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Fortune's Fool

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He ran.

In desperation, sorrow, and anger. He fled on the wind as a bird, raced across the plains a mare, a fish, a hare - any and all forms that would make his angry pursuers give up the chase – until at last, collapsing in the pathless woods as legs give away beneath.

 

---

 

Asgard curses the trickster’s name. They would have brought the whip down on him until he was raw and bloody. Thor himself wishes he had Loki’s neck in his hands to wring. In his mind he squeezes until those eyes lose focus, until those lips turn blue, until he finally, finally has a hold of his slippery brother and has him lying limp.

Betrayed again. How many more times must he bear the brunt of Loki’s mockery? He would have mete out punishment himself.

But Loki had evaded them, and thus they steep in their collective malice, every so often shaking a fist at worst.

 

---

 

He finds her first, naked and shivering on the forest floor, with an animal wariness. Eventually she won over his sympathies with wide eyes that glistened with unshed tragedies. That night when he claims her, legs wrapped around him as he thrust up against the tree, she held on for dear life.

Six months later the farmer wed his milkmaid, and she grew fat with his child.

 

---

 

In the wake of his escape, it takes some time for the realms to reel back into a sense of tenuous normalcy. Several years pass and nothing is heard.

Thor sighs into his cups and slumps on the table, a manner decidedly unfitting for a prince. He should be grateful for this period of peace. And yet…for all the wretchedness Loki wrought upon them, he misses his brother. For once, he is bored by the stagnancy of his days, and he thinks he comes closer to forgiving Loki’s actions.

A lovely, buxom maid refills his tankard, but Thor is in no mood tonight. Has not been for most nights. Somewhere he thinks he hears Loki’s laughter, or perhaps it is just a memory.

 

---

 

He fucks into her until there is no room for thought. There are only his hands: one kneading her leaking breast as he suckles on a teat, one on her round stomach, and the warmth of his eyes as he proclaims his love.

She yells her’s back as he fills the hollowness within with hot seed, breathless and sincere.

Together they fall down on straw and filtered moonlight as he holds her against him, rocking her to sleep in his strong arms.

 

---

 

Thor asks Odin.

The old man spits. “He’s as a sow in the company of cattle, swine, and fowl. Shame is all he brings upon our name. I can think of no lower station for him to be in. You had best leave it boy.”

His angry, glaring eye is the final warning.

 

---

 

Sitting proved difficult, but she settled down slowly into position to begin an earnest day’s work. Her hands were soft, complexion smooth, and there was a glow about her as she stopped occasionally to caress her again-swollen belly.

“Mama!” comes the voice of her young daughter upon entering the barn.

Loki sits up straighter, wipes her hands on her apron and brushes back her dark hair that falls about in waves to embrace the little cherub.

 

---

 

He waits a handful of years more. But as is with all things pertaining to Loki, Thor must come begging first.

The landscape has changed since Thor visited Midgard last. It is a fitting place he thinks, for a nature as inconstant as his. He comes to a settling on the brink between wilderness and civilization where he is told to find. A peaceful cottage lies pleasantly within sight.

He picks up the sounds of children’s laughter. Even from a distance he can spot the boy running about. The last thing he remembers is the unmistakeable features of Loki’s face tenderly reborn within him as he runs into the arms of a doting father.

Bile rises and rage overcomes him, and then he sees red.

 

---

 

She’s tending to the village market square when murmurings and alarm reaches as someone points to the distance at a plume of smoke.

She drops her basket as a cold fear creeps up her spine.

 

Loki runs up the hill, skirts bunched up, nearly tripping over her own feet in haste. The pungent smell of burnt flesh is in the air. Heat stings her eyes and tears roll down her rosy cheeks – she knows before she sees that all is lost, but calls out for their names regardless.

The sight that greets her is their home ablaze and the surrounding fields with it. ‘No!’ her mind screams. She makes a dash for the house when an arm loops around her waist and pulls back.

“Don’t!” and spins her around, but it is not her husband.

Fury and anguish alights her green eyes almost as hotly as the flames themselves, and she claws at him to release her. Thor’s grip is as tough as iron though and it’s too late.

Too late.

In the final moments, the sky turns to blackened orange in the dying dusk, with ashes falling like snow. Her scream rends the air like that of a madwoman.

Surrendering to grief, she collapses in his arms. He carries her back to Asgard that night.

 

---

 

Days pass when Thor finally dares to approach him, Loki is looking out from the high balcony in solemnity. He reaches out to put a hand on his shoulder but Loki tenses before the touch and Thor lets his arm drop.

It matters not now what Loki is or what he’s done; only that he stands, back towards him, as one that has been wronged. The stony silence is a wall between them. Words lodge themselves in his throat, and he may as well kneel before Loki, and have it slit in recompense.

Loki does nothing of the sort.

He tips his gaze up at the remorseless stars and closes his eyes, “I had wanted to understand contentment and happiness, completely and simply, if only even for the short span of a mortal lifetime.”

Loki says nothing else afterwards. In the end all Thor can do is depart.

Asgard lies before him, cold and quiet, and he knows as surely as he will die that it will end in fire.