms of Yggdrasil. Odin All-Father and Frigga are our parents, and we are pri—”

“Whoa, slow down there, Thor. Let's not tell him everything at once. He just woke up,” Sif said. “We should get you off the ground.”

Loki was a bit shaky on his legs, understandably, so he had to lean against the tree at first. Thor had a pout on his face for being interrupted, but he knew that Sif was right. As the rest of the group talked amongst themselves, inquiring about Loki's health and debating what their next course of action should be, Hogun's full attention was focused on the tree.

“Thor, come take a look at this.”

“Hmm?” When he was standing next to his friend, the man pointed at a place on the trunk. Specifically, where Loki had been sitting just moments before.

“What do you make of these markings?”

As far as Thor could tell, it didn't appear to be any form of writing. It was just a long, straight, vertical line with shorter lines and dashes crossing it along the length. The spacing would hint that it had to mean something, but he had no idea what it could be.

“This is as much a mystery to me as it is to you.”

“Did you happen to see anything similar when you went into the woods?” Thor shook his head. “Curious.”

“I do not know why Loki and I were unaffected by the feather's magic, but I hope in our future travels that we do not encounter similar perils.”

“Thor, Hogun, I believe we are ready to depart,” Sif spoke.

“Very well,” Thor replied.

With a nod from the other man, they stepped away from the tree and went to join their friends. After passing the threshold of the forest perimeter, the group was somewhat surprised to find that it was no longer raining. The sun was still hidden behind the clouds, but the weather had cleared up significantly.

“This place is so strange. I wonder where we are,” Volstagg muttered.

“We do not have time to dwell over that. We must move on,” Thor said to the man firmly. “Heimdall, we are ready to travel to the next world.” Just as before, the clouds separated and began to form a whirlwind. Loki appeared as if he wanted to turn around and run back into the woods, but a hand on his shoulder made him look up. “It is alright,” Thor said gently. “I will keep you safe. I promise.”

Loki stared at him for a few seconds, then lowered his gaze to the ground. He swallowed thickly and slowly nodded his head. He was not convinced, but he didn't exactly have a choice.

What Loki was not aware of was that Thor also had doubts about his own words. After all, if he had just done his job like he was supposed to, then Loki would not have gotten hurt. If he hadn't failed at protecting his brother, then they would not even be here.

Just as the Bifrost pulled them up into the clouds, Thor felt a hand grip his upper arm.

~*~

The feeling of flying only lasted for a few short seconds, and the group found themselves soon touching down on solid ground once again. As soon as the Bifrost's power fully returned to their home realm and the area around them cleared, all they could see was green. But it did not come from a natural source.

Pale gray and blue rock formations rose up around them, and the ground was uneven, but something about it didn't feel right. And beyond that were green walls that extended higher than they could see.

“CUT!”

The Asgardians looked around for the source of the voice and saw a man sitting in a tall, rickety chair. He was wearing a bulky black object around his neck, and he had been looking through some sort of metal telescope, but it wasn't pointed towards the sky and it was still daylight. The man sighed, got out of his chair, and walked over to them.

“What are you guys doing? We've already filmed this scene. Chris, you are supposed to be talking to Laufey,” the man said. Thor merely stared at him, wondering what the man was talking about and why he was specifically addressing him. “You aren't even in the right costumes. Where is Wardrobe?!”

“Ken, what's going on? Why have we stopped filming?”

Loki turned his head when he heard his voice. His eyes widened as a man who looked exactly like him walked towards them. Following behind him were five others...and they looked like Sif, Thor, and the Warriors Three.

“Wait...Tom?” The man with the strange neck device remarked. He looked back and forth between the two groups.

“Wow, casting sure picked some good stunt actors for us,” the man who looked like Thor commented, but his accent was different.

“Yeah, I don't think we've even been properly introduced. I'm Jaimie,” the Sif lookalike said as she held out a hand. Sif narrowed her eyes and placed a hand on her sword.

“Thor, what the Hel is going on? Where are we?” Sif hissed.

“What makes you think I know?” Thor said incredulously.

“Alright, alright. Let's take...fuck it,” Ken groaned. “We'll start again when I say so.”

As the movie crew and extras scattered, the Asgardians and six actors remained where they were. They continued to look at each other suspiciously, except for Tom, who was excited enough about this for all of them.

“Thor, this could be dangerous. We need to figure out where we are,” Fandral said in a hushed voice, turning his back towards the actors in case they were trying to listen in on their conversation.

“Are you really gods?”

Everyone looked at Tom, who had a huge grin on his face. While his co-workers rolled their eyes, because they were used to this, the Asgardians became even more apprehensive. When Tom turned his gaze towards Loki, he stiffened and moved to hide behind Thor's larger frame.

“Wow, I had expected him to be a bit more...Loki-ish,” the man who looked like Fandral commented with a raised eyebrow.

“Josh...” Jaimie whispered.

A low growl caught the attention of all of them, and while the actors merely glanced around, the Asgardians, minus Loki, drew their weapons and took a stance of attack. They were all on edge, and they became even more tense when they heard the noise again. It became apparent that it was very near to them. Tom started laughing when he saw Loki press his hands to his stomach.

“How about some lunch?”

“But we cannot partake in sustenance when we are in danger!” Thor exclaimed. Tom pointed at Loki, and when Thor looked at him, Loki blushed and shrunk under his gaze.

“There is no danger here. Come on, there's plenty to choose from.”

Despite what Tom said about there being no real threat, the Asgardians were still uneasy. But when they saw the long tables covered with plates of food, they completely forgot about what they had been worrying over.

While Thor and his friends piled food onto their own plates, bumping into each other and occasionally fighting over one particular piece of chicken that Thor and Volstagg both wanted, Loki stood over to the side to avoid getting trampled on. Tom had come over to stand next to him, and for some reason he was staring at him. It made Loki a bit uncomfortable, so he turned his back towards the other male and rubbed his arm nervously.

“I'm sorry.”

“For what?” Loki mumbled, still not facing him.

“It's just...since I'm portraying you, and now that I'm actually meeting you, it would be wonderful to learn about you. But all I'm doing is making you feel uncomfortable.”

“It's alright.” Tom didn't believe him, but he wasn't finished. “Besides, I am afraid I won't be of much help to you.”

“What do you mean?”

“It would seem that I know as little about myself as you do.”

Loki rubbed his hands together, as if he was trying to keep warm. But from what Tom knew of the comic book character, as well as the version from legend, that couldn't be the reason. There was something weighing heavily on his mind, and it had been for quite some time. Much longer than just the short amount of time since the Asgardians had arrived.

“Did something happen to you?”

Chapter Text

After everyone had gotten their food, Tom led the Asgardians over to a table with several empty chairs. He never considered warning them about how unsteady foldout chairs can be, so Thor and Volstagg nearly tipped over when they sat down. They would have taken the whole table with them if they didn't have the reflexes they did.

The hostility the warriors felt towards the actors began to dwindle as their meal went on. It turned out that both versions were similar, in most cases. Jaimie tried to talk to her counterpart and learn more about her, but Sif's scowl remained intact and her hand never strayed very far from her sword. And then there was Loki.

Tom didn't want to push him too hard, but clearly there was something weighing heavily on Loki's mind. And from the way he was acting around Thor, it appeared that they had a different relationship from the one he knew of. It was as if they didn't even talk to each other.

“Loki, you seem very troubled.” When the other male didn't respond, Tom continued cautiously. “Do you want to talk about it? I'll listen.” Loki was quiet again, and Tom thought he wasn't going to answer him.

“I have nothing to say.” Tom had to lean forward so he could hear him. “I opened my eyes, and I was on the ground in a forest. They were standing over me. Sif told me my name is Loki and that they are my friends.”

“And you know nothing else?”

“Well...it is a bit foggy. But I was able to see something when I was waking up. I did not tell them about it.”

“Why not?”

“I did not think it was important at the time. And we left in such a rush.” Loki shrugged and pushed his food around on his Dixie plate.

“What did you see?” Tom wanted to take his question back when the other man froze.

“It was dark, and it was snowing. I was being carried by someone.” He furrowed his brow as he tried to recall his vision. It had quickly slipped his mind after he saw it, so this was not the easiest thing. “We went into a room, and I was placed on the floor. He was so much...larger than me.”

“What did he look like?”

“Well...” Loki looked up from the table and glanced over Tom's shoulder. “There. The man Ken is talking to.”

Tom turned around and looked for his friend and former co-star. When he saw who Loki was referring to, he choked on air.

“You're sure?” Tom asked as he rounded on Loki. “You're absolutely sure?” Loki nodded.

“Why? Is that bad?”

Tom swallowed thickly and rotated slightly in his chair. His gaze moved towards the two men again and he tightened his jaw.

“I don't know, yet.”

After Ken walked away to talk to one of the cameramen, the other man remained, flipping through the script and mouthing to himself. Covered in artificial ice and painted blue was the man from Loki's vision: Laufey, in human form.

~*~

After lunch, Thor's ego got the better of him, again, and he decided it would be a good idea to see whose Mjolnir was bigger between he and Chris. The actual hammer, not the other one. Chris tried to tell him it was only a prop, but Thor would have none of it.

It looked like a showdown in an old Western movie. Both men standing several feet apart, facing each other. Whether they would draw their guns—or rather hammers—at the same time, was uncertain. It would have probably been better, and less cheesy, if they didn't. Fewer eye rolls, at least.

Chris just held the fake hammer out and dangled it by the strap to show how lightweight it was. When Thor pulled his from his waist, his eyes nearly burst from their sockets. He looked down at the weapon in his hand and stared fiercely at it, as if it had insulted him.

“What is the meaning of this?”

“Uh, sorry, mate. You're gonna have ta be more specific there.”

“What have you done with Mjolnir? This is a fake!” He threw it at the ground and it tumbled before landing at Chris's feet. “Tell me this instant where you have hidden it.”

“Wait, you think I did somethin' with it? Isn't it, like, heavy?”

“He is right, Thor. They couldn't have taken Mjolnir,” Sif commented.

While Thor threw his tantrum and the others tried to calm him down before he potentially caused a thunderstorm that might ruin their filming, Loki was standing further away from the group, looking at something elsewhere. Tom walked over to him and looked for what he was observing.

“What's got your curiosity?”

“How many of those hammer props do you have?”

“Several. Why do you ask?”

“Is that one?”

He was pointing towards an open space where a strange rock formation was protruding from the ground. The rest was somewhat difficult to see, but the handle was fairly distinguishable.

“Yeah. It's for another scene. Mjolnir's embedded in the ground and Thor tries to pull it free, but he can't because he's not worthy to wield its power yet. Earlier in the movie, he makes a huge mistake that leads to the Frost Giants declaring war on Asgard and is banished to Earth and loses his powers, including the ability to use the hammer.”

“Something about that prop feels different from the others. I cannot explain it in words.”

“Do you wanna go see it?”

“Yes. But we should probably tell Thor.”

“Yeah. He's probably calmed down by now.”

~*~

As Tom said, Thor had calmed down...a little bit. He wasn't ranting and raving anymore, but he was obviously still in a bad mood and would punch anyone who looked at him the wrong way. Tom decided that Loki should be the one to tell him, since there was a greater chance that he wouldn't hurt Loki.

“Thor, I believe Tom and I may have found Mjolnir,” he said quietly.

“You have? Excellent! Where?” Tom was amazed at how quickly Thor's mood improved.

“We are not fully certain, but another one of the hammer props is over there. I noticed that there is something strange about it. Like an odd feeling.”

“Maybe it is one of your feathers.”

“Feathers?” Thor smiled, but there was a slight sadness behind it.

“It is nothing. Will you take me there?” Thor said as he laid a hand on Loki's shoulder.

Loki looked down at the hand on his shoulder, and Thor immediately removed it. The younger sibling then turned and began walking away, and Thor soon followed him. Tom watched the exchange and wondered to himself what must have happened between the two of them for such a rift to form. He too accompanied them, a few paces behind so as not to get in the way. After all, he was only human.

When they arrived at their destination, Thor immediately circled the makeshift pedestal and examined it. He scrutinized the construction of the rock formation and the artificial ground around it. He chewed on his bottom lip and hummed contemplatively. Finally, after over a minute of walking around in circles, he stopped and placed his hands on his hips.

“This makes no sense. How could I not have noticed the exchange? How were they exchanged?” He huffed in frustration. “I should have noticed that I was not holding the real Mjolnir in my hand.”

“Can you get it out?” Tom asked.

“Loki, can you feel any sort of magic within this structure?”

Loki nodded and got down on his knees. He ran his hands along the rock, and he could feel a faint thrumming. He moved lower towards the ground and it got stronger, and then he noticed a faint blue light.

“I can see something. It looks like it's glowing.”

“Is it blue?” Loki jerked his head up towards Thor and furrowed his brow.

“Yes. But...how did you know?”

“I would say 'lucky guess,' but then I would be lying.” Thor heaved a sigh. “With regards to your question, Mr. Hiddleston, I do not have a solid answer for you. If I do manage to remove Mjolnir from this...whatever it is...it will not be easy.”

“Well, I don't know if it'll work, but we could try breaking apart the artificial rock that's surrounding it,” Tom suggested.

“But doesn't that cost money?” Thor asked.

“Yeah, but there are loads more expensive things we destroy multiple times on a daily basis. Besides, later in the movie, Mjolnir does return to Thor, the character I mean, and the effects team has to alter this a bit when the hammer first breaks free. After that it's all CGI, computer-generated imagery, and green screen.”

Tom was trying his best to explain it in simple terms so that the two Asgardians might understand him, but it didn't seem to be working.

“Look, don't worry. If we get in trouble, I'll take the blame.”

“Are you certain? I mean, we would not want you to lose your job,” Thor said.

“I won't get fired. Besides, if anything, Ken would just chew me out for messing with the set. I'm used to it, since we worked together on a TV show and that's pretty much how our characters interacted with each other.”

“Well...if you are sure.”

“Getting your hammer back is the most important thing right now. Right?”

“Yes. You are right,” Thor said with a forced smile. “Now, what exactly does your plan entail?”

“Hehe, ironically...we need a hammer.” The dumbfounded expression on Thor's face would have been hilarious, if the situation were different. "Don't go anywhere."

~*~

While they waited for Tom to get back, Loki was deeply caught up in removing the dirt from under his fingernails, the dainty thing.

Thor had been wanting to ask him how he was feeling since he regained consciousness. His mood seemed to have improved while they were here, probably because of Tom. It made sense, seeing how they looked so similar. And Tom was just a nice person in general who seemed to get along well with everyone.

Thor held back the small ounce of jealousy he felt towards the man, but it was not his fault. Tom was the best thing that had happened to Loki in a very long time, and Thor could never compete with that. If they weren't on this mission and needed Loki with them, Thor might have considered asking Loki if he wanted to stay. He seemed a lot happier here than he ever was on Asgard.

“Sorry that took so long! Everyone thought I was experiencing one of my 'episodes' again,” Tom said and rolled his eyes.

“'Episodes'?” Loki asked.

“Oh, I was originally supposed to be cast for the Thor role, so they think when I pick up one of the hammer props that I'm shifting back into the Thor character and I'll start swinging it at people.” His expression turned conspiratorial and he held the hand with the nails up to his mouth. “The truth is, I'm more like Loki. Props mysteriously disappearing and all that.”

Loki wasn't exactly sure if that was what he was like, if he made things mysteriously disappear like Tom said. All he could do was nod and pretend that he understood.

“Now, it's simple. All we need to do is chip at this rock until it breaks apart and you can get your hammer back.” Thor looked a bit uncomfortable, and Tom thought he was going to be sick. “What's the matter, Thor? Beneath your pay grade?”

Loki chuckled and Thor scowled at Tom. He puffed up his chest and clenched his hands into fists until the knuckles were cracking.

“Step aside, Midgardian. I shall show you who has the higher pay grade. I swear, by Odin All-Father, I will not bring dishonor to Asgard.”

“Be my guest, Sir.” Tom offered the hammer and nails to the flustered god.

Thor took the items and, grumbling under his breath, crouched on the ground. He set all of the nails except one down and held it pinched between his thumb and forefinger. With all the concentration and discipline he could muster, Thor struck the hammer against the head of the nail.

Chapter Text

Three sets of eyes widened in awe when the nail fell from between Thor's fingers and bounced on the artificial dirt. It was nearly bent in half. Thor picked up the nail and stared at it with a confused expression on his face.

“I assume that wasn't supposed to happen,” Tom said. “How hard did you hit it?”

“That is the curious part. I barely touched it.”

“Maybe those nails are too small. I can see if we've got something bigger.”

“No, it would not do any good. The feather's magic is responsible for this.”

“Alright, what is this 'feather' you keep talking about?” Loki finally spoke.

Thor heaved a sigh and set the hammer down. He then sat cross-legged and slumped his shoulders in defeat. It was obvious that he did not want to talk about this, but this was relevant, since it did involve Loki, so he deserved to know.

“It is the reason why you have no memory of who you are, or anything else about your life. And...it is my fault.”

“What do you mean?”

“We were on Alfheim. You stayed behind while the rest of us went on ahead to...look for a monster to fight or kill. Because we were bored. When we returned, you had moved on to find shelter from the rainstorm I started. We then felt an earthquake and tracked it to a nearby cave.

“I found you in there, and something was pulling you into the wall. I was able to grab you, but the painting on the wall had attached itself to your back. It then exploded into tiny lights and disappeared.

“I learned later that those were your memories, and they were scattered throughout the Nine Realms, as well as parallel universes. We are now on a quest to find your feathers—memory fragments—and return them to you.”

“And...how many have you found?” Loki asked through clenched teeth. It was obvious that he was angry with Thor for doing this to him, but he had to keep his composure.

“We have collected two. And this is the third,” Thor answered, inclining his head towards the rock next to him. “We were told that when we travel to different worlds that you are the only one who can feel the presence of the feathers, since they are a part of you.”

“That makes sense. You were able to see it down in there before,” Tom commented.

“You were still unconscious since we left Alfheim, so I had to find the first two on my own.” Thor wanted to take that back when he saw the scowl on Loki's face. He didn't think Loki would get mad.

“So if the feather's magic is preventing you from getting to the hammer, why not focus on the feather itself?” Tom asked. “Place the nail down here and see what happens if you use a more direct approach.”

Thor stood again and picked up one of the nails. He placed it in the curve near the bottom, then lined the hammer up with the head. This time when he struck the nail, it didn't leave his fingers, and it didn't bend. What was strange was that he felt the same thrumming sensation from when he hit the tree with Mjolnir in that other realm.

He tried again, a little harder this time, and some of the material chipped away. Thor picked up two more nails and held all three together in his fingers, then brought the hammer down. A larger chunk flew off.

“We should have done this in the very beginning,” Thor said.

“Hey, what's going on here? What the hell's he doing to our set?” Ken asked as he approached at a brisk pace.

“You wouldn't believe me if I told you,” Tom said with a smile.

“Oh yeah? Try me.”

“Alright. That is the real Mjolnir.”

“You're right. I don't believe you.” Tom shrugged. “And I suppose you expect me to believe that's the real Thor? And he's Loki?”

“Not necessarily...but it's true.”

Ken heaved a sigh and ran a hand down his face. And that goofy smile never left Tom's.

“Just...watch him. Make sure he doesn't jeopardize the movie.”

“Don't worry, I'll take care of everything.” After Ken had left, Tom turned back to Thor. “Can I get you anything?”

“Well, while this is making a dent, it is not a very big one. If you have something larger that I could use, that would be helpful,” Thor answered, never halting in chipping away at the rock.

“Alright, I'll see what I can find. Maybe we have a sledgehammer somewhere...”

“I'll come with you,” Loki said.

“It's alright. I'm sure it won't take long—”

“I want to go with you.”

From the tone of finality in Loki's voice, Tom knew he couldn't say no. It wasn't that Tom didn't want him to come, he just thought it would be better for Loki and Thor to spend some time together on their own. But it was clear that Loki didn't want to be anywhere near Thor.

“Alright,” Tom complied with a nod. “We'll be back soon.”

Thor grunted in acknowledgment, and while the two lookalikes were walking away, he let out a sigh of disappointment.

~*~

While Tom asked some of the movie crew for a sledgehammer, earning a few head shakes and laughs, Loki stood nearby and kept his head down. When they finally found what they had been looking for, Loki had to suppress a groan.

It wasn't that he didn't want Thor to break his hammer free of that rock, Loki just didn't want to go back. But Tom wasn't fooled. He knew that expression because he had spent time practicing it in the mirror.

“What's wrong, Loki? Are you not feeling well?”

“No. I mean—I am fine. Everything is fine.”

“Look, I know you don't want to, and I know that you don't want to hear me say this, but you're gonna have to talk to him at some point.”

“But he made me like this. Why should I trust him? Why should I trust any of them?”

“Because they're good people and they care about you—”

Do they? I don't think they care about me.”

“Loki, why would you say something like that?” At first Loki didn't say anything, but Tom wasn't going to let him off that easy. “Loki.”

“Remember how Thor said they found two feathers?”

Tom's breath hitched. He stopped walking, and Loki continued a few paces before pausing as well. When Loki turned towards him, he wouldn't look Tom in the eye.

“What did you see?”

Loki started shaking and let out a shuddering gasp. His eyes widened and he brought his hand towards his face. When he began tracing his trembling fingers over his lips, Tom immediately rushed over to him. The clatter of the hammer echoed throughout the studio.

“It's okay. You're okay.”

“What did I do, Tom? Why was I punished?” Loki muttered into Tom's shoulder.

“I don't know.”

But Tom did know. From all of the myths he had read about Loki, the story of Loki having his lips sewn shut was one of the few that he did not particularly enjoy. When he felt Loki clutch at his shirt, he let him. They remained that way until Loki's tremors ceased and his grip on Tom slackened.

“Are you ready to go back?”

“No...” Loki let out a sigh when Tom began rubbing his back.

“Thor needs our help.”

“I know...”

“It's something else, isn't it?” Tom asked as he pulled away to look at his double.

“I do not want to go.”

“You mean...at all?” Loki shook his head. “Don't you want to find your memories?”

“What if they're all bad? What if I have no happy memories?”

“I don't think that's the case.”

“How can you be certain?” Tom smiled.

“Because I know you. I have spent a long time learning all I could about your life, personality, the ways you use your magic.”

“I can use magic?”

“Oh yes, splendidly!”

Loki looked down at his hands and moved his fingers around. He heaved a sigh and shook his head.

“I do not remember how.”

“You will. Your magic is what sets you apart from everyone else, it makes you unique. It's...sort of like it's part of your DNA.”

“What is 'DNA'?”

“I really need to stop using acronyms...” Tom scratched the back of his head. “It's something that can't be taken away from you. Well, I guess that's not exactly true...”

“It is alright. You do not need to explain it to me. I am sure I will figure it out at some point.”

“Of course. You're well known for being very intelligent, so it should be easy.” Tom grinned brightly. Loki shrugged. “Now, let's get back before Thor starts to think a monster got us.”

Tom bent down and picked up the sledgehammer he dropped, then he and Loki headed back towards the set for the filming of the crater and S.H.I.E.L.D. compound scenes.

~*~

When they reached their destination, they froze almost immediately. Thor was sitting in a nearby folding chair, Mjolnir in his lap, and seemed to have abandoned his task of trying to break through the rock. But when they saw the object clutched in Thor's left hand, they knew better. At their approach, Thor stood up and walked over to them.

“I was uncertain how long you would be gone, so I kept working...and I managed to get your feather.”

Thor held his hand out to Loki, and the pale blue feather was laying in his palm. Loki took the feather from him, and at first he simply stared at it. Up until this point, he had never actually seen one. He then looked up at Thor with a raised eyebrow.

“What am I supposed to do with it?”

“Well, the other two times, I placed them on your chest and they were...absorbed into your body,” Thor answered, rubbing the back of his head. Thor was never very good at choosing his words, that particular skill was passed onto Loki.

“Should we make a toast?” The two Asgardians looked at Tom as if he had grown gills. “No? Alright then.”

Loki lifted his hand and held the feather a couple inches away from his torso. While he was grateful to have one of his memories back, he was worried about which memory they had found.

Would he finally come out of this knowing that there were brighter times in his past? Or would he be disappointed to learn that maybe he should end his journey here? Perhaps it would be best to not see anymore images that left him feeling confused and betrayed.

“Here goes nothing.”

When the feather phased through his skin, he thought it was going to hurt. Instead, it felt warm and soothing. Maybe that was a good sign. The sensation in his chest ceased, meaning that the feather had returned to his body. There was a tiny throbbing in the back of Loki's head, but not a painful one, and he knew that the memory was about to reveal itself.

He was sitting at a table near a window, and he guessed it was a library because of all the books in the room. There were several books stacked on the table, and one was open in front of him. Loki was a few years younger than he is now, but it wasn't as if he even knew his current age anyway. A hand smacking him on the back made him jump, both memory Loki and the one watching.

“What are you reading now, Brother?” It was Thor, also younger. He was standing next to memory Loki and had pulled his book away to look at it. “Shape shifting, huh? Into animals?”

“Shape shifting is a very difficult spell, even for the most gifted sorcerers, Brother,” Loki scolded as he grabbed his book back from Thor.

“But why animals?” The blonde asked with a pout and placed his hands on his hips.

“So I can turn into something large and squash you,” Loki deadpanned.

“Hah! You would be too slow for me!” Thor bellowed.

“I am much quicker and smarter than you, blundering oaf.”

“Not if you turned into a giant animal!”

“Like I said. Quicker and smarter.”

Loki slowly opened his eyes, which he didn't realize he had closed, and backed up when he saw both Thor and Tom leaning forward and staring at him intently.

“I assume it was a good memory. You were smiling,” Tom said.

“Yes. It was.” Loki nodded. “I think...I am ready to go.”

Chapter Text

To say that the other five actors were shocked when they were told that the Asgardians were leaving would be an understatement. Not only because they had been there for but a few hours, but also because the reason was unknown to all except Tom. Ken was just glad that they were leaving so filming could resume, preferably without anymore interruptions.

Any information regarding Loki's feather was kept secret from the actors. Sif and the Warriors Three hadn't been told outright to keep it hush-hush, but they felt there was really no need for them to know about it.

And because of all the chaos regarding getting Mjolnir back, Thor never did have that contest with Chris. It simply slipped his mind, and everyone else was wise to “forget” as well. Sif still refused to exchange words with Jaimie, no matter how much the other woman tried. But what Sif didn't know at the time was that this encounter would come in handy later, possibly even save her life.

The Asgardians found their way back to the set for the Jotunheim scene, which is where Heimdall had originally landed them. The engraving of the Bifrost was still somewhat visible, but it had been scraped away by the film crew. Despite the fact that the Bifrost is supposed to leave a mark in the movie, this one wasn't in the right place and couldn't be used. The same thought was on pretty much everyone's mind:

“How can you tell? Every rock looks exactly the same!” But Ken's word is the law of the land.

Before joining his traveling companions, Loki walked over to Tom so he could say goodbye.

“So you've decided to continue on this journey of yours?”

“Yes.” Loki nodded and fiddled with his hands. “After finding this feather, I have learned that not all of my memories are bad. There was at least one time in my life that I was happy. Perhaps there are more. And I would like to know about them.”

“Well, I wish you luck. And maybe we'll see each other again. But hopefully it won't be because you're looking for something.”

“Yes! I would really like to watch your movie if it is finished.”

“You and me both.” Loki looked at him confused. “Ehehehe. Just ignore me.”

“Brother! Are you ready to go?” Thor shouted from the Bifrost site.

“Give him a chance,” Tom said when Loki sighed and slumped his shoulders.

Loki nodded and Tom smiled at him. When Loki was standing with the others, he had straightened his posture, but he was still frowning. He happened to glance up and see Tom making faces and weird hand gestures at him. A laugh slipped past his lips and he shook his head when the other male gave him a thumbs up.

“Heimdall, we are ready to travel to the next world,” Thor said from behind him.

As the warriors were enveloped in light and pulled towards the sky, a voice cut through the sound of wind in their ears.

“WE JUST FIXED THIS!”

~*~

When the Bifrost returned to Asgard, the familiar sense of home instantly dissipated. Not just Loki, but even the others could feel the ominous aura that seemed to be pressing down on the land like mud. The group member who looked most bothered by this was their Grim friend.

“Hogun, what is it?” Thor asked.

“This is Vanaheim. Only...something is very wrong here.”

“Let us ask one of the villagers.”

As they entered the village and looked around, it seemed like a ghost town. People walked as if in a trance, taking small, slow steps. They didn't even seem to be going anywhere in particular. But there was another thing that stood out.

“Where are the women?” Sif asked in a whisper.

“Could there have been a raid and they were taken?” Fandral asked.

“No. There do not appear to be any signs of an attack,” Thor commented. “Hogun is right. It has to be something else.”

“I shall return momentarily.”

Without waiting for any sort of reply, Hogun walked away from the group and approached the nearest villager. The pair spoke in quiet voices, so the others were unable to hear them. When Hogun departed from the man, he resumed his trance-like state.

“What did he say?” Sif asked.

“The women who were pregnant miscarried a little over a week ago. All at the same time.”

“Even if they conceived at different times?”

“Yes. The villagers think Freya is responsible, since she is the goddess of fertility.”

“Or it could be something else. Loki, do you feel one of your feathers here?” Thor asked.

“Well, yes...and no.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean it's here, but it is also not here.” Loki sighed. “It is as if there is another realm within this realm, and that is where the feather is.”

“Do you know about anything like that, Hogun?” Thor asked.

“The only thing I can think of would be Fólkvangr, the place where the warriors who don't go to Valhalla are sent when they die.”

“Freya is the patron goddess of Fólkvangr, just like how Odin rules over Valhalla,” Sif commented. Hogun nodded. “So how are we supposed to get there if we are still alive?”

“I do not know. There is no way of knowing which souls go to Fólkvangr, so we cannot follow one as it enters. And even if we did try to enter Fólkvangr, we may not be able to because we are not dead.”

“So the only way to get in there is to die, and even then there is no certainty that we will end up there,” Sif clarified.

“Why did it have to be here?” Fandral muttered.

“Even if the feather wasn't here, we do need to see if we can help,” Sif stated.

Loki looked over his shoulder when he heard a voice. The strange thing about it was that it sounded female. Loki thought all of the women in the village had been bedridden. He walked away from the others towards a group of shrubs. They were tall, nearly up to his shoulders, but he was able to separate them. There was a patch of grass within the shrubs, and curled up in a ball was the source of the noises.

Loki's attention was transfixed on the figure on the ground, so he did not hear Thor shouting at him. He didn't acknowledge him when he came up behind him, either.

“Loki, you should not wander off on your own like that.” When the smaller male did not answer him, Thor peaked his head around to see what he was looking at. “What are you looking at?”

“I think I found Freya.”

The rest of the group joined them and tried to see into the clearing. Thor turned to Hogun.

“Is he right? Is that Freya?” Hogun returned Thor's gaze and nodded.

Hogun wordlessly excused himself and lightly pushed past the others through the shrubs. He cautiously approached the figure on the ground and knelt down next to her. With a gentleness that his friends had never seen from him, Hogun laid a hand on the woman's arm. He allowed it to linger, neither shaking her nor applying any sort of pressure. He would wait for her to make the first move, no matter how long that took.

Several seconds passed, then nearly a minute. Loki could sense the impatience rolling off of Thor and he wanted to turn around and...do something. He needed to think about it because he would most likely injure himself if he tried to punch or kick the man and ended up striking armor.

There was a collective intake of breath at the first signs of movement. Hogun pulled his hand away and moved back to give the girl room.

Slowly, she sat up. Noiselessly. No popping joints, no rustling of clothes. Even her breathing was muted. Another odd thing was that there were no marks or blemishes on her body, despite the fact that she had been lying on the ground. There were no stains in her white gown, no dirt on her arms, hands or feet. And there was hardly any evidence that she had been crying. Her eyes were not red and bloodshot, there was only wetness on her cheeks from the fallen tears.

Freya's gaze traveled around, lingering on Loki and his companions for a short moment. When she looked at Hogun, her expression was one of curiosity. Hogun remained silent, still waiting for her to speak first.

“You are one of mine,” she spoke softly. One of her kinsmen was what she meant.

“Yes.” Freya looked down at the ground in thought.

“You are Hogun.” He nodded. “I know all of the Vanir by name. It flashes before my eyes whenever they are born. But how are you here?”

“What are they saying? I can't hear them,” Thor grumbled.

Loki had finally had enough with the man's constant fidgeting. He whipped around and shoved the man backwards so he was away from the shrubs, then followed him.

“Will you shut up? Can you not see that she is in shock and clearly upset about something?” Thor shrunk under Loki's glare and looked at the ground in embarrassment. Loki rubbed a hand over his face. “Hogun will tell us what they discussed in a moment, but you need to calm down.”

“I am sorry.”

Loki shook his head and walked back to the opening in the bushes. For a moment, Thor merely remained where he stood, staring at the ground as if he had been slapped. He gripped Mjolnir until the handle began to creak from the strain. With hunched shoulders, Thor stomped off in search of a tree to sit under.

~*~

After Hogun helped Freya stand up, the two of them walked out of the shrubs. The others followed, but they trailed several yards back. Freya led them towards the outskirts of the village where a hill overlooked a large valley. Once settled in the grass, Hogun changed the subject.

“What is happening in this village? What has made you so unsettled?” Freya shook her head.

“It is not just this village. I am afraid that it is the entire realm.” She gripped the material of her dress and let out a shuddered breath. “I do not mean to cause this much suffering, but I am deeply worried. Something unnatural has occurred, and I am unable to put an end to it.”

“What has occurred?”

“The gateway into Fólkvangr has sealed itself. And now the souls that are meant to travel there have no way of entering. They cannot go to Valhalla, for it is not their destined path.”

“Where do they go? Not Hel, surely.”

“No. The souls that go to Hel are deserving of that fate. Even the goddess would not take my warriors.” Freya shook her head. “If the souls have nowhere to go, they become vengeful.”

“Are the souls that were already in Fólkvangr still there? Or have they been expelled?”

“They are still there, as far as I know. I am the only one who cannot return.”

“This may seem unrelated, but I assure you that it is not.” Freya nodded for him to continue. “Have you seen a blue feather, by any chance?”

She looked at him for a moment, somewhat taken aback. Again, Hogun didn't add onto his question or speak at all. He waited for her to give him an answer.

“What does that feather have to do with any of this?”

“So you have seen it. Where?”

“Well, I thought there was something a little unusual about it, but I paid no mind to it at the time. I saw it just before the doors closed, as if it had suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Unfortunately, the feather is inside Fólkvangr, which is inaccessible.”

“That is what I was afraid of.”

“What is so significant about this feather?”

“It is the reason why all of this is happening. And it is the reason why my friends and I are here. If there is any way you can think of to get inside, we need your help.”

“There might be a way, but I cannot guarantee that it will work,” Freya said with slight hesitancy.

“Any idea is better than none at all.”

Freya nodded then stood up. After wiping her hands on her dress, which was really unnecessary because of how she seemed to maintain a constant cleanliness, her lips curved into a thin smile.

“First, I must speak with Heimdall.”

Chapter Text

Thor still had not moved from his spot under the tree, and the others were somewhat hesitant to ask if he was alright. Well, to be more accurate, Sif and The Warriors Three. Loki really couldn't care less. As much as he wanted to follow Tom's advice, he was finding it extremely difficult. The man was just so infuriating!

Freyja had been gone for quite some time. After finishing her conversation with Hogun, she wandered off on her own and didn't say where she was headed. She was still close enough so they could see her, but she seemed to be talking to herself. If the circumstances were different, it would have been quite humorous.

“Do you know what she is doing?” Sif asked, walking up to stand next to Hogun.

“She told me that she has a plan on how to get inside Fólkvangr, but she needs Heimdall's help in order to do so.”

“Oh, so that's who she is talking to. Did she tell you her plan?”

“No. It must involve Heimdall transporting us directly into Fólkvangr.”

“Can he do that?” Hogun shrugged.

“You should know more about him than I. You are his sister, after all.” Sif scowled at him then stomped off.

Freyja walked back to the group, her feet making no sound in the grass. She looked to be in much better spirits than when they had found her. Some color had returned to her complexion, as well. The others came over to hear what she had to say, except for Thor. He still had yet to leave his perch.

“I have spoken with Heimdall, and he tells me that he will be able to transport myself and one other person into Fólkvangr. Not only is the process difficult, due to the specific location of the placement, but sending a living soul into Fólkvangr makes it even more complicated.”

“It has to be Loki. The feather belongs to him and he is the only one who can find it,” Hogun explained to her. Freyja nodded then turned her gaze towards Loki.

“Whenever you are ready.”

Freyja continued looking at him for a short moment, then began walking in the direction of the shrubs where they had found her. Loki began after her, and just as Sif and the others were about to follow, Loki froze. He did not look at them and he didn't speak, but his actions were enough.

Stay here.

“Don't take too long,” Fandral said.

Loki clenched and unclenched his fists, then continued after Freyja, who seemed to not have noticed that he stopped following her.

When they were both over the top of the hill and out of sight, the Warriors Three sat down and immediately began examining their weapons to see if they had been damaged, despite the fact that they hadn't even been used since they left Asgard. Sif took it upon herself to go and find Thor.

She searched for several minutes, and Sif begrudgingly hoped that Thor hadn't flown off somewhere. Just when she was about to give up looking and return to the others, she heard a voice.

“Sif?”

Sif looked up and saw Thor with his legs spread out along a thick tree branch. She had to resist the urge to place her hands on her hips because of how frustrated she was from all of that searching. But she was glad to see that he was okay.

“I have been looking for you.”

“What?!” He was shouting at her.

“I said 'I have been looking for you!'” She didn't flinch when he jumped down and landed just a few inches in front of her.

“For what reason?”

“Well, you have been gone for quite some time. And I wanted to let you know that Loki is gone.”

“Gone?! Where?!”

“That was not really the best way to word that. What I meant to say was he and Freyja have gone to retrieve his feather.”

“Why are you not with him?”

“Because only one person can accompany Freyja on this particular task. Heimdall is transporting them directly into Fólkvangr, and apparently it is difficult even for him. Mostly because he is sending the soul of a living person in there.”

“But what if he gets hurt? What if he is killed in there? I won't be there to—”

“Shut up, Thor.” He looked at her with wide eyes as if she had told him his goats died. “You cannot protect him forever. He is a grown man, and he needs to fight his own battles, despite his current state.”

“It is my fault he is in his current state. Because I did not protect him.”

“Do you believe he will succeed?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then he will.” A small smile lit up Thor's face and he nodded. “Now, let us go back to the others so we can be there when Loki does return.”

~*~

As Loki predicted, Freyja led him back to the area of bushes where he had found her earlier. He followed her into the clearing, and he waited as she drew symbols in the air and whispered a spell. Her voice was too quiet for him to hear, and he was beginning to wonder if that was typical for the Vanir. It seemed to be, considering the way she and Hogun spoke to each other.

The ground began to rumble minutely, but it was barely noticeable. Freyja turned around to look at Loki, and he nodded to let her know he was listening.

“I do not know what we will find on the other side. I do not know what your feather has done in there. We must proceed with caution.”

“I understand.” Freyja looked up at the sky.

"Heimdall, we are ready to be transported inside at your leisure."

When they were pulled into the column of light, it felt much more narrow than Loki remembered the previous times. More confining. It was almost a sensation of claustrophobia. Again, the process was a short one, and the Gatekeeper withdrew once his task was complete.

After taking only a few steps into Fólkvangr, Freyja let out a muted gasp and brought her hands up to her lips. The grass had completely shriveled away to almost nothing, leaving behind dry, cracked dirt. The trees were wilting and leaves were falling off the branches by the second. Limbs were bent in half and touching the ground.

“I am so sorry,” Loki said quietly.

He knew that wouldn't be nearly enough to change anything, but at least she would know that he felt responsible. She emitted a quiet sigh and shook her head.

“It is not your fault.”

'You are right. It is Thor's fault.'

“Where did you last see the feather before the doorway sealed itself?”

“I only caught a glimpse of it, but it was over there,” Freyja answered, pointing slightly to their right. Loki nodded.

“The presence is much stronger here.” Just as he was about to head in the direction that was indicated, Freyja grabbed his arm.

“I must warn you. Because you are a living soul, Fólkvangr may not welcome you here. It may attempt to cast you back out if it sees you as a threat. Even though I am the patron deity of this world, I cannot control its every action, nor its free will.”

“Do you have any advice for me?”

“The souls that come here are those of fallen warriors. Brave and noble men of strong character. If you can prove to Fólkvangr that your intentions are pure and you are not fainthearted, it will allow you passage.”

“Show no fear and honest intentions.” Loki squared his jaw. “How will I know if it is trying to cast me out?”

“You will know.” Freyja tilted her head and looked into his green eyes. “Are you ready to go?”

“Yes.”

This time, Loki allowed Freyja to go first. She seemed to know her way around the place, but because of her solemn demeanor, something was definitely wrong. It was almost as if the area was unfamiliar to her, in a way.

“I mean no offense, but where are these 'brave and noble' warriors you spoke of earlier?”

“That is what worries me. There is no one here. Only the two of us.”

“What do you think could have happened to them?”

“I do not kn—” Loki was able to grab Freyja's arm and yank her back, just as she was about to walk over the edge of a cliff.

“Are you alright?” Freyja nodded, pressing her hand to her chest and calming her racing heart. “A rather unusual place for a ledge. Even you were not expecting it.”

“That is because it was not here before.” Freyja watched as Loki slowly approached the edge of the cliff and looked down. His expression darkened. “What is it?”

“It is down there.”

Several meters below, inside a pit of inky blackness, a swirling vortex rotated like a deadly hurricane. Within the eye of the storm, a single source of light could faintly be seen. A wave of nausea washed over Loki, and he backed away from the cliff edge.

“I can't do it.”

“Loki, you must. You are the only one who can.”

“When I saw that...thing...down there, I suddenly felt—”

'No. I can't show fear. If I do, I will be cast out.'

“I might know of a way that could help.”

Freyja spread her arms out on both sides, and Loki's eyes widened as he watched her brown hair seemingly take on a life of its own. It crawled along her arms and shoulders, then turned into feathers. It slithered up the back of her neck, and a bird's head and beak appeared, sort of like a hood. Once all movement ceased, Freyja pulled what looked like a cloak off her shoulders and handed it to Loki. Her hair had returned to its former style, not a strand out of place.

“My feathered cloak will give you the wings of a bird. You will be quicker and more agile.”

“Thank you. I will not let you down.”

Loki wrapped the cloak around his shoulders and slipped the bird head over his own. He felt pricking on his arms, and he figured that was the feathers attaching themselves to his skin. He found it fascinating how they were able to poke through the leather material of his sleeves. After awhile, he didn't even notice the feathers anymore, as if they had truly become a part of him and there was no distinction between bird and man.

Loki approached the edge of the cliff again, and this time, his eyesight and hearing were much more superior, and it was as if he was dissecting the storm below him. Now, he was able to find its most weak and unstable parts. After taking a few steps back, he made a running start and dove over the ledge.

There was a high-pitched whistling in his ears, and tears were streaming from his eyes as they tried to stay moist. Just as Loki thought all was going well as planned, his descent towards the vortex began to slow down. As opposed to what should have happened, which was Loki being sucked into the spiraling clouds and potentially dying, he was being repelled.

Loki tried to pull himself forward, kicking out with his legs and similar movements to swimming. When he felt like he was getting tired, he realized something was pulling him backwards. It wasn't the vortex pushing him away. It was the cloak pulling him.

He looked at the feathers, which appeared to be standing on end. Loki tugged at one of the wings, and he winced at the slight pain because he had already forgotten the cloak attached itself to his skin. After taking a deep breath, he grabbed a large bundle of feathers in his right hand.

“One...two...three—” The only thing blocking out the noise of his shout was the volume of the swirling wind. “One...two...three—” By the time his left arm was free, his hands were soaked in blood and it had stained his fingernails.

“Forgive me, Freyja. I know your intentions were good.” Barely able to lift his burning arm, Loki repeated the same process on the right side. “One...two...three—”

The only thing that made Loki cringe more than the actual throbbing pain in his arms was the noise of the feathers being ripped out of his flesh. After completely liberating his arms, all Loki needed to do was remove the bird head, and then there would be nothing left to keep him suspended in the air. With one last look down at the vortex, his eyes focused on the feather in order not to lose sight of it, he lowered the hood and slid the cloak from his shoulders.

While the cloak floated back up to its master, Loki was in free fall. Unlike before, where he was falling head-first and in control of his path, Loki was falling feet-first and flailing to try and turn around. He did not want to miss the feather.

Unable to maneuver his body around, Loki could only reach out and hope his timing was good enough. As he entered the storm, he lunged forward and wrapped his fingers around the feather. Clutched in his bloody hands, he pressed it to his chest, and allowed its warmth to envelope him as he waited for his lost memory to reveal itself.

Chapter Text

It was midday, and the sun was obscured by fluffy white clouds. Its golden rays were shining through the windows of the Asgardian palace, enhancing shadows of the occasional passersby. Seated on a futon, arranging a bouquet of roses in a curved white vase, the Queen hummed happily to herself. The sound of running footsteps echoing on the tile floor made her look up from her work.

“Mother! Mother, I drew something for you!” A version of Loki even younger than the one from the previous memory entered the room waving a sheet of parchment.

“Did you? Well, let me have a look at it.” Just as the woman reached for her gift, her hands passed through the paper and the boy vanished in a flash of green light. “Oh!”

There was quiet laughing by the doorway, and then the real Loki peaked his head around the corner. When he saw the slight upturn of his mother's lips, he came into the room.

“You have been working on your doppelgangers again, I see.”

“I can still only make one, though," the boy said with a pout. His expression then quickly morphed into a smile. "Did I fool you?”

“Yes, you fooled me. So did you really draw me a picture or was that just an excuse to play a trick on me?”

“No, I really drew you a picture.” He handed her the parchment and she stared at it for a moment. Her eyebrows furrowed.

“Is it a bird?” Loki nodded proudly. “But where is the body?”

Loki sat up and sucked in a deep gasp of air. For a moment he thought he was going into shock because of the sudden and unexpected way he had woken up. A pair of hands lightly pressing down on his shoulders slowly reeled him back in, and his breathing began to slow down.

“Loki, it is alright. You did it,” a woman's voice spoke from next to him.

“Did what?” Loki asked groggily.

“You got your feather back. And now Fólkvangr is repairing itself. The warriors have returned as well.”

It was still taking a bit longer for Loki's mind to register what all this person was talking about. Something about a feather and fixing 'Folk-something' and some missing warriors. When his vision began to swim, Loki's head tipped back and thumped against the ground. Freyja gently shook him only to find that he had passed out.

“I suppose I can at least heal your wounds for the time being.”

Freyja carefully and gingerly peeled off each section of leather, chain mail and cloth that covered Loki's arms. Every so often, she would watch his face for any reaction, but he seemed to be completely out of it. Once his arms were completely bare, Freyja bowed her head.

She had not meant for her cloak to inflict any harm, she only wanted to help. She saw how terrified he had become when he looked into the vortex, as if he had experienced something horrible at a point in his life. The cloak must have sensed danger nearby and was trying to avoid it, which was why it was pulling Loki away.

Freyja left only a minimal amount of space between her hand and Loki's arm, and as she brought her hand back and forth, the torn flesh slowly began to mend itself. There was still redness and discoloration, due to how naturally pale he was, but the outer layers of skin were healing. Freyja ripped a strip of cloth from the skirt of her dress and, after wetting it with her tongue, began to wipe away the blood on Loki's arms and working to clean it out of his fingernails. Once she was through with that, all she could do now was wait for Loki to wake up again.

~*~

Loki must have been dreaming. There was no other explanation.

For one thing, he was on the ceiling. He was not quite sure where the location of this particular ceiling was. Thankfully, the blood was not rushing to his head. Another reason why Loki was positive that this was a dream.

A door on the opposite side of the upside-down room opened, and a tall, slender man walked in. He was wearing all black, and a black cap covered his short reddish hair. He looked around, searching for something. Then he turned his gaze up, or maybe it was down. He looked at Loki and a huge grin lit up his face. His face, which was identical to Loki's.

There you are! I've been looking all over for you!”

“Tom?”

“No, I'm Steve. You must have me confused with Tom.”

“No, I am pretty sure that you're Tom.” The other man scoffed and planted his hands on his hips.

“We look nothing alike. I have a mustache.”

The man pointed at the thick, and obviously artificial, mustache that was nestled between his pointed nose and upper lip. Loki's lip curled upwards. It looked like it used to be some sort of rodent before it ended up being used as a face decoration.

“This is Wendy. She's my pride and joy.”

Loki breathed in and out slowly, trying to maintain a calm exterior, as well as hoard as much patience and tolerance as he possibly could.

“Alright, Steve. Where exactly are we?”

“We're inside your grapefruit,” the Brit answered and pointed at his head.

'What in the Nine Realms is a “grapefruit”?'

“Now come on, get down from there! We'll be late!”

“Late for wha—I don't even know how I got up here! Or how to get down!”

“Well you walk of course.”

Loki cautiously approached the nearest wall and pressed his left foot against it. Keeping that foot in place, he stepped off with his right foot. He slid down a little bit, but he continued to take more steps forward...or up. Or maybe down. When he was finally right-side-up, he felt like he had run a marathon.

“There, that wasn't so hard.” Loki gave him a reproachful look. “Let's not dilly dally, time's a-wasting!”

“Why are we in such a hurry? Where are you taking me?”

“We're going to miss the movie!”

“What movie?”

The movie, of course.”

'“Of course” he says.'

“Steve” opened the door, and the two men walked into another room. It was dark and full of seats. There was a large screen with moving pictures and music was resonating throughout the room. People were cramped in the seats, a majority of them holding food and drinks, or what could be considered food.

Loki followed his companion towards the back, then they cut through a row of people. When they finally sat down, “Steve” let out a sigh. Loki noticed there was an empty seat on the right side of him, but he didn't comment on it. Maybe it was for the other person down the row.

“Made it just in time.”

“Took ya long enough,” a deep voice said from a couple seats away.

Loki recognized the voice. He turned his head to the left and saw the actor who looked like Thor. His name was Chris, if he remembered correctly. He was holding some sort of beverage in his large hand and the straw was pinched between his lips.

“Sorry about that. We had a bit of a problem.”

“Did Loki get stuck on the ceilin' again?” “Steve” nodded. Loki refused to believe that this guy wasn't Tom.

“Where's Thor?” The actor asked, craning his neck slightly.

“Oh, he went back ta get more pancakes,” Chris answered before laughing at something on the screen.

“I told you it was a bad idea to get him hooked on those.”

“I didn't know he'd like the syrup so much. It's like crack ta 'im or somethin'. Or maybe he's turned Canadian.”

There was a bit of a commotion, and then there was some movement when another person claimed the seat on Loki's right. It was the very person the two actors had been talking about.

“Sorry that took so long. They were out of strawberry sauce and had to make some more.”

“Ah, he ordered the deluxe pancakes,” Chris commented.

“Oh, there you are Loki. Did you get stuck on the ceiling again?”

A migraine was forming, and all Loki could do was pinch his nose to prevent from combusting. He had no idea what was going on, or why his imagination was conjuring something so bizarre. He just wanted it to be over.

Unfortunately, this dream was nowhere near over. Next he had to sit through what Tom/Steve called “previews,” which were awful. There were about seven of them, but Loki stopped counting after the third one. And finally the movie started.

At first Loki didn't know why Tom/Steve wanted him to see this movie. It was just three people in some sort of metal box, pressing glowing buttons and looking at the sky. But when the people in the movie saw the unusual lights in the clouds, a thought came to him.

'Is that the Bifrost? Is this Tom's movie about us?'

Loki wanted to ask Tom about it, as well as rip that ridiculous thing from his face, but he kept his mouth shut. He also wanted Tom to enjoy his movie that he had worked so hard on making.

As the story continued to play out, there were times that Loki wondered if any of this was real, or if it was all made up by somebody. In many cases, he hoped it was all fiction. He didn't want to believe that he was disliked by a majority of Asgard, inferior in the King's eyes, a traitor, and not even an Asgardian. One word repeated itself in his mind:

'Jotun. Jotun. Jotun. Jotun. Jotun.'

By the time it reached his attempted suicide, Loki felt like he was collapsing on himself. His breathing was so shallow that there wasn't enough oxygen reaching his lungs. Within a few long, dreadfully slow seconds, the dream finally came to an end.

~*~

When Loki opened his eyes again, the sun was shining. It should have felt good; warm and soothing. But he felt hollow. Maybe, after learning that he's cold-blooded, the heat of the sun will no longer be able to bring him peace.

“Loki? Are you alright?”

“How long was I asleep?” He avoided her question. He would not have been able to give her a promising answer anyway.

“Only a few minutes. I was able to heal your wounds and clean the blood.”

“Thank you.” It felt much longer than a few minutes.

“We should go. I do not know how much longer Heimdall can keep you here.”

“I understand.”

Loki was a little bit slow to get up, but Freyja was patient with him. Thankfully, they didn't have very far to go. On the way back to the Bifrost site, Loki asked why Heimdall would be transporting them out, if the doorway to Fólkvangr was open again. Freyja thought it would be safer for Loki to go back the way they came, rather than through the doorway, because departed souls come through it at random times. Loki didn't completely understand it, but she knew this place better than anyone.

Loki had been expecting the same compact feeling from before, but this time when they were returned to the outside, it was not as uncomfortable. He still wasn't quite used to traveling by the Bifrost, but he knew he would have to be eventually if this search for his memories was going to last for awhile.

When they reached the top of the hill and could see the others waiting for them, a thought popped into Loki's head:

'I wonder if they know.'

But if they did know, they would not be acting so friendly towards him, or helping him at all. Thor keeps referring to him as “Brother,” so surely he doesn't know. Maybe it really was all just a story, made up by one of the movie people. Maybe Loki was normal like the others.

Deep down, Loki knew that wasn't true.

Chapter Text

Ever since he and Freyja had rejoined the others, Loki had not said a word. Nothing was spoken about what happened inside Fólkvangr, and nobody made a move to ask. Judging by Loki's demeanor, as well as Freyja's apparent weariness, whatever took place was not something they were ready to talk about.

When Loki didn't tell them that he was ready to go, he needed to be asked. And even when he answered, it was a simple nod.

After thanking Freyja for all of her help, and she in turn thanking them for helping her, Heimdall opened the Bifrost and sent them to their next destination.

When the air cleared and they could take in their surroundings, it almost appeared as if they had never left Vanaheim. The climate was relatively the same.

Now where has he sent us?” Fandral wondered aloud.

Before they had a chance to dwell on it, there was the faintest rustle in a nearby shrub, as if somebody had grazed by it as they walked past. The group got their answer when a figure in white approached them, then another, then another, and several more.

Just as Freyja had been, the Elves were silent on their feet, with long and fluid movements. The warriors were tense, because while the Elves were not known for being violent people, their behavior was unnerving.

One final person joined the group, and the Elves all bowed to him at his approach. He was not like them, but shared many similarities to the Vanir; one Vanir in particular that they had seen only moments before.

“Lord Freyr,” Hogun uttered as he too bowed.

“You are Hogun.” The man nodded. “My sister spoke highly of you, and of how you came to her aid in her time of need. For that, I am grateful.”

“If Freyja told you about us, then you know what it is we are looking for. Why we are here,” Thor said.

“Yes. The feather of memories,” Freyr answered, turning his gaze towards Loki. “I found it when the orchards began to rot. Come dine with me, and I will bring it to you.”

Without waiting for a reply, Freyr turned away from them and began walking back to his palace, his entourage following behind him. With some encouragement from a couple of remaining Elves, Thor and the others joined them, their apprehension never dwindling.

~*~

Because of the crisis in Vanaheim, they never had a chance to see Freyja's home, so they had no idea if the dwellings of the two siblings compared to each other. The only one who would potentially know anything about it was Hogun, but his family was in the fishing industry. He had no connections to Freyja until that day.

Even though the warriors would always prefer the golden halls of Asgard above all others, they had to admit that Freyr's palace was grand in its own right.

The Elves did not consume meat, drawing all of their energy from Nature and the light of the Sun. According to their beliefs, because the plants came into being first and would prosper for a longer period of time, the Elves must yield to the needs of the first dwellers of their realm.

Instead of moving trees or cutting them down, homes and other structures were built around them. Limbs and branches weaved in and out of windows, through floors and out the other side of ceilings. The canopies could be seen just above the roofs of many residences. This was foreign to the Asgardians, because there were no trees of this size anywhere near to the palace walls; only the occasional tree in the gardens.

While the Asgardians were shown into a large sitting room, because the Elves seemed to have a liking for open spaces, Freyr spoke quietly to his attendants, who then nodded and left the room.

“I have asked for your meal to be prepared. Please wait here a moment while I go and get your feather.”

After Freyr was gone, and they were finally alone, four of the warriors turned towards each other. Loki was too busy worrying about what memory he was going to get back, and Hogun was too busy looking around the room at Freyr's furniture and other trinkets.

“Well, what do you think?” Fandral asked. “Can we trust him?”

“Of course we can. Why would we not?” Hogun replied, somewhat irritated at his friend's suspicion.

“It just seems too easy.”

“What choice do we have?” Sif asked. “He has the feather.”

“But how did he get it?” Volstagg wondered.

“Maybe he found it in his orchard. You know, considering the fact that he said his orchard began to rot,” Loki said boredly. “Simple process of elimination.”

Even though everything in his tone hinted that he thought they were all idiots, at least he was talking now.

“Here we are.” Just like his sister, Freyr did not make a sound when he walked. The Asgardians straightened their postures and schooled their features, trying to give the impression that they hadn't been talking about him. “Freyja told me several months ago about what you did for her, and when I saw this feather I knew I needed to put it somewhere where its magic would be repressed,” he said as he handed the feather to Loki.

“Several months? But we just came here from Vanaheim,” Thor said, somewhat taken aback.

“Yes. We only left Asgard and began this journey a few hours ago,” Sif added.

“Well, according to my sister, it has been four months since that day that you helped her.”

“That is impossible...unless time passes differently in each world.”

“That is a possibility. The villager I spoke to in Vanaheim told me that the women had all miscarried a week earlier, because of Freyja's reaction to Fólkvangr sealing itself. As you said, we only left Asgard a few hours ago,” Hogun commented.

“This quest keeps getting stranger and stranger,” Fandral muttered.

While the others were discussing this matter, Loki was staring down at the feather pinched between his thumb and forefinger. After one last look to make sure all of their attention was away from him, he took a deep breath and held the feather up to his chest.

~*~

As it entered his body, it felt different from the last two times. He wasn't awake for the first two, but the other times there was a warm sensation, as if the sun had shown itself after being obscured by clouds. Now he just felt numb, and he wondered if it had anything to do with the new discovery of his origins. Or perhaps it was a hint that he would not like what he was about to see.

Almost as soon as the memory manifested, Loki's heart leaped up into his throat. Again, this was a younger version of himself, only by a few years, and he was roughly shoved against a wall. Loki reached up and rubbed the back of his head when he heard a faint crack from his skull thudding against the stone. A younger Thor had his forearm pressed against memory Loki's throat, and the man against the wall was gasping and emitting choking noises. Someone else was there, a woman. She was standing nearby, hunched over and gripping the top of her head.

Why did you do it, Loki?!” Thor snarled.

“It was...just a joke,” Loki tried to say, due to the fact that his windpipes were being crushed.

“A joke? Look at what you have done!” Thor pointed at the girl, and she looked up at them with wet and bloodshot eyes. It was Sif, but instead of dark brown, her hair was blonde. Well, what was left of it. “Fix it! Now!

“Alright, alright,” Loki croaked. “Ease up a bit.”

Thor lowered his arm and gave Loki a little room. Loki loosened the collar of his shirt and rubbed his throat to try and soothe it. Thor exhaled loudly through his nose, becoming impatient.

“Well? Do something.”

“I can't.”

Thor grabbed him by the front of his shirt and lifted him off the ground. Even though they eventually become nearly equal in height, Loki still was quite a bit shorter than Thor when they were younger.

“What do you mean 'you can't'?

“I do not know any spells for regrowing hair.” Sif visibly wilted. Thor's grip on his shirt tightened. “But I will speak to the Dwarves,” Loki said in a rush.

“How can Dwarves be of any help? Why would they help?”

“Don't you know, Brother? Dwarves are the most expert craftsmen. And if they are offered a good enough deal, they will make anything.”

Both Lokis grimaced when Thor released his hold on his shirt and he landed in a heap on the hard floor.

“This had better work, Loki.”

Using the wall to help him stand up, Loki watched as Thor wrapped a comforting arm around Sif's shoulders and led her back towards her room. He scowled at them, then went to his own room so he could begin brainstorming how to compromise with the Dwarves.

As the scene began to darken and the memory came to an end, Loki let out a sigh. He already knew the outcome of the confrontation with the Dwarves. His plan did work, but the only one who received the bad end of the deal was him.

~*~

When Loki's mind cleared and he was aware of his surroundings, he heard the others still talking. The memory wasn't very long, none of them ever really were, and the others seemed to not have noticed he had already disposed of the feather.

“Well, they should be finished with preparing your meal by now. And I am sure you are quite famished. After all, it has been four months since you last ate,” Freyr said with the barest hint of amusement in his voice.

“I wish to lie down,” Loki blurted out. “If that is alright.”

“Of course. I will have an escort show you to your room.”

Freyr made some sort of hand gesture and an Elf entered the room and approached him. He whispered into the Elf's ear, earning a slight nod and a bow. The Elf then turned his gaze towards Loki and motioned with his arm to follow him. Loki rose from the chair and followed the Elf, nodding in thanks as he passed Freyr. When the two of them were gone, Freyr turned his attention back to his other guests.

“If you will all come with me.”

Volstagg stood up first and rubbed his abdomen in anticipation. As the others left the room, Sif pulled Hogun over to the side.

“Strike up a conversation with Freyr. Keep him distracted.”

“For what purpose?”

“I do not want him or his Elves to overhear my conversation with Thor.”

“I will speak with him.”

They separated, Hogun walking ahead to match his stride with Freyr's and Sif walking next to Thor.

“I hope Loki is alright,” Thor muttered.

“Did you not see it?”

“See what, Sif?”

“He was no longer holding the feather.”

“You mean he looked at the memory without telling us?” Thor asked, startled. Sif nodded.

“And that's not all. Ever since Vanaheim, he has been distancing himself from us. It may have to do with what he saw there. Maybe that particular memory has made him believe that he cannot trust us.”

“But why?”

“Perhaps he saw something that showed the real way the Warriors Three and I treat him. Despite the fact that, when he woke up in those woods, I told him we were his friends, we have never really acted friendly towards him.”

“I'm sure that is not it. It must be something else.” Thor, ever the optimist. “We cannot discuss it here. It isn't safe,” Thor whispered just as they entered the dining room. Sif mouthed “later” to him and allowed an Elf to pull her chair out for her.

Despite the disappointment at the lack of meat with their dinner, there was a plentiful amount of alcohol. While the Elves didn't like consuming slaughtered animals, they were quite fond of wine and ale. Conversation at the table remained light, unlike the drinking, and there were no political crises, casualties or death threats.

~*~

In the quiet of his room, Loki sat on the bed facing the window. The curtains were open and the rising full moon was shining through the glass. He was hunched over and holding up one hand. He blinked a couple times from staring at it for so long; he was waiting to see if his arm would change color. Loki sighed and turned his hand palm-down, then started tracing curved lines on the top. Just like the ones he had seen in Tom's movie. He then reached up and made the same design on his forehead.

Shaking his head, Loki stood up from the bed and walked towards the window. He heaved a sigh and the glass fogged. He exhaled again and drew a line through the middle. After wiping the glass with his sleeve, he blew and moved his head around until the entire surface was obscured.

Loki drew slender, wavy lines with sharp ends, connecting to each other. Once finished with the left, he did the same on the right. He was able to finish just as the fog was fading. He took a step back, then noticed that as soon as the cooling air reached the design it stopped. He could see something glowing through the lines in the window, and he realized it was the moon. Loki felt like he had seen this before, and if he adjusted the right way, it looked like—

As soon as the image of the bodiless bird registered in his mind, he swiped the window with his sleeve. He then shut the curtains and sat on the bed with his back against the headboard. He let out a shuddering breath and clutched his head.

“What is it?”

Chapter Text

Loki had no idea where he was. Darkness surrounded him on all sides, and every time he took a step his feet stumbled over bones and rocks and who-knows-what-else. There was an occasional flash of lightning, and at one point he spotted a doorway. With much difficulty, Loki made his way towards it.

When he finally did reach the inner chamber and the lightning could no longer help him, Loki heaved a sigh that echoed throughout the room. He never would have imagined that there was anything darker than pitch black.

With more caution than he'd been acting on before, Loki took a step, and then another. Then another. Then another. And another. While Loki knew it would be unwise to let his guard down, he felt that this was much too simple.

Loki's breathing came to a halt when the ground suddenly vanished. As he was trying to pivot around, his other foot slid off the ledge. That same gut-wrenching fear he had experienced in Vanaheim was overtaking him. As soon as it started, it ended abruptly when Loki's back collided with a hard surface. The back of his head smacked the stone and his teeth rattled.

Loki was unsure as to how much time passed before he was able to sit up, but it must have been at least several minutes. And even after he was upright, a wave of vertigo washed over him. Loki felt around for some sort of ledge, but when he found it he was unable to determine how high he was above the ground. After taking in a deep breath to gather his wits, Loki took a leap of faith.

The fall wasn't as far as he was expecting, but the landing was still painful. Loki sputtered when dirt and dust entered his mouth and nostrils. Even though he was wearing long sleeves and pants, Loki could feel blood oozing in places where the skin had torn underneath layers of clothing. When Loki stood up he felt as if the ground was spinning.

Every footstep echoed loudly and made his entire frame tremble. He thought for certain the other realms would be able to hear him. He held his arms in front of him and waved them about, but his hands only continued to grasp at air. At first the only noises were Loki's haggard breathing and uneven pulse beating in his ears, but then he bumped into something and he heard what sounded like a pot or vase shattering.

Fear gripped at him. He was lost, he was alone, he couldn't see, his other senses seemed to be of no use to him, and the room was getting colder. He wasn't even sure how he got here in the first place. A choked sob slipped past his lips and Loki brought his hands up to his face, tangling his fingers in his sweat-soaked hair. Not even realizing he had been moving, Loki took several steps back until his back hit a solid surface.

At first he stood there and tried to get his breathing under control, but then he lowered his hands, ever so slowly. The temperature of the room felt as if summer had suddenly become winter in less than a few seconds. And something about the air felt electric, making the hairs on the back of Loki's neck stand on-end.

A strong gust of wind struck him in the face like a slap, and before he could utter any sort of verbal response, Loki's arms were pinned at his sides, against the wall. He tried to push himself away with his feet, which he could still move only a little bit, but it was no use. He started to squirm when his body began sliding up the wall. It was rigid and bumpy, and he had to be careful to make sure he didn't accidentally bite down on his tongue. When it stopped, he could feel blood dripping down his back and in his hair from when his head scraped the wall a few times.

Loki was tired. He was tired, and he just wanted this all to be over. His head and back were throbbing, as well as his knees and palms from when he hit the ground earlier. Whatever wanted to kill him, he just hoped they would do it quickly. He closed his eyes, thinking that would make it easier. Then he began to dream.

This new place in his dream-within-a-dream was in the midst of a storm of some sort. Clouds and mists engulfed the land, and visibility was non-existent. Far off in the distance a fiery red glow was barely distinguishable. Lightning cut through the thick fog, but as soon as the light was gone the clouds would form together again.

Three small shadows crept through the mist, each carrying weapons. They were heading towards the large shapes of a cow and a giant man, both sleeping. The cow heard the sound of the metal weapons clinking together and was jarred awake. The man woke a few moments later, but it was not soon enough.

The three smaller men leaped at him and drew their weapons, taking advantage of his drowsy state. Despite the larger man's obvious advantage regarding his size, he was out-numbered and unarmed. After putting up as much of a fight as he could, the giant fell to their swords. His body had been cut into several pieces, and the earth began to tremble.

Loki's head nodded forward, and he woke himself up. When he opened his eyes he saw with disappointment that he was still trapped in the cave. Then he noticed a strange sensation coming from the entire back end of his body. It was as if he could no longer feel it. It started to move to his shoulders and ears.

Loki started screaming as his right shoulder passed through the wall. He knew he was going to die here, but he didn't want it to be like this. It had reached his cheekbones, which were soaked with salty tears. Just as his eyes were about to vanish into the wall, he heard a voice that chilled him to the core.

“I've found you.”

~*~

Thor hadn't been sleeping too soundly. Partly because he drank too much wine, but mostly because he was worried about Loki. He tried to convince himself that Loki would talk to them if, or when, he was ready, so Thor had no reason to lose sleep over it. Only about an hour after he had finally fallen asleep, he heard noises coming from Loki's room, which was next door to his. What it sounded like was Loki's bed slamming against the wall.

As far as Thor knew, Loki's only sexual conquest was...that one time we're not supposed to talk about ever.

Thor sat up slightly when he heard a knock at his door.

“Come in.”

It was Fandral, who looked surprisingly unaffected by the alcohol he had consumed earlier that evening. He seemed somewhat uncertain whether he should ask the obvious question, looking at Loki's room, then at Thor.

“Is there somebody in there with him?” Thor shrugged.

Suddenly a white shape rushed past them and entered the room next door without saying a word to either of them. Thor jerked his head in question.

“Freyr.”

“We should see what's happening.”

When both men entered the room, they saw Freyr pressing Loki's arms into the mattress. Loki was still trying to wriggle out of his grip, and he was muttering something over and over again.

“I can't get him to lie still enough for me to sedate him,” Freyr hissed. “I awoke as soon as I was made aware.”

“Aware of what?” Thor asked.

“There is something evil in his thoughts, and it is trying to get out. He must either be put into deeper sleep so I can implant dreams in his mind to destroy it, or he needs to be awakened, which could be worse.”

“Why would that be worse?”

“Because the presence would not be completely destroyed, only suppressed. It could come back.”

“Then I will destroy it myself if that should happen.”

By now Loki's struggles had lessened, but the repetitive muttering had not, even if it was a bit slurred.

“I give you leave to try,” Freyr said softly, then released his grip on Loki's arms. If anyone could say the phrase “Knock yourself out” in a polite way, it would be Freyr.

Thor sat down on the bed and watched his brother wearily flail his arms around, almost looking like a baby still trying to learn how fingers and toes worked. The fight had gone out of him. As Loki's right arm was in mid-swing, Thor caught his wrist and held the trembling hand between his two warm calloused ones.

“Loki, if you can hear me, please wake up. You cannot let this thing win. Fight it!”

Thor wiped Loki's brow with his right hand, and when he pulled away there was a dark red smear left behind. He looked at his palm and saw no wounds, but when he inspected Loki's, he saw that both of his hands had scrapes and minor cuts. He then noticed a dark stain on the pillow behind his head and felt the back and nape of his neck. It was damp and sticky.

“Where did these wounds come from?”

“Can you not harbor a guess?” Freyr responded.

“You mean to tell me that whatever happened to Loki in his dream has somehow affected him in real life? How is that possible?”

“It shouldn't be. But it has happened before our very eyes.”

“What was all that rambling he was saying before?” Fandral spoke up.

“I do not know. It is an ancient Elvish dialect that hasn't been used for centuries. But there is someone who may be able to translate it. Wait a moment while I send for him.”

After Freyr silently swept from the room, Fandral looked at Thor with a raised eyebrow.

“I don't know how anybody can move around that quietly all the damn time. It's a bit too strange for my taste.” Thor shrugged. He couldn't really say anything about it, considering Loki was always accusing him of being one of the loudest people in the Nine Realms. “I think he's starting to wake up.”

Thor turned his head so quickly his neck popped. The way that Loki's eyes were fluttering was as if just opening them was a struggle. When he finally did manage to open them all the way, Loki's gaze turned to Thor. A look of shock registered in his face, but Thor couldn't quite put a name to it. He wasn't sure if Loki was surprised or angry to see him there, or maybe—and hopefully—this was one of Loki's old expressions he would wear if he was deeply troubled and needed his brother.

Cold and clammy hands grasped at his arms, and when Loki tried to pull himself up into a sitting position, Thor almost told him to lay back down. He thought better of it and remained where he was, letting his brother do it without any aid. As soon as Loki was sitting up, he immediately wrapped his arms around Thor's back and shoulders. The hot tears and shuddering breaths on his bare chest made Thor realize that he'd forgotten to put a shirt on before he left his room. He wanted to put his hands somewhere, but Loki's head was bleeding, and so was his back, he then noticed.

“Don't let him get me. Please. Don't let him get me.”

“Who? Who is after you, Loki?”

“Ymir.” Thor leaned back and looked down at Loki sharply.

“That's not possible. My father killed him thousands of years ago.”

“I saw him. I can hear him in my head.”

“Loki, they ripped his body apart. His limbs and organs made up the landforms and water. Everybody knows this, even me, the one who never reads.”

“Your father may have destroyed his body, but not his mind.”

Chapter Text

“Loki, you don't actually mean...” Thor began hesitantly. “Well, you know the story surely, his brain made the clouds.”

“I'm not talking about his brain, Thor! I'm talking about his mind! His consciousness! He. Is. Not. Dead.” Loki furrowed his brow when he at last noticed the blood smeared all over Thor's skin. He then looked at his own hands and saw the cuts. “Why am I bleeding?”

“Freyr said that whatever happened to you inside your dream has affected your physical body. You were wounded, yes?”

“Yes, I fell and scraped my hands and knees. And then on the wall, my head...”

Loki reached up and felt the back of his head, and the hair was sticky and crusty. His lip curled at the sensation. Just to make sure, he reached his hand around to his back and winced. That was what hurt the most.

Loki had calmed down somewhat by the time Freyr returned. With him was an Elf who looked like he could be Thor's great-grandfather. There were more wrinkles and lines in his face than tree bark. Even though this was Thor's first time to actually come into contact with the Elves, he had never expected to meet one that was so old. He didn't even know that they aged in such a way.

Fandral's expression turned into a scowl when Freyr spoke with the Elf in hushed whispers. He really hated that about their host. Suddenly the Elf jerked back and a look of disbelief marred his face. He glanced towards the bed at Loki, back at Freyr, then nodded curtly.

“Can you tell me everything that you remember about your dream?” The Elf asked as he approached the bed. Loki shook his head.

“Don't make me think about that place again. I can't go back into that cave again.”

“Loki, it's alright. You are safe now,” Thor said in a calming manner.

“No, I'm not! Why does no one believe me?!”

“We do believe you. He only wants to translate for us, that's all.”

“Translate what?

“The words you were repeating over and over again.”

“I was...I don't remember that. What was I saying?”

“If what Lord Freyr tells me is true, you were uttering 'When the Last is sacrificed, the First will return,'” the Elf replied.

“What does that mean?” Fandral asked.

“It means that Ymir is trying to come back,” Thor mused. “But I wonder what it means by 'the last'.”

'It means me. I am the last of his bloodline. When I die, Ymir will be resurrected,' Loki thought forlornly and looked down at his hands.

Loki let out a puff of air before tipping over. Thor caught him and tilted his chin up to see that he had passed out. Thor looked over his shoulder at Freyr.

“He is...asleep, now. If you wanted to implant those dreams as you said before.” Freyr nodded.

“Yes. But first I must heal his wounds.” The Elf excused himself, his task complete, and Freyr took his place. “First we need to remove his clothing.”

“What?!”

“Have fun, Thor,” Fandral quipped before slipping out of the room.

“He has minor injuries on his knees that will fester if they are not treated,” Freyr explained. “But if it makes you so uncomfortable you can roll up his pants.”

“I think that would be much more suitable, thank you very much.” Thor wasn't trying to lose his temper, but Freyr was just making it too easy.

“We do still need to rid him of his shirt. The wounds on his back are much more severe than any of the others.” Thor resisted the urge to roll his eyes, but nodded his consent. Just as he was about to pass Loki over, Freyr shook his head. “You are his brother.”

Thor would have clenched his hands into fists if he hadn't still been holding onto Loki's arms. Was the Vanir trying to make him angry on purpose? He was nothing like his sister, that Thor knew for certain.

Keeping his frustration—and slight embarrassment—pent up inside, Thor did as his host asked. Slowly inching the garment up, Thor tried to pull Loki's shirt over his head without waking him or causing any pain. When the shirt was completely off, he had to bite down on a gasp.

Loki's back was worse than he'd thought, and Freyr didn't seem to be expecting the severity of the wound either.

Without wasting any time, Freyr held his hands an inch above the torn flesh and began muttering an incantation. Thor thought to himself that the old Loki would have been able to translate it in an instant. He wondered if his brother would ever go back to the way he was.

When Freyr was finished healing Loki's back, he moved to his head. He then told Thor to lie him down so he could heal Loki's knees and hands. He would have jumped for joy when Freyr was finished, but that was a bit excessive.

“That should be all. He will sleep until morning. You ought to rest as well.”

“No. I'll stay here and keep an eye on him. Just in case.”

“If you wish. I will not stop you.” Without saying another word, the Vanir left the room as quietly as he came.

~*~

Thor had no idea what time it was, so he didn't know how long it would be before Loki woke up. He wanted to leave as soon as possible. This place, and its people, made him uneasy.

He didn't realize how tired he was until he started yawning continuously. He figured he could rest his eyes for a little while. But everyone knows that never works. When Thor woke up a few hours later, it was from someone roughly shaking him.

“Thor, get off! You're crushing my legs!”

Thor quickly sat up and blinked through the grogginess and vertigo that washed over him. He then turned his attention to Loki, who was massaging his knees and had a grimace on his face.

“Loki, are you alright? How do you feel?” The younger male spared him a reproachful look, and Thor tried his best not to shrink back.

“Other than the throbbing in my legs, I'm fine,” he deadpanned. Thor averted his gaze.

“I am so sorry, Loki.”

“No need to worry. They should be fine in a few minutes,” he said flippantly.

“That's not what I mean. I...I am sorry for everything. For making you come with us to Alfheim. For not abiding your wishes. For—”

“Shut up, Thor.” Loki ran a hand through his hair and perked up when he felt no blood on the back of his head. He released a tired sigh. “I know you're sorry. But words of apology won't change the past. Making me normal again is the only way to set things right.” Thor was quiet for a moment, unsure of how to respond. Then he remembered something.

“Loki, do you remember having any dreams last night?” Loki looked at him strangely.

“You mean besides the one where I was sucked into a wall?”

“Yes. Besides that one.” Loki thought about it for a few seconds.

“None that I can recall. Why?”

“Well, because Freyr said he would implant dreams into your mind to help you sleep. I was just curious as to what they may have been about.”

“Oh. No, I don't remember anything.” Loki looked down at the bedspread and ran his fingers over the pattern.

As Thor watched him, he remembered what Sif had told him the previous evening. He knew he shouldn’t ask, but his curiosity was getting the better of him. As it always did.

“Loki, what memory did the feather show you?” He blurted out. Loki stiffened, and Thor immediately wished he could take his question back. His brother looked scared; but he couldn’t tell if he was scared of the memory itself, or scared of what Thor might do to him. “Actually, you know what, it doesn’t really matter—”

“I cut off Sif’s hair.”

The two siblings sat in silence. All they could hear were birds in the trees outside Loki’s window. Thor let out a breath, which made the other male jump.

“Oh.”

Thor remembered that day well, and what happened afterwards. He had threatened Loki to fix the mess he’d made, and when he made the deal with the Dwarves, they didn’t keep their word. The scars around Loki’s mouth took almost an entire year to heal. Thor wondered if that was a part of the memory.

The tense moment between the two brothers was interrupted by a knock at the door. Thor got up and answered it. Freyr entered the room, followed by an Elf attendant. The Elf had a pile of folded clothes in his arms.

“Good morning, sons of Odin. I had your clothes washed while you slept, and I found some extra garments for your journey,” Freyr spoke. He turned to the attendant and nodded once, then the Elf placed the clothing at the foot of the bed.

“Thank you,” Loki said quietly.

“Your friends are already eating breakfast. My attendant will remain in the corridor while you dress. He will then take you downstairs. If I do not see you before you leave, I wish you luck on your journey.”

Freyr turned and left the room, followed by his attendant. Thor then went to the door and lingered for a moment. He wanted to tell Loki he would see him soon, but it seemed meaningless. Instead, he left the room without saying anything.

Loki would never admit it out loud, but he was relieved to finally be alone. He got up from the bed, and his rolled-up pant legs slid down to his ankles. They were very wrinkled.

“Well, I guess I can’t wear these,” he mumbled.

He picked up the outer shirt he had been wearing the night before and decided it was too complicated to put on by himself. He looked at the clothes Freyr had given him and knew he would have an easier time with them.

After changing clothes, he tried not to wriggle like a cat, but the material was so soft! It was smoother than silk, if that was even possible. He couldn’t help but run his fingertips over the garment. The shirt and pants were both cream colored, and the v-neck collar had a braided pattern along the edge. A similar design was on the seam of the pants.

Loki knew he had lingered long enough and slipped on his shoes. But the boots didn’t look right, so instead he tried on the pair Freyr had brought. They probably weren’t meant for walking long distances, but he would have time later to figure it all out. At least he hoped so.

When Loki opened the door, he saw that Thor was already waiting. For some reason, Loki wasn’t surprised that Thor was wearing the same outfit he had on yesterday. When the Elf turned to lead the brothers downstairs, his eyes widened for a brief moment at Loki’s appearance. The shock passed quickly, and he gestured for them to follow him.

“It looks good on you,” Thor said.

“Oh. Thank you,” Loki replied. “I couldn’t figure out how to put on my other clothes.”

“Well, that’s alright. Change is always good.”

“I suppose.”

When they entered the dining room, their mouths started watering at the smells. For people who didn’t consume any kind of meat, they sure knew how to make up for it. The Warriors Three didn’t appear to notice their arrival and kept eating. Sif smiled at them before taking a sip of her wine.

“Welcome, sons of Odin,” Freyr said in greeting. “Are your plans to leave after you have eaten?”

“Yes. That was the plan,” Thor replied as he took an empty seat next to Fandral.

“I see. But Master Loki appears to be ready for a nap.”

“What do you mean?” Loki asked sharply.

“Well, you are wearing a night shirt.”

Loki’s eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets. So that was why the Elf had looked at him strangely. Thor kept his head down and tried not to blush. He had just told his brother that he looked good in pajamas. Freyr said something in Elvish to the attendant, who bowed and motioned for Loki to follow him upstairs. Fandral let out a chuckle and Sif kicked him under the table.

“This is where I must leave you,” Freyr spoke again. “Be safe, brave travelers.” Without saying another word, Freyr left the room.

Thor began filling his plate, occasionally glancing at the doorway. But it would be a while before Loki appeared again. And he knew that once Loki came back, he would have to eat. He went to bed without supper last night, which he actually used to do quite a lot. Before the accident.

Thor just really wanted to move on to the next realm. He was never content with staying in one place for very long. That was why he went on so many adventures with his friends. However, until his brother returned to the way he once was, Thor would need to learn how to be more patient.

Chapter Text

When Loki returned, he averted his gaze and was shown to his seat. He grabbed a few items from the nearest platter, mostly fruits and cheeses, then took a long swig from his wine glass. Thor kept watching him, and Loki could feel the other man’s eyes on him. He tried to ignore it for as long as he could, but it was starting to be too much.

“What are you staring at?” Loki snapped and shot a glare at his brother.

“Nothing. Just wanted to make sure you got enough to eat.” Loki scoffed.

“I may not have any memories from my past life, but I think I know how to eat properly.”

“You are probably right.”

“But you don’t know how to dress yourself properly,” Fandral chimed in, earning another kick to the shins from Sif.

“You’re just lucky I don’t have my magic back.” Fandral nodded with a smirk. “Yet.”

Thor hid a smile and finished off his wine. That sounded like the old Loki talking.

After everyone was finished eating, they all made their way to the main foyer, where all of their belongings had been brought down. They checked their bags to make sure everything was accounted for, and then they all went outside. Through the trees they could see an open field, and they knew it had to be where the Bifrost had dropped them. The markings were still there, so they spread out evenly within the large circle.

“Heimdall, we are ready to travel to the next world,” Thor said.

As the clouds parted, Thor looked over at Loki. His clothes were all black; simple, but elegant. The blouse appeared to be made of velvet, and silver buttons sparkled in the morning sunlight. Loki met his eyes, but before he could say anything, they were enveloped in light and their feet left the ground.

~*~

When the Bifrost returned home, the travelers glanced around, hoping to figure out where they were. Then they saw each other.

“What the Hel?!” Sif yelled in a high-pitched voice.

“Well, we can definitely say that there is a feather here,” Thor said in a voice almost as high.

“But why are we, I don’t know, ten years old?” Volstagg asked. They all looked at their axe-wielding friend and saw no beard, but his rosy cheeks were somewhat puffy. “What?”

“Loki, do you feel anything?” Thor asked.

“Umm…” Loki looked in every direction. He brought a hand up to his lips and turned around. He tried to stare far ahead of him, and he shifted nervously. “I… I don’t know.”

“Well, there has to be one. I mean look at us!” Fandral remarked. He just wanted to change back because of all the acne on his face.

“I know that, but I can’t feel anything. I wouldn’t know where to start looking. I mean, there is nothing out here.”

“Well, everyone pick a direction. Take one hundred steps in that direction, then come back and let us know if you can see any civilization,” Thor said. The others nodded in consent, then decided what direction to go. “Ready? Onward!”

Loki went northwest, or at least he thought it was northwest. As he was counting, he felt as if he hadn’t gone very far, and he wondered if they should have doubled the number of steps. But he had no way of telling the others. All he could do was hope one of them found something.

“Ninety-seven… ninety-eight… ninety-nine… one hundred.” He looked around and saw little to no change since he started. The only difference was a group of large trees in the distance. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to go just a little bit farther.”

When the Warriors Three made it back, they saw Thor already there. Sif joined them a moment later.

“I couldn’t see anything. What about you all?” Sif asked. They all shook their heads. “How long have you been waiting for us, Thor?”

“I never left.”

“What? Why not?”

“Well, because…” He gestured to his right, and they saw Mjollnir embedded in the ground. “I can’t lift it in this form, and I was afraid to leave it, and all of our belongings unattended. Forgive me.”

“That’s alright, Thor. But I have seen no trace of other people,” Fandral said. Thor looked around, then did so again.

“Where is Loki?” None of the others knew. “What direction did he go?”

“I think he went that way,” Sif answered, pointing towards the northwest. “Do you want us to come with you?”

“No. You all rest. I will go, but I need you to watch our possessions.” Sif nodded, but said nothing. “I will return with Loki. Soon, I hope.”

He set off in the direction Sif told him to go and looked to the west. The sun was in the center of the sky, and it was nearing dusk. Thor picked up his pace. He didn’t know if he would be able to find Loki in the dark, especially because he was wearing all black.

When he counted one hundred steps, he started to panic when he saw no sign of his brother. Had Sif been wrong? He brought his hands up and curved them around his mouth.

“Loki! Loki!”

“Thor!” It was far away, but he could hear it.

“Where are you?!”

“Up here! In this tree!” Thor squinted his eyes, and then he saw a small black shape near the top of the nearest tree.

“Loki, don’t move! I’ll be right there!” Thor ran as fast as his little legs could carry him. When he got to the tree, he saw that it was a lot taller than he had originally thought. “How did you get up there?”

“I found these on my belt,” Loki answered, brandishing two large daggers. Well, they looked large in his tiny hands, but they were actually Loki’s throwing knives. He never went anywhere without them.

“Can you see anything?”

“Yes. Water. On all sides.”

“We must be on an island.”

“And guess what else I found!”

“Did you find your feather?” Loki nodded. “Then why haven’t you… you know?”

“Because you showed up.”

Thor looked away sheepishly. He tried to could all the trees in the area, but there were so many. And how strange it was that the feather would be in the one tree Loki decided to climb. Unless he felt that it was up there. Thor would have said it was a coincidence, but then he remembered what the Eir told him. He was about to ask Loki about it when he looked up and saw him put the feather to his chest.

Loki closed his eyes as the memory entered his mind. A few seconds passed by, and then Thor became concerned when Loki swayed back and forth. He knew that seeing the memories made him dizzy, but he wasn’t sure if it was enough to make him lose his grip. Almost as soon as that thought crossed his mind, Loki was falling.

“LOKI!”

Thor held his arms out in front of him, and he could feel his legs growing. But he dared not look down and risk losing sight of Loki. He watched as his brother’s limbs slowly returned to their normal size. Thor planted his feet firmly on the ground and took a solid stance. As soon as Loki’s back made contact with his arms, Thor bent his legs then slowly knelt to the ground. He brushed some stray bangs out of Loki’s eyes, and he felt the skin under his fingertips become slightly warmer.

Thor sat and waited a few more minutes, and his brother still had not opened his eyes. He didn’t want to force him to wake up, but the sun was beginning to set, and he preferred not to travel through a strange place in the dark. He waited one more minute, then decided to try and wake him. He shook Loki’s shoulder lightly, and he breathed a sigh of relief when he blinked his green eyes open.

“Forgive me for waking you, Brother, but we really should be returning to our friends. If we do not leave soon, I fear we will be unable to find our way in the dark.”

“No, you are right,” Loki replied as he got up on shaky legs. Thor was instantly at his side and wrapped an arm around Loki’s shoulders. “Thanks.”

“Are you feeling unwell?”

“No. Just a bit tired. It’s nothing to worry about. I will be alright in a little while. But we should probably go.”

“Yes. Of course.” As they began walking southeast, Thor gradually eased his hold until he was certain that Loki could walk on his own. “What was the memory about this time?”

“I’m not quite certain. There was a very big man, or maybe he was a giant, with a horse. And they were building some kind of wall.”

“Oh. I see.”

“Do you know what that could have been about?” Loki asked, looking up at the other male.

“Uh… no. I do not believe so,” Thor lied and avoided Loki’s eyes.

“Oh. Well, it probably wasn’t important anyway.”

“You may be right about that.”

Thor felt bad for lying to Loki, but he just didn't have the heart to tell him the truth. He knew exactly which memory it was, but it didn't seem to reveal itself in its entirety. Thor knew it would be too much to hope that the rest of the memory would never be found. He didn't know how Loki would handle it if he did find out.

~*~

They made it back to the others faster than they had originally expected. Most likely it was forgotten that they were all about three feet tall when they went exploring. Thor felt sort of silly for worrying, but he made no more mention of it.

“Were you able to figure out where we are?” Sif asked as she lifted her bag over her shoulder.

“Loki was up in a tree and he said he could see water all around. It’s my guess that we are on an island somewhere,” Thor answered her. Now that he was fully-grown again, he was able to lift Mjollnir and return it to his hip.

“Well, thank the gods that we are all back to normal,” Fandral said with a sigh.

“What’s the matter, Fandral? You can’t handle a few pimples?” Volstagg asked with a smirk.

“Oh, like you’re one to talk!”

“Me? And whatever do you mean by that?” Volstagg replied with sarcasm.

“I thought if I were to poke your cheeks they would pop and deflate!”

“Are we really back to normal? Because I think those two have still yet to grow up,” Loki muttered. Thor chuckled under his breath and Sif rolled her eyes, but there was a thin smile on her face.

“Does everyone have all that they need?” Thor asked no one in particular. After receiving a few nods, he looked up at the sky. “Heimdall, we are ready to travel to the next world.”

As they waited for the Bifrost to envelope them in its light, Loki turned and looked back in the direction he had traveled. He wondered if this land really was uninhabited, or if the natives had been watching them the entire time. No one else seemed to have seen other people or animals, but it could have still been possible that they were not alone.

For a split second, his mind wandered back to the memory the feather had showed him. He wondered what it really meant, and if he would see what happened next. He was slightly jolted when he was pulled into the sky, and he shut his eyes to the brightness surrounding him.

As soon as their feet touched the earth, every member of the traveling party found themselves sinking. They saw black sand that stretched for miles, and there didn’t appear to be any rock formations or solid ground anywhere. The sky was a strange color. It was a grayish yellow, and there were thick clouds that looked almost toxic. There was no breeze, and the air was thick with an odd smell, almost like death.

“What evil sort of place is this?” Thor asked.

“The only realm I know of with a sky like this is Svartalfheim,” Hogun spoke. “But that is the only thing that remains the same. It is not supposed to be this desolate.”

“Then there must be a feather here. Loki, can you feel anything?”

“Yes,” Loki answered, looking around in every direction. “It’s here, but it is very deep. Beneath the sand, I think.”

“Well, let’s start digging.”

Chapter Text

“Well, Loki? Can you tell which direction we need to go?” Thor asked.

“Actually, the feather is directly under us. Only it is deep below the ground.”

“Remind me when this is all over to give Heimdall a big hug,” Fandral said, earning yet another eye roll from Sif.

“Alright. Let’s get started.”

After they set their packs down several yards away, because they didn’t want to fling sand all over their things, they knelt down and began scooping large handfuls of dirt.

“I wish there was a breeze,” Fandral commented, wiping the sweat from his brow.

“Fandral, it has been five seconds,” Sif deadpanned. “You don’t hear Loki complaining. No offense.”

“None taken,” Loki said with a shrug. He felt there was really no reason to complain at this point. But maybe that was the kind of person he had been before this whole mess started. Needless to say, Fandral kept his mouth shut.

A few more minutes went by, and they still had found nothing. Thor kept it to himself, but he really wished they had shovels. It would make this go by a lot quicker, that was for sure. But they had plenty of time. It was still several hours before sunset, or at least it appeared that way to Thor.

Suddenly, Loki let out a hiss and clutched at his chest. Everyone stopped digging and watched him. Thor crawled over to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. He was breathing heavily, and his face was contorted with pain. He didn’t even seem to notice that Thor was next to him.

“Loki, are you alright?” Loki’s breathing started evening out, and when his eyes met Thor’s, they were slightly glassed over. “Do you need to rest?” He shook his head.

“No. There was a very sharp pain. And a terrible feeling came over me.” He was panting as he talked, as if the pain was still affecting him.

“What kind of feeling?”

“That we should stop looking for this feather. Because something bad will happen when we find it.”

“Well, that doesn’t sound very promising,” Fandral said.

“I’m sorry for making a fuss.”

“There is nothing you need to apologize for. And no matter what, we are going to make sure nothing bad happens to you,” Thor said.

“Thor is right,” Sif chimed in. “We all want you to return to your old self.”

Loki nodded, but he kept his gaze downwards. He was trying to hold back a grimace, and he didn’t want the others to see his discomfort. When he scooped more dirt into his hands, Thor finally let go of his shoulder and moved back to his previous spot. Even though none of them said anything, they could all tell that Loki was struggling.

They kept digging, until their heads were below ground level. Loki would work for a few minutes, then stop to catch his breath. The deeper they went, the worse this feeling of foreboding affected him. It was as if there was a thick blanket placed across his shoulders, and it would gradually get heavier and heavier.

“Does anybody want some water?” Thor asked.

“Yes,” they all replied, sounding very tired.

Thor unholstered Mjolnir and flew out of the hole. He searched everyone’s belongings and pulled out five leathern flasks, and one made of a material Thor couldn’t identify. It was given to Loki by the Elves, and he wondered if the contents were enchanted in some way. Holding them by the straps, Thor leaped over the edge and used Mjolnir to slow his descent. He tossed a flask to each of his companions, kept one for himself, then handed the Elven flask to Loki.

Loki looked at Thor gratefully, then opened the flask and took a sip. His brows furrowed and he licked his lips. He started at the flask as if it held all the answers to the universe.

“What’s wrong?” Thor asked as he put the stopper on.

“It’s sweet. Like honey and… something else. What are you all drinking?”

“Just water.”

“Oh.” Suddenly his eyes widened. “I feel refreshed! My chest no longer hurts, and I have more strength.”

“Hey, give me some of that,” Fandral said as he snatched the flask out of Loki’s hand. Before Loki could make any retort, Fandral took a couple swigs. A few seconds went by, and the same bewildered expression Loki had a moment ago appeared on Fandral’s face. “Whoa. You guys need to try this.”

Volstagg held up his hands and Fandral tossed the flask over to him. Hogun watched them silently, and Sif looked like her head was going to explode.

“Save some for Loki! It belongs to him!” She frowned when Volstagg threw it at her.

“Don’t worry, Sif. Even as I drank, I could feel it refilling on its own,” Fandral said.

Sif squeezed the silver pouch in her slender hand, and it felt as if nothing had been consumed. She looked over at Loki, as if asking for permission.

“It’s alright, Sif,” he said with a slight smile.

She sniffed the flask, then she took a sip. She then handed it to Hogun, who was next to her. Volstagg let out a sigh and pounded his chest with a fist.

“I feel as if I could dig a thousand holes!”

“I do as well, my friend,” Fandral added. “But I only have the desire to dig this one.”

After Thor had his share, he gave the flask back to Loki, who put the stopper on. Thor went around and collected everyone’s flasks, flew over the edge, and returned them to their proper places. When he reentered the hole, he saw that the others were already digging.

“Thank you, Loki.”

“Thank Freyr, not me.”

The tone in Loki’s voice was one of finality, so Thor left it at that and went back to digging. Another hour went by, and they did not tire. Loki broke the long silence when he let out a cry of astonishment. The others watched him as he dug with a new fervor, clawing at the dirt. He then plunged his hand deep, until the dirt was up to his elbow. He pulled his arm out slowly, and as the grains of black sand slipped through his fingers, a faint glow could be seen.

“Well done, Brother,” Thor said.

Sif gestured to the others to start climbing out, to give Loki some space. While they crawled to the top, Thor remained at Loki’s side. He wanted to be there if Loki became too weak to climb out on his own. He watched as Loki brushed all of the dirt off the feather, then he held it up to his chest. As the feather entered his body, Loki closed his eyes and waited for the memory to reveal itself.

~*~

It was dark. Everything had a faint blue hue, and Loki felt himself shivering. He heard gruff voices talking in another language, and he could also hear a baby crying nearby. Then he realized he was the one crying.

There was a shushing noise to his right, and then a large man appeared in his vision. It was the giant from his first memory. Laufey, his father.

“Do not cry, my son,” Laufey said in a tender voice. Completely the opposite from the way he spoke in Tom’s movie. “I promise you this is only for a short time. And once the enemy is defeated, I will come back for you.”

Laufey was speaking in the tongue of the giants, but somehow Loki was able to understand him. Maybe because it was in his blood.

“You will be safe. Even the All-Father would not spill blood in a sacred place." When he said 'All-Father,' there was venom in his voice. "And do not worry. Helblindi and Byleistr are safe, as well.”

“Who?” Loki tried to ask, but it only came out as a spit bubble.

Laufey looked down at him fondly, and then he turned his gaze somewhere else when footsteps approached. Loki could feel the ground shake underneath him when the newcomer entered the room.

“My King, your men are awaiting your orders.”

“Very good, Thrym. Tell them I will be there shortly. I have one last thing I must take care of.”

“Yes, my King. As you wish.”

The floor began vibrating again as Thrym left the room. Laufey wrapped the blanket tighter around Loki, and then he smiled down at him. There was sadness in his crimson eyes, as if he was unsure they would ever meet again.

“Are you ready, my little light?” Laufey picked Loki up into his arms and patted his head gently. “Go to sleep now, little starlight. Think only of happy dreams. And when you awaken, all will be at peace.”

Trapped in this tiny body, Loki felt like sobbing. But Laufey must have put a spell on him, because his eyelids were drooping. He tried to reach out to his father, but his hands wouldn’t move. As he lost the fight to drowsiness, his head fell forward onto Laufey’s broad shoulder, and sleep took him.

~*~

Thor watched as Loki slowly lifted his head, and he became concerned when tears streamed down his face. Loki let out a choked sob and clutched at his chest. He was so worried about his brother, that he didn’t notice the ground start trembling.

Already on level ground, Sif and the Warriors Three watched in horror as mountains suddenly shot out of the earth. Then the piles of sand began filling the hole at a fast rate.

“Thor! Get out of there!” Sif yelled.

She managed to make her way over to the ledge and saw that the sand had hardened around their legs. Thor had an arm around Loki and held Mjolnir above their heads to try and pull them out. But like an hourglass, the sand filled the hole until it had completely covered them. When the sand leveled out, the ground hardened.

“No! Thor!” The four warriors tried digging with their fingers, but the dirt was too hard. Sif drew her dagger and started chipping away at the dirt. “Volstagg, use your axe! Use your swords! Any means necessary, but we have to get them out of there!”

Hogun struck the ground with his Morningstar, and Fandral even used his sword. Nothing they did had any effect. A few seconds went by, and there was still no change. Then the ground began to tremble, and they all jumped back as the tremors increased. A crack appeared in the dirt, and sparks shot out of the small opening.

Suddenly, Mjolnir broke through the surface, and bolts of lightning danced in all directions. With a loud thud, Thor and Loki landed on the ground a few yards away. The warriors ran over to them, and they were covered from head to toe in black dust. The two brothers looked into each other’s eyes, and with a sob, Loki leaned against Thor’s chest. As he cried, Thor rubbed his back and laid his chin on the top of his head.

A few more minutes went by, and the brothers were still lying in the same position. Loki’s cries had died down to sniffles, and as the four warriors watched from the side, they were all wondering the same thing: Was Loki shaken up because of the memory he had recovered? Or was it because he had just been buried alive? Maybe even both.

Finally, just as the eerie green sun was beginning to set in the west, Loki separated himself from Thor. They both got up slowly, and somewhat unsteadily, and they tried to brush some of the dirt off. Sif and the others were lost for words. What could they say to him after what they had just witnessed?

“Let’s go. I want to get as far away from this horrible place as possible,” Loki said with a slight tremor in his voice.

“Agreed,” Thor replied. “Hopefully we won’t ever have to come back here.”

“Hear, hear!” Fandral shouted.

After they had all grabbed their bags and slung them over their shoulders, they entered the circle carved into the ground. Thor looked over at Loki, who still had a somewhat haunted expression on his face. Without moving his gaze from his brother, he called to the Gatekeeper.

“Heimdall, we are ready to travel to the next world.”

As if sensing their urgency to leave, the Bifrost appeared quicker than normal. Within a few seconds, they were flying across the cosmos, towards their next challenge.

Chapter Text

Even before their feet had touched the ground, they knew where they had ended up because of how cold it had suddenly become. When the Bifrost returned home, everyone was squinting their eyes, trying to take in their surroundings. Well, everyone was except Loki, who could see perfectly fine. He heard a couple grumbles and he watched as Thor and the others opened their packs and dug around for their fur cloaks. Loki searched through the items the Elves had given him and found a cloak. He put it on just for show, because the cool air felt good to him.

“Alright,” Thor said as he wrapped his arms tightly around himself. “Do you feel the presence of a feather?”

Loki was silent for a moment, and he looked around. Even though the two memories he had recovered were short, he tried to spot something familiar. Or maybe he would find some sort of structure. The realm itself seemed to be falling apart. Even as that thought crossed his mind, a large chunk of rock broke off a cliff-face and tumbled loudly into the deep canyon below.

No,” he finally answered, then he began walking in the direction the rock had fallen.

“Well, if there is no feather here, we have no reason to stay.”

“You all can leave if you want to,” he said without stopping.

“Wait a second, Loki!” Thor walked briskly to catch up with the other man. “We can’t leave without you.”

“Then come with me.”

“Loki!” Thor reached out and grabbed Loki’s arm. Finally, Loki turned around and looked up at him. “What are you doing?”

“There is something I need to confirm.”

“Confirm? What are you talking about? Do you even know where you’re going?”

“Haven’t the slightest idea. All I know is I need to find the palace.”

“The palace?! Loki, this is an enemy realm! We are not welcome here!” Loki just watched him impassively. “And besides, if we stay here much longer, the Frost Giants will find us,” he said in a quieter voice, looking over his shoulder.

“I know. That is the whole point.” Thor looked confused, but what else was new? “I want them to find us so they will take us to the palace.”

“Or they will kill us.” Loki shook his head.

“No one is dying today. Not after they hear my bargain.”

By this time, Sif and the Warriors Three had deemed it relatively safe enough to follow the two brothers. They all stood and watched the siblings argue back and forth.

“Loki, forgive me for asking this, but are you feeling alright? I know the events of Svartalfheim were alarming, and I just hope you are thinking clearly.”

“Yes, it was frightening. I still have images replaying themselves in my head. But my judgment is not hindered in any way. The memory I recovered left me with more questions, and this is the only way I can get answers.”

“Answers to what? Loki, what is going on?” Instead of answering him, Loki’s green eyes shifted to the left, and he seemed to be listening for something.

“Well, that didn’t take very long.”

What didn’t take very long?” Thor asked begrudgingly, because he already knew the answer.

“For them to find us.”

As if it was an instant reflex, Sif and the Warriors Three formed a circle and faced outward, drawing their weapons. Thor took Mjolnir into his hand and searched the nearby rock formations for any movement. A moment later, the shadows shifted, and several Frost Giants approached from all sides. The warriors looked up when they saw giants appear on top of the nearby cliffs.

“Why are you here, Asgardians?” It was impossible to tell where the voice was coming from, because it echoed all around them. Loki thought for a second that the voice was familiar. He needed to hear it again.

“I have come to speak to your King,” Loki proclaimed.

“And why would the King want to see a band of Asgardian murderers?

“He may have no interest in my companions, but he will speak to me.”

“For what reason?”

There was no doubt about it in Loki’s mind. The voice belonged to Thrym.

“Because I am not Asgardian. I am one of your kinsmen.” There was a murmuring among the Frost Giants and a chorus of gasps from Sif and the others.

“You lie,” the voice spat. There was a crackling sound as ice encased the giants’ arms and sharpened into weapons. Since they had become hostile, Loki felt it would be a bad idea to call Thrym by name.

“Let me prove to you that we share the same blood.” Loki shifted the fur cloak and rolled up his shirt sleeve. He then held his bare arm out to the nearest Frost Giant.

“Do it. If the little fool wants to harm himself, let him.” The giant lowered its weaponized arm and approached Loki.

“Loki no,” Thor hissed.

“Thor, do you trust me?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then promise you won’t look at me any differently after this moment.” Thor didn’t know what he meant, but he didn’t want to hurt his brother.

“I promise.”

The Frost Giant had been watching the two men converse, and then the smaller one took a step forward. He grabbed the slender arm with his large hand, just below the wrist. Instead of the sounds of shrieking and sizzling flesh, there was silence. Then something strange happened.

It started at the fingertips, and as the flesh changed from white to blue, raised markings appeared on the top of the hand and continued up the arm. It sounded like a rumble of thunder as the Frost Giants all whispered to each other. They knew those markings very well. They were on the bodies of those born into the line of the Kings of Jotunheim, all the way back to Ymir himself.

The Frost Giant holding Loki’s arm was so mesmerized by what he was seeing that he couldn’t bring himself to let go. The blue crawled up the young man’s neck and reached his face. Curved lines appeared on his forehead, and the last things to change were his eyes. Shifting from emerald to ruby, they possessed a fire the giants had seen burn in their King’s eyes many times before.

The ground shook as another Frost Giant walked up to them. He was slightly taller than the other one, and much older. He looked almost on the verge of tears.

“It cannot be.” Loki knew this was Thrym. “We all thought you were lost. Or killed.”

“As you can see, I am still alive. And I wish to see my father.”

“Yes. Of course, my prince. At once.”

Thrym made a gesture with his arm, and all of the ice weapons receded. The other Frost Giant released Loki’s arm and his flesh began to revert back to its other color. The giants moved in closer, and then they began heading north. Loki’s companions still had yet to utter a sound, and he didn’t turn around to look and see if they were following him. He knew they were because it was a choice between finding shelter or freezing in the open. Thrym slowed down his pace and moved to be next to Loki.

“I was there the day your father took you to the temple. It was the last time anyone ever saw you.”

“Then I assume there is a lot of lost time that needs to be relived.”

“Too much time, my prince,” Thrym said reverently. “Ever since you vanished, you father’s heart froze, and he became bitter. Maybe seeing you alive and well will return him to his old ways.”

“I can only hope.”

~*~

The rest of the journey was silent. After walking for nearly half an hour, because the Asgardians took smaller steps, a large fortress appeared in the darkness. It was almost as run-down as the rest of the realm. Loki wondered what had caused so much desolation. Then he thought about Tom’s movie, and he pondered whether the Casket that Odin took had anything to do with it. Did the Casket even exist? Or was it something created just for the movie? Loki had to admit, this Jotunheim looked almost identical to the one in the movie.

Thrym threw open a pair of enormous gates, and they slammed into the opposite walls with a shuddering clang. As they walked through what Loki assumed to be a courtyard, more Frost Giants came out to see who Thrym had brought with him. Thrym approached the nearest Frost Giant and muttered in their native tongue. The other giant’s eyes widened, and then he turned around and sprinted, albeit ungracefully, into the palace. Loki guessed Thrym had told him to alert the King that their long-lost prince had returned to them.

They went through the doors in which the other Frost Giant had passed a moment ago. As they traversed the long, dark corridors, a hum of excitement hung in the air. Every so often, heads of smaller giants would peak around corners to try and catch a glimpse of their prince. Loki wondered if they were servants of Laufey’s house, because they weren’t as thick and muscular as Thrym and the other warriors.

At the end of the hall, they reached another pair of doors, and they were more massive and grand than all the others. All around the edges there were carvings, and it took Loki a second to realize they were the same as the markings that appeared on his body. The ones on his arm lined the left and right side frames, and the ones on his forehead were at the top. Thrym pushed open the doors, and as they walked through, Loki saw that the markings protruded outward. Just like his own.

Loki tore his eyes away from the doorframe and looked straight ahead. At the top of the dais, sitting on a throne of ice and stone, was a man Loki had only seen twice, and yet deep down in his core he knew they were kin. There were two younger Frost Giants standing on either side of the throne. Laufey’s gaze was fixed on him, and try as he might, Loki couldn’t find the strength to look away. As he got closer to the stairs, his heart began thudding in his chest. He thought everyone in the room could hear it.

Thrym maneuvered himself in front of Loki, and then he got down on one knee and bowed before his King. Laufey’s eyes never left Loki for a second, which was starting to make him nervous.

“My King, your son, whom we all thought perished all those years ago as an infant, has now returned as a man. He has already proven himself to be true, to me and to the warriors I command. Please, allow me to show you as well.”

Laufey raised his right hand, and Thrym went silent. He stood up from his throne, and Loki had to suppress a shiver at the size of him. With every step he took, the entire realm seemed to tremble in his presence.

“I will be the judge of whether he is true or not.”

Laufey’s voice held no tenderness. He sounded more like the version in Tom’s movie, full of bitterness and hatred for all things Asgardian. Loki felt as if he couldn’t breathe, and as Thrym moved aside and allowed Laufey to take his place, he began to doubt himself. What if it had just been a trick of the eyes? What if Laufey’s touch burned him?

Laufey got down on one knee so he was closer to Loki’s level. Loki couldn’t tear his eyes away from Laufey’s gaze. It looked like there were coals of lava smoldering behind his eyes.

“Well, boy? I haven’t all day.” Now he sounded more like a father telling his son to get on with his story.

Loki blinked rapidly, and the spell that seemed to hold him had finally lifted. He moved the fur cloak aside and rolled up his sleeve again. Laufey gripped his arm so hard that he thought the bones would shatter. Laufey’s eyes narrowed as the boy’s flesh turned blue. As the change spread up his arm, the lines of Laufey’s house began to appear. The two young giants, still standing guard by Laufey’s throne, turned and looked at each other in shock. Laufey looked at Loki’s face, and a knot formed in his throat when the anger in his gaze seemed to melt away.

“Starlight?” Laufey said in almost a whisper, as if he was worried his son might vanish again.

Loki couldn’t hold the dam back any longer, and as the tears flowed from his eyes, they froze on his cheeks. As Laufey drew him into an embrace, Loki broke down into sobs. And if it wasn’t for the large hand on his back, his legs would have given out underneath him. Up until this moment, Thor and the others had been completely silent. Sif moved and stood next to Thor, then she whispered in his ear.

“Thor, please tell me you know what the Hel is going on. Why is Loki being embraced by Laufey, our sworn enemy?”

“I don’t know, Sif.”

“He is your brother, isn’t he?”

“I don’t know, Sif,” Thor said dejectedly.

When Loki’s cries had died out, Laufey looked over his shoulder and motioned for the two giants to join him. They stepped down from the dais obediently.

“Helblindi, Byleistr, meet your younger brother, Loptr.”

‘That’s my name. Loptr. And I have brothers. I have a family!’

“Welcome home, Brother,” the elder of the two said. Loki quickly wiped at his eyes and tried to hold off a blush.

“You are going to make me start crying again,” he muttered.

“We must celebrate this most joyous occasion,” the younger said.

“Fear not, Byleistr. We shall celebrate,” Laufey spoke. “But not tonight. I am sure your brother and his companions are weary from their long journey and are in need of a good rest. We will hold festivities on the morrow, and all of Jotunheim will know that the light of the realm has been returned to its people.”

‘That must be what my name means: light. That would explain the nicknames.’

Laufey then stood up to his full height and turned towards Thor and the others.

“Thank you, Asgardians, for taking care of Loptr. If the son of my enemy can welcome my son as a friend, maybe someday there will be a chance for peace between our peoples. Please, allow us to welcome you into our home as guests and friends.”

When no one else spoke, Thor knew he had to be the diplomat of the group. He was nervous as Hel.

“We thank you, Laufey-King, for your kind words. And we will accept your offer of hospitality.” He tried to think of something that Loki would say, and he felt he did a pretty decent job.

“Very good. My sons and I will show you to your rooms.”

~*~

Laufey, Helblindi and Byleistr created a sort of protective circle around Loki, while Thor and the others walked a few feet behind them. Loki still felt like there were small butterflies fluttering around in his body. Ever since they began this journey to find his lost memories, they never stayed in one place for very long. He was trembling with excitement about the fact that he would be able to talk with his family tomorrow for as long as he wanted.

“Loptr was the name I gave you the day of your birth. It means ‘light,’ and I gave you that name for your bright eyes. What name do they call you now?”

“Loki. I’m not sure what it means.”

“What name would you like us to call you?” This question surprised him.

“Well, Loki is the only name I have ever known.” He hesitated a moment before he continued speaking. “But you have only ever known me as Loptr. All these years, you have been grasping onto hope that I was still out there somewhere. I would be honored to be called by the name that I was meant to have.”

“Wow, Little Brother! Who taught you to speak so eloquently?” Byleistr asked. Loki merely shrugged.

“I couldn’t tell you.”

Laufey looked down at Loki again, and for awhile he had been somewhat distracted by the revealing of his son’s identity. Now, his mind was not as clouded, and he noticed the faint coating of dust on the boy’s clothing and skin. If Loptr had known about who he was and who his father was, he would have at least cleaned himself up first. The only reasoning behind Loptr’s current state was that their coming to Jotunheim was completely by accident.

Laufey bellowed something in his native language, causing Loki to nearly jump out of his skin. A moment later, several servants appeared and bowed before their King. He spoke to them again, and then they all scattered and entered various doorways lining either side of the corridor. Laufey turned around and faced Loki’s companions.

“I have asked the servants to draw baths so you all may freshen up a bit before bed. You may choose any of these rooms to use for the duration of your stay.” Thor bowed his head slightly, and the others followed his lead. Laufey then turned his attention back to Loki. “Sleep well, my son. We have much to discuss tomorrow.” He placed a large hand on the top of Loki’s head, and immediately the markings on his forehead began to appear. After letting it linger there for a few seconds, he removed it and went further down the hall.

“We’ll see you tomorrow, Little Brother,” Helblindi said, then he and Byleistr followed Laufey, presumably to their own rooms.

Loki thought both of his brothers reminded him a little bit of Thor. Helblindi had Thor’s strength, and Byleister had more of Thor’s immaturity. Loki turned around to tell his friends good night, and he saw that Sif and the Warriors Three were already deciding amongst themselves which room to take. Thor remained frozen in place, and he was staring down at the floor with a haunted expression on his face. It looked, from Loki’s point of view, that a part of Thor had died. Perhaps it was the man Thor had always believed to be his brother who had died. Loki decided against saying anything and found the nearest empty room before closing the door behind him.

Loki took in the appearance of the room, and he found it to be pretty empty. Even though it was a very large room, there were few pieces of furniture. There was a small wooden table with two chairs by the window, a giant wardrobe made of similar material against the same wall. In the middle of the floor there was a large fur-skinned rug, the animal it came from Loki couldn’t guess. A king-sized bed covered with thick blankets and furs was a couple feet from the bathroom door, where candlelight was flickering and Loki could feel the heat from the bath.

A moment later, the servant came out of the bathroom, bowed to Loki, then briskly exited through the door and left him alone. Loki walked over to the bed and placed his bag on the floor, then he sat at the foot of the mattress and began taking his boots off. Directly across from the bed, in the center of a completely blank wall, there was a hearth with an eerie blue flame. There was heat coming out of it, and Loki wondered if the fire was enchanted so it would bring warmth into the room, but not cause the walls of ice to melt.

After removing the rest of his clothing and placing them into a neat pile, Loki got off the bed and made his way towards the bathroom. He paused for a moment and curled his toes in the soft rug. Then he kept going and ended up scurrying into the bathroom because of the cold floor under his bare feet.

The bathroom was just as simple, but much more beautiful to look at. Everything from the tub to the vanity was made of transparent material, and Loki couldn’t tell if it was glass or clear ice. Icicles hung from the ceiling, and they seemed to change color every time Loki moved. Underneath the tub was a pit of burning coals that glowed a pale blue. Again, there was heat and even steam, but nothing seemed to be melting. Loki would be sure to ask Laufey about it tomorrow.

Loki walked up the small staircase leading up to the bath tub and sat on the ledge. There was a thin rug placed on the steps so the person using it wouldn’t slip and fall. He dipped his fingers in to test the temperature, and then he slowly eased himself into the water.

There was a box full of glass bottles containing various soaps, lotions, oils and ointments. Each one had a different scent, as Loki found out, and after choosing his favorites, he washed the dirt of Svartalfheim off his body. Once he was completely clean, he stayed in the water for a while and his eyes fluttered. He sat up straighter to keep himself awake, and he grimaced at a dull throbbing in his chest.

Thor had promised he wouldn’t look at Loki any differently, but the lost expression on his face was enough proof Loki needed to know that he couldn’t follow through. Loki knew it must have been hard for Thor to witness his transformation and to learn that Loki was not really his brother. But the loss of trust hurt him. Then Loki remembered how he felt when Thor told him he was part of the reason why he had no memories. Loki felt betrayed by someone who he thought he could trust. Maybe Thor just needed more time to adjust to this new information. Loki still wasn’t completely ready to forgive Thor for what he did to him.

Loki relaxed a little more in the water, and he allowed his eyes to close. He told himself he would only stay in for a little while longer, and then he would go to bed. But the hot water was loosening his limbs, and it was so soothing. He thought he heard a noise, so he remained completely still and listened for it again. When he heard nothing else, he released a sigh and tilted his head slightly to one side. His brow furrowed when he felt something brush against the side of his neck, and then he heard a sound again. Someone was breathing in his ear.

Loki sat up suddenly and almost caused some of the water to splash out of the tub. He looked around, but no one was in there with him. Even though he was still submerged in the hot water, there were chills running down his spine. He reached down and undid the plug, and then the water poured through a hole and doused the coals underneath. He climbed out of the tub and dried himself off with a fluffy white towel.

He crept to the doorway and peaked out, scanning the room. It was just as he’d left it. Maybe his tired mind was playing tricks on him.

When he entered the bedroom, he saw that the servant had come in and taken his dirty clothes. That could have been the first noise he heard, but the breathing was still a mystery.

After setting the towel down, he walked over to the bed and crawled under the blankets. He was much too tired to put any clothes on, and he reasoned no one would come in without his permission. Breathing another sigh, he closed his eyes and fell fast asleep, the shadows from the blue fire dancing across his eyelids.

Chapter Text

It was dark, as all of Loki’s dreams seemed to be. He was wandering the corridors of some sort of castle. None of the torches lining the walls were lit, so it was nearly pitch black. Loki was unsure of where he was heading, but because he looked over his shoulder every few seconds, he assumed he must have been trying to avoid someone. But who?

He went around another corner, and then he stopped abruptly when he realized it was a dead end. It was a small, empty hallway, with only a single tapestry hanging on the wall to his right. It was too dark to see what was embroidered on it.

Loki turned in a full circle, confused as to where he should go next. From what he could tell, the only direction he could go was the way he had just come. He approached the wall and patted along the surface with his hands, trying to feel for the outline of some kind of hidden doorway. He started on the left side and went around, finding nothing. Loki came to the right-side wall, and he stopped next to the tapestry. He was about to touch it with his fingertips, when the fabric moved.

A hand darted out and grabbed him by the arm. He was about to let out a cry when he was pulled behind the tapestry, but another hand closed over his mouth. The hand on his mouth remained where it was, and as he tried to get his breathing under control, Loki’s eyes moved around to see if he could make out where he was. And who was with him.

“Why are you running from me?” A voice whispered in his ear. Loki found himself shuddering when he felt hot breath against the side of his neck. Just like what he experienced in the bathroom at Laufey’s palace. “You have no reason to hide from me.”

All Loki could tell was that it was a man speaking to him. They seemed to be taking precautions, so as not to reveal their identity. The thing that gave them away was their scent. It was much too masculine for a woman; even Sif. But for some reason, the scent was familiar, and Loki couldn’t figure out why.

“If I remove my hand, do you promise not to make a sound?” They whispered again. Loki nodded. Their scent still filled his nostrils when the hand pulled away, as if it was all around them. Loki tried to think of a way to get them to keep talking.

“I’m sorry for running,” he said with a timid voice. “I hope you are not angry with me.”

Rather than answering him verbally, a pair of lips covered his own. The other man had facial hair. A neatly trimmed mustache and beard lightly scraped Loki’s fair skin. They continued to kiss each other, and Loki gasped into the other man’s mouth when a large thigh settled between his legs. At last they pulled apart, and Loki tried to catch his breath.

“I could never be angry with you. My bonded.” The last part was whispered against Loki’s neck, followed by nibbling teeth.

While the other man kissed and sucked on his throat, Loki’s hands stroked up the man’s large arms, trying to find some sort of clue. One of his hands went to the back of the stranger’s head, and his fingers tangled in his hair. Loki was nearly crushed as the larger body pressed him against the wall, but for some reason he was not afraid. Even though he had no idea where he was or who was with him, Loki felt as if he was exactly where he should be.

The other man kissed Loki’s mouth again and forced his tongue past his lips. Loki brought his hand down, through a few tangles. At last, he reached the very tip. The man’s hair was long and straight. Longer than anyone he knew now. So this person must be someone he has never met before. But what about the scent?

The man pulled away, and his hot breaths warmed Loki’s skin. Loki reached up and cupped the man’s face with both hands, inching closer until their noses touched.

“Who are you?” Loki asked, trying to make out any facial features. But it was too dark.

“You will meet me,” the man whispered breathlessly against Loki’s mouth. “Soon.”

~*~

Loki shot up in bed, and his heart was racing. Just as the last remnants of his dream began to fade from memory, Loki recalled the very last moment. The man must have let down his guard, because his voice cracked. He had a deep voice, as if a thunderstorm dwelled within him. But it almost sounded sad; sad that they would have to depart from each other for a while.

Loki had been so focused on his dream, that when he finally looked down at himself, he had to stifle his shout of surprise. He was drenched in sweat, and he seemed to have forgotten that he went to bed naked. He made an effort to ignore the erection between his legs.

He got out of bed, and he saw the outfit he’d worn the day before folded neatly on top of his pack. Loki grabbed his clothes and went into the bathroom. On the counter were a few hand towels and a basin of water, and when he dipped his fingers in, he felt that it was still fairly warm. The servant must have brought it in only an hour ago, along with his newly cleaned clothes. Loki felt his face heat up. Had the servant seen him while he was dreaming?

Loki set his clothes down and splashed water on his face. He then spread it on the rest of his body, to try and wash away some of the sweat. After drying himself, he put on his clothes, then combed his fingers through his hair. As he did that, Loki remembered what it felt like when he ran his fingers through the stranger’s long tresses. His eyes traveled up and stared at his reflection.

“Who are you?” Loki couldn’t figure out if he was asking the man from his dream, or if he was questioning himself.

Loki left the bathroom, and then he went over to the single window. He couldn’t tell what time it was, because it was still dark. The only way he knew it was daytime was because of an orb of light peeking over the horizon. It was too bright to be the moon. If he had to guess, he would say it was around dawn.

He crossed the room and opened the door. He entered the corridor and looked both directions. There was no one else around, so he went the way they had all come the night before. He came to a set of hallways, and he didn’t know which way to go. He then heard footsteps coming up behind him.

“My prince, are you headed to breakfast?” The servant from last night greeted him.

“Yes. I don’t really know my way around here.”

“That is why I am here. I will take you there.”

“Thank you.” They walked for a while in silence, and then Loki spoke again. “Are my friends already there?”

“Yes, my prince. But they have not been there but a few minutes.”

“Oh.” Loki looked to his left and gazed out the windows. “Is it always so dark here?” The servant seemed to hesitate before answering.

“It was not always this way. When the All-Father took the Casket of Ancient Winters, and you, back to Asgard, all of the light seemed to go out of the realm.” Loki’s heart leapt into his throat. He hoped he was not part of the reason why Jotunheim was trapped in an eternal darkness. “I hope I am not being too bold for saying this, my prince. The servants have talked, and we think that since you have returned, that you can… save us.”

The servant fell silent then. Loki didn’t know what to say. He had only just gotten here, and now he was some sort of savior? He didn’t want to get their hopes up for nothing, but he didn’t want to lie to them.

“I will do what I can.” That was all he could offer.

“We are here, my prince.” The servant led him to a pair of double doors, but they were ordinary compared to the doors of the throne room. “Enjoy your meal.”

“Thank you.”

The servant turned and left Loki standing alone in the hall. He pushed one of the doors open, and the rumble of voices met his ears. He tried to ignore all of the eyes following him, and he kept his gaze on his father, who stood up at the head of the table. The ground seemed to shake as all of the Frost Giants rose with their King, and Loki’s companions did the same after a moment. They didn’t want to cause a diplomatic incident.

“Good morning, Loptr. Did you sleep well?” Laufey’s booming voice filled the room.

“Yes, Father. Thank you.”

“Come sit next to me, my son.” Laufey pulled the chair out beside him, and as Loki climbed onto it, the King sat down. All of the Frost Giants sat back down, again followed shortly by Thor and the others. “Eat, my son. You will need your strength for tomorrow.”

“Why? What is tomorrow?”

“Well, even though it is long overdue, we still have yet to hold your coming of age ceremony.” When he said that, the other Frost Giants bellowed and cheered. Byleister, who sat on Laufey’s right, next to Helblindi, roared the loudest. Laufey then turned his attention to the Asgardians. “I have a very important task for you all, if you are willing to accept.”

“How can we help?” Thor asked, though his voice sounded strange. It was then Loki noticed the bags under Thor’s eyes. He looked as if he didn’t get any sleep the night before.

“In order for the ceremony to be a success, we will need someone to go out and pick blue roses.”

“Forgive me, but I thought those were only legend.” Laufey raised a hand when some of the Frost Giants chuckled amongst themselves. The room fell silent again, and a smile crept onto his face.

“They only grow in one place: Jotunheim. And they are vital to the ceremony, because blue roses represent the longevity of the line of Kings.” There was pride in his voice as he spoke. “Are you up to the task?”

“We are.” Loki slightly wilted. Thor looked so tired.

“Very good. My sons, Helblindi and Byleistr, will go with you.” Thor’s eyes flickered over to the two Jotuns next to Laufey, and he nodded at them. “As for you, Loptr. We have much to talk about.”

Loki looked up at his father and smiled at him. As soon as Laufey broke the connection, Loki’s smile faded. How would Laufey react when Loki told him about his memory loss?

Loki took a few bites from the food on his plate, but he found that he really wasn’t very hungry. He had expected there to be a lot of foreign foods, but it was mostly meats. That was understandable, because of Jotunheim’s climate. But if roses could grow here, maybe there were other plants that could survive.

~*~

About half an hour had passed since Loki arrived, and when Laufey saw that he was finished eating, he rose from his seat. He spoke in his native tongue, and all of the giants, except Loki’s brothers, stepped away from the table and left the dining room.

“You had best get started now, before the weather becomes too unbearable for you,” Laufey said to Thor and the others. When he saw how groggy the other man was, Loki almost called out to him. The hand on his shoulder made him fall silent. “Are you ready to go, Loptr?”

“Yes, Father,” Loki answered as soon as Thor vanished from view. There was a slight pressure, and Loki stepped away from the table. When they left the dining room, nearly a dozen servants walked past them and went in to clean up after breakfast.

“I hope I did not cause any nervousness when I announced the ceremony.”

“I think it will pass.”

“Do they have anything like it in Asgard, when a prince comes of age?” Loki froze in place, not really meaning to. “What is wrong, my son?”

“I… I don’t know the answer to your question.” Laufey waited for him to continue. “I have a confession to make.”

“Go on.”

“Well, I did not come here to reveal that I was still alive. We came here by chance.”

“I thought as much.” Loki looked up at him with a shocked expression. “When I saw the dirt on your clothes, I knew your arrival was not planned. What brought you here?”

“We were looking for something.”

“And what were you looking for?” Laufey asked patiently.

“A feather.” This seemed to catch the King off guard.

“What kind of feather?”

“I should probably start from the beginning.” Laufey was silent again. “I have no memories of who I am.”

Chapter Text

Laufey watched him for a moment. His face was so composed, that it was almost impossible for Loki to tell what he was thinking. After a while, the silence became uncomfortable, and Loki’s eyes looked everywhere but at his father.

“How did this happen?” Laufey finally asked.

“Well…” Loki hesitated, because he wasn’t sure he knew the whole story, himself. “From what Thor told me, we were in Alfheim. I separated from the others, and I went into a cave when it started raining. I went further into the cave, and there was a ruined city. Thor said when he found me, there were strange glowing wings on my back, and I was being pulled into a wall.

“He grabbed me, and we fell to the ground. Then the wings seemed to… explode, I guess. And hundreds of glowing feathers rose through the ceiling and disappeared. I found out later that the feathers represented an individual memory. We are traveling to other realms to find them.”

Laufey was silent, and his face was grave. He was about to take off down the hall, but then he seemed to remember Loki was there.

“Come with me. I want to show you something.”

They went further down the hall, turned a corner, then descended a long staircase to a lower level. Laufey pushed open a set of double doors, and Loki’s eyes widened in awe. Rows upon rows of shelves lined the room. There had to have been thousands of tomes and books and scrolls. Loki waited as Laufey scanned one grouping of books, and then he seemed to have found the one he was searching for. He flipped through the pages, stopped, then turned back to Loki. Laufey set the book down on a nearby table and pushed it towards him.

“Is this what the wings looked like?”

Loki stepped closer, and his hands went to his mouth to stifle a scream. It looked like the picture he had drawn for Queen Frigga; the bird with no body. When he was sure no embarrassing sounds would come out, Loki lowered his hands.

“What is this, Father?” He asked with a shudder.

“This is the symbol used for an ancient class of powerful sorcerers. Their origins stretch all the way back to Ymir.”

“Sorcerers? Were they only Frost Giants, or other races as well?”

“They came from every realm in Yggdrasil. Back then, magic was not looked upon as a weakness. Not like it is today.”

“Oh.” Loki stared at the image again. “What do the wings mean?”

“The sorcerers were able to fly. They could manifest their power into physical form, creating wings.”

“Oh,” he mumbled again. “Are there any of these sorcerers left?”

“I do not know the answer to that. Many years ago, it became a sort of taboo to identify as a sorcerer. People were killed for using magic, so most of the sorcerers went into hiding. Some even faked their own deaths so no one would hunt them down.”

“How awful. Who started this?”

“Odin All-Father,” Laufey growled. Loki felt a chill come over him. He saw in Tom’s movie that he could perform magic, and had done so many times. If so, why did Odin not have him killed, especially because of where he came from? “Do not worry, Loptr. Odin only called for the killings of sorcerers if they were using their magic for evil purposes. The Healers of Asgard use magic, so I have heard.”

“Oh. Yes, I suppose they do.”

“Had you only seen that symbol the one time?” Laufey asked as he turned and placed the book back on the shelf.

“No. There was one other time. It wasn’t that long ago, but we were in Alfheim again; this time as guests in Freyr’s house. He had found a feather in his orchard, and it was causing the trees to rot. Freyja experienced something similar in Vanaheim, and she told her brother to be on the lookout for anything strange.

“Well, that night I had a disturbing dream. When Thor and Freyr came in, they told me later that I was muttering in my sleep, and I was speaking in an ancient Elvish dialect. A translator who was familiar with the language came in and told us that I kept saying, ‘When the Last is sacrificed, the First will return.’

“And in my dream, I could hear a voice. It scared me.” He was silent for a moment, before he had the courage to speak again. “I think it means when I die, Ymir will come back to life. I have a bad feeling that I am the last of his bloodline, because I know the voice in my head was Ymir’s.”

“This is ill news, indeed,” Laufey said, appearing to be deep in thought. “What you say about being of Ymir’s bloodline is true; a fact that can be proven. I have known of it since your birth.”

“I almost wish it wasn’t true.”

“Your people have been awaiting your return for a very long time. I do not feel it is necessary to reveal this to them immediately.”

“I agree. I suppose.”

Loki had been staring at the ground, but when a large hand settled on his shoulder, he lifted his head. Laufey was kneeling before him, and their faces were almost on equal level with each other. Even though he barely knew him, Loki felt comforted by the gesture.

“Loptr, do not be afraid. You are safe here, and there are many people who love you.” Loki nodded silently, and he chewed on his lip to keep from crying again. He had been doing that a lot lately. “How long will you all be staying here?”

“Probably a couple more days. I have only recovered seven memories, and there are many more that must be found. Before they cause irreversible damage.”

“I understand. If we can be of any help to you—”

“No. I mean…” Loki hadn’t meant to interrupt his father, and now the man probably thought he had no manners. “Just meeting you and my brothers is enough. And when this is all over, I will definitely come back here for a much longer stay.” This brought a smile to Laufey’s face.

“Alright. Whatever you want.” Just as Laufey rose from the ground, Loki suddenly recalled the dream he’d had the night before. He had no intentions of talking about it, especially with his father, but there was something about it that troubled him.

“Father?”

“Yes, Starlight?”

“This is unrelated to what we were discussing before, but…”

“Ask me anything.”

“What does it mean to be bonded to someone?” Laufey rounded on him, and he was frowning again.

“Why do you ask?”

“Oh, I heard the word somewhere, and I wasn’t sure what it meant.” Technically speaking, he wasn’t lying. His father seemed to relax then.

“Well, if that is all,” he began, and he started walking back to the corridor. Loki followed him and waited for his answer. “When two people are bonded together, they become one entity. They are connected in mind, body, soul, and heart. They can feel what the other is feeling and hear each other’s thoughts. Once they are bonded, there is no way to reverse it.” Laufey paused for a moment. “But there are risks. If one of them falls ill, the other will become affected as well. And if one is killed, the other, too, will die. They cannot live without each other. They can sense when the other is in danger, and would even kill anyone who seems threatening. Relationships with others become tainted, because the two bonded people only think about each other. Everyone else in their lives become of little import.”

“Oh. I guess I will need to avoid that business.”

“Yes, that would be wise.”

As they continued down the corridor, Loki looked out the windows. It was still as dark outside as it was when he woke up earlier in the morning. This constant sameness would probably drive him crazy. He wanted to help his family if he could, but he didn’t know how. If Tom’s movie was accurate in any way, the last time the Casket of Ancient Winters was seen was when it was used against Heimdall. Then movie Loki hid it away somewhere. Did the character still possess it, or was it still sitting in the Weapons Vault?

“Where are we going now?” Loki asked.

“We are going to find your ceremonial robes and see if they fit you. They ought to, but if any alterations are needed, they shouldn’t take very long to complete.”

"Do I have to do anything? Make a speech or…?”

“Only if you want to. I usually do all of the talking, and a lot of our people do not know the All-Tongue that you use. Or rather, they refused to try, because it is associated with the man who took the Casket from us. And because you were not raised here, you have not learned our language.”

“I’ll let you do the talking, then.”

“There is nothing to be nervous about. The ceremony is a fairly menial affair. It’s not nearly as extravagant and complicated as Asgard’s, I assume.”

“Well, they do seem like an extravagant and complicated people.” This brought a chuckle out of Laufey, and Loki could feel the rumble in his chest. It was soothing, like a small flame.

They came into another room, and it was lit only by a few blue-flame torches. It looked like a museum or gallery, because the walls were lined with elegantly-dressed statues. Most of the statues were as big as Laufey, if not larger. As they went further down the aisle, the more detailed and intricate the outfits became. When Laufey suddenly stopped a few paces from the end, Loki nearly crashed into his leg.

“Are you familiar with the Jotun Mimir?” Loki shook his head. “He was not of royal blood, but he was one of the bravest and wisest of our kind. He lived during the Aesir-Vanir War, and he acted as a delegate of peace. But Odin was greedy, and he wanted Mimir’s counsel only for himself. When Mimir refused to take sides, Odin…”

He trailed off, and Loki looked up. Laufey’s face was twisted almost in pain, as if speaking of this hurt him. With slight hesitation, he lifted his arm and wrapped his fingers around Laufey’s large hand. He barely registered the skin changing color. Laufey squeezed his hand, then took a breath before speaking again.

“When Mimir insisted on remaining neutral, Odin had him beheaded.” Loki gasped. “This did not end his life, however. While the body became limp, the head still survived. Some versions of the story say the Vanir took the body and preserved it in a shrine, but that is not how it came to be. After burning the body, Odin returned to Asgard with Mimir’s severed head. To this day, he still has it hidden away somewhere… eager for wisdom and knowledge.”

Loki felt like he was going to be sick. Odin had taken him from his family and raised him in Asgard all these years. But why? If he was capable of such acts that were committed against Mimir, what else was he capable of? How far was he willing to go to get what he wanted?

Laufey started walking again, and Loki felt himself being pulled along. They passed a few more statues, then stopped in front of one that was the exact same height as Laufey. When Loki looked closer at it, he thought the face was very similar to Laufey’s.

“This was my robe.” Loki looked at the face again, and he realized it must have been created in the likeness of Laufey’s younger self. “You are probably wondering why the robes look like they would fit me all these years later.”

“Yes.”

“The reason for that is because when a Frost Giant comes of age, they stop growing. That is why I knew your robes would fit you.”

“So I am going to remain this size for the rest of my life?” He sounded a bit disappointed.

“Think about it this way: you will never again outgrow your clothes.” Loki pondered it for a moment, and then he nodded. “Your brothers are next.”

“Is my mother here, too?”

“I am your mother.” Loki looked up at him with a confused expression. “Female Frost Giants have always been few in number, and none have been born since the Casket was stolen.”

“So… males can have children?”

“That must seem strange to you, considering where you grew up. But here, it is a fairly common occurrence.”

“So how exactly is it done?”

“When a Frost Giant is ready to bear children, their mind speaks to the body and tells it to change. Sometimes both members of a couple will act in each role. I always did it, because I wanted to. I am too old for that now, and…” He had that pained look on his face again. “My partner is gone.”

Laufey turned to his right, and Loki’s gaze followed. Next to his statue was another, nearly half a foot taller. Laufey raised his other hand and placed it on the side of the statue’s face.

“What was his name?” Loki asked.

“Farbauti. And he was the love of my life.” He kept his hand where it was, and Loki waited for him to continue. “He was killed the night you disappeared. While I was taking you to the Temple, he was holding back the enemy, to keep them from following us.”

Loki then recalled the memory he had found in Svartalfheim. Laufey had been speaking to someone, and Loki had just assumed it was a servant or a guard. He looked up at the statue’s face.

‘Thank you for keeping us safe.’

Laufey lowered his hand and absentmindedly smoothed out the material of Farbauti’s robes. He then moved to the left, taking Loki with him. They stopped in front of a statue that was much smaller than the others. It was the same height as Loki, but instead of a head there was a large orb.

“We didn’t know what you looked like, so the sculptor was unable to finish your head. Maybe I can track him down and he can take a moment to study you before you have to leave.”

“But wouldn’t that take several days?”

“Oh no. The reason he has been in the royal family’s service for so long is because he never forgets a face.”

“Oh. Well, alright then.”

“I will see if he has time to meet with you after we are done here, since the others will not return until later.” Loki thought about Thor and how tired he’d looked. He hoped he would be alright. “Well? What do you think of your ceremonial robes?”

Loki had been so distracted by the statue’s enormous head that he’d paid no notice to the clothes it was wearing. It almost looked like a gown, and it was pure white. It seemed to have a light of its own. The statue’s left arm, shoulder, and some of the chest were bare. The right sleeve was clasped at the wrist and shoulder, while slits extended up the arm on both sides. A part of the sleeve was connected to a ring worn on the statue’s middle finger. Around the neck was a strange piece of jewelry. It was silver with small sapphires scattered throughout. The necklace was jagged and looked like cracks in the stone. It wrapped around the throat and extended downwards all the way to the diagonal lining of the robe. On the statue's left arm, below the elbow, was a gauntlet made of the same silver material as the necklace. Loki hadn’t said anything, and Laufey was watching his face to gauge his reaction.

“They’re beautiful. But…”

“What is wrong?”

“Well, there is not much there. Will this be warm enough?”

“Of course. Your body was made for our cold climate.”

“Okay. I did notice when we first arrived that I wasn’t affected by the weather like my friends were.”

“Now all we need to wait for is your friends to return with the blue roses.”

“What do I do with them?”

“You will carry a bundle in your arms when you walk out onto the balcony. The rest will have their petals plucked and placed into a bowl. First, I will grab a handful and release them over the balcony, and they will fall over the people. Then Helblindi will take some, because he is the eldest. Then Byleistr, and finally you.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“There is nothing to be nervous about. And as I said before, our customs are probably a lot more simple compared to Asgard’s.”

“You are probably right.”

“Shall we go find the sculptor?”

“Yes. I don’t think I can bear to look at my gigantic head for much longer.”

Laufey chuckled again, and they turned around and started walking towards the door. When they were getting close to the end, Loki watched the statues on his right. The very last one was the biggest of them all. He had to crane his neck to see it. Long hair tumbled in waves past the statue’s shoulders, and a slender, hooked nose protruded out of the man’s face. Unlike the other statues, which had pupils and irises carved into the eyes, this one had only the outer eye.

“Who is this?” Laufey stopped in front of the statue, and even he had to look straight up.

“Ymir. The first of our kind.” Loki felt that shiver again. Ymir almost looked like him, only taller and their noses were different. And Ymir was much angrier, full of rage.

“Why are his eyes unfinished?”

“They are not unfinished. Ymir’s eyes were completely white.”

“Oh. I’ve never heard of anything like that before.”

“He was the only one. All of the other Frost Giants have had red eyes. I suppose he wanted to set himself apart.”

They continued past the statue and went through the doors. They remained on that lower level and continued down the hallway. Loki wondered to himself just how massive the palace was. How many different levels did it contain? Laufey stopped them in front of a door at the very end of the hallway. He shouted something in the Jotun language, and another voice answered from within.

The door opened a moment later, and a very old Frost Giant appeared. He reminded Loki of the old Elf he had seen in Alfheim. The giant asked Laufey a question, probably regarding the reason for his visit and if he could serve him in any way. Laufey replied, and Loki was able to pick out his given name. Then the old man’s crinkled eyes widened and a smile brightened his face. He then turned to Loki and placed his large hands on his shoulders. He was chattering away, and then the hands moved up to cup his face. Loki looked around awkwardly as the giant stared at him intently. Laufey asked another question, and the old man finally tore his eyes away from Loki’s face. He said something again, held up one finger, then disappeared back into his quarters.

“What just happened?” Loki asked, somewhat bewildered.

“The short version? He is beyond thrilled to finally meet you, and he wants you to be the best work he has ever created.”

“Oh. Well, okay then.” While they waited out in the hall for him to re-emerge, Loki thought back to the room and all the Kings long past. “Did he make all of those statues?”

“Yes. He has been around for a very long time.”

“And he still can do all that work, despite how old he is?”

“Sculpting is all he lives for. He is constantly working on some project, whether it is repairing old works or creating new ones.”

“Does he have any family?”

“None that I am aware of.”

“That must be lonely.”

“He has not lived on his own for this long because nobody wanted him. He chose this lifestyle.”

“I don’t think I could do that.”

“It is not for everyone, and neither is the desire to always be surrounded by loved ones.”

Before Loki could respond, the door opened wide and the sculptor gestured for them to enter. He bowed to them as they walked past. Loki’s mouth fell open when he saw the man’s home. Scattered throughout the den were statues, all of them around Loki’s size, each with a different face. There were also paintings featuring various sceneries. A single person was the main focus of each piece, and the face was either blank or smudged, as if someone had brushed a hand across it while the paint was still wet. Loki’s breathing quickened, and he could feel his heart thudding in his chest.

“Father… are these all supposed to be me?” He asked in a whisper.

“I had meant to warn you about this, but I am afraid so. When he could not finish his final work, he became obsessed. The mystery of your image was constantly on his mind.”

“I don’t even want to think of what he would have done if I had been killed that night.”

“Neither do I.”

The sculptor brought them into another room, and for the most part it was empty. There were a few paintings leaning against the walls, but they were either turned around or covered by tarps. A large window took up much of the eastern wall, and a single chair was placed next to it. Loki was asked to sit in the chair, and when he did, he could see the sun shining to his right.

“This is the best way for him to be able to see you, since we cannot use regular flames here,” Laufey explained. “Is the sun bothering you?”

“No. It’s not too bright at all.”

The sculptor pulled up another chair, and he sat directly across from Loki, less than a foot apart. Loki watched him put a pad of paper in his lap, as well as a black object, shaped like a cylinder. When the other man looked at him, he tapped under his chin with two fingers and bent his head back slightly. Loki tilted his chin up, and then the giant said something.

“What did he say?” Loki asked, and he moved his eyes in the direction Laufey was.

“He wants you to keep your gaze aimed at the top of his head. Always look up, because that makes the best angle.”

“Okay.”

Loki stared at the top of the sculptor’s head, and a moment later he could hear scratching. The black object turned out to be a stick of charcoal, and the giant was using it to make a sketch. Several minutes went by, and the scribbling never ceased. Another few minutes passed, and then the chair scraped loudly against the floor, causing Loki to jump.

The sculptor moved to the left side of Loki, and then he began sketching his profile. He did the same for the back and right side, and Loki supposed that he really must have wanted to get every strand of hair correct. Nearly an hour later, the sculptor got up again, and he held the drawings out for Loki to see. Every shadow was there, every eyelash, even his cheekbones. All that was still missing were his Jotun markings. He saw that the charcoal had been shortened to less than two inches. The elderly man spoke to Laufey, and then his father stood next to him and placed a hand on his arm. A moment later, the sculptor nodded, and then he began adding the raised markings. It didn’t take nearly as long, and Loki was glad because his neck was beginning to ache.

“Is he finished?” Loki asked when the other man got out of his chair and went to another area of the room.

“Yes. Did you like his drawings?”

“Mm hmm. They were very well done,” Loki said, and he rubbed at his neck.

“Would you like to see more of the palace?” Loki nodded. “Alright. Mid-day meal should be ready in a couple of hours from now.”

“That sounds good.”

Maybe Thor would be back by then.

Chapter Text

After Laufey dismissed the warriors from the dining room, he turned his attention to his guests.

“You had best get started now, before the weather becomes too unbearable for you.”

That was enough for the Asgardians to know they were done. As the two young Frost Giants on Laufey’s right came down the steps, Thor and the others pushed away from the table and followed them. Thor had to try to stay on his feet, because he had barely slept the night before. Just the fact that Loki was not really his brother was enough to make him lose sleep. If his parents were keeping that a secret, what else were they hiding? Thor could feel Loki’s eyes on him, but he couldn’t bring himself to meet his gaze.

‘I am sorry, Loki, but I do not think I will be able to keep my promise.’

After leaving the dining room, Helblindi and Byleistr took them back to their rooms so they could grab their fur cloaks and anything else they might need. Thor was the last one to reemerge. He was debating with himself about whether or not he should just stay here. His fatigue could slow them down, or he might accidentally fall asleep in the cold. He didn’t want to be a burden to his friends, but he also didn’t want to appear weak in front of the Frost Giants.

“I will rest after we return,” he told himself.

A moment later, Thor entered the hallway. Helblindi watched the Asgardians to see if either of them would suddenly remember something else they needed. When that didn’t seem to be the case, he smiled down at them.

“Are you all ready to go?” Nobody answered verbally. They either nodded silently or didn’t respond at all. Helblindi knew there had been tension between their realms for a very long time, but he hoped to alleviate some of that lack of trust. “Alright then.”

As they made their way to the front gate of the palace, Helblindi and Byleister would comment on a structure and what it was used for, or had formerly been used for. Every so often they would merely check to see if the Asgardians were still following them. Only a couple of times did they have to stop and wait for the Asgardians to catch up.

Two Frost Giants were posted at the front gate, and when they saw the two princes approaching, they hurried to open the doors. Just as they were about to walk through, one of the guards called to Helblindi. They spoke for a while, in the Jotun language. The Asgardians were curious as to what was being said because the guard seemed concerned about something. They saw Helblindi nod, and then he turned and looked down at them.

“I have been told that a snow storm is headed this way, and that it will be here later this evening. Time is growing short, and while my brother and I will be fine on our own, you all will need some assistance. This way.”

After going through the main gates, they went to the right. They walked for another minute, and then they suddenly stopped. Helblindi was standing in front of a gigantic cliff face. He placed his hands on it, and some of the ice began to crack. Sif let out a gasp when she saw something move in the rock. The others looked closer, and they could make out a large red eyeball.

More of the ice crumbled and fell away, and then the creature’s head was visible. Helblindi motioned for them all to step back. When the last of the ice broke off, the creature fell forward and landed on its feet. It shook its large head, as if to clear the sleep from its mind.

The creature was huge, and each of its toes was the size of a person. It was hairless, had a very large head, and sharp fangs. Its flesh was the same color as the Frost Giants. When the creature saw Thor and the others, it let out a snarl, and saliva flew from its mouth. Helblindi said something to the creature in the Jotun language, and it seemed to calm down. It suddenly tipped over and fell to the side, causing a big tremor in the earth.

At first it looked dead, but then it slowly rolled onto its back and waited. Helblindi shook his head and walked up to the creature. He started rubbing its belly and smacked it affectionately on the ribs. All of the Asgardians were wondering the same thing: is this the Frost Giant equivalent to a dog?

Helblindi spoke to it again, and a few seconds later it rolled onto its stomach. He then turned back towards Thor and the others.

“He will let you ride him now.”

“Will it… burn us?” Thor asked, trying not to offend him. Helblindi shook his head.

“Only if he thinks you are a threat, which he no longer does.” Helblindi kept his hand on the creature’s head. “Snow storms can be unpredictable here, so we need to be leaving soon. But before that, he needs to smell each of you. It builds trust between you and him.”

One by one, the Asgardians stood in front of the creature. It inhaled and exhaled deeply through its flat nose, and it blew hot breath through their hair. Thor went last, and when the creature was finished smelling him, it closed its eyes and seemed to have fallen asleep again.

“Alright, everybody climb on. And make sure you find something to grab onto, because he runs fast.”

They each climbed onto the creature’s back, and they found ridges and humps there. Hopefully they would be able to keep their grips strong. And they were all relieved when the creature’s cold flesh didn’t cause them any harm. Thor turned around and checked to make sure the others were settled, and then he looked down at Helblindi and nodded to him.

Helblindi patted the creature’s neck and spoke to it again. It let out a groan and slowly got up on its legs. He shouted and smacked its flank, and the creature roared before taking off. Thor thought about the times he had used Mjolnir to fly from one place to another. That seemed like a leisurely stroll compared to the creature’s speed.

Thor had to squint his eyes because the icy wind was making them water. His face was prickling from the cold, but he didn’t dare move his hand to adjust the fur cloak. He opened his eyes as wide as he could when he saw two dark shapes appear on either side of the creature. Helblindi and Byleistr were running past, and every once in a while they would turn and say something to each other. They seemed to be racing.

Thor had always thought Frost Giants were slow because they were so big. There were a lot of things he’d thought about the Frost Giants that turned out not to be true. How they were ruthless killers and would eat their prisoners alive. Or how they drank the blood of human virgins and made necklaces out of the teeth of people they killed. There were several others, and most of them he had heard from his father. Growing up, Thor had always wanted to be just like his father. He wasn’t so sure anymore.

The creature followed the two brothers to the top of a steep hill. They kept going for about another mile, and then Helblindi slowed down. Byleistr stayed at his current speed, and he didn't stop until he was nearly out of sight. He turned around when he realized he was alone and walked back towards his older brother, while Helblindi kept the creature calm and still as the Asgardians slid off its back.

"Does this mean I won?" Byleistr asked, not sounding tired at all.

"You ran past the spot. And since I was the first one to stop here, I won," Helblindi replied.

"But we never even agreed on a finishing point!"

"Yes, we did. This was as far as we needed to go, meaning this was the finishing point."

"You can't just change the rules when it suits you."

"Of course I can. I am the oldest, so I make the rules." Byleistr scoffed.

"Since when?!"

"Since always. Now, enough of this bickering. We need to find the roses before the storm catches up to us." Sif came up behind Thor and stood next to him.

"Who do they remind you of?" She asked him quietly.

Thor didn't answer her, but a chuckle rumbled in his chest. It did sound similar to the fights he and Loki would have when they were younger, and recently. They'd been arguing the day Loki lost his memories. Thor had a feeling that nothing would ever return to normal, like he'd hoped. Now that Loki had found his real family, would he choose to stay here with them, rather than go back to Asgard? The way he saw it, Loki had no reason to go back there. Thor, Odin and Frigga, Sif and the Warriors Three; they no longer were a part of his life. Helblindi's voice broke Thor out of his stupor.

"This is the tallest hill in Jotunheim. It is the closest to the sun, and because there are no cliffs or rocks here, the flowers are not obscured by shadow. There was a snow storm yesterday morning, not as big as the one coming tonight, but the roses will be buried in the snow."

"How often does it snow here?" Sif asked. She seemed to have gotten over her suspicion of them.

"Every day. Sometimes it is only a few small flakes; other times a tempest will blow through. We have learned to prepare for any situation," Helblindi answered. "Since you all will be using your bare hands, feel free to take a break from digging as often as you need to. Father would probably skin us alive if you ended up losing your hands to frostbite." They couldn't tell whether he was being serious or not.

While they each picked a spot to dig, the creature lumbered over to the very edge of the hill and flopped down with a loud huff. A cloud of steam blew out of its nose. Helblindi told them that only a few feet of snow had fallen, and while that seemed like almost nothing to him, it was a lot for Thor and the others. How much snow had to fall for a Frost Giant to consider it a large amount?

For nearly an hour they searched. Helblindi and Byleistr were a lot quicker, and after they found nothing in their spot, they would move to another area that hadn’t been disturbed. When the cold was too much, Thor and the others would stop and try to warm their hands, whether by blowing warm air or wrapping them in their fur cloaks.

At the beginning, Thor was wondering why Laufey would have wanted them to go along in the first place. But after seeing just how large this hill was, and with the snow storm creeping up on them, his sons would need all the help they could get. Plus, it was a way to keep his guests entertained while Laufey and Loki had a chance to talk.

Thor hadn’t been paying much attention to what he was doing, and then he suddenly sneezed. He wiped at his nose with his sleeve, and then his eyes widened. There was a dark object in the snow, and when he dug around it, a flower was revealed.

“I found one!” The others came up behind him to see.

“Good,” Helblindi said. “We need to dig around here, because the roses all grow in one big cluster.”

Another hour went by, and they stopped digging when all they came up with was more snow. Thor asked how to pick them, but Helblindi said he and his brother would do it, since the thorns don’t bother them. Helblindi took half of the roses in his arms, and Byleister took the others.

“Let’s go home, I’m starved,” Byleistr groaned.

“Little brother, name one time in your life where you starved.” Silence. “Just be grateful that we always have food to eat.” When his back was turned, Byleistr stuck a dark blue tongue out at him.

‘Yes,’ Thor mused. ‘The Frost Giants and the Aesir are alike in more ways than I can count. And just as Laufey said, I hope that someday soon both of our worlds will be at peace.’

Chapter Text

Laufey and Loki made their way back to the dining room. The servants were running back and forth, trying to hurry and finish setting up. Loki sat next to his father, in the same chair he used earlier that morning. A moment after he got comfortable, a servant came up and filled his goblet with wine.

Platters of food were brought out and set on the tables. Loki sipped at his wine, and he watched as the doors swung open. The warriors entered the room and bowed to Laufey before taking their seats. Loki was waiting for Thor to walk in with them, but he never came. They probably hadn’t returned yet.

The ground beneath him vibrated when Laufey pushed his chair back and he rose from the table. The warriors also stood up, and Loki did the same. Laufey spoke in the Jotun language, and the warriors responded. Laufey sat down again and started filling his plate. While Loki was deciding on what he wanted to eat, Laufey called a servant over to them.

“Helblindi and Byleistr have gone outside with the Asgardians to look for the roses. I do not know when they will return, but make sure they have something to eat when they do come home.” The servant bowed, then stepped away from the table.

“I hope they are alright,” Loki said quietly.

“Your friends are in good hands.” Laufey decided not to say anything about the approaching snow storm.

“How far away did they have to go?”

“Only a few miles. And they still have plenty of daylight left.” Loki nodded, then took a bite of food. “You still look worried about something. Is it about tomorrow?”

“No. I’m worried about Thor. When I saw him this morning, I could tell he didn’t get very much sleep. He looked so tired, and I just hope he is alright.” Laufey nodded.

“Your brothers will take care of him.” Laufey placed a hand on Loki’s back, and all of the worry and nervousness seemed to drain out of him. A few minutes went by, and there was still no word. Loki started getting worried again, and he knew that if he didn’t find something to keep him distracted, he might go crazy.

“Father, there is something else I was wondering about.”

“And what might that be?” Laufey asked after he had finished chewing his food.

“That blue fire. Is it real fire, or is it made by magic?”

“It is magic. A long time ago, a question came up about how we could keep warm in the winter months without causing our houses to melt. Even though Ymir used magic when he was alive, it was not a very well-known craft among our peoples. We asked the Vanir and the Light Elves for help, because they studied sorcery a lot more than we did.”

“Oh. So how does the magic work?”

“I am not quite certain of all the details, but part of it is a trick of the mind.”

“How?”

“Well, when you see fire, what do you normally think of?”

“Heat?” Loki answered hesitantly, not wanting to sound stupid in front of his father.

“Correct. You expect it to be warm. Because your mind automatically thinks of heat, the flames respond with heat.”

“If I understand you, those flames really have no warmth at all? It is only something we are imagining?”

“In a sense, yes. The Vanir taught us that, while the Light Elves showed us how to keep the fire from going out.”

“I don’t think I have ever heard of anything like that. But maybe I did when I still had my memories.” While Laufey continued eating, Loki stared down at his plate. “Why do some of the Frost Giants speak in your language some of the time, while other times they speak and I can understand them?”

“As I said before, many of our people refused to learn the All-Tongue, because Odin created it. The ones who did learn it did so because they would have to communicate with people of other realms. They speak the All-Tongue in front of you if they want you to hear the information, as well. If it is something that would not be of any interest to you, they use our language.”

“Oh. Well, if that is all…”

“If you thought they were trying to keep secrets from you, there is no reason to worry. Anything they tell me they can say in front of you. Remember, you are not in Asgard anymore.” Loki smiled and he seemed to be reassured.

~*~

Nearly an hour later, one of the guards walked in and he knelt in front of Laufey. The warriors at the lower tables spoke in hushed voices, because they wanted to hear what he had to say.

“My King, your sons and the Aesir have returned. They were successful.”

“Excellent news,” Laufey replied. “Send them here at once.” The guard bowed once more before he got up and left the room. “I told you there was nothing to worry about.”

“Yes, I suppose you did.”

Loki looked up when the same guard from before reappeared, followed by his brothers. They were both carrying bundles of blue flowers in their arms. They came up the steps, and Byleistr set his down on the table. Helblindi picked out one of the flowers and handed it to Loki before setting his bundle down.

“What do you think, little brother?” Loki took in the flower’s appearance. It was a medium shade of blue, like a clear lake. The petals were all transparent, and they looked to be made of glass or ice. The very edges of the petals were lined with silver, almost like frost.

“It’s beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Yes, Prince Thor? Did you have something to say?” Laufey spoke. Loki looked away from the flower and turned his attention towards the door. Thor was still standing there, just inside the dining room. He looked even more tired than when Loki last saw him, as if he was on his last legs.

“I do not mean to offend, but I wish to pass on luncheon. I did not sleep well last night and would like to rest.”

“I completely understand. Renew your strength, for it will be needed on your journey.” Laufey made a gesture, and the guard at the door bowed before turning to Thor.

“I will escort you back to your quarters,” he said, and Thor nodded in thanks. Loki watched him go, and worry filled his heart. Laufey’s reassuring hand was placed on his shoulder again, and it made him partially relax.

“Do not worry, my son. All he needs is rest.”

“But it is my fault he could not sleep last night,” Loki said sadly. “And what if he is not able to sleep now?”

“If a man is weary enough, it will not take long for sleep to find him.”

Loki wasn’t quite sure what he meant by that, but Laufey seemed to know what he was talking about. Laufey asked his two eldest sons how the journey went and if there were any problems. Helblindi said nothing was amiss, and the Asgardians had a little help getting to the hilltop. Loki didn’t understand, but Laufey must have gotten the hint. Byleistr then added that Thor was the one who found the roses in the snow.

“You are getting sloppy,” Laufey chided.

“Forgive us, Father, but it has been many years since we had need of them,” Helblindi said. “Not since Byleistr’s ceremony.”

“Yes. That was a long time ago.”

“You two are making it sound like I’m ancient,” Byleistr said with a scowl.

“You are still too young to be worrying about your age,” Laufey said dismissively.

Loki brought a hand up to his mouth to stifle his laughter. Byleistr rounded on him and stared at him with huge eyes.

“Oh, so you think that’s funny, Loptr?”

“Yes. I do, actually.”

“You’re just lucky Father is in the way.” Laufey slowly turned his head towards Byleistr and looked at him with a wry expression.

“Come again?” Rather than answering, Byleistr’s eyes widened comically, and then he proceeded to shove food into his mouth.

“I think I might go lie down, myself,” Loki said. “If that is alright.”

“You do not need my permission. Ask one of the servants in the corridor to take you back to your room.”

“I will see you all at supper.” Loki climbed down from his chair and walked out of the dining room. He approached the first servant he saw. “Would you show me how to get back to my room?” He just hoped the servant understood him.

“Of course, my prince. This way.”

They went through a few more hallways, and the route was gradually becoming more familiar to Loki. They reached the hall where the guest rooms were, and then a thought occurred to him.

“Which room is Prince Thor staying in? I just wanted to see how he was doing.”

“He is in this room here, my prince. Do you want me to wait for you out here, or can you find your room on your own?”

“I think I can find it on my own. Thank you for your help.” The servant bowed, then left to return to his other duties.

Loki knocked on the door and called Thor’s name to see if he was still awake. When he heard no response, he turned the knob and went inside. The layout of the room was similar to the room he was using. Loki crept towards the bed, and he could see Thor’s head poking out from the furs and blankets. Laufey had been right; it didn’t take very long for him to fall asleep.

Loki watched him sleep for a little longer, and Thor’s breathing was even. He was staring at Thor’s face, and then, as if he was in a trance, he leaned forward. Just before their noses touched, he faltered. His mind was screaming at him to turn around and don’t look back. His heart was telling him to keep going. Loki didn’t think he had the strength to pull away now.

He moved forward and pressed their lips together. His eyes had slid shut at first, but then he realized he needed to watch for any signs of Thor waking up. Loki’s heart stopped when Thor’s breathing deepened, but nothing else happened. What he didn’t realize was that Thor was already awake, and he was smelling him.

Thor couldn’t figure out the person’s identity from their scent alone. He was still so tired and didn’t want to open his eyes, but he wouldn’t get any sleep until this person stopped kissing him. When Thor’s eyelids began to flutter, Loki wrenched himself away and dashed out of the room.

He ran down the hallway to his room and slammed the door behind him. He pressed his ear to the surface and listened for any other sounds. When there was only silence, he turned and slid down until he was sitting on the floor. He covered his face with his hands and shook his head.

“Stupid. What were you thinking?” Loki suddenly felt very tired, and he got up and lied down on top of the covers. He fell asleep instantly.

~*~

When Loki next opened his eyes, he had been transported somewhere else. It was night time, and he was standing on some sort of balcony. There were lights coming from the courtyard below, and the glow seemed to have a warmth of its own. The weather was slightly cool, with very little breeze. It must have been the middle of the night, because there were no people walking around.

Still staring ahead of him, he brushed his fingertips across the smooth surface of the railing. His brow furrowed when he felt an inconsistency. He moved his hand and looked down. There were strange symbols carved by hand into the stone. It was very small, only four characters total.

ᛚ ᛟ ᚲ ᛁ

It almost looked like his name. Was he in Asgard? Had he carved this when he was younger?

Loki let out a gasp and his heart started pounding when a pair of arms wrapped around him from behind. There was hot breath on his shoulder, followed by lips against the side of his neck.

“Come back to bed.” Loki’s first instinct was to obey, as if the soul bond was commanding him to do as he was told. But for some reason, he did not want to go back inside yet.

“I cannot sleep. There are too many things troubling me.”

“Sleep was not what I had in mind.” Loki caught onto his meaning when a hand snaked under his night shirt and brushed against his skin. He tried to recoil from his touch, but he only pressed his back against the man’s chest. “Or I can ravish you right here, if you want,” the man said before mouthing at his neck and jawline.

Loki’s legs turned to mush, and he realized the only thing keeping him up was the arm wrapped around him. The hand in his shirt moved lower and slid underneath his waistband. Loki started to panic, and he grabbed at the man’s wrist and tried to move it.

“Wait,” Loki said, slightly out of breath. “What if someone sees us?”

“What difference does it make? They all know that you are mine, so let them see.” Loki shivered when the hand stroked up his inner thigh and moved towards his groin.

“But I do not want them to see. I want to keep this between us.” Loki could almost feel the fingers hovering just above his member.

“Then will you come back to bed?” Loki internally groaned. That was all the man wanted, and he fell for it.

“Yes. I will do what you ask.” Loki allowed himself to be turned around and led towards the bed. The other man remained behind him with a hand on his back. When they reached the bed, there was a knock on the door. “Are you going to get that, or should I?”

“No one is there.” There was a knock again, and it was much louder this time.

“What do you mean no one is there? How can you not hear that?” He couldn’t believe he was arguing with this dream person.

“Prince Loptr, are you feeling alright?”

He was right, that voice was coming from somewhere else. It must have been outside the dream. Loki could feel his mind being pulled towards wakefulness, and the knocking became much clearer.

~*~

“Just a moment,” Loki said tiredly. He sat up and wiped some drool from his mouth. He stretched and cracked his back because he had slept on his stomach the entire time. He padded over to the door and yawned as he pulled it open. There was a servant standing in the hallway holding a plate covered with a lid. “Can I help you?” He asked and rubbed at his eyes.

“I brought your meal, as your father requested.” Loki seemed confused. “You slept through dinner, so—”

“I DID WHAT?!” The servant was so startled that he nearly dropped the plate. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell. But why did nobody wake me?”

“Well, King Laufey said you were probably still tired from all of your travels, so he thought we should let you sleep.”

“Oh. Did Prince Thor come to dinner?”

“Yes, but he did not stay very long.”

“Okay. Thank you for bringing this,” Loki said as he took the plate from the servant.

“Of course. You can just leave everything out here when you are finished. Good night.”

With a bow, the servant turned and walked down the hall. Loki closed the door and went over to the small table by the window. He removed the lid and stared at the contents for a long time. He felt terrible for sleeping so late, especially after he told his family he would be there. He must have not realized how tired he really was.

He took a couple bites, and his mind wandered back to the dream he was having. How much further would they have gone if Loki hadn’t been awakened? Everything had felt so real; every touch, every sound, every smell. That scent was bothering him. He knew it from somewhere, but he just couldn’t figure out where. Loki then remembered the man’s voice. He wasn’t whispering like in the first dream, but Loki had been so distracted by… other things… that he never tried to figure out who the voice belonged to.

“Damn it.” Loki pinched the bridge of his nose. “Next time.”

It took a while, but Loki slowly managed to eat all of his dinner. He set the dishes in the hallway then went back in his room. He didn’t feel like taking a bath, and he figured that he would have to take one before he got ready for the ceremony. Loki changed into the night clothes the Elves had given him, noticing similarities to the garments he wore in the dream. He climbed on the bed and eased beneath the furs. He closed his eyes and released a sigh. This time, his sleep was undisturbed by dreams.

~*~

The next morning he was awakened by another servant. He brought Loki’s breakfast, and Loki started to panic again.

“Did I sleep through breakfast, too?”

“No, my prince. Because today is your coming-of-age ceremony, you are not allowed to be seen by anyone except those who will help you get ready. An hour before the ceremony, you will be able to see your family and friends.” Loki’s face fell. He didn’t want to eat alone. “I am sorry, my prince, but it is tradition.”

“That’s alright. It is only for one day.”

Loki thanked the servant for bringing his meal, and when the man left he sat at the table as he did the previous night. He picked at his food for a while, not really in the mood to eat. But he forced it down, and an hour later, there was another knock.

“My prince, are you finished eating?” The voice spoke from the other side of the door. It sounded familiar to Loki, but he couldn’t place why.

“Yes. You can come in.” It took Loki a moment to figure out it was the servant who showed him the way to breakfast the first morning; the one who talked about him saving the people of Jotunheim. “Hello, again.”

“Good morning, Your Highness. Are you ready to get started?”

“Yes. What happens first?”

“First you need a bath.”

“Alright. In here, or…?”

“Oh no, my prince. We use the bath house for an occasion such as this.”

“Okay. I didn’t know there was a bath house. Do I need to bring anything?”

“No, everything is already there.”

“Oh. Well, show me the way.”

They left the room, and every so often the servant would look around corners. Loki’s family and the Asgardians were asked to try and stay away from the residential area, as well as where the bath house was. Laufey suggested they go outside and have a small tourney and friendly sparring matches. Just to keep them all occupied for a few hours, since there really was nothing else to do here.

“All of this keeping me hidden is making me feel like I’m getting married or something.”

“I am sorry you are not able to see your family, but it has been this way for a very long time.”

The servant went around the corner and Loki followed him. They walked down several flights of stairs, and as they got closer to the double doors at the end of the hallway, Loki could almost feel the heat coming from inside the room. He could see the blue flames flickering through the cracks at the bottom. They went through the double doors, and Loki couldn’t believe how big the room was.

“Is this bath house only used by the royal family when they come of age? This seems like a waste of a room.”

“No, it is also used when someone, whether they are a member of the royal family, a guard, or just an ordinary citizen of Jotunheim falls ill. These waters are believed to have healing properties,” the servant explained.

“Has it been proven to have healing properties?”

“Well, not through science, but those who leave here have always felt much better than when they arrived.”

‘So basically this is just an ordinary bath,’ Loki thought to himself.

There was a basket on the ledge filled with many different kinds of oils and lotions. A few white towels, a robe, and a pair of sandals were in a neat pile a few feet away.

“I will be standing just outside the door. Let me know when you are finished, my prince,” the servant said before leaving. Loki was relieved he would have some privacy.

He did mostly the same thing he had done in his room. After choosing a few scents he liked, he washed, then allowed himself to relax and soak for a little while. When he felt that he had been in the bath long enough, he climbed out, dried off and put on the robe and sandals. Both clothing items were a bit too large for him, but he made do.

He walked to the doors and tried to push them open, but they wouldn’t budge. They were a lot heavier than he’d originally thought.

“I’m ready to go.” He stepped back when the door opened slightly. He slipped through the space, and they went down the hallway.

“My task is finished. Gerd will be with you for the remainder of the morning.”

“Where are we going?”

“We are returning to your room. Your robes were delivered while we were in the bath house.”

“Oh. Alright.” Loki thought it would have been a lot easier to just bathe in his room, but the reply most likely would have been “It’s tradition.” “When is the ceremony?”

“It will begin at noon, when the sun is brightest and high in the sky.”

“So I can see my family and friends an hour before that?”

“Yes, my prince.” The rest of the time went by in silence, and before Loki knew it, they had arrived at their destination. "Here we are, my prince. Gerd will take care of you from this point forward."

"Thank you for all of your help."

"It was my pleasure. And if I may be so bold, on behalf of the other servants, we are all so glad to have you home at last." Loki smiled at him, and with a final bow, the servant turned and left him. He was already out of sight when Loki realized he never asked for the man's name.

"Maybe this 'Gerd' will know," Loki muttered before opening the door and entering the room. "Gerd, are you here?"

“Yes, my prince! I am in the washroom!” The voice was somewhat high-pitched. With curiosity, Loki walked further into the bedroom and stopped just inside the doorway. There were two stools, and sitting on one of them was a young Frost Giant, who looked to be around Byleistr’s age. They had thick arms and legs, but the hips and torso were curved. The face was slender and smooth. “Good morning, Your Highness.”

“You’re a woman,” Loki blurted out.

“Yes, I am.”

“Sorry, that did not come out right. But… my father said there were no female Frost Giants.”

“None have been born since the Casket was stolen. But I was born before the war. There are not very many giantesses left.”

“Oh. That makes more sense, I guess.” This was not going well. “So what do I need to do?”

“First, I will let you change into your ceremonial robes. Then, I will do the rest.” Gerd stood up from the stool and picked up a neatly folded garment and held it out to Loki. “I can turn around until you are ready.”

Gerd turned the other direction then sat down again with her back towards Loki. He kept his gaze on her, just in case she turned around early. He took off the bathrobe, then he quickly unfolded the white garment because of the chill. He slipped it over his head and flattened it to get rid of any wrinkles. It was simpler than he’d originally thought, but it was still elegant. Loki slid the ring on his right middle finger and adjusted the single sleeve on his shoulder.

“Alright. You can turn around now.” Gerd got up and turned to look at him. A bright smile lit up her face.

“Lovely. You look absolutely stunning, my prince.” She gestured to the other stool, and they both sat down. Gerd picked up a sack from the floor and rummaged through it. She pulled out a round jar and a slender brush. “I am going to do your lips first, since it will take a while for them to dry.”

“My lips?”

“Do not worry. It will look much better when your skin changes.”

“Okay.”

Gerd opened the jar, and inside Loki could see a black sort of cream or gel. She dipped the small brush then began spreading the material across his bottom lip. She did the same for the top.

“Press your lips together so it blends a little better. Like this.” He did as she asked and she nodded. “That way when it dries, it will not be as thick and caked-on.” The mirror was on the opposite wall of Gerd, so Loki couldn’t see anything. He didn’t know his lips were navy blue.

Gerd put those things away then took out another jar, but no brush. Inside this jar was silver powder that had been pressed down and flattened. She dabbed her pinky in the powder.

“All you need to do is keep your eyes closed.” He nodded and closed his eyes. Very gently, Gerd brushed the tip of her finger across his eyelids. A moment later she let out a gasp and pulled away.

“What’s wrong?” He didn’t dare open his eyes yet.

“Nothing is wrong, my prince. This is the first time I have seen your transformation. It’s fascinating.”

“Thank you.” She smiled at him, but he couldn’t see it. Gerd finished with his eyelids, and then she also dabbed some of the powder on his eyebrows and cheeks. She took out a brush and blended so there weren’t silver or gray blotches. Now there was a sort of shimmer to his skin. Gerd frowned and looked about the room, then she dug through her sack.

“Oh no.”

“What is it?” Loki asked somewhat nervously.

“I forgot your jewelry.” It wasn’t until that moment that Loki remembered the strangely-shaped necklace that was around the statue’s throat. “Please wait here while I go retrieve them. I am truly sorry.”

“Do not worry. We still have plenty of time, I think.” He felt it was safe to open his eyes now, and he smiled at her. She got up and bowed to him before leaving the bathroom. He heard the door open and close, so he also got up and turned around so he could look at himself in the mirror. When he saw his dark lips, he was startled. She did say it would look better when he transformed. He got closer to the mirror and was examining his face when he heard the bedroom door open. “That was quick. Did you find it already?”

There was no answer. Loki frowned and waited for her to come back in, but nothing happened. His breathing quickened, and he slowly approached the doorway.

“Gerd? Are you there?” He stepped out of the bathroom, and then a chill trickled down his spine.

“Hello, Loki.”

Chapter Text

“Thor, what are you doing? Gerd will be back any moment, and you’re not supposed to be here.”

“No one is allowed to see you until an hour before the ceremony. I’ve already been told. But in that short amount of time, your family will most-likely keep you to themselves.” Loki wanted to protest, but deep down he knew Thor was probably right. “Besides,” Thor continued as he stepped further into the room, “we have not spoken a word to each other since the night we arrived.”

“You’re right. My father has been teaching me things I would have learned as a child… had circumstances been different.” As Loki spoke, Thor gradually moved closer. “I thought you didn’t want to speak to me.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, to be honest, I thought you despised me. And I know now that treating me the same as before was too much to ask of you.”

“No, Loki. I do not despise you. The revelation of your true parentage was a lot to take in. There are still so many things I fail to understand.” This was the most reserved and mature Loki had ever seen him. “And I will not lie to you. I cannot keep my promise.”

Loki’s eyes started to glisten, and he almost reached up to wipe the tears away, but he didn’t want to ruin Gerd’s hard work.

“I should have known better,” Loki hissed.

“You misunderstand me. I cannot look at you the same as before, because you are not the same. I cannot look at you as a brother, because that is no longer true.” Tears were flowing freely now.

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Because I have had a lot of time to think, and I realized that there has been a change in me, as well. Something is different about the way I look upon you, when I think about you. There is something stirring within me, and new feelings have awakened. Have you felt it, too?” Again, Thor moved closer as he spoke. Loki took a couple steps back, and then he felt the wall behind him.

“Yes. I have.” Is that why Thor had trouble sleeping? Was he having strange dreams, too?

“Even as I look at you now, I feel this urge to…”

“To what?” Loki asked breathlessly. It was starting to feel very warm.

“To be near you.” As he said this, Thor closed the distance between them. He cupped Loki’s face and used his thumbs to wipe away the tears on his cheeks. Thor leaned forward to kiss him, but Loki’s voice stopped him.

“What about Sif and the others?”

“I won’t tell them if you won’t.” Thor tried to kiss him again, but Loki quickly turned his head to the side.

“My lips are not completely dry yet.”

“No matter.”

Thor pressed his lips against Loki’s temple, and then he moved lower. He kissed Loki’s jawline and nibbled gently at the soft skin. Being this close to him, Thor could confirm that it was Loki who kissed him while he slept. Loki knew he should push Thor away, tell him to leave before Gerd came back. But to him, it seemed as if his dreams had suddenly become real. The kisses, the strength of the man’s arms, all of it was the same. Even the scent was there, although it was a little different. Loki reached up and ran his finger through Thor’s golden hair. It was shorter than the other man’s, but could it be Thor? Or perhaps in the future they would become bonded.

Loki tilted his head back and Thor’s lips moved down to his throat. Goosebumps appeared when Thor’s hand stroked the bare skin of his arm. The other arm wrapped around his slender waist and pulled him against Thor’s chest. Loki’s eyes flew open when he heard a knock at the door.

“Prince Loptr, I have returned!”

Loki wriggled out of Thor’s embrace and pushed against his chest; he barely moved an inch.

“Quick, hide behind the bed,” Loki hissed. Thor grumbled and shot a glare towards the closed door, but he did as he was told. “Come in, Gerd!” Loki adjusted his robes as the giantess entered the room.

“I am so sorry about the delay, my prince. I thought for sure I had everything. But then I remembered your jewelry was in a different location, since your statue’s head was still unfinished.”

“Well, hopefully my head won’t be a giant orb for much longer.”

“Yes. So, shall we finish? I am sure you are anxious to see your family.” Loki nodded and the two of them went back into the bathroom.

They sat on the same stools as before, and Gerd unrolled a cloth and laid it flat across her lap. There were five silver objects, some with blue stones. Only one of the objects was familiar to Loki, the strange jagged necklace. All of the others were new to him. Gerd picked up the necklace first and fit it around Loki’s neck. As she was adjusting the piece, there was a strange rustle in the next room. Gerd turned her head towards the doorway and listened; Loki tried to keep his face blank.

“What was that?”

“What was what?”

“That noise.”

“I didn’t hear any noise.” Gerd got up from the stool and stood in the doorway, looking around. Loki could feel his heart thudding in his chest. A moment later Gerd came back and sat down with a puzzled expression on her face.

“I could have sworn I heard something.” Loki only smiled at her.

Next, Gerd picked up one of the small objects. It was plain silver with intricate weaved designs, and it was slightly curved. She held it up to his ear and wrapped it around the cartilage. She did the same thing with an identical piece and fastened it to Loki’s other ear. Gerd picked up the circlet, and to Loki’s surprise it fit perfectly on his head. Sapphires were scattered throughout, and a stone the size of an almond was hanging in the middle of his forehead.

The final piece of jewelry was a silver gauntlet that encircled his left arm. It began at the wrist and extended almost to the bend of his arm. Loki flexed his hand and curled his fingers to see if he would be able to move the limb.

“How does everything feel, my prince?”

“Actually, I can barely feel them at all.”

“I just don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”

“I know. And thank you.” Loki got up from the stool and turned around to look at his reflection. He almost didn’t recognize himself. Looking at the robe again, he felt sad that after this day, it would be put on the statue and remain there for eternity. His gaze shifted to where Gerd was watching him, and there was a big smile on her face. “What is it?”

“Well, forgive me for saying this, my prince. But you look just like a bride.” Loki’s cheeks darkened.

“Do I?”

“Yes, my prince. Very much so. And if I wasn’t already spoken for, I might ask to marry you.” She chuckled a little at the end, so Loki couldn’t tell if she was serious or not.

“Are you already married? Or just betrothed?”

“Well, it’s kind of a secret.” Now Gerd was blushing. “I know I can confide in you, my prince. You seem like someone who would not betray another’s trust.”

“I like to think so.”

“Well, for a while now, Lord Freyr of Vanaheim has been courting me.” Loki’s mouth dropped open.

“Freyr? Really?” She nodded. “How long have you two been…?”

“We first met a few months ago, but I never thought anything about it. In the beginning I was hesitant to respond to his messages.” Loki looked confused. “His servant, Skirnir, came several times with letters written by Lord Freyr. He was supposedly too nervous to deliver them himself.”

“And now?” She smiled again, as if lost in a fond memory.

“I find Lord Freyr to be very charming. He is so kind to me.”

“We stayed with him recently. He was very welcoming.”

“I know. He told me about you all the last time I saw him. He said…” She frowned slightly. “He said you had lost your memories, and you were searching the Nine Realms for them.”

“He spoke the truth.”

“I am so sorry, my prince. I had no idea.”

“You and my father are the only ones who know. I would ask that you keep my amnesia a secret.”

“Of course, my prince.” She bowed her head.

“I will tell the rest of Jotunheim when I am ready. Perhaps after more of my memories have been found.” She remained silent and kept her head bowed. “I may not be an expert in love, but I think you and Freyr would make a good match.”

“Do you really think so, my prince?” Gerd asked, finally lifting her gaze from her lap.

“I do. And I hope that if you two decide to make your union official, that you are both happy together.”

“Thank you, my prince. And you as well.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Forgive me, my prince. I had assumed that you already had someone who loved you, and you them.” Loki thought back to the few short moments he had shared with Thor.

“I might. I guess I hadn’t really thought about it that way until now.”

“Well, I wish for you the same thing, Your Highness. That you meet that special person who loves you more than life itself; that person who can’t live without you, and you them.” Loki thought everything Gerd was saying was a bit extreme, but then he realized it sounded a lot like what his father had said about soul bonds.

“Is that how you feel about Lord Freyr?” Loki asked.

“Not exactly. I’m not really sure why I said that. Please forgive me, my prince.”

“There is nothing to forgive.” Gerd bend down and picked up her sack. She placed all of her supplies inside it, and after closing it, she got up from the stool. “What is the time?” Loki asked.

“It is almost an hour before the ceremony is supposed to begin. We finished a little bit early, so you will have a few extra minutes to spend with your family.”

“So I can see them now?”

“Yes. I am sure they are already waiting in the corridor to be granted permission to see you.”

“Okay. Thank you, Gerd.” She bowed to him and turned to leave when Loki remembered something. “Wait a moment. I have one more thing to ask you.”

“Yes, my prince?”

“Tell me again when it was you last heard from Lord Freyr.”

“It was a few months ago.”

“And you said he mentioned us staying with him.”

“Yes, my prince.”

“That’s very strange.”

“For what reason?”

“Well, I could have sworn that it was only three or four days since we were there.”

“Are you certain?”

“Yes. After we left Alfheim in the morning, we went to a realm that no one was familiar with. There was an uninhabited island, but that is the only thing we know about it. Then we went to Svartalfheim, and then that same night we came here.” Gerd didn’t seem to know how to respond to that. “Time really does move differently when you travel between realms.”

“It would seem that way. Did you need anything else, Your Highness?”

“No, that will be all. Thank you, Gerd.” She bowed once more and exited the bathroom before he could call her back.

Loki listened as Gerd opened the bedroom door and uttered something. He heard another voice, which he immediately recognized to be his father’s, and then Gerd said something else. Laufey spoke once more, and then Loki felt the slight vibrations under his feet as multiple Frost Giants entered the bedroom.

“Loptr, are you ready for visitors?” Laufey asked.

“Yes, I am,” Loki answered as he walked out of the bathroom.

“Wow, Little Brother! You look really nice,” Byleistr explained.

“Thank you.”

“Are you nervous at all, Little Brother?” Helblindi asked.

“A little bit,” Loki admitted.

“Well, the ceremony itself is fairly simple, and short. There will be a luncheon immediately afterward, followed by games and different events. Lastly, a huge banquet will be held tonight, and the entire realm will be there.”

“That sounds exciting,” Loki replied. “So what did you all do this morning to keep busy?”

Byleistr then launched into a fantastical tale about the mock fighting in the courtyard. Helblindi made corrections when appropriate, and Laufey listened with his hands on Loki’s shoulders. By the time Byleistr finished talking, it was almost time for the ceremony.

Thor had been right; his family did spend the entire hour with him.

Chapter Text

The door opened and the four Frost Giants entered the corridor. As the seconds ticked by, Loki’s nervousness seemed to increase. Laufey was watching his youngest son, and he placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. Loki released a breath as the skin tingled with cold, and the frost slowly spread throughout the rest of his body. Laufey had told him before that he had nothing to be nervous about, but he was still afraid. Loki couldn’t figure out if this fear was related to the ceremony or the earlier encounter with Thor.

“You aren’t going to leave me out there alone, are you?” Loki asked.

“Of course not. We will be with you the entire time.”

“What I mean is… well… I don’t want the people to see my other form.” Laufey made a noise of understanding.

“I will maintain contact with you to make sure you keep your Jotun skin.”

Loki looked up at his father and gave him a smile of appreciation. It was strange. When Loki saw the movie in his dream, the Loki character seemed ashamed of his Jotun skin. Now, minutes before he was about to be presented to the people of Jotunheim for the first time, he was ashamed of the Asgardian magic that hid his true heritage. Maybe it was because, in the film, Loki only knew of his life in Asgard. In this situation, Loki had no memories of growing up in Asgard, only the few he had been able to find.

Laufey stopped them in front of a pair of double doors. Helblindi was to Laufey’s right and Byleistr his left, with Loki in between them. A servant was waiting for them, holding a bouquet of blue roses in his hand. With a bow, he presented the bouquet to Loki, who silently took it. He cradled the flowers in the crook of his left arm.

“Will my friends be there?” Loki asked, his breath quickening. The servant bowed once more before leaving.

“Normally, people of other realms are not allowed to attend a coming-of-age ceremony,” Laufey explained. “However, I have made an exception for your friends, because I knew their presence would bring you comfort. They are here as honored guests for the ceremony, as well as the banquet which will take place this evening.”

“Thank you, Father. I know the relationship between Jotunheim and Asgard is a strained one.”

“Perhaps you will be the one to change that. You already have a long history with the Aesir.” One that Loki couldn’t remember. “It is time.”

Helblindi and Byleistr pushed open the doors, and a chilly wind hit Loki. He shivered slightly, more from shock than from the cold. He found that the more time he spent on Jotunheim, the easier it became for his body to endure the elements.

Laufey nudged him forward, and he took a few hesitant steps outside. There was a line of soldiers standing at attention on either side. Loki recognized Thrym at the end, and he barked an order in the Jotun language. In unison, the soldiers clenched their right hands into fists and brought them to their chests. They then got down on one knee, and Loki could feel the percussion of their movements thrumming in his own heart.

Standing at the edge of the balcony were four Frost Giants who were dressed in elegant robes. From left to right, they held a silver goblet, a folded garment, an old tome resting on top of a cushion, and a large, clear glass bowl filled with blue rose petals. As the royal family approached, the four giants moved to either side and bowed with reverence.

To Loki’s embarrassment, there was a platform provided for him. He realized that without it, the railing of the balcony would come up to his eyes. Laufey held his right hand to steady him as he stepped up onto the platform. He could feel the cold seep into his sandals, and he figured out the platform had been formed from ice. Loki jumped when a wave of sound erupted from the crowd below. The spectators had been silent in anticipation for the appearance of their lost prince. Now, laying eyes on him for the first time, they cheered and cried out to him.

The response was overwhelming. It reminded Loki of the coronation scene in Tom’s movie. As his gaze scanned the people, his eyes were drawn towards a small spot near the front. This area stuck out to him like a tiny iceberg in a sea of blue. There was a ring of guards standing around them as protection in case the people decide to attack them. When they realized he had seen them, some of his friends waved or smiled at him. Hogun’s expression appeared to be carved into his face and remained unchanged. Thor’s facial expression was mostly unchanged except for his eyes. As soon as his eyes made contact with Thor’s, Loki saw what he could only describe as hunger. That look made Loki’s body hum, and he had to tear his gaze away and focus on something else. It wasn’t difficult because Laufey began speaking. Loki didn’t even notice the people had been cheering the entire time until Laufey opened his mouth.

Loki couldn’t understand what was being said except for the few times he heard his given name. He wondered why he had been able to understand the language when he saw the memory on Svartalfheim. Loki had a feeling there were a lot of things about this journey that he would never fully understand. When Laufey finished speaking, the people began applauding again, with more fervor than before. A minute later, Laufey raised his hand and the crowd instantly fell silent. There were looks of awe on their faces, because usually their King only gave one speech during these ceremonies.

“People of Jotunheim, honored guests, it is my distinct privilege to welcome you all to this most joyous occasion,” Laufey began, speaking in the All-Tongue. “Many of you remember that night all those years ago when the Casket of Ancient Winters was taken from us. This was a devastating blow, and it wasn’t until soon after that I realized the Casket was not the only thing we lost.” Loki squeezed his father’s hand tighter and watched his face as he continued speaking.

“My son, Loptr, who was only a few days old, was gone. When a body was not found, I reasoned that he had been taken to Asgard. I feared he was being held as a hostage, but without the Casket, I had neither the strength nor the resources to march into Odin’s halls and demand that he return my child to me.”

Loki lowered his head towards the ground and tried to stop himself from crying. He found it nearly impossible because of the raw emotion he heard in Laufey’s voice. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and he turned his teary gaze to his left where Byleistr was giving him a reassuring smile. He instantly felt much better.

“Many years passed, and with each day our hope of ever seeing Loptr again dissolved into nothing.” Laufey paused for effect. “Then, two days ago, something extraordinary happened. A guard entered the throne room and told me that Prince Loptr had returned. I was skeptical at first, but when Thrym told me it was true, I had to see for myself. As soon as I touched the young man’s hand, I saw the markings belonging to the line of Kings appear on his flesh. No spell or illusion, no matter how powerful, could create those markings, especially from someone who had never laid eyes on them before. I knew then that he was my son.

“I learned that Loptr, known as Loki by the Asgardians, was raised as a prince and not as a hostage as I had feared. Today, I am pleased to welcome those who called Loptr their friend. Fandral, Volstagg, and Lady Sif of Asgard. Hogun of Vanaheim. And Thor Odinson, who was raised alongside Loptr as his brother. Thank you for being such an important part of my son’s life.”

Loki could see on their faces that these words made them a little uneasy. He didn’t think he would ever be able to admit the truth to his father. Sif and the Warriors Three tolerated Loki, but they never considered him their friend. At least until he lost his memories. He tried to be optimistic and believe that they would still be friends when this journey was over. Loki hoped they weren’t just being nice to him because they felt sorry for him.

While Loki was zoning out, Laufey had been reading out of the old tome. Loki turned his attention back to the ceremony and hoped that he didn’t have any lines. He breathed a sigh of relief when the tome was closed and the giant bowed before stepping out of the way. Next, the garment was unfolded, revealing a blue translucent cloak that looked similar to the rose petals. The cloak was placed on Loki’s shoulders and clasped shut at his collarbones. The Frost Giant bowed and moved to the side.

Next, the attendant with the goblet stepped forward and offered it to Laufey. Laufey accepted the cup and took a drink. He handed it to Helblindi, who took a drink and passed it to Byleistr. When Byleistr was finished, he gave the goblet to Loki, who stared at the contents. The liquid was almost black, but maybe that was because it was so dark in Jotunheim. He took the last sip and gave the cup back to the attendant. Loki thought it might have been wine, but the flavor was unlike anything he had ever tasted before.

Finally, the Frost Giant with the bowl of rose petals stepped forward, and Loki was able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the ceremony was almost over. Laufey grabbed a handful of petals and tossed them over the railing. A breeze picked them up and blew them further. Loki watched in awe as the glass-like petals flickered in the sunlight. He could hear excited shouts below and saw the people grasping at the petals. The guards encircling Loki’s friends tried to reinforce their line in case any of the spectators got over eager and accidentally bumped into any of the Asgardians and burned them. As Helblindi’s and Byleistr’s petals fell, Loki noticed that some of the Frost Giants who caught more than one petal would give the extras to those who had none.

‘How can anyone think of these people as monsters?’ Loki thought to himself sadly as he reached into the bowl and grabbed the last of the petals. Just as he was about to open his hand, he realized that the platform he was standing on was too far away from the railing. He was about to say something to Laufey when he felt a strong gust of wind against the back of his neck. He released the petals and watched as the wind carried them far over the crowd. The giant with the glass bowl bowed and left the balcony with the other three.

Laufey helped him down from the platform, and then he moved his hand to Loki’s back. Loki was grateful because his other arm had cradled the bouquet of roses the entire time and had become sore. After moving the flowers to his right hand, he looked at his father.

“Why were they grabbing at the rose petals?”

“If one is able to catch a blue rose petal, all of their prayers will be answered.” Loki thought that maybe he should have kept one. “I am not certain when the superstition started, but it was long before I was born.” It was hard to tell whether or not Laufey actually believed the superstition worked by listening to his voice.

“So what happens now?”

“Well, the people will have celebrations of their own. Games, food, dancing, entertainment. The royal family typically does not participate because we are preparing for the banquet that will take place tonight.” Loki stifled a yawn, but Laufey still noticed.

“Am I supposed to wear this at the banquet?”

“No, that is only for the ceremony. You will wear a different outfit tonight. Gerd will bring it to your room later.” Laufey watched him blinking tiredly, and his mouth curved into a thin smile. “You look tired.”

“I’m sorry. I did not sleep well last night. I was nervous about today,” he lied.

“Would you like to lie down?”

“Is there anything else I need to do for tonight?” Laufey shook his head.

“Just show up. It would be a bit difficult to celebrate your coming of age if you are not there.” Loki looked at him sardonically.

“I will be there.”

“Do you remember how to get to your room?”

“I think so. If I get lost I can just ask someone for directions.”

When they reached the end of the hallway where the corridor split in two directions, Laufey went left towards the throne room, so Loki knew he needed to go to the right. A hand on his shoulder startled him.

“Rest well, Little Brother,” Helblindi said. Loki had almost forgotten they were there.

“Yes! We wouldn’t want you to doze off at your own party,” Byleistr added jokingly. Helblindi elbowed him and told him to be nice. Loki stood there with a smile on his face until he could no longer hear their bickering. Their behavior almost reminded him of…

Loki’s pulse quickened when he remembered his short encounter with Thor before the ceremony, as well as the look in his eyes. Would things be awkward between them now that Loki knew Thor thought of him in a way that brothers never should? Or because of the fact that he also felt something? Loki shook his head.

“I’ll never get any sleep if I keep thinking about this.”

Loki turned on his heel and strolled down the corridor, his ceremonial robes and cloak billowing behind him. He tried searching for something familiar, but that was nearly impossible because every hallway looked the same. He did end up having to ask for directions, but the servant didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he was more than happy to help “The Prince Who Had Returned” as he was now referred to. When they reached his room, he thanked the servant, then he entered and closed the door behind him. He breathed a sigh of relief now that he finally had some time to himself. Before he could lie down, however, he needed to wipe the makeup off. He could already feel the paint on his lips starting to crack.

He went into the bathroom and already saw a pile of hand towels and a wash basin. He placed the bouquet on the counter, then he tested the water and thought it had only been brought within the past few minutes because it was still warm. Or maybe it was some other kind of magic. After dipping one of the cloths into the basin, he held it to his lips so the paint could soften. Once he was certain he would be able to safely remove the paint without also removing skin, he scrubbed until his lips were smooth. He then used another cloth to clean the makeup around his eyes. He looked down at the dark smudges on the towels and hoped they wouldn’t leave permanent stains.

Loki carefully removed all pieces of jewelry and placed them on the counter. He lightly rubbed at the skin on his arm and forehead where shallow indentations had been left behind. He hadn’t even realized until that moment that his flesh had reverted back to its original color. After spending time here, the Asgardian skin almost seemed foreign to him.

When another yawn escaped his lips, Loki set about finding clothes to sleep in. He couldn’t find any in the bathroom, so he figured they were already on his bed. As he was about to enter the room, he froze in the doorway.

His breathing became shallow when he saw Thor standing next to the window, gazing outside at the frozen landscape. He had something pressed to his mouth, and upon closer inspection, Loki realized it was a blue rose petal. Thor lowered his hand to his side, but he kept looking out the window.

“Are your lips dry yet?” Loki swallowed thickly. Thor wanted to kiss him. When Thor moved away from the wall and started coming towards him, Loki knew he needed to think of a way to distract him.

“My father said there is a belief that if you are able to catch one of the blue rose petals, all of your prayers will be answered.”

“Hmm.”

Thor was in front of him now, and he stuck the petal behind Loki’s ear. At that moment, Loki twisted his body so he could get past the other man. He then started unfolding the pile of clothes that had been placed on his bed. He could hear Thor moving and knew he was coming to stand behind him.

“So what prayer do you want answered?” Now he was just talking as a way to distract himself. He felt Thor’s hands on his arms, but their grip was gentle.

“When this is all over, and you have all your memories back, that you will stay with me.” Loki shrugged out of Thor’s grasp and sat down on the edge of the bed.

“I can’t afford to think that far ahead. Not while there is still so much more to do.” He fidgeted under Thor’s gaze and played with the material in his hands. “Besides, this is my home, my real family. I don’t belong in Asgard. I never belonged,” he trailed off at the end. Thor sat down heavily on the bed and gripped his head in his hands. Loki watched him for a moment, and then he tentatively laid a hand on his tense shoulder. “Thor, I think you need to slow down, whatever it is that is going on with you. Just two days ago, you were still under the impression that we were brothers. Now, all of a sudden, you are looking at me as a potential lover.” Thor shook his head.

“No. This started before that.” Loki felt a lump form in his throat because of how dejected the other man sounded. “I didn’t notice the change until recently, but I believe it began that day on Alfheim, when you lost your memories. When I saw you lying there in the Healing Rooms…”

Thor let out a sigh and continued staring at his boots. Loki placed his chin on Thor’s shoulder while he wrapped his slender arms around his bicep.

“You almost died, Loki. And it was my fault.” Loki was about to protest, but Thor interrupted him. “I keep having dreams, or nightmares really, about what happened in the cave. You were pulled into the wall, and I was too late to save you.” Thor then turned his head and looked into Loki’s eyes, and they watched each other for a few silent minutes. “And when I saw the way you and Tom acted around each other, it made me so angry, because I was never able to make you laugh or smile like that.”

“It was probably because we look so much alike, and because he was portraying me in a movie, so he already knew a lot about me,” Loki commented. “There was never anything romantic between us.”

“I would probably have called you a narcissist,” Thor said with a forced smile. Loki hummed against his shoulder. “Loki, there is a reason why I always dragged you around on adventures. I wasn’t trying to annoy you, I just wanted to include you. I knew that otherwise you would have isolated yourself.”

“Maybe you are right. I don’t know enough about myself yet to determine whether or not that is true.”

“When we were children, we did everything together. We were hardly ever seen apart. I became friends with Sif and the others, and I thought they would like you, too.” Loki shifted uncomfortably when he recalled the memory about Sif’s hair. “I don’t know if it was because you preferred to use magic in combat or… well…”

“What?”

“Well, you did like to point out that you were much smarter than them.”

“I can see myself doing that.”

“Whatever the reason, they never wanted you to come with us. But I wanted you there, and that was that.”

“I’m sorry you had to choose between me and your friends.”

“I will always pick you over them. You matter to me more than they do.” Loki frowned. He didn’t want to cause any problems between Thor and the others. “I’ve never been very good at describing my feelings using words. You were always much better at it.”

“What is a better way for you?”

Rather than answering him verbally, Thor turned his body towards Loki and tilted his chin up. Thor brought their lips together, and Loki’s eyes fluttered closed. Loki gasped into Thor’s mouth when he felt the clasp at his neck open and the cloak slide off his shoulders. Thor used that opportunity to thrust his tongue into Loki’s mouth. He could taste the sweet wine on his tongue.

Loki wrenched his mouth away when he could no longer get enough air into his lungs, and Thor moved his lips to Loki’s throat. Loki wasn’t sure when it happened, but at some point they had migrated towards the middle of the bed with Loki on his back and Thor hovering above him. Loki mentally cursed himself. He had decided that the next time he spoke to Thor alone, they would move slowly if Thor still intended to form a romantic relationship with him. And yet here he was, keening and arching under Thor’s body and enjoying everything that he was doing to him.

Loki’s breaths started coming out in pants when one of Thor’s hands stroked up his leg and snaked under the material of his ceremonial robe to caress his thigh. There was a light throbbing in the back of his mind. It wasn’t like the throbbing he experienced when he regained one of his memories. This was something else entirely. Buried deep, Loki could feel anger bubbling its way to the top.

‘Don’t touch him! He is mine!’

Loki’s eyes flew open, and the fog in his mind seemed to instantly dissipate.

“What did you just say?” He asked hesitantly, afraid of what the answer would be. Thor detached himself from Loki’s neck and gave him a puzzled look.

“I didn’t say anything.” Loki’s eyes started shifting in every direction, as if looking for someone who wasn’t there. Thor cupped Loki’s face and stroked his thumb across his lips. “Loki, what’s wrong?”

“I heard a voice just now. It sounded so angry.”

“Was it Ymir?” Loki shook his head. “What did it say?”

“Well, he didn’t like you touching me.” Thor raised an eyebrow.

“'He?'” Loki nodded. He didn’t have the heart to tell Thor about the dreams or what his father had said about soul bonds. He probably wouldn’t have believed him, or it would have made him upset and storm out. “Well, I’m not going to be scared off by some phantom.”

Before Loki could reply, Thor was kissing him again, rougher and more possessive than before. Loki’s hands were pinned on either side of his head. Instead of propping himself up like before, Thor was lying on top of him, trying to create as much contact as possible. One last thought entered Loki’s mind before he completely surrendered to the other man’s touch.

The man he had been dreaming about was definitely not Thor. If that was the case, then who was he? When would they finally meet? What would happen when that day arrived?

Chapter Text

“Thor. I can’t breathe.”

“Sorry, Loki,” Thor replied as he rolled to the side. “I forgot I was wearing my armor.” Loki gently pressed a hand to his chest and tried to draw deep breaths.

“How can you? That is the only outfit I have seen you wear.” The blond chuckled.

“You got me there.” Loki tried to stifle a yawn, but Thor still noticed. He started to sit up. “I should let you rest.”

“No,” Loki said, somewhat loudly. He also straightened up until their eyes were level. “I mean, I don’t want you to leave. Will you stay with me while I sleep?” Thor stroked his cheek and kissed him.

“Of course, I’ll stay.” They both moved up the bed and lied down on the pillows. Loki curled against Thor’s torso, and the older man stroked a hand along the smooth skin of his arm. “Are you cold?”

“I am comfortable,” Loki replied as he closed his eyes. He smiled when Thor’s arm encircled his waist.

Thor watched Loki sleep for a while, but it wasn’t long before he started to feel tired. He still hadn’t gotten completely caught up on all the sleep he lost the past few nights, and eventually he could no longer keep his eyes open. About three hours later, they were both awakened by a knock on the door.

“Prince Loptr! I have come to help you get dressed for the banquet! May I come in?”

“Just a moment, Gerd!” Loki turned and shook Thor. The other man groggily sat up, and Loki took that opportunity to give him a hard shove.

“Ah!” Thor landed on the floor with a loud thud.

“My prince, are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m fine!” Loki then leaned over the edge of the bed and looked down at Thor. “Don’t you dare make a sound,” he hissed.

“I can take her,” Thor grumbled.

Loki shook his head and climbed off the bed. He straightened his clothes a bit and patted his hair down.

“Okay, Gerd. You can come in, now.” The door opened and the giantess entered the room. When she saw Loki, her eyes widened slightly.

“Oh. I thought you were dressed already.”

“Oops. Uh, I guess I forgot.” He looked down at his ceremonial robes, and he was thankful they weren’t too wrinkled. “Just wait in the washroom, I suppose. I will only be a moment.”

“Yes, my prince.”

Gerd walked into the washroom with her supplies, and Loki quickly started to gather up the clothes on his bed. Just as he was about to remove the robe, Thor came up behind him and kissed the side of his neck. Loki rounded on him.

“You need to go. Now,” Loki whispered.

“I will see you at the banquet,” Thor said.

“Yes, alright. Please go.” Thor pressed a quick kiss to his lips then left the room. Loki quickly undressed and put on his outfit for the banquet. He got his breathing under control and entered the washroom. “I am so sorry about that, Gerd.”

“You have nothing to apologize for, my prince.” She was only waiting for him to sit down. “So, who was that?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Forgive me, my prince, but even though you did try to be quiet, he did not do a very good job.”

“Oh.” He was silent for a moment while Gerd began working on his hair. “If I tell you, you must promise not to tell anyone.”

“I told you about Lord Freyr. I trust you with my secret, and you can trust me with yours.”

“It was Thor.”

“The Aesir? I do not see why that would have to be kept a secret. I thought perhaps it meant that the relationship between our two realms was improving.”

“Well, when I was taken to Asgard, the All-Father raised me as a son and Thor’s brother. Until a few days ago, no one knew of my true origins. Thor’s parents kept my heritage a secret.”

“I see. But you are not really brothers, correct?”

“Correct. I just think that if Thor and I admitted to our friends that we had romantic feelings for each other, they would find it strange because we were always seen as family.”

“I can understand why this would be difficult for you.” She finished with his hair and placed a silver circlet atop his head. It had a braided pattern and was encrusted with diamonds. “I promise I won’t tell anyone.”

“Thank you, Gerd.”

“Do you love him?”

Loki had to think about it for a minute. In a matter of a few days, he had gone from feeling nothing for Thor to hating him, then just being annoyed with him, to desire. He wasn’t sure if what he was feeling was love, and he figured Thor was having the same thoughts.

“I think it is still too early to tell.”

“That is probably for the best. My relationship with Lord Freyr has developed over a long period of time, and I think that if we had tried to move too quickly at the beginning, we would no longer be together.”

“I suppose that’s the healthy way to go about it.”

“Yes. We must end our conversation so I can do your makeup.”

Loki nodded and Gerd opened a container. She used a slender brush to apply silver paint to his lips. He pressed them together to blend the paint, and closed his eyes when Gerd held a brush up to do his eyelids. She did a lot of the same as before, except his lips. When she finished his makeup, she started putting her supplies away.

“That seemed to go by more quickly than before,” Loki commented.

“The banquet is not as formal an occasion as the ceremony, although only those with invitations will be allowed to attend. Unless you wanted me to do more.”

“No, no. This will be alright. Thank you again, Gerd.”

“You are welcome, my prince. Have a good evening.”

“You as well.”

Gerd picked up her things, bowed once, then left the room. He heard her open and close the bedroom door. Loki remained seated on the stool and stared at his reflection. He wondered if he ever did anything like this as a prince of Asgard. If Tom’s movie was anything to go by, then the answer was probably no. He had a feeling that wearing an outfit like this would be frowned upon, unless you were female.

He stood up and looked more closely at the… well, it looked like a dress. Unless it was supposed to be some kind of robe, but he wasn’t sure. It was turquoise and had small diamonds across the chest. The right shoulder was bare and the left had a silver clasp shaped like a rose, also with diamonds. Thin, silver chains were linked between the shoulder and the waist. There was also a silver rose at the left hip.

Loki tore his eyes from the mirror and left the washroom. He wasn’t sure how much time he had until the banquet, but he didn’t have anything to occupy himself with in here. Perhaps a short walk would be good for him.

~*~

His short walk ended up lasting an hour, but he did feel better. He didn’t have to ask for directions, because he could feel the guests making their way to the banquet hall. The floor trembled beneath him from the many footsteps. Just as he was about to follow them inside, a voice startled him.

“Brother, we have been looking for you.” Loki turned around and saw Helblindi. “We go in through another door.”

“Oh. Okay. I’m not late, am I?”

“No. You are right on time. Come with me.”

Loki walked past him, and Helblindi placed a hand on his back when he saw that his Aesir skin had come back. Byleister came around a corner ahead of them and breathed a visible sigh of relief.

“We were worried we would have to get a search party,” Byleistr said.

“Not really,” Helblindi muttered, and Loki looked up at him with a smile.

“Father is waiting for us.”

“Is there anything I’m supposed to do?” Loki asked as they began walking again.

“No. Father will make all the speeches. First, we eat, and then there is a ball,” Helblindi answered.

“That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“Of course not. Why, were you nervous?” Byleistr asked. Helblindi gave him a pointed look.

“No. I just don’t know what to expect, that’s all. You both are familiar with the customs and traditions.”

“Fair enough.”

“There you are.” All three brothers stiffened at Laufey’s tone. “It was hard enough keeping track of two of you.”

“We’re not late, Father,” Byleistr said, but he quickly shut his mouth.

“Get in order, now. Youngest to oldest.”

“Wait, I have to go in first?” Loki asked with wide eyes.

“It is incredibly easy, Loptr. All you do is walk in and stop at the very last open chair, then remain standing until Father sits down,” Helblindi said and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “I had to do it alone, until Byleistr came along. But you won’t be alone.” The doors swung open, and he moved away to stand behind Byleistr. “They are ready for us.”

Loki sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly. He then took a few steps forward. As soon as he entered the room, everyone inside began to clap. The sound nearly knocked him off his feet, but he kept his focus on that last empty chair. Before he knew it, he was at his seat and facing the crowd. The applause died down when Laufey began speaking, but Loki wasn’t paying any attention. He was trying to find Thor and his friends. When he did spot them, Sif smiled and waved. He was about to return the gesture, but Laufey finished his speech and sat down. The room shook as all the occupants also took their seats.

The feast went by both smoothly and quickly. Loki was amazed at how fast the Frost Giants consumed their food, but he really shouldn’t have been surprised. Perhaps his brothers had always wanted to do it, but Laufey made them act civilized. After the meal was completed and the dishes cleared away, the guests stepped away from the tables, and Loki watched with wide eyes as they lowered into the floor. He hadn’t realized they were just ice!

“I’m going to have to learn that trick,” Loki mumbled to himself.

He looked around when he heard music start to play, but he couldn’t figure out where the sound was coming from, since he couldn’t see over the guests. The instruments they used were foreign to him, and the melody was also unusual. Loki stood up on his tip toes to try and find Thor, but another form moved into his line of sight. A Jotun, rather young, was standing in front of him, and he looked a bit nervous. The giant said something in the native tongue that Loki didn’t understand. He turned around and looked at his father with a questioning gaze.

"What did he say, Father?"

“He asked you to dance, Loptr.”

“Oh.”

He turned back to the giant with a smile and nodded. Loki could see a slight blush on his cheeks. He took the Jotun’s hand and followed him down the stairs to where the other dancers were. Loki wasn’t nervous, exactly, he was just worried about getting stepped on. He was somewhat surprised how… well, “graceful” wasn’t really the right word. The giant was quick on his feet, so to speak, and not clumsy.

“Can you understand me?” Loki asked. The Jotun cocked his head to the side. “Never mind.”

They danced together for three songs, and Loki was starting to get tired. He was having a hard time keeping up with his bigger steps. He tried to tell the giant he didn’t want to dance anymore, but the other male didn’t understand. Luckily, someone came to save him.

“Loki!” He turned around at the woman’s voice and gasped.

“Freyja! What are you doing here?”

“I was invited to your banquet,” the Vanir answered. The Frost Giant took that as his cue to leave, and he faded into the crowd. “Congratulations.”

“Thank you. Are things back to normal in Vanaheim?”

“Oh, yes. Thanks to you.”

“That’s good to hear. Is Freyr here?”

“My brother is somewhere around here. Probably still with his dance partner.”

“Dance partner?”

“Some giantess he fancies.” His eyebrows rose.

“Oh.” Did she know about Gerd? And Gerd never mentioned that she was also invited to the banquet.

“Well, it was very good to see you again. I should get back to my dance partner.”

“Okay.” She smiled at him then walked among the other guests. Loki tried to follow her with his eyes, and then he saw her speaking to someone. His eyes widened when he realized who it was. “Hogun?” Almost as soon as he saw the couple, another body entered his line of sight.

“How are you doing, Brother?”

“Fine, Helblindi. How are you?” Helblindi chuckled.

“You look like you could use some company. Would you like to dance?”

“Um… okay.” Loki placed his hands in the larger ones and allowed him to take the lead. “Is it normal for siblings to dance?”

“It is here. Why, do siblings not dance in Asgard?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t remember very much about it."

"Yes. Father told Byleister and me that you have lost your memories. I am so sorry."

"Thank you, Helblindi. That means a lot. Anyway, I have a feeling that siblings don’t dance together on Asgard. And I also don’t think two men dance together.”

“Really? How strange.” They did not speak again for several moments. “When do you leave?”

“Tomorrow, after breakfast.”

“I see. It went by rather quickly.”

“Yes. But we really need to be moving on. I still have to find my memories.”

“Don’t stay away so long, this time.” Loki laughed.

“I won’t. I promise I will come visit again, soon.”

“Good.” The song ended, and Helblindi separated from him. “Enjoy your evening, Brother.”

“Okay.” Loki watched as he walked away, a smile on his face.

“Psst!” Loki looked around, wondering who that could have been. Can't he get one moment to himself? “Loki,” the voice hissed.

He turned towards the balcony, and he slowly approached one of the open archways. His eyes widened in awe when he saw the stars. It was the first time the sky had not been cloudy, and the constellations were beautiful. They shimmered like jewels, and they were even different colors. Loki always thought stars were all white. He was so enraptured by the night sky that he forgot what he originally came out here for, and he almost jumped out of his skin when a pair of hands rested on his shoulders.

“I have been trying to talk to you all evening,” Thor said. Loki turned around and placed a hand over his rapid heart.

“Sorry. I danced with Helblindi and another Frost Giant, but I don’t know his name. He didn’t know our language.”

“So, where is my dance?” Loki raised an eyebrow.

“Oh. I didn’t know you wanted to dance. I thought you were more interested in other things,” he said sarcastically.

“Doesn’t mean I can’t do that while I’m dancing with you.”

Loki shook his head and rolled his eyes. He placed one hand in Thor’s and was about to put the other on his shoulder when someone appeared through one of the archways. They quickly pulled apart.

“There you are, Thor!” It was Sif. “Hello, Loki. I haven’t seen very much of you.”

“I know. My family has kept me busy. We had a lot of catching up to do.”

“Do you mind if I borrow Thor?”

“Well, I, uh…” Thor muttered.

“Go on and dance with her.” Thor gave him a look that said “are you trying to get rid of me?” but he did as he was told. “Have fun, you two!”

Loki watched them disappear through the archway, and he returned his gaze to the stars. He wondered if the stars looked different in each realm. This was the only one they’d been to at night, and he of course didn’t remember anything about Asgard. A strong gust of cold wind blew from the north, and Loki wrapped his arms around himself. He turned and walked back into the banquet hall and made his way towards the high table. Helblindi was talking to their father, and Byleistr looked positively bored.

“Loptr! There you are! Come dance with me!” Byleistr shouted and got up from the table.

“Oh, um… okay.” Byleistr grabbed his hand and pulled him onto the floor with the other dancers. Even though Helblindi was taller, Byleistr moved faster, and Loki had an even harder time keeping up with him. “Could you slow down?”

“Yeah, sorry. I am just really glad you showed up and saved me from my boredom.”

“Glad I could be of help. Why didn’t you ask someone else to dance?”

“Everyone is afraid to dance with us because of who our father is.”

“That isn’t true. The first person I danced with was… well, I don’t actually know who he was. I couldn’t understand him, and he didn’t know the All-Tongue. He looked like he was about your age, or maybe a little younger.” This seemed to peak his brother’s interest.

“Do you see him anywhere?”

Loki turned his head in both directions, scanning the crowd. He was starting to get dizzy and considered giving up, but then their eyes met. Loki smiled and waved at him, and he shyly waved back. Loki gestured for him to come over.

“Byleistr, this is…”

Loki looked between the two and started to sweat. He squeezed his brother’s arm as a sign he needed a bit of help. Byleistr asked the young giant a question in their native tongue, and he answered, appearing to be more confident. The pair continued to converse, and Loki took the opportunity to sneak away. He returned to the high table to bid his family good night.

“Did you lose your brother?” Laufey asked. He sounded bored, too, but he wasn’t as obvious about it.

“I wouldn’t say I lost him. More like… someone else found him.”

“About damn time.” Loki’s mouth fell open and Helblindi chuckled around his wine goblet. “Did you need something, Loptr?”

“No, I was going to go to bed. I wanted to say good night.”

“Helblindi says you and your companions are leaving tomorrow.” Loki nodded. “Be sure to come back and visit us soon. Don’t stay away for so long.”

“I won’t. Good night, Father, Brother.”

“Good night, Starlight.”

~*~

As he had after the ceremony, when Loki got back to his room, he removed the jewelry and wiped off the makeup. He took off his shoes and rubbed his feet, which were sore from all of the dancing. He wondered if he ever danced on Asgard, but he had a feeling the answer was no. He changed into the night clothes he had in his bag and neatly folded his banquet clothes. He wasn’t sure if he was allowed to keep the garment, but he assumed so since nobody else was his size. All Loki knew was that the robe he wore for the ceremony would be placed on his statue as soon as the sculptor finished the head. When the door to his room opened, he got up from the stool and stood in the doorway.

“You’re a hard person to track down,” Thor said.

“Am I?”

“I never did get that dance.”

“Oh.” Loki looked down at himself. “I already changed out of my clothes.”

“That doesn’t matter to me.” Thor held out his hand, and Loki went to him. They moved to stand in front of the window, where the moon’s light was coming in and illuminating part of the room. “How are you feeling?” Thor whispered into Loki’s hair.

“Tired.” Without really thinking about it, Loki leaned into Thor as they slowly moved around the room. “I’m ready to move on, though. It’s time, and there is so much more I still have to do.”

“Loki, I meant what I said earlier,” Thor said after a minute. “I really hope you will stay in Asgard.”

Loki paused and looked up at the blond. He let out a sigh and lightly shook his head. He couldn’t make that sort of promise, especially because Asgard was not where he was meant to be.

“I will consider it. I am sorry, Thor, but I don’t want to make any decisions so soon. Fair?”

“Fair.”

Loki cupped his hands around Thor’s face and kissed him. Thor’s arms wrapped around his slender form and pulled their bodies closer together. Loki stroked the other man’s cheeks and tangled his fingers in his golden hair. He had been so sure that the man he was dreaming about was Thor. Even their features were similar. Loki was almost convinced that it had to be him, but then there was that voice in his head when Thor kissed him the first time. Almost as if on cue, Loki felt that same throbbing in the back of his mind. The anger and possessiveness started bubbling underneath the surface, and it was too much. Loki tore his lips away and unsteadily moved towards the bed. He sat down and gripped his head, breathing shallowly. Thor watched him for a moment before sitting down next to him.

“It was him again, wasn’t it?” Loki didn’t answer him for a while, only kept holding his head.

“I’m afraid, Thor. Of what kind of a person he is.” Even though he tried to keep it contained, a small sob managed to escape his lips. “I don’t want to get hurt anymore.” Thor wrapped his arms around him protectively.

“I won’t let anything bad happen to you. I promise.”

“Why can’t it be you?”

“What are you talking about, Loki?”

“Soul bonds.” Thor didn’t say anything. “Do you know about them?”

“Only that they’re extremely powerful, and they cannot be broken once formed.” He leaned back slightly and tilted Loki’s chin up. “Is that what this is about? Whoever this person is, he is meant to be bonded with you?” Loki nodded. “How do you know this?”

“Because he comes to me in my dreams, and he calls me ‘his bonded.’ I didn’t know what the word meant, so I asked my father about it.” Loki didn’t speak for a while and instead watched the mixture of emotions on Thor’s face. “I don’t know what he looks like. He never allows me to see his face. And he’s made sure not to let me hear what his voice sounds like. He seems to already know me, and I asked him when we will meet. He said it would be soon.”

The disappointment on Thor’s face broke Loki’s heart. He didn’t want to hurt him, but he also felt guilty keeping this from him and letting him believe they would ever have a future together.

“I think he may be from Asgard,” Loki said after a while.

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, in one of my dreams, I was standing on a balcony overlooking a large courtyard. I saw some runes carved into the railing, and it spelled out my name. The markings appeared to have been there for many years. And then he appeared.”

“I don’t know what’s worse, you not returning to Asgard at all, or you living in Asgard with someone else.” That was not what Loki wanted to hear.

“I am so sorry, Thor.”

“You have nothing to be sorry about, Loki. None of this is your fault.” A fresh set of tears began to fall and Thor wiped them away with his thumb.

“Will you stay with me?” Thor pressed their foreheads together.

“Of course, I will.” He got up from the bed and headed to the wash room. “I need to remove my armor, first.”

While Thor was gone, Loki took a moment to settle down. He breathed long and slow breaths and moved up the bed to get comfortable. He didn’t know why he was so nervous. They were just going to sleep, nothing more. And if Thor had any ideas of doing other things, he would simply tell him they would need the rest for their journey tomorrow. A few moments later, Thor reentered the room and Loki brought a hand up to shield his eyes.

“What’s wrong?” As if he didn’t know.

“I was just expecting you to be wearing clothes.” Thor looked down at himself.

“I am wearing clothes.”

“I meant more clothes.”

“This is always what I wear to bed.”

“Are you not cold, though?”

“Not with you next to me.” Loki moved his hand and glared at him.

“Thor!”

“What? I’m not going to do anything. I am tired, as well.” While Thor slid in next to him, Loki took a moment to get a better look at him. When Thor caught him looking, Loki blushed and turned over on his side with a huff. Thor chuckled, wrapped an arm around Loki’s waist and pulled him against his body. Loki was stiff as a board. “Why couldn’t you have been born somewhere warmer?” Loki’s body slouched and he sighed.

“I’m sorry, how rude and inconsiderate of me,” he said sarcastically.

“Oh well, it gives me an excuse to be closer to you.”

“You sound worse than Fandral.” Thor laughed again, and Loki smiled and began to relax.

“Good night, Loki.”

“Good night, Thor.”

Chapter Text

Early the next morning, Thor was the first to awaken. Both he and Loki were able to sleep through the night with no disruptions, so Loki must not have had any dreams. Thor moved slowly and climbed out of the bed. He watched for a moment to make sure he didn’t wake Loki, and then he grabbed his clothes from the washroom. When he opened the door, he didn’t see anyone roaming the halls, so he quietly shut the door behind him and entered his own room. He knew Loki would be angry if anyone saw him sneaking out of his bedroom. Thor chuckled as he pictured the scowl Loki always wore when he said or did something that annoyed him, which happened a lot.

After getting dressed, Thor picked up his bag and left the room. He thought about knocking on Loki’s door to see if he was awake, but he figured he should let him sleep a little longer. As he made his way to the dining hall, Thor’s thoughts shifted to what had happened between them the night before.

Loki looked terrified when he spoke about this mystery person, and it made Thor angry. Why should he get to have Loki when they don’t even know each other? He’s known Loki his entire life, and he’s never made Loki feel afraid. Well, except maybe the time with Sif’s hair. All Thor wanted was for Loki to regain his memories and be happy, wherever he decided to go (even though he hoped Loki would stay with him). But if this soul bonding business was true, Loki would lose his freedom to choose his path, and that wasn’t fair. He deserved so much better.

Before he realized it, Thor had arrived at the dining hall. He looked around the large room and saw that, other than the servants, Laufey was the only one there. As he neared the main table, Laufey rose and came down the stairs to greet him.

“Good morning, Prince Thor.”

“Good morning, King Laufey.”

“Are you usually the first to arrive?” Thor couldn’t help but laugh.

“No, actually, I’m usually the last.”

“Well, my son may have that title now.”

“He has been through a lot lately. We all have.” Something in Laufey’s face changed. He looked… defeated. “If I said something out of turn—”

“No, it was not you. I just wish your father had told him.” When he said the word “father,” there was a hint of malice. “Where one comes from is nothing to be ashamed of. It will always be a part of them, no matter where their life takes them.” Thor had to agree with him there. “I hope you will be a more diplomatic king than your father was.”

“I will do my best.”

As far as Thor could remember, his father was always open to diplomacy and discussion in order to avoid war. Now, he realized that the gesture was extended to everyone except Jotunheim. He wasn’t even sure if there had been any contact with the Jotun people since the war. Odin had forbidden Asgardians from going there. A second later, the ground began to shake as Helblindi approached them.

“Good morning, Father, Prince Thor. I just checked on Loptr and he is awake.”

“Good. And Byleistr?”

“I… do not think he is quite feeling up to joining us,” Helblindi said hesitantly.

“Mm hmm,” Laufey replied with a knowing smirk. Helblindi cleared his throat and Thor watched them with a confused expression. Laufey turned and walked towards his seat at the high table. “You are more than welcome to place your belongings against this wall so they are in nobody's way.”

“Thank you, King Laufey. I will let my friends know, as well.”

A few minutes later, Sif and the Warriors Three entered the dining hall, and Loki soon after them. When everyone had set their bags down and found their seats, the servants brought out the food. The conversations were minimal, because the Asgardians were in a hurry and wanted to, hopefully, go somewhere warmer. And Loki knew they had stayed more than long enough.

When everyone had eaten to their heart’s content, they said good bye to their hosts and grabbed their belongings. Laufey, Helblindi, Byleistr (who finally managed to get up for the day), and Thrym walked with them to the main gate. Loki hugged his family and promised he would come visit them again soon.

“Good bye, Father. I love you.”

“Good bye, Starlight. I am so proud of you. Farbauti would be, too.”

“You’re going to make me cry again.”

“Be safe.”

“I will. Thank you all for everything. Farewell.”

Loki turned his back on his family and joined the others. He knew that if he didn’t leave now, he probably never would. For the first part of the journey back to the Bifrost site, they walked in silence. When they could no longer see the palace and entered the canyon, Sif matched her pace with Loki’s.

“How did everything go with your family?” She asked.

“Good. There are still many things I need to learn, but that will have to be saved for another time.”

“It was strange,” Volstagg began, “how friendly they all were towards us.”

“Why would that be strange?” Loki asked.

“Well, the All-Father has forbidden us from even traveling to Jotunheim or contacting them. And… Asgardians don’t exactly view the Frost Giants in a kind way.”

“You call us monsters.” Loki felt good to be included with them, even if the comment still hurt.

“Yes. But I think we were wrong.”

“The Frost Giants seemed, I don’t know, normal,” Fandral commented. “Like us and everyone else. They’re just a lot taller. And blue.”

“Way to point out the obvious, Fandral,” Sif said with a slap on the back. “Hey, I think I see the markings!”

“That’s a relief. I don’t know what we would have done if they had been covered by the snow,” Thor said. The six of them entered the circle and looked up at the sky. “Heimdall, I hope you haven’t given up on us. We are ready to travel to the next world.”

The clouds began to glow and drift apart as the Bifrost appeared to them. When the light pulled them into the sky, Loki started to feel nauseous. Even though it had been a while since they had traveled this way, he never remembered it feeling this uncomfortable. A few seconds later, they were on solid ground.

~*~

Unbeknownst to Loki, the others felt strange as well. For the first few minutes of arriving in this new realm, everyone had lost consciousness. Loki was the first to awaken, lying on a dirt road, and the first thing he saw was… himself. He sat up and saw his prostrate body a few feet away. Was he dead? Was he having an out-of-body experience? He brought his hands up to his eyes, only they were not his hands. The fingers were larger with scars and callouses, and his clothes were blue. His breathing started to become shallow.

“EVERYBODY WAKE UP!”

The others groggily sat up and groaned. Loki watched as his hand scratched at his head and his face stared back at him with a frown.

“What’s the matter, Fandral?” Thor’s voice just came out of his mouth.

“Thor?” Loki asked hesitantly. His eyebrows furrowed.

“Loki?” Loki nodded.

“What is going on? Why do you two sound different?” Sif asked… in Volstagg’s body. “And why does my face itch?”

“Sif, we’ve switched bodies somehow,” Thor said.

“Thor? If you’re there, then who’s…?” She turned and saw her body a few feet away. Her hands were stroking her hips and she pushed her breasts together. “Fandral, you keep your filthy, grimy, disgusting, pervy hands off my body!” She yelled as she drew Volstagg’s battle axe.

“What, Sif? You should be proud of these, especially considering where you are now.”

“Shall I cut them off?” She asked as she pointed the axe at Fandral’s body, currently being used by Loki.

“Ah, no. That won’t be necessary.”

“Volstagg, where are you?” Thor asked.

“Here, Thor.” His voice came out of Hogun’s body.

“Then that must mean that Hogun is in my body.” The man in question merely nodded, then brushed some unruly blond hair out of his eyes. “Well, I suppose that it’s safe to say there’s a feather here. Can you feel it, Loki?”

“Yes,” Loki answered. “But it is moving. That way.” He pointed to the east, where the dirt road was headed.

“Well, let’s follow it.”

They picked up their bags and started walking down the road. A few minutes later, Loki commented that the feather had stopped somewhere up ahead. Then they heard the sound of a horse, and they turned around to see a single horse pulling some kind of black carriage with a roof.

They moved to the side so the horse could pass them, but as soon as it reached them, it stopped. A man with a bowl cut hairstyle and thick brown beard wearing a grey shirt and suspenders leaned out of the carriage and stared at them. A woman also peaked her head out, and she was wearing a blue dress and white bonnet, her hair in a bun and a pair of glasses sitting on her nose. The man muttered something to his wife in a language they didn’t recognize, and she quietly answered. They both sat up straight and the man told his horse to continue on.

“Well, that was weird,” Fandral blurted out.

“Let’s just keep moving,” Thor said.

They continued along the road and came up to a hill. When they reached the top, they saw a farm with corn fields, a clothes line near the white wooden house, and a big red barn. The carriage from before was next to the barn, and the horse was trotting in circles inside the enclosed fence.

“I can feel it in there,” Loki said as he pointed at the barn.

“Alright, let’s go.”

“Wait!” It was weird to be staring at himself. “I should go alone. I think those people would notice us trespassing if we all went.”

“But shouldn’t Thor go with you, since he is in your body?” Sif asked.

“I do not think that matters. It is my memory, and my mind is in Fandral’s body right now. I will come back before I absorb the memory, that way Fandral won’t wake up next to that building.”

“Thank you, Loki. I appreciate that,” Fandral said.

“Just be careful,” Thor warned.

Without saying another word, Loki headed down the other side of the hill and walked onto the farm. He tried to stay low to the ground, but the horse came up along the fence next to him and neighed.

“Shh.” The horse snorted and followed him. “Go away.”

The screen door of the house opened and the man came out. He opened the sliding door of the barn and went inside, and Loki took that moment to dash across the yard and hide around the corner. He peaked his head around and watched to see if the wife would come out, but he ducked when the man reemerged carrying a shovel. He closed the barn door part of the way and walked over to his vegetable garden.

Loki watched him for a minute, and then his gaze moved towards the house. There was a window on the side that looked towards the barn, but the shutters were closed. While the man’s back was turned, he ran around the corner and slipped into the barn. When he turned around, his eyes widened.

The walls were covered with shovels, hooks, blades, tools and other sharp objects. Leaning against the wall were several hunting rifles. What kind of people were they? Murderers? Loki knew he needed to get out of here, and fast.

He looked up towards the loft, because he knew his feather was there. He found a ladder and climbed it. There was hay all over the loft, and he crawled through it to get to the back wall. He found what looked like a small window, but it wasn’t really a window. There was a bird’s nest built inside, and inside the nest were four tiny grey and blue eggs. Weaved into the outside edge of the nest was his feather. Carefully, he pinched the bottom of the feather and tugged it from the nest. He crouched down and moved towards the ladder, but before he could descend, the man came back into the barn.

Loki lied flat on his belly and watched as the man scanned one of the walls and grabbed a gardening hoe. He then vanished outside, and after waiting a few seconds, Loki climbed down the ladder. He peaked outside the door and looked around the yard for the man, but he didn’t see him. Loki cautiously stepped out of the barn, and then he stiffened when the man appeared. They stared at each other for a few tense moments, and then Loki took off running. He dared not look back, and as he neared the hill, he waved his arms at the others.

“Run!”

They did as they were told and ran to the Bifrost site. The man didn’t follow them. He probably just wanted to be left alone. While they caught their breath, Loki held the feather up to his—or Fandral’s—chest, and it was absorbed.

~*~

It was night, and thunder rumbled. Loki wandered the dark halls, and he jumped when lightning flashed outside the window. It must have been fairly late because nobody else was around. He continued on, and then he saw a sliver of light ahead. There was a door cracked open, and he could faintly hear voices coming from the room.

As he pushed on the door, his hand went through it. He never remembered being able to do that in his other memories, but he went along with it. He walked through the wooden door and saw two teenage boys sitting on the bed. Thor looked to be about fifteen, and Loki was maybe eleven or twelve. Thor was crying, and he seemed angry. Loki was rubbing his back to comfort him.

“It was only a dream, Thor.”

“I know that,” young Thor said with a pout, “but it still made me mad.”

“What exactly did Father say to you?”

"I don’t know what I did to upset him so, but he told me that if I don’t mind my attitude and start acting as a prince should, he would give the throne to our sister.”

“Our sister? But we don’t have a sister.”

“I know that. He sounded like he meant it, though.”

“Besides, Father never said who was going to succeed him.” Loki was silent for a moment. “But I am sure it will be you, since you are the oldest.”

“But you’re smarter. Father said a king must know when to be wise. I don’t know how to be wise.”

“Maybe I can help you be wise. I could be your adviser when you become king.”

“That’s a great idea! We would make a great team!”

“I hope so.”

“And if you end up becoming king, you will still have my support.”

“Thank you, Brother. That means a lot to me.”

“Of course. No one can tear us apart.”

“So, now that you are feeling better, would you mind turning off the waterworks so we can all go to sleep?”

“Oh. Sorry.” Thor closed his eyes and breathed in and out through his nose. The thunder went silent, and the lightning slowly faded away. All that remained was a light rain that pattered on the windows. “Better?”

“Better. Good night, Thor,” Loki said as he gave him a hug.

Thor was frozen for a minute, and he smiled contentedly as he returned the hug, squeezing his brother tightly.

“Good night, Loki.”

When Loki opened his eyes, he was relieved to see that they hadn’t been chased by the man. He was also happy to see Fandral standing a few feet away from him. He had a grimace on his face.

“Thanks a lot, Loki. Now I smell like a horse’s arse.”

“You’re welcome, Fandral.”

“Was that a good memory?” Thor asked, trying to prevent any violence.

“Yes. It was.” Although what Thor said about a sister bothered him. He’d have to ask him about it another time. “Are we ready to go?”

“Is everyone back in their rightful bodies?” The others looked down at their clothes and nodded. “Alright. Here’s your bag, Loki.”

“Thank you, Thor.”

“Heimdall, we are ready to go to the next world.”

This time, when they traveled to their next destination, the trip itself was more familiar. It felt normal again, and this was a good omen that when they appeared on the other side, things would be as they should be.

Chapter Text

When the Bifrost vanished into the clouds, they took in their surroundings. They were standing in a valley near a tall cliff. Behind them, the valley turned to woods and steep hills.

“Do you feel anything, Loki?” Thor asked, relieved that he was still himself.

“Yes. It is beyond this cliff.”

“Can we go around it?” Sif asked.

“Let me take a look.” Thor unholstered Mjolnir and took to the sky. He flew to the top of the cliff, and what he saw left him awestruck.

“What is it, Thor?” Loki asked. “What do you see?”

“Asgard.”

“Did you say ‘Asgard?’”

“Yes. Only… it’s not.”

“What are you going on about up there?” Fandral asked, crossing his arms. Thor looked left and right, and then he descended.

“I see a path through the rock, this way,” he said as he pointed to the right. “You’ll see what I mean when we get through.”

“Well, what are we waiting for?” Volstagg proclaimed.

It took them nearly a half hour to get through, and the path was very narrow, so they could only go one at a time. When they reached the end and were all standing in the open, everyone saw what Thor meant. The first thing they noticed was the Bifrost, but unlike theirs, which was a flat bridge, this one was arched. The observatory was a tower. Beyond, this Asgard was a large stone castle or fortress that was built into a mountain, with more trees lining the front gate.

“This is definitely not our Asgard,” Fandral said after a few moments of silence.

“Then whose is it?” Sif wondered.

“There is only one way to find out,” Thor said, and then he began to make his way towards the Bifrost. A second later, he felt a hand on his arm. He paused and turned to look at who had grabbed him. “What is it, Loki?”

“If this really is Asgard, they can’t see Mjolnir. They will be suspicious.”

“Oh. You’re right.” Thor opened his bag and placed Mjolnir inside. “Good catch.” Loki merely shrugged as if it was no big deal.

When they reached the edge of the bridge, a tall man with pale skin and long white hair emerged from the tower. He wore a sleeveless shirt made of animal skins and what looked like some kind of skirt, made of similar material. Held in his left hand was a large, curved horn that wrapped around his shoulder.

“Welcome,” the man spoke. “I am Heimdallr, guardian of the Bifrost of Asgard.”

“Wait…” Fandral stammered. “You’re Heimdall?”

“I am. Before I can grant you passage through Himinbjörg and allow you to enter Asgard, I must first learn who you are and your business.”

Almost everyone was internally panicking. They couldn’t use their real names, because he would say they were lying.

“My name is Tom Hiddleston,” Loki said as he stepped forward. “These are my friends, Jaimie Alexander, Chris Hemsworth, Tadanobu Asano, Josh Dallas, and Ray Stevenson.” He was thankful Tom introduced him to all of the actors and used their full names.

“Well met, Tom Hiddleston. And from where do you hail?”

“We come from Midgard.”

“Good. It would have been ill for you if you had said Jotunheim.” Loki forced a smile.

“Indeed?”

“Why have you come here this day?”

“To solve your problem.” Heimdallr barked out a laugh. This guy was way different than their Heimdall.

“I do not follow, Tom Hiddleston.”

“Well, something strange is happening here, correct?” At this, Heimdallr’s eyes widened.

“Yes, indeed! Very destructive.”

“We are travelers who know how to find the cause of these problems and put an end to them.”

“Are you? Well, this is wonderful news, indeed! I judge that you are sincere in your words, so I will take you to the All-Father. He will be able to explain everything. But you must hurry and find this thing, before it is too late.”

“Too late for what?”

“The gods may die.” Heimdallr turned and entered the tower. Loki looked at the others, and they all seemed worried. They followed Heimdallr, and he used his magic to transport them from the tower to the gate of Asgard. “This is as far as I may go, for I must keep my watch. Enter here, and you will find Þórr, God of Thunder and son of Óðinn All-Father. Tell him what you have told me, and he will be able to help you. Farewell.”

As soon as Heimdallr was gone, Fandral turned to Thor.

“It’s safe to say we won’t have to worry about the two of you looking alike.” Thor merely shrugged, but deep down he was relieved.

When they reached the gate, the large doors opened and revealed a burly man with, what had been at one time, long brown hair and a dark beard, but were both turning gray. Wrinkles marred his once-youthful face. At his hip was an oddly-shaped hammer with curved lines carved into it.

“Are you Þórr?” Loki asked.

“I am.” The very ground seemed to shake at his voice. Thor tried to ignore Fandral, who was giggling next to him.

“I am Tom Hiddleston, of Midgard. We have come to help you with your strange anomaly. Heimdallr tells us that we must hurry and find this thing, or the gods may perish.”

“You are certain you can stop it?”

“Yes.”

“Follow me.” The man didn’t wait to see if they were behind him.

“So far, so good,” Loki said quietly.

“You really saved us back there,” Sif whispered. “I don’t know what we would have told him about who we were.”

“The real Tom saved us.”

They followed Þórr through many hallways, and they had to admit that it was not as grand as what they were used to. Þórr took them to the throne room, and Loki saw that almost all of the gods seemed to be aging. All, except two: a woman with a large wooden box in her lap, and a man with red hair and a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“Who seeks an audience with me?” The old man seated on the throne bellowed. He had an eyepatch—black instead of gold—and staff like the Odin they knew, but his hair and beard were longer and not as well groomed. Two large ravens were perched on each shoulder, which Thor recognized as Huginn and Muninn.

“They come from Midgard and claim to be able to rid us of this evil curse. I believe them to be trustworthy, as does Heimdallr,” Þórr answered.

“Very well. Iðunn, show them.”

The goddess with the box rose from her chair and gracefully walked down the steps. When she stood before them, she lifted the lid of the box. Inside were eleven shriveled and rotting apples.

“My golden apples of youthfulness have succumbed to decay, and I know not the reason. We must have the apples, because without them, the gods grow old and weary. Something like this has only happened one other time, when I was kidnapped by the giant, Þjazi.” At this, all of the gods turned and glared at the red-haired man, who pursed his lips and shrugged nonchalantly. “Will you help us?”

Loki was looking inside the box, but the feather was not there. It was somewhere else, nearby. He looked around the room, searching for it. Then, his eyes fell on a woman. He slowly approached her and bowed.

“May I have your name?” Loki asked.

“I do not see why this is relevant,” one of the other gods snapped. Because his back was towards them, Loki couldn’t see how tense the others were. They were really counting on him.

“Forgive me,” Loki began, “but I am testing a theory.”

“My name is Freyja,” the goddess replied.

“I am Tom. May I see your feathered cloak?”

The other gods stiffened, as if expecting that he was going to attempt an escape. Unlike the Freyja he knew, whose cloak grew from her hair, this one always wore the cloak around her shoulders. She handed it to him, and he turned it over. Embedded inside the brown and gray cloak was a glowing blue feather. He pulled on it, and once freed, he returned the cloak to Freyja. Thor came up beside him, in case he fainted when he absorbed the memory. Loki held the feather close to his body, and the gods all gasped when it vanished into his chest.

Loki was inside a library, and it was around midday, judging by the sunlight coming through the windows. He came from around a bookcase and saw an open area with three children. His younger self was sitting at a table reading a large book, and standing across the table from him were a boy and girl, both with golden hair.

“Loki, won’t you come play with us?” The girl asked.

“No, Sif, I won’t,” young Loki answered without turning away from his book.

“But Thor wants you to come, and—”

“I could care less about what Thor wants. Your games bore me. There is never much thought or problem solving involved. I have no interest in play fighting, now leave me alone.”

“Forget about him, Sif,” the blond boy said. Loki wondered if this was Fandral.

“Well, if you change your mind, you know where to find us.” Young Loki just ignored her.

Fandral and Sif turned and walked away. When they disappeared behind a bookcase, young Loki glanced up from his book. He waved his hand, and a small light appeared and floated in the direction they had gone. Loki followed the light, and it hovered near where Fandral and Sif were whispering to each other.

“What did you think would happen?” The boy asked, sounding a bit annoyed that they had wasted their time with this.

“I don’t know, Fandral. I thought maybe this time would be different.”

“Nothing will ever change. He doesn’t like us, and he doesn’t like our games. If he wants to be alone, let him.” Sif was about to say something, but he interrupted her. “He doesn’t belong, anyway.”

“Just because he likes magic over sword fighting doesn’t mean—”

“That’s not what I meant. Haven’t you noticed he looks nothing like Thor or his parents? There is no resemblance at all. And there is just… something strange about him. I don’t see why you are trying so hard.”

“I am trying to include him because—” Loki saw a look of fear flash across her face. Fandral crossed his arms in a way that told her to finish her thought. “You can’t tell anyone about this, okay?”

“My lips are sealed,” Fandral said and he slid his fingers across his lips.

"They'd better be, because I'll beat your pretty boy face to a pulp." Fandral pressed his lips together as if he wasn't able to speak. Sif let out a sigh. “Okay. I’m only being nice to Loki so Thor will like me. Happy?”

“I knew it,” Fandral said smugly.

“What? How? Am I that obvious?”

“To me, yes. But Thor’s not as observant, so you have nothing to worry about.” Sif heaved a sigh, but of relief this time.

“Thanks, Fandral. I owe you one.”

The two children left the library, and the light floated back towards young Loki. When it got close enough, he reached out his hand and squeezed it. The light burst in his palm, and what looked like dust particles slipped through his fingers.

When the memory ended, Loki was a little unsteady on his feet. All around him, the gods were cheering as the golden apples returned to normal and they were young again. The loud noise was overwhelming. Loki slowly turned his head towards the others, and his haunted gaze met those of Fandral and Sif. He saw something in their expressions change for a moment, but he looked away when someone approached him.

“Wow, Tom, that was some impressive magic. You must tell me all about how you did it.” It was the red-haired man. The way he said his name made Loki feel a little uneasy. Did he know who they really were?

“Don’t you think you have learned enough tricks, Loki?” Þórr asked. “Tom, you have saved us, and we owe you a debt of gratitude. You must allow us to throw a feast in your honor.”

“Yes,” Loki finally answered, still a bit short of breath. “We will accept your gracious hospitality.”

Þórr offered to show the guests to their rooms, himself. Red-haired Loki decided to tag along, as well. While they traversed the halls of Asgard, Fandral and Sif loitered near the back of the group.

“Why did he look at us like that?” Sif asked nervously. Fandral frowned.

“And what did he see?”

Chapter Text

“Tom, you and your friends must join us on our hunt!” Þórr exclaimed when they reached the hallway where the guest rooms were.

“Thank you, for your generous offer. I feel a bit tired, after absorbing the feather. But I think my friends would love to go.”

“Well? What do you say?” Thor had been looking at Loki with concern, but then he turned to his counterpart with a smile.

“Sounds like fun,” Thor replied.

“Excellent! Good man, good man. And what is your name?”

“Chris Hemsworth.”

“Very good. We should probably get going if we want to be back in time for the feast.”

“No argument there,” Volstagg commented.

“What exactly will we be hunting?” Fandral asked.

“Ogres. They have been causing a lot of problems in the villages recently. Very strange behavior, since ogres usually keep to themselves. But we must take care of them so no one else gets hurt.”

“Þórr darling!” A woman with golden hair walked briskly down the hall, and Þórr turned to embrace her. “I am so relieved to see that you are back to normal.”

“It was all thanks to Tom. He used his magic to vanquish the thing that caused this.” He then blinked hard, as if he had just come back to himself. “Forgive me! This is my wife, Sif.”

A few feet away, Sif’s eyes nearly bugged out of her skull. Thor looked uncomfortable. The Warriors Three had shocked expressions as well.

“It is very good to meet you, Sif,” Loki said. She smiled at him, and then her gaze returned to her husband. “You all enjoy yourselves. I suppose I will see you at the feast.” Loki opened the door to his guest room, and he tried to ignore the other Loki’s eyes following him.

“Good bye, my love,” Sif said as she kissed Þórr. “Be careful.”

“Loki, will you be joining us?” The red-haired man at first didn’t realize he was being spoken to.

“No thank you. I think you will be in more than capable hands, and I would much rather get to know our guest of honor.” Thor watched him suspiciously.

“Alright, Loki. Just don’t turn him into a lizard or pebble or something like that.” Loki put a hand on his chest dramatically.

“You wound me, Þórr. I would never do such a thing as that.” The other god gave him a pointed look and shook his head.

“Come, Midgardians! We haven’t a moment to waste!”

“Lo—Tom!” Thor blurted out. “Be careful.”

“I will,” Loki said before disappearing into the room and closing the door behind him.

Thor nearly blew their cover, but he caught himself. He didn’t notice the red-haired Loki’s smirk. He wanted to stay a moment longer so he could be certain that Loki would be safe alone, but Þórr was not going to wait for them. He could only hope that Loki would still be in one piece when they returned.

Loki made sure to lock the door as soon as he entered the room, but he had a feeling that wouldn’t be enough to keep the trickster out. After setting his bag down, he walked over to stand by the window. He felt sick to his stomach after seeing that memory. How would he ever be able to trust them again, knowing they were only being nice to him in order to gain Thor’s friendship? Movement below captured his attention, and he saw the hunting party leave the castle on horseback. They entered the woods and disappeared. Loki crossed his arms over his chest, and he bowed his head. His frame shook with sobs, and he slid to the floor when his legs gave out underneath him.

He wanted to go home. His memories be damned, he could create new ones in Jotunheim. At least the people there actually cared about him. He laid his cheek on his knees and sighed. If only he had that option. He had no choice but to find his memories, because if he stopped looking, he would die. And then Ymir would come back, and Loki couldn’t let that happen.

There was one thing that Loki now knew for certain: when he regained his memories, he would return to Jotunheim. Thor had asked him to consider staying with him in Asgard, but after this revelation, that was no longer an option. While Þórr was taking them to their rooms, Loki thought about telling the others, as soon as they were finished here, that they should return to Asgard and he continue on his own, but that would seem too suspicious. And Loki also decided that he would not tell Thor at all about what he saw. If he did, Thor would alienate his friends, which would make it harder when Loki finally did leave him.

Loki got up off the floor, and his chest still ached. He felt alone, and there was no one he could turn to. No one he could trust. He blinked back more tears, and then his gaze slowly moved towards the bed. The only time he didn’t feel alone was when he was sleeping. When he was dreaming.

He took off his boots then pulled back the covers. He closed his eyes as soon as he climbed into the bed, and he pleaded in his mind that he would be able to fall asleep quickly. His breaths came out in shallow gasps, and his heart was thudding in his chest. A stray tear rolled down his cheek and soaked into the pillow. He used all the remainder of his energy to clear his mind and surrender to the darkness. About a minute later, he traveled to the world of dreams.

~*~

Loki opened his eyes and it was pitch dark. He sat up and found he was in a bed, and he sighed in disappointment because he thought it hadn’t worked. But then he realized he was naked, and he felt movement beside him.

“What’s wrong?” The man asked tiredly. His voice sounded so familiar, and it was driving Loki crazy that he couldn’t figure out who it was!

“Everyone I believed I could trust has betrayed me. They were just using me.” Just saying it out loud made his chest constrict. The other man sat up.

“You don’t need them. You have me.” Loki turned and glared at the man, but he couldn’t see him.

“Aren’t you using me, too? For sex?” The man heaved a sigh.

“No, I am not just using you for sex.” The tone in his voice made it sound as if they’d had this conversation before.

“Do you even love me? Or is it just lust?”

This was not going the way he had wanted. He came here hoping to feel better, but now he just felt even more angry. Loki didn’t know how, but he knew the man was staring into his eyes. He reached for Loki’s hand, but when he tried to pull it away, the man’s grip was too strong. Loki gave up, and he didn’t resist when his hand was brought to the man’s lips.

“I would not have bonded with you if I did not love you.”

Loki’s eyes widened. Soul bonds were formed through mutual consent and not fate? That meant Loki had wanted this, too. This changed everything.

“Won’t you please tell me who you are?” The man kissed his hand again, and Loki flinched when he felt wetness. Tears.

“I cannot. I am sorry, but it is still too soon.”

“This isn’t fair. You already know who I am!”

“Please, just wait a little longer. If I revealed my identity, I would vanish from your dreams.”

“Kiss me.”

The man shifted, and he used his hand to find Loki’s cheek. He traced a thumb across his lips, and a second later it was replaced by his mouth. Loki stroked a hand up the man’s muscled arm, then he tangled his fingers in his long hair, pulling slightly. This spurred the other man on, and he deepened the kiss, slowly pushing Loki down onto his back.

“Make me feel wanted,” Loki pleaded between kisses. “Make me feel loved.”

Loki cried out when the man grabbed his hips and rubbed their erections together. He threw his head back, giving his lover access to this throat. He gripped the man’s hair harder, eliciting a deep moan against his neck. Now that Loki knew their bonding hadn’t revolved around predetermined destiny, and that he had agreed to it, he felt silly for ever fearing this man. And he also understood why he got so angry when Thor was kissing him. He was devoted to Loki, and Loki was the most important person in his life. He had every right to be jealous when another man was touching him.

Loki pushed against the man’s shoulders so they were both sitting up, and then he straddled his lap, rocking his hips to create more friction. He stroked the man’s face and kissed him hungrily, and they moaned into each other’s mouth. A large hand wrapped around both members and stroked up and down. Loki’s head was pounding, his pulse loud in his ears. He was so close.

“I love you.”

Loki nearly wept when his orgasm washed over him, and with a few more strokes his lover reached completion. They both remained still, the only sounds in the room their panting breaths. The other man removed his hand and blindly felt around for the sheet to clean up the mess. Loki pressed his forehead against the other’s, and a feeling of contentment filled him to the brim as he came down off his high. They both seemed happy in that moment, just being in each other’s arms.

Then something changed. His lover’s grip tightened, almost protectively. And it felt like there was electricity in the air.

“Someone is trying to awaken you.” Loki started to panic.

“No! I don’t want to leave yet. I want to stay here with you.” A hand cupped his cheek tenderly, and Loki leaned into the touch.

“Do not worry. I’m not going anywhere.”

Loki sighed in defeat. Knowing he had no other choice, he focused on the appearance of his room, and he felt his mind being pulled to wakefulness.

When he opened his eyes, he saw that it was still daytime. So, he hadn’t missed the feast. He wondered how much time had passed. He sat up with a groan and rubbed his neck, then froze when he noticed the other figure sitting cross-legged at the end of his bed. He should have known locking his door wouldn't be enough.

“Hello, Tom.” The smirk on the red-haired man’s face made Loki’s skin crawl.

“Hello, Loki.” He hoped the other Loki didn’t notice the slight waver in his voice. "My door was locked," he added matter-of-factly.

“That was… quite the dream you were having.”

“I don’t remember what it was about,” he lied. The other man chuckled.

“You’re really going to lie to the God of Lies and believe you’ll get away with it?”

“Okay, I do remember what it was about. What difference does it make to you?” His eyebrows raised.

“Defensive, aren’t we? What happened to the polite Tom?” Loki sighed.

“You don’t have to say it that way every time. Just come out with it. Do you know who I really am, or not?”

“I’m not going to tell anyone, it that’s what you’re so worried about.”

“Actually, yes, I am worried.”

“My question is how did you do it, anyway? With that feather. I really want to know.”

“You have to promise not to tell anyone about our true identities.”

“Alright, I won’t tell,” the other Loki said and rolled his eyes.

“It is kind of a long story, and I’d feel much more comfortable talking about it anywhere else but in here.”

“Let’s go for a walk, shall we? I’ll wait for you outside.”

After the other Loki left, he got up from the bed and put on his boots. He straightened the sheets, then after checking his appearance and making sure there was no evidence of his dream remaining, he joined the other man in the hallway and closed the door.

Chapter Text

“Alright, no more stalling. Tell me how you did it.”

“Well, in order to do that, I would have to start at the beginning,” Loki answered as they began to stroll through the corridors. He looked around to make sure that no one else was in the halls and would overhear their conversation. “A little less than a fortnight ago, my friends and I were on Alfheim. I went off by myself, since I had no interest in battling trolls or whatever it was they were hunting, and I went exploring in a nearby cave. I came upon old ruins, and I found carvings on the walls that were in a language foreign to me.

“I am unclear on all of the details, but from what I have been told, some sort of magic grabbed onto me, and it began pulling me into the wall of the cave. When my friends arrived, Chris was able to rescue me from the magic’s hold, but I was not completely free. He told me there were strange wings protruding from my back, and then in a flash of light, they burst. Hundreds of feathers went in every direction, and I was left an empty shell.

“Each one of those feathers was one of my memories, and we have been searching for them. I am the only one who can feel the presence of a feather, and usually they cause an ill omen. When a feather is found and returned to my body, all returns to normal. So, it is not some kind of magic that allows me to do it. They are a part of me, that’s all.” The other Loki looked deep in thought, and then his expression changed to something Loki couldn’t put a name to.

“Even if I did tell the other gods who you were and why you were here, they would never believe me. Not with my track record.” His eyes met Loki’s green ones, and he half-smirked, half-smiled. “So, who is who in your group?”

“I am Loki, Chris is Thor. We had to hide Mjolnir before we came. And then there are Sif and the Warriors Three, Fandral, Volstagg, and Hogun.”

“Another Sif? As if two Þórrs weren’t bad enough. And it seems the three warriors didn’t have to change their names at all.”

“Well, we had no way of knowing that.” Red-haired Loki shrugged. “So, where exactly are we going?”

“I wanted you to meet Sigyn.” Something in his voice and expression changed. Pride?

“Who is Sigyn?”

“My wife.”

“You’re married?”

“Yes. Why, are you not?”

“Well, no. At least... I do not believe so.” Loki actually had no idea if he had ever been married before all this happened, but nobody ever mentioned him having a wife, so he assumed he wasn’t. “But what will you tell her? About who I am?”

“I shall say you are Tom from Midgard, and you are the one who saved the gods from mortality.” Loki let out a sigh of relief. “Come, we are almost there.”

They turned around a corner and entered some sort of common area. Loki wondered if this was another gathering place for the gods. There were tables, futons, piles of furs and large pillows scattered throughout the room, but still organized. The only two occupants were two men. One of the men had long blond hair and a youthful face. His clothes were a bit more feminine than Loki would have expected in a place like this. The other man was more plain looking, with curly brown hair and a long face. The other Loki walked up to the homely man and stood a couple feet away. He leaned forward with his arms crossed behind his back.

“Good morrow to you!” He shouted, and the man jumped.

“Loki, you know I hate when you sneak up on me.”

The trickster waved a hand in front of the man’s face, and he appeared to not have noticed. The other Loki turned around and mouthed “he’s blind.”

“These are Þórr’s brothers, Höðr and Baldr. This is Tom of Midgard. He was the one who put an end to the curse on Iðunn’s golden apples of youthfulness.” Baldr rose from his seat and came to greet him.

“Is that so?” Loki nodded. “I hope Loki has been treating you kindly, Tom.”

In reality, Loki wasn’t paying much attention to what was being said to him. He was staring at Baldr, taking in his appearance. The hair almost looked like it was the right length, but he was clean shaven. Maybe he shaved his beard once in awhile. Loki stuck out his hand and Baldr shook it. Loki had to hold back the sigh of disappointment. Baldr’s hands were too smooth. The muscles in his arms were not large enough, and his voice was different. When the silence stretched a little too long, Loki pulled away from him.

“Yes, he has. He was just taking me to meet Sigyn.”

“Well, I would not wish to keep her waiting. Enjoy your stay,” Baldr said as he returned to his seat.

“Let’s go, Tom,” the other Loki said as he tugged on his arm. Once they were out of hearing range, Loki felt it was safe to speak.

“How many siblings does Þórr have?”

“I have lost count, to be honest with you. But not all of them are Frigg’s. Höðr and Baldr are, but Þórr is not.”

“What?” The other Loki shook his head.

“His mother’s name is Jörð. She’s a giantess.”

“I never realized Thor was part Jotun.”

“He is, but not just through his mother. Both of Óðinn’s parents are giants.”

“Huh.”

Loki wondered if what the other was telling him was the same where he came from. Were Thor and Odin both part Jotun? And was Frigga Thor’s mother?

“Why is that so strange?”

“Well, the Asgard I come from is much different than yours. See, there was a war between Asgard and Jotunheim. The Frost Giants were defeated, and I was taken by Odin and raised as Thor’s brother. After that, Odin forbade anyone to go to Jotunheim.” The other Loki looked like he was going to vomit.

“I can see why that would be strange to you. Did you know you were not Asgardian?”

“I was never told. But a couple of the memories I retrieved took place on Jotunheim when I was a baby. I figured it out on my own from there. We were recently in Jotunheim, and I was reunited with my family. So, I am wondering if our families are different.”

“Well, I have two brothers, Helblindi and Byleistr.”

“That’s the same. And your parents?”

“Farbauti is my father and Laufey my mother.”

“Your father is still alive?”

“Yes.”

“Mine was killed when the Asgardians invaded. He bought Laufey time to hide me in the temple for safety. But Laufey is king now.” The other Loki made a face.

“Wait, Laufey’s male? How does that work?” Loki shook his head.

“He explained it to me, but I don’t quite understand it. And he said when the Casket of Ancient Winters was taken, no female Frost Giants were born. So, over time, the males had to adapt somehow in order to procreate.”

“And you said Laufey was king of Jotunheim?” Loki nodded. “Not here. Þrymr is king of the Jotnar.”

“In the Jotunheim where I come from, Thrym is one of Laufey’s generals.”

“Here we are.” Loki followed the trickster inside the chamber, and he couldn’t help but smile when he and Sigyn embraced. They looked like they were truly in love. When the other Loki pulled away, Loki could see that Sigyn was pregnant. Wavy golden hair framed her fair face. “Tom, this is my wife, Sigyn. Tom is a guest of honor, and I was showing him around.”

“It is good to meet you, Tom,” Sigyn said in a quiet voice, a hand lightly pressed against her abdomen.

“You, as well. And congratulations.” They looked into each other’s eyes lovingly, almost as if Loki was not there.

“I have been told that I am going to have twins. Boys. I cannot wait to see them for the first time.”

“I am so happy for you both. You are going to be great parents.” Loki’s smile faded when Sigyn grimaced.

“My boys seem to be excited, too. It sometimes feels like they are quarreling.” Sigyn was helped to a chair, and her husband stroked her hands. “I will be alright, Loki. It will pass.”

“Are you certain?” Frown lines marred the red-head’s face. Sigyn nodded. “You make sure to ask for help if you need it, alright?”

“The same way you always do?” The other Loki made a face that said something along the lines of “and this is the reason why I can never have friends over.”

“What are you smirking at, Tom?” They were halfway out the door when the other Loki stopped suddenly. He turned around and stiffly walked back over to Sigyn. He bent down and pressed a kiss to her forehead, then he went out the door as if nothing happened. His behavior was similar to a little boy who was told to give his grandmother a kiss. “Sigyn truly completes me. She makes me a better person.”

“I can see that. Do you have other children?”

Something changed in the other Loki’s demeanor. It was as if he was reliving painful memories.

“I do,” he replied after awhile, and his voice cracked a little bit. “I have not seen them in a very long time. Not since Óðinn took them from me.” Loki wanted to learn more, but he decided against it because he could tell it was upsetting to the other man.

“Where to next?”

“I don’t know.” He sounded distracted. “What would you like to see?” Loki thought about it for a moment.

“I wouldn’t mind getting a little fresh air.”

“That sounds like a good plan to me.”

They went down a short staircase and through a slender wooden door. At first, all Loki could see was a green hillside and a couple trees. When they reached the top of the hill, there was a dirt path that led to a river below. Wildflowers of various shape, scent, and color were spread along the grass, and there was a circle of large stones near the bank of the river. In the middle of the circle of rocks was a pile of wood inside a smaller circle of pebbles. They each picked one of the large stones to sit on and gazed out at the river.

“It is so quiet here,” Loki said as he took in the scenery. All that could be heard was the quiet river and a few birds. “It’s peaceful.”

“It is a nice change, especially when the Æsir have their huge celebrations.” Loki closed his eyes and relaxed when the sun appeared from behind a cloud. He didn’t notice he was being watched. “Can you do magic?”

“I think so. I have been told that I can. I just don’t remember how.”

“Would you like me to teach you?” Loki shook his head.

“I have to leave tomorrow. And… I believe I will remember, someday. This is just something I need to do on my own. I hope you understand.” The other man shrugged.

“Well, if you change your mind, you know where to find me.” Loki’s smile fell, and that memory in the library came flooding back to him. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing. The last memory I recovered was not a happy one, and someone said something similar to that to me.”

“I am sorry to hear that. I have a few memories like that.”

Loki was watching him, and then his eyes widened. How could he not have noticed before? Although his own were gone, he could see faint scars around the other Loki’s lips.

“You, too?” Loki touched his fingers to his lips, and the other nodded. “It was one of the first memories I retrieved, but I’m not sure why they did it. All I know is that it happened.”

“Perhaps it is best that you don’t know.”

“You are probably right.” They left the matter at that and returned their attention to the river. “What do you know about soul bonds?”

“I’ve never heard of them.” Loki was kind of disappointed. He had hoped he might learn more.

“Never mind, then.”

“What are soul bonds?”

“You must not have them here, so there is no reason to discuss something that doesn’t exist.” They both looked to the left towards the main gate when they heard the thundering of hooves.

“They’re back earlier than I expected. Shall we greet them?” Loki nodded, and they made their way up the hill. When they reached the gate, the hunting party began dismounting their horses. “Were the ogres not biting today—” His snarky comment was cut short when he saw the unconscious body on one of the horses. He turned and looked at Loki, who was pale as a ghost. When Loki finally found his voice, it was barely audible.

“Thor?”

Chapter Text

The hunting party rode for several miles, deep into the forest and towards the mountain peaks. That was where the ogres could be found. When they came to the end of the woods, a tiny village appeared. The mountain caves were only a few meters away from the nearest hut.

“If ogres are so dangerous, why did these people build their homes so near to them?” Thor asked.

“This village has been here for nearly a thousand years. The ogres did not make these caves their dwelling until much more recently,” Þórr answered. “These people have made this place their home, and they do not want to give it up. We will dismount here.”

They tied their horses to the trees near the border, but still at a safe enough distance inside the forest. If things got messy, they didn’t want their horses to be frightened or killed in the mayhem. When they entered the clearing, faces appeared at some of the windows. One of the doors opened a crack, and an old man’s shriveled hand beckoned to them.

“Have you come to slay them?” The man’s voice trembled with fear.

“We have,” Þórr answered for the group. “Tell me, when was the last time you saw them?”

“They have been here every day since the summer solstice. When they had eaten all of our children, they began snatching the men and women.” The man’s eyes shifted frantically, as if he felt they were watching him. “Please, you must help us!”

“We will vanquish these monsters. We swear, on Óðinn All-Father’s name.” He turned to the rest of the hunting party and motioned for them to follow him. They walked past the last dwelling and spread out in the clearing. For nearly a minute there was no movement or sound, and Þórr stepped forward and bellowed, “Come out and face us, you foul beasts!”

Another minute passed, and the members of the hunting party began to feel nervous. There was no breeze, and not even a birdsong could be heard. Sif and the Warriors Three tightened their grips on their weapons. Then, finally, they heard a noise, but it didn’t come from the cave. With apprehension, they turned around and saw all of the villagers had left their huts.

“Þórr, how long has it been since the summer solstice?” Sif asked.

“A hundred days.”

“By any chance, are ogres shapeshifters?” Fandral asked nervously.

“They are.”

Without warning, the villagers charged at them, and as they leaped into the air, their true forms were revealed. The Asgardians were surrounded and outnumbered by large, strong, grotesque creatures, armed with clubs and other blunt objects. Lightning flashed and thunder crashed with every foe Þórr felled. Sif and the Warriors Three also fought gallantly, but it took a bit longer to defeat their enemies. Thor saw one of the ogres running towards him, and as he reached for his hip, his hand came up with nothing but air. His eyes widened. He had forgotten that he left Mjolnir hidden in his bag. He had no weapon with which to defend himself. He cursed when the beast crashed into him.

They rolled and tumbled in the dirt, fists flying. Thor was able to hold onto the limb that wielded the club, but then the creature lunged forward and bit into the flesh of his arm. Thor growled and yelled in pain, and he blinked as blood splattered into his eyes. The ogre’s other hand struck him across the face and he lost consciousness. Just as the ogre was about to tear into his throat, its head flew into the air. Volstagg laid down his axe and pulled the corpse off of Thor.

“Fandral, help me get him out of here!”

The two warriors each grabbed an arm and dragged him through the chaos towards the forest. Sif, Hogun, Þórr and the others continued to fight, but as soon as they defeated one enemy, two would take its place.

“We have to leave!” Sif yelled. “Tho—Chris is wounded!” The God of Thunder sneered, but he eventually agreed with her. He didn't believe in surrender.

“You go. I will hold them off,” Þórr ordered as electricity pulsed around him.

While they retreated to their horses and secured Thor to his mount, Þórr held Mjölnir towards the sky and conjured the storm. He laid waste to the village, which erupted into a whirling fire, and then struck his hammer against the ground. Lightning erupted from the fissures and enveloped the remaining ogres. The attack was so powerful that some of the smaller ogres disintegrated. Before the stronger ones could regain their footing, Þórr ran into the woods and climbed up onto his horse. The hunting party rode through the trees, pushing their horses so hard that they nearly reached their limits. When the castle appeared in their sights, they saw two figures standing at the gate to greet them. Tom’s face turned ashen when he realized who was hurt.

“Thor?”

“What the Hel happened?” Loki snapped.

“We were ambushed,” Þórr said as he climbed down from his horse. “All of the villagers had been eaten, and the ogres took on their likeness. They were laying in wait for their next victims.”

“You’ve taken on ogres before,” Loki said matter-of-factly.

“Yes, but I thought Chris was armed. He told me he had a weapon!” While they were arguing, the stable boys came out and took their horses.

“He did have a weapon,” Tom muttered. “But he left it behind by mistake. And it is all my fault.”

Sif was about to argue that Loki was not to blame, but then she felt blood dripping down her hand where she had it placed on Thor’s horse. She turned to Þórr.

“He is losing a lot of blood.”

“The Eir will take care of him. Come with me.” They guided Thor’s horse into the castle, and the two Lokis remained at the gate.

“His wounds looked to be pretty severe, so the Eir will be with him for a while,” red-haired Loki said.

“I need something to distract myself. Do you have a library?” The other Loki placed a hand on his chest and bowed courteously.

“Right this way.”

~*~

“What exactly did you have in mind when you said ‘distraction?’” The red-haired man asked as they entered the library.

“I want to see your books about magic.” The other man made a face.

“You said you didn’t want me to teach you any magic.” He sounded insulted.

“I am looking for a different kind of magic. Not the simple and easy things you were talking about.”

“Then what are you looking for?”

“Let’s go sit down somewhere first.” The other Loki could tell he felt uncomfortable talking about this. They went to a sitting area near a large window that overlooked a courtyard with a vast garden. There were fountains and waterfalls, fish ponds with lily pads, flowering trees. Loki tore his gaze away from the beauty of it all and met his counterpart’s eyes. “I am trying to find some kind of magic that expels souls from bodies.”

“That’s rather advanced. What do you need it for?”

“A few days ago, when we were in Alfheim, I had a dream about Ymir. I learned later from my father that the wings that appeared on my back were part of an old order of sorcerers which was founded by Ymir. Supposedly, during my dream, I was muttering something over and over again. It was later translated as ‘When the Last dies, the First shall return.’ Laufey confirmed that I am the last of Ymir’s bloodline, which means when I die, Ymir will be resurrected.”

“Is that really such a bad thing, though?”

“Yes. It means I will be dead. So, yes, that’s bad.”

“He would finally be able to seek his revenge against Óðinn.”

“But because his body was destroyed, he would be using mine. I am meant to be his vessel. And I have already heard his voice in my head.”

“So, basically, you want to get him out of your head.”

“In a sense, yes.” The other Loki seemed to be deep in thought.

“Let me see what I can find.” As he turned and walked away, his single form turned into twenty. Loki watched as the doppelgangers moved from shelf to shelf, skimming through books and collecting them in their arms. After all of them returned with their findings, they spread out and each opened a book from the pile. “Everything my doppelgangers read is transferred to my mind, so I know what they see.”

“Okay, I lied. I would like to learn that trick.” Loki said as he grabbed a book from the pile and began flipping through it. “Let me know if you find anything interesting.”

“Already on it.” Loki looked up to see what he meant, and every so often the other Loki or his doppelgangers would lay their hand on a page and an exact copy would manifest. “I’m skipping all of the wordy stuff and compiling a book for you that contains the important stuff.”

“Thank you, Loki.”

“I think you will have enough here to keep you entertained for awhile. But if you ever have time and come back here, I’d be willing to teach you a few things.” Loki laughed.

“You have yourself a deal.”

They spent the next few hours reading and comparing notes. They ended up finding so much information that the other Loki had to create a second book, and then a third. Even if they contained unimportant or unneeded information, Loki appreciated the thought. A lot of the things they found, Loki had never heard of or would never have considered. He found information about expelling a soul, astral projection, and soul anchoring. Any one of these could be useful to him, when the time came.

The other Loki looked up when someone approached them, and he snapped his fingers to make his doppelgangers vanish. The Eir bowed to them both, then turned to address the red-head.

“Forgive me for intruding. We have healed his wounds and done all that we can for the pain. He needs rest, but he has been asking for you.”

“Thank you.”

The Eir bowed again and waited for them near the door of the library. The two Lokis followed the Eir to the guest rooms. Outside Thor’s room was a small crowd of people, consisting of Sif, The Warriors Three, Þórr and his wife, and another Eir. Just as Loki was about to enter the room, the Eir stepped into his path.

“He asked for Loki only.” The trickster approached and narrowed his eyes at the woman.

“Tom has as much right to be in there as I do. Remember your place,” he spoke with venom in his voice. The Eir averted her gaze and moved aside. “After you, Tom.”

They went inside, and Loki was unaware of the faint look of jealousy on Sif’s face. After closing the door, Loki approached the bed and found a nearby chair. He glanced over his shoulder and saw the other Loki standing near the door.

“What are you doing?”

“I am giving you two some alone time. When it nears time for the feast, I will come get you, and one of my doppelgangers will watch over him. Óðinn would become murderous if his guest of honor skipped out on his own party. I will also bring you your books.”

"Thank you, Loki."

A moment later, the other Loki snapped his fingers, and he began to shrink. Then Loki couldn’t see him anymore, because he had turned himself into a gnat. The tiny insect flew through a crack in the door and vanished from sight. Loki picked up the chair again, but it scraped loudly across the floor. Loki flinched, and when he opened his eyes, he saw that Thor was awake.

"I am relieved to see that you haven't been turned into a lizard."

“I’m sorry, Thor. I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“That’s alright, Loki,” the other man replied tiredly. “You don’t need that thing, anyway.” Loki put the chair back where he found it and sat down on the edge of the bed.

“How are you feeling?”

“A bit sore. I was feeling a lot worse earlier.”

“I’m so sorry. It’s my fault you got hurt. I told you to hide Mjolnir and—”

“Loki, none of this was your fault. I had become so reliable on Mjolnir, that I forgot to replace it with another weapon.” Thor pulled his arm out from underneath the blankets and reached for Loki’s hand. Loki hissed when he saw the bite mark on his arm. Without thinking, Loki lightly touched his fingers to the wound. “It looks worse than it feels. So, what did you do while we were gone?”

“The other Loki introduced me to his wife, Sigyn, and—”

“Wife? He’s married?” Loki nodded. “That’s weird.”

“Well, so are you. To Sif, apparently." Thor mentally told himself that he would have preferred never knowing about that. "Sigyn’s a very sweet girl. And I could see they were deeply devoted to each other.” Loki cleared his throat because Thor was staring at him. “I also met two of Þórr’s half-brothers, Baldr and Höðr.” Thor raised his eyebrows. “Apparently, Óðinn had multiple affairs.”

“I see.”

“After you returned and the Eir were healing you, Loki and I went to the library and looked through various spell books. I was hoping to find something that might remove Ymir from my mind.”

“And did you find anything?”

“Well, I saw a few ideas. I just need more time to read through them all.” Loki watched silently as Thor brought his hand to his lips.

“I am sorry I will have to miss your feast.” Loki chuckled.

“If I could skip it, I would. I am not going there to enjoy myself, just out of politeness. And to avoid starting a war.”

“What was the memory you found?” As soon as the words left his lips, Thor immediately wished he could take them back. Loki’s eyes were avoidant. “It was a bad one, wasn’t it?” Loki nodded. “I’m sorry.”

“I do not want to speak of this anymore.”

“Alright. Then what do you wish to talk about?”

“Kiss me.” Thor smiled at him

“Now, that I can do.”

Thor cupped a hand around the back of Loki’s neck and pulled him down on top of him. Loki responded more to Thor’s kisses than he had previously, but Thor wasn’t complaining. Thor started to turn over so he would be on top of Loki, and the other male pulled away.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea? You are still healing.”

“I know my limits, Loki. Don’t worry about me. If I was causing self-inflicted pain, I wouldn’t be doing this.”

Loki still looked unsure, but he didn’t resist when Thor lightly pushed him onto his back. Thor kissed him again, and Loki allowed his eyelids to close. While he tangled his slender fingers in Thor’s hair, he lightly bit and nibbled at the other man’s lips. Thor groaned into his mouth and started to rub against Loki’s thigh. Loki tore his mouth away in order to breathe, and Thor used that moment to move his lips to his throat. Loki turned slightly so Thor was rubbing against his groin, and he snaked a hand under Thor’s shirt in order to feel his chest. The muscles rippled and twitched under his fingers.

Loki wrapped his arms around Thor’s shoulders when he pulled them both up into sitting positions. For a few moments, they just stared into each other’s eyes, shallow breaths fogging between them in the cool air.

“Has he said anything, yet?”

At first Loki didn’t know what he meant, but then he figured it out. The voice of his dream lover was silent. Loki shook his head.

“I have not heard or felt anything from him.” Thor looked like he was about to continue, but Loki stopped him. “I said before, on Jotunheim, that we need to slow down. But for some reason, whenever I am with you, like this, my thoughts are the complete opposite. It’s as if my mind and body are not my own.”

“Are you wanting me to stop?” Thor asked, and he sounded a bit disappointed.

“No.”

Loki leaned in to kiss him, and he straddled Thor’s lap. He winced slightly at Thor’s grip on his arms, but he ignored it. As their tongues intertwined in a sensual dance, Loki removed his hand from Thor’s chest and slowly it traveled down to the waistline of his pants. The ecstasy he felt during his most recent dream was something he had never experienced before, and he wanted to experience it in real life. With a slight jerk, Loki’s hand slid into Thor’s pants, and he wrapped his fingers around the other man’s cock. Almost immediately, Thor began to rock his hips into Loki’s grip.

“Loki,” Thor panted.

“Yes, Thor?” The blond pressed their foreheads together, and his large, calloused hand slipped under Loki’s shirt. Loki shuddered when a finger rubbed over his nipple. “Are you in pain?” Thor shook his head.

“I love you,” Thor said before sucking a mark where his neck and shoulder met.

Loki couldn’t tell Thor he felt the same way, because he wasn’t sure if this was true. And he also felt that, by telling Thor he loved him, too, that Thor would refuse to let him go when Loki returned to Jotunheim. He mentally scolded himself for becoming so preoccupied with the future. All that mattered was the present.

“Thor.” Loki removed Thor’s hand from inside his shirt and pushed it down towards his groin. “Touch me here.”

Thor tried to slide his hand down Loki’s pants, but he ran into two problems. His hand was too big and Loki’s pants were too tight. He fumbled with the buttons and Loki’s trousers fell open. He pulled out Loki’s cock and began to stroke it, alternating between that and tracing circles around the tip with his thumb. Loki thrust in time with Thor’s strokes, and he increased his grip and the speed of his own strokes on Thor’s member.

Thor crushed his lips onto Loki’s with so much force that Loki’s back curved. Thor rocked his hips in order to create more friction, moans and grunts escaping his lips and rumbling within Loki’s core.

“Thor! Ah…! I’m so close!”

“Don’t hold back, Loki. Just let go.”

Loki emitted a choked sob as he came all over Thor’s hand. Tears ran down his cheeks and he gazed into Thor’s eyes. No matter how hard he tried, he could no longer deny his feelings.

“I love you!”

With one final thrust, Thor reached his own completion and wrapped his arms around Loki’s shaking frame. For what felt like a long time, they simply held each other, afraid to let go in case the other vanished. Thor also didn’t want to stop holding Loki while he was crying.

After their orgasms, and when Loki’s sobs fell silent, they moved with trembling limbs onto their sides and stared into each other’s eyes. Loki reached down and wiped the mess from their hands with the sheet and buttoned his pants. Several minutes went by before their breathing returned to normal. Thor cupped the side of Loki’s neck and kissed him.

“Loki, I—”

“Shh. Rest now, Thor. You need to regain your strength for our journey.”

“I want to keep looking at you.”

Loki rolled his eyes and nestled snugly against Thor’s chest. Thor wrapped an arm around his waist and pulled him closer. He hummed contentedly and let his eyes fall closed.

~*~

As the sun began to set, Sif walked down the hallway to Thor’s room. She wasn’t aware of Loki ever leaving, and the feast was supposed to begin soon. She knocked on the door and didn’t get any response. She opened the door and walked inside. A lump formed in her throat.

Both Loki and Thor were lying on the bed, facing each other, and Thor’s arm was wrapped around Loki’s waist. There was a musky smell in the air, hinting at what they had been doing. Sif had to blink back tears.

She had been in love with Thor for years, ever since they first met, and she had tried everything to get him to return her feelings. Sif knew that their embrace was not one of brotherly love, especially since it was revealed that they were not brothers. And if Loki’s expression when he looked at her was anything to go by, that meant Loki overheard their conversation and knew how she felt about Thor. Sif wasn’t normally the jealous type, but this hurt. She would never be satisfied with remaining just Thor’s friend, and it didn’t help that the Þórr and Sif of this realm were happily married.

Deciding that she had seen enough, Sif stepped forward in order to wake Loki, but a hand grabbed her arm. Her hand went for her weapon at her side, and when she turned around, she saw the other Loki with a finger to his lips. He tightened his grip and pulled her out of the room before closing the door.

“What are you doing here?” She snarled.

“I could ask you the same thing, Lady Sif.” Her eyes widened, and his expression morphed into a smirk. “You have nothing to fear. Loki told me everything.”

“Are you going to report us to the All-Father?”

“No. Loki and I have discussed this already. We also had a pre-arrangement that I awaken him for the feast. Not you.” Sif avoided his gaze. “You should leave now. And it would be better for you if you did not tell anyone about what you have seen. If you don’t want any trouble, that is.” Sif glared at him before turning on her heel. He watched her leave, and then he entered the room. He approached the bed and shook Loki’s shoulder. “Loki, it’s time for you to get ready for the feast.”

Loki blinked open his eyes and looked over his shoulder at the red-haired man. He maneuvered out of Thor’s arms and sat up, popping his back. He rose from the bed and watched as a doppelganger manifested.

“Thank you,” Loki said, still somewhat groggy.

“You deserve to celebrate and be lauded,” the other Loki said as he put an arm around his shoulder and walked out of the room with him. “And I do love crashing Óðinn’s parties.”

Chapter Text

After he changed his clothes and washed to get rid of the sinful aroma, Loki joined his counterpart in the hallway and walked with him to the dining hall. Neither of the two spoke a word, and Loki wondered what the other man was thinking about. Even though he barely knew him, Loki had a feeling that the other Loki liked to hear himself talk, and the fact that he was so quiet was a cause for concern. Loki glanced over at him, and that signature smirk was plastered on his face.

“So… you and Chris, huh?” Loki sighed in annoyance.

“You noticed, then.”

“Mm hmm. And Sif noticed, too.” Loki rubbed a hand over his face.

“Oh no. How am I going to explain this to her?” The other Loki threw an arm around his shoulders.

“Not to worry, I threatened her for you.”

“What?!”

“Relax. All I said—well, more like suggested, really—was that she keep quiet, or I tell Óðinn everything.” Loki glared at him.

“So, basically, you lied.” The other Loki pointed to himself.

“God of Lies.” The trickster frowned when he noticed the solemn look on Loki’s face. “What’s the matter?”

“It all makes sense now. That memory I found in Freyja's cloak, and Sif’s reaction.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The memory took place when we were children. Sif and Fandral found me in the library and asked if I wanted to join them for an adventure, or something to that effect. I told Sif that I was not interested in their games and play fighting and told her to leave me be. When they left, I used my magic to eavesdrop on them, and Sif told Fandral that the only reason she was being nice to me was so that Thor would like her. And knowing that the Þórr and Sif of your world are married, it only makes sense that the Thor and Sif of my world should be together. But I seem to be in the way.”

“Well, while there are some similarities between your Asgard and this one, there are also a good number of differences. Perhaps this is one of them.”

“Maybe you’re right. I’m probably just overthinking this whole thing.”

“That’s better than the alternative.” When they entered the dining hall, they saw that, excluding Thor, they were the last to arrive. Loki turned his head when the other Loki waved a hand dramatically. “Fear not, my dear, dear friends. I have arrived, so you may start the festivities.” The other gods glared at him.

“As I recall, Liesmith, you were not affected by the curse on Iðunn’s golden apples of youthfulness, so you have no reason to be here,” one of the Æsir said smugly. The other Loki smirked at him.

“Neither was your wife, Bragi, and yet she is here, as well. Besides, Tom asked me to attend. How could I refuse such an invitation from the All-Father’s guest of honor? Even you cannot prevent me from enjoying myself.” The god rose from his seat to challenge him. “Careful, Bragi, that you do not get involved in something that requires more bravery than you possess.”

“That will be enough, Bragi, Loki,” Óðinn declared from his throne. “Tom, please sit here. Let us begin the feast.” Loki nodded, and then he turned to his counterpart.

“Seriously,” he hissed, “you’re putting the blame on me?” The other Loki shrugged nonchalantly.

While the servants brought out the food, musicians played and dancers performed. The tension in the room seemed to dissipate… for a while, at least. With exception to the other Loki talking smack about Bragi, the feast went fairly well. A fight almost broke out between them, but their spouses had objection to that.

Óðinn and his wife, Frigg, were curious as to how Tom knew about the feather and how to put a stop to its evil powers. Loki, for the most part, repeated the story he told to the other Loki. The only differences were that he did not reveal his or the others’ true identity, and he did not mention Ymir. He also did not tell them that they had recently been to Jotunheim. If what Heimdallr had said was anything to go by, the relationship between this Asgard and Jotunheim was also unfriendly.

Þórr asked where they were headed to next, and Loki said wherever fate leads them. They had come to Asgard by chance, which was true, and they were meant to be here. He only hoped that their next destination would also be in need of their help. When Þórr asked him what he meant, Loki said that, because the feathers were his memories and were a part of him, going for a long period of time without finding them would make him weaker and potentially lead to his death. This seemed to upset Sif, so the matter was left alone.

After the fourth course and his second cup of wine, Loki said to his host that he was ready to turn in for the night. They tried to offer him another drink, but he politely refused, stating that he needed to have a clear head for the journey tomorrow. And he also said that since he was mortal, he could not hold his drink as well as the gods. This earned a laugh, and some comment about how humble he was. Before he left, Loki asked that he be allowed to bring a meal to Chris, because he was still healing from the ogre attack. His request was granted, and Óðinn attempted to have the food delivered by a servant, but Loki asked that he be allowed to do it, himself. The All-Father conceded, but he told Loki before he took his leave to tell Chris to leave his dishes in his room when he was finished so the servant could take them. As Loki left the dining hall with the platter, he did his best to avoid Sif’s gaze.

~*~

When Loki reached Thor’s room, he began to panic a little because his hands were full and he was unable to open the door. No one else was around. All he could do was hope that Thor was already awake. Loki kicked the door twice, somewhat loudly but not too loud, and he breathed a sigh of relief when he heard Thor’s voice on the other side of the door.

“Thor, it’s me. Could you let me in, please?” A moment later the knob turned and Loki was let inside. “Thank you. My arms were getting tired.”

“You didn’t have to do that, Loki,” Thor said as he watched the other male place the silver platter on the small table.

“I know. Óðinn tried to have a servant bring you your dinner, but I asked that I be allowed to do it, myself.”

“Thanks. It smells really good.” Thor sat down and removed the lid, and his nostrils flared as he breathed in the heavenly aroma. “How was the feast?”

“It was fine. A bit too much food, but that is probably just my preference,” Loki answered as he sat in the other chair. Thor snorted while he chewed his food. “What’s so funny?”

“Mother would worry over you constantly because you were often so enraptured by whatever you were reading that you frequently missed meals.”

“Did I?” Thor nodded. “I would imagine I didn’t make her life very easy.”

“Especially when we fought. But I think she was more concerned when we weren’t speaking to each other at all than when we were arguing.”

Loki smiled, wondering if he would ever meet the woman who took him in and raised him as her own son. While Thor was eating, Loki thought about the memory he found in the barn where young Thor mentioned a sister, as well as what the other Loki said to him about Óðinn’s extramarital affairs.

“Do we have any other siblings?” Thor looked up from his dinner and kept chewing. “I mean… do you have any siblings?”

“You were the only one. Why do you ask?”

“Well, the memory I found in that barn, when our bodies were switched, was rather confusing to me.”

“Why? What happened?” Loki wanted to scold him for talking with his mouth full, but he figured Thor had already heard him complain about it before.

“It was the middle of the night, and you were causing a thunder storm because of your anger, and I suppose I came in to your room to see what was troubling you. You told me that Fa—Odin was frustrated with you and threatened to give the throne to your sister if you didn’t start acting like a prince.” Thor took a large swig from his goblet and nodded.

“I had forgotten about that.”

“Do you know what he meant by that?” Thor shook his head.

“I asked him about it a few days later, and he told me to drop it. It seemed as if he was hiding something. Perhaps I should have asked Mother, instead.”

“I only asked because when the other Loki was showing me around the castle, we saw two of Þórr’s half-brothers, Baldr and Höðr. He told me later that Frigg was their mother, but Þórr’s mother was a giantess named Jörð.” Thor looked at him with wide eyes.

“Seriously?”

“Yes. I was also surprised, because Odin seems to despise the Jotun people so much, and I thought it strange that Þórr was part giant. Loki then said that both of Óðinn’s parents were giants.” Thor shook his head.

“Our Asgard is different. Bor was an Aesir.”

“Hmm. When I asked him, Loki said he had lost count of how many siblings and half-siblings Þórr had. It seems that Óðinn has not been faithful.”

“Well, it’s safe to say that this is one case where our Asgard is better than theirs.” Loki shrugged. “But I do agree that Father mentioning a sister is troubling. He would not have said anything about a sister if she did not exist.” Thor frowned. “And if she does exist, why have we never met her? And where has she been all this time?”

Loki had something else on his mind, but he thought it would be a bad idea to speak it aloud: what other secrets was Odin hiding?

After a few more minutes, Thor ate his last bite of food and gulped down the rest of his drink. When Loki was carrying the platter, he got a whiff of the beverage, and it didn’t smell like wine. It was a bit sweeter. Thor wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and then he reached under the table and set a hand on Loki’s thigh. Loki turned slightly so his leg was out of reach. Thor frowned.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I just think you need your rest. We can’t afford to stay here another day because you didn’t get enough sleep.” Thor rolled his eyes.

“Well, you’re more than welcome to stay here tonight. There is plenty of room on that bed for the both of us.” Loki smiled at him, but it didn’t reach his eyes.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Why not?”

“Because earlier today, while we were asleep, Sif walked in and saw us. She knows what we did.” Thor didn’t seem to be that concerned.

“She, like the others, knows that we are not actually brothers. I don’t see why that would be a problem.”

“It’s a problem because she is in love with you, Thor!”

“She is?” Fandral was right, Thor really was oblivious.

“Yes! She has been ever since she met you for the first time.”

“Oh.” It appeared that Thor wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to do with this new information.

“It’s just something to consider.” Thor looked at him sharply.

“What is there to consider? I want you.”

“Thor, be reasonable—”

“Reasonable? A few hours ago, you told me you loved me!”

“I was really emotional. I was not myself.”

“Did you mean it?” Loki was quiet for a moment.

“Look… you and I both know this cannot work. I am meant to be with someone else.”

“Do you love me or not?” Loki couldn’t tell if he was really angry or if it was the alcohol.

“My feelings for you and your feelings for me are not part of the bigger picture. You are not a part of my future. You should look elsewhere.”

“Sif is a good friend. I can’t make her an alternative or a scapegoat.”

“Then don’t! I think that with me out of the way, you two could have a life together. It may not start out as love on your side, but with time it could be.” Loki got up from the chair and made his way to the door.

“So, what we did meant nothing to you?” Loki kept his hand on the door knob, but he turned around.

“It meant the world to me. But I have to be honest with myself and with you. We have no future together.” When Thor approached him and placed both hands on his arms, Loki didn’t try and stop him.

“I don’t want to give up, yet. Not while there is still time.” Any words of protest that Loki would have liked to have said seemed to have abandoned him. He sighed in defeat and didn’t resist when Thor’s arms wrapped around him.

“There you go again, changing my mind.” Thor smiled against his hair.

“I am awfully good at it, though.” They continued to hold each other for several more minutes.

“I’m still not sleeping with you tonight.” Thor chuckled, and Loki could feel the rumble in his chest.

“You are giving us another chance, and that’s good enough for me. Although, you will probably sleep a lot better here than you would alone,” he said suggestively.

“Your powers of persuasion seem to have their limits,” Loki said sarcastically and he wriggled out of Thor’s embrace. “Good night, Thor.”

“Good night, Loki.”

Before Thor had a chance to say or do anything else that might change his mind, Loki left the room and walked briskly down the hallway. He made sure the door was locked, and then he changed into his night clothes and got into bed. It wasn’t until after tossing and turning for several hours that he finally fell asleep.

The next morning, they ate a quick breakfast and said their goodbyes and thank-yous just as quickly. After accepting invitations from Óðinn to visit whenever they liked, they left the castle and went through the narrow passage. When they were all inside the circle, Thor looked up at the sky and told Heimdall they were ready to go. There was a tense moment when they wondered if Heimdallr would hear them instead, but that dissipated as soon as the sky brightened above them and their feet left the ground.

Chapter Text

Even before their feet touched the ground, they began to feel lethargic because of the sweltering heat. Loki, especially. The Bifrost’s rainbow of colors suddenly morphed into shades of red and orange. When the Bridge vanished into the sky, a hot gust of wind assaulted their bodies. Their clothing was already soaked through with sweat, and if felt almost as if the very earth itself would melt their boots.

“What is this horrible place?” Loki asked, with a small bit of difficulty because his mouth was so dry.

“Muspellheim, the realm of the Fire Giants,” Thor answered. He turned and glanced at the other male. Loki looked like he was about to pass out. If there was a feather here, they would need to find it fast. “Is there a feather here, Loki?”

Loki nodded. Even than small movement was a struggle. He lifted a shaky arm and uncurled his stiff fingers. He was able to point—in what direction, he was not sure—before his arm fell limply at his side.

“It’s that way, but it is pretty far away.” Loki grimaced at the unpleasant feeling of his hair sticking to his skull.

Thor instinctively reached for Mjolnir at his hip, but, just as in the other Asgard, he forgot he had put it somewhere else. He reached into his bag and pulled out the weapon, then he walked over to Loki. Loki let out a scratchy yelp when Thor lifted him into his arms. Thor tried to get a solid grip, but it was difficult because Loki’s clothes were saturated.

“You have to tell me which way to go.”

Loki was about to point in the same direction he had a moment ago, but he frowned. He turned his gaze to the right and pointed.

“It changed directions. It’s over there, now.”

“It must be caught in the wind,” Thor commented. “Hold on.”

Before Loki could get a secure grip, Thor kicked off the ground and flew towards the sky. From the landing site, Sif watched the retreating forms of the two men with bitterness in her eyes and in her heart.

“You have to tell me if it changes direction again,” Thor said as soon as he had reached full speed.

“Okay.”

Loki turned and hid his face against Thor’s chest. He thought the breeze would be a relief, but the air here was so hot that it actually made it worse. It felt as if his skin was drying out and beginning to peel.

“Are we getting close?” Loki begrudgingly extracted himself from the safety of Thor’s torso.

“Yes. But you need to go left. And fly a little bit lower.”

“Alright.” Thor did as he was told, and Loki turned his head again. “I wish your feather would make up its mind.” Loki said something in response, but it was slightly muffled. “Huh?” The younger man heaved an exasperated sigh then looked up at Thor.

“I said I hope we are able to find our way back to your friends.” Loki internally grimaced, and he hoped that Thor didn’t notice his choice of words, even if what he said was the truth. They were not his friends. Not really.

“I just hope we don’t fun into any Fire Giants.” Loki thought that perhaps Thor hadn’t noticed, but he had. He just chose not to comment on it. Maybe he would be able to ask him about it later, but now was not the time.

“You do realize you have just doomed us all by saying that, right?” Thor merely shrugged, and Loki held onto him tighter so he wouldn’t lose his grip. “Are you doing alright?”

“Well enough. But you must be miserable.”

“I feel like I’m dying.” Loki was just being dramatic and over-exaggerating, but he still felt Thor stiffen. “Actually, what I meant was how are you feeling after being attacked by that ogre.”

“Oh, that. I am still a bit bruised, but there is no more pain. The healers did an excellent job.”

“That is good to hear.” He was about to ask Thor if he remembered anything about the attack when he felt a weak throbbing in the back of his head. The feather was nearby. “Wait, Thor. Stop for a moment.”

Thor slowed down his speed and jerked to a stop, slightly jostling the man in his arms. He watched silently as Loki looked around. After a few seconds, he started to get impatient.

“Can you feel it?” He wanted to get out of there, and he was worried because they still hadn’t seen any Fire Giants. Loki then looked straight up.

“It is above us. I think it is coming down to meet us.”

“Well, let’s not wait around for it.”

Just as he was about to start ascending, he glanced at Loki, who was looking down with wide eyes. He was as white as a sheet. Without even having to look down, Thor already knew what it was that frightened him. He could also feel it rising out of the fiery pits.

“I told you that you would doom us all.”

“Not now, Loki,” Thor said through gritted teeth. “You are going to have to wrap your legs around me.”

“WHAT?!” Loki was somewhat surprised he was able to yell that loud, given how dry his mouth was.

“I need both hands to fight this thing, and I can’t keep trying to hold onto you.” The other male scoffed.

“Fine,” he grumbled. Loki used all of the strength he possessed and wrapped his arms and legs around Thor and squeezed him like an anaconda.

By now, the Fire Giant had completely risen from the magma and was at eye level with them. It looked as if the lava itself had come to life. It was also much larger than the Frost Giants, and its touch more deadly. The creature watched them with its smoldering yellow eyes. Even though he was unable to see it, Loki felt as if those eyes were burning through the flesh of his back. Thor could feel Loki shiver against him.

“Do you have a solid grip on me?”

“Yes! Just hurry up and do something already!”

Thor raised his right arm and thunder rumbled above them. Thick copper clouds formed together, and there was an eerie orange light flashing within. He then swung his arm down, and tendrils of orange and yellow lightning seemed to wrap themselves around the Fire Giant. The creature clamped its eyes shut at the pain and staggered a bit as the electricity coursed through its body. Thor thought this must have been a young giant, because it usually took more than one strike to take one down when he had come here in the past. A flash of light blue drew Thor’s gaze upwards.

“Loki, it’s your feather!”

Loki loosened his grip around Thor’s neck just enough so that he could turn the upper half of his body. Thor started to fly towards the feather, but he jerked to a stop when the Fire Giant let out a low growl. The giant shook its large head, and then its gaze focused on the two small figures. Thor began to retreat when its eyes changed from yellow to orange to bright red, an indication that the creature was angry and possessed by bloodlust. The Fire Giant raised its arm and reached for them. Thor’s eyes widened when other large shapes began rising out of the lava all around them. He flew higher in time to narrowly escape the giant’s grasp, but Loki’s feather was not so lucky. Loki watched in horror as the side of the giant’s hand brushed the feather and it burst into flames. Thor looked down at Loki’s expression. It was as if something had broken inside him.

“It’s gone.” Loki’s arms and legs suddenly fell limp, and Thor was struggling to keep a hold on him.

“Don’t give up on me, Loki!”

Thor managed to wrap an arm around Loki’s waist, then he raised Mjolnir above their heads and propelled them higher into the air. They had to get back to their friends before the Fire Giants got to them. Thor just hoped he would be able to find the way back. Loki wasn’t even trying to hide his face from the burning wind. It was as if he wasn’t there, mentally. After sparing a quick glance to see how many Fire Giants were behind them, Thor increased their speed. There were at least a dozen giants after them, now. Even with the help of Sif and the Warriors Three, there was no way they would be able to defeat that many opponents, especially ones that were made of fire.

“Loki, can you hear me?” The other male was silent. “I cannot find the way back on my own. Please, Loki, I need your help.”

"Go to the right." Loki's voice was so quiet that Thor almost didn't hear him.

After flying for a few more minutes, as well as one more right turn, Thor saw another group of Fire Giants congregating towards the same area. They must have been going after Sif and the others. He had to hurry and get to them. They were trapped on the small patch of land where the Bifrost had placed them, and none of them could fly. He increased to his maximum speed, and he buzzed past the giants before any of them realized he was there. As soon as the island came into view, Thor’s heart leaped into his throat. As he had feared, they were completely surrounded by Fire Giants.

Thor started to decrease his speed, as well as his altitude, and he was able to turn onto his back mere seconds before he and Loki crashed into the dirt. Sif and the Warriors Three were certainly surprised by Thor and Loki’s sudden arrival, but they did not have time to ask them if they were able to retrieve the feather or if they were alright.

“Heimdall, get us out of here!” Thor yelled as he moved Loki so he was inside the circle, then he joined his friends. He figured he had enough strength for one more lightning strike while the Bifrost was opening. “Everyone get inside the markings!”

Thor held up his right arm and called again upon the storm. The rainbow colors of the Bifrost mixed with the orange lightning flashes to create a stunning light show. Once the attack was completely powered up, he unleashed it on all of the Fire Giants that were coming toward them. While the giants were momentarily stunned, Thor backed away and entered the circle with the others, just in time for the Bifrost to draw them into the sky.

~*~

After arriving in the next world, they took a few moments to catch their breaths, not just because they were no longer in danger from an enemy but also because they were no longer in danger of dying from heatstroke.

“Is everyone alright?” Thor asked. The others answered in the affirmative, except for Loki who did not answer at all.

“Were you able to find the feather?” Sif asked. Thor spared a glance at Loki, who was trembling slightly.

“Yes. But we lost it. It was in our sights, but we were attacked by a Fire Giant. As it reached for us, it touched the feather and it caught on fire.”

“Oh. I’m so sorry, Loki.” When Loki didn’t answer, she watched him for a second before looking again at Thor. “He doesn’t look good.”

“I know. He has been like that ever since his feather was destroyed. It’s as if he’s not really here.” The group all jumped when they heard and felt an explosion nearby. It was on the other side of a tall, green wall, only a few yards away. “We need to go see if someone is in trouble. Sif, help me with him.”

Thor and Sif each took an arm and lifted Loki to help him walk. They drew their weapons and moved with caution around the green wall. For some reason, Thor felt that he had seen something like this before, but he couldn’t remember where. He made eye contact with the others, and after nods to prove their readiness, they came around the corner to confront the enemy. They didn’t know if the bad guys were the ones in the gray, spotted garments, but they were definitely outnumbered. Instead of a counter-attack, they were met with wide-eyed stares. From what they could see, nobody was hurt or seemed to be in any actual danger. The Asgardians looked up when they heard a familiar voice.

“Thor? Is that you?”

Chapter Text

As soon as he heard the man’s voice, all of Loki’s strength suddenly seemed to return to him. His hair was longer, his clothes were different, and his horned helmet was a bit larger. He also had a fearsome-looking staff clutched in his hand.

“Tom?”

“It’s so good to see you again, Loki! It’s good to see all of you again!”

“The feeling is mutual,” Thor replied.

“I would give you a hug, but you all look like you just came out of a sauna.”

“I am not familiar with this ‘sawnah’ you speak of, but we did just come from Muspellheim.”

“Ah, that explains it. Let me go check with the wardrobe department and see if they have any clothes they can spare. Some of them worked on the Thor movie, so they will already know your sizes.”

“Are the others here?” Sif asked. Now that she was no longer worried about being attacked, she found that she wanted to get to know Jaimie better.

“The only one here is Chris, but I think he’s filming a scene with Mark. I’ll be right back.” While Tom was walking away, Thor looked down at Loki.

“Do you need to sit down?”

“No. I feel much better. I think I can stand on my own, now.”

“I see.”

It was because he saw Tom again. Just like the first time they met him, the actor was able to make Loki smile in a way that Thor never could. A few minutes later, Tom still had not returned. Instead, another man they had never seen before approached them. He had short dark hair, a goatee, and he was dressed rather plainly, in blue jeans and a long-sleeve Black Sabbath shirt.

“Hey, Tom, Joss wants us to film our scene again.” Loki’s eyes widened and he looked around awkwardly. The other man then squinted his eyes. “Did you and Chris get haircuts? And who are they? And why are you guys all sweaty?”

“Sorry that took so long,” Tom exclaimed as he came around the corner. He was carrying a large pile of folded clothes. He was no longer wearing his helmet and no longer had his staff. “Oh. Hi, Robert.” Robert gaped and looked between Tom and Loki.

“Wow. Your stunt guy is way better than mine,” Robert said, impressed. Tom laughed.

“He’s not my stunt double. This is Loki. The real Loki.” Robert made a face and crossed his arms.

“Sure. And I’m actually Tony Stark,” he said, rolling his eyes.

“Well, we all knew that, already,” Tom replied with a chuckle as he began distributing the garments. “Did you need me for something?”

“Yeah. Joss wants us to film our scene again.”

“Okay. Let me find them a place to change clothes. Are Mark and Chris done yet?”

“Probably. How many different ways are there to punch Chris Hemsworth in the face?”

“Well, could you tell Joss I’ll only be a moment? And send Chris to his trailer if you see him.”

“Will do,” Robert said with a small wave as he headed towards the penthouse set.

“Alright, you guys can use my trailer and Chris’s trailer. I’m going to ask Scarlett if you can change in her trailer,” he said to Sif, who nodded. Tom gestured for them to follow him, which they did. He bounced a little bit as he walked. “I’ll try to do this quickly. I have so much to tell you, and Chris has some big news, as well. And I want to hear all about the different places you’ve been to this past year.”

“Year?” Loki blurted. Tom stopped walking for a moment and looked at his double.

“Yeah. It was a year ago that you showed up on the Thor set.”

“A whole year. I had no idea we have been gone for that long,” Thor muttered. They walked a little further before stopping in front of a trailer that said “S. Johansson” on the door.

“You all wait here. Lady Sif, if you would follow me, please.”

Sif stood behind Tom silently as he went up and knocked on the trailer door. A voice called from inside, and a few seconds later, the door opened and revealed a woman with red hair in a bobbed style.

“Hey, Tom.”

“Hello, Scarlett. I have a tiny favor to ask of you.”

“What’s that?”

“Would it be alright if Lady Sif changes clothes in your trailer?”

“Why doesn’t ‘Lady Sif’ just use her own trailer? Hold on, she’s not even in this movie, is she?”

“She’s not an actress. She’s the real thing.”

Scarlett looked past Tom at Sif, and then her gaze shifted to Loki and Thor. She knew for a fact that those weren’t Tom’s or Chris’s stunt doubles, because she knew what they looked like. She then remembered Jeremy saying something about this one time on the Thor set that the actual characters showed up. Jeremy never saw them, but he said Tom wouldn’t stop talking about it for weeks. Maybe it really did happen, and it was happening again.

“Come on in,” Scarlett said as she opened the door wider.

“Thank you,” Sif replied, and Scarlett mentally noted that Jaimie Alexander didn’t have a British accent.

“I’m sorry I called you a mewling quim,” Tom said, and Scarlett flipped him off.

“You owe me one, Hiddleston,” she warned before closing the door.

Tom let out a sigh of relief and rubbed a hand over his head, then he grimaced and hoped he hadn’t messed it up. He turned and faced the other Asgardians, who were watching him with curiosity.

“It’s a good thing that Scarlett is nothing like the Black Widow or else I’d be dead meat,” he said with a grin. “Alright, let’s get the rest of you settled. Warriors Three should use Chris’s trailer, because there’s more room. Apparently, the villain gets a smaller trailer,” Tom explained as they walked.

“You are… the villain?” Thor asked hesitantly. He looked over at Loki, but he didn’t seem all that surprised. Loki was the only one who saw the first Thor movie, even if it was in a dream, so he already knew what the character had become.

“Yes, I am the villain. But, between you and me, not everything Loki does is by choice.”

“What do you mean? Are you… er… is Loki being threatened or controlled?”

“That is all I am able to say. And I would really appreciate it if you wouldn’t tell anybody. This is something that is not officially mentioned in the film, and the audience is meant to figure it out or interpret it on their own.”

“I understand. We will not break your trust.”

“Thanks.” They stopped in front of a trailer that had “C. Hemsworth” on the door. Tom unlocked it and opened the door for the Warriors Three. “Chris and I exchanged one copy of our keys because we’re besties.”

“Besties?” Loki asked.

“Really, really good friends. And also just in case one of us accidentally locked ourselves out of our trailer, which he has done a few times. But I don’t really blame him for being so scatterbrained, all things considering.”

“What things?”

“I’ll let him tell you about it. Warriors Three, stay here. Odinbros, follow me.” Thor and Loki gave each other a strange look. “Sorry, it’s what the fans call Thor and Loki. That, or Norsebros.”

“But we are not truly brothers,” Thor said. Tom’s eyes lit up at this.

“Oh! So you already know, then!”

“Yes,” Loki answered. He hoped the redness in his cheeks was from being on Muspellheim and had nothing to do with the golden-haired man beside him.

“I cannot wait to hear all about it, but unfortunately, I am needed for a scene.” They walked a little further down the row of trailers and came to one which was noticeably smaller than the previous one. Tom unlocked it and opened the door, which said “T. Hiddleston” in large black letters. “Here we are. Home sweet home.”

“It really is smaller,” Thor commented, and Loki gave him an annoyed look.

“Yes, but I really don’t mind it all that much. I don’t take up a whole lot of space. I suppose you can just wait here when you’re done. Or at least don’t wander off too far. I’ve really got to go now, but I will see you later!”

Loki waved at the back of Tom’s head. The actor was speed walking as well as his boots would allow, and he was looking around for a golf cart he could borrow.

“Shall we?” Thor’s voice made Loki jump, and he nodded silently before following the other man inside.

Loki immediately moved over to one side of the trailer and kept his back towards Thor. While Loki began removing his sticky clothes, Thor watched him for a moment. He had misread the behavior as Loki being angry and blaming him for losing the feather. Thor watched him for a few more seconds before turning around with a sigh and removing his own clothing. Because his back was now towards him, Thor didn’t see Loki’s tense shoulders relax. Loki had felt the other man’s eyes on him, and he was slightly trembling, although he had no idea why.

The silence was deafening, and it was making Loki feel even more on-edge. Every rustle of fabric and every intake of breath seemed much louder and echoed in the small trailer as if it were a large cavern. Even the sensation of clean, dry clothes didn’t help. Loki knew Thor was watching him again, because he could feel the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, and goosebumps formed on his arms. He didn’t even realize he was breathing heavily until Thor came up behind him and placed a warm hand on his cool, clammy arm.

“Loki, are you unwell? You’re shaking.”

“I’m alright, Thor.”

‘Come on, Loki. Don’t let him get to you. You need to distance yourself. You have to let him go,’ he thought to himself, almost like a mantra.

“Did you hear me, Loki?”

“What?”

The hand on his arm applied pressure and turned him around. Loki tried to keep his gaze focused anywhere but on Thor’s face, which wasn’t too hard because he was distracted by the tight-fitting gray t-shirt he was wearing.

‘Damn it, Tom,’ Loki mentally groaned.

He gulped when Thor tilted his chin so he was looking into his eyes. Sadness flashed in those sapphire orbs when Loki wriggled out of Thor’s grasp and turned his back on him again. Loki felt like a terrible person, but he couldn’t allow himself to be pulled in. The sigh behind him sounded so loud.

“I am so sorry, Loki.” Loki’s heart froze in his chest. Thor sounded so broken.

“For what?” He hated how indifferent his voice was.

“For losing your feather.” At this, Loki did turn around, despite his better judgment.

“Thor, that was not your fault. There was nothing either of us could have done.”

“Then what is it I have done to make you hate me so?” Loki was taken aback.

“I don’t hate you, Thor.” Thor shook his head and gripped his hair.

“I do not understand. First, you said you love me, and now you act as if I am nothing to you.” After the words left his mouth, Thor was able to admit to himself that it was never Tom he envied.

“We have already been over this, Thor. I am meant to be with someone else,” Loki hissed, although he wasn’t sure who it was he was angry with. “I’m trying to distance myself from you so that, when that day comes, it won’t hurt as much.”

“And what about my feelings, Loki? Do you think I won’t be hurt?”

“Stop it, Thor! You know this isn’t my fault! I never asked for any of this to happen!” Loki grit his teeth and tried to push Thor off when he wrapped him in his arms, but the other man was too strong.

“Loki, please. Don’t go with him. I need you.” Loki sighed and closed his eyes, his anger turning into embers.

“I can’t afford to make promises like that.”

“Then promise me that you won’t give up on us just yet. And we have no idea how soon it will be before you meet him, so don’t push me away while I am still here.”

All of the tenseness in Loki’s muscles seemed to melt away as he relaxed in Thor’s embrace. He slowly brought his arms up and wrapped them around the other man’s broad back. Somehow, Thor managed to do it again; he was able to change Loki’s mind and distract him from whatever plan he was creating. If it weren’t for the dreams, Loki might have actually believed he really was meant to be with Thor.

“Alright, Thor. I promise.” Loki wasn’t sure if his words were truthful, but, for the moment, Thor’s heavy sigh of relief was enough.

Chapter Text

When they all finished changing, the Asgardians came out of the trailers and waited for Tom and Chris to return. After about a half hour, they started to get tired of standing around and looked for a place to sit down. They retraced their steps, believing that Tom would come back using the same route as before, and they found a picnic table. They crammed onto it, three to a side, shoulder-to-shoulder, and they hoped it would be able to hold their weight.

Sif, Fandral, and Volstagg chatted in order to pass the time, and Hogun remained his usual taciturn self. Thor tried to draw Loki into a conversation, but he soon gave up. It seemed as if Loki’s head was somewhere else.

Meanwhile, at the penthouse set, Robert and Tom finished their scene. Just as Tom was about to leave, Joss told him to stick around because he wanted to film the scene with the Hulk. Tom visibly wilted and heaved a sigh. Normally, he wouldn’t mind filming scenes back-to-back, and he was actually quite used to it. But because Loki and the others were here…

“Oh, give him a break, Joss,” Robert said. Tom and Joss both looked at the other actor with wide eyes. “He’s got guests, and he hasn’t seen them for a long time.”

“Oh. Sorry, Tom. I didn’t know.”

“It was sort of last minute,” Tom replied.

“Okay, sure. You go ahead. Maybe Clark isn’t doing anything,” Joss said, mostly to himself.

“Thanks, I owe you one,” Tom whispered to Robert.

“What choice did I have, you looking all sad and mopey?”

“Well, thank you again, Robert. Sorry I pushed you out a window.” Tom then laughed as Robert suddenly broke into character.

“All in a day’s work for Tony Stark.” Tom started walking away, and he shook his head when Robert, staying in character, threw an arm around Joss’s shoulders. “Joss, baby, you need to relax, man. You’re way too stressed.”

Before he started filming, Tom had sent a text message to Chris, saying where to meet him before they both went to see the Asgardians. He just thought it would be easier to go together rather than hope that Chris was told about their visitors. When the Australian came into view, Tom waved at him.

“I thought Joss would never let you go,” Chris said as he got up from the folding chair.

“He wanted me to stay and film the scene where the Hulk throws me around like a rag doll, but Robert saved me.”

“So, how did everyone look when you saw them?” Chris asked as they began walking towards the trailer area.

“They haven’t changed at all. They look the same as they did when we met them on the set of the first Thor film.”

“Your face tells me that there’s a ‘but’ in there somewhere.” Tom nodded.

“Something about Loki just seemed… off. He hasn’t changed at all, physically, but I could just tell that something was different about him.”

“Well, they’ll probably tell us. A lot can happen to a person in one year.”

“I suppose so. Maybe I’m overthinking it.” Chris chuckled and threw an arm around Tom’s shoulders.

“Nah, mate. You just like helping others and solving people’s problems.”

~*~

When Tom and Chris came up the hill where the trailers were located, they saw the Asgardians seated at a picnic table, barely fitting. After Thor noticed their approach, he got up from his end of the bench, which caused a slight imbalance and the table to tip a bit. Chris disentangled himself from his co-star just before he was enveloped in a bear hug by the God of Thunder. Tom shifted his gaze from the two hugging blonds to his lookalike. Loki was staring at Chris with an expression he couldn’t put a name to. It was almost as if Chris was a new discovery and Loki was a scientist, carefully observing him and trying to figure him out.

“Tom tells us you have exciting news,” Thor said after he separated from the actor, who smiled sheepishly.

“Yeah, I do. I’m going to be a father.” Sif, Fandral, and Volstagg got up and came over to pat Chris on the back.

“That is wonderful news,” Sif exclaimed.

“Congratulations,” Fandral added.

“I have two little ones, myself. The day I became a father was the happiest of my life,” Volstagg mused.

As their valiant friend proceeded to offer Chris advice on fatherhood, Tom looked over at Loki, whose face was blank. Had he just imagined it? Maybe if they got a chance to talk alone, Tom would ask him about it.

“My wife Elsa and I are very excited. The baby is due around the same time as the Avengers premiere, so hopefully I can be there when the time comes.”

“And Uncle Loki gets to be the godfather,” Tom said, practically glowing. Loki perked up a bit when he heard his name, but he relaxed when he realized they weren’t talking about him. “Let’s go get some supper, and then you can tell us all about your adventures.”

“You will not be asked to film anymore scenes?” Thor asked.

“No, I told Joss that Chris and I had friends visiting and we would be unavailable for the rest of the evening. And they can’t exactly replace us. Besides, there are plenty of scenes they can work on without the two of us.”

They went to the largest building on the lot and found the catered food, which was set up buffet style. After filling their plates and sitting at one of the long tables, they full-heartedly dug into their meals. Once everyone was full and satisfied, the storytelling began. Tom and Chris went first because they figured they would have fewer things to share.

“I was only in one other movie between Thor and Avengers called Cabin in the Woods,” Chris began. “It was sort of a satirical horror film, I suppose. My character dies. He rides a motorcycle off a cliff and crashes into an invisible force field before falling to his death. Pretty anti-climactic compared to my death in Star Trek.”

“But you are alright now?” Sif asked, sounding genuinely concerned.

“Yeah, of course! It’s just acting and a lot of CGI, so I didn’t actually die,” Chris said with a laugh. “Tom has been busier than I have.”

“Yes. I have been in three films since Thor. The first was Midnight in Paris, where I had the great privilege to play one of the greatest American novelists. Then, I was in The Deep Blue Sea, where—”

“You got to shoot your first nude scene in that one,” Chris interrupted. Tom’s face turned bright red and he rubbed the back of his neck.

“You’ll get your chance, Hemsworth.” The blond actor only laughed. “Anyway, my last film was War Horse, which was definitely my favorite of the three. My character dies, but it’s never actually shown on screen. A lot of young men died in that war.”

There was suddenly a strange glint in Tom’s eyes, as if his mind was somewhere else or he was reliving a painful memory. It was Chris’s voice that broke him out of his reverie.

“Like I said, probably not as exciting as your adventures.”

“You would be right,” Thor said with a smug grin. “First, we were in Vanaheim where a feather caused the door to Fólkvangr to shut and Freya’s distress caused the women to have miscarriages.”

“Is that the realm for those who die in battle but who are not sent to Valhalla?” Tom asked. Chris looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

“You are such a nerd.”

“And you’re just jealous.”

“Yes, that is correct,” Thor answered after a moment.

“So, what happened next?”

“Loki will have to tell you. He was the only one who went into Fólkvangr with Freya.”

“Heimdall was able to use the Bifrost to move us directly into Fólkvangr, since the doorway was locked,” Loki began. “When we got inside, we saw that all of the souls were gone, and the realm itself seemed to be dying. I found the feather inside a vortex, located in a canyon which, according to Freya, had not been there before. Freya let me use her feathered cloak, but rather than helping me, it hindered me. The cloak was pulling me away from the danger, and I had to rip it off because it had fused with my flesh.

“Without the cloak, I fell into the vortex, but I was able to grab the feather. After the feather returned to my body and the memory revealed itself, I lost consciousness. Freya healed me while I slept, and my dream was… rather interesting.”

“How so?” Tom asked.

“Well, you were in the dream, but you were wearing a horrid moustache and calling yourself Steve. It was very strange. And then you took me into a room—oh, Chris and Thor were there—and we watched the movie.”

“Which one?” Chris asked.

“The one you were making the last time we saw you.”

“The whole thing?” Loki nodded.

“That was how I learned about my true parentage.”

“Your dreams are weird,” Fandral deadpanned. Tom was about to ask if he saw the scene after the credits, which showed the Tesseract, but Loki had already moved on.

“Next, we went to Alfheim and stayed the night with Frey. Finding this feather was much easier, because Frey had already taken it from his orchard and placed it somewhere safe by the time we arrived.”

“That part of it was easier, but what happened later that night was a different matter,” Thor interjected. Loki didn’t say anything, but he looked like he was about to be sick. “During the night, Fandral and I heard strange sounds coming from Loki’s room. When we went inside, he seemed to be having a nightmare. Frey also came and was able to calm him with magic.”

“I was reliving what happened in the cave when I lost my memories, except this time, no one was there to rescue me. And just as I was vanishing into the cave wall, I heard a voice that made my insides freeze.”

“What did the voice say?” Tom asked. Loki swallowed thickly, as if he was hearing the voice all over again.

“I found you.” A tense silence followed, and Chris’s voice broke it.

“Do you know who was speaking to you?”

“Ymir.” Chris didn’t seem to recognize that name, but Tom did.

“Spooky,” the Brit murmured.

“It gets better,” Fandral chimed in. “The whole time, he was muttering in a strange language, and he was bleeding everywhere because whatever injuries he sustained in his dream were affecting him in real life.”

“Thank you, Fandral, for your candid contribution,” Loki deadpanned. Sif snorted and covered her mouth to stifle her laugh. Loki’s memories may be gone, but his sarcasm was still intact. “According to Frey, I was speaking in an ancient Elvish dialect, saying ‘when the last dies the first shall return.’ I am the last of Ymir’s bloodline, so when I die, he will come back.”

“But Ymir was killed by Odin and his brothers, Vili and Ve. And his body was cut to pieces and scattered,” Tom said. Chris mouthed ‘nerd.’

“I do not know how or in what form he is going to return, but I do not think I would have been saying those words if they were untrue.”

“Fair point. So, what do you plan to do?”

“How does one prepare for something like this? Besides, everyone dies eventually. It is just a matter of when.”

“I’m sorry, Loki. Nobody should ever have to deal with circumstances such as these, no matter who they are.” Loki offered him a half-smile, but not much else.

“After Alfheim, we were on an island and a feather turned us into children,” Thor said, hoping to ease the uncomfortable atmosphere.

“Yes, and Fandral the Dashing was covered with pimples,” their valiant friend teased. The warrior in question crossed his arms petulantly.

“Don’t worry, Fandral, we all went through that phase,” Chris said. “Were there other people on the island?”

“We never saw anyone else, but we did not explore the whole island,” Thor answered. “After the feather was retrieved, we were sent to Svartalfheim.”

“Oh, what was that like?” Tom asked excitedly.

“Black sand everywhere. The feather completely changed the geography of the realm. Svartalfheim was never what I would consider a beautiful place, but it was transformed into a wasteland.”

Tom glanced over at Loki, who looked like he was about to vomit. He didn’t need to be a mind reader to know what Loki was thinking: he was blaming himself for what happened to Svartalfheim.

“Were you able to find it?” Tom asked.

“Yes. It was buried deep in the sand. We dug a hole and found it, but…” Now Thor looked queasy. “When the feather was returned to his body, the sand swallowed Loki and me, and then the ground hardened around us.”

“How were you able to escape?” Thor’s only response was to lift Mjolnir. “But the story gets better after that.” Thor then looked at Loki, as if telling him to continue the tale. Loki didn’t notice Thor’s eyes on him, but his lips curved into a smile.

“We went to Jotunheim, and I got to meet my family.”

“I hope it went better than the ‘reunion’ in the movie,” Tom said. Loki nodded, still smiling.

“I was worried about that, as well. But when I saw my father and my brothers, I truly felt that I was home.” Loki didn’t notice Thor’s frown, or he was ignoring it on purpose. But Tom saw it. There was something odd about the blond’s expression, but Tom couldn’t figure out what it was.

“Were you there long?” Chris asked.

“Only a few days. I wish we could have stayed longer, but I still have so many more feathers to find.”

“So, what all did you do there?”

“Well, I spent a lot of time with my father. A coming-of-age ceremony was held, since I never got to have one, and there was a huge banquet. A statue was made of me and added to the hall with the other statues of the royal family.”

“A statue was made that quickly?” Tom asked skeptically.

“Well, the body had been finished for years, but the head had not because no one knew what I looked like. The sculptor sketched all the angles of my head with charcoal while I was there.” Loki chose to leave out the part where the sculptor had drawn thousands of images of his face. And his discussion with Laufey about soul bonds.

“And while that was going on, Laufey had the rest of us go with his sons to look for blue roses, which were needed for the ceremony,” Thor interjected.

“Blue ones? They’re real?” Chris asked, making a face.

“Laufey said they only grow on Jotunheim. I thought they were a myth as well, but that changed when I found them in the snow.”

“They were beautiful flowers. They almost looked as if they were made of glass,” Loki said. “And after the ceremony, that evening, there was a huge banquet and dancing. There were people from different realms. Frey and Freya were there.”

“That all sounds wonderful, Loki,” Tom said, and he meant it. He saw the smile on Loki’s face and the joy in his eyes as he talked about Jotunheim. “So, what happened next?”

“We left the next morning,” Thor answered. “Heimdall sent us to… well, I’m not really sure where it was. The people looked human, so I assume we were on Midgard.”

“Was there a feather?” Tom furrowed his brows when he noticed the odd looks on all of their faces.

“Yes. And it switched our bodies and souls. I was in Loki’s body.”

“I was in Fandral’s,” Loki said.

“I was in Volstagg’s—you seriously need to trim your beard or something,” Sif said, squinting at Volstagg, who shrugged.

“I was in Sif’s body,” Fandral stated, but he shrunk a little when he saw Sif’s glare.

“Don’t act all proud about it, Fandral,” the shieldmaiden hissed.

“I was in Hogun’s body,” Volstagg commented.

“Thor’s,” Hogun added in his usual taciturn manner.

Chris snorted and covered his mouth to try and muffle his laughter, but he was unsuccessful. He managed to get himself under control after a while.

“I’m sorry, but that would have been hilarious to see.” Tom then let out a chuckle.

“I have to agree. But I am glad you all were able to return to normal.”

“No permanent damage, I hope?”

“Er… well, nothing yet,” Thor answered hesitantly. Now they all looked a bit wary that something bad was going to happen to them.

“So, where did you go to next?” Tom asked.

“Asgard. Only, it wasn’t,” Thor answered. Chris looked confused and Tom looked curious. “How do I explain this better? Um…”

“Loki had red hair,” Fandral blurted out. Chris still looked confused, but Tom’s eyes widened.

“You were in the Asgard of Norse mythology!” Tom exclaimed. Chris gave him a side-eye. “Loki had a wife named Sigyn, right?” Loki nodded.

“He brought me to meet her. She was pregnant with twins.” A look of recognition flashed across Tom’s face. The story he had read returned to his memory; two young boys, a cave, and a venomous snake.

“Wait, so who did you say you were if there were two Lokis?” Chris asked.

“Actually, we used your names,” Sif answered. “Loki remembered them all, thankfully.”

“But the other Loki knew I was lying about our identities. Somehow,” Loki replied.

“Probably because he’s an expert on lying,” Tom commented. “Did he tell anyone?”

“No. He said that no one would believe him, anyway. I also met Þórr’s half-brothers, Höðr and Baldr.”

“Half-brothers?” Fandral exclaimed. Neither Thor nor Loki had mentioned the other Þórr’s parentage.

“Apparently, in this Asgard, Þórr’s mother is not Queen Frigg.”

“Jord, the giantess,” Tom interjected. “What? I like Norse mythology. You should know that by now,” he said defensively at Chris’s stare.

“And while Loki was showing me around, the others went hunting or something. I had no desire to go.”

“Hunting what?” Chris asked.

“Ogres, or so we thought. We believed we were rescuing a village from ogres, only to find out too late that the ogres had already eaten the villagers and had taken on human form,” Thor explained. “I had to hide Mjolnir so that they would not learn my identity, and I was unarmed.” Tom’s mouth fell open. “Luckily for me, the Eir are excellent healers,” he said with a chuckle.

“Oh, I forgot to ask. Was there a feather?” Tom asked.

“Yes. It was causing Iðunn’s golden apples to rot and the gods to age. The feather was hidden in Freyja’s feathered cloak. I couldn’t tell them how I ended their curse, so to speak, but I said I was a sorcerer from Midgard. I did tell the other Loki, though. That night, the gods threw a feast in my honor.”

“The Aesir do know how to party,” Tom said. “That must have been so cool. I wish I had been there to see it.”

“We would’ve had a problem with two Toms,” Loki replied.

“I would have just used my middle name, William,” Tom said with a shrug. “Did you stay very long?”

“No, we left the next morning,” Thor answered. “I had gotten my strength back, and we didn’t want to risk any further injuries.”

“Makes sense,” Chris commented.

“After that, we were on Muspellheim.”

“Oh, so that’s why you were all sweaty,” Tom muttered. Thor nodded.

“There was a feather, and it was caught in the wind. Loki and I used Mjolnir to fly towards it. Unfortunately, a Fire Giant appeared and touched it, causing the feather to burst into flames.” And that was why Loki looked like he was experiencing PTSD, Tom thought to himself. “More giants started to appear, and with the feather gone, we knew we had to leave the realm as soon as possible. Heimdall sent us here, and now you know everything.”

“I need a vacation after listening to all of that,” Chris sighed. “I don’t think I would have been still standing.”

“I didn’t realize how late it was!” Tom exclaimed after checking his phone. “You must be exhausted.”

“Where are they going to stay?” Tom let out a sigh.

“Maybe we can squeeze some more favors out of our co-stars.”

Chapter Text

Thor stayed in Chris’s trailer and Loki in Tom’s. Scarlett allowed Sif to stay with her, Fandral with Robert, Volstagg with Jeremy, and Hogun with the other Chris. While their lookalikes got settled in, Tom and Chris needed to change out of their costumes and have their makeup removed; the respective departments would have had a conniption fit if they had fallen asleep that way.

In Tom’s trailer, not a blanket was spared. Tom offered Loki some pajamas to sleep in, because they were the same size, but Loki declined. He said that what he was wearing was fine and it was much more comfortable than what he had been wearing before. Once they were both tucked in, Tom felt it would be safe to ask the questions that were on his mind.

“Hey, Loki, I was wondering about a few things.”

“Like what?” Tom was on his side, propped up on his elbow, and Loki was on his back with his eyes closed. “Why did you look at Chris so strangely when you first saw him?” Loki’s eyes snapped open for a moment before softening.

“Do you have soul bonds on Midgard?” His voice sounded far away.

“I’ve never heard of anything like that. Some people believe in soul mates, which don’t always turn out the right way."

“My father told me that soul bonds are very powerful. The two people who are bonded can hear each other’s thoughts and know what the other is feeling. They have eyes for only each other, and every aspect of their lives is devoted to the other. However, if one becomes injured, ill, or dies, the same will happen to the other person.”

“Has this happened to you?”

“Not yet, but it will.”

“How do you know?”

“He has visited me in dreams, but I have never seen his face. He is always careful not to reveal his identity to me. From what I have been able to see of him, his features are similar to Thor’s, just with longer hair.”

“And when you saw Chris, you thought it might have been him.” Loki nodded.

“But he already has a wife.”

“Are you scared? Of meeting him?” Tom asked after a pause.

“I was, at first. I thought he would be cruel and violent towards me, but I can tell he really cares for me.”

“Well, I hope everything works out.” Loki nodded and closed his eyes again. “Just one more thing and then I’ll let you sleep.”

“What’s that?”

“Is there something going on between you and Thor?” Loki sat up suddenly in bed, and his face was more pale than usual. “If you don’t want to talk about it, I can understand. I just want everything to be okay between you two.”

“You are my friend, and I know I can trust you with anything… but this is something that Thor and I need to deal with on our own. I’m sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologize. I totally get it. I’ll see you in the morning, okay?”

“Mmhmm,” Loki mumbled before yawning. He lied back down and closed his eyes, breathed out a sigh, and slowly drifted off to sleep.

~*~

The first thing Loki noticed when he opened his eyes was that it was dark and foggy. He wrapped his arms around himself and shivered. He then perked up when he felt it, moving slowly towards him.

“A feather!”

Suddenly, the ground began to shake, and the sound of crackling earth filled his ears. Loki couldn’t see where the ground was opening up, but he knew he couldn’t just stand there. He needed to get somewhere safe. But almost as soon as he took a few steps, he crashed into a wall. The ground trembled behind him, and another wall appeared where he had just been standing.

“I wish this fog would go away.”

A moment later, the fog in front of him began to dissolve away. He was able to see that he was surrounded on three sides by walls, and ahead of him was a straight path, leading towards more darkness. He was about to walk down the pathway, but he suddenly noticed how close the feather was. It was still coming towards him, as if it had grown a pair of legs. Loki gulped and the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end when he felt another presence behind him.

“I found you.”

Loki turned around, expecting to see Ymir standing behind him. He noticed the hands emerging from the wall much too late. A hand grabbed each wrist while two long arms encircled his waist and torso. Loki struggled and tried to free himself, but the limbs kept pulling him backwards. He started to panic as he felt that same sensation of being pulled into the wall. Time seemed to stand still then as a blue light appeared in the fog and shadows before him. But this was not the feather, although it was very close by. This light was small and round, like a stone. Then a curved blade emerged from the mist, reaching for him almost like a claw. For some reason, it seemed familiar. The ground started to tremble, violently shaking Loki from side to side. He tightly closed his eyes, hoping it would stop. A few seconds later, he realized that it wasn’t the ground that was shaking; it was him.

~*~

“Loki, wake up! You’re having a bad dream!” Tom shouted as he shook Loki’s shoulder. Loki’s eyes shot open and he sat up suddenly, breathing heavily. Tom breathed out a sigh of relief. His short brown hair was sticking up on one side. “That must have been an intense dream.”

“There was a feather… in my dream,” Loki said between pants. Tom watched his lookalike silently, waiting for him to continue. Loki then slouched and rubbed a hand over his forehead. “I’m sorry for waking you.”

“It’s okay. I’ve had to work with much less sleep before. Good night.”

The last thought to enter Loki’s mind as he closed his eyes was, ‘If I do go back there, I hope the walls are farther apart.’

~*~

He did end up in the same place, or at least he assumed it to be the case. It was no longer dark and foggy but dimly lit and clear. The walls were much farther apart this time, but Loki was still cautious and refused to let his guard down. He made sure to stay as close to the middle of the pathway as possible. He could feel his feather, but it was further away this time, and it was no longer moving.

“I wonder if this feather has been here the whole time, or if it only appears depending on the dream. Hopefully this won’t become a regular thing. This could be dangerous.”

Right after he uttered those words, he heard an odd sound below him, almost like a moan. The dry, cracked dirt beneath his feet suddenly turned black, and he began to sink.

“Black sand!” Images of Svartalfheim flashed before his eyes, and he moved his legs, trying to climb out.

‘Me and my big mouth! As soon as I mention danger, I find myself in danger. I guess my mind could be my worst enemy,’ Loki mentally groaned as he continued to try and escape the sand.

It seemed that the more he moved around, the faster he would sink. The sand was now up to his torso, and Loki desperately wished he had a rope. Not a lot of good it would do him, though, because there was nothing to tie it to except the walls. Loki stopped moving altogether, and even though he was still sinking, it was much slower than before.

“Okay, think, Loki. How do you get out of this?” He then closed his eyes, both as a way to help clear his mind and to ignore the sand, which was now up to his shoulders. “This is just a dream, so all I need to do is wake up.”

The sand hardened around him. Loki let out a groan of pain because his body was being crushed. At least his head was still above ground and he could breathe.

“Wake up, Loki! Wake up!” The earth’s grip on him tightened. “This is only a dream! Wake up!” He heard a distinct crack. Was that one of his ribs? He squeezed his eyes shut. Now he could no longer breathe because he was in so much pain. Tears rolled down his cheeks and the moisture was absorbed into the ground.

‘Wake up.’

The dirt began to crumble, and Loki was swallowed by the abyss.

~*~

Loki sat up with a jolt, and his arms flailed in search of something to hold onto. When he realized he was no longer falling, he relaxed his body and tried to get his breathing under control. He could see through the closed blinds that the sun was beginning to come up. He shifted his gaze towards the bed, where Tom was snoring softly. The actor’s hair was fairly disheveled.

‘At least I didn’t wake him again,’ Loki thought to himself.

He sat up and lightly pressed on his ribcage. There was no pain. He breathed a sigh of relief and pushed aside the blanket. As quietly as he could, Loki put his boots on and opened the door to the trailer. It was a foggy morning, and the sun was still hidden behind the buildings of the movie lot. While Loki was waiting for the sunrise, he heard the door to Chris’s trailer open. Thor winced after the door squeaked when he closed it behind him. He then saw Loki and walked towards him.

“Good morning.” Loki shushed him and he looked around to make sure he didn’t wake anyone. “How did you sleep?” He asked in a whisper.

“I slept, but it was not very restful,” Loki answered quietly. “I accidentally woke Tom up during the night. Only once, I think.”

“Bad dreams?” Loki nodded. “What were they about? If you do not mind telling me.”

“In the first one, I was reliving what happened to me in the cave… again. And in the second one, I was reliving being buried in Svartalfheim.”

“I am sorry you are being haunted by those memories.”

“There is something else. A feather was in my dreams.” Thor made a face.

“You are certain?” Loki nodded.

“I could feel it both times. In the first dream, it was moving towards me, as if someone was carrying it. And there was someone else there, but I could not see their face because it was dark and foggy. But whoever they were, I think they wanted to hurt me.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Because…” Suddenly, Loki remembered why the blade with the blue light seemed so familiar. “It looked like the staff that Tom was holding. He said his character is the villain, so maybe it was some kind of weapon.” Thor nodded thoughtfully.

“And the other dream?”

“It was much further away, and it remained in one place. I wasn’t able to get close to it because of the sand.”

“How are you going to find your feather if your dreams keep becoming so dangerous?”

“I do not know, but I have to try.”

A bright orange glow drew their attention towards the east. The sky turned many different fiery shades, and the tranquil sunlight warmed their skin.

“Loki, you are not alone in this. We will be there to help you whenever you need us.” Loki said nothing.

Within a few minutes, the movie lot was buzzing with energy, or lack thereof for those who had not yet had their morning cup of coffee. Tom came out of his trailer, waved at them, then knocked on Chris’s door to see if he was awake. After Chris emerged from his trailer, he and Tom approached their lookalikes. Tom looked as if he had slept for a hundred years while Chris appeared to have slept for a hundred seconds.

“You snore really loud, mate.” Thor made a face and spluttered, his cheeks darkening.

“So do you!”

“Let’s go find the others and get some breakfast. Then we can see if your clothes are back from the dry cleaner’s and you can be on your way,” Tom said cheerily.

After the Asgardians finished eating, Tom took them to the wardrobe department and found their clothes, no longer smelling like sweat and smoke. When asked if the department wanted them to return the garments they had borrowed, they were told they could keep them. All of the loaned items were cheap and easily replaceable, as well as hardly ever worn. Chris and Tom walked with the Asgardians to the Bifrost to see them off, but they could not stay very long because they needed to get in their costumes.

“Hopefully the next time you visit, Chris and I won’t be busy filming and we can spend more time together.”

“We would like that,” Thor replied for the group.

“And I’ll have tons of baby pictures!” Chris said excitedly. He no longer seemed angry about losing sleep.

Loki set his bag down and stepped out of the Bifrost circle. He approached Tom and embraced him.

“Maybe someday I will be able to tell you everything,” Loki whispered so that Tom was the only one who heard him. Tom beamed and returned the hug.

“I will look forward to that day. Take care, Loki.”

“You too, Tom.”

“The two men separated and Loki turned and rejoined the others. He slung his bag over his shoulder and smiled at Tom as he waited to depart from this world. Where would they end up next?

“Heimdall, we are ready to travel to the next world,” Thor said.

The clouds, which looked to be heavy with rain, parted and the rainbow bridge descended upon them. The last thing they saw before being pulled towards the sky was Chris and Tom waving goodbye.