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For the first time she can remember, Hela waits for her father on the Bifrost sight after a battle. It's not an occurrence that oft repeats itself, nor one that has ever really happened before; in every fight, every war they wage or defend against, she and Odin work side-by-side. A deadly, destructive pair that return to camp together, victorious, his arm swung over her shoulder; a king and heir returning to their people. Their efforts are known and feared everywhere, and justly so. The peace in the Nine Realms has been hard fought and cost many lives—it is only sheer luck or perhaps skill that herself and her father have both survived the centuries long war across the stars.

Exhaustion is not a feeling she often is privy towards, but today it is the only thing she is able to focus on. Her muscles ache with a pulse she hasn't felt in many years—at least since her training began. Her hair is slicked back with likely only frozen sweat, the ponytail she tugged it back into falling apart with large clumps of her hair sticking to her pale face, lightly frosted. The bitter wind is digging into her skin and despite her many layers of clothing and the spells cast to prevent her from feeling it. She honestly expects nothing less of Jotunheim, however, the Frost Giant's realm isn't exactly known for having a warm and sunny climate.

Or really sun at all. 

The planet's people put up a far greater fight than Asgard was expecting, even as startling as the sudden counter attack was. Her father had called the defense for Midgard abruptly, so the army wasn't as prepared as it should have been. There has been a tense peace for some three? (maybe four) years before the Frost Giants attack on Midgard, but nonetheless they should have been prepared. Or seen something. The signs of the fraying peace treaty between the Frost Giants and the rest of the Realms has always been fairly obvious to those who were looking.

Asgard was not.

They had their hands pressed firmly over their eyes and refused to peak through the cracks. 

The battle was long, much longer than Hela was intentionally expecting and neither side walked away unscathed. The rest of the army has already returned to Asgard via the Bifrost, but Hela is waiting for Odin to make a reappearance. He sent his people home some six hours previous and Hela was supposed to go with them (she didn't) as he sweeps the land for any more surviving Asgardians. He typically does it after every battle and Hela usually joins him (sensing for their life, a skill that she's possessed since a young age), but King Laufey got a good hit into her leg and she's having trouble walking and general movement as well as seeing straight from pain. Stubbornness is one of her main drives, however, and her family is famous for it.

And so, Hela sits on top of the Bifrost sight in butterfly position, her arms hanging loosely in her lap one hand occasionally straying to rub the bandages hastily covering her upper thigh. Her stepmother is going to lose her head about it, it's an ugly wound that bleeds sluggishly or rapidly whenever it feels like it. Even with her enhanced healing, it's taking a long time to close or really do anything but ache. The stab in itself was clean enough, just the frostbite that's making it worse; Laufey's ice dagger made certain of that. She hasn't looked at the wound closely yet, but she imagines that the skin around the initial bleed is a messy work of black and blue skin. It will not be a pleasant recovery. Leg wounds never are.

Hela drums her fingers over her knee absently, releasing a soft sigh of boredom and closes her eyes. She's never been good at peace or waiting around absently. Her veins thrive on the thrill of battle, the burn of her muscles as her hands toss weapon after weapon towards her targets. The rush of adrenaline that follows—she's shamelessly addicted to it. Sitting down and reading is nearly the death of her unless it's for tactical purposes (even then). She often grows bored at the beyond mundane parties and political dinners. Hela has always been incapable of sitting still, and is it a frequent annoyance to Frigga, but Hela doesn't mind to much. She was always running on energy that spanned from nowhere and her parents struggled to keep up with her.

Despite herself though, Hela is slightly dreading returning to Asgard—and it's not just because the war is over and they need to deal with the aftermath. She's thrilled to return to her stepmother and the palace with Asgard's soft hills and forests unlike the cold bitter wasteland of Jotunheim, but she doesn't want to put up with Thor, her younger brother. She...doesn't dislike Thor per say, but her brother drives her slightly crazy. If they were closer in age, Hela thinks that they would get along better, but there's a few centuries that just don't add up. He's just...argh. 

He's not talking super well despite his age and has a lisp that makes his sentences nearly beyond understanding, but Hela can't help the slightly replaced feeling that succumbs her when she sees him. She knows (tries to assure herself, more accurately) that her stepmother and father love her, but everything seems to just be on Thor now—not that she loves attention or anything, but some of it would be nice. Thor walked today, he said this or did that—whatever. Hela exhales through her nose the chill air burning her lungs with a slight sting of metal and burning water. (Likely caused by the fact that she's sitting on the Bifrost sight).

Hela lifts her head up slightly as she hears the distinct sound of her father walking; she's trained herself to pick out the differences in strides (for keeping watch on battle sights) and she notes that it is just him. There are no following footsteps, which means he found no other survivors. The weight distribution of his feet indicates this as well. 

He didn't find any others. It is only him and her.

As it has been for the last six hours since Asgard retreated. The re-written peace treaty has been in effect for perhaps a complete day now. 

His boots make a crunch against the stiff, frozen snow and she allows a small smirk on the edge of her lips not opening her eyes as she asks, "Enjoying the sights, are we?"

Odin comes to a halt. "I told you to return with the others." His voice is stretched slightly, as though something else is on his mind. Perhaps it's his eye. The wound is terrible, bleeding openingly and will likely succumb to infection if they linger on Jotunheim any longer. It was delivered by Laufey after he stabbed her leg and the blood swept down to her feet and--best not to recall that, she thinks. Hela turns her head towards him and opens her eyes, eyebrow arching sarcastically as if he really believes she would do that. He isn't looking at her face however, eye focused elsewhere.

Odin is standing a few feet from her, Gungnir strapped to his back on a holster and a small bundle cradled close to his chest. A thin piece of fabric from his cape is wrapped around the...thing and it takes a second before both Hela's eyebrows shoot upwards in surprise when she hears a soft noise. Something like a tired cry.

"What is that?" She questions, rising to her feet.

Is he starting a rock collection? That's very unlike him.

The bundle is big enough that her father holds it with two hands, yet looks so small. Her father is quiet in answer and Hela's curiosity takes better hold of her. Instead of waiting for a verbal answer (that likely her father won't give), she staggers to her feet, pain pulsing through the burned wound and she clenches her teeth, but moves forward grasping her father's shoulder for support subconsciously as the pain increases. Odin takes the pressure easily and slowly extends the cradled cloth to her, with some reluctance. Her eyes widen considerably at the deep blue skin and red eyes staring up at her from the bundle blinking up at her.

A babe.

A Frost Giant baby.

What is he thinking!? Hela rips away from her father and summons a small knife from her hand the energy draining her already exhausted supply and she swings her hand forward to slash his throat, but is halted as Odin's free hand grabs her wrist halting the movement, pulling the child back towards him in protection. Is he insane? Did Laufey rip out more than just his eye? Hela jerks her head upwards towards him, frustrated and looking for an answer on why. 

The Jotunn's have done nothing to merit their mercy. 

They killed thousands on Midgard, and more in numbers of their own people. 

This war has been bitter, and she has no intentions on starting another with this creature. 

The child must have cursed him. Doesn't he understand that this is their enemy? That's why they're here, to drive them back. They aren't here to collect prisoners, or give quarter, they don't help the--oh.

Hela's hand goes lax in surprise as the baby switches his appearance to a Aesir, wrapping his small arms around his body and staring at Hela's blade with...fright something close to fright and desperation, the wide green eyes are staring up at her pleadingly. The green is begging, but holds no hope of her choice. Even so young, the child has accepted it's fate. 

"I…" Hela draws out slowly, unsure. The unsteadiness of this seems unright. She's split in between kicking the child into the snow without looking back and demanding answers from her father, or taking the child from his arms and holding it until he's not afraid anymore. Where is this coming from? Hela has never felt such an instinct with children before, she's awful with anyone under the age of ten. 

Hela lifts her gaze to meet with her father. His gaze is soft as he gazes down on the child, his thumb slowly stroking across the babes head in soothing manner to keep the infants tears at bay. This mercy is something she wouldn't have recognized in him two centuries ago, but now...Hela watches him closely, then comes to a sick realization. 

Surely...surely he doesn't plan to keep the Frost Giant child, and by that same token, where did he even get the thing? Why would he take it? 

Odin still has a grip on Hela's forearm, preventing the small knife from impaling the babe, not that she has plans to anyway. Not anymore. 

How did he even change his appearance like that? The skill (from what she understands from her stepmother) is extremely hard to learn—even if a person is gifted in sorcery. His magical skills are either amazing or Odin did it. But why? It doesn't seem like him, and the child reacted to her, not Odin, he was to busy pulling the blade back that performing sorcery—Why is she even thinking about this?

Hela's pale blue eyes lift towards her father's, waiting for explanation.

"I found him in Kri's Temple; left to die," Her father explains softly, his voice is gentle with the barest edge of fondness laced to it. Fondness? "He has been there for days at least. I believe it was the father's intent to let him die," his voice is hard at this, before he adds in a bare tone: "He is Laufey's son."

Hela's breath catches slightly. "Oh."

Laufey left his child—his blood—in Kri's Temple to die. He left a baby to die. What kind of sick twisted mind does the man have? It's war, yes, but Hela wouldn't leave a child to die. Especially not her own.

She doesn't feel this...fondness that Odin apparently has stretched to the child, just the barest form of sympathy. Her father meets her eyes earnestly with his single one, "We're taking him to your mother, she should know what to do with him." He says and Hela nods slightly. Her stepmother will find the abandoned child a home, probably with a rich family on Alfheim or some other.

Hela draws the blade back and Odin releases her arm tucking the bundle closer to him, carefully shielding the babe from view before turning his head towards the sky, "Heimdall—open the Bifrost!"

000o000

She and her father meet her stepmother in her parents chambers some twenty minutes later after Odin refuses to receive medical help for his eye until the child is safely tucked away with Frigga. Hela goes slightly for the same reason, but mostly because she hates the official healers in Asgard and always goes to her stepmother first, then drags herself down to them if her stepmother forces her too.

As soon as the two of them step into the quarters, Frigga throws herself on them, squishing them together in a tight hug. Hela's leg jerks and she bites back a groan of pain, digging her teeth into her tongue painfully as her father has to balance the babe precariously to not be smashed by Frigga's relief and love. After a moment, she pulls back and stares at Hela first giving a warm smile that soothes down the rest of Hela's nerves.

"Welcome home, my family." She says softly. Loud enough to be heard by both of them, but not enough to stray much further. "I trust your travels went well." 

No, not really. 

Hela and her father share a balanced look before returning their gaze to Frigga. Her stepmother looks more stressed than Hela remembers when they went off to war five—six?—months ago. Her golden blonde hair is messy at best, and a tattered knot in the most. She looks a tad bit paler than Hela recalls and her shoulders hang the weight of exhaustion between them, but the brightness in her eyes assures Hela that she is not unwelcome here.

Frigga's eyes stray to her off-balance then to her leg after a moment and her forehead creases with concern. She gestures vagually towards the sitting room on the far side of the room, "Go sit down." She commands. There's a roaring hearth placed against the wall and three couches lined around the hearth with a small table in the center. The flame is burning brightly and, with the ache of cold in her bones, it's immediately appealing. Hela staggers towards the couch, but stops as Frigga inhales sharply and her hands fly towards her mouth, turning her head to glance back at her parents for a moment.

Frigga's eyes are staring at the bloody wound across Odin's face with concern, the bandages in her other hand. 

"It is not as bad as it appears." Odin assures. 

That is a lie; it's worse. 

"Odin…" Frigga breathes as she stares up at the messy eye wound, wrapped as best as they could in the heat of battle, which wasn't much. They had healers with them, but most were killed before they could return to Asgard. Sorcery is not a common skill among Asgardians anymore and the sedir-wielding healers they could send weren't many. Hela releases a soft breath and resists the urge to laugh. Yeah, if she thinks that is the biggest surprise, wow is she in for a treat.

Assuredly, her stepmother takes a step backwards as she sees the bundle tucked in Odin's arms, Hela turns back to the couch.

"Oh, Norns," Frigga moans quietly, "That's a child." She states obviously.

Once again, Hela holds her tongue from a sarcastic state-the-obvious-tone that wants to escape. Hela purses her lips together as her parents begin to talk in a hushed tone behind her, Frigga closing the door to her parent's bedchamber that she and her father left open when they entered for privacy and begin to speak in hushed, but sharp tones to each other. Hela shakes of the pang of longing at their ignorance of her and as directed by her stepmother previously sits on the couch, stiffly.

The warmth immediately embraces her from the flames and just the very act of sitting on something soft is relieving, the hard ice of Jotunheim has not exactly been comforting. She glances towards the other end and bites the inside of her lip and barely manages to not tug at all her messy hair-which she should brush. Soon.

Sitting on the other end of the couch, valiantly staring at a book, but obviously not reading much of anything is Thor. The young Asgardian is on his back, his head resting against the couch blond hair in front of his wide blue, innocent eyes. It's close to the middle of the night so Hela's pretty sure that their mother let him stay up long enough to welcome them home when they didn't arrive with the rest of the army.

As soon as she sits on the couch though, Thor perks instantly from his still, undead-like state. He gives a wide smile that shows off his (admittedly little) teeth and tosses the book towards the ground where it skids along the rug towards the magically protected flames and scrambles across the couch towards her. "Sist'r!" He cries with strong enthusiasm and wraps his small arms around her.

Hela's bruises and exhausted muscles groan in protest and she feels her expression grow tight, but nonetheless pats her younger brother's arm with very little affection. "Thor." She says, less enthusiastically. The younger is oblivious to it, however, and pulls back sitting cross legged to her right wiggling with excitement, eyes staring at her with a large smile.

Hela casts an irritated expression towards the ceiling. The willingness she has to deal with children is close to nothing and draining quickly. Hela purses her lips together and drums her fingers along her uninjured leg, fully aware that Thor is staring at her expectantly. Why? She has no idea. Children thrive on attention and Hela isn't willing to give him any. After a moment she removes her boots and rests them to the side of the couch purposefully ignoring Thor's look of absolute wonder, as though he's never seen anyone do it before in his life.

She's exhausted, tired, dirty, in pain and his innocent attitude isn't helping.

All she wants is sleep and Thor to go away so she can talk to her stepmother and father without him just being there taking some of Frigga's attention. Somewhere close to five minutes later (in the which Hela has a rising suspicion that Thor didn't blink once) Frigga walks around the couch, the Frost Giant child in her arms. Hela's eyebrows raise slightly at just how natural it looks for him to be there. The babe is finally asleep, but resting against Frigga's chest as if she were his mother.

Frigga is holding him the same way.

Oh, Norns…

Her stepmother would never turn down a child in need of assistance and apparently this one, for whatever reason, has struck her stepmother and now she plans on keeping him. Hela releases a stream of mental curses. Two siblings? To younger brothers? Is she not enough for her parents anymore? Thor stopped Odin's conquest for war and denied her the high ranking position of executioner. Thor rewrote the history of Asgard as she stood lamely to the sides trying to figure out her role now. What more can this one take from her?

She's nowhere near ready to be queen, barely out of her Midgardian teenagehood, but still the pang of replacement is strong. Frigga gives her a soft smile and Hela stares at the babe with something close to hate. "Father left for the healers then?" She asks, more so of a statement than a question, but Frigga nods anyway.

"Yes, after a bit of fighting; I sent General Tyr with him. Your father and I have agreed to keep the child." She says, as if it wasn't already obvious. "His name is to be Loki."

Thor turns away from her (finally) and his eyes rest on the small child—Loki—curiously. Frigga's smile widens, "Meet your little brother, Thor." She whispers and kneels down in front of the couch to let Thor see the baby. Thor smiles encouragingly, though it's clear the meaning is lost to him. Frigga smiles softly and rests a hand on his leg, "You're going to take care of each other, see, brother." She repeats the word and Thor looks up at her.

"He's small." He says simply, Frigga's eyes tighten around the edges. Thor seems to catch this and rests a hand on her forearm. "Don't worry, Amma, I protect him." 

"Yes, you will," Frigga agrees softly. She smooths down some of Thor's hair, "For now why don't you go get some sleep? I can have Freya--" 

"No." Thor disagrees, "I stay here. With sistr till she feels better." 

Hela rather wishes he'd go away, but keeps the thought private. 

Her stepmother's shoulders slump with defeat and Frigga turns to her, "Will you hold him as I patch your leg?"

Her first response is surprise because Frigga rarely let her hold Thor (though she didn't volunteer much, anyway), and the second is immediate rejection because she wants little to do with this child that has just stolen her parents, again.

After a moment of hesitation Hela finally nods softly, anyway. Frigga beams happily and gently hands Loki to her. The baby twitches slightly at her touch, but after a moment settles himself. He's so cold, Hela realizes after a second. Even with his Asgardian skin covering his true form he doesn't feel like Thor or she does. He's much lighter than she expected as well and in this moment it becomes painfully clear to her just how much of a runt he truly is.

So trusting though.

Loki has no hair and can't be more than a few weeks old, if that. She's heard stories from ladies in the court about children who scream for hours on end after birth and don't quite for months. Beyond a few noises of discomfort, Loki has only been quiet. His eyelids are fluttering slightly as if he's trying to wake, and Hela stares at him trying to find any other emotion beyond antipathy and pity for him. Frigga unwraps the hastily bandages around her wound then rolls up Hela's pant leg and gives a hum of protest and concern as she sees the wound.

The skin is indeed blackened at the edges and blistered around the initial stab. 

"You were walking on this?" Frigga looks flabbergasted, "This looks bad, Hela." She says after a second and twists her hand, yellow magic seeping from her fingers. As the healing spell works its way into the burned stab Hela gives a sigh of relief and closes her eyes in contentment. Numbing is never her favorite thing, but healing spells are usually aggravatingly painful and she'd rather be numb that in further agony. 

"I know," Hela says after a second in response to her mother's comment, gently lifting a finger up to shift Loki's hand, his fingers make a grab for her finger, but she pulls it back before he can clench his hold. "I can feel it."

"I would assume you can." Frigga says softly. "You walked on this. You rode a horse back to the palace on this." She shakes her head several times.

Hela shrugs, "I've had worse."

"That doesn't make it better." Frigga says firmly, "I'll contact Madame Lize about bringing up some food, I don't think that sorcery will be enough for this. You were away from Asgard for to long." 

Hela nods with agreement. Even now she can feel Asgard's life slowly filling up her exhausted energy supplies, refueling what was empty and releasing a weight on her chest. Without connection to Asgard and lack of supplies from army rationing, her healing has been slower and less effective. It's just the way the Nine is, the further away you get from your Realm of birth, the weaker healing becomes without substance to keep it up to speed.  

Time passes slowly in silence as Frigga concentrates on binding her skin back together and healing the burns. Hela keeps her eyes pinched firmly closed, her body tilted back and head resting against the couch. Loki's small form rests against her chest almost as if he's trying to get as close to her as possible; his weight doesn't bother her, it's merely there.

Thor falls asleep after a little while his soft snores echoing up into the open air. Somewhere close to an hour later from when Frigga started the healing, Hela can no longer bite back the question that's been burning within her: "Why did you keep him, Mother?" She asks, still not opening her eyes. It's not too hard to guess what it is she's referring to, but Hela still adds: "The Frost Giant."

Frigga's soothing magic falters for a moment before she sighs softly. She's quiet for a few more seconds, gathering her thoughts, Hela assumes. "Hela," she says softly. She draws her name sweetly, so gently, like she used to do when she and Hela didn't know each other well after she had just married her father. "I think that you will not truly understand a mother's bond until you are one."

Hela can't help the bitter snort that escaped her, "Bond?" She repeats dubiously, "Is that what you call it? Why is it that you had to have Thor to replace me, then? I know I am not your birth child, but what have I done so wrong that I wasn't enough for you anymore?" The sharp questions slide off her tongue before Hela has any time to filter them. Frigga's magic comes to an abrupt halt (though she was done anyway and just numbing the most severe pains) and Hela feels the guilt start to build at the bottom of her stomach.

She should have kept that private.

Hela snaps her jaw shut.

"Oh, dearheart," Frigga says softly, more like a breath being released than a real statement. Hela keeps her eyes shut and hears Frigga shift before she sits down next to her on the couch, Thor releasing a slight noise as the weight is disrupted differently. Hela slowly opens her eyes and turns to look at her stepmother whose expression is knitted into worry. "Is that how you truly feel?"

Hela remains quiet, staring at Loki as he brings his hands up towards his face, small fist tucked under his nose.

"We didn't replace you." Frigga says.

Hela smiles thinly.

"Hela," her mother grasps her shoulder, "You will always be my first child. You are important to me. People think that just because I love another I don't have room for more—but this isn't true. I love Odin with my whole heart, just I do you, though his love is different unique to both of you. I know that Thor has been taking my time and that Loki will as well, but I love each of you differently—but none less than the other. You and I share a bond that Thor, Loki or even your father will understand."

Hela feels her expression softening with every word and the relief that crashes through her is intense. 

Her stepmother glances at Thor resting on the other end of the couch on his back, legs sticking straight out. She looks back at Hela earnestly, "I promise you that Thor wasn't meant to be your replacement."

Hela sighs and nods, she knows this, deep within her and it always kept the bitterness at bay if only for a little while. "I know," she admits quietly, "but at times I wonder, everything changed because of him."

"Asgard is in need of switching our ways, we have grown arrogant and power hungry these last few years. Your father is looking for a way to change that." Frigga assures, "This change is not because of Thor."

Hela ignores the silent protesting in the back of her mind that denies what Frigga just said that Asgard isn't power thirsty because she feels the same as her people and wouldn't that make her lust after the same thirst?

A good king never seeks out war, but he must always be ready for it.

What does that make her then? She agrees with Asgard's ways and was bitter at the change. Why didn't her father tell her why he was changing them? She often feels he gives more half truths than he does anything else. At least her stepmother is always honest with her, even if the truth is sometimes brutal. Hela purses her lips together and looks down at Loki again. The name suits him, she decides after a moment. Just as Thor suits Thor. "I am sorry." Frigga says after a few seconds of silence. Hela turns to look at her mother and shakes her head.

"It is alright, I apologize as well. I will try harder with Thor, after all he has to deal with this little nightmare." Hela says and glances down at Loki. The baby looks in utter defiance of her statement with his peaceful expression and utter innocence that screams off of him in waves. He's leaning against her in a show of trust that Hela doesn't understand how he does so without knowing her much.

Frigga gives her shoulder a squeeze, "Thank you."

Hela gives a small smirk in answer before contenting herself on the couch. "Do you intend to tell him of his heritage?" Hela asks looking down at Loki again. Her mother hesitates looking unsure and bites her lip.

"I do not think so, your father thought it would be for the best if we wait." She says and looks conflicted. Hela hums slightly, not sure where she stands. On the one hand, it could be better for him to grow up normally and tell him when he's older and the Frost Giants aren't quite as hated yet on the other...secrets aren't free.

"I see." Hela says at last and Frigga gives a small nod before wrapping her arm around Hela's shoulders and pulling her close to her.

"Sleep, my child, you are weary." She says. Hela is. She's exhausted physically, mentally, and any other way exhaustion can creep inwards. The addition to her family is strange, but yet seems normal from a distance viewpoint. Hela tucks Loki close to her and leans against Frigga's shoulder allowing herself to accept the rest and the love easily.

Frigga kisses the top of her forehead after nearly a minute and runs a hand through her dark tangles. The feeling of her fingers running across her long hair is soothing and Hela realizes with a pang just how much she missed her stepmother on the battlefield. She loves the thrill of war but tranquility has it's moments. Hela feels herself slip lower into sleep through her mother's soft persuasion and before she slides completely quietly whispers, "Goodnight, little brothers."

Chapter Text


 “So you agree then? With my father?” Hela asks quietly, not looking back at the receiver of her question.

She remains still, sitting on the steps to the dais, her hand resting on her chin. Her elbow is digging into her knee and the dark long sleeve is tucked over her pale skin. Her inky black hair is pouring over her shoulders the attempted braid it was in earlier a lost cause. Her hair is so stick-straight it’s nearly impossible to get it to stay in anything.

After a moment of silence, Hela turns to look back at Heimdall, whose face and eyes, per usual, portray nothing of what he’s thinking. Admittedly, it frustrates her just how blank the man can be sometimes. Over time, she has come to read him easier over time, but there are still moments, such as these where his thoughts are impossible to find on his face or stance. 

Heimdall is quiet for a few more seconds before he gives a slow nod of his head, “Asgard’s people are indeed ready for amble change. Somewhere within you, my Lady, you know this.” He answers.

Hela gives a huff of minor frustration before sighing and turning back to stare at the walls of the observatory. No, no she doesn’t. Her father is rather insistent on the idea though, and every time Hela attempts to bring it up to him he gives that exhausted, weary sigh that Hela’s grown far to familiar with recently. What of her then? She sees  nothing wrong with the way that Asgard is moving—with its progression to conquer everything. 

The only safe hands are their own.

She’s not lusting after blood. She doesn't care for that, but she has seen more peace treaties fall apart in her youth than she cares to count (or even is she can) and she knows that the only rule she can trust is Asgard's. The rest of the cosmos is chaos and the only way to bring order is for Asgard to take over. 

Hela glowers darkly at a small spot on the floor where paint’s been scrubbed off from someone's heel, a sword, or other then frowns before tossing her hands outwards with a groan of frustration and rising to her feet.

“But I don’t see it yet. Everyone in the court keeps insisting and telling me that the change is good—but no one will tell me why.” Hela says sharply the words just sliding off of her tongue before she really filters them. Not that she has to with Heimdall, he just knows, anyway.

Heimdall has been an acquaintance of her’s since she was a small child. Her ability to work with the dead and sense their presence around her frightened other children off when none of the others could see the “skeleton-men”. Admittedly, Hela’s sure that her parents thought her slightly mad until Odin finally realized what the issue was. Once it was realized, Odin had all of the bodies beneath the castle burned and sent to the sky as new stars a custom of their elders Odin had to drop for the severity of the death that rained upon them. With the peace up and running again, Hela is positive that the tradition will continue and she will see less of them, the skeleton-Men. No one is exactly sure how it fell upon her, but few question it unless they want a blade to their face.

She's not a witch, or a sorceress, so her idiosyncrasy has been forever rebuked by the citizens as well as the curia regis, Asgard's council members. 

In fact, Hela has never been extremely gifted with sorcery as much of Asgard's people are now. Her stepmother hails from Alfheim so her bloodlines are rich with the art. Hela has mastered only a handful of spells and has perfected them to point she hardly has to think about the actions anymore. Unlike most believe her to be, she is not limitlessly supplied with weapons. She pulls them from where she knows they are to occupy the space in her hand. Because, as surprisingly as most people find it, and fairly unwoman-like Hela is a skilled blacksmith. She took several years of apprentice-ship from the dwarfs on Alfheim when she was younger and is well respected in many Realms for her craft. 

Hela runs a hand through her ragged hair in her distress, her fingers getting caught in one of the many knots and she purses her lips tightly. She needs to brush it. She’s not a vain woman, never has been, (battle doesn’t give you time to be) so the state of her hair doesn’t bother her much. She does like to look nice when they aren’t rushing into war so she doesn’t resemble a half-dead thing wandering the halls of Asgard’s palace claiming to be royalty. Seeming how Asgard has struck up peace treaties with all the Realms but Midgard, she’ll have to start focusing on it more.

“You worry too much.” Heimdall states calmly. Hela shoots him an irritated glance and continues to pace back and forth, the sound of her heeled boots clanking against the large, quiet building. She gathers her thoughts for another moment trying to figure out verbally how she can express just why she doesn’t agree with her king. She should. There is a purpose to everything her father does. 

“I fear I am not worrying enough. Heimdall I—” Hela pauses and releases a breath to prepare herself before continuing, “I don’t agree with my father. The safest hands are our own—weren’t we trying to prove that? Why are we bargaining power to those we know will misuse it?”

Heimdall hums thoughtfully and shifts his hands position on his sword resting his left hand over his right and both on top of the hilt.

“I feel I should take action,” Hela admits, quietly, “prove to him that he’s not doing it right. Peace doesn’t last long and I don’t feel the need to pretend it does.”

At this, Heimdall eyes her. His yellow gaze bore into her own with such a sole-ripping-apart intensity that few don’t cower to. Hela is among them. “I fear your need to understand is leading you to make rash decisions, my Lady; you should take time to ponder this.”

“I have,” Hela says, not missing a beat. “It’s all I can do with Mother and Father busy trying to fix the broken bonds and take care of my brothers. I feel so useless, Heimdall, Mother does not entrust me with Loki or Thor’s care, though I know that the stress is starting to run her ragged. Loki doesn't handle a nursemaid well and refuses to be handed to them and Thor refuses to do anything else until Loki feels better. I know I can help, but no one is letting me. My parents are going to drive themselves to their graves. The treaties are stretched so thin they’re nearly see-through. There are others on Asgard who feel as I do—that Father has made a thoughtless decision.”

“I am aware of them.” Heimdall says, steadily and draws his gaze back, “Their actions appear to be right on the outward appearance, but joining them is sure to start a civil war.”

Hela’s eyes widen slightly and she clenches her fists, “I’m not trying to start an uprising, I just—”

“You will understand in time, my Lady, be patient.”

“'Patience'  has never been my strong suit.” Hela grits between her teeth. She exhales deeply, trying to keep her emotions under control. She’s not angry—well she’s minorly angry—yes, she’s angry, but that’s beside the point. She’s trying to view this through the special lens that only select few on Asgard seem to have access to.

Hela turns the fabric of her green skirt, swirling around her boots to ask Heimdall what it is then that he thinks she can do to help her parents, but pauses as the usually blank face is drawn up in slight panic. His eyebrows are meeting beneath his helmet and a growing knot of discomfort washes through her along with confusion. Heimdall isn’t emotionless—those who rank him so are idiots, but rarely does he let it show. Honestly in all her life, Hela can name on one hand the amount of times she’s seen something else but the ever persistent blank on his face.

This is bad.

“Hela,” He says, calm as ever despite the crease between his brows and the pit in her stomach digs deeper because Heimdall rarely calls her by her first name. Only when she’s being foolish and he needs to grab her attention or he’s worried about something. Over years from speaking with him, they have become close friends and Hela would be probably be among very few to call herself "close" with the gatekeeper. “You need to remain here.” Heimdall says firmly. 

This is worse.

What? Why?” Hela asks in confusion and draws herself up a little higher, “I can take care of my—is the palace under attack?” Hela asks realization of what it is hitting her mid-sentence. Hela immediately swivels her head in the direction Serenity, where the tips of the golden palace lay in the center of the capital.

“No.” Heimdall shoots down before she finishes.

Hela squints her vision lingering beyond the Bifrost bridge. “Is something wrong with my parents—?” Hela starts again.

“Your mother has been abducted.”

Hela’s blood rushes cold and she feels her heart pump in her ears. Everything is quiet for a moment, then two, before she lets out a rattling breath, “What?”

“They moved to swiftly for me to catch it before-hand, I was paying more attention to you—I apologize—they were searching your chambers before your mother came, I did not notice them until they grabbed her.”

“Did you see who it was?” Hela demands, “Can you see them now? I-I must go warn my father so we can prepare a rescue party and—” Alarm bells are whirring in Hela’s head and she makes a move to rush forward, but Heimall reacts swifter than normal and grabs the crook of her left arm, effectively halting her.

“Wait just a moment.” He says, firmly, if not a little cold.

As effective as the grip is, Hela has been training to be a Valkyrie since she could hold a sword; she twists from his grip, easily, then turns to look back at him, “My mother was just abducted and you want me to wait. Are you mad? Someone must inform my father.

“They were not here for your mother, Hela,” Heimdall says in a patient tone that aggravates her, “they were looking for you. I cannot leave you by yourself so we will tell your father, together.” Heimdall presses the last point tightly and despite how much Hela wants to go and kick something, she holds herself together as best she can and gives a tight nod.

“Fine.”

000o000

Odin, for all his history of a quick temper and easy aggravation, has a relatively calm demeanor at the news. Apparently his dedication to being level headed in recent years isn’t just an act. At the most, her father has an extremely tight expression as Heimdall reveals the information, more than Hela heard (She isn’t sure if it was intentional or not) and gives the abductor with ease.

Dwarfs.

From Nidavellir, and from what she can put together, not from the forgeries next to Solestar, the dying star they use for molding. There are two types of dwarfs that are labeled as "Nidavellirs". There are those that are a roughly the size of a man and then others who are giants. The giants work in the forgeries and there's barely a hundred. The rest live on Nidaveillir and are a rambunctious people. 

The bearded people are downright idiotic if they think that kidnapping the Queen of Asgard was a brilliant idea. Nidavellir must be feeling particularly brave today. Ten points and a round of applause. Good on them, they must be so proud. The treaties with the Realm weren’t exactly finished yet, it was one of the two (Hela can’t remember the other) that Odin and Frigga would not stop worrying and talking over. Thor managed to fling a large (and impressive) quantity of his soup to the ceiling on that particular dinner before either parent noticed. Hela had, but kept quiet watching with slight amusement as her little brother had done so then proudly declared his actions to Loki who just stared at him, if encouragingly, as he usually does any other time Thor speaks to him. Though a month and only a handful of weeks have passed since Loki's arrival on Asgard, Hela can already tell that Thor and Loki will have a tight bond.

“—and we will march to Nidavellir to retrieve her. How soon can we be ready for this?” Odin asks and Hela realizes with a small blink of surprise that she entirely missed a majority of the conversation. 

“That depends on the force we’ll need,” Tyr answers, his voice gruff. Not a surprise though, everything about the Asgardian is gruff. His attitude, his clothing, the way he speaks, his hair, even the way he fights is gruff. He really should carry the title, Tyr “the Gruff” rather than Tyr, "Weapons-Master”. It’s not wrong, Tyr definitely serves his position as general of Asgard’s army well but in honesty, his attitude can be a little maddening sometimes.

Tyr and her father, along with a large majority of the curia regis, turn to look at Heimdall which breaks Hela from her wandering thoughts. She realizes with some effort that she hasn’t spoken or moved since she and Heimdall rushed into the throne room some ten—maybe?—minutes beforehand.

Heimdall is quiet for a moment, looking outward on something they can’t see. “There is no need to bring all of Asgard’s forces; a hundred or so should be sufficient. I cannot see where they have put the queen, but they are preparing weapons.” Heimdall answers.

Odin’s fist clenches tightly around Gungnir, but few not accustomed to him as Hela is would notice. “I should have a force ready by this evening at the latest.” Tyr answers and Odin nods dismissing him silently. Tyr gives a small bow with his head and rushes from the throne room shouting commands at one of the lower ranking soldiers he dragged in here with him.

“A hundred men or so?” A councilman calls out towards Heimdall his voice a badly hidden disagreement, it sparks recognition within her, but Hela can’t place from where. “They have declared war on us by kidnapping the queen. We should send our whole force, let them taste the wrath of those they’ve angered.”

“And solve what?” Odin asks before anyone else can agree or disagree, “We have already been through a long war with Jotunheim, we need not fall into another. This will be a simple retrieval, that is all.”

“All?” The man asks and Hela manages to grab him from the twelve others gathered. Her upper lip curls slightly despite her best efforts. Ah.

Lord Fredilson. Hela doesn't have a great relationship with him, she doesn't really know anyone who does, save maybe the man's mother. His daughter, Imma, loathed Hela for reasons she's never deduced and mercilessly bullied her for years. After a particularity nasty jab about her deceased birth mother, Hela reacted violently sent Imma home in tears. Lord Fredilson has always had something out for her since then.

“Yes, all.” Odin affirms.

"Your Majesty," Lord Fredilson's voice is patient, "you can't allow such an action to go unpunished! The other Realms will--" 

"What?" Odin questions sharply, "What will they do? I do not want to wage a war, but I will fight this battle. The Queen will be returned to us and that is all that matters. You are all dismissed." 

The curia regis slowly shuffles from the room, but Lord Fredilson makes a noise of protest in his throat, dithering for a moment. Nonetheless, wisely deciding not to fight this battle against Odin, smooths his clothing and lifts his head to exit. Hela watches him leave for a second, trying to gather her patience. When the curia regis has exited, Hela turns to her father, taking a step forward. 

“Am I to lead the force to Nidavellir?” Hela questions. Her father shakes his head, turning to look at her.

Hela is puzzled, but nonetheless pushes forward: “I should prepare for battle, then, yes?”

Odin meets her eyes with his single one. “No.”

Hela manages to keep her eyebrows from quirking upwards in surprise (but only just). Odin has wanted her by his side since she made it past her childhood and she has proven herself an asset time and time again. She was his executioner, she is the High Commander. Why not now…?

“I will lead the march forward, you are to take care of your siblings and assist the regents well I am gone. It shouldn’t be more than a few days at most.” Odin says and Hela feels her lips part with surprise. But—she—it—

“I…” Hela swallows, suddenly aware of how dry her throat is. She’s never...well...she’s never been left alone in Asgard by herself without her parents before. Why now? Why doesn’t her father want her to go? She’s a good warrior—everyone knows it. She's renowned with her skill for a blade, she's heard rumors that on other Realms she is referred to as Asgard's "living weapon."

 “You want me to stay here?” Hela asks, for confirmation. She winces slightly, the way she phrased the question sounded like she was almost commanding her father to deny it.

“Yes.” Odin agrees.

“But, I can be of assistance—” Hela starts to argue, raising her hands as her anxiety increases. She has to do something. She can’t just sit here and watch idly—she just can’t.

“The dwarfs, for whatever reason desire you, Hela. This is not about your need to be helpful in a place you cannot be.” Odin’s voice is sharp and Hela feels frustration building in her at the tone. She’s not a child, Norns, she's been an adult by Asgardian standers for nearly a century she doesn’t need protection.

“I—”

“Hela,” Odin says, his voice is softer this time and Hela clips her own sentence short giving a sharp bite at her tongue. “This is not a king speaking, it is a weary father desiring his children to be kept safe. Thor and Loki are in your mother and I’s chambers resting, the nursemaid should be attending.” Odin says. With that stated, he rises to his feet Gungnir making a distinct clank on the ground as he strides from the room, Heimdall following after a moment. 

Hela clenches her fists together tightly and bites her tongue to withhold her scream of frustration.

She is a warrior. Not a babysitter.

000o000

Reluctant as she is, Hela finds herself in her parents room a few hours later—her father well on his way through the Bifrost—to Thor playing with the edge of a blanket from the book he's diligently staring at, to look up at her with wide innocent blue eyes as Loki sleeps onwards. With nothing else to do, but reluctantly stuck at their side until her parents return Hela summons a weapon she was working on earlier into her hand and beings to sharpen it.

After watching from a distance for a little, Thor moves towards her and stares up at her quickly moving hands curiously, “Why are you doing that?” He asks quietly his voice slightly slurred. Hela ignores the bristle of irritation directed towards the younger Asgardian and gives a tight smile, but it feels more like a grimace.

“I’m making the weapon sharper.”

“Why?”

“A dull weapon does nothing, Thor.”

“Why?”

“Because it can’t cut through anything.”

“Why?”

“For the love of—if it’s not sharp,” Hela says and raises the small dagger into light the edges gleaming, “it won't be able to slice anything.” Hela gives a sharp look at the ceiling trying to drown her annoyance by staring at the colors of it. “You were so much easier to deal with when you couldn’t talk.”

Thor, oblivious to her meaning, just continues to stare at the sword.

This continuous on for roughly an hour, Thor occasionally pausing her to ask another question, or the time he insisted that she hold the blanket he dragged from across the room before Loki wakes up and begins to whine slightly. Hela hasn’t heard him cry much, he usually just stares creepily and makes her feel self conscious even though it’s a baby and the notion is utterly ridiculous. She twists her wrist sending the sword and sharpener back to her desk and moves across the carpeted room her shoeless feet moving silently across it.

Thor is following after her like a loyal dog and Hela takes a moment to snort at that thought before gently grabbing Loki from the cradle he was laying in, his cool skin even through the fabric of his clothing causing her fingers to twitch slightly. Loki, however, is not content with just being held and continues to give a whine. Hela squeezes her eyes shut and tries to think what it is he wants.

What do babies usually need? Warmth? Food? Is he sick? 

Hela presses a hand to his forehead, he doesn't feel ill. 

“He’s sad.” Thor states in an unhappy voice and Hela glances down at him to where he's standing next to her leg, blanket wrapped around his shoulders, wide blue eyes looking up at the baby in her arms. Thor hesitates for a moment before looking at her again, “Why?”

Hela bites her lip and rocks Loki slightly but the movement doesn’t settle him. His wide green eyes just stare up at her. Hela takes a second to process that Thor even asked a question before biting her lip, “I don’t know.” She admits. Frigga isn’t here so Hela can’t give him her and—oh, Norns she knows nothing about children. She spent a good amount of time avoiding Thor as an adolescent through the war so she didn’t see any of Frigga’s magical baby tricks. Hela holds Loki for another moment before swallowing her pride and balances Loki in one arm grasping Thor around the waist and lifting him up with her other so he’s resting against her hip. Thor claps his hands and lets out an uncharacteristic giggle.

Eir should know what to do. Hela is helpless in this subject and admittedly it’s a little frustrating. Thor doesn’t complain at the sudden height difference and Hela moves through the castle swiftly looking for any sign of the chief healer. She passes over a dozen guards who look a little startled to see her holding her siblings (honestly she doesn’t hate them that much) before finally making it to the healing wing.

Eir has to be here, if she isn’t, Hela may cry actual tears of helplessness.

With a stroke of luck Hela doesn’t usually carry, Eir is preparing the healing wing with a few other healers obviously for the return of the charge against the dwarfs. At the sign of Loki’s soft sniffles, she turns and gives Hela a precarious look. She hums slightly before moving forward and takes Loki from her hands gently. “You give up already?” Eir asks with a raised eyebrow.

Hela huffs, slightly embarrassed because it's true. “I don’t know anything about taking care of children.” She admits, she shifts Thor’s position so she can balance him with two hand instead of one. “What is wrong with, Loki?”

Eir sighs and shakes her head giving the barest roll of her eyes, “There’s not anything wrong with him; he’s hungry.”

Oh.” Hela says and bites her inner lip. Yeah...that solves nothing. Erm...“What am I supposed to do?”

“Frigga needs to feed him, but as she's not present, you'll need to find some warm nut-milk—go to Madame Lize. She'll understand what I mean. Loki has not taken well to other lactose." Eir answers, slightly impatiently. She's not busy, but Eir is patient for nothing. 

Hela gnaws on her inner lip before she takes the child from Eir's arms gently, “Madame Lize." Eir repeats.

"Alright," Hela agrees and turns on her heal trying to retain as much dignity as she can and strides from the room working towards the kitchens trying to stuff down the rising panic. If her parents die out there on Nidavellir, this will be her responsibility. Her siblings, the kingdom, everything. Despite how much she's been trying to prove otherwise lately, she feels very young. 

Hela shakes her head to clear the thoughts and picks up her pace a little. The length of her dress covers her socks lacking shoes that she’s sure her stepmother and tutors would have a fit over if they saw her now. She didn’t have time to put on shoes, Loki was in her arms for a moment then she was off to Eir in another. Thor grabs a strand of her hair absentmindedly and begins to twirl it around his small fingers.

Hela notes the action, but doesn’t do anything. If he tugs then she’ll react, but it’s not bothering her and honestly she’s more focused on trying to get Loki to quiet. He’s starting to sound slightly like he’s gasping his final dying breaths and being known to not like her siblings very much, the guards she passes are sending her curious glances, if it not a little concerned. 

Hela reaches the kitchens somewhere close to fifteen minutes later and during the process had to shoot more than a dozen servants and guards who looked at her questionably and Thor managed to tangle his hand utterly in the strands of her inky black hair. He seems to realize that tugging on it is bad idea and is instead trying with vain to extract his tangled hand with his free one.

As she reaches the door Hela turns so she opens it backwards as to not smack Thor or Loki’s small bodies against the wood. The smells that greet her are sweet to the point of making her slightly nauseous, but Hela pushes past it. The cooks come to a halt in their rushed, wild, yet contained chaos. The head cook, Madame Lize gives a wide smile at her entrance and Hela is grateful for it. Lize has this way with making everyone feel immediately comfortable in the room, a skill Hela has never been able to replicate. 

Madame Lize waves her employees on and moves to greet her. “Can I get you something, sweetheart?” Lize asks.

Hela helplessly holds out Loki towards the flour covered cook. “Eir says he’s hungry and I don’t know what to do. She mentioned something about nut-milk.” She says by way of explanation.

Lize gives a wide smile and the other cooks mimic her. The expression is likely not meant to be mocking, but it bares that all the same. Lize brushes her hands against her apron and takes her youngest family member from Hela’s arms with delicacy that slightly startles her. It’s as if on contact, Loki might break.

“Come, little prince,” Lize says and waves a finger towards his face. “Let’s go get you some food; Hela you can take a seat over there.” Lize waves a hand towards a vacant bench on the far side of the room and Hela drifts towards it, weaving between people with practiced ease. She keeps an eye on Loki's position by habit.

As she sits down, she settles Thor on her lap and turns her attention to the tangled knot of his hands and his helpless tears. 

She shoves down the sudden rearing desire and demand that she be the one to feed Loki and looks at her hair. Thor’s fingers are weaved between the dark strands terribly and he looks mildly frightened of her. Hela resists the urge to sigh and instead, with more gentleness than she imagined she could muster, grasps at Thor’s wrist with one hand to keep it still and begins to unweave the two of them.

After less than a minute, Thor’s insistent shifting on her lap is driving away her focus as he turns his attention towards where Loki disappeared to constantly fiddling in that direction. Hela had shifted her grip from his wrist to his back relatively quickly to keep him from flying off her lap to the ground. Even then, she barely has half of her hair out before Thor gives a wild yank backwards with his hand and Hela yelps at the pain, both her hands moving to grasp her younger brother before he tumbles off of her and manages to scoop his head from hitting the floor less than and inch away. The horrible sting of her hairline distracts her for barely a second before she realizes that she and Thor are separate and he’s dangling in her arms helplessly.

Hela drags him upright and shoots him and irritated scowl, “Why did you do that?” She demands sharply. His wide blue eyes suddenly look horribly guilty and he shrugs slightly lowering into himself.

Hela sighs and closes her eyes mentally counting to ten before opening them again.

Children.

“If you had waited,” Hela says in a slightly more patient tone, “I could have untangled us both without you yanking half my scalp off.”

Thor’s eyes grow wide, “Whole thing?” He whispers, slightly horrified and Hela nods insistently, ignoring her good sense that pounds against a mental wall in her head in defiance to her lie. She doesn’t want to explain it to Thor that no, that’s unlikely, and it’s just easier for him to decide that yanking at her hair has dire consequences.

“Yes.”

She’s saved from Thor’s horrified babbling as Madame Lize returns with Loki who has quieted and watching the world around him with a piercing stare Heimdall could envy. Hela gives a grateful smile in return she’s sure looks more like a grimace, before heaving Thor upwards again and taking her little brother from the cook’s arms.

“Such a sweetie.” Lize says and smiles brightly, “You bring him by any time, alright?”

Hela nods, admittedly distantly, and moves forward and slips from the room.

As she walks towards her parents bedchamber, Hela decides that if either or her siblings need her it would be easier if she was present in the room. So, Hela dumps Thor onto her parents bed, settles Loki into his crib with soft murmur of comfort, and covers him in a blanket before collapsing onto her parent’s bed beside the blond. Thor stays on the other side for maybe thirty seconds before rolling over and curling up next to her stomach.

Hela freezes at the sudden contact. Um. 

Um, um, um. 

What is she supposed to do?

Her mind scrambles for answers for a second, but she can't find anything helpful. Stabbing him is probably not the solution—Hela! What on the Norn’s—Stabbing him!? He is your little brother!

Frigga would let Thor do this, and even welcome it. Hela was not so old when her father remarried that she did not share some of her childhood with Frigga. The last portion, yes, but she did still share some. She would sneak into her parents room often and Frigga would grasp her by her upper arms and pull her into bed with her and Odin wrapping her arms around her tightly.

Hela hesitantly wraps an arm around Thor’s small body, his blond hair sticking upwards in weird angles, but he sighs contently at her half hug. Hela kicks a spare blanket from the bottom of the bed upwards and grasps it with a single hand before pulling it over herself and Thor.

Sleep doesn’t come easily. Worry for her stepmother and father as the situation which before felt so distant and not really there crashes down on her. Hela bites her lip and without really realizing she’s doing it, starts to stroke Thor’s blond locks for her own comfort or his, she’s not sure. Thor is already asleep whistling softly through his nose and Loki is soundless across the room.

It’s well into the night before Hela’s eyelids grow heavy enough that she slips into sleep.

000o000

The next few days pass in the same routine. Hela wakes up, sends Thor to dress himself, drags herself to her bedchamber for a few minutes to change her own attire, re-ties up her hair and works with Loki for a few minutes. They then retreat to the kitchens where Madame Lize snags Loki from her and the other cooks happily wave over a dozen dishes in their faces.

When they exit, Hela is dragged aside by one diplomat or another and they discuss some of the pressing issues in Asgard currently (and Hela waves one of her ladies in waiting over and entrusts them with Thor and Loki’s care for a few hours), and Hela strives to offer helpful advice to. They don’t comment if she does and Hela feels like she’s failed them. The issues going on in her kingdom Hela finds slightly startling, Asgard was supposed to be perfect, utopia, but...they’re really not.

By day three, Hela thinks she finally understands what her father means by Asgard’s need for change. They are a power seeking race that’s only goal is more. The realization that traits of all these men and women the diplomatics bring to her as “villains” Hela sees in herself is startling. By the time they are done discussing with her, it’s late into the evening and Hela drags herself out to the Bifrost with Loki and Thor to see if word has come from Heimdall.

As much as Asgard prides itself in their gatekeeper—how nothing eludes his sight—there are areas in Realms, and beyond, where his sight can’t reach. Bits of the battlefield are among those. Strategic, if Hela must admit it. Heimdall assures her at the end of day three since her mother’s capture that they have rescued her and are working their way back, but were halted.

If Valkyries still remained from their gruesome deaths by Jotunheim, they would have been sent to offer aid. As it is, they can't send any to assist without the possibility of losing them, so they much watch. 

On the end of day five, Hela sits on the observatory ground, leaning against a wall watching Heimdall’s eyes that swivel back and forth seeing something she can’t. Thor is currently a few feet away on his back and silent as he stares up at the golden walls his eyes searching over everything. Thor doesn't talk much, he asks questions when it's needed, but for the most part he seems to be content lost in his own little world. Loki rests in her arms, asleep.

The news, admittedly, is unexpected when Heimdall gives it: “Your parents have made it to a clear spot, I am activating the Bifrost now.”

Hela’s eyes widen and she sits up straighter, her exhausted posture fixing itself (Norns, she will never understand how her parents deal with this stress).

“Now? Really?” Hela asks with surprise. Heimdall shoves Hofund into the Bifrost activator and the golden light stretches across the room. Hela grasps Thor and pulls him closer to her as she struggles to her feet. The light blurs is dozens of colors for a moment before the figures of her parents and just over a dozen men appear before them. Thor hides behind the fabric of her skirt and Heimdall drags his sword away from the slot and gives a nod towards the king and queen.

Frigga looks a worse for wear, she’s wearing some soldiers extra pair of clothing and is clutching to Odin like she might collapse if she doesn’t. Her long golden hair is tangled into various knots and looks like a tattered mess. Everyone is covered in a startling amount of dirt and injuries. Odin’s arm supporting Frigga is slightly desperate.

The two haven’t realized that she’s standing here yet and Hela has every intention of slipping away to the palace and waiting until they summon her, but Thor lets out a delighted squeak and scrambles towards Frigga and wraps a hand around her leg with a bliss filled, “Amma!”

Frigga jumps slightly at the sound before Thor crashes into her leg and her face breaks into a faint smile that lights up her face and chases away the shadows that were residing there. “Thor, my son,” she says fondly and gives a weak pat to his head.

Odin looks up and locks his gaze with Hela after a moment and glances at the small bundle in her arms. Hela gives a nod of her head in even though every cell within her is screaming to run to her mother and father and grasp them both in a bone shattering hug.

“Thor,” her father says softly the exhaustion clear in his voice, “your mother needs a healer, do you think you can remain with Hela until she’s ready to see you?”

Thor releases Frigga’s leg almost instantly and looks up at him, “Yep!” He tumbles back to Hela and immediately holds his hands out to her.

Hela grasps him upwards balancing Loki and gives her barely conscious stepmother another stare for a second, “I’ll alert the curia regis of your return.” She says and Odin gives her a nod of thanks before grasping Frigga into his arms bridal style and her head rolls towards his shoulder sluggishly.

000o000

Hela spends every waking moment she can in the infirmary beside her stepmother’s bedside for the next week as she slips between consciousness and not, often murmuring her name in her sleep. Hela doesn’t understand it. Her father drops in as much as he can, but the sudden outcry that Asgard reaches at the kidnapping draws him to Hliðskjálf more often than not.

Thor, oblivious as ever, just draws stick-figure pictures for Frigga to get better and surprisingly good flowers as Loki sleeps. They are not immortal or invincible and this is a painful reminder to Hela of it. She never thought that five days stuck with her irritating little brothers would be enough to draw some sort of connection between them and her, but she suddenly feels a rising desire to keep them from harm. Odin isn’t there to watch them and Frigga is injured so it’s her responsibility. As a result: Thor spends endless hours in the infirmary as Loki sleeps onwards occasionally stopping to stare at everything with that disturbingly perceptive stare of his.

Hela does everything within her power to keep herself from demanding Heimdall open the Bifrost so she can claim her vengeance. And she would grasp it, easily. Yet somehow the thought of her mother’s disappointed face when she wakes and Hela tells her that the dwarfs are no longer a race keeps her firmly planted, fidgety, but planted.

Any weapon she can think of she sharpens, wraps leather around, finishes and details with far more extravaganza than she usually cares to do.

Hela doesn’t sleep much during the stressful days, so it’s startling to her when one moment she’s wrapping leather around the hilt of a longsword with practiced movements, the next someone is softly stroking her hair. Hela snaps her eyes open and jerks her head upwards from where her upper body collapsed against the Frigga’s medic bed and is met with the tired eyes of her mother as her hand lazily collapses against the mattress. “Mother,” Hela breathes in relief and Frigga gives a tired smile.

Frigga’s eyes sweep over the room and she spots Thor sleeping at the end of her bed that Hela doesn’t remember him moving to and raises an eyebrow quizzically, “So they live then.” She murmurs softly.

Hela laughs slightly just because her mother’s voice from the days of silence is like a musical to her ears. “They are not so bad.”

Frigga closes her eyes and smiles, “I’m glad you think so.”

Hela is quiet for a moment staring at her mother before letting the hesitant question from her lips: “What did the dwarfs want?”

Frigga somehow manages to still from her already rigid position and purses her lips tightly. Frigga looks for a moment that she’s considering lying but decides against it. “They were looking for you, my daughter, for your skills. Despite what you think, your reputation has spread outwards and they fear you have bested them with skill. They were looking to steal your techniques and when they could not get you, they took me instead, as bait.”

Hela’s fingers clench and Heimdall’s previous words finally click, “ They were here for you.”

“Your father intercepted this and didn’t tell you of the ransom they sent to keep you here. They promised for every day you did not come to them, they would torture me.” Frigga murmurs. Hela’s eyes widen and she feels the edge of a blade in her hand and rises to stand.

“I will claim vengeance.” She hisses under her breath and Frigga grasps her hand.

“Hela, no more can be done.” She whispers, “You are safe, you are all safe and I do not care what the cost on my part was. Your father managed to stuff a treaty into them before we left, do not ignore it. The dwarfs are prideful and will seek for someway to surpass it anyway they can. Do not give them that chance.”

Hela’s shoulders sag, “But, I—they—Mother, they tortured you. How can I ignore that?”

Frigga grips her hand a little tighter, “Please, Hela, sit.” She begs and Hela only complies from the slightly broken edge on her tone. “Rise above this anger, Hela,” Frigga pleads, “I refuse to let you go.”

Hela grits her teeth and takes in a few breaths before she glances at her mother again, “I am sorry.” She murmurs.

Frigga shakes her head gently, “You have nothing to apologize for. I am not angry.”

Hela nods slightly and her mother gives her hand another squeeze before closing her eyes, sleeping instead of succumbing to unconsciousness. Hela watches her for another second before she sighs and raises to her feet. “ Asgard is seeking war,” she distantly remembers her father telling her, “ but I refuse to let them drown in this anger.”

Hela exhales through her nose, she will not follow after this blood thirst everyone is seeking. It is not what Asgard needs now, nor her family.

So do you agree then, with my father?”

Yes, Hela realizes after a moment, she does.

Chapter Text


She should have gone to bed earlier.

It's really the only coherent thought she can make out between slurred nonsense that scrambles across her exhausted mind.

Her mind is dragging through mud as it attempts to catch up from the lack of sleep she got last night, a state that is, unfortunately, familiar to her. She's gotten better at going to bed at a reasonable time in recent years, but it still isn't optimal. From her experience of staying up well into the night, she has come to learn that she doesn't bare any fondness for early morning. 

Honestly, Hela can’t really remember when she went to bed last night. She was working on a sculpture of Asgard’s old palace in the north from a book she found at the library and got so involved in her project one moment it was a little past sunset the next sunrise was on the horizon. All in all her maybe an hour of sleep she received is not cutting it for her. But she was invested, and it was a little late to stop. Systa, her handmaiden, nearly had her head when she realized the disaster Hela made of her floor. 

She was sculpting, and clay gets everywhere. She honestly had no idea what Systa was expecting otherwise. Hela has been working with such materials since she was a child and supposes that she's long since gotten used to it. She loves staying up late when the palace is fallen asleep and all is quiet, and there's a mystic air around it. The little details with paint and blades she can add to her clay always brings her a strong sense of satisfaction. Or wood, metal—really whatever Hela has on hand.

"Slept well, last night, did you?" Hela slips out of the daze she's fallen into to look up at her father. His one-eyed gaze is resting on her with a single eyebrow lifted slightly. In his right hand is a quill he was using to scribble out responses to some of the paperwork present on the table. Likely from the parliament, but it's hard to gauge from this angle. Hela clears her throat slightly and shakes her head, giving her eyes a low rub. 

"Not particularity."

"I can see that." Odin says with a slight huff, "Perhaps we ought to send you back." 

She adjusts her position at the table, pulling her elbow off of the cream cloth and shakes her head. As much as she would love to agree, she has things that need to be done today. 

Since Frigga became apart of their family, she has insisted on having meals together. It wasn't something Hela can ever remember her birth mother doing, but she was fairly young when she died. For the first few months, it was awkward, but now, centuries later, Hela has long since grown used to it. Dinner and midday meal are typically impossible to have privately, so breakfast is typically the only meal they spend in the Royal Family's dining room.

Hela sighs between her teeth and reaches forward to take the glass of water from off the table and drink from it. 

Odin looks up at her again, "You look ill. When was the last time you slept for more than a few hours?" 

Hela shrugs helplessly. 

Odin gives her a sharp look and opens his mouth to retort this, but at that moment the door to the room is thrown open and Loki and Thor come bursting inside, both holding pieces of paper and chattering loudly. They both move to Odin as if drawn there and lift up the papers.

"Abee! Abee, look!" Loki proclaims, thrusting the paper towards his face. 

Odin grasps the paper before it can fall and looks at the words scrawled across the page. Loki points at the top where the grade is marked in silver ink. Hela leans forward slightly to look at it. It's one of the highest grades someone can receive at that age. Odin sets the paper on the table and smiles at Loki, "Well done, my son." 

Loki beams in response, "Sir Borison said that I got the words right." Loki says happily. "I knew I had, but he said that I did better than everyone else in my class," her youngest sibling leans forward slightly, as if sharing a great secret and adds: "He says that if I continue like this, he's going to have to put me in an older class."

Really? 

"Father," Thor interrupts before Loki can start to babble, as he is often prone to, and with equal enthusiasm to Loki shows a piece of art. "Look and what we had to do for Lady Eleni this week." Hela's eyebrows lift with surprise. It's a sketch of the Bifrost bridge, but well detailed despite the fact it's black and white.

"My son!" Odin exclaims, "This is greatly detailed. You clearly have an eye for the arts. Well done!" 

Thor's smile could light up a room. He takes the paper from Odin and moves around the table to show it to her, "Look, look!" He commands.

Hela takes the piece of paper and nods with agreement, then looks up at him, "Going to become a artist, are we?" 

"You'd have the skill needed." Odin appends. 

Thor looks offended, and looks between the two of them. "Of course not! That's for girls." He disagrees, "I'm going to be a Valkyrie." 

Loki, who has materialized behind the other, nods with agreement, though Hela notes that he looks slightly ill. His face is flushed and his eyes are shadowed. Nonetheless, he adds cheerfully: "Thor said I'm gonna be his lieutenant." 

Hela and her father shared an amused look, but she doesn't quite have the heart to tell Thor that Valkyrie are only women. And all dead. The organization was disbanded after the brutal slaughter of Wind and Sorrowed Death. 

Frigga strides into the room, brushing down her skirt and looking slightly disheveled. Thor and Loki scramble across the room to wave the papers at her and happily proclaim their achievements. Hela shakes her head with slight bemusement and turns her attention back to the food on the table. Her education was mostly a mess when she reached her juvenile years. War had taken route with Vanaheim and Asgard wasn't probably secured until Odin's marriage to Frigga. Afterwards, it just sort of fizzled out. She was mostly taught privately, but Loki and Thor are in classes meant for the high nobility's children. 

Loki and Thor take their places at the table and Frigga sits beside Odin. "Good morn, Hela." 

"Good morn." Hela responds distractedly, spinning the spoon through the hot soup. Why are they having a warm meal when it's so hot outside you could easily roast raw meat? Hela has never had a great love for summer, but this particular season seems determined to melt them alive. 

Frigga sighs, drawing her attention back to the present. Her gaze is resting on Hela. "How late?" 

Hela bites down a flush, it is truly so obvious that she didn't sleep? Does it become "late" if it's early morning when you go to bed?

"Not terribly?" Hela offers. 

Frigga's eyebrow arches further. "Yes, I can tell." 

Hela shrugs, "I was distracted."

"Hela." Frigga bites, "You know better than to stay up so late when there are political advancements you must participate in by now!" 

Wait, what?  Hela stares at her blankly, "I didn't hear of such thing."  

Odin's hand movements still on the piece of paper and he looks up at her before he and her stepmother share a look. Frigga makes a pointed glance. “You didn’t tell her?”

Hela’s eyes narrow with suspicion and she stuffs the feeling of dread building in her stomach as Odin shakes his head. “I thought you did last night.”

“Tell me what?” Hela asks.

"King Nevel and Queen Tisti are coming for a visit." Thor pipes up before either of her parents can.

Hela's spine goes rigid. 

What! 

No!

She shoves to her feet and swears loudly. 

"Language." Odin chides and gives a pointed look in Loki and Thor's direction. 

In response, Hela swears again. 

"Hela Bestla." Frigga chides. 

"No!" Hela says firmly, "I'm not going to sit here and go through...that again!" She argues, slamming her hands on the tabletop. Loki jumps from the corner of her eye, but she can't bring herself to care properly. All she can feel is the seething heat in her blood. 

“They are coming to re-sign the peace treaty, that's all." Frigga says firmly, then adds after a hesitation, "I’ve also been hoping to meet her youngest children, she had a set of twins.” Yes, she knows, they went to the christening. 

"No!" Hela disagrees, spins the words around her head again and shakes her head vehemently, "No." 

"Daughter—" Odin starts with a slight sigh, "you must learn to let this go." 

When either she or they are dead and rotting, she'll be more than happy to release the anger. "Let this go?" Hela repeats, flabbergasted. Her fingers are digging into the table top and ruining the tablecloths lack of wrinkles. 

“Why are you unexcited?” Thor asks, though his words are hesitant, as if drawn through after careful consideration on whether or not it will get him impaled. Hela tries to draw her patience together, but the frays are beyond her ability to reach. Loki’s head is tilted towards her as well, his wide green eyes staring at her curiously.

They look so young.

Untainted.

Hela grits her jaw together, forcing herself to remain as gathered together as she can. “I do not enjoy their company.”

“Why?” Thor asks.

"Our beloved allies like to play with fire." She says darkly, then turns to her parents. "Send me somewhere else for the day. Vanaheim, Muspelheim, Nidavellir—anywhere else. I'm going to remove someone's eye if I have to spend any more time with them." She promises. She can't believe this evaded her attention. Usually treaty-signings are something she knows about for months in advance, not hours. 

Norns. 

Thor looks confused, "But I heard that Prince Kiartan took your place in the war after you were hurt. Why are you angry with him?" 

Yes, they would teach that, wouldn't they? Can't taint Kiartan so soon to his crowning, can they? Hela never found solid evidence to prove what they did. Hela is by no means a liar or known for it, she’s never seen a purpose for it. There can always been dagger to the face or a weapon to the throat, people are pretty easy to persuade that way, too.

Hela bites down a bitter laugh and releases her deep hold on the wood of the table. "I don't want to discuss it." She answers thinly.

Thor stares at her, "My tutor says that it's good to get emotions out. Then you don't feel as bad." 

Children. "May I be excused?" She questions between gritted teeth, looking to her parents.

Both hesitate, looking visibly uncomfortable.

She's going to strangle something if she has to sit here any longer. 

"I really think--" Frigga starts, but Hela's patience snaps. She shoves back from the table and begins to storm from the room. Odin manages to grab her wrist before she can lap around the table completely and she wiggles from his grip with ease. 

“Hela--” Her stepmother starts once more, but Hela has hold on the handle to the door and shoves it open, moving to exit before she can finish.

She quickly and with some degree of ease slips through the halls leading back to her bedchamber and shuts the door behind her, releasing a haggard breath as she leans her head against the back of the wood. It will be fine. It will be fine. 

It has to be.

They're all older now.

She has lead armies since the last time she has had to talk with them. 

It still doesn't ease the constriction in her chest. 

It started with smoke.

And then the entire building was engulfed, and she was trapped and alone. 

000o000

Although she has no desire to do so, Hela washes her hair, dresses into her formal attire, and prepares for the treaty signing. She may hate that she has to interact with the royalty from Alfheim, but she is not blind to Asgard's needs. When she is queen, she will need allies and she's not going to gain them by running around hiding from people she hates. 

In total it takes her a little over an hour to get prepared. Her hair has been pulled up into some sort of fancy up-do that she can't see herself repeating with success. She shoves on a pair of heals that she usually avoids and straps a sword at her hip for ceremony. Weapons are not typically permitted in the throne room, but when the treaty signing happens, members of the royal family of equal rank will trade weapons to signify that they are equal.

Hela doesn't bother with her helmet, recently nick-named by Loki as the "spider-crown", but rather takes the thin circlet she rarely wears and weaves it between her hair. 

The spider-crown would be her first choice, given opportunity, but where these are allies, it would be considered rude and insensitive. She's never really been given a reason for why, only that it is. Loki and Thor will likely also be wearing such circlets, proclaiming them a part of Odin's descendants.

When she exits her room, Systa is waiting outside. Systa is a petite woman with black hair that streams down to the base of her spine. Such dark colors are uncommon on Asgard, but most of Systa's family has the color, including her mother and younger sister, Sif. Her lips are drawn together tightly, but as she sees Hela tension releases between her shoulder blades.

"Your parents sent me to collect you," she says in way of greeting with the thick accent belonging only to those who don't speak Aardent, Serenity's common-tongue, as a first language. Systa hails from beyond Speckle Point; the city of Frein, to be exact. Her father is the governor there. "I had expected to need to pull you from your quarters." 

"Unnecessary," Hela assures, "but I appreciate the sentiment." 

Systa hums knowingly, before giving her a curt nod, "Then I'll be on my way, then."

Hela tilts her head in response and Systa moves to walk past her, quickly disappearing down the hall. 

Hela lingers for a moment before stuffing down her dread and moving forward. 

She meets her family in the throne room somewhere close to two hours after breakfast. Her father rests in Hliðskjálf with Gungnir in one hand, her stepmother by his side. Loki and Thor are standing next to each other, engaging in what looks to be some sort of hand game between their fingers. Other members of the parliament and curia regis are present as well towards the father edges of the room, and Hela can see her aunt, Freya among them. 

When the treaty between Vanaheim and Asgard was made, Frigga was allowed to take the captain of her guard, a handful of soldiers and two of her ladies in waiting with her. One was her younger sister, Freya, who has lived in the palace as long as Frigga has. Freya is a brisk, but kind woman who eventually married one of the curia regis members, Lord Arkenson. Although her employments have varied, Freya was Loki and Thor's nuremaid until a few years ago. 

She can feel the eyes of the noblemen and women on her as she moves forward and comes to the realization that she is quite late. Frigga catches her eye after a moment and Hela quietly releases a breath through her teeth before stepping up the stairs and lowering to one knee, resting a hand on her heart.

"My king," she greets, "I trust all is well?"

"Rise, daughter," Odin requests and she does so, meeting his gaze. His eye holds a cold steal, but the skin surrounding it is soft. "You are done wallowing, I trust?" 

Wallowing.

So that's what it is now?

Wondrous.  

Hela's face tinges slightly as she chances a glance towards those around her, and she feels her muscles twitch, but she bows her head and gives a slight nod all the same, "Yes, Father."

"Good," Frigga says and moves to rest a hand on her shoulder, "Heimdall has already sent them on, you were nearly late." She gives a warning look and Hela offers a thin smile, wishing with a burning fury to escape the grip. After a moment longer, Frigga does loosen her hold and Hela shifts across the dais to Hliðskjálf next to Thor and Loki, attempting to put as much distance between her parents disappointed stares and herself. 

Loki and Thor both look up at her, the game coming to a halt. Each looks wary.

A pit of anxiety in her stomach begins to shovel again. As of recent years, she has done her best to quell her temper around her siblings. She knows that she can react brashly to things and it can cause more problems that she cares to admit, but she tries to keep their exposure to that drawn to a minimum. Most of the time she has succeeded. Not today. Given opportunity, she would have preferred the revelation about Nevel and Tisti to have been given privately.

She doesn't say anything and pointedly looks away. 

They don't continue the game, opting to watch her instead.

The room is quiet for a few more minutes before the doors are opened by Einherjar and she sees the familiar figures of her extended family through their escorts. General Tyr is in the front, with his lieutenant at his side and a handful of higher ranking officers. General Tyr comes to a stop in front of Hliðskjálf and lowers to one knee, hand over heard. "My king, I have done as you requested." 

"Thank you, General," Odin says softly, "You are dismissed." 

General Tyr nods before rising to his feet and moving to exit the room.

Hela lifts her gaze to the royal family. They look much the same as she can last recall them, save the fact that the two young babes are now a little older than Loki. Queen Tisti, at the head of her family looks regal as ever baring Alfheim's colors, green and yellow in a flowing dress. Her long, pale blonde hair is drawn together in a tight braid down her scalp. The recent style for Light Elves has been short and braided, so she's not surprised. Beside her is her husband, and King Nevel looks ever inch the proud Light Elf he was several years ago. Their two adult sons, Hari and Kiartan are dressed similar to their father in both appearance and attitude.

Hari has more bulk than she can recall, but Kiartan looks much the same with his thin face and sharp nose.

The two twins in front, Fye and Hijn, look quite young and lost. 

King Nevel takes a step forward, "Well," he says, baring his clipped accent into the room with ease, "I see that you have redecorated. Was this by choice, or result of the arson?" 

Hela snaps her jaw together tightly, and forces herself to keep her expression blank when King Nevel's eyes pointedly stray to her. Members of the court follow his gaze, and Hela clenches her fists at her sides. 

She sees her father's eyes narrow slightly before he leans forward on his throne, "We are not gathered here to share architectural ideas."

"Of course not," King Nevel agrees smoothly and takes a step forward, "I apologize to have thrown this on you so swiftly, but with my son's coronation arriving, we did not think we would be able to spare the time." 

So she wasn't the only one to not know of this months in advance. 

"Don't strain yourself," Odin says in response, "it was arriving anyway."

"Yes." King Nevel agrees, then tilts his head a little, "You are coming to my son's coronation, yes? It will be a grand celebration. Imagine being crowned in such a time of peace. I have no need to hand over a bloody sword with my title." 

The jab is clear and pointed directly towards Odin's predecessor. As legend goes--she's never heard the story herself--King Bor was brutally wounded in battle and Odin found his dying body and attempted to drag him to safety. Before they could make it back to camp, King Bor choked for breath and drew his bloodstained sword and handed it to Odin, along with the responsibility of Asgard. The only one of Odin's siblings present in the battle, his younger sister Geirdriful, the commander of the Valkyries at the time, was slain with his father taking any credibility of the story from them.

Odin stares at King Nevel for a long moment and Hela watches her father warily. Frigga's hand comes to rest on his arm, "Yes, we plan on making an attendance." She affirms quietly. 

Hela nearly groans. 

Great.

More bonding time with Alfheim. She has nothing against their people, they're all fairly decent, but she has no idea what rock their royalty crawled out from under. 

King Nevel beams before moving forward, "Well then, let's get the ceremony over with so we can send the children along and get to the gritty details." 

Her father rises to his feet and takes steps down from Hliðskjálf, drawing a sword from his hip. Frigga follows the action with her own weapon and Nevel's family steps forward. Loki is too young to participate in this part of the transaction, but Thor pulls a weapon from his belt as well. 

"King Nevel," Odin says, raising his voice slightly, "I thank you for your effort in maintaining the peace between our worlds. May we continue along such a path." 

King Nevel says nothing, merely lifts his weapon and Odin does the same. They exchange the swords, sheathing them, and Hela turns to Kiartan, pulling her weapon from her belt. Kiartan's brown eyes hold no respect or fondness for her and she'd be lying to say it isn't a reflection of her own. They exchange the weapons with some reluctance. She sees the rest of her family preform the act and notes the drawn shoulders and tense faces.

Odin turns to her when movements have stilled, "My daughter, take Prince Kiartan and his siblings to the gardens. I'll send someone to notify you when we have further need of any of you." 

Hela nods and gives a low bow of her head before turning to Kiartan. His lip curls in a slight sneer and she resists the urge to shove a dagger up his gut because of it. 

Nevel waves his hands towards them, shooing them off, "Run along now." 

Hela gives him a pointed look of annoyance before resting a hand on either one of her brother’s shoulder’s giving an internal wince as Loki stiffens beneath her. She will need to apologize later for her actions this morning. She gives Loki’s shoulder a soft squeeze in reassurance before gently herding them forward. 

Everything is stiff and uncomfortable as they walk through the palace and break into the heated outdoors. The suns' combined heat immediately blares into her skin and scalp reminding her abruptly that she should have dressed in lighter clothing. Kiartan guides his siblings ahead with them, but it's a fairly obvious and open secret that none of them want to be doing this.  

Loki begins to drag his feet the further along they get in the courtyard, looking abruptly more uncomfortable and keeps sending pleading glances back at her that she doesn't understand. Thor perks at the fresh air, though. At some point, Loki took her hand, but Thor is content with her hand against his back. 

The Queens Garden's appear quickly and though she’s much opposed to having Alfheim's royalty invade this private space that really only her family occupies, she doesn’t want them in the palace, either. The thick, brown and prickly roses covering the gates look intimidating from a distance, but to Hela they're a comfort. She guides them to the nearest entrance and quickly works until she finds a small open space with benches. There's three fountains in the center gently flowing water and the sound is a dull rhythm in the back of her mind. The gardens are filled with flowers from all over that her stepmother has collected over the years, there are also trees spread throughout it and the whole area filling it with life. 

Hela sits on the nearest bench with shade, which is about thirty feet from the gates, and Loki and Thor promptly take seats beside her, Loki resting his head against her arm tiredly. Thor begins to kick his legs. 

All of the fountains have four benches around it, one on each side of the water and Kiartan, Hari, and the twins take a seat on the bench on their right. Fye and Hijn move to go touch the water, as most young children are prone to. 

"It's hot," Loki murmurs into her arm.

"I know," she assures and runs a hand through his slick black hair.

"I want to go back inside." Loki says quietly, looking up at her with wide green eyes.

Hela bites her lip with sympathy, but she's learned better than to ignore her father's word. "It'll only be for a little bit." She reassures. 

Hopefully, these can last up to hours. 

Thor rises to his feet after a second, apparently tired of sitting still, and grabs Loki's hand. "Let's go play with the water." He requests, "Mother said that she enchanted one to look like a dragon and I wish to find it." 

Loki perks, but doesn't immediately leap to his feet. Instead, he shakes his head. "Hot." He says.

"Water is cold, brother," Thor points out with anticipation.

"I 'on't feel good." Loki murmurs into her upper arm. His black hair is sticking to his face.

Definitely the heat then. He needs to go find something colder, and like Thor said, water will help with that. She gives Loki a gentle nudge, "The snake is near the Champion's Tree, why don't you take Fye and Hijn with you?" 

Loki shakes his head and Thor's shoulders slump. Hela leans towards his ear, “It’s just the heat, brother,” she assures, “There is wind and more shade next to the tree.”

Loki gives her one last pleading look, but Thor takes a chance and grasps his hand, dragging him forward, towards the twins, “Come my noble allies of Alfheim and I will show you the tree, this tree was what they used to…” Thor starts to explain and is pulling a stumbling Loki with him in the direction of it, enthusiastically. After a hesitation, the twins follow, likely led on by Thor's enthusiasm. The tree really isn’t anything special, it was just where Asgard used to hand out knightings. When Frigga was made queen, she turned it into a garden and the knightings started to happen in the throne room. Now the tree is just a part of history. 

She begins to play with her skirt, wishing desperately for a cloud to block out the suns' double rays of heat. 

“So, when is it?” Kiartan says suddenly, breaking her from her trance of staring at the grass with far to much interest than should be reasonable. Hela lifts her gaze up and quirks an eyebrow.

“Excuse me?”

Kiartan looks at her with a smug stance, "Your coronation, of course, foolish girl." 

Hela's fists tighten. Honestly, her father hasn’t brought up the idea since they served in battle together. She is not even the proper age for crowning, yet, tehcinally, that time comes when she's around Midgard's twenty-five. Kiartan  is older than her and will reach the week, she believes, before his crowning. Hela isn’t...she doesn’t know. She hasn’t asked. Hasn’t felt the need to. It will come, in time, she’s been focusing on other things rather than that. But it is a swirling bottomless pit of doubt that’s been building in the back of her head for a while.

When will Odin trust her with the crown?

Kiartan takes her silence as an answer and barks a laugh, “By the Norns, you don’t know do you?”

She gives them a heated stare. 

No, she doesn't. Must they revel in this? 

“Odin have such little faith in you?” Harry asks. “Kiartan was set to be crowned nearly five years past but our father decided it would be better to follow after tradition. You, however...will you ever be ready? Or do you keep running from your responsibilities?”

Hela's on her feet, though she can't recall standing. "You are well aware that I didn't start the fire." 

The smoke is choking her. 

Alone.

Help.

Kiartan and Hari are on their feet as well, both looking like their enjoying this immensely. Hari gives a lazy grin, though his eyes look tight, "Yes, well, who did they find with the means to have created it?"

Hela scowls darkly. When they were all much younger and Hela a trusting idiot, Hari and Kiartan probed her into helping them steal one of the Master Sorcerers bottled spells. When they succeed, they went to the empty throne room to celebrate their revels, but Kiartan broke the bottle. The fire quickly grew out of their control and the room began to collapse. Hela was crushed under a column and begged for their assistance, but they left her and fled, not wanting to be punished for the crime.

Hela was found later, but learned that well she was healing, General Tyr had taken Kiartan and Hari in her place to serve the Asgardian army. She was furious, and she took the downful of their deed. Since then, they have taken thrill in mocking her of the incident that left her shaking for weeks. 

Her hand goes to the sword strapped to her hip, but she stops, forcing herself to stop and think. She's not going to get anywhere by stabbing them, much as she would like to, and her brothers are within a spotting view of this. She's not going to lose control in front of them for a second time today. 

Kiartan watches her movements and smirks slightly. “I see you have grown soft in these last years, my dear Skeleton-Girl." 

Hela bristles and her spine draws up tighter and she feels her eyes narrow, her mind flashing back to when they were younger and before her father had burned all the bodies, Alfheim had come for assistance with a brutal battle and she seen the ghosts wandering the halls and they had insisted she had gone mad. “They we’re not--” Hela starts, only to be cut off, again.

“I do recall the last time we were in your presence you swore you were going to cut out eyes out." Hari notes. 

She still will if they keep nagging her.

“Your father doesn’t think you fit for a throne, does he?” Kiartan asks, softly. “You’re too busy seeing hallucinations of dead-men.”

Her hand goes back to the sword. Hela stalks the few inches between them easily and glowers at him darkly, “My father is not stupid enough to put an arrogant child on the throne.”

Kiartan hisses, “You think yourself so noble running around as if you actually have importance, don't you know that your father had your siblings to replace you? You are a violent, uncontrollable weapon Hela, and I will not be bullied by--”

Anger surges through her and she grabs the front of his shirt, dragging him forward before her fist curls and she slams it into Kiartan's face. His nose gives a sickening crack as it snaps and the prince tumbles backwards holding the appendage with both hands almost crashing into Hari. Kiartan pulls his hands back as his nose starts to seep liquid and looks up at her angrily. 

Hari moves forward, "Don't touch my brother!" He growls, "You little wretch--" 

Hela draws the sword and levels it to his throat, halting him, "Shh," she whispers and presses a finger to her lips, "Choose your words carefully or the next scream you hear may be your own." 

Hari swallows, before opening his mouth to start to say something, but all of them whip their heads towards the Champion's Tree as Fye lets out a loud scream and Thor releases a panicked yell of "help!" . 

Alarm grasps over her anger, and Hela breaks into a run in the direction of her siblings, sheathing the sword. As she gets closer, she spots the children kneeing over something and speaking in frantic tones.

Loki is on the ground, pale and unconscious. Thor holding his head looking helpless. Hari and Kiartan are a moment behind her and pull their siblings back for comfort as Hela drops to her knees beside Thor and Loki. “What happened?”

She presses a hand next to Loki's nose, feeling for breath and is reassured when she finds it. 

“H-he just collapsed, his eyes rolled all back and then was on the ground. He won’t wake up.” Fye explains is a quiet, small voice almost as if she’s afraid of angering Hela.

“Did he hit his head?” Hela demands, looking to Thor for an answer. The younger rapidly shakes his head.

“I caught him before he did.”

“Good,” Hela says and presses her fingers against Loki’s neck pushing past the collar and her eyebrows rise in anxiety at just how warm Loki’s skin feels. He’s colder by nature and usually when he feels like another human being he has a fever, right now he feels like a piece of metal that’s been lying in the bellows for to long.

Loki’s pulse is sluggish and Hela mentally kicks herself. He told her he didn’t feel good and she ignored it. Hela draws her hand back, frantically and sees Loki’s chest rise and fall erratically. Loki has always had trouble in the summers, even the more mild ones, he’s a Jotunn!

The heat is going to kill him.

Panic wraps around Hela’s heart even harder and she prepares to grasp Loki into her arms and take him to the healing rooms. He sways in her grip and Hela turns to Thor, "Come, we need to hurry." 

"Is he going to be okay?" Fye questions behind her, Hela glances back at her, then at Kiartian's gushing nose for a second.

"I don't know," she admits. "Thor, come, hurry." 

Thor scrambles to his feet at her side, and both of them take off towards the palace. 

000o000

Eir drops everything as Hela shoves her way into the healing room screeching at the top of her lungs for help. They whisk Loki from her quickly and glowing spells already working, shouting going on between them. Hela can only watch from a distance and sits on a chair guilt sweeping through her because she should have known. She knows Loki is Jotunn and she is aware of their weakness to heat. She should have been able to stop it. But she didn’t.

Frigga arrives nearly an hour later, and Thor is at her side her eyes wide and takes a seat next to her clenching and unclenching her fists. Thor sits at their feet, startling quiet, staring off towards where Loki is his face drawn to concern.

When they finally declare Loki on the mend some few hours later, Hela and Thor refuse to leave his side. Frigga comes and goes because there is still a peace treaty going on and despite as much as she wants to be down here, she can’t. Hela couldn’t care less. Her brother is in pain, and the other is panicking because of it. 

Thor, after a day, climbs on the bed beside Loki and stays put looking at him. The hours quickly blur into days and Hela can only vaguely remember Frigga telling them that Nevel and Tisti have left and the treaty is once again in place, also mentioning that she broke Kiartan’s nose fine. Something about it never healing right despite the spells.

The healer’s assure her Loki is getting better and after day four, Loki does wake up. He blinks slowly several times before letting out a moan and clutching at his head in pain moaning for Frigga. Hela rises to her feet and leaves the room sweeping past Frigga in her guilt and moves down the halls in no particular direction.

Loki will be fine.

He’s well on his way to healing, but Hela hates knowing that she did notice something was off and she didn't bother to branch off on it. She just stood there to the side silently hoping the issue would go away on it’s own. Hela is no healer, she is not skilled in healing magic as her mother is and couldn’t do anything when she saw Loki unconscious but panic.

Loki almost died.

Hela shakes her thoughts and is surprised to see herself standing on one of the palace’s many balconies, well less so to be here, but to see her father here as well. His back is to her, but Hela moves forward so they are standing side by side. He dropped by after Alfheim's delegations left to check on Loki’s condition left, but she hasn’t seen much of him since.

“Loki is awake, then?” Odin asks and turns to look at her. Hela nods. “Good, Eir said that he would make a full recovery. You also haven’t left his side, Eir said.”

“I didn’t.” Hela says and sighs heavily, “He told me he was not feeling well and I did nothing of it, Father.” She admits, quietly, “I just assumed he didn’t want to go with Thor."

“You are not at fault,” Her father assures and turns his one-eyed gaze to stare at her firmly, “You will know better next time.”

“I don’t want there to be a next time.” Hela breathes, “What if I can’t, what if I fail again and this time it does result in one of their deaths?”

Odin rests a hand on her shoulder, “Hela, your brother’s are young. They will learn to look after each other, given time. They already do. You will not fail.” Odin’s lips quirk slightly and he turns to stare out at the city the dark night sky sparkling with the stars. “I have heard rumors that Kiartian’s mysterious nose break came from your hand.”

“It may have.” Hela answers defensively and folds her arms across her chest. She had been looking for Odin, anyway, meaning to ask him on it. Odin gives a soft hum and Hela turns so they are eye-to-eye. She gnaws on her inner lip. “Father,” she says softly, “when do you intend to crown me?”

Odin’s eyebrow raise in surprise (a rare feet) and he turns to look at her, “What brings this line of questioning? It has always been your birthright, Hela.”

“I know,” Hela says, quickly, “It’s just...Kiartian said that you do not intend to crown me.”

“I do,” Odin says, “when you are ready, you are not even of age.”

Hela nods and breathes a sigh of relief as quietly as possible. She didn’t doubt it, it’s just...better to hear it from her father’s lips again. To reassure her. Hela purses her lips together and clasps her hands together staring down at them, again, watching her pale skin for a moment. “I have another question;” Hela says, finally, breaking the silence in between them. Odin hums in answer, giving her permission to continue. Hela hesitates for another moment, before forcing the words from her lips: “How long to you intend to keep Loki’s heritage from him? He nearly died today, because he didn’t know. We should tell him.” Hela says and Odin shakes his head, rather violently.

“No, we will not.”

Hela’s eyebrows rise slightly in her distress. “Father, he needs to know. I can’t watch him nearly die or die because he doesn’t know what he should avoid.”

“He is to young.”

“There will never be a better time to tell him then now.”

“He will not feel the difference if he thinks himself one of us. I do not want him to feel different.”

That is an obnoxious lie. 

Hela shakes her head, violently, “He will not understand--”

“Then he will just have to wonder!”

Father!” Hela says, her voice laced with disbelief. “Loki does not deserve that. You would not have kept something like this from me. ”   

Odin turns his eye to her and nods slightly, giving a weary sigh, “Yes, I would not have. But I do not intend to tell Loki until he is old enough to process it, when he has come of age. Your mother and I have not managed to persuade the public that the Jotunn’s are not a cursed race. Only then when he will not believe himself a monster, will he be ready.”

Suddenly, the gaps that Hela didn’t completely understand before give a horrific click in her head and she takes a step back from her father in shock. “You intend to use him as a bridge between Jotunheim and Asgard. You intend,” Her voice is strained, “for me to take the throne of Asgard and Loki to have him take Kingship over the Jotunn’s.” She says, her voice barely above a whisper. What of Thor, then? Does her father intend to have him be the awkward bridge-between? Or does he plan on conquering another realm for Thor to take control of?

Her father does not deny it but instead grasps her hand, “My daughter, there is a purpose to everything I do. I need you to trust me on this, do not tell your brother. You will understand in time that it is a mercy. Swear to me that you will not tell him until it is time.”

A mercy?

How is this a mercy?

She doesn't understand, and she doubts she ever will.

Odin's look is not soft; he is not looking for anything but her compliance. Hela’s jaw clenches slightly and her other fist curls tightly together pressing into her palms, but she gives a very, very soft nod. Her voice is barely above a whisper, “I swear.”

000o000

“See this? This is you, me, Thor, Mother, and Father. I drew it for you.” Hela turns her gaze to her younger brother who's offering the drawing out to her like a peace offering between the two of them. The figures are better drawn than she would expect from someone his age, but still slightly stick-figure. Odin and Frigga are holding hands and Hela is holding Frigga and Thor’s; Thor is holding Loki’s. Asgard’s palace is behind them shining brightly. Hela takes the drawing and puts it down on her desk stretching her lips into a thin smile.

“It’s lovely. Thank you.”

Loki’s wild green eyes light up and he gives a wide smile, one that sends a sparkle into his eyes and crunches up his nose slightly, “You really think so?” He asks, his voice is eager and Hela gives a swift nod staring at him for a moment. Loki still looks a little sickly, but his health is restored enough that Eir felt it alright to release him “into the wild” as she put it. “Thor thought it looked nice, too.” He says his eyes happy. Hela turns herself away from the hilt she’s crafting to her brother as he lifts up his palm rocking back and forth in his excitement.

“Look what I learned!” Loki insists and lifts his hand to reveal green fire pressed into his palms. Hela’s eyebrows shoot upwards with surprise and she stares at him with shock and awe. She never managed to hold fire in her palm. Hela attempted to learn sorcery but was absolutely awful at it. She had no skill and here Loki is, raw and untrained yet his control is stunning. "My skin felt like fire in the healing-wing and one morning I woke up able to do it." 

“Impressive, little brother.” She assures.

“Mother thought so too!” Loki says and Hela ruffles his hair affectionately. 

Loki nods enthusiastically before giving a happy smile and running out of her room without explanation, likely to find Thor. Hela shakes her head softly in fond exasperation before she turns her gaze back to the drawing on her desk. In the drawing, their happy family is smiling with far to large smiles and eyes than realistic but it is them all the same.

Something just looks off about it though and Hela grasps it her fingers drawing it closer to her face. Her eyes widen as she realizes something; She’s doubts it was intentional and it’s barely noticeable, but yet it’s there. At first it had looked white, like the rest of the paper behind them, but now that she’s focused on it she realizes something:  

Loki had drawn all of their skin to be a light shade of blue.

Chapter Text

Argumentative Spells

Someday, he will not be forced to watch this anymore.

Someday, he will join them in their glorious battles and have tales be written of his ease on the battlefield. “Someday” is not “today”.

Thor releases a long sigh and rests his hand on his chin, digging his elbow into his knee and staring across the training ground, idly spinning the sword he’s holding in his other hand. The tip is pressed firmly into the ground, digging into the stone. He’s supposed to be taking a ten minute break from his class, but it’s barely been four and he’s ready to continue. He knows if he jumps up to go find Commander Iri, he’ll be promptly sent back here with one of those looks adults do.

Ugh.

New recruits for the army aren’t something that popped up abruptly. Asgard has one of the biggest legions in all the Realms, and it is not just the size that puts them at the head, but their skill. All soldiers are required to reach mastery in multiple weapons before they are even considered beyond “rookie”. Thor has ease with weapons that can mimic his sisters, but he is not exempt from the age requirements, even with his rank.

Thor thinks it’s stupid.

He’s prince, and he’s better than all of his class combined.

Thor glances at Loki again, who is still flipping through a well worn book his wide green eyes scanning the pages happily, dark hair falling over his face, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He’s probably studying for the assessment they have tomorrow in their shared class. Thor should probably as well, but it’s for science and he’s hopeless at science. Give him history, art, or something useful and he can pass with ease, but science he can’t.

It doesn’t help that with Loki’s age he’s technically supposed to be with a group much younger than them, and Thor always feels like an idiot compared to his youngest sibling.

Sir Borison has advanced Loki’s classes to keep up with his mind, but still Loki does not struggle. At least the one place he can surpass his sibling is on the training grounds. Loki isn’t as advanced in weaponry as Thor (though he tries) and is mostly here because he has clinginess issues. Okay, he doesn’t like spending long hours of time by himself. Still, clinginess.

“No, no, no,” Hela’s sharp voice cuts through the air cutting through Thor’s thoughts and he lifts his head slightly, spotting his sister’s dark clothing a moment later sticking out of the tan training uniformos like a sore thumb.

Hela is maybe thirty feet from them, but her voice is frustrated enough to be heard from here. The younger boy she’s working with has strawberry blond hair thats sticking upwards in weird angles, yet still managing to be slicked against his face. After staring at him for another moment, Thor is pretty sure that the kid must be new because Hela rarely wears her out for murder look unless it’s the newer ones.

Thor doesn’t hear the next words that she speaks, but she’s explaining something because she waves her sword back and forth in a move and turns back to the boy waiting for him to repeat it. He does, terribly sloppily and Hela shakes her head again. The boy turns to look up at her also saying something. Without warning, grasps the  younger boy by the shoulder and starts steering him in their direction. Thor perks up slightly at this and straightens his posture elbowing Loki in the side to do the same.

“Ow! Thor!” Loki yelps and rubs the injured area, but manages to catch onto the hint a second later. He straightens his position, keeps a firm hand on his side and...promptly returns to his book.

Children.

“Brothers,” Hela says in greeting and gives a tight smile (it’s filled with exasperation and it’s probably time for his her to take a few minutes away from the training barracks. She’s only here for a few hours every day since their father decided that she was growing restless and put her in charge of training the new recruits. (Being honest, Thor is pretty sure he only did it so he and Loki would train under her hand.) Hela hates it (she doesn’t say so verbally but her actions are just), but does it because she respects their father’s judgement and commands.))

“This is Fandral Nyeson.” She steers the boy she was talking to to a halt in front of her and he suddenly looks far less sure of himself. Which is funny because Hela is a fairly intimidating person and looking sure of yourself around her is hard to do. Thor does, simply because she is his sister and he knows she is likely not going to do him severe bodily harm.

Nyeson. Nye is in the parlement, but he isn’t very nice. Fandral is a noblemen’s child, then.

Thor rises to his feet and sheaths his sword at his belt offering his hand to Fandral. The strawberry blond grasps his forearm as Thor does to his and stares at the ground between them.

“Good day, Fandral.” Thor says and releases his arm. Fandral nods in answer, remaining silent and suddenly interested in his boots. Hela purses her lips together behind him. Loki, Thor notices from the corner of his eye, is no longer staring at the book but Fandral.

“Fandral has been struggling with disengaging and I know that you passed that nearly a year past, Thor; so, congratulations, Darling, you are now in charge of teaching him this until he gets it.” Hela says and gives one of her smiles that doesn’t mean she’s really happy before patting Fandral’s shoulders in comfort or good riddance (Thor’s not entirely sure) and quickly disappearing back into the crowd shouting at someone else.

The training arena isn’t severely loud, but there are about five people in charge, including Hela who are shouting out mistakes and helping with flaws. All respective groups train here together, as one unit as they would have to fight together in the army. It’s a fairly large area open to the sky and behind the palace taking nearly all of the space save on the far right where the endings of the Queen’s Garden is.

Fandral keeps shuffling his feet awkwardly, balancing on one foot from another in his discomfort.  Thor rolls his eyes in exasperation because honestly, he’s not going to eat him or anything, and grasps the hilt of his sword pulling it outwards. The metal gleams in the light happily and Fandral rips his gaze upwards half a second before Thor’s sword is swinging towards him. Fandral quickly lifts his own sword that was hanging from his right arm to block the attack and presses against the metal his eyebrows furrowing.

Thor pulls back and laughs giving a wide smile, “You have quick reflexes, my friend.” He assures and Fandral seems to squirm his way from his shell slightly at the complement.

“Thank you, Your Highness.” He says and Thor waves a hand.

“Please, call me Thor.” He insists and Fandral gives a light smile in answer.

Thor glances back at Loki with his stupid parsing expression he does that Thor hates. He doesn’t want to spend the entire time he’s trying to help Fandral under his gaze. Besides, Loki is to young for this anyway. Thor waves his hands towards him in a shooing motion, “I believe Mother was looking for you, Brother.” He says.

Loki gives him an odd look.

“No she wasn’t--” He starts to protest, but Thor shoots him a glare and Loki huffs before shutting the book and rising to his feet. The dark haired Asgardian quickly disappears in the crowd.

Fandral stares at the spot Loki disappeared to for a moment before looking at Thor. “That book must have weighed more than him.” He insists and Thor laughs.

“Sometimes I wonder. Now, what was it you were struggling with again?”

Thor intended to help Fandral with the weaponry, go back to the palace to find Loki so he can ask him for his assistance about the test, and then likely not see Fandral again. The end, that’s it. He did not expect, however, for Fandral to return the next week, this time with two others in tow. Thor had been working on an offensive move with Hela when they were interrupted and Thor saw immediate recognition slice through Hela’s gaze before she gave Thor a knowing look.

“Fandral!” Thor greets with a smile and pulls his sword back from Hela’s, staring at the Asgardian for a moment with confusion. “Do you need something?”

“I apologize, Your Highness, but this is Hogun and Volstagg, they were wondering, but refused to build up enough courage,” Fandral sends a soft glare of displeasure in their direction, “if you would show the move did me a weeks past.”

“Disengaging?” Hela asks and the other two boys seem to shrink slightly at her voice.

“Yes, that’s the name of it.” Fandral agrees.

“Ah.” Hela says and pushes at Thor’s back. “We can finish this later.” She assures and as he makes no move forward she pushes at his back lightly, “Well, go along Thor and play dolls with your friends.”

Norns, he hates her.

“Sister, ” Thor grits between his teeth in embarrassment, but Hela has folded her arms across her chest in clear dismissal and Thor purses his teeth together before looking at the others. They aren’t laughing, just looking at him with slightly wide eyes. Because few people believe Hela to have a sense of humor. Right.

“Right, then,” Thor says and grabs Fandral’s elbow in effort to stop the staring and pulls him forward to a more private area. Well, as private as one can be in the loud, vast, verily populated training arena.

Maybe Volstagg (it could be Otherdag), Hogun, and Fandral all come to halt as he does and Thor turns to them. “Disengaging, then?”

Things quickly progress after that. Thor hasn’t had any friends outside of his family beyond a few loose acquaintances (that were there for a single day before disappearing the next) and the sudden companionship is strange. Thor finds he likes it though. All at once, months have flown by since they met.

Thor learns that Hogun is silent, but with enough pushing is a sincere and loyal to his core. Volstagg is kind. but takes any insults to heart and can have a sharp tongue when displeased. Fandral is easy going, lighthearted and is not skilled with a bow and arrow.

Thor teaches them everything he can and his friends move among the ranks from the lower levels of the worst recruits to among the best for their age group. Hogun is older than Thor by a year and a half by Midgardian standards and Volstagg half a year. Fandral and Thor are the same age though. It does make Thor feel slightly proud to be able to teach them something new even though they are technically in a more advanced class than he is. (Hela doesn’t play by these rules and if Thor asks, she’ll usually teach him).

Their friendship grows beyond Thor teaching them tricks relatively quickly. They become friends, real friends. Thor enjoys every moment of it. He spends as much time as he can with them because they share his interests in battle and hunting and are actually the same age as him. They go on quests, (all unreal, but hey, someone has to defeat the imaginary dragon to get the apple from the Champion's Tree and who better than Thor and the Warriors Three? (as they’ve taken to calling each other)).

They meet Sif in a different manner. Three months after Hela threw Fandral onto Thor, Hela’s handmaiden, Systa had asked Hela to look after her younger sister, Sif, as she went to collect the new molds that from a blacksmith on the other side of Asgard. Hela had agreed and dragged her into the training arena. They meet her when she nearly takes Volstagg’s head off with a spear.

Horrified, Sif had begged them not to tell and when they agreed then (only because Volstagg can’t keep a grudge to hold his life, Hogun is much better at this) and shyly asked them to train her. Thor was initially surprised, but agreed anyway. Sif quickly lost her bashfulness the more they spent time with her. Thor learns that she’s funny, has her sweet moments, and is beyond determined to earn a spot on the Einherjar. Thor does all within his power to support her.

Sometimes Loki tags along with their secret trainings to Sif and then their imaginary quests (Someday, Thor really will go on one and bring back honor to the family) and though Thor doesn’t mind, his friends do and that bugs him because he doesn’t want to lose them. He’s never had friends before and the thought of them going makes his insides freeze with horror. They put up with Loki well, though, only teasing him lightly sometimes because of his age and skill set. Loki is almost at the age where official training begins and Loki often points that out when they tease him. But nonetheless, Thor finds himself spending less and less time with his little brother than they used to and getting slightly irritable whenever he makes him late to whenever he and his friends agreed to meet. Like now.

For the last three weeks or so, Thor has rarely seen Loki outside of their shared lessons together. Loki has been missing meals or coming in late (whether on purpose or not, Thor honestly can’t tell) and finally dropped by today asking Thor for help on a spell he’s attempting to learn. Something about him holding a rock or something like that as Loki attempts to stuff it into a pocket dimension.

Thor and the Warriors Three are meeting up with Sif to explore the Whitewashed Cliffs and Loki’s too young to come with them. Thor’s been excited about this for weeks and doesn’t want to wait any longer. Honesty, when will Loki stop being so clingy? Does he need Thor to hold his hand all the time?

Thor likes to say he’s grown up quite a bit in the last half a year from when he met Sif, Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg, but Loki seems to have only grown more childishly desperate for his company. Even though Thor’s already told him no at least three times (Thor honesty can’t remember) Loki is insistent and because of this is now chasing him down the hallway, pleading.

“Thor, please! It would only take a moment.” Loki says and Thor resists rolling his eyes, but doesn’t look back at his younger brother who is following closely behind Thor’s long strides.

“I am busy, go find someone else to do it.”

“I can’t. Everyone else is busy too.” Loki protests and Thor does roll his eyes at that one. No, Loki just doesn’t want to ask anyone else. Thor purses his lips together.

“What about Mother? You know she actually cares for your witchcraft.”

“It’s sorcery, Thor.” Loki deadpans behind him, “Not witchcraft. There’s a difference.”

“Hmph. Barely.” Thor jibes. Loki doesn’t take it. Thor spots his friends at the end of the hallway and silently hopes that Loki will let off before they get there.

“Please.”

Nope, oh how Loki does love making everything incredibly difficult.

“No.”

Please?”

No !” Thor says in deep exasperation. Loki lets out a heated breath behind him.

“Fine. You probably would have broken it anyway.”

“I would not have.” Thor retorts.

There’s a moment of silence of which Thor thinks he might’ve finally shaken Loki off. “Please, please, please-- Loki starts to chant, but Thor cuts him off.

“No, Loki, for the love of the Norns, why do you have to be so clingy?” Thor demands finally, beyond annoyed as he reaches his friends and turns to look at his little brother who comes to a halt as well and folds his arms over his skinny chest his dark eyebrows lowering in frustration.

“I’m not clingy!” He protests.

Thor snorts slightly and raises a hand out to jab at the younger's shoulder as he speaks. “Really? You’re always the one tagging behind on us; Honestly, Loki, grow up .”

Loki’s face washes over with deep hurt for a moment.

“He’s right you know,” Fandral says after a moment and Loki’s gaze quickly switches from open and vulnerable to closed and angry. “You’re always making excuses to come along with us, don’t you understand that no one wants you here? You’re just lying to yourself so it’s time you accept the truth and go away. Now shoo,” Fandral says and waves his arms in the motion. A discomfort grows in Thor’s stomach at Fandral’s words (but Fandral is jesting, as always) and Loki doesn’t show any hurt to it just a blank face and he turns his eyes to Thor, almost hopefully.

“You’re too young to come with us anyway,” Thor decides finally and Loki gives a muted nod.

“Come on, boys,” Sif says and grabs at Thor’s elbow pulling him forward and away from Loki’s lone form watching them from the end of the hall.

000o000

Hela lets out a slow breath trying to remind herself, desperately, that giving the soldier in front of her a throttle (no matter how appealing) won’t solve anything. New recruits usually don’t bother her, she loves to play with their minds and make them think they're winning when she’s already won the war; but Norns, this particular soldier is driving her insane.

His arrogance, cockiness and all around stupidity is going to get him killed on a real battlefield and no matter how much Hela tries to patiently explain that to the man, it's hopeless. Hela wants to grab at her long hair and give a firm pull then pull on them some more because she honestly cannot take it anymore.

The man seems to think that he knows literally everything and people should bow down and kiss his feet then stare in awe at his perfectly gelled hair. Maho Kidason, twenty eight (by Midgardian standers), dark hair, obnoxiously blue eyes and excellent fighting skills. Probably the best she’s seen in a long while; he has a natural talents for spears and maces. Managed to beat Tyr in a battle and yes, well impressive, didn’t do wonders for the others around Maho. His ego, however, is very happy.

Hela is a person who likes to say she has a long stretch of patience at first (with few exceptions), but this man, has tested, snapped, and laughed on the grave of it. Does Maho even realize how obnoxious it is to boast that he, and he alone managed to beat Tyr? Like, yes, she has as well, along with Odin and Frigga and--shall she go on? Tyr doesn’t exactly have a record of being undefeatable. In a mission of life or death when a block or disarm may change the course of everything telling everyone how he beat Tyr isn’t going to stop an enemy from gutting him .

Does he even have a silent mode? Stealth must be nigh impossible for this man because you have to be quiet well doing it. It's ridiculous, Hela’s going to lose her mind long before she gets a new group of people to work with. Why did she agree to this? Everyone told her this group is impossible, but she doubted and snorted then said that she can beat them into shape.

Norns, she is done with him.

Hela closes her eyes softly and pinches the bridge of her nose as Maho continues to talk. He’s been... firmly saying that he’s prepared to be a captain for Asgard’s army. As the High Commander over all the legions, Hela disagrees with this (Tyr warned her of Maho’s obsession with getting beyond his second-in-command position that she’s honestly starting to want to pull him back from). It's not a surprise to Hela that Maho wants the position; he is, as Maho keeps reminding them all “the best swordsman Asgard has” it's just that Maho isn’t ready for that responsibility. She’s trying really, really hard to not lose her stoic, calm, and patient outward demeanor but she’s pretty sure that Maho hasn’t done anything harder than deciding what to have for breakfast yet. Although he’s older than her, he joined later after his girlfriend left him he somehow thinks this makes him better than her.

Ugh.

Hela releases her nose from the death grip she has on it and slowly peels her eyelids apart to stare at the man who is incapable of shutting up in front of her.

Maho is talking with a no-nonsense tone, though Hela admittedly isn’t trying to hard to understand what he’s speaking.

“...I’m just saying that the way you’re going about this is all wrong. I mean, I’ve never trained an army before, but I know I could do better, I could train Asgard’s army to be better than all the other’s in the Nine Realms you just have to give me a chance as captain. I know I could do it, Commander--these stupid training exercises aren’t getting me anywhere and--”

Hela’s calm expression finally snaps and she raises a singular eyebrow. Maho, who's been staring at her face unbreakably and talking for the last seven minutes-not pausing for breath comes to a slow awkward halt.

“Commander?” Maho asks, slightly hesitantly.

Hela folds her arms across her chest and lets out a breath before answering the man, “Maho, I know that you want this position badly, but you aren’t ready.”

“But-” Tyson protests his eyebrows raising in distress so much they almost launch off of his face.

“Maho,” Hela says. The word comes out slightly harsher than she intended, but the man silences. “You haven’t even passed the training exercises for your level yet. You haven’t even passed all your training in total, you’re almost there. But that’s the thing, ‘ almost.’”

You were much younger when you were made second in command.” Maho protests.

Hela purses her lips together, “And?”

“It’s not fair! I’m older and should have a claim to this title, my grandfather was general of the army, you know that!” Maho argues. Hela snorts softly. Yeah, a little too well.  

“Yes, he was. If you keep acting the way you are, you may never be.” Hela says and Maho’s expression twists and for a total of three seconds Hela’s pretty sure that he’s going to punch her in the face but his fists unclench and he raises his head.

“You’ll see what you’re holding back and you’ll be sorry!” The soldier spins on his heel and storms back into the mass of men running around and Hela turns her gaze to follow him for another moment before resting her head in her hands.

Heaving a sigh, Hela shakes her head back and forth. “I seriously doubt it.” She mumbles to herself. That man just hits a nerve.

Hela watches where he disappeared to before spotting Loki sitting on the bench next to the door. Hela’s eyebrows raise slightly in surprise. She can’t see him very well through the moving bodies, but well enough. Thor’s off on some sort of exploration with his self proclaimed Warrior’s Three and Systa’s little sister. Why they didn’t take Loki is beyond her. What’s he’s doing here is another mystery. Hela would’ve thought that he would be hiding out in the library as he’s taken to doing more often recently.

Hela presses her lips together before making her way through the crowd towards the bench. They make an awkward part for her as she crosses the distance and Hela is grateful for it.  She manages to reach the exit in half the time it usually would. Loki’s legs are drawn up close to his chest and his chin is resting on his knees.

Hela watches him for a moment longer before plopping down next to him. Loki turns his head in slight surprise before recognizing her and returning to his staring. “Hi.” He mutters.

Hela’s eyebrows raise slightly. Loki has been a little more withdrawn recently, but usually the little ball of energy that’s hard to keep up with.

She stares at Loki for another moment before nudging his side with her elbow. Loki yelps and his tight position crumples as his limbs spread outwards in surprise from her jab. “Ow!” He protests and turns to look at her in frustration, “Why did you do that?”

Hela shrugs.

Loki frowns deeply before drawing his legs up close again. “Why are you out here?” Hela asks after another moment of stretched silence between them. Loki sighs in answer, blowing out a slight raspberry before tucking his legs up to his chest again.

“Thor hates me.” Loki answers. What? Where on the Nine did he get that idea? Hela lets out a laugh sitting up from her slumped position. Loki shoots her a glare.

“Why do you assume so?” She asks.

Loki presses his lips together. “He never wants to spend any time with me anymore.”

“That’s not true.” Hela argues.

“Yes, it is!” Loki protests and drops his legs. “If it weren’t for his stupid friends and how much they hate me, then Thor would stop ignoring me.”

Hela opens her mouth to respond, pauses, then closes it.

Ah...huh.

Thor has been spending a lot of time with Fandral, Volstagg, Hogun and Sif but Hela has also seen Loki trailing behind them, often. Except maybe the last few weeks or so. “Thor isn’t ignoring you.” Hela says, finally, and Loki huffs slightly before muttering something under his breath that Hela doesn’t catch.

He looks strangely desperate when he looks up at her,

“I was passing time. Excuse me, Sister, if I don’t leave now I’m going to be late for Mother’s sorcery lesson.” With that said, her little brother all but leaps from the bench and rushes off back towards the palace. Hela stares at the spot he disappeared to for a moment, thinking. She’s been busier as the court has pulled her this way and that finally trying to ground her with an overload of responsibilities and it’s been working.

She’s missed almost everything.

000o000

“--and then Fandral grabbed Sif at the last second at the tree branch broke crashing into the river. It was amazing.” Thor says with heavy enthusiasm, hands flailing out in his explanation. Hela nods slightly, not really paying attention to whatever it was that he was talking about having long since tuned him out.

“Yes, Thor, that does sound exciting.” Their mother agrees. Odin is busy with some late council business and Frigga is supposed to join him shortly so Hela suspects that she, to, is not paying much attention.

“He pulled Sif a distance she could have stepped over, amazing .” Loki says sarcastically.

Hela turns her gaze to him. Really? Guess she missed that part.

What river was it again? Hela scans her memory for a moment. The Inclined Grand, right. The river at the part that Thor was describing would be about two feet wide there, as it goes on it gets wider and wider before stretching out to the ocean underneath the Rainbow Bridge. So yes, Sif probably could have jumped over it.

Hela snickers at Loki’s comment and Thor turns to him.

“It was an act of heroism, Brother, Fandral knows how to do them.” He says and Loki’s mouth twitches slightly and an angry heat locks behind his eyes before he looks up at their mother.

“May I be excused?”

“Yes, of course.” Frigga says and waves her head in dismissal. “Your father wants to let you know that Sir Borison had something he wants to discuss with you later.”

Loki nods, then shoves back from the table and runs from the room. Hela presses her lips together in concern before turning to look at Thor. “Why didn’t you take him with you?”

“He’s too young.” Thor avers with a shrug. Hela’s frown deepens, but she doesn’t comment.

Much later that same night (more like early in the morning the next day) Hela jerks her head up from her pillow long strings of black hair sticking to her face and she blinks tiredly in the direction of the open door. The sound of the hinges giving a loud screech woke her and now she’s trying to determine whether or not to attack said thing or return back to bed and hope that the problem solves itself.

“Sister? Are you awake?” Loki’s soft voice cuts through the silence of the night and after a moment Hela sees the green fire Loki conjured onto his hand, likely to light his way in this direction. Hela can’t remember the last time one of her siblings came to her for comfort. Thor’s room is closer than her’s, anyway, why is he here?

Now that she’s thinking about it, she hasn’t seen Loki and Thor together often for anything but their family meals for a few months. Strange. She hasn’t really seen Loki to much the last few weeks. She’s been busy with the army, though, and dealing with all the young Asgardians has been frustrating. No matter, however, Loki is here and she’s not about to chase him out with a broom. Hela sits up.

“I am now; what do you need?” Hela asks.

“I…” Loki trails off slightly, seeming embarrassed and Hela tosses her hair from her face and stares at him for a moment. From the pale lighting of Loki’s small flame she can see how pale he is and how wide his eyes are.

Her lips thin with sympathy.

Night terror.

Hela scoots over on her bed before throwing open the covers in invitation, “Come.” She demands, tiredly, and reaches up to rub the sleep from her eyes with one hand as Loki extinguishes the flame before closing the door. After a few seconds, Loki leaps onto the bed with her and Hela throws the blankets over his small form before laying back down again.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Loki shakes his head several times and Hela can’t see anything but the outline of his form from the dark light. Hela nods in acknowledgement to his choice. After a moment of hesitation she moves forward slightly and wraps her arms around Loki drawing him close.

Loki stills at the contact at first before leaning into it and turns so he can wrap his arms around her in turn, burying his head into her shoulder. He begins to shake slightly and it takes Hela a heartbeat to realize he’s crying and brings her other hand up to gently begin to run through his soft hair. Always soft and somehow free of tangles.

“Shh,” Hela murmurs quietly, “it’s okay, little brother, you are safe now.” She assures. Loki’s grip tightens to almost painful, but Hela doesn't comment on it. She doesn’t know how long they remain like this, Loki gripping her tightly as if she’s his only anchor and Hela running a hand through his hair and softly murmuring words into his hair, but Loki eventually pulls back and Hela lets him go.

The silence is stifling and Hela feels herself slowly drifting off to sleep before Loki asks: “Can I stay here tonight?”

Hela nods, “Of course. Now sleep, Little Brother.”

Loki rolls slightly before pressing his back against her and Hela wraps her arms around him before closing her eyes. Loki’s breathing evens out before she falls asleep and it takes Hela only a moment longer to slip into the succumbs of sleep.

When she wakes the next morning, Loki is long gone.

000o000

“Ah, Thor, I was wondering if you were going to join us today.” Volstagg says cheerily and Thor rolls his eyes good naturally.

“Sorry, slept in.” He apologizes. He did, he couldn’t sleep very well last night (he kept dreaming that Loki was crying out for him) and by the time his body decided it was time for sleeping he barely got a few hours.

Sif pulls away from the wall she was leaning against, “It’s fine.” She assures, “Has anyone seen Fandral?” Thor scans his gaze around the empty room for a moment realizing that the strawberry blond is indeed absent. The room they’re in is an empty guest bedroom; it’s where they’ve been meeting to teach Sif since they agreed to it. It’s pretty far from any of the more occupied parts of the palace and they’ve managed to time it right so they stop running into the servants who clean these rooms. Which is really only every month or so.

“I didn’t see him on my way here.” Thor says and Sif shakes her head slightly.

“No, of course not. You were to busy sleepwalking.” She says and Thor laughs with Volstagg and Hogun.

“Good point, Sif.” Thor says and they wait in silence for a few more minutes, (awkward if Thor may say so because it is indeed probably one of the most awkward stretches of time he’s ever lived). “I guess I’ll go look for him.” Thor offers and the others nod. Thor takes a step forward to do such that, but Fandral bursts into the room clothing ruffled and hair a mess, breathing heavily.

“Here not time I I am apologies!” He says and Sif shoots him a beliewedered look. Thor stares at his friend for a moment as well. What on Norn’s name? That is one of the weirdest sentence phrasing Thor has ever heard. Is Fandral sick? He looks a little pale and his fingers are twitching slightly, but he makes no other move to counteract his weird phrasing.

“...Are you all finally ready to teach me? We need to be faster so we can all make it to our lessons on time.”  Sif says, still staring at Fandral weirdly.

“Will we.” Fandral says, insistent. Okay...right. Strange.

Thor ignores the comment and turns to the female in their group, “Sif, go into your fighting stance. Fandral, we’re working on offense today, will you help her?”

“On!” Fandral says and Thor draws back slightly as Sif does the same.

“Fandral my friend, are you alright?” Volstagg says finally, almost hesitantly.

“Sey.” Fandral says immediately and his expression twists with deep frustration.

Sif stares at him for another moment, “What happened?”

“Happened, well is nothing.” Fandral says and his annoyed expression grows.

“Why do you speak riddles?” Thor asks and Fandral is quiet for a moment before answering: “It's just to trying happening not.” Fandral lets out a heated breath and looks down at his mouth with anger. Thor stares at him for a moment and his friends to the same.

Sif catches on before the rest of them: “You’re under a spell, aren’t you?”

Sey.” Fandral says in agreement relief washing over his face. “Awkward morning, bread I awful admitted asked thought of tasted.”

“The curse is that you say everything in a jumbled manner, isn’t it?” Sif asks and Fandral gives another nod, apparently not trusting his tongue.

Thor’s eyes narrow, “Who did this to you? Are you aware?”

“Good guess no I have.” He says and pauses for a moment as if waiting for someone to finish his thought. Yeah, Thor has no idea who it could be except for maybe his mother but he doesn’t know what she would do something like that. It’s just not like her, at all. Honestly, Thor can’t think of anyone who holds a grudge against Fandral in the first place, he’s an easy-going person.

“Loki.” Sif says a moment later. Thor’s eyebrows shoot upwards at that.

“What? Loki isn’t nearly that advanced in sorcery to cast a spell that strong.” Thor defends and Fandral raises an eyebrow slightly.

“He for my to house early morning, apology asked my shook hand.”

Thor pales slightly as he mentally straightens the sentence. He came to my house this morning asked for an apology and shook my hand.

Sif snorts. “Of course he did it, is anyone surprised? Thor, you have to convince your brother to remove the spell. We don’t know how long it will last and Fandral is a nobleman’s son. He can’t go insulting anyone elses cooking. It could compromise his position.”

Thor nods, “Alright, I’ll ask him later.” He assures.

000o000

Thor stares at Loki for the better part of their lesson, but the the younger seems beyond determined to look anywhere but him. Loki gets into a discussion with their tutor about the types of magical plants on Afliheim then on to the types of boots they wear. The latter topic, Thor is pretty sure that none of them actually care about, but Sir Borison knows a fair amount on the topic (surprisingly). Thor, for the most part ignores it as best he can, trying to catch his brother’s attention.

When Sir Borison finally turns away handing out a worksheet for the class to work on, the younger finally, finally, turns to look at him and promptly points to a spot on his cheek. “You have jam on the side of your face, did you know that?”

Thor lifts his hand up to scrub at the area, slightly irritated and embarrassed, but ignores the feelings. “Did you spell Fandral?” He demands in a hushed voice.

Loki’s green eyes narrow slightly and in an equally quiet voice says: “Yes.”

“Why?”

“I’m angry at him. And you.”

Thor’s eyebrows shoot up at that. Why would Loki be mad at him? Yeah, they didn’t let him go on their exploration-thingy, but it was more out of concern for the younger than anything else…

Thor hesitates for a moment before asking, “Why?”

Loki locks gazes with him for a several seconds before he releases a breath, steadily, “You’re always spending time with them, Thor. I hardly see you anymore.” Loki explains. His voice is slightly tight and Thor releases a breath trying to stuff down the irritation. Annnd the clinginess rears its ugly head with vigor!

“I hardly see you anymore, too, you know. You’re purposefully coming late to meals so you can miss me. I’m not an idiot, Loki.” Thor says and Loki huffs at that.

“Sometimes I wonder.”

Thor clenches the side of the chair tightly and glares at Loki angrily, “At least I do not need someone to hold my hand all the time.”

Loki’s jaw clenches to the left slightly and he looks full out ready to murder something. Thor inwardly squirms because an angry Loki is not something anyone wants to deal with on a good day, but common sense and his brain don’t link right now. “Can’t you let me grow up? I’m not going to be there to tie your shoelaces all the time anymore.”

“I’m not asking you to.” Loki hisses.

“And Fandral? Where does he play into this petty, childish need?” Thor demands.

Loki stares at him for a full second with a completely blank expression before he leaps to his feet grabs the science book resting on the desk and slams it over Thor’s head. Thor’s face slams into his desk on instinct, a roaring headache pulsing through his brain.

He sputters and flicks his gaze up to Loki who is staring at him with an unreadable expression. “The spell will last twenty four hours. I don’t want you to hold my hand Thor, but Fandral might as it goes onwards.” Loki storms off without a word and Thor rises to his feet staring at his little brother’s back for a moment frustration building.

Sir Borison clears his throat, awkwardly, and Thor is suddenly reminded that he’s there and that he can feel the eyes of the rest of his class. His headache is pounding and Thor grasps the book on his desk off and throws it across the classroom in anger.

000o000

“...I just do not understand why Loki would rise to such anger though.”

Hela makes a noise in the back of her throat.

“He never gets angry, except that one time when I accidentally ruined his favorite book with a miss-toss of a dagger. Then he was angry and then that other time with the--He was fine before, though, even happy.”

“Yes.”

“I do not see what could be wrong.” Thor says and lifts his hands in exasperation before running one through his hair again, trying to quell the ache between his eyes. He and Loki have gotten into many fights, but they have rarely hit each other.

Loki slammed a book over his head.

Hela makes another noise.

“Alright, so Fandral may have pushed a little to hard, but he’s not a child anymore and he must know it was all in jest--and that was days ago! He didn’t have any reason to put the spell on Fandral--are you even listening?”

Hela pushes a strand of hair away from her face, tucking it behind her ear and finally turns from the sculpture she was making of Heimdall’s Observatory to look at him, one eyebrow raised in a clear answer of yes . Thor stuffs down another rising feeling of guilt at her look and forces on the anger. Because he’s angry that Loki is so clingy and can’t allow him to grow up a bit.

“He’s not an idiot!” Thor protests at Hela’s eyebrow which at his words, arches higher. “He had no reason to smash a book over my head.”

Hela sighs and grips the bridge of her nose for a moment before pulling her hands back from the clay and giving him her full attention. She’s quiet for a moment before speaking: “Loki is not the only one at fault here, Brother.”

Thor fumes slightly and grasps at one of the random weapons laying on Hela’s desk and throws it across the room in anger. It lands with a plunk in the wall beside the window. Hela glances at it for a moment before raising her hand and jerking her wrist and pulling her forth and last finger into her palm spreading her other’s out. She twists her wrist and the dagger lands on the desk again with a clank. Thor grasps it again throws it across the room in roused frustration. It lands two inches to the left of the previous spot.

Hela’s lips quirk slightly and this just makes Thor want to kick something. There’s nothing remotely funny about this situation. “Why is he allowed to be angry, but I’m not?” He demands.

Hela’s bemused expression drops and she sighs, shaking her head, “That is not what I am trying to say, Thor. By all means, please,” Hela twists her fingers again in the spell and the dagger drops beside Thor again, “throw it. I’ve never had a particular fondness for that wall anyway.”

Thor tosses it. It’s really pathetic because he’s aiming for this little crook thing under the window between the curtains and missing violently. It lands in its previous position but this time about six inches lower.

Hela smooths down an area of the top of the observatory sculpture before turning to look at him. “You’re not angry at Loki.”

Thor scoffs, “Yes, I’m fairly sure I am.”

“No,” Hela corrects, “you are angry that you didn’t defend him and you are angry that Loki said nothing to you.” As Thor opens his mouth to protest, Hela lifts up her hand, “You and Loki used to tell each other everything now you barely speak to one another. Yes, I agree that Loki didn’t have to use the spell on Fandral, but honestly, Thor? He’s just trying to get your attention.”

Thor is quiet for a long moment before sighing. He and Loki have been getting more distant recently and though Thor’s been doing his best to ignore it, he has noticed it. “What am I supposed to do?” Thor asks, finally and looks up at Hela, feeling lost.

“Apologize and start dragging him around with your “Warrior’s Three” and Sif.” Hela says and Thor presses his lips together. Didn’t he get wronged to? Doesn’t Loki have to apologize? Who is the one with a pulsing headache?

“Where is he?”

Hela stares at him for a moment. “Likely the stables. Fenris has ground found of him recently, I’ll join you.” Hela says and rises to her feet. Thor resists the urge to protest. He doesn't really want to do it right now, but Hela will give him the stare until he does. Thor gives a soft groan before jumping off Hela’s desk and moving across the room towards the door.

000o000

Loki is, in fact, not in the stables.

Fenris is though and is more than happy to see the both of them. Hela rests a hand on the giant wolf’s face and smiles softly,.running a hand through the dark fur. “Fenris, my darling, how are you?” She whispers softly. Thor stares at them for a moment. Thor has heard more than a handful of stories on how fierce Fenris is during battle, how she alone took out Laufey’s queen in the war over Midgard, but honestly, the wolf is pathetically puppy like. Most are very intimidated by her size and, but eventually get tangled in her friendliness. Hela found her as a pup when she was very young next to her dead pact and practically raised the wolf herself.

Hela runs a hand through the dark fur and Fenris leans into her touch happily. “Loki is not here,” Thor says after a minute or so, “we should find him before the end of the day so he can break the spell on Fandral.” Thor says and Hela gives him a side glance.

“Apology first. From both of you.” She insists before pressing her forehead against Fenris’s fur and pulling back. “Come,” She says and takes several steps away from the wolf. Thor follows a moment later and the two walk back to the palace in silence. Hela isn’t angry with him, at least, Thor’s pretty sure (Hela has never been a person to hide her anger, it comes out quickly and is usually followed by some form of violence).

When they reach the palace, however, things go south, quickly. They’ve barely taken two steps inside before a running guard stops in front of Hela, hissing out a breath, “Your Highness, someone has broken into the Treasury Room.”

“What?” Hela asks, more in surprise than anything. Thor echoes her mentally. The Treasury Room? Why?

When?

Who?

“Your father has been searching for you.” The guard adds and Hela nods. The guard rushes off and Hela breaks into a run, Thor following behind. Thor is mildly breathless by the time they reach the rooms, and Hela is hissing between her teeth.

The door are open, but there isn’t any damage done to them and Thor can see their father standing in front of something, Frigga beside him. A handful of guards are behind their parents and none of them have tight positions or look ready for battle. Hela walks into the room and Thor can hear their father speaking now.

He’s been in here before once, when their father showed Loki and him the Casket of Ancient Winters about a year ago. It doesn’t look much different from now and then.

“...understand why you tried to take it.” Odin says.

“I didn’t!” Thor’s stomach does a weird backflip thing as he recognizes the voice. Loki. What on Norn’s name is Loki doing in here? Hela is apparently going along the same train of thought because she shoves her way to the front.

“What happened?” She demands. Thor is on her heels and his eyes widen at what he sees. Loki is clutching at his left arm where angry red skin is blistering and his eyes are wide as he stares up at their father. Sif, Volstagg, Hogun and Fandral are behind him, Sif and Fandral looking slightly smug and Hogun blank (as usual) and Volstagg slightly guilty. Impossible to tell, unless someone knows them as well as Thor does.

What on the Norn’s name were they doing?

They don’t bare...particular fondness for Loki so why are they all in here?

At Hela’s question, Odin turns to her. “That is what I am trying to figure out. Someone set off the Destroyer and we rushed in here and the guards say that Loki was clutching at his burn with them behind them. None have offered an explanation on how they got in here in the first place.”

Thor can’t see his sister’s expression his gaze is just locked onto his friends.

“My King,” Sif says and all heads turn to her, “if I may offer our part of this tale…” She says and Odin gives her a nod. “Loki cast word jumbling spell onto Fandral--”

Frigga casts her gaze to her youngest at that, “ Really?”

“--and we asked him to remove it. Loki said that he would need something from the Treasury Room to do it and said we wouldn't get into trouble because it would just take a moment. We agreed because we trust him, but he lied to us! We snuck in through the passageways in the palace, if you want to know but when we stepped in here, Loki went for the Casket and we tried to stop him. The Destroyer got his arm as I pulled him out of the way.”

“That’s not what happened!” Loki protests and clutches at his arm looking close to tears. Every brotherly instinct within Thor screams at him to rush forward and take Loki away from this then help his arm get better, but he remains where he is. If it was that bad, their mother surely would have healed it by now.

“Lying he’s!” Fandral protests and Thor watches Loki expression grow more helpless he turns to their mother.

“Why would Loki try to take it? He doesn’t even know how to use it.” Hela points out and Odin nods giving a soft sigh.

“I’m not!” He insists.

“Then what did happen, Loki?” Hela asks, her voice is quieter than the raised ones and Loki turns to her.

“I was going back to my room after the lesson and I ran into them before I got there. Volstagg said that Thor wanted us to meet up in the Treasury Room and we were going to look at the weapons together. I agreed and when we got in here, Fandral tried to grab the Casket and I pushed him but the Destroyer burned me.” Loki lifts up his arm as if it’s evidence enough of the crime but Thor’s expression tightens.

He doesn’t...know what to believe. He wants to believe his little brother, but he doesn’t want to let his friends down. Besides, why would Fandral try to grab the Casket anyway? It would only burn him because he’s not a Frost Giant.

“Liesmith!” Sif shouts in protest behind them.

Loki whirls on her, “I’m not lying!” He protests. “I didn’t even touch the Casket!”

Thor glances at his parents to see them share a knowing look. Hela herself looks slightly paler and Thor for the life of him doesn’t understand why. Loki would have just gotten burned, like the rest of them and his arm is already proof enough against his crime. Thor just can’t believe that he has the guts to lie about it, too.

“Loki, I do not want you near the Casket again, it’s dangerous and the Destroyer even more so. Lying is getting you nowhere, boy, so be quiet .” Odin hisses, effectively cutting off Loki’s fresh stream of protests. Loki’s eyes moisten but he snaps his jaw shut.

“Odin,” Frigga whispers and lays a hand on their father’s shoulder. “It was a simple mistake.”

“You don’t believe me?” Loki asks, he sounds desperate and Thor for all that is good in him wants to leap to his feet and grasp his little brother around the arms shouting, “I do!” at the top of his lungs but he doesn’t. For some reason, Thor’s mouth tastes like dry sandpaper and his tongue weighs at least three tons.

“Guess you need to learn to lie a little better.” Hogun says behind him. Loki’s expression darkens and Thor sees Hela’s spine stiffen beside him.

“I believe him.” She hisses and holds out her hand, “Come on, Brother, let's get your arm cleaned up.” Loki walks forward and hesitantly takes her outstretched hand and Hela sweeps him up into her arms, something she hasn’t done since they were both much younger. Hela says nothing as she spins on her heel and storms from the room the guards parting for her swiftly.

“It could have been much worse, Husband.” Frigga says quietly. “I must attend to our son.” She says and Thor stares at her for a moment.

“You are not free from fault here either,” Odin says and turns to Thor’s friends, “I don’t care which story is true and which is wrong only that none of you should have been in here. Are you not aware than most of the objects in here can kill you painfully and slowly in less than five seconds? The Casket is nothing to joke over and you have no idea it’s power. Next time you decide to drag along my son on some wild adventure keep him away from that. All of you could have died today--do you understand?”

Thor’s friends looks far less pleased with themselves and all nod mutely.

Odin nods, “Good, Thor, please show them out. I need to fix the passageway entry issue.” Odin is furious, but hiding it well enough that Thor can pretend that he’s not. Thor jerks his head in the direction of the door as Odin storms forward, a handful of the guards following after him.

They exit into the hallway and Thor turns to them. “Did you lie?”

Sif scoffs, “No, of course not. I would never lie in front of the king, Thor. I don’t have a death wish.”

“Seconded.” Volstagg agrees. “Your brother is a mischievous one.”

“Right.” Thor says and they continue onwards but Thor can’t help the silent disagreement he feels. He doesn’t know which story is right but for now he’ll just trust his friends. They haven’t lied to him before and why would they start now?





Chapter Text

 


 

Frozen Bite:

There are moments in her life when she is forced to remember that she is not indestructible, and this, is, unfortunately, one of them. Hela’s forehead rams into the doorframe sharply and she draws back with a loud curse and cry of pain hand coming up to rub at the area. Her vision blurs horribly for a moment before steadying and Hela sends a sharp glare at the wood resisting the childish urge to kick it.

Norns, she’s going to murder something.

Odin lifts an eyebrow from his position at the table and looks up at her, “It hasn’t moved from yesterday.”

Hela turns her glare from the wood to her father. “Shut it.” She commands in frustration. Frigga’s lips stretch into a smile her eyes watching with concern as Hela stumbles to the table and sinks into her usual spot at the end.

She’s going to murder something.

“Are you alright?” Frigga says, trying and failing to hide her laughs.

Hela scowls into the table cloth, trying to reign in her mood, but it isn’t working much. “Where is Thor? I’m going to kill him.” She says firmly, letting her head fall into her hands.

“In bed, I’d assume.” Frigga says nonchalantly, then grabs a roll and begins to butter it with soft, even strokes.

Hela lifts her head up towards her parents and the sudden movement rouses her headache.

“Truly?” She repeats dubiously.

Her stepmother eyes her, “Yes.”

“Norns.” Hela mutters under her breath. This is injustice. Thor tasked her with the assignment, and then didn’t even bother to get up early? Hela had been up late working with Volstagg and a handful of others in the training arena because Thor retired early last night and they didn’t get the move down they wanted to. Somewhere well beyond sunset and they finally agreed to re-meet in the morning and Hela went to bed, exhausted.

And beyond that, Thor is an early riser, unlike herself. He and Loki could happily get up before the sun rises and be content for the rest of the day. It’s getting them to stay up past sunset that’s a problem. Never her’s, though. She rubs her fingers against her temples for a second before letting out an aggravated breath.

Her stepmother looks slightly amused, “Did something happen last night?”

“Thor put me in charge of youth.” She responds unhappily, “He said he had a project for the learning halls that he was going to get up early for. And he didn’t even get up early.”

Frigga hums quietly. “Yes, that sounds frustrating.”

Just a bit.

Frigga turns to her, mouth opened in a question, but both of them look towards the door as it’s pulled open and Thor, shadowed by Loki, steps into the dining room. Thor looks like he crawled from the grave, fought an entire army, wrangled a bilgesnipe, than finished the day off with a fun ten mile hike. Loki’s clothing is damp. She’s guessing he was outside because it’s raining lightly. Probably scaling the Dejorunn Mountains again.

Thor all but collapses into the chair, rubbing at his eyes as Loki calmly takes the seat beside him.

“Good morn, Loves.” Frigga greets with a soft smile.

Loki doesn’t look up at her, opting instead to spin the spoon around the edge of the porridge. “Good morn,” Loki answers after a second.

“Mthrberg.” Thor responds and Hela raises an eyebrow at him. After a second, she takes the end of the spoon next to her plate and jabs him in the arm. He lifts his gaze to her’s blearily, head hidden by his hair.

“How is your project?” She questions pointedly.

He stares at her for a second, looking confused.

So it was a lie so he could go to bed then.

Excellent.

“What?” Thor asks after a second.

She sighs and draws her hand back. “I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that your group is still as awful with staffs as they were when you departed from us last night.”

Thor lifts his gaze to her, tiredly, his eyes slightly red rimmed. Odd. He must be really tired; that was at least fourteen or fifteen hours and Thor looks ready to go for another twenty or so without complaint. “That’s great.” He agrees, obviously not hearing what Hela said, but responding because it’s polite. Hela’s eyebrow arches higher for a moment before she shakes her head and turns to the food on the table.

She’s just paranoid.

She grabs a pastry ignoring the pointed look that Frigga sends her and snatches a bite enjoying the warm sensation it sends across her body. Ah, sugar. Hela’s never really been one for sweet things, preferring sour, as her brothers, but Madame Lize and her fellow cooks are masters in the art of pastries. They also may or may not have taken the prince and princesses disliking of sweet things as a challenge.

“Did you sleep well?” Frigga questions, looking to her siblings. Loki shrugs slightly and Thor tilts his head to the left, looking distracted. Behind him is a large painting of the cliff side of Asgard on a sunrise where the waterfalls were caught perfectly in the glimmering of the sunlight and a few decorative silver ribbons at the top. Not much else. It doesn’t exactly hold the secrets of the universe as Thor’s gaze is implying.

Frigga gives a hum, “Horribly vocal today, aren't we?”

Hela grabs another bite and Loki shoves a spoonful of the porridge into his mouth, then turns to Thor. “You look like you got ran over by a horse.” He states, plainly, with a slight edge of concern.

Hela reassesses Thor, then comes to the same conclusion.

“Thank you, Loki, my self confidence levels have skyrocketed.” Thor retorts. Loki’s expression hardens and he shakes his head slightly in annoyance.

“Always a pleasure, Brother.”

Hela finishes the pastry in about two minutes and during that time Loki turns back to Thor and both now have a pretty steady argument going on. It’s something that’s unfortunately become more normal than not often, and she’d be lying to say it doesn’t bother her.

So she ignores it.

“Did the delegation from Nidavellir arrive?” She questions Frigga.

“Yes,” Frigga answers, “they were hoping to gain financial support, a sickness has taken most of their minors on the heart of Solestar.”

Hela hums quietly, “What has been decided?”

Odin looks up from the document he’s scribbling on, “The aid they seek will only be provided for a month, they can’t use us as a crutch.”

Oh.

Hela bites her tongue and turns her gaze back to the table. That wouldn’t have been her decision, but it isn’t her place to question her king.

Loki suddenly swings his hand up and Hela whips her head in his direction, startled, believing for half a heartbeat that Loki is going to punch Thor, but instead the younger slams the back of his head against Thor’s forehead.

“Lo,” Thor complains loudly, slipping back into a childhood nickname she hasn’t heard in decades. He looks up at Loki’s pale hand with irritation. What on the Nine…?

Hela’s eyebrow’s shoot up as a moment later Loki snatches his hand back with a hiss and turns to fully look at Thor. “You’re running a high fever, do you feel ill?” Loki inquires.

A fever?

He does look ill.

His skin is blotchy and his cheeks are flushed.

Norns. Loki noticed the moment he looked at Thor, Hela just jabbed at him. Observance skills: resting at about negative six.

Loki’s words catch the attention of their parents and both look up. Frigga squints at Thor for a moment, then her eyes narrow.

Thor mutters something under his breath that doesn’t sound to cheerful and Frigga stands and walks around the table to kneel next to Thor’s chair and rests her hand in Loki’s previous position. “You do feel warm.” She notes and Odin stares at him hard for a moment.

“When did this start?” Their father questions.

Thor shrugs helplessly. “A few days ago.”

Hela gnaws on her inner lip, then looks to her parents, “I can take him to Eir.” She offers. Thor sends her a disagreeing look. None of them like visiting the palace’s healers, but if Thor is sick it's better to catch it now then regret it later.

“I’m not sick.” Thor protests. She lifts an eyebrow with disagreement and sees the rest of her family shoot him skeptical looks. Thor stares at them for a second before breathing out through his nose and shaking his head slightly. “Fine.”

“Good,” Frigga says and looks up at her, “tell Eir to give me an update when she gets a diagnosis. I’ll try to stop by, but I don’t know if I can make it.” She then turns to Loki, who is watching them quietly, “ You need to get to Sir Borison, you’re going to be late. Tell him Thor is ill and won't be able to make it today.” Loki looks close to protesting, but presses his lips together and rises from the table quietly exiting the room.

Hela stands and Thor follows a moment later. He manages to keep balance for a moment, then violently sways and Frigga’s hands wrap around his torso to steady him. If she hadn’t intervened, Thor’s head likely would have smacked against the table.

Thor lets out a soft moan and Hela shifts to rest a hand on his back, “Headache?” She guesses. Odin is suddenly at her side, though she didn’t hear him move. Hela isn’t looking at him, though, more focused on her younger sibling. Thor must have given up hiding how truly miserable he is because his shoulders wrack with a heavy shiver and he grips the table edge to keep steady despite Hela and Frigga’s hands on him.

“I think...I think...I’m going to…” He grits out and Frigga catches his meaning before Hela does and conjures a bucket from somewhere as Thor collapses to his knees and empties his stomach into the container. When Thor has graduated to dry heaving about a minute later, Frigga looks at Odin, “Go get Eir from the Healing Rooms, we will take Thor to his quarters.”

Odin nods and exits the room quickly, Gungnir clicking against the ground. Thor sits up from where he was leaning over the bucket and Frigga murmurs and Incantation and it vanishes. Hela leans beside Thor and runs a hand through his hair in comfort. “Can you stand?” Frigga asks and Thor shakily nods.

Liar.

Frigga swings his arm around her shoulder anyway and Hela supports his chest as they drag him to a standing position. How he managed to get here at all is beyond her. He can barely stand up straight.

With some effort and a fine amount of warring off concerned servants and dignitaries Hela and Frigga manage to make it to Thor’s room and the younger slug between them onto the bed.

Thor’s room, as she expected, is messy and will likely remain this way until Loki’s frustration with it snaps and he forces Thor to clean it or does it himself. Frigga’s prodding usually does nothing and Hela doesn’t really care.

Thor’s bed is unmade and her younger sibling sinks below the covers with a contented sigh and his shivering subsides slightly. Frigga takes a seat at the edge of the mattress and Hela stands beside her, gnawing on her inner lip. She is uncertain what to do now.  

Thor is not immune to illness, but when he does succumb to it, his body reacts violently.

The last bout hasn’t been for several years.

Hela has no idea what she’s doing.

They wait for about five minutes, Hela would guess, before Eir storms into the room, medical bag swung over her shoulder and face drawn tight. “How is he?” She demands reaching the bed in quick steps.

“Fever, shivering, and nauseous so far.” Frigga says and Eir nods.

“Alright; the king sends his best regards, but Ohro pulled him to the side. An urgent manner regarding an uprising, he requested your presence, my Queen.”

Because timing.

Norns.

Eir sets the bag down on the bed and spreads her hands out quickly building up a spell. The golden light spreads out in a long rectangle over Thor’s body humming for a moment and glowing like thin sparkling sand.

Uprising? There has been word of a small rebellion growing between the ranks of the people for some time now, but no word of them actually doing something. Needless to say, not everyone was within the same frame of mind as Odin when he stopped their conquering. It must be serious.

Frigga looks to think the same because her face grows conflicted. Hela rests a hand on her shoulder, “I will look after him, Mother.” She assures. Frigga nods and sends her a grateful look.

“Let me know if he worsens.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.” Eir says curtly.

Frigga strides from the room glancing back at them once before she closes the door and disappears into the hallway. Eir works with the spell for another moment before her eyebrows crease together in concern.

Thor looks up at her with a confused expression.

“What is it?” Hela asks, taking a step forward. Her voice is slightly tense and Hela shoves down the irritability at that. Eir turns to her. Her blonde hair is pulled back into a thick bun, but some stray hairs are falling in front of her face. Her brown eyes are worried.

“I believe we’ve managed to catch it before it’s life threatening,” She assures.

Life threatening?

What on the Nine is she speaking of?

“I can’t be a hundred percent sure until I run a few more tests,” Eir says and meets Hela’s gaze, “but I’m some fairly certain that he’s caught Frozen Bite.”

Hela feels her spine stiffen.

What?

She flicks her gaze to her sibling, an anxious feeling settling into her stomach as her throat constricts.

No.

Oh, please no.

Hela’s fingers fist and she digs her fingernails into her skin.

When Hela was a child and they were in the midst of a bitter war between Jotunheim, Laufey’s brother, Rippen attacked the capital of Asgard at the time and spread through it a powerful wave of magic. A deadly plague. He died on the assault by Hela’s birth mother’s hand when she counterattacked (Odin was waging war with Vanaheim at the time) but the plague never really washed out. No sorcerers have managed to purge it completely from their ranks and when they try, it only gets worse. Hela caught it when she was about five in Midgardian standards and nearly lost her life. Most Asgardian children catch it now, but Thor never did.

They’ve managed to find some threads of a cure, but the process takes a week at most and it’s not a pretty one.

Frozen Bite works by slowly freezing the under layers of the skin and giving raging fevers and nausea. The body reacts violently trying to get as much of the ice out as possible and in turn eventually the sudden temperature drops and rises kill their victim, slowly, painfully, but effectively. It really was a failed genocide and Thor has it.
Hela doesn’t remember much from when she had it beyond lots of tears and her mother’s quiet assurances, but what she does assures her it was awful and she wouldn’t wish it on her worst enemy.

“Oh.” Hela and Eir gyrate in sync in surprise Hela’s fingers itching for a blade to look at-- Loki who is standing about three feet from the bed, eyebrows drawn up very slightly in worry and stance stiff the rest of his face is blank. Hela resists the urge to leap forward and shake him.

“What are you doing in here!? Hela demands sharply.

Loki lifts his gaze from Thor’s pale form to her, unfazed. Any worry that was there is gone now replaced by that frustrating blank mask Loki has mastered so well.

“Do you really think I would go to lessons when Thor is like this?” Loki protests and Hela’s expression tightens. She doesn’t know of the Jotunn can catch Frozen Bite, but she doesn’t want to chance it. Loki would likely be more affected by it if they can, because the rapid change of temperature would make his body collapse faster. The ice probably wouldn’t bother him, but the fever definitely would.

Eir bristles, drawing her form out and waving Loki away with her hands, face drawn tightly in frustration.

Get out, my Prince, you can’t be in here you, you aren’t immune to it either.” Eir avers, insistent. Loki stares at Thor for a long moment, an unreadable expression flashing through his green eyes before Loki raises his eyebrows slightly, stubbornly, and Hela realizes they’ve lost the fight. If there family will be known for nothing else than stubbornness, it would be fitting.

Hela grinds her teeth together in frustration and bites at her tongue for a moment before pointing at the bed. “Sit and be quiet. If you get in the way of Eir, you’re gone.”

Loki nods in compliance and quietly moves across the room to sit on the other side of Thor’s bed where Thor isn’t and Eir sends a heated look in his direction, but weaves another spell, this time it’s orange. Thor lets out a soft moan and shivers violently beneath the covers. Eir presses her lips together as Loki fidgets digging his fingers at the dark grey tunic he’s wearing.

Eir turns to her, “Grab another blanket, you,” she turns to Loki, “have you masted water manipulation yet?”

“Yes.” Loki answers, his voice slightly brisk.

Hela turns to the chaos of Thor’s room eyes scanning from another blanket. Hela quickly moves past the the windows beside the bed and beyond the chest filled with various weapons to the dresser and rips open a drawer. Thor is a pack rat and refuses to throw anything away insisting it will have value someday for something. Ergo: the mess. Nothing usually rests on the ground because that drives Thor crazy, but stuff is littered across the tops of shelves, the dresser, desks and the inside of his closet is to cry over. Clothing usually lays at random over the couch and chairs and where extra blankets would be Hela has no idea.

The first drawer is filled with what looks like small trinkets from the city and she shoves it closed again before ripping open a second, then the third, forth, five and six before she finally comes across spare quilts. One of them is a tattered green that she silently suspects is Loki’s and she grabs at it pulling it free.

Hela turns, shoving the drawer closed with the edge of her boot before moving forward quickly. She hands the blanket to Eir as Loki spreads a wet cloth over Thor’s forehead. Very little magic can be worked into the systems with the Frozen Bite without it taking a drastic turn for the worse, so fever reducers and potions are off limits. Healing stones often do more damage than good;  as well. All in all, Frozen Bite is something they can do very little about.

Eir takes the blanket from her and spreads it over Thor’s frame. He blinks lazily staring at them for a moment. His eyes are glazed and distant, but he turns his head slightly in Loki’s direction as the younger straightens the cloth on his forehead, giving a weak smile.

“We’ll need to keep that running for the next few days. If we're lucky he’ll be over it in less than a week five days in the least, I’ll inform your parents.” Eir says and turns to leave, but grabs Hela’s upper arm and leans next to her ear, “Things will get worse before they get better. I would suspect he’ll get delusional when he wakes, try to keep Loki away from him, I don't know how it will affect him--if it will at all.”

Hela nods. Eir is one of the very, very few that know of Loki’s true heritage, her parents saw it a necessity when Loki was still a babe. It is guarded secret, but Eir’s never treated him differently, if a little coldly. She often takes precautions with her youngest brother.

Eir releases her arm and pats her sympathy before snapping her fingers and disappearing in a blue stream of light. Teleportation. Hela watches where the stream was for a moment before grabbing the chair resting at Thor’s desk and dragging it over beside the bed she plops down in it. Thor squeezes his eyes shut letting out a soft moan.

Hela lifts her hand to run it through his hair and gently sweeps it away from his neck. Thor’s always taken to growing his hair out longer than most his age and has this lock in the front much longer than the rest of his hair braided and tied with twine. It often swings into his face when he’s fighting, but he refuses to cut it. Loki once told her that Sif thinks it’s cute.

Hela presses her lips together, she hasn’t seen a case of Frozen Bite in a long time, but they pop up all over the Realm enough for her to be assured of their existence. From what she understands it starts as exhaustion than nausea and quickly escalates from there. Very quickly.

“Is he going to die?” Loki’s voice is soft and Hela lifts her gaze from Thor to her younger brother. Loki’s eyes are slightly wide and fearful as he looks back down at Thor. Sometimes she forgets just how young he is. Hela sighs.

“I don’t know, Eir said his chances are good. We really won't know until a few days from now.” Hela answers and Loki nods, but doesn’t seem contented by her answer. Thor’s eyes squeeze shut, tighter, and Hela rests her hand against his hair silently offering him comfort in the only way she knows how.

It doesn’t help.

000o000

“Did you do something to Thor?” Sif’s voice is brisk and irritable, but still manages to sound professional. Loki swallows a vexed comment and feeling because of course, Thor goes missing and it’s his fault.

Loki ignores her and digs through the closet for fresh rags and adds them to the growing pile on his arm. Although it’s been about four days and some ten hours since Thor’s initial diagnosis he hasn’t been lucid enough for any real conversation and his fever keeps spiking only to drop drastically below what’s normal. Loki’s slept a handful of hours total. He pretends to for Hela and his mother’s sake, but in all reality it’s impossible. Thor is his brother and they are interwoven together like night and day the thought of Thor actually dying is horrifying and try as he might, he can’t sleep. Not that he would have been if he could anyway, he dropped by the library after the first ten hours and grabbed as many books that they have on the Frozen Bite, but hasn’t found any cures. No one has. It’s incurable, just another large punch the Frost Giants took at them during the long feud.

He’s on an errand for Hela now, because Frigga and Odin keep getting pulled out of Thor’s room for political purposes and Eir checks in enough, but for the most part the care of his brother is left to him and his sister. Thor hasn’t been getting better and he needs to hurry before Thor’s fever spikes again. He’s currently (blessedly) holding a steady temperature right now, but still sleeping.

A hand wraps around his arm and Loki rips his hand out instantly stuffing down the spike of panic and turns to look at Sif’s irritated expression. Fandral is behind her, also glowering. Always so cheerful these two; it’s like someone bestowed upon them eternal joy in their youth. Hogun and Volstagg are missing, perhaps at lessons? Loki’s been skipping his, but between listening to Sir Borison drone on about material that Loki already knows in the same motto tone voice with little enthusiasm and helping his sick brother it wasn’t a hard choice.

“What?” He demands and closes the cabinet with his free hand giving him his full attention, if for a moment. They’ll just chase him down anyway if he doesn’t.

“Where is Thor? Have you done something with him?” Fandral demands. Loki’s eyes roll up and he lets them stay there for a moment. Ugh. Dearest Fandral, ever willing to blame him for anything that goes wrong.

Why is always his fault?

“Yes,” Loki answers with slight irritation and pushes between them dodging between their hands as they both make a grab at him, “I’ve stabbed him and these are for cleaning up the blood.” His tone is dry and toneless, purposefully so. They can take it seriously or not, Loki will let them decide.

Loki ducks out of the Healing Hall and starts to make his way quickly back to Thor’s room, but is halted once again and Fandral grabs at his shoulder. Fandral is a head taller than him now and Loki’s always been skinny and pathetic so he halts immediately, almost dragged backwards from the strength.

Now he’s irritated.

“I didn’t kill him, but if you don’t let me go you might.” Loki says and with some effort wiggles from Fandral's grip. Sif pops up beside him, dark hair falling infront of her eyes.

“What do you mean? Stop speaking in riddles, Loki.” Sif commands, her thin patience clearly snapped. Not a surprise, it takes very little to break it. Loki might as well be standing with a blade cutting at it constantly for how short it is.

“Thor has Frozen Bite.” Loki says plainly and Fandral and Sif recoil in shock.

“He--what?” Fandral asks, “Thor’s to strong to get that.”

Loki’s eyebrows raise slightly, “You go tell the Frozen Bite that.” He commands before turning and quickly making his way down the hall. Surprisingly, the two don’t follow after him; they may be loyal, but they aren’t stupid, sometimes. They both haven’t had Frozen Bite before, Hogun from what he understands has when he moved from Vanaheim to Asgard and is therefore granted immunity, but Sif, Fandral and Volstagg would be well within the standards of wisdom to avoid Thor for the next week or so.

Loki crosses the distance in record time silently wishing that Frigga had taught him how to teleport or he’d found a book on it, but still manages to reach it quickly. Probably the fuel from his slow building panic. Thor is just getting worse, slightly better, yes, but slight.

Loki passes Thor’s doors and is slightly surprised to see that Stvei (something son, Loki can’t remember. It was a long extravagant name that few can pronounce properly) Thor’s guard is gone. Odin had him posted so they could run some of the bigger errands and get Eir easier, Loki stops slightly to partially catch his breath quietly and turns looking down the halls. He doesn’t see the guard.

Loki’s eyes narrow, but he presses his lips together and pushes open the door, sinking into the room. As soon as he steps into it, he closes the wood and his eyebrows shoot up in surprise as he sees Thor sitting up, awake and talking. His voice sounds like someone stuffed a cup of sand down his throat then when he finally swallowed they handed him another.

“Oh, I’m dying,” Thor moans loudly and Hela rolls her eyes turning to look at Loki waving him forward. Loki moves stiffly, keeping one eye on his older brother slightly before dumping the cloths onto the desk which has become a temporary place of gathering of all their medical supplies. Hela dips one of the fresh cloths into the cold water and squeezes it as Thor proclaims his promised death behind them. Long side glances him.

“How long has he been awake?” Loki asks quietly. Hela eyes him.

“About seven minutes. He’s been insisting he’s going to die since he woke up and complaining loudly,” Hela shoots him a reassuring smile, “He’s fine.” Hela assures and Loki’s shoulders slump with relief.

“No, you’re not.” Hela calls back to Thor a moment later and Loki glances back at him. Thor’s face is still flushed and he’s still pale, but he shoots a displeased look at them.

“I am.” Thor insists. Hela pulls the cloth from the water giving it a violent twists before turning back to their brother and moves across the room, Loki trailing her. She flicks Thor’s hand from his forehead to rest the wet cloth there instead. Thor grabs her hand as he starts to pull back and with wide blue eyes that are red around the edges. His entire face is flushed and his hair is slick with sweat from the fever that’s been pounding through his brain for the last few days. “My dearest, favorite sister,” Thor says, his voice slightly slurred and Hela sighs.

“I’m your only sister, Thor.”

“No matter,” Thor presses, “I don’t want to be burned when I die. I want to be buried under the palace like the old armies.”

Loki shares a look with his sister.

“Of course,” Hela assures, “I’ll make note of that.”

“Everything hurts.” Thor insists.

“I know.” Hela reassures before pulling her hand back and turning to the chair plopping down in it. Loki takes a seat on the edge of Thor’s bed and Thor stares at both of them for a moment, nodding to himself.

He winces slightly, then blows out a breath. “I’m thirsty. Swallowing. No, wait. Did you offer me water? I could drink the entire Phosphorescent Ocean. Do my friends hate me? I haven’t seen them for a long time. My head hurts.”

Loki wrings his hands, “You’re getting better.”

“Everything is cold.” Thor whispers, “I think that I’m turning to ice. Black ice. Dark, cold and alone.”

Hela grips his hand, “You’re going to be fine.”

I’m sick.” Thor insists, “I don’t think I’m going to get better.”

Loki’s limbs lock.

Wait.

Stop.

Thor is not going to die.

He can't say that.

Hela’s brow creases with anxiety, “I’m going to get Eir, remain here. She can take the edge off of hte pain.”

“I’m cold.” Thor repeats. “Cold. Cold. Cold.”

Hela rises to her feet. Hela sends Thor another concerned look before quickly exiting the room, Loki hears her footsteps take off presumably in the direction of the Healing Halls.

Thor’s eyes wander for a long moment before they linger on him, “Lo, I’m cold. Please help me.”

He doesn’t know how.

He has no idea how to help.

Loki tucks the blanket around Thor’s shivering frame and releases a breath through his nose. “I know.”

“It’s freezing. Why aren’t you cold?” Thor says, “My vision is fuzzy and I don’t know where you are.”

Loki’s stomach flips and he shifts forward. “I’m to your left.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

There’s a pause. “Thor, do you--?” Loki starts to question, but stops. The door opens and Loki lifts his head, surprised. Hela returned really quickly, but it could be their mother or Eir. Hela getting either would have taken at least eleven minutes, fifteen max and it's been what? Two?

Loki lifts his gaze to see Maho and a handful of other men. Maho Kidason is a lower ranking captain in the army; and Loki only knows him because he was forced to train under him for a week when his trainer was sick. Hela also rants about him on occasion. Loki doesn’t like him.

What is he doing here? Why is does he have these others with him? Loki stares at them for a moment before recognizing a symbol on a sleeve. The rebels. They put the symbol everywhere. Maho is…

Well splendid.  

Norns.

Loki rises to his feet and lifts his hands, drawing his daggers.

Maho gives him a wild grin, “Cute. Really, cute. You’ve never been a match for anyone, so please save your pride the embarrassment and put down the weapon.” Maho’s voice is chilled and Loki’s eyes narrow.

Thor sits up and though Loki can’t see his face he knows Thor’s mannerisms well enough to know that he’s either staring with determination or looking at them confused through his fever.

“What do you want? We have no quarrel with you.” Loki says as the men file further into the room. All of them are wearing hoods and some sort of glamour to block of their faces Loki can see through it better than Thor can because of his magical training, but they’re still just sharpened blurs.  

“No, no, of course not.” Maho assures, all the humor drops from his expression and he pulls out a sword, “We have quarrel with your father. Take them.”

Loki’s muscles tense up abruptly and the first weapon that swings towards him, Loki lifts a hand to and presses his middle and pointer finger against his thumb and flicks out. The metal freezes and shatters into little scattered bits at his feet. Loki kicks the man in the stomach and swings a dagger up to block the blow from another sword. The other man’s strength outweighs his own, laughably so and the skin around his eyes tighten.

Loki frees a hand from the push and leans back slightly to prevent himself from being stabbed in the eye and draws his fingers out pulling the water vapor from the air and into the Aesir’s face. He stumbles back with a yelp, though it didn’t hurt him, and Loki turns spreading his hand out and a dozen or so illusions shimmer into light. The Aesir begin to hack at the illusions mercilessly and Loki winces inwardly. If they had actually been him he would have lost his legs at least twice now. He is not as skilled with hand-to-hand as he wants to be, but he has better luck with sorcerer.

Loki glances back at Thor who is staggering to his feet looking just as near death as he did a few hours ago. What on the Norn’s name is he doing? He needs to lay down, his limbs are freezing from inside out.

Norns, he’s going to kill Thor when they’re through with this.

They just have to stall long enough for Hela to get here, she’ll swing a few weapons and beat them with ease then send the rebels to the dungeons with a wounded pride. Loki animates three of his illusions to throw a daggers and the light passes through two of the intended targets who silently dodge the bended light.

Loki swings to find another to mess with, but leaps back instead as a sword swings at his chest. His leap is horribly miscalculated and he smashes into the bedframe and Loki hisses in pain as the tip of a sword presses against his throat. Maho stares at him from the other end of the blade, eyes hot and face twisted with fury.

“Try any more of your magic tricks and I’ll remove your head.” Maho growls. Loki opens his mouth to say something that would have probably been stupid, but two of the other Aesir leap at him. One grabs his arms and Loki protests struggling, but the second presses a cloth against his mouth and nose roughly. Loki breathes in the sickly sweet smell of the sedative by instinct and immediately feels the effects. His limbs lose all fight and he sinks, but is caught by his captor.

“Loki!” Thor shouts behind him, “Stop--! What are yo--” Thor’s voice cuts off abruptly and a heap of coughing follows a moment later Loki’s stomach sinking as he realizes the same sedative has been used on his brother. Well, Norns.

Sister where are you!? It’s been a few minutes she should be here.

“Let’s go.” Someone else commands, “We’ve got the princes, what are you waiting for?”

“Nothing, Aesi, let’s go. ” Maho’s voice cuts through the fog that Loki’s attempting to call thought and he feels someone drag him up. Aesi. That’s one of the Master Sorcerer. Loki worked with her a few years ago. She’s a rebel?

Loki feels the sickening tendrils of teleportation wash through him before he succumbs completely to the blackness.

000o000

“--he kept saying that he was cold.” Hela explains for the umpteenth time to Eir, shoving the door to Thor’s room open with the blonde at her side, then stops, her spine snapping up.

Weapons are scattered across the room (Loki’s) and there’s signs of struggle easily displayed nearly everywhere.

Her siblings are gone.

Just... gone.

She swears loudly, ignoring Eir’s look of disappointment and moves into the room. Hela stuffs the growing feeling of panic into a place to think about later and draws her attention to the room. She swings her gaze over the room looking for anything unusual and spots a piece of paper on Thor’s desk with one of Loki’s daggers digging into it.

“Eir.” Hela says quietly. The head healer appears at her side and thins her lips at the sight. Hela grabs the piece of paper, ripping it away from Loki’s dagger and opens the folded sheet:

Our beloved King and Queen,

You have stopped Asgard’s potential by seeking out this falsified peace. You are fools. We know that the only safe hands are our own. We are going to use the Bifrost to take our army across the rest of the cosmos and if you get in our way, we’ll kill the princes. We have no qualms about their deaths. If we’re feeling merciful, we may send you their bodies. --Asgardian’s Conquerors

Hela stares at the paper for a long moment her brain no really reading anything. She re-reads the lines several times before the realization hits her: Someone kidnapped them. Someone kidnapped her little brothers.

She swears darkly again and Eir’s lips thin tightly.

Hela presses her lips together tightly a gnawing ache of power clawing at her stomach that she shoves to the side before turning on her heel to find her parents, Eir at her side.

000o000

Loki wakes to a pulsing headache. Not one of the gradual slow awakenings that’s often read about no--a sharp pulsing pain that jerks him up with a gasp and a groan. His hands fly to his forehead to ease the intensity with a healing spell or rubbing it or something, but his wrists jerk back with a halt and a loud clank rings in his ears.

A muffled cry escapes through his mouth, and he suddenly becomes aware of fabric stuffed between his teeth. A gag. Why on the Norn’s name is he--?

He battles with his eyelids for half a heartbeat and tears them open. Dark gray immediately greets him and Loki blinks several times, squinting into the semi-blackness. A light is shining in the distance about fifteen feet up ahead to his left and his arms are restricted because of the shackles looped around either wrist extending behind him to the wall. Loki gives it a few tugs, but it doesn’t release.

Why is he here? What did he do? Loki blinks a few more times before hazy memories gradually fall into place.

Thor’s sickness, he was getting worse and Hela went to go get Eir, then Maho’s attack, the cloth... Norns! Where is Thor?

He bites at the fabric between his teeth sharply, wishing he had his voice. He needs to find his sibling. Thor was cold and he kept saying that he didn’t think that he was going to make it. He scans his gaze through the semi-lighting, attempting to locate Thor’s magical signature, but his sorcery feels strangely weighted and sharp.

He can see a few figures, talking softly and large supply of crates that are towering around him and along the other wall and he can see a laying figure far to his right that he’s pretty sure is his older brother.

His headache takes this moment to remind him that it’s still present and he squeezes his eyes shut and tilts his head back, letting it press against the rock behind him. Rock. He can distantly hear the sounds of water. They must be along the Phosphorescent Ocean.

Still Serenity, then.

Thor lets out a long, muffled moan from the location Loki suspected and this catches the attention of their captors. Three move towards them and Loki immediately recognizes the broad figure of Maho.

Maho is holding a lamp and the brightness makes Loki wince in pain.

Maho ignores him completely, moving to where Thor is chained similarly to him, a blanket thrown at his lap in what looks like a fit of mercy. Thor’s head is hanging and his hair covers any chance Loki has of seeing his expression.

“Prince Thor,” Maho addresses thinly and kneels next to his brother, his back to Loki. An uneasiness settles in his stomach. “Are you feeling any better?”

Thor releases a quiet noise, and it doesn't instil Loki with confidence.

A sharp sound of skin meeting skin rings out and Loki’s fingers curl when he realizes that Maho just backhanded his sibling. “Pay attention! I can’t have you dying on me just yet, you’re very sick, my Prince. Try to remember that, alright?”

“Maho,” a woman’s voice says sharply, Loki places her after a second: Aesi. “We agreed not to do any harm unless we had to.”

Maho looks up at the figure next to him, “He has Frozen Bite, dearest, or so the rumors flapping through the palace said.”

Norns. Thor needs actual medical assistance. He isn’t going to survive like this.

Thor could die.

His stomach keeps twisting with anxiety.

He’s going to be sick.

Maho rises to his feet, “ You agreed to follow my terms and conditions, and it’s changed. Are you backing down already, Master?” He sneers the last part and Loki sees Aesi’s hands clench next to her sides.

He doesn’t understand.

What is going on?

Why are they here?

He wants to go home. It’s childish, and stupid, but Loki doesn’t want to deal with this. He feels young and helpless. His jaw is beginning to ache from the gag.

“I’m not deserting.” Aesi says firmly a moment later. “Don’t intent to assume my intentions because I want to show mercy.” She growls the last part.

“Of course not.” Maho agrees. “But mercy isn’t something we have the opportunity to offer anymore. We give Asgard another day to stew in their panic before moving out. Until then, try to stay out of my hair.” Maho says firmly.

Aesi backs up a step.

Loki watches them for hours after the exchange in silence. Thor keeps making kneading noises, but every twenty minutes or so, someone will stop by and force him to stay awake. They mostly ignore him. The rebels are preparing for war. Their swords are being sharpened and weapons being gathered together.

Loki doesn’t want to know what they’re preparing to attack.

Serenity? Speckle Point? Another city in Asgard? He knows very little about them save what has floated up through the gossip the servants spread. It isn’t much. He doesn’t know what to do. He feels like he’s been tossed into an ocean and he has no idea how to swim.

About six hours from when Loki awoke, Maho gives Thor a sharp kick in the ribs and Loki watches him with anger and helplessness before Maho nods and turns, striding towards Loki. Loki curls in despite himself and stares up at the Asgardian, trying to keep his breathing steady, but he can still feel the panic in his chest expanding.

He feels sick.

Everything is buzzing and uncomfortable.

“Prince Loki,” Maho says in greeting and kneels next to him, sighing quietly, “you look awful.”

Yeah, he feels the part.

Loki says nothing. He can’t. The gag is stiff and uncomfortable on his tongue.

Maho tilts his head slightly and sighs, “You are to young to be pulled into a war like this. I apologize.”

This doesn’t make Loki any more sympathetic with him.

Thor makes a choking noise behind them, and Loki whips his head towards his sibling in distress, trying to make out his figure. Thor is dying. He is dying and Loki can’t do anything about it. Frozen Bite is lethal. The best care he could receive is in the palace and they can’t get back there. Not until Loki figures out a way to escape or someone comes for them.

Norns he wants to go home.

Maho grips his chin and jerks his face away from Thor’s figure, forcing him to look up at the Aesir’s face. “Now, now,” Maho says, his voice is gentle, soothing. Loki hates it. “No need to panic. Your sibling will be fine.”

No, he won't!

He’s dying.

Loki makes a noise in his throat and wiggles from his grip with some effort. Maho looks amused by this. Loki only feels sickened. He hates this. He hates this. His headache is drumming beneath his eyelids dully.

Loki snaps back into the present when Maho backhands him across the face. Loki’s lip splits almost immediately and he tastes blood, but he bites at his tongue to withhold a cry and looks up at him startled.

“Pay attention,” Maho says calmly, “I know your type, sorcerer,” he hisses the word like a poison, “you aren’t getting out of his, so stop trying to scheme.”

He wasn’t in the first place.

His stomach pounds with further anxiety.

Maho smiles slightly and pats him on the shoulder, “Don’t worry, we’ll take good care of you.”

Stop it.

Stop it.

Stop it!

Thor needs to go home. He’s getting sicker.

Maho rises and walks back to the awaiting rebels. The group is smaller than Loki would have expected, about fifty, maybe seventy. Perhaps the rest are waiting somewhere else. Wise, if they do get caught (which Maho seems incapable of realizing this is, indeed a possibility) it will not be all of them. Loki’s wrists grind against the shackles as he shifts his position and Thor makes a miserable noise towards his right.

Loki wishes he could speak and offer him comfort.

He is useless.

And alone.

He feels very alone.

Loki curls his legs up to his chest and tries to breath through his nose and calm the panic expanding through his lungs. He remains in this position until he feels a hand on his shoulder. Loki startles, leaping away from the grip then turns to stare at the person.

Relief crashes through him so sharply that he nearly releases a cry.

Hela, releases his shoulder and presses a hand against her lips for silence. She lifts her hands up and tilts his head forward, fingers quickly working through the gag tied between his hair. After a second of untangling, she pulls the cloth back and Loki inhales raggedly through his mouth, looking up at her.

Oblivious to what is happening behind them, the rebels continue about their business of preparing dinner.

Hela tilts his chin up towards the fading light and her lips thin slightly as she sees his bruised cheek. “Are you hurt anywhere else?” She questions softly, voice barely above a whisper.

Loki gives a mute shake of his head.

She nods, though he can tell she wants to comment further, she turns her head towards the shackles. “Are these magic-restraining?” She asks. Yes. Magic restraining can’t truly be done unless by another sorcerer or blood poisoning because magic is in his blood, but a few have succeeded, the dwarfs and Alfheim. Everyone else’s interpretation is to keep the sorcerer unconscious as long as possible and the shackles are laced with heavy enchantments that make thinking straight nigh impossible.

As Asgard’s.

And these.

Hela draws a dagger and shoves it into the locks, quickly picking them with skill that Loki envies. Loki’s hand drops into his lap and he quietly hisses in pain as the blood rushes to his fingers. Hela leans forward to work with the other shackle before she looks forward, squinting.

Loki follows his gaze, rubbing at his wrists with slow movements, quietly relieved. Across from them, Frigga from where she’s gathered Thor in her arms gives a them an affirmative hand gesture. Hela nods quietly to herself before turning to him.

“Mother is going to take you both back to the palace, we’ll be along shortly.”

We?” Loki repeats dubiously.

Hela gives a knowing simper, “The Einherjar. Go,” she gestures in their mother’s direction as she rises to her feet and spreads her spider-crown over her head before drawing a sword into either hand. She stalks past him, not bothering with silence and Loki quickly scrambles to his feet, moving towards his mother.

He hears movements of the rebels still before Hela’s voice calls out: “Well, this is an awkward predicament.”

Loki chances a glance towards her as he sees Maho and the others rising to their feet, weapons drawn. Hela’s back is to him, her cape spread out, making her seem larger than she really is.

“How did you get in here?” Maho demands.

Hela gives a low laugh, “Oh, captain, your arrogance startles me. There is more than one sorcerer on Asgard.”

“You are not welcome here, child of Odin.” Someone else growls.

“Clearly.” Hela drawls.

“We’ll be sending all of Odin’s children back to him in boxes.” Maho says, “What a wonderful turn of events.” He takes a leap at Hela and she dodges him easily, throwing one of her swords and kicks Maho in the stomach, tossing him backwards several feet.

Now!” She shouts.

A small legion of Einherjar shimmer into view, the concealing spell wrapped around them worming off with a very faint light. Frigga. He’s supposed to be making his way to her. Right. Loki scrambles forward to his mother as the Einherjar leap at the rebels.

Loki throws his attention elsewhere and breaks into a sprint, reaching Frigga after a few steps. He crashes into her as she wraps him in a hug with her free hand. Loki’s anxiety calms in his stomach, but the bubbling worry in his throat doesn’t let him speak.

“Loki!” She says and clutches him tightly. “I was so worried, are you well?” She pulls him back to stare at him and squints at the bruise. Frigga stares at the escalating battle of which it’s easy to see the rebels are losing before grabbing him tight again. “Stay close.” She murmurs before Loki’s stomach flips and the pull of teleportation drags him.

Teleportation is a solely planetary thing. Anyone who tries to rip a hole between worlds would have to be insane or extremely powerful even then--it's impossible. It does work for the current Realm in residence so long as the caster knows the location they’re going to. If it’s not known there is a danger of falling off a cliff or into the jagged sea stacks behind the mountains or simply falling from the sky into an unsuspecting person’s roof.

Loki lands with a jolt and stumbles slightly, but Frigga’s hold around his chest keeps him steady. Thor lets out a soft moan and Loki blinks the blurriness away taking in their surroundings--the Healing Halls. Eir and a handful of her fellow healers are already rushing towards them. Frigga releases him to keep Thor from falling flat on his face. Loki presses his lips together tightly and stares as the healers swarm around his sibling and parent.

Golden haze of healing spells fill the air quickly, “His vitals are to low,” Someone murmurs.

“His fever is dangerously high.” Another notes.

“The frostbite is worse--”

“We need to get him warm!”  

“Look at this, his skin is black here. The Frozen Bite is spreading we must work quickly,” That’s Eir’s voice and Loki strains his neck for a view of the injury mentally kicking himself. He should have just tried to escape or shouldn’t have let them get captured in the first place. This is his fault. If Thor dies today, it will be because of him.

Idiot.

Loki doesn’t see the blackened area because Thor is swept away into Eir’s arms her small army of healers following after him. Frigga stands there for a moment, looking like she longs to follow, but instead she turns back to him. “Let’s find a bruising salve.” She suggests and Loki’s hand finds to his cheek, on instinct. Is it really that bad?

“What of Hela?” Loki asks as Frigga grabs his shoulder and guides him towards the supplies room.

“She can handle herself.” Frigga says, “I will return when I am sure you will both be alright.”

Loki sighs slightly, “Mother, I promise my skin isn’t going to fall off. It’s just a bruise, it’s not like I haven’t gotten any before.” He points out.

Frigga sends him a displeased look.

“Yes, but let me fret, please?” She asks and Loki presses his lips together again, but makes no further comment. Frigga sits him on a bench in the storage room and grabs a jar of blue salve pulling off the lid. She dips her fingers in the gel before leaning down next to him and rubbing the cool gel on his face. Loki grimaces at the texture (lumpy porridge that’s been sitting out too long), but relief washes through the pulsing area. Loki relaxes visibly and Frigga sends him a pointed look that Loki elects to ignore. She rubs the cream into his wrists and it eases the ache from the metal that dug into his skin.

“Watch over your brother for me.” Frigga commands, when the cream has settled, “I need to rejoin your sister.”

“Where is Father?” Loki asks glancing out at the Healing Halls, usually he’s not one to hide when they’ve been injured...or missing. “I didn’t see him.” He says and Frigga tenses so subtly Loki nearly misses it. Key word: Nearly.

“Your father is...busy. The political part of this is a nightmare; the council fears this is an act of a civil war and demands us to take action.” Frigga says, her voice is tight and Loki senses this is only part of the truth, he knows his mother’s mannerisms enough to at least conjecture so. The council takes everything as an act of war, though. They’re all hotheaded fools.

“Ah,” Loki says and digs at his left palm for a moment aware of how closely Frigga is watching him. “I’m going to check on Thor.” He rises to his feet and Frigga nods.

“I will return with Hela if your father asks after me.” She says and Loki nods and Frigga lifts her hands up, fingers moving quickly in the spell before she’s dragged upward in a simmer of blue light returning to the battle.

Loki quickly makes his way from the storage room and scans the Healing Halls for the large group of people. Thor is likely to be at the center of them. The long rows of beds are all empty save towards the end where predictably the crowd of healers is. Loki strides towards them swiftly and manages to spot Eir.

He reaches them in under a minute and their jumbled sentences make little sense without the context behind them. Loki grabs at Eir’s shoulder, she turns to him, “What’s wrong?” He demands.

“The sickness,” Eir explains, her voice is rushed, “he’s been without any warmth for so long...I don’t know. We’re doing our best but his fever’s to high, his body is going into shock.”

Loki gnaws on his inner lip. Norns, Norns, Norns.

“What can I do?” He asks. Eir closes her eyes and sighs shaking her head after a moment.

“I don’t know, unless you can get his fever down...this may claim his life. We’re doing everything we can, but his body is rejecting our healing spells--nothing new with Frozen Bite victims.” Loki nods, his mind distant before he squeezes between the healers and sits down next to Thor’s unconscious, shivering form stuffing down the panic.

Thor could die, Thor could die, Thor could--stop it, dwelling on it won’t do any good.

Thor could die and it will be his fault.

Loki releases a breath trying to calm him racing mind before pressing both his hands on Thor’s head. His forehead is uncomfortably warm and stings slightly. Loki’s first instinct is to rip his hands back, but he doesn’t. He concentrates and cools his hands down with spell he learned a weeks ago from a book, something about temperature control--Loki can’t recall all the details now.

Thor leans into his touch lightly with a soft groan and Loki narrows his eyes and focuses harder. The healers whirl around him in a chaotic dance returning with one thing or another to rub onto Thor’s skin, but nothing seems to be helping. Loki doesn’t move. He refuses to. He remains in his position for hours fingers gradually starting to play with bits of Thor’s sweaty bangs, they’re frosted now, very softly, but enough.

Eir grabs at his shoulder after hour six or so and Loki turns to her, “His fever broke,” She says, softly, “good job.”

Loki’s chest warms at the praise and he pulls his hands back after a small hesitation from Thor’s forehead, “Is he getting better?” He asks and Eir kneels down next to him giving his shoulder a quick squeeze.

“Yes, he passed the final stage. He’ll be a little drowsy for two or three days, but he’s going to live.” Loki releases a sigh of relief and stares down at Thor’s pale face. “What did you do?” Eir asks, her tone is curious.

“Temperature management on my hands.” Loki says and lifts his hands up for demonstration. Eir’s eyes gain a very soft tightness. Loki’s stomach sinks. Magic is not a practiced art among men as the Warriors Three and Sif are so good are reminding him of.

“I see.” Eir says and stands. She says nothing else and leaves, taking her crazy medical counterparts with her, trailing after the head healer, save the few left for monitoring. Loki turns back to Thor and stares at him. He should have fought harder, if their positions were switched, Thor wouldn’t have let them get captured and Loki did. Failure.

Loki taps his fingers against his knee before slowly changing his position. Spasms of pain pass through his legs long since having gone numb from the lack of movement. Loki leans back against the wall and stretches his legs out in front of him letting his hands lay lax on his lap. Thor’s breathing is steady and deep, different from the pained wheezes and hitches that have been a rhythm for the last few days.

The minutes pass slowly. To be honest, Loki thought Thor would awake roaring a battle cry and leap upwards finding the nearest weapon and attacking an imaginary foe, but instead, his older brother merely tilts his head up and asks: “What time is it?”

Loki’s eyes jerk down towards him and he blinks, stupefied for a moment before he manages to regain control of his tongue. He glances out the window, “After sunset.”

“Is it still the same day?”

Norns, he doesn’t even know anymore. “I think so.” Loki admits.

The silence laps between them and Loki feels himself nodding off very slowly before the Healing Halls doors are thrown open with violence. Loki leaps to his feet, daggers drawn and Hela storms into the room, Odin and Frigga following, speaking loudly.

“--are. We’ve contained all in the cave in the dungeons, but they are not simply just the talk of the city anymore, you must do something, Father.”

“Like what? Attempting to fight them will surely start a civil war.” Odin says, he sounds tired.

“They captured our sons, Odin. Kidason was an Einherjer. ” Frigga says, her voice is hard without it's usual amount of long lasting patience. What snapped it so abruptly?

“I am aware!” Odin snaps, “Tyr has been tasked with reevaluating the palace guard. I don’t intent for this to happen again--besides, it was merely a few hours. You found them easily, what is the worst that can happen with Heimdall watching?”

“You overestimate our gatekeeper, Odin,” Frigga’s voice is low, “There are places even his sight cannot reach, the dwarfs have been working on a technology that does this, their capital is lost to us.”

“Yes, he has told me.” Odin says, his voice sharp. There is silence for a moment and Loki sees his parents staring at each other. “I will look into Asgard’s Conquerors, I promise you.” Odin’s voice is softer, “For now, we need to focus on why we are here in the first place.” All three gazes sweep towards them and Loki immediately jerks his gaze away pretending he wasn’t listening or looking. He sees Thor’s do the same their gazes locking a second later.

Loki sits back down, stiffly, and shoves his daggers into the pocket dimension.

He hears the shuffling of feet and looks up as Hela slides down along the wall beside him, she’s covered in a fine layer of dirt and her hair is messy. Caked blood is on her forehead from a cut. “You look better.” She notes, her voice sounds exhausted, but she still gives a grimaced smile.

Loki gives a tight on in return and Frigga and Odin take the spots on Thor’s other side. Hela nudges his ribs a moment later and Loki looks up at her in slight annoyance. She smirks, “I thought you’d be glad to see me.” Her voice is mournful. Loki rolls his eyes at her dramatics.

“Yes, thrilled.” He assures.

“I am!” Thor says and attempts to sit up, but is pushed back down by Frigga. Hela lets out a laugh.

“Oh, good,” She says with a teasing note.

“You are not recovered, Thor. Stay still.” Frigga says sternly. Thor’s face twists in protest. Loki smirks slightly. Thor has never been very good with that. Loki relaxes his stiff muscles and sees Hela do the same, Thor beginning to protest to staying still. On the mend, then, alive.

Loki closes his eyes and tilts his head back letting himself be lulled to sleep by the quiet chatter of his family.




Chapter Text

The Dead's Howl

If Loki could pass on one truth to his grandchildren, this truth would be among the last, no but less helpful: When Alfheim demands your presence for assistance with a problem, it’s typically in your best interests to comply. Peace treaties are great like that. Alfheim’s royalty have always been uptight and believing they’re entitled to anything they can set their fingers on, so if they can pull the strings with a peace treaty and drag them over here to deal with their problems, they will.

“You know, when Alfheim requested our assistance with a rogue mage’s spell, I was expecting something a little more…” his sister pauses for a second, clearly searching out the word before offering: “threatening?” Hela’s tone is sarcastic and shows her love for this task with ease.

It is little.

Very close to none.

His sister swings her sword out in a wide arc to slice at a branch in front of her, clearing a path further in the dense forest.

“I agree; what are they so frightened of? Trees?” Thor asks, his voice dry. Given opportunity, Loki’s fairly certain that none of them would choose to be here. The forests of Alfheim are thick and wet, leaving the floor muddy in some areas, but dry and brittle in others. The sun is mostly blocked through the thick verdure above them and it leaves the forest cold with a gloomy lighting.

“The trees are unbelievably terrifying.” Hela says in answer to Thor’s earlier question; her tone is completely dry.

He chances a glance back at both of his siblings, but doesn’t comment.

“It is very wet.” Thor notes.

“Yes.” Hela agrees.

Loki is inclined to agree with them. His clothing is sticking to his skin and it isn’t pleasant. He wants to just find these bloody wolves and be done with it so they can leave the stupid forest. But they can’t. Not until they complete their assigned task.

A messenger from Alfheim arrived late last night with a demand from King Kiartan that they send aid to deal with a large group of  magically enhanced wolves have been wreaking havoc on small towns on the edge of the capital. “Havoc” meaning all their livestock is brutally slaughtered, everything is raged to the ground by fire, killing anyone who can’t flee in time.  

King Kiartan had specifically asked for Hela and Frigga, but their mother was busy with other matters and Loki was sent as the resident magician instead. There are a handful of others that he can think of who would be more qualified and skilled for this mission, but he was conveniently available.

Thor is only along with them because Fandral’s family is having a grand celebration of some relatives four thousand year and Fandral asked Thor to go, but Thor had no desire to make attendance. The rest of the Warriors Three and Sif thoughtfully went in his place.

They haven’t found any sign of the wolves since Loki started his tracking spell. Ergo: The three of them have been trekking through the forest for hours now and Hela and Thor are getting...angsty. That’s not quite the right word, though, maybe ‘ irritated’? They have about an hour of daylight left and the shadows that the sun is casting through the trees are long and making the path in front of them look like a dark cave entrance. Something he’s grown familiar with these last few months throughout his exploration of the Dejorunn Mountain rage. There's a magical rise in the caves and Loki has yet to figure out why and he plans to.

Loki ducks under a branch as it swings into his vision and hears Thor smack against it a second later. “Ugh,” Thor groans with displeasure.

Hela snickers quietly behind them, and Loki knows his siblings well enough to imagine the dark glower Thor has just sent in the elders direction. “Brother, are we close to this foe yet?” Thor asks. His voice is heavy with frustration. Frustration and exasperation.

Funny.

Thor loves hunting (Loki can’t stand it) and that’s basically what they’re doing, but with magic. Not that Thor has a great care for magic...neither Hela. She’ll listen to Loki explain something, but doesn’t really have the enthusiasm for it as their mother. The only reason that Loki was chosen above one of the Master Sorcerers on Asgard (beyond their mother) is because he mastered an ability that few have had success with: tracking. Tracking another’s magic is dangerous because it could lead the searcher across the entire Realm leaving them mad because then they can’t stop tracking it, it’s like a disease that spreads through the skin and keeps tugging until the urge has been quenched. Until the searcher comes within twenty feet of their desired object, the spell doesn’t cease it’s tugging. Eventually, exhaustion and madness will drive the sedir to collapse inwards and implode.

It’s not always safe.

And Loki has been using it since he was very young subconsciously.

There are few people on Asgard still learning the art of sedir, and most of his teachers (including Frigga) are in awe with his raw potential.

What they’re looking for right now is slightly different. They dropped by the most recently burned village via the mage’s rogue spell, and Loki had found the signature and is now slowly being drawn towards it. The lurching pull is ignorable with effort and Loki just focuses on trying to find the chaotic magic. The mage himself, Ofæti Jhinn hasn’t turned himself in yet, so they were sent to stop the wolves and collect the fugitive. The details of what he did to curse the wild animals so no one is quite certain on. The people who did make it out alive from the wolves attacks didn’t see them.

According to Alfheim’s messenger, the attacks have been constant for over three months now and they have had little luck. None of Alfheim’s wielders of sedir returned from the last attempt at stopping the wolves, and King Kiartian finally relented, calling for their aid.

Loki closes his eyes and comes to a halt, hearing Thor and Hela do the same behind him. Loki’s had to stop enough to do this over the last few hours that they’ve learned to remain still and shut up. If they move it’s distracting because their energy signature overpowers everything else like a bright light in a dim room. It’s almost impossible to focus on finding the faint signature of the mage.

Loki spreads his right hand’s fingers out and lifts his left hand up palm face up. Loki spins his fingers over his left for a moment and feels the energy radiate from his fingertips. Immediately, Loki’s senses stretch outward some seven or nine miles around them, he could push harder, but he doesn't have to; the wolves have been closer recently.

He feels the wild life grazing where they stand, the soft hum of life beneath the surface of their feet, the low chirping of insects, and Hela and Thor’s humming energy. Hela once explained to him that she can feel life like this, and Loki can’t imagine how distracting it would be all the time. As a wielder of sedir, he is aware of the life forces around him in a sense, but it isn’t this extensive.

Loki scans for the signature he’s been tracking faintly for the last few hours. They wolves are about five miles out, not close enough for them to track and dismantle with success with the little daylight that they have. Thor would push for just leaping in with no scoping, but Loki is wary of the dead these wolves have left in their wake.

He has no desire to join them.

They’re going to wait.

Loki presses his lips together and pulls his hands back breaking the spell and his ears give a soft whine as his sense return to normal. Loki blinks, shakes his head with slight irritation, then turns to his siblings.

“We aren’t going to catch them tonight.” He says.

“Surely we can best a few wild animals? Are they truly that far out?” Thor demands.

“Yes.” Loki says and turns to his older sister, “We should spend the night here, it's the furthest from the wild life.” The space they’re in a is a small clearing, maybe fifteen feet across and twenty long. Hela nods.

“Agreed.”

Loki takes several more steps forward before sitting down, cross legged and flicking his fingers watching a small fire burn on the tips. He isn’t cold, but Hela and Thor have been lightly shivering for the last hour or so. He sets the flame on the ground and incasts it with magic so it doesn't burn any further than he wants it to.

Hela and Thor sit down beside the fire and lift their hands to it, Thor releasing a content sigh. They didn’t plan on staying overnight, so they didn’t bring any gear. They probably should have, now that Loki’s thinking about it, but none of them expected it to take this long. Maybe an hour at most, but the wolves have been good at evading them.

“I’ll take first watch,” Hela offers and Loki raises his head to look at her as Thor does the same and equal protest on their lips, but she raises a single eyebrow. “It wasn’t a suggestion.” She avers firmly, then rolls her eyes a second later, “I’ll wake one of you up later, deal?”

“Yes.” Thor agrees.

“Fine.” Loki says, then eyes her for a second before laying down next to the flames and rests his head on his arm stretching out slightly. Thor lays down on the other side of the fire as Hela settles into a cross legged position and begins to sharpen one of her stones with a nearby stone.

The forest is still as the night settles completely, and the silence is almost stifling compared to the usual bustle of Serenity and the palace itself. After a few minutes, Loki hears Thor’s breathing deepen, which is slightly startling because Thor rarely falls asleep before he does.

Loki pinches his eyes closed and tries to get his mind to settle, but the slow pull from the tracking spell keeps tugging at his consciousness refusing to let him rest. This is why he hates this spell, he has been using it for to long now.

He steadies his breathing and forces anxiety to calm. Still, though, Loki’s mind wanders for far longer before slipping into sleep.  

000o000

Thor jerks awake as something slams a hand over his mouth and grabs his shoulder. He’s alert in seconds, hand reaching for the sword strapped at his waist, but he stops the action as he sees who his captor is. Hela releases him when he calms and he looks up at her, confused.

“Something’s out there.” She hisses; her voice low, barely a breath. Thor sits up blinking the sleep from his eyes. Something...the wolves?

Loki said they weren’t close enough to be a problem. Why would they be here, now?

A low crack ripples through the air and Thor leaps to his feet as Loki jerks awake the fire’s light dying at his younger brother’s surprise. Thor draws his weapon, wishing desperately for the warmth and the light that the fire provided.

“What’s--?” Loki starts to ask, but Hela slams a hand over his mouth. Loki turns to her and she raises a finger to her lips.

“Wolves.” He sees her mouth and Loki’s eyes widen before they all turn to squint into the darkness. It must be close to the middle of the night, definitely far after midnight, but not close to morning either.

A low growl sings through the air and Thor whirls, sword pointing out and hears the shing as Hela summons her swords into either hand and she steps up beside him. Loki’s arms lift towards his chest in a slight “x” position before he draws his hands down, dagger in either hand.

The growling is getting louder, but still Thor can’t see anything.

Are they invisible?

Enchanted? Thor has a basic understanding of sedir, as everyone with an education on Asgard does, but he’s not certain what the limits are for animals.

Loki makes a noise in the back of his throat of surprise before his siblings sorcery slams into his back, knocking him clean off his feet. He tumbles to the earth and Thor lets out a grunt, tilting his head up as he sees Hela hit the ground a moment later, Loki beside her.

There’s a slight shimmering of greenish-yellow fur before two wolves leap over their bodies, landing with a skid behind them. They would have slammed into them unexpectedly if Loki hadn’t intervened.

They remain still for a second before Thor scrambles to his feet, his siblings following after him. Their weapons raise and Thor grips his sword with both hands.

The wolves are glowing an unnatural green that makes them look incredibly sick, their eyes are a misted gray and their fur is rumpled and missing large spots revealing open, infected skin. All Thor can think of is Fenris and his stomach lurches at the thought of Hela’s wolf being reduced to this.

The wolves let out a snarl that sounds deeper as well as more horse than Thor remembers them being.

“We’re surrounded by at least sixteen.” Loki says softly a second later. Thor’s grip tightens on his weapon.

Great.

“Better odds for them.” Thor avers sharply.

“Focus now, glory later.” Hela commands as they shift so their backs are to each other, scanning the forest around them for the remaining animals. Beyond the emerged three, the thickness of the shadows is making it nearly impossible to see anything. They don’t know this territory as well and their blinded. Splendid. The rest of the wolves don’t reveal themselves instantly so Thor strains his ears and eyes for any sign of movement and doesn’t catch any.

Where are they?

A low growl cuts through the silence like shattering glass in an empty room and Thor swivels his head in the direction to his left and spots another glimmer of the greenish fur.

For a breath, a single breath, everything is still.

The wolves leap from the trees in sync, the alpha at the head. Thor dodges, jumping away from their small group and sees Hela and Loki do the same. The wolves don’t relent, or wait for them to gather their bearings and one dives at him.

Thor swings his sword and it hits the center of the wolf about to claw his eyes out and the wolf screeches before disappearing into a wither of greenish ashes. The small pile lands at his feet and Thor hisses with pain and surprise as his sword heats painfully and drops it. The metal glows a fiery orange, leaking onto the ground as molten steel.

What on the Norns--?

Thor looks up and sees Hela’s weapon do the same from the light of the heated blade some fifteen feet away. He doesn’t see her expression, but can sense her confusion. A wolf leaps at him and Thor raises his arms, the wolf’s teeth wrapping around his forearm guard a moment later. The teeth sink beyond the metal and Thor grits his teeth together to withhold a cry of pain.

Alright.

Yes.

Can’t be injured, but can definitely injure.

Thor swings his arm and slams the wolf to the ground ripping his arm back. The teeth drag through the metal, snapping it and a long gash starts to bleed lazily. A sparkling of light rings up behind him and a wolf whimpers, but Thor doesn't look back at it gripping his arm.

“Thor!” Hela shouts and Thor turns to catch the sword she tossed at him from the air and swings it back to attack another wolf. Thor’s second weapon fares little better than his first.

“Loki--!?” Thor demands, slightly panicked. As much as he hates to admit it, he is very much out of his league here. Thor spares a look to his younger brother dodging a wolf’s leap and sees that Loki has abandoned his weapons and is now using sorcery. The spells light strings from his palms, hitting the wolves back and deteriorating others.

“The caster enchanted them to be flame,” Loki says, his voice is slightly tight and he grabs the leg of a wolf that was about to smack into his chest throwing it back with sorcery. “When they touch the metal, they heat it to the point that it melts.” He explains.

“How do we fight them then?” Hela demands, sending dagger through one of the wolf’s sharply.

Loki lifts his hands clasping his wrists together and raises them, water pouring between his fingertips in a wild gush. It hits one of the wolves with a violent spray and Loki stops a moment later pulling his hands apart. The wolf shakes of the water and hisses before leaping at Loki. His sibling releases a loud curse, diving to the side as one of Hela’s daggers sails through the wolf before it can reach the intended target.

“I don’t know, just keep hitting them; I can’t find a source spell to reverse it.” Loki shouts and tosses a dagger in the way of another wolf.  Loki hand flings out and a long white light spreads from his fingertips casting a glow across the area so they can finally see their opponents rather than just guess where they are.

Thor draws the short sword he brought with him, swinging it and mentally adds in his head as he swings it through another wolf. “You know,” Thor grits between his teeth and kicks another wolf back as Loki’s sorcery propels one back into a tree. He can’t see Hela in his peripheral vision anymore, but she’s the most skilled fighter between the three of them. She’s managing fine. “For all the trouble they’ve brought, I’d thought they’d hit harder.”

Loki snorts. “Don’t tempt them.”

He’s not trying to.

His arm is still pulsing.

That’s three for him, at least five for Loki and likely four for Hela, meaning if Loki guessed right there should be close to three or four left. Thor draws a smaller dagger he has in his boot and prepares to throw it, but his back goes rigid a moment later as an ear splitting scream splits through the air. It’s loud and horrible the kind of sound that someone makes when their arm is being burned off. Thor whirls, eyes wide.

Not any scream.

His sister’s.

Thor’s eyes enlarge a fraction at the sight that greets him when he gyrates. Hela’s on her back, her hair all over her face and her hands arched up in agony; her swords are laying near her, but not close enough to be grabbed--not that Thor thinks that she would do anything if she could reach them. A wolf’s teeth are wrapped around her leg, digging through the boot Thor’s sure.

“Hela! ” The word rips from his throat painfully high and with a panicked edge. Thor swings his head up towards his younger sibling. Panicked green meet his before a second wolf leaps at Hela’s stomach, balances, and proceeds to use it’s claws to dig.

Thor feels frozen, unable to get his muscles to respond or do anything useful, but stare. Loki...uncoils and his hands shoot outwards, red pouring from his fingertips snapping outwards with violence like ribbons and lashes at the wolves. Both are knocked from Hela flying backwards and land in a heap, crumpled a dozen or so feet away disappearing into the darkness, Thor sees the glimmer of green before it deteriorates.

The remaining two wolves prepare to pounce behind his younger brother and Thor races forward, leaping, and slams his dagger through one of the wolves, plucks the melting steal out and throws it at the second. The wolf whimpers before falling to ashes and Thor breathes sharply for a moment before rising to his feet and sees Loki has already crossed the distance between where their sister is laying.

Thor sprints and crashes to his knees beside them and sees Loki is trying to get her attention.

“Sister!” Loki is saying, his voice rising in slight panic. before grabbing Hela’s shoulder and shaking it. She doesn’t resist.

“Hela! Hela--!” Loki releases a dark curse and presses his fingers to her neck feeling for a pulse. A breath passes and Thor holds his for a second before Loki whips his head up to him.

“There’s a heartbeat.” He says, “Get her boot off, we need to stem the bleeding.” Loki commands and turns to Hela, lifting his hands above her stomach where it’s bleeding without any sign of stopping. Thor moves to Hela’s foot and squints. With the light that Loki’s previous spell is giving off he can see the buckles and scrambles to undo them.

The wound that greets him beneath the damaged leather is not pleasant. The teeth marks are visible and the skin around it is blackened, marred, and ugly. It's bleeding heavily and leaking some sort of yellow puss that can’t be natural, but Thor isn’t exactly sure where it’s coming from.

Thor peels up the pant leg to her knee and stuffs down a bout of nausea, her pant leg hid most of the wound and it looks considerably worse without the clothing to hide it.

Loki is suddenly at his side, pressing his lips together. Thor doesn’t bother trying to assist any further because Loki will tell him when he needs to. They have both trained under Lady Eir, if Loki needs his help, Thor can provide it, but it’s best he stays out of the way.

Loki raises his hand over Hela’s leg and the golden stream stretches through his visible veins on his fingertips before it extends out into Hela’s leg, lighting it briefly for a moment. They need to put something over it to stop the bleeding and infection that’s bound to follow this. Thor looks at his younger brother, but Loki is focused on Hela’s injury and little else.

Loki grits his teeth together and twitches his fingers, the white light behind them falling and the golden light glows under Hela’s skin giving enough lighting to see the whole clearing by. Loki conjures a roll of bandages, likely from the healers cabinet back at home, before gently lifting Hela’s leg and Thor does his best to ignore how dead it looks as Loki begins to wrap it.

Hela lets out a soft cry, suddenly, and both of them jerk, then turn their heads towards her. Thor reaches and grabs her hand giving it a quick squeeze. “It’s going to be okay,” He murmurs softly, doing his best to not let the doubt creep into his voice.

She breathes out raggedly, but doesn’t open her eyes.

After a second, her hand squeezes his own.

They spend a long time in silence, Loki working on Hela’s wounds and Thor doing his best to comfort her. He tries to stuff down how much this unnerves him. He’s seen Hela injured before, yes, but mostly from training ground incidents and very little else; and never this...dead like. Never so pale, so quiet, so...in pain.

She’s not conscious, that much is easily detectable and this makes Thor wish that the wolves had remained just a moment longer so he could properly get his revenge. This isn’t fair. This isn't right. They’re supposed to be able to fight off armies together and they can’t even fight sixteen (seventeen? Thor can’t remember) wolves.

Loki’s hands stop moving for the first time it what feels like hours and he rests them on his lap, green eyes suddenly very downcast.

“I did all I could, if she wakes up we should be in the clear.” Loki’s voice is silent, but Thor still flinches to it. The sun is starting to rise slowly in the distance and now he can see the dim daylight shadows cast over everything.

She still looks pale.

Ill.

Dead.

Thor presses his lips together and lifts his gaze to Loki, noticing for the first time that his siblings fingers are trembling. Thor watches the golden light slowly die down from underneath Hela’s skin, but the elder among them doesn’t wake. She doesn’t shift or move, her hitched breathing the only thing that they still have of assurance on her life.

Thor’s fists clench. He will have his vengeance upon the mage who inflicted the curse upon the wolves is going to pay. The wolves were stronger than they expected, normal wolves wouldn’t have been able to take their sister down, nor injure him. Thor’s arm stings as a painful reminder and though it has long since scabbed over, it still aches.

“Heimdall must know of this, we should get her back to Asgard, the healers are better fitted there.” Thor says and Loki gives a soft shake of his head.

“It’s to risky, her body won't be able to take the strain of the Bifrost,”Loki explains, “It will only make things worse.”

There’s something tight in his chest that feels bizarrely like panic.

Hela’s skin is still pale, sickly and dead.

Dead, dead, dead.

They can’t just sit around and wait for her to wake up, that could be hours from now and she needs more assistance now. Thor forces his breathing to regulate.

Now is not the time to lose control. Norns, he knows what Loki is saying is the truth, he is not hopeless when it comes to medical endeavours, just stop and think for a second, Odinson, by the Norns--

He can’t attack the wolves and the mage isn’t near them so he can’t exactly enact his revenge just yet.

The wolves… They were…

Loki said they weren’t close enough to cause any problems. Did he lie? Why would Loki pretend such thing? Their sister’s death may come from his arrogance. Norns. “Why did you lie?” Thor asks, his voice is low, but Loki whips his head up like Thor grabbed him by the throat and screamed it at him.

“What?” Loki inquires.

“About the wolves,” Thor adds, though it should be obvious.

What? ” Loki repeats.

“You said they weren’t close enough to us to cause any damage, why the mendacity?” Thor demands. “Were you hoping for battle? That’s so unlike you, Brother.” Loki hates fighting and avoids it as much as possible, it's cowardly and so strange for him to have this change of heart. Was he hoping they’d get injured?

His chest is still screaming and he can’t breathe right anymore.

Dead, dead, dead.

“Hoping for--” Loki starts to echo, but halts. “ No, why would I--...I’m not you, Thor.”

What on the Nine is that supposed to mean!?

Thor leaps to his feet and Loki follows and the rage that’s been building since Hela’s injury lashes out in full force, “ Me? Battle is not something to be ashamed of; I am not a coward hiding behind womanly arts!”

Loki jerks back slightly, his face tight, but his eyes are wild. “I saved our lives.”

“Did you?” Thor hisses both their gazes flicker towards their sister, “She is dying because of your arrogance.”

“Do you think I don’t know that?” Loki lashes, his voice a low hiss.

Dead and dead and dead--

“What enjoyment did you find by lying!? What purpose did it serve beyond our sister’s grave?” Thor demands.

“She’s not dying!” Loki protests.

“Do you know that?” Thor demands, “ Do you!?”

Loki remains still, but rigid and his eyes hold a fire his face is blank of. Loki couldn’t have been so stupid! Did he really believe that the wolves that burned down towns leaving barely dozens alive could be ignored? Their mother explained the urgency of this. What purpose did it serve them?

“Alright, I’m sorry,” Loki hisses, “I miscalculated, is that what you want to hear Thor, I was wrong!

Somewhere, buried, within him realizes that this anger he’s pouring onto his younger brother is fair, but his tongue won't stop moving, the monster in his chest won't release and he doesn’t know how to make it stop. “You weren’t thinking!” Thor shouts, “You should have just told us--or-or maybe you did the spell wrong--”

“I did not--” Loki protests, hands flailing.

STOP IT! ” Thor roars, “This is your fault and if she dies tonight that’s on your hands!”

Loki’s face drains of all color abruptly. His hands fidget for a second before he spins and ducks into the woods breaking into a run, he quickly disappears in the darkness, but Thor’s rage does not.

He spins and slams his fist against the nearest tree, the brittle wood exploding behind his force with a frustrated cry. The tree doesn’t topple, but the wood pours outwards and the splinters dig into his fist. Thor flexes his fingers and lets out a loud curse at the pain pressing, his lips together firmly.

He’s not exactly sure when he traded grief for rage (or maybe he’s always been like that--twisting and burning in his stomach, someone help), but it is rarely helpful. Or soft spoken.

Norns.

He is such an idiot.

Thor collapses to his knees beside his sister and buries his face in his hands trying to withhold the tears that threaten to leak from his eyes.

He isn’t successful.

000o000

Thor did not mean to fall asleep, he really didn’t. One minute he was staring intently at Hela’s pale form well into early in the morning, the next a hand is prodding him in the shoulder. Thor jerks, sleep cast aside and catches the wrist of his attacker then opens his eyes to see--Hela, awake and blinking at him slowly through half lidded eyes.

Her wrist is clutched in his hand and both their gazes travel to it.

“I need that, Thor,” Hela says, her voice sounds tired and raw.

Thor releases her hand and relief washes through him. He sits up fully and moves closer to her, watching to embrace her in his relief, but he can’t stand the idea of causing further pain. “How do you feel?” He demands. Hela blinks up at him tiredly.

“A little tired,” She admits, “What day is it?”

Thor looks up at the late afternoon sun, “The next, you slept for about eighteen hours.”  Thor explains. Hela nods and blinks at him.

“Do you have a headache?” Thor questions, pressing a hand against her forehead to feel for a fever. Her skin is cool to the touch.

“No.” Hela assures.

“Is your vision free of hazy spots or blurry?”

“Yes.”

“Do you feel hot anywhere?”

She shakes her head slightly, “Darling, I’m fine.” She assures.

Yes.

Right.

Thor draws his hand back with some reluctance.

“Are you alright?” She demands; exhaustion seems to just pour off of her in a way that makes her vunerable and Thor wants to leap in front of her and prevent any further harm from befalling her. Hela makes a move to sit up, but Thor presses a hand on her shoulder and shoves her back down.

“Don’t; you’re still injured.” He protests. Hela gives him an annoyed look then peels his fingers away before sitting up anyway and pressing one hand against her stomach a grimace flashes across her features.

Her eyes sweep over everything for a moment before she turns to Thor, eyebrows furrowed, “Where is Loki?”

Guilt smashes into him battling through every vein within his body and settling in his stomach like a rope tightened around it that keeps pulling. Thor presses his lips together and stares at the ground for a second releasing a breath before looking up at his sister.

“I…” He trails off. For a moment, a very brief second he considers lying but shoves the thought away like it might burn him. He’s an absolutely awful liar anyway, “We got into a fight and he ran off.” Thor admits and Hela closes her eyes and leans back into her hand and releases a breath. Her mouth opens a fraction like she wants to say something, but doesn’t and instead sighs.

“When?”

“I’m uncertain, a few hours ago at least.” Thor admits.

Hela presses her lips together before looking up at him, “Go find him and bring him back here; he might be injured.” She says and Thor nods and rises to his feet, then hesitates.

“What about you? The mage is still out there and--” He starts to protests, but Hela shakes her head.

“I’ll be fine, I’m not defenseless, Brother.” She assures. Thor silences the little voice in his head that argues this idea and nods before grabbing one of Hela’s fallen swords and rushing into the woods in the direction he’s pretty sure he remembers Loki disappearing to.

It takes him maybe an hour to find his youngest sibling and he cocks an eyebrow up when he does. Loki is sitting in a high branch of a tree, knees tucked next to his chest and head resting on them as he stares idly at nothing. He’s about fifteen feet off of the ground and Thor shakes his head slightly at his brother’s antics. Loki always puts himself into small places that probably shouldn’t fit him, but do and remains there for hours at a time reading or doing one thing or another. If not tucked into small places, then he climbs as high as he can. Thor has found Loki sitting on the palace’s roof more than once.

“Loki,” Thor calls up his voice slightly hesitant. Loki’s gaze flickers down to him and his expression, if possible washes blank even further. Loki’s gotten incredibly good at that recently, this stupidly blank expression that’s impossible to read no matter how hard Thor stares.

“Is she okay?” Loki asks, his voice is as blank as his face.

“She woke up.” Thor answers, evading the topic.

“Good,” Loki says. The silence between them is awkward, unpleasant and Thor wants to chase it away, but isn’t exactly sure what to say. He has no silvertongue. Thor presses his lips together and releases a breath before looking up at his little brother again.

“Lo, listen, about last night--” Thor starts to apologize, but Loki leaps off of the branch and lands without toppling in perfectly balanced stance and shakes his head.

“Don’t.” Loki says and Thor opens his mouth to protest. “ Don’t.” Loki presses, “You were right, it was my fault.”

“No it wasn't.” Thor disagrees, “Your spell must’ve just misfired.” He argues.

Loki’s eyes flash for a moment before the blank returns and he shakes his head, “Perhaps you're right.” Loki sighs, defeated.

The silence is unsettling, and Thor can’t help but feel like he’s not helping.

“We should return to camp.” Thor avers and turns, beginning to trek through the woods to where he left there sister and hears Loki walk after him a moment later. The silence is thick between them and is only broken by a loud shout of their names.

Not again, please not again. His legs pump forward breaking into a sprint, Loki at his side, and the two of them race towards their abandoned camp. The mage. The mage must’ve gotten her because they killed all the other wolves and there is no way that anything else could’ve gotten the best of Hela. Injured or not.

They make the distance in less than five minutes (Thor wandered around the camp for a while before he found where Loki was located).

When they reach some of the trees near the clearing, Thor comes to a halt, stunned, his eyes widening as he watches the figures up ahead. Maybe a dozen, likely more, feet from him and his little brother.

A sword is pressed firmly against his older sister’s throat, her long waist length braid being yanked back by the her captor’s hand and her eyes are squeezed shut in what looks like pain. Her weight is transferred to mostly her right side and her left leg looks strange, even from this angle. The one that the wolf gnawed on.

Standing behind her is what Thor assumes is the mage, his eyes hold a slightly mad note to them and though he is silent, the fury is pouring off him visibly.

Hot, bubbling anger builds within his chest and Thor lifts Hela’s sword preparing to leap forward and break a few bones then lop off a few heads, but Loki’s long fingers grab at his shoulder, halting the movement. Thor looks back at his brother with disbelief laced with frustration. They can’t just stand here! Their sister is being being tortured and they can’t just do nothing!

“Wait,” is all Loki’s soft voice says, eyes narrowed. His fingers don’t peel away and Thor attempts to shrug them off, but Loki’s grip tightens, remaining firm. Thor grits his jaw and digs his teeth into his lower lip before turning and waiting. Whatever Loki is looking for, Thor doesn’t understand, but he’ll play this game unless they attempt further harm on their sister.

A figure steps from the woods towards their left and Loki drags him down to a kneeling position as his right hand flicks out his fingers straining for a moment a soft blue-white glow singing beneath his fingertips before it disappears and Thor feels the cool rush of magic wash over him. Thor attempts to stuff down his irritability. Does he seriously plan to hide and act like a coward waiting in the dark? This is their sister.

This figure is unmistakably the mage, and strange aura pours off of him in waves and Thor feels his insides recoil at the feeling of it. If they’d rushed in a few seconds ago this mage could’ve gotten the better of them. Loki’s command for them to wait was probably a better choice. Thor’s fingers tighten around his sword hilt, but remains still.

“For all the black ink that pours over your heart, you have gotten soft these last few years, haven’t you?” Ofæti’s voice is soft, baring the thick accent of Vanaheim proudly. He comes to a halt in front of Hela.

Thor’s lips press together tightly. Hela rarely, if ever, shares anything about her assistance in their Father’s merge of unity among the Nine Realms, but what Thor does know doesn't exactly paint her in a bright light. She has admitted that she regrets it, the severeness of the bloodshed when Thor was younger and Loki wasn’t present. Thor isn’t exactly sure how much Loki knows, either, but he’s sure it’s considerably less.

Hela’s eyes open and she squints staring at Ofæti for a long moment. The silence is thick and Thor holds his breath. When Hela says nothing, Ofæti’s lips curl into a sneer, “You would have killed both of us by now had you not been so.”

“Yes?” Hela questions, her voice is thin.

“Of course.” Ofæti sneers, “‘ Goddess of Death’ they’ve titled you on Midgard, did you know? I see no reason why it isn’t fitting. Murderous snake.”

Hela’s chin lifts definitely, but her words are slightly distant: “I don’t kill needlessly,”

Ofæti’s face twists into rage and he lifts his hand before backhanding Hela across the face. Her head whips to the side from the force and a long red gash spreads across her neck from the sword pressed there. Loki inhales sharply and Thor jerks forward, but Loki’s hand, still present, holds him back.

“You tell that to my brother, will you?” Ofæti says and Thor’s muscles tense. Hela still hasn’t turned her head deep brown hair is blocking what he can see.” Yes that’s right, you can’t. He’s dead and it’s your fault, you drew the blade into him, I watched it, held him as he died. But why would you care? You don’t even remember, do you?”

Loki fingers grow tighter, but not to withhold him anymore. Thor chances a glance to his younger brother’s face and sees anxiety drawn into it. Very faint, but present.

Do you!?” Ofæti shouts and grabs Hela’s face ripping it forwards, “Look at me when I’m talking to you, murderer!”

“We have to do something.” Thor seethes, softly. Loki rises to his feet and releases his shoulder drawing a dagger. Thor quietly exhales in relief before gripping Hela’s sword with both hands and prepares to leap forwards, but at that moment, Ofæti’s expression twists with deep, dark, outrage and he flings his fingers back before jerking his hand forward and a vivid red light slinks from his fingers posthaste and slams against Hela’s abdomen.

A loud, grating scream tears through Hela’s throat, her face twisting with agony  and Thor doesn't think, just reacts. He leaps from their cover with a loud cry and Ofæti whirls, drawing a weapon just as Hela’s sword smashes against his, heavily and the metal creaks.

Thor can feel the fury building in his chest and needs to get it out before it strangles him. He draws his weapon back and hacks against Ofæti’s whose eyes no longer hold confidence, but slight fear.

Good.

Thor swiftly disarms the man and kicks him in the chest before slamming his boot down on the other’s chest and points his sword at his throat.

You have no right .” Thor’s voice is low and threatening. “I should slay you where you stand.”

“Kill him,” Thor whips his head back and sees the other man slowly dragging Hela back, her eyes are closed and lips pressed together firmly but it's still twisted in pain.

Norns.

He’d forgotten there was two in his rush.

“And your dear sister loses her head.” Thor tenses and Ofæti sends a triumphant smirk that Thor wants to punch him in his crooked teeth for.

Norns, where is Loki?

He tightens his grip on the sword, his knuckles stretching so much it's painful.

Loki simmers into view in behind the second man and slams one of his longer daggers against the short sword holding Hela and the weapon jerks enough that Hela jerks forward, but is still restricted by the second man’s grip on her hair.

The second man twists raising his weapon to Loki; Thor feels slight fear creep through him, but Loki smacks his dagger against the man’s avoiding Hela as if it is his calling in life. The second man stumbles back before Loki flicks the weapon from his grip and catches it in his free hand pointing both tips against the second’s neck.

“Release her,” Loki snarls.

The second man drops Hela’s braid and Hela crumples to her knees leaning forward, gasping.

Thor’s gaze is so focused on this that he misses when Ofæti’s fingers come up until a spell blasts him backwards. He only feels the pain when it slams against his stomach. Thor lands, a loud cry escaping him and he skids several feet and his hand comes to press against his chest where pain is pulsing cheerfully.

“Thor!” Thor isn’t sure if the sound comes from Loki or Hela as both turn towards him. Hela’s hands are still firmly pressed against where the spell hit her, but her eyes are wide with fear.

A dark laugh cuts him from his thoughts and he rolls to his back, gasping, as Ofæti clambers to his feet some sort of greenish-yellow energy pulsing between his fingers. That doesn’t look optimal. All-Fathers give them strength.   

Loki’s eyes widen and he drops the weapons he has in hand before he runs towards Thor managing the distance between them in a few seconds. He throws himself in front of Thor preparing to take whatever type of blow is about to happen, but a low clank rings through the air and Ofæti’s eyes briefly flash surprise before the mage’s spell breaks and his eyes roll back and he falls forward, hitting the ground, unconscious.

Sif lowers her shield a confident annoyance playing across her face. Thor spots movement in the trees before Volstagg, Fandral, and a handful of Einherjar leap at the second man smashing him to the ground. The light elf grunts and strains against the pressure, but Fandral pulls a dagger and presses it against the back of his neck.

Thor releases a breath and lets out a shaky laugh, “Impeccable timing, my friends.” He assures and Sif’s gaze lifts to him, smirk dancing across her lips.

“As always.” She says and Loki turns back to him grabbing at his shoulders, eyes wild.

“Are you alright?” He demands. Thor nods, clambering to his feet hissing slightly at the pain that races through the abused area. Ouch, okay, maybe less alright. Loki turns back to the Warriors Three and Sif, “How did you get here?” He demands.

“Heimdall,” Sif answers, “He saw what was happening and explained it to your parents, Frigga would have come herself but she was tied up with some duties.” Sif prods at the head of the mage with the edge of her boot, “He’s not really all that intimidating. He did try though, I’ll give him that. Where are the wolves your mother warned us of?” Sif asks scanning around for them. Thor walks over to their sister who is still kneeling, eyes wide.

Loki strides over to Hela and helps pulls her to her feet. She stumbles and Thor steadies her, “My thanks,” she murmurs. Loki hums slightly before turning to the second man.

“Why did Ofæti do this?” He demands.

The second man looks up at him, smirking, “He was gettin’ revenge, boy. She killed his brother a while back and he figured it was time, set up the wolves and everything knowin’ that Alfheim would go running to Asgard as they always do. Cowards. She was supposed to die tonight.”

Thor’s arm tightens around Hela.

“And you? What did you have to gain from this?” Loki demands.

“Money.” He shrugs, “I figure if I ain't gettin’ paid no need to keep his pretty secrets. You put up a good fight for someone so scrawny.” He notes.

Fandral laughs, “Please, as though Loki defeated you.” He says. Loki’s shoulders slump.

“He did disarm him.” Hela says, her voice is still raw from lack of use. She places more of her weight onto Thor. He supports it, easily.

“Aye.” Thor confirms.

Fandral humphs, but nods. Hela turns to Thor, “I don’t care if I have to spend a month in the infirmary because of it, but please just let Heimdall take us back to Asgard, I’ve had my fill of Alfheim for a lifetime.” She says.

Thor laughs and nods, “Of course,” he turns his head to the sky, “Heimdall--Open the Bifrost!”

000o000

“I see you’ve escaped your nurses.” Odin’s voice is laced with slight amusement and Hela turns to look back at him from her seat on the balcony rolling her eyes slightly.

“Yes, I swear they think one missblow from the wind is going to topple me.” She groans. Odin gives a soft smile and takes a seat beside her on the bench. The stars are twinkling brightly in the late night, and it’s beautiful. Then again, pretty much anything is when compared to the white ceilings of the Healing Halls.

After much convincing she finally convinced her younger siblings to go to bed. It’s been four days since they returned from Asgard and she’s spent most of it asleep, healing and when she woke up she was told that neither Thor nor Loki have left her beside since they got back.

She tried to wave them off, but it didn’t work well until Frigga come in and sent them both to bed so she could worry over Hela privately. Hela finally escaped from the Healing Halls to here and has remained for about two hours now.

“You lost a lot of blood, they did have reason to worry.” Odin points out.

Hela nods, “I know, but…” She sighs and turns to look at him, “Father, I don’t know if they told you, but the mage--”

“Attacked to get you there, yes, Loki explained.” Odin says and Hela presses her lips together. What further damage has she done? Odin’s merge of forced unity among the Nine Realms didn’t leave no scars.

It left open wounds.

And they’re still bleeding.

But Asgard chooses to look away.

“What if something like this happens again, Father?” She asks. “And it's something worse. What if they use my brothers to try and enact their revenge because I was involved in the battles and--”

“Calm yourself,” Odin commands and rests a hand on her shoulder, “We will be ready next time.”

“Will we?” Hela asks.

“I am certain. You are much older now, more prepared such a thing that happened in the past won't happen again.”  Odin says and Hela allows him comfort her if only for now. She nods and releases a breath into the stillness. Odin gives her shoulder a quick squeeze before turning back to the stars. His lip twitches. “Besides, you’ll have more important things to worry about.”

Norns, what?

Hela raises an eyebrow and turns to look at him, “Why, you find me a suitor?”

Odin laughs and shakes his head, “No, no,” he says and turns to her his lips fully twisted into his smile. “Your coronation date has been planned; it is two months from tomorrow,” Hela feels her jaw fall slightly and her eyebrows rise. Odin's smile grows. “Congratulations, my heir, your legacy as queen awaits us on the horizon.”



Chapter Text


 There's no surrender, and there's no escape,

Are we the hunters, or are we the prey? 

-Game of survival "Ruelle". 


 Hela! Queen Of Asgard! Part I

Given only a single word to describe his home planet, Loki would easily settle on “chaos”. Over the last week the lines between cleaning and attempting to rebuild the palace from the inside out have become blurred. He hasn’t ever seen the servants this edgy, period. No matter how much chaos and disaster he’s caused with his pranks and mischief, it pales in comparison to this. Vastly.

All of the servants are on such edge that when Loki stopped one to ask if she knew where Thor was she sputtered a impressive vocabulary of curses before slamming him with a stack of hefty paperwork and yelling that she didn’t know where the other prince was. Loki had walked away with a pounding headache and a high levels of irritability. Granted, a coronation isn’t every other Thursday so he has to give them some sympathy. As much as he is able, because the second time was intentional and he had managed to change the heavy book the servant was carrying into harmless snacks before the man had thrown the bucket of soap he was holding in his other hand. Loki was wet for a few minutes but it was worth it.

So yes, well usually respect for the royal family is guarded a little (correction: much ) higher the last week it has been close to nothing and Loki has found it amusing. Okay, for the first three days, then it became frustrating as he tried to dodge them and steer clear from their path of rampage as they clean everything down to a weird shine. Loki wasn’t even aware stone could give something close to a murky reflection until a few days ago. (His dirty boots from recent ride on his horse, Moa and had not been welcome on that ground, Loki’s never been shood with brooms before, but the bristles are surprisingly sharp.)  

To top off everything, dignitaries are flowing in from all the realms and so with his aggressive game of hide-in-seek  (just hide) with the servants, he now has to also play said game with the royalty. Before they exclaim how “cute he is” or give him hugs and insist how much he’s grown even though Loki has no memory of the person. He’s never been a physically affectionate person (that’s always been Thor’s reign and domain), but he swears everyone who sees him won’t stop touching him on the shoulder, offering hugs are patting him on the head. It’s like something just whispers to their hands that they must do it. He’s not short and it was just strange when his aunt who was a head shorter than him grabbed as his face and exclaimed how adorable he was. He’s a mix between throttling something or banging his head against the wall in frustration at it. Odin’s siblings in particular are very insistent on telling him how much older he is (thanks, didn’t notice) and since Odin has never been particularly close to any of his younger family members, meetings between them are stiff and slightly awkward.

All in all: he’s spent the last few days pretty much living in the library, afraid to brave the halls.

Not that he can blame anyone, crownings really don’t happen all too often and the people have been waiting for Hela’s for decades now. It came as a surprise to all of them (except Hela who mentioned afterwards that she and Odin had discussed it a few days earlier). Hela has long since past the usual age for crowning and Loki had heard some rumors that their father didn’t plan on putting Hela on the throne, but passing it onto Thor instead. Their father had mentioned it, almost casually, over the breakfast table two months and  maybe a week ago since Hela was declared healthy from the Alfheim-fiasco

Since the date was set and planned, Asgard has been buzzing with excitement and now panic as it grows nearer. Exactly one week from today, actually. Asgard is stressed, reasonably so, but Loki is pretty sure he’s never seen Hela this restless. She’s a blur of activity, never sitting still for longer than what is required and her hands are always in constant motion. Loki’s pretty sure that she’s forgotten that breathing is an essential step of survival because she hasn’t been doing an awful lot of it recently. She’s spent every waking moment either with their parents or tutors as they fine-tune everything making sure she’s prepared for the coronation fully. Loki thinks she is, but he isn’t exactly sure Hela holds the same confidence. He’s barely spoken maybe five words to her in a month and seen her more than anything else. She stopped coming to their family meals (of which he half expected Frigga to rise from the table and drag her eldest down to it by her ear and force her to eat something, but she hasn’t—she and Odin have been skipping out on it as well as they stress properly with the eldest).

Thor and his friends have managed to spend more time with her than Loki has and it’s made him slightly frustrated. Hela and himself have a strange bond, but he thrives in it. They can sit beside each other for hours in silence as Loki reads or works on sorcery and Hela sculpts her clay or forges her weapons. She’s one of his closest friends and he’s never felt more distant from her. But she’s busy and will guaranteed to be more busy after the crowning so the lazy afternoons together are a lovely fantasy of the past.

He’s not angry—just disconsolate about the entire thing...So shouldn't he be jumping in excitement at this?

“—please, Brother? It would only be for a few hours, surely your books can wait that long.” Thor’s rather loud, booming voice (he hasn’t had much of a different tone recently) slices through the silence of the library like a well sharpened knife cutting through leather and Loki presses his lips together to repress a sigh. He really should be excited—thrilled at this, but he’s...not. He doesn’t know why it just is.

Loki looks up from the rim of the book he’s reading to Thor’s pleading blue eyes. He’s managed to start growing facial hair recently and has a rather impressive scruff on his chin. It just looks irritating, but somehow it makes Thor feel more like a man (that’s what he’d said when Hela demanded why he wanted a fuzzy caterpillar on his face). And though Loki quietly agrees with their older sister on the matter, Thor has been persistent on growing his beard. Loki lowers the book.

“Have you actually managed to convince her or do you plan on dragging her away from our Father in throne room by the tip of her ear?” Loki asks, his voice is dry and low in attempt to not rouse the librarians wrath. The women are not people to be messed with and Loki sadly speaks from experience.

Thor doesn't hesitate, “Yes, of course. I wouldn’t be dragging you away from your precious books unless I was positive. She agreed to it before I came here.” Thor says, confidently. Loki hums and gnaws at his lip with his teeth for a moment before sighing.

“Fine.” He agrees. Thor’s eyes lighten and he beams a wide, cheery smile. Loki barely manages a grimace before Thor’s fingers wrap around his forearm and drag him off of bench he was sitting on to his feet.

“Excellent, let us make haste there.” Thor says and Loki tosses the book at the table he was sitting at before allowing Thor to drag him from the library and to the halls. Thor manages to make it from the far back of the library to the front with surprising ease and nearly a minute later they step into the bright hallway and Thor releases him.

The sudden light exposure from the dim candles of the library makes his eyes ache and he blinks rapidly for a few seconds trying to get them to adjust. The sun beams brightly reflecting off of the polished... everything and Loki presses his lips together silently wishing he could return to his cave and hide under blankets avoiding daylight for another few days. That sounds nice. Maybe leave for food occasionally, but beyond that remain in his dark literature hideout.  

Loki squints and shakes his head as Thor sighs in impatience. Loki lifts his eyes to his older brother before taking several steps forward until he’s standing next to the blond’s left and they begin to walk forward. Thor walks in quick strides as if walking at a faster pace will somehow either light a fire pathway beneath his boots and rocket him forward to their destination or he wants to undo the servants good handiwork. Despite this, Loki doesn’t have any problems keeping up with him.

The walk is taken in complete silence and although it frustrates him slightly, Thor seems to have no problems with the quiet. They reach the training grounds in under fifteen minutes compared to the usual twenty or so and Loki immediately spots their sister awaiting their arrival flanked by the Warriors Three and Sif. The rest of the large open area is completely empty, for once and although Loki is slightly curious as to where everyone else is, he doesn’t question it. Their father’s been tightening security the last few weeks and they were either chased out by Hela and the others or Odin has claimed them for whatever purposes.

Sparring.

Thor’s solution to everything is fighting—including this. Failed a test? Let’s fight! Sad? Let’s fight! Hela is stressed? Let’s fight! That’ll solve it! Loki’s never been one for beating stuff up when he gets angry, instead he seethes silently and seeks vengeance with magic. For whatever reason, Thor wanted him here. Loki doesn’t plan on doing any of the fighting, but apparently his presence will be enough to appease his older brother; why the elder bothered dragging him from the library for this is beyond Loki.

Loki steps onto the rough dirt and meets eyes with their sister briefly before splitting away from Thor and promptly claiming one of the empty benches near the exit. He can feel several pairs of gazes on him, but Loki doesn’t look up to meet them, instead, folds his legs cross legged on the bench and summons a book from his room, flips to a random page and begins to read.

The gazes shift and Loki is released from their stares. He spares a glance upwards as he begins to hear them talking and drawing weapons.

“Would you do me the honor of being my opponent, dear sister?” Thor’s voice is slightly sarcastic yet is still beaming with that sunniness that he seems to have an endless well of.

Hela laughs softly and Loki can't help but stare as the slightly foreign sound makes it way towards him. There has been little laughter between their family as of late. “Yes, of course, I’ll spare your friends the embarrassment of defeat.”

“Perhaps you should prepare yourself for that.” Thor counters. Thor pulls up a shield and swings his sword before Hela jumps on him and the two being to fight, violently. Their sister fighting has always been something close to hypnotizing. The way she flips through the air and swings her weapons is like some sort of deadly dance that only she knows the rhythm of. Loki honestly never wants to be on the receiving end of it when she’s not just training. He and Hela have fought numerous times before but he can usually tell she’s holding back. Even now, it’s slightly obvious in the way that the swords arch around Thor in an attempt to not injure him. Thor is doing the same, but it will fade out as time goes on and the two become more engaged. Loki’s seen it enough to know it will happen.

Sif and Hogun are also sparring as Volstagg and Fandral fight to the side. Loki presses his lips together and returns to the words on the pages. He’s read this one over a dozen times now and he can quote it from heart, but he doesn’t really care. It’s comforting. The spine is worn down to raw frays and his sloppy stitching is wrapped up the right side in an attempt to keep it in one piece. It was a gift from his mother when he turned the equivalent of Midgardian ten and has aged far more than it probably should have from the amount of times he’s torn through the pages.

After about five minutes of skillfully tuning out the sounds of the sword fight, Loki’s head jerks up as Sif lets out a loud shout of pain and stumbles backwards from Hogun's mace clutching her forearm and spitting out curses. Blood draws back from her fingers latched around her arm and Loki’s eyebrows lift slightly in concern. That, looks ugly.

The other weapons stop and Hela and Thor turn walking towards her followed by Fandral and Volstagg. “Are you alright?” Thor asks her, concerned.

“Yes, fine.” Sif says and hisses again.

“I apologize, I didn’t mean for the force of my swing to be so wide.” Hogun says and Sif looks up at him.

“It is not a problem, friend. Just a bruise.”

“Because bruises bleed.” Hela argues.

Fair point.

“Well it is only fun if you get hurt in the process, yes?” Thor murmurs and Hela sends him a pointed look before grabbing Sif by the shoulder and pushing her in Loki’s direction. This is probably why Thor dragged him down here. Loki is skilled with healing, it was among the first sorcery he learned from their mother and Sif’s arm shouldn’t be a problem.

Sif staggers towards him, eyebrows drawn together tightly and Loki closes his book resting it to the side, then shifts slightly so there’s room beside him on the bench and Sif stands there for a moment as she reaches him. “Can you heal this?” She demands pulling her hand back to reveal the broken arm guard and leaking blood. The pain must be severe and Loki quietly applauds her for her stoicness on it. Loki nods mutely.

“I will see what I can do,” He pats the seat beside him and Sif takes it, stiffly at best and purses her lips together tightly. The frustration is rolling off of her in waves and she refuses to meet his gaze as she holds out her arm for him to look at. Her eyes find their way from what Loki can tell to where Thor and Hela have begun to fight again, fully engaged, neither looking to be winning or losing. Hela does a flip over Thor’s head and his brother lifts his shield to block the blow aimed for his chest.

Loki purses his lips together and turns his attention back to Sif’s arm. He gently takes it by the elbow before opening the latches around the leather attaching the guard to her arm and slides the metal off. He rolls the sleeve up and hums slightly. There are several cuts digging into the skin in small points looking like she fell on a rather large rose bush. A thick purple-blue bruise is spreading below the bleeding wounds and her forearms bone looks a little more bent than it should be. Loki gently turns it over to see the other side. Sif flinches at his touch.

Sif turns to look at the wound and grimaces, “Is it bad?” She asks and lifts her hazel eyes to his. Loki shrugs slightly. Yeah, it’s not pretty and Hogun must have hit extremely hard to break her guard and bone, but it’s curable.

“Not terrible.” He assures. Sif returns her gaze to the battle and Loki squints at the wound for a second. The bent bone is obvious without the blood to cover it and the bruise isn’t quiet as hefty on this side, but Loki lifts his hand forward and prods at a yellowish area trying to feel the break after a second. “Ow!” Sif yelps and rips her arm from his grasp tucking it close to her chest. She’s actually looking at him now instead of towards him, her hazel eyes wide with fury.

“Oh, I apologize; did that hurt?” The dry comment slips from his lips before he has a chance to catch it and Sif releases a breath through her nose in anger. Loki rolls his eyes and grasps at her arm tugging it without much resistance away from her protective position of it. Loki twists his fingers and golden light flows through his veins lighting up his skin where they flow for a moment before Loki spreads his fingers out and the golden light slips from his fingers to her arm. Sif’s position relaxes with some relief slightly and Loki holds her forearm with his hand the skin already weaving itself together as Loki quietly wills it to heal faster. Loki lifts up his other hand and spreads his fingers outwards the red haze glowing softly in his skin before swiftly curling his fingers in and jerking his hand, palm facing skyward. Sif grinds her teeth together as the bone jerks back into its rightful position.

Thor gives a rather loud war cry and Loki lifts his head upwards slightly as the blond lands his dive his weapon smacking against Hela’s two swords clasped together in an “x” position to prevent the weapon from hitting her. Hela’s leaning backwards from the force and Loki can’t see her face from this angle, but her hair is nearly touching the ground.

“Can you believe that she is nearly queen?” Sif asks, abrupt and randomly because she doesn’t engage in conversation with him more than what is a necessity. Loki pauses for a moment trying to figure out what angle she’s coming at before shaking of his paranoia. Probably just trying to show her appreciation for him healing her arm. Because just saying thank you would ruin her ego. Loki gives a long, heavy mental roll of his eyes at the thought.

“It is strange,” Loki admits, hesitantly. He has done his best to go in a very round about way of avoiding the topic in his thoughts. When he does think about it, the inquietude that follows is all he can focus on. His sister is going to be queen. Not simply the Crown Princess, no, queen. She’ll have an entire realm in her hands and the balance of the Nine Realms between her shoulders. She will be to busy to breathe let alone be his sister anymore. He doesn’t like to think about that, but when his brain even slips near the topic, he’s suddenly spiraling downwards in that direction.

“Indeed,” Sif agrees and watches the battle for another moment, Hela twists her wrist and the shield in Thor’s hand goes flying off of his arm with a dagger embedded in it. Sif returns her gaze to him, hazel eyes holding slight pity tinted with exasperation “It is a shame you can’t fight like them, Loki, I’m starting to wonder if any of your families fighting traits were passed onto you.”

Loki presses his lips together firmly. Ah. There it is. “I am not defenseless, Sif.”

Sif rolls her eyes, “Please,” she scoffs. A slight stretch of silence spreads over them in which Loki takes great pleasure in mentally strangling her before she adds, “Do you believe her to be ready for the throne?”

Yes. He does, Hela is a formidable warrior, diplomat (when she tries to be), and often puts others needs before her own. Any rough edges will likely be smoothed by actually being queen so Loki gives a soft shrug, ”Our father knows when she is ready.”

Sif snorts; a release of air that sounds hot and arrogant. “Of course you would believe that.”

Loki spins his fourth finger over her arm and the bone fuses together Sif’s fingers clenching at the pain before it fades out. He stares at her profile for a moment, studying her features.“Why shouldn’t I?”

Sif huffs in answer before turning to face him completely, hazel eyes determined and ready to rage warpath.“She is reckless and irresponsible with her duties and so much more—my sister is her handmaiden you know—” How am I to forget when you keep reminding me? “ —and she tells me of how much she slacks. Serena doesn’t think she’s ready and I must agree.” Sif says and Loki’s lips part slightly in disbelief. He turns to face her fully and his tongue feels dry and weighted.

“Agree?” He echoes, dubiously. Sif stares at him with her recently mastered belittling look. It drives him insane. She tilts her head up slightly, raises her eyebrows and turns her eyes to the side in exasperation. Just because he’s the youngest of their stupid group doesn’t mean she has to treat him like an inferior all the time!

“Yes, agree . Would you like a definition?” She asks, cheekily. Loki’s eyes narrow and he pulls his hand back from her healed forearm.

“No, thank you.” He says, icily. Sif is unfazed. Her gaze flickers to Hela for a moment before returning to him again. She sighs, with fare more flare and melodramatic than what is needed.

“She doesn’t even look queenly. I wonder if she is aware that ceaselessly she looks like a drowned rat.” Loki’s spine stiffens and cold rage sweeps through his stomach. They can ridicule and degrade him all they want, but Hela is off limits.

Loki doesn’t get angry often. Irritated, yes. Annoyed, yes. Angry...angry no. The anger had been building since Sif began her derision of his older sister and before she can continue Loki suddenly has a dagger in hand. He doesn’t feel the hate that sweeps through him.

Nor furious defensiveness that follows.

He doesn’t feel as his magic claws at his insides begging for release at his incense.

He doesn’t feel as his expression twists from it's usual blank into a sick fury.

The only thing he really feels is when his hand wraps around the back of Sif’s long, bouncy ponytail and he yanks down his dagger slicing through the everything past the tie and the rough hairs comes lose into his fingers.

Sif’s hands jerk towards her head the short hairs fall in front of her face blocking the horrified expression. His grip on his dagger and Sif’s long hair tightens, but he pulls his hands back away from her head. Loki’s jaw clicks slightly, he doesn’t have anything to say—anything he can. The fury in his chest demands a vent. He’s pretty sure if he opens his mouth all that’s going to come out right is a long, loud, guttural scream.

Sif fingers the hair for a moment her hands ghosting over where the length of it would be before she slowly lifts her head up, eyes wide with horror. She stares at the hair in his hand then the dagger before managing to gather some of her bearings and leaps to her feet, “ LOKI!” She screeches his name with all the force her lungs possess and her eyes hold a wild note. Loki barely flinches at it. “ How dare you!” Her shoulders rise to match her fury.  “What did I ever do to you!?”

Loki leaps to his feet and raises the point of his weapon towards her face, equally furious, a low laugh bubbles in his throat that comes out slightly deranged. He can’t muster up enough emotion to care. “Ridicule my sister again and I do far worse, drowned rat.” He sneers the name with far more force and hate than he thought himself capable of and throws the hair at her feet. Sif stares at it, her mouth gaping for a second, but her eyes narrow with deep anger despite the short hairs that fall in front of her face as they realize there is nothing left to hold them back.

“I did no such thing!” She protests, her voice is rising in pitch with her distress.

Loki snorts, his face stretching into a wide smile that feels tight, sickly and wrong. “Still denying your wrongs? You are gifted at many things, Sif, but mendacity has never been one of them.”

“Of course not!” She snaps, her stance is wild. “I leave that up to perfidious, dishonorable snakes like yourself, Liesmith!”

Loki sees red.

He leaps at her. He’s not entirely sure what he plans on doing beyond causing severe bodily harm, his dagger gleaming against the soft lighting, but Sif’s hair is long forgotten on the floor. Sif’s hazel eyes drain of all their rage and widen in what is unmistakably fear.

He doesn’t care.

A hand wraps around his middle halting his attack on the other Asgardian and he jerks forward from the force his upper body leaning forward as Thor’s arms wrap around Sif’s shoulders protectively pulling her back, away from his reach. His older brother’s hair is clinging to his face, drenched in sweat yet Thor looks ready to battle him to Valhalla and beyond for Sif and this just fuels his fury further. “You know what happened that day, gnashnab child!” He shouts, struggling violently for release against the iron grip around his waist clawing at the forearm with his freehand. A hand lets him go momentarily causing Loki’s struggles to increase and the hold tightens further, to painful levels as the free hand comes up to wrestle the dagger violently from his grip. The weapon lands a few feet away, to the side of the bench but Loki barely glimpses at it. He can summon more if he needs to.

He just needs out.

“Loki, stop.” Hela commands, her voice a low hiss with a deep, dark, dangerous undertone. Loki spares a glance downwards and recognizes Hela’s sleeves and permanently black fingernails then stops his struggles breathing heavily and glaring furiously in the other girl’s direction. Hela doesn’t release him. Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg suddenly pop up behind Thor and Sif all three looking slightly worried, yet miffed and sending displeased looks in his direction. Loki bites his tongue heavily until his tastes blood and releases a breath of air attempting to calm the rage.

In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.

Loki exhales again and his vision clears slightly. The anger is still there, but no longer overpowering. Hela’s grip laxes and as Loki makes no move to tackle Sif, she releases him fully and takes a step next to him hair falling in front of her dark blue eyes. She eyes Sif for a moment who’s hands seem to be permanently attached to her scalp, fingers running through her hair perpetually. Loki’s gaze flickers briefly to the dark locks on the ground and before rising to Sif again. Thor’s rubbing her arms, attempting to comfort her—she actually looks close to tears, but Thor’s actions only add to Loki silent fury. He clenches his fists and digs his fingernails into his palms deeply.

Hela folds her arms across her chest returning her gaze to him,  “Explain, now.” It’s not a suggestion, but an order. She sounds furious and has an expression of deep disapprobation.

Loki opens his mouth to answer, but Sif beats him to it: “He finished healing my arm then leaned over and lopped my hair off! When I got angry, he attempted to attack me.”

Of course, of course she would make herself into the victimized hero. Why is he even surprised? Loki’s eyes narrow and he presses his lips together, “That is not what—” He starts to say, but Hela cuts him off: “Enough, Loki.”

Loki turns to her in surprise and attempts buries the feeling of slight disbelief. Why is she taking Sif’s side on this? He didn’t even get to ‘explain’ as she commanded. Does she honestly think that he would just chop off Sif’s hair without reason. He was defending her.

Hela pinches the bridge of her nose in frustration for a moment closing her eyes, “I am already under enough pressure, do you have to make it worse?”

Loki feels the tense anger in his shoulders dissolve. Make it worse? He wasn’t trying to do anything. He just—was... why on Asgard did he have to lop off her hair? He’s not the reckless one, that’s Thor’s job. His brain escaped him for a moment. Or two.

“I’m not trying to make it worse I didn’t...I’m sorry—”

“Just, stop it!” Hela explodes, she turns to him fully rage flooding off of her like waves spreading out to a shore. Loki recoils physically. “You’re acting like a child, Loki! What on the name of—Sif’s hair! Really!? I don’t understand why on the name of the Norns you would—”

“Don’t understand?” Loki repeats, interrupting her. He laughs, this time it sounds sickly. “Would you like me to explain or would you like to keep pretending you know all my motivations?”

“There’s nothing to pretend over, it’s obvious!” Hela vociferates. She exhales sharply and leans down grabbing a handful of the locks then jerks it up like it’s evidence of a murder. Hela’s eyes narrow. “Had realized that sending Sif over would make you chop of her hair I wouldn’t have done it. You're a healer, Loki, not a hairstylist.”

“Oh, yes, because I cut it all off to test my new talent.” He sibilates.

“What is wrong with you?” Hela explodes. Loki jerks back another step and he blinks several times in shock and opens and closes his mouth for a moment trying to find something to say, but words fail him. His silvertongue tastes like lead in his mouth.

Hela shakes her head in disgust before turning to Sif who is now has her head buried in her hands quietly crying and Thor shoots him a displeased glare and wraps his arms further around Sif’s shoulders, holding her close, in protection from him . Hela rests a gentle hand on Sif’s shoulder and shoots him a dirty glare.

Loki’s fingernails have broken skin and he feels his palms slowly leaking blood, but not the pain. He slams his teeth down on his tongue before he turns to the dagger lifting his hand and spreading his fingers out. He twists his fourth and last against his palm to summon it and a second later it lands in his hand. Loki glances at the the group gathered around Sif where Thor is trying to reassure her that it really doesn’t look that bad. Sif isn’t a vain woman, never has been from Loki’s experience, but he still can’t help the guilt that spawns in his stomach.

Loki lifts his hand up and snaps his fingers his body jerking upwards in the teleportation spell, but he can still feel their icy glares on him.

Loki lands with a tumble forwards in his chambers and flicks his fingers outwards sending a silencing spell across the length of it before throwing his head back and screaming at the top of his lungs in fury. He throws the dagger with deadly force at his desk and the weapon skids across the surface of the wood chopping through several layers of paper and only halting because of the wall behind the piece of furniture.The frustration is a tight ball in his stomach and it's heated by anger. Why did she—?

He was trying to defend Hela and she yells at him for it. As childishly stupid as it is, Loki wants to shout ‘it's not fair’ at the top of his lungs. Should he have cut of Sif’s hair? Probably not, but he did and he doesn’t have as much remorse as what is probably be normal.

Loki grabs at the edge of his short dark hair and tugs at it firmly.

All there is, is anger.

He wants to get it out.

Loki swings his fist back and slams it against the wall. Then again. And again. The pain spreads up his arm in a spasm, but he doesn’t stop or care.

Smashing things is Thor’s thing—not his, but he can't stop .

He collapses to his knees what feels like hours later, but is probably just closer to about ten minutes, and cradles his bruised, bleeding hand then closes his eyes. The hopelessness that rushes into the empty spot that the anger resided in swallows him. Loki leans down and curls on his side clutching his hand to his chest and squeezes his eyes shut.

What is wrong with you?

000o000

“Loki? Are you feeling alright? You didn’t join us at dinner yesterday, nor breakfast and midday meal today.” Frigga’s soft voice carries into his room and Loki squeezes his eyes shut before childishly grabbing his blankets and tugging them up and over his head. His bandaged hand stings with pain at the motion and he grits his teeth together. He was too apathetic to do anything about it last night beyond wrap it and now he wishes he had. He hears the door to the room close before Frigga’s soft footsteps grow closer. Weight sinks on the edge of the bed revealing her spot before she grabs the blankets and tugs them away from his face. He doesn’t fight her. His green eyes meet her blue. Green, not blue like everyone else in this family. Frigga stares at him with concern for a moment before placing a hand against his forehead, flicking a stray piece of hair away. Her fingers twitch for a moment before adjusting to his naturally lower temperature.

“You don’t feel warm.”

“I do not feel ill,” He says in reassurance and pauses for a moment before sighing. Frigga hums in question and pulls her hand back. He lets out a breath of frustration before running a hand through his messy hair. “Why is it that Thor can punch someone unconscious and Hela can permanently restructure a king’s nose and it is considered fine, but the moment I attempt to defend in such a manner it is seen as a horror?”

Frigga’s lips curve downwards, “What do you mean?” She asks.

Loki presses his lips together, “My siblings didn’t tattle on me, then?”

Frigga’s eyebrows meet in confusion, “Not that I’m aware of. Hela was absent, working your father and your brother didn’t say anything. What happened?”

“I…” Loki pauses for a moment, considering lying, but shakes the urge away, “may have chopped off all of Sif’s hair yesterday.” He admits. Frigga’s eyebrows shoot upwards in surprise before she purses her lips together. Realization sparks in her eyes and Loki assumes that she’s seen Sif sometime today before encountering him.

“Oh dear,” She murmurs then deciding to play oblivious asks: “All of it?”

“No, she just has a...rather short pixie cut.” Loki answers.

Loki curls his lips slightly in frustration as Frigga shakes her head slightly and sighs his name wearily, “ Loki,” the word somehow manages to convey every disappointed drop within her and Loki resists the urge to scream. He grabs the emotion and a mental shovel, digs a deep pit and throws the frustration within it.

“I am hiding from her wrath.” Loki explains and Frigga’s lips curl upwards lightly in slight amusement.

“Ah, well, in that case, I don’t think you need hide for much longer, Son. Sif is...not angry if that makes you feel better. She just appears to be incapable of halting her weeping.” His mother explains and the growing knot of guilt grows tightens further at that.

“Is there nothing that can be done?” Loki asks and his mother laughs.

“Even a beginner in sorcery could re-grow it, but she insists otherwise—I am uncertain why, she refused violently when I offered. I don’t know what she wants, but I do imagine a hat would help.” She says and Loki smirks slightly, but the expression fades quickly. Frigga sighs at this and brushes a strand of his dark hair from his face.

“Her hair will grow back, Loki, you need not hide in here until then.”

'What is wrong with you?'

Loki smiles thinly. “I think I’m going to attempt to do my best.”

Frigga gives a fond roll of her eyes at that, reaching forward to grab his left hand to give it a squeeze, but stops as she sees the stained bandages. Her eyebrows furrow and she lifts her gaze to his for a moment before gently taking his hand and unwraps the bandages. Even with his quick healing, the bruises look worse today than when he wrapped them; now a deep ugly purple that spreads from his thumb and across his wrist and knuckles. Dried blood is flaking and a deep red spreads across the skin. His fingers look like bees with the mixture of black and yellow across it. “What happened?” Frigga asks and lifts her gaze to his.

Loki presses his lips together and looks away from her, silently wishing his bed would swallow him whole at this moment. “I pulled a ‘Thor’.” He explains. His voice is dry and humorless. Frigga’s head bobs slightly as she comes to a realization, she sighs but says nothing.

Her other hand comes to rest on top of the swelling fingers and Loki can’t help the flinch that follows. Frigga’s soft tendrils of healing magic seep into his skin a moment later and the pain dulls to a very low hum in the back of his mind. He releases a breath of relief and Frigga studies him .

“Is there something else?” She asks softly.

YES! Yes, yes there is! Loki has a strong desire to blurt out everything that Hela said to explain just how much it hurt him, but he withholds snapping down on his tongue sharply. Hela is beyond stressed, in fact, looking up ‘stress’ in a dictionary would have a side note of “i.e. see Hela Odinsdottir”. Having their mother reprimand her won't help. Besides, she probably didn’t mean it.

Doesn’t make it hurt any less.

Loki shrugs, “Nothing of note.”

Frigga doesn’t look like she believes him, but lets it go anyway. Her magic works quicker and Loki can feel his skin knitting together. Frigga works in silence for the rest of it and pulls away some three minutes later. Loki flexes his fingers grateful when no pain follows. He lifts his gaze to hers.

“Thank you, Mother.”

She smiles, “Of course.” She stands and Loki withholds his protesting that she leaves. He’s always so clingy when he’s upset and it drives everyone crazy. Frigga’s eyes bore into his for another moment “Alright, I suppose I’ll track you down later for dinner then?”

Of which you won’t be present at? Yeah, sure. Loki keeps the thought private and sits up with the sudden ability to feel his bed head. “Most likely.”

“Excellent.” Frigga says and leans forward patting down a hair that’s sticking upwards she gives a soft smile. “Might want to run a brush through that before you go out in public.” Loki pats down the locks and nods. He has no intention of going out in public for as long as he can which might be until Hela’s coronation in six days if he plays his cards right.

“Right then,” He says and swings his legs over the side of the bed. Frigga walks to the door, but pasues.

“And Loki?”  

“Mmm?” Loki asks and looks up at her.

“Try not to make a habit of staying in bed this late, your tutors gave me an earful.” Loki gives a mirthless laugh at that. Sir Borison will likely have his head when he returns to classes. Thor, unlike himself, will be free of such reprimands, he's graduated. 

Loki nods, “Yes, of course.” He assures. Frigga smiles before grasping the handle and leaving the room.

Loki releases a long sigh before swinging his feet back into the bed, grabs the covers and yanks them over his body retreating to the safety of sad, lumpy blankets.  

000o000

“Loki!” The door to his bedroom is thrown open with a thunderous boom and Loki flinches jerking upwards and watches as Thor storms into the room, angrily and slams the door closed behind him. Loki squeezes his eyes shut and flops against the mattress again.

He does not want to deal with an enraged Thor right now. He doesn’t really want to deal with anything right now. At least the weather makes sense, Thor’s always had some sort of strange connection with it and it’s often thunderstorming whenever Thor is upset or raining when he’s sad. Right now, an impressive thunderstorm is booming within the clouds and Loki wishes it would go away so he could sleep.

“Is this some sort of joke to you!?” Thor demands, he’s closer, but pacing because Thor does that when he’s upset with someone. Loki’s seen it more often for him than he cares to count (not that he could anyway).

Is it a joke? Yeah, no. Jokes are supposed to be funny. This isn’t.

“Sif is a weeping mess and I have no idea what to do about it.” Thor adds. Loki raises an eyebrow and unfolds from the blanket slightly to throw the cover off of his head and releases a tired sigh.

“You could attempt to comfort her, Thor, I’ve heard rumors that people in emotional distress enjoy that.”

“This is no time for jesting!” Thor argues. “This is your doing and I hope you have some way of fixing it before Hela’s coronation so she doesn’t have to be dishonored in front of all the realms.”

Loki presses his lips together tightly, “Our father didn’t even invite all the realms.” Not Midgard, not Jotunheim.

“That doesn’t make it any better!” Thor protests.

“It’s hair, it grows back. She can wear a hat.”

“Sif is deep distress! Do you not care for our friend?”

Your friend, Thor,” Loki corrects absentmindedly and Thor turns to him, angrily and grabs Loki’s forearm dragging him from the bed to his feet in a single, fluid movement. Loki staggers slightly, but manages to remain standing and meets the eyes of his brother steadily.

Loki.” Thor growls, he’s very frustrated now. Loki should not feel quite as satisfied as he does, attention from Thor is attention from Thor whether it’s negative or positive, and Loki’s grown to appreciate either.

“Yes, that is my name.” Loki agrees and Thor’s fingers tighten around his arm, painfully. Loki represses a wince, but gnaws at the inside of his lower lip for a moment. “Thor, you’re stopping blood flow, please let my arm go.”

Thor’s gaze flickers to his arm for a moment as if surprised he still has grip before releasing him and backing away. Thor folds his arms across his chest and stares disapprovingly in his direction.

“What do you want me to do, Thor? Reverse time? I don’t exactly have access to the Time Stone.”

“I don’t know!” Thor booms, he turns away and paces the length of his room again steering clear of the bookshelves lining the walls. “Just—something! I want to help her, but nothing I’m doing is helpful.”

Loki presses his lips together for a moment. And he expects him to have all the answers? Loki’s solution would be to regrow the hair, pat her on the shoulder, and move on with life, but Sif won't be satisfied until Asgard throws a feast in her honor and Loki publicly apologizes swearing to be her indentured servant for the rest of his life. 

“What am I supposed to do, Brother? Mother said that Sif is refusing to let her hair be regrown, am I to ask and fail as well?” Loki asks and flexes his numb fingers absentmindedly.

Thor looks back at him, “I’m sure she would like an apology.”

And she is not going to get one. Loki hums slightly in answer and Thor looks back at him, frustration true on his features, “You can’t offer her an apology, one? She did no wrong, Brother—”

Loki lets out a low laugh and Thor stares back at him for a moment, concerned. “I’m sure you hate to taint her innocence so, and I won't disrupt your fantasy of her.”

“There is nothing to disrupt! Please Brother, if for nothing else than for me?” Thor asks. Loki grits his teeth together in annoyance and runs a hand through his hair before releasing a soft raspberry. Fine. He’ll go regrow Sif’s stupid hair and apologize (even if it won’t be the most sincere apology he’s ever done, he is sorry) then return to hiding from Hela. He can deal with an angry Thor, Thor is angry more often times than not with him now, but Hela...Hela is rarely angry and truly frightening when she is. Irritation he can take and ignore. This was different.

What is wrong with you. 

Loki turns and begins to storm towards the door, but Thor grabs at his wrist. Loki rips his arm from the older’s grasp and whirls, “What?”

Thor seems to hesitate, but stands his ground, “Brother, regrowing her hair isn’t going to solve this.” Thor says. Was the action that predictable? Loki pauses and looks up at him.

“Why not? I’m fixing what’s wrong, aren’t I?”

“No, Loki,” Thor sighs, “you need something else. A weapon or something, re-growing her hair will not be enough to appease Sif.”

Of course not. 

As expected. 

“What?” Loki snaps, “I sneak into Nidavellir and demand a weapon worthy of fighting Mjolner? Of course, that will go over well.” Mjolner is a weapon mostly from legend now to others, but Loki has seen it when Thor asked to when they were younger—though Hela didn’t let him touch it. It was forged in the heart of a dying star by the dwarfs and given as a peace offering to a much younger Hela as they swore allegiance to Asgard. Hela doesn’t use the weapon as often anymore, preferring her swords and being honest, Loki hasn’t seen her use it. Only hold it.

“No, of course not, don’t be daft,” Thor says and grasps his shoulder, “ We will sneak into Nidavellir and demand a weapon worthy of Mjolnir.”

Loki feels his jaw gape open for a moment. “Are you serious!?” Loki demands and glances at his older brother before slapping his palm against his forehead. “Of course you're serious.” Loki hisses a curse under his breath before looking up at him. “Thor, it’s madness. Everyone knows that Nidavellir and Asgard don’t get along well. We’ll be walking into an execution—not a trade.” Loki says.

Thor laughs, “Nonsense, little brother. You worry to much. I would protect you from anything, anyway, it is the only solution.” Loki mentally finds the nearest wall and smacks his forehead against it repeatedly. Idiot, idiot, idiot…

“It’s not the only solution—” Loki begins to protest.

“Brother,” Thor interrupts, “a weapon from the dwarfs would all odds between you and Sif in the past. I promise we’ll be in and out in a day.” Thor says. Loki glares at him for a second before sighing, giving defeat.

“Fine, you convince Heimdall to send us to Nidavellir and I’ll deal with the rest.”

Thor smiles, beaming with an overly ecstatic stretch of his lips than should be natural for this. “Meet at the stables at in an hour, we’ll be back before dawn and anyone realizes we’re gone. Sif will be ecstatic.” Thor insists and Loki purses his lips together.

“Right.” He agrees.

Or they’ll be dead, and she’ll weep over Thor’s body instead. At least then, her hair will be forgotten.

000o000

“Nidavellir’s capital is from my sight, I do not recommend you leaving there without guard.” Heimdall’s blank, emotionless voice rises from the observatory as Loki and Thor walk into it. Heimdall’s yellow eyes pierce forward not staring at them, but Loki can still feel his gaze. Hopefully Heimdall can knock some common sense into Thor and they’ll return to the palace where Loki will regrow Sif’s stupid hair and all will be right with the world again.

Well, not right, but a tentative okay.

Heimdall’s voice, however, doesn’t deter Thor. The Asgardian prince looks ready to fight to the last tooth and nail to get this. Loki has admittedly far less enthusiasm for it than his older brother does. Thor grins and grasps the handle to the sword he has strapped to his belt, “We are attempting to mend a rift, great Heimdall. We don’t have permission from our father, but please, Gatekeeper, just once. We are in a peace treaty with Nidavellir, what is the worst that can happen?”

Loki can think of quite a few things. Heimdall’s thoughts apparently seem to be going in the same direction. “Your arrogance will be the death of both of you.” Heimdall says and Thor snorts.

“The dwarfs are coming to our sister’s coronation in a few days, we are at peace with them. Surly trade isn’t prohibited?”

In hindsight, Loki probably should have talked with Heimdall. He’s much better with words than Thor is, he hasn’t been given the nickname of “silvertongue” for nothing. No matter, he doesn’t actually want to go anyway, so he’s not trying to hard otherwise he would have insisted that he talk to Heimdall and Thor stand awkwardly in the background trying to find something to stare at beyond his boots as Loki is now. The deep grey leather is surprisingly interesting.

“Trade is not.” Heimdall agrees, “What is it that you intend to do there?”

“Loki wants to bargain a weapon for Sif. I am going simply as his protector.” Loki snorts slightly at this because he can, to everyone’s apparent disbelief, take care of himself and this was Thor’s idea in the first place, not his. Loki’s read plenty on the dwarfs to know what they do to those that displease them. Their current ruler, King Demor has a particularly short temper fuse and Loki doesn’t exactly want to blow it. Heimdall gives a soft sigh before turning back to the inside of the Observatory.

“Just this once.” Heimdall agrees. Loki’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise because Thor’s stubbornness rarely accomplishes anything other than frustration. Thor shoots him a triumphant stare.

Norns, he is insufferable. 

Loki follows after him the two of them stepping into the Observatory where Heimdall is walking up the dais. “I expect we’ll be gone for the rest of the day and maybe tomorrow,” Loki says and looks at Heimdall, “if anyone asks, tell them I’m hiding from Sif and Thor is with me.” It’s not really a lie because he is hiding from Sif just on a different realm.

Heimdall nods. “I will tell your father, if he asks.” He warns.

“Worry not, good Heimdall.” Thor insists and gives his cocky smile before standing in front of the Bifrost and Loki steps into pace beside him.

“I fear I do not worry enough.” Heimdall murmurs. Loki glances back at him for a moment before he inhales deeply and exhales. The light whirls as Heimdall’s sword is shoved into the pedestal and the vibrations jerk under his feet before Loki lurches forward and the streak of kaleidoscopic pulls them forwards.

The light swirls past them the stars and planets blurring and after a few seconds, Loki feels his feet hit solid ground. He keeps his balance steady and glances at Thor seeing him do the same. They are no strangers to the Bifrost, but occasionally there are times unstable ground can attempt to make them test gravity.

Loki sweeps his gaze outwards, taking on their surroundings. He’s read plenty about the Dwarven realm but nothing really prepares him on just how...dead it looks. He’s been here once before in his lifetime but only to the capital with its gleaming buildings and vegetation when he was much, much younger. The air is stale and feels like it’s reacting wrong with his lungs and severely dry, almost as if its never seen a drop of water in its life. The ground has weeds that look wild and dead. Steam is rising into the air steadily, likely from the weapons crafting and the sky is a murky brownish yellow. It looks sick. Heimdall likely landed them on the outskirts, where he could still keep an eye on them. Smart.

They’re on a hill overlooking a town, not small by any means just a little run down. The Bifrost likely caught the attention of dozens, if not hundreds so they need to set up their act quickly. This is the part of the plan Loki kept quiet because he knew Thor would protest to it. He turns to his older brother. “We’re going to pretend we’re cousins, alright?”

“Why?” Thor immediately demands.

“Because we’ll draw less attention if we act like we’re elves from Alfheim, just here for a gift for Asgard’s new queen. Before you protest—stop giving me that look, we’ll have more luck if we simply have very little connections to Asgard. Your name is now Terrance and I am Luke.” Loki waves his hand and the illusion washes over both of them. The magic feels slightly chilled, as his always does and Loki glances at Thor to inspect his work for a moment. Thor’s long blond hair is now much longer and lighter his facial features softer and much paler. The clothing he’s wearing is the obnoxious deep yellow and bright green color scheme the Light Elves are so fond of. A terrible color combination, personally. Loki knows he mirrored something similar enough for them to look related onto himself. They’re about the same height without the illusion, Thor about three inches taller than him and they look old enough to pass for this. Thor turns to him, expression slightly pouty.

“Deception is dishonorable, brother.”

Loki rolls his eyes slightly, oh, yes, he is aware. “Yes, now grow a backbone and deal with it. You’re the one who wanted to come with me, Terrance. Don’t let anyone touch you, illusions are broken by touch.” Loki warns him.

“I know that.” Thor says.

Thor looks ready to fight him, but in the end, loses the silent battle of wills before sighing and the two walk down the hillside.

As they step into the city, Loki immediately feels his insides tighten because he’s never done well in large groups of people. They make him squirm on the inside and mentally panic because he just wants away. He would never do good on a throne. He would just sit there all day feeling stupid and attempting to do his best to talk to the people and the sheer amount would probably only let him offer bare, crisp sentences. Luckily, he has two older siblings to feel the unwanted position if the need arises, besides, he’s always worked better in the shadows anyway.

A vast dwarf with a long, wild red beard walks toward them and Loki comes to a halt, Thor doing the same beside him. The dwarf is nearly as tall as Thor and Loki suddenly remembers a rumor started by Midgardians that dwarfs are short people. Yeah maybe some, but for the most part they’re tall, loud and broad with lengthy beards. Beards are always in the rage here. This dwarf carries himself with an aura of importance and there’s a gleam in his eye that insists that he is better than them. “Ah, elves, do you bring a message from Asgard?” The dwarf asks and Loki glances at Thor giving him a shut up and let me do the talking look before shaking his head.

“Alas, no.” He says and deepens his voice and drops his accent with a spell, “We arrived on Asgard and much to me and my good cousins embarrassment found ourselves without a gift to bestow to the new queen. What can you get for us?”

The dwarf grins, “Depends on what you have to offer.”

Loki stuffs a hand into his illusionary pocket and acts to be searching for something, but conjures a money sack from his room and pulls his hand out with the sack and drops it into the dwarfs hand. The redhead’s eyebrows lift slightly at the weight before he opens the bag, eyes widening considerably at the gold. He stares at them both for a moment and Loki gives a tight smile and Thor stares at the dwarf with the best mask of innocence he can muster. “Huh, that should be enough to get you pretty much anything. Follow me, I’ve got a guy who can help you get what you need.” The dwarf waves his hand and begins to work through the crowd, Loki and Thor trail after him.

“It’s for the new Queen of Asgard, eh?” He asks and Loki nods.

“Yes,”

“Huh. Yeah, King Demor’s bringing a fruit basket I think.” The dwarf says and Loki and Thor share a bewildered look. Where on Nidavellir do they have fruit? Seeing there flabbergasted expressions the dwarf laughs. “I’m just jokin’, don’t get your long hair tied up in a knot. We don’t grow fruit here.” He says, chuckling to himself before lifting his gaze to Thor. “Ah, where are my manners, I apologize, we don’t usually get the Bifrost dropping in whenever, typically they send us a warning. I am Haggard the Horrible commander of this town. I’m in charge of the our Bifrost visitors. So...cousins?”

“That is correct,” Thor says before Loki can, “I am Th-Terrance and this is my cousin, Luke. Are your men capable of making a double bladed sword? I believe the queen would like this.” Thor’s words are shaky at best and his face gives away most of what he’s thinking: severe discomfort. Thor is a terrible liar. A terrible, hopeless, liar. Loki lets out a soft mental curse, unless he scrambles something up, this ruse is going to fall apart long before they make it back to Asgard

Haggard stops and stares at them for a long moment gaze lingering on Thor. Loki’s mind scrambles for a moment, but his silvertongue is heavy against the roof of his mouth. 

Um, um, um—

 

“Huh. Strange elf you are, Terrance. Follow me if you would, then,” Haggard says.

Loki releases a quiet breath of relief and the two of them walk forward avoiding crashing into people, things or tripping surprisingly and manage to make it to the blacksmith Haggard was speaking of earlier without too much trouble. The smell of smoke and metal greets Loki’s senses as they step into the building and blistering heat. Loki wants to stagger back and cower away from the structure, but Haggard walks in confidently, Thor following. Loki grinds his teeth together before he steps forward.

“Joran!” Haggard yells into the room. Loki ducks under a low hanging maybe pan and comes to a halt beside Thor staring at the forge. Selves line every available wall, with buckets filled to the brim with scrap metal or other random junk that would likely make since to Hela, but Loki can only pick out a few things he recognizes. A large counter rests towards the back where a doorway leads to the place Loki assumes this Joran is. The pounding of metal stops and Haggard rests his hands on his hips. “Joran get your lazy butt out here!” Haggard shouts, harder, with more authority and unsurprisingly, louder. Loki winces slightly at the volume.

A counter pokes from the edge of the doorway before a loud shout answers Haggard: “I’m comin’, I’m comin’, don’t get your skivvies up in a bunch.” A shorter blond steps from the backroom to behind the counter wiping a prosthetic hammer with a dirty rag. Joran’s beard looks slightly green and is split into two separate pieces then into messy braids. It looks nasty, just utterly nasty. Joran stares at them for a long moment, brown eyes piercing through them before he shrugs to himself. “Elves, alright. What do you want?” His words have this barking tone that makes Loki wonder if he has a quieter volume. Probably not. Is it a requirement that as a dwarf you must always be testing your lungs full capacity?  

“We are—uh—” Loki’s voice fails him suddenly as he realizes he truly doesn’t know what Sif would want. She’s skilled with swords and getting her a new one probably wouldn’t be seen as good enough for her. He and Thor really should have discussed this before they got here. Loki lifts his gaze to his older brother helplessly. Thor seems to catch the look because he takes a step forward, drawing the attention towards him. 

“Double edged sword, can you do that?” Thor asks. Loki presses his lips together and remains wisely quiet. Thor’s going to know what Sif wants more than he does, so, there is that.

Joran snorts. “Easily, I have one prepared, actually, let me go grab it.” Joran says before turning on his heel and storming off toward the back room of the smithy. A loud crash sounds and an something unmistakably like a cat shriek slices through the air and he and his older brother share a look of discomfort before Joran returns holding the hilt of a weapon and nothing else. Loki resists the urge to applaud sarcastically and then demand to know if Joran knows what double sided means. Haggard gives a sigh and Joran grins. “One of my best. You jerk it this way,” he says and does so and a blade flips outwards gleaming into light. It's about three feet long in length and the edges are severely sharp a gleaming silver. Loki’s eyebrows lift slightly. Impressive.

Joran spins the other side and a blade of equal length of gleaming metal shoots out. Joran lifts the hilt out on two fingers and the blade steadies, “Perfectly balanced.” He says. He lifts his gaze from the weapon to them and his lip splits into a grin revealing crooked teeth. “Eh?”

Thor and him share a glance for a moment before Loki takes the bag of money he snitched back from Haggard on their walk here and lifts it out. “Impressive.” He assures. Joran nods.

“Of course.” He jerks his hand down and the blades retract into the center, Loki drops the bag of money into his hand and Thor reaches forward to take the weapon from Joran, but something happens that Loki doesn’t really see. One moment Thor’s hand is reaching out the next one of the blades is rocketing from the weapon and Thor goes tumbling backwards in an effort to not be impaled and tumbles into Haggard. The two hit the ground tangled in a heap of limbs.

Loki’s eyes widen as he feels the spell slips away from his consciousness and light flickers over Thor for a moment before his true form is revealed. Haggard shoves the prince off of him and rises to his feet, fuming, “Clumsy, good for nothing—what on Yggdrasil do we have here?” Haggard asks and Loki forces his face to be neutral.

Norns.

Norns.

All-Fathers give him strength.

Thor rises to his feet and brushes off some dirt before standing. He’s a good two inches taller than the dwarf yet nowhere near as broad. Amazing how that works because Loki looks like a zipper next to the dwarf and Thor barely resembles a pathetic sapling.

“A sorcerer?” Haggard asks, eyes immediately clouding with distrust. Thor casts a helpless glance in his direction looking uncomfortable before shaking his head slightly.

“I am—” He starts to explain, but Joran, apparently having connected the dots before the Dwarven commander does, leaps at Loki and backhands him. Loki stumbles back from the force and Thor’s hands are suddenly on his upper arms, steadying him as the illusion swirls off in a green-yellow haze. Thor’s fingers are tight around his arms and he can feel the fury rolling off of his older brother in waves. “How dare you lay a hand on my brother!” He shouts.

This? This is worse.

Haggard stares at the two of them for a long second, but as much as Loki would love to run, Thor’s arms are still on him and the elder is looking for a fight. As always. Idiot!

Haggard’s eyes widen with realization before his lips curve upwards with a vicious smirk, “Princes of Asgard drop in for a little visit, eh? Oh, I can’t believe our luck. So soon to your precious coronation as well. Foolish.”


Loki’s tongue unwinds itself from whatever was freezing it, “Yes, very foolish.” He agrees, “Now we’ll just be on our way then—”

“No, no, please, we’d love to show you our hospitality.” Haggard says. Loki’s stomach drops slightly and he forces his brain to claw from the anxiety pit it's currently free falling in. Think clearly. They can still get out of this if they play their cards right. Loki weasels his way from Thor’s iron grip and stares at the two dwarfs for a second. Both are holding themselves in fighting positions and he can sense Thor winding up in preparation for it.

“Listen, there isn’t any need for this to get ugly.” Loki assures.

The dwarf snickers, “You’re cute, you know that? So innocent. No, I believe that were past negotiations, little prince.” He sneers the title like it has the force to impale him and Loki feels himself recoil slightly, very slight at it. “I can’t believe how stupid you two are, coming here under guises to steal a weapon from us. Gah!”

“Yes, because the last time I checked, paying for something and stealing are alike.” The dry comment slips off his tongue before Loki can stop it.

Haggard’s eyes harden and he gives a nod to something behind Loki. Loki’s gaze flickers to where Joran was a second ago before said dwarf grabs at his scalp and yanks pressing a dagger against his throat. Loki grits his teeth hand floating for a second as he bites back a cry of pain. He was so focused on Haggard that he was completely oblivious to when Joran moved. Norns!

Thor draws his sword in a quick, fluid movement and points it in Joran’s direction blue eyes icy and furious. “Unhand my brother.” He commands. Yeah, there doesn’t have to be battle. Loki jerks his elbow into the dwarf’s gut who grunts before Loki lifts his hands up and snaps his fingers teleporting across the room beside Thor. He grabs at his older brother’s elbow.

“Run.” He instructs and tugs the elder forward towards the entrance of the building. Thor turns with surprisingly little effort and the two book it from the building heading for the Bifrost site.

“Stop them!” Haggard’s voice roars through the area and Loki and Thor both skid to a halt as realization of the rushed plan hits them. There’s a town in the way between them and Heimdall. Well, superb. He hasn’t worked enough with teleporting other people to feel vastly comfortable with it. He’ll likely lose one of Thor’s limbs in the process and that would just be ugly.

The townspeople all grab the nearest object and Loki draws his daggers from their sheathes on his upper legs before glancing at his sibling, “I told you this would go south.”

“Shut up, Loki.” Thor growls and lifts his sword before the people rush at them. Loki ducks a blow from a mace and kicks the holder in the stomach before lifting his dagger to block a blow from a sword. Another dwarf reaches forward and grabs his forearm squeezing and Loki’s teeth grit together to withhold a cry of pain as he feels the bone grind. Alright, ow.

Loki pushes with his free hand and a powerful gust of magic smacks into the dwarf slamming him away. Thor lets out a loud yell of pain and Loki whirls as a dwarf pulls back some sort of long black stick back from his stomach and Thor immediately crumples to his knees clutching at the area. What on the Norns name—?

The few seconds of stupor is all that the dwarf’s need. One grabs at his head and roughly shoves him to the ground beside Thor’s gasping frame and yanks his arms behind his back in a rough grip. Loki grits his teeth together and Haggard steps in front of them. “If you’re done trying to escape, then, I believe we have a cell calling your name.” Haggard grins and Loki squeezes his eyes shut.

Thor, apparently grabs ahold of his tongue before Loki manages to lift his head up, “Heimdall!” He hollers. “Heimdall!”

Haggard gives a low snicker and Loki opens his eyes before the dwarf lifts up a silver disk, a little smaller than a coin, but twice as thick. “Don’t waste your breath, Asgardian. This sets off a electrical pulse that gives Heimdall nothing but blurriness and a bad headache when he looks this way. Privacy has always been an issue.”

“You cannot prevent Heimdall from seeing us!” Thor protests. Loki purses his lips together.

“Oh, but we can.” Haggard assures, his sickly wide smile growing. Loki opens his mouth to protest again whatever the inevitable is but instead feels a heavy weight smack against his head and feels his body draw limp, unconsciousness claiming him.

000o000

When Loki was much younger, he hated the dark. There was something so misleading about the shadows that jumped across the room, disordering the natural lightning that he was more used to. It was irrational, that he knew, but he couldn’t stop it. He and Thor used to share a room when they were in their youth and despite minor teasings from a few peers, it didn’t bother either of them. Frigga was the one who insisted that he and Thor take separate quarters and Loki’s fear spiked to daft levels.

There rooms were beside each other, and Hela’s down the hall, but the distance of walls always felt so far away, impossibly far. The fear would eat at him and he had struggles sleeping and started slipping into dazes at random times. Thor knew, of course, what the problem was and despite him wanting to grow up and prove to their parents that he’s mature, Thor would let Loki sleep in his room, on one of the couches for a while. Loki could handle the shadows that swallowed at him when he knew there was another present.

Things settled and everyone moved on. Then the Warriors Three and Sif happened and Thor didn’t want his baby brother’s cowardliness to rub off on him and the nightly ventures stopped. Loki’s fear, didn’t. He started going to Hela instead and after a week of this, she had demanded reason and Loki had explained, embarrassed what the issue was. His sister’s eyes narrowed with realization before she leaned forward and plucked him off the ground carrying him towards one of the towers. Loki’s taller than her now, and as much as he pretended otherwise, he did enjoy being held by her when he was younger.

Hela had plopped him down on the balcony of the tower and told him to look up. Loki had and saw a valley of stars, blinking and glittering down at him, a breathtaking sight. Hela had spent the majority of the their time on the balcony pointing out constellations He blames his obsession with stars on her. He didn’t fear the dark after that, instead thriving on it as he realized the extent of the beauty that can be revealed in the blackness.

Now, Loki wishes for any sort of light. Something to cast the darkness. He just wants it gone. There are no stars above him, and a wall of at least a few couple feet between himself and his brother. All he can focus on is the shadows attempting to swallow him.

The cell is bare, dark and smells oddly of rotting feet. There’s little to no sound beyond the shuffling of Thor’s feet, a guard re-positioning and the occasional grunt of another prisoner. Faint light, very faint, pours through the bars from torches in the guards hands that pass around every seven minutes or so. The chill doesn’t bother him, but he can sense it around them like a tight blanket, see it through the puff of his breath whispering upwards towards the rocky ceiling.

The ground isn’t much better, smoother, for certain, but not stone just rock carved to something close to flat. It’s not exactly the most comfortable place Loki’s ever been.

Shackles are digging into his wrists making thinking near impossible through the pounding headache that’s pouring through his brain. Crafted specifically for sorcerers, wonderfully, Asgard has a design of something similar, but not quite as...painful. The metal digs against his thin wrists as if touching his marrow of his bone will relieve some sort of torture being inflicted on it. The surge of his magic being drained from its usual flow through his bloodstream is causing a massive headache that Loki is thirty six percent sure is going to crack his skull down straight down the middle. He’s attempted to reach for his magic, a habit for as long as he can remember, but the pain that rockets through him is intense. He’s studied the design before, fascinated on the topic and ripped apart the library for all they had on it. Use of actual spells will release a fail safe that will poison his bloodstream and leave him dead within a week. Later or sooner depending on the sorcerer’s power levels.

The most he could do right now is turn his skin a pale pink and beyond getting a few second glances from the guards it would be useless and waste what little energy he has.

Loki jerked into consciousness a few minutes ago from a loud bang that wasn’t from his aching head, however, the sound didn’t assist the pain. He doesn’t know how long he’s been here, but he doesn’t need to call out to know what the source of the bang—well banging is. Thor has always had intransigence. Refuses to accept facts and reality even when it slams him in the face with a frying pan.

Loki head is tilted back against the wall of his cell, along the one he assumes Thor is on the other side of. His skin feels slightly tight from the shackles and despite how much Thor’s perseverance is usually a helpful thing he might accidentally implode Loki’s aching head.

Loki hasn’t asked him to stop instead remaining silent and watching the guards passing looking for some sort of way out. Thor’s hitting method isn’t getting him anywhere and as much as Loki wishes that it would it really won't. The dwarfs are skilled with metal, if they build a prison to hold something it's going to hold the thing.

Thor slams against the door again with another loud, clang and it echoes through Loki’s skull like a bell—a terrible analogy, but now he thinks he finally understands why it was created in the first place. Loki can handle pain anywhere beyond his head. He loathes headaches as he does summer. Head pain messes with his thinking process and he prefers to be able to sort his thoughts in a not scatterbrained sort of way.

Loki hisses through his teeth as the headache momentarily amps up the pain before settling down and winces burying his head against the top of his knees. His shackled hands are wrapped around his legs. The chain between each wrist lock is about two feet and glimmers with a cheery silver that Loki wants to strangle.

Has Thor not realized by now that he can't break down the door?

Punching everything is not the way to deal with every problem, amazingly.

He should stop.

Thor, as if to simply defy the thought rams against the door again and Loki tilts slightly from the pain and lifts his hands to press against his temples. 

Ow. 

He can’t take this anymore, if Thor hits the door one more time, Loki’s brain really is going to combust and the clean up is going to be a long and messy one. “Thor,” His voice sounds raspy and Loki swallows and exhales, but mentally gives a sigh of relief as Thor’s movements halt. “Stop.”

“Loki?” Thor’s voice is louder than Loki remembers, but the pain is bearable.

“Yes?” Loki asks and hears Thor give a soft sigh of relief before the emotion drops and irritation takes its place.

“If I’m not to break us out, how do you think we’re going to get out of here?” Thor demands. By their deaths? Optimism, Lo, optimism. Oh, alright then. The dwarfs are going to realize the error of their ways and release them and then both he and his sibling will mount magical rainbow Pegasi and return to Asgard victorious, carrying Sif’s weapon between them and she’ll forgive him, easily. Ha, yes. That’s much better. He should write a book: How to be sarcastically positive, by Loki Odinson.

It’ll be a Nine Realm hit.

The comment is dry on the edge of his lips, but he swallows it. “It’s dwarfen metal, Brother,” Loki says, his voice sounds pained. The headache pounds victoriously in this win. Loki closes his eyes and tries to shove the pulsing ache to the back of his head.

Thor snorts and and speaks before Loki has finished his dry analysis: “Yes, I know that—”

“—Ergo, you’d have better luck trying to break Mjolnir.” Loki says and although he can’t see Thor images the eye roll then the slight twitch of irritation that his fingers make as they reach for a weapon. Not that Thor has one on him, Loki rarely carries his weapons physically with him and without magic the most dangerous thing he has on him is probably his boot buckles. This is a problem. He should fix that if they make it home.

When.

When they make it home.

See? He’s good at being positive. And holding a mental conversation with himself. Alright. Headaches and him to not blend well.

“I’ll get us out of here, Loki, I assure you.” Thor’s voice is firm, forceful and insistent. Loki could have laughed. Oh, yes, it must be so simply because Thor spoke it. He bites back that comment as well before sighing and here’s Thor shift position again. Oh cats. He physically cannot take anymore of that pounding.

“Thor, please.” Loki pleads, it sounds more like a beg, “You’ve tried hitting that for over an hour now, can you not understand that it’s not going to break?” His voice is slightly sharper than he intended, but he can draw enough focus together to feel a proper amount of remorse.

“It has to.” Thor argues.

“It doesn’t “have” to do anything, Thor, it's metal bars.” Loki counters.

“We must get out here.” Thor presses, “I don’t want to remain any longer than necessary.”

Loki lets out a soft laugh and sighs, “I suppose you should have thought of that before dragging us both to Nidavellir.”

Thor is quiet for a moment before his heated voice rises, “We are only here because you chopped off all of Sif’s hair in the first place.”

“For the last time, it was not all of it.” Loki hisses. Just... most of it.

“And that’s better?”

Loki clenches his fingers into his palm and exhales a long, forceful breath before flexing his fingers out. Alright. Breathe. The guilt for the entire hair fiasco is a constant thrum underneath his skin and as much as he would love to apologize for the incident, it has gone swiftly south. It’s not as though he can apologize right now anyway. He will, when they get back.

And he’s only going to get back by removing himself and Thor from here. If he can just talk the guard into giving him the key to his shackles or simply steal it (he’s an amble pickpocket and has likely convinced Thor that all his pants have holes more than once). If he can free his magic, he and Thor can be out of here through a teleportation spell in maybe a minute tops. If he can just get out of the cell, it’s still plausible.

Loki grits his teeth together before dragging himself to his feet. His head pounds cheerfully in this prospect and Loki’s jaw grinds tighter as lifts a hand up to steady himself. His stomach lurches and Loki forces the vomit back down from it's determined course of emptying duty and lifts his gaze to the cells.

Loki staggers to the cell and grabs at the rails as he reaches them wishing slightly that it was more for show than reality. His limbs are heavy yet unbearably weightless. The shackles clank against the bars and Loki can sort of see Thor from this angle. His older brother is near the cell door, arms crossed and a frustrated look gracing his features. “What are you doing?” Thor asks, seeming to spot him.

Loki glances at the contour of his brother for a second, “Getting us out of here.” He says before slamming his fist against the bars several times.

Thor gives a sarcastic huff to the side, “Yes, brilliant Brother, attempt my obviously failed strategy.”

Yeah, don’t give yourself that much credit. Loki slams his fist against it for a fourth time, “Help me, please! I’m dying!” He raises his voice a pitch in acted panic and allows the hysteria building in his stomach from the entire situation to slip into his voice.

“Loki—?” Thor starts to question, but Loki slams his fist down on the bar, again, to drown him out.

“Guards! Please!” His voice is louder and filled with more trepidation. He can feel Thor throw his annoyance to the side. The feeling of his gaze softens from angry to concerned. Loki ignores it, waiting.

It takes nearly fifteen more seconds, but a dwarf guard runs to the cell, small dagger in hand and an irritated expression on his face. His light burns brightly and Loki’s eyes sting from the exposure to it after so long in the darkness. “What on the Norn’s name are you blabbering on about?” The dwarf demands. His voice is gruff and reminds Loki abruptly of Tyr.

Loki doesn’t drop his act instead, lets his body sag with his weary muscles and the headache pouring against it. “I’m dying.” Loki insists, his voice pours out the words like they’re his last and Loki stares at the eyes of the taller dwarf. He doesn’t look convinced, just annoyed.

Right. 

“Dying?” The dwarf says and scoffs, “Please, I’ve heard that one enough.”

“Ah, of course,” Loki allows his voice to straighten to normal levels and smooths out his expression as the dwarf’s raises with pride at realizing he was right. “You truly are excellent at your job. King Demor must be proud.”

“Flattery ain' working either, kid.” The dwarf says and waves his hand, rolls his eyes and begins to walk away. Panic latches onto his insides.

“Wait!” He calls and the dwarf stops and looks back at him. Loki forces himself to relax. “You’re right, again. However, I felt obligated to try before giving you the terrible news.”

The dwarf rolls his eyes and sighs. One of lots of eye movement this one. Good, arrogance is easier to manipulate. Loki gives a slight sympathetic smile and clenches at the bars before staring at the dwarf, firmly and presses his lips together, “Sir, I really don’t know how to tell you this...but I’m not exactly on the inside of the cell, you are.”

The dwarf raises an eyebrow and lifts up the torch slightly. “Yeah, I don’t think so.”

“Are you certain?" Loki asks, forcing more pressure onto the final word, weaving a spell between his tongue. It makes his headache increase a ten-fold to the point he has to reign his stomach, but he pushes forward. “I’ll admit I just feel terribly embarrassed for you and I’ve been waiting here this entire time. You know how long these cells are and how dark, you’ve simply been walking in circles for a while.”

The dwarf stares at him for a long moment, a stretch of silence that feels like eternity before his eyebrows lift slightly. “But I just walked down the hall.” He argues. Loki suppresses a smirk. Oh no, I think not. The blond’s gaze flickers to the left towards the dark corridor.

Loki shakes his head, pressing the spell further, “No, not quite. Just back and forth, the halls are much longer, don’t you remember? I haven’t been down them myself, simply just flabbergasted at how it is that you locked yourself in the cell and haven’t realized it yet.” Loki says.

The dwarf stares at him, brown eyes piercing, “But if you’re outside the cell and I’m in it then…” The dwarf looks utterly and completely confused. He turns to walk, but Loki lifts his hand the chain clanking slightly.

“No, don’t do that, watching you nearly hit the wall makes me cringe.” Loki says and the dwarf stops, and lifts a hand out as if to touch the “wall” he’s talking about.

“I’m not in the cell.” He says, firmly as if saying it hard enough will make Loki agree. He sounds uncertain now and Loki inwardly grins.

“You are.” He says and sighs, “It truly is a sad fate to die here as if you are a prisoner, I supposed that I’ll just walk out then…”

“Oh no you won't!” The dwarf argues. This dwarf was the one he was waiting for, he wasn’t the brightest in the mind when he passed the first time and Loki has been watching him since. The dwarf grabs a key from off his belt and turns to the door shoving it into the lock. He turns the lock and the metal grinds.  

Yes!

The dwarf pulls the door open and drags Loki out as Loki snitches the key from his hand and the dwarf steps into the cell and slams the door closed staring at Loki with a firm glare. “You won't be escaping now, Asgardian.”

Loki smirks, “Yes, well, I wouldn’t be to confidant on that.” He says, snapping the spell to a close and walks away from the cell towards Thor who is staring at him, his eyebrows lifted with surprise and face muscles slightly lax. Loki stuffs the key into the lock and twists it before pulling the heavy door to the side. Thor takes several steps forward, unblinking before clearing his throat awkwardly.

“Right.”

“Wait!” The dwarf cries and looks at Loki, “You liar!”

Loki smiles, but can feel the fangs in it. “Indeed.” He turns to Thor, “We need to run, now.”

Thor nods and turns to him both ignoring the now protesting dwarf. “Which way is out?”

Loki glances down to the never ending passageway to the right than to the left. He was unconscious when he was dragged in here so he has about as much of an idea on how to get out of here as Thor does. Well, splendid. Thor glances at their two options for another moment before solving the problem by simply taking off to the left.

Loki hisses a soft curse before breaking into a run after his brother his head pulsing with further intensity. He keeps his hands clutched close to his chest the chain between his wrists making everything incredibly difficult. Thor’s confidence as he roars through the darkness with no fear is slightly irritating. If something is ahead of them, they’ll be caught easily.

As if summoned by his thoughts, but more likely the dwarf’s loud yelling, a group of dwarfs appears ahead of them, weapons drawn. They have no weapons. Ah, great. Thor turns to him, blue eyes wild before he grabs Loki’s arm and swings it around his shoulder. His other hand is dragged in the process and Loki stares at him.

“Thor, what are you doing—?” He demands in a low hiss, but his question is caught off.

Thor turns to their attackers, “Help!” He shouts and pulls Loki forward a few steps, “My brother is dying! Get help!” Loki’s confusion turns to panic as Thor grabs his upper arm and throws him forward at the dwarfs in a burst of strength so powerful that Loki spins several times before crashing into the small group. The dwarfs go tumbling down, easily and Loki lets out a gasp of breath before rolling off of the dazed dwarfs and stands. He straightens his shirt and forces out a few breaths before shooting Thor a glare..

Thor lets out a soft laugh, “That worked much better than I thought it was going to. We should use that as a battle tactic.”

Loki’s unamused, icy stare disagrees. “I disagree.”

“Ah, you disagree to all the fun ones.”

“That wasn’t fun, Thor.”

“It was for me.”

Loki deepens his glower and takes several more steps forward leaving Thor in the fallen torch light of the dwarfs towards the door he spotted a few seconds ago. Thor trails after him grinning like a happy puppy and Loki rolls his eyes upwards and lets them hang there for a second before grabbing the handle to the door and shoving it open.

Light pours into his eyes immediately brighter and firmer than the torchlight ever was. Loki quickly scans the room and freezes his spine stiffening. Oh rainbows.

Pure, sparkling, colorful rainbows.

The dwarfs are strange people. Beyond being obsessed with weaponry and have a strong love for moldy bread they considered it a brilliant move in the time of Loki’s grandfather’s reign to rebuild their palace and attach the dungeons to the throne room.

They literally just walked into the throne room.

And now there are dozens of eyes on him.

Thor shoves past him a moment later, not understanding the hesitation, but pauses looking surprised. "Surprised" is really an understatement. The room is grey and lightened only by flames, but it’s still bright. Tapestries hang from the ceiling detailing some of the greater weapons created by dwarfs and some rugs line the floor. The dais to the throne is to the left of them and there are over a dozen important looking dwarfs sitting at long tables on the other side of the room along with over thirty guards, Loki spots Haggard standing in front of the throne a moment later.

Um, um, um—?

The confusion is resolved as pounding of footsteps rings behind them and Loki whirls with Thor as the dwarf that locked himself into the cell comes pounding out of the entrance, furious. He grabs Loki’s scalp and yanks on Thor’s longer hair before dragging them both forward. Loki’s frazzled, aching head attempts to protest, but all that he gets is a weak sort of mewling sound.

The dwarf drags them forward and tosses them both at the feet of the dais to the throne. The ground is rough and cracked beneath Loki’s fingertips and hard. Loki hits the stone on his hands and knees and sees Thor do the same from the corner of his eye a moment later. Thor is radiating fury and looks close to losing it and killing everyone in the room.

“These two escaped the prisons, my King.” The dwarf’s voice is sharp and very angry. How did he get out of the cell? Thor attempted to pound on it and beyond maybe breaking the skin on his hand—wait. Loki’s gaze flickers to Thor’s palms where he can see red and irritated skin and some broken along his knuckles. Loki gnaws at his lower lip for a second. The key. Loki took the key before the guard could lock the cell and left it in Thor’s. All the dwarf had to do was simply push the door open again.

Brilliant move, Lokes. 

“These are the two I was speaking of.” Haggard’s voice cuts over the silence a moment later and Loki feels the gaze of the brown-grey haired dwarf settle on them. “The princes of Asgard.”

Loki can’t help the wince as their identities are blurted into the throne room.

“You are Asgard’s future?” The voice is deep and sharp, just as Loki last remembers it. That isn’t comforting. When they came to Nidavellir last, Loki and Thor were still young and it was supposed to be for a peace treaty renewal. Frigga didn’t go, left as acting regent for Asgard and Loki and his siblings only went at the Dwarven King’s insistence.

Loki remembers seeing the king for the first them then promptly latching himself to Hela’s leg quietly begging her to protect him from the scary man. Thor had grabbed at his hand and given him that reassuring “I’ll protect you brother!” smile and Hela had simply rested her hand on his head. She was nervous, then, too and the entire peace treaty was very tense. Their father looked ready to lash out at anyone then promptly grab all his children and make a break for the Bifrost site and Hela wasn’t much better.

The peace treaty was signed, but tensions were worse when they left. Loki remembers feeling unsettled by the fact that the King’s stare had rarely left his sister and Hela had been jittery because of it. Jittery. Now, Loki understands. The center of this dwarf’s attention is a place he longs to be as far away from as possible.

Loki says nothing, Thor follows. What can they say? Rant about how Hela is the technical future and then smile sweetly? 

Not bothered by their silence, Demor merely tilts his head slightly. His gaze seems to tear through them. “Why have you come here?” His voice is softer, this time, but still contains the booming quality all dwarfs are masters at.

He hesitates. Lying isn’t going to get them anywhere right now. He glances at Thor for a second before speaking: “We were buying a weapon for a woman we know.” Loki answers, honestly.

Lies!” Haggard roars behind them. Loki squeezes his eyes shut, shoving the pounding headache to the side to deal with later. It's not important anymore. “There are many things they could have been here for, but that is currently not one of them!”

King Demor lifts a hand, “Silence, Haggard.” He turns back to them again, “Nothing else? Not spying?”

“No, what is there to spy on?” Thor answers, his voice is slightly hot, yet grounded with the frustration that Loki echoes. And even as much as he would love to disagree, Thor is slightly correct. As fascinating as vast lands of grey rock can be it’s really...not. Demor’s eyes, however, harden.

“Then why did you escape our prisons?” He demands.

Because most people don’t like to be held captive? “We must get back to Asgard.” Loki says, and chances a glance up at the king. Demor’s eyes are worse with contact and Loki forces himself to hold the stare. Heimdall can be cold, but compared to this dwarf the Gatekeeper’s gaze feels like a warm cloud.

“Nothing else?”

“We must get back to Asgard.” Loki repeats.

Demor leans back slightly and his lips curve up in a slight smirk, “Yes, yes, your dear sister’s coronation. I was invited, I know of it.” The way he says the name “sister” comes out like a curse. He’s seen people throw it out like such before, but not with the heavy dose of malice that Demor’s contains.

“Then you know of our urgency to return.” Thor says, “We were doing nothing more than honest trade.”

“Honest?” Demor repeats, “Honest? Oh little prince, you expect me to believe that after going under the guise of Light Elves that you were honest? Or perhaps it was the fact that you brought the Sovereign of Lies that set me off.” Loki’s stomach drops, “That was not honesty, little princes."

Demor lets it hang for a breath, then two before continuing, “You will not, however, be leaving.”

Thor jerks up to his knees, expression raged and Loki feels himself to the same. “Do you know who we are!?” Thor demands.

“Very much so, yes.” Demor says. His lips are curving into a twisted, ugly smile and Loki can feel desperation clawing at his stomach. His magic is attempting to leak from his panic and Loki forces it to settle. Blood poisoning in the last thing that they need right now.

“Good King Demor—” Loki tries, but his voice is drowned out. 

“Don’t let that one speak!” The dwarf Loki locked in the cell cries and smacks the back of his head to cut Loki off. Loki’s teeth dig sharply into his tongue and he tastes blood a moment later. Thor’s blue eyes frost. "He enchants his words!" 

King Demor's eyes narrow. 

“Don’t lay a hand on my brother!” Thor makes a move to leap at the dwarf, but suddenly five others are there, and grab Thor’s arms dragging him back. Thor struggles, but the bulk of muscles is to much for his sibling. Loki turns his wild eyes back to the king who is eyeing the dwarf that struck him.

“That’s how they escaped, my king, I apologize for my foolishness, but he used his twisted words enchanted with sorcery to get them both out of there. His,” The dwarf points to Thor,” strength may be in fighting, but this one can string words together like a spider with a web”

Demor rests his gaze on him and Loki feels the remaining color drain from his face. “Is that so?” He murmurs.

Haggard steps into Loki’s peripheral vision, “Great king, if we want the ransom to succeed then we need to keep them detained.” Haggard’s voice was likely supposed to be a whisper. A hushed whisper to solely the king, but dwarfs don’t have a quiet tone and Loki’s eyes catch his brother’s.

Ransom?

Ransom for what!? The dwarf’s have more than enough affluence, so why on the Norn’s name would they—?

“Rans—?” Loki starts to question, but the dwarf’s hand swings harder and Loki’s upper body flies to the left from the force and he rests his hands on the ground to steady himself, vision spinning. The little black dots are frolicking with his sight.

Loki squeezes his eyes shut trying to calm the pound and hears Thor’s struggles grow more violent. “Sons of Odin,” Demor’s voice cuts him from the pained haze and Loki forces his blurry gaze to focus. “What a price that would buy.” He hums and then lets out a laugh. It sounds like metal grating against an unoiled lock with a hint of coughed up sand. “But no, the prize you will bring me will be far greater.”

Loki wounds his fingers inwards, digging the nails into his skin. What great prize? What are they keeping them here!?

“And as of such, you will not be allowed to escape. You are both foolish children to come here.” Haggard casts a satisfied glance towards them and Loki wishes that the ground would do him a favor and swallow him.

“We are not children!” Thor protests.

Demor waves his hand, “No lying tongue can save you now. Grental!” A dwarf steps forward, “Bring me a whip and get a needle and thread.”

Loki’s stomach curls. Thor’s violent struggles stop, for a moment. “What do you plan on doing?” Thor’s voice is careful, yet very hesitant.

Demor’s smile stretches across his face. He’s beaming. 

Dread is sinking into his stomach and rooting itself around his body. He feels cold from it. 

“Boy, you have been sentenced to forty lashes—” is he mad!? Forty! That could kill Thor! Oh Norns, that could kill Thor. “—And your dear sibling will have the pleasure of his getting his lies silenced.”

Needle and thread—a horrific click sounds in his brain and Loki’s eyes widen and he hears Thor inhale sharply. They’re going to sew his mouth shut. They’re going to sew his mouth shut. “No!” Thor protests as Loki recoils physically backwards from the king.

Demor only laughs, a cruel, merciless laugh that dries any attempt of hope he’d been building that this was just some sort of dream. They need to get out of here, they have to get out. Demor must be bluffing, what else would it be? He wouldn’t actually—

Surely—

“Let the sentence begin!”

Reality doesn’t settle, until the first stroke of leather lands across Thor’s back.

Chapter Text


 "No light, no light in your bright blue eyes,

I never knew daylight could be so violent,

A revolution in the light of day,

You can't choose what stays and what fades away."

-Florence and the Machine, "No light, no light"


 Hela! Queen Of Asgard! Part II

From her birth to now, she has been raised for this. Days upon weeks of study and yet, despite it all, she has never felt less prepared for anything in her life. It is pathetic. She is Commander to the legions of Asgard's army, former executioner for the king, High Princess of the Nine Realms and served in battle before she was an adult and she is nervous. 

"I feel nauseous." Her hands are wrung so tight it's painful. 

"It's just nerves." Her stepmother soothes from her position behind Hela, fingers working through her hair quickly, but skillfully. 

"No," Hela shakes her head in disagreement. It's well beyond that now. "I really am going to vomit." 

Frigga gives a knowing simper. "You'll be fine." 

No. No she wont. She is starting to believe that she'll reach the dais to the throne, kneel at Odin's feet, then promptly lose everything in her stomach (which is admittedly close to nothing because she couldn't manage to eat anything at breakfast). Her coronation garb feels stiff and uncomfortable, a constant reminder that despite how much she has been avoiding the subject in her head, her crowning is today. 

Actually, cancel being sick at Odin's feet when she reaches Hliðskjálf, it's going to be more prompt than that. 

She has lead armies into battle without the slightest bit of nerves. Why is this effecting her so much?

Hela hisses out a breath between her teeth. "I'm going to reach Hliðskjálf and vomit at Father's feet." 

Frigga looks up at her from her position behind the vanity where her fingers are weaving Hela's long dark hair into an elaborate braid with far more intricate in twenty minutes than Hela could do in four days with no breaks. Hela's fingers clench again and Frigga sighs slightly twirling a piece behind Hela's head into...whatever she's doing, some sort of half up bun with a braid descending down her back. It doesn't really matter anyway, Hela could have an elaborate case of bedhead and it would still be hidden underneath her spider-crown. It would probably be considered rude, though. 

Hela is trying to enjoy this brief moment of lapsing between the curia regis or council men pulling her every which way, or Systa tugging her somewhere else, but now that she actually has time to process her emotions, it's hard. One-on-one time with her parents isn't something that she receives to often anymore, as she has gotten older they have had to spend more time on the throne working with the crown leaving little time for much else.

"If that's truly the aim you're rooting for, perhaps I'll bring a bucket." Frigga answers with a slight dry edge and Hela sighs slightly, slouching in the chair.

Frigga shoots her a stern look and Hela, after a moment's reluctance, stiffens her spine again.

A bucket. Her stepmother is really joking about bringing a bucket. This is Odin passing his crown onto her, it is one of the biggest steps in history and her mother is going to bring a bucket.  

"A bucket? Mother." Hela groans in frustration and digs her right hand's fingers into her left palm for a second.

Frigga gives a soft smile and ties something off, "It will be over in a few hours then you can breathe again, until then, little gasps." She says mimicking the breathing motion with her hands. Hela shoots her a scowl through the mirror that Frigga's eyes twinkle at. At least she got out of a corset.

Hela releases a long breath, "What if he starts talking to me, then I can't form common-tongue anymore? I'll just sit there standing stupidly and one of you is going to have to lean forward and whisper it to me—"

"Hela," Frigga says and shakes her head raising an eyebrow, "dearheart, you've practiced those words a hundred times by now. I'd be more concerned about being sick."

Great.

Hela releases a low raspberry, "That doesn't help."

Frigga smiles, "Yes, I know. You've faced off entire armies, daughter, I have a hard time believing you won't manage this."

Hela digs her elbow against her leg and leans against it, "This is different." She argues.

"How so?" Frigga questions, lifting an eyebrow.

"I wasn't being crowned queen." Hela answers. She grits her teeth, "Leading an army into battle is easy, ruling a realm isn't."

Frigga huffs quietly looking ready to disagree, but ties the hair off and rests her hands on Hela's shoulders, "Your father and I are still here, Hela. As are your brothers." She assures and gives her shoulders a quick squeeze. Hela forces her tense muscles to relax. "Speaking of which, have you seen them today? I was hoping to speak with them both before the coronation to make sure they didn't put anything on backwards."

Hela huffs slightly. The last time either of them put something on backwards in public was a long time ago, inside out would be more of worry—especially for Thor's shirts. Her brother sometimes wanders around all day in shirts accidentally that aren't right side out. It's strange, but Hela has never really given it second thought.

"I haven't." She admits.

It's been days for both. 

Usually she would have seen Thor out in the training grounds by now, but still nothing. 

"At least not since Loki chopped off of Sif's hair." Her lip curls with displeasure.

What was he thinking!? Cutting of all of Sif's hair and then running to escape punishment? Hela cannot even grasp the idiocy that overcame her younger brother. And he hasn't even had the courage to apologize to Sif for it.

"Ah, yes," Frigga sighs. She pulls her hands back from Hela's shoulders and grips the bridge of her nose for a moment, "I assumed as much. Sometimes I don't know what to do with that boy." Frigga says and shakes her head slightly. "I don't know what overcame him—he usually has such good reign over his emotions."

And that's what is so strange about the situation. Honestly, Hela would expect this behavior from Thor, easy to anger and react, but anything that can get Loki that enraged...something must've happened, but Sif's remained true to her story. Even so, it's strange that he's been gone for so long.

"Yes, but, he's never gotten along well with Sif and the others." Hela says and sighs. Understatement of this century, the previous one, and the next, "Are you done?" She asks and Frigga hums in question. Hela gestures towards her head and the hair and Frigga nods a moment later. Hela reaches up and strains her fingers outwards brushing them against the sides of her head and watches as her spidery helmet forms over her head, the hairstyle vanishing beneath the black.

"Should I look for them?" Hela asks and turns around in the chair to look back at her stepmother. Frigga's eyes are slightly distant but she nods.

"Yes, I would do it myself, but I have a few last minute preparations to go over with your father; but drag them back by the scruffs of their necks if you need to."

Hela snorts, "Do you think they're hiding in that cave again?" A few months before Thor met Fandral, Loki and Thor decided that they were old enough to be on their own and packed a bag of food, blankets, a change of clothing and a few other random junk and hid in a cave in Dejournn Mountains intending to return only for the holidays. Their plan lasted about as long about as when Hela decided she was going to adopt a deer when she was in her youth—A couple of hours, tops. Both were very disheartened by the fact that they couldn't remain in the cave and were mopey for a few days before bouncing back.

Frigga rolls her eyes and moves towards the door, "I would hope not, but you never know with those two."

Hela offers a long, fake groan, "I am not going to climb the cliffs in this." She says and gestures to her coronation garb. Frigga's eyes twinkle.

"You shouldn't have too, if their not in their rooms, go to Heimdall."

Ah. Yes, that's a better plan. Hela smirks before lazily lifting her hand up in a thumbs up.

000o000

After thoroughly ripping through Thor's bedroom and finding nothing, Hela stands in front of Loki's door and gives a knock. When nothing immediately shocks her, Hela exhales quietly. As Loki has progressed in sorcery, he started warding his rooms; never mind the fact that Frigga thoroughly spelled all of theirs after Thor caught Frozen Bite, but Loki's react with anyone, on purpose, Hela is fully confident in his ability to have it discern between threats or not but the trickster doesn't seem to care.

Hela knocks a few times, "Loki?" She calls. She hasn't been in here for a few months, busy with preparation for the coronation. She hasn't really seen either of her siblings, Thor for certain she's spoken more with as he's helped shoulder her training duties with the army, but Loki has exchanged a few words with her. The most conversation they've had was when she yelled at him a few days ago. Hela represses a physical wince at the memory and stuffs it to the side knocking again.

"Loki?" She repeats.

She didn't really mean what she said, it just sort of slipped out. She hasn't had any time—no, she hasn't wanted to confront him on it apologizing. She could have made time, but she didn't. Hela stuffs the unpleasant feeling to the side and grabs the handle to the door shoving it open.

Hela steps into the room and her eyebrows lower slightly. Beyond the light filtering in from the windows covered by thick green curtains, there isn't any. The fireplace isn't burning and it looks like it's been vacant for days. Loki's bed is a mess of covers and above his desk is a dagger and broken pieces of paper. The tunic and dark grey pants that Hela remembers him wearing a few days ago is thrown over the back of the chair. Weird. If Loki has been in here any time in the last few days then the bed would be made and the clothing put away. Loki has a thing about messes—save his desk—and refuses to live with them.

Hela takes another step into the room, but Loki and Thor don't shimmer into view. The room remains empty and quiet. Hela presses her lips together and shakes her head slightly, stuffing a tangled worry in her stomach and turns grabbing the door and shuts it behind her as she moves through the doorway. Fine. If they want to play this hiding game, she'll rip it at its roots. She only has a few hours to look and they better hope they have a good excuse for disappearing like this.

Hela grits her teeth and quickly makes her way through the halls, evading the servants and dignitaries that seem to be at every corner by plastering her best out-for-murder look onto her face and adjusts her stance to be more purposeful. Few offer her second glances and all but leap from out of her way, despite what she can see is curiosity on their faces.

She'd be lying to say she's not relieved at this.

Hela has almost made it to the stables when she runs smack face into someone. Her gaze had zoned out after a while and she'd stopped focusing on the sounds going on around her. Hela jerks back from the solid mass and rubs at her forehead, the other shoving back, "Watch where you're going, you—" The angered hiss stops abruptly and Hela looks up and barely withholds her look of disgust.

Of everyone in the Nine Realms, it had to be him?

"Ah, my apologies, High Princess Hela." King Demor quickly corrects and snaps a hand to his back giving a low bow, yet somehow it seems to hold a sarcastic note to it. Behind him are his sons and daughter, along with a handful of other dwarfs, likely guard. Although none hold weapons, Hela can still feel an edge of threat pouring off them, Demor straightens and looks down at her squinting, but looks strangely pleased. 

"Your Majesty," she says curtly, keeping her voice as level as she can. She tilts her head up slightly and wishes suddenly for a few more inches of height.

She's as tall as her father and taller than her stepmother (and gave up on her quest to be taller than her siblings years ago), but she suddenly feels tiny. Dwarfs have this way of being tall and broad that reminds her strongly of Midgard's Vikings. Hela presses her thumb's nail into her pointer finger sharply and holds Demor's gaze. This seems to amuse him slightly because the smirk twitches up further.

"No matter," Hela assures and makes a move to sidestep him and continue to the stables to find Fenris, but Demor moves in front of her, apparently not as done with the conversation as she is.

"I wonder," Demor says as she stops and looks up at him, irritated, "why it is that you're wandering around so close to your crowning. Shouldn't you be in the palace, hiding away from everything with your brothers?"

Hela shifts her head from where it was tilting slightly and sees Demor's oldest, Johann is staring at her face with an unblinking slightly disturbing stare. Hela drags her gaze away from him with some effort. His black beard is braided in several areas, likely in an effort to dress up for the event, but it still looks like a frightened cat's fur.

"My doings are not of your concern." Hela answers.

King Demor hums, "Of course, my apologies for intruding." He says. His tone however, suggests otherwise. "You appear to be looking for something, may we be of service in assisting you search?" Demor asks. The tone is polite and laced with political skill she honestly doesn't think she's ever going to learn. She'd rather have help from a bilgesnipe.

"No," Hela answers sharply, "I am just enjoying the air."

Demor gives a knowing nod anyway, "Of course, we'll get out of your way, then. Enjoy your stroll."

"I will." She says and steps to the side quickly moving beyond the small group, but she can still feel their eyes on her. She refuses to look back in turn and the uneasiness doesn't settle. King Demor has never been her favorite person. She's never gotten off well with him and he used to frighten her horribly when she was younger. He carries an aura around him that's hard to replicate. A bit of madness. And for some reason, it seemed worse today. Hela shakes of her paranoia. It was nothing, just Demor being Demor.

Hela reaches the stables and releases a quiet breath of relief as she sees it's empty. Hela walks the long hall of stalls and passes Thor and Loki's horses, Moa and Victory as well as Sleipnir, the horse Loki hand-raised from birth for their father. Well, wherever they are, they didn't take horses. Hela reaches the end of the stalls and Fenris raises to her feet to greet her. Hela presses her hand against the thick black fur and rests her forehead against Fenris'.

She breathes in the wolf's sent, letting it calm her. Outdoors, pineneedles and strangely leather, but familiar. Hela pulls her head back and exhales softly staring at Fenris's deep brown eyes. The wolf watches her for a second and Hela runs a hand through the fur.

"Fenris, my darling," Hela whispers softly, "how do you feel about a ride to the Bifrost?"

Fenris gives a sharp nod and playfully shoves at Hela in an attempt to dislodge her that usually doesn't work, but Hela stumbles to the side slightly this time. Fenris gives a low growl of question and Hela gives a weak smile, "Nothing to worry yourself over," she still will anyway  "I am just a little fatigued."

Fenris looks doubtful.

Hela smiles weakly. "I don't suppose you know where Loki and Thor are." She asks. Most people claim her foolish for speaking Fenris as if she could respond, but Fenris can understand what she's saying and speaks in her own way. Hela has long since learned her language. 

Fenris gives a shake of her head. Hela sighs slightly. It would have been a welcome surprise, but not the most realistic. Fenris lowers herself to the ground and Hela moves to her side swinging onto the her back and grasps at the long fur for purchase before Fenris rises and breaks into a run quickly exiting the stables and making her way towards the Bifrost.

They cross the city and the Rainbow Bridge in under fifteen minutes and Fenris comes to a halt at the entrance of the observatory, breathing heavily.

"Heimdall," Hela calls, swinging off of Fenris's back and lands, her heels clicking against the edge of the Rainbow Bridge's end. The colors swirl beneath her dark clothing the soft golden highlights of her dress gleam more because of the brightness. Hela pats Fenris's neck twice in thanks and the wolf bows her head slightly in answer as Hela walks forward.

Heimdall is oddly quiet, usually he would have greeted her by now, or at least acknowledge her presence. Then again, he's likely just tired of speaking to people, he has been letting hundreds in through the Bifrost in the week past. Save those who have their own ways of travelling between realms, like Alfheim and Nidavellir to name a few. Most of the Realms have some way of transportation between others, the Bifrost is just the most advanced and accurate of them. Hela forces her slight paranoia to the side and takes several more steps forward.

"Princess Hela," Heimdall says in greeting, he doesn't turn to look at her, but his voice sounds tight.

Tight?

"Just Hela." Hela says for the umpteenth time and waves a hand, "Please, I insist, everyone at the palace has been calling me nothing but titles and formalities for days now and it is starting to drive me slightly mad."

Heimdall's shoulders ease in tension that Hela didn't realize was there before until it's gone. "Ah, yes, of course." He says a moment later, and Hela takes a few more steps forward, until their facing each other. Heimdall's orange eyes flicker towards her briefly and his fingers tighten around Hofund. He's nervous. Why is he nervous? What is wrong?

"You should be back at the palace." Heimdall says, his voice is drawn back to his usual blank deadpan, but it sounds...off from the way he was speaking before.

"Yes, I know," Hela says and sighs slightly running a hand along her forehead for a moment. "I was looking for my siblings—" that was definitely a tense "—and couldn't find them, I swear if they are late to this on purpose I will personally murder them." She says it casually and waves a hand in slight annoyance. Loki can't fear Sif's wrath that much, her youngest brother sits on rooftops all the time and climbs the cliffs of Asgard by himself without any gear. Sif can have a temper, yes, but it's not that frightening. If this was all just a ruse so he could have an excuse to get out of seeing her coronation…

It's likely not—why would it be?

"Do you know where they are?" Hela asks and looks up at Heimdall. His face is completely void of emotion, as usual. Hela presses her lips together for a second, "I need to go drag them both out of their hiding place from their ears. Or do you think that the scalp would be more painful?" Hela asks, adding the last part after a second. Heimdall is quiet for a moment, appearing to think about it.

"Ears."

Hela nods, "Yes, I agree, but I think it would be easier if I did the hair." Although Loki isn't one for long hair, it is long enough to grab and yank, but at Thor's been insistent on growing his out the last little bit. Hela's fine with it, before the Afliheim incident, she would occasionally drag her brothers into her quarters and they would spend a lengthy amount of time together that, on the most recent venture, ended with Hela showing Loki how to braid several different techniques than the one their mother taught him a few years ago. She and Loki braided Thor's hair together then he and Thor had done her hair. It took forever to untangle the part that Thor did (simply because he did so many braids), but it did look nice for little bit. So, yeah, probably the scalp. Where they've been hiding is another question all together, how they managed to slip under the gazes of all everyone for days is a mystery.

There is a small stretch of silence from Heimdall and Hela lifts her head up slightly, "You didn't answer my question."

Heimdall is quiet, his lips pressing together firmly.

Hela's stomach twists faintly and she takes several more steps closer to the Asgardian she's viewed as an uncle for as long as she can remember. "Heimdall," her voice is softer, "where are my brothers?"

He remains quiet. 

"Gatekeeper." She bites. 

Heimdall's gaze tears away from his stars to her, he hesitates. "Nidavellir."

Hela recoils, "What?" 

Why on the Norn's name would they be there!? Yes, that it indeed one of the last places anyone would have looked for them save maybe Jotunheim or Muspelheim but still! What do they have to gain from going there?

"...Why?" Hela demands. Are they stupid? They know that the peace between Nidavellir and Asgard has been...testy since they kidnapped Frigga. Even her interaction with King Demor earlier today was...tense.

"They were going to buy a weapon for Sif." Heimdall answers. From dwarfs? Whose idea was that? Probably Thor's. They could have just asked her. She could have forged a—why on the Norn's name are they getting a weapon for Sif? It's not the girl's celebration of birth or near Yuletide so—the hair. They were getting it to make up for Sif's hair, it was then likely Loki's idea. No matter, she's going to throttle both of them.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

"When did they leave?" Hela questions. Heimdall pauses and Hela's eyes harden, "When did they leave, Heimdall?" She presses, her voice is sharper, but she doesn't care.

"Five days ago."

"Five!?" Hela echoes. They've been there since the day after Loki cut off all of Sif's hair? She paces back and forth for some five seconds before spinning and looking back at Heimdall her cape swinging around her ankles. "What are they doing there? Buying an entire weaponry?"

"No," Heimdall answers, his voice is equally sharp. Hela releases a annoyed breath of air. Heimdall tilts his head back slightly and his lips press together firmly for a moment. "I didn't tell you because I wanted to protect you."

Hela's rage dips into frozen shards, "Tell me what?"

Heimdall's quiet for a few seconds, as if gathering thoughts, "The dwarfs approached the Bifrost site four hours after I lost sight of your brothers—"

"You what—?"

"—and offered a ransom. In return for your siblings freedom, they want you." Heimdall says and stares at her.

Hela stills, her back to him.

Ransom? Her siblings were captured by dwarfs, five days ago and Heimdall didn't think it fit to mention anything?

"The dwarf assured me they were unharmed and I thought that either they would escape, or the dwarfs would return them to us after they realized the ransom they wanted wasn't coming." Heimdall adds a moment later, his voice still sounds weary. And with good reason. Hela's fists clench and she shakes her head slightly, closing her eyes.

This can't be happening, not now.

They only have a few hours until the coronation and now she has to go to Nidavellir to go drag them out of whatever disaster they managed to get themselves into this time.

Hela releases a heavy breath before turning to look back at the gatekeeper. She presses her lips together and nods slightly, her mouth spreading into a sickly smile, "Yes," she says after a stretch of silence, "it was a brilliant move, Heimdall, yes, thank you." Her voice is bathed in sarcasm and comes out as more of a hiss.

Heimdall's fingers claw around the hilt of the sword, "I only wanted to protect you—"

"Me?" Hela repeats, her voice raising, "You have seen me fight enough battles, and fought them at my side to know I don't need protecting."

"Hela, you do not understand—"

"No, you don't!" Hela shouts, "They are my brothers! I would do anything to keep them safe! What idiotic, insubordination possessed you to—"

"I don't want to see you dead!" Heimdall has never raised his voice at her. He's drawn it in tense worry, laughter and much more, but never shouted. Not that she can remember. Hela takes a step back and can see Fenris raise her head, ready to interfere if it's necessary. Hela inhales deeply through her nose before looking up at him trying to regain her bearings.

"You won't. Send me and Fenris to Nidavellir, Heimdall, I'll smuggle them out if I have to. You said they were uninjured it shouldn't take long. King Demor is here, whatever ransom they had is gone."

Heimdall hesitates and Hela's expressions softens, "I will be fine, Uncle." She assures and Heimdall sighs before nodding slightly.

"It is not you I worry for." He admits and Hela bites at her lower lip. 

"I'll be at the Bifrost site with both of them in under an hour." She says and waves Fenris forward with two fingers. The wolf immediately leaps to her feet and races forward at her side. Hela turns to face the Bifrost chamber as Heimdall shoves Hofund into the the pedestal.

"Good luck." He calls at her back before the blur of color jerks her and her wolf forward.

The stars and planets blur past her and the swirl of light rockets her forward to fast for her to see anything but a splash of colors here and there.

She stumbles slightly as she hits the ground of Nidavellir and Fenris shakes her fur, displeased, but manages to stay on all fours. Fenris has traveled via Bifrost before, many times, but it doesn't make her wolf appreciate it any more. Usually, Hela avoids taking Fenris with her to other Realms simply because of the discomfort that the wolf experiences. At the moment, however, she is a lifeline and Hela doesn't want to face this by herself, childish as it is. 

Nidavellir's long stretch of dead dirt and rock greets her sight immediately and Hela wrinkles her nose at the thick smoke. It is nothing like their forgeries that Hela has visited where it's cold, but well put together. Nidavellir the planet is a mess. 

Fenris lets out a low growl and Hela turns to her as the wolf takes a step beside her, baring teeth.

Hela follows her gaze of sight and sees five dwarfs rushing up the hillside towards them. No weapons in hand, on them, however is a different story. Each has at least three from Hela can see in this distance and plenty more hidden, she's sure. They've probably been waiting for her since their ransom.

Hela smooths the skirt of her dress slightly and lifts her head, crown more visible. She's not even dressed for battle, now that she's thinking about it, if it comes down to fighting, she's going to have the disadvantage. 

A large red-beard dwarf is at the front of the group and comes to a halt about ten feet from her. He looks much like the others she's met: bulky and unpleasant. Fenris lets out a low snarl, daring him to come closer and Hela rests a hand against her fur, asking her quietly to wait.

"High Princess Hela," Red-beard says, smiling with crooked, yellow teeth. He rests a hand on a sword hilt and hums pleasantly. "Although the stories of your battles are legendary, they fail to speak of your beauty."

Ugh.

Dwarfs. 

Hela keeps her face blank, as much as he's attempting to flatter her, his "dashing eyebrows" really look more like he's been hit by a brick. Hela tilts her head back slightly and doesn't answer, unimpressed. 

Red-beard's sickly smile grows, "I must admit, I was expecting a bigger army, and maybe a little sooner. What? Your gatekeeper have an issue with earwax he just got cleaned?"

"If you speak of the ransom," Hela says, her voice is cutting and soft, "you are fools to bargain for it."

Red-beard shrugs slightly, "Perhaps, but you're here, aren't you?" He takes a step forward and Fenris hisses lowly. Red-beard shoots her a hesitant look, but to his credit doesn't back down, "Do you accept our terms, or should we kill you where you stand?"

Terms? What terms?  Heimdall didn't mention that there was any terms. Perhaps it was just another piece of information that he decided needed to be kept quiet to protect her. Hela shoves the snide voice in her head to the side and stares at the dwarf. "You didn't mention any terms in your ransom." She says a second later.

"'Course we did," The dwarf argues and looks back at his companions, "that's it, for Heimdall's next birthday, I'm getting him an earwax cleaner."

Funny. 

"I'm not here to play games with you." She says stiffly. 

"'Course not. You're to high and mighty to do that." He waves a hand flippantly, when she makes a noise in the back of her throat, "Well, seeming as our beloved king isn't here, I'll have to talk to you." The humor that was previously in his tone seeps out as he continues speaking, growing more serious and demanding, "As you know, Asgard is the central power in the Nine Realms, everyone cowers beneath their boot--we take Asgard, we take the power. You either agree to rule under King Demor or we kill your princes. If we're feeling generous, we might even send you their bodies."

Hela's jaw clicks and she forces a livid breath to leave her nose. She's Asgard's next ruler, if they can manipulate her, they have Asgard squashed under their thumbs. Yeah, no. She's not going to rush into this, Thor and Loki's lives are on the line and if she doesn't play this right, all of them will end up dead. But she is nearly queen now, and must think about her country. 

"I refuse to the accept any terms until I have seen my siblings." She says forcing her voice to withhold questioning.

"We already told you they're alive." Red-beard disagrees.

She lifts an eyebrow, "And yet I haven't seen such proof. You agree to this or we have no deal." 

Red-Beard's smile stretches to a wavering smirk. "Fine, fine," he says and points to Fenris, "That thing stays here."

Fenris glowers darkly, but Hela rests her hand against the fur. Fenris sends her a pleading look as if telling her "can't leave you with them." 

Hela's lips thin and she runs a reassuring hand through the wolf's fur.You have to.

But--

Fenris.

But--

Fenris.

Fine.

Hela turns back to the dwarf and releases the fur. Red-Beard is still grinning. "One other thing," he says, lifting up a hand "once you've seen them, you've agreed to the terms." The dwarf says and turns walking down the hill, without waiting for her answer. Hela watches his back for another moment, narrowing her eyes.

"We will see." She murmurs under her breath before following after him.

000o000

The walk to the palace is taken in silence. The people in the city surrounding the area seem to lose their voices as they pass by, appearing to recognize her and most activity stalls. Hela does her best to ignore it, but Red-beard keeps looking back at her, puzzled. She doesn't have an explanation and apparently, neither does this dwarf.

When they reach the palace, he turns back to her, "I apologize, I just realized that I never introduced myself. I am Haggard the Horrible and this is my hearty crew." The last part is laced with sarcasm and he gestures back towards the rest of the dwarfs with him. They shoot him scathing looks, but make no comment.

Haggard the Horrible. Hela does not want to know how he earned the nickname.

Haggard turns back towards the palace, "We're nearly there." He says and begins his swift walk again. His stance makes it seem like he's expecting someone to try an attack him at any given moment and he'll have to bolt. The way he speaks suggests that he is perfectly in control, but the tenseness of his shoulders reveals his anxiety.

Hela doesn't comment on it and follows after them in silence. They reach the throne room some six minutes later and Haggard shoves open the door to the prisons. He throws his hand out gesturing to the blackness as the door creaks open revealing the dark hallway. "After you, Your Majesty."

Hela gives Haggard a side glance before she takes a step forward the other four dwarfs following in after her.

The cellblock smells like hopelessness, musty dirt and a thick amount of smoke and metal. The general aura of the long dark hallway is one of deep sorrow. Haggard grabs a lighted torch from off the wall and steps ahead of her, other hand resting on his sword hilt.

Hela exhales softly before following the tall dwarf down the hall. The darkness seems to claw for her feet as she passes it, the firelight the only thing keeping it at bay. The long hallways walls are thick metal bars that gleam from the torch light assuring her that they are well kept for. There are few prisoners, and those that are present cower from the dwarfs, chained and quiet.

Those that meet her eyes quickly look away with fear as they recognize her helmet.

A few coughs or moans here and there beyond the shuffling of their feet and clothing is the only sound. Hela has visited the prisons of Asgard more than once, but in all honesty can admit that they have never treated even the most vicious villains as this. It's sickening. There aren't any magical restraints because the dwarfs have never been able to cast it, but what they have forged is impressive.

And her brother's have been here, in this dark, cold, desolate place for days. She didn't even wonder where they were save after this morning when Frigga brought it up. Why didn't she question it? No one had seen them for days—even the Warriors Three and Sif. For Loki, that can be normal, for Thor...out of the question. He's not a solitary person so the strangeness of him being just gone should have struck her. It didn't.

Her arrogance may be the death of her brothers and her Realm.

Haggard comes to a halt in front of a cell nearly two minutes later, and lifts the torch up to it. Long shadows cast from the bars over the ground and rest on the two figures.

Hela takes a step forward and feels her eyes widen.

In honesty, Hela was expecting Thor and Loki to look up at her both with frustrated stares, Loki give a snotty comment then Thor to remark about how she's late. Hela would then roll her eyes, grab them both by the ears and drag them to Asgard after slipping out of the terms the dwarfs set, then scold them violently in the observatory. Then they would carry onward to the coronation. The end. That's it. Frustration at their idiocy, but little else. 

No such fantasy greets her eyes.

She can't see as much as she would like to from the shadows slipping over everything and the darkness that threatens to swallow them. Her siblings are in the corner, crunched together as small they are able, as if somehow managing to stuff themselves as far away from the stretches of the light will protect them.

Hela takes a step forward subconsciously and wraps her hand around the bar of the cell and the shadow of her helmet pours through the bars. Loki's head whips up, likely startled, but the darkness prevents her from seeing his face so she can only guess his expression. Thor's head and most of his upper body is on Loki's lap the younger of the two slumped forwards slightly. Thor is lax against Loki's grip, and one of her raven-haired brother's hands is pressed against Thor's back and Hela can see the silver of a cuff wrapped around his thin wrist extending to his other hand with about a two foot and a half distance. Thor's upper body is bare and Hela wishes for more lighting because something looks horribly off about his skin.

Thor's head raises slightly and Hela's eyes lock with his a moment later. The blue is dazed, pained, and wide with recognition as she meets it.

"Sis'er?" The word is slurred, terribly, but Hela's heart lurches at the broken sound.

She turns to Haggard, "Let me go to them." She demands.

He huffs. "Our deal, Highness, was that you would see them, not touch, do you recall this?" Haggard sneers. Anger rushes through her veins. She lashes out, grabbing him by the throat. Her long fingers dig into his skin. The other dwarfs' hands leap towards their weapons, but Hela only has eyes for Haggard.

"Give me that key or may the may the Norn's help you because nothing else can." Hela whispers, her voice is low, yet level and laced with venom. Haggard's eyes widen and he grapples with his fingers for a moment before dropping a thick, large key into her palm. Hela draws her hand back and Haggard gasps, wheezing; his freehand comes up to rub at the area. Hela snatches the torch from his other hand and shoves the key into the lock, twisting it.

The metal grinds loudly as she shoves it open. She steps inside of the cell, the torch pushing more of the shadows back. Hela takes several steps forward until she's about a foot from her siblings and stills. Her spine lurches her posture up from the force of the sudden stop, but she barely registers the sensation. The light pouring across Thor's back reveals enough, and her fingers tighten around the torch. The wood grinds against the force.

Spread across her brother's back is a webbing of red angrily swelling, bleeding whip wounds.

They whipped him.

There is some attempts made at bandaging with what looks like the remains of Thor's shirt, but it's long since bled through. Thor's increased healing is likely the only reason he hasn't died from blood loss. The worse they get injured the longer it takes to heal without sorcery. That's why her youngest siblings hand is on Thor's back, not in comfort, but in an effort to heal him that isn't working. Magical restricting shackles, she guesses. She remembers hearing that he dwarfs had invented something of the sort.

They whipped her little brother without mercy until he's barely conscious. What kind of sick, monstrous, things are they?

The severity of the wounds is intense and Hela bites back the urge to lean left and be sick all over the ground. Thor needs a healer now, or her sibling's death may be at the dwarf's hands.

They said they were uninjured.

The wood of the torch cracks beneath her fingers. but Hela turns her attention to Loki. Unless Thor was stupid and pulled a selfless act—even then—she doubts either of them walked away uninjured. What vindictive pleasure do the dwarfs find by this torture? Loki's head is bowed and he's still hunched over Thor's body in some sort of effort to shield the older with his skinny frame. Hela squats down, forcing her movements to be slow, yet fluid as to not startle either of them.

Thor's eyes are still on her, watching as if not truly believing she is here.

Loki's hair is covering most of his face, the usual slicked back having long since fallen apart into his natural soft curls covering his head. The shadows claim the rest of her sight on him and slight fear latches onto her. Have they done the same to the youngest, but struck him across the face and Loki is embarrassed?

Hela reaches her free right hand forward and gently grabs at his chin ignoring his severe twitch and slight hitch of breath that sounds strangely muffled and lifts his head upwards towards the light. Loki doesn't fight her, and his face becomes visible in the light, his stringy dark strands of hair falling in front of it. Loki's green eyes refuse to meet hers, red and raw from pain or tears she doesn't know, but all she can focus on is his mouth.

Her lips crack partially open and a ragged breath escapes her suddenly tight lungs.

She blinks once, hoping, in the back of her mind on a foolish notion that she is merely imagining this and that when she opens her eyes, it won't be there. Just like Thor's back, pleading, begging in the back of her head that she can open them and all will be well. They still remain, bleeding as if to mock her.

Look how you failed, Odinsdottir, look how you failed!

Loki's mouth has been sewn shut.

Loki, her little brother's mouth has been stitched shut.

The thread, at one point, was likely silver, but is now stained a deep crimson. Loki's lips are a mess of it, his blood, and he looks severely pale, now that she can see his face as well as sickly and pained. The blood is leaking down his face from the wounds that never had a chance to scab over, but it isn't gushing, just trickling. Loki's free hand's sleeve is stained red. Hela's hand releases his chin, recoiling backwards and despite her attempts at a gentle release Loki gives a pained lurch and sound, a breath escaping through his nose hitched, as he presses the back of his dirty free hand's fingers against his lips in an effort to keep the stitches from straining anymore.

A wave of cold fury washes through her.

The dwarfs did this to her siblings—and what for? Pleasure? How could they? What gives the dwarfs the right? What makes them so special!? Nothing. They harmed her siblings. Her muscles feel tight and tense as if being drawn together by an invisible force, her breathing is heavy. Something is surging her chest, begging for release at her cold anger.

It demands retribution.

Hela rises to her feet and Loki and Thor's eyes follow her, Loki's head raising to watch the dwarfs going quiet behind her. The wood in her fingers cracks, exploding out and she releases the sprinkles in her hands the fire landing against the ground and sputtering as it dies a foot from Thor and Loki.

"You said they were unharmed." She avers, her voice is a bare whisper. She doesn't trust it enough to speak any louder without a scream of anger tearing from it.

"Oh, they were," Haggard assures behind her, his voice is much louder and cheerful. Like this is all some sort of joke and she just found the punchline. "When we sent the ransom. Unfortunately, they decided to escape and needed to be taught a lesson on obedience."

"Lesson." Hela echoes, her voice cold. Lesson. On what? Cruel, sadistic torture?

"Yeah, you heard me," Haggard says, oblivious to her rage, "lesson. Little buggers, the blond one gave us a lot of trouble with all his pounding, but the little one is what got 'em out. We had to pull that line somewhere and really they've been nothing since compliant since then."

Compliant.

Hela's hands shake with rage for a moment and she watches her fingers before she summons a sword into her right hand and spins throwing a small double bladed knife from her left. It hits, as she intended, Haggard in his left shoulder. He stumbles backwards hitting the ground and skids a few feet from the force. The other dwarfs draw their weapons and Hela takes her sword into both hands, power thrums at her fingertips and her senses stretch outwards. She can feel the life of everyone in the prison like a dull ache in the back of her mind and can sense which are closer to death. She's always been able to do this if she focuses, something since her childhood that neither of her parents understood, but it's never felt so...strong before.

Hela leaps at the four others with an angered cry escaping her throat, and slams her blade against the sword of another dwarfs. It breaks at the hilt and Hela tosses a knife at his stomach dodging to the left to avoid an attack from another dwarf and grabs his forearm squeezing. The dwarf hisses at the pressure, but she doesn't care. She kicks him backwards into the bars of the empty cell across from her siblings and plunges her blade into his chest deeply, diving to the side as a spear lands a few inches from her face.

Hela smashes her weapon against the dwarf's mace and remises a second later feinting so she can disarm him. She swings her sword against the hilt again and the metal snaps from both the force of her blow and the sharpness of her blade. Hela summons a dagger and stabs him in a quick movement before turning to her final opponent and he spins his staff, eyes hard.

Cute.

Hela's breaths are heaved, not from exhaustion or exertion, but hate.

She lifts her weapon towards him with both hands before wrath blowing him, he ducks, avoiding her near severe of his ear and brings his staff up to deflect against her heavy attacks. He's attempting to gain the offensive, but Hela is merely toying with him. She switches to her dominant hand and grabs his staff with her free hand halting his attack. She strains against his strength, gritting her teeth, but gives him a vicious smile.

"To be honest," she says and leans towards his fearful face, "I expected more." She flips the staff and the dwarf lands on the ground with a grunt, staring up at her with hard eyes before she plunges her sword into his liver. He hisses and collapses as she draws back. She tosses the staff at his feet in mockery before moving back towards the cell.

The only light they have now is from that of the torches on the walls every two dozen feet or so. None are close enough to let her see their faces very well. Hela shoves the sword into the belt of her skirt, forcing a sheathe and leans down next to her siblings resting a hand on Loki's foot to find their positions.

"We need to leave," She says as soft and reassuring as she can manage. Her voice still sounds very strained though. Thor and Loki need reassurance, but all she can get out right now is growls and heated breaths. "Can you walk?" She demands.

She has high doubts Thor can.

She can make out enough of their figures to see Loki give a nod. Thor mutters something under his breath that Hela doesn't catch a second later, but Loki's fingers curl slightly because of it and she turns to him. 

Hela exhales quietly, "Good." She says and moves forward, leaning down and grabs Thor's arm then swings it over her shoulder. Thor twitches slightly and hisses through his breath, but doesn't comment. Hela pulls him to his feet with as much gentleness as she can manage, but Thor still gives a pained moan and can barely support his weight. He is a good five inches taller than her when standing normally and the height difference is something she never really noticed until now. Hela takes his weight, easily, and presses a hand against his front to steady him. Thor's frame leans towards her and she turns to Loki. The younger looks to be struggling to find willpower to stand.

Hela turns and offers her hand to him. Loki lifts his cuffed ones to reach it. Hela pulls him to his feet and Loki looks dizzy for a moment, but gathers his bearings after and releases her fingers. His hand is cold. Nothing unusual.

Hela moves forward and Thor stumbles, seeming fairly unacquainted with his feet. Hela stuffs down the fury. Focus now. Rage later. They leave the cell, Loki following with a slight stumble one hand pressed against his face. Hela forces out a raged breath and turns to start to guide them out, but stops at a voice behind her.

"You'll never...get out...of here...alive," Haggard's groan is followed by the wheezes she missed earlier. Hela turns to face him, in turn pulling Thor with her. Loki mimics the movement, but attaches himself to her side as if he's a third arm without trying to be obvious about it.

Haggard rips the small blade from his shoulder and hisses, "It's not...possible…" He promises.

Hela gives him a wild, cat-like grin.

"Darling," She whispers and lifts her hand out feeling the life slip from him towards her fingertips, draining him, "You have no idea what's possible." She pulls the remains from him clenching her fist and he slumps, dead.

Loki's gaze settles on her, but Hela turns and adjusts her grip on the blond, "Fenris is waiting outside the city." She says, forcing her uneasiness to the side with a commanding tone. Thor's hazy gaze meets hers.

"How did you do that?" His voice is quiet and hesitant. Hela looks down at her hand for a second.

"I don't know." She admits then shakes her head, "It doesn't matter, we have to get out of the city. Heimdall is waiting."

She pulls Thor forward a few steps and he staggers, gritting his teeth. Loki suddenly pops up on Thor's other side, though Hela doesn't remember him moving and grabs Thor's other arm swinging it around his thin shoulders. Thor's weight sags between the two of them and he squeezes his eyes shut.

They manage to make it out of the prison without any interference, but the progress is slower than what Hela wants. They need to get out. They need to get out now. Her siblings need healers.

They break into the throne room and quickly make it through the halls, only running into a small group of guards here and there that she quickly takes care of until they reach the foyer with the entrance and are immediately greeted by a large squadron. All are armed to the teeth and armored heavily. Hela's eyes narrow, did they honestly expect her to agree to their crass terms even after she saw what they did to her siblings?

They are fools to believe they can get away with this.

They won't. 

The dwarfs, to their credit, only look slightly surprised when she emerges with Thor and Loki in tow. As one, however, they then seem to harden and draw their weapons. Hela looks back at Loki and he meets her eyes a moment later before moving forward to take Thor's weight. She doesn't want him to, she wants to grasp both of them and carry them to the Bifrost site in a protective bubble then barricade them in a room where she can watch them, always. To make sure this never happens again.

Loki takes Thor from her fully and promptly looks like he's going to fall flat on his face. The stitches are visible without his hand in this better lighting and they look worse than they did in the cell. An angry line of red "x"'s. Hela forces her gaze back and turns to the dwarfs. One, of whom she assumes is the leader, with a long blond beard, and a double edged sword in hand takes a step forward and says, "You have broken our deal, Odinsdottir."

Hela scowls, "You broke the peace-treaty, we had no deal."

Another dwarf, clearly braver and stupider than his counterpart, steps forward and states in a firm, loud voice, "You have taken something that belongs to us."

Hela's eyes narrow dangerously.

The leader sends the other a warning look of some sort, before rising to his full height, "You have two options:" He says, his voice strong and preventing question. "You surrender yourself and your brothers, or we will slay you all and send your bodies to Asgard to mourn over."

Hela doesn't look back at her siblings. Doesn't have to. The rage filling through her veins is desperate to be let out and Hela can't stand these blubbering idiots anymore. Hela draws her sword from her belt before summoning her other the metal giving a low hiss as it draws into her hands. Hela lifts her head, challenging him.

"Option two, then." The blond says and seems disappointed with her. She couldn't care less. The dwarf pulls his swords up and they rush at each other. Hela slams her sword down on his and kicks him in the stomach, diving to the side as an arrow whizzes past her.

Hela has seen enough armies and fought in enough battles to tell when the commanding officer should have spent more time working with his rookies. The less efficient ones will attack one at a time, the archers handing out arrows here and there and ultimately lose because the better trained will attack as one against the threat and quickly win. These dwarfs are the latter.

Their weapons are well made and the soldiers are skilled enough that it wouldn't matter if the weapons were so or not. They could wield wooden sticks and still be as deadly. Unfortunately for them, she is just as skilled, likely more so.

In under a minute, fifteen are dead of the fifty or so and Hela has barely taken a scratch.

Loki once told her that watching her battle is like watching a deadly dance. Hela hasn't lead an army in over seven hundred and fifty years, nor has she fought against one, but the skills are still there. She spins her blades rhythmically and disarms another five, kicking another one away towards the back of the room.

A blade clips her on the shoulder and Hela spins plunging her sword into the dwarf's stomach before retracting to block against a club. "Loki!" She shouts and spares a glance back towards where Loki is supporting Thor's weight standing a dozen or so feet behind her as she withholds the squadron from getting closer. She grabs the spear thrown towards her face and spins it, tossing it back towards the sender. 

"Take Thor and get out of here!" She commands and jumps over a sword sending a dagger towards the dwarf's face.

Loki looks like he wants to protest, but Hela turns her full attention back to the fight as a blade nearly takes off her nose. Hela kicks him back again and grabs at an arrow aimed for her head plunging it into a dwarf near her. Less than twenty to go.

Easy.

Hela swings five or so daggers towards a group and they go down before she leaps into the larger fray. Hela's immediately greeted by a sword shoved against her side and she hisses but stuffs the pain to the side. As expected, wearing no armor was a terrible idea. It crossed her mind briefly before she reached Nidavellir, but she didn't do anything to correct it.

She'll just have to work harder.

Hela takes out another ten before jerking her head up as a loud panicked filled, "LOKI!" tears through Thor's throat in warning or other and her eyes zero in on them. Both are nearly towards the doors where a one of the archers is in front of them. Loki is on the ground, Thor heavily leaning over as his support is lost and one of the archers is grabbing at Loki's scalp.

She doesn't know what happened or how they got there, but everything seems to swirl in slow motion as Thor jerks his hand out as if it might stop the attack and a bolt of lightning shoots off his hand. Hela's eyes widen and she feels her lips part as the electricity streams down from Thor's shoulder across his fingertips and hits the dwarf in the chest throwing him away from the youngest, smoking.

What the—!?

How—!?

When did that—!?

A dwarf takes advantage of her distraction and attempts to gut her. Hela grabs the wrist of the dwarf by reflex and twists it before shoving him back. She feels the life draw from him at her touch, slipping away like all the other dwarfs that have attacked her. Hela spins and shoves her sword into the final dwarf's abdomen and drags it out before rushing towards her siblings. Thor's collapsed to his knees, hands shaking and threads of electricity are jumping across his hands. There are more than a dozen things on fire around him, likely from stray bolts.

Loki is in front of him, hands on Thor's shoulder likely in an attempt to calm the raggedly breathing blond and Hela kneels, "Thor, Thor." She says and he looks up at her eyes wide with fright.

"I don't…" He starts looking down at his hands and the electricity leaps from his palm racing up his arm. Loki jerks his fingers back before it can strike him and the bolt shoots up to the ceiling. Hela covers her head at the stray debris and sees Loki do the same. The chunks of wood miss them, but they hit the ground nearby, flames leaping from it the nearby tapestries. Thor looks up at her desperately.

"Something's wrong." He pants, he's nearing hysteria. Hela doesn't know what to do, Thor's never shown anything like this before, only minor workings with the weather. Not lightning. Loki turns to her, his green eyes are wide as well, but he looks as helpless as she feels.

"Thor, breathe." She commands and her mind scrambles. What can she do? What can she give him to help him control it? She's not a sorcerer, this is Loki's element, not hers, but he's incapable of offering advice at the moment. Control, contr—Mjolnir.

It was a weapon given to her by the dwarfs when she was Midgardian fifteen or so when Odin was nearing his completion of reigning in all the realms. The weapon can withstand all the elements and, as far as she is aware, is indestructible. It can handle the electricity. Where did she put it!? The last time she used it was in the battle between Jotunheim and Asgard for Midgard.

Her brain strains for a moment, the treasury, she left it there. Hela raises her hands and forces her left to be steady, stretching and curling her fingers out, spinning her right's forth to bypass the security calling the weapon to her. Mjolnir lands in her hands a moment later and the lightweight hammer hums in recollection at her touch.

Loki's eyes widen in recognition, "Hold this," Hela commands and shoves it at Thor, "it will handle the electricity." She explains and Thor's fingers wrap around the hilt. The weapon looks strangely right in his hand, more than it ever did for her, but she stuffs the thought to the side. Not important. The lightning leaps towards Mjolnir's end and remains there, leaping around the metal and it's handle, but nothing else.

Hela releases a quiet breath of relief.

Thor forces out a breath and Hela turns to Loki, "The Bifrost site, I imagine we're going to get interference. Can you support him?" She demands and Loki gives a sharp nod before grabbing Thor's free hand and swings it around his shoulder. The two make it to their feet and Hela glances around the flaming foyer. There isn't anything they can do about the flames and in quiet part of her mind, Hela doesn't want to.

She rises to her feet as well and turns towards the large stone doors in front of them. Hela steps in front of Thor and Loki and draws her hands out before she lifts them forward dragging her palms up conjuring dozens of weapons and they all shoot towards the doors. The stone cracks and Hela summons more, striking further into the cracks before the stone crumbles completely in front of them. The puff of air it sends out causes her eyes to sting but she doesn't care.

The city is stretching out before them now and Hela can see the townspeople looking up towards the disturbance. Hela lifts her fingers to her lips and lets out a loud whistle. Fenris won't have listened to her and remained at the Bifrost site. She'll be at least at the edge of the city if not in it. Now all they have to do is reach her.

Hela spins her swords before stepping over the stone and quickly making her way down the stairs. Loki and Thor are behind her moving slower and Hela waits until their at her side, looking through the gathering crowd for Fenris' dark fur.

Someone's hand shoots up pointing behind them, "FIRE!"

"Call the barricade!"

"They lit the palace on fire!" The dwarf shouts, hand jerked in their direction. Hela's gaze flickers back towards the large wood and stone building where flames are indeed starting to rise into the air.

"That's the High Princess!" Another says.

"Asgard has attacked us!"

Weapons quickly rise among them, and Hela tightens her grip, "We seek passage to the Bifrost, those who stand in our way will meet their end." She promises. She doesn't want to kill anymore than she has to. She will rip apart this city, however, if it means Loki and Thor make it out alive.

The townspeople seem to pause for a moment before a dwarf shoves his way to the front. "Did you kill Haggard the Horrible?" The dwarf demands. He has a long blond beard and is missing an arm that's replaced by a hook. His eyes are hard.

"Yes." Hela answers, her voice lacks any empathy. She has none for this blond and feels no desire to make any up.

"That was my brother, murderer!" He cries and dives towards her, weapon in hand. Hela plunges her blade into his stomach and he gasps in surprise before she draws the sword back and he collapses at her feet. He grasps at the wound and seethes at her with his eyes. "Monster." He hisses.

Hela's jaw clenches and she feels the skin around her eyes tighten. "Yes I am." She says, quietly, before she shoves her swords onto the ground and lurches forward and grabbing the sides of his head drawing the life from his body. "But I will do anything I must to protect my kin." She shoves his corpse back towards the ground and wraps her hands around her swords dragging them back up.

The dwarfs look from the dwarf she killed to her before any hesitation seems to drain from them and they leap forwards. Well, pity, she was going to let them live. Hela works her way through her attackers, keeping them away from Thor and Loki watching behind her and drains the life of dozens before a roar rips through the air and Fenris lands on top of a larger pile.

"Fenris!" Hela greets and the wolf leaps towards her side, "Your timing is perfect as ever." She assures and points behind her, "Get them to the Bifrost site." She commands kicking back against a dwarf. Fenris nods before bounding back towards Loki and Thor, disappearing from her sight.

Hela sweeps her blades towards them, her cuts clean and easy; she plays away from their blows like a dance and summons more weapons to toss at others. Hela doesn't remember ever feeling this much power. It flows through her veins, thick and thready, ready to release.

Fenris pulls up beside her and Hela spares a glance towards her back where Loki and Thor are secured, Mjolner gripped tightly in the latter's hands tightly. Hela and Fenris tear through the city, striking anyone who attempts to halt them in their path to the Bifrost site.

Hela draws the life force from many of them, releasing it into the air before they get within thirty feet. She's never felt this strength, this raw power flowing through her veins before the ability to manipulate death like this. Always before it was through her skill not this...connection. Somewhere, within the back of her head not filled with rage and a desire for vengeance, she's terrified.

They make it to the Bifrost site, finally, some ten minutes later and Fenris leaps up the hill with ease, Hela following a moment later. She turns to handle any of their pursuers with a few quick weapons and life tugs before she turns and races the final few stretches grasping onto Fenris's fur before raising her head to the sky, "Heimdall!--Open the Bifrost!"

The light pours down on them heavily before the jerk sweeps through her and Nidavellir disappears beneath them the stream of light.

They all land in the observatory with a crash. Fenris immediately topples, accidentally throwing Loki and Thor off of her back and Hela rolls several feet, her crown getting tossed from her head and landing several feet away on her hands and knees. Long strings of sweaty hair fall in front of her face and Hela shakes the nausea that threatens to overpower her stomach and flips her head up to look towards her siblings as Loki lets out a pained mewling sound, She spots him in a sitting position hand planted over his lips eyes fastened shut in agony.

Oh Norns, Fenris tossed them, and although Thor was spared pain, Loki landed on his face.

"Loki," Thor breathes and reaches out exhales a hitched breath his hand faltering, Mjolnir falls from his grip, but the lightning is gone. Returned to whatever cave it crawled out of.

Hela scrambles to her feet and races towards them as Heimdall quickly scampers down the dais, Hofund forgotten and kneels in front of Thor, grabbing at the blond's shoulder. "Loki." Thor insists and it sounds slightly glazed as if he's never been more exhausted in his life.

Hela skids to a halt in front of Loki and grabs at his shoulder. He flinches from her touch and Hela's free hand's fingers curl. Breathe. Loki turns to face her and she can see blood on his fingers and his green eyes are wide and wet.

"My Prince," Heimdall says and grabs at Thor's shoulder to keep him from moving. A hiss of agony escapes Thor and Hela turns her attention to him for second to see him reaching out to grab Loki's arm but the movement is straining his scabs and Hela can see more blood leaking out. "You must remain still." Heimdall's words are forceful but Thor's eyes are still slightly wide and glazed.

"My...is...brother..." Thor repeats, but his words are jumbled.

Hela grabs at his hand and gives it a quick squeeze before sinking to her knees and gathering Loki into her arms his always startling lightweight collapsing against her. He shudders against her before he buries his head against her chest and his shoulders lift slightly and pained wheezes begin to follow as he cries.

Hela grabs at Thor's hand with her own holding the back of Loki's head with her other, fingering the dark strands. She squeezes her eyes shut for a second breathing out forcefully. There is nothing more than can be done.

They should pay.

They did this to her siblings.

And yet she is the one who was to arrogant to keep it from happening.

Hela lifts her head up as Heimdall speaks, breaking the minute of quiet, "I already called for Eir and your parents as you came into my sight. They should be here shortly, do you know who did this?"

Hela's lip curls and her jaw clenches her grip on her brother's tightening to almost painful for a second. "I am unaware who did the act nor who decreed it." She admits. Maybe, if you weren't so busy being angry you could have actually learned something from the dwarfs. It's not like she had time to sit down for an interrogation, she was more focused on getting them out than anything else. But the power that came to her was unlike anything Hela had ever experienced.

They sit in silence for several minutes. 

Heimdall's hand remains on Thor's shoulder, keeping him upright and finally turns a split second before Hela hears horses come to a halt and frantic footsteps. Loki raises his head, slightly to stare for a second before their parents come rushing into view. Both are still dressed in the coronation garb and look like they ran from the throne room here. Frigga's hair is still perfectly layered on the top of her head and Odin's ceremonial helmet is present. Eir is half a beat behind the two and, as they come into view, Loki quickly buries his head against her again.

"Thor! Loki!" Frigga shouts and comes to a halt in front of them, then gasps her hands shooting over her mouth as she sees the state of Thor's back. Their father's eyebrows raise slightly and his eye widens, but he says nothing.

"Oh, Norns." Frigga breathes and rushes over and presses her hand against Thor's back receiving a hiss and Frigga's hand twitches, but she leaves it there. Heimdall moves and Eir takes his place dumping a bag on the ground and quickly scrambling her fingers up to rest on the more severe of the wounds lining along Thor's shoulder blades.

Eir's shakes her head back and forth several times eyes wide. Her gaze lifts, "What. Happened?"

Hela's can feel her expression darken, her eyebrows lowering and she releases a livid breath, but says nothing. She can't. The rage is still flowing through her veins more than her blood is. Frigga turns to Odin, eyes frantic. "Where were they!?"

"Nidavellir, my Queen." Heimdall answers a heartbeat later, his tone grim.

"Nidavellir!?" Frigga repeats, her voice sounds closer to a shriek. "What were they doing on Nidavellir?"

Eir grabs a knife from the bag and slices the dirty fabric bandages away from Thor's back and shoulders tossing it away and Hela flicks her gaze up at Fenris who is standing to the side looking very much like a lost puppy instead of the fierce wolf Hela knows her to be. She doesn't want to see the rest of the damage to Thor's back, what she did see was haunting and she doesn't think that she'll be able to stop herself from going back to Nidavellir and ripping the rest of their Realm apart.

They deserve it.

Odin shifts suddenly and rests Gungnir on the ground beside him before he in turn rests his hand on Thor's back as well, adding to the healing. Frigga's eyebrows meet in concentration and she looks up towards herself and Loki. "Are you alright?" She demands.

Loki? Yeah, no. Not that he can answer.

Is she? Beyond a few scrapes…she does a mental check. Hela scans herself for a moment. All limbs attached and she can't feel any stinging pain so...yes? "I'm fine." She says in answer, purposefully leaving out Loki in the response. Frigga returns her attention to Thor.

Nearly a minute passes before Eir grabs at both Odin and Frigga's wrists shoving them back. Her parent's mouths open to protest, likely violently but Eir lifts up her hand. "We have to stop, we're overwhelming his system with the magic—we're going to kill him now instead of help. The most I can do is add a numbing salve and wrap it. Is Loki hale?" The last question is directed towards her, not her parents, and Hela's fingers tighten around Loki's shoulders.

She can't force words off of her tongue. She opens her mouth, but silence remains. Frigga is suddenly there and it takes all within Hela to not leap backwards drawing a weapon on her because she is still running on adrenaline from the battle and Frigga rests a hand on Loki's shoulder. "Loki?" She asks softly her brows drawn together in worry. Loki attempts to bury himself further into Hela but she gently pulls him back from her and Frigga's face washes of all color immediately.

"What…?" Frigga's voice fails her and instead she sinks to her knees in front of them and gently grasps Loki's chin."Oh Norns, Odin," Frigga's voice is soft, as if speaking loudly will break something. Loki shrinks slightly at the touch and Hela rests a reassuring hand on his back. Frigga sweeps her gaze over Loki and though it lingers on the shackles.

Her father turns from where he was sitting next to Thor before he moves towards them. He stops beside Frigga and Hela watches his face carefully for the reaction. Odin's face twists with unmistakable fury for half a second, maybe less, before drawing blank again, his eyes tight. If Hela wasn't watching so closely, she would have missed it.

Frigga moves out of the way and closer to Hela as Odin kneels next to Loki, who at the presence of their father, shrinks further. Hela gives his shoulder a quick squeeze, but doesn't remove her hand. Odin stares at Loki for a second before tipping Gungnir (that Hela doesn't remember him picking up) and pressing the tip against the shackle on Loki's left wrist. Loki flinches at the contact, but Odin murmurs something and the shackles hiss before clattering against the ground.

Odin grasps them and clenches his fist before letting the silver, tattered metal fall from his palm. Loki watches it warily as he rubs his wrists which are red, raw and blistering still refusing to move away from where he's leaning against Hela. Hela doesn't move. If he seeks her comfort then by all means, Hela will not refuse him.

"Eir," Odin's voice is dangerously level, "what can be done?"

Eir finishes the bandaging before she moves towards them. Her lips press together firmly at Loki's injury but all she does is hum slightly. She grabs Loki's chin and tilts his head up slightly turning it side to side in the light. "Odin, give me the knife." She commands and Odin scrambles for it from it's position near Thor's knee and hands it to the healer.

Eir rests the knife on the ground before she grabs a bottle pouring some type of cream onto her fingers before she lifts her hands up to Loki's face, "This is going to hurt." She warns before she presses her fingers against the scabs and rubs it into Loki's skin. Her younger brother flinches heavily and his breath catches, but he doesn't make any sounds of discomfort. Frigga moves and takes Thor's hand keeping him upright. He looks more present than he has this entire time and though Hela expects him to immediately start shouting he remains quiet, watching Loki's face, his expression pained.

Eir finishes rubbing the cream against his face and Loki's eyes close and he releases a breath through his nose of relief. Numbing cream. Ah. Eir lifts the blade up towards his face, then pauses, "Keep your eyes closed, Loki." She commands and turns to Hela, "Keep his head steady." She says and Hela shifts her hands from Loki's back and shoulder to the sides of his head.

Eir lifts the dagger up and her eyes narrow with concentration before she pushes the dagger against the silver cord and flicks her wrist. The cord snaps at the pressure and Loki's head attempts to jerk but Hela's hands keep him steady. Eir's lips press together tightly before she moves to the next cord in the way of the dagger. They make steady, but slow progress and Eir only cuts Loki's lip once on accident before the threads are all snapped.

Hela sees Eir grit her teeth together before she hands the knife back to Odin and grabs at one of the cut threads and begins to pull it out of Loki's lips. Loki flinches at that and Hela forces herself to breathe normally.

In. Out. In. Out.

About a minute later, the rest of the thread is removed and gathered into a little pile near Loki's knee. Eir presses her fingers against Loki's mouth again and Hela sees the golden streams of light work through the area before the open, bleeding wounds close. Eir grabs a piece of bandaging and presses it against the wounds. The white cloth pulls back red.

"I'm going to remove the numbing and then I need you to tell me if anything still hurts." Eir says, her voice soft, before she pulls her hand back and Hela feels Loki tense again, but not as terrible as before. Hela moves her hands back and gives his shoulders a quick squeeze but Loki seems to sag against her.

"Did I remove all of the thread?" Eir asks.

Loki gives her a sharp nod, but remains quiet.

"Does it still hurt anywhere?"

Loki shakes his head.

"Good." Eir's lips thin slightly before she rests her hand against his forehead, "I don't understand," She says after another moment before she flicks her hands out and a golden-orange light spreads across Loki for a second. "He's vitals are dropping. The wound was grievous, but nothing that should kill him. Were you poisoned?"

"No." Thor answers from the side. They all swing their heads towards him, "We weren't given food or water, they had not opportunity to do so."

Eir's eyebrows twitch slightly but she turns back to Loki, "Something is wrong and—"

Hela jerks back from Loki as the realization slams into her with the force of one of Fenris's tackles:

It's her.

She is killing him.

It's not poison, or from his wounds, but her. She's still draining life and she doesn't know how to stop it.

Hela scrambles away from her sibling and drags her hands towards her chest. Her fingers are a sickening black spreading up her hands like some sort of paint or sand. Frigga and Odin's gazes zero on her. She fumbles trying to find a words to speak, but all that manages to work it's way out of her suddenly tight throat is: "My fault."

Odin's eyes flicker with surprise and he and Frigga share a look. "How?" Frigga demands.

She see's Thor's eyes make the "ah-ha" moment before they widen with slight terror. Loki watches her without blinking and she lifts up her hands as if they can somehow explain everything for her. Give clarification for this sudden power, one that she wasn't aware laid dormant until the moment she stole life from Haggard. She wants someone else to answer who actually knows the reason but if she waits, there will never be an offered one.

"I—" Her voice fails for a second, "I am stealing his life."

"How?" Odin demands. "You've always been able to sense life, but not take it by touch alone."

"The ghosts," Frigga whispers, her hands coming to rest over her mouth, "Odin, I don't—"

They all turn towards the entrance as a horse comes to a halt and a man rushes in. "Your Majesties!" He's bald, with tattoos on his forehead and dark facial hair. His attire suggests a stable hand or maybe low ranking guard.

The man comes to a complete halt as he sees the medical supplies scattered around and Loki and Thor. His jaw works slightly, but he seems content to stand there for the next twenty years without breathing but Odin has no such patience. He slams Gungnir on the ground.

"What is it, boy!? Speak!" He demands.

The man turns his attention back to Odin, "King Demor demands your presence in the throne room, a messenger came from Nidavellir. He wants to see all of you." He adds the last part after a second, "He's threatening war if you don't comply."

Frigga inhales, "Odin—"

"We can't take our children there, Frigga!" He shouts, "We are supposed to be strong leaders for our people, does this look strong to you?" He demands and waves a hand in their general direction. Hela can't muster up enough energy to be offended.

She almost killed Loki.

Oh, Norns, what if by gripping Thor when they were escaping the cells, she sentenced her younger brother to death?

What if—

"We can't deal with a war now, Odin! Our people were expecting a coronation today, this was a day of celebration. What strength are we showing them now by hiding in cowardice!? I don't want to drag our children there any more than you do, but we have to. I am not going through another war, Husband." Frigga's voice is firm and holds a slight hissing note to it. Odin backs off.

"Fine." He grits between clenched teeth, he turns to the messenger, "Tell King Demor we will be there shortly." His words are growled.

000o000

Hela watches their shadows play across the floor as they step forward. The entire throne room is utterly silent, watching them without any movement. The stillness is unnerving from the usual boisterousness of the area, but Hela can't bring herself to care properly. She keeps her hands at her sides, still, and careful to refrain from touching anyone. Loki and Thor are on her left, the younger of the pressing as close as possible to the elder without being obvious about it. Hela can feel all the eyes on the back of them and she lifts her head a little higher.

Hela's sure that they are a sight to behold. Thor, shirtless and wrapped around his middle in so many bandages it looks like he's trying to make a shirt from them. The way he is holding himself is stiff and refraining from it's usual energy and Loki is all but clutching at Thor's arm, head bowed, hair covering as much of his face as possible. The wounds are gone, but Loki still doesn't lift his head up. Their parents hold themselves upwards without any issues, although Odin's is stiff. Asgard hasn't seen them injured often. They always make a point to be strong in front of their people—now, there was no time.

King Demor is waiting at the end of the dais to the throne, Princes Johann and Gren along with Princess Tilla beside him. There's a handful of dwarfs beside the two of them looking completely edgy. Hela sees one on the far left stiffen as he makes eye contact with her, likely the messenger. His fear shouldn't be as satisfying as it is. They pass the dwarfs, but Odin doesn't take a seat at Hliðskjálf, instead he turns at the foot of it and stares at the gathered people then King Demor.

All gathered for a coronation that isn't going to happen today.

Odin seems to visibly sharpen at the sight of Demor and silence lasts for a full fifteen seconds before Odin says, lowly: "You make a bold move, remaining in Asgard after your attack on it." His voice is low, dark, and quiet.

Hela presses her lips together and Demor glances at Odin for a moment, he doesn't look worried. But, oh, how he should be.

Demor smiles, showing off his blackened teeth, "I have done nothing wrong, Your Majesty." The tone is mocking and Hela's eyes narrow.

"You are the one at fault here, Demor." Odin snarls.

Demor tilts his head as if considering the words, and looks beyond Odin towards Thor and Loki. A surge of protectiveness washes through Hela and she sees Loki shrink in a very slight movement towards Thor. Thor's fist clench and he makes no move to stop Loki from hiding behind him, in fact seems to agree with the action.

Demor's lips curve upwards in a smile, apparently catching the same movement and he eyes something for a long second. "Aren't we all just whipping around with happiness, though?" Demor asks and Hela sees Thor stiffen at the offhand comment to his back before Demor stares at Loki directly his lips curving down. "I do apologize that the stitching didn't stay in, he is impossible to get to shut up, dear me." Demor says and Hela feels the power in her chest claw for vengeance jerking around in effort to be freed. Hela shoves at it desperately and sees Thor rest his hands on Loki's shoulders that the younger, for once, does not shake it off.

Odin inhales sharply as Frigga's eyes tighten. "You would dare—!" Odin stares to shout but Demor cuts him off.

"Yes, I would. I have not demanded your audience to apologize for wrongdoings and fall at your feet begging your forgiveness," Demor says and Odin clenches at Gungnir tightly. Hela's tongue feels tight and dry yet glued to her mouth all the same. Then what did hedemand it for?

"What brings you, then?" Frigga asks softly. There is an unconstrained fury in her voice. Her outward calm is a barely contained illusion.

Demor's humor drops, abruptly, and he raises his hand accusingly towards Hela. "Her. I come for her."

Her? 

Hela's breath catches slightly and she clenches her fists, "We had no deal." She says, firmly, darkly as if saying it aloud with more force will make it true. He broke his deal before Hela even heard of it. Her parents shoot her a confused look but Demor lets out a low laugh.

"Oh that's funny, Darling, that—you still thinking I'm on that. Why would I drag a killing machine into my kingdom again, hmm?" Demor asks with fake cheeriness, but doesn't give anyone the chance to answer. "She killed nearly everyone in my palace and half of our capital. The numbers are hundreds, the destruction is intense, even now as we speak I am told my capital burns. I am here to claim her as slave for punishment of her attempted genocide to my people."

Hela feels the remaining color drain from her face. She didn't…There wasn't that many, maybe a hundred she killed with her blades, yes, but she never touched anyone beyond those who opposed her in the capital. She wouldn't...why would…?

Yet somewhere she knows this is true. She didn't try to contain this life-draining power. She only knew of its capabilities to find the living before, now she is taking life without trying. She…

Oh, Norns, she killed all of the...

Why should you care? A snide voice asks at the back of her head, look at what they have done to your brothers—you swore to protect them. This is their fault, not yours. You didn't know.

But she should have.

The silence is in the room suddenly feels suffocating and Hela forces out an exhales as Odin turns, very slowly, to look back at her. His eye locks with hers and he grips at Gungnir for a moment, "Hela," his voice is quiet, too quiet, "is this true?"

The palace seems to hold its breath and Hela closes her eyes after a moment before answering very softly: "It is."

A loud ripple of gasps rings through the air before a ululation and outcry breaks out. Hela keeps her eyes closed for a moment trying to settle the energy clawing at her stomach. The voices grow louder until it is nearly impossible to hear anything. Hela rips her eyes open as Gungnir slams against the ground silencing everyone.

Odin turns to her, eye narrowed in rage. "How could you be so stupid!?" He shouts. Stupid? She was attempting to rescue her brothers, she and Odin have drowned realms in blood and tears. This was nothing compared to that.

"Ah, now we're seeing the same page." Demor says and Odin spins hand jerking out towards him with a growling noise. 

"Silence!" Odin turns back to her, eye narrowed dangerously, "What were you thinking!? We're not at war with these people, daughter, we never were."

"I know that." Hela hisses.

"You done little to prove such!" Odin snaps. "I can't believe what you've done! You slaughtered a race, daughter," His eye sweeps over her and he shakes it in disgust, "This is to be my legacy? A woman who cannot control her lust for death?"

Lust for—? She never wanted it. It just happened.

And who is he to judge her? He claims to know the difference between life and death, but she grew up in chaos of war that he started. She is only the way that she is because she knows no other.

A dry laugh escapes her, "Legacy? You already wrote yourself one of pain and suffering, what have I to add to it?."

Odin's expression of rage thickens, "You know nothing but the art of the kill. How can I put your uncontrollable arrogance on the throne? No, you were never fit for it."

Something inside her gives a hollow snap.

Hela takes a step towards her father letting out another dry laugh, but it sounds deranged as it falls from her lips, "I am only following in my predecessors footsteps, my King."

Odin's jaw clicks slightly and Hela sees her stepmother's eyes widen considerably to the side of them. His grip on Gungnir is tight and looks painful, he gives a shake of his head. "You were never meant for more than a King's Executioner."

Never meant for!?

Any reign she had on her temper before is lost and she feels the power clawing at her stomach more desperately, begging for release. Hela's lips curve up in a thin smile and she lets out a laugh under her breath. "An executioner?" She repeats, "Like you?"

"I am your king—"

"No!" The word tears from her throat in a hysterically high note,stopping him mid sentence. "You are a liar and a thief!" She hisses, she exhales sharply before sneering: "You stole the freedom of the Nine Realms, drowned cities in blood and tears, fabricated about where the Tesseract ended up, lied about Loki's birth—and for what? Lost political purposes? You sentenced him to death the day you stole him from Jotunheim, Father, are you proud? You must be. Your fathering skills have always been something to admire."

Hela's rage doesn't flatten out in realization of what she said until Loki says very softly behind her in a deathly silent whisper: "...What?"

All her anger drains immediately and she gyrates towards where her younger brothers are standing, Thor with wide eyes and Loki severely pale, his eyes wide. It's the first word that Hela has heard him speak since before they got the thread off. "I—" Hela tries, but her voice fails her. Oh, Norns, Norns, Norns, Norns, Norns. 

What did she just do?

They haven't managed to convince the public of the Jotunn's innocence, how they aren't all monsters. Hela doesn't think that Odin's really been trying anymore. It irritates her, but the wide-eyed, betrayed look of her younger brother makes her wish she'd tried harder to get their father to change Asgard's ways.

There didn't seem to be any rush, her father assured her Loki would know when he was old enough to understand that the Jotunn's aren't heartless monstrous beasts that feast on blood and murder children.

They've had very little success.

Loki peels away from Thor's grip, who doesn't fight him, and turns to their father, his green eyes are wide and shocked, other emotions raging within in them. To many to count. "Father," He says, his voice is a whisper, but the throne room is so silent she's fairly certain everyone in the hall can hear it. "Does she speak the truth?"

Odin's lips press together, but he refuses to answer. Hela's tongue doesn't want to move from it's position frozen to the top of her mouth.

Oh Norns, why did she--?

Idiot, idiot, idiot!

The silence is choking and Loki breaths escape him audibly before he raises to his full height, seeming to unhinge from his shock to anger, "TELL ME!"

"It is!" Odin snaps, whirring to face him. "It is the truth!"

Whatever anger Loki dragged up disappears and he deflates visibly, "I'm a—you—I—" Breath escapes his lips instead of words and Loki's lips part slightly before he releases a ragged breath and lifts his hand snapping his fingers. His thin frame shimmers from view in a stream of blue light as the teleportation spell drags him elsewhere.

"Loki!" Frigga says, but he's long gone. She turns to Thor and the two share some sort of silent communication before Frigga grabs his arm and lifts her hand snapping her fingers. The two disappear as well and Odin seethes quietly.

Demor's smile stretches wider, "Familial problems, dear Odin?"

Odin growls in his direction and lifts hand, "You are not unguilty either, oh king."

"Guilty?" Demor repeats, "That, my friend, is where you are wrong. am innocent, I did what I believed was right and if others had to suffer for it, so be it. You know that way as well as I."

"It is not your place to cast judgement on me! Get out of my sight, my palace, and my realm or face the wrath of Asgard."

Demor's smile seems to falter slightly, "I will have her blood or her enslavement. You cannot keep that from me, Odin. I have been wronged more unjustly than you." Demor swings around his cape billowing behind him before stomping towards the exit. Demor's children follow after along with the small guard they had and a man that Hela didn't see earlier that day.

Day?

It feels like much longer.

"The coronation is postponed, return to your homes. Leave!" Odin shouts to the remaining Aesir before he grabs Hela's arm and jerks her forwards. She feels the teleportation spell tear through her like white-hot agony at Odin's rushing and she staggers forward as he releases her, shoving her arm forward slightly.

Her room. They are in her room.

Her upper body rocks slightly from the severity of the near throw and she straightens turning to look at him. "Father—"

"You ignorant child! You've ruined everything!" Odin yells and breathes in heavily.

"Father—" She tries again, but Odin stops his angered pacing with a finger raised towards her.

He growls in her direction and Hela straightens, snapping her jaw shut. "Demor is screaming for your blood and I'm in half my mind to just let him be on with it." Odin growls under his breath, "Loki wasn't supposed to know," he says, a little louder, "until later. You have compromised the peace between our worlds."

"Would you have rather I left them there?" Hela demands, equally furious. She feels drained, though, like every emotion is an exhaustion that isn't worth it anymore.

"Of course not!" Odin snaps, "You should have told me, we could worked out an agreement. I cannot believe that you—"

Hela spins on him in frustration opening her mouth to say something, but as she turns a green and black energy sweeps across the ground clawing up the walls and reaching towards the ceiling. Fabric rips at the force and wood groans the stone beneath her feet seeming to tremble. Death. Hela lifts up her hands staring at them with horror.

What has she become?

Odin, top, stares at them for a moment. His eyes seem to come to a conclusion because a moment later, he grabs at her wrists and presses Gungnir against them. Hela remains still, unsure of what's happening before whatever it is that he did races through her and Hela feels her energy drop. "What did you do?" She demands and Odin pulls his hands back staring at her wrists now baring thin metal bracelets.

"It is a containment field, it will restrict it from leaving you." Odin explains, his voice has dropped a little of its heat, but not much "You are too dangerous to be in public right now—or for your brothers. You nearly killed them today. You are not permitted to leave this room until I say so."

What!?

Hela releases a breath heavily, "You can't trap me here!" She shouts but Odin turns on his heel and storms from the room without another word slamming the door. Hela feels the surge of magic wash over her and the room, but she rushes towards it anyway and slams her fists against the wood. It doesn't break and rebounds against her, sending an unpleasant shock up her wrists. "If this is what it's come to then just disown me and be done with it!" Hela screams. She slams her hands again trying to overwhelm the spell with sole power. The green energy pours around her hands and meets the invisible wall but it doesn't deter. "Thor was always your backup!" She rages, "You never wanted a daughter anyway!"

The doors don't open and Hela hears his footsteps start to move away.

"Father!" Hela shouts but all the energy drains from her suddenly and Hela sinks down beside the door. She...

He…

Oh Norns, what has she done? 

What has she become? Her hand curls up above her head and she presses a hand to her mouth. Her eyes squeeze shut and she forces a breath but it comes out ragged. She can't stop the first tear or the second and descends into the sobs, pressing her hand further against her mouth to quiet them.

But nothing can silence the hopelessness inside that swallows her.


"My "V" is for vendetta, 

Thought that I'd feel better, 

But now I've got a bellyache."

-Billie Eilish, "Bellyache" 


 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Hela! Queen Of Asgard Part III

The dull ache from clutching the pieces so tightly she is only numb to now. It used to make her palms raw and her fists sore in a way she had never witnessed before, the skin is still tender from where it's been rubbed against the pieces over and over again, but she no longer feels it. Perhaps most people would take that as a clear sign of how stressful this match has been, but to her, it is only a sign of how long the game has drawn on for.

"I cannot take back the lives I have stolen, nor the sorrow I have caused, so please let me right this wrong. Take my life if it will recompense what I have done."

She waited for days in the broken room, surrounded by bits of wood and broken fabric that would never return to a former glory. It was corrupted, tattered, dead. So very, very dead. The bands are broken and she is free, but the skill is still raw to her. She will learn to control it, she knows that she can, she does not doubt this.

But how many will have to suffer until she does?

She will not slaughter another city solely because she does not understand this magic.

She will learn. She promised her opponent that she would; and if she loses this game, it won't matter. He'll have her head instead of her promise. It is only fair, justice, she supposes, but at least he may know that she died with an ache in her soul for the wrong she committed and a longing to fix what happened.

She has not the Time Stone, and she can't bring anyone back from the dead. Not even the Eternal Flame can-only activate their corpses and the scattered remains of what they once were. She is powerless against this foe that is her own messy abilities.

General Ullr is staring at her with a fierce protectiveness that he will not be able to carry out. Battle will not win this fight, none of the Berserker's will assist this situation. She wants to turn and offer him reassurance, but she can't take her eyes off of the board. She has been contemplating this move for some time; as she has every move this entire game. She can't risk not doing so.

She can feel the eyes of her family on her back and knows that her brother's are watching her tense shoulders carefully, they have been through more this past month than she would ever wish on anyone, but they have pushed through it. Their family is stronger because of this. They will perhaps have a stronger bond than before, something that isn't surrounded by lies and deception, the cold hard but welcomed truth.

If she plays the game right, if she continues to survive this match.

Hela exhales through her teeth, and pushes the knight forward across the chessboard towards King Demor's awaiting pieces.

000o000

Five days previously: 

Hela must be so proud, because he's finally discovered the answer to her question, "what is wrong with you?". Everything; everything is. An Aesir.

Lies.

Prince of Asgard, sibling, son of Odin.

Lies.

It all makes sense now. Everything makes sense.

A horrific click in his head that he wishes he didn't discover; a terrible twist of lies that was blended well enough that he never had a reason to doubt it. So fitting, it is, that a proclaimed sovereign of lies was raised in it. All lies. Everything was lies. It's why everyone hated him, why there was always scorn, why he couldn't do anything right (how could he with what he is).

He is no more than the monster that parents tell their children about at night. Did they ever plan on telling him, or was he to live in the fantasy of well of well threaded web of lies for the rest of his life? What was the purpose of the lies, anyway? Odin wouldn't have taken him out of the goodness of his heart; he is a tool, for whatever reason.

Some part of him clings desperately to a hope that it was all some sort of elaborate joke and he has yet to discover the punchline. A fool's hope, but the only one he clings to.

Loki exhales forcefully through his nose and raises his hands up fingers outstretched to wrap around the object in front of him. He hasn't been in the Treasury Room since the mess with Sif and Thor's other idiotic friends what feels like a lifetime ago. Fandral had grabbed the Casket from off the petals and immediately burned his fingers and Loki had stopped him from trying again, he'd grabbed the Casket and the Destroyer had immediately taken effect. Loki never thought twice about the incident. Until now. He'd never been burned by the Casket.

Loki's forces out a ragged breath, he can't get enough air, his mouth may be free but his lungs are being crushed inside his ribcage. Loki's fingers wrap around the Casket, his fingers are still dirty from Nidavellir covered in his own and Thor's blood. It doesn't matter, Loki can see the tips of his fingers turning a deep blue, his breath catches and he squeezes his eyes shut. He can feel the glamour (it's not glamour it's his skin being ripped away forcefully like a spell being ripped out of him, a shapeshift, not glamour) being peeled away from his skin slowly, sliding up from his hands towards his face and sinking towards his toes.

He doesn't want to open his eyes, he doesn't want to see the horrid blue across his skin. He doesn't want this legacy!

Prince Rippen released the Frozen Bite into Asgard and killed thousands, making over half the population ill including Hela.

Laufey attempted subjugation on Midgard and nearly killed their entire civilization dwindling their population to mere hundreds and set them on a winter that they still have icebergs from.

Jotunheim's conquering didn't begin there, they'd been attempting to claim all the realms with just as much force as Asgard which forced Odin to pull Hela into war at Midgardian fourteen. The legends of their brutality in war are gruesome (freezing entire civilizations and crushing the ice, throwing winter onto others and freezing their crops until they agreed, and much more) and the most horrific part was that no one could ever discover why they did it. Most assume that it was simply in their nature to want to murder others, others say it was for fun. And that is what he is.

A monster by birth and a known source for chaos by choice. He's already one of them. How long before his desire for blood rises? How long does he have before he turns into a murderer? How does he fight what is in him?

Loki's eyes tear open and he stares down at his fingers, the blue spreads across his arms, unnaturally dark where the bruises from shackles are but still blue. His heart leaps to his throat, beating rapidly with his breaths. His lips ache from the treatment but he can't stop the breath from slipping past it.

Monstermonstermonstermonstermonster-

"Loki, stop!" Loki's fingers release the Casket of their own accord and he spins, startled, ripping his eyes open. He should have sensed someone behind him, his magic is fine-tuned enough for that now, he should have-

Frigga stands on the top of the stairs, her eyes wide, unblinking Thor beside her looking ready to promptly face-plant from exhaustion and pain. Both are breathing heavily. They must have been running. He knows his true skin is showing, the horrid blue the hideous red in his eye-

Frigga doesn't look horrified, but she must be. Has she seen his true skin or has she contented herself with pretending that his heritage isn't from the Frost Giants?

Thor, beside her, a person who Loki knows wears his heart on his sleeve, has a completely blank expression. Beyond the slight widening of skin around his eyes, there is nothing else that portrays the horror he's certain the elder is experiencing.

'I'll hunt the monsters down and slay them all.'

Loki lifts his hand up watching the blue move away from the tips of his hands, revealing the pale near-white. A full shapeshift, one that should be impossible for someone his age according the books on sorcery he's read, one that should have killed him if he's been doing it since he was a child. Yet here he stands. Loki lifts his gaze to Frigga whose expression is less open, less raw. More composed, controlled, hidden. It aggravates him. He doesn't want her to hide them, he wants her to scream at him, yell the words he already knows to be true-he just wants someone to tell him the truth for once! Is that so wrong!?

"Loki." Frigga says, her voice is softer, less strained, relieved. Relieved of what? The fact that she doesn't have to look at his hideous skin again? That he released the Casket? What!?

She takes a step forward and Loki takes one back. He doesn't want her to touch him, he's dangerous, doesn't she get that!? It's said that the touch of a Frost Giant can burn the flesh down to bone from a simple graze. Frigga's eyes betray hurt but she takes several more steps forward, Loki backs up until his spine hits the Casket's pedestal. Thor hasn't moved from his spot at the top of the stairs, if Loki didn't know better he wouldn't think that Thor was even breathing.

Frigga stops her advance and instead squeezes her eyes shut, "My son," you speak the title so easily but how it must burn your tongue to say it, "you were never supposed to learn like this." She opens her eyes again and the pale blue settles on him.

Was he ever? They could have just told him the truth from the beginning why didn't they? He's always been an outcast, the weird one, it would have been nice to at least know why before now.

A low laugh bubbles in this throat, it comes out more as the beginnings of a hiccuped sob. He forces it down and sees Frigga's eyebrows lower, "Loki, you are my son."

Liar.

Loki shakes his head, "What more than that?"

"What more matters?" Frigga demands, it sounds more like a desperate plea. Her expression is drawn together tightly, eyebrows meeting eyes glimmering with unshed tears. Loki doesn't want to be the purpose behind them.

"Matters?" Loki repeats, his voice is soft, level, dangerously calm. "Hela mentioned political purposes, that apparently matters."

Frigga releases a breath closing her eyes and brings her hands up, picking at her left palm for a moment, a nervous habit Loki gained from her. Loki forces his breath out and when she doesn't speak he adds, "Why did he take me? You know as well as I it wasn't out of kindness. He was knee deep in Jotunn-blood at that point, it wouldn't have mattered if I was left behind."

"Your guess is as good as mine," Frigga whispers softly before the words begin to pour out of her mouth rapidly, apparently believing that by speaking as quickly as possible will make it easier, "I don't know exactly why he took you, Loki, but I have made assumptions. Peace between our realms has always been strained and I imagine that your father planned on having you take over Jotunheim-you aren't just any Frost Giant Loki, you were Laufey's son. Abandoned, Odin had told me and left to die. But those plans-whatever they are-no longer matter, you're my son Loki, I love you so much."

Laufey's son. Not Odin's, not even Frigga's. Laufey. "I...I don't...what..."

Frigga takes another step forward, arms length away at last and she stares at him desperately. "Loki, we didn't tell you because we never wanted you to feel different. We had planned to explain when you were older, we did, but we didn't want word of it getting to the city-you know how deeply Asgard's rage is for Jotunheim-to keep you safe. We wanted you to be able to grow without the shadow of this over your head."

Loki is quiet a moment before managing to stuff the next question out of his throat: "And Hela? Why was she to learn when I couldn't?"

"She was there, after the attack."

Loki is quiet for nearly a minute and the silence seems to physically pain Frigga because a crease stretches on her forehead and her fingers scratch harder at her palm. His thoughts spin to fast for him to make sense of but the information sticks and clings to other areas happily, filling in gaps and answering a dozen questions raising a thousand more. Soft and toneless Loki says: "I don't understand: you hid my true heritage from me, raised Thor and Hela up in shadows I could never hope to overcome not bothering to explain why I was different, prepared me for a crown on another Realm that I don't know anything about or want, hid what I am, in an effort to protect me?"

Loki stares up at her expectantly and Frigga seems to hesitate and her mouth opens then closes and opens again before she finally settles on, softly: "Yes, we did."

Loki's lips part slightly and he feels his face draw vacant. "Mother," He says, his voice louder, slower, carefully even, "I didn't think you to be so incredibly stupid."

Frigga rears back physically, her expression washing over with shock and hurt but Loki stuffs it to the side. Cold anger is digging in his stomach and he can feel it leaking through his veins like poison. Both of them are quiet and Frigga's hands come up to cover her mouth. He loves his mother, he truly does but it's painfully obvious to him now that she trusts to blindly in his father. (His father who is supposed to make no mistakes who for everything he does there is a purpose, a man who lied to him for years, what purpose was there at that?)

Loki's fingers curl and he digs his fingernails into the skin of his palms. "I--" Frigga finds her voice again, "We thought--"

Something in him snaps, not violently or aggressively more like a cutting of a thread that sends him tumbling into a pool of rage he never learned to swim through.

"Thought!?" Loki snarls, "What thinking did you have, Mother!? You didn't think! Why would you? I'm not yours, I'm Laufey's. In a few more years I wouldn't have even been your problem anymore, wouldn't I have? You've simply been buttering me up before shipping me off to play your little perfect puppet on Jotunheim, taking control of their realm and causing another intergalactic war again! It's brilliant, Mother, truly brilliant!"

Loki's breaths escape him raggedly and he can see his hands shaking and he forces a shuddering breath. Frigga's face has paled considerably and she looks far closer to crying than she did before, eyes moist and shiny.

Thor is suddenly beside her and Loki forces himself not to jump. He'd forgotten the elder was in the room, honestly. Thor grabs Frigga's arm, likely in attempt of comfort and his steely glare meets Loki's wild gaze. "Enough, Loki." He says, coldly. His eyes are hard and a mirthless laugh escapes Loki's lips at the sight, one all to familiar now.

"Enough!?" Loki repeats, the words slipping from his tongue in a low snarl. A sick smile spreads up his lips, baring teeth, "Enough!? I'm just getting started."

"Know your place, Brother." Thor hisses.

"I'm not your brother," Loki says the words hurt more when they roll of his tongue, "I never was."

Thor's eyes darken, "Have you heard nothing of what Mother said--"

"Have you heard anything of what have?" Loki sibilates, "Have you ever? Why do you think we're in this mess, Thor? Me? Again? Yes, let me take all the blame for the perfect middle child everyone loves again and again. We're here, you simpleton, because you wrangled me into going into Nidavellir--I got my lips sewn shut for your stupidity!" Loki jerks a hand towards his face and quietly relishes the way that Thor's eyes leap with guilt for a second. It dissipates just as quickly.

"You cut off Sif's hair--"

"This was never about her stupid hair!" Loki yells, "Don't you get it!? No matter what I do or what I try I'm always going to be a savage beast."

"Loki that isn't true--" Thor starts as Frigga says: "Loki, please--"

Shapeshifting is something that comes easily to him, it always has and at least he knows why now: he's been doing it since he was born. Loki shifts into his true form the blue spreading across his skin and towards his face. Thor recoils physically from the sight his expression twisting into something Loki doesn't recognize and can't place before he spins on his heel and bolts from the Treasury Room. Can't even stand to look at the monster. Loki refuses to look at Frigga's face, he knows the same expression is plastered onto her kind features and now she's furious at him for yelling at her and then she'll bolt as well--

Frigga's arms wrap around him suddenly, tightly and Loki's spine goes rigid in shock.

Hugging.

She's...why in the Nine Realms is she hugging him?

Loki squirms slightly in her grip, but Frigga's grip refuses to lessen, if anything it grows stronger. Why won't she stop? Doesn't she know that if she holds him she's going to get hurt--why does it matter to her anyway, he's a…

"Loki, please." Frigga begs, her voice is thick and tear filled. He did that. He is the reason she is crying. Loki switches forms by instinct to protect her and Frigga's grip only tightens, she's crying openly and Loki hates it. He doesn't want to be the source of her pain.

"Mother--" Loki's voice is strangled and Frigga's hand comes up to the back of his head and her fingers tangle into his scalp. She presses him close to her, her grip tight and refusing to loosen. Loki feels himself fall into her hold as the tears that he'd refused to shed for the last week of fright and helplessness escape him. The sob tangles in his throat at first before escaping and all the fight escapes him. Frigga guides him to the floor and Loki grabs at her returning the hug with desperation.

Loki doesn't know how long they stay like that, crying, but eventually the sobs quiet and the tears run dry. Loki ends up curled in a tight ball, his head on Frigga's lap her fingers tracing through his dark tangles of hair. Every part of him aches and his eyelids feel well-worn and dry, but he has little desire to move.

Or do anything but remain like this for the rest of eternity.

Frigga's hand traces gentle circles into his scalp and beyond the sound of them breathing, there is little noise. Loki doesn't mind, the silence is comforting but the guilt is gnawing at him.

"I'm sorry," He mutters, his voice sounds croaked and like he gained a rather bad cold or had recently got his windpipe crushed.

Frigga's hand doesn't stop the rotations, "I am not angry," She assures, always understanding, sometimes Loki wishes that she would lose her temper and yell back at him. It would make him feel less nasty on the inside.

"You should be." He says quietly.

"No," Frigga protests, "you are hurting...and the words you spoke are not entirely untrue," she lifts up her other hand to stop him as he rolls his head back slightly to look at her, lips parting to form protest. "We were fools to keep this from you. I disagreed with your father's choice, but I never demanded answers as to why he was withholding the information. You have a right to be angry, Loki, I do not fault you for it. I promise that it wasn't kept from you for cruel purposes--I...I am sorry." She says.

He should feel glad about the apology, and he's fairly certain that somewhere, he is, but he's too exhausted to feel much of anything right now. The anger has drained the last bit of his energy leaving nothing but a shallow shell in its place.

He just wants to sleep.

Sleep and sleep and sleep.

He doesn't have to deal with this if he's sleeping.

He doesn't have to deal with the anger that is still threatening to explode in a dangerous manner if he's sleeping. He doesn't have to deal with the aftermath of Nidavellir. Maybe tomorrow he'll feel something, but right now he can't.

"You are our son, Loki and we your family, you must know that." Frigga insists a moment later.

Does he?

Oh gosh, he has no desire to contemplate this. He doesn't want to think. He just wants to be.

"Yes." Loki answers, it's a lie, because he doesn't know, but he can't muster enough energy to feel guilt. He doesn't like to lie to his mother, bending words around her has always felt wrong somehow.

"You are exhausted." His mother notes a moment later. Yes, fantastic deduction. Loki presses his lips together and gives a slight nod into her leg. Frigga hums under her breath before she gently lifts up his head, he makes a mewl of protest against the notion. "Let's get you to bed," she says and Loki forces himself to sit up. It's like he's carrying the weight of a world on his shoulders for how heavy everything feels.

Loki grinds his teeth together and Frigga assists him to his feet. She tightens her grip around him for a moment before lifting up her hands. The teleportation spell drags them both upwards and Loki feels his feet hit solid ground a moment later and he stumbles. He's dizzy, now. When was the last time he ate something? Days ago at least. He likely hasn't had any water since then either and that sounds strongly like a problem to deal with tomorrow.

Loki pulls his eyelids apart and sees that he's in his room and his mother is dragging him towards his bed. He didn't realize how exhausted he was until now. Loki all but collapses onto the mattress and Frigga's finger taps at his shoulder. He looks up at her, lifting an inquiring eyebrow. What?

"Shoes, off," She commands. Loki mentally groans and forces himself into a sitting position before clumsily reaching for his boot buckles and tugging the leather off. He repeats the process on his other foot before swinging his feet into the tangled blankets and happily begins to burrow himself into it when Frigga holds out a glass of water towards him. Loki makes an unhappy protesting face to it and Frigga's lips twist into a ghost of a smile.

"Drink it and I'll leave you alone, I promise." She says. Loki takes the glass from her hand and lifts it to his lips. He stuffs down the panic at having something at such close proximity to his lips to a deep pit and hopes it remains there. He drains the water in one swallow and hands the glass back to her before collapsing onto the bed.

"Loki," Frigga asks, her voice sound slightly distant now.

"Mmm?" Sleeeeep.

"Promise me you won't do anything rash."

"Pr'mise." He assures. Sleeeep. His mind reminds. Sleeeeeeeeep.

Frigga's hand runs through his hair again before she presses a kiss to his forehead and he hears her start to move towards the door but is asleep before she exits.

000o000

King Demor's silence is almost maddening. She wishes he would show more emotion, but his face is carefully placed together in one of the best poker faces she has seen to date. His eyes hold a slight frustration, so she thinks she has flustered some of his plans but she doesn't know.

She needs to know. It is not just her life riding on this.

The queen may fall but the king still needs protecting. She won't let Asgard fall, it is her people, her planet. She needs to work harder, she has to do better.

She can't focus. She's exhausted. Wake up.

King Demor watches her face for a moment and she forces the raw panic she's sure is playing across her features to cool into a blank mask. The corner of his lip twitches slightly before he pushes his castle at her knight and the piece is removed from the board.

Hela squeezes her eyes shut.

The game is not over yet, but she is losing.

000o000

The day of, morning: 

"Abee, do you like the green-men?"

"Hmm?"

"You know," Hela insists wrapping her fingers together and tilts her head to look at Odin with wide eyes. The hillside they're laying on is a large one overlooking the city in the process of being rebuilt from a recent attack on it. The Frost Giants, again, they never leave them alone. Mother was frightened and hid her with the palace cooks. Hela didn't think she was going to come back, it made her scared and she cried lots. Father was away, as always, and Mother led the counterattack. The green-men comforted her, though, after she ran away from the cook because she kept trying to assure her it was going to be okay. It didn't feel like it, so Hela ran away until she was by herself. Then the green-men came and made her feel better. "The green men, Abee, the ones who wander around the halls in the palace?"

Her father turns on his side to look at her dark brown hair falling over his shoulders. His eyes are curious as well as slightly concerned.

Hela turns on her side to look at properly.

The soft starlight shining down on them makes the shadows on his face more focus-pointed. Hela smiles at him happily. Her father is always running away to some war or another and she's just glad he took a moment from the business to take her out here. They rarely play together anymore, they aren't right now, but that's okay.

"I haven't seen any green-men." Her father says after a moment and Hela feels her eyebrows raise in surprise. How? They are everywhere, they're nice to her though, sometimes when she's lonely and by herself she can play with them.

"Truly? They are really everywhere, Abee." She says before flopping onto her back again and staring up at the stars once more. "I like the green-men. They're nice sometimes."

"Are they not nice others?" Her father asks after a moment, seeming hesitant.

"No, they're always nice." Hela says and sighs contently.

"Hmm, that's good." Odin says after a moment and Hela feels his eyes are her.

"Do you have a favorite star? I asked Heimdall and he said that there's to many to count--I agree with that. I could never pick a favorite star, I wouldn't want to make any of the others feel bad. I'm sure that there are other people who like them though, so that's okay. Do you?"

Hela turns her hair to stare her short dark hair falling in front of her eye. Odin gives a soft smile, (he doesn't smile as much as he used to anymore. And he never really smiled that she remembers anyway) and plucks the hair from her face tossing it to the side. Hela gives a wide grin at the action before taking the strand back and sticking it in her mouth.

Her father laughs now, a true proper one that makes his eyes light up and age look less so. He grasps the hair from her mouth and Hela giggles. "Abee!" She whines before reaching out her hand in demanding. Odin takes it and gives it a quick squeeze.

"I don't think I have a favorite star either." Odin says after a moment.

Hela nods encouragingly, "That's okay, there's so many! How could anyone choose one?"

"True." Odin agrees, "Do you see these…'Green-Men' often?"

"Yes!" Hela answers, enthusiastically. She turns and grabs the flower that she picked a few hours previous and frowns as she sees that it's wilted and the petals are brittle. She's seen Mother pick the flowers and they last for days sometimes weeks. "Abee, why did it die?" She demands and turns to hold the flower out to him. He squints slightly, looking surprised.

"You picked it this morn?"

"Yes! I've been carrying it around all day, why is it dead?"

Odin frowns, "I am uncertain, perhaps he wasn't ready to let go of his friends yet."

"Oh." Hela says, then nods, "That makes sense." She pauses then asks: "Do you think that I broke all their hearts?"

"No, Hela," Odin says and gives her hand another squeeze, "there is no damage that can be done that can't be healed."

Hela jerks forward with a hitched breath pinching through her lungs and chokes back a cry.

She squeezes her eyes shut, breathe, breathe, breathe. It sounds more like wheezing; the final few gasps lungs make before giving out completely. Hela uncoils from her position against the corner of the room, near the window and drags herself to her feet. Her boots are in a tattered pile in the corner from where she discarded them three (four? She lost count) days before, along with the rest of the coronation garb. She switched out for a simple pair of pants and a lose shirt yesterday as well before crying, again. Pathetic, she's an adult, she's supposed to be able to handle things without being reduced to tears over and over again.

Hela shakes her head slightly and her ratty hair shifts along her back, she should cut it soon, it's almost to the point that she can sit on it, usually she makes more of an effort to keep it shorter-easier to manage. Hela shoves the thoughts to the side and attempts to bury the memory with it. It's the first time she's slept since the coronation a few days previous and she doesn't know what dragged up that memory. It took place shortly after she caught as was recovering from Frozen Bite and the survival rates were low, Odin had assumed the worst and taken her out to one of the hills outside the city to watch the stars, perhaps for the last time. It nearly was, as well. That flower had always confused her.

It had simply died because she was carrying it around for a few hours and she never understood why.

Until now.

Her powers have been merging with her life since she was a child, but she was too stupid to miss the signs. There are other incidents such as those when she had won battles that she shouldn't have, things had died without meaning, or swords had aged far quicker than they should have.

And she had missed every single cue.

Brilliant. Just complete and utter brilliance.

Hela carefully works around discarded wood bits covering the floor till she reaches a cleaner area. Her room is an utter mess, the surge of green that had hit everything a few days ago had completely killed it (and then her throwing things in anger and frustration probably hadn't helped). Fabric aged into simple threads, wood broke and became brittle, and more. It's a disaster and she has no desire to clean it.

She threads across the length of a room and pauses when she feels something staring at her. It could just and is likely just paranoia but she hasn't seen another living Asgardian in a few days and it doesn't exactly feel like just her mind imaging things again. There's nothing else in this room so what--?

Hela turns and lets out a soft yelp of surprise and dives back dragging a discarded sword from off the ground lifting it into a fighting stance as she sees a man watching her from a few feet away. He's slightly translucent, like she can see through him and he isn't wholly solid. He's armored in a set that is older Asgardian Einherjar, likely having served in her grandfather's army several thousand years ago. His face is youthful, likely a little older than she is but not by much. Long stick straight red hair is tied back in a loose ponytail and his expression is one of slight annoyance rather than aggression.

What the--?

"Be at ease." The man says, revealing a faint accent. Vanir.

Hela doesn't lower her sword, "Who are you, how did you get in here?" She can't leave and as far as she is aware, no one can get in either. The wards are unbreakable.

The man's expression looks displeased for a moment before he sighs, "I walked in through the door, it's right over there." He flicks a finger out in the direction of the door to her room and she flicks a gaze towards it then him.

Hela raises an eyebrow, but doesn't lower the sword. "Right."

"Yes, it is. But you truly have no memory of me? I'm offended, I played your loyal army general so many times."

Army...General…?

Hela's eyes widen just a fraction and she tilts her head slightly at him, "Ullr?"

He tilts his head and gives a low bow that somehow feels mocking and sincere, "Indeed I am, Captain of the Berserkers at your service, Highness." His dark, tangled hair falls over his shoulders and hangs there as he rises up and stares her in the eyes again. She blinks several times staring at him, her sword lowering subconsciously. The Berserkers? That was the name of her grandfather, Bor's troops names before she claimed the title for her men during the severity of the war between Vanaheim and Asgard.

"But...you're dead." She protests weakly.

An eyebrow arches up at that and he shrugs, "Sort of. Anyway, I heard my lady was in distress after doing a bored wander and came to see what dragon I need to slay for you." He says and a bitter smile crosses her lips. No dragons, just stupidity. Hela sighs and drops the sword sinking to her feet and leaning back against the wall.

"No dragons," She assures, "just a severity of stupid." She says and grabs a stray piece of thread on her knee and begins to tug at it.

"Hmm," Ullr says and moves towards her before sitting down beside her. His presence is cold and despite herself a slight shiver wracks her frame. She glances at him as he watches her face, she hasn't seen him in decades at least, but barely just a glimmer at the best, she was just certain she was imagining him. And the rest of her "ghost army" as a child. Everyone insisted she was mad because of it, it used to make her so furious.

"I don't mean to intrude on your wallowing," Ullr says breaking her from her thoughts, "but it sort of looks like a sorcerer was attempting to learn a new spell that exploded in their face. Explanation?"

Not to him. Hela closes her eyes to cover her irritated expression, "Why are you here, General Ullr?" She demands.

"Just Ullr, please, and I told you, dragon to slay." Ullr answers. Hela presses her lips together.

"Well as you can see, I am not being eaten by any dragons so feel free to leave." She says and gestures towards the door, because he can. She can't. She's stuck in here until Odin decides to let her go, which could be never and she wouldn't exactly blame him.

What she did--

She killed--

Hela forces the thought to the side. Guilt will do nothing right now.

General Ullr fingers the edge of an arrow for a moment before turning to look at her, "You ever thought about using baking as a stress reliever?"

Hela's increasingly darkening thoughts halt abruptly and she turns to look at him, startled. "What?"

Ullr's lip twitches, "You know, baking, to relieve stress."

Baking? She has the ability to burn water. She isn't exactly on her way to becoming a Realm-famous chef. She gives a hesitate shake of her head, "I'm a terrible cook." She states coolly.

Ullr shrugs, "Shame, you know, when I wasn't...dead, I was a halfway decent cook myself, used to take my younger brother ice fishing and skiing."

Hela bites at her tongue for a moment, unsure how to respond and instead leaves them to an awkward silence. The realization of what he's trying to do hits her abruptly and she sighs quietly before looking at him, "Listen Ullr, I appreciate what your doing, but I--"

"Shut it." He says abruptly and his fist clenches around the arrow he's been playing with. Hela's eyebrows lift slightly in frustration and she tilts her head back.

"Ullr--"

"No, seriously, shut it." He rises to his feet and takes a few steps forward before turning to look at her, "Someone's coming."

Splendid. Maybe it's her father to drag her out for the execution from the dwarfs that is rightfully deserved and expected. Hela sighs in defeat, but doesn't move from her position and lets her hands droop against her sides.

Ullr makes a displeased sound in the back of his throat before Hela hears the approaching footsteps and then the door violently shakes with a slight haze of golden light and the wood is thrown open. Hela blinks at the sudden overpowering phosphorescent pouring in from the hallway and then squints towards the figure in the doorway which is most certainly not her father.

Why on the Norn's name is her stepmother wielding Gungnir?

"Hela?" Frigga calls into the room and takes several steps forward.

Ullr shifts back towards her as she wrestles to her exhausted feet, "Present." She sounds out towards her stepmother. Frigga's features wash with relief for a moment before she turns to look at her. There's a moment before she lets out a loud yell of surprise lifting the King's Staff in Ullr's direction. "Who is he?" She demands, sharply.

Hela's eyes widen and she turns to look at Ullr for half a second before turning to look back at her stepmother. She can...she can see him? The ghosts are always gone whenever she attempts to show them to someone or they (the person) can't see them.

"You can see him?" She asks for confirmation. 

"Yes." Frigga answers, "Who is he and how did he get in here?"

Ullr takes a step forward and offers a low bow, "General Ullr of the Berserkers, Your Majesty."

"Ullr...Berserkers…" Frigga murmurs. Her eyes widen with realization, "You're dead."

Ullr's shoulder's slump with irritation, "Yes, I am, can we move past that?"

Frigga eyes him for a moment before she apparently shakes off her paranoia and crosses the distance in the room between them and wraps her arms around Hela's frame. She tenses at the touch, clenching her fists tightly and presses her lips together to withhold her protests. She doesn't want to hurt her mother, she drains life simply by touching things she shouldn't get this hug or--

Frigga pulls back and with one hand is holding the cuffs Odin strapped to her wrists a few days ago. "You will learn to control this skill, not fear it. I refuse to let you isolate yourself simply because you don't yet understand something."

"Mother, I am dangerous." She protests and Frigga raises her , daring her to disagree. 

"So am I." Frigga says, "And your siblings, your father, and half the royal court and about seventy percent of Asgard's population." She points out.

But none of them have done as much damage as her. She killed--

Frigga grips her shoulder tightly, "I apologize for making you wait so long, your father fell into Odinsleep two days past and Asgard has been in chaos. I swear for all the fuss they're making we might as well be descending into Ragnarok."

Hela's lips twitch on a smile and she sighs and leans forward resting her head against Frigga's shoulder. She wants the comfort, but does not know if she deserves it. Her stepmother does not immediately drop dead at the touch, so Hela takes that as a good sign. Odinsleep, now? He didn't mention that he was nearing it. He usually does so they can make the proper arrangements for it and Frigga can be prepared to take up the throne for the week he is unconscious.

Frigga runs a hand through her hair gently and Hela catches a quick glimpse of Ullr intently studying the ceiling to not invade on their privacy. "How is Thor's back?" She questions softly. Her worry for her siblings has been a pulsing ache in the back of her mind for days now and the inability to see if they are okay has been driving her slightly mad.

Frigga tenses slightly, "He is fine, it scarred, but he everything is mostly healed save the deeper wounds."

Some of the knot of anxiety in her stomach lessons it's hold.

"And Loki?"

After her fail to keep the lie, how is he? She knows that she, personally, would not have taken the revelation well. Frigga's hand clutches at her hair for a second before she releases a quiet sigh.

"Managing. He hasn't spoken a word to anyone since the reveal nor has he left his room. He's spent most of these last few days sleeping and Thor has avoided him, but they're both trying to deal with the truth the best they can."

Avoidance and sleeping is not the "best they can". She's seen Loki deal with stressful situations before, anger is a last result before utter chaos, but for the most part he takes problems head on, he's not someone to run from things. The fact that he's been sleeping doesn't indicate managing, he's shutting down. Thor's avoidance of the younger might as well indicate that Ragnarok is approaching. They've had their disagreements in the past, they argue and bicker attempt to throttle each other on occasion, but they always stand side by side in the end. Thor does not know what to do with the information so he's attempting to ignore it's existence by not talking to Loki and hope the problem solves itself. That is vastly unlike him.

And this whole situation is her fault.

Hela sighs and Frigga pulls her back to stare at her face, "You need a distraction and unfortunately the court is not very fond of you at the moment." Good. She has little motivation to deal with their levels of stupid. "I will offer an invitation to Loki to tag along but you are going to teach Thor how to use Mjolnir."

Oh. Yes. That will be a fine distraction.

000o000

Piece by piece the number of casualties on both sides grow.

She is still not dead, but she is not exactly doing well either, but she has to. She will figure this out. She is not helpless. She can play a stupid round of chess without getting utterly defeated. Maybe. She loses to Loki when she plays him sometimes and he is centuries her younger, King Demor is nearly as old as her father. He has likely had more than enough experience with this game to defeat her.

To complete and utterly destroy her.

But she will not lose.

She refuses to, and if she wins solely because of spite, so be it.

Hela picks up her pond and shoves it a few spaces forward, trapping Demor's bishop. A few more moves and it will be checkmate.

But not for her.

000o000

The day of, afternoon:

"Throw it." Hela commands and Thor looks up at her sharply, trying to keep how startled he is at the request to a minimum. This hammer is one of the most destructive weapons in the Nine Realms and she wants him to simply just throw it? He looks down at the hammer again, then returns his gaze to her face, she is serious.

"Just...onto the ground or…" He trails off. Irritation flickers strongly on his older sister's face before she leans forward and plucks the weapon from his fingertips and hurls it forward towards a tree. Thor's eyes widen and he braces for the wood splinters that are bound to shoot outwards and slice at both of them but it doesn't happen. Thor peels his eyelids apart and watches Hela's outstretched arm, keeping the hammer in place a few inches from the tree. The hammer sails back into her hand a moment later and she turns to look at him.

"Like that."

Thor takes the hammer from her grip and the weight feels familiar once more. It's hums at his touch as if welcomed back into his hand by an old friend and they have been companions from the start of their lifetimes rather than barely been in the other's presence for a week.

Thor grips the handle again and glances at the woods behind them. They are a fair distance from the city and although Loki was invited, he didn't join them. Destiny and Fenris are waiting some twenty feet behind him for the return back to the palace, but it is likely to not be for some time.

His grip on his sudden extreme lightning powers has been hard to manage and ended with more than a handful of destroyed objects on his part. He has found himself wandering in front of Loki's door to ask for advice on the magic from a trained sorcerer, and someone who actually wields magic on a daily basis--not this weak attempt at an elemental power, but has gotten cold feet and fled instead.

He doesn't know how to handle the information that blurted out on Hela's failed coronation. Loki is his sibling, Fros--Jotunn or not, they've grown up together, they've battled together and even convinced their instructor through a bit of illusionary magic (though they will both deny it to this day that it was an illusion) that Loki transformed into a snake and stabbed him after Thor picked him up to get out of a rather viciously boring lesson from an equally dull instructor. Simple and stupid things like that make it hard for Thor to accept Loki as anything else. But he saw the blue skin and the markings on his forehead and all his life he has been taught that Fros--Jotunn are the enemy. He doesn't quite know how to mash in information that they are not into his mind.

Loki is his brother, and he refuses to think of him as a monster simply because of what his heritage is. He just doesn't know how to confront Loki and explain it to him. Or perhaps he is frightened because now that Loki knows he will have changed and become the monster that he read about in textbooks as a child.

He doesn't think he could handle that well.

Hela has known their entire lives apparently and never thought of Loki differently, so why does he now? Why is he so certain that the Loki that stupidly went with him to Nidavellir and held his shaking exhausted form as he bled out for days will be different than the one that is currently hiding?

Thor is suddenly aware of Hela's gaze on him and blinks back his thoughts slight embarrassment flushing through him as he realized he partially zoned out. Throwing Mjolnir. Right.

Thor stretches his muscles and tenses them before tossing the hammer forwards. It hits the ground about fifteen feet away and skids until it hits the bottom of a tree with a loud clunk. Hela raises an unimpressed eyebrow.

"I threw it." Thor calls defensively.

"Yes, I can see that." Hela assures, "I meant throw it forward not down and summon it back to you."

"How?"

Hela pauses at the question, "There's a sort of hum in the back of your mind you'll grow more intune to as time passes, but usually you just have to reach for that and it returns to you, for now, simply thinking "Mjolnir, to me" really hard should do the trick."

Thor grits his teeth together. Alright, not a problem.

Mjolnir, to me!

The hammer does not move.

Thor holds out his hand and flexes his fingers, failure at the first attempt is to be expected, he's slain a few dragons, he can summon a stupid hammer.

Mjolnir, to me!

The hammer, once more, does not shift. Oh, Norns, he doesn't have a drop of magical blood in his body does he? 

Why can he not summon this hammer? Loki could probably do it. Actually, Thor is positive his younger sibling could, the "hum" Hela was speaking of is probably magical and Loki exhales at anything magic quickly and easily so he could have summoned the hammer sixteen times over by now.

And he has not even gotten it to move a centimeter.

Amazing.

Mjolnir, to me!

Mjolnir, to me!

Mjolnir, to me!

MJOLNIR, TO ME!

MJOLNIR, YOU STUPID HAMMER, MOVE AN INCH OR SO, WOULD YOU!?

He stops his mental yelling as he becomes aware of laughter. Laughter? He opens his eyes he'd squeezed shut for concentration and looks towards Hela as she presses the back of her hand against her mouth in a bad attempt to cover her cackles.

Embarrassment rushes through him and he puts his hands on his hips, "What is so funny?"

Hela apparently takes this as an invitation to stop hiding her laughter because she removes her hands and almost doubles over her shoulders shaking with amusement. The sound, well pleasing to him, isn't exactly a prime time for it.

Hela snickers a few more times before looking up at him, "Your face!" She exclaims between her laughter, "It looks...like...you're attempting to swallow something sharp" Hela laughs some more and presses her fingers against her mouth again, "and someone smacked you in the face with feathers you're allergic to in the process."

Thor's mouth splits into a grin at the mental image despite himself, and Hela's laughter increases in volume. Thor joins her. It has been days since he last laughed and the feeling is wonderful. Lighted, happy, free.

After another minute or so, Hela's laughter switches to just wheezes and Thor quiets turning to look back at the hammer. "Try saying it out loud." She suggests and snickers once more as Thor lifts out his hand, apparently putting his feather-concentrating-face on again subconsciously.

Thor whacks her arm and lifts a finger towards her face, "Stop it."

She snickers and he hits her again. "Stop it." 

Hela grins sheepishly and puts effort into calming her features. 

She puts a hand on his shoulder, "Sorry, sorry, try again; out loud this time."

She takes a step away from him as Thor holds out his hand and purposefully makes his face go blank to prevent more laughter from his sister. She seems slightly disappointed by this and Thor shoots her a slight glare that she smirks at before he lifts up his arm, "Mjolnir, to me."

The hammer rips itself from the ground at such speed that it's a blur and Thor's hand goes flying back and collides with his ribs. He sails backwards a few feet smacking onto his back air effectivtly pulled from his lungs.

"Thor!" Hela's voice calls through his haze of blurry vision and a loud ringing in his ears.

His sister's face is suddenly above him and then her hands are pulling his back and pressing against the damage. He hisses through his teeth and smacks her fingers away. The pain is intense, but nothing compared to what his back was a few days ago.

"Are you okay?" She demands. Thor forces a breath into his lungs before he answers, then another and slowly drags himself into a sitting position.

"Fine." He grinds out. It sounds very much like a lie and is one. Hela wisely doesn't take him seriously and she grabs Mjolnir off his chest and puts it to the side. Thor looks at her panicked face for a moment before letting his lips twitch into a slight smile.

"I need my feather face, Sister," He groans, "it helps me keep my ribs intact."

Hela rolls her eyes fondly at him before pushing him back down to the ground. "Anything broken?" She demands.

Thor debates the pulse in his side for a moment then compares it to other injuries he's had and sighs, "Definitely broken at least four and likely three others bruised."

"You should see Eir." Hela says. Yes, he should, but not until he gets the question that's been bothering him for days now out.

"Why didn't you tell us about the adoption? You knew, didn't you?" He asks. Hela goes still and her expression washes of it's worry and is instead replaced by a carefully constructed blank mask. It's the one she wears when someone asks her a question she doesn't want to answer.

"We should leave now." She states, "And get you to Eir."

Thor ignores her words, "Why was it a secret, Hela?"

"The ribs--"

"Why?"

"I don't know, so stop asking!" She shouts and jerks away from him rising to her feet and spinning so her back is to him. Thor lands on his elbow without the support from her steady hands and he shoves the pain that flares through him to the side to deal with later.

Thor holds his aching side for a moment, wheezing through his teeth before looking up at her. She has to stop avoiding the question or Thor is simply going to throw his hands up in frustration and storm off. Loki is his sibling just as much as he is her's...why is he the only person in this family that has to have the truth held back from them?

"You did know." Thor grits out, his breath sounds as strained as his body feels. He exhales sharply and shifts his position against his broken ribs staring at Hela's back. Her posture tightens slightly at his words, but she doesn't protest. Thor presses on tentatively: "You knew, but I don't think you agreed with our parent's choice."

"Agreed?" Hela repeats, "Of course I didn't agree."

Thor closes his eyes and sits back on his heels grinding his teeth together at the pain that spasms up his side, "Tell me."

Hela exhales but doesn't turn back, "Father found Loki on Jotunheim, after the battle, he is Laufey's son."

Laufey's--?

"He took him, because Loki had been abandoned and left to die. There are good men in every army, Thor, it is not always the nation that is corrupted, just the leaders. We do not teach that on Asgard." Hela's voice grows soft, "Whatever you think you may know of the Jotunn, I assure you that Loki nor all of them are monsters."

Thor pauses and then relief crashes through him, quelling all the quiet fears and worries that have been festering for days now. Loki isn't going to be a bloodthirsty villain if he talks to him, just because Loki knows now doesn't change anything.

Thor lifts out a hand to his sister, "Help?"

She grabs his arm and drags him to his feet before taking his left, injured side's arm and pulls it over her shoulder to support most of the weight and remove some of the pressure. He exhales quietly through his nose in relief.

"I think Eir is going to chain me to a bed until I can stop getting injured every few days." He remarks idly.

Hela huffs quietly, "I don't think, I know."

Eir ulitmily has mercy on him and doesn't, heals his broken and aching ribs, wraps it for support for the next few days and tells him sternly not to do anything strenuous or their father may rise from Odinsleep solely to yell at him before returning Hela and him part ways and Thor drags his feet in front of Loki's door trying to convince himself that Loki will not throw a dagger at his head if he opens it.

Even then, it wouldn't be the first time, but that was because Thor asked Loki to help him work on his reflexes so they went for about three weeks a few centuries ago where Loki would throw a dagger towards his head at random (illusions) until Thor could dodge it properly. They probably would have kept going with larger weapons, but their mother learned of their experiment and was horrified then yelled at them. They were about Midgardian nine and eleven at the time so they didn't exactly listen but toned down the extremes.

Thor raises his hand and knocks on the door.

There is no answer and Thor forces his bravery up before grabbing the handle and throws the door open, it's not locked, but Loki wards his rooms with sorcery so any unwelcome presence doesn't make it past the doorway. Thor glances around the room and his eyebrows meet in confusion before he glances towards the bed. The room is completely dark and smells faintly of vanilla, so Loki must've been using candles within the last few hours.

The bed is empty.

Where is Loki?

He would have stepped out to greet him, or yell at him by now, but there is nothing. Loki didn't meet them in the forest, but maybe he was going to join…?

Thor all but throws himself towards the balcony at the far end of the room as a loud piercing scream of jumbled words and shouts of panic catch his ear. It's not just any's, it's Loki's.

000o000

They'll look back on this and laugh, some day, she's sure of it.

It will be another one of those bizarre inside jokes that only those who were present find funny, like Thor and Loki with their stupid stabbing snake story that never ceases to make both of them smile even though she and everyone else doesn't find it funny.

Yes, this will be hilarious in the future.

Why wouldn't it be?

Oh, yes, it wouldn't be funny, if she's dead.

Her eyes flit up towards King Demor who's poker face is finally broken to give a triahpmhant smirk. "Check." He declares proudly. Hela scans the board and pleads quietly with all that is good in the universe that it is not the checkmate that she is sincerely fearing.

She scans the board.

And again.

And again.

Looking for a way out.

Perhaps there is none.

One slip up too many, she finds no exit.

000o000

Day of, night. 

Sif has to remind herself that leaving your jaw open like a fish is fairly unflattering and snaps it closed. She has seen Hela take on over half the army on a bet with Thor that she couldn't do it without getting wounded (Thor lost) and the swarm of soldiers leaping at the Crown Princess admittedly frightened her, even if it wasn't with a malicious intent. She thinks that she grabbed Hogan's hand in her worry; and he, ever her consistent older-brother-from-another-mother hadn't whined about it.

This reminds her of that moment when the swarm had lept on Hela and there had been a frightening second where the High Princess had seemed completely buried by the men before she'd retaliated.

Sif doesn't hate Loki, she and him disagree often and she is admittedly not exactly fond of him; but she doesn't hate him. She wouldn't see harm come to him if she had a choice (unless it was her giving him a good whopper on the nose on occasion) and his company at times can be welcomed. She knows that he doesn't like her, toleration at best and she knows that it's her fault. He kept offering friendship and she kept rejecting it because he was the weird sibling, the magician that was sickly all the time and he always made her feel like an idiot when he explained something then would give this, how can you not know that? look. So no, she wouldn't even consider herself and Loki colleagues, maybe the relationship of an awkward distant cousin that you're forced to see because the parents feel obligated to speak face-to-face every few years.

She has fantasized, admittedly planned out how to murder him the most effectively without detection more than once after one of his more nasty pranks or an extremely bitter conversation. She was very close to doing so after he lopped off all her hair (of which she actually finds isn't that bad--not that she'd ever tell him) but she would never act on it. She is loyal to her Realm, she wants to be a shield-maiden, she's not going to commit treason just because of the revelation that Princess Hela accidentally blurted out.

Her family was horrified at it. Disgusted, really, but Sif wasn't. Suddenly everything clicked and there was finally the "oh" moment where she realized why Loki is the way he is. She'd never really thought about why he kept getting sick, passed out if he was in the sun in the summer for to long and didn't really seem to fit into his family.

She knows that her family wasn't the other one that reacted badly.

Asgard doesn't seem to know what to do with the information. And this...this is not how. This borders on the levels of insanity.

She'd just been wandering around the grounds, thinking when she'd spotted Loki moving towards the stables, likely to go find Moa or Fenris. She hasn't seen him since the failed coronation and her feet had briefly moved in his direction to go talk to him, but she'd halted. How she wishes she'd kept going now. The mob had come out of nowhere and utterly swarmed on the prince, it had startled her, but they'd pulled weapons and she'd panicked.

She has no idea what to do, if she should assist or just remain standing here, her mouth gaping open in shock at what her people, Asgard's citizens are doing to their prince. For his credit, despite being ambushed and one person, Loki is doing relatively well against the attack. He's already knocked at least five into unconsciousness (three with sorcery and two with the blunt end of the broom he'd summoned from the stables) in the first thirty seconds and doesn't seem to be anywhere from stopping.

Loki swings a punch towards someone and spins, throwing the broom like a deadly spear at another's gut and unsheathing a dagger from some sort of pocket dimension with his left hand bringing to towards another's face, but they grip his forearm and twist it. Loki lets out an agonized hiss and the weapon slips from his grasp clattering against the ground. The others seem to jump on him then and someone punches Loki in the gut hard enough that Sif hears something snap and Loki collapses forwards only to be caught by his tormentors who promptly shove him to his knees and grip his hands someone grabbing at his hair and tugging his head up with it.

Loki grits his teeth, but remains silent, amazingly.

Oh, Norns, she cannot believe this is actually happening. It's something that pops up in horrible nightmares that you have to seek another's comfort from, not reality! Sif shifts forward slightly, so she can see Loki's face better and clenches her fists. She should do something, she knows that, but she can't get her brain and her limbs to connect.

No, she can, she's afraid to.

"Ah, no protests from the little Frost Giant?" Someone taunts and Loki despite his awkward position and obvious pain narrows his eyes. He opens his mouth to answer, but someone rips at his hairline more and Sif winces slightly, but the most Loki does is jerk and snap his jaw shut, his eyes are moist with tears of pain, but the pain doesn't escape vocally.

"C'mon, show us the monster hiding beneath the skin." Someone else prompts.

"Is it really underneath, though?"

"Careful of touching it, it could taint you." Someone else says and the group snickers as Sif feels her breath catch. She had no intention of just letting this happen, whatsoever, but she felt frozen until now. Now? Now all she feels is hot anger because the voice wasn't one she doesn't care for, that was Fandral.

Fandral the one who has been something close to a brother to her since she was in her youth, the one who taught her how to fight, the man who swore loyalty to the throne when he joined the Einherjar is attacking that which he is supposed to be protecting. Doesn't he know this is wrong!?

Loki's eyes swivel towards said Asgardian and Sif watches as his lips curve down slightly and though his eyes are wide he struggles some more with his shoulders only for the others to relent and jerk him backwards tighter. Loki's eyes close briefly, but he opens them at someone else's comment.

"You're a disgrace to our king's name--you never were much of anything, monster."

"Disgrace!"

"Beast!"

"Wretch!"

Sif's eyes widen further. What are they doing!? Move, Sif, move!

She can't.

She's frozen.

All she can do is watch.

Loki's lurches forwards slightly, but doesn't break the hold at that his hands glowing a deep red. Instead of the fear Sif would have felt at the sight of Loki's slightly deranged look the men just laugh. "Keep talking, between the lot of you, someone is bound to say something intelligent." Loki hisses. Someone smacks the side of his head and Loki's head whips to the left in her direction. Sif's eyes widen and she shrinks back hoping he didn't see her.

Someone gives a deep hiss and Sif recognizes the man after a moment. Nye, Fandral's father, is within the group. Oh, so a familial treason then, that makes it so much better. Another man (probably a little older than Hela) this one Sif doesn't know steps into the tight circle that's formed around Loki's trapped form and produces a long gleaming dagger. Sif feels her heart halt. Is he going to kill him?!

Loki too, seems to be on the same track because he leans back slightly at the man's approach. The man swings the dagger at Loki's face and a long gash produces over his left eyebrow. Loki inhales sharply that sounds wheezed, but doesn't make any other sound. The man bends on one knee so he's eye level with Loki before sighing, almost softly. "No one hears you screaming, Frost Giant, no one can."

Someone else walks out and digs into their cloak before producing a thick metallic muzzle. Sif's eyes widen in horror, but nothing like Loki's do. "What--no, no, no!" Loki pleads and starts to struggle more violently, this only rouses more laughter.

"Look at how the little runt squirms."

A surge of magic streams from his hands and hitting several people back and the laughter stops, but Loki's struggles don't. The man carrying the muzzle moves closer and Loki squirms unlike anything Sif's ever seen before. "No!" Loki begs, but it doesn't relent. "No, anything but--stop! Stop!"

Loki's eyes grow more wild and hazy, "No, please! BROTHER! HELA! ANYONE, HELP M--!" Someone grabs at Loki's lower jaw and the younger prince lets out a loud, wild, throat cutting scream of utter terror and Sif can't take it anymore. It's the type of sound someone only makes when their lungs are being ripped from their chest with little mercy.

Sif's heart leaps into her throat and her feet pound forward.

"Stop!" Sif shouts. The people turn to her and she spots Fandral almost immediately, standing to the side and his eyes widen as he sees her. She's going to knock his teeth out later, then his nose, but right now? Now she has to focus on Loki. Sif squirms through the group and comes to a halt in front of Loki's prone shaking form, but the man holding his jaw doesn't release and the one with the muzzle doesn't move. "What are you doing!?" Sif demands and the men and Sif spots some women now stare at her for a moment. It's obvious, of course what they're doing, Sif just doesn't understand why. She feels Loki's eyes on her back and she does her best to ignore it.

"Teaching him his place." Someone answers, darkly and Sif feels her blood boil.

"He is your prince!" She hisses.

"He's a Frost Giant. I won't have that thing over me--none of us will, our king has had a spy among us for years! Get out of here, Girl." Nye commands and Sif shakes her head fersily, but Fandral leaps forward and grabs her arm tugging her back.

"Come on, Sif," he commands. Anger surges through her and she curls her fist before jerking from his grip and slamming her fist into his nose. Fandral topples backwards into the mass of people, clutching at his likely broken nose and the sight of blood between his fingers pleases it more than it probably should.

She only has about three seconds to feel said pleasure before someone grabs at the top of her short hair and yanks and a cry of pain escapes her lips, but she has a sudden gratitude that her hair is shorter because it actually doesn't hurt as much as when Loki yanked on her ponytail to chop off everything.

"Get out of here, girl," The man holding her hair demands before he tosses her through a small part formed between the Asgardians. She lands with a grunt on her side, her scalp aching, but she jerks to her feet and the gap as already closed. Well, she has little to lose now. Where is the broom!?

Sif spots it between feet and her heart sinks; alright, not getting that right now.

Sif races forward as Loki's pleading grows muffled before Sif hears a click and she knows without a doubt that they managed to get the muzzle on. Her stomach sinks into her feet and she barely registers the thump behind her before a metallic object sings past her head smacking through the thinnest group of people in the circle gathered around Loki. They crumble forward or apart before Thor leaps on top of him and Sif feels relief and horror race through her.

Mjolnir, a weapon only from stories now swings back around and into Thor's outstretched hand. The group, for once, goes utterly silent. Thor steps off of one of the Asgardian's he pushed and Sif feels the hairs on her arms rise. Electricity is cackling on the handle of the hammer and along Thor's hands. Sif can see Loki now and he suddenly looks much smaller and frightened. The silence lasts for maybe two seconds before Thor says, lowly, darkly and dangerously, "Unhand my brother."

The man who Sif assumes is the leader rises to his feet and in the fading sunlight looks slightly mad. "Come now, Thor, you know that this thing has never been our prince it was simply-" Whatever the man was going to say isn't finished because Mjolnir hits him flat in the chest electricity pumping and the man goes flying backwards into one of the others holding Loki's left forearm.

Thor becomes a blur after that, he swings his hammer with such skill it was as if Thor was simply born for the weapon. The men abandon their cause quickly and release Loki who promptly collapses on the ground and wraps his arms around his head, curling his legs in. Within a minute, the last of the Asgardian's have been chased off and Thor stands in front of his younger brother, panting.

Sif takes a step forward, hesitantly, "Thor--" She starts and Thor swings around towards her, hammer raised.

"Get. Away. From. Him." Thor growls and Sif raises her hands.

"I swear I am only trying to help, Thor you have to let me-"

"HAVEN'T YOU HELPED ENOUGH!?" Thor roars and Sif's stomach sinks. She gives a loose bow and ducks her head close to her chest.

"I apologize, my prince." She murmurs before running, she doesn't stop just runs and runs and runs. She attempts to withhold her tears, attempts to not weep like a child, though she longs to and has a strong desire for her mother's comforting arms and a blanket.

So when she smacks head first into a person, she's startled. Sif takes a step back and rubs her forehead from the sudden ache and anger rushes through her as she sees who it is. Fandral stands in front of her, blood still dripping down his nose and a purplish-blue bruise in the works across his nose.

"What?" She demands harshly. She doesn't want to speak to him, she doesn't ever want to see his face again.

"I didn't want to do it, Sif." He blurts, his voice sounds strained, and she looks up at him. "I didn't want to do it, Sif," he says, more forcefully, harder, sincerely. No fibbing. "My father...he forced me into going, I didn't want to go and I had no idea how to stop it and oh Norns, Sif, I am so sorry." He presses his hands against his eyes and Sif sees his shoulders heave in a sob.

Sif forces out a breath and blinks back tears at her relief before she grabs his shoulder, she's still angry, he should have just said no, ran if he had to, warned Loki or something, but-he didn't want to and he was dragged into it.

She bites at her lip for a moment, "I'm not the one who deserves your apology." She whispers.

000o000

She has decided that she is going to learn how to play chess well when this is over. It was not checkmate, she thought it was for certain, she was positive it was, but it wasn't. By some mercy she is allowed to continue onward.

She has few pieces left, but she can remember Loki explaining the rules to her so many years ago that the piece she has are the critical ones for getting checkmate. He learned from their father and they went through a restless week of chess matches that was hard to tug them away from, then the small peaceful period had passed and Hela is fairly certain Loki hasn't played him sense. He tried to teach Thor, but the blond didn't have the patience for the game.

She doesn't have the patience for this game.

Norns she wants this over, but it is critical, it is a necessity, she cannot stop.

000o000

The day of, night

There were stories that their father used to tell them, legends of warriors who's power and might couldn't be beaten. He would weave the stories with enthusiasm and he remembers hanging onto every word. His favorites were always of the battles between Jotunheim and Asgard-the only enemies (beyond the Dark Elves) that seemed to really challenge them. Odin never said who started the feud, Thor can only remember him portraying the Frost Giants as gruesome beasts that lust for blood. He never bothered to see otherwise, Asgard often spoke of Jotunheim like a curse, an ugly stain on the Nine Realms and why was he to think any different?

He never felt a need to.

He knows that Loki didn't, either. 'The books on Jotunheim in the library are lengthy tells of battles', Loki had said, 'I, for one am not interested on just how much blood leaked out of whose nose and who gutted the other'.

Thor had laughed, clapped him on the shoulders, and shrugged, 'no matter,' he'd said, loudly, 'the only good Frost Giant is a dead, one, yes?' Loki had agreed and they'd moved on.

It feels like he's been smacked in the face hard enough for him to see stars and slide to his knees. Asgard's betrayal feels sharp and ugly, he wishes that that he didn't understand why they did it, it makes it harder to be angry. Why is their Realm so afraid of change!? Change of viewpoint, of merging with other Realms, of everything! Midgard has had more advances in them in the last few hundred years and they've barely discovered that they have another continent.

Thor manages to regain some semblance of a cool head when Sif takes off and he turns looking at Loki's prone form laying on the ground. All the fight sinks from him but at the same time rises furiously (oh, how they should pay) and Thor stuffs down the need for revenge and instead let's Mjolnir's handle fall from his hands, hitting the ground below them.

"Loki," He breathes and races towards his little brother skidding to his knees and raises his hands over Loki's curled body for a moment before resting his hand on Loki's shoulder. The younger twitches violently and curls further and Thor's fury rise. Calm, calm, calm. He chants silently before moving his hand down to Loki's arm.

"It's okay, they're gone, I chased them off. Loki, it's Thor." Thor says and Loki's frame shudders before he throws himself at Thor. Thor's eyes widen in surprise slightly, but as his younger brother's arms wrap around him, Thor pulls him close. "Oh, little brother what have they done to you?" Thor murmurs softly.

Loki's shoulders heave, but the sound is quiet because of the muzzle. Muzzle.

Thor presses his younger sibling close again, a surge of protectiveness washing over him again. Loki is here, he is safe. Thor digs through Loki's hair before he finds the latch for the muzzle and flicks it. The metal hisses as it's released and Thor releases his hold on Loki to remove it before returning the desperate hug again.

Loki releases a shuddering breath before an ugly sob slips from his throat, "I'm sorry," He whispers. Thor stiffens slightly.

"For what?" He demands, lowering his tone as well.

"A few days ago, in the Treasury Room, when I lost my temper." He whispers.

Thor closes his eyes, "You should not be sorry, Brother, I should, I ran when you needed me the most...It was just startling to see."

"You were disgusted by it." Loki murmurs.

Thor bites his tongue. "I was startled."

"Startled?" Loki repeats, dubiously, "I saw your face, Thor." He says.

"I wasn't expecting it," Thor admits, "and I was frightened. Not because of what you are, but what you might do, you were angry, you're frightening when your angry." He adds. Terrifying to the point of hiding for days is a better choice of words.

Loki sighs and pushes further into the hug, "I don't want this." He whispers, "I don't want to be this."

Thor clutches at Loki tighter for a moment, "I don't care if you're a Jotunn, Loki, you are my brother."

"We--"

"If you say were never siblings, I'm going to hit you." Hela's voice sounds behind them and Thor yelps as Loki jumps a few inches.

"How!?" Thor demands as Loki exclaims: "Why!?"

Hela crosses the few feet between them before kneeling in front of Loki and gently tilting his head up to get a better look at the cuts from the muzzle and a bruise forming on his cheek. "General Ullr told me what was going on, he wasn't close enough to intervene."

General Ullr? She doesn't have a general Ullr, it's just Tyr.

"Who is Ullr?" Thor asks.

Hela sighs and rests her hand on her forehead, "Annoying." She supplies before shaking her head slightly, "I...he's a ghost who has decided without my permission or want take up the position of general for me."

A ghost?

Okay.

Right.

Stranger things have happened today. 

"I'm not insane, Mother saw him and now he won't go away." Hela sends a sharp glare at something behind them but neither Loki nor himself feel a need to shift from their position of Loki leaning against Thor's shoulder, slumped like dead weight. "Mother's on her way," Hela adds after she concludes the scope of his face and is apparently satisfied. Hela rests her hands on her knees and stares at both of them for a moment, "Loki, you are not our brother by blood, yes," she agrees and Loki's face pales slightly, "but you are by choice. I have known of your heritage since the day that Odin brought you to Asgard and haven't thought any less of you. Honestly, I was fairly certain Thor was a monster as a child and you an innocent angel." It is a half reference to to when they were younger and Loki and Thor decided to turn Thor into a monster for a day which involved dumping buckets of paint onto him then adding feathers they found from birds for a more furry look. Loki never even got his hands dirty.

Thor's face flushes, "The feathers was his fault." He groans and jabs a finger towards Loki.

The green-eyed Asgardian groans, "It was not."

"It was." Thor presses.

"I remember very distinctly, Thor, you insisted that we add the feathers, I just found the first one."

Thor shakes his head, "No, it was definitely you."

Hela laughs softly and gives Loki's hand a quick squeeze. Loki releases a long breath and returns the pressure, "Thank you," he whispers. Hela nods and they all turn slightly as hurried footsteps catch their attention and Frigga comes into view. She has Gungnir in one hand and a handful of Einherjar behind her weapons drawn, but it unnecessary.

She kneels next to them, "Are you alright?" She demands. The question isn't directed at one sole person so they all give nods. Frigga leans forward and runs a finger along the cut on Loki's face above his eyebrow and frowns as her eyes flash with rage. "This will not happen again, I promise. I cannot believe that they would even...when Odin awakens, we are going to have a long, long talk." After the shouting match that she and their father had that Thor walked past on accident a few days ago before their father fell into Odinsleep, Thor is does not doubt that.

Nor does he doubt his mother's ability to convince him of whatever it is she's going to wage war to get.

"Did someone die?" King Demor's nasally voice rings through the air and Thor whips around forcing down a breath of frustration, is it just community gather around this spot in the courtyard time? And why is everyone suddenly excessively good at sneaking up on him?

Frigga's eyes narrow a fraction, "No, my son was attacked."

Demor tilts his head slightly from his position behind Frigga to look at Loki and sweeps his gaze over him, "Hmm." He says and Hela's fists curl before she rises to her feet next to their mother.

"Do you want something, your majesty?" Her voice is sharp.

Demor shakes his head, "No, I was concerned you were blood-eagling something and came to stop you."

"Very honorable." Frigga notes, almost dryly.

King Demor shifts his gaze from Frigga to Hela, "I haven't seen you in days, Princess, have you been hiding?"

"Hardly." Hela grits between her teeth. Thor presses his tongue against the roof of his mouth to withhold a comment. He's torn between rising to his feet in a surge of protectiveness for his sister and remaining where he is as Loki's support.

"You seem...well." King Demor notes and Thor can see Hela's angry facade crumpling. "I still haven't received permission from Odin to have your head, yet, though."

"Nor will you have it." Frigga hisses.

"I'm sorry," Hela breathes, her voice sounds lost and slightly broken, "I am sorry about your city, and the people that I killed." Her voice cracks slightly on the last word, "I have this...power that drains life, I couldn't stop it. I'm sorry."

Demor's expression doesn't change (though some realization seeps into his eyes), but Hela collapses to her knees in front of him. Thor feels raw panic slip through him, what is she doing!? Loki tenses beside him. "I cannot take back the lives I have stolen, nor the sorrow I have caused, so please let me right this wrong. Take my life if it will recompense what I have done, but please offer my sincere apology to every family I have stolen from." Hela leans her head forward, exposing her neck as her long hair pours over her shoulders.

Demor's hand rests on his sword for a long moment and Thor's breath catches in his lungs, something must be squeezing it. Demor's going to kill his sister, Demor's going to kill his sister, Demor's going to kill his sister.

Demor removes his hand from the sword hilt and instead puts a hand on Hela's shoulder, "Play me a round of chess, if you lose, I take your head; you win and I let you go free."

000o000

Currently:

Hela pushes the final piece into place and declares with some hesitation, "Checkmate."

King Demor stares the chessboard for a long moment before he meets her eyes again, "Indeed."

He does not take her head, he does not take anyone's head, Demor shakes her hand and gathers his children together and prepares to leave. Hela stops him and asks him to send her a list of every family that lost a member, he'd inquired and she had admitted her desire to apologize to every person in person that lost someone. His hard face had softened and he had agreed to send her the list.

Hela had awaited it and when it arrived got to work.

Fandral comes forward to Frigga and admits his position in the attack on Loki, Hela hadn't really expected him to be involved, but with a fiery Sif standing behind him and an equally angry Loki at her side, Fandral had been more than willing to offer every name of the people he knew that were there, including his own father.

Frigga thanked him and assured him she would take care of it, how, Hela doesn't know.

Frigga announces to all of Asgard the story of how Loki was found and declares what happened during the attack and promises that it will not happen again. She reorganizes the schooling system in a few hours and puts Loki and Thor down in front of an old tutor who had been to Jotunheim and Hela joins their lessons.

Their father wakes up from Odinsleep five days after falling into it and seeing that his Realm is indeed not on fire, in the midst of Ragnarok, that the Nidavellir situation is being taken care of and that Frigga reorganized the entire schooling system simply sighed and declared he's going back to bed. Frigga and he do have the "long chat" as promised and afterwards, Odin pulls Loki to the side and both of them discuss something for a while. He doesn't apologize to her for his actions but she wasn't expecting it, instead, hearing of her quest to Nidavellir simply says: "You will make a better Ruler than I am."

Things are...less tense. They get better, not perfect, but better, dinner can become a disaster, Loki still has days where he's withdrawn and refuses to talk to anyone, but it's not hopeless. The Warriors Three and Sif gradually re enter their lives, but Thor doesn't toss Loki to the side and rejoin them like he would have a few months ago.

Hela finishes her task in Nidavellir and begins to assist the king in rebuilding the city, the damage is extensive but not irreparable. General Ullr, a man who proudly declared that he is dead to Odin (who had been more than delighted to see him) had enlisted the Berserkers to assist with the rebuild of the capitol. King Demor had turned to her at one point and asked with a raised eyebrow, "How did you become the leader of a ghost army?" Hela had sighed and groaned softly before replying, "Long story; you don't want to know."

Demor had stared at Ullr for another moment shooting a brick up towards a fellow comrade with an arrow to press into the building then had agreed.

Life moves on, bumpily, but it keeps going.

Their family is messy and arguments and fights between them tend to end up with something resembling a sorcerer learning to control energy for the first time, but they join together again. The rift that had been building between them stops growing in size.

It is messy, it is ugly, and beautiful all wrapped in one and Hela wouldn't trade it for anything.

Chapter Text


 She is—Jane Foster has decided—going to commit a homicide. One of the really big, ugly ones that will get her left in jail for the rest of her life, but perhaps leave her feeling a little better. She doesn't have a gun on her person (or owned one in her life), but the shovel that she's currently thinking of (present in the back of the lab—but likely not to be for much longer) isn't too far away and smashing it against a few heads is growing startlingly appealing.

Dangerously so.

Jane's fingers clench together, her teeth latching onto her tongue to withhold the scream of frustration that threatens to explode from her throat followed by a violent rage of shovel smacking.

This isn't right. This isn't fair.

ARGH!

Jane's fingers wrap around the edge of her sleeve as her fingernails dig into the fabric in her last effort to calm herself, but it isn't working. Her life is being ripped apart and all she can do is stand by and watch. This wasn't supposed to happen. All they were doing was offering shelter to the man, not hiding him purposefully (slightly purposefully)—but it's no reason to rip apart her and Erik's life's work! What did they do to deserve this? They were trying to help.

She didn't ask for the government to arrive and start ripping everything apart; and she would gladly pay them her life savings if they would just stop.

They don't; they keep taking and taking and taking.

She wants her shovel.

Jane's fists curl as (at long last) her patience finally meets its end as she sees the straitjacket covered man being led into the awaiting truck that could probably withstand a nuclear blast from inside. There's over six guns being pointed at him and one pressed firmly between his shoulder blades. There is no reason for this! He was going willingly for them.

Jane hates this.

Oh, how she hates this.

Murder, murder, murder! Her brain supplies happily. 

No.

Jane forces the thoughts to the side and finds her feet's muscles again. She storms across the length between herself and the government cars then grabs the nearest official/leader looking man by the shoulder and whirls him around. He's a few inches taller than her, as most men are, but Jane doesn't really care.

"This is wrong." She says, firmly, her gaze flickering towards the man again as he's loaded into the car.

The agent, with a name tag that reads "Coulson" releases a long sigh, "Miss Foster," He starts, his patience clearly worn through to a ragged point, but not by her. He shakes her hand off and folds his hands in front of him, "We're very busy; your protests to this have already been noted."

Protests. Protests!?

What does he expect her to do? Sit back and let them do this? Sure, just go ahead and kidnap and innocent man for no reason and then take everything that she, Erik, and Darcy have been working on for years because you're suspicious that because the man has been with them for two months, he's corrupted it for some reason? They keep stating that it's for "scientific purposes", but Jane is a scientist, she knows what that looks like and this is just paranoia.

A slightly bitter laugh threatens to escape her.

"You're kidnapping him!" Jane states with disbelief, her hand flicking out towards the man again and Agent Coulson's eyes follow her finger towards the truck as his lips press together firmly. He doesn't appear to be any more comfortable with this situation that she is.

And for good reason: it is wrong.

Jane's hands shift to rest her hips in irritation as Agent Coulson frowns slightly and his mouth opens to say something towards her. Whatever profound knowledge he was going to present never reaches her ears, as the man in charge of this operation, General Thaddeus Ross yells out: "Coulson! Get over here!"

General Ross is a...interesting character. He's reminds Jane strongly of a teacher she had in Middle School that was strict, loud (frankly an awful educator) and took the littlest things as a personal offense. One time he gave a student in Jane's glass detention for sneezing in the middle of a presentation because he "distracted the class". It was a long year. General Ross expects everyone to listen to him simply because he bares the title of "general", but Jane has yet to see anything on why he has it.

There appears to be something personal going on between the kidnapee and General Ross. Jane doesn't like this.

Agent Coulson's lips press together firmly at General Ross's call and he sighs between his teeth slightly, but turns back to her, "Dr. Selvig has already made the same claim, but we have the U.S. government's permission to be here, Miss Foster, you should just consider yourself lucky they aren't pressing charges for withholding a fugitive."

A choking noise escapes her throat and the shovel in vivid, imaginary detail flashes through her head as she smashes against Agent Coulson's head.

The only reason the man is a fugitive was because they forced him into being one.

"You—!" Jane starts, her voice rising along with her finger at him, but General Ross gives a loud, "Coulson!" towards them and Agent Coulson's lips thin. He turns his head towards the General offering a loud, "A minute!" before turning back to her.

"Miss Foster, please, I don't feel any more comfortable with this than you are—" yeah, sure "—and I ask you to stop, or we'll be forced to detain you until this area is clear." He says. Jane's expression twitches in fury.

"You are stealing from me!" She growls. "This isn't 'clearing an area', you are stealing my property and kidnapping an innocent man!"

Agent Coulson frowns, "Dr. Banner is hardly innocent." He states blankly. Okay, yes, but it's not like he wanted this to happen, he's been here for two months, they talked, Jane knows about what actually happened. She asked and Bruce offered answers.

Her jaw clenches, "No, but he's not guilty either."

"Coulson!"

Agent Coulson's eyes close briefly, the barest twinges of annoyance etching onto his face, before he slips a hand into his jacket's pocket and flips a card out, holding it out to her with a thin smile, "Any further objections can be sent to this contact information, thank you for your cooperation."

He can't be serious.

She flicks her gaze from the card to his face.

He's serious.

Jane stares at the card for a long two seconds, her jaw gaping open with shock before Coulson all but shoves the thick paper into her hand with slight desperation and jogs away towards the awaiting SUVs/trucks that are all packed, loaded and engines roaring loudly. Agent Coulson slides into the passenger seat of the one Bruce disappeared into and Jane swallows the urge to scream.

This can't be happening. She has to be dreaming. Wake up, wake up, wake up.

She pinches her eyes closed, but when she peels them apart, nothing has changed. Jane throws the card down on the ground and spins on her heel, making a beeline for the lab and her ever trustworthy shovel before the cars can vanish just as quickly as they arrived. As soon as she steps ten feet with in the lab, however, hands wrap around her middle and tug her back.

"Let me go! I'm going to kill them!" Jane shouts angrily and attempts to elbow her captor, but Darcy dives out of the way of her arm.

"I know, Jane! Calm down!" Darcy demands and gives her a firm tug back from the lab that makes both of them tumble onto their backs. Jane's head smacks against the hard, dry New Mexico ground and she stares up at the bright blue sky that is shining happily down at her. This only fuels her fire. Liar! There is nothing happy about today.

Jane rolls onto her side as she hears the cars drive off and a cloud of dust blows towards them. Jane ducks her head and breathes into her shirt, attempting to fight off the sudden bout of tears that wants just as desperately to escape her as the dust is attempting to enter her.

When the cloud finally passes, Jane sits up onto her heels and presses the back of her hand against her mouth to withhold a choking sob. Why is this happening? They were just trying to help Bruce. That was it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Darcy's arms wrap around her as she tugs Jane into a hug; she releases herself into her surrogate sister's hold, finally letting the tears escape.

Erik knew Bruce through college, Erik was a teacher there for physics and Bruce was one of his students. They kept in contact after Bruce finished his major and Bruce told him of what he planned to do with the information. Re-create the Super Soldier serum that enhanced the late (at that time) Captain America seventy years previous. Erik thought it was a load of stupidity, and told Bruce so. Bruce refused to agree and continue to work through his tests, but he did know the danger of it. Bruce had been working through medical school before he switched careers to gamma radiation because of the encouragement of one of his other professors.

The serum didn't work and instead created a monster they called the Hulk.

No one knew his identity, Bruce Banner just became another name on America's most-wanted list, and no one thought twice of it. But Erik knew. Jane remembers that day, barely nine months from after Jane met him (she was at his house asking a question about her final exam) when the Hulk attacked Harlem and Erik had thrown the whisk he was using to make scrambled eggs at the TV and shouted: "Bruce, you idiot!" at the top of his lungs.

Then began the five-year hunt for Erik's long lost protege. Erik finally managed to get a hold of Dr. Banner and insisted that he stay with them for a few months or he would tell the U.S. where he was. Erik wasn't serious, of course, but Bruce did take it as such. Jane and Darcy hadn't been exactly all for Erik's plan, but the longer Bruce had stayed with them, the more fond Jane had grown of him.

He was quiet and doesn't speak much, but when Jane would thrust something down in front of him that she couldn't figure out, he would quietly state what she missed and Jane would sit in awe for long moments at the genius of his brain. Bruce is brilliant and Jane understood completely after a week of knowing the man why his professor encouraged him to switch out of medical school.

Everything was fine for two months until today. They had kept Bruce hidden, hadn't breathed a word of his existence outside their lab to anyone, but the government still caught hold all the same. They had arrived this morning with official looking papers to search their lab for a wanted fugitive and had taken Bruce and anything related to him from them.

Which included all her work, all of Erik's work and even Darcy's ipod. She'd just uploaded thirty songs onto it.

This isn't fair, but no matter how hard or loud she screams it at the top of her lungs, nothing in this universe can change that.

000o000

They barely speak to each other for the rest of the day. Erik plucks up the nearest breakable cup and chucks it at a far wall in frustration as soon as they reenter the lab. Jane spends most of the remainder of the day on the couch like a "sad pathetic potato" as Darcy put it and moves for very little. She doesn't shift for food, cleaning up the remaining mess, or even when Darcy offers to watch all the Star Wars movies with her. A rare feat, because Darcy hates Star Wars with a burning passion and will only watch it if Jane is in deep distress and needs her to.

They were supposed to protect Bruce from the government, they reassured the scientist that he'd be safe here. Instead, they got finally got him caught by it. She doesn't want to start over, she's barely had this job steady for three years, the other two were spent scrambling in an attempt to get funding for her projects. She can't start over from scratch. She can't. The thought is petrifying. She remains on the couch, the unhappy lump of blankets.

A little before seven that night, Erik enters with a thin stack of newspaper clippings and dumps them on her lap. "Pick one of these restaurants, we're getting dinner."

Jane makes a face.

Erik doesn't deter and stares pointedly at the paper.

Releasing a heavy sigh, Jane frowns and picks up the papers shuffling through them watching as Darcy lifts her head from the book she's reading in the arm chair across the room. It's Jane's copy of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, but Jane doesn't think that Darcy has her own anyway; and it's never bothered her (Darcy is always stealing her books). Darcy is quite fond of "the classics" as English literature has labeled them, and could survive off of Shakespeare alone for weeks. Jane personally barely made it through those assignments in High School and has never revisited.

None of this looks appealing. All she really wants is bean dip and tortilla chips with a copious amount of popcorn.

Jane looks up at Erik, "I don't want any of it."

Erik's eyebrow lifts slightly and he folds his arms across his chest, "Aren't you hungry?"

Yeah, she hasn't eaten anything since breakfast, she's hungry, but the thought of eating anything makes her stomach squirm uncomfortably.

Jane opens her mouth to respond, but Darcy slams Lord of the Rings shut and rises to her feet, "Excellent question, I'll answer that: she is. And she wants this one." Darcy pulls out one of the pieces of paper covered with coupons for a local diner down about five miles east from here and Jane groans tilting her head back in annoyance.

"I don't want fish." All they serve there is fish and Jane grew up on the East Coast until her parents death when she was seventeen; they ate a lot of fish. She doesn't like fish anymore.

"Ask for a salad." Darcy counters.

"I don't want that either." Jane kvetches. They put a type of sauce over the vegetables that makes it taste tangy. Jane doesn't want tangy; she wants to cry.

"Jane!" Erik says, his voice rising in frustration, "You have to eat something else today and we all need to get out of here before we explode. Get on your shoes back on and let's go." He rips the paper from Darcy's grip and storms off to grab Jane's truck's keys and start the engine. Darcy pushes her glasses up her nose and frowns.

Jane stares at the look for a second, irritation building, "What?" She demands.

Darcy's frown deepens.

"What?"

"Nothing," Darcy decides, "you're just less fun when you're grumpy."

Well what does Darcy expect her to be after getting her life ripped apart? Giddy?

Darcy grabs her jacket and walks off towards where Erik disappeared to. Jane shoots a childishly dirty look at the darker haired girl's back. Releasing a sigh into the humid air, Jane grabs her shoe and stuffs it over her socks, tugging it up her ankle and repeats the process with her left foot.

She rises from the couch and her limbs protest slightly at the sudden movement after so much time of her apathetic sadness. Jane does her best to ignore it as her calves tingle unpleasantly and all but staggers to the awaiting car. Erik is in the driver's seat, (her normal position) and Darcy has claimed shotgun likely to leave Jane in the back as punishment for being so moody.

Jane resists a roll of her eyes at the infantile, but slips into the back and pulls on the seat belt as Erik starts the car. The drive is uncomfortable and quiet, but no one makes any attempts at starting a conversation to break it. Darcy is staring out the window her expression distant, but it looks strange without the added companion of her earbuds and Erik is gripping the steering wheel with enough force to choke it. He's angry and he has been all day. So why is only she getting picked on for being grumpy? Neither one of them is exactly rainbow butterflies themselves.

When they arrive at the restaurant, the owner, Mrs. Tate sets down the broom she was using to sweep and smiles. "Jane, Darcy, Erik! It's been some time! Where've y'all been?" She demands in a thick Southern drawl ushering them towards a table; the entire restaurant is empty save themselves, so Mrs. Tate will have plenty of time to pester them. Wondrous.

Jane likes Mrs. Tate well enough; she's an elderly woman who started this business with her late husband and has used as a way to "fill up all my spare time" as she once put it. She's usually very chatty and makes friends with everyone that she speaks to. It's insane the amount she can get anyone to open up about their problems. They really should put her in charge of prisoner interrogations.

Jane takes a seat opposite of Darcy and Erik. Mrs. Tate smiles happily at them, flicking open a small notebook and clicking a pen. "What can I get for ya'?"

"Sushi," Darcy says.

"My usual." Erik states.

Jane doesn't offer a response immediately and Darcy gives her a look from across the table"Salad." Jane sighs.

Mrs. Tate laughs and lightly pats Jane's shoulder twice, "Don't sound to excited there, lass."

She'll try not to.

When Mrs. Tate returns five minutes later after an inexpressible amount of awkward silence between them, their orders in hand, she's frowning. "I heard from some folks round here that you got visited by the FBI today,"

FBI? Hardly. Jane can't even remember the exact name they had plastered the side of their cars, the card Agent Coulson gave her, and pretty much anything else they could put it. "Shingle" or something like that. Jane would have to look at the card that Darcy picked up and placed on the counter several hours ago.

Erik forces a laugh and Jane and Darcy indulge in his attempt at a fib. "FBI? No, it was just some of the science community coming in to see how our work was going."

Mrs. Tate doesn't look too convinced, "I also heard they took apart your lab. Empty as the gold rush in California these days."

Jane's smile grows stretched, "No!" She laughs, "Nothing like that happened!"

She can't lie to save her life.

Mrs. Tate frowns again, but thankfully doesn't press and takes the now empty tray behind the counter for cleaning. Jane drops her smile and stares down at the plate of salad that has never looked more unappealing in her life. She'd rather be gnawing on the rubber of a used car tire at the moment.

Darcy picks at her sushi halfheartedly, but Erik all but inhales his plate then points his fork in her direction. "Eat, Jane."

Jane picks up the plastic fork and stuffs it into some of the lettuce and shoves it into her mouth to avoid further pressing. It tastes like someone took a cup from the ocean, poured the salt water all over the salad and then doused it in paprika. It is foul.

Jane fights to get it past her gag reflex and swallows, but a slight shiver of disgust runs through her. She stuffs more into her mouth and continues until she can't stomach it anymore then rests her elbow onto the table and plops her chin on top of her palm.

"What do you plan to do now?" Darcy asks between a mouthful of sushi. Jane looks towards her vaguely, and blinks dully. Darcy swallows then says for clarification: "I mean, about your job. Your career kind of got tossed in the gutter this morning."

Does Darcy think she doesn't know that? Does everyone and everything have to keep reminding her? "I don't know." Jane snaps, her temper is rising and lashing out faster and sharper than she means for it to: "I hadn't thought ahead for when the government decides to come and take everything that I spent my life working for! Most people don't have to!"

Guilt spreads across Erik's face and he looks up at her, "Jane, I—"

Jane shoves up from the table, grabbing her jacket, "Save it." She growls in the direction of Erik's apology. He's not sorry, not really, he's grateful he got to help Bruce (and so is she), but it doesn't make the fact that her life's work is gone any easier. "I'm going for a walk."

She storms away from the table, "It's dark!" Darcy protests twisting around to look back at her.

"I don't care!" Jane shouts behind her and pulls open the glass door to the restaurant and slips into the cool desert night stomping off along the sidewalk. The New Mexico town where she lives isn't very large and it's ideal for star gazing this way. There are less artificial lights to get in the way, which was wonderful for her theories and work. Not that that matters anymore.

Jane walks and walks and walks (passing dozens of people who avoid her like a plague and a sickly looking bloke that she nearly runs over) until she can't anymore. Her feet hurt, and her legs are aching, but when she stops she realizes she's in a part of the small town she hasn't really visited before and doesn't have any ideas on how she's supposed to return back to Mrs. Tate's diner.

Well, splendid

Jane sits on an old wooden bench she spotted next to a street light and tugs her knees up to her chest. Her head is clearer, and she doesn't feel as comfortable with snapping at Darcy and Erik as she did. She has been nothing but a pain today and she's not very happy about this realization.

Jane tugs her legs up onto the bench and wraps her arms around them before she buries her head onto her knees and begins to cry. She's done very little other than cry today, but she can't help it. Everything feels like it's crashing down around her and she's helpless to stop it. Her lips thin and she lets the tears flow quietly.

All in all today, she got a man captured, lost her life's work, Darcy and Erik are mad at her and she has no idea what to do. The sun is not shining overly well at this moment.

When her sobs have graduated to soft hiccups, she becomes aware of soft footsteps approaching her. Maybe it's Darcy, or Erik who managed to find her and are going to yell at her then drag her back to the lab. At least then she'll get the opportunity to apologize.

"Miss? Are you alright?" A deep, male voice asks ahead of her. Jane scrambles in surprise, a slight yelp escaping her. Not Erik. Definitely not Darcy. Her eyes widen slightly. The man is tall, blond, and standing in a pair of loose jeans with a jacket pulled over a red shirt in what appears to be a hasty manner. His long blond hair is pulled back into a ponytail with a small braid towards his left side threaded with black. He has a faint outline of facial hair, but not enough to be considered a full out beard and mustache. In his right hand is an umbrella, though Jane hasn't got the faintest idea on why. It rarely rains in New Mexico. He looks to be in his early twenties, from what Jane would guess. His expression is furrowed slightly with concern and Jane would be lying to herself if she didn't admit that she finds him slightly attractive.

Jane clutches her hands to her chest for a long moment, before her tongue untangles itself from the impossible knot it was bound in. "I—erm," she stutters.

"You were crying." He points out and gestures towards her face where the tear streaks are still present, Jane would have to guess. Embarrassment floods through her and she grabs the edge of her sleeve, wiping at the salty tracks and stares at him.

"I was." She admits, her voice is croaky from the tears.

The man frowns, "Why? What ails you?"

Why does he care? She's just a stranger, she's not about to go pouring out her life story to him. But...the way he asks makes it seem as if he is legitimately concerned. Weird. She shrugs slightly, "Lots of things." She answers vaguely.

The man's head tilts slightly, "If you would regale, I would be willing to lend a listening ear."

Good heavens, did this man step out of Shakespeare? He talks so formally. Maybe he's British. His accent is faintly English. Jane hesitates for another moment, but sighs, "I guess if it wouldn't be an inconvenience…"

"Not at all." The man assures and takes several more steps forward, "Do you mind if I sit beside you?"

Jane shakes her head and he takes a seat on the old wooden bench beside her, turned in her direction. Jane bites her lip for a second, gathering her thoughts. She hasn't talked to a man around her age like this since her last boyfriend, but their relationship didn't end well and Jane hasn't been on a date since. Not that this is a date. It's just a surprisingly nice man willing to listen to her whine and cry. This is sounding less appealing than before.

Jane releases a raspberry, "My day so far has consisted of managing to get an innocent man kidnapped, my life ruined, and contemplating murder."

The man's eyebrows lift slightly.

Jane sighs, "I'm an astrophysicist," she starts, then, "I study the stars," she adds at his blank look, "my colleague, Dr. Erik Selvig...he knew someone who needed help, but had done some bad things on accident. He's not really guilty of them, but the world still views him as such. We were hiding him from the government—and—that's all we were doing. All! I promise! It's not like we were encouraging him to start planning revenge or withholding a fugitive from them! Bruce was innocent!" She rages. "I just wanted...I just wanted to help, you know? So did Darcy—she's my sister...basically, and we didn't want this to happen."

She goes quiet and the man frowns. ""This"?" He prods.

Jane sighs again, "The man we helped, I mean, yeah, he did a few questionable things and that's all anyone could see. We were going to start testing for the Einstein-Rosen Bridge today and that didn't happen because this man comes knocking on the door saying that's he's got a permit to search our lab and then suddenly they're taking everything! I spent years working on that and most of it I built myself. It's not fair! I know life isn't, but why did it have to take this to? I didn't...I didn't...and then, I got angry and that's when I contemplated the murder. I didn't do it. I just wanted to. Sort of. Maybe just hit them a little, but not actually kill. Oh, gosh, I am so confused." She groans, "I don't know what I'm supposed to do now. I can't start over, but it's the only thing I'm good at."

She releases a breath and turns to look towards the man who is still staring at her, listening patiently. There's something nice about it, knowing that he's actually listening to her, rather than just hearing her voice. It helps. She feels calmer and her head isn't spinning round and round in helpless circles as much. She wipes her eyes as a few final tears slip out and looks at him.

"What about you? You got any woes to add to the pile?" Most people don't wander around this late at night without a purpose.

The man laughs and the sound makes Jane's chest swell with pride. His smile fades and his lips thin, "I am looking for someone."

Oh. Jane's expression twists, "Who?"

The man's eyes close slightly, "My brother. Most of my family believes him dead."

Oh. Jane frowns sympathetically, "I'm sorry, my biological family is gone. I can't imagine how hard this is."

The man's fingers clench, "I thank you for your kindness." He gives a vague smile before turning to her, but his eyes are hopeless, "Have you seen a tall, thin man with dark hair and green eyes? I doubt he'd be wearing anything that wasn't overly dramatic fashion wise."

Jane scours her memory, trying to tug something out of similarity, but the only thing she can think of is Professor Snape from Harry Potter and she has her doubts that is who this man is looking for. Jane shakes her head no and can feel the disappointed look that the man shoots her. "Sorry." She says.

The man sighs, "Truthfully, I would have been amazed if you had. I refuse to give up."

Stalwart, this fellow.

Jane offers her hand for him to shake, "I'm Jane Foster."

The man takes her hand and rather than shake it, he kisses the back of it in a way that most men to do princesses in movies. Jane isn't a princess. Her cheeks redden slightly in embarrassment and he releases her hand, "Thor Odinson."

That's a Norse name. Norse? Is he from Norway? "You're from Norway?" She asks in surprise. The man's lips curve up in a knowing smile.

"In a way." He states. He rises to his feet, "I offer my condolences to your loss, Lady Foster, but I must continue my search. Is there anything I can do for you before I depart?"

Jane shakes her head and gives a slight laugh, "Unless you can break an innocent man out of prison, nope, not much."

Thor pauses, but he glances towards his umbrella. "Actually, I might be able to help with that."

000o000

Three AM. It's the first coherent thought that Tony Stark processes apart from the tired slur previous. Three. Freaking. AM. 

His phone is buzzing, loudly on the bedside table and he can feel his wife stirring on the other side of the bed at the noise. Letting out a rather loud and obnoxious groan Tony grabs his blanket, his nice, warm, soft blanket and pulls it over his head. "J'vis." He mumbles in annoyance towards the ceiling.

The call is silenced and Tony gives a sigh of relief not really caring that it's the middle of the night and it's probably urgent. Whoever is calling can tell him the urgent message tomorrow. He doesn't care right now. His bed is calling and who is he to deny it's love?

The phone blares again and Tony childishly grabs his pillow pulling it over his ears. Jarvis doesn't silence it and he glares at the ceiling for a moment showing his displeasure with his actions before finally rolling over towards the bedside table, hand smacking against it as he reaches for his phone.

His annoying, singing, loud, phone.

"Jarvis…" He moans. Jarvis is quiet for a moment before his loud, blaring voice pounds into his head. Being realistic, it was rather silent, but at the moment it's anything but that: "Sir, Director Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. is on the line."

Oh. Is that supposed to make him want to pick it up more? It doesn't. S.H.I.E.L.D. has been nothing but a pain in the behind since Tony learned of their existence and he's made it a halfway goal of his to be just as much of an equal annoyance.

Tony flips his phone on, annoyed. "Why? Does he know that it's—" Tony pauses his angry rant to glance up at the clock, "three twenty-seven in the morning? I swear, if this is nothing…" He grumbles, mostly to himself, swinging his feet over the bed and answering the call ignoring Jarvis's snarky response of: "I don't suspect so, Sir."

He presses answer call, "Fury? You are aware it's the middle of the night, right? Because I really don't want to have to draw you a pictu—" Tony starts to ramble in annoyance, but is cut off as Fury completely ignores his previous words.

"Stark, you're needed in Michigan, now. There's a someone attempting to break into the CARCER V—I'm calling in the Avengers."

If there was a moment that he truly felt his eyebrows shoot into his hairline, this is it. Tony stills. He glances towards where Pepper is starting to sit up in bed, blinking tiredly in his direction, propped up on her elbow, but confused. Tony imagines his expression isn't much different. He glances down at his clothing and shuffles to his feet before beginning to hunt down actual clothes. He could wander around in his pajamas in the suit and no one would know the difference, but he's not that desperate to go back to sleep.

"The Avengers?" Tony repeats, just to make sure he actually heard the director correctly. "That was scrapped, and I didn't even qualify."

Iron Man yes, Tony Stark no.

"This is a matter beyond personality profiles, Stark, this is a national security threat. A man wielding lightning is attempting to break into the building, so get off your—"

Wait.

What?

"Whoa, whoa," Tony commands, lifting a hand to emphasis the point even though Fury isn't here to see it personally, "someone wielding lightning? I'm sorry, did you say that someone is controlling electricity—as in, from the sky?"

"You heard me perfectly fine; I'm sending you the coordinates, hurry."

Fury cuts the line and Tony holds the phone in his hand for a moment before swearing loudly. This is great. Exactly what he wanted to wake up to. He can feel Pepper's frown of disapproval at his back. "What's going on?" His wife inquires. Tony sighs and turns back to her, digging out a clean T-shirt from some sort of restraint that refused to let them leave without it and begins to hunt for pants.

"Some guy is attempting to break into the CARCER V." He says it flippantly, even though the matter isn't.

Pepper's eyebrows lift and her lips curve down in the slight frown that she makes when she doesn't agree with something. "That's bad."

Considering the fact that the Hulk/Bruce Banner was moved there eight days ago, yeah, yeah it is. Dr. Banner isn't the only person in the facility, just the most dangerous. S.H.I.E.L.D. has kept a weather eye out for the doctor from his understanding and he vanished from the grid a few months ago only to reappear when the government got an anonymous tip from a nosy neighbor about some man named Selgir or something.

"Potentially catastrophic, yeah," Tony agrees and runs a hand through his hair in agitation, "Fury called in the Avengers."

Pepper's frown deepens, and she rises to her feet and opens a drawer handing him a pair of socks, "You're going?"

Unless he wants to spend a majority of tomorrow attempting to capture the Hulk, yeah, he'd rather get it over with right now. Tony nods, "Yeah. Not my first choice, admittedly, but though S.H.I.E.L.D.'s shady, Fury isn't an idiot." Pepper's eyebrows lift with amusement at his comment and he waves a finger towards her, "If anyone asks, I didn't say that."

Pepper smiles knowingly, "Of course."

"Jarvis?" Tony addresses the AI and turns towards one of his cameras, "How fast can you get the suit prepped?"

"Within a few minutes, Sir." Jarvis's British accent answers and Tony nods and takes the remaining gathering of clothes from Pepper and presses a kiss to her forehead.

"I'll be back soon." He reassures.

Pepper gives his shoulder a quick squeeze, "Got get 'em, Boss." She states and gives him a shove towards the closet. Fifteen minutes later, with the coordinates loaded on the HUD of the suit, he is on his way to Michigan.

000o000

Clint Barton has seen many strange things over the course of his lifetime. This isn't his first mission, and by no means his last, but this is his first where the opposing force wielded lightning. The thought is weird and Clint had to check twice with Natasha to make sure his hearing aids hadn't spontaneously given out. They hadn't.

He almost wishes that they had.

When they arrive at the scene, there are dozens of men attempting to keep a blond man present between the walls of the facility and the building. This man, however, is winning, easily. He's the destructive force of nature channeled into a person. Weapons seem to do nothing; he weaves in and out of opponents with a lightning and…is that a hammer?

CARCER V itself is smoking small fires glinting almost boredly in some areas. Smoke is rising thickly from it making visibility hard to see. Anything electric is slowly spitting out sparks. The entire building looks like it got ran over by an angry herd of elephants. The surrounding thick forest of eastern hemlocks appears to have been spared a majority of the destruction.

Stark zips through the air outside the plane and fires a repulsor blast at the back of the blond man. The redish cape glints in the cackle of electricity through the air, revealing his back for a moment that the repulser slams into. The man is thrown forward several feet. What type of armor is he wearing? It looks like medieval chain mail with a few updates to the breastplate.

Someone calls out a retreat to CARCER V's men and Stark begins to engage in battle with the enhanced man.

They circle overhead, waiting.

The two appear to be evenly matched because their slowly working their way into a stalemate. Any lighting that blond-man throws at Stark the suit absorbs and redirects with further power. This could be over quickly.

This is Clint's firm belief, until Stark slams the blond with an upper cut and he grabs something from off of his waist—a thin, black short sword—and leaps at Stark. Although the hammer was effective, a weapon that can actually slice through things readily definitely helps. Stark quickly switches from offensive to defensive, attempting to stop the attack of wild slashes.

Within a minute, the blond has the upper hand and the sword is slicing through his armor it's pieces of paper.

Stark backs up and fires a missile towards the blond's face attempting to take off, "A little assistance would be nice! What are you doing, taking a coffee break!?" His voice is frantic, but the annoyance is clearly present. 

"Tasha?" Clint inquires, looking over at her.

She flicks a switch wordlessly revealing the Quinjet's gun and fires several rounds towards the blond as Stark backs up to nurse his wounds.

The blond ducks under his arm for a moment at the heavy wave of fire before drawing his left hand back and throwing his hammer at them. Normally, Clint would think it funny because the weight would easily topple it towards the ground a few seconds later, but the hammer sails through the air quickly and slams into the jet's side.

The Quinjet rocks like its been hit by a boulder rather than a small piece of metal; then rattles before tumbling in on itself completely and skidding towards the ground. As it slams into the ground, Clint's thrown forward into the dashboard lightly smacking his forehead against the equipment. He grits his teeth and waits for the Quinjet to stop. When it does, he quietly assess it's status. No permanent damage, just rolled from it's balance severely. A slight groan escapes through his teeth and forces his head up. His neck aches from the whiplash, but not severely.

Rogers clambers to his feet, slamming his shield against the ground in an effort for balance. Once he's steady, he wipes at a cut bleeding on his chin. Natasha slowly sits up from her position in the co-pilot seat beside him.

Rogers exhales. He'd been declared team leader by Fury on the way here through the briefing, and none of them (including the captain) had looked awfully excited at that. He doesn't have an overload of doubts, though, Clint's read stories about his team in World War ll.

"Hawkeye, find somewhere you can fire from, Widow you're with me." Rogers commands briskly and Natasha nods, pulling her guns from their holsters and moving after the captain. Clint mentally releases a loud groan before standing on his unsteady feet and pulling his bow from off his quiver snapping it out.

They're fighting a man who wields an elemental power from the sky and he brought a bow and arrows.

Brilliant.

He moves towards the back of the Quinjet and does a quick one-over of the battle. The man is now engaged in light battle with the captain, but neither appear to be losing or winning. That weird hammer that has never seen a book on physics is barely being used in return for brute strength and a short sword. Clint can't find the hammer at the moment, but he does know it's out there.

Stark is flying overhead, attempting to take in recon, but most of what he says is unintelligible gibberish. Natasha is slowly slinking up behind the attacker; and he appears completely oblivious, which is one plus side to this. Clint turns his head for a moment, looking for a vintage point and his sight lingers on the top of the Quinjet.

Well, better than nothing.

Clint backs up a few steps before breaking into a run and pressing a foot against the opposing wall before shooting himself forward to grab hold of the edge of the roof. A slight grunt escapes him before he tugs his weight over the edge and onto the metal. He settles himself as best he can on the uneven surface before turning at a bright flash of light.

The cackle of electricity hums in his ears and he whips his gaze towards the fight again.

The man has moved on from Rogers (who is laying a few feet away, struggling to his feet) to Natasha who is holding the Captain's shield and a gun. The man's hammer is back, raised towards the sky and lightning is surging from the sky to the weapon...which is just amazing.

"Cap's down," Natasha reports a moment later, breathless, "I got nothing." Clint sees her stance shift from offensive to defensive.

Clint runs his eyes across their enemy again, but can't find anything that would be horribly useful beyond maybe pulling on his long hair—seriously who keeps their hair that long?

"Give me a sec," Stark requests, "Jarvis is attempting to—" A loud swear escapes the billionaire before he dives towards Natasha and throws her to her back in a tackle. The hammer goes sailing where her head would have been and the light show immediately stops a second later save the distant rumble of thunder.

Okay.

Yeah, he's done with this.

Clint pulls an arrow from his quiver and draws it back, aiming for the blond's back. He lets it fly and watches with a grim satisfaction as it sails towards it's target and smacks into the small section on his left that the armor doesn't cover completely. The man staggers a step and Clint can't see his expression from this point, but knows that it probably isn't anything pretty.

The man rips the shaft from his body and tosses it towards the ground, lifting his hand out. The hammer returns to his hand as if summoned and Clint is momentarily frozen in shock. The blond tosses his flowing locks from his face, turning to look back at Natasha, Stark, and Rogers. "You have no idea what you're dealing with." His voice is deep and a thick off-center-sort-of-British that Clint can't place. Language has always been his partner's forte, not his.

Stark rises to his feet, Natasha beside him and Rogers warily lifting his shield next to her. Clint tugs back another arrow, "You can't just attack a base because it feels right," Stark argues, "it's kind of against the law—in case you didn't know."

"I am aware." The man grits. "My quarrel is not with your people—and I have no desire for it to be. Let me leave in peace and you have my word that none of you will be further harmed."

He literally just attacked a military base without a problem and now he's asking for a pardon?

"We can't let you do that." Rogers says firmly. "You're under arrest."

Something in the man's stance seems to flare, "I am leaving; you cannot stop this." He says, firmly and begins to spin his physics defying hammer rapidly.

Flight. He's trying to take off; he remembers seeing something like this momentarily as they came in on the Quinjet and the CARCER V had to leap at him. They won't get him if it comes to flight.

"Don't let him spin it!" Clint warns in the comms, leaping from his perch on the Quinjet and jerking his bow so it flips to a staff. "He's going to take flight."

Natasha (Clint's fairly certain) reacts without thinking and simply leaps towards the man in a full out tackle, surprisingly successfully managing to knock him to his back. Both go down with a grunt as Clint reaches them and spots the hammer slide from the blond's grasp.

The blond struggles under Natasha's grip, but she elbows him in the sternum roughly and engages in a quick hand to hand.

The man hand outstretches for the weapon, but Clint slams his foot down on the left hands fingers and feels something grind beneath it. He quietly winces to himself (broken fingers are not something uncommon to him) and the man shoves Natasha off of him, attempting to peel his hand back from Clint's food while simultaneously reaching for his short sword which was just out of his grip.

Natasha lifts the weapon towards him with a smirk and the man stills.

Stark lifts his weapons towards the blond. "Your pick, Point Break."

The blond stills, his eyes not on Stark, but behind him to where Rogers has stupidly, but not ineffectively slipped the hammer from its perch on the ground into his hands. It doesn't seem as heavy as Clint first thought it would be. The blond's nose is bleeding lazily, something Clint didn't notice until now and he doesn't know what happened.

The man stares at all of them carefully; before appearing to accept his fate. "I submit." He says, sounding tired.

Clint peels his foot back from the likely broken fingers and the man lifts his hands in surrender. The broken, dislocated fingers are easy to see and Clint stuffs down any guilt. This man willing attacked a government facility and ripped it apart easily without any remorse.

Natasha lifts the short sword towards the man's neck, Steve lifting a hand to his comm, "We secured him," his voice is slightly breathless, "you can move in."

Somewhere close to eleven minutes later, the man has been cuffed and shuffled into the CARCER V via an armed guard. The hammer and sword was taken from both his partner and Rogers also by CARCER V.

Now all they're doing is waiting for Fury to release them again. They're all lined against the Quinjet in some manner or another, Natasha is leaning against it, Stark is sitting on the ramp, head tilted back his armor resting inside the small portable glowing-thing against his chest "nano tech" he'd proudly proclaimed to them. Rogers is across from Stark, quietly playing at loose threads against the edges of his sleeves. He's standing next to his partner, arms crossed and attempting to keep the thrum of adrenaline rushing through him to something manageable.

When Natasha talked to Fury about seven minutes ago, he said to wait for General Ross's orders and if nothing comes within the hour they can leave.

Sixty minutes will never pass so slowly.

After another five, Stark lets out a groan, "I vote we call quits, I'm starving and I haven't had breakfast yet, anyone else?" It's what? Four in the morning now? That's pretty much six. 

Clint nods, "Same."

"Yup." Natasha agrees.

Steve makes an agreeing noise.

"What does Ross want us to do anyway? Sit and look pretty?" Tony queries, "I have other things to do with myself today."

Clint huffs loudly and Tony makes an offended noise, lifting a finger towards him, "Excuse me, Merida;" he says sitting up straighter, "I co-run a multi-billion dollar company—"

"I've seen the news," Clint interrupts, "I'm aware." And Merida? Really?

"—and it takes a lot of work to do that. You don't just sit around and do nothing all day." Tony finishes without restraint. Mmm. Good. "I mean, really, what are you expecting? We have a R&D department with the human resources, and yeah, Pepper's mostly in charge, but also not because that's not really a position that you have by yourself with the—"

"Tony," Steve says with exhaustion, "be quiet." 

Stark wisely snaps his jaw shut. 

"Look alive," Natasha murmurs about a minute later before they can continue the bicker beyond a few lines, "we have company."

Clint lifts his gaze up to ahead of them and sees General Ross's all around bulky and unhappy frame marching towards them. Finally.

Steve and Tony shove to their feet as Natasha and himself peel away from the Quinjet's wall. General Ross reaches them with a few more of his lengthy, but angry strides and lifts a hand out towards Steve then without any sort of greeting demands: "Captain, where is the escaped prisoner?"

The what?

They share a look.

No one mentioned anything about an escapee.

Steve's jaw shifts slightly, "Sir?He inquires.

Ross's eyes flip from each of them, flabbergasted, "No one told you? That man who just attacked broke one of the most dangerous men out of the CARCER V and you didn't notice!?"

He what?

Well.

Great.

Tony blinks several times, "Wait, he did all that—" he gestures towards the smoking building, "—to break someone out. Why does he need a partner in crime?"

Ross huffs darkly, "You have no idea how dangerous this "partner" is. Where is he!?"

Clint's fingers tighten into a taut fist and Steve grinds his jaw and manages to bite out with minimal frustration: "With all do respect, Sir, we had no idea there was a prison break out."

"Obviously!" Ross shouts, he releases a loud breath and pinches the bridge of his nose. "He was on foot—he can't be far. Make yourselves useful and drag his sorry butt back here; he can't be allowed to roam free. I won't have another Harlem on my hands."

Clint digs his teeth into his tongue to withhold a comment about how if they had known that someone (does he have a name?) was running around, they could have done this more effectively. Instead, he lifts his gaze to Steve as the super solider releases a breath.

"Which direction do you think he went?" He questions calmly. 

Ross points east, "Last I heard that's where he took off to before you lot got here. Check the main roads, he may be a an atomic bomb waiting to go off, but he's not stupid. He'll get out of the forest as fast as he can."

Steve nods and turns to them, "C'mon guys," he says the words in an almost sigh that lacks the enthusiasm properly for this, "this can't take long."

Hopefully.

000o000

Ross claimed he would be on foot, but Natasha makes it about nineteen yards into the forest tracking him and then proclaims there was a vehicle waiting here. With that stated, the four them turn on their heels and tiredly march their way back to the CARCER V for the fallen Quinjet. Tony manages to start with a good metaphorical kick towards the dashboard and a few minutes of correctly matching wires again.

Now after about twenty minutes of searching, they're hovering over a van quickly moving down the asphalt road. The only vehicle that they've passed in the last twenty minutes. Steve leans next to the window staring down at the car and sighs.

"Do you think they know that speeding makes them look more guilty?" Tony inquiries from behind them.

"Hard to say." Natasha mutters, "They don't seemed to deterred."

Clint shrugs, flicking on the camouflage switch. "They probably do."

"Good. I'd had to break it to them." Tony sighs dramatically; pauses then asks: "What's the game plan, Cap?"

Steve pinches the bridge of his nose and is quiet a moment. "Land on the road in front of them."

Oh, so a forceful stop. Clint can work with that.

He and Natasha guide the plane towards the ground about a mile in front of the car and wait.

Awkward silence stretches between them and Clint quietly breathes a sigh of relief as he spots headlights in the distance. He rises to his feet in sync with Natasha and the four of them clamber from the jet as a loud screech sounds outside and the speeding van comes to an abrupt stop.

That worked surprisingly well.

Clint draws his bow and Tony taps the glowy-blue-thing-that-Clint-is-fairly-certain-has-an-official-name on his chest twice the armor assembling around his frame in close to twenty seconds. Tony lifts up his arms revealing small missiles and other weaponry towards the halted vehicle.

"Come out of the car slowly with your hands above your heads. You're under arrest by the U.S. government." Tony announces, his voice is amplified via the suit and the rest of them take the nudge and lift their weapons in the direction of the van.

The entire car is still before a young brunette woman slowly clambers from the driver's seat, an older man from the passenger. Neither is wearing the CARCER V's orange jumpsuit. Did they accidentally pull over the wrong car? Natasha was certain that the man got into a car. They didn't pass any other cars. Did the prisoner go the other way?

The woman's hands flutter, "We didn't do anything wrong—don't shoot!"

Clint snorts, "You broke someone out of federal prison," he corrects, lifting the bow steadily in the direction of the woman, "that's kind of against the law."

The woman looks flustered and shares a glance with the older man, "I know, I know, but—we have a good explanation."

Tony huffs, "You better."

The side the van opens and a brunette with glasses clambers out (possibly the other woman's sister) followed by a dark haired man who is wearing the orange jumpsuit. Okay, good, they didn't get the wrong car. Tony falters as the dark haired man steps out and lowers his weapons, seeming surprised.

The rest of them shoot him bewildered looks.

This is the criminal that they were sent here to take back, why is he standing down?

"Wait." Tony murmurs. Natasha and Clint share a look, unable to determine why. The Iron Man suit's helmet lowers and the multi-billionaire shoots off towards the dark haired man: "Dr. Banner?"

What?

Dr. Bruce Banner is in the CARCER V, has been for eight days now and—oh. That is what the man was doing: he was breaking out Dr. Banner—the uncontrollable green rage monster—from prison. Why? Doesn't he know that Bruce is dangerous? He hasn't exactly made a name for himself being a man who goes around handing lollipops to young children. Harlem (though years ago now) is an example of this vividly.

This was not what he was expecting.

"We should hear them out." Tony states firmly, his voice commanding and lacking any wiggle room for disagreement.

Clint, along with Steve and Natasha lower their weapons.

The brunette woman lacking glasses breathes an audible sigh of relief. The older man steps forward, "Dr. Banner was one of my students when I taught in college, this entire mess if my fault. I knew what he planned on doing and warned him against it. When I found out what happened...I wanted to help. We finally found him and offered him a place to stay with us, away from the government—from everything. We had help breaking him out, he doesn't deserve or need to be there." The older man states, firmly.

"He's not a bad person!" The brunette without glasses adds quickly. "He doesn't deserve to be in jail."

Sure.

"Have you seen or read anything on his counterpart?" Natasha demands, her voice dry.

Fair.

The woman's fingers drum for a second as she gathers her words together, "He was just protecting us from the Abomination—he told us what happened! He doesn't need to go to prison!"

Dr. Banner rests a hand on the glasses-less woman and she turns to look at him as he gives a quiet shake of his head. "Stop." His voice is quiet, almost soft. Clint is mildly surprised by the reaction. Why isn't Dr. Banner fighting for his innocence? If he is as unguilty as the woman is insisting, why isn't he fighting them for it?

He seems resigned to his fate.

Dr. Banner takes a step forward and lifts his hands wrists pressed together as if waiting for handcuffs that Clint's fairly certain none of them have on their person. How did they honestly expect to go about this? They were not prepared to take a man into custody.

"You're just going to keep hunting me, I'm sorry Erik," He looks back at "Erik", his brown eyes tinted with remorse, "but there isn't a point. Thank you for trying."

He raises his hands up further.

Quiet, still, and breathless.

No one takes a step forward.

Clint doesn't completely understand, but there seems to be a general aura of disagreement among them for taking Dr. Banner. He doesn't know why, the man is a wanted criminal and enhanced, but the defeated stance and hopeless expression strike him deeply. It reminds him of when he found Natasha and she stopped fighting, waiting for the kill shot.

With that analogy in mind, his stomach squirms uncomfortably.

Dr. Banner waits for them to move.

And waits.

And waits.

Steve takes a step forward, at last, but swings his shield onto his back. "We're not going to arrest you—"We're not? Bruce's expression clears, obviously relieved. "—We're going to help you."

Clint struggles to keep his jaw from falling. Um. Since when?

Tony states a moment later, surprised, "Um, we are?"

"Yes, we are." Steve confirms. His voice is almost challenging them to disagree, which isn't something Clint is to partial on.

Dr. Banner's shoulders raise, "You really don't have to do that, I—I already got them into trouble, there's no need for—"

Steve rests a hand on the doctor's shoulder and he stills, "You need it." He assures, "We'll help."

Clint can't recall much of the following conversation, something about proper introductions, figuring out where to hide Bruce (Jane's lab) and how they were going to offer assistance (and lie to Ross about their findings), but one moment he's standing in front of a group of pale adults, the next he's on the Quinjet the rest of his team, Bruce and Miss Lewis in the back as they fly to Jane's lab.

He's exhausted, hungry and admittedly grouchy, so he doesn't contribute much to the half hearted debate about ankle socks and knee ones started by Lewis, but he does perk up at Bruce's innocent question:

"Where's Thor?"

Clint lifts a questioning brow from the front where he's co-piloting Natasha and Steve gives a questioning hum, "Who?"

Dr. Banner looks almost flabbergasted at this and lifts his hands out for emphasis, "Tall, blond, has a hammer and a deep voice—he helped me escape, Jane said he would meet us. He said he was there to help me then leave. Do you know where he is?"

Oh.

Oh.

Erm.

Clint and the others share an uncomfortable glance.

000o000

When Steve was in his teens, he and Bucky would often play chess. Neither one of them liked it very much, but they would do it because Steve was sick, bored, bed ridden again and both had nothing better to do. It was during this that Steve began to be interested in battle tactics; he would research as much as he was able through books and anything else he could use as a source for them. Bucky began to lose their chess games rapidly after that. When Steve would beat him in a game in less than two minutes, there'd be this silence before a loud groan and proclamation that Steve was cheating again. After the serum, Steve looked to those mindless chess games as a way of survival.

Steve knows he's not a bad taction, he wouldn't label himself as "amazing", but he knows he isn't an idiot when it comes to this. After waking up from the ice, there are few things he doesn't feel like a bumbling dolt for, and this is supposed to be one of them.

Thor was a destructive element of chaos that Steve was helpless against; they won by sheer luck alone.

Why is he so helpless against this?

Dr. Banner, Foster, Selvig and Miss Lewis had not taken their proclamation of Thor's capture overly well. Foster looked ready to take each of their heads off while simultaneously baking a pie and laughing with young children. They had taken the four back to Foster's lab, a small building out in the middle of pretty much nowhere before there had been a following rant from multiple sources about how stupid they all are.

Were they aware that Thor was attempting to help someone? No.

Did they know that he was an alien, no (Asgard, Jane had said, Asgard, Norse mythology is real and both alive and kicking—so, surprise. Honestly, Steve is too exhausted with everything to muster up the proper amount of startled-ness at the revelation. Aliens, sure, it was harder to accept waking up seventy years after crashing a plane and drowning to death).

Would things have gone differently had they known this? Probably not.

Jane refused to be satisfied and kept pestering them until Tony had relented and agreed to assist with breaking Thor out of prison. He attempted calling Ross first, insisting that Thor was the prince of another world and he was just attempting to help a friend—they have no good argument for this. How does one explain that they don't think that Bruce should be in prison for attempting to not let the Abomination run free?

Ross had said no and hung up during the middle of one of Tony's sentences.

Tony had pulled the phone away from his ear like it personally offended him then promptly swore violently.

Jarvis, Tony's AI (which is honestly almost stranger than other living beings in their universe) had pulled everything up that they have on the CARCER V and they've been going over it trying to find a way to sneak Thor out without alerting everyone on the planet that their doing so. Assistance from S.H.I.E.L.D. is out, trying to actually talk to Ross didn't work and attempting to break into the base is looking impossible.

Tony can't hack it for long enough to be useful, even with Natasha's assistance.

Steve can't find any openings.

Clint is as empty as the rest of them.

Thor only broke in because he overwhelmed the entire facility with sheer force and power, but that was after Lewis managed to pull up the scopes of the place and Thor studied it for "Hours. He just sat there staring at it his fingers steapled under his nose" according to Selvig.

They do not have anyone who wields lightning. They don't have enough power combined to do anything similar, and Bruce refuses to accept Hulk as a possibility.

They are, for better lack of wording: effectively stuck.

And have been going in these circles for two weeks.

They cannot come up with anything plausible. Nothing. This is aggravating! The most they've been doing is getting into little hissy fights about the matter and that is not any more effective than going at CARCER V without a plan.

Circles, upon circles, upon circles.

It is, he supposes, a relief then that Foster came across the anomaly. She said that there was some sort of weird build up in space and now there's something strange going on. She hadn't been specific, but she was pretty sure that it was Asgard.

Asgard.

Thor's world.

This is just amazing.

They had scrambled together, dragged Bruce with them and clambered into the Quinjet to go find out what the thing was.

They've scarcely made it into the desert before lights, mostly white shimmer through the air, bursting through the sky like some sort of powerful tornado.

Clint jerks the controls backwards to avoid the wing of the Quinjet being severed by it. Steve grabs the edge of the wall to keep his balance from the sudden lurch and struggles to keep his jaw from falling.

He's seen plenty of strange things sense waking up from the ice, but this? This takes the cake.

What the heck is that thing?

The light as quickly as it appeared, lingers for maybe ten seconds before vanishing leaving a hunched over figure in its place. Steve can't see if it's a female or male from this distance, but he honestly doesn't know if it matters or not.

The weird beamy-light-thing just shot a person down from the sky. Sure. Makes perfect sense. Norse Mythology is real, why not strange lights shooting people from the sky?—What!? Bruce, beside him, frowns deeply his lips pursed with wariness.

"Who is that?" Tony's voice demands and Steve sees the armor come to a halt outside the window. He didn't ask the obvious question of "what the heck was that" that Steve would like answered, but the Tony's is relevant as well.

"Unknown," Natasha says from the co-pilot seat, "S.H.I.E.L.D. database has nothing."

Great.

"Yep, Jarvis doesn't either, if I was to make a guess, I'm guessing Asgardian." Tony says. Because that's even better. Another Thor? "Why don't we go say hi?"

"Stark!" Steve shouts, panic grasping at his throat. What on Earth is the multi-billionaire thinking!? Is he insane!? They don't know if this one is friendly or not, "Do not engage, repeat: do not engage."

Tony ignores him.

Steve honestly isn't surprised.

The glint of the red and gold slides past the window towards the figure. A quiet swear escapes him, and he slides into the pilots section, grabbing the headrest of Clint's chair, "Take us down."

"Are you sure—?" Bruce starts to asks behind him.

"Yes." Steve snaps, he's not going to lose any other teammates. Why does Tony have to be such an irrational idiot!? "Hawkeye," he presses.

Clint nods, though he and Natasha share a wary look before Clint flicks the controls and the plane begins to descend.

Tony has already landed when they reach the desert floor, and Natasha slams her hand down on the button to lower the ramp shoving a gun into a holster. Clint rises to his feet and flicks his bow out as Steve grabs his shield from off the chair he left it on a few minutes earlier. Bruce warily follows after them as they race from the Quinjet to where Tony is standing about fifteen feet from the figure completely still, but hands raised and Steve can hear the slight thrum of the repulsors.

As they get closer Steve can make out their—rather her—features.

It's woman in her late twenties (possibly early thirties) Steve would guess. Dark hair is spilling over her shoulders, but the upper half of it is gathered into some sort of messy bun with shorter pieces hanging in her face. A small gathering towards her left is sectioned off into a short braid and because the layer is so short, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Her eyes are shadowed slightly and her appearance is slightly tired, but regal, and there's something about her that commands respect. Her clothing is dark, but glowing a slight green and a thick emerald cape is blowing around her ankles.

Her hands are laying limply at her sides, but her head tilts slightly, sizing them up as they stand next to Tony.

Her stare makes him uncomfortable.

Silence stretches for another few seconds before the woman releases a breath and her expression narrows, "You have recently come into contact with a man who wields lightning then defeated and contained him. I want his location."

Thor.

She's here for Thor.

Great.

What are they supposed to tell her? That Thor is currently under arrest for breaking someone out of prison and they have no idea how to get him out unless he's released? She's one person, what can she do against an entire army?

They remain quiet. The woman's expression flickers with annoyance, "You speak English, yes?" She questions, pauses, then asks "¿Hablas Español?"

Steve shares a look with Natasha at the bizzarity of this.

There's a sigh, then: "Est-ce que tu parles Français?" How many languages does she flipping know?

"English." Bruce finally supplies, stopping the woman's quest to find a common ground between them.

"Oh, good," The woman states, then smiles with a dangerous note, "you heard my question, what is your answer?"

A shift of unease settles between them. Even if they could offer this information, they don't know who she is, they don't know what she wants with Thor and their only clue as to where she came from is a beam of light shot through the sky. They don't even know if she's from Asgard.

They remain quiet.

A hum slips through her lips before her hands draw up towards her face, flexing and a spidery helmet stretches on her head, her hair slipping up into it. She lifts her hand out and a long sword slides into her palm from seemingly her wrist.

Hostile.

Steve lifts his shield slightly and takes a step forward, "There's no reason for this to end in a fight, Ma'am, we can work this out."

Maybe.

"The location, and I'll leave you in peace."

"Why do you need to know where Thor is?" Tony demands, taking a step up next to Steve. The woman's eyes narrow and she gives a thin smile and not for the first time, Steve wishes he was as gifted at reading people as Natasha or Clint.

"I am Hela Odinsdottir, Crown Princess of Asgard, the Mistress of Death; Thor is my younger brother."

Her what?

Thor has a sister? Since when!? Jane only mentioned a brother, therefore: Thor only mentioned a brother. Did he not think it relevant information to mention other family? Steve would have liked to know that! They all would have.

A slight "oh" escapes Bruce.

Steve swings his shield onto his back and lifts up his hands towards Hela. "We're on common ground here, Miss, we're trying to help Thor, too. Avengers, stand down." He directs the last part towards his team and with reluctance they follow the command.

Hela frowns.

She can be an ally, if she's Thor's sibling, she's bound to be as skilled as he is and they need something like that if they plan on getting Thor out. "We can work together on this, we'll take you back to our base and explain the situation."

Jane's lab isn't much of a base, but it's better than nothing. Talking out in the open like this makes Steve uncomfortable, he doesn't know who's watching or listening. His teammates send him equally uncomfortable looks.

Steve bites his lip slightly and Hela draws her hand back, the sword disappearing the same way it appeared. Her spidery helmet vanishes as well and the long dark hair spills over her shoulders once more, "Then explain; I have limited time here. Thor better hope he has a good reason for this."

000o000

The ride back to their improtivito base of operations, Jane's lab (even though it's scarcely more than ten minutes away) is long and awkward. Hela doesn't speak to them, opting instead to keep her gaze locked firmly onto her feet and hands clasped in her lap laxly. She looks, for all intents and purposes, completely at ease and the rest of them are simply fools for feeling out of place.

Steve can't say it's exactly his favorite feeling.

He grits his jaw and bites his tongue to withhold comments and the rest of them do the same. If Hela notices, she states nothing verbal.

When they finally land some eight minutes later, all of them all but scramble from the Quinjet as Tony lands outside of it, armor dismantling around him into the arc reactor once more and he strides into the small lab, the rest of them trailing after them.

Steve watches Hela with a slight wariness as they enter, but the most she does it swipe her eyes across the room, hum quietly to herself and then stand in in between two desks folding her arms across her chest. Steve drops his shield onto the coffee table and it clangs loudly.

"You're back already?" Jane calls from the kitchen, "That wasn't even half an hour was the—who is that?" Jane halts in the doorway gaze flitting across Hela rapidly and she takes a subconscious step backwards as Darcy appears behind her suddenly.

Hela stares at them and Darcy's gaze flicks to Steve's for a second.

"We're picking up strays now?"

"She's not a stray." Bruce corrects quietly, "She's Thor's sister."

Jane gapes and Darcy gawks quietly, "His what now?" Jane demands, "He didn't mention any siblings beyond his brother—and that was barely in a passing glance. You're from Asgard?" Jane demands, looking at Hela with sudden understanding and hesitation.

Hela dips her head in a nod, "I am." She confirms, "I am Hela, firstborn of Odin, the Mistress of Death," She waves a hand flippantly, "You are Jane Foster, I presume, and Miss Lewis."

Darcy grabs at Jane's shoulder, "How does she know that?" She demands then turns to Hela, "How do you know that?"

Hela sighs slightly, "Hardly important—" Steve disagrees, can she read minds? "—What information do you have on Thor's captors?"

"Not much," Steve admits, "it's a government facility that we can't get past. We've been trying for two weeks now." And failing. Lots of failing.

Hela's eyebrow lifts slightly, "Can you not ask for his release?"

"We tried." Tony assures, rubbing at his forehead warily. His wedding ring glints in the light transfer making it stand out vividly, but it isn't the first time Steve's seen it. Pepper and Tony have been married for about four years now from Steve's understanding. Their co-running of Stark Industries was one of the first things he looked into after he got out of the ice. "Didn't get authorization."

"What was he doing anyway?" Hela demands, her voice verging on annoyed.

Steve is slightly surprised, her flippant attitude about this makes it seem as though it happens every other Tuesday.

Jane perks up, "He was helping someone out of prison—"

Hela's eyebrows lift, "That doesn't sound like him."

"—who was innocent and overwhelmed it with power so they arrested him."

There's a beat and then a sigh, "That sounds like him."

Tony lifts his phone and presses a button releasing a hologram into the air pushing it forward for Hela to see. "This is a basic layout of the facility," He addresses, Hela shifts forward to look at it and is apparently well versed in the technology because she plucks at the building and twists it so she can spin it without having to move in a circle. Tony looks mildly impressed, but doesn't comment. "Everything we've come up with hasn't worked."

Hela spins the hologram once more, her deep blue eyes narrowed and her lips purse. She zooms in on a few things before backing out and hums quietly, "Have you tried the front door?"

The...why? They're trying to not label who it was that did this to everyone. They want to sneak Thor out, not announce to the world that he's free.

"The front door?" Natasha repeats dubiously, "Are you serious?"

Hela straightens and turns to look back at the red head. Most of the time Steve hardly notices that the ex-assassin is in all honesty actually fairly short. She's frightening and makes up for the difference with her presence but when Hela stands next to her, it's suddenly stark.

"Yes, I am serious." Hela says in a deadpan.

Jane takes a step forward, balancing the rolling pin she's holding in hand, "What is it exactly that you plan on doing?"

Hela's head tilts slightly and a grim smile spreads on her lips, "By all rights I should declare war on your planet. You just kidnapped our Crown Prince."

They pale.

Going to war with another country is one thing, but another planet?

Hela releases a loud laugh—a sound that startles all of them—and waves a hand lazily, "But that's far to much work and I'm not in the mood for a bloodbath at the moment. Miss Foster, I plan on walking up to the front door and asking for my sibling back, if they refuse—well," she shrugs, "I have an army."

Tony is quiet for a moment before looking over at Bruce, "And we have a Hulk."

000o000

When they arrive in Michigan hours later after giving their regards to Dr. Selvig, Jane and Darcy, they are almost immediately stopped by S.H.I.E.L.D., who was waiting for them. Hela lingers at the top of the ramp and looks back at them, looking for the first time since Tony met her about six hours ago, anything but relaxed or in control.

She looks confused, "Who is this?"

"Director Fury," Natasha answers, blowing a stray piece of hair from her face.

"What does he direct?" Hela queries.

Tony quietly huffs to himself and lightly claps her on the shoulder that she flinches to, "Everything; he's in charge of a super secret—though they plaster their logo onto everything—government agency that supposed to protect us. Basically, he's a super spy with a day job."

"...Ah," Hela does not look any less confused than before, but strides down from the ramp all the same the rest of them slowly following after her. Fury takes a step away from Hill, looking as impassive as ever. There's a dozen or so S.H.I.E.L.D. agents behind him who are standing still and quietly like they are carved from stone.

Fury's one-eyed gaze lingers on Bruce who clambered out behind him and Tony bites at his tongue for a second. Crap. He completely forgot that they sort of illegally hid him. All the one-eyed man does, however, is simply give a slight nod of his head in the doctor's direction.

Hela walks towards the director and lifts her hand up, "I have been told that handshakes are a common greeting on your planet." She states, where she heard that, Tony doesn't know because none of them told her that.

Fury looks mildly surprised at the action, but clasps the woman's hands. "Nick Fury." He says.

"Hela Odinsdottir." Hela returns.

Fury looks at her slightly confused as he pulls his hand back, "You're Odin's daughter?" He asks for clarification.

Hela nods. "Yes."

"Huh. From what we have on your people...that's not what we have listed." Fury appears to decide on not saying something mid way through his sentence and Hela looks mildly amused at the prospect.

"I assure you, Director, that this is hardly my first visit to Midgard. I am aware you believe my younger brother birthed me and I assure you that isn't the case." Hela smiles thinly, "Might I inquire into your purpose here?"

"We were looking for you," Fury admits, "wondered what you planned on doing here."

"My brother has been taken captive via his stupidity. As his older sibling I feel a mild obligation to help him. I am here to claim him and return to Asgard, I would not recommend getting in my way, Director." Hela's tone is light, but there's a darker under edge to it something that assures that she is fully capable of fulfilling this.

Fury seems to catch onto that because his next words are careful: "Your brother is in there?" He flicks a hand out towards CARCER V.

"Yes." Hela answers patiently "I am told he was rescuing that one," she flicks a thumb over her shoulder to Bruce's general direction.

Fury's expression clouds and he sighs. "I know, if he'd waited a few more days we would have had Dr. Banner released without this mess."

Tony blinks in surprise and Bruce takes a step back. "You'd—" He starts, his voice quiet. Fury looks at him.

"Ross did not have permission to take you into custody—or a reason to. My superiors pushed for your pardon so he can't do this again. He didn't have authorization to pull my team out from their station here to come get you. At the moment, your a free man. Your Highness," he turns to address Hela, "your brother is being held for no reason, if you give us a few days we can get him out without any type of mess—"

Hela waves a hand interrupting him, "With all do respect, Director, I don't want him there for any longer."

Fury pauses, "Alright, but how do you plan on doing this, I'm not going to let you attack an innocent base."

Hela scoffs, seeming slightly offended by the suggestion. "I simply plan on using intimidation and speaking to them for a few minutes, am I allowed that?" Her voice is dry.

""Intimidation"?" Fury repeats.

Hela leans back on her feet looking amused, "Do I have your permission or not? If all goes well the only thing harmed will be a few egos." She's quite good at avoiding questions.

Fury looks like he's going to say no. Tony is fairly certain he's going to say no.

"Fine."

Hela smiles brightly, "Excellent. General, if you please." She turns to address...nothing.

Tony blinks.

Um?

After a moment there's this sort of...shimmer a moment later like someone shaking black glitter off of a blanket and hundreds of rotting wispy bodies suddenly zap into existence. Tony leaps back a few feet, a loud exclamation escaping him and Fury and the other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents lift their weapons.

Hela lifts her hand, "Be at ease," she instructs, a half smile on her lips. One of the wispy things moves to stand beside her and Hela lifts her hands to her head the weird spider helmet appearing again. Hela looks at Fury, "Director, this is my intimidation."

000o000

Tony has seen so many weird things over the last three weeks that after a few minutes with Hela's army, he's barely fazed anymore. With S.H.I.E.L.D. hobbling after them, he, Hela and the rest of his team stride towards CARCER V with more confidence than Tony honestly feels.

They're going to get shot. It's his only real coherent thought. They are going to get murdered dead.

Hela does not seemed at all concerned for this outcome, but not all of them have the ability to have an army simply materialize out of nowhere. Hela had briefly explained when asked something along the lines of "those without mortal form are not bound to Realms", but it hadn't made much sense.

Now, they're storming up to a building and hoping that they can get General-stubborn-pain-in-the-backside-Ross to agree to the release of Asgard's prince.

As they reach the entrance, Hela lifts a hand towards the door and just knocks. A few taps like she's here for tea.

He doesn't know exactly what's going on inside CARCER V, but they appear to be as startled as he is because there's a period of silence before the door slowly creaks open. General Ross stands in the entrance, eyebrows lowered and expression miffed. He does however, lift his gaze to the army and his eyebrows shoot up a startled sort of squeak escaping him.

They (Hela's army, the Berserkers) can't be caught on footage. When Tony's looking through his HUD all he sees is abnormally cold spots surrounding them.

"What is this!?" Ross barks, "Who are you? What are you doing? What is that?"

Hela smiles pleasantly, "General Ross, I presume."

"And you are?" The man spits. 

"I am Hela, Crown Princess of Asgard, first born child of Odin Borson, Mistress of Death. You have taken my younger brother, Thor, captive and you will either return him to me willingly, or I step over your cold, dead body to take him."

Well, that's a pleasant mental image.

Ross pales, opens his mouth then closes it twice and then grinds his jaw shut, speechless. Remarkable. In all the years that Tony has known the man he's never seen him without a comeback.

Hela's patience appears to draw thin because she lifts her wrist out and a weapon slides from nowhere into her palm. How does she do that? She can't have them up her sleeves.

Ross looks past Hela for a moment, gaze lingering in Fury's direction as he lifts a hand up to his ear piece at the movement, "Bring out Prisoner C8." He commands.

Hela appears pacified and the sword vanishes as quickly as it appeared.

A few minutes pass before there's an awkward shuffle and loud movement then two men with another slung between them appear in the doorway, General Ross following after them. It takes Tony a second to recognize the man in the middle as Thor. When they last saw him, he looked so...alive, vibrate. Now? He's a little more than a pale corpse.

He's wearing the prisoners clothing, though it looks slightly tattered. His hands are a mess of bandages and his long light hair is across his face in a sort of mop-style. He doesn't appear to be standing by himself and Tony's fists clench.

Honestly, none of them really expected anything beyond maybe Thor being a little grumpy. They didn't expect General Ross to have authorized something like...this, whatever it is. He knows that Bruce told them they were experimenting to see what they could do to get the Hulk to come out—which should be illegal and a threat to national safety—but he has no idea what they would try on Thor.

A slight stiffness grows between Hela's shoulders as her younger brother is brought into view, but her stance speaks of years of political practice with hiding emotions.

The most Tony sees her face do is a slight squint next to her eyes. The two helmeted men come within three feet of Hela and throw Thor forward. Hela leans forward and catches his weight easily, holding him close to her for a moment and murmurs something into his hair Tony doesn't catch, but it doesn't sound like it's exactly English.

Hela's eyes narrow as she connects them with Ross's and her lips part slightly a moment of silence stretching as she appears to hold back a shout she really wants to scream and instead states, icily: "Thank you; Asgard is in your debt for your rousing show of kindness." There's a sarcastic edge to her voice, but Tony quietly applauds her for her control. He knows that if someone had done something like this to Rhodey and just dumped him towards Tony without an apology, he probably would have lost it.

Ross sputters slightly at her comment, "We did what we thou—" He starts to defend, but Hela lifts up a hand and presses two of her fingers against her thumb in a quieting gesture. She doesn't say anything else, but her obvious disapproval is there before she leans down and grabs Thor in a bridal style position that doesn't seem to strain her in the slightest.

She spins, her cape swishing in Ross's direction and the Berserkers part to make room for the two siblings as she treks a path back to the Quinjet. Tony and his team close the gap between the Berserkers preventing any of Ross's men from coming at the siblings.

The green-glowing army treks after them until they reach the Quinjet.

Hela murmurs a few words to one of the men what Tony's assuming is her native tongue as Clint and Natasha step inside the Quinjet to prepare it for take off. Hela begins to walk up the ramp, but stops at a heavy beat of footsteps and a loud voice: "Princess Hela, Your Highness—" Ross's voice is commanding and Tony turns abruptly struck frozen by the sheer audacity of this man.

What the heck does he think he's doing?

They legally and rightfully claimed Thor, if Ross plans on taking him back...just idiot.

The man that Hela pointed out as her general turns raising a sword in the direction of the man, but Ross doesn't seem to phased. Personally, Tony would stop if someone pointed a weapon like that in his nose's direction, but Ross's mental capacity has never been rousing.

Ross ignores the weapon completely and storms past it prompting a raise of another hundred or so from the rest of the army and Hela's body to still. "You should know that we had no idea that he was your prince and that the United States Government is embarrassed heavily by this. We put forth our sincere apologies for everything that happened and hope that you'll accept it. I, personally am ashamed for what happened and if I could change things know that I wou—"

Tony has seen a lot of things cause people to leap backwards, but nothing quite like Hela's spin. As she turns, the bits of plants in the ground around her feet in a fifteen foot radius dies. Utterly withers into a pile of shriveled blackened leaves and the dirt darkens surrounding everything as wood from the trees rots groaning as pine needles and leafs wither.

"Mistress of death" she's introduced herself as, but Tony didn't take her seriously on that until now.

Ross leaps backwards from the ground as Hela's general takes a step closer to the royalty.

Hela laughs. Full on outright laughs like Ross had told her a witty science pun joke rather than attempted a scrambled apology for his government to prevent an intergalactic war. Her grip on her sibling tightens a minuscule amount as the laughs die in her throat abruptly and she lifts her finger out towards him from where its still gripped around Thor's shoulders.

"Your government I care naught of; they had no idea what was going on." She flickers her fingers vaguely in Fury's direction, "It is not for their sake you should pray, Thaddeus, but for yours." Ross face washes of color, "You just kidnapped the Crown Prince of my Realm, my brother and the son of two of the most powerful beings in the universe. We do not forget easily. Try to remember that when you do sincerely plead for your life at their hands. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go repair the damage you've done and perhaps prepare for war. Good day."

She tilts her head and turns, leaning to whisper something to her general before trekking up the steps for the Quinjet. As she disappears inside Hela's army blinks out of existence as if someone flicked a switch, but Tony has his doubts that all of them have simply vanished. Their loyalty, though Tony only saw a brief glimpse was admirable.

Ross remains motionless for a few more seconds, his jaw shifting up and down like a gasping fish before turning on his heel and storming off. Tony watches his back without much remorse. If Asgard deals with him, Tony can't honestly say he'll interfere on their methods much. What he did to both Bruce and Thor…

Fury pauses, looking slightly nauseous and sighs rubbing his temples, "The moment that man is released from duty I am going to throw a party." He announces, Hill nods seriously.

Tony laughs, surprised, but in agreement, "I'll provide the refreshments." He offers.

000o000

As Tony steps into the Quinjet about a minute later, he sees Hela resting Thor down on one of the benches and the Asgardian lets out a slight moan before she takes a seat next to his head and lifts it up to rest on her lap before beginning to stroke his blond hair almost idly as her eyes stare ahead.

Tony takes a seat across from her as Clint and Natasha finish the final few checks to prepare for take off. Tony frowns at the gentle gesture from Hela. It's so strange to see the different parts of this woman, one moment she's prepared to take their heads off with little remorse, the next she looks like she could actually mother a gate.

The Quinjet's doors close and Bruce and Steve take a seat on either side of Tony. Tony pauses before stating, "For what it's worth, I am sorry about what happened."

Hela's gaze flickers to him and Tony adds: "To Thor."

She hums slightly, "I appreciate it;" she glances down at Thor again, something distant and lost in her gaze for a moment. "I can't lose another sibling." The last part is murmured, but curiosity spikes in Tony again. This isn't the first time the "other sibling" has been mentioned, but no one really seems to be willing to offer further details. Jane didn't know any, but Hela and Thor do. Considering the fact that Norse Mythology is quite set on the fact that Loki is Hela's parent, he's not going to do any digging through that for answers.

"You're welcome to stay at Stark Tower—its a building in New York that I own—as he recovers." Tony offers, flicking a hand out towards Thor.

Hela looks down at her brother, then up at him, "Thank you."

"Everyone else is, too," Tony says towards his teammates, "I've got plenty of space and Pepper's only unsociable on Thursdays."

Steve laughs quietly, "We'll think about it."

No one disagrees to the hospitably, Tony assumes, because Clint sets the coordinates for the building.

The flight back to the Tower is quiet for a long few hours except a comment every now and then until Thor lets out a loud groan and all of them still, waiting. Hela's gaze turns to her brother and she gently taps at his forehead, her fingers stilling from their continuous playing with his hair. Any knots that were there previously are missing now.

"Thor?"

Another groan, though it sounds a little closer to a whimper. Tony's fists clench at the sound in discomfort, Steve's head leans back against the wall glancing towards the roof as Bruce twists at his fingers again. Note to self: when they get back to New York, have Jarvis dig as much as he's able to put Ross in as many legal issues as possible—on second thought, put Pepper in charge of it.

Thor's eyes open a sliver and he squints in Hela's direction as if dizzy and trying to focus. Tony can tell the moment that the blond recognizes who Hela is because there's a barely noticeable wince, in any other situation, Tony would have found it funny. Now? It's a struggle.

"I'm in trouble, aren't I?" Thor's voice is hoarse and quiet, barely above a murmured whisper, but Hela's expression floods with relief and her fingers tighten in his hair.

"Oh, loads, little brother." She assures before gently running her fingers on his eyes to close the lids, "Rest. I'll yell at you later."

Thor gives a grunt and shifts in his sister's lap as if trying to get more comfortable. "Reassuring." He mumbles halfheartedly.

Hela smiles and her expression washes of weight, exhaustion and worry Tony didn't realize were there. Thor's breathing evens out somewhere close to ten minutes later, indicating sleep and Tony lifts an eyebrow slightly.

""Yell at him later"?" He questions; all he receives as an answer is a tight smile.

000o000

Natasha has never felt more out of place in a building. She didn't work in Stark Tower when she was undercover as Tony's P.A. and she didn't realize how...big it is, inside. The outside is massive, of course, but the inside is just plain enormous.

Tony's letting them stay in his guest bedrooms at the moment. Over the last two weeks as they've been hiding out with Dr. Foster attempting to figure out how to secure a prison break they'd mostly slept on her lab's floor and someone would occasionally take the couch so the transition from that to a bed is weird—but not unwelcome.

Late into the next morning Natasha is in the communal kitchen nursing a coffee as Pepper and Steve create some sort of elaborate breakfast they're quite determined to stuff down the rest of their throats. Pepper had been waiting for them when they got back and took Hela and Thor to a medical area that the rest of them had trailed on.

According to Thor as Hela had cleaned and re-bandaged the wounds on his hands demanding answers with venom, CARCER V had wanted to know how Mjolnir worked and was going to extremes to find out. Thor hadn't fought back because he was to exhausted and apparently ill with some sort of common Asgardian head cold that he slipped out of Asgard's healers for before coming to Earth and finding Jane.

Heimdall, some sort of gatekeeper from her understanding, apparently saw someone that looked like their missing brother (how remains elusive to her) and told Thor who promptly left. Neither sibling has offered any answers about that when Steve asked, and none of them pushed.

It was then that the two seemed to realize they were there and Hela had stared at them warily before shooing them out and promptly switching her entire conversation into their mother tongue, Aardent.

They'd left them alone after that.

"Jarvis told me you were cooking." Clint announces as he walks into the room, looking like a small child that was just offered a box of crayons.

"We are indeed," Pepper says and opens the fridge pulling out a container of orange juice, "take a seat at the table, we'll be done soon." She says and gestures towards the table that's in a separate room adjoined to the kitchen. There isn't enough places to fit all eight of them, which is why Natasha has claimed a place at the counter.

Clint apparently makes the same assessment a moment later and takes a place beside her.

Pepper flips the stove off from where she's warming up syrup and lifts up her hand staring at her watch, "Ah, I've gotta run, there's a meeting that Tony refuses to go to that I need to take notes on. You're skilled, Steve, it was fun working with you." She addresses the super soldier before grabbing her bag from off the counter.

"Do you want any of these?" Steve lifts up the plate of pancakes and Pepper shakes her head.

"I'll just make my P.A. bring me something. I didn't realize everything got so late." Pepper quickly vanishes into the elevator a few seconds later.

"She's nice." Clint offers into the silence.

"Yeah." Steve agrees pouring more batter onto the grill.

All of them turn at the sound of voices as the elevator opens about two minutes later, "No, I'm serious, you can't just take that and split it in half, do you even know how heat works?" Tony's voice is skeptical.

"Yes." Bruce answers, "but I thought—"

"It's wrong." Tony states firmly.

"Are you su—?"

"Quite positive." Tony assures.

The two of them step into the kitchen like they hadn't been speaking at all and Tony's gaze flips across the room. "Where's Pepper?"

"She left about two minutes ago." Steve answers, "Something about a meeting."

Tony looks thoughtful for a moment then grimaces, "Oh. That one."

Natasha huffs, "Don't look to excited."

"I'm not," Tony assures, "very much so not. Why are you hiding on the counter? I promise that my table and chairs aren't going to bite you."

Natasha and Clint share a glance and Tony stares at them then sighs, "It fits eight." He assures and waves a hand in the "come" gesture in ASL that most people are unaware they make subconsciously. Natasha, Clint and Bruce follow after the multi-billionaire.

They've only been seated at the table Pepper probably set before leaving for about a minute when Hela and Thor walk into the room. Thor's posture is stiff and obviously uncomfortable, but he slides into the chair opposite of Natasha with a slight grimace. Hela sits next to him looking just as stiff. Both are wearing clothing lended by Pepper and Tony that looks strange on them. Hela's shirt is a plain purple and her hair is tugged back into some sort of elaborate braid Natasha has her doubts can be properly replicated. Thor is wearing gray sweatpants and some sort of science pun shirt that Natasha doesn't get.

"Good morning." Tony addresses the two cheerfully, "You look like you slept well."

No, no they don't. Both have smudges under their eyes and look ready to face plant at a moment's notice. Thor's hair is a mess. A piece of it has been pulled out and is braided with a black piece of hair, whether it's dyed or not, Natasha can't tell. A piece of Hela's hair is cropped short about the same length, but with her dark hair it's hard to tell if they both have the same strand.

Is it some sort of Asgardian custom?

"Alright," Steve says and slides a plate of the food onto the table, "sorry these are a little burned."

"Burned is good." Bruce reassures the super soldier. Bruce likes burned things. Huh.

Hela awkwardly mimics what they're doing, but it's painfully obvious she's never had this meal before in her life. Thor, however, continues looking forward looking like he's constantly being prodded in the back by a cow prattle and eats nothing.

This continues for a few minutes as they shakily converse until Hela prods him firmly on the arm with the back of her fork. Thor winces and flicks his gaze to her.

"You're not eating, brother." She states.

"I'm not hungry."

Hela's expression flickers with something Natasha can't quite place. "Thor."

Thor murmurs something in Aardent, his gaze flickering to them unsteadily. He doesn't trust them very much and Natasha doesn't exactly blame him. Because of them, Thor was stuck at CARCER V for fifteen days and the only reason he got out was because of his older sister.

Hela's expression furrows and she says something back to him in the tongue, gesturing vaguely towards the food with her hand. The language sounds like a cross between Old English, Norwegian, and bits of Old Norse.

Natasha thinks she can maybe pick out a few words, but she's pretty much helpless to the context.

Thor responds, equally flustered and Hela answers her voice sharp. Thor makes a face. Hela patience appears to reach its end and she slips into English mid sentence in the midst of her argument, "—going to help anything?"

Thor's expression draws blank, "Would you like me to throw up on your feet?"

"Thor, honestly, you're not a child, our brother—"

Thor slams a hand down on the table, silencing her and startling the rest of them. Its quiet for a moment before Thor asks, his voice a mere hiss. "He isn't here, is he? Is he?"

Hela bites her tongue her jaw clenching as she looks away from him, fingers wrapping around her fork like it could be used for a bloody murder. The victim? Probably Thor.

Natasha carefully sets her fork down on the cutlery and looks at the two of them. What is up with their sibling? It seems to be an unspoken line between them and all they've heard the other sibling mentioned...twice?

There is probably better timing for this question and a gentler, easier way to address it, but Natasha has always been a fairly blunt person: "You've both mentioned a third sibling. What happened to him?" Natasha questions. Thor and Hela still, a sort of wild glance shared between them. Yeah, she should have waited for this.

Hela eyes squeeze shut and a breath escapes her as Thor releases a soft sigh.

Is he dead? If he is, it's probably recent.

Natasha draws back suddenly; vastly more uncomfortable with this, "If you don't want to—" She starts, but Hela shakes her head, lifting up a hand.

"You assisted me, offering information is the least I can do." Another breath and her jaw clenches, "Loki, our younger brother, has been missing for two almost three years now," Hela pauses as if trying to figure out how to continue; and bites at her lower lip, this topic is clearly one she doesn't feel comfortable with discussing and Thor lightly brushes her shoulder in reassurance. Their past argument is clearly not at the forefront of either's mind. So, at least there's that.

"Loki was...he is one of the most powerful sorcerers in the Nine Realms—perhaps the most. Stark, stop giving me that look, magic exists, it is a basic science in Asgard—"

"But—" Tony protests, his expression irritated, "—that doesn't make sense, you can't wave your hands and just create things out of thin air. That's bending matter and breaking so many laws of physics—magic can't exist."

Hela facepalms; and Thor looks pretty close to following after her.

Natasha's eyebrows lift with amusement.

Tony leans back in his chair, looking close to pouting as he folds his arms across his chest and demands: "Fine, oh-great-I-am-above-the-laws-of-physics, explain."

Hela glances at Thor apparently volunteering him by her gaze, "Magic works in two ways," Thor says, lifting his hands up, bandaged hands with two fingers, "inborn magic and non-inborn. Those who are born with magic are more powerful than those without it because inborn have the ability to store magic in a type of core called Sedir. With Sedir, it allows them to manipulate. I am not inborn, and am only able to control one type of energy: electricity. Hela is also non-inborn, but is able to draw life from the living by a simple touch."

Natasha's gaze flickers back towards the dark haired woman sitting at the end of the table.

She can what?

Natasha saw what happened with Ross and the plants, but she didn't dwell on it.

Lightning wasn't fun, by no means, but it wasn't dragging life from someone.

Hela doesn't seem at all uncomfortable under all their sudden stares, "Loki, however, is inborn. He is able to bend...matter I believe you call it here with simple thought. The list of his abilities is virtually endless, and I have seen little that he is unable to do. He draws energy from himself and living things—mostly verdure to control his skill, but Hela and I do not. There is a part of the brain that inborns have that we do not. Humans are not gifted with this either, and your sorcery works differently than ours, and though powerful, is admittedly pathetic compared to the best inborns other Realms have."

Tony groans a moment later. "You mean to tell me Earth has magic and we don't know about it?"

Thor shrugs, "Loki is close friends with the mistress of it here, it is their decision on whether to go public, but our brother has encouraged them otherwise."

S.H.I.E.L.D. knows nothing about human sorcerers that Natasha is aware of.

Great.

Has their seriously been an undercover network of people bending the laws of physics for several what (hundred now, maybe?) years and they've known nothing about it?

Hela huffs at their expressions of frustration or discomfort, "That aside, what happened to Loki isn't exactly known completely. The day he went missing there was an entry in one of his sorcery journals on the formula behind World-Walking—without the Bifrost, the Casket of Ancient Winters, the Space Stone or select others, this is impossible. The strain it would put on the body rips every cell apart from each other and leaves the beating heart in tatters. Few who have attempted lived and none of succeeded."

Natasha's lips purse.

Oh.

Assumed dead, then, and more than likely is dead. Most of what Hela listed wasn't familiar to her, she frankly has no idea what a Bifrost or Casket of Ancient Winters is, but she does know that blood cells being ripped out probably isn't pleasant.

Hela glances at the table, "There was no evidence of this occurring, but most of Asgard—beyond myself, Thor, and a few others—believe him to have suffered the same fate as many other failures. He is assumed dead; we held his services a years' past. Thor and I don't believe this is what happened, and I stepped down from the throne to search—" she was queen? "—but so far we have found no success. He has effectively vanished without reason and our Realm mourns him as though he is dead. Does that answer your question adequately, Lady Romanov?"

Natasha frowns and plays with her fingers for a second, but gives a nod, "Yes." Clint reaches to give her hand a quick squeeze in reassurance and Natasha looks up at him giving a slight nod of her thanks for the action.

"Good." Hela says and turns to Thor, "Did you tear your stitches?"

Natasha whips her gaze towards the blond and feels her eyebrows raise in surprise. Thor's face is pale and devoid of proper coloring; something almost impossible to miss but she did. She was so focused on gaining the information on their sibling that she ignored it.

Splendid.

Thor shakes his head. "No."

"Right," Hela agrees dryly and shoves back from the table, rising to her full height. All of them watch her slightly transfixed as she grabs Thor's arm and pulls it over her shoulder before dragging her younger sibling to his feet and moving towards the couches. All of them rise to their feet and follow after the two, curious.

Hela all but shoves the younger onto the couch and stands next to him, hands on her hips. "Alright, shirt off." She commands and Thor groans before with what looks like an incredible amount of effort peels the clothing from off his skin and sets it next to him. Hela takes a seat in front of him and adjusts something on the bandages before clicking through her teeth. She lifts her gaze from the bandages to her younger brother's face.

"You should have told me it was bleeding again."

"I didn't know it was." Thor answers, though something in his tone suggests it isn't the case.

Hela's lips dip down and her eyebrows curve inwards; Thor glances down at his feet at the hard stare.

"It didn't seem important." Thor corrects in barely above a mumble a moment later.

Hela whacks his arm, hard, "Thor Bor Buri Odinson!"

"Ow." Thor groans, rubbing the area, and whips his head up towards her heated stare, "Are you—I have enough bruises, Sister!"

"You said—" She starts, lifting her left hand up towards his face, but both of them still as Tony exhales loudly in an almost whistle and questions: "That's an impressive array of scars; you fall on a angry rosebush?"

Natasha's gaze flicks to what Tony is staring at. Thor's back is covered in dozens of long white lines that overlap each other, but are all from the same time period. Natasha's seen it enough to know that its from a whip. She honestly doesn't want to know what happened or how he managed to survive that.

Thor's fists clench and Hela's hand lowers, both of them seemed a little surprised for the topic to have been brought up, honestly. Thor looks at Hela for a long moment before shrugging slightly, something tight in his shoulders, "It...happened."

"Yeah. Got that." Tony says and moves forward to stare at it closer. Thor doesn't appear comfortable under the scrutiny and Hela grabs one of the blankets laying on the couch and flicks it out draping it across her brothers shoulders pointedly.

Natasha withdraws her stare and sees Clint, Bruce, Steve and Tony do the same from the corner of her eye. Tony looks a tad embarrassed and pulls his phone from his pocket beginning to scroll down it.

"If one of you would be so kind as to direct me to your medical supplies, I would greatly appreciate that." Hela says, breaking the semi awkward silence that has settled between them. Tony looks up from the device and glances at Steve.

"I can get it." Steve offers. Jarvis will tell him where it is, then Steve will go get it. "What do you need?"

Hela's lips purse, her gaze flicking to Thor's chest for a long moment, an unhappy curve in her lips. "A healer from Asgard or a healing stone, both of which will not be present on your planet. Something to do stitches with and a few yards of gauze would be preferable."

"'Kay," Steve answers and begins to move towards the elevator, "I'll be back in a few minutes."

Hela nods distractedly and Natasha hears the doors to the elevator shutting as Jarvis takes Steve to the appropriate floor. As the minutes pass furthering the strain, Natasha and Clint shift to the table and begin to work on sharpening the arrows points in his quiver as Bruce and Tony begin a light discussion on some sort of bit of chemistry she's hopeless to keep up with.

When Steve returns with the bandages and requested material, Natasha notices that Hela is careful to keep Thor's scars from their view as she sews her bleeding sibling back together.

000o000

The following two weeks pass rapidly.

Although Clint wouldn't exactly label them as "boring", they don't exceed Budapest. Hela and Thor remain with them for the duration of it (apparently they can't leave until Thor is strong enough to not have his insides ripped apart during the travel by the Birfrost, but Clint's guessing it's mostly because they want to stretch out the time as long as possible to keep searching on Earth for their brother), occasionally Hela will vanish for several hours and return like it's completely normal and give a shake of her head in Thor's direction when he asks. None of them ask, but there doesn't seem to be a point. They're still looking for their estranged sibling.

Neither he nor Natasha are called in for any missions and Clint is quite certain that Fury has something to do with this. Usually, the time periods between missions are barely a week and a half a most and it's been about fifteen days since the fiasco with CARCER V and the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been quiet. S.H.I.E.L.D. in itself's silence has been unnerving, but Natasha isn't worry, so Clint attempts his best not to be either.

Things do not pass much differently than them eating at least one meal together, training every other day and finding whatever else they can to pass the time. Clint is proud to proclaim that he has taught two aliens checkers and promptly watched the chaos that ensued from doing so for several hours avidly. Both Hela and Thor are extremely competitive and the game kept them all entertained for the majority of a day as both siblings attempted to out maneuver each other via small, circle pieces of plastic:

"She's cheating! I swear it!"

"I'm not cheating, Brother, you're just bad at this."

"I am not—"

"Hey! He can't become a king—no, stop it, he can't go backwards!"

"It is a king!"

"How!? I haven't moved any of the pieces at the back, you fífl—"

After the final round they played ended up with Hela stabbing the board in frustration with a dagger she materialized out of nowhere, Steve decided it was probably best to not let the two Asgardians play any longer. Clint was mildly disappointed, he'd been declared referee, but would frequently tell them the wrong rules and wait to see who would figure it out before the other. Thor caught onto this first and promptly banned him from saying anything and got Bruce to take his position instead. Bruce, however, had realized what Clint was doing and continued the fibbing without faltering (even though at that point correction wasn't needed much), it was hilarious.

Although his first memory of both siblings isn't exactly pleasant over the process of days passing, Clint finds himself admittedly warming to the Asgardian siblings even if both of them are a little...weird.

It is during the dinner of the sixteenth day that everything promptly falls apart.

All of them are gathered in the communal room, lounging when a ear splitting crash rings from the outside in New York and a loud groaning follows. The windows in the space shatter completely raining glass down upon them like a deadly rain and all of them duck by reflex. What on the—? Clint is on his feet before he can recall standing; the rest of them following. Clint turns towards the city, confused and feels his chest leap into this throat with horror.

This has to be a dream.

Sleeping. Just sleeping and when he awakens—

Clint pinches his eyes shut, but pulling his eyelids apart offers no relief.

The Helicarrier that is usually floating around New York is smashing into the city in an explosive mass of gray colliding with the glass. The smoke rising blackens almost everything, but the skittering of the large ship and the groaning as it drags across the streets is deafening. There's a sort of green haze sweeping the streets along with the smoke that Clint can't find an origin for.

The smoke filtering through the broken windows is thick and unpleasant settling on his lungs as if performing a elaborate tap dance.

Clint's breath escapes him loudly and he hears someone let out a lusty swear as Natasha murmurs something in her mother tongue.

"What—?" Steve begins to question, his voice breathless.

"Hurricane?" Tony guesses.

"No," Thor's voice is barely above a whisper, but all their heads turn to the suddenly colorless blond. Thor's face is pinched and his breath is hitched as his fists rhythmically clench in and out. Hela, beside him, looks no better. Her dark blue eyes are wide and locked onto the Helicarrier slowly shifting down the street as if possessed.

"You know what happened?" Clint demands, his gaze flickering back towards the destruction.

Steve stares at the two, "We need answers, is this your doing?"

Hela slowly peels her tongue from the roof of her mouth and takes a step forward standing on the glass shards, dark tangled hair flying out of her face. She glances back at them, eyes wide and horrified. "No, no...It is our brother's."

Chapter Text


 Unfortunately, heart has stopped.

-Unknown


 

ATTACK ON NEW YORK! GOVERNMENT POINTS FINGERS AT TERRORISTS!

An attack of an unknown source was launched on the city of Manhattan, on April 2, 2018. Destruction is massive. Firemen and the N.Y.P.D. are still working on digging through the rubble for survivors even now, four days later.

A military aircraft was shot from the sky by an mystery weapon and thrown into the streets. The death doll is currently unknown, but estimated to be in the hundreds. Even more are being rushed to medical facilities in critical condition. Citizens are warned to stay out of the city until further notice.

Billionaire Tony Stark has offered generous help both financially and physically with the help of a team of vigilantes known as the 'Avengers' to give relief to the suffering.

The attacker is still unmasked and running free. It is recommended to remain in doors as the much as possible while the American Government launches a full scale investigation to those behind this devastating catastrophe...

"This is it?" Bruce's voice is quiet, but pierces the silence like a well sharpened blade. Thor flicks his gaze to the man for a moment, then sees Director Fury nod out of the corner of his eye. Thor bites his tongue by habit in front of officials and turns to look back at the building.

It was old, mystic, but it now lays in ruins at their feet. "Ruins" is perhaps too strong of a word. The basic structure still stands, but the holes and charred wood assure all who look upon it that it is not whole. Thor knew this building before it was torched, it is hardly recognizable anymore.

Hela moves forward beside him; her tone is skeptical and her expression matches it: "This was the purpose of our brother's attack?"

Loki.

Here.

Now.

It is a strange feeling after so many days of otherwise. He cannot fathom what drove his brother to do this. Then again, he doesn't even know where Loki has been these last years. 

Why he never came home.

The newly named Avengers, himself, Hela, Director Fury, and the man's agents are standing in front of a tall building. It is between two others in a normally busy street that is now empty, and—beyond the large dome glass window at the roof—it looks no different from its neighbors. This is where, according to Director Fury's intelligence, Loki was as the Helicarrier crashed. They (S.H.I.E.L.D.) haven't stepped foot in the building for fear of magical traps and called him and Hela to come look it over. The other Avengers just came along with them.

Though he has no idea why Loki would do so, magical traps are a possibility. As far as the director can tell, Loki stopped their engines with sorcery, dispelled their electronics and as they began to plummet, ripped the craft in half.

Thor does not fault their wariness, but he and Hela will not be of any assistance to him. Their ability to sense magic is weak at best and only attuned to their distinct skill set, sorcery is another language to them. If their mother was here, she would be able to tell the director with a single glance at the charred wood and stone. The most he and his sister can do is assist the search and hope they don't accidentally spring any contingency plan their sibling left behind.

Thor hates this.

He should not be working against Loki, but beside him.

Where has he been these last few years?

They tore apart the Nine searching for him and they couldn't find a trace of his existence—even on Jotunheim. They know their sibling well enough to recognize his magic, however. In theory. They are fairly certain that it was Loki's that brought down the Helicarrier—and he cannot fathom why. Loki has no reasoning—as far as he is aware. He is, honestly, very confused.

"As far as we can tell, yes." Director Fury answers, prompting Thor's mind to re-join the present. When he came to them this morning with his findings, they had been helping the local authorities with locating the people still trapped in buildings from the crash. Hela would sense the life and help them find it as the rest dug through the rubble. This destruction is on a level he hasn't seen in many years. Director Fury said Loki's attack was merely a distraction, and his true target was this building:

The New York Sanctum Sanctorum of Midgard's magicians.

He doesn't believe Director Fury is aware this is what it is, but he and Hela have visited before. Loki knew the Mistress, and was close friends with her. Thor never liked her much, to vague and strange for his tastes.

"It looks so…" Tony starts, but trails. He seems at loss for words.

Destroyed?

Charred?

Hopeless?

"Unimportant?" Clint offers.

Thor blinks. Well, maybe to those who don't know what it is, but—

"Yeah." Tony agrees. "That's the one. You're sure this is it?" Tony turns to the director who merely raises an eyebrow.

"Yes."

"Okay then," Tony mutters.

Director Fury ignores him. "We'll split into groups of two. Call out of you find anything and be on your guard—we don't know what's in here. Your Highnesses, you got anything you'd like to tell us now?"

Thor has nothing. He glances at Hela. 

"Whatever Loki was here for will be missing. Unless we can contact the owner, I doubt we'll be able to tell what it was." Hela offers. Thor quietly snorts. Yes, good luck getting in contact with the Ancient One, she hardly moves from the central Sanctum.

Director Fury nods and shifts a hand fingers raised in a military gesture, "Move out!"

Thor shifts to match patch with Hela, claiming the elder as his partner. She doesn't comment and follows after Director Fury's men into the building. The door is mostly missing and what remains hangs off of the hinges helplessly. A small wind gusts through the building, giving off an eerie shriek and picking up dust and ashes making the ground seem to move against their feet.

Inside it smells musty, but similar to a campfire wood. There is the faint smell of blood in the air, as well, and it makes his stomach churn uncomfortably. A slight minty feeling numbs his tongue the deeper he breathes.

The stairs in the front are blackened with recent fire, but still standing. Glass is laying around the floor like a sparkling cleaner and signs of battle are present nearly everywhere. Smashed objects, chars of magic, and blood smears. There are no bodies he can see, yet, but there is smears of the long since dried blood across floors—and even on the railing of the stairs.

After a few minutes of searching with the others, he and Hela share a look before breaking off from the group to inspect the top of the stairs wordlessly. The wood creaks under their weight, but remains steady. The noise seems to echo. This silence is unnatural; as if all life has simply left the building completely—even in inanimate objects.

At the top of the stairs, in the surrounding landing extends into two separate hallways, there is a long scrape embedded into the stone. Frost is spreading from the small gorge and up the walls to the the ceiling in one area. It's thick and tinged with pattern. Loki's. Hela's eyes narrow and she takes several steps forward and leans next to the gash. She presses a hand against the frost and draws her hand back, shaking it.

"A staff made this scrape." She says. Thor can't tell completely, but he's fairly certain she pointedly didn't mention the ice.

Both of them are still hopeful, he guesses, that Loki isn't behind this. Loki has always been one to work from the shadows, not brightly and violently flash himself across a city to get a point across. This seems...off. Then again, how is he to know this? Loki has been missing for three years, how is he supposed to know what is and isn't anymore?

Hela's purposeful ignorance matters little; second behind magic and daggers, a staff is Loki's favored weapon.

Thor flicks his gaze away from the ice and frowns when he spots a sharp glint of metal sparkling through a broken shelf. The shelf once contained some sort of strange relics that are spilled across the floor and broken now, but the metal sticks out painfully. Thor moves forward to it and digs through the broken glass, ignoring as best to his ability when it cuts at his fingers, and tugs a weapon from the debris.

His stomach sinks to his feet.

Whatever amount of doubt they had can be discarded now.

In his hand he holds one of Loki's daggers.

The blue hilt and jagged edge is so painfully familiar that he nearly drops it. Loki always carried his weapons with him in a magical cache, so Thor hasn't seen one in years. This set had been given to Loki by their father when Loki reached Asgardian adulthood; Loki had loved them.

"Hela," Thor calls out to his sibling. His sister walks towards him, and he hands her the weapon wordlessly. Hela's eyes close briefly and she releases a deep breath.

"He was here then." She states, her voice toneless.

"Yes." Thor agrees, he sounds equally lax.

Why remains a mystery, one he would very much like to know the answer to.

Hela spins the daggers between her fingers, thinking, before stuffing the weapon at her waist. She turns and begins to trek down the stairs and Thor follows.

She reaches Director Fury and Agent Coulson in a few long strides. "My brother was here, we found proof of it." She states to them. The lack of what the proof is makes Thor fairly certain that his sister has no desire to offer the weapon for confiscation.

Director Fury turns and sweeps his gaze across her, but the weapon is hidden by her cloak. Hela makes no move to suggest its presence and Thor pointedly looks away from it as well.

"What was it?" Director Fury demands.

Hela's face remains impassive, but her eyes narrow a minuscule amount. Thor doubts that either S.H.I.E.L.D. agent catches it. "Nothing you need to be aware of; just know it was there. What is it you are looking for here?" Hela asks, directing the topic away from her stolen evidence. He knows that the director has been scrambling for proof that Loki was the assailant, but now they have that, and Director Fury doesn't look ready to call off the search.

Director Fury seems ready to push, but decides against it. "Answers. What your brother was attempting to accomplish for starters."

Hela nods.

"I can't say," she admits, "but no one died here."

Relief washes through him. The Helicarrier was enough, personal attacks by his own hand isn't something that needs to be added to his brother's growing list of wrongs.

Coulson's brow furrows. He nor the director were on the Helicarrier when it crashed, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s second in command, Maria Hill was in charge. She's currently in the hospital and Midgard's doctors are uncertain as to her fate. "No one? There's blood." Coulson gestures towards the trail on their left.

"Whose it is, I can't say," Hela says patiently, "but we are the only lives, alive and not, here." She adds.

Truly?

No dead, but no other living either? The building was abandoned, unguarded?

This is most unlike the Ancient One and her group of followers.

"You're sure?" Director Fury questions doubtfully.

Irritation spikes through him, "There are none who have abilities such as my sister's where we hail from, Director," Thor cuts in, biting back as much annoyance as he can, "she's sure."

"Sir?" Clint asks, walking towards them, Natasha following behind him. "We checked upstairs with a dozen others, there were a few locked rooms we couldn't get to—I think they were warded or something—but everything else tells the same story as down here. Whatever it was he was looking for is either gone or he couldn't find it."

Neither is a pleasant thought.

Wards.

This is magicians they are dealing with, of course there will be wards.

Does Loki plan on striking again, and if so where?

Did he find whatever it was he was here for?

"The latter, Mr. Barton," a female voice cuts in.

All of them whirl in surprise, drawing weapons and come face to face with—the Ancient One walking out of one of Midgard's obnoxious portals with two other men. The golden sparks stop spinning as soon as the three are out and the portal closes in on itself. The Ancient One stares at them and the lifted weapons as if amused by it.

She lifts her hands to the two men as they take defensive positions and they stop. Both of them are young, but well out of adolescence. One has dark hair pulled into a ponytail and the other's is cropped and silvered near his ears.

"Who are you?" Director Fury demands, his tone barking. His gun is leveled at the Ancient One's face and he's shifting through the crowd of agents to come up front.

Towards the back, Thor spots Steve and Bruce standing side by side. Bruce's posture is stiff, but at the lack of weapon, Steve has taken a step in front of him. Tony's array of weapons on his armor are also locked onto the three sorcerers. The rest of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents bare only guns, but there's at least twenty leveled at the Ancient One, and she seems unconcerned.

Beside him, Hela quietly sighs and withdraws her weapons as Thor releases the hilt of his sword. Mjolnir thrums in the back of his mind pleasantly, but he does not have need of it. He knows that Hela has never gotten along well with the Ancient One, and their conversations have always been clipped and barely civil. Loki was the only person she seemed to not just stand, but like.

The Ancient One smiles pleasantly and takes several steps forward to meet Director Fury. "My name is of no consequence to you, Director. These are my students, Kaecilius and Dr. Stephen Strange." She gestures towards the two men as she speaks, "Be at ease, please, Nick. We are only here for the same reason as you: answers."

The director looks no less wary, and doesn't lower his weapon.

The Ancient One turns to look through the crowd, but her gaze stops as she sees them. Her face relaxes an infinitesimal amount as they lock eyes. "Ah," she dips her head in respect, "Queen Hela, Prince Thor, it is a pleasure to see you again."

Heads swivel towards them. "Wait," Tony commands, flipping the mask of his armor up to stare at them incredulously, "you know the creepy lady?"

Thor barely represses a snort at the title, "Yes, we have been acquainted."

"Is she a threat?" Natasha demands.

The Ancient One looks amused by this. Hela looks cautious. In all honesty, yes, she is. Even as pathetic as Midgard's sorcery is to the rest of the Nine's, it isn't harmless. When Loki and her were first acquainted and even as they have sparred now, she gives him trouble. Ultimately, Hela decides to go with the easier, less honest answer: "No. She'll help us."

They have not known S.H.I.E.L.D. for very long, but the director and his team relax at Hela's words. Weapons are with sheathed and tucked away. The wariness still remains, but not the hostility.

"Thank you," the Ancient One says pleasantly, "Stephan," one of the men steps forward, "go upstairs and tell me what you find in the sealed rooms. Kaecilius, there is a book on the table in the first door to the left, also upstairs, go retrieve it for me."

Both nod and retreat to complete their tasks.

The Ancient One turns to make eye contact once more with Hela, "Your brother was looking for the Time Stone."

Thor sputters.

He was what? Why? What use of it does he need?

No one has seen an Infinity Stone sense the Tesseract. And before that it was the Reality Stone, which is rumored to have been the Aether. They knew the Time Stone was on Midgard, of course, but Thor didn't know it's exact location. His father probably did. Does Hela?

"Oh." Hela breathes.

Tony looks between them, his brow furrowing with confusion, "T-the what now?" Tony asks.

"I am confused." Bruce admits. Yeah? Well, nothing new for any of them in the last few days.

The Ancient One side glances them with one of her knowing looks, then sighs and flicks her hands out. An illusion spreads from her fingers revealing stars, the cosmos and the Infinity Stones. The Ancient One quickly gives a summary of the Infinity Stones, not stopping for any questions. It's brief and nothing like the long detailed lessons Thor received on Asgard, but it gets the point across. It doesn't, however, do much to quell the confusion on the Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D. agents faces. Thor doesn't blame them. They scarcely realized Thor's people still lived a few weeks past.

This is another matter entirely.

The Ancient One waves her and and the illusion dissipates. "Questions?"

Those around him (save his sister) look as if they have too many to speak.

They don't have time for this. Loki is out there, possibly with the Stone. He destroyed one of Director Fury's flying fortresses, who knows what else he is capable of at the moment? What does Loki plan on accomplishing?

"Yeah, erm, a lot, actually," Tony admits.

The Ancient One raises an eyebrow prodding him silently.

Steve waves a hand before Tony can begin. "Ask them later, we have the gist. Your brother is after these—why? And why in the world would he attack here of all places?" The question is directed to Thor and Hela, but Ancient One answers: "We guard the Time Stone, Mr. Rogers." Her voice is clipped, "He knows this. King Odin himself gave charge to my predecessors."

He did?

When?

Tony groans. "Was anyone except us not aware you guys existed a month ago?"

Hela and Thor share a look. Thor shrugs, "Basically."

"Madam?" One of her students—Kaecilius?—asks, walking between the group to get to the older woman. A large book is in his hands, thick and red. A strange sort of symbol is imprinted on the front that Thor can't make sense of. He's fairly certain it has something to do with sorcery, however.

The Ancient One nods to her student and takes the book from his hands. "Thank you, Kaecilius." She says curtly before flipping through the book, stopping to run her hand along a page, lips thinned.

"Is something wrong?" Director Fury asks.

The Ancient One shakes her head, "I feared Loki had taken from the book. It contains the location of the other Stones—but nothing has been touched. The book does not bear his signature, he didn't come near it during his attack."

Relief cascades through him.

"How are you certain he is after one of these 'stones'?" Coulson asks.

The Ancient One's eyes flicker. "The New York Sanctum has five guards at least. It is vital for your reality these remained untouched, but that is a lesson for a later date. All escaped Loki's wrath, injured heavily and unable to talk to us for days, but alive. We know because Loki said he was when attacked them."

Oh.

Great.

Hela frowns, "What do you think he means to do with them?"

"I am uncertain," the woman admits, "I'd hoped to contact you for answers."

And they know just as much as she does.

"Madam," Strange's voice calls, it's strained. All of them turn to the student as he comes down the stairs. His face is pale. The Ancient One steps forward to meet him halfway, Kaecilius doing the same. The woman lays a hand on his shoulder.

"Stephan?"

"We found all six of the sorcerers, right?" His voice is desperate. "Please tell me we found all six."

"Yes." The Ancient One's voice is soft, "We did."

"You're certain?"

"I spoke with each myself, what is it?" The Ancient One questions. Strange lets out a slight laugh that sounds strangely hysterical and runs a hand through his hair. Thor didn't realize before now, but the doctor's hands are shaking erratically, and they bare bright white scars. Odd. "Stephan."

"The—" Strange pauses, gathering breath, "I went through the wards and checked the relic room. There was blood. Too much. Everything was broken and burned, so I thought—"

The Ancient One presses a finger to her lips to silence him, "It was not." She assures. "They said they kept the battle confined to the halls and open spaces before they were forced to retreat. Loki would have been the only one to enter that room." Thor feels the color drain from his face. If that's the case then—

That means—

That means—

The only blood there was Loki's.

Hela pales a moment later, drawing the to the same conclusion.

Thor moves forward, shoving through the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and brushing past Natasha grabbing hold of the doctor's shoulders without really thinking on it. Thor has several inches of height on him, and the student flicks his gaze up to meet his own.

Thor can't help the questions as they pour off his tongue, nor can he stop them: "How much was there? What was destroyed? Did you sense Loki there? Is there any chance of his survival or—"

"Thor." Hela says sharply behind him, pulling his hand back. When he meets her eyes she shakes her head sharply. The message is clear: not now.

"I—I can't say for certain, but if he doesn't stem it, I'm voting on a few hours at most." Strange answers, glancing at the Ancient One as if seeking permission to continue; she doesn't stop him, "I was a surgeon—a type of doctor before…" He trails and clenches his shaking fists.

Hours.

They only just learned of their brother's life and now he is to die?

And they can't do anything.

"What does that mean for us?" Natasha's voice, although attempting to be sympathetic, is a blow nonetheless. Thor forces himself to remember that they do not know Loki as he does. He is only their enemy and not a younger brother.

"Pardon?" Hela asks, her tone is cold.

Natasha's face is blank; but a carefully constructed mask to only reveal what she wants it to. It reminds him sharply of Loki and his chest gives the familiar throb of loss. "I mean," she says, directing her gaze away from them, "if he's about to bleed out in an alley somewhere, are we looking for a body now?"

A body.

They never found a body.

They sent Loki's ship off empty.

Thor doesn't want to have to send another.

Hela inhales sharply, but softly, and the grip Thor forgot she had on his shoulder tightens.

"It is a possibility." Strange admits, "That blood isn't an hour old. I'd wager he left a few minutes before you entered the building."

What?

"No," Director Fury argues, shaking his head several times, "I had men stationed everywhere, he couldn't have just walked out. We would have seen it." No, they would not have. Loki is only seen when he wants to be. Even if he is bleeding out from an injury they know nothing about. Thor doesn't want to have to look for Loki's body. Not again.

The Ancient One smiles, "Your naivety is understandable, Director, but unwanted."

"I'm sorry," Director Fury's voice is edged on annoyance, "we're dealing with a man who was stated to be a god to the Vikings. I am unaware what his limits are. We're guessing."

"Of course." The Ancient one says smoothly. She turns to Hela, "He will strike again; but since his time is limited, he's only going to work faster. The other Sanctums are under more threat than I first thought."

Right. It was often joked that Loki would die from stubbornness before leaving a task unfinished.

"How can we help?" Director Fury asks.

The Ancient One side glances him, clearly confused.

Director Fury looks slightly irritable, but masks it well. "He already took the blasted Tesseract a few weeks ago—at least I'm assuming that was him—" Loki has been on Midgard for weeks? It wasn't just a show up one day and blow up a Helicarrier the next? Heimdall said he saw him briefly, that's why he went here in the first place. He wasn't wrong, then. Wait—Director Fury found this building days after that. Loki has been hiding here for days. And he has the Tesseract. "—I don't want him getting your magic rock." Director Fury finishes, drawing Thor back to the present. "Ergo: how can we help?"

The Ancient One looks hesitant, but Kaecilius murmurs something to her and she sighs, "Assistance guarding our Sanctums would not go unwelcomed."

"Give us the locations and we'll be there."

"Hong Kong and London." The Ancient One answers.

Director Fury nods, "Barton, Romanov, take a team and go to London. Stark, Rogers, Banner, you take another and go to Hong Kong." He turns to Thor and Hela.

"Will you help us?" The Ancient One asks.

"Of course," Hela says without hesitation. She looks at him and though her expression is serious, there's a slight twinkle in her eye as she states: "We will be more useful separated—" Thor's stomach sinks, "—but I need you to promise me that won't wander off and break into a prison if another pretty lady cries."

Thor's face flushes. "Jane Foster was hardly—" he starts to defend, but stops, knowing it's useless.

Hela rolls her eyes fondly before giving him a quick embrace, Thor returns it. After a moment, she draws back, "If you see our brother, whack him over the head for me."

Thor huffs, "You as well."

Hela moves to stand amid Stark's group. "Your Highnesses?" The Ancient One calls and both of them turn to her. The woman's expression is grim. "You know as well as I that I cannot let Loki take the Stone...even if it means his death."

A cold chill settles in his stomach.

Hela's expression furrows, even as she frowns, "What are you asking?"

The old woman's face twists with sympathy but she simply stares: "I'm asking: what are you prepared to do?"

000o000

Hela hasn't been to London often in the last century, or really Midgard at all. There was a brief time in the eighteen hundreds when Loki got obsessed with a book series about some detective that she visited the author with him, but that was about all until Heimdall said he'd spotted Loki on Midgard a few weeks ago. Thor had simply tossed everything he was working on to the side and left without their parent's blessing. Hela had waited until Heimdall gave them news of Thor's capture before going to Midgard with her parents pushing to go drag her brother's sorry butt back to Asgard. It hadn't gone as planned, and Hela had remained as Thor built up enough strength to travel the Bifrost, then both of them fibbed to keep searching for Loki.

It was the first time Heimdall said he actually saw him.

The rest of the Realms they searched was merely with false hope he'd be there.

Hela would have appreciated Loki simply appearing behind her, tapping her on the shoulder and saying "hi" instead of violently crashing a ship into an innocent city to reassure her of his life. And then there is the Sanctum.

Even though Strange had seemed quite certain of Loki's inability to last more than a few hours, and the Ancient One's at his certain attack, both Sanctums remain quiet for three days. They have been nothing but empty and admittedly dull. Even the weather has been relatively calm as if to mock them.

Hela can't sit still for long. It's something her mother found aggravating in her youth because she was always up and running to one thing or another. Even when she bore the crown until stepping down to search for Loki, she hadn't been capable of remaining put for long. Needless to say, three days cooped up in a building with aggravating sorcerers who insist they know everything and their presence isn't wanted here hasn't worked with her. She barely made it past evening meal of the forth before she slipped out of the building, quite determined that it can last half an hour without her presence to walk around the city.

London has changed since she was last here.

It's much colder than she remembers.

And, it's wet.

Very wet.

The sun hasn't spilled out of the clouds once in her time here, and leaves the city in a continuous gloomy overcast. Thor, who loves cloudy days and brighten his mood a great deal, would love to be here. Hela misses the sun.

She had the sense to steal some spare clothing from one of the female sorcerers in the Sanctum before leaving, so she doesn't receive many stares. It is nice to walk among people without having to hold herself to her status.

She is simply Hela at this moment, not queen or princess, nor Odin's daughter.

Air that isn't stale is welcomed and she almost has her doubts she'll be able to turn back when she hits the fifteen minute mark to return. Part of her wants to keep walking among the city until nightfall, but that would test luck and she knows that Loki would then attack.

On the plus side, at least then it would finally be over with.

Hela breathes in deeply and ducks out of the way of a tall man, in the brief second she sees him she notes he looks slightly ill.

Hela shoves her hands into the pockets of her stolen jacket to bury her cold fingers into. It is nothing compared to Jotunheim, but the bitter chill isn't welcomed either. The streets are busy with people, but not as crowded as Asgard's can get.

Another minute passes in the quiet stillness before something loud crashes down behind her. Hela draws the edge of a dagger inside the pocket and spins with surprise and—spots a man being helped to his feet by a woman, laughing about clumsiness in their thick accents. It isn't some sort of army dropping from the sky, it is just a couple. She flicks her gaze to their matching rings, married then.

And she is paranoid.

Honestly.

What is she expecting? Loki to stand charge of an army and guide them down the street violently?

It's stupid.

Hela releases a breath and turns her head, continuing to walk forward, but senses a presence slip smoothly into step beside her.

The knife slides back into her hand.

"Evening, Sister." Hela's throat lurches at the voice and she jerks her head up left to look at the speaker, walking beside her at an easy, lax pace. Dark hair is spilling over his shoulders, much longer than he kept it cropped in Asgard. His deeply blue eyes are heavily shadowed, and his clothing is formal by Midgardian standards. A golden cane is clasped in one hand and a delighted smirk is stretched across his lips. Hela's mouth parts with disbelief, but she can speak no words.

Her brother is here.

Her brother that has been missing for almost three years is alive and breathing beside her.

Strange was wrong, he isn't dead, he doesn't even look injured.

He isn't dead.

"Fine night for a walk, is it not?" Loki inquires, voice easy and careless.

Hela's tongue untangles itself from her mouth and the relief that's pouring through her limbs is overshadowed by another emotion readily:

Rage.

"Where have you been?" She demands sharply, her words sliding out like a hissing snake and coiling around the throat of the prey for a killing blow. Loki's grin stretches further with delight at the question and he shrugs nonchalantly. What is wrong with him? How dare he act to lax about this! How is he so—so content after what he did—this—

"Oh, here and there," Loki waves a bored hand, "sightseeing, I suppose."

For three years.

Sightseeing.

Sightseeing!?

"Do I look to be in a gaming mood?" She hisses, an unflattering expression of frustration sliding across her face.

Loki's eyes widen in a play of innocence. He presses a hand against his chest, "Why, dearest sister, I thought—"

"Loki," Her voice is sharp, "enough."

She can't take anymore of his stupid games.

"Enough what?" Loki queries lightly, though he looks uncharacteristically disappointed.

She doesn't have enough words to explain her frustration. Idiot! Does he know nothing of his actions!?

The words come bubbling out from her without much thought or filtering: "Why did you attack the New York Sanctum, what do you want the Time Stone for—I don't care. What I want to know is where have you been for the last three years for the Norn's sake!?"

Loki's eyebrows lift in slight surprise, "Three?" He repeats, "Hmm, only thought it'd been a few months."

Months!?

She latches down on her tongue, biting back the urge to release the full extent of her frustration upon him in violent words and screaming. It's tempting, but years with the crown has taught her better.

Mostly.

"Months? That's how long you think this has been!? Loki, we thought you dead."

His expression furrows with something close to confusion, but his eyes are alight with delight. "And did you mourn?"

Mourn?

Memories pulse to the forefront of her mind. Their mother's tears at lack of progress in the search, their father's quiet voice telling her they need to prepare a funeral for closure, Thor refusing to speak after the services for weeks. Asgard flying Loki's colors for months, the Warriors Three and Sif's equal depressed mood and—Hela shoves the thoughts to the side.

They mourned.

They wept.

Thor has Loki's hair braided into his own and he has the audacity to ask them if they missed him!?

She snatches at his shoulder in exasperation, not certain exactly what she plans to do beyond cause bodily harm, but stops. His clothing is cold under her touch, and through the tightness her grip she can feel beneath the cloth. Loki's shoulder blade is jutting out in a way it should not be. Like the bones of his face and fingers. The sudden realization of just how gaunt her brother is strikes her at full force and grasps hold of her tongue, stilling her anger.

She doesn't speak.

She can't.

Where has he been these last few years to have lost so much of himself?

Loki's eyes narrow and he shoves her arm off of him with force. "I see." His lip curls. "Why would anyone weep?"

What?

Wait!

That isn't what halted her speech!

Norns!

"Loki, Brother, stop, I did not mean—" She starts, her expression switching to concern. The blue in his eyes is icy, but frosts further as her tone changes. "Loki—I meant—" her tongue is twisting in a manner she is not used to. "I just—"

"Enough!" He whips a hand up and backhands her across the face. Hela's head jerks to the right and she tastes blood from where she bit her tongue. Frustration pours through her muffling the confusion crying out in the back of her mind that this is wrong—that Loki wouldn't strike a woman unless she honestly deserved it or they were sparring.

She clicks her jaw and turns to look at him. His expression is almost bored, but his eyes are alight with a chilled flame. "Do you know what your problem is, Sister?" Loki queries, his voice smooth, yet ragged. Hela stares at him fists clenched, "You've always been so trusting." Loki spits out the word in disgust, "Odin decides that stopping the conquest at the Nine is enough and you agree, Odin puts the crown upon your head and you agree, Odin brings home a Frost Giant baby and you readily accept him as your brother. Did it ever occur to you, even once, that perhaps I am the monster parents tell their children about at night?"

What?

No. It hasn't.

Hela stops and her fingers digging into her palms. Where...where is this coming from? Loki has had his momentary phases since the reveal, but nothing this extensive since her first, failed coronation.

"Loki—" She starts, leaning forward to touch him, but her younger brother lurches back as if he'll be burned by it, disgust clear on his features.

"I have grown in my exile," He whispers, "I've seen worlds you've never known about—and worlds you'll never see, Odinsdottir. In the end," Loki gives her a half demented smile, "you will always kneel." His figure wavers before vanishing in a wave of light.

Illusion.

Well.

Excellent.

All she can really think properly is a long stream of curses.

It was an illusion...but she grabbed him and he was solid—when did he change? Is he even here? What happened? Why did he speak to her, and what on the—she doesn't understand. She wants to grab her youngest brother by his shoulders and give him a good rattle back and forth at his stupidity then—

Augh!

What—

Blade.

Blood.

Bleeding.

Dying.

Why?

What—?

Hela jerks out a small, shocked breath. She stares down at her chest in reeling disgust and slight fascination at the glint of the tip of the weapon shoved between her ribcage. Loki's cane. Except, it wasn't a cane, it's a scepter and now the end is jabbed through her.

Loki just stabbed her.

Her little brother just gutted her.

A loud wheeze splits through her lips and she can taste blood on her tongue. The point jerks in her to the left and a groan of pain escapes her before Loki drags the weapon from her. Her legs give out and she tumbles to her knees, hands coming to claw at the bleeding area, her vision blurring. This isn't Asgard, she isn't going to heal with ease. This wound will not be more than an annoying ache, this could kill her, and Loki knows that.

Her chest is heaving in a building scream that can't escape her lips.

Loki's feet come into her peripheral vision and she lifts her head up towards him, gasping for breath that isn't coming through her severed lungs. She's going to die. Oh, Norns, she is going to die.

Loki's figure is blurred, and she can't read his face, but from what she can, she sees no remorse.

He stabbed her.

She is going to die.

This isn't like him. What is wrong? This isn't her little brother, the one who didn't want to learn sorcery because "it will take the energy that the flowers need to grow", the one who threw up and wouldn't eat for a week after his first kill, the one who chopped off a woman's hair to guard her honor and would play stupid pranks on them for days. Something has ripped her brother out and stuffed something else back inside that she doesn't recognize.

She is going to die.

Hela gasps, but all she can taste is blood, all she can smell is her blood, all that's dripping down her fingers and—she is going to die.

"Now, at last, you kneel before my feet, Sister," he whispers, "this has been fun, but if you'll excuse me, I have to go destroy a Sanctum."

Loki vanishes in a blur of light and Hela chokes weakly, pressing harder against the wound. All it does is make her ache and want to cry. She can't stop the bleeding, but she can't let the Avengers go without a warning. She has to stop her younger brother.

Another wave of pain shoots through her and Hela mewls, leaning forward and pressing a bloody hand against the sidewalk.

She can't breathe.

She is suffocating to death.

Dead, dead, dead.

Someone grabs at her shoulder and she blearily looks towards them recognizing it to be the woman to be from the couple she saw earlier. She's speaking, but Hela can't make out a word she's saying. All she can focus on is the pain, she's deafened by it.

More people are gathering around her, and their faces are strewn with panic.

She can't breathe.

Dead. Dead. Dead.

Her hearing comes crashing back to her suddenly, and she gasps out a breath leaning heavily onto her arm. Someone is still gripping her shoulder, attempting to keep her conscious.

"Oh, my gosh!" Someone breathes.

"Somebody call 999!" Another shouts and hands quickly scramble for the Midgardian cellular devices. No! She doesn't have time to be checked over by their healers, she has to stop Loki. The Ancient One moved the Time Stone from Hong Kong to London because she worried that Loki had seen it in its original place.

Loki knows it's here.

If she is going to bleed out because she doesn't have time to heal herself then so be it, it isn't her first time being stabbed.

"She's losing consciousness!" Someone, a male, shouts.

Is she?

Hela shakes her head to clear it of the muffling, and realizes she's looking up at the sky—clouds—now. She's on her back, now, she must have collapsed but she can't remember when. A blond man is staring down at her with wide blue eyes and shoving some sort of midnight blue (but quickly staining red) cloth against her chest to quell the bleeding. Behind him Hela can see a tall, darker haired man hovering and the gathered group behind them.

Healers.

They were calling healers.

She doesn't have time for this.

Loki may already be there.

She can feel her healing quickly staggering to mend the broken skin and her lungs, but she hasn't eaten enough the last few days for it to be truly effective. Thor is going to drag her back from Helheim to kill her himself if she dies here.

Loki.

She needs to stop him.

She grabs at the forearm of the blond man and attempts to speak, but all that escapes is a weak cough and blood pouring into her throat. The taller man behind him grabs his shoulder and murmurs something.

She can't hear anything—it's to hard to focus.

Hela Bestla Frey Odinsdottir, get off the bloody ground!

She mouths the word twice before managing to get sound into it: "Stop."

The blond looks at her as if she's grown a third head.

"...attack…" she hisses out, "let...meee—" her voice is swallowed by a gasp as a fresh wave of pain washes through her. Loki twisted the weapon, it isn't a simple mend from one side to the other, he scraped something inside her. Her lungs. He stabbed at her lungs.

Why did she not take the bloody food when she knew she'd be battling soon?

Fífl.

This is not Asgard.

Up.

Up, up, up.

She can hear the sirens of Midgard's healers, if she does not move now, they will confine her to their buildings. The blond man is strong, but he isn't Asgardian, and Hela easily shoves his arm off and drags her aching body into a sitting position.

Everything immediately screams, and her vision doubles.

Loki.

Stone.

Stop.

Dead.

"Hey—stop—you shouldn't be moving—" The blond cries out in indignation, but Hela ignores him, and squeezes her eyes shut. One, two, three—

She forces herself to her feet in a single movement and immediately sways heavily. The taller man behind the blond catches her and she winces as his fingers connect with her. His grip is light, but it matters not. Her senses are screaming.

She tugs away from it and forces herself not to collapse backwards. A group of roughly thirty is gathered, with more looking on from beyond. She can see Midgard's healers in the distance through her fuzzy vision. She needs to leave now. Hela presses against the blue scarf on her chest and staggers forward. She feels like a drunkee so consumed by alcohol she can't stand straight. It's never been in her nature to get drunk and the sudden realization makes her sick. The crowd doesn't part and she can hear the blond calling out to her.

His hand grabs her shoulder once more and she reacts more on instinct than actual thought. A sword slides into her hand and she swings it up towards the man her vision whitening at the edges at the amount of pain. Her shoulders are starting to go numb.

The man immediately backs up and the crowd takes a collective step backwards as well.

The dark haired man murmurs something, the blond's name she's guessing, and he backs up. She swings the sword out in an arc towards the others and hunches forward pressing the scarf further against her jacket.

Move. Move. Move.

She shoves through the crowd with her sword and begins to trek back towards the Sanctum. With the weapon in hand, people don't try to stop her and if they call out, she can't hear. She's staggering like an old woman who's back was broken and is reduced to mere hobbles.

It is pathetic.

Move. Move. Move.

She repeats the words like a mantra until she fuzzily sees the Sanctum in her vision.

It's ugly, she realizes suddenly, the building is absolutely hideous.

Loki is already here, is the second thought that crosses her mind, because every window is shattered and the doors are blown into the building. If there are sounds of battle, she is unaware of them. Deaf and staggering, she's going to be very helpful.

The stairs seem impossible and Hela stops against the doorway, breathing raggedly. If she was not Asgardian, she would be quite dead. Dead and dead and dead. She grabs the scarf and twists it out away from her body pulling it to the full length. Thor and Loki were officially trained by Lady Eir on the healing arts, but what knowledge Hela has gained is through experience and fighting to stay alive.

She wraps the wound as best as she's able with her shaking hands and winces at the pressure.

She's getting colder and knows this isn't good.

Death is cold.

Pain shoots through her so suddenly she nearly collapses. "Amma!" She cries out, pressing the back of her hand against her mouth to withhold a sob. She is not going to die here, she needs to find Loki. Oh, Norns, she doesn't want to die. She doesn't want to die.

She staggers forward another step, lifting up her sword.

She can't fight right now.

All she wants to do is collapse.

Stay. Awake.

Hela breathes in heavily through her nose and feels her healing working quickly to mend the wound, but it hurts almost as badly as the actual stab without Asgard's thick magic coursing through her. She draws her powers from Asgard, on Midgard she is more vulnerable. This wound will not be the death of her.

Her lungs are collapsing against her chest.

She lifts her head up and spots Romanov laying on the floor a few feet away with two of the sorcerers beside her. A quick search of their life signatures assures her all are alive, merely forced into sleeping by some sort of spell. She forces herself forward. She doesn't know how long she was outside before making it back here. She wandered the streets for some time.

Stairs. The Time Stone was upstairs.

Hela forces her feet forward and bites at her tongue as she scales them. Every breath is painful.

She can only taste blood in her mouth.

Her breaths are all she can hear, and they are ragged.

She doesn't want to die.

A bright light swivels out of the corner of her eye and Hela's body leaps into adrenaline; the pain mercifully dulls into the back of her mind. Her hearing once again crashes into her senses. She can pick out the distinct sound of battle, fires roaring in the background, someone groaning in pain and rapid footsteps.

One of the Ancient One's sorcerers sent to guard the Sanctum—Marcos possibly—is thrown over the ledge of the loft-ish area via a bright flash of green magic-like ribbons, and Hela spots Loki a moment later. He's in his Asgardian armor, minus that stupid hat he hates as much as the rest of them. It was a family tradition to base the helmets off of animals and Loki had drawn up the thing as a child and hated as he got older.

The staff she didn't spot earlier is clasped in his hands and glowing blue softly. Something appears off with it.

Loki's eyes meet hers and she sees disbelief flash across his face before flitting with rage. His mouth parts to say something, but he lets out a gasp suddenly and stills.

Clint drops down from the rafters behind her younger brother. His weapon is raised and Loki twists his arm behind his back then pulls an arrow out from his upper back a moment later. He spins and turns to the archer, "Barton." He greets cryptically, his fingers twist next to his side. He throws the arrow to his left and it clatters, smeared with his blood. Hela can see a rip in his cape where it struck him. "What a pleasant surprise."

"Yeah?" Clint's eyes are narrowed, the bow raised. They're shadowed and his entire posture is...buzzing strangely. The archer shakes his head slightly before growling between his teeth, "Stop getting in my head!" He releases the arrow and Hela's eyes widen, but Loki catches it almost as if bored. Before Clint can draw a third arrow, Loki flicks the second to the side and strides forward, grasping the man by the throat.

Clint gasps and heaves, but Loki merely pitches him over the side of the loft and he lets out a yell before something cracks as it hits the bottom.

"Clint!" Hela yells, her voice is louder than she expected and she lifts her gaze as she feels Loki's eyes on her. Her wound is pulsing, but the adrenaline is shoving it to the side like an annoying pest rather than an aching hole in her.

She forces herself to pay attention and lifts her sword up.

If this is how he's going to play, then so be it.

Loki's eyes linger on her arms before apparently coming to the same conclusion. He grins, then leaps at her with a cry.

Hela lifts her sword up to block the blow, but the staggering shock of it runs up her arm. She brings her leg up and kicks Loki in the stomach, forcing him to back up. He does so and swings towards her feet, but Hela summons another blade and catches it with her other arm.

She lifts her weapon up and swipes towards his face.

Loki ducks out of the way narrowly, but the edge of her blade still clips his ear.

Her muscles are exhausted and she panics. They can't give out now, Loki has already stabbed her once, she doubts he'll be to remorseful on a second. She leaps at him, and violently switches to offensive, rather than defensive. She has one advantage over him: Loki is faster and better with daggers.

The glee in Loki's eyes dies to concentration as he attempts to keep from being impaled from her rapidly moving blades. Hela parries a blow and attempts to shove a blade up his gut, but Loki grabs at the blade and it changes into snowflakes.

Hela hisses.

Sorcerer.

Right.

Loki smirks at her distraction before bringing the edge of his staff up and smacking her in the gut. Pain shoots up through her spine and she gasps, her other sword slipping from her grip and clattering against the beginning of the stairs as she grabs at her wound.

Her vision is blackening, but Loki brings up the weapon to smack at her face, forcing her to pay attention again. Hela's hands fly upwards of their own accord and grasp his staff. Their eyes meet, his icy blue to her deep ones before she twists the weapon and sends Loki flying.

It's an old trick, one that she's taught Thor and Loki how to guard themselves against again and again, but apparently none of the lessons really stuck. Loki tumbles down the stairs, smacking his head against several of the steps before coming to a rolling halt at the end.

Hela's chest is aching and she can barely settle air in her lungs for a half a second before it's ripped from her. The weapon with all it's lingering aura of dark magic clatters against the ground as it slips from her fingertips.

She bites at her tongue to withhold another groan and stares at the steps that she threw her younger brother. Unexpectedly, Loki hasn't shifted at all. He's remaining at the bottom of the stairs, still and unmoving.

Hela's blood runs cold.

Oh, Norns, she didn't—she didn't kill him, did she?

Hela scrambles down the steps in a dizzying agony and reaches beside her brother in less than fifteen seconds. She lands on her knees without her consent, crying out loudly, but grabs his shoulder and tugs him face-up. The skin across his nose is cut and bleeding heavily, along with his lips and she's fairly certain his nose is dislocated, but he's breathing. And alive.

Hela releases a small breath of relief, but summons a small dagger into her free hand as she sees that Loki's eyes are moving rapidly beneath the lids. He's still conscious. A slight groan escapes through his chapped lips before his eyes slowly blink apart and he squints up at her, confused.

Confused?

What on the Nine?

"Hela?" He murmurs, his voice suddenly quiet and unsure. Hela pauses; disoriented. Less than a minute ago he was attempting to kill her, now he acts as though he did not know she was there. "Sister? Why—" He breathes, staring up at her and his gaze settling on her bleeding wound, his hand lifts slightly, but doesn't get terribly far off the ground. "W-why are you bleeding?" He pauses and wipes some of the blood from his face, "Why am bleeding?"

What is going on? Why doesn't he remember? If he's attempting to pull an innocent act, she may have to strangle him.

"Loki, what…?" She trails as his gaze settles on her for another moment, the cloud of confusion washing through his green eyes.

Green?

Not five minutes past they were blue. But that makes little sense because as far as she can recall back to, Loki has ever been green eyed, their mother used to joke about him being gifted with emeralds. It had completely slipped her mind.

Hela's gaze whips towards the staff resting at the top of the staircase, an unpleasant feeling settling in her stomach.

Loud footsteps pound throughout the air and Loki winces as though a terrible headache has grasped him. "This is S.H.I.E.L.D.," a loud voice announces, "Loki of Asgard, you are under arrest for the attack of government property and multiple homicides. Come out slowly with your hands above your head."

Loki props up on his elbow, staring in the direction of the noises, confused, "Hela, I—" He pauses, then his eyes widen with sudden clarity and the mistiness wipes clean. Horror paints his features like blue the sky and he reaches up a shaking hand to grasp her forearm. Hela stares down at him, unsure what to do. Her first instinct is to shove him off, but after centuries of being his sibling, she can't.

Nonetheless, he stabbed her through the back without mercy.

He—Green. Not blue.

"Kill me." Loki whispers. Hela's gaze whips down towards him, startled by the demand.

What?

"Pardon?" She hisses.

"Kill me," Loki repeats, his green eyes wide and earnest, "I beg you."

"No." She says firmly. Loki's grasp on her arm tightens.

"Sister, please." He whispers it in Aardent and Hela's throat tightens, but she refuses. She will not kill her younger brother, she doesn't understand this sudden personality shift. She doesn't understand what is going on! Will someone tell her!?

The S.H.I.E.L.D. agents swarm around them suddenly and drag him away from her, forcing his grip on her arm to release.

"Hela!" It's still Aardent, "PLEASE!"

She can't.

Loki is dragged to his feet squirming, but his eyes are desperate and locked onto her own. His hands are twisted behind his back and pair of thick shackles are strapped around each wrist. The adrenaline is wearing off and as it does, so does the mask of the pain. She remembers, suddenly, when her father told her stories when she was younger and said that the great warriors would grow numb to the pain. Reality works with no such fantasy.

It burns as heavily as it did before.

A loud cry escapes her and she leans forward, pressing her hands against her chest.

"Hela!" Loki's voice has returned to English, but it sounds desperate. She looks up towards him through her fuzzy vision and spots her brother struggling violently against the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in her direction. His feet are scrambling, and though he's jerking, the men and women keep him rooted. "I have to get to—STOP IT! Let me go! Hela! HELA!" His voice is screaming, but she can't focus on anything.

Her vision blackens before she finally, blessedly, slips into unconsciousness.

000o000

"It's just a simple question," Natasha's voice is smooth and calm, but Thor can see the first twinges of frustration beginning to arise between her shoulders. After the long minutes, he does not fault her for it. The man across from her, chained to the desk, has made no effort to answer her questions.

His expression has not even twitched.

Blank and haunted.

Thor hates this facade.

He saw the footage from the cameras as he attacked Hela in London, he saw Loki's glee.

Loki's eyes are trained forward and do not even flicker upwards at Natasha's question. The red head is currently pacing around the room, she was sitting in front of him at the beginning of the fifteen minutes, but got to her feet about five minutes past.

"We just want to know why you were looking for the Time Stone." Natasha says, coming to a halt in front of the desk. The interrogation room in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s London headquarters is small, gray, and tight. The building itself isn't small, but these rooms are kept minuscule in an effort to make the prisoners feel uncomfortable. "That's it, then we can be done here."

Two-sided mirrors are kept in the room for windows and Thor and the rest of the Avengers are standing outside it with Director Fury, watching the interrogation. Natasha is not the first to address Loki over the last four days, nor, Thor realizes with a coiling stomach, will she be the last.

Director Fury releases a loud breath beside him, and his fingers drum against his upper arm for a second. Director Fury shakes his head with aggravation as Natasha continues speaking, but receives nothing.

Nothing has made Loki seem more than a breathing corpse over the last few days, not talking to him, not comprises, or offers, nothing. It's an eerie match to Hela's current state. Thor's stomach twists further at the thought and he shoves it to the side. Midgard's healers are still undecided on her fate and stated that "we're doing all we can" so many times to him it has lost all meaning.

Heimdall is not answering his cries for help.

Loki is captured, but what he planned to do or if it is still in motion is lost to them.

He has said nothing.

Bruce's frown deepens, and he shoves his glasses up his nose, thinking. "She's not going to get anything," he states at last, turning to Director Fury, "you should just pull her out."

The director's lips thin and they all turn to look at the two as Natasha's voice grows more flustered. "Just—say something!" She demands and brings a hand up then backhands Loki across the face. Thor reels in surprise, but forces himself to remain rooted.

Loki's head whips to the left, looking directly at them before he slowly returns his head forward.

He says nothing.

Natasha's aggravation grows.

Director Fury presses a hand to the communication device on his ear, "Romanov, pull out, we're not getting anything from him today."

Or yesterday.

Or tomorrow.

Something has snapped inside his brother that is irreparable and Thor doesn't know what it was.

Natasha slides out of the room and the door shuts with a hiss behind her, locks clicking into place. Loki, still chained to the table, leans back an infinitesimal amount in the chair and closes his eyes. Thor turns as Natasha slides into the room nearly a minute later and Clint meets her a moment later. She gives a silent shake of her head to an unspoken question, her jaw clenching.

Tony drums his fingers in the awkward silence before turning to him, "How's your sister doing?"

Thor's fingers clench.

000o000

When Thor opens the door to the room holding his unconscious sister, Hela is still on the hospital bed; strewn among Midgard's equipment that makes his sister looks small and breakable. When she's on her feet she throws out an aura of power that is impossible to ignore, it makes her seem invisible. Among this equipment it is missing.

The doctors finally decided to pull her off of their oxygen this morning and though everything has been running smoothly, they are still uncertain when or if she will awaken. Thor hangs onto hope, because there isn't anything else to do but give into despair.

The internal mess has healed itself, but the outside isn't quite to that point.

Thor releases a sigh in the doorway before moving forward to occupy the plastic chair that he has recently been living in the last few days. There's another on the other side of the bed that one of the Avengers has usually been present in or on the bench against the opposing wall, but at the moment they are busy. Tony had to take a call from his wife, Clint and Natasha left the facility to find some sort of restaurant and Bruce and Steve went to go find a library of some sorts, Thor isn't exactly certain.

The only sound that fills the room is the machines and his breathing.

Thor releases a breath into the air and leans back on the chair. He has not slept well these last few nights with Loki constantly pressing on his mind and Hela tearing through what remains like a blazing fire. Loki stabbed her.

In all their jesting and fights, the most they've done is nick each other not impale.

Thor leans forward and clasps Hela's cold hand in his own before tilting his head back. Neither Loki or Hela are partial to physical affection, but the reassurance of his sibling's hand between his own is all he can ask for at the moment.

If they had been on Asgard, Hela likely would have been up and wandering around by now. On Midgard, however, she is weaker. The wound is mostly healed, a miraculous feet according to the human doctors, but it will still ache and the possibility of tearing open again is a problem. It isn't the first time that Hela's been stabbed, but this is the first one where Thor has actually seen it make her bleed. He was not here to assist with the fight, boredly wandering around Hong Kong's Sanctum when they received word of the attack and Loki's capture.

It wasn't until London when Thor realized Hela was not there to greet him that something was wrong.

This has been the longest month and whatever amount of days needed to add onto that of his life.

Thor leans back in the chair, attempting to the best of his ability to get comfortable and tugs the jacket over his chest more. S.H.I.E.L.D. provided him with a few spare pairs of clothing, but even after the long hours of wearing it, it still feels strange and oddly thin. Unfortunately, S.H.I.E.L.D. insists on keeping the temperature of this room a little above that of Jotunheim, so he constantly feels like he's freezing to death.

He's slipped into a slight daze when he becomes aware of something rhythmically squeezing his hand softly, then tighter, then soft again. He blinks in confusion. The only thing that could be doing this at the moment is—

"Hela?" Thor jerks forward and rips his eyes open with confusion, whipping his gaze towards her.

Her face is still pale, but her eyes are opened a sliver and she gives a slight grimaced smile in greeting. Her lips part to say something, but a few rattled coughs escape instead. Her expression twists with pain and Thor's chest thrums as he leans forward to rest a hand on her shoulder.

"Just breathe," he instructs softly, rubbing a hand along her arm.

When her coughing has subsided, she hisses and attempts to press at her bandaged wound, but Thor catches her hand. "Don't touch it." He warns, "You could tear at something."

Her expressions shows her clear protests to that statement.

Thor isn't sure whether to laugh with relief or cry for the same reason.

He gently puts her hand back down on her lap and sits for second, debating what to do. If this were Asgard, he would immediately send for one of the healers, but he isn't certain how Midgard's medicine or medical system runs. He thinks he recalls someone attempting to talk to him about it, but he's unable to place who or the context of the conversation. He's been running off of willpower and stress for the last few days alone.

Where is Asgard?

It is unlike his parents to send aid by now. Thor has called for Heimdall more times than he can count, but it's been unanswered. Did something happen? Or are his parents so furious with him running off to find Loki that they refuse to send assistance for Hela?

"...water?" Hela murmurs quietly, drawing him back to the present.

He snaps into focus and flicks his gaze across the room. He leaps to his feet and grabs one of the plastic cups that Tony brought in two (three?) days ago. He walks across the room and flips the switch on for the faucet filling the cup about halfway with lukewarm water before turning it off and returning to the bed. He lifts the glass out to Hela's awaiting hands and her hands slip as she attempts to take it from him.

Thor releases a quiet sigh and mentally curses Loki before aiding Hela in bringing the glass up to her lips. She drinks the entire glass and the sliver of her opened gaze slips shut. Thor sets the plastic class on the bedside table and after a moment sits down on the plastic chair again.

Hela releases a attempted deep breath, but it hitches and her expression clenches with pain for a second.

"Sister?" Thor questions, keeping his voice low, "Are you well?"

Hela groans slightly, but her response is murmured: "'as stabbed, not re'lly."

Thor mentally kicks himself. Right.

Her eyes crack open again and she winces slightly at the light, but flicks her hand out. Thor glances at it for a second before realizing her intent. He lifts his hand up and clasps her hand in his own. She blinks hazily and turns her head towards him. "You?"

"I am well," he assures. He wasn't stabbed and he's long since healed from his encounter on Carcer V, so he has nothing to complain about. Hela nods and blinks again, she looks exhausted, she should sleep. "You need to sleep, Sister." Thor points out, "We can converse when you're stronger."

Hela shakes her head, and forces her eyes open with what looks like a great deal of effort. She hums a negative, "Loki." She says and Thor tenses slightly, he doesn't want to discuss this. He's done his best to awkwardly keep his thoughts framed from slipping into the trap of despair constantly awaiting him. They search for three years, but what they found isn't his brother. "He...alive?"

This is exhausting her.

And it's Loki's fault.

Why does she care of his fate?

For the same reason he does.

"Yes." Thor confirms, "It's been four days," he answers to her unspoken question, "Loki has said nothing. His reasoning for searching the Time Stone out and your attempted murder has been lost to us." He admits.

Hela blinks slowly, processing the information, before thinning her lips. "What...what of his scepter?"

Thor leans back slightly in surprise. Truthfully, he doesn't know. He's hardly spent any time in anywhere beyond this room and the interrogation barracks in the factually. He doesn't know what became of the weapon. He knows that Bruce and Tony were asked to look at it, but what results they came up with he either didn't hear, or wasn't paying attention for.

Why does she care about it anyway?

"I...don't know." Thor admits. "I was a little busy trying to make sure you weren't going to die."

"Mmm." Hela sounds doubtful. Thor opens his mouth to respond, frustrated, but she blinks again, focusing, "I think i' held the Mind Stone."

Thor's jaw drops.

It…

What?

Why?

Where did Loki find that?

"Why…" Thor struggles to get his tongue working, "where—where did you come up with this grand theory? He stabbed you, weren't you a little preoccupied to notice such a thing?"

Hela's eyes squeeze shut for a second and she gives his hand a tight pulse, "'e asked m' to kill him." She admits in a whisper. Thor feels the color drain from his face. He didn't know that. There wasn't any footage in the London Sanctum so everything was carried by word of mouth. No one was conscious for the final confrontation to tell them what happened. Loki had been tampering with emotions with his magic and kept tugging out memories in the midst of battle. Loki specifically did this to Clint the worst before throwing the archer over the edge of the railing in the loft. Clint was bruised, but fine, yet unconscious.

"He begged me, Thor." Hela adds a second later, her eyes opening to meet his. "I couldn't…I…" she trails then clenches her other hand into a fist, "His eyes." She states abruptly. "They were blue before I threw 'im down the stairs."

"You threw him down stairs?" Thor blurts out before processing her words properly. The Mind Stone has been lost to Asgard since before Hela's birth and what they have on it is little and aged. The effects from the Stone on it's victims are nearly limitless, but the most common use was mind control. No matter whatever use it was called upon for, however, the only visible thing of the victims was eye color.

It was blue, despite the Mind Stone's yellow color.

Loki's eyes are green. Not blue. If they were blue, and he was wandering around with the Mind Stone than that means...that means…

That means—

"He stabbed me." Hela defends tiredly, drawing Thor back to the present. He stares at her for a second, confused, before remembering his blurted question.

"But if what you say is true, then…" Thor trails, ignoring her comment.

"...Loki could have been under someone's control." Hela concludes.

Relief washes through him. He might've stabbed Hela without his own consent.

But that brings up the more pressing question of where has Loki been?

Well.

Norns.

This is an unexpected, but admittedly not unwelcome, development.

What on Helheim are they supposed to do now?

Are they supposed to just walk up to Loki, grab him on the shoulder and ask bluntly: "Hey, I know it's been a few years and we're kinda angry at you at the moment, but were you perhaps under the control of another being?"

Loki would probably stab them.

Thor's already had enough of that this week, thanks.

Hela gives his hand a squeeze, the physical reaction meaning more than her words. "I can't talk to him, 'm sort of stuck here. You need to ask 'im about it." She presses.

But Thor doesn't want to. He's done his best over the last five days to avoid confrontation with his younger sibling to the best of his ability and succeeded. What will they do if Hela is wrong? What are they going to do when Loki is just a mindless killer silenced only by a trickery and nothing more? What then?

"Hela—" Thor strats to protest.

"Thor." Hela cuts, "Just a few words, please." Her eyes are pleading and her stance is defeated. Thor bites at his tongue to withhold a cuss and nods slowly.

"Fine. I will speak with him."

000o000

After avoiding the task for nearly another hour after Hela falls asleep again, Thor is ushered out by a nurse checking in to examine Hela's wound. With nothing else to do but wander, Thor forces his feet in the direction of the interrogation wing and manages to locate the director within a few minutes. After awkwardly looping around the main point of his desire to speak, Fury gives him fifteen minutes.

So now he stands in front of the door trying to work up the courage to just open it and step inside.

He doesn't want to know what awaits him on the other side.

He wants hopes, pleads for Hela's theory to be correct, but he can't wrap his head around the finite details of it. Such as where Loki has been for three years. Three. If whoever his captor was wanted Loki to do this all along and has had him for three years, why not send him earlier? And why were there no signs of an abduction along all of Asgard's cliffs?

They found no trace of him, or anyone else.

Besides, if Loki had been kept captive for three years, wouldn't he have escaped by now? Keeping Loki somewhere he doesn't want to be is one of the hardest things in the universe.

Just open the bloody door.

It's not going to bite you.

Thor's hand hovers over the button for another long second before he closes his eyes and releases a breath. All-Fathers give me strength.

He slams his fingers on the six digit code before waiting. The door's locks hiss before the steal gray slides open and Thor forces himself inside the room. It smells strongly acidic and of fresh paint. Thor resists the urge to gag at it and forces himself the final few feet until he stands on the other side of the table.

His breath catches slightly in his throat at seeing Loki this close. He's been watching through the mirrors, yes, but it's different without glass to between them.

Loki looks exhausted. His posture is slumped in a way that is unusual of him, his hair is a mess along his scalp, his eyes shadowed, and the bone of his face is jutting out in a way it doesn't when he's healthy. He isn't wearing his leathers anymore, it's been traded out for a S.H.I.E.L.D. issued blue shirt and gray pants. He looks strangely small without the leather to bulk him.

Words catch in his throat and Thor makes a slight noise before grabbing the chair and pulling it out and forcing himself to take a seat across from his brother. Loki's green eyes lift from the table to him and widen. Surprise washes over his features and he flicks his gaze across him several times as if he hasn't seen Thor in months. Which, Thor realizes with a jolt, is the case. He has watched Loki from afar, but his younger brother has not had that pleasantry.

"Loki," Thor greets, his voice toneless. Loki's green eyes are wide and his fists clench on the other side of the table, the chains between his shackles shifting from where they're bolted to the desk. A physical reaction. It's more than anyone has gotten from him beyond blank stares.

Thor swallows audibly, but can't come up with anything further to say.

He has no idea how to phrase this question.

He wishes, sudden and abrupt, that his mother was here. She's always been better at getting Loki to open up than he or Hela have. Even their father could probably get this question from him with a few sharp words. Thor cannot.

Where is Asgard?

Why have they not sent aid?

"Did I kill her?" Loki's voice is breathless, raspy and quiet, but Thor startles at it nonetheless. He hadn't been expecting Loki to speak, nor has he heard Loki's baritone over anything that isn't Midgard's devices in years.

It sounds more defeated than he remembers.

Her.

Hela.

Loki wants to know if he killed Hela. Did no one tell him? Thor bites at his tongue, is there a reasoning to it? Should he interfere with that? He doesn't want do any damage to anything S.H.I.E.L.D. may have set up.

Thor says nothing.

"Brother," Loki's voice is still that quiet hesitation, and Thor lifts his eyes to the younger's. They're wet. "Please."

"No, she still lives." Thor admits, his voice suddenly seems like yelling against Loki's whispers. Loki's shoulders slump with relief and he leans back on the chair, closing his eyes. Thor watches him for a long moment, biting at his tongue several times before finally letting the question slip: "Are you well?"

He looks ill.

Thin, haggard and tired.

Loki's lips split into a smile and a slight laughing huff escapes his throat, "I am a murderer, why do you query for my health?"

Because you are my brother.

Thor pauses. "You are my brother, Loki." Thor insists.

Loki remains quiet.

Fine. "Our sister...she believes that you carried the Mind Stone."

Loki's breath hitches and his eyes rip open. Instead of despaired, they're focused and...relieved? He says nothing, just stares, so Thor forces himself to plow onward. Loki didn't outright deny it, which is a good sign. "During the midst of your battle she noticed the oddity of your eyes. Brother, were you under the influence of the Stone?"

There. Blunt and to the point.

Loki pauses, before slowly exhaling. "I didn't mean to stab her." He says, his words are rushed."I didn't want to. Or the floating fortress, I didn't—I didn't—It just—" Loki lets out a groan and lets his head fall into his hands. "It's all so messed up."

A knot in his stomach releases.

"Loki," He addresses and leans forward to rest his hand on top of Loki's. His brother violently flinches back from the touch as if he'll be burned.

Loki looks up at him, his green eyes wide. "I'm sorry." He breathes, "Thor, I couldn't stop it. I swear I tried. And I fought, but I couldn't stop and it just kept getting worse before I had to—and now Laufey's dead because I couldn't stop them and there was blood. I just wanted it to stop, I tried to make it stop, but it wouldn't and now I have the blood of hundreds and—" Loki's voice breaks off and he squeezes his eyes shut. "I'm sorry."

"Loki," Thor says calmly, trying to shove the growing confusion to the side. Laufey? What role does he play in this? "You know as well as I that those under the influence of mind control aren't accountable for what they—"

Loki slams a hand on the tabletop and Thor flinches back at it. "Stop." His voice is calm, but close to lashing out violently. "I felt Hela's blood on my hands and enjoyed it. My mind was taken, yes, but does it matter? I still committed the murders, didn't I?"

Thor bites his tongue. His next words need to be careful, but he's never been gifted with them like Loki has. "It wasn't your decision, though, was it?" He counters.

Loki's gaze flicks to the table.

"You wouldn't have done any of that by your own choosing, Loki," Thor reassures, "you're not a murderer."

Loki was under the control of the Mind Stone.

Who was wielding it?

Was it Laufey? Loki mentioned him.

But why would Laufey have the Mind Stone?

Father took the Casket from them because it is their way of travel, they couldn't have possessed an Infinity Stone without someone having noticed it during the over Midgard. And—even then, Thor, Sif and the Warriors Three visited Jotunheim during their search for Loki and he was not there. Laufey himself assured them that he hadn't seen the trickster since he cast him out to die.

It isn't one of Thor's favorite memory, admittedly, but it's an assurance nonetheless.

It wasn't Jotunheim.

Then who?

Few can hold Infinity Stones, but even less can wield them correctly.

Thor can think of none.

"Why am I here?" Loki's voice draws him once more from his spiraling thoughts and he looks up towards the younger for a second, then flicks his gaze towards the table. Loki is here because they believe him to have committed several murderers, as well as the fact that they have no idea why he was collecting the Stones.

"The Midgardians want answers." Thor admits.

Loki stares blankly at him. "Do they not have what they need?"

No. Not to any degree!

"Hardly," Thor says, "you haven't exactly been forthcoming with information."

Loki blinks, but does not comment.

"Why were you after the Stones? Who wants them, Loki?" Thor asks, he attempts to make his voice gentle, but even to his own ears it comes off as brash. He quietly winces to himself and wishes he was less of a blunt person. His attempts at humor have had no effect on Loki either.

Loki pales slightly and clears his throat, "My next target was Jane Foster." The words slip from off his done as if blurted, a rare thing for Loki to do, and Thor stills at them.

Jane.

Loki was after Jane. Why? What has she done to be dragged into this? Loki needs no prodding to plow forward, as the words pour off his tongue, he simply picks up speed as if the faster he speaks it the easier it will be: "She was regarded as one of the top in her field on Midgard, I had been watching her for days before you showed up. I had planned to make my abduction soon, but you withheld it from pushing forward. He...wanted an easy way to transport his army through space. I had selected Jane to assist me in building the portal, and, if not her, Erik Selvig. I was collecting the Stones for him, so when he arrived three would be ready to be in his possession, adding to his two. I didn't want to. I didn't. I needed—I had—" Loki's voice breaks and he squeezes his eyes shut.

Thor forces himself to swallow his horror and looks at his younger brother.

Norns, sometimes he forgets how young Loki actually is; but suddenly it's stark. He forces himself to take a breath and keep his eyes open. He will not be strangled by this. He will not. Loki is watching his expression with a strange sort of pained look.

Thor presses his lips together and clasps his hands together on the desk. He was not trained in interrogation on Asgard, if he had been Crown Prince, it would have been expected of him to know such tactics, but he doesn't. His ability to drag information from people has either been drilled into him by Loki or self taught. Nonetheless, he forces the question out: "Who was this collector?"

Loki's lips press together firmly and his eyes close for a brief moment. His lips part once, twice before he manages to get any sound into it. "He was called Thanos."

000o000

Tony has seen Pepper stand in front of politicians deemed hopeless or businessmen with a reputation for being difficult and pulled what she wanted from them with ease. His wife's skill to work her way around people's more aggravating tenancies is what makes her the best CEO of Stark Industries to date. Hela's is equal to it, if not surpassing.

"—Just see him for a few minutes." Her voice rings out, frustration dipping dangerously into it.

Tony flicks his phone off and looks up from the device to stare at the woman. She's still in the hospital bed, pale and sickly, but her slur has stopped in the last few hours and animated hand swinging has once again rejoined her speech. Thor isn't present at the moment, something about assisting Fury with one thing or another, but the rest of the Avengers are. It's become an unspoken habit between them to gather with the Asgardian siblings as much as they can.

Thor honestly forgot to eat without their prodding.

Tony isn't sure when the two of them were stuffed into their strange friendship, but it happened...and he's honestly not opposed to it. Having Asgard as an ally would be good if a world crisis pops up. And, Hela and Thor are decent, respectable people. Their insane younger brother is a different story, but not one he really wants to read.

Hela, however, is insistent on this, and he has no idea why.

Personally, if he had just been stabbed, he would want to see his attacker, familial relation or not.

Fury, standing near the doorway doesn't look any more wavered to the Crown Princess's argument than he did when she proposed it. Fury arrived to tell them of Thor's success in questioning—which, weird—and the proposed theory of mind control.

Mind control.

Sure. If there's Norse gods running around, powerful magic rocks, and magicians hiding under their noses, why not mind control? Just throw that into the bunch. Tony is so done.

It's hard to tell exactly what his teammates stance on the proposal is, but Tony himself finds it strangely sketchy. He hasn't actually spoken to Loki personally or face-to-face, but he just doesn't...he doesn't know why he doesn't think it's accurate. Spite? Anger? Without Loki there to place the blame on, the death and injuries of hundreds are shifted to some unknown being. He doesn't want that. It's simply easier and makes more sense to pin it all on the Asgardian. He doesn't want a complex puzzle stuffed in his face.

It's stupid.

Why is he attempting to stuff blame onto someone that's possibly innocent?

It's cruel.

But, still.

What if he is guilty?

"Your Highness," Fury addresses, causing Tony to snap back into the present. They're discussing the...thing, right. What is it again? "As much as I admire your dedication to your sibling, I can't, in good conscious, allow your request."

Oh.

Right.

That.

Hela's expression twists, "Director, my brother is innocent, he isn't going to attempt anything."

"He stabbed and nearly killed you." Fury points out, "That's enough for me to be hesitant. I don't know how they run things on Asgard, but that isn't what we do here."

True.

"I think you misunderstand me," Hela says and a plastic smile spreads up her lips, "I'm demanding this. I'm not asking. It's ten minutes, you can stand guard if it will make you feel more contented. I need to speak with him."

Fury is still impassive.

Tony bites at his tongue to remain quiet, it feels strangely wrong to speak now.

"I can get you a phone call." Fury offers.

Hela's fists clench around the thin hospital blanket and the dark hair framing her face lazily seems to grow suddenly sharp. She forces out a breath and Tony can see a slight wince in her shoulders from the movement. "Five minutes."

"No."

"Three."

"No."

"Sir," Steve pipes up and all heads turn towards him. He's sitting on one of the stupidly uncomfortable chairs between Bruce and Natasha, Clint on Natasha's left. He looks tired and cold despite the thick hoodie wrapped around his frame. "Five minutes, there's not much he can do in that time frame; besides, aren't you suggesting the theory of innocence?"

"Right." Clint mutters, "Because that solves everything."

Steve ignores him, staring at Fury with a hard gaze. Fury meets it unflinchingly, but something in his stance loosens slightly with defeat. He blinks and turns to Hela. "Fine. Five minutes, that's it, and Coulson's going to monitor the whole thing."

Hela nods cheerfully, it does not match the dread in Tony's stomach.

000o000

Hela hears Loki's entourage before she sees them. Heavy, thick, boots stomping down the hall in a rhythm that is only gifted to those trained in the military. They echo in the hall outside like a pounding herd of bilgesnipe.

Hela lifts her head from where she's staring into her lap and the spare piece of paper Thor is scribbling on. Natasha found the spare paper to give to him and then gave him a pen. Thor has been sketching out the hands of the Avengers during the process of the last hour and Hela is admittedly impressed. It's one of Thor's lesser known talents that he is a skilled artist. He never has the patience for it, but when he actually sets his mind to accomplishing the task, the results are beautiful.

Thor halts his sketching of Clint's fingers to look up at the door, the other Avengers following the action.

Agent Coulson opens the door, a grim expression on his lips before stepping into the room. At least five more men follow him before she sees Loki's dark head of hair poking out between the agents.

Hela sits up from her slouched position and Loki catches her gaze, but quickly flicks his gaze away. Hela presses her lips together.

She needs to talk to him, without sixty percent of Midgard's army waiting outside.

"Agent Coulson, would it be possible to speak with my brother alone?" Her voice sounds more croaky than she appreciates. At least it's done high pitched or slurring anymore.

Agent Coulson fidgets. "Miss, I don't know—"

"I swear on my honor I will do nothing." Loki interrupts, his voice is desperate, but he still refuses to catch her eye.

Coulson turns to look at him, eyebrows raised with mild surprise. "Will you?"

"Yes."

Coulson taps his fingers against his sides for a second then sighs with defeat. "Alright. Fine. Ten minutes, but I need to stay in here."

Hela nods. She can compromise. "No questions." She requests.

He hums with agreement. "Alright, wait outside I'll call you if you're needed."

The agents look hesitant and rock back and forth before turning to leave the room. They exit and Hela turns to the Avengers who are watching Loki warily.

"All of you as well, if you would." She requests.

The Avengers share a very reluctant look, but nonetheless file out of the room. They all give Loki a wide berth as they pass him, but as the door closes once more Loki's shoulders slump.

Coulson moves across the room and takes one of the vacated seats, but Hela ignores him. "Loki."

He refuses to look at her.

"Loki."

"Loki, look at me please."

He slowly lifts his gaze to her's and his lips part, but no sound escapes him. His eyes are filled guilt, and rimmed with exhaustion.

The wound in her chest gives a slight ache and Thor shifts next to her. Loki rocks on his heal before moving forward and collapses on his knees beside the hospital bed, on the side Thor is present on. His chained wrists land on the mattress beside her leg and she reached her left hand out past Thor to grab his clenched fist.

"I'm sorry," he blurts burying his forehead on her hand, "I'm sorry. I'm a fool."

Her lips twitch and she shares a look with Thor. The blond sighs before resting a hand on Loki's bony shoulder. Loki flinches to it.

"I am not angry." Hela assures the raven hair. Mostly. She is mostly not angry.

Loki looks up at her with wide eyes. "I could have killed you."

"But you didn't." Thor points out helpfully.

"I meant to." Loki says, ignoring the blond.

Hela presses her lips together and frowns. "Brother, where have you been?" What events transpired for him to have changed so much? What happened?

Loki lips press together. "I'd rather not say."

Ha.

No.

"You impaled my lungs, can I least know why?" As soon as the words fall from her mouth, Hela winces at them when they cause Loki to bury his head again.

Thor gives his shoulder a reassuring squeeze.

Loki forces out a deep breath before looking up at her again. "It isn't a short tale."

"We're not exactly busy." Hela assures. Asgard has yet to contact them. Where are they? She can't imagine their father letting something like this slide. First the Infinity Stones, then Loki's return and consequently her attempted murder, and now the suggestion of mind control? Heimdall is not deaf. Did something happen? Where is their Realm?

Loki blows out a raspberry, before shifting to take most of the pressure from his knees, but it painfully careful to not escape their grasp on him. It is almost as if he fears that if they let go, they will never grasp him again.

"I left that morning to work on World-Walking." Loki starts, his voice strangely quiet, "The Dejournn Mountains has the thinnest folds between Realms and I knew I would have a better chance at success with them. And I did. I accomplished the spell, but my destination was off. I had been aiming for Alfheim, but instead...there was this walkway, it was dark...stygian, and I couldn't see anything but a strange red glow. I saw something squished between two pillars and…" Loki trails slightly and Hela sighs and gives the bridge of her nose a firm pinch.

"You poked it."

Loki looks strangely sheepish for a second, and the expression is so familiar that it makes her chest ache in a way that isn't from pain. "I did." Loki admits.

"Loki." Thor groans and Loki rolls his eyes up to the ceiling in annoyance for a second before shaking his head slightly.

"Anyway, if I may be allowed to proceed...thank you. When I touched the object it...merged with me somehow. I can't explain it, I felt it enter my veins and was sickened by it. I attempted to return to Asgard and reveal myself to Heimdall, but the tear I had created had closed when I was infected. I can't remember much of what happened following, I think I panicked and just started attempting to rip at anything I could. The object was tugging on my sedir and feeding off it. I couldn't make one to Asgard, instead I pulled one open and jumped in with relief before I fully realized where it lead. I tumbled into Jotunheim."

Oh.

Oh.

But Laufey said that he hadn't seen Loki and they didn't contact him until half a year had passed from Loki's disappearance. Loki grimaces slightly and presses his lips together for a second before peeling them apart. "I wandered for a time, to dizzy to do much else before I ran into Jotunn scouts. I couldn't give any coherent answers to their questions and they dragged me to Laufey. I believe he attempted to speak with me, but I can't remember much of what he spoke about. His attempted to strike me, but couldn't because the substance inside of me reacted—it wasn't...I had been injected with the Aether."

What?

Malekith did attempt a siege on Asgard two? (one?) year ago, but they thwarted his attempts and banished the remainder of those who would surrender their weapons to Svatherheim. Malekith was removed of his head in the public square, they had no reason to suspect the Aether had not perished as well.

Malekith claimed to be searching for it, yes, but they doubted and mocked him.

Loki had it.

Loki was it.

How is he still alive?

Is it still with him? No—it can't be, she and he fought and she threw him down a staircase, the Aether would have reacted to that. It's gone now, removed by an unknown source.

Thor inhales sharply beside her, but says nothing.

Loki's fingers tighten, "Laufey recognized it for what it was and was fearful of what I had become. A living host for an Infinity Stone. My sedir was feeding it and in turn weakening me, I couldn't maintain the shapeshift and retreated to my Jotunn form as i lay dazed in the snow. Laufey knew who I was, then, and was not happy. He had me thrown into one of his prisons and left there to rot. I don't remember much of the following months, only that I was dazed, weakened, and barely alive even though I shouldn't be. Laufey visited me a few times that I can remember, and in our final confrontation, he called me son. I'm fairly certain that I replied something along the lines of "I'd rather have horse manure for a parent"— it didn't make him very happy."

Loki gives a slight smirk and Hela resist the urge to smack her forehead. It is so like him: "I'm in a dangerous situation—better make it more deathly by annoying my captor". Is he capable of holding back his tongue once?

Thor groans Loki's name under his breath and buries his head into his hands.

"Well he didn't kill me," Loki defends, "he couldn't, and I knew that. At the end of my capture from the Jotunn's, their palace was attacked. A collector of the Infinity Stones had been tracking them for decades to find their locations, and when the Reality Stone's signature finally graced its presence among the others, he couldn't help himself. He sent one of his generals, Midnight Proxima and a handful of soldiers to retrieve it.

"I was not in a state to fight them when they found me, and Proxima didn't understand why the Reality Stone was not there. Her agitation grew before she attempted to slit my throat and failed. The Aether made itself known to her then, and she was...I don't know, thrilled, annoyed? It's hard to tell when everything is spinning and sounds like it's underwater. I couldn't walk, so she dragged me from the cell to the palace where her awaiting ship was outside the perimeter of it. Laufey saw and was—" Loki pauses, his voice hitching slightly before proceeding, "He attempted to stop her, but was killed instead. Because of me."

Loki's eyes close briefly and Hela gives his hand a quick squeeze, inside her however, is a mess of confusion. Laufey met with them when they asked over Loki, it was Laufey, not his nephew, who is heir to the throne and likely king now. But that means that Laufey lied when he said that he hadn't seen Loki and Loki was on the same planet as them six months into the disappearance and—

If he wasn't already dead, Hela would take the head of the Jotunn herself.

Loki takes a moment before speaking again: "I was taken to a ship, the Sanctuary, were the last surviving Titan, Thanos resided. He is...mad. Bent on destroying the half the universe like it will cure it of a terrible plague: life. His love is twisted and warped at best and he sees mercy as pain instead of respite. I...I did not...Thanos drew the Aether from my body and fondled my hair as I wept from pain of my sedir returning from where it was bound. He was impressed by my power "unequal to any other sorcerer" he'd known. I served as the host of an Infinity Stone for months without dying, even if it did steal my sedir as it lived in me. Thanos...he-he said that I at such a young age with so much raw potential would do deeds like none other under his servitude.

"I was disgusted and refused him. In return, he branded me then tortured me for months, weeks, years—I don't know. The passage of time was one I could never count. When he brought the Mind Stone forward...my shields had fallen and I was too exhausted to fight. He sent me to Earth to find the Stones, procure them for him then create a way for his army to enter the planet. He had planned to give you the "mercy" of personally wiping out half of your population, rather than allowing it to be destroyed when he did the collective genocide.

"The rest you know. I learned of S.H.I.E.l.D. after a few days of research looking for the Tesseract, then I stole the Stone as Thor was captured and tore the Helicarrier apart on my exit. As it crashed, I searched for the Time Stone, but was unable to find it. The Ancient One transfers buildings every ten years, and I haven't spoken with her in fifteen. The connection didn't snap until I was thrown down stairs."

Hela winces at the reminder of her action, but nonetheless looks at Loki's eyes, but he refuses to meet them. "Death follows him like a shadow." He murmurs.

Hela stills.

Thanos is not much more than a gossiped tale among the Asgardians. His ambitions to collect the Stones were known to them, yes, but not much else. They had no history of his family, where he was from or where he was located. They kept tabs on the spreading news as best they could, but Thanos was never really anything Asgard felt like interfering with. He would not live as long as they, so there was little point.

Thanos tortured her brother.

He is a mass murderer, and thinks of it as mercy.

How dare he.

"Loki." She says, forcing her voice to stay level. She wants to scream and rage, but it is not the time or place. He slowly lifts his gaze to her own. "Listen to me carefully: everything he made you do is not on your head, it is on his own. Your agency was taken and you are not at fault for it."

"But—" Loki starts to protest. Hela presses a finger against his lips.

"No buts."

Loki's expression twists with despair for a moment and Hela's heart goes out to him. She sighs, leans forward and grabs him, wrapping her arms around his lanky frame in a hug. She runs a hand through his hair and shares a helpless glance with Thor. She has no idea how to help him. She wants to talk to her mother or her father and receive assistance. When matters of the heart are risen, she is not instinctive on what needs to be done.

Loki buries his face against her shoulder lightly and it makes her painfully aware how hypersensitive he is to her healing wound. Loki murmurs something into her shoulder that she doesn't understand, and she glances at Thor for interpretation, but sees he's doing the same. "Hmm?" She questions.

Loki repeats it, then lifts his head, "There's something else you should know: Thanos, he—"

Whatever he had to say it lost as a loud crash sounds outside, before a following explosion swallows her senses. Loki's arms wrap around her with force and Hela feels them being thrown forward several dozen feet.

Loki manages to twist during their flight so she lands on top of him instead of being slammed into the ground and she feels her injury pull. Pain shoots across the area, and she squeezes her eyes shut and inhales deeply, but it's only smoke.

Smoke?

Explosion. Oh, Norns, Thor!

She forces her eyes open and shoves out of Loki's protective grasp, tumbling to the floor beside him. The ceiling is covered in a murky green light and Hela turns to see Loki's hands raised, green pouring from his fingers to the collapsing walls. He's keeping the building from crushing them with his sorcery.

The smoke is thick and the smell is wretched, but she forces her sight to skip across the broken fragments, looking for Thor. She spots him a second later, kneeling next to Agent Coulson, helping the man up.

The "ceiling" is hanging to low for them to stand properly, but enough to crouch in. "Loki." Thor hisses, pulling Coulson forward and helping the man sit down next to them. "What is going on?"

Loki strains a breath, his arms shaking from the weight. "I was trying...to...tell you. Thanos had a date with which I was to give him the Stones. My entourage is here."

"Meaning!?" Thor demands as he squats beside her, checking for injury. Hela smacks his fussing hands away.

"We're being attacked." Coulson answers, his voice strained. Nonetheless, he lifts his hand up, gun at the ready.

Attacked.

Now.

Perfect.

Hela strains her fingers and feels her armor wrap around her body. She leaves the helmet, and suddenly wishes for a hair tie. Loki grunts and the ceiling drops several inches. Hela attempts to swallow her fear and building hysteria. They aren't going to be buried alive. Loki can hold it until they're found. They will be fine. The only light in the sudden prison is coming from Loki's magic, which likely means that their only air supply is what was already here, and it's thick with smoke.

"Comms are dead," Coulson announces, dropping the dread in her chest further. "I can't even get a hold of Stark's."

And Tony has flaunted his superior technology since she met him. Norns.

"Where is Mjolnir?" Loki hisses, the ceiling dropping another inch. Hela stares up at it, another four inches and it will be touching her hairline.

"I don't know, not here!" Thor answers, letting out a few coughs, "Why!?"

"Can't you break it!?" Loki returns.

"No! The stone breaking further is only going to strain you."

"Surely you can break a few things—Hit it with a lightning bolt!"

"I can't risk vaporizing you!"

"Thor—"

"Shut up!" Coulson demands, causing both siblings to snap their jaws shut. A rare feet when they're arguing. She likes this man. Coulson points up, "Look."

Hela turns her head to the ceiling and spots the stone shifting. Loki heaves out another breath, gasping slightly with the effort. The shifting of the weight from someone digging is causing more strain on him. She shifts across the room and rests a hand on his shoulder. "Darling, breathe." She instructs.

"I can't!"

The ceiling breaks and sunlight shines through the cracks. Loki collapses the shield and breathes in deeply as Hela spots Tony, armor on, hovering over the hole. Hela can't see any of the rest of the three story building. How much of it was Loki holding?

"They're here!" Tony calls, "None of them are dead!" He lands inside the hole and Hela inhales fresh air greedily. Her stab wound aches, reminding her how it was torn and how deeply Asgard speeds her healing.

Tony flips the face-plate open, "Any injuries?"

"No," Thor answers, rising to his feet and helping Hela to hers. "Loki shielded us."

Tony turns to look at the raven haired Asgardian and makes a slight humming noise. "Well, great. I hope you're still feeling the side switching because two ugly guys are walking down the street searching for the Space Stone. Anyone seen that by the way?" Loki pales. "So just answer me on this Reindeer Games, are you going to help us?" Tony demands. Loki nods wordlessly, twisting his wrists. "Great," Tony cheers, "we need a wizard."

Tony moves to exit, but Loki lurched forward and grabs his arm with his shackle free hands. Admittedly, Hela isn't surprised, her brother can pick almost any lock with sorcery asleep. If he had wanted to leave the S.H.I.E.L.D. base, he would already have been long gone.

"My scepter, what did you do with it?" Tony stares at him warily. Loki's expression pinched, "Stark, it held the Mind Stone."

Tony swears. "Oh. Great. Fury took it, I don't know where it—Clint seriously, no one wants a detailed explanation about the bloody watermelon, shut up!" Hela stares at him in confusion before remembering the comms. Mjolnir's energy hums before she spots it land in Thor's outstretched hand.

"Stark, take our sister to safety, we will assist in the battle."

Hela gapes, offended, then turns to face him, "What?"

Loki draws his daggers and looks to be sharing Thor's opinion. Oh, great, so now she's a helpless maiden?

"Sister, you're injured." Thor states, "You don't want to tear the wound any further, and we can't be distracted with your safety."

Hela pauses, but sighs with defeat. "Fine."

Tony smirks before leaning forward to scoop her into her arms. Hela does her best to hide the flush in her face, but doesn't feel successful. She sent the Berserkers back to Asgard, they can't be of assistance now any more than she can.

"Buckle up, Hades." Tony instructs before shooting up into the air.

000o000

The battle is violent, but brief. Hela watches from a perch beside Clint occasionally throwing out a dagger when one of the strange creatures dragged into New York gets close enough. Loki and Thor can banter during fights, but is nearly pathetic compared to the Avengers. Gibes about almost anything from footwear to hair gel ring up and it's admittedly amusing.

A man with telekinesis is quickly taken on by Loki, and his bigger, bulkier friend by Thor. Once their leaders are defeated and slain, the army retreats and leaves them to a strange sort of standstill/peace.

After Clint and she have descended to ground level, she quickly works her way across the street to where Loki and Thor are talking with Steve.

Hela is about to embrace them or punch them, when a blinding light explodes across her gaze. She flinches back at it, Clint's bow lifting before the sparkling colors of the Bifrost halt.

Hela jerks up her head, surprised, and spots Sif a moment later. Her dark hair is tangled and her armor covered in soot and blood that is not her own. She has been in battle, and recently. Hela strides forward to the woman and Sid catches her gaze, brown eyes going wide.

"My Queen," Sif's voice is pained and Hela takes a step forward to grasp her shoulders as she wavers.

"Sif," she says scanning for injuries on the woman, but finds none.

Sif looks up as footsteps ring behind them, and her eyes cloud with relief and tears. "My princes," she gasps and Loki takes a step forward to rest a hand on her shoulder. His eyes are concerned and Hela can see the glimmer of magic in the veins at his wrists. He's scanning her for injuries, or healing them, Hela can't tell.

Sif presses a hand against her mouth and gasps before looking up at them again, "Asgard is under attack. It is a threat by which we have never seen and—" she chokes in her words and Thor takes a step forward.

"By who? Who would dare—"

"Thanos." Sif and Loki murmur in sync. Loki looks up at her, green eyes wide. Sif's stance relaxes suddenly as Loki finds whatever it is that is paining her, but she's staring at him with wide eyes.

"Asgard is the only thing standing between Midgard's Infinity Stones. It is why-why you were nearly killed." Loki explains.

Sif's head jerks up, "What—?"

Hela waves a hand, "it matters not. What message have you brought?"

"Queen Frigga—" Hela's stomach drops with dread, "the queen has fallen and Asgard is weakened from Malekith's attack, we are losing, and the king is unable to think clearly. I have been sent here by Heimdall to collect your aid."

Frigga.

Mother.

Dead.

Again.

Loki, herself, and Thor intake air sharply.

No.

Please, please no.

Sif grasps her sword hilt, forcing Hela back into attention. "We must move quickly, Serenity is nearly taken."

"Whoa, wait," Clint demands behind them, and Hela spares him a glance, "where are you guys going?"

"Asgard." Loki answers, "Our kingdom's survival hangs in the balance, will you stop us?"

Clint shakes his head and presses his lips together firmly. Thanos is going to pay with his head for this. Hela conjures a sword into her hand and nods as Thor and Loki ready their weapons.

Sif stares at them with regret once more before tilting her head up—"Heimdall! Open the Bifrost!"—and the swirl of colors ensnares them.

Chapter Text


 My Dearest Mother,

I fail to see a purpose in this letter, but I have been significantly bullied into writing it. There is an ache in me for your warmth that the cold chill of paper and the strange Midgardian "pen" are not able to fill.

The one year anniversary of your death has passed, leaving all of us to mourn your loss, I especially. I believe that had I known what was to happen following that morning, I would have said something different. Something funny, to see your laughing smile for the last time.

I have to thank you, Mother, for your patience in starting my teaching in sorcery. I am only alive today because you taught me how to use my sedir properly.

I was the host of an Infinity Stone for seven months. By the end, I was breaths away from death, but it would have been days had I not been trained properly, so thank you.

How are you liking Valhalla? I've been told it is beautiful beyond comprehension, but I imagine that you have started to care for the gardens there. You always did have an unhealthy obsession with verdure.

I miss you.

I miss you terribly.

AndHela is staring over my shoulder at the moment and pestering me into writing she originally wanted. Stop reading what I'm writing, Sister, it's unnerving.

She has now gone to lick her embarrassment in private.

I am supposed to be telling you of our defeat over the Mad Titan Thanos. I have little desire for this. I hate thinking over those days, the disgust I feel is hard to describe.

I nearly murdered my sister and got everyone else killed. My mind was a mess and I couldn't remember much of anything, or at times everything at once. The news of the attack was one I barely remembered before it happened.

The Mind Stone is...we did not have enough information about it in the libraries. Our limited knowledge did not prepare me for it's full effects.

When we—Sif, Thor, Hela and I—arrived in Asgard, it was on fire. Do you recall the old sorcerer who lost himself in that spell and imploded casting Vanaheim into the six year fire? This was worse. Serenity was burning, and the surrounding countries were ashes.

Sif explained to us about how the Warriors Three and Heimdall took as many citizens as they could and were fleeing to Alfheim. The man who greeted us on the bridge was called Skurge. He was a thief whose punishment had been to assist Heimdall for thirty years, but Heimdall started training him as an apprentice. Why is beyond me, it wasn't something I could see in the man.

I know you do not welcome grand details of battles—the blood and gore has never fascinated me either—so I will spare you the rather lengthy list of what occurred as we battled to the palace. Frankly, I blame Thor for the entire mess when we got there. He's always been such an idiot when it comes to battle strategies. I swear he knows there's a brain between his skull, but rebels from it more than I care to count.

Our father was waiting in the palace for us, he had stayed to assist with the counter attack. Gungnir was missing and to this day I am still uncertain as to what happened to it. He was elated to see me and I him. We embraced before parting and discussing our counter attack. Thanos had taken most of the palace by that point and I was not welcomed to Thor's strategy of "barge in and destroy anything in our path"—his words, exactly.

Our father suggested instead sneaking up on the Titan and I didn't think that was wise. Thanos...he is not one who is easily surprised. And when he is, it isn't pleasant. Getting the Aether drained from my systems after months of it slowly killing me stopped my heart twice. If not for Thanos's insistence that I could be more than a host, my cold frozen corpse would be floating through the cosmos.

In a way, I am indebted to him and it disgusts me.

Our planning, however, came to naught. Some of Thanos's patrols found our small grouping and though we attempted to fight back, Sif and Skurge were killed in the skirmish, our father was incapacitated and Thor's right eye lost.

We were marched to the throne room, where in a fit of mockery or true narcissism, Thanos was sitting on  Hliðskjálf. There were brief insults thrown, none of which I really feel like putting onto paper, but needless to say that Hela was unhappy and Thor was furious and Thanos claimed that we had stolen from him.

'We have taken nothing from mad-man', our father had retorted.

Thanos had stared at me, then, and half smiled with pity, then stated: 'But you hold it in your hand all the same.'

I had the Tesseract, Mother, in my cache. I can't remember when I took it from Midgard's floating fortress, but I knew that I had it. I hadn't told Hela or Thor, because neither had asked. It didn't seem relevant, I suppose, in the midst of the war over the Time Stone. Irresponsible, yes, but what was I supposed to do with it? 'Oh, hey, by the way, I have an Infinity Stone in my magical cache, are either of you hungry?'. Hela would have been furious. Thor as well.

Admittedly, after tasting both their fury for nearly killing Hela and disappearing for three years, I wasn't to keen on it.

Moving forward, Thanos had called me out, but I couldn't move. I...I was terrified. I had barely escaped Thanos's captivity a month past, only to search out Jane Foster and report Dr. Banner to the United States of America's government. I had had plans to remain on Midgard for as long as I was physically capable.

The Mind Stone pressed me on, but it didn't tell me how fast it had to happen.

When Thanos realized I was biding time, he then assigned the pick-up date.

The Reality Stone is not just something to create illusions with or, as Malekith was so insistent on, turning the stars out. Did the elf even think about the consequences of his actions? Every crop in the universe would have died and people frozen to death without warning. He would have been more effective in achieving "perfect balance" then Thanos's deranged plan. Idiot.

The Stone was…

It was...

I was never present for this, but Hela has told me stories of how when she was young they used to call her the "half dead-child" because of her idiosyncrasy to see the dead. It would drive her to tears and from her nursemaid to cling to father's legs, she said. He would reassured her over and over that she was fully alive, but the name stuck. It is where I believe Midgard's scholars gained the idea of her being a half rotted corpse. Where the hypothesis of her being my child was founded, I am admittedly helpless. Sigyn is admittedly a beautiful elf, but I'm not certain our friendship will progress to a marriage bond, if that is not what she desires. She is more of a close friend to me. She and I (as you know) have spoken many times, and I can say that I have grown fond of her over the years. You were always teasing me that I favor her—I hated it, but now I long for it.

The half-dead child; I apologize, pretending I am actually speaking to you makes my mind wander as it used to when we spoke.

Thanos, I have determined, had heard such stories.

Thanos called me forward to "deliver your final quest, little Jotunn", but I refused. I am certain that my father knew I possessed the Tesseract, Heimdall's all seeing gaze could not touch me then, but it can notice the sudden absence of things, like the encased Space Stone. He did not attempt to persuade me to give it to Thanos. He, at that point, had already collected three.

Space, Mind and Time were all that stood in the way of his goals being accomplished.

He was angry with my refusal, and used the Reality Stone on Hela. The half-dead child became the rotting woman. I don't think there will ever be something that haunts me as much as her screams of agony. I begged with him to stop, and in return he slayed our father.

Hela was released and Thor and I attempted to aid her, but she was beyond speaking to us.

I was beyond furious at that point. He had tortured me to the point of insanity, killed you, Father, indirectly took Thor's eye, and now he left Hela to suffer this fate.

Mercy is not something he knows.

Death follows him like a shadow.

Thanos asked me then, 'What else are you willing to give to withhold this?'

I can't remember my exact words, but I'm fairly certain it was something along the lines of "take it from me". You are as aware as I that without a key, it is impossible to open a cache of another sorcerer. Thanos had no key. Thor and I refused to move from Hela's side, and when he rose from Hliðskjálf we didn't notice.

I think Thor and I were arguing, I can't remember exactly, but the next moment his gauntlet was around Thor's neck and he was dragged from Hela's twitching form to the air. I couldn't breathe in my panic. I have tasted the chill of the medal and it is pointless to squirm in it.

Thor was screaming.

I gave Thanos the Tesseract, pleading for quarter.

Thor was left alive, and tumbled beside me gasping for breath.

'You have served me well, little Jotunn,' he had murmured, 'but all things must come to an end, and I can't let anything else stand in my way.'

He gathered his soldiers forward and opened the Tesseract as he cracked Asgard's center open and left it to implode from the pressure.

I panicked.

Transporting three people without a destination in mind is as stupid as you rattled into my brain. I've traveled most of Midgard to-and-back without a problem, but I could think of nowhere for us to go at that moment and just lept in between the fragments of the worlds.

We tumbled to a grassy field in Midgard, which I have later come to learn was the first place the Bifrost touched down and my Sedir was drawn to it. Midgard, because it's the center of the Nine and that spot because Asgard first made contact with the humans there. It was strangely poetic, but none of us really cared at the moment.

We were in shock, honestly.

The last few weeks had been messy, and it was impossible to reliably state what we were all feeling.

I, personally, was wracked with terror to the point my limbs could not stop shaking, Hela was angered, and Thor was in denial. We had just watched our entire Realm burn, explode, our parents die and Hela had in turn just lost the Berserkers, from their bindings to Asgard as a life source. Hela had no weapons was half dead, Thor was missing an eye, and I was drained in my sedir in a way I hadn't felt since beginning to use it.

Teleportation is meant to be done with somewhere in mind.

It needs to be such—as you told me again and again. I've never been very good at listening, though, have I Mother?

We had sat there for a few minutes in silence, unmoving, attempting to process what happened before I sat up and stated: 'Thanos has won.'

And what else could it be?

What were we, three Asgardians, against four Infinity Stones?

Asgard was nearly lost to Malkeith—as you know—with one.

I was hopeless.

Thor had risen, angered, and blood smearing from his wound more visible than any of us really cared to admit. I couldn't help him, my sedir was drained beyond assistance. The most we could have done at that time was wrap it, but all of us were a little to busy panicking.

'He hasn't.' Thor had declared.

'How?' I had retorted, 'He killed our father, our people, our planet—'

A third of Asgard's citizens escaped with Heimdall and the Warriors Three during the attack. The rest were left to his mass genocide when he blew up Asgard.

'He didn't win anything!' Thor had snapped, 'We're not dead.'

I didn't see how that could be of any use. I had muttered something like "Thor, you idiot" under my breath and Thor had continued his rousing speech of denial and frustration: 'We can still fight!'

'Can we?' I countered, 'with what?'

Thor hadn't answered for a long moment and honestly I'm not certain what he really wanted us to go against Thanos with at the time. Hard work, determination, and spit?

'Our father—Our parents wouldn't have wanted us to just—give up!'

I had opened my mouth to say something, probably unwelcoming and of the soul crushing variety, but Hela, roused enough with adrenaline to consciousness beat me to it: 'Our parents!? Our parents are dead, Thor. Our planet is obliterated. The only reason we are not dead is because of Loki. We cannot fight against Infinity Stones, Brother. We lost.'

'No we didn't! We can still—'

'WE. CANNOT. FIGHT. AGAINST. INFINITY STONES!' Hela had roared. Hela isn't one to yell, often, have you noted that—you likely have, you are our mother. She drawls more and gets more sarcastic when she's annoyed. She doesn't shout at the top of her lungs without reasoning. Her outburst had effectively silenced me and Thor.

She was crying, now, though, and had stormed towards Thor, jabbing at his shoulder, 'Can you not grasp this concept!? We are the last survivors of ALL OF ASGARD! We have no army, no weapons, nothing. THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO!'

I was silenced beyond hope of speaking again, but Thor, stupid and brave, had spoken up: 'Then we will die trying! We can't do nothing!'

'No!'

'Why have you turned into a coward!? We have nothing more to lose, Hela!'

Hela had then grabbed his shoulders and rattled him back and forth several times, anxiety on her face and in her words. 'I could lose you!'

I had nothing to say. I still don't. Hela and Thor are my closest friends and companions, I can't imagine the thought of losing them, but I didn't realize that the terror was equal. She had then begged us, in a pleading whisper, 'I can't—I can't, please, don't make me lose you, too.'

Trauma is not something that we often think about effecting generals of wars. Hela is afraid of loss, and I had not realized that in words until that moment. She had wept, gasping sobs that wracked her broken frame and rattled us. Thor and I said nothing, but held her until she passed out from the ache of her deformed body.

Thor had picked her up and stated we need to find civilization and a place for Hela to rest. We were uncertain if this would kill her, we were worried, but there was nothing we could do unless we found a doctor, or I regained some of my depleted resources.

The Fates had apparently decided we had suffered enough and we found a small town within two hours. Thor and I have visited Midgard recently enough that their customs were not unknown to us, if not exactly familiar. We located a hotel and I conjured money from the woman's box of cash present and handed it to her to get one night. She was annoyingly perky, but remarkably didn't question our bloodied appearance and Hela's rotting frame.

Midgardians are strange to accept that as normal, Mother.

With Hela settled in the room, Thor and I hunted across it for one of their telephones. Neither one of us had really used one before, but I knew a basic concept. We needed someone to call and I then realized we didn't have any numbers. Mother, Midgardians are often centuries behind Asgard in their technology and I am grateful that we have progressed beyond those stupid digits.

Thor then revealed to me that he has his Lady Jane Foster's.

In hindsight, teasing him less when I realized what that meant probably would have helped, but it eased our paranoia. Thor called his lady, and she gave him the number for Tony Stark's CEO Mrs. Pepper Stark. After a bit of squabbling with the device and people on the other end, Thor finally managed to get ahold of the multi-billionaire.

They discussed something, I'm unaware of what exactly, because I had gone back to check on Hela again. She was still pale and with fever, but it didn't seem like she was going to die anymore.

I was relieved, and as I sat watching over her, an idea started to form in my mind.

As you know, dwarf medal does not rust or age in the way of others. It changes to different elements as it grows older. Mjolnir could be turned into simple bits of stone if given the right push. Thor entered the room and with reluctance told me that Lady Romanov and Agent Barton had been injured during an assault by the Chitauri for the Mind Stone.

The only Stone now not in the possession of Thanos was Time.

One singular stone.

I knew that the Ancient One—why Jadis insists on such ridiculous titles is beyond me—could hold her own defense, but I was uncertain as to how long it would last. Thor told me that Tony was sending a jet to pick us up with a few people from the "Guardians of the Galaxy" and they'd be there tomorrow evening.

Frankly, after meeting them, I am uncertain how Thor did not immediately resort to a tugging out his own hair. They are annoying. Gamora is less so, and Nebula nor Rocket make me want to tug out all my hair and scream, but Star-Lord is...frustrating.

Moving forward, me and Thor took shifts watching Hela that night and were awakened early that morning by a pounding on the door. Thor and I had advanced with pathetic weaponry, of which I will not detail because it's humiliating, but a lamp and broom was involved and opened the door to a frazzled and panicking Dr. Stephen Strange.

'I'm being chased to the point of murder, and I don't know anyone else to turn to.' He had stated frankly.

Thor and I had shared a look before inviting the young man into our hotel room.

We sat him down on one couch and sat on the other, staring. He had turned to me, 'The Ancient One said that you were innocent during the attack of the Sanctums, is this correct?

'Yes.' Thor had answered bluntly.

'You may search my mind for fragments of the Mind Stone and you will find some,' I assured after kicking him in the leg out of Dr. Strange's view.

Stephen had sagged with relief and then lifted his hand out a long pendant hanging from his grip. 'You have years of sorcery on me and we were moderating to see if you would return. When you did I used a tracking spell. I don't know what to do with this, but I know I don't want Thanos to have it.'

He was holding out the Time Stone to me, Mother. I was a little more than surprised. I'd never used it, or held it, but I'd seen the Ancient One do so.

'What happened to your master?' I demanded, wary to touch the stupid thing. Two other Infinity Stones had nearly gotten Hela and Thor killed and our father murdered.

Stephen had launched into a short, condensed version of how he learned Kaecilius betrayed the Ancient One and killed her to take the Time Stone to deliver it to Thanos. Thanos promised him and a small group of followers eternal life in return. I am uncertain why they considered the Mad Titan to be trustworthy on his promise, but who am I to judge?

Stephen found Kaecilius after the Ancient One's murder and fought him to a standstill and stole the Time Stone waiting for an answer on where to go to next. He waited about a day before learning of my reappearance and weighted his odds before deciding that I, as one of the greatest sorcerers in the Nine, would know what to do with it.

Frankly, I didn't.

I didn't want to touch or associate with it, but the realization that the Stone was still on Earth gave me an idea. One, had you still been alive, you would have whacked me over the head for and given me that look.

'Thanos is coming to Earth,' I had stated, then turned to Thor with a gleam in my eye, 'he's coming here. We have the ability to set up the battlefield this time.'

Neither my sibling nor the doctor saw how this would be beneficial.

I did.

I told Stephen that he was to protect the Stone at the cost of his life, then told Thor not to do anything stupid while I was gone. He, of course, had no idea what my plans were and was simply confused and tried to stop me from leaving. I didn't listen and told him to take care of our sister, then ripped open a portal between Realms and leapt into Jotunheim.

I would love to say that negotiations went well, but I've never been able to bring myself to lie to you, Mother.

They went terribly.

I'm not certain how long I was there, several hours in the least, because while I was speaking with the Jotunns, the Avengers arrived to take Thor, Hela and Stephen to New York where it was decided that Stark Tower would become a stronghold to hold off the Titan's army.

He arrived as I was missing and they began the fight.

After working my silvertongue further, the Jotunns agreed to assist us in return for the Casket of Ancient Winters. You are as aware as I that Father gave it to me when I became an adult and told me to do with it what I would. I wasn't excessively thrilled about that at the time, but since the treasury was destroyed, it was helpful. I agreed to their terms and we left for Midgard.

This battle was equally messy and bloody so I shall spare you the details.

Thanos was killed before he reached his goal. Thor, Hela and I managed to corner him with the assistance of the others and I froze him with the Casket as Hela clasped his glove and spun the clock on the gauntlet. It rotted to stone and crumpled sending the Infinity Stones tumbling away from each other with an explosive force equal to none other. They do not like to remain next to each other at all.

Hela then grabbed one of Stark's many weapons and stabbed the Titan through the ice and the heart. He is dead.

I returned the Casket to the Jotunns and they left to repair the mess it's absence made on their world.

And we were left to deal with Thanos's.

Tony allowed us to stay with him at his Tower for four months as we assisted until the living Asgardians arrived at Midgard. We were all overjoyed to see each other, because though we had hoped for their survival, it was uncertain.

After receiving permission from the Norwegian government, we began Asgard anew upon that place. It is not as vast as Asgard was, but we manage and survive. Hela has once again taken up the mantle of queen-hood, and is doing well. But is not Asgard despite how much we pretend. 

Thor has stopped running into as many doorframes, which he is grateful for and so am I. I cannot believe how many times he had to come to me with a mess of purple, black, and brown bruises on his arm because the full use of his sight was stolen from us.

Dr. Strange has taken the Ancient One's previous position and he fills it well. He and I compare magic on occasion, but I have been assisting Hela with ruling and it is not simple. Pepper and Tony have adopted a young teenager called "Peter Parker", I like him. Jane and Thor are considering marriage and me and Hela keep trying to push them towards it, but being stubborn and needing to think through every aspect of the decision, they have not moved forward.

New Asgard is jubilant, and I find myself equally so.

We're holding a funeral pyre for all who were lost to us during the attack and this along with dozens of others will be upon your boat, we have nothing else to burn of yours. Tell Father hello for me, as well as the fact that he still owes me the rest of that chess game. I don't have much else to write on this. Clean up is going well and the expansion of New Asgard.

There, Hela and Thor, satisfied? They've been bothering me into writing this since we decided to burn letters on your ship, I didn't want to. I suspect, in a way, I was still hoping you'd show up one day and rid us of this nonsense of saying goodbye.

I don't want to; I miss you terribly Mother.

I hope you're happy in Valhalla and I look forward to the day I can see you again.

Goodbye, Amma.

All of my love,

Your son,

Loki.

 

Chapter Text

Hey! =) I just wanted to inform you all that this work now has a companion piece called "Append: Insurgency" if you're interested. ;)