He kept his back turned away from the entrance to the dungeons. His curiosity demanded to know what had happened, but he wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of knowing they were relieving him of the wanting by appearing to be waiting on their mercy. Even when he heard the familiar footsteps of his mother and realized that she was coming in person, rather than visiting him via a projection.
Still, he didn’t turn to look at her, to watch her come to him. Come, because he could not meet her, because they had locked him away beneath the palace. They’d trapped him like a beast inside a glass cage where the guards could ogle him as though he were nothing more than a sideshow and not someone they had once called son . He should never have clung to the hope that it was anything more than a lie.
The brittle tone in his mother’s voice was nothing more than yet one more ploy. One more demand for his regard. And what exactly did she want of him? That was the truly inspired thing. She and Odin and Thor continued to insist he fall by their demands, and yet what they wanted was never clear. They wanted him to speak the truth, and yet when he did he was accused of lies. They wanted him to believe he was their son, and yet when he finally did allow himself the foolish hope, settled like a carpet of deception beneath his feet, they yanked it away and sent him crashing into an abyss he could never find his footing in. He was left to fall perpetually, until finally madness took him, as it had…
As it so often had. Though perhaps it was not madness but his true nature.
Loki permitted himself a bitter smile. He watched in the reflection of his cage as his mother walked up, her fingers pressing into the palm of her hand. Her steps were hesitant – not the purposeful stride she so often employed as she moved around, always appearing in control. Her masks were even better than his.
He finally rolled his eyes at her plaintive tone and turned, regarding her with a cool expression. Unaffected. He was only here because he chose to be. He could escape any time he wished. Let them doubt the walls of the cage they had placed him in. Let them wonder why he stayed as their doubt curdled into paranoia. Let their glances at him be ones of fear. If he could not have their respect, if he could not have their love, then he would take their terror as his due. If hate was all he could expect from them with any consistency, then he would earn it.
“What could I have possibly done to earn a visit from the All-Mother in person?” he asked imperiously. “Such an honor.”
Frigga drew herself up straight, like a queen about to address the court, but he did not miss the way her lips parted and her breath seemed to stutter just slightly before she composed herself. “My son, I have grave news.”
His mouth twisted into a sneer at the title and he turned away from her, but she followed, walking around his prison to stand before him again. No privacy at all within these walls. He moved to turn away from her again – a petty reaction that would gain him no ground in the long-run but felt satisfying nonetheless – but she raised a hand.
It wasn’t the press of her fingers against the glass that stilled him but the tremble of them. He paused in turning away and actually looked at her. There was something brittle about her. Something almost like the finest crystal – beautiful and delicate and so likely to shatter at the lightest touch.
His mother had never looked like that. Frigga had trained with the Valkyrie. She was a shieldmaiden, a warrior, a queen as unbendable as a mountain. She had never appeared so breakable.
“What news?” Perhaps Thor had chosen to argue Loki’s case yet again and Odin had finally heard enough and banished him again . Certainly his brother would appreciate that. He would be able to spend time with the mortal woman. Jane Foster. With his own fate sealed and his brother not currently hungering for Jotnar blood, perhaps Thor would not try so hard to return this time. Perhaps he would remain with Jane as her pitifully short mortal life bled away.
Loki clenched his hands together, digging his thumb into his palm as he tried not to think of the agony of loss that was remaining unchanged as your lover’s hair turned to grey and her face cragged with wrinkles and age. He tried not to think of Iðunn’s fruit, so near and so far, and a lonely grave that became three, then more and more, as generations passed and the children of his children’s children forgot his face and his name and the truth of their own blood. He tried not to think of the day he turned away from Midgard and swore to never go back, never, because it hurt too terribly, only to have his not-brother sent there amongst his unknown nieces and nephews of generations past, not as a god, but a mortal. Thor, meant to wrinkle and grey at the speed of a god’s rest, and die. Lost to him not only as a brother, but forever. Forever.
It had been like losing Sigyn all over again, and yet so much worse and in the throes of his grief and madness, he had thought to make a clean break of it. He had told Thor that Odin was dead, hoping that his brother would accept that there would be no return for him, that he would find some peace in Midgard, in his mortal life, and stop attempting to come home. Stop his incessant calling to Heimdallr, to their father, to Loki , and no longer haunt him with his presence. If he was destined to die, then let him be gone.
But Thor had never known when to quit. Nor had his friends, for that matter. Grief and no small amount of madness had turned to rage and a need to silence the calls of his brother that Loki freely admitted now had probably not come from Thor at all, but from some place within Loki that desperately wished to go to Thor, to go to Midgard, to be with his brother, because for all of his brashness, for all of his callousness and occasional (frequent) stupidity, Thor had never hidden his love for Loki. He had sometimes not understood how his actions could hurt Loki, but he had also always been free with his affections.
Loki had desperately needed that. He had needed to know that something, at least this one thing, would not change.
But then Sif and the Warriors Three had defied Odin’s decree – defied his decree – and gone to Midgard to bring Thor back. To bring a mortal into Asgard, as though Thor being amongst his still-immortal brethren would keep him from fading. With Odin in the OdinSleep and no knowledge of how long he might remain that way…
It would not be the first time that Odin had slept through an entire mortal lifetime, and Loki could not bear it. He could not bear to watch his brother wither and die, as he had watched his wife and then his children die. He could not do it again.
Better to kill Thor and have him gone. Better to hurt now and then heal, rather than let the pain linger for so long, growing and festering and slowly consuming him until the final loss would not lance the wound but burst it free, spilling out poison and lifeblood both. Better that—
“Thor has moved to Valhalla.”
Loki’s thoughts cut off like a wind dying to stillness.
He drew a slow, steadying breath, pressed his fingers to his hand. “Pardon?”
Frigga took a step closer, tentative (she was never tentative). “Loki… my darling, your brother fell in the battle. A blade… it pierced his heart as he destroyed the Kursed.”
Loki blinked. "You might want to take the stairs to the left." For a moment, cold pain curled like a wounded serpent in his stomach, and then his shoulders straightened. Of course. The guards had dealt with the threat and reported his assistance of the creature. This was meant to be his punishment. My, how disappointed they would be to realize how little he cared for their lies.
He turned away from her, unwilling to look upon her face any longer. He waved a hand dismissively. “And so the favored son is welcomed into the halls of Valhalla. And here I thought it was Jörmungandr who was meant to guide his way.”
There was a guard standing nearby. No doubt here to protect Frigga from the dangerous Jotun. The man appeared revolted by Loki’s mere presence and he sneered at him. Fool. Did they truly believe they could fool him with their tales? He, the LieSmith, Trickster, and Silvertongue?
They would have to do much better than that.
“My son,” Frigga whispered from behind him, and he felt his shoulders stiffen at her tone. Without his consent, his body turned.
She had slid to her knees outside of his cage, her forehead pressed against the glass as the tears overcame her control. They dripped from her chin as her fingertips trembled against the glass. “My son,” she whispered, and he didn’t know if she was addressing him or…
“You lie,” he hissed, the bitter knife of certainty sliding into his own heart. “You’re lying.”
She lifted her head just enough to meet his eyes and her own were stricken with grief. Loki stumbled away from her. “You’re lying!” he yelled.
“It was meant for me,” she told him, her voice barely recognizable around her tears. “Your daughter was meant to greet me today, but Thor took the blade.” She covered her mouth with a hand. “Dear Norns, why did you not warn me?”
Loki had backed up until he hit the opposite wall. He shook his head slowly. No. No, this was a trick. An elaborate, cruel trick. Thor couldn’t be… he was a god, for the Norns’ sake. Besides that, he was Thor. Being bested by a single blade would be too much a stain on his honor for him to fall to it. Sheer stubbornness would keep the idiot breathing.
But as his mother dissolved into tears, Loki finally allowed himself to recognize the strange rumble of thunder that had shaken the prison, only to cut off abruptly. The murmur of the guards, their solemn faces. The blood on his mother’s dress, dampening the edges of her sleeves. The tears that had been on her face when she arrived. The tears he hadn’t wanted to see. The grief, too well-known to his eyes, that had he tried to hide from.
“Hel, please, tell me they lie,” he whispered. His own tears burned icy cold as they rolled down his cheeks, freezing before they reached his chin. His breath ghosted in front of him in a cloud of mist, and the clear glass walls of his prison ran white with frost.
“Thor, please.” He grabbed the back of the chair, the wood creaking in his grasp. “You don’t get to… you don’t…” He lifted the chair and swung it hard at the wall with a scream. “THOR! He pulled backed, hefted the chair, and swung again, and again, and again. The chair cracked, then shattered against the force of the strike, until he was holding only the backrest. He flung it all the wall and kicked the table across the prison with a scream of rage. “YOU DON’T GET TO JUST UP AND DIE!” He brought his fists crashing down on the table, shattering it. “YOU STUPID, USELESS BASTARD!”
He flew around the prison, destroying everything he could get his hands on, ignoring as the wood ripped at his hands, as the scraps sliced his feet open. When he had demolished everything else, he turned to the walls, hammering at the glass with his fists, leaving smears of blood across the ice that distorted everything beyond.
“THOR!” he screamed, beating at the glass. “Thor!” He pressed his forehead against the wall and slid to the floor. “Please…” His tears finally ran freely, dripping from his chin. “Brother, please.”
But no matter his begging, no matter his cries, Thor never came to tell him it had been a lie.