Various Storms and Saints
Loki watched from the shadows as his children curried favour and won allies. He watched and waited, so proud of them, until he knew it was time to make his final move. The board was full, the players and pawns in place, and it was time to force a checkmate before his opponents had time to counter. He supposed Asgard was planning the same way, trying to find a way to get the upper had, before Odin came for his grandchildren. His once father had miscalculated and waited too long. He had underestimated Loki's children and it delighted Loki that this was a trap laid down by them. He was but a final piece of their puzzle. He and Hela had discussed it, when he had first brought back her glamour. Loki could admit that he balked at first, especially with Tony Stark standing right there, but he knew her plans had merit. So he said yes, that he would be the trump card that finally forced Odin's hand in their favour.
A simple spell found him the person he wanted and he transported himself there while throwing a spell around himself. It kept anyone from recognizing him unless he wished them to. He walked into the crowded coffee shop and looked around. He saw the woman sitting in a corner booth, papers scattered on the table, laptop open, and a pen in her hand. Loki made his way over to her, curious as to what she was working on. The papers were all related to some sort of mine accident from a number of years before, if his quick glance at them was correct. Loki vaguely wondered what story she was searching for.
"Aren't journalists supposed to keep their research confined to their office?" He asked her.
The reporter looked up at him in annoyance, "I don't like editors breathing down my neck," she turned back to her work, dismissing him.
Loki smirked a little. Oh, he quite liked her. Without asking permission, he slid into the seat opposite her. She glared at him, having none of it, "Look-" she started, but Loki dropped his concealing spell for her eyes only.
The woman's eyes widened and a look of sheer terror crossed her face when she realized who he was. It passed quickly, followed by one reminiscent of a shark who smells blood in the water. He saw her calculating how she could use this, and Loki was suitably impressed. Hela hadn't been mistaken.
"Ms. Everhart," He said as an introduction.
"Mr-" the reporter cut herself off, glancing around and taking note of the people around them. She didn't go any further with his name, but her intent stayed there. Smart woman, "How may I help you?"
Her voice didn't tremble and she looked at him levelly. There was no sign of the fear she was probably feeling. She was looking at him like he was the best thing she'd ever seen, and Loki didn't blame her. This would be the story of a lifetime. Ms. Everhart knew an opportunity when she saw one. She reminded him of Amora, honestly. Loki liked her already.
"I'm assuming you saw the interview my daughter did almost a year ago?" It was rhetorical and he didn't actually let her answer with the obvious 'yes', "It was quite a genius idea, and I was quite proud of her for coming up with it. I've decided to follow her example, and since I prefer the written word to television, she recommended you."
"An interview," the reporter wasn't quite breathless, but it was leaning that way. It only lasted a few seconds, "Well then, how would you like to do this?"
"I had hoped it would be a tad less crowded, thus harder to be overheard. I could cast a spell to stop anyone from hearing us, but I assume you'd be uncomfortable with people being unable to hear you yell, in case this becomes nefarious plot. Perhaps somewhere less quiet?"
"I'm not going anywhere alone with you," she told him point blank.
Loki laughed, "Smart woman," he meant it, "nowhere alone, but less crowded. Do you know such a place?"
She thought for a second, "There's a sushi place a block away. It's usually empty at this time of day."
"Lead the way.”
He expected them to leave right away, but instead the reporter took time to put her papers in order, carefully adding the notes and place markers she had created, before putting them into her folders. She only stood after saving her computer files in two places. Loki would have been annoyed and impatient if it wasn't for the fact he appreciated such organization. Finally, with the laptop stored away, they left. She led him to the restaurant, and she proved to be correct. They were the only ones there, and while the owners greeted Christine warmly, they were left alone to talk after their orders were put in and food in front of them. Neither of them actually ate, and Everhart pulled a tape recorder from her purse and put it between them.
"So where do you want to start?" She asked, "Do you want to tell everything first and then I ask questions, or question and answer format all the way through?"
Loki considered, "I speak and you ask questions as they come to you. Does this suffice?"
"Completely," she replied, clicking on the recorder.
"What do you know so far, of Asgard and Jotunheim?" and that truly was the beginning in Loki's mind.
"The basics we've learned from Thor. The frost giants tried to invade Earth and Asgard stepped in. The war ended up in Jotunheim, where they were defeated," a pause, "you were found there and secretly adopted into the royal family. There was basically no contact between the two planets and an unfavourable opinion of the other developed, at least on Asgard's side."
Loki couldn't help but snort at her description. It was a fair enough summary, and unfavourable was certainly one way to put it, "True enough. The Jontar became Asgard's boogeyman. They were monsters that children were scared with. We played Aesir and Jotun as the children in this country play cowboys and Indians," the next part was more of an afterthought than explanation, "They always made me play the Jotun," and oh how Thor and his friends had taken such glee at treating him accordingly during those games he never wanted to play.
"How did you meet your wife then? It sounds like there was no way to get past the hostile relationship between your realms?"
"An item had somehow ended up on Jotunheim," Loki though that 'somehow' had been Freya becoming bored of Asgard and searching out a more exotic brand of lover, but it was not confirmed, "the Allfather sent me to retrieve it. It was a mission that required secrecy, not Thor running in with his hammer raised to kill something. It...did not go as planned. I underestimated the lengths they would go to keep the Brisingamen. I managed to secure in a pocket dimension, but was captured in the process. It was...unpleasant," Loki's lips pressed into a thin line when he left it at that. He didn't tell her the ways they had tried to make him retrieve it, or the stifling that came with being locked away in a chest while they decided what to do with him, "rumour got out that I was there, and Angrboda decided to free me," Loki smiled, remembering the lid of the chest opening and blinking against the light to see her standing above him, wrapped in furs with gold woven into her midnight hair, "Every time I asked her why, she gave me a different answer. I always believed her original one, of liking the idea of a prince of Asgard owing her, but you could never be sure with Angrboda. She could lie better than I could," it was one of the reasons he fell in love with her.
The reporter was smiling, "So the prince was the damsel who was rescued by the lady?"
Loki should have been angrier at her calling him a damsel, but it was a fair enough assessment, and Midgard did so love subverting their fairy tales. Angrboda was always quick to remind him she was the hero of their meeting.
"I returned to Asgard with the necklace," he didn't mention that, instead of any sort of praise, all he found was scorn for getting captured. There was no acknowledgment that he succeeded (except for Freya, who was sincere in her thanks for getting her necklace back), not even from Odin. Loki was glad they didn't know how he had escaped or who helped him. The mocking would never have stopped, "after Mother stopped fretting and let me out of her sight again, I went back to repay Angrboda. I hate being indebted to others," some things never change, "I went believing I had figured out everything she could possibly ask for and how to get around them. I was wrong on all accounts."
He had gone in full armour, arrogant and ready to manipulate. Angrboda had taken one look at him, snorted and turned her back on him. Loki was furious that she thought him so little a threat, until he noticed the ice, so clear it was nearly transparent, had formed around her fingers, pointing out into claws. She didn't underestimate him, and wanted him to underestimate her. That was the first moment he felt respect for her.
"What did she ask for?" She was still a professional and this was still a job, but there was genuine curiosity.
"Books. A magical tome from the other eight realms. Jotunheim had been cut off from the rest for centuries, and Angrboda had no intention of stifling her magic because of a war she hadn't even been born for. She guessed, correctly, that I was a world walker, and that I could get her the things she needed to learn."
"She rescued you to use you."
"And was very upfront about it as well. We were similar that way. We made no illusions about why we did what we did. I've just always found it more effective to keep my motives hidden, where she found hiding the truth to be pointless."
"Sounds like a match made in Heaven."
"Hardly," Loki snorted, remembering how they had challenged each other, how they had always pushed back against each other's stubborn streaks, "but Heaven would be painfully boring."
"I respected that, even as I continued to think of her as little more than a monster. The thirst for knowledge...she was just like me in that regard. So I went to each realm and found her a book of magic. Not all at once, but over months. Midgard was first," Loki wondered how Jorgamund would feel, knowing his father had stolen from the very library he now protected, "and ending with Asgard. I was too busy denying it to myself to realize it, but I drew those times out. I found excuses to go back, and somewhere along the line, I began to enjoy her company. I could speak about magic with her. It was the same for Angrboda," she told him that, later, as they watched the newborn Jorgamund in the crib they had fashioned for him, "when I brought her the book from Asgard, I hesitated," they had looked at each other when he held it out. When she finally took it, their fingers brushed and he held onto it if for a few moments longer. He turned to leave, debt repaid. Loki hesitated, "I didn't want to leave her, never to return, but I still needed an excuse. It was too new and there were too many cruelties between our peoples to just want to be together. I offered her a deal and she took it. I would teach her the magic of Asgard if she taught me that of Jotunheim," how he had stumbled out those words, unsure of what he was doing. No one would have called him Silvertongue then, "we agreed, and we had our excuse."
They had been so awkward at first, because they knew this had changed things between them. Talking about magic and teaching magic were two different things. The second required far more intimacy and trust.
"It was..." how to describe what it was like? How it felt to have another's magic, so utterly different from your own, running through your being? To have someone else touch your innermost core, to see everything your soul could bare? Not even he could find the words, "I fell in love with Angrboda's magic before Angrboda herself. Perhaps not the most romantic of starts, but I am quite sure the only reason she entertained me for so long was my magic."
"And why was that? It has been remarked upon by enough people in the media you are quite charming, supervillain or not."
Loki preened, just a little bit. He did quite enjoy that time he was named best dressed in the realm, despite his villainous status. He'd worn nothing but suits to various battles for six months, "I came to Angrboda with all the prejudices of Asgard in me. I was not as hateful as others, and was willing to accept that the Jontar were intelligent monsters. I thought myself quite enlightened. Angrboda put me in my place very quickly," it probably helped that he didn't quite believe that Asgard was as golden as it professed to be.
"So you had your John Smith moment," Loki allowed his confusion to show, so she gave a half explanation, "it's from a Disney movie," Christine then got right back on track, "You came to a mutual understanding on your societal prejudices. How did it develop into a romance, and eventually marriage?"
"Slowly," Loki admitted, "even when we finally realized that attraction was there, neither of us knew what to do about it. Angrboda lived far from others in her peer group, and all I had for an example of how to pursue maidens was Thor's advice. Ang would have frozen me on the spot if I tried any of that, and possibly shattered my corpse for good measure."
"Angrboda lived alone? Was there a reason for that? Was that the reason your relationship stayed hidden for so long? It sounds as though you wouldn't have been welcomed in Jotunheim, if anyone knew."
"Ang was small...like me, as I came to find out," there was an echo of disgust and pain, left over from the day he found out the truth and had his world crash down around him. He tried to keep it out of his voice, but it leaked through, and the reporter frowned, possibly trying to figure out if he was lying or not, "but that came much later. Jontar sorcerers are always born small. It's why Hela is Aesir size, while Fenrir and Jorgamund are giants in their true forms. Once, before the war, there were many magic users, but then Odin took the source of their magic, and there were fewer and fewer born. Laufey King began to...collect those that were born, to use them as little more than batteries. He sucked the magic from them until it burned away and only an empty husk was left. It was not an easy death. Angrboda's mother was a servant in his court, and knew to run when she realized what her daughter was. She ran into Utgard, deep into the Iron Wood. Some others knew, of course, her sister and brother-in-law lived near the edges of the wood, but they were mostly isolated. Angrboda was raised there. She never left, not even after her mother died and she was practically alone," He remembered Angrboda telling him how lonely she was, wrapped up in sheets after their first night together, how much she longed to see beyond Utgard, beyond Jotunheim. Loki had wrapped his arms around her from behind, kissed her shoulder, and promised her things he was never able to keep, "I told her I would show the realms to her. We would explore them together. I would find her a place where she no longer had to hide, where neither of us did."
"Then why didn't you just run away?" The reporter asked, though gently. There was no blame in her voice, and Loki was grateful. He already blamed himself enough.
"I was young and stupid, and like all beings that age, I thought I'd have more time. At first it was because we hadn't learned enough to safely travel through most of them. Then there was the matter of finding a way to tell my family. I still believed in them then. I thought, if I only found the best way to tell them, they would accept her. How could they not love her, when I did? She was amazing, so surely they'd see that too. Angrboda trusted me on that, even if it made her uneasy. I told her that they would support us, and she took me at my world. I was not ashamed of her, or later our children, but it would require a delicate hand, or so I assumed. I know now Odin wouldn't allow it. He would have forced me to leave her, or killed her if I wouldn't. He did the last."
"You say young. How young?"
"I would have been perhaps sixteen in your Midgardian years. When Jorgamund was born, it was only two years later, but because of the slow way we age, I would have still been the same equivalent. We were teen parents, as you'd say."
Christine looked appalled, "Are you telling me your father sent you on a spy mission when you were sixteen?"
"Adopted father. Children on quests was not a foreign concept in Asgard, especially for Odin. He sent Thor on his first quest to slay a dragon when he was equal to a twelve year old. Thor was in the healer's quarters for a month to recover from the burns," and again, despite it all, no matter what he had done or what he threatened to do, Loki had to defend his brother, "Make no mistake Ms. Everhart, I may have suffered most under Odin's rule, but Thor received his fair share of cruelty. Who do you think taught him to call the Jontar monsters to be slayed?"
"How can you defend him? He killed your wife, helped lock away your children, and is still a risk to them," the disgust at Odin was now turned on him, though not as severe, "How?"
"Because you cannot have one without the other. Thor is solid and I am his shadow. For all our lives, we have circled each other. We are Thor and Loki, and for so long we were never apart. Even now, he wants nothing more for me to come back to his side. He was all that I had, for so long, one of the few to show me true affection. He mocked me and dismissed me, but he was one of the few who cared. He loved me and was not shy in telling everyone. While he hurt me, he never did it on purpose, and he would stop others from going too far in his mind. He was the only one who apologized, after Angrboda was murdered. Not because he thought her worthy of life -she was still a monster to be slayed to him-, but he was sorry he caused me pain. He held me while I cried, after Odin took my children. He apologized again, even though he had no part in that. He hadn't known what would happen. He was angry that I felt sorrow, not about what exactly had been done. He tried to convince me it was for the best, but it was more than anyone else did. Frigga stroked my hair and told me not to fret and Amora let me rage, but that was it. I loved and hated Thor for it, but it was all I had then. It made me cling to him even more. He loved me, despite everything, and I loved him fiercely for it. For all he was cruel, it was never on purpose," he gave her a self deprecating smile, "We're the very definition of complicated."
She no longer looked at him in layers of disgust, but her face was schooled into blankness. Loki wondered what emotion she was so carefully hiding, "If Thor apologized, for real, would you accept it?"
The question threw him, and the words he could say were stuck in his throat for a long time, "I...I don't know. I should hate him forever, for what he did to Angrboda, to my children. Yet, I still try and give him some sort of excuse, even when those thoughts make me sick. I do hate him...but I can't stop myself from loving him, no matter how hard I try and force it. If he came to us, begging for forgiveness...I don't know what I'd say," Loki laughed mirthlessly, "though this will never be an issue. Thor was too entrenched in Asgard's way of thinking to change, at least about my family," he cleared his throat, trying to force out the unexpected emotions, "I must admit Ms. Everhart, you are very good at your job. I had no idea you'd manage to get this interview so far away from what I intended, and so quickly. Well done," and it was. Loki appreciated efficiently, "Though I don't suppose this establishment sells alcohol by any chance. I'm beginning to think I'll need it before we're done."
"Thank you," she smirked and looked proud of herself, as she had every right to do, "and yes, they do."
They paused long enough for him to order and have his drink delivered. Midgardian alcohol would do little for him, but he had a feeling he'd need any bit of help he could get by the end.
"I'm guessing you'd rather move away from your brother for now," Loki barely held back a grimace at her 'for now', "so let's go back to your wife. When did you realize you loved her?"
Loki took a sip of his drink, wincing at the taste. He didn't particularly like it, but he'd take whatever comfort it could give him. He considered. He knew the exact moment he knew he loved her, could picture it with crystal clear clarity. How would he tell it? Would he merely explain it, or should he describe it to this reporter, for all the world to know. He wondered how Angrboda would feel, to have some of their most intimate moments told to the realm. She would hate it, but she would agree if it was to protect their children. She would have laid down her life for them from the moment they were born. In the end, she died protecting them.
So Loki told the reporter of the moment they lay side by side in the snow, Angrboda pointing out the constellations in Jotunheim's night sky. She told them the legends they inspired, her voice calming him. He turned his head to look at her, and found her crimson eyes already watching him. Her lips were so close, and it took no effort for them to close the distance. When they broke apart, Loki whispered he loved her. and Angrboda said the same. Loki had never seen her so shy.
Christine was smiling, and Loki knew why. It was sickenly sweet, nothing but sentiment. It was a first kiss out of the romance novels so popular on Earth. Loki was utterly sure that when this article came out, no matter the tone the reporter wrote it in, he and Angrboda would be cast as true loves.
"Once I finally admitted to myself that I loved her, there was no going back for me. I was fierce and dedicated, and I would have done anything for her. She knew it, and she would ask things of me that she probably shouldn't have," stealing things from other realms for her was not exactly the best plan, but he did it without hesitation, "but it was worth it, to have her at my side and in my arms. I told her that, you know, and she threw a snowball at my head, all the while telling me to stop being so dramatic. She told me to stop being so dramatic very often," usually while rolling her eyes and threatening to freeze him.
He added in more moments that made him fall more and more in love with her, "She saved my life again. She was teaching me to skate, of all things, and I fell onto thin ice. I went through it. I had never learned how to swim," Thor had tried to 'teach' him once, by throwing him into the deep parts of a lake. Loki panicked and swallowed too much water, and had to be rescued. Thor didn't mock him, because he was too shaken that he could have killed his brother. Thor kept apologizing and grabbing onto him to make sure he was still there, "and falling into that freezing water was a shock and it stunned me. I was useless, and would have drowned if she hadn't dove in after me. Odin's glamour made me react to extreme cold as an Aesir would, so it took her three days to help me feel warm again. Then she made me wrap myself in every protective spell I could, and taught me to swim herself. She said she wasn't jumping in after me again," he pouted and complained, but she glared her way into getting her way. He still didn't like it, but he could swim.
"Did you teach her anything in return besides magic?"
"Knife throwing," he replied, "we were out gathering minerals for some spell work and wandered into a pack of wolves. They were displeased with it, and thought we would make a good snack. Angrboda was a master of working with a spear, so that is what she always used to attack or defend herself. I used knives, and a good throw saved her life," his heart had stopped when he saw the wolf lunging at her exposed back. His dagger was flying out of his hand without hesitation, and it caught the wolf in the eye. It howled, alerting Angrboda, who whirled around and brought her spear up into its throat, "Afterwards, she demanded that I teach her. She wanted to be better at distance attacks. I taught her, and then had custom made twin daggers made for her next name day. She mastered them quicker than I did. She was like that. She was a warrior, and would have belonged in Asgard with that spirit. Though she was better than them all, because she fought to survive. She had a warrior spirit without the bloodlust."
"It sounds like the two of you were very happy together," the reporter commented.
Those weren't the only moments, of course. There were fights, especially when Loki returned to Asgard. No matter how he promised to come back, she dreaded that he wouldn't. At one point, Angrboda snapped and told him not to return, and he was so angry that it took months before he did. He went back and begged her for forgiveness, carrying gifts from outside the Nine and promises he would stay this time. She burst into tears and told him she was pregnant. He had been stunned, and then pulled her into his arms as she cried, swearing they would figure something out. Loki told Christine that.
"To say we panicked would be an understatement, and I was the worst of the two of us. Being royal, I was well aware of how poorly me producing bastards would go. I'd already thrown Asgard's line of succession into enough chaos. Ang was rather offended at my hysterical insistence that we had to marry immediately. In her eyes, as long as we were a couple, our child wouldn't be baseborn, as was the custom in Jotunheim. Marriage was a tool of alliance for the upper classes. It was rare among the peasantry. It took convincing, and I had to calm down a great deal to actually explain. She did understand, and agreed, especially after I explained one further benefit. Marriage bonds are unbreakable on Asgard."
"There's no divorce on Asgard?"
"No there isn't. Once two are married, they are bound together until death. No matter the union, my mo- Frigga would not let it be dissolved. Frigga is the goddess of marriage, and she holds marriage bonds as the most important," Loki had long since understood this, and knew it was why his mother had never tried to actively intervene when Odin went too far. Not only did she consider her role as Odin's wife absolute, but she would play the part of wife exactly the way Asgard wanted her to. She would give gentle protests or suggestions behind closed doors, which Odin was as likely to listen to as a toddler would, and accept every judgement with complete faith in public. It was how the Queen of Asgard could watch serenely from her throne, no matter what happened, even her sons' suffering.
"That sounds awful, and like a lot of people would get hurt because of it."
Loki thought about those times he had heard of men and women both treated violently by their spouses, those who had died by it or to escape it. He remembered when one of his old tutors had come to him weeping and begging him to sway his mother, to help her little daughter, a pretty girl who had been stolen from her bed, beaten, and forced to the altar by an old man determined to get revenge against her father. Loki had argued for the girl, for fondness of his tutor and genuine pity. His mother pitied the situation and felt sorry for the girl, but she was unmoved. No matter the circumstances, the girl was married now and had to accept it. He heard news not even a month later that the girl killed herself, "Yes, they did. Asgard is golden, but it shows little kindness. But regardless, it was a law I could use. If Ang and I were married, then it couldn't be undone. No matter how anyone in Asgard felt, there was nothing they could do. I couldn't imagine that anyone would see it broken by death. It never once crossed my mind, and so my attempts at trickery and finding loopholes led to my wife being murdered."
Tears stung his eyes, but he held them back. He would not cry in front of some mortal. Christine looked like she was half tempted to reach out and try to comfort him, and Loki was glad she didn't. She did, however, tell him she was sorry in a very genuine tone.
"But I'm skipping ahead in the tale, aren't I? I wouldn't want to make this all confusing for you," and that was a tease, because if this reporter wasn't able to make sense of a basic timeline, she wouldn't be the reporter he was talking to. She could have been offended, but took the comment as it was, snorted and rolled her eyes, "We went to find Angrboda's aunt, a fierce woman who still bore battle marks from the Aesir-Jontar war, and who absolutely terrified me. She still would, I think. After yelling at the two of us for being so careless, she left to find a priest. She came back with him a week later, and we negotiated for his secrecy. I don't think there has ever been a more expensive bride price than the one I gave for Angrboda, and she saw basically none of it. Most of my personal wealth went to keeping our officiant silent. I honestly don't think it counted as a wedding, really, compared to what I should have had a prince," he shrugged, not actually put out, "but it was done, and we were married," their wedding night was spent with him holding back her hair while her pregnancy made her sick, "I left for Asgard the next day."
"Angrboda didn't go with you." It was a statement of fact, not a question.
Loki couldn't help the sharp bark of laughter, "Norns no. Even then I wasn't that stupid. I would tell my family the news and then return. Both Ang and I decided that we would stay on Jotunheim until the child was born, at least. Depending on how everyone reacted, we would stay longer and perhaps only visit Asgard on occasion."
Loki closed his eyes, picturing if had things gone the way he wished. He pictured their little home in the Iron Wood, still complete, full of life and joy. He imagined gathering his children together and holding his wife's hand while he world walked to Asgard. They would only visit for a few weeks, a month at most, but it would be a joy to see them all under the sun. He would show them Asgard's beauty. His mother would show Hela her magic and Thor would wrestle with his sons. He and Angrboda would explore every inch of Asgard's library. Odin might not be pleased, but he would at least be respectful.
He opened his eyes at her concerned vice. She looked almost worried, and Loki wondered how long he had left himself get lost in the things that could never be, "Forgive me. My thoughts seemed to have wandered away."
"Would you like to stop for a bit?"
Honestly, Loki wished to end this altogether so he could find something that would actually get him blackout drunk, but he wouldn't, "While I have nothing against your company Ms. Everhart, I would prefer to get this over with," he downed the rest of his drink and signalled for another.
"If you decide you do want a break, we can. Traumatic memories aren't usually something you can breeze right through."
No, they were not. In fact, Loki was sure they would be haunting his dreams for weeks to come, "If this does become the case, I will inform you. Now where was I?"
"You went back to Asgard the day after your wedding."
"Yes, of course. I had once again proven to be the Norn's favourite punching bag, because I returned at an awful time. Father wasn't in Asgard, but in Vanaheim, though I don't remember why. Mother was temporarily regent, and was too busy for a long private audience with me. Thor hadn't been expecting me back to soon, so he all but attached himself to my hip. It was irksome, but I couldn't very well tell Thor first. It had to be Mot- Frigga. She would be the most understanding, and would help calm Fat- Odin and Thor," even now, remembering the frustration of just trying to get his mother alone for ten minutes, made him want to grit his teeth.
"Surely your mother could have made time when you said you had something important to tell her?"
"One would think, but her answer was no. I think she thought I was on the run from some sort of mischief I caused and looking for her protection, and just had no desire to deal with it. Knowing myself, I don't actually blame her. My quick return was suspicious enough."
"How long would you usually go away for?"
"Hmm? Usually months at a time, if not years."
"Your parents let you go away for years at a time and had no idea where you went?" She was appalled.
"Time is different for immortals. It technically flows at the same rate, but we feel it differently. In Asgard, months feel no more than a few weeks. If you felt every day, eternity would drive you insane, I think. Though, I do concede your point. It is...concerning, looking back and realizing they had so little regard for my presence. I was quite happy with it at the time, since it meant I had a great degree of freedom."
"Which you admitted let you get up to trouble you needed to run away from," she replied flatly.
Loki grinned, "I've never claimed to use my freedom well Ms. Everhart. They named me God of Mischief for a reason."
"Mischief. That's really what they went with."
That did make him chuckle, "To be fair, I did contain myself to relatively harmless mischief for a long time. Some people were just highly sensitive to embarrassment. I'm speaking of Thor and his merry band of idiots of course."
"Okay then Mr. Mischief, when did you turn nasty enough that you got the title changed to God of Lies?"
The grin faded, and he was again reminded of where this conversation was going. He sighed, "You are ever on point with your questions, since that happened here. I managed to tell my mother that I needed to talk to her about someone I had met and made promises to. That finally got her attention, but I couldn't just tell her about my secret in the middle of the hallway. She was on her way to a meeting and promised we'd have breakfast the next morning to discuss it."
"Let me guess. Something happened that night."
Loki just sighed, "Something always happens that night, at least for me. The Norns must despise me. I wasn't thinking clearly enough to put wards up to mask my words. The servants overheard, because servants always overhear. Servants are also the worst gossips. Whether they love you or hate you, they will repeat everything they hear. The only difference is the tone in which they do the telling."
"And were you loved or hated?"
"To the overall servant population in general? I was as derided as much as the rest of Asgard. With those that dealt with me directly? I cannot claim to know all their minds, but I found it was indifference, for the most part. As long as they did their jobs correctly, I was more than willing to let them go about their business unhindered. If they were below standard, I merely had them replaced. I was never the warmest, but I also never had temper tantrums that broke things or tried to get every pretty maiden into bed, unlike the other prince. I personally think my...professionalism was the better option. Though, admittedly there might have been some fear there as well. If they crossed me intentionally, they did pay for it, but besides that, I ignored them."
"Then what did you do to the one who spread your conversation with your mother?" Her hard face told Loki she thought it would be terrible. He would have to disappoint her.
"I tracked down the one who did it easily enough, the moment I realized it had gotten out. It only took a few hours. It was just a young lad and new to the palace. It was done out of excitement, not malice. He regaled his younger siblings with absolutely everything he did at his new position. Besides a small hint to his overseer that he might need a gentle lesson into spilling royal secrets, I did nothing," Loki smirked, "his mother though, who overheard her son's chatter and turned into a nasty rumour? Well I cannot be faulted that she was so absent minded to mistake purple dye for her skin cream."
Christine barely held back her snort of laughter, "You weren't kidding when you said pranks. So what made it vicious? That can't be the example you hinted at."
"No, it very much was not. It started there, with that rumour. It spread quickly that I must have a lover somewhere. While they were certainly correct, they were quite off on the details. Perhaps I should be grateful, that they still had enough respect for me that they could not imagined me debasing myself with a Jotun," it tasted bitter on his tongue, and he despised himself that the words were not completely sarcastic. He hated himself for loving Angrboda and yet flinching from his memories, and hated Asgard for twisting to make him like this, "They cast my lover as a male. Asgard has a...less than tolerant view of such things," Christine's mumbled 'of course they do' made Loki's opinion of her rise even more, "I had already been considered unmanly in their eyes, and they had never really seen me with a maiden, so of course that it where their minds went. Rather uninspired, but Asgard has never been very creative. I should state that wasn't a rumour that bothered me over much, if only because I was used to being called unmanly and being accused of letting men take me. It was more annoying by that point."
"What exactly makes a man unmanly, besides taking other men as partners?"
"One who shows little interest in the masculine arts, mainly anything to do with violence. In my case, I preferred intellectual pursuits to being a warrior. I learned to fight, of course, but not in the right way. I am well aware that I do not have the brute strength to match people like my bro- Thor, so I focused on being able to take down an opponent from a distance. I excelled at magic, which was a woman's art and cheating in Asgard. I am fully comfortable becoming a woman, when I take my female form, though I hadn't mastered that bit shapeshifting at that point in my life," her eyes widened at this news, and Loki realized he hadn't really shown his shifting abilities to Midgard yet. He would have to change that, "and yes, in case you were wondering, I have taken men as lovers, though at that time Angrboda had been my first and only."
She was looking at him in shock, more that he had confessed than what he had said. Loki was well aware that there had been a number of Midgardian publications that had been guessing at his sexuality over the years, though hers had not.
"You seem very blasé about that, given the homophobic planet you grew up on. I'm glad for you, obviously, but why does that not bother you, while other prejudices they have still do?"
"You do ask the most difficult questions, don't you? It hurt, on Asgard, mostly because those rumours made my father ashamed of me. Thor as well, but at least he took it out on others for spreading such hateful lies. He threatened many people in my defence," the one and only time Loki remembered Thor blatantly choosing him over his friends was when they came across two of the Warriors Three and Sif jeering at the latest rumour of him being taken by one of the Elven prince on a diplomatic visit to Alfheim. Thunder had boomed, and the fear on their faces when Thor told them that if he heard such slander again, there would be broken bones and he'd never speak to them again. Volstagg and Hogun had been grim, and Loki still treasured the absolute panic on Sif's face. Now if only Thor had tried to defend him for things that actually mattered, "I admit I had less than pleasant thoughts about men who did, and if I had developed such an attraction on Asgard, I would have loathed myself, but I never would have said anything to someone else who did. Other realms had no such issues, and I travelled to one of them often. Alfheim cares not who you love, as long as they’ve all consented," Loki loved Alfheim. He still visited often, "both a prince and princess had lovers of the same sex, and both were my good friends. I didn't approve, but it was none of my business."
"I don't suppose you could set up diplomatic relationships with the Elves then? It sounds like we could learn a lot from them, and the fact our relationship with Asgard is fraying worries a lot of people. A lot of them want to turn your children over to keep a strong ally. Making new ones would change a lot of people's' minds."
"I cannot, though through no fault of theirs. The Allfather has declared none of the other realms can treat withMidgard . He claims it's because of Jotunheim's actions, but we all know it's because he wants to control them. The leaders of the other realms are vessels, who Odin can overrule if he does not like their decisions. Overruling usually involves warriors, and any sign of an independence movement means violence. Midgard is only left alone because it's too big and fractured to enforce rule. Though if you did something he disliked, he would have come down on you."
"How had it taken so long for us to learn what Asgard really is? That Odin is a dictator? We've been dealing with them for years."
"But only through Thor and I. Thor sees it as par for the course, for all that he has grown in the past few years. Who would believe me? There will be a significant amount of people who still won't. Any of Asgard's diplomatic representatives generally deal with your UN, and don't make me laugh by stating the countries here take a moral high ground and refuse to deal with despots."
She grimaced at the unfortunate truth, though of course she was not actually surprised. You didn't become a reporter of her calibre without learning of the corruption of your world, "Fair enough. Do you think they would, if they could?"
Loki hesitated, because he had an idea his true answer could be dangerous, but not to either of them, "Yes, and not only Alfheim. Many of the realms are curious how you've managed to develop so quickly. Though I request you not mention that in your article. I wouldn't be surprised if Odin took that as an implication of a rebellion he had to put down. I am many horrible and selfish things, but I have no desire to have any realms suffer that."
"Just that little bit would cause Odin to react?"
"Even less," Muspelheim was still recovering, five hundred years later, and all the Fire Giants had done was speak against a ruling Odin imposed on them.
"Then I'll keep that fact off the record," Loki tipped his head in thanks. He assumed she would. Ms. Everhart didn't seem the type that would report a story in a way that would directly cost lives. She had too much of a moral compass for that, and while Loki lacked one himself, he could approve of them in others.
"But yes, it is Alfheim who spared me that bit of self loathing. After my children were taken, I couldn't stand to be in Asgard, so that's where I went. Alfheim is a realm of pleasantry, and I needed to lose myself, and with the help of drink, drugs, and sex, I made myself forget what had happened. It's where I lay with a man," the same prince that Hogun, Volstagg, and Sif accused him of, funnily enough, "I was too out of my mind to care, and by the time I left Alfheim," fifty years later, when Princess Eimmyria took his hands and told him that he had every right to forget, but it was time for him to act. He took her advice and returned to Asgard the next day, determined to find a way to set his children free, "I was too used to acceptance to feel bad about it. Now if only I had found a realm that was all about Jotun appreciation, I might be far more sane than I am."
"So if it wasn't implications of your sexuality that made you do something stupid that night in Asgard, what was it?"
"I was once again pulled to Thor's side by an over enthusiastic brother. We were having dinner with his friends, after they'd heard. They were teasing me, though far more light hearted than anything. Just some ribbing about what a lovely girl she must be, to have her hidden away, and how I must fear she would run away if he were to catch sight of a proper Aesir warrior. I didn't even care, and I gave as good as I got. It was a moment where we didn't mind each other all that much," he and Fandral were actually friends at that point. Loki wasn't completely sure when that changed, but he had a few guesses, "except for one. Sif. She and I never got along, even as children. We fought to be the first in Thor's world, and never forgave the other when the tide shifted to the other. If we saw and excuse to throw barbs at each other, we always took it. So she threw her own opinion in, and it was nasty. She decided that, since Amora had left Asgard just before me, it had to be her I was meeting. Amora and I were friends and there were always questions about the extent of our closeness. When people didn't imagine me bedding men, they decided I was bedding her. It's untrue. We've only ever been friends," he paused, "mostly. Sometime we're enemies. She almost killed me once, a century ago, but I had set her on fire a few years before, so I couldn't be too angry. It wasn't Sif's assumption, but her cruelty in it. She said I was hiding it because my parents would throw a fit if I was making promises to such a whore. Everyone was shocked, but made no move to protest. I stormed away, because if I stayed I would attack her. Literally, as it were. I was furious that she would say such a thing, more angry than when she mocked me. I would not let that stand.
"I hated Sif and looked forward to hurting her. She was probably the person I hated most in Asgard. She has lost that place since then, and she'd probably be furious at it. She was the worse kind of hypocrite," he wanted to call her far worse things than that, but doubted Christine would appreciate those insults, and he needed to be on the reporter's good side, "She had been determined to be a warrior since she was a child, and even I'll admit that she worked hard and deserved her place there. One day she'll probably die gloriously and earn her place in Valhalla, I'm sure. I'd respect her for it, if I didn't wish her dead. Since the Valkyries died out, there were no women warriors, and it was frowned on. Sif did it anyway, to claim a place as the Goddess of War. There are two kinds of people like Sif- ones who accomplish the impossible and in turn help others who try and do the same, or those who get there and viciously attack others who would change their own fate. Sif was the later. I'm sure if another maid wanted to be a warrior, she would have been her most ardent supporter. But if someone tried to move out of place in any other way, like a man who mastered magic or an enchantress whose magic ran strongest with spells of attraction and wasn't scared to use it? She was the first to try and shame them back into place. I was never sure if it was because she truly thought it was true or if she was such a coward about losing her standing that she felt she had to be the biggest bully of all. Regardless, I would not allow her to say such things about Amora. There was one feminine vanity Sif kept, and it was her pretty gold hair."
"I know this story. You cut off her hair, made a deal with some Dwarves, and..." she trailed off, perhaps in horror as she remembered how that particular myth ended.
"Had my lips sewn shut, yes," Loki replied dryly, and ran a finger across his lips, uncovering the glamour there to show the scars that had never faded. He was too vain a creature to leave them uncovered.
"Oh..." and there was the horror, as she unconsciously reached up and touched her own lips, "in so many appearances, Thor dismissed most of the myths as completely made up. I figured..."
"No, that one happens to be mostly correct. I can actually say that the one with dripping snake venom is completely made up," when he first read that, Loki was sick. He thought of his sons, dead before they left poor Sigyn's womb, and was glad they were, if that was the fate that awaited them, "I just wish the Norsemen had decided to relay any of my good or heroic feats. I did have some you know."
"You said the story was mostly correct. What details were different from the truth?"
"I did sheer Sif's hair off," and left it on her pillow as a surprise to wake up to, "and of course she knew it was me, and she came after me. I froze her in place when she launched herself at me, with a new spell Ang and I were learning, and taunted her with every cruel thing I could think of. My mother happened to come across us while I was doing it. On her way to our private breakfast meeting."
"You have the worst luck and timing in the world. Also a level of short sightedness that is pretty astounding. Didn't you think you should have gotten revenge after you told your mother about your wife?"
"I am well aware of that, thank you. I knew it then too, but I was just so angry. I don't do well with anger. I act very foolishly when I'm angry, and I do it even when I'm sure it will end badly," hurt and irritation he could let simmer until it was the right time, but when he was angry, he lashed out. It was why he sent the Destroyer to Earth, tried to blow up Jotunheim, and thought it was a good idea to yell at a creature as brutish as the Hulk.
"You need anger management," she told him bluntly, before moving on, "I'm guessing that breakfast was cancelled."
"Yes. Mother dressed us both down, me for my prank and Sif for her words against a girl who had done nothing to her. Instead of punishing me the way Odin would, which would be forcing me to let Sif beat me until he was satisfied, Moth- Frigga was more fair and less inclined to violence. She considered Sif's lack of hair and the fact she’d have to show herself bald in court for at least a few days payment enough for her insults, and I would have to find a way to replace it to make up for my deeds. Neither of us liked it, but off I went to the Dwarves. I thought myself too clever and reached too far. I made a bet for multiple items with different creators. My thought process was that returning home with presents for everyone would be a good starting point. 'Mother, Father, I'm married to a pregnant Jotun, now here's some shiny gifts.'"
"Bribery is always a good way to get what you want," She commented.
"So I bet Brokk that he couldn't do better than the sons of Ivald. If their items won, I got Brokk's for free. If his were, he got my head. I'm not sure why he wanted my head, to be honest. I hadn't done anything to him at that point and Odin would never actually let the Dwarf kill me, if only because one cannot just kill the son of a king. But I took the bet, came up with my loophole, made myself as much as a nuisance as I could. It worked well enough, and Mjolnir has a short handle, making it imperfect. We returned to Asgard, where Father had returned, and he judged the sons of Ivald the winners."
"What?" She jolted in surprise, "I thought-"
"Like I said, details were wrong. Odin chose the sons of Ivald because of Mjolnir's shaft was flawed. Just because Thor was besotted with the thing doesn't mean it should have won."
"You seem awfully irritated about that hammer."
"The fact that the oaf prefers a flawed weapon is frustrating."
"It works well enough."
"I see I remain the only being in the Nine who truly appreciates fine craftsmanship."
"Calm down your Highness," that was sarcastic, and Loki bristled at her condescending tone, "thought if it makes you feel better, I think the hammer is overrated. Cap's shield is better."
He laughed in surprise at that, "I will agree with that, thought I'd argue the Widow's Widow Bites are clearly the superior of all the Avenger weapons. They have been the most painful to be hit with."
"Noted. If Odin voted in your favour, how did you lose?"
"We kept the details on the bet to ourselves, so as not to sway Odin one way of the other. All he knew was the bet was with one of them, and had no idea what the consequences were. Having won, I didn't bother to hide my smirk. I've never been a gracious winner. I didn't anticipate being outsmarted, but it seems Brokk thought up a loophole of his own. He suggested that, since Sif was the injured party, shouldn't she be the judge? Odin, the bastard, agreed for reasons I can't understand, other than perhaps he found joy in watching me bleed. I had already given my game away, and Brokk with his protest, so of course Sif looked me square in the eye and called Brokk the winner," and oh how Loki loathed Sif in that moment, with that smug victory in her eyes. Loki had sworn in that moment he would see her dead someday. He was still working on the how, but he still had every intention of doing it. She would suffer greatly first, "I'd like to say she would have chosen differently if she'd known what I had to lose, but that would be too generous to that-" he managed to cut himself off, just barely, "When Brokk claimed my head, I was looking at her, and I saw the flash of pleasure, before she hid it behind her fake shock. The entire court gasped, and you know, it was real that time. They were actually worried about me, I think. Of course I was prepared and gave my neck and blood excuse. I kept my head attached, but he still managed to come up with the lip sewing to silence my silver tongue. Outsmarted again, because Odin allowed it. For a brief moment, when he looked at me, I thought he would stop it. I truly believed he would just throw enough gold to make them leave. But no, that would be too much mercy to show his adopted Jotun runt," how that had hurt, knowing that Odin had no intention of helping him. That might have been the exact moment where his 'Father doesn't love me' train of thoughts began, "he gave them magic thread that couldn't be cut for a year but would keep me nourished and a needle. Brokk didn't suggest that part, by the way, that was all Odin."
"Off the record, Asgard is terrible and you're lucky to be away."
"I heartily agree with you," he replied with a tip of his glass, "though it took me until my exploits in your lovely realm to actually realize it. Asgard is a cruel and uncompromising place," and it made it very easy to let me give into my monstrous nature, he thought but he didn't say, "It was Brokk who did the sewing, though he mockingly offered the chance to Sif first. She was tempted, I saw that, but didn't jump on it. She could claim ignorance to putting me in danger, since she didn't know the wager, but to deliberately cause me pain? Thor would never forgive her, and we couldn't have that. There had been a thunderstorm outside since the moment my head was mentioned. I found out much later that Thor stormed into Brokk's forge and beat him to death with his shiny new hammer. I was quite happy with that. Sif, when it seemed she was about to give into temptation, I calmly told that if she so much as touched that needle, I'd slit her throat. I meant it. That, Ms. Everhart, is the moment they realized they should fear me. The fear on Sif's face was worth the actual pain."
There was a look of fear on Christine's face, and Loki took wicked delight in it. He enjoyed causing fear, even in someone he had nothing against. It was power, and Loki thirsted for power in all forms. That said, it was counter to what he needed right now, and he had no particular desire to scare this particular woman.
"Have no fear Ms. Everhart. Now that Thor is off Midgard, there is no one in this realm that I actively want to harm, even your silly Avengers. They're too fun to play with to want them dead."
She didn't look as scared, but certainly not as calm as she had before. Loki realized that he regretted losing their easy rapport from before. He wished to be put her at ease to go back to it. To do so, he continued his story in an attempt to bring at least a hint of it back.
"After he was done, Brokk left, and all of the court scattered with the gifts they had been given, and Odin took the opportunity to berate me for what happened. Apparently my tricks to get Asgard out of a deal is fine, but using them to save myself was dishonourable and shameful. I stormed away, hating everything and everyone, grabbed whatever I needed, took the time to make sure Sif's new wig would turn black and never be able to be dyed back, and left. I said one goodbye and I had no intention of permanently returning. When I returned to Jotunheim, Angrboda was horrified, and then determined to kill whoever had done it to me. I lied, told her nothing about Asgard's role in it. I had to write, of course, but I told her that I lost a bet on Nidavellir and had my lips sewn shut there and returned to Asgard afterwards, where my father was horrible to me, and I left. I said I had not spoken to them about them about us, and had no intention of letting them know. We were better without them, and I was right about that. I presented her with the one thing I had taken from the mound of treasures, a necklace with jewels that matched her eyes, as a apology for destroying our one chance. She tossed it aside and tried to heal my lips. She did love the necklace though, later on."
"Did she get the threads out?"
"No," Loki shook his head, "though she tried her hardest. They stayed in for the full year. She tried some new way to break them every day, but could find none," he smiled, "but she wouldn't give up. It wasn't in her nature, and she wouldn't stand for such blatant cruelty. She didn't understand it, after spending so much of her life nearly alone. It made things difficult, and I did not handle the trauma well," he woke up with his closed mouth muffling screams. Angrboda was so terrified for him, so heartsick that she couldn't do anything to drive the pain away. His nightmares now featured other things, "but deal with it I did. No matter what had happened, we had a child to prepare for, and we were basically on our own.
"When Jor was born..." and Loki smiled, remembering how Angrboda had held their snake son, the length of her forearm, and how Jorgamund had snuggled into her chest, seeking whatever warmth he could. Loki had draped a fur over them to help. Angrboda had looked up at him, eyes shining and face amazed as she whispered, 'Loki, look what we've done', "There are few times I had ever felt so happy in my life, than the time he first wrapped his body around my arm. When the others came and I held them for the first time, I felt the same joy, but with Jor it still seemed different. He was the first child I felt that with."
"Is there a particular reason he's a snake?" She asked it tentatively, as though it might offend him, "Or the others?"
Perhaps, when they began this conversation, Loki would have taken offence and snapped. He had taken her measure by now, and knew when the reporter asked about their shapes, it was not her way of asking why they were monsters.
"There's a reason that two strong seidr users rarely create children together. When magic like that mixes together, the results can be...unexpected. It's not something most would risk -even Odin bound his own magic until Frigga had conceived Thor-, but we had blundered into it regardless. We never expected our child to be of a usual shape. As to why those shapes, I do not know. Ang always thought..." he drifted off, longing for her so much it burned, "it was poetic, a sign from the Norns that we were meant to be together. A snake was the animal sigil I had claimed as my own, and Angrboda's the great northern wolves of Jotunheim. Fenrir resembles them, though his fur is black, not white," Angrboda did not take to flights of fancy often, but this one she clung to. Loki didn't quite believe that the Norns would in any way, shape, or form favour him, but said nothing to dissuade her. He just basked in her enthusiasm.
"What about Ms. Potts?"
"Little Hela, with her mix of life and death. She Angrboda held and said it meant we would always be bound together. In life or death, we would always be entwined with each other," Loki's eyes closed and he pictured it. They had been sitting beside their hearth, Loki reading a story to Jor, who had fallen asleep wrapped around his waist and head resting on his shoulder. Angrboda was tucked into his side, nursing Hela. When she said it, Loki teased her for being so saccharine, and then she elbowed him before drawing him into a kiss, "I wondered, afterwards, if she had a touch of the Sight. If she had known what would happen, at least on some level. Maybe it was a way to warn me of what was to come, to give whatever comfort she could."
Before he realized it, a tear had slipped from behind his closed eyes. Horrified, Loki hastily wiped his face with his hands, praying she hadn't seen. When he opened his eyes, he found her looking right at him, he cringed at his own show of emotion. How could he show a mortal such weakness, especially one who would be willing to use it if she could?
Blessedly, she did not mention it. Instead, she waited quietly while his self berating panic passed. It did, eventually, at least long enough for him to order yet another drink, and damn if this wasn't so much harder than he originally thought it would be.
"You really loved her," Christine finally said.
"With everything in me," there he went showing his vulnerability again, but he would not downplay this. He would not just wave away his love for her, "even now, with the way my opinion of the Jontar has changed, I love her. Until the world ends and Ragnarok burns the world tree, I will love her."
He was giving her too much, showing too much emotion, as though he was the foolish boy who had given his heart away. A weak fool that boy had been, but he had least known how to be happy. His heart wasn't poisoned with lies and pain, or his mind fractured in too many ways to count. Loki couldn't recall the last time he had been truly happy. He didn't know if he even had enough good left in him to actually be happy.
"Angrboda's pregnancy went smoothly, though she did suffer from a great deal of morning sickness in the beginning," how many times had he sat with her, rubbing her back and keeping her hair out of her face. She had cursed him and thanked him in equal measure, depending on the day, "Her labour was brief, which was not too surprising, given Jorgamund's shape. From there, Angrboda took to motherhood quickly. I was a clumsy fool when it came to fatherhood. My past experience did not prove helpful. I got better and she excelled. No matter what Jorgamund did, what problem he created, she was able to handle it with less stress than I ever could." Loki would never forget the time Jorgamund had decided to swallow something too big even for his jaws, and how it had gotten stuck halfway down his throat. Loki had panicked at the sight of his son choking, while Angrboda had leapt to her feet, yelling out a spell that caused the snake to vomit. By the time it was out, she had reached him, knelt beside him, and was soothing him in a hug. Loki was still standing there like an idiot.
"Were the next two planned then?"
"Not exactly," he said, "Once Jorgamund was around a decade old, we talked about having others, but it was nothing concrete. We had been more careful, since Jorgamund," how many contraception spells had they cast on themselves after that? Loki had to have had at least two on him. They were taking no chances after Jorgamund, "We were discussing the pros and cons of being a single child, and despite my brother being an oaf, I did fall on the side of having a sibling. Angrboda said she wished she had had someone to play with when she was a child," it took her a long time to open up about the loneliness she felt, especially after her mother died, "and from there, we decided that it was only fair that we give Jorgamund a brother or sister. We wouldn't actively try, but decided that if it happened, then it happened. As Hela and Fenrir prove, it happened.
"Hela showed signs of magic only moments after her birth. Sparks flew from her waving fingers as she screamed to be fed. It singed one of Angrboda's eyebrows off," Loki had howled in laughter, and ran when a furious Angrboda turned on him. She locked him out of the house until he begged her pardon and promised not to laugh at her then uneven face. Loki managed it, and promised that she was lovely, eyebrows or not, "It was so thrilling, realizing that Hela could follow in our footsteps. We could teach her all that we knew, and make sure she was better than both of us. Hela wasn't even out of the cradle before we were planning how we would structure her lessons. We had...differences in opinion on the matter," they argued and fought about what was best, and it took a long time to let their stubbornness slide and come to a compromise, "and when Fenrir was a wolf? Angrboda was just so happy. Her mother had gotten her a wolf pup to raise once, and it was the only friend she had as a child. Of course she never thought Fenrir as a pet, but she was sure how to raise him. She was able to teach me as well, and it made Fenrir the easiest to raise. He was the happiest, always, so quick to laugh and play. Even when it became rough," as far as he knew, Hela still had scars on her right hand from the time Fenrir was a bit too liberal with his teeth while rough housing, "he was so earnestly apologetic afterwards that you could never stay angry at him. Angrboda was determined that they would know all of the happiness that we hadn’t," she was so determined for her children to have the joyous childhood she never did, and Loki equally determined for them to have the complete acceptance that he had never gotten from his family, "We loved our children and raised them well," a small, soft smile, "you've met at least one of them and know of the others. Angrboda would be so proud of what they've become. They are good and strong. They're better than will ever be."
"You're right. All of them seem to be pretty amazing, and they're heroes in their own way. Does that bother you?"
"Why would it?" It was a legitimate question on his part, "They have the conviction to do what they can for the realm that's sheltered them. Jorgamund has mastered magic, something I never imagined possible. He's content with his role as a mystical protector," It pained him that his son had closed off so many of his emotions. Utgard used to echo with the sound of Jorgamund's attempts at jokes, "Hela rules a part of this realm, because Stark's company is a realm of its own, for all the power it has. She rules much better than I did in my short tenure on the throne. Fenrir is a true warrior, and an honourable one. He isn't arrogant and does not abuse his power," and that he had seemed to let go of his rage, or at least had learned to hide it better. Perhaps Loki could get his advice about how to do it, "all my children have my complete respect. To stay good in the face of threats, not to give into hate, it takes a strength I've never possessed. It's not as though I woke up one day and decided I wanted to be a villain. Once you've chosen that path, it's not one you could just leave at will. I do not want this for them."
"Then why are you? A villain that is?"
"That is a very long story, suited for another time, I think," and the way her eyes lit up, she caught onto his promise of another interview. If she managed to help his children stay free, he'd speak to her as much as she liked, "For now at least, I'd like to spend a little more time remembering us all happy."
So he told her stories about his children when they were innocent. He spoke of how Jorgamund would slither under the ice of the lake half a day from their home and swim for hours on end, how sometimes Loki would take serpentine form and join him. He told the story of a time Hela ran away from home in a huff because they would not let her try and world walk, but had only made it to the tree line before she decided that she was far enough and made her own tiny house of snow. She stayed there for two days before her hunger won her over. He explained how Fenrir's teething had gone much like a normal pup, and how he and Angrboda had woken one morning to find every piece of leather they possessed chewed to bits. He had Christine smiling, and even laughing at his children were going to be terribly embarrassed.
"What about your relationship with your wife? How did that change once your children were there and the young puppy love became something more?"
"Is that what they call it? Puppy love?" He was amused beyond belief by the term, "How quaint. It's funny how we changed and yet stayed the same. What you call puppy love, that sweetness when you look at your partner and feel giddy? That never left us, or at least it never left me. We changed and grew, but I would still look up sometimes and catch sight of her, and my breath would catch. I'd be struck dumb, wondering how I could be so lucky as to find her," when he caught sight of her with their children, playing or reading or caring. The times when she would be caught up in her magic, mind elsewhere while her spells charged the air. Those moments where her fierceness showed on her face and she would give him no quarter, "I'd catch her glances at me sometimes, eyes shining with softness that made me think she felt the same. There would be days where we would send the children off to their great aunt and just...bask in each other, like we had before Jorgamund was born. But we had to grow together, it is true. We couldn't just do what we wanted, couldn't run off into the forest and stay there for days. We couldn't spend days working on spells without pause. We had to be responsible adults, as the saying goes. She did that better than me. There would be times that we were so stressed, so frustrated at how things went wrong, that we would snap and snarl at each other,” In the end, there would be a moment, in the middle of a argument, when they'd just look at each other. One of their anger would deflate, and they would start to laugh. Eventually, the other would break as well, and we could just collapse in giggles, “We could never stay too angry at each other for too long. We had only each other to depend on, after all.
"We lived like that for a hundred and fourteen years. I snuck into Asgard a dozen or so times, but I never sought out my parents or brother. Only one other knew, and he swore not to tell. I did not miss it. The longer I was away, the more I realized just how poisoned it was. I was happy in Jotunheim, but still my feet itched to travel. We decided to wait until Fenrir was a little older, perhaps another fifty years or so, we would finally go through the worlds. We would go to Alfheim first. The princess Eimmyria would adore them all. She might have tried to keep my children for herself, honestly. The elves are not blessed with strong fertility. Angrboda and Prince Gunnar would get along very well, and he would take her hunting. Angrboda loved to hunt- she was proud of all her furs, since she brought those great beasts down herself. She put me to shame in her skill," how Angrboda had laughed and laughed at him the first time they went hunting and he completely missed his mark. He pouted and insisted it was his first time hunting with the ice formed spear she made them use, so it wasn't fair to judge him on it. It only made her tease him from that day on, whenever he tried something new. She'd always pat him on the back and say she believed he'd get better eventually, "She had been so excited when I told her of all the different kinds of game Alfheim had to offer. I showed her how to shoot an Elven bow," she picked it up in no more than an hour, to his both pride and chagrin, "to prepare for it."
The air shifted, and the melancholy came back to settle over him like a vice. He considered backtracking, of telling more stories and putting this off for even longer, but the reporter wouldn't let him.
"I'm going to guess this is the point where Asgard comes for you and everything falls apart."
"It was the morning before Jorgamund's nameday. He would come of age, by Jotun standards," though not Asgard's yet, "It is tradition when a Jotun youth comes of age they have to accomplish a task. There are seven to choose from, each one leaning towards a particular skill set. Jor decided to choose a wild hunt, not necessarily because it appealed to him, just because it was the easiest for a snake and he had to do it in his true shape. It was also the best fit for Angrboda, for it's necessary for the family matriarch to guide them. We were trying to decide what animal to track, since it's also tradition that the parents choose the prey. On her own task, she'd taken down one of the wolves, but none of us were comfortable with that, after Fenrir. When Fenrir first realized his mother had hunted wolves, he had nightmares for weeks. They only stopped after he watched Angrboda burn every wolf pelt in our house, save one. She managed to hide the one that came from her coming of age. It was her most prized possession, because it was the last thing connecting her to her mother. Her mother died only a few years later. Angrboda couldn't bear to destroy it, so she asked me to secret it away in my pocket dimension. It's still there. I would take it out in the beginning after her death. I'd wrap myself up in it in the dead of night and weep, when I knew my children wouldn't be there to see it. It was the one possession of hers I kept for myself. Eventually, when I...my feelings...changed, I put it away. I always think that I should take it out again, to put it on my bed to use, but...I can never seem to stomach actually doing it. I'm not sure if it's a plan that springs from love or disgust. I don't think I want to know," he cleared his throat again, wishing he had more control of his emotions, "but Angrboda and I narrowed it down to either a bear or a frost stag, when I received a message."
"How could you get a message? I thought no one knew where you were. How could a letter reach you?"
"It was through a mirror, not a letter. It was how Amora contacted me, if she had the inclination. As I said, her magic is stronger when funnelled through things connected to attraction of some sort, and the mirror is the perfect symbol of vanity."
"If she was sending you messages, did she know about where you were? Or about Angrboda and your kids?"
"She knew some of it, but none of the actual details. She only knew I had a family in another realm. She found it quaint. We found each other when we both independently had the idea to sneak back into Asgard. We spent the day together, just speaking while hidden in the forest. We taught each other some new spells that we learned. She showed me the best way to hide the scars on my lips. When she left she conjured three stuffed animals," those were still in the pocket dimension with Angrboda's fur, "and I promised that if she needed me, I'd answer her message.
"It's why I went, when the mirror asked me to come to Vanaheim. I told Angrboda I'd be back soon. When she made a half hearted complaint, I teased her for seeming jealous. I don't remember if I told her I loved her. I pray that I did. When I arrived in Vanaheim I couldn't find Amora, and I was getting very angry at her little prank. I had been searching for perhaps an hour, when the scream exploded in my brain. It took me to my knees and I blacked out for a few minutes. When consciousness came back to me, I forced myself to see through the pain, and recognized Hela's voice. My daughter's desperate magic had reached across realms to scream for help. I rushed back, but when I returned it was already over."
He stopped there, because he had to swallow down the bile that burned his throat. He didn't want to do this. Loki didn't want to remember it. It hurt too much. Yet Hela had, and his daughter suffered more with it then he did. He wouldn't let her down.
"When I got back, Angrboda was already dead. Hela's interview gave the details of how it happened. I know reporters aren't fond of third party sources, so I think it's not my part to tell."
"You're right about sources, but I don't think that matters so much right now. Even if I don't directly use it, I get the feeling you need to tell it anyway. If you want to move on, we will."
He was very grateful, and he almost took it. He almost brushed past what had happened, because why should he make this hurt anymore, when there was still so much pain to go? Yet, when he tried, the words wouldn't come out. Loki could almost picture Angrboda looking at him levelly, her words in his ears- 'you will make them pay for what they did to me. Tell her.' For a moment, Loki allowed himself to imagine it was Angrboda's spirit with him. He let it slip away a moment later, when he told the reporter, as the Angrboda in his mind told him to.
"All of this I heard from Jorgamund later. It took him years to be able to tell me the full story," years where he refused to leave his rooms and suffered from night terrors, "but the Aesir came, thirty of them. Odin was there, as was Thor, but they held back while the rest of them attacked. Jorgamund hid his siblings in his coils, as Ang commanded him, and she fought. Thirty einherjar came for one woman and three children," he smirked, vicious and cruel with teeth bared, "She left seven bodies in the snow around her, and two more died of injuries in Asgard," he could picture it, Angrboda's silver spear flashing around her as she spun, slashing and stabbing into the bodies around her. She was graceful and fierce, spilling red Aesir on the white snow, "She made them pay, for what they would do," the smirk faded, because it didn't matter. They still murdered her, "the warriors said nothing, and ignored her when she explained who she was. Perhaps that's why Odin held Thor back, so he couldn't hear the truth and stop it. The tide changed when one of the warriors tried to attack the children. Angrboda lost concentration to protect them, and that's when Thor stepped in. Jor heard him yell something about me, but it wasn't clear because Odin was yelling 'no!' I think Odin was trying to stop them from turning on Jor, but he would never tell me either way. I forced myself to bury the question deep, because a part of me knew if Odin knew to save Jor, he knew who they were and came to murder my wife. I couldn't let myself think that, not then. Whatever Thor called out about me, Angrboda screamed 'I am his wife!' He froze, but Mjolnir had already flown from his hand. Later, Thor promised me he had tried to pull the hammer back, but it was too late. I think it was the truth, because Thor was a terrible liar, but it didn't matter. Mjolnir slammed into Angrboda's chest at full power. It...it crushed everything. Jorgamund promises me she died instantly, that she didn't suffer that pain, but I think he's just trying to keep me from suffering even more."
Loki stopped talking for a long time. He couldn't bring himself to continue, no yet. Christine let him have his silence. She just quietly paused her tape recorder, waiting for him to be ready again.
"When I returned, it was chaos. My children were still screaming, Odin and Thor were arguing, and the einherjar were standing silently, waiting for orders. Amongst them all, laying in a pool of blood, was my wife. I ran to her, even before checking on our children. I tried every magic I had, to knit her chest back together and make her heart beat again. Necromancy was the one magic I'd never gone anywhere near. Not even I'll give into that darkness, not when every spell takes a piece of your soul, and there is always something wrong with the person you bring back. But, in that moment I held her body, I tried to grab at that darkness. I pulled the power up from the void itself, but I didn't get a chance to use it. Odin realized what I was doing, and rightfully panicked. He knocked me out before I could accomplish anything.
"I woke up in my rooms in Asgard three days later. For a moment, I didn't remember. I curled onto my side, reaching out for Angrboda, but the bed was empty. I opened my eyes and saw Frigga sitting on a chair beside my bed. One look at her haggard face and the memories came back. I don't clearly remember it all, when I fell apart. I know I sobbed and my mother tried to calm me. I panicked when I realized the children weren't there. She tried to soothe me when I demanded to know where they were, and my magic snapped. It threw her across the room, but I didn't care. I picked up the threads of Hela's magic and teleported myself there."
"They were on Asgard right?"
"Yes. Odin has done awful things, but he could not have left his grandchildren on Jotunheim to die. He put them under a sleeping spell and had them brought back. They were in the...guest rooms, I suppose you'd call them. It's where Odin housed any political hostages he took, such as the goddess Freya, her brother Freyr, and Thor's companion Hogun. It was comfortable, and far better than the dungeons."
"Still didn't make them any less kidnapped with a sword over their heads. It doesn't sound like Odin would need a lot of provocation to kill them if their family stepped out of line. And I find the implication that your children were sent there unnerving.”
"I concede it is a gilded cage. At the time, I didn't even consider the implications of them being housed somewhere else opposed to my rooms. I was too frantic to find them and then too relieved that they were fine. Later, when I did think about it, I told myself Odin put them there because he was surprised and unsure. When I finally lost all confidence in Odin and let myself see the truth, I figured out that he put them there, out of sight, in order to hide them. He probably wanted to try and convince me it was best to keep their existence secret. I would still treat them as my children in private, but they would stay in those rooms and no one would know of them, like I was a noble who sent his bastards far into the country with their shamed mothers. Odin must have realized very quickly that plan wouldn't work, because he didn't even suggest it."
"So how did it go? Clearly everyone knew about them, and according to Ms. Potts you were always a loving and outspoken parent."
"After...after everything settled, and we all had time to grieve together, Odin announced my children as one would announce a newborn royal. Very soon after, he presented them to the court and officially named them princes and princess. I told him I expected nothing less for my true born children if I was forced to stay. Perhaps it would have been better to keep them tucked away. Then they wouldn't have known the disgust and scorn. Maybe they never would have been sent away. Yet I was so determined that they would never think I was ashamed to call them mine, that I didn't think of anything past that."
"I can't speak for your children, but I'd personally rather have outsiders despise me than my father not being able to stand me."
"So did I. Odin's shame of me hurt more than any of the vile things Asgard thought. But it didn't matter, because the way I chose didn't protect my children. Royal titles didn't stop them from being discarded."
"How did they react to their mother's death? Losing a parent is painful enough, without it being so violent on top of it. Then there's the fact they were forced to witness it. On Earth, they'd probably have to see a child psychologist, but you mentioned you have nothing like therapy in Asgard."
"They reacted as any child would- they grieved and begged me to fix it. They had nightmares and whenever any Aesir came into their sight they panicked. I can only be grateful that Odin sent the Einherjar who were at the attack away, that he sent Thor on a quest in those first few months. I can't imagine how badly they would have reacted to them. Actually, I do have an idea. After my children were presented, Thor returned. He was honestly excited to be an uncle, and ready to devote himself to being the best he could. I don't know why, other than his love for me and maybe thinking that it would be like having a new pet. It was six months after..." he couldn't finish, "Hela and Fenrir had not seen him there, so they only feared him as another Aesir. Jor though...he saw him kill Ang. When Thor burst in, boisterous and eager to see me, it gave Jorgamund a panic attack so great I had to restrain and calm him. He refused to leave his room for a year. Nothing his siblings or I could do would coax him out. Even when he did, he always flinched whenever he saw Thor. Thor's interest in being an excellent uncle lasted about a year, but he still had care for them, if only because they were mine. I was scared of how Thor would react when he saw it. He surprised me. Thor was...sad. He understood why and even said he was sorry that the children had seen it happen, and that he would do his best to stay away from Jorgamund until Jor sought him out. Jorgamund never did. He'll never forgive Thor for Angrboda's death. He's stronger in his convictions than I, since I did, far more quickly than Ang deserved."
"I think I'm starting to understand what you were saying about your brother earlier. It really is complicated between you, isn't it?"
"Yes. On Asgard, he was one of the few who were at least courteous to them. Frigga as well, she was affectionate enough, but like they were an ally's children, not her own grandchildren. Even Odin treated them with the base respect they were due as royal children. Politeness isn't love, but I told myself it was. In comparison to the rest of Asgard's treatment, it was love and caring."
"Ms. Potts was detailed in explaining Asgard's treatment of her and her brothers. What would you like to add to her descriptions?”
"It was worse than they heard, because I did my damndest to keep as much of it from them as I could. They were quite solitary, staying with themselves as much as they could, so they did not interact with the public as much as I was forced to. They were called monsters, though all of us heard that. At first no one dared to actually say anything to my face, at least not about the children. Though the overloud conversations about the Jontar were monsters and how great their deaths were, they followed me to nearly every corner of Asgard. Angrboda's name was never mentioned -I don't even know if anyone bothered to learn it-, but everyone knew who they were talking about. At first, I retaliated against every single one of them, and not with tricks. Everyone of them who toasted of my wife's death felt my knives in their guts," the reporter's eyes widened, and Loki assured her, "None of them died, more's the pity. A stab wound will hardly kill an Asgardian. I used to stab Thor as a sign of affection. It did cause pain and a trip to the healers, and it was all I could do."
"Would you have killed them if you could?"
"Yes, and I would have laughed while doing it. But I couldn't just go around decimating Asgard's population. Eventually though, it was exhausting. Not the stabbing, but being so angry all the time. Lashing out so much...it drained me. I felt hollowed out, only filled again with hate came. It was toxic. It still is toxic, because that's all I am now. The only reason I didn't let it consume me then was because I couldn't. My children sensed it, all the darkness poisoning me. There was a day I was in a foul mood, and Fenrir said something that frustrated me and I snapped at him. He was so frightened that he ran from the room. He ran from me in fear, my youngest son, and it horrified me. It would happen more, if I kept going as I had been. It was either let myself be lost or raise my children, and there was nothing I could do but choose the latter. I would have fallen to become this," he gestured vaguely to himself, and it summed it up perfectly, "centuries earlier, of if wasn't for my children."
Loki wondered what would have happened if they had never seen sent away from Asgard. Could they have kept him sane, or would he have given into his own worst nature anyway? How would he have taken finding out the truth, if his Jotun had been there with him? Surely he could not have hated himself so much, considered himself so disgusting, if they were there. Damn Odin to Hel.
"I'm going to go out on a limb and guess your lack of revenge made the bullying worse."
"When they started to realize I was no longer defending Ang, they became even more vicious. When that brought no reaction, they began to call my children monsters as well. I wanted to kill them all, but by that time the children were starting to adjust to their new homes. Hela and Fenrir could be around Aesir without cowering and often spent time with Frigga and her ladies. Jorgamund had finally left his room, if only tentatively, to lay in the sun in the royal gardens. They were not happy -none of us were-, but it was better. If I went on a warpath then that would all be lost. Instead, I acted like them and withdrew as much as I could. We mostly stuck to my section of the palace, save when there was something I had to attend. It was lonely, for all of us, but at least I still had Frigga and Thor, and it was away from the worst of the comments."
"Why didn't your family ever do something about it? Even if he couldn't enforce anyone liking it, surely Odin could have at least defended you."
"'Odin should have come to defend but stayed silent instead' is the story of my life. It's true that to slander the royal family is punishable with the lash, but you have to have proof of it, a witness. Very few people would sell out another for anything less than treason. And if I were to demand it for everyone, I'd seem petty and vindictive. For all that I am those two things, I'm not an idiot. It would make things worse if I insisted and nothing came of it."
"For all that's horrific from a freedom of speech point of view, why wouldn't Odin have made at least a few people examples when you were being personally attacked as a child? At the very least it would have kept it from getting as bad as it was by the time your children were there."
"Odin never saw fit to explain his behaviour to anyone, let alone me. I still don't understand most of what he did with me. Letting me hate the Jotun, killing those I loved, and keeping secrets, seems counteractive to making me a good, loyal son. Or perhaps that was the point, that he wanted to break me until I'd lap up even the smallest bit of affection he threw to me like a starving dog. He succeeded in that, so much that I'm disgusted with myself. Maybe this was what he wanted all along- me as the villain for Thor to fight, to sow destruction to make my brother grow up and be the golden hero he was meant to be. If so, then I am still his little puppet. Then again, he could have been a flawed father who meant the best but failed spectacularly in the choices he made," He paused, and it still made his heart ache, as he wished so much for it to be the last one.
"Why didn't you leave? If things were so bad for you all, and with no one to even help, why did you stay?"
"I was forbidden from leaving without permission. Odin was still my king and the father I still desperately wanted approval from," Loki's smile was self mocking, "and I know it makes no sense, that I could desire that after Angrboda's death. I should have hated him with every part of my being, even if I believed it was an accident. Yet I was still so desperate for him to show me he was proud of me. Just one more thing that proves me to be wrong."
"You're wrong for a lot of reasons, the most glaring example being you're a super villain who's killed people. Being stuck in toxic family dynamics isn't one of them. I'm not an expert, but I'm certain it's common reaction."
Loki's head tilted to the side at her tone. He felt a whisper of curiosity go through him, "You speak as though you know it."
For a moment, he thought she would snap at him that it was none of his business. He wouldn't blame her if she did. Instead, she replied in a flat tone, "A friend from middle school. His dad hit him and his mom, but when his mom took him and left, he still hated her for taking him away from his dad. He kept trying to make her move back for years."
"I..." there were others who felt like this? Who loved the parent who caused them such pain, so much they would beg for the smallest scraps? "Odin never struck me."
"No, he got other people to do it for him. What else would you call watching your son get his lips sewn shut as punishment?"
It stunned him, that observation coming from a mortal, because it was not one he had considered before. How could she, when he'd never come to that conclusion? It...made sense, as much as he grit his teeth at it. He didn't want to admit it, because if he did, it meant he was just as weak as others. But...but...
"I..." Loki cleared his throat, pushing it down for later. He would unpack that when he was alone and could blow things up to his heart's content. Blowing things up did help him cope, "Thank you."
Her eyes widened in surprise at his soft words. His thanking her was probably the biggest shock of this interview. Loki thanked no one, let alone lowly mortals. He was as shocked as she was, honestly.
Christine opened her mouth to say something, closed it again, and cut off whatever she was going to say. There was a calculating look on her face, and she had to think about where to go. Finally, she decided to take the path less likely to make him snap. She went back to the topic, "So you didn't leave Asgard in that whole time?"
"Only once," he replied, once again thankful that she hadn't pressed further in a direction he had no intention of going down, "it was just after I woke in Asgard. I woke Jorgamund up from his sleep first, because he was technically of age now, and I would need his help to take care of his siblings. Not only that, but I needed him to take on another set of responsibilities. We snuck back into Jotunheim together that night, before I woke up Hela and Fenrir. I couldn't leave Angrboda there, lying in the snow," his voice was quieter, "I couldn't let her spirit be stuck in between. She had to have funeral rites, if she was to be returned to the ice."
"Return to the ice? Is that the afterlife of Jotunheim?"
"The Jontar don't have an afterlife, not one like we know it. When a Frost Giant dies, their spirit turns into frost that then is taken back into the ice of Jotunheim itself. The Jotun were raised from the snow and so they return to it. But it can only be done if they have the funeral rites to guide them. It they go unattended, their souls are stuck, unable to live or go back to the realm, and it is agony. I couldn't bear the thought of it, so I had to go back. But only another Jotun could perform the the rites, and it had to be done by immediate family members, for it to work the easiest. I had seen it done to Angrboda's uncle, just before I went to Jotunheim for good, so I knew what to do, it was just that it wouldn't actually work."
"That's why you brought Jorgamund," the reporter surmised.
"He was not even an adult for a week, and I made him reside over his own mother's funeral. No child should have to do that. It's a wonder he doesn't hate me for it," and for making him grow up too soon, for making him be a partial caregiver for siblings when he should have been enjoying his youth. He should have found another way than heaping responsibility on his second son's back, "I know now that I could have done it myself," if only Odin hadn't lied, Loki could have spared Jor that pain, "When we returned to Jotunheim, I was terrified we'd only find ashes. To burn a Jotun's corpse is to destroy their spirit completely. It's a way to humiliate them, even in death. I was so scared that they had done that to her, before dragging the four of us to Asgard. I don't know what I would have done, what Jor would have done, had we found her burned. I should have checked, before taking Jor, so he wouldn't have to face the new trauma if they had, but I couldn't risk sneaking out twice."
"Did they?" Loki heard the slight dread in her voice, and he should have been gleeful that she was invested and emotional. It made her easier to manipulate. A sympathetic portrayal was why he was here. Instead of glad, he felt pathetically grateful she even cared.
"No, her body had been left where she had fallen. It was days later though, and while no big predators had found her yet, smaller scavengers had. There were even more pieces of her gone than when we left. Jorgamund kept himself together, but I was sick. Then I told him what to do and he returned his mother's soul to the ice. After he finished, we wept together and I did my best to comfort him," Jor had rested his large head on Loki's lap, wailing. Loki had wrapped his arms around it while he cried silently. He still didn't know how the two of them found the strength to get up and leave.
Christine looked disgusted, like she herself was going to be ill at the idea he found Angrboda's destroyed body made worse by the gnawing of the animals in the forest. The only thing that had kept his wife’s face intact was the gaping wound in her chest for them to feed on. There were still some days the image would flash into his mind, and he'd be sick all over again.
"Afterwards, I told Jorgamund to go inside our house to pick out the things he thought we should take back with us. I then went to Angrboda's aunt, to explain what happened. She was the only one left who knew Ang existed, outside the priest we bribed to marry us. She didn't deserve to find out by stumbling onto the carnage. She needed to have the time to rage and grieve. So I went, and with tears in my eyes, told her that her beloved niece was dead. I explained, said it was a deadly mistake, because that's what I believed. What I had to believe, if I wanted to stay sane. She knew the truth. She knew that choosing me had been Angrboda's death sentence from the very beginning. Odin would never suffer her to live, even if I told him the truth. Her aunt told me she'd kill me if she saw me again, since I had Angrboda's blood on my hands. She told me she'd take the children, when Asgard finally turned on and came for them. I would have protested, because I didn't think my fath- Odin would let anything happen to his grandchildren. She spat that when I was unable to save them like I had failed Angrboda, she would protect them. She shamed me and I hated myself that she was right in how useless I was. I told her that Jor had done the funeral, and then I felt like a coward. Looking back, I wish I had taken them all there to let them be raised by her. Surely it would have been better than what Asgard gave them."
"Or them being out of your sight would have given Odin a way to attack them sooner."
"I'd like to think it was like that, but I'm sure it was more that I was selfish and didn't want to be alone."
"After you left, did you ever see Angrboda's aunt again?"
"No. I knew she'd keep her promise if I did, and I had no desire to die. Later, I was too ashamed that her estimation of me was correct and that I was incapable of keeping them safe. I tried once, after I found out the truth and set Laufey up to die. I snuck to Utgard and found every trace of her gone. That only happened when every member of the household had died. It's for the best, I think, that she died unaware of what happened to Jorgamund, Hela, and Fenrir. It would have broken her heart."
"So that was it then, until you let Frost Giants in to ruin Thor's coronation."
"I didn't set foot there until then," he confirmed, "I collected Jorgamund at our house and we went back to Asgard. It was still standing there when I returned to Asgard, all those years later. Depilated, but there was still a memory of my life there."
"What did you take with you? You mentioned that you left Jorgamund there to pick out things. What were the things you took back to remember?"
The question surprised him, because he did not expect it. It seemed so frivolous, on the surface, but upon consideration, it was a simple way of humanizing him. He thought back, trying to remember everything, "The books that started everything. I kept them in my room at the palace, before I snuck in and secreted them away after I fell from the bifrost. The necklace I gave her as a wedding gift," he had always planned to give it to Hela if she were to ever marry, as Angrboda would have wanted, "any of the spell materials or magic tools we had, because one does not just leave things like that laying around. They have all long since been used. Angrboda's hunting spear, passed down from her mother," one day he'd offer it to Fenrir, if he wanted it. Of them all, he was the warrior of the family. He took after Angrboda the most in spirit, "That was all I took for myself. The rest were for the children. Some were important, like the blankets Angrboda's aunt had crafted for them out of the wool of sheep-like creatures kept on Jotunheim. For all my children are true Frost Giants, they enjoy being warm. We thought it came from the Aesir blood, but I know now it must simply be a quirk of their own, since I am as much a Jotun as their mother. There were carvings Ang made, to celebrate their first name day, as was the custom in Asgard. I mentioned it off hand once, a month before Jorgamund's first birthday. Imagine my shock when she presented me with it," She had tried to smirk and look confident, but he saw the nerves underneath. She was worried he would laugh at her attempt, which was so obvious amateur compared to those made in Asgard. Instead he had kissed her, and then put Jorgamund down for a nap, and spent the rest of the day in bed, showing her just how much he appreciated her, "A snake for Jor, a crow for Hela, and a wolf for Fenrir. Then there were a handful of toys, unimportant but things that they enjoyed playing with. It would be a distraction, while they adjusted to Asgard."
"Do you still have those things?"
"Their simple toys, no. They were worn out or broken long ago. As for the rest, yes. They were in their rooms, and when they were taken away I took them all down. I wanted to throw them away, because I couldn't stand to see them. Yet I couldn't bear the thought of them being discarded, so they've been stored in my pocket dimension instead. Perhaps now that they have homes of their own, they'd like them back," he paused and remembered something else, "Oh, and another thing. I brought the stuffed animals Amora created for them. They were always their favourite toys. I still have them as well," his mouth turned up in a half sly smile, "If they ever feel the need to give me grandchildren, I'll pass those onto them."
Grandchildren. What a lovely idea. He'd have to put up with Tony Stark far more then he'd prefer, but it would be worth it to see Hela with children, if that's what she wanted in her life. Jorgamund and Fenrir as well, but that seemed less likely at this point. Hela was quite devoted to Stark and seemed like she would not be opposed to such a thing. Loki supposed she could have chosen someone worse than Stark. At least he was loyal and smart.
Christine broke him out of his musings with her question, "Wait. Amora. Earlier you said the reason you weren't there when your family was attacked was because she sent you a message to meet up with her. That implies she helped set you up. How are you still friends? How is she still alive?"
That was rather dark, but Loki supposed he had more than earned it. He had mentioned wanting to kill people multiple times in this conversation, on top of his exploits as a villain. It was more the fact she said it so bluntly, "When I saw her for the first time, I nearly did. She didn't come back to Asgard until after they were taken. She waltzed into the library as though nothing had happened, and I nearly beheaded her I was so enraged. Thank the Norns Amora was able to defend herself, otherwise I'd have murdered one of the very few people I actually like. She stopped me before I could do any lasting damage," Well, to her anyway. He did blow a wall out of the library, "I learned it wasn't her who sent the message, but someone pretended to be her. The message never said her name, it was only the way it was sent that told me it was from her. Someone learned of that communication and used it to lure me away."
"Why did you trust her?"
"She had been in Nornheim since the last time I'd seen her, learning from the Norn queen. There was no reason why Karnilla would lie for her, so the only way she'd claim that is if it was true. Her fury at the way I was used, and the way she'd been used as a tool to do it, was true."
"What explanation did Odin give for that? It must have been clear after learning that that it was no mistake. They had to have lured you away under false pretense in order to make sure you were gone. How could that just be waved away?"
"He had his lies prepared, as he always did. He spun a tale that he had believed me under a spell, one that kept my mind bent to her will but didn't make me stay at her side at all times. They would lure me away so that Angrboda couldn't order me to fight for her. Once she was dead, I'd be free. It is a pitiful lie, really, but I still refused to see through it."
"Did Amora tell you differently, when you explained it all?"
"Of course she did," Loki remembered Amora yelling at him, telling him to see the truth and run far away. Loki had sent her flying and told her to keep her mouth shut. Instead of enraging her further, she looked at him in such pity, "I ignored her good advice."
"Is that why she helped you free them?" At his surprised look, the reporter almost shrugged, "The audio of her conversation with your son has him saying he owes her something. Added to Ms. Pott's comments about you being unable to free them because of magic, the strongest conclusion to come to was she helped you with that. By your own admission, she was one of the few you trusted."
"Yes, she did. First she heard my tale and took me somewhere to unleash my rage. There used to be a mountain range in the north of Asgard. There wasn't by the time I was done," the reporter's face paled slightly, and Loki didn't blame her. He hadn't unleashed even half of his power on Midgard, and he was under the impression they all preferred to think it was all he could do. The humans tended to pretend he wasn't a god. They were truly simple these mortals, and lucky he had no desire to truly punish them, "She next told me she would search for a way around Odin's spells trapping my children, since I couldn't."
"What did she ask for? Amora doesn't seem like the type to do anything for free, no matter who they are."
"To be named godmother if I had another child. For actual gods, the position comes with a lot of innate power, especially for those of us with magic," Since Loki had no intention of having anymore children, he'd have to convince one of his children to keep that promise if they had some. Amora would be a fiercely protective godmother. It would be a positive thing.
She nodded, but didn't go any further with that explanation. It was too complicated, though Ms. Everhart had the intelligence that she could possibly follow along, but it was completely off topic. Loki was at the point where he wanted it to be over.
"How long did it take her?"
"Fifty years. All the while I played the part that my parents wanted me to play. I was a dutiful prince, a respectful son. I made some mischief, because it was expected of me. There was nothing vicious, because I was too heartbroken. No one mentioned my children, even to taunt me. It's like everyone just wanted to forget it as well, so I acted like I had."
"Did the taunting stop, once they were gone?"
"Asgard went back to its old favourites, and never spoke openly of my children and Angrboda again. I was pathetically grateful, because it hurt to think about any of them. They still made sure to mention the general hatred of the Jontar while I was around. Without my children there to keep me strong, I started to believe it. All of Asgard couldn't be wrong, could they?"
"Yes they can. They were. No matter what you've done since then, you didn't deserve that. Neither did your wife and children. If anything, it's Asgard that acted monstrously. Your parents should have made sure you never believed your own species was wrong, in case it ever came out. That's the least they could do."
"You are so easy to judge, little mortal. What do you know about the dealings of gods?" There was a dangerous edge in his voice and darkness on his face. Even now, he prickled at such direct criticism of his once-father. It wasn't the place of this human woman to say such things...even if there was truth in there.
"Enough that I know you shouldn't be carrying around that much internalized hatred. Finding out you're adopted shouldn’t cause a psychotic break," she looked at him, steel in her spine, "and if you speak to me in that threatening tone again, I will walk out of here. I'll remind you that you're the one who came to me."
For a moment, Loki considered getting up and storming away. He imagined how he would make her scared first, because that's what he did. He took fear and used it to make himself strong. Then he thought about Hela's reaction if he did that. She would be, at the least, disappointed in him. He couldn't do that, so he took a breath through his nose and forced the anger down.
"Very well. I will keep my temper in check."
"Good," she said, though there was no relief, still only strength, "Let's take it back to something less...troublesome for a bit. In all your time in Asgard, you and your children had to have some good memories. Tell me about them."
"Yes, there were many times we were happy. Not as we had been on Jotunheim, but we did find some joy in Asgard."
Much like earlier, Loki told her of the memories. Asgard was where Jorgamund learned to shapeshift, and the two of them spent hours wandering in different shapes, seeing Asgard through different eyes. When you could separate Asgard from its people, it was a beautiful realm. He taught Hela how to dance, and how she was the most graceful of the dancers whenever there was a celebration. He taught Hela to form and shoot one of the ice bows of Jotunheim, and Angrboda would have been so proud to see her daughter take after her so much. Fenrir had so much rage, but when he was happy, his laughter lit up the room. He loved to run, to take off through the fields and only come back when the sun was setting. He loved to hear stories, much like his mother before him. They all might have been isolated, but they found delight in each other.
"What about your second wife? Ms. Potts said in her interview that you were a happy family, while she was alive."
A shadow passed over Loki's face and through his heart. It was harder to think of her then of Angrboda, because none of it had really been her fault. She was too free for Asgard, and it killed her as much as it did Angrboda. Loki wondered which of his two wives had suffered the worst for Asgard's sins, "Sigyn was...extraordinary, especially in Asgard. Would it surprise you to learn Asgard is quite archaic in its views on women?"
"After the last ten months and our conversation so far?" Christine replied flatly, an annoyed look on her face, "Not even a little."
"Asgard puts a great deal of value on a woman's chastity, especially when it comes to nobility. Sigyn was minor nobility. Her grandfather was granted the title for bravery in the war with Jotunheim, so they weren't quite accepted by those old nobles who had rank long before. Sigyn was caught with a lover and he, as you'd say, threw her under the bus. He was a higher noble who wasn't going to be allowed to marry below his station to save her honour. He blamed it all on her and walked away. Sigyn was not worth marriage after that."
The reporter was outraged on Sigyn's behalf, and Loki agreed. He had never agreed with nonsense. It was possibly only because he suffered for the disrespect they showed women. To be womanly was bad, in the eyes of Asgard, and Loki was quite so.
"If not for me being a prince, I would have been beyond marriage as well. Married to a Jotun, with multiple oddly shaped children, and a magic user besides? Perish the thought. It wasn't Odin's idea to begin with, since Mother had been making tentative suggestions about finding someone to court, though her suggestions tended to lean more towards and elf maid. Yet Odin saw an opportunity to force me to move on from Angrboda and Sigyn's father saw it as a way to save face. The next thing you know, our engagement was being announced at the Yule feast. They didn't bother to tell us beforehand. I'm sure they thought we were in no position to complain."
"I'm sure they regretted that," there was a small smirk on Christine's face.
"Very much," was Loki's smirked reply. They had complained, loudly and publicly, to each other's faces and behind each other's back. For a long time, the only thing they had in common was the fact they had no desire to marry the other, "Sigyn didn't even let her father sit back down before she was yelling that she had no intention of marrying me."
"I'm going to guess you didn't like her reaction."
"I was furious with her, but there was nothing I could do then. I sat stone faced while she argued. I knew my father, and I only had a chance of persuading him differently if I tried in private. Questioning him in public would only raise his hackles further. Sigyn knew no such thing, and she only tightened the bonds around us. She stormed away soon enough, and I've never heard the feasting hall so silent, and so many Aesir looking so awkward at the same time. I very calmly excused myself, commenting that I needed to relieve Jorgamund of babysitting duty and see the youngest two to bed. Inside, I was seething. My magic was barely contained under my skin and it burned," later, he had unleashed it, setting a large swath of the forest on fire, but she didn't need to know that, "I had every intention of paying back Sigyn's disgust. I did not like having my pride so badly bruised by a woman who had so recently lost all her honour."
"Intention means you didn't do it?"
"She stormed into my rooms a few hours later, and demanded how I was going to make Odin change his mind.”
Christine made a low impressed whistle, "I'm surprised you didn't murder her then and there."
"She knew my reputation enough to make sure I knew that she didn't give a damn that it was me in particular, but she refused to have her freedom taken while her father sold her at a cheap price. I was...sympathetic to that plight. It was enough to shift my anger from her, but not in that moment. She was there and would be a symbol of the whole situation for a long time. It wasn't her fault, but she was here for me to lass out at, and I did."
"With my words of course," he gave the reporter a lazy smirk, "Why Ms. Everhart, what you do take me for?" she snorted, "I assured her that I had a plan to get Odin to stop such a sham of a marriage. I told her that I would insist that I was a prince whose position deserved more than a used whore."
Loki remembered the way Sigyn's body had shook with rage, how red darkened her pale skin and her small hands clenched at her side. She would have killed him if she could, at that moment, and it brought Loki vicious joy to cause her pain. He couldn't hurt his family, so he'd hurt her instead.
Christine was glaring at him, and he knew that insult would offend her. That was the whole point he first used it, "I didn't mean it, if that's the reason for your look. Virginity in a lover of any kind is overrated, and what a woman uses her body for is her own business, I used it to cause her pain, to hit her at her lowest and make it hurt," Loki had received it enough to know how to turn it on others, "As you said earlier, I would benefit from something to control my anger."
"How did she respond to that?" Her tone told Loki that the reporter was hoping it was with anger or violence. In that case, he wasn't going to disappoint her.
"Sigyn replied that she planned to tell her father and mine that she would no be sacrificed to some depraved enough to lay with a Jotun and to raise their children, who could kill her with ease," She hadn't said it so cleanly, had started to say those hateful words that he dogged Loki's steps ever since their return to Asgard. He was on his feet in a blink, shoving her into the wall and conjuring a knife to hold to her throat. He bared his teeth, voice cold as he told her he'd kill her if she ever called his wife and children monsters again. Sigyn's eyes had widened in true fear, before she grit her teeth and finished her sentence with much more neutral words. He had backed off then and dismissed her with ice in his voice. Sigyn was trembling, but she walked out with her head held high. It wasn't the most auspicious of beginnings. Loki, however, told Everhart none of that. He knew it looked horrible...was actually horrible.
"Neither of your arguments worked," She commented.
"No, they did not. Odin wouldn't budge, as ever, and even Sigyn's father would have, he was never going to go against the Allfather’s decision. I was stuck because of my position. Sigyn could have run, and I would have gladly helped her by cloaking her from Heimdall's sight, but she wouldn't last long, not without magic or the practice of hiding. We were trapped. Everyone was happy except for us and my children."
Asgard forgot about how it came to be, or the issues behind it, and threw themselves into the celebrations for the royal wedding. It didn't even matter that it was the lesser of the two princes who was getting married. A grand, lavish ceremony was planned, one so different from his empty wedding to Angrboda. He preferred his first one, though knew if his future wife was replaced by his dead one, he would have enjoyed every minute of the grand ceremony. He would have enjoyed every moment of planning with Angrboda.
"It was an excuse to have a magnificent celebration, so of course Asgard approved of our upcoming nuptials. They also seemed to think it would wipe the sins away, as though Angrboda and Thoric, Sigyn's lover, no longer existed. If it wasn't for my children, it would have been erased from memory completely," the mocking stopped and he was grateful for it, but that was all, "So many people expected us to feel the same, to be happy, as though Sigyn should be overjoyed to be traded like furniture and I to have my parents trying to manipulate me into forgetting my wife. Neither Sigyn nor I were willing to pretend we were happy. She showed her anger, though kept it controlled. I didn't hide my disdain for everything. I was too furious and...heartbroken, I suppose, to hide it as I normally would. My mot- Frigga tried so hard to make me happy, or to at least pretend to be for her peace of mind. For once, I refused to give into her. She could not guilt me or console me into agreeing. She tried with Sigyn, and while Sigyn was polite to her queen, that was it. It made Frigga sad, I think, but she just pretended it was all fine. That's what she did, you see. Mother just ignored it when things were wrong, and her calming presence usually helped people do the same, especially me."
After being gone from Asgard for so long, Loki could admit it. Guilt still chewed at his stomach whenever his anger turned towards Frigga. He knew, logically, that Frigga was just as guilty of hiding the truth as Odin, as guilty of letting so many terrible things happen, but his heart could not turn on her like he could Odin. He still loved her so, sometimes longed for the softness and warmth found in her loving embrace. Frigga had always loved him, been kind to him, and he was still loyal to that, even when he shouldn't be. He could disown Odin without blinking and Thor with a little struggle, but when he tried to do the same with Frigga, the words stuck in his throat and choked him.
"Odin said nothing, besides to assure me that Sigyn would be a good wife and stepmother. Thor kept slapping me on the back and congratulating me, as though having an engagement forced on me was some sort of romantic achievement. Everyone I knew who was married told me how wonderful it was, as though I hadn't spent a century as a husband. They too ignored my feelings, because once again my family decided they knew what was better for me more then I did."
"What about your children? I can't see them being happy. It's hard when parents remarry under the best circumstances."
"They hated her, though it was more on principal then anything Sigyn did. She was not Angrboda, and I didn't hide how much I didn't want her there. Sigyn did nothing to deserve their ire. She was nothing but kind, if aloof, to my children. She was furious, but she wasn't going to take it out on children,” he laughed quietly at himself, "They were polite to her, because I raised them to be respectful. I didn't stop them from being cold to her," Loki sighed, "I should have told them to stop it, to be kinder. I should have sat them down and made sure they knew it wasn't her fault, that she was being forced as much as I was. But I was petty, so I let them continue like she was the villain."
Later, once they could stand to be in the same room, Sigyn informed him that she never took it personally. It hadn't bothered her, per say, and she didn't blame them. She blamed Loki for that, which was fair enough. He was just glad that she never took it out on his children. Many others would have.
"The wedding was beautiful. Perfect even, if not for the looks on our faces. Sigyn's was disgusted and she gave her vows through clenched teeth. I kept my expression closed off and closed my eyes to imagine Angrboda at my side. My voice was dead when I spoke, and I wouldn't even look at her face when the ribbon was tied around our clasped hands. So we were married.
"It was almost admirable, how Thor tried so valiantly to make me excited. He did everything he could to lift my spirits, from waxing poetic about Sigyn's looks and the upcoming wedding night, to pointing out how she treated my children. He was quite considerate in pointing that out, at least, for all he thought me insane for not being over the moon for Sigyn. When the feast came to an end, I went to see Jor, Hela, and Fen back to their rooms, but Odin stopped me. He said that Sigyn should usher them back, for she was their mother now. It was his clumsy attempt to help us in our marriage. He would force Sigyn to act as their mother and I would appreciate her for it."
"Which would somehow lead to love and happiness?"
"I did say that it was clumsy, though I do understand where he was coming from. The way to my heart would be through my children. They were my world."
"And he wasn't wrong, was he? You and Sigyn did become happy, eventually."
"It galls me to admit it, but Odin was right. It was as though my children that Sigyn and I found peace with each other. Frigga claimed we would be good for each other, and eventually she was right. Maybe, if we had met in different circumstances, we could have fallen in love. If I wasn't still mourning Angrboda and she wasn't furious at Thoric. Maybe..."
Loki would never regret Angrboda, but he thought of it, sometimes, how things would have been simpler if they had never crossed paths. He could have met Sigyn without his broken heart and would have been far kinder. Perhaps they wouldn't have been shoved together, but gently nudged. Would they have been happy, truly happy?
Loki cleared his throat, "But it took years to get there. After Odin's declaration, we all froze Jorgamund was old enough to retire on his own terms, but he always stuck to his siblings' sides to make sure no one bothered them. He looked at me, trying to figure out if I should let her, and all I could do was nod. Sigyn quietly led my children away, all of them stone faced. Fenrir looked back at me with a little confused whine, before Hela pulled on his ear and dragged him away. I just watched and it hurt. It was the first time someone other then Ang and I had put them to bed, besides a few nights where they had stayed at their great aunt’s over the years. It was...a loss. That another woman -another wife- was doing it. It was like another part of Angrboda was gone.
"When Sigyn came back, it was nearly an hour later. She came straight to me and informed me quietly that all three of them were asleep. When she took her time, I thought she had taken the opportunity to run," Everything about him softened, "But no, she stayed with them to make sure they were well enough to sleep, even Jorgamund. Sigyn didn't even care for them, but she stayed in order to make sure they were comfortable. No one would have blamed her if she had just left them after seeing them to their rooms. It was the first time I realized how good she could be, underneath that righteous fury. We almost had a moment," He had looked at her, wide eyed, and her face had slightly gentled at it. Perhaps it was only pity, but she didn't feel anger in that moment. He even started to thank her, very softly, "but then Thor ruined it all by drunkenly announcing it was time to see us off to our marriage bed," his thank you had died and her face hardened, and they were back to where they had been, "So we went, more like condemned prisoners to the axe then a newly married couple."
When they finally reached his room, they had stood on opposite sides of the bed, glaring at each other. It seemed like they were daring each other to be the one to make the first move. Eventually, Loki did, by snapping there were extra blankets in his chest if she grew cold and storming off to the lounge chair in his sitting room. Loki told the reporter this, and she asked for clarification.
"So you didn't..."
"Enforce my marital rights? No. Neither of us desired the other, and the thought probably turned her stomach as much as it did mine. It was nothing against her -she was lovely to look at- but at the circumstances. Even if I did desire her, it was not mutual. I am many evil things Ms. Everhart, but I am not a rapist. The idea is appalling," to even think of inflicting that made his mind whirl, tinged with fear and horror. It was one line he could never pass, not with what had happened, "and my ego could not stand to take someone who doesn't...how do you Midgardians say it? Show enthusiastic consent?"
"Yes," she said, looking a little bewildered he'd know the term, "that's it. So why did she get the bed and you took the sofa? You're the prince."
He was actually a little irritated at that, "My mother," a hasty correction came quickly after, "Frigga taught me how to treat a lady."
Christine gave a little disbelieving laugh at that, "Chivalry. From a supervillain. Who would have thought?” She then got back on topic, "So the wedding night was rough? How about the days after?"
"It's been tradition for the royal couple to honeymoon at our country retreat. It usually took three months, but Frigga insisted we take an entire year. She hoped we would fall in love. We didn't, but it was good to be away from the court. Not only did it mean Sigyn and I didn't have to pretend, but it kept my children away from so many of the whispers. Over that year, Sigyn and I were never overtly cruel. It brought neither of us joy. We just...ignored each other. We had different bedrooms and enjoyed different activities during the day. I would practice magic and she preferred to spend her days outside, around either the gardens or the stables . Flowers and horses were her two passions," Loki smiled, remembering how she would often combine the two by weaving flowers into a horse's mane. She vexed so many warriors, and took a mischievous joy in it, "We spoke only when necessary, and appeared together when any sort of official position needed to be taken. We only really worked together when it came to my children. Hela and Fenrir's schooling had been...interrupted, and they had too many emotional issues to deal with it in Asgard. I had yet to set up any long lasting schedule. I was dealing with too many issues of my own to put any effort into it. A failing on my part, I know. Sigyn swooped in to correct it. Usually noble children would be grouped together to have lessons under one teacher, or tutor if the group was small. For the most part, Thor and I were taught together, as were my children in Jotunheim. There were no other children, and Angrboda and I split the duties as teacher. She was better, for she was far more patient. Here, Sigyn arranged for a tutor for Hela and Fenrir, and Jorgamund as well, once he expressed interest in furthering his learning into more advanced subjects. I was Hela's magic teacher, of course. Sigyn took some duties for herself as well, especially with Fenrir. He had only just learned his letters, before we were forced away from Jotunheim."
"Mr. Barnes was only an equivalent to five years old when his mother was murdered? Ms. Potts didn't give any implication of that in her interview. I think we all assumed they were older."
"No, they were still quite young. Jorgamund had just reached his majority by Jotun standards, as I said, and that would have been around...thirteen? Fourteen? Of your years. Hela was on the cusp of puberty, and Fenrir school age," He thought about his reunion with his son, the things Fenrir had told him, "He doesn't remember much of Utgard. His mother is nothing but a hazy figure in his memory."
Christine's face told his she understood how much of a tragedy that was, how unfair.
"So it was through my children that Sigyn and I came to tolerate each other. She was their stepmother and fulfilled that role like neither of us would let her do as wife. We made most decisions together, though she would defer to me, not only as their blood father, but because I knew more about their physiology. But if she felt it was necessary, she would push to get her way. I bristled of course, but I learned if she felt the need to argue her case, it was probably for the best. There was the time she insisted Jor needed to get out and interact with others. He was a prince and would have to at least have to learn to fake happiness. She told me that Hela's cowering needed to be overcome, and that I should teach her knives and she to ride. They would give her confidence enough to fight or flee if the need arose. She was the one who told me bluntly that we needed to do more to make sure Fenrir controlled his rage. It didn't matter that he was a child. They had to stop it then and there or it'd only get worse. She was right on all three counts."
"How did they take it? You already said they resented her."
"They did as they were told, thought grudgingly. When they realized she was helping them, that she legitimately wanted them to be happy, the resentment began to ebb. I think Hela only clung to it through sheer stubbornness, determined to hate her replacement mother no matter what. Fenrir had liked Sigyn from the beginning, to be honest. He only acted like it because his siblings guilted him into it. He would forget about it often, but would play act again when Hela and Jorgamund furiously reminded him. I didn't care to tell them that it was alright for them to like her. As for Jorgamund," Loki wondered how to phrase it, how to make Jor sound less like he was just bitter and unmoving, "he made his peace with it eventually, grew fine with Sigyn's presence, but it went no further. She was a kind woman he owed respect and even gratitude to, and he did appreciate it. He might have liked her as a person, but never more than that. He had a mother and didn't need a replacement one."
"How did Sigyn feel about that?"
"She shrugged it off rather gracefully. If she was bothered, she hid it from us as well. I can see her trying to keep it secret from them to make sure they didn't feel anymore pain, but she would have let it slip to me. She was often quite open with all the issues she had with our marriage," he laughed at himself, gently, "Thankfully it was much less vindictive after awhile."
"Did that happen by the time your honeymoon was up?"
He laughed at the thought, "Not even close. We went back to the palace able to tolerate each other and act as a unit when absolutely necessary. Better than on our wedding, I suppose."
"Your mother must have been so thrilled," The reporter said, deadpan.
Loki laughed openly, “My bro- Thor was so very disappointed we were not falling into each other's arms from being so in love. It only made Frigga double her efforts. Thor was showing no signs of settling down, so she was determined to take out her maternal feelings on seeing me happy," What she could never understand was that he had been. On Jotunheim, with Angrboda. What Frigga could never accept was the fact her husband had forever destroyed his happiness, "It wasn't Frigga who made anything change. It was Sigyn and her vicious streak."
"Vicious streak? I thought you said she was kind."
"Only to those who deserve it. If she didn't think you did, she wouldn't hesitate to be nasty. If you truly angered her, she would seek to hurt you. I run hot in my anger, Sigyn ran cold," it would have made most people run the other way, but it drew Loki to her a little more. He had a cruel streak of his own, and seeing it matched by another? It was more appealing to him than most other things about her. He appreciated it more than any sane person should. Angrboda had never matched in that, but Sigyn did, "While I never laid charges against the ones who slandered my children because I knew how ineffective it would be, Sigyn thought no such thing. She had no issue with it. If she heard someone calling my children monsters, she brought charges against them. She was more convincing than I could ever be, so over half those people were found guilty. It didn't take long for everyone in Asgard to feel her wrath, and the insults stopped. I'm sure there were still whispers, but they stayed whispers. No one dared to say anything after she started."
Christine couldn't quite control her shock, and he didn't blame her. He had just informed her that his second wife had used laws, archaic in her eyes, to have people brutally punished for nothing more than insults. By most marks of the country the reporter lived in, it was the act of someone evil.
Loki just shrugged, "She was a true daughter of Asgard, and the laws of the king are just in the eyes of Asgard. Your opinion, the opinion of Midgard, doesn't change that. Is it wrong morally? Probably, but it is nothing you or I could change. Asgard has done worse, and will continue to do worse. It is a small sin, I'd argue. And honestly, I couldn't care less about the people who went out of their way to cause my children misery."
She was not at ease, so Loki brushed it off. Asgard was a cruel place., she already knew that, but perhaps hadn't expected to hear the more heroic figures had taken part in that as well. Just because Sigyn was better didn't mean she was always good.
"That's what made their lives so much better. It gave my children peace, and I am still grateful for it. Some split blood was worth it. No one was saying anything unkind about Sigyn. In fact, they were more sympathetic to her for having to mother my children. It's why her brutal defence of them worked, how it caught them all by surprise."
After the first time, Loki had found her resting in their sitting room and asked her why.
"They're innocent," Sigyn had said to him without looking up from her sewing, "It doesn't matter who their parents are or what they look like," and she did look up at him then, "I didn't want them, but they're mine now. I'll protect them."
Loki had all but fallen to his knees to thank her. In that moment, he stopped hating her.
It was obvious that the reporter was still uncomfortable, but she pushed on regardless, "After this, you stopped hating each other?"
"Yes, though we weren't friends. We became more companionable. We'd talk to each other, about more than reports on the children. I began including her in family moments," picnics in the garden, story time, magic shows, trips outside the capital, "I admitted to my eldest that I was wrong. I finally told Hela and Fenrir they didn't have to pretend to hate her anymore. They were both relieved and immediately let loose their affection. I told Jor he was an adult and I couldn't command him to like her, but I asked him to at least try and stop resenting her. She was a pawn in it as much as we all had been. He accused me of moving on from Angrboda. I told him I would never love anyone as I loved his mother, not even Sigyn, but I didn't want to be miserable either. At least trying to be friends with Sigyn would bring some happiness, for all of us. He did as I asked, as far as he was able. From there, it was just actually being together and getting to know each other. I found out I liked Sigyn, once I wasn't so focused on hating her. She respected me for being a good father. We moved on from there."
There was one other thing, the one that let Sigyn let go of the venom staining her heart, but Loki had no intention of telling the reporter about it. It was just after Loki thanked her for protecting her children, when Sigyn commented that he had never given her a wedding gift as he should have. He had been affronted that she had responded to his sincerity that way, until she unflinchingly told him she wanted to make the man who got her into this situation to suffer. It was revenge she wanted him to give her, and Loki was happy to oblige. A month later, when Thoric was gored to death on a hunt, there was no whisper that it was anything more than a tragic accident. When Sigyn heard the news and retreated into private with him, she had smiled oh so sweetly and said "Thank you husband.". Being involved in a murder did tend to bring a change in a relationship. It just so happened to make theirs better. Loki didn't want to think about what that said about the two of them. He wouldn't say anything about Thoric's death, not only because it wouldn't invoke the sympathy he needed. It would cause his children to realize he had been despicable long before his fall, ad he couldn't stand the thought of them looking at him if they knew. It was a secret between him and Sigyn, and he'd take it to his grave like she had taken it to hers.
"It wasn't like on Jotunheim, but we were happy for a family of children with a dead mother and spouses who didn't love each other. Sigyn always encouraged them to talk about Angrboda, not only so they'd never be ashamed of her, but so they wouldn't forget. She asked about Jotunheim and the Jontar with an open mind, even said perhaps we should burn all the misinformation in the library and we'd help them write their own truthful book. Jor liked the idea. It doesn't surprise me he's a librarian now. She asked me the same sorts of questions, though more cautiously. I snapped the first few times, but eventually answered. It was brusque in the beginning, and I wouldn't focus on Angrboda. I wasn't going to give anyone in Asgard something else to taunt me with, not even Sigyn. I didn't trust her with that. Angrboda was mine, and I refused to share her. But Sigyn was so genuine in her questions, and her encouragement given for the same reason she gave it to my sons and daughter. She wanted to make sure I could remember her. At some point, I started to let details slip in. Slowly at first, little things that would make no real difference," How Angrboda had despised sweets when he gave them to her for the first time, or how she had laughed at the way he gagged at the raw fish so common in the Jotun diet. That her one true vanity was her hair, which was so rare for a Jotun to have, and how she conjured gold to weave into it to make it more striking even when there was no one else to see it. Even how he had discovered she was ticklish, and how she had frozen him into a block of ice that took him a day to melt the first and only time he tried to use it to his advantage, "and then I found myself answering whatever she asked," The questions would come at the strangest times, sometimes related to the topic at hand and other times out of nowhere, "even the most inappropriate ones she came up with."
"She once asked me how Angrboda and I could be intimate without freezing me," he had been dressing for a meeting with his father and her sitting at the vanity combing her hair. She had thrown the question over her shoulder casually, and asked it in far more vulgar terms, "I asked her if she had a potential Frost Giant lover waiting in the closest and was asking for tips," they had gotten very good at teasing each other about such things. She hadn't even blushed when Loki gave her more of an inappropriate answer to question she asked.
"So why were you and your wife able to be intimate without freezing you?" Christine asked cheekily.
"Are you on the market for a Jotun lover then?" He was hoping to make her blush, but no red spread across her cheeks. She was far too much like Sigyn then. A shame, but at least she was easy with him again. How easily mortals were distracted. Though she could have just been hiding it in order to go on, "If you must know, the ability to cause frostbite with a touch is a defence mechanism. It's triggered by danger, otherwise doing everyday things like eating would be difficult."
Sigyn had just 'humphed' when he was finished explaining and went back to fixing her hair. She'd never asked that particular question again, but similar bedroom related ones had come up. Loki had half thought Sigyn had developed some sort of infatuation with Angrboda, as much as she asked about her in that context. It was a thought Loki found quite appealing, then and now.
"It came down to the treatment of your children, respect for your first wide, and a scary cruel streak. That's what won you over. What was the turning point on her end?"
Loki seeing to her former lover's death came to mind, but it kept that to himself, "Part of it was I didn't care to wield any power over her. She was free to do as she pleased, as long as she kept away from anything that would bring shame to the royal family. Honestly, I would have been perfectly fine with her doing things that would bring shame to the royal family, as long as she kept it in the shadows and wasn't discovered. I was willing to listen to her talk about her own past without judgement, or at least hid my judgement in order to keep the peace. Plus I can be charming if I wish to be," he gave her a sly smile, "it was only a matter of being friendly to each other long enough for us to become actual friends. She became my dearest friend after Thor. My mother was thrilled."
"Did you ever fall in love with her?"
"In love? No. I loved her a great deal, but it never became romantic. Even now, I've only ever loved Ang that way. It is a long time to carry a torch, but I do. I doubt the current me has enough good inside to have the ability to fall in love again. It seems Angrboda will always be the great love of my life. Maybe she really was right about our souls being connected."
Soul mates weren't real. They were nothing but fantasy thrown into stories to make the romantic leads more appealing. There was no basis in them in either magic or science. He'd never come across any proof they existed. Loki didn't really believe it, but oh how he wanted to.
"I think we truly reached a place of trust about a decade or so in. Over that time she had told me more about her past. She had a mother who died young and a father more concerned with rising his position than seeing to his only daughter's day to day happiness. She had a nanny for that, a strong woman who came to visit even after Sigyn was settled into a family of her own. There wasn't a tragic backstory, at least no more than many others. She was a well off girl who had no mother, a useless father, and was left in the care of a loving caregiver. Her mother died of an illness when she was an infant, so there was nothing there for her to miss. Frigrid, her keeper, was her mother in all the ways that mattered. She reacted to her father's distance by deciding that she didn't care about him or his opinions," Loki wished he'd taken her approach to his own father. If he'd been willing to let it go as Sigyn had, so many people would have been saved so much pain, "She was more of a free spirit, but not so much that it scandalized Asgard, at least not until Thoric. She preferred to be outside, and while she was passable at domestic tasks, she would rush through them to escape into the sunshine," He remembered so many days where she came back home after a day outside, fair skin red with a burn. He would always chide her as he used his magic to soothe and heal, and she'd just laugh and say unlike him, she had no fear of a little sunburn.
"You mentioned earlier she was a rider. Does that mean show riding? Does Asgard even have horse shows?"
"The fancy dressage does not happen on Asgard, but there are competitions for speed and jumping. Sigyn was a master at both, and she had won competitions before I married her. As a royal wife, such a thing would have seemed unseemly, though I wouldn't have stopped her. She decided to follow tradition in this matter, but wouldn't give it up completely. She decided to train and prepare horses for competitions. There was less obvious acclaim, but her horses won glory for their riders. Sigyn never had to break a horse. She merely had to make them love her enough to gracefully do as she asked. I think it might be another reason my paren- the king and queen pushed her to me. Her abilities as a horsewoman made her a suitable match for my family."
He and Sigyn had gone riding together once, and she had challenged him to a race. If she won, he would change his hair red to match hers for a year, and if he did, she would cut hers to her ears. They had been talking about the anniversary of Sif's haircut and how she had once again failed to find a way to turn the colour back to gold. Sigyn liked Sif about as much as Loki did, and was happy to snicker at the other woman's misfortune. Loki had taken her bet, sure he would win. Even though Loki rode fastest horse in the realms, Sigyn outmanoeuvred them to win. Though stunned at the upset, he wore red hair for a year so they matched. Perhaps that was there the mortals came to the idea he was a redhead, for all that he couldn't imagine how they'd even have heard of it.
"It was after one of those races where the horse Sigyn trained won. The rider was a young half-Vanir servant, who needed coin to go to Vanaheim to be with his father. He was a bonded servant, as was his Aesir mother, and he wanted to pay off their debt and leave Asgard behind. A non-Asgardian couldn't pay it off for them -it seemed too much like slavery I suppose, and that is illegal in Asgard- even if they're family. So this boy came up with a grand scheme to win the money, managed to sneak into the palace, and begged Sigyn to let him ride one of her horses."
He gave her a brief synopsis of the tale, how Sigyn had looked at the boy on his knees, a knife at his throat, courtesy of Hela, tilted her head in consideration, and said she'd do it. It left them all baffled, but Sigyn merely replied that someone determined and skilled enough to sneak into the palace and around Loki's wards was someone worth helping. Sigyn was a harsh trainer with him, because she trained him right along with the horse. Six months later, he had won his money and freedom. After the race, the boy had offered Sigyn whatever she liked. Sigyn had just smiled and told him the only payment she required was that he was to see that both he and her horse lived happily in their freedom."
"She let him take the horse?"
"They connected and Sigyn saw it would be unkind to separate them. She never considered the horses she kept to be her possessions. They were their own and she only held them for as long as they wished to stay."
"What happened to the two of them? The boy and the horse?"
"They're both still on Vanaheim, last time I was there. He became a stable master in a master's house and has a family of his own. The horse has stayed by his side and every year he honours Sigyn's memory with a prayer," Loki remembered how Sigyn blushed the first time she heard his prayer. She had not expected to be honoured so, but it delighted her, "He's why Sigyn is known as the Goddess of Lost Causes on Vanaheim," the boy, Loki, Loki's children...all of them lost causes, "It suits her better then the nonsense the Aesir saddled her with," a random thought occurred to him, and he voiced it because why not? "You know, I think this would make a very popular film. This is a genre you humans seem to love, yes?"
Her mouth opened, but she wasn't sure how to answer that, "I...you know what, I'm not even surprised you're that up on pop culture. Why wouldn't you be after all this time? May I ask when you have time to sit down and watch inspirational sports movies?"
"Latveria's castle is terribly boring and has a terrible cable package. His networks make for highly effective streaming services, however."
"So you sit around watching TV in Dr. Doom's castle in your free time. I did not see that coming."
"I can't be plotting all the time Ms. Everhart. I have to do something to kill time, and not even I can read for every moment of the day.”
"You really are more complicated than anyone thought, but in the most ridiculous ways. I'm half tempted to turn this into a fluff piece just so I have an excuse to share your movie recommendations with the world. That seems like a scoop no one will ever get," and she laughed at it all.
"Dark Comedies, in general. Fargo would be my first choice if I were to give a recommendation," he replied without pause, smirking at her look, "and I am more than willing to talk movies with you Ms. Everhart. Television, music, and books as well, if you'd like, though that is a conversation for another day."
"You know that's the second time you've mentioned another conversation. Both of those are wildly different tones. I am going to hold you to those interviews," she informed him.
"You seem sure you will be able to make me do anything," he commented, but in amusement, not anger.
"Would you have chosen me for this interview if I couldn't find a way to do just that?"
He enjoyed being around someone so confident, "Well I suppose it's a date then," was his reply, and she raised an eyebrow.
"Don't get ahead of yourself Mr. Silvertongue. We still have to get through this one first. Plus, you're not that charming."
"I could be," he grinned, showing off all his teeth.
"We were talking about your wife and her good deeds," she ignored his words and put them back on topic.
"Ah. The night of the race, the boy threw a party to celebrate his victory and freedom. As his benefactor, Sigyn was invited and I as her plus one. It wasn't an upper class feast, but in a tavern amongst the peasantry. It was much more fun, and Sigyn got spectacularly drunk. It turned out that she was a very happy drunk. I don't think I'd ever seen her so...silly. I had to stay sober, if only because someone had to carry her home," he had carried her bridal style back to their bedroom, and the irony wasn't lost on him. She had been giggling and singing tavern songs, "and once we were alone, she was a very open drunk. I managed to get her down to her more comfortable shift and was trying to talk her into laying down, when she grabbed onto my hands and quite sincerely told me she missed sex."
Christine choked on the sip of water she just drank, and if she asked, he would have easily admitted that the timing was intentional. The reporter was too busy coughing to do so, "Seriously?" She managed to get out, "The two of you still hadn't?"
"That particular aspect had not changed, though friendliness had made it possible for me to sleep in the bed instead of the sofa. That really was for the best, since Thor had a nasty habit of bursting into my bed chamber unannounced whenever he wanted something. It would have been terribly awkward if I was never in the bed, and he never would have kept his mouth shut, and then Sigyn and I would have Frigga trying to fix our perceived marital problems," Sigyn would have probably killed him, and the probably Thor for good measure, "And her sudden declaration had me stammering like an idiot. I hadn't been at such a loss for words in front of a woman since the first time Angrboda had given me a compliment. It was horribly embarrassing, and had Sigyn been able to remember it clearly, she would have mocked me for the rest of eternity. So there I was, stuttering out some sort of excuse how it was not the best time to renegotiate that, trying to find words that wouldn't offend her," he had never seen Sigyn cy and had no desire to start then, "I didn't need to worry. She realized I was talking about us and almost fell over she was laughing so hard. I believe her words were 'You? Not you! You're my friend! Don't be ridiculous'."
"Ouch. That must have hurt."
"My ego was very bruised and I sulked for a good few days. Though I was also rather relieved. At least she didn't get offended. Her reasoning was also rather amusing, looking back. The next day, she remembered only the highlights of the night before and was ashamed of what she said, and I was still glowering at her unintentional insult," it was the laughter that made it sting, "It made for a tense week, before she cornered me one night after the young ones were put to bed and Jor retired for the night, and told me we would behave like adults and talk about this. After I finished pouting and she pacing nervously, it was a surprisingly productive and calm conversation," For the first time in a long time, Loki learned something new about Sigyn, "I, along with everyone else, assumed her relationship with Thoric had been some forbidden love, but no. They had met through her cousin and they had a good rapport. Not quite friends, but enough that Sigyn was comfortable enough to take him to bed when he broached the subject. She had found some erotic books buried in a bookshop. They made her rather curious," after the conversation, Loki demanded she give him those books if she still had them, not because he was angry, but because he just had to know what was in them to make her react like that. It turned out they were filthy enough to make him blush and feel rather hot and uncomfortable, "I believe the term you use is friends with benefits. When they were caught, she was upset but wasn't opposed to marrying him save her honour, until he completely betrayed her. That hurt her, more then the shame of being caught."
"So she didn't want to risk that again by sleeping with another friend," Christine surmised, "and you were her friend more than her husband."
"Once my pride was soothed, I came to realize I was honoured to have her friendship so deeply. That didn't solve the problem brought up the week before, however."
"I'm assuming there wasn't a speciality shop on Asgard that she could just pop down to."
"Most certainly not. In another realm certainly or with a bit of conjuring, but that's not the first place a citizen of Asgard's mind would go. I also think a part of her desire had to do with contact," he gave a small shrug, "I've never been a very tactile person, even with people I love and care about. I had to train myself to be open and casual with my touch," since his fall, that had fallen away. He now had a hard time casually touching even his children, "So of course the only thing we could do was to decide to have...what's the term? An open marriage?"
She was no longer reacting in any sort of surprise at his scandalous topics, which was disappointing. It seemed his bit of embarrassment chaos had run its course. Oh well. "Yes, that is the term."
"It had to be discreet, of course. If either of us were found out, there would be Hel to pay. It would be disastrous, especially for Sigyn, after the reputation she already had. If I were found with a lover, I'd be shamed, but given more leeway. Well, for most people. If Frigga found out I broke my wedding vows she would have tossed me off the bifrost herself. Thankfully, I am very good at keeping things hidden," Sigyn not so much, but that's what she had him for, "and while I personally didn't indulge in our arrangement for a great number of years and kept to one time dalliances, Sigyn found one casual lover to be preferable. Someone she was a good acquaintance with, that she could trust enough to keep secrets, but she wouldn't necessarily call a friend. Someone who, if they betrayed her, wouldn't leave her feeling as gutted as Thoric had."
"Did it work out?"
"Yes, though it took time to sort out the details," those were some interesting conversations, he two of them had, heads bent together while they tried to find the perfect person for her to commit adultery with. In the end, Loki and Sigyn were right for each other in many ways, though in none of the ways Frigga would have approved of, "though it's best if I leave any further details secret. It's nothing personal, but if anyone in Asgard figured out who he was, he'd still be punished for sleeping with a married member of the royal family. Sigyn wouldn't want that," neither did he. Even if things were so utterly destroyed with everyone on Asgard, Loki had considered him a friend once, and the other man had made Sigyn happy.
Loki had been relieved when Sigyn had tentatively revealed who she had an attraction to. It made sense. Sigyn was his wife, which meant she spent time around his -Thor's- friends. She was more comfortable around them than Loki was, and Fandral was called the dashing for a reason. His and Sigyn's banter came naturally, and he saw the casual interest in Fandral's eyes when he thought no one was looking. For all that he had a reputation as a cad, he would not go try and seduce the wife of one of his companions. Besides that, Fandral stayed away from women who would be ruined if they were caught with him. Heart breaking was one thing, getting a woman killed by a jealous husband or offended father was completely different. More than that, Fandral could keep secrets. Fandral would never act on any attraction he had to her, at least until Loki took him aside and explained some things about his and Sigyn's marriage.
Fandral was literally speechless by the time Loki was finished. He stayed that way for a rather long time, and Loki waited. Finally, by the time the other man had spluttered out 'surely you jest', Loki was already informing him that Sigyn would search himself to discuss the matter shortly. He hadn't gone to give permission or to ask on Sigyn's behalf, merely to inform him that he was aware of the situation so Fandral wouldn't waste time being offended on Loki's behalf. Where the two of them went from there was up to him and Sigyn. As long as they were discreet, he didn't care.
"That's fine. I don't need more details then that. Though I have to admit that I am completely shocked that you're admitting this much personal information. Especially information of this nature. It could be considered embarrassing. Why?"
"Other then the fact my children will read this and be horribly embarrassed, which is my prerogative as a parent?" he could only imagine their faces. He sobered and looked away, gathering his thoughts, "It's because Sigyn deserves more. All that's left of her memory is this picture of a wet blanket who would mutely standby while our children were murdered. That is the only tale told of her, and it's a lie besides. Do you know what she would have done had I been responsible for her child's death? She would have held that bowl and let it fill up, just so she could have thrown it on my face at once to make it hurt more. She was more than that, and I want you to make sure that everyone knows that. She was so much more, and this was only one way she stood out. Who am I to hide that?"
Both his wives were complicated and real, and he didn't want them to be forgotten as anything else.
She nodded, "I have to ask about Sigyn and her lover- did they ever move past the set up?"
"Did they fall in love, do you mean?" She confirmed his question with a nod, "Not entirely, but I know they moved past their initial casual acquaintances. Perhaps if she had been free to, they would have. I didn't ask, but I know it was more, by the end," they had taken to what could only be summarised as dates, though that wasn't surprising, given Fandral's penchant for romanticism. The man still wrote sonnets to the mortal wife he had lost centuries before, as far as Loki knew. It had worried Sigyn, at first, that Loki would take offence, but he held her hands and promised as long as she was content, so was he, "I looked at her face, and I saw the same expression that had been on Angrboda's face as we slowly fell in love," a mix of confusion and creeping joy, an expression of being so far out of your depth, "It was foolish and illogical, because I was well aware that it would end badly. But Sigyn was my friend, and I wanted her to know how it felt to fall in love, to be loved in return in a way I would never love her. Even with the heartbreak and grief I suffered, I wouldn't trade my memories of Angrboda," Loki shook his head with a disgusted sigh, "I am foolishly sentimental, it seemed. It's utterly pathetic, I know, but it is how it is."
"It's not pathetic. You wanted your best friend to know falling in love. To a supervillain that might be pathetic, but to the rest of us, it's the sign of a good person, lurking in there somewhere. Deep, deep in there, in your case."
"Do you think I'm a good person Ms. Everhart?"
"No," she replied bluntly, "You're a terrible person. Maybe not completely evil, but pretty close. I think you haven't always been, but you are now, and I think you should be pitied for your past, but punished for what you've done, and some sob story isn't an excuse. But there's still something inside that you that's at least a little good, and it's a story worth telling anyway. It's why you're here right? To get me to write a sympathetic article to help you. If you keep insisting you're really completely evil after all, you're failing at your own plan."
"It seems you've already seen through me," not that he had been trying particularly hard to hide it, to be honest, "I don't see much point arguing either way, if you've already decided. This realm has already decided, and rightly so, I suppose."
"I'd think you'd be a bit more grateful, since my decision is seeming to fall more in your favour so far."
"Barely," he pointed out.
"Barely," she replied without flinching, "but it seems you're nothing compared to Asgard."
Loki snorted, "I believe that's the first time I've ever been judged more favourably than Asgard. Mortals," he half sneered, though there was no heat behind it. He found it...amusing, perhaps intriguing, how able these little mortals were so able to see so many shades of grey in everything. He had never seen any race in the Realms be able to find such nuance. Maybe it was their mortality that let them see past the absolutes of black and white that Asgard clung to. There was certainly more to them than he thought when he first stepped into their realm, though he hated to admit it. There was certainly more to this mortal, and he couldn't quite grasp how much he felt comfortable revealing to her.
"Back on topic. After you and Sigyn sorted things out, were you happy?"
"The fifteen years between then and Sigyn's death were the greatest ones I ever spent in Asgard. I still missed Angrboda and spent every day wishing I could turn back time and stop her from dying, but I was truly happy in a different way. Jorgamund was now a grown man in Asgard's eyes. He was too big to fit in the palace in his own form, so he had perfected his shapeshifting to be in Aesir form all the time, though the form he chose was actually Vanir, not Asgardian. He was making plans for his future. He took his learning seriously. Even as a child, he had been out little scholar. He wanted to travel to either Alfheim or Vanaheim to study further at one of their universities."
"What did he want to study?"
"Everything he could find. Physics, engineering, art, magical theory, anything. He was much like me, that he loved to learn for the sake of learning," Loki gave her a smile, "That he found a way to master one more area of study, even bound to this realm, doesn't surprise me. I was excited to send him off to continue his education, even if I would miss him terribly," Jor deserved so much more than he'd been given, what Loki had put on his shoulders. Loki wanted to finally set his son free to live his own life, "We were negotiating terms, because you cannot just send a royal prince into another realm for an education without agreements in place, but we were so close. Jor was excited and we were thrilled for him," how his son's Vanir face had shone, when he received the news he'd be able to put Asgard behind him.
"Hela was a young woman, by then just barely a grown one in Jotunheim's eyes. She couldn't have had a better mentor in how to embrace her feminine power then in Sigyn," Angrboda was good at many things, but using feminine wiles to her advantage was not one of them, "She taught Hela how to present herself, how to make others underestimate her in order to have the advantage. She was already showing her skills as a ruler, as someone who made her will known and have others obey it. Hela was already running circles around most because she was so quick with her words. She took part in many debates, and even those who feared her had to respect her skills. Had she been in one of your Midgardian schools, she probably would have been the captain of many of their orator teams. She was proud and confident of her skills, and it gave her something to focus on rather then how much she hated her appearance. No one had been able to make her see that there was nothing wrong with the way she looked, that she had no reason to be ashamed of it," they had no mirrors in their home, save for his and Sigyn's personal quarters. Hela couldn't bear to walk past them since she was a little girl, and Asgard's vocal opinion of her only made it worse, "I don't think I've ever seen Hela glow so, then the day she stood tall in the debate chambers after bringing Forsetti, God of Wisdom, to a draw on the topic of the place of Asgard's women in politics. It's why Odin made her a queen instead of trapping her like her brothers. He gave her a crown she would have eventually willingly taken, had she been given the choice and time. She would have been a spectacular queen, if only Odin hadn't forced it on her."
"Do you think she'd ever go back to rule that realm? Who's in charge of it now?"
"It is ruled by the ones who was there before her, a wise warrior who had the misfortune of dying in his bed of old age. As for her going back, I don't think so. She's happy here, far from Helheim," she would never leave as long as Stark was alive, for sure, "She will be content to rule Stark's company for a long while yet, I believe."
"Since Stark Industries has never been doing better, every shareholder will weep in relief to hear that. What about Mr. Barnes at that point?"
"When Fenrir first came to Asgard, once he realized his mother was never coming back, he had such rage. Even in Jotunheim, he had thrown mighty temper tantrums," Fenrir had always had Loki's anger, and suffered greatly for it, "as a pup, it was more irritating, but as he grew..."
"His size made him more destructive," She finished, and Loki nodded.
"When Sigyn came into our lives, he was already the size of a pony and he was still a small child. It came to a head on our honeymoon, when Fenrir destroyed an entire room over some small thing. I yelled in the aftermath, though Sigyn stayed silent. That was how it worked. I would scold and he would be ashamed, and then it would eventually happen again. I didn't recognize it as much of a problem, but Sigyn saw just how much of one it was. She realized it would only get worse and I dismissed it as a part of growing up. She refused to listen to me and began to find ways to cool Fenrir's anger when it came, and how to stop it from becoming so destructive. I remember overhearing them one night, Sigyn's soft voice saying 'there's nothing wrong with anger Little Wolf. Do not be ashamed to feel it. But you must stop reacting to it like that. Tell me, does it make you feel better? No? Then let's discover what does'. I slipped away then, knowing that she was right and trusting her with my child for the first time. I suppose that's the anger management you were speaking of earlier."
"Then I suppose I should have paid more attention to my wife's lessons, since they worked. Fenrir sometimes threw a fit, but any destruction was due to his size, not him lashing out. It was why he grew so fond of Sigyn so quickly. During those years he was happy. Even though he was young, his size made him the perfect wrestling partner for many of the warriors, especially Thor. They always seemed to regard him as a particularly smart dog, not as a sentient being in his own right,” Fenrir never noticed, and Loki made sure to keep it that way, “But they liked him most of all, since they could pretend he was a tame dog. Thinking back on it, I'm not surprised he became a warrior when he had the form to do so. Unlike Hela and Jor, he had no idea what he wanted for the future, had no one thing he was drawn to. Fenrir would jump from passion to passion, equally enthralled when he found something new. That was alright, because he was still a child. He had lots of time to figure that out."
"And what about you? Your wife was being romanced, two of your children planning their futures, and the other enjoying his childhood. What were you plotting?"
"Plotting? What a harsh word Ms. Everhart. I was doing no such thing," well mostly, "Besides my regular duties as Odinson and father, I had at least some reputation of mischief to keep up with, and Thor's group was always so fun to target. Sigyn helped me come up the best pranks," he smirked, "It might have had nothing to do with getting Miljoner from giants, but Thor did look fetching in a wedding dress," she laughed, "And besides that, I finally felt I could breathe again. After so many years of waiting for the axe to fall, of having worry gnaw at me, there was a sense of peace. I had spent so much time preparing for the worst that I hadn't focused on my magic outside teaching Hela. I still used it, of course, but I hadn't tried learning new, or even perfecting anything since..." since he lost his learning partner. Teaching himself felt so hollow for such a long time, after learning together with Angrboda after so long, "I decided it was time to finish our last efforts. World walking has always come naturally to me. I didn't even mean to the first time - I was running away after pulling a prank on Thor while a child, and the next thing I knew I was in a jungle on Midgard, screaming for Heimdall. It is an instant move for me, and I have to intentionally slow my molecules down the experience the journey through the void and the branches of Yggdrasil. I can take others with me, but only if they're in physical contact with me. If I let go, they would be stranded. Ang and I were finding a way to use my magic to open a temporary pathway independent of me. It was to prepare for future family vacations we never got to take. That's what I spent my free time doing, succeeding," he had never used it until the moment he allowed the Jontar into Asgard and started the whole downward spiral that led them here.
"Through it all, Fenrir kept growing. Eventually, he couldn't comfortably fit in the rooms of the palace. We needed to move him somewhere bigger, so I had a new wing built, just outside ours. And yes, eventually very cruel comments about him being sent to a dog house got thrown about. At the time, Fenrir took it as a sign that he was quite grown up, so refused to allow either Sigyn or I to move in to watch over him. All of us were invited to many sleepovers, however," Loki smiled, remembering Fenrir's forced casualness when he invited them over the first time, only a week after moving in, not because he was scared or lonely, but because he had a duty to show hospitality, "He was not gone, not even close to being so, and we saw him every day, but..."
"You still felt the empty nest syndrome kicking in, and I'm going to guess Jorgamund's impending move only made it worse."
"Yes. We both missed Fenrir's rambunctious presence around us at all hours. Sigyn grew quite forlorn," for a woman who only felt apathy for his children in the beginning, she grew to love them fiercely, "I remember she sighed one night and said she wished they could have stayed young for a little bit longer. I don't know why I said it, or even where the idea came from, but my response was the blurt out that she should try for a child of her own. The moment those words were out of my mouth, I panicked," Sigyn dropped her plate and turned to stare at him, mouth hanging open, "I started babbling about not meaning that her stepchildren were any less hers, or that if she had a child I wouldn't be a father to them," Sigyn's eyes had widened even further, "or of course I was mostly commenting that we could adopt, if she wished it. Adopting a child into the royal family would be a hassle," unless he were to walk into another realm and kidnap the infant child of the enemy, apparently, "but I was not opposed to the idea. I would not mind being a father again," And he wouldn't have, though he didn't truly realize it until months later, when he felt movement beneath the skin of Sigyn's heavy stomach.
"That must have gone over well."
"She quietly excused herself and fled, and I broke out my store of Vanaheim wine and drank until I blacked out," thank the Norns for Asgard's hangover cure, "When I pulled myself out of bed the next day, Sigyn was waiting nervously. She very quietly asked me if I was serious."
Sigyn hadn't met his eyes and was chewing on her lower lip when she asked it, and it was Loki's turn to have his mouth fall open in shock. When he was finally able to speak, it was a squeaky 'truly'. Then Sigyn began to rush out her words.
"I'll spare you the details of that long conversation, but be assured there was much blushing and stuttering before we came to the abrupt conclusion we were going to have a child. We didn't actually decide how we were going to do that, only that we were. It took many other conversations to decide what we would do. She wished to have a child of her own body, if possible. She would need some magical healing assistance because of an accident when she was younger that left it impossible to conceive on her own," probably another reason Odin decided to make him marry her, "Healing has always been my weakest magic," no matter how much Frigga and Eir had tried to help him improve it, "Sigyn had to put her trust in the royal healers," perhaps they could have actually saved her, if they knew the actual dangers to protect her from, "My concern was finding a spell to make sure the child didn't come out blonde," if any child came out with Fandral's colouring, no one would ever believe the child was Loki's. Red hair would be fine, black preferable. He had a few ideas, but wasn't sure if it was safe for either Sigyn or a potential child, "It seemed I did not need to worry about that."
Sigyn had shocked him when she sincerely told him if she were to have a child, she would only have one with him. At first Loki assumed she worried he would be distant with children were not his by blood, and hastened to assure her he'd never do that. Sigyn had smiled and patted his cheek, saying 'of course you'd love them as your own. It's not you Husband. I'm not cruel enough to bare another man's child and then deny him that child'. Loki thought about it, remembered one night, long ago, when a drunk Fandral had lamented that he and his Marian had never been blessed with the children they desired, and Loki agreed.
"We saw Eir, put fertility spells in place and it didn't take long for her to become pregnant," it was so awkward, at first, and for all their respective experience, they had been like fumbling teenagers together. Eventually, they both had to laugh at themselves, and their nights grew more relaxed and more enjoyable, "Everyone was thrilled," he had spun Sigyn around in joy once they had it confirmed, and she had shouted in excitement, “My mother was floating on air and my brother jumping in excitement, as though my other children didn't exist. I was too happy to care as much as I should have. At first my children were shocked, but then grew excited. Hela wished have a sister, Fenrir was excited to no longer be the youngest, and the other two looked forward to simply being a brother again, and not a partial caretaker. Sigyn's family was happy as well, though she still refused to talk to most of them for forcing her to marry me. Frigrid cried tears of joy and moved into our wing of the palace to help when we saw Sigyn was having a hard time."
Loki wouldn't let himself remember how Sigyn's rosy glow slowly drained to the white of someone who hadn't seen the sun in years. He refused to picture how her plump body had turned emancipated as the pregnancy dragged on, with only her round stomach keeping her from looking like a skeleton. He refused to be haunted by it again.
"The only one who wasn't overjoyed was Odin. Oh, he made a good show of it, said everything correctly, but I could see the apprehension. I thought it was because I was once again added to the line of succession while Thor remained heirless. If I was in a more giving mood, I assumed he was worried about Sigyn's health. He insisted she be cared for by the head healer personally and monitored closely. We just thought he was over anxious because Sigyn needed to spells to allow this," Loki remembered Frigga scolding Odin playfully, telling him to stop fussing so much, that Sigyn was not the first to use such a means to carry a child. It was a tad more risky, but far from dangerous.
"There was something he wasn't tell you," the reporter guessed, "and it was very dangerous."
"Yes," and once again Loki had the waitress bring him cheap alcohol. He didn't even remember how many he'd had, but the waitress was giving a very concerned look. He ignored her, "Something very important. The races of giants are connected to their realms in a way that the rest aren't. They were not created as sentient beings or evolved into them. They were crafted from the realm itself, the Jontar from the ice of Jotunheim and the Fire Giants from the lava of Muspelheim. The legend, as Angrboda told it," how many times had he gotten lost in her voice while she told him a story? "In the beginning, Jotunheim was empty. This displeased the creator of the Nine, who took a handful of snow and shaped it into the first Frost Giant. It was a female, who he then left to her own devices. She grew lonely and called the ice to shape a mate, the first male. They had children, and the race of the Jontar was born. There's no proof that it's true, of course, but it shows one truth- the power of Jotunheim itself, which runs through every Frost Giant, it is through a mother's line that it passes. Jotunheim is not a matriarchy by any means, but the fact women are the reason the Jontar exist is an indisputable fact. They are honoured for it, and because only a Frost Giant woman can safely pass that power on."
It clicked, and Christine's face contorted in horror when she realized what this had to mean, "But a non- Frost Giant couldn't. Sigyn couldn't."
He shook his head, teeth grit when he remembered the moment he realized that Sigyn was dead because he was Jotun. It was only hours after he found out the truth, and his already fractured mind broke. Sigyn died because of Jotunheim, therefore Jotunheim needed to be destroyed, "No she couldn't. When Angrboda was pregnant and we both thought I was Aesir, it was fine. Jotun women can bare half breeds. Jotun men, however, cannot sire them. The mothers wouldn't survive it..." he choked out the last bit, "and neither will the child. And Sigyn was carrying two."
They had been so happy when they found out they would have twins. It was a rare blessing in Asgard. They both thought the Norns were smiling on them. Loki should have known better. Instead, it meant Sigyn died quicker and in more pain.
"She was fine, besides some extreme morning sickness, until the seventh month. Then, one day, she collapsed in the stables. From that moment, she worsened at a rapid pace. It was terrifying and we were desperate, but no one could figure out why. The spells to help her carry were still in place and strong, but nothing we did would stop her from dying," they hadn't used the word at the time, but that's what it was, "By the time a month passed, the healers decided that the only way to even hope to save Sigyn was to induce labour. She was far enough along that it would be safe enough for the twins," Sigyn had been so gone with pain that the decision fell on Loki. He didn't remember actually agreeing, he was so caught up in his panic. He must have agreed, or maybe someone said yes for him.
What he did remember was Sigyn's screams, the way she called his name only once, as he stood outside the birthing chamber. They wouldn't let him in, his brother kept him back, but he wanted to go to her. He had been there for Angrboda, he should be there for Sigyn as well. There was only one balm, and that was it didn't last long. It only took ten minutes for Sigyn to die, begging for the pain to stop. When her screams finally stopped, there was silence. No sounds of infants followed, and Loki knew. It was too silent, and finally he barrelled into the room.
Loki had been on battlefields and seen death. He saw Angrboda's body, chest caved in. Yet when he walked into the room, the amount of blood sent him to his knees. He couldn't look at Sigyn's body, not when he saw the twisted look of agony still on her face. It was then he looked to the midwife, who looked at him in pity, an unmoving infant in her arms. Her assistant was quickly wrapping the second in a cloth, unable to meet his eyes. Loki didn't remember after her soft 'I'm sorry your highness'. Loki was under the impression he blacked out.
Loki told the reporter all this in a clipped voice, unwilling to let his emotions take control of him again, "I was a widower once again, anither wife dead because of Odin's secrets, and this time with two sons lost with their mother."
Christine was quiet for a long time, letting him process his emotions. Abruptly, Loki realized his hands were shaking with unleashed emotions. She waited until he stopped trembling before she asked in a quiet voice, "If you'd known that you were Jotun, could the doctors have saved her?"
"I don't know," he whispered, and the same regrets and pain from all those years ago made his chest burn, "but if we knew what I was, we could have at least tried. We could have sent for a healer from Jotunheim, and maybe could have known something. We tried practically everything we could to save them," healers from other realms, powerful magic from every powerful mage in Asgard, "except the one thing that could have worked. Odin held back the one fact that could have possibly done anything. He didn't want my wife to die, but he was willing to sacrifice her and my children to keep his secrets."
And Loki still didn't know why. He couldn't understand Odin's plan for him, no matter how hard he tried. Keeping a discarded child would not make a good political hostage. Putting him on Jotunheim's throne and having him be a puppet king would have worked better when he was younger and easier to manipulate. Why not keep him as an obvious war prize, or at least a political hostage? Why not keep him an obvious symbol of Asgard's superiority? Why?
"I'm sorry," she had told him that so many times he wondered how she wasn't numb to his grief by now, "What happened in the aftermath?"
"Asgard mourned. They grew to love Sigyn over the years, and they even liked me more because of her. She was popular because she was more relatable than all of us, even more than Thor. She had a funeral worthy of her status, our sons gathered in her arms. Her ship was launched into the void and we all wept," He could barely stand, it hurt too much. Only Thor's arms kept him up. Hela was sobbing in Jorgamund's arms, Fenrir leaning into her, whimpering.
"Sigyn's death hit me harder than Angrboda's for all that I loved her differently and with more of myself, but because my children died with her. And then it was because I knew," too much, "and I had grief piled upon grief. Angrboda's death was too shocking to hit me in the same way, I think. At first I had Asgard's pity. They saw my open grief and it moved them," it was bitter, when the same reaction to Angrboda's death made them all mock him, "but eventually they remembered that they hated me. It didn't take them long to find a way to blame me," and they weren't wrong, though they could not understand why. It was Loki's monsterness that killed her, "I had lain with a Jotun, sired children with her, so of course the Norns would punish me for daring to try again with an Aesir, for tainting Sigyn with my spawn- their words, not mine. My sins killed her, even if I had nothing to do with the marriage. How quickly they forgot I protested the marriage, how Odin had forced it on me. It was my fault," Frigrid was the first spit the curses and point a finger at him. Loki couldn't blame her, no matter how angry he should have been.
"Then it got worse. They decided that it could not only be my fault. Surely raising monsters would put a strain on any woman. My children must have done something to cause her death, probably on purpose. Hela could have used magic to harm her, or even something as simple as poison. Jor was a snake, and for all they knew he was venomous. They were jealous or threatened that they would be thrown aside for their perfect brothers. Of course they would do something, the monsters they were."
Christine was silent, biting down on her lip. It was possible she was trying to stop herself from speaking. She looked angry and he was glad for it. His voice was dead by now, because by this point in the story his anger had burned out. There was nothing left but the hole of mourning and desolation.
"All of the scorn before, it was nothing compared to this. Not even I could stop them from hearing it all, not until I locked them away. They wanted to despise me for keeping them away, but they couldn't hear it anymore. Jor wouldn't go out in a noticeable form, only those innocuous animals. Hela began to cower again," How many mornings had he found her huddled in the corner of her room, hands over her ears as though she could block out the words she knew were being spoken somewhere, "Fenrir wouldn't stay, would go to where those words would be told to him directly. He wanted to fight, to give into his rage. He no longer cared about controlling his anger. He gave into it. We barely made it a year after Sigyn's death and everything was burning down around us."
"I hadn't realized how badly Ms. Potts downplayed everything. I suspected, but I never thought it was psychological torture."
They didn't have that concept on Asgard. Torture was only physical pain. To bring someone to madness with only words was a sign on weakness on the part of the victim, "Yes. That's what it was, wasn't it? I also thought it was Asgard trying to break us all. They would have done it, so I knew we had to leave. Jorgamund would lose himself, Hela would curl into herself, and Fenrir would kill someone if we didn't get away."
"What about you?"
Loki didn't have to think about his answer, "I'd have done all three."
She nodded absently, though there was no surprise on her face.
"I went to the Allfather and begged him on my knees to let us leave. He agreed, far too quickly in hindsight. We'd go to Vanaheim, like Jorgamund planned to do anyway. I had to go ask, but I knew the king would allow it if Odin gave his agreement. I went automatically, and Odin insisted that Thor and his friends had to come with me. I didn't find it strange then, because my mind was elsewhere and I was in a hurry. We went within an hour. Hela was in her room and I kissed her goodbye. Fenrir wouldn't speak to me after some fight so I left him alone. I couldn't find Jor. I told Hela that it was a diplomatic visit to Alfheim and I might be awhile, so to keep any hint of what I was really doing, in case it all fell through. I asked her to tell her brothers if she saw them."
"This is when they took them, isn't it?"
"The king of Vanaheim agreed, but insisted we stay for dinner. I thought he was involved in the scheme at first, but now believe he was innocent of any wrongdoing. The Vanir would not harm children, no matter their shape. He was an unwilling accomplice. When he agreed, it was like a weight had been lifted. I felt joy and relief for the first time since Sigyn got sick. We were almost free. I smiled when an emotional Thor clapped me on the shoulder and proclaimed he would miss me but was happy that I would have time to heal. His friends were glad for me," mostly glad to see him gone, but he'd take it. This was the moment, Loki decided, that his friendship with Fandral ended. It was when Loki could openly mourn Sigyn and Fandral had to hide it, "We stayed until nightfall, and I felt happier. Not truly happy, but at least closer to it. When we returned to Asgard, I had every intention of rushing to my children and telling them we would leave the next day. I barely left Heimdall's observatory when there was a burst of silver light, and then darkness. The same spell Odin used to stop me from resurrecting Angrboda. I woke up in my bed the same as the last time, though this time I was chained to it in magic dampening cuffs. Frigga wasn't there to soothe me, but Odin there to explain."
He set the scene for her, of how Odin had stood above him, unwilling to look him in the eyes as he told him what he had done. Odin's voice was emotionless and steady, and Loki was shocked. He felt horror as his father described that Jorgamund was trapped in the seas, Hela thrust upon the throne of Helheim, and Fenrir bound on the edges of Asgard. Odin explained the reasons, but Loki didn't process them. All he could do was struggle and try to break away.
"I begged him to free them, said I would do whatever he wished. If someone needed to be punished, to take me instead. Kill me, if he wanted to, just free them. He would not."
"But why, if you were leaving Asgard? You were a day away from being gone forever? Why not just wait for you to leave, instead of hurting you like that?"
"Because he wanted them gone, and not somewhere I could be with them, just like he had with Angrboda. He wouldn't have their death on his conscience, but he could live with the guilt of banishing them. With them there, I would always be tied to Jotunheim. I could always be drawn back there, so there was always a risk I could find the truth. Fenrir's attacks just gave the excuse Asgard was already looking for."
"Did he think you'd just forget them? That them being gone would make you stop loving them?"
"I suppose he thought without them there he could bend me to his will with more ease," He was right, Loki acknowledged bitterly, "I had gotten over his betrayals before, why not this time?" Loki was a father himself, which made Loki truly question how the Allfather truly felt in the role. Loki now knew he was horrible, but he wondered if Odin knew himself to be.
"What did you do after he refused?"
"My begging turned to curses. I spit vile at him, telling him I would kill him if he didn't bring them back to me," Odin hadn't flinched, but Loki had seen a brief flash of emotion in his eyes, but he didn't know if it was anger or guilt, "I promised him I wouldn't let him do this, that I would find them and take them away, that he'd never see me again. He then informed me I couldn't. He had put a spell on me. It was a binding spell, tailored to my magic. It prevented me from searching for ways around the spells. If I made a move to even think about ways to counter what Odin did, I was struck by a migraine so severe I passed out. I blacked out many times in those first two weeks I was tied to my bed."
Once Loki had screamed himself hoarse, Odin had given him a gentle 'I'm sorry my son' and left him alone with his grief, "Two wives dead and two sons the same, and then three others kidnapped and imprisoned. To be in my family was quite deadly, it turned out," all but his adopted one, "When Thor found out, he rushed to tell me that none of the ones who accompanied me to Vanaheim knew what was happening. He would have stopped it, or at least postponed it until I was there, if he knew. He promised me he would speak to Father, make him change his mind," Loki scoffed, "He tried, for all of one conversation. He yelled and cursed, but Odin gave him some excuse or another, and Thor believed Odin knew best. Just as he always did. My bro- Thor tried to cheer me up by saying perhaps if I waited for a bit, Fa- Odin would be willing to release them to Vanaheim with me. As though they were toys taken away as punishment, not sentient beings that could suffer. I snarled and told him to leave my room and never come back. Thor protested, but Frigga was brought by my angry screams, and she forced Thor to comply. Mot- Frigga's voice was hollow, but at least she made no promises she couldn't keep. She merely held my hand and told me Odin did everything for a reason and it would turn out to be for the best."
"That is very manipulative gas lighting. You've talked a lot of Odin's abusive parenting and the way Thor let you down, but you skim over the negatives your mother did. Do you give her any of the blame?"
"Yes," he answered, despite how wrong it felt, "Probably not as much as I should. At least I know she would never plan such a thing," only defend it afterwards, he thought with a sick stomach.
He could see she wasn't satisfied with his answer by her frown and pursed lips, but she pushed no further. She must have realized that that was a topic that he would fight her on and then decided he was going through enough pain already for her to write a compelling story, and he had even more to go.
"Once I finally escaped my chains, I left Asgard, as I already said. I went to Alfheim and stayed there, and how I returned and let Asgard pretend they hadn't taken almost everything. All I could do was pretend," it was only to Odin he had snarled the truth, only once, when Odin asked him if he was well. Loki looked him dead in the eye and hissed 'no' before storming away. Odin didn't ask again, "and wait for Amora to find a way. When she did, I moved. It was a loophole Odin hadn't thought of, because he never thought anyone would aid me. I was unable to search for ways to free them, but once someone explained that knowledge to me, there was nothing stopping me."
He went to Hela first. I was a matter of blocking the spells placed on the bracelets -cuffs- on her wrist and world walking them both to Midgard. He left her there, standing alone on a beach in Midgard, shivering and scared. He went to Fenrir next, and he was the hardest to free. The spells on the chains were debilitating and the chains themselves crafted by the Dwarves of their strongest metals. After braking the spells, Loki still had to saw through the chains. He managed to cut only enough for Fenrir to squeeze through, and it broke his body. They couldn't world walk from there because of the blockers Odin put in place, so Fenrir had to walk kilometres on his broken bones. Loki didn't dare stop to heal him on Asgard. Only when they got to Midgard did he fix his son, and then left him and Hela sobbing together. Finally, he swam to the depths of the ocean in his serpent form. The deeper he got, the more he was horrified. It was so dark and cold, and surely no one could survive alone there without losing their mind. Loki wasn't sure if Jorgamund knew how close he was to that. Jor had the strongest spells around him, but it was hard to cage a shapeshifter. Once the spells were scattered, they rose and Jorgamund took a human form that looked like a younger version of his Vanir one.
"I covered them in magic to hide them and make Midgardian eyes pass over them if they wished. It gave them a mortal identity. It was all I could do. They would have to figure out how to survive from there on their own. We said our goodbyes, and I left them in different parts of Midgard, so even if Odin found one, he couldn't find the other two. I placed Fenrir in a city in America, Hela in the fjords of Norway, and Jor along the Yangtze River in China. Then I left and didn't look back. I only had news of them once, when Amora slipped down to Midgard to check on them. I emptied most of my magic into her so she had the power to find them. She met them one by one, introduced herself and promised that I was well. That was it." Amora had told him that she liked them all, and it made her sad she couldn't actually gotten to properly deal with them. Given how hated they were in general, he might have adored Amora a little more from that point on.
He wanted to, so many times. He had wanted to look, to return and try and find them, but Loki stopped himself. He would only be putting them in danger. He had to keep them safe, and the best he could do was only send Amora that one time, "I worried they would spiral downwards, to continue falling apart without me to patch them together. That they've all survived, all thrived, here makes me weep for joy every time I remember it."
"Why didn't you search for them after you landed on Earth? I doubt you cared about Asgard's respect by then. Wouldn't you have been stronger together?"
"Yes, but I was a wanted man on three realms. I'd be painting an even bigger target on their backs. They needed to be separate from me more than ever, and I wasn't going to risk knowing their locations. There are ways to rip such information from a mind," it was a miracle he hadn't learned of Hela sooner. He was thankful he'd never paid much attention to Midgard businesses or dive too deep into the personal lives of the Avengers, otherwise he would have seen who Pepper Potts was instantly. He was amazed he hadn't seen it, given he had settled into his life on Midgard fairly quickly. Fenrir was also famous, but at least he had been relegated to history. Perhaps the Norns had finally favoured him after all, "and more than that, I didn't want to face them, to look in their eyes and see the disgust and shame of what I've become," because under all his arrogance and bravado, Loki knew he deserved it.
"Did they react that way?"
The relief flooded him all over again, the same as it had at each of those meetings, "They are kinder than I deserve, so no. They do not approve at all and want me to face justice for it," Loki didn't particularly desire to do so, but he would submit himself to some Midgardian prison and pretend to repent. He could fake it well enough to put the mortals at ease, "but they've also seen how I've suffered, and perhaps that makes them far too forgiving. It's a blind spot certainly, but they still love me," there was no disgust or condemnation, only love and pity, "and that's more than I can say I'm worthy of."
"So you've talked to them all," She said with a spark, "Not just Ms. Potts."
Shocked, Loki realized she had trapped him. His meetings with Fenrir and Jorgamund had been unknown to but a handful, and he had meant to keep it that way. Having the heroes allow him an escape not only once, but three times? It would throw suspicion on them. How had she taken him by such surprise? He considered his options. He could try and lie his way out, to turn his words into something innocent. He didn't think she'd accept that, and if he tried, it could turn her against him. He couldn't have that, so he did something that made him shift in his seat in discomfort.
Loki told the truth, "Yes, briefly. One meeting with each. I believe Stark referred to them as a freebie for each of them. The Captain said it was more for their sake then mine. I have avoided them all since then," and oh how he wished he could go back, to have them within touching distance again, and to just hear them talk and share their joys and sorrows over the past three hundred years, "it puts them in too terrible a position, and I will not ask them to betray their morals for me."
"Could anyone even catch you, if you didn't allow it?" She asked him, fishing again. Loki saw it this time, and replied with half truths and veiled words.
"Some could catch me against my will," Asgard, but he didn't specify, "others perhaps could, if they were to take me off guard," the Avengers had before, that first time, but Loki knew better then to underestimate them now. It was worrisome that he could possibly add another magic user to the list, with Jorgamund's little wizard friend. It had startled him, realizing just how powerful the mortal was, and the realization that if Loki didn't anticipate him coming, Strange could overwhelm him, if only for a bit. He was working on ways to stop that from ever happening, "Catching me is not the problem Ms. Everhart, it's keeping me."
"That was a vague and evasive answer. Let's try this again. It's become pretty clear that you're more powerful than you've shown us. All your claims can't be arrogance, though I'm sure a good part of it is. If you wanted to take over Earth, could you?"
If Asgard did not interfere and he was given enough time to play the long game? The chances were in his favour, "I would like to think so," he smirked, "not at first, but I believe I've come to understand Midgard's weaknesses by now. I've just decided that Midgard is better as a...playground then a kingdom to rule. I told Thor I never wanted a throne when we fought over Asgard's, and I was only half lying. I wanted the prestige and respect that one would give me, not the crown itself," He couldn't imagine actually ruling, being chained to one realm for the rest of his days. When some sort of political intrigue came and he could scheme, now that would be fun. But when there was nothing but peace? How boring. He'd have to find some way to fill the time, but even that would run its course. Midgard would be more chaotic, but there would always be rebellions to quell and mortals to put in their place. It would get tedious, and what would he ever have any time to do anything fun? No, he didn't want to chain himself to any throne.
"Then why did you come to New York with an army, telling humanity to bow down before you? That sounds like a narcissist begging to dominate someone to make themselves feel better."
He almost snapped at the insult, but held it back. After her trick earlier, he was on watch for her probing. Instead he replied, "I was....not particularly keen on that invasion. It was over the top, even for me," and when Loki thought something was gaudy, you knew you'd gone too far, "I would have come silently and revealed myself when my traps were in place, if it had been my choice. I'd make a grand show of it," he did love to make people kneel, "but only when I knew I'd have the upper hand."
"So why the alien army?" She pushed, and he knew she wouldn't back down. He would have to give her something.
"Their master wished it," he said, and her eyes widened, "Did you think the Chitauri were my monsters? They were merely on loan, to be used how I was told to," Thanos did not go with subtly. He may have preached of so called good intentions, but his ego would always demand he flaunt his power. Loki's half hearted plea to do it his way was ignored, so Loki swallowed his misgivings and decided to go all in. He would do what the Titan wanted, and be glorious doing it. Or at least that had been the plan, one he had failed spectacularly. The shame of being beaten by mortals still burned, and the fact that Thor had been there to witness it only made it so much worse. The only way he could console himself was that his failure set Thanos back in his own plans. Then Loki remembered what Thanos would do to him if he was ever caught again, and he shuddered. He had to force those thoughts away, least he set off a panic attack.
"Are you saying you were brainwashed into attacking Earth?" The reporter asked sceptically.
Once again, he could lie. He was tempted to. It would forgive so much, if he could paint himself as a helpless tool of a greater evil, at least in that first invasion. Not everyone would believe him, but many would. But if they found out he lied, then they'd turn against him and his children even more, "No, I was...persuaded, but was not forced. I was found in the void, plucked out of my never ending fall," the unending silence and cold, like Jorgamund's sea prison, but without even the comfort of the pressure of water around him. His madness had been complete by then, and he laughed when one of Thanos's minions began its torture. After so long without touch, even pain was sweet, "I was powerful and he would never pass up the opportunity to find himself a new tool. I had to be broken to his will first, but I've grown used to pain over the years. I would not submit and I would not be his lackey. He grew tired," burning, bleeding, skin pulling away under sharp blades. The relief that he was feeling anything at all passed, and Loki screamed. The brief gentleness in between the pain, soothing touches and soft words used to keep him off balanced were worse. Gentleness was his undoing every time, "and told me I would come to Midgard and take it or I would die. I traded your world for my life," and he did not regret it and would not apologize for it. It was better him than Thanos. No matter how many mortals died, it was nothing to what Thanos would have done, "and if you knew what he would have wrought, you'd thank me. He has no intention of ruling, only death, and I had every intention of being a benevolent ruler," the prove himself to Odin (still), to be powerful enough to bring his children out of hiding, to provide some protection to his newly conquered realm when Thanos did come, to gain the respect and adoration of the mortals so below him.
"You're not really making that excuse," She sneered at him in disgust. There was angry fire in her eyes.
"That's where you're wrong Ms. Everhart- I'm not making an excuse, merely stating a fact. Believe it or not, I don't care. My success would have given this realm some protection and my failure has caused him to look elsewhere," For now. The Space Stone was no longer on Midgard and Loki had thrown the Mind Stone to the opposite end of the universe. After Malekith had attempted to unleash the Reality Stone and Thor had so stupidly left it in Svartalfheim in order to save his mortal, Loki had snuck into the realm and stolen it away. He'd taken it to Knowhere, assuming one of the elders of the universe could keep it marginally safe. He had thought everything safe, with only the Space Stone left close by in Asgard, and it shocked him to find out the Time Stone hung around Jor's wizard's neck. He hadn't figured how to dispose of it yet, and assumed if he told the truth, the doctor would just hold it closer. Loki wanted it far away, so Thanos would be too busy chasing them to turn his attention to Earth, at least for the foreseeable future. It was disconcerting, how many Infinity Stones had ended up in the Nine Realms. It had the feel of fate, and Loki hated when destiny came into play, "I will admit that everything post my initial invasion was completely my choice. I gleefully made the decision to stay and cause trouble. I haven't tried my hand at conquering in a long time, but I have never hesitated in using human lives to assuage my anger or boredom. I am not good and it will not change. I can stop doing evil actions and even show repentance if asked. For the majority of mortals, it's never been personal. I can act well, if I have to, and will do so if required. But don't mistake those intentions with a desire to redeem myself. I am not seeking redemption, and don't need or care for it. I am here to protect my children. They have nothing to do with my immorality and should not be judged for it. I'm not naive enough to think they won't be, so this -bearing my soul, dragging up pain that will haunt me again- is for them."
Christine looked at him levelly, before turning away to take a long breath. She was still angry, he could see, but controlling it. The reporter despised what he had just told her, perhaps despised him for the sentiment, but wouldn't let it get the best of her. She would see this interview through and then reap the benefits of it afterwards, even if it left a sour taste in her mouth.
"I assumed as much," she finally replied evenly, "and I will make that point very clear in my article," she would not write a sympathetic piece just because she possibly pitied him and he desired it. That was her declaration to him that he wouldn't manipulate her, "But I noticed you never said the name of the being who gave you the army."
"Names have power Ms. Everhart. I'd rather not risk having his attention drawn here by using it," and he was terrified of him, but Loki couldn't quite bring himself to admit that to anyone, "but as of right now we don't have to worry," yes they did. With Thanos they always had to fear him, "He didn't want to rule Midgard, only offered it to me like a carrot on a stick. There was an item he wanted me to retrieve, and it has been removed from the realm since then. He had no reason to come here," Yet. As long as the Time Stone was here, Thanos would come eventually, "and I have contacts throughout the galaxies who will tell me if his gaze turns this way again," Loki dreaded that day, hoped it was centuries for now.
"And if he does come?"
Loki cracked a smile, "Then of course your heroes will rally together and defeat him of course, as they are wont to do. I will even join in and fight along with them for this," Loki was terrified of Thanos, but hated him more. He'd take a chance to pay back even some of the pain Thanos had given to him. Loki had no idea how they could defeat the Mad Titan, no matter what plans he came up with. But that was a fear and a problem for another day," though assumed dire warnings of the future aren't why I'm here, is it? Where was I again?"
"You just returned to Asgard after hiding your children on Earth."
"I continued living as I had while waiting to free them- like they never existed. After awhile, it almost seemed like they didn't. I'd wake up some mornings and wonder if it was all a dream. There was nothing left of them, even Sigyn. I couldn't help but feel that it was all a dream," or a nightmare, depending on the day, "It made it easier, not to forget, but to put it in the back of my mind. I suppose it was like how one works through grief, though it wasn't healthy like it should have been. Perhaps if Jorgamund, Hela and Fenrir had been truly dead, I could have mourned properly and found a way to live again. As it were, it was like putting a band aid over an infected wound. It might keep further dirt off the wound, but it would do nothing to heal it."
"How about the relationship with your adopted family?"
"I clung to Thor more than I ever had before," needy was the perfect word, "there was rarely a shadow of true judgement in his eyes, and I needed it. Thor is always good at lightening the mood, of chasing away dark thoughts. It was hard to brood, when Thor turned his brightness on you. I needed that if I wanted to stay sane. My mother's gentleness is why I can't blame her, even if she had to be involved with taking them. At the very least she did nothing to try and reverse Odin's decision. As for Odin," Loki was ashamed of this, so ashamed, "I longed for approval before, but I became desperate for it. Maybe I hoped if he was proud enough of me, if he trusted me as he did Thor, he'd let them come back. If I was worthy enough to become king, then it would be the first order I made. My wives and almost all my children were gone, so I clung to the only family I had left. I needed my parents and brother more than I ever had since I was a child. It's when I should have hated them most that I wanted their love and pride the most."
"Did you really think Odin would make you king?" There was no intentional bite in her question, but it still stung.
"No, my logic told me he never would, but my hope wouldn't be dashed. I am a fool."
"Am?" She caught the tense and Loki once again stumbled.
"Am," he conceded, looking away, "I still wish he would think I would be a good king, worthiness be damned. It seems it's very hard to stop seeking approval from someone you've been desperate to get it from for a thousand years. It's almost funny, looking back and realizing how hopeless it was. No matter what I did, it was pointless. I could have been the perfect son and it would never matter. I would always be more than the discarded Jotun runt. Even if my pare- the king and queen had loved me as much as Thor, I could never be king," he remembered the conversation, and it seemed so long ago, "they could never have a monster sitting on the throne of Asgard. Does it make it better or worse? I can never decide."
"We've heard at least parts of this story from Thor, but it's always been obvious there are gaps there. He's admitted he wasn't actually in Asgard for a lot of it. Tell me about finding out the truth, from your perspective."
"When I let the Jotun in to disrupt Thor's coronation, I didn't mean for things to go so far," that wasn't a lie. He had had no idea it would spin so wildly out of control, "I knew Thor would throw a temper tantrum if the Jotun made their way into Asgard at the very moment he was to receive the crown. It worked so well at first. Thor ranted and raved as though he was a spoiled child, which was his default setting when angry. I cannot imagine how Odin thought Thor was ready for any sort of throne. He was either blind, desperate to give away the crown and was using his only acceptable son to do it, or had some sort of plan to set Thor up as a puppet king to be ruled from the shadows. Whatever it was, Thor was a war monger with little control over his temper and arrogance to overshadow that. He had little patience for diplomacy. Asgard would be at war the first time someone from another realm insulted him," he scowled, "I was right, and Thor didn't even need to be king to do that."
"Didn't he have any kingship lessons growing up?" She looked like she couldn't believe someone would let him rule a realm without them.
"He did, but very little of it stuck, though it seems to have come back to him since then," their poor haggard tutors would probably weep in relief at the positive change, "It's not that Thor is unintelligent. He is quite smart, when he cares to try. That was the problem- he didn't care. His ego overruled any common sense he had, and Frigga and Odin never seemed too determined to stamp it out."
"Like they let you keep playing ticks ever when you were way past childhood?" She shot back, eyebrow raised.
"I-" and she did have him there, he realized, "Perhaps you could say that. The difference is that Odin never planned to make me ruler. When I let the Jotun in, I planned to leave it at that, but when I saw Odin had barely noticed Thor's tantrum, I knew I had to go further. I re-worked my plan and manipulated Thor and his friends going to Jotunheim and throwing accusations at Laufey. I would go and talk Thor down while placating the Jotun king. It would prove Thor an anger driven fool without anyone getting hurt."
"Except the Frost Giants you snuck into Asgard," She countered, "I'm assuming they died."
"No one I considered important getting hurt," he amended, "What were two unknown Jotun stupid enough to take my bait, compared to the continuing peace of the Nine Realms?" He didn't really try to make excuses, because he felt even less guilty for them then the mortals who died because of him, "acceptable losses," he said to her disgust, "but in the end, it hardly mattered. Thor started a war right then and there, all because one Frost Giant was foolish enough to insult Thor as we were leaving. Then it was a massacre, where Thor grinned the whole time as he spilled Jotun blood. I didn't mean for that to happen."
"But it did and you're what led to it."
Loki snarled at her, suddenly fury striking him, "I will take responsibility for many things, but I will not be blamed for that. Causing that war was on Thor. Him being in Jotunheim did not mean he had to slaughter most of the Jontar in sight. If I had given him car keys and then turned around and crashed and killed someone due to reckless driving, would you blame me then? You will not put this on my shoulders. Thor jumped at the opportunity to kill and he wasn't going to stop. We were outnumbered and starting a war. One of us was run through with an ice blade, and still Thor fought. He would have been more than willing to let us leave without him, if he hadn't known Heimdall would never open the Bifrost without him. I am not going to let anyone make me responsible for Thor's bloodlust!"
For the first time, the reporter flinched back from him, and the fear that she had suppressed from the moment he slid into her booth was naked on her face. He didn't apologize, but pushed the anger back and moved on through grit teeth.
"Odin saved us, and even then Thor didn't understand what he'd done. My one consolation was that Odin finally saw it. I only made a token attempt to stop the king from throwing Thor to Earth, because I was too preoccupied to actually care that I had lost control of my plans so completely. Thor being sent to Midgard was the best thing that ever happened to him," and for the future of Asgard as a whole, "not only because he met Doctor Foster," Loki was curious about the woman who played one part in making Thor grow up, but he had never sought her out. He told himself that it was because mortals were so below him and would not consider it was because of some sort of residual respect of Thor, "and before you say that I'm taking credit where I should not be, Thor has said the same thing," in many interviews, Thor had been honest about his growth, and Loki was grudgingly impressed how much he had let go of his hubris, "He will someday be the king Asgard needs," and it was both a compliment and a accusation.
"But that was all a side effect, one I didn't care about, because my life all but fell apart on that venture into Jotunheim," he could still remember how the realization had pierced him, how it had destroyed him, "During the battle, one of the giants got a hold of my arm. My vambrace shattered at their frost touch, but my skin didn't blacken. It turned blue, like the colour of Jotunheim's ice. I knew what that meant, as well as what the raised marks meant," how often had he run his fingers over the climbing ivy pattern of Angrboda's marks on her blue skin? How could he forget when Angrboda drew the family line patterns in the snow, and he could remember the circles of the royal line she pointed out? "I just didn't understand how it was happening.
"I went deep into Odin's vault, where he had hidden the source of Jotunheim's power after he took it. I grasped the Casket of Ancient Winters and watched the azure creep up my hands. It didn't stop, and before a whole moment had passed, it had overtaken all of my skin. I stood in the darkness and realized why it was...and what I was. I realized everything. Everything I knew about myself shattered- so much of myself was based on being Odin's son, of trying to make him proud, and all of it was a lie. I was no more then a discarded monster he'd brought home for a souvenir or war trophy. He never did explain it very well," or at all really, "Only that he had some unspecified plan to unite Asgard and Jotunheim through me," a marriage? A puppet king? A hostage? "and then he had the nerve to call me his son, as though he had any right to it, after all he'd done. It did not take me long to figure out why Angrboda and Sigyn were dead and my children banished. It was so Odin could keep me ignorant of the truth of my origins. He could hide that I truly was this...creature. He almost seemed shocked, or at least confused, that I was reacting to this discovery so emotionally. As though he thought I should be fine finding out I was Jotun, like he hadn't let people call that race monsters my entire life. He allowed Thor to say he would slay all the monsters to my face, and did nothing to reply that they were just another race we went to war with once."
"What happened then?"
"Odin fell into a very convenient Odinsleep before he could be forced to explain further," he saw her confused face and gave a definition, "Odin's very life force is tied to Asgard, and there are times he must rest not only his body, but his very soul as well. He does into a coma, I suppose you would call it. He was at the end of a cycle and it was why Thor was being crowned. Usually it was my moth- Frigga who was regent. It seemed my screaming at him made him collapse."
"That timing seems very suspicious, given how much you've described his ability at manipulation. I'm assuming that left it up to the queen to explain everything," the reporter looked as suspicious of the timing as Loki had come to be.
"Possibly," he didn't feel like ranting about those suspicions, at least not now, "and yes it did. Frigga was kind and supportive, as she always was. It didn't make it better, not that time. She made it even worse when she handed me Odin's spear and proclaimed me rightful King of Asgard," he saw Christine's eyes widen in surprise, and he couldn't help the bitter half smile, "I've noticed Thor tends to leave that tidbit out when the topic comes up. I was legally king, not some usurper. Everything I did in Asgard from that point forward was completely legal, not matter how terrible," If Odin did force him back to Asgard, those were not things he'd be charged with. Charging a ruling king over action taken during his rule left Odin far too open to attack. There was some use to absolute monarchies, "as it turned out, handing absolute power to someone who was going mad was the worst possible thing she could have done," if Frigga had taken up the regency, had taken up Odin's throne instead of him, would it have made a difference? Could he have still done as much damage? "She apparently had more trust in me than I deserved," there was a stab of guilt as he imagined her pain after he fell. She loved him as her son, even if no one else cared...it just wasn't enough.
He tried to put into words what happened next. It was hard, not because of guilt -though there was some buried there- but because his mind was such a mess then that it was too hard to make any sense of it now that his mind was clear...er. He knew some of his desperation was about proving himself to Asgard and Odin, but so much of it was a need to wipe his skin away. The blue had only been revealed by the touch of the Jotun, so if the Jontar were gone, then the truth would disappear as well. They were monsters, so who would mourn them? Loki could hide the truth and the universe would be free of a race of nightmares. He would be a hero and Odin would be proud of him. He wasn't sure where the entire plan came from or how he had thought to turn the bifrost into a weapon. He didn't know when his plan to distract Thor turned into using the Destroyer to maim, possibly kill him. He couldn't decide at which point is spiralled so far out of control.
"Don't take this as judgement, but how did you get to that point of self hatred about the Jotun? It's obvious you still love Angrboda. How can you hate yourself so much for being Jotun that much? I understand that the bullying made your opinion warp. Help me understand why it sent you so low and how it could make you go so far. Angrboda was still Jotun and you thought your children at least half for most of their lives. Knowing that, how could you want to eliminate the entire species?"
Loki swallowed, past the dry throat and self loathing, "Do you remember, in the beginning, when I said I went there assuming the Jontar were intelligent monsters? It was like that again, but so much worse. There are always exceptions, ones who rise about whatever they are. They are better. Angrboda was one of those better ones," strong, kind, fierce, loving Angrboda, "She was the exception. She came from a race of monsters, but she had risen above them," it was condescending and patronizing, and if Angrboda had ever heard him say such a thing, she would have left him on the spot, "and because of that, our children were exceptions and only half Jotun beside. Only it turned out that I was one too, and I wasn't the exception," for so long Asgard taunted Loki for sullying himself with a Jotun, when in truth it was Angrboda sullying herself with him, "It explained too much, you see. It's why I could never be worthy. I had no control over any of it, but then I realized. I knew I was this...creature, and that meant I could force myself to act in opposite ways. But it could only work if there was no one else there to expose me..."
"So your twisted mind came to the conclusion that the Frost Giants had to go," there was no sympathy in her voice or eyes, and good. Not even the Liesmith could fool himself in to believing a monster deserved it.
"That was a end goal. The plan was more complicated than that," his plans always were, much to his downfall, "but it would have been my...triumph, I would have called it then."
"What would you call it now?"
He had to think about that, "my worst act, the work of a monster. Had I succeeded, I would have been truly...ashamed? I don't know if that would be the right word, but something similar," something less intense, for sure, but close enough, "I am glad I didn't succeed in that, at least. Monsters or not, the Jontar don't deserve to be wiped from existence. If nothing else, I know Angrboda would hate me for it. I cannot stand that."
"What were the other parts of the plan?"
"I would lure Laufey himself to Odin and kill him on the spot. I would save him and Odin would be proud of me. I would be the hero for once, for killing the king of one of our greatest foes. I sent the Destroyer to keep Thor and the warriors busy. I knew they'd try and bring him back the moment they found him on Midgard," He still felt a dig of betrayal at their actions. It did not surprise him that Sif would commit treason the moment he ruled, and was not shocked at Hogun, but Volstagg surprised him. It hurt some, that Fandral did. It was insulting and it infuriated him they would be such blatant traitors. It was anger that meant his rather...overreaction sent the Destroyer to New Mexico. There were less destructive things he could have done, but he wanted them all to suffer and bleed for what they'd done.
"Did you send it to kill them? Because the eye witness reports said that Thor died, or at least should have."
"I didn't send it there to even truly hurt them. But then Thor walked towards it, addressing me, earnest and loving, as he asked me to take out my rage on him, not that insignificant town full of mortals. He apologized but he said he didn't know what he'd done to earn my ire. As though it was some mystery, why I could be angry at him. He might have changed, but not about me. He still understood nothing, and I snapped. He needed to hurt like I did. I hated him so I killed him, or at least attempted it. Possibly. I don't know if I really wanted him dead, because it would have been more effective to have the Destroyer blast him. His powers might have been locked, but it was possible he'd survive a strike from the Destroyer's hand. When he got up, I didn't really try again, so maybe I didn't want him dead after all. I don't know," he hated admitting that, "but it backfired, didn't it? Thor came back and stopped me from slaying all the monsters.”
Thor became a hero for saving creatures Asgard hated, while Loki finally took his place as a villain for wanting to rid the realms of them. Asgard reacted with a sheer hypocrisy that was stunning. It was just more proof they'd hate him no matter what. He wondered if Odin had informed them of what he was, and if they took that as confirmation that they were right all along.
"Thor stopped me and broke the bifrost. In the end, we hung over the shattered edge and I tried one more time to make Odin understand," he remembered the half mad desperation, of pleading for his father to accept him, to love him as much as Thor. But even then, while he hung on the edge of the void, Odin disappointed him yet again. He could still hear the 'no Loki' echo through his mind, drowning out all other sounds, "He didn't, or maybe wouldn't, and that's when I knew I would never be enough. Nothing I could do would make me equal in his eyes. My madness broke right there, into a clarity so fine I barely felt like I was there at all," he was practically whispering now, "So I let go. I intended to die," and yet here he is, too pathetic to do that right, "to my chagrin, that didn't happen. The rest as you'd say, is history."
"Are you still suicidal?"
"Sometime amongst my time with the Chitauri's master, I found my self preservation again. I no longer wish to die," actively at least. There were still moments, in the dark of night, where he stared into the shadows and considered what it would be like to be in the peace of oblivion, "Not because I place much value on my life, but for spite. I would survive, I would thrive, to be constant, glaring proof of Odin's mistake. Every breath I take, it's a reminder that the Allfather was wrong."
"Is this," she gestured between them, "for spite as well?"
"No," Loki smiled, just a quirk of his lips, "this is for love," How long had it been, since he'd done something because he loved?
"So what it the game plan here? Is it just some way to gain sympathy by telling us your sympathetic backstory?"
"It's not about me, but to show what Asgard is behind the golden sheen, and why my children can never return there, never let Asgard have control of them again. Whether anyone sympathises with me is irrelevant, as long as they do them. I need Midgard to be willing to stop Asgard from taking Jorgamund, Hela, and Fenrir back to their prisons."
"So what, this is completely selfless? You want me to believe that?"
"Of course not. I have no intention of going back to Asgard, for punishment or anything else. I am using this interview to make a deal that will benefit myself, my children, and your realm. If Asgard will give up rights to us, specifically the rights to take our punishments into their hands, I will give myself up to Midgard's defenders to be put in a jail of their creation. I will take whatever punishment deemed fit, with a few exceptions. I will not die or let myself be tortured, not would I let my magic or skills be used as a tool for the more unsavoury aspects of your realm. How I am willing to be used can be negotiated, and there are many ways Earth can be convinced that this is a very good deal," and it was a deal those who controlled Midgard would take, and their agreement would be another way to force Odin's hand.
The reporter was looking at him in shock, her mouth hanging up and eyes wide. He had truly stunned her, "You're telling me you'll turn yourself into the Avengers," she had to clarify, and his nod only made her reaction made her reaction grow larger, "You'll go to prison and what, just stay there?"
"It will be a magical prison, without questions. I assume Jor's Doctor Strange would be up to the task. I'll also willingly swear a magical blood oath to stay in my prison until a decision is made by someone in authority allows me freedom. I will even help by providing information or expertise if needed, as long as contracts are made that neither my children nor myself are sent to Asgard without our consent."
"Say we actually take the deal. What would stop Asgard from ignoring it and taking you anyway?"
"There will be magic woven into those contracts to prevent such a thing. Even without that, if Midgard's commanders accept and administer my punishment, Odin’s hands will be all but tied. You cannot defeat him by arms," others would certainly lend their weapons and there were enough beings in the Nine Realms that despised Asgard, that if they banded together, they would overwhelm the Golden Realm, "but the laws he himself laid down would be violated."
"Asgard has the right to punish those who cause harm in the other realms they 'protect' if they see fit, but only if that realm doesn't give out punishment before Asgard gets to it. Odin created that rule to pacify the other rulers who feared Asgard would use it as an excuse to punish or free those they had biases towards. Odin has done so, mostly when he's brown beaten the other realms into handing them over whoever they wanted, but some managed to make their own rulings before Odin would 'suggest' anything else," sometimes it was to save someone Asgard hated, others to condemn those that Asgard would protect, "While Odin will be displeased, he will respect it," it was too great a risk of rebellion if he didn't, "and I believe those like your Director Fury will see a good deal and accept it," of that, had had no doubt. It wouldn't be the first time people had taken monsters into their fold for what they considered the greater good.
"Okay, but what's to stop him from trying to argue past that? He could claim extradition because the crimes you committed on Asgard happened first."
He was impressed at how quickly she found the loophole Odin would be sure to consider, "What crimes Ms. Everhart?"
She looked outraged, "Are you serious? You just took twenty minutes describing what you did to Asgard!"
"I did," he replied, a smirk making its way onto his lips, "and they were very horrible things, but I was king, and a king of Asgard cannot be guilty of a crime," He saw the appalled realization click in her eyes, "the only true crime Odin can accuse me of while on Asgard is letting the original Jontar in and manipulating Thor to go to Jotunheim. Manipulating Thor might be distasteful to him, but it's not a crime. As for the giants, all I did was open a doorway and leave it unattended. It's not really my fault that they fell for such a blatant trap. If I return to Asgard Odin will surely punish," brutalize, "me for both, far out of proportion to make me suffer for those he can't punish me for. But really, how can he insist on having me punished for those not quite crimes over letting Midgard jail me for the damage I caused here. Wouldn't that just be petty?"
"What about Jotunheim?" Christine found the other loophole, "What you did to Earth was awful, but you tried to commit genocide there. If anyone deserves to choose your punishment, it's the Frost Giants."
"Still king, but it is the Jontar who suffered the most, and Odin could argue I should be punished for the destruction. By Asgard, of course, instead of Jotunheim," even before his attack with the bifrost, Jotunheim wouldn't have been strong enough to disagree, "It is, however, a moot point. I've already repaid my debt to Jotunheim."
"What?" He surprised her again, and this part truly was delightful, "When did you spend any time imprisoned there? Did you escape? That just proves Earth shouldn't trust you to stay in jail here."
"I was not jailed in Jotunheim," wouldn't have allowed himself to be, repayment be damned, "instead their king and I negotiated a wergild, or fine as you'd say. It has been paid in full, and that realm has no further claim on me."
"You almost destroyed their planet and all they did was fine you?" Her disbelieving tone implied she thought them all fools if that were true.
"While I am sure that many would have preferred to see my head cut from my shoulders, I offered them a better deal. I would repair the damage I did and return Jotunheim to the splendour it had been before Odin crippled it," and the Casket of Ancient Winters back, but he would tell no one of that. If Odin were to find out he had replaced it with a replica, Jotunheim would not survive his campaign to get it back, "Their new king was too intelligent to pass that up."
"He's your brother, isn't he?" Loki winced at her observation, "how did the new King of Jotunheim feel about that."
"Half- brother," Loki corrected quickly, refusing to focus on the revulsion that thought gave him, "and he felt about the same way Midgard feels about me. But he felt the restoration of his realm was more important than punishing me," Much like Midgard would, Loki was willing to bet.
"That's very pragmatic, but you're making it very blasé sounding. You directly killed his father."
Loki snorted, "That was very far down on his list of grievances. I'd wager he'd almost thank me for it."
"Because he wanted to be king?"
"He probably did," Loki didn't care either way - he had no intention of setting foot on Jotunheim again now that his debt was paid off- so he hadn't bothered to ask about his half-brother's ambitions, "but mostly because his father was a tyrant who was generally considered worthy of death," a monster, truly, and one more mark against Loki- he had that blood running through his veins, and proven he could surpass Laufey in slaughter and cruelty.
She stayed silent, knowing he couldn't help but continue, to prove his hatred of the Jontar (himself) was justified.
"I'll assume you're wondering why I even went in the first place," She nodded, and Loki continued, "it wasn't guilt, as I've made clear. It was mostly to do exactly as I am now, to take options away from Asgard. I was also..." he struggled to find a word.
"Morbidly curious?" She guessed, and it was close enough, "You wanted to know where you came from, maybe even hoped that there would be a better story than the one Odin gave you."
"And you'd think I'd have known better than to let myself hope for anything, but I suppose I did anyway. Yes, I wanted to know how I came to be abandoned in that temple. I wanted to know who I was and where I had come from. I didn't believe I'd find some grand misunderstanding or a family who grieved for me, but I hoped to be more than a runt thrown out to die."
"I found worse. I couldn't find the whole story after so long, with the most of the players dead. The king was able to tell me some of it, based on slim memories from childhood. All he knew were memories of rumours from centuries ago. He remembered a serving girl being thrown out of the palace, because it was done my the queen herself. The rumour he remembered was the girl was carrying the king's bastard and the queen would not allow anyone to threaten her sons' place. The general belief was that Fárbauti didn't kill the girl outright was because Laufey took her by force. Once the girl was gone, she was forgotten. Helblindi could only guess that she would have sought sanctuary in a temple. It's still common, apparently. I assume she went to the temple where I was found," why she would go to the temple the royal family would use, Loki had no clue, especially if the rumours were true, "Perhaps she died in Asgard's attack on the building, or she could have left me there and run to save herself. Maybe I was born even before that and she left me with whoever guarded the place and didn't look back. If the rumours of my conception are true, I wouldn't blame her. Whatever the reason, I was left in that ice cave to die, and only survived because Odin found use for me."
"That's it," Loki shrugged, "I knew the truth and paid the wergild. I have no need to go back," or want to. The very thought made his stomach turn violently.
"You really don't want to know anything else?" She wasn't exactly surprised by it, but seemed a little disconcerting he'd leave it at that.
"I wanted to know what happened, not every detail. I had no desire to actually find anyone involved. The thought makes me nauseous. I learned what I needed, had it confirmed. I am done with Jotunheim."
"What was confirmed? You went there looking for answers, but you didn't say you were trying to confirm something?"
He bared his teeth in a razor sharp smile, "That they did, in fact, abandon infants to die. Just more proof, you see."
"Monsters," She said softly, distastefully, "You know that story doesn't fill in all those blanks to prove that. You just said you had no idea about your biological mother."
Loki waved it away with a sneer, "I have no need to, knowing that Laufey was a predator and his wife willing to throw his possible victim out to die. I believe that Angrboda was so good because she grew up so far away from the rest of Jotun," he scoffed, "society."
She looked...almost sad, hearing that. She gave him a steady, pitying look. Loki bristled, hating her for it. He didn't want her pity. He couldn't stand it. He was the villain, no matter his past, and they should not have any empathy for him. Surely mortals could not truly be so foolish?
"There's this thing called therapy," She finally said.
"Hela has mentioned it," He answered, confused and a little thrown by her comment, "and suggested I look into it."
"I'd take her suggestion," and then Christine said no more on it, and changed the topic, "So Asgard can't just take you if you're in prison here. What about your allies here on Earth? I doubt other villains are going to be happy, when you've said you'd be willing to provide information and help to the authorities as part of your deal. Won't they try and stop you?"
"I have only worked with two of those villains, and I'm on amicable enough terms with them that they won't try and kill me," probably, "even so, I've made my own deals with both Amora and Doom. I've promised I would make no move against them, physically or by giving information, unless they move against me or my family," along with a great deal of bribery. Amora now had unlimited access to his library and Victor had just gotten a delivery of a dozen examples of Asgardian technology to amuse himself with. He was going to keep that between them.
"So that's it then. You'll make a deal with Earth to turn yourself in as long as long as Earth agrees to waive extradition for you, Pepper Potts, James Barnes, and Wong Lokison. This is what it comes down to."
"There is one more thing."
She barely contained an eye roll, "Of course there is. Can I guess?"
"You won't get it, but you may try."
"You insist your prison be a five star resort somewhere."
He actually laughed at her suggestion, "No, but thank you for the idea. I'll add it to my list of demands," he sobered when he thought of what he would actually be asking, "this is about the last of my sons. Hela, Jorgamund, and Fenrir are not my only children. There is one more, my eldest. I believe most of Midgard knows of it, given Stark's comments about The Horse Thing," those details being common knowledge in even this backwater realm caused a shame so deep it burned him, "This is about Sleipnir. He's never been mistreated like his siblings, and has always promised me he's happy. And I do believe him, but that doesn't mean Asgard couldn't become a cage."
"You want your son to leave Asgard?"
"I want to know for sure he has the choice," Loki corrected, "When the Allfather comes to make agreements, he will bring Sel. If Sel wishes to return, he will. I will not stop him, not even to convince him otherwise. If he wants to stay with his siblings, Odin will let him. I will hear Sel choose his fate from his own mouth. When I hear his decision, then I will keep this promise. If Odin does not agree to this, then I will do nothing I've promised. I will keep attacking your realm and destroying anything that stands before me."
The threat was not in the plan. Hela was going to be furious at him for this little add on. Though, given it was him, she had to be expecting him to add a little something extra. He was supposed to be as non-threatening as possible. He had already broken that, but not quite this obviously. But he had to. He needed Odin to understand that he was serious with this, that he was as determined to do this for Sleipnir as he was the others. The king might not believe it without the threat.
Christine didn't react with horror and disgust like he assumed she would. She just looked at him, some emotion in her eyes that he couldn't quite place. Finally, she spoke and it was almost soft, "Do you want talk about him?" She asked.
"What?" Loki asked, thrown off balance by her quiet question.
"Your son," she replied, "Do you want to talk about him? Now that you've said he exists, I can see some obvious points in this interview when you've alluded to him. You love your children and enjoyed talking about them. So do you want to talk about Sleipnir?"
"What?" Loki snapped, suspicious and furious in an instant, "So you can laugh at me?"
"I've read the horse myth. If it happened even remotely like that, there's nothing to laugh at."
The words and the calming tone left him unbalanced. When was the last time anyone had spoken of Sel's...conception without snickering, at least people outside his family? Even Stark, when he mentioned it, was mocking until Hela's harsh demand to shut his mouth. Loki would have killed him if not for the fact that Hela loved him, and perhaps a forced charitable concession that the idiot probably hadn't thought the implication through. Yet here was a gentleness he didn't expect.
"I'm not going to insist on it," she kept talking, tone still soft. It was a ploy, he assumed a tool of her trade to coax reluctant parties to share their traumas. She was very effective at it, since Loki found himself responding to it, even as he knew exactly what she was doing, "If you want to be done, we can finish now. I'll put in your stipulation about your son and leave it at that."
He believed her, for all she was trying to manipulate him into it, "I wouldn't even know where to start," he finally answered, quietly and honestly.
"How old were you? If Jorgamund came when you were around seventeen, how much younger were you when you," she struggled for a word before pressing on, "had Sleipnir?”
Loki winced at the word, but couldn't correct her, "If you looked at me, you would have assumed me to me roughly twelve."
Her mouth fell open and her eyes filled with her a horrified emotion. She had not expected him to be that young, clearly even if her observation meant she realized he had been. She didn't realize he was practically a child at the time.
"The myth," She answered after clearing her throat, "You said you didn't know where to start, so let's start with that. I'll repeat what the myth said and you can tell me what really happened, if you're comfortable doing it," her voice went clinical as she went over the myth as the Vikings had passed it down, "There was a giant who was building a wall and Asgard didn't want to pay him. They forced you to cause a distraction, which you did by turning into a mare and getting the giant's horse to chase you," she once again floundered with words and pushed on, "It caught you."
The memory of it flashed through his mind. The absolute terror, how his heart thundered in ears at a volume that allowed him to hear nothing else. His legs and chest burned, too big and fast for him to feel comfortable in. He frantically tried to shift back, but his fear threw his magic into a chaos he couldn't control. He wasn't focused and missed the root in front of him. Loki stumbled, knees hitting the ground and there was a loud crack. He felt the shin of his awkward horse leg crack on the impact. He let out an agonized whinny, one he couldn't hear. Still, he tried to rise, to run, but he was too late, too slow, and Svaðilfari was there-
Loki jerked himself out of the memory, nearly shoving himself out of his chair to get away from it. His breath was faster and shallower than it should be, and he scrambled to control. He would not have a panic attack in front of a mortal in a public restaurant. No.
Abruptly, he realized that there was a quiet voice talking to him. Mostly nonsense, counting and commands to breathe. He blinked away the dark spots out of his eyes, and found the reporter was the one whose voice was trying to calm him. There was a soft touch on his arm, where a hand barely rested there, and anchor that would not startle him.
Loki hadn't felt so grateful to another person in so long. As he came back to himself, he decided that this mortal was now his to protect, whether or not she liked it.
He cleared his throat, internally cringing at the way his voice cracked, "Thank you Ms. Everhart. I apologize for my outburst. I see you have some experience with this."
"I've interviewed victims of assault before, and I've dealt with panic attacks before. I always do my research when it comes to potential issues."
"This doesn't make it into your article," he informed her. The 'or I'll kill you' was implied, but didn't need to be said.
"Of course," She replied, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Perhaps to her it was, "and I'm sorry. We'll just leave it here."
She reached over to turn off her recorder, but Loki's hand snapped out to grab her wrist to stop her. She jumped at the sudden contact and her face flashed in fear. Loki let her go and started to talk before he would think.
"The bifrost isn't the only way to travel from Asgard. It is too inefficient for that, and it is far too much of a hassle to use for everyday travel or dealings between realms. There are known paths between the realms, stable and well guarded, that have been there for thousands of years. Those places in Asgard have walls to keep the realm safe. There had been some sort of scrimmage on the borders of Svartalfheim. I don't remember what it was about, only that it couldn't be traced back to the royal family, so Odin could not justify going to war. Thor raged to, of course," it was an off hand comment, not even malicious, "He could force Svartalfheim to pay a fine ten times the price of the damage to the wall. It crippled their economy and their entire realm became little more than devastated.”
That was probably why Malekith had been so desperate to find the aether that he attacked Asgard for it. Loki doubted there were any Dark Elves left after that. When Loki went to the Dark World to retrace the infinity stone so carelessly left behind, he saw no signs of life. He felt no pity for them, not for the race that nearly killed his adopted mother. He only wished Thor had tracked him down to ask him for help so he could have spilled some of their blood himself.
“The negotiations with the stonemasons guild were dragging. They wanted more," a fair price, honestly, "than Odin wanted to pay. I was at the meeting, some sort of diplomacy lesson for me, when the giant strode in. We knew he was a giant of course. Aesir may be tall, but not nine feet. He said he was a Fire Giant, and they were still permitted entry to Asgard, so Odin would treat with him. The giant offered to build the wall if Odin gave him Freya in return. He should have just given the guild their price and sent the giant on his way!” He snarled viciously, “but no! He told the giant to give him a night to decide and then spent that night figuring out how to get his wall and not have to pay the price. Freya’s tears did nothing to sway him, he only told her they were going to do it without actually sacrificing her,” he grit his teeth, “When I do things like that it’s cowardly. When he does it it’s just good business sense. Odin’s council was debating, and Odin asked what I would suggest. It wasn’t meant to be a serious question, just a way to indulge me and make me feel useful. I took it seriously and jumped at the opportunity to prove myself. I suggested giving the giant a time frame he could not make and say he couldn’t have any reward if he didn’t. I saw interest and even pride at my suggestion. Hours later, when they decided to use my plan, I could barely stop myself from vibrating in excitement.” Odin had clapped him on the back, saying he was impressed with his cleverness and how he’d need to bring him to council meetings more often. Loki has been euphoric for weeks afterward.
“They gave him a season and allowed him to use his horse,” how had Odin not realized it was a magical horse? Loki had realized it as soon as he saw it, months later, “I had nothing else to do with it from there. My attention was drawn away to something else. It wasn’t until the end of the season that I even thought of it again, when Freya burst into the royal quarters,” he had never seen the goddess so hysterical or so wild and it had scared his young self, “It seemed while we were all assuming that all was well, she had been watching the builder at work and realized that he was going to accomplish his task. It was chaos. The council was called and there was much yelling. Thor and I were only there because they forgot that we were in the room. We were both cowering in the corner. Even Thor was quiet. I don’t know who said something or why, but someone brought up my name and the fact it was my idea.”
“But they didn’t have to agree with you. You even said that Odin didn’t ask you to be serious. You were a child,” she protested, more out of habit then the need to actually argue.
“Which made me the perfect scapegoat. They were panicking and wanted someone to blame, and there I was. Odin looked at me, not quite blaming me, and proclaimed that I had come up with this plan and it was up to me to find a way to solve it. It wasn’t a threat and I believe he was more or less just trying to get me away from accusing eyes.”
“But you took it seriously anyway.”
He nodded, “It made me feel desperate to please him, though I was not frantic until Freya begged me to help her. I know now that it wasn’t fair of her to put that on me, but she was scared and I had a knack for getting out of unfortunate circumstances. How could I not help?” And how could he not take the chance to be a hero and make his father proud all at once? It was his longing that threw him down, “I’m not sure how I came up with my plan, only that it was half cocked and rushed. I did not anticipate the giant’s horse…” he shuddered as the memory slid to the forefront, but then hit it back. No. He would not allow his weakness to catch him off guard again, “I will leave the tale there. It is not one I prefer to dwell on, and you’re aware of how it ends.”
“It took days for Odin and his guards to find me. I couldn’t walk -I made myself lame trying to escape- and my terror and pain kept me unstable and unable to use my magic. I couldn’t turn back,” which meant the stallion wouldn’t leave, “or call for help. Heimdall finally thought to look for the horse, not me. They came and the horse ran, and Odin looked at me in horror. For once, it wasn’t at me. It was horror at what he had done,” the king had fallen on his knees when he realized what happened, an anguished moan slipping out of him. He had whispered a begging ‘Norns forgive me’ before gently reaching out to run a hand down his neck, “He promised to fix everything, as though he could take back what had happened.”
Loki has looked into erasing the memories, had even gathered the ingredients for such a spell once. At the last minute, Sel’s trusting eyes flashed through his mind and he couldn’t.
“The first thing Odin did was use his magic to help me take hold of my own again. When I had it, I tried to shift back,” his voice lowered as he remembered the new spike of panic, “I couldn’t, because a shapeshifter can’t change if another being is growing inside them. When I realized…” He had nearly blacked out by the sheer shame and disgust. He had barely heard his own shrieks echoing in all their minds repeating ‘Get it out! Get it out!’. When Odin realized what he meant, he tried to pull the beginning of life out of him, but Loki’s magic had already wrapped itself too tightly around it and would not be moved. His traitorous magic betrayed him to protect the proof of his violation.
Loki wouldn’t say it out loud. Not because he feared Midgard’s judgement, but because he would never allow Sel to know that moment ever happened. He knew his intelligent son would assume that he had at least thought of it, but that didn’t mean Loki would let him know he had so desperately tried.
“They didn’t return me to the capital, but whisked me off to Vanaheim. I was grateful. I couldn’t bear the thought of all of Asgard knowing my shame. Odin stayed with me, doing his best to calm and soothe me, to keep my from prying eyes. He was there for the whole eleven months, doing everything he could to keep my body healthy,” and mind sane, “I wasn’t sure why it was him there, not Frigga, but I appreciated it,” begrudgingly still did, “it might have been sheer guilt and this was his penance. It could have merely been that he was more knowledgeable about horses that made him play nursemaid. Whatever the case, he left Frigga as regent and took care of me.
“It was easier as a mare. I am always me, no matter what form I take, but when one takes the form of a beast, it is easy to just...drift your mind into it. It’s like the moments when you’re just waking, when your thoughts are groggy and anchored to nothing, even as your body moves of its own violation. I always took such pains to control myself, yet then all I wanted to do was lose myself. My mind would not have survive if I hadn’t lost myself in the mare. After the birth however, all of that was stripped from me. I...broke.”
Haltingly, awkwardly, he told her of how it had gone, how he had fallen apart the moment he shed his horse form. They had rushed the child away from him and the hysterics had descended. He had sobbed and shook, barely able to breath while he shivered naked on the cold floor. Odin had pulled him into his lap like he was still a small child and held him in a grip so tight it nearly hurt. Odin whispered apologies and promises into his hair, and Loki felt his father’s tears drip onto his shoulder.
“He loved me then,” Loki finished, “if there are no other moments, I am sure I had my father’s love then. Even if it was only guilt about what had happened, he loved me,” it shouldn’t have taken that to happen for Odin to show it, and the fact Loki hadn’t felt that loved since was awful.
The reporter’s face was a mix of emotions, and he wondered if he had thrown the image she had of Odin out of focus.
“I don’t tell you this to make Odin look better, but to make me look so. It makes me look less pathetic, that I was so desperate for him to love me,” Loki was determined for that to be true. He refused to even entertain the idea that he was trying to help Odin in anyway.
“Alright,” she didn’t try and argue with him, even if she looked like she probably didn’t believe him. If she thought he was making excuses for his once father, she didn’t confront him about it.
“Eventually I wept myself into exhaustion. I woke up the next day. My parents were at my bedside, holding my hands. There were more words of comfort and telling me that I could stay away or come back, that there was no shame and no one would say anything,” a lie, but they at least tried to stop those words. They managed to keep those poisoned taunts out of his ears for a hundred years, to their credit, “After they fell silent, I realized they were waiting for me to say something. I couldn’t understand what, at first, and just watched their concern grow. They shared a rather alarmed look.”
“They were waiting for you to ask about your child,” she guessed.
“I realized it abruptly and managed to choke out a question about his,” ‘It’, Loki had called his son it, “health. They replied he was very fine and being treated well. They asked if I wanted to see him, and I found myself in another panic attack,” Norns he was so ashamed to confess this. Of all his misdeeds, this was where guilt ate at him. Only a heartless wretch would feel such a way about their child. Another reason he was wrong, “They didn’t ask if I wished to see him again. When they spoke of him, it was only to give me brief updates on how he fared. I listened because I knew I should, not because I wanted to know,” listening made him sick, but he kept it off his face when either Frigga or Odin spoke. He couldn’t let him see how disgusting he was.
When Loki spoke next, the words finally held the guilt and shame the reporter had been looking for when he described his villainy, “I was not good father to Sleipnir Ms. Everhart. I failed him, over and over, from his very beginning. I know the hypocrisy of that, when I come to you to condemn Odin when I’m not much better. Maybe I’m worse- at least Odin didn’t spend the first three decades of my life unable to look at me.”
“There’s a big difference,” Christine replied firmly, “You were a traumatized child and victim of rape. He was a grown man who did everything because he could.”
“It doesn’t mean I hurt my child any less,” he would normally leap at any excuse to excuse his behaviour, but he had no right to take it here.
“But you changed,” she commented, “your relationship with your son changed, otherwise you wouldn’t be here, trying to get him to Earth.”
Loki didn’t let the words give him any relief, but kept telling his story, “I stayed in Vanaheim for thirty years. Frigga stayed with me and Odin returned to Asgard with Sel,” he had to swallow multiple times before he could admit it, “Odin named him. I’m sure he asked my opinion at some point, but I don’t remember. One day they referred to him as he and the next time Odin visited he called my son Sleipnir,” he cleared his throat, “I tried to get back to normal after Odin left. I studied, did magic, trained as though I was still in Asgard. I could almost forget the truth, or at least force myself to ignore what happened. Thor would visit often and that helped too. He had no idea how to deal with what happened to me, so he pretended it hadn’t happened and talked to me like I was merely away to recover from some simple ailment. Others visited,” Thor’s friends, Amora, Freya. Freya had been like Odin, begging his forgiveness. She promised to serve him always, and she still kept that promise. She was his spy in Asgard, “I had to leave eventually. Not because I felt ready, but because the Aesir were beginning to talk about how weak I must be, for it to take me so long to recover.”
“That’s appalling no matter who they’re talking about, but you were still a child. And the assault was under extremely different circumstances. Anyone with half a brain would understand it was another level of recovery.”
“Both Odin and Frigga agreed with you. They insisted I didn’t have to go back, no matter what anyone said, but I knew I did. I knew the mocking I would receive for allowing it...the horse..to happen to myself would be too much for me to handle on its own. If I continued to act like some ravished maiden from a tragedy, it would only be worse. I wouldn’t be able to stand it.”
“I’m sorry this happened to you,” she said it not quite abruptly, but it still surprised him a little. It was...nice, hearing it.
“Thank you,” and he meant it, “When I returned, it became harder to pretend like nothing happened. There were more whispers and pitying glances, but nothing overtly cruel then. The knowledge that the child was right there, within a few miles of my room, it sent my thoughts round and round. It was a whirlwind of what I believed I should do with my emotions. Eventually I had to go to him, if only to stop myself from spinning out of control,” again, “I waited until the late hours of the night and cloaked myself in shadows. Then I snuck down to the wing of the stables Odin had built for Sel while I was carrying him. I slipped inside and went to look at my son.”
He didn’t mention how he had stood frozen outside the stall, had trembled while he tried to make himself move. Tears has welled in his eyes as he berated himself for being a coward. Finally -finally- Loki had found it in himself to turn the corner and look.
“He was sleeping, leaning into the corner of the stall, all legs somehow tucked comfortably under him. He was completely black, like my mare form had been,” Loki didn’t even want to imagine what his reaction would have been if he looked like the stallion, “and when I saw him there, I felt...nothing. I did not hate him or blame him. None of it was his fault and I never believed it was,” this truth he clung to because it was the on way he hadn’t been wrong. It was pathetic how much he tried to use it to make himself feel even a little better, “I didn’t hate him and looking at him didn’t make me panic. I watched him for a long time, trying to make myself feel something. I couldn’t, so I crept away when I heard the first sign of the stable hands moving about.
“I tried to put it out of my mind, telling myself that he clearly meant nothing to me, so that was that. I tried and there was nothing more for me to do. Yet I couldn’t put him to the back of my mind. Sel danced on the edge of my thoughts for the next week, there no matter how I tried to brush him away. I would find my mind wandering to the stables, wondering vaguely what he was doing at that moment. Eventually, I told myself I would go see him one more time and that would be all I needed. It was what I told myself every time I went, month after month. At first I only went at night, but soon it wasn’t enough. I wanted to see him in the daylight, to see him moving. I’d hide in the rafters of the stable and just watch him. I didn’t know what I felt, only that I felt something.”
“How did you finally make contact?”
“I was sitting in my usual place, watching from above while my fathe- Odin brushed Sel’s mane. He was the one to do that everyday. Then Sel looked up. I don’t know how he knew I was there. Perhaps my magic reached out to touch him. He looked up and met my eyes. His eyes match mine,” his heart felt like it had stopped beating in that moment, when identical poison green focused on him, “He didn’t look at me in recognition exactly, but a realization that he could deduce who I was,” His eyes had gone wide and Loki had felt his own so the same, “After a panicked moment I turned into a magpie and fled like a coward. While I flew away, that was the exact moment that I finally understood that this was my son. I’d always known that logically, but it was the first time I felt it in my very core. I finally felt it and understood.”
It changed everything, though he still struggled with what to do with those emotions, those new found feelings, “I can’t claim that I loved him instantly or saw how to be a better parent, but I wanted to love him and I wanted to be a good father,” that change had been terrifying and freeing all at once, and for the first time since the whole situation began, Loki had felt like he had some sort of purpose, “I went back down to the stables the next day, and this time I didn’t hide.”
Loki had tentatively walked up to his son’s stall and fidgeted awkwardly, trying to figure out what he could even say to start a relationship with the child he hadn’t spoken to in over thirty years. Finally, he had rapped his knuckles on the wooden gate and waited for the colt to turn to him. They both froze again and Loki swallowed past the lump in his throat. Finally, after what seemed like a never ending awkward moment, Loki had simply asked Sel if he would mind if he groomed him today. Sleipnir said yes and they sat there silently for the rest of the afternoon, Loki running a brush through the horse’s coat. Afterwards, Loki had laid a hand on his nose and said a quiet goodbye. Sleipnir had leaned into his touch for a second, asking him if he’d be back. Loki had surprised himself by saying that he would without any hesitation.
Christine was smiling as he told her this, a small subconscious one, but it was there, “When did you go back?”
“The next day,” he replied, “and every day after that for nearly five years. The silence stopped eventually and we talked. Small talk, at first, stilted and out of our depth, but it still helped us,” first they talked about Sel’s day and then his curious son asked about his. When Sleipnir heard all about Loki’s lessons, the colt demanded he be taught some of the same things. Loki had taught him to read eventually, and his son picked it up easily. Loki gave him magical books for his next name day, ones whose pages would turn on their own with just a thought. They turned to stories that Loki could tell and to Sel’s stories of the stable yard, “And finally, he was my son and I loved him like I should have all along. He was so easy to love.”
“What did everyone think about this change? What about Odin?”
“I never exactly told anyone I was going there, but I didn’t hide it either. I’m sure Frigga found out soon after and was content that I was dealing with everything. Thor still didn’t know how to think about any of it, so he still ignored it while complaining I was never there for him to play with. The word of it spread from the stable hands as all rumours of me do, for better or for worse. As for Odin, he observed us as I had him and Sel. I didn’t realize it until one day Sel and I were running around the stable yard, playing tag. I looked up and saw Odin smiling at us from the fence. He called out, teasing us that we hadn’t invited him to play. Sel tripped over his feet in excitement when he shouted that Odin would be It.”
This time the reporter was fully smiling when Loki explained some of Sel’s early exploits, like the day he decided to become a war horse. When Sel, in his wonderful childish voice, had gone on and on about how he had stumbled across a fully armoured training exercise and absolutely fallen in love with them. Loki had almost dropped the brush I’m surprise. Then had come the unexpected jolt of fear when he pictured his child coming to any sort of harm, and having that fear stunned him. Sleipnir had picked up on his hesitation and began to babble about how it wasn’t important and please don’t leave. Shame had cut Loki then, and he felt so cold when he replied that no matter what, Loki would never leave. He told his son that If he truly wished to be a war horse, they would speak to Odin about it when he was older.
“Is that why Odin rides him?” She asked, trying but not quite able to keep all the distaste from her voice.
“It was Sel’s request. The idea of anyone less than the king riding him into battle was appalling to him,” they shared the same arrogance, Loki and his eldest, “though I suppose he could have settled for Thor or I, if he absolutely had to. Odin agreed and I was relieved,” she looked more than a little surprised, and Loki shrugged, “If I must give Odin one bit of ground, it’s that he’s always loved and cared for Sleipnir,” more than he’d ever cared for Loki, “I could think of no one who I’d trust more to protect Sel in battle. Odin would see that no harm came to my son, and has kept to that all these years later. It’s not as ignoble of a position as it sounds Ms. Everhart, and one that Sleipnir takes great pride in.”
“I haven’t spoken to him since my fall, so as far as I know yes,” it was half a lie. He had tried, but both sides needed to be willing to talk to have a conversation, “it would be treason on his part, if he was caught talking to an fugitive wanted by the crown.”
The reporter picked up on the vague falseness of his tone, but seemed to mark this as a lie left better unquestioned, “This brings up another point. You’ve already claimed to have left Asgard for years at a time. How did Sleipnir feel about you leaving him behind?”
Loki shifted uncomfortably, “I always visited him, no matter why I was gone. If I couldn’t go in person I slipped into his dreams to contact him. After that first day, I wanted to make sure he knew I loved him and would always come back, but… I couldn’t always stay, not even for him. When Asgard grew to be too much, I took my selfish need to escape and ran. I’m sure the same need to be gone would have eventually come during my time in Jotunheim as well,” Loki was a being of chaos and change. He could not be tied to one place forever, no matter who was there. One more way he’d never be a good enough father for Sleipnir.
At least the reporter wasn’t looking at him in judgement when she asked, “How did he feel about that?”
“When he was young I don’t think he noticed so much, since it was still so new for me to even be in his life. Once he grew older and I became a more frequent presence, it began to trouble him more. At first it was mere wishes that I wouldn’t go away. I remember being the same when I was that age, when Odin or Frigga went away on Asgard’s behalf. I didn’t like it, but it was at least something I could understand- duty. Barring a few instances here and there, I had no such good excuse.”
“So he got older and angrier about you leaving for what he considered no good reason,” she concluded and explained more when Loki’s eyebrows rose, “My mom went away a lot on business when I was a kid. I was angsty about it.”
“So it was,” Loki confirmed, “and there were fights about it. I should have been more gracious, more understanding, but I was still a selfish child at heart. I hadn’t grown that much since I had him, and there were somethings that not even that experience could change. He never realized that I wasn’t actually a mature adult like all the other parents he knew, at least not then. We couldn’t communicate enough to make the other see, and he told me my presence was no longer required. It hurt,” Loki spent the night after hearing that weeping, “But it was more than I deserved. How did I have a right to him, when I had ignored him until it suited me? He threw my failings in my face and claimed that he wished I wasn’t his father. I had no argument to make, because he was right.”
“Did he know about his conception?” She asked gently.
“He knew the vague details, or at least the base facts of what happened. Those facts didn’t translate into true understanding of what it meant,” much like it had taken Loki so long to truly comprehend on every level that Sel was his son, “Knowing something doesn’t always mean the implications of it are felt. And I didn’t want him to completely realize it either. I’d rather him hate me than feel as though he was wrong in any way,” Loki still feared he’d do something to make Sleipnir feel that someday. He’d throw himself into the void again before he did such a thing.
“How did it all work out?”
“Odin sent me on a diplomatic mission to Nornheim and sent Sel with me. It was an order from our king, so neither of us could actually say no, even if Sleipnir wasn’t talking to me.”
“How old was Sleipnir at this point? What about you?”
“It’s harder to judge because his shape made him age at a quicker rate- he was a full blooded horse, albeit a magic one. If I were to guess, I’d say he was perhaps around the same age I was when he was…” He brushed over the words with a shudder, “This was only a century or so before Angrboda found me, so I was still in that age range. We went together to Nornheim. He snarled at me and I did my best to follow his wishes. I could not justify myself and couldn’t force him to love me,” Loki had been tempted, so many times, to make him. He could, and easily, and he considered it too often to be anything less than disgusting, “It went on that way for a week, with his acting as representatives for Asgard but never talking,” besides Sel’s passive aggressive barbs and Loki’s subdued ‘good morning’ and ‘good nights’, “I’m not sure what changed or who said what, but someone had to have,” Loki had his suspicions, coupled with memories of Odin’s stories of disguising himself as a kindly old man who gave wayward people advice. It was the kind of sneaky thing the Allfather would do, if only for Sleipnir’s happiness, “He came to me and asked me to tell him what had happened. He was quiet about it, dread in his usually curious voice. There was no anger for the first time in weeks. I protested, all but begged him, but I saw he needed to know this. Not every gruesome detail, but at least enough details to explain my reactions to him. It wasn’t to give him excuses for my behaviour, but to tell him it was never anything he did.”
Looking back, Loki saw it as a mirror of the moment he had gone to Odin, begging his father for the truth and to make it better. If nothing else, Loki had found a way to reveal the truth without sending his child into a downward spiral. It said a lot about Odin that a struggling teenager had been able to do better than a supposedly wise king.
“I told him,” They had been sitting under Nornheim’s twin red moons beside the glittering acidic lake that surrounds the palace of the Norn Queen. They were far apart at first, but closer near the end, “as much as I could without being explicit. It was enough to make him realize why it had ruined me. I went into great detail about how he was never at fault and I loved him more than anything in the universe. Then I went further and told him how suffocating Asgard and all its responsibilities could be, and how sometimes I had to run away to stop myself from either drowning in it or destroying it. It wasn’t him I left, but my attempts to run away from myself. It is not easy to talk to your child about all the ways your mind betrays you, and I hope you are spared it if you have children of your own Ms. Everhart. Sel didn’t understand all of it, but at least he had answers to questions that had plagued him. He knew it wasn’t him and it was enough for that moment,” by the time Loki stopped talking that night, Sleipnir was sitting beside him, leaning into his body. Had his horse’s body been able to, he would have been crying. Loki had been.
“Where did you go from there? I’m guessing one conversation didn’t fix everything.”
“I told him that I’d like him to be honest with me, if he was comfortable doing so. He was, and tried to make me understand how he felt,” how Sel had been so confused at first, when he realized he had a parent outside Odin. He told about how he felt in that first moment he saw Loki there, and how that joy stayed with him even as he grew, until he was old enough to grow bitter that Loki hadn’t been there all along and still continued to leave. Sel had talked about how confused he was about what his relationship with Loki even was, and how he felt guilty and spiteful in equal measures that he considered Odin more his father most of the time. Loki had felt awful through most of that conversation, but took it without comment, “I won’t share his words. They’re not mine to say,” she nodded in understanding, “But between the two of us, we came to an understanding. We would never be a typical father and son, but we’d try and be the best we could.”
Loki was still more honest with Sleipnir than he was with anyone else. It was a deal they had made together, that night in Nornheim. He may have left out details, but he tried to tell Sel as much of the truth as he could, and his son shared as much of his feelings as he could. It was strange and dysfunctional, and nothing like the bond he shared with his other children, but it was what they had, or had had before Loki’s fall.
“You would still leave after this conversation. Did it make him resent it less?”
“Many times he came with me after Nornheim, but not always,” sometimes Loki still had to leave it all behind, “We had many adventures together. There was a time, not long after while we were exploring outside the Nine, when we were camping in the open fields and Sleipnir wished to run,” he was so wistful that Loki offered without thinking, “I became a horse to run with him. It was the first time I’d shapeshifted anything outside an Aesir body since, let alone a horse. I had forgotten how freeing it was, to be in such a strong, powerful body. He made me remember that, and some of the taint washed away. I felt...freer after that, and the days with the stallion stopped haunting my dreams,” the panic never left when he thought about it directly, but it no longer chased him into his sleep to torment him there too, “Eventually Sel began the warhorse training he had coveted, and it was harder to travel together. Whenever I went on a diplomatic mission he insisted that he be the one to carry me to and from my destination. I was the only one besides Odin, and later Sigyn, who was allowed to ride him. He would permit no others. It infuriated Thor,” Loki smirked, “because I could do something he could not. I needled my broth- Thor constantly about it.”
“What about going to Jotunheim for good? When did he learn the truth? You said you went back sometimes in secret and one person knew where you went. Did Angrboda know? Did your other children?”
“I did not tell Sel about Angrboda at first. It wasn’t until I knew I loved her. Then it seemed that I had no other choice but to tell him I hoped to give him a stepmother at some point in the future. He had no idea how to feel at first, but eventually ending up laughing at my waxing poetic about every amazing thing about her. When I went to Jotunheim for what I thought would be for good, I went to explain to him, at least as I could without actually being able to talk. He would have been far more angry if I hadn’t had bloody and stitched lips. He told me to go far away because Asgard didn’t deserve me,” Loki smiled a bit, remembering the words, “I didn’t get a chance to tell him about the pregnancy then. I went into his dreams that night and told him everything. He was torn about most of it. Not about what happened to me- he was outraged by that- but the fact he was no longer going to be my only child. He asked me to give him a few weeks to figure out what he felt, but that he hoped I was happy no matter what. By the time I had settled into my life in Jotunheim a few months later, he was happy for me but jealous as his siblings came.”
“When did Angrboda learn about him? I’m assuming you’d never hide his existence from her.”
“I told her about him just after I told Sel she existed. It was nerve wracking, to say the least. Angrboda was more shocked than Sleipnir was, and more hurt as well. She wasn’t upset that I had a child, only that I had kept the truth from her. It was hard to tell her, because to explain his existence meant I had to explain how he came to be. It was just common knowledge in so many places,” much to his shame, “that they didn’t need explanations, and you’ve already seen how good I am at giving them. I was terrified she’d judge me or mock me before sending me on my way. Instead, she was confused at first, until I was far more blunt about his shape and how he came to be that way. When she realized the details, her anger slipped away,” and then he kissed him, holding his face between her hands and telling him he had nothing to be ashamed of, that he would raise a child of that circumstances only spoke of his strength. His son would be her son, if he only wished it.
“Did they ever meet?”
Loki shook his head sadly, “We talked about bringing Sleipnir to live with us, of how to bring him into our home. The children were thrilled at the idea of a big brother. Sel wanted to come, at least eventually. He wanted to finish his training and prove himself in battle first, and we had to figure out a way to make our area horse friendly. No grass that he could consume grows on Jotunheim. The general decision was that he would join us when we went to Alfheim and then go from there.”
“Did he stay in Asgard all that time? Even after Odin allowed your lips to be sewn shut?”
“Odin was the first and most reliable parent Sleipnir has ever had!” Loki snapped at her, angry at the slight judgement in her tone, “If I were able to forgive Odin so much, of course Sel gives him even more!”
“You’re right and I apologize,” she replied honestly, “it’s no one’s place to judge him for anything, especially me.”
“No it’s not,” Loki confirmed rather viciously, “But if you must know, Sleipnir wouldn’t even speak to Odin for years. I was the one to tell my son to let his anger go and forgive Odin. It made him miserable to be at odds with his grandfather, and I prefer him to be happy rather than angry for my sake. I always told him that, no matter what Odin did,” after Angrboda, he told Sel he needed to be calm and help his siblings adjust. When they were taken away, he needed him to pretend and play along so he could find a way to free them. After he fell, in the one conversation he had tried to have, Loki told him he was angry enough for the both of them, “When he allowed Odin to ride him again, Sleipnir was happier. I would not take that from him, not after everything.”
“What happened after Jotunheim? He was with you in Asgard, but you didn’t directly mention him until now. Why gloss over him that way?”
“Because this article will be more helpful to me if it makes me look even a little bit better, and how I treated Sleipnir paints me in an even more negative light. Rejecting your own child for something outside his control is loathsome, regardless if you reached out to him later. I don’t need Midgard to tell me what I already know, thank you,” he grew a little more somber, “And yes, he was there after Jotunheim, always. Besides Thor and Frigga, it was only Sel I allowed myself to grieve in front of,” he had sobbed into Sleipnir’s neck, arms around it, while his son did his best to give him sympathy past his own shock, “After Jorgamund and I returned from giving Angrboda her funeral, I slipped him back under the same sleeping spell as the others were still under. Then I went to Sel and told him everything. He mourned the family he would now never have.
“He loved his siblings from the first moment he met them, and they loved him as quickly as they could in their traumatized state. They let him in. He was a friendly face in hostile Asgard, one they knew all about even if they hadn’t actually met. He was so kind and patient with them,” he had gone into Jor and Hela’s rooms when they wouldn’t leave them, despite the fact small spaces made him anxious. He would let Fenrir hide in his stall and go running with him. He would slow his pace so that Fen could keep up, “No matter the circumstances, he was happy to have at least some of the family I promised him.”
Why hadn’t he just told Sleipnir to come to Jotunheim anyway? At least to visit and meet them all? How had he been so sure they could wait? How had he been so blind? Loki could never decide how Angrboda and Sel would have reacted to each other. Angrboda has never seen a horse before, so would she have been intimated at all? How would Sel have dealt with this new person in his father’s life? He seemed fine from a distance, but would it actually work if they were together? Would they have gotten along or only tolerated each other, like Jorgamund had felt towards Sigyn? Would Sleipnir have come to love Angrboda like a mother and she love him like a son? Why hadn’t he just taken the chance?
How much regret could one person feel before it simply consumed them and left nothing in its wake?
“What about when Sigyn came? They must have gotten along, with how much she loved horses.”
“They clicked immediately. Sigyn was fascinated by Sleipnir, and not only because of his eight legs. He could tell her things and she could ask questions, and it made her a better horsewoman. Sel was thrilled to have a stepmother who knew horses so well and was so willing to learn from him,” Loki wondered sometimes, if Sel was glad that it was Sigyn who was the stepmother he got in the end. He knew that Sleipnir would never be glad that his father lost the love of his life when Angrboda died, but there was no denying Sigyn was the woman the horse had more in common with. Loki would never ask that, never force Sel to answer such a hideous question. He was too scared to learn the answer, “She was allowed to ride him before our honeymoon was even up,” Sigyn had never looked happier than on Sel’s back as he ran at full speed, her arms stretched wide as though she were flying, her long hair trailing loosely behind her like a flag and laughter falling from her lips, “Most of the time he insisted she be the one he carried. He was a brat about the whole thing really. Sigyn encouraged it all.”
“What did he say about the original problems between the two of you? If he had such a good relationship with her it must have been hard on him. How did your other children feel about how close they were, since they were so hostile to her?”
“I’m sure they tried to say something, but Sleipnir is much like Thor is the fact that he doesn’t listen to what his siblings have to say,” at least Sleipnir had never told them to know their place, as far as Loki knew. If he ever found out otherwise, Sel would feel the tongue lashing into the next century, “He clearly ignored them and did what he wanted anyway. They must have stopped complaining to him, but I do remember bouts of sulking from them that might have related to it. As for me, he pushed me to stop blaming her for something out of her control. He attempted to make me feel guilty and lectured me that if I could deal with his history, then I should have no problem accepting Sigyn.”
“Well he went straight to the point,” she said, vaguely impressed.
“Yes, and very annoying. Unfortunately for him, I was long past the point where he could manipulate me. Those big green puppy eyes stopped working on me once he grew taller than me. I informed him bluntly that he could do what he wanted with her, but what I had with her was none of his business. He didn’t like that answer and stormed away like the moody teenager he was. It out some strain on our relationship,” again, “but nothing even close to worse than we’d had before. We just avoided talking about her to keep the peace. My one consolation was that he was needling her about the same thing, thought with less anger. He guilted her with how they were all motherless children who wanted a big happy family.”
“So he has your manipulative streak does he?”
“He tries, but he’s not as good as me,” he smirked in pride, “perhaps he will be at my level in a thousand years or so.”
“Try and sound less impressed with that,” she was deadpan.
“I’m the God of Mischief Ms. Everhart. It delights me when my children follow in my less than stellar footsteps. Though I suppose Sleipnir would consider himself successful, since Sigyn and I did stop hating each other. He seems to believe he can take all the credit, and has never stopped his barrage of ‘I told you so’s. He was with us for all the happy moments we had together, though still somewhat separate in some ways. He had a life outside our family and I would never begrudge him that. He was a frequent visitor, but he didn’t live with us. He had always been that way for me, even if I loved him. He was part of our family, but still...outside it. He was not as intertwined with the things that happened as the rest of us were,” which was good, since it saved him at least a little pain, “I suppose this is not making much sense,” Loki gave a self deprecating laugh, “Forgive me for my babbling nonsense.”
“It makes sense,” she assured him, “and you’ve already explained your complicated relationship with your son.”
“I think you’re lying but I appreciate it nonetheless,” he replied, “and these feelings, this sense of...disconnect only grew worse after Sigyn’s death, though it was Sleipnir who pulled away that time. He didn’t take her death well, possibly even worse than me. It was his first taste of grief and he could not handle it. When he was told, he ran from Asgard and kept going through the realms, trying to outrun his grief.”
“It didn’t work,” she guessed, “How long was he away? Did you go after him?”
“I couldn’t chase him down, not when I had Hela and Fenrir to care for. They were still young enough that they needed me. No matter how Sel hurt, they needed me more. I made the decision I thought I had to make. I went to him once, just to make sure. He was in Vanaheim when I found him. He told me he finally understood why I had to leave so much. I knew I couldn’t demand he return, not after that. So I told him I loved him, that Sigyn had loved him, and I would be waiting for him back home when he was ready. I kept track of him with my magic, and he worked through his emotions all the ways I had, long ago. He was away for a year- he came back only a week before we tried to flee. When he came back, he was different, more serious and less likely to laugh. Jorgamund, Hela, and Fenrir had lost their mother when they were still young and had to grow up without her. Sleipnir lost the only mother he knew when he was already well grown. I don’t know which one was worse or who came out the worse for it. At least seriousness has made him a better warrior. He and Odin are well paired for it,” and Loki was proud of that, for all he hated all the ways his son was like the Allfather. Loki might have little use for most of Asgard’s warrior ways, but he could still understand the effort and strength it took.
“How did he react when the others were kidnaped?”
“He was the one who carried me to Vanaheim under Odin’s false mission, so he found out as I did. He wasn’t put under a spell like me, so he managed to go to Fenrir immediately and try to break his chains,” Sel told him later that Fenrir was still howling, hours later, jaw dripping from the sword they shoved through it. He tried to use his mighty hooves to break the chains, but the magic was too strong. He did break the bones of the einherjar guards who tried to stop him, “It was no use, so he tried the others. Helheim was barred to the living, even him, and he couldn’t swim down to the bottom of the Mariana Trench when he got to Midgard. When he couldn’t, he stomped into Odin’s great hall and screamed at him to release his siblings. Odin was as cold with him as he was with me, the way Sleipnir described it to me later. From there, he followed me to Alfheim until it made him too heartsick to see how I was losing myself so willingly. He returned without me and would not speak to Odin,” he would later tell Loki he felt more lost than ever before. For the first time he was alone and he was furious as both him and Odin. He gave Loki more leeway, but it did hurt him. He left Sel alone to deal with his pain, and not for the last time. Sleipnir still hadn’t forgiven him for it, the first on the list of things he wouldn’t forgive. It was the first crack they couldn’t repair.
“When I finally returned, I went to him and told him we needed to pretend. We needed to act like we had before they were taken, like everything was back to normal. If we both acted like we had forgotten then no one would look at either of us too closely, and I could find a way. We did, despite the cracks, and eventually we both began to believe it. We forgave Odin and went back to being the desperate son and adoring grandson. We didn’t speak about his brothers and sister. We just ignored their existence like everyone else. Only once did I bring them up,” It was when Loki snuck into Sel’s stall late at night, as he had that first time, and whispered ‘they’re free’. Sleipnir had leaned his forehead into Loki’s and nodded. That was all, “Because of that we never got around to talking about how I had abandoned him to seek out my own oblivion on Alfheim. We never started to deal with that, and it would fester.”
“Did you tell him when you found out you were Jotun?”
Loki laughed, loud and dark, “I wanted to burn because I found out I was a monster. I was in no rush to inform my son he was born of one. The plan to destroy Jotunheim was so that no one would ever find out, especially the one child who wasn’t tainted with Jotun blood. Sleipnir already had the knowledge of what his own sire was. I didn’t want to add to that. I wish I didn’t have to now. I did not see him before I let go.”
Later, when Loki returned after his invasion attempt, Sleipnir had refused to even speak to him. His son had been told his father was dead by his own hand, that he had let him think so while he prepared to be a conqueror. Loki pleaded with Sel to just listen, but he wouldn’t. Nothing Loki said, no excuse he gave, was good enough. He had finally found a way to break his son’s love and patience, and it was only partially his fault. The painful irony was not lost on Loki. He could do nothing but leave, shamed and knowing he was useless. He kept going back every few weeks, hiding in the shadows again and just watching like he had as a teenager. He left signs that he’d been there every time, hoping Sel would leave a sign of his own that he was willing to listen. So far there was nothing, and Loki’s heart broke a little more every time. He wondered how long it would be until it was too much for him and he had to stop. There would come a time when he couldn’t stand it anymore, and he’d abandon his child all over again. After that failed first attempt, he had only spoken to Sel once, and it wasn’t a conversation, but merely his voice on the wind warning his son ‘Hela has been found and we have a plan. Tell Odin you know nothing’. He had wanted to add ‘I love you’ to the end, but decided it might only anger him. It was another reason he was asking for Sleipnir to come- it might be his last chance to make things right...or perhaps give Sleipnir the chance to cut Loki out of his life for good. Loki wouldn’t survive that intact, but if it gave his son comfort, he would endure it.
It was the reason he had phrased it as a demand that Sleipnir come, not a request. This way he could not refuse, no matter how he felt. Loki wasn’t above manipulating his son and could admit how awful it was to himself. He wouldn’t admit it to my one else however.
“Do you think Sleipnir will choose to stay on Earth?”
Loki actually laughed, though it was a mournful sound, “No I don’t. Why would he choose me over Odin? The best I hope for is for my children to be able to see each other one last time, and the knowledge that it was his choice. I will be content with that, or as much as I am capable of.”
“That’s a heavy threat for something you know won’t do anything for-“ her eyes were struck with realization, “Oh. It’s to make sure you can say goodbye.”
He flinched away from the truth, wishing she hadn’t said that out loud. He didn’t want to think about having to say goodbye for real, “That is so. Any deal I make would have an oath to never return to Asgard. Sleipnir would be lost to me forever, and I will not leave him without one final farewell,” Loki liked to think it was for Sel’s benefit as much as his own, but that lie was a bit too great, even for him.
“And with that,” he finally said, “I believe my tale has come to an end. I have nothing left to tell, at least for now, and I quite frankly don’t know if I have the energy for anything more. I trust you to have enough to write your story?”
She actually scoffed, “Enough? I have enough here to write a full issue. It’s going to take me weeks to sort all this out into an article. I’m going to have to push for this is be a special issue,” she looked excited and ambitious, like a woman who understood that this was going to secure her future, “This has a bit of everything. There’s the drama and the heartbreak that will launch a thousand think pieces about how to process sympathetic villains. There’s going to be a thousand debates about cultural relativism when it comes to dealing with Asgard and places like it. There will be petitions to make sure your children don’t go back to Asgard, along with fiery speeches about why they have to go since they’re literally illegal aliens. You’re going to be appropriated into both the Mommy Wars and conversations about LGBT representation when they try and figure out if you’re good for their side or not. I give it a year before someone pitches an epic fictionalized love story between you and Angrboda. Half the internet will love you for your open relationship with Sigyn and the other half will call you pathetic and whipped. You’re going to be mercilessly mocked and instantly forgiven and praised in equal measure. And that’s only the first few weeks after it comes out.”
“How utterly chaotic,” Loki grinned in pleasure. It was a pleasing extra benefit to this whole thing. He would enjoy watching the chaos unfold.
“And I’m sure you’re ecstatic to watch the whole thing go down. But you know I can’t just take your word for all this. Even if your name wasn’t Liesmith, I don’t just write stories with unverified claims,” she didn’t break eye contact when she said it.
“Of course,” Loki knew exactly what she would ask next, but followed the script anyway, “and how would you have me rectify that?”
“I need witnesses to collaborate the details of your story, or at least as much as can be. The first part is harder because I can’t just call up Asgard. However, there were people who were involved in later parts- your children.”
“You could just contact their PR department,” he replied, intentionally obtuse.
“And wait behind about five hundred other people who called before me,” she said bluntly, “Are you going to give me their numbers?”
With a chuckle, Loki summoned a business card and pushed it across the table to her. There were three numbers written there in Loki’s clean handwriting. A grin lit up her face as she took it.
“A suggestion Ms. Everhart,” he told her, “Don’t ask Fenrir about his relationship with Rogers. He will hang up on you. He has no patience for reporters demanding those answers.”
“The only time he’s seen in public is at Captain America’s side while they throw heart eyes at each other. Of course everyone is speculating on that. But thank you for the note. I’ll refrain. Any other hints for what I should avoid?”
Loki thought about it, “Don’t ask Hela to show herself without the glamour. If Jorgamund doesn’t wish to speak on a topic, he will ignore it. Trying to convince him into speaking is a pointless endeavor.”
She nodded, finally shutting off her recorder, “And they’re all aware I’ll be calling?”
“They’ve all agreed,” he confirmed, “How cooperative they’ll be is up to the questions you ask.”
She looked at the card again, a look of consideration on her face, “I’d prefer to have someone that can back up the things you’ve said about your life in Asgard before them, and Asgard in general. I’m going to search through any official transcripts that were kept of official interactions between Earth and Asgard, as well as watch every interview Thor has done,” Loki was impressed by her determination and work ethic, “But there’s still more I could do.”
Loki was genuinely curious where she was going with this, “And what do you suggest?”
She leaned across the table, eyes glittering, “Amora. Put me in contact with her.”
Loki laughed in disbelief, loud enough that the restaurant staff threw weary looks his way, “Oh you are bold. Perhaps that will even amuse Amora enough she’ll let you live through any questions you ask,” he waved a hand and another number appeared on the card, “I make no promises she’ll agree, or that she’ll let you leave alive if she does. Do you still wish to risk that?”
“For the story of my life? Absolutely. Will you tell her I’m going to call?”
“Of course. I’ll even inform you you if she laughs at your request to save you from a curse,” He had no idea how Amora would react. She might find it hilarious that this little mortal would be so confident, or she would find the whole thing insulting. Norns help the reporter should she get her interview and find a way to enrage the Enchantress. Loki honesty hoped Christine Everhart survived the experience, and not only because her death would make this entire ordeal a waste of time. He’d have to ask Amora to play nice and not break his mortal.
“This will take me at least a month to go through, so inform them I’ll be calling with questions around then. I’d prefer to meet in person but I’m comfortable with a phone interview if it’s better for them.”
“I’ll let them know,” Loki was amused by the change in her voice to completely professional.
“Give me at least two months to write this. I’ll have to keep it quiet, otherwise I’ll have the authorities knocking on my door.”
“They’ll be knocking the moment your article comes out,” he pointed out.
“If your plans works out, it’ll be a moot point. I hope it does. Not because I think you deserve the right to dictate the terms of your own punishment, but because having you in prison and not trying to escape is better for the world. But Asgard lost any rights to you a long time ago and your children do deserve this.”
He was impressed with the steely honesty, “And what if the authorities come while you’re writing?”
She looked offended, “Then they’ll get nothing from me. I’m a journalist Mr. Silvertongue, and a damn good one.”
“Apologies,” he put his hands up in surrender, but silently cast a spell that would prevent her from letting any information slip to people Loki wouldn’t approve of. No matter how much she would protest, there are always ways to force someone to tell their secrets. Loki wouldn’t risk showing his hand that way, “Is there anything you require of me?”
“Very well,” Loki rose, “I’ll take my leave. Lunch is on me”
“That might be considered bribery you know, especially from a supervillain.”
“If your superiors would consider you able to be bought for ten dollars worth of sushi then you need to find ones that would show you much more respect. If it comforts you, you can pay next time.”
“Next time?” She asked, eyebrows raised and the excitement building again.
“I believe I did promise you another interview at some point,” he reminded her, surprised she would have forgotten that.
“You did,” she replied, “I just assumed you’d insist on waiting until I proved myself useful to you,” the same ambition from the beginning when he had approached her was shining though. This was another opportunity, “You know, I’m going to get a book out of you.”
It was said without a hint of doubt, so how could he disagree? “If I allow anyone to write a book about me,” how utterly amusing, “It will be you. If you prove useful to me, of course.”
With that he turned to leave. He paused a moment, a thought hitting him. Without much of a hesitation, he summoned three more pieces of paper. He looked for a moment and took in the images he had conjured. He wondered absently why these were the first pictures his subconscious had provided him with. They were lovely ones, and they made him smile as he turned back and handed them to her.
“It occurs to me that any article you write will need photographs to accompany them,” she took them in confusion, and her face changed when she realized what she was holding, “If there is one way Midgard has improved upon Asgard, it is in the way you capture moments. On Asgard, they only consider the great moments worthy to be memorialized, and only in painting. Yet here, you’ve come up with ways to capture every pointless moment. There’s so much time you just won’t forget, because you’ve made an imprint of it forever. There’s so many memories you can cherish without worrying about losing pieces of them,” he gestured to the pictures Christine was holding, “I can use magic to put a memory on paper as an image, but I don’t know how much of that it the truth. How many details has my mind changed over the years? What parts have I lost or what have I added without realizing it? But these moments here, this is how I remember them happening.”
The reporter was examining the first picture, a small smile gracing her face. It showed a woman with blue- grey skin and swirling patterns twisting along her sharp face. She sat on a fur carpet, long black braid hanging down her back and silver light dancing above her outstretched hand. There was a wolf pup curled up in her lap and a long serpent around her shoulders, both of them looking at the light with wonder. There was an amused smile on her lips.
Christine turned to the next one. There was a woman again, but a different one. She was pale with square features, with red hair blowing freely around her. She had a daring look on her face, like she was challenging someone to follow her. She sat saddle-less on a massive black eight legged horse. Beside them was a smaller horse with a younger girl mounted on it. Her hair, one side white and one side black, hung in front of most of her face, but intelligent green eyes and a shy smile managed to peak out.
She paused there and looked up at him, “You have a lovely family,” she told him sincerely, “and I promise you I’ll do my damndest to tell their story like they deserve.” She turned to the last picture and burst out laughing.
He smirked down at the picture in her hand, one of a bright pink Thor dressed in a lovely white dress. He looked half miserable and half humiliated, and altogether hilarious. It was a bit of revenge really.
“This is real?” Christine asked through her laughter.
“Quite,” Loki said, “it’s a good story too.”
“This doesn’t exactly go with the tone of the article,” her giggles were breaking off.
“Then save it for some other time. I trust you to know the best time. I’m not picky as long as eventually Thor’s lovely wedding dress gets seen by Midgard,” the fact that Thor could pull off the look well enough would only make the whole thing more embarrassing for him. Let his brother be the one to feel shame for once.
The reporter carefully stored all three pictures in her bag, along with her tape recorder, “Thank you for the pictures Mr. Silvertongue. Though it does bring up the fact that we’re going to need pictures of you as well.”
“You’re in luck then. My photograph is all over the internet.”
“They’re all copyrighted and too much hassle to get permission to use. We’ll just have to get you in for a photo shoot,” she said it in a blase manner as though she was doing no more than announcing the weather.
“More requests Ms. Everhart?” He wasn’t even surprised, just bemused.
“You haven’t said no yet,” she said and held up the card with the contact information, “There’s still room on this card for one more number.”
He waved his hand and his cell phone number wrote itself on the paper. He left the reporter while she wore a victorious smirk.
“Good day Ms. Everhart.”
He paid the bill and left her organizing her things. He cloaked himself as soon as he stepped onto the busy sidewalk. He slipped through the crowds until he reached an alleyway and then teleported to his apartment. Once inside, he felt the tension leaving him, only to be replaced by a bone deep sadness he wouldn’t be able to stand if he stayed sober for much longer. He yearned to see his children, to hear their voices, but he resisted temptation. Instead, he poured himself a large glass of wine. If he didn’t drink himself into oblivion now, nightmares would plague him. He had no idea which ones, but he had many to suffer from.
Wine glass in hand, Loki paced. He tried to outpace the memories even as he considered his next move. Odin wouldn’t overrule his deal with Midgard if they took it. He knew too many realms would love the excuse to turn on him. He highly doubted the king considered any of them important enough the risk that. Odin would be unable to do anything. If Asgard tried to move before then, he’d leak the details of his proposal himself and make it up to Christine Everhart later.
Sighing, Loki made his way to the other end of the room and sat down on his chair. He filled his glass with a burst of magic as he pushed everything back to consider the possibility of insisting his current home be made his prison. He doubted they’d allow him to stay in a fancy penthouse, but he could at least make the suggestion. It would be shame to leave a place he had designed so perfectly to his whims. For a moment, the long shelf on the opposite wall caught his attention. There were currently a handful of magical displayed there, but maybe…
The items vanished to be replaced with picture frames without even him really choosing to do it. They were the same two pictures he had given the reporter earlier. After a beat, he dug into his memory and summoned more. He conjured Angrboda at their wedding, Sigyn at the first Yule celebration where they were friends, Sleipnir in full battle gear, Jorgamund basking in the sun, Hela doing magic, and Fenrir wrestling. He paused another second, and then pulled pieces of different memories to slice them together into one family photo with not only him and all his children, but Angrboda and Sigyn added in as well. He decided to make more, to show his children as they were now. He brought forth images he had found on his internet search once he knew their human identities- Hela’s Time magazine cover, Fenrir in his uniform from decades ago, Jorgamund in his wizard robes. Finally, he chewed on his lower lip with a churning stomach when the final desire for pictures came to him. He was torn, heart pulling two ways and aching for both. Finally, despite the way it made him feel sick, he created two more- one of him and Thor as children and one of him and Frigga in her garden. They were back in the corner, hidden unless you knew to look for them. Loki wanted to banish them again, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. It was too twisted up inside him and he still wanted them to matter, even though Odin had no place in the tribute to his family.
More wine was needed. His head was beginning to buzz with it, but not nearly enough. A shiver went through him, not necessarily at the cold he rarely felt, but at the fear that lurked underneath. It was a fear of the past, present, and future, and it left him with a bone deep chill. He remembered a part of his conversation from earlier and hesitated. He had thought of it earlier, had told himself to do it, but…
His heart was in his throat when he pulled Angrboda’s prized fur from his pocket dimension. All these years he avoided it, assuming it would only hurt to see it again. He was scared it would break his heart all over again, or worse, he’d hold it and think of nothing but shame and monsters. Instead, he clutched it to him and it felt like a part of the world righted itself. It still hurt, it still caused too many feelings he didn’t want to deal with, but he wanted it anyway.
“I’m going to protect them this time Ang,” he whispered, hands clenched into the warm fur, “I promise.”
He couldn’t let her down again. This had to work...it would work. There was no other options. He had to believe in their plan and the mortal he had chosen to trust with his story. He settled the fur over his curled legs and stared out the floor to ceiling windows opposite him, and continued to plan and drink himself into unconsciousness. He had to believe that. This time Asgard couldn’t win. His family was stronger now than it ever had been, and they would beat Asgard and Odin at his own game. One more move on their part and it would be checkmate.