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Brothers of Frost

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Brothers Of Frost:

"All-Father, you know that peace between our worlds has always been thin." Laufey's voice is deep and angry, but not quite seething. His stare is level with Odin's own, and his face is sharp and angry. Odin's jaw clenches tightly and he bites at his tongue sharply to keep himself in check.

No.

He refuses to agree to this.

"Stop trying to fight this. You are only prolonging the war," Laufey hisses. Odin did not commission a peace treaty of such barbaric requirements. Laufey is the one who is trying to drag this out. Not him. "You must see the wisdom in this. Our people will slaughter each other if nothing is done."

Only because they're set on trying to commit genocide to Asgard every other century. Odin keeps the thought private, and gnaws at the tip of his tongue for a second. "Yes, but surely there must be another way beyond...this."

He wants to refuse, grab Laufey and rattle him back and forth for claiming such a proposal would work. For attempting to claim his—

His child.

His signing away his—

Laufey gives a humorless laugh. "This is it or there is no deal, All-Father. You look weary, you know this truth as well as I."

Yet that does not mean he has to like it.

No.

There must be a different way, he's not going to submit Thor to this. Not when there could be an alternative, not when he could have the opportunity to raise the child Frigga nearly died in labor for. Odin remains silent and Laufey hisses out a laugh, as if expecting this.

Odin wants to rattle his throat.

"The child will be safe here. I'll raise him as one of my own."

Ha.

"That's what I'm worried about." Odin counters, his voice laced with a sharp bite, "Thor is of Asgardian lineage, he cannot survive on Jotunheim."

There.

Biological facts, Asgardians will wither in this weather.

Laufey has to let this idea fall.

Laufey shakes his head, "I am not blood thirsty, Odin, I want this war to end as much as you, but this is the only way. My children are dead, or we would trade. You raise mine and I raise yours. Instead, you will give me guardianship over your son until he's become an adolescence. You can take him then, and peace will prosper."

Odin hesitates.

Frigga will kill him.

But Asgard does not have the means to go to another war, nor prolong this one.

He blows out a breath, "Fine. Thor will be raised here, you will return him to us when he's reached adolescence and swear to not go to another war in return for this. He will be told of his heritage, he will know he is of my blood. Swear to me."

Laufey's lips twitch in a mirthless smile, "I swear."

Odin's limbs are heavy.

"Then I will bring the child to you in three days." He promises.

He leaves, returns to Asgard, faces the wrath of his wife and the tears of her loss before he takes Thor's small hand and helps him walk across the Bifrost the Observatory. He tries to stay his tears, but finds that he cannot. Laufey takes the child from him without so much as a final goodbye and sweeps him into the midst of the Frost Giants.

Thor.

His son.

He's lost him.

Odin staggers throughout the ruins of the war, trying to find some sort of solstice, an ease to his pain and stumbles into one of their temples, with dead laying slaughtered around it. The sight is a gruesome battle, though Odin cannot remember being here. It was likely one of the squadrons.

He stands at the end of the hill, breathing slowly, then casts his head up when he hears the sound of a babe crying.

000o000

"What if he's mean?"

"Dearheart, he won't be."

"But what if he is?"

Odin shares an exasperated look with his wife, sighing quietly, near silently as Loki anxiously wrings his hands, looking between bolting along the remainder of the Bifrost Bridge or stopping all together. His green eyes refuse to leave Odin, a wide flutter of obvious discomfort present between the irises. By all rights, Loki looks like he's being dragged to his execution.

Odin cannot say that he, himself, feels much different.

It has been so long.

So many weeks. Days. Months. Years.

What if he has been tainted, what if the treaty was not followed, what if—

Frigga's hand rests on his shoulder, and Odin lifts his gaze to his wife gratefully, raising his hand to gently hold her fingers between his own. She has always been attuned to him, able to read his face like an open book despite his best efforts to dissemble. Norns know how deeply he loves this woman. Her blue eyes are filled with concern and Odin thins his lips at them, but he gives a curt nod of reassurance.

Despite her best efforts, the wariness is not hidden from her frame, either.

They are both unprepared for this.

Who could be?

It has been so long since the war, and—

Loki twitches slightly and he digs his hands into the edges of his shirt. "What if he hates me?" Loki whispers, thinking aloud, "I don't want him to hate me."

Odin's stomach twists sharply. Thor might. He might because Laufey raised him and the Norns know what Laufey has taught his son about Asgard. He swore to tell him of his lineage, but that means nothing. The word of a Jotunn is never trustworthy. It is why they took the Casket of Ancient Winters. It is why they had to drive them back to Jotunheim when Laufey swore surrender on Midgard. This treaty is a facade, Odin knows this now, it was merely an effort to punish Asgard for stopping Jotunheim's conquest.

And this makes him furious.

Odin does not forgive easily.

He has never been given a reason to.

Frigga smiles softly and releases Odin, giving a low shake of her head before she moves forward to take one of Loki's hands in her own, though Loki looks reluctant at the touch, "I'm certain that your brother won't push you." She promises.

How do they know? They do not know Thor. They have not known Thor for years now and that is not going to—

Loki makes a face and releases another stream of protesting, but High Commander Tyr turns to look back at him, and Odin tunes it out. "We've nearly reached the Observatory, my king, do you want us to send someone ahead?"

It would be common standard for guests from other realms, a courtesy. Yet it is different for another member of the royal family, and Thor is waiting there. Thor is there. The thought is odd, but not unwelcomed.

Odin shakes his head, "No, the first people to see my son will be his family." He says firmly. Tyr nods and Odin picks up the pace as much as he's able, his feet giving tittering taps against the ground in a rhythm that is familiar to him. The Bifrost Bridge is a path he's traveled many times in his existence, to numerable to count. Yet this time feels so different.

Perhaps it's because before, he's never had to see a peace treaty come to a close like this. Maybe it's because he's never had to pick up a child (his child) he does not know, maybe—

It will not do well to dwell on such thoughts.

He isn't gaining anything beyond making himself more timorous, and he needs to be strong for the child.

Thor.

His.

At last, after nearly half an hour since they left the palace, they arrive at the Observatory's edge. A horse would have cut the time into a little less than ten, but Frigga suggested that they walk. Jotunheim does not have horses, and Thor might be unused or frightened by them. Jotunheim is barren, it's been barren since before they attempted to slaughter Midgardians. They have few animals native to the planet, where Asgard is filled with plenty.

Frigga comes to a halt at his side, their Einherjar escort taking up their positions outside to give them minor privacy. As much as can be expected in their position. Loki's flitting with his hands again, but Odin cannot assuage the apprehensiveness in himself long enough to ease his son's. Frigga's hand clasps his own, fingers intertwining by habit and they share a febrile look.

Heimdall's back is to them, but as they slowly move forward he shifts his head to look towards them with a knowing glance. Odin meets it readily, then shifts his gaze towards the small frame standing beside the opening to the gate, shoulders drawn in as if to make himself smaller.

He has no escort, which Odin immediately notes as strange. Even if Thor was raised among commoners on Jotunheim, as he was the solution to a legal peace treaty, he should have been followed by at least two others to see the deed finished. He was not. And this does not please Odin.

He casts a look at the boy, long blond hair is tucked into a messy ponytail with loose strands coming to hang around a thin face. He carries muscles, but it is meager compared to other children his age and it does not seem to hold well onto his gaunt body. He is tucked into furs, but they do not seem to be warm enough for the brittle edge of Jotunheim.

He does not look of Asgard.

He looks like a scavenger, or perhaps a fisherman's son, ill and covered in furs.

This is not the child that Odin led to Jotunheim so many years ago.

He is older, but he is not Asgard's.

And yet, when he looks harder—sharper—Odin can see the barest edges of himself and Frigga in the child. He bares her nose, but his jaw, her pale blue eyes and hair color, but Odin's ears. He is clearly their child, but he is not theirs. Not after what Laufey proposed, not after the brutal war and all he would accept was—

Thor.

Odin's feet feel rooted in place and Loki's body shifts closer to his, wary.

Frigga, ever the All-Mother, shares no such qualms. She releases his hand and moves forward slowly, though Thor flinches to it. Wide blue eyes swing up to meet the golden blonde's and his fists clench at his sides, as though preparing for a fight. There need not be such actions. Thor is safe here. He will be safe here.

"Thor, my child," Frigga whispers softly and wraps the boy in an embrace, tucking his head close to her as she gently runs a hand through his hair. Thor barely comes up to her shoulder, and Odin can see the stiff surprise in his expression.

But no hostility.

No battle.

No Laufey.

Odin feels himself release, unwind, relax, and he comes to rest a hand on Thor's shoulder when Frigga has let him go, keeping a gentle hand on his upper back. His eyes are still wide with surprise and Odin grips him tighter, "How do you fare, my child?" He questions.

He looks in need of a warm meal.

Thor lifts his eyes towards him, "I'm…" He murmurs in a shaky common-tongue. He swallows, "I'm…"

"Hungry?" Frigga guesses, "We've prepared a feast in your honour, Asgard is rejoicing in your return to us at long last." Odin shoots her a warning look, but she ignores it. They cannot rush this. She's equally trepidatious, and this isn't helping anything. They're going to make a mess before they're even properly acquainted with their son. It would be better not to rush things.

"There is much to see in the palace," Odin offers instead, adjusting his grip on Gungnir, "perhaps a tour would be welcomed, then we can celebrate."

Thor looks relieved, and his shoulders visibly slump. "Yes. I think so. Thank you, All-Father."

Odin barely represses a flinch. He has not been in the child's prime years to be worthy of the title "father", but it stings to know he does not bare it all the same. He let him go. He let Laufey take him, he is not worthy of it. He should not be.

Odin smiles, but it's grim. "Good. Loki," he waves the boy forward, yet Loki remains rooted to the spot, staring at Thor with wide green eyes. His fingers have stopped fidgeting, but it does not mean anything pleasant. Odin resists the urge to sigh, "Loki."

Loki snaps back into attention and looks towards him, Thor again, then him once more before taking slow steps forward and giving a painfully tight smile. "Hello, Thor," he says in a small voice, "you're well, I trust."

"I'm…" Thor repeats helplessly, then clenches his fists tightly, "yes. Of course...Thank you."

Loki nods and stares at him strangely.

Odin bites sharply at his inner cheek before sharing a helpless look with his wife and rests a hand on Thor's shoulder, pretending to ignore his flinch. "Come, then, there's much to see."

000o000

Odin guides Thor through the palace, but the slightest noise or abrupt movement makes him flinch and draw in closer to himself. He seems terrified of everything and Odin is not quite sure what to do with this information. On one hand, it could be from the fact that he has not set foot on Asgard since he was a very young youth, but on another…

Odin does not like the trailing thought, and does his best to quell it.

Laufey would not dare—

He does not like the implications, but he cannot very well ignore them; this is his son.

Thor remains fidgeting and Loki clinging to Frigga's skirts, but trying not to be obvious about it the entire length of exploration. Thor asks no questions. He hardly speaks except when asked a question, instead opting to stare at everything.

When they at last make it to the royal family's wing, Thor's eyes widen with wonder. The personal rooms are adjoined in the middle with a large sitting room, a private kitchen (Frigga has always loved to cook and not even her royal status is going to stop that), and a small nook that Odin has turned into a library since he moved in here with Frigga.

Leading away from the center room is separate doors that open to his and Frigga's bedroom, Loki's, and now Thor's. Each room is vast by its own right, but they come together here. Loki's recent learning hall assignments are spread across the small table and Odin realizes with a slight jolt that they probably should have cleaned this before Thor arrived. The royal family, for the sake of privacy, have never had their rooms cleaned by servants.

Thor stands still for a second, looking for all rights like he wants to gawk, but does not, and Odin hesitantly leads him forward. The boy's eyes widen considerably when Odin shows him where he'll be staying from this point on and looks back at him, "All of this is for me?" He questions quietly.

Odin is not an idiot.

A low fury bubbles in his stomach, but nothing shows on his face. He has been in the court too many long centuries for anything else, now. He keeps his expression reigned, but cannot quell the anger in his stomach.

Laufey—!

"Of course, child," Odin assures and Thor's lips thin. He looks back at the room with wonder.

"Thank you."

Loki's still staring at Thor weirdly.

000o000

The feast is loud, rambunctious, and Odin is fairly certain that a majority of his court has had far to much ale before the night is up. Asgard rejoices in their lost prince's return, singing loudly and dancing with an elaborate meal that Odin is certain Madame Mýrún and her husband, Lord Andhrimnir, worked their staff until they dropped for.

Odin laughs with the others and rejoices, but notices with painful realization that Thor has shrunk further into himself and is barely picking at the food on his plate. Loki keeps attempting to start conversations with him (which shows the blond's true lack of talking desires if Loki, who hates initiating talking, has to start first), but Thor isn't responding.

He looks sick.

Perhaps Odin should wrangle him into visiting High Lady Eir.

He might not be adjusting to Asgard well.

Jotunheim's climate varies differently from their own.

Odin's lips press together tightly.

Thor remains staid for the rest of the night, and Loki eventually gives up.

000o000

The next few days pass in a blur. The political side of this is a mess. Odin realizes with a sick fury that many members of parliament had not expected Thor to return. Odin had never named Loki has his heir, but many Aesir had simply thought he was waiting until the boy came of age (No. Loki would not do well on a throne. It would attach him to something and he is bird who needs to fly free). Thor was always to return and take that responsibility. Asgard was never meant to be Loki's. It does not quell his fury to realize how many believed he'd simply sentenced his firstborn son to death.

He did not.

He would not.

And had Laufey done so, he would have hunted every last Jotunn down and slayed them to avenge Thor. Those who dare defile his family will face his wrath, and he is not merciful when such affairs are intertwined with them.

He sorts through what he can, attempting not to look as exhausted as he feels and returns to the royal family's wing for Frigga to present him with dinner, as well as the revelation that both their sons have turned in for the night.

This pattern follows for nearly a week before Odin has a spare moment. He checks the time and shoves to his feet, quickly working to the private dining room. Despite the mess of their uncorrelated schedules, Frigga makes an effort to dine as a family twice a week, once at break fast and another at the evening meal. Today is the evening, and the time is when she requested it for. As expected, Frigga, Loki, and Thor are gathered in the private room, eating supper.

Frigga looks up at him, eyebrows lifting slightly with surprise, "Ah, Husband," she greets with a smile, "how nice of you to join us at last."

He gives her a gentle eye roll and takes his seat beside her, "The curia regis finally saw it fit to release me." He avers and gathers some of the food from their various dishes, casting a look towards where Thor and Loki are seated side by side. Loki's posture is tense and Thor looks as though he's been prodded between his shoulder blades by a hot rod.

Neither have been adjusting well, then.

Odin thins his lips and wishes for the umpteenth time since Thor's arrival that he had more time to spend with his sons. "Thor," Odin addresses, and the blond looks up at him, fingers curling around the fork he's currently flicking bits of lettuce around his plate with. "How are your studies coming?"

Neither himself, nor Frigga, had been certain what level of schooling Thor would have received on Jotunheim. To recompense this, they asked Sir Borison, head of the nobility's school, to have him take a placement test. He wasn't drastically behind others his age, but he does not bare Loki's genius. Odin is not unhappy with this, he is pleased Thor understands what he can.

His common-tongue is often choppy, as if he did not spend enough time speaking or learning it, and the fact it did not hinder him in the testing was impressive in of itself.

Thor licks his lips and glances behind Odin for a moment, appearing to gather his thoughts. Eventually, he then settles on: "It is well, All-Father, thank you."

Loki makes a soft noise that seems like protest and Thor shoots him a look that's almost hot. It's the first rise of emotion that Odin has seen in Thor beyond a mess of wonder and apathy, and it's odd. Odin is relieved by it, Thor is not so much of Jotunheim's that he does not feel.

Frigga frowns slightly, apparently catching onto the same thing he did. "Your teacher mentioned that you fell asleep in class, Thor, are you sleeping well? If you're ill we can request a healer—"

Thor blanches and he shakes his head rapidly. "No! No!" He protests, then appears to bite down on his tongue and appends, quickly, "No, ma'am. Mistress. Your Majesty All-Mother. No thank you. I'm…" He trails and looks down at his plate, refusing to finish his thought.

Frigga's eyes flash with frustration and hurt.

"Thor," Odin begins, trying to keep his tone level, "you have been looking ill since you arrived. Perhaps it would be well to have you examined to make sure you have adjusted to Asgard's climate." They had to do so for Loki weekly after they first brought him back, he never gained weight like a proper infant should.

Eir assured them that it was because of this.

Biologically, Loki was not meant to be raised on Asgard, and they couldn't force it.

"May I be excused?" Loki questions. Odin notes it, but he doesn't respond immediately. Neither does Frigga.

"I not want—" Thor starts, then clenches his fists, "please not make me be attended to by healer." Why is there such reluctance? Surely the boy must know that they intend him no harm. He is safe here. Asgard will always be safe for him.

"It's 'do not,'" Loki snaps sharply, turning to look at the elder, "'do not make me be attended to'. Norns, you're an idiot."

Thor's face flushes with rage or embarrassment and Odin turns his eye sharply to his youngest. "Loki." He says, hard, as Frigga gives him a hard look. Loki, unlike most older men would, does not cower under their combined stare, and instead juts his chin out a little.

"Say you're sorry," Frigga instructs, "don't be rude."

Loki frowns slightly, "I'm just saying the truth—"

"Your brother is not an idiot." Frigga says flatly, "Go to your room, I'll talk to you later."

Loki's eyes are slightly red and he grits his teeth before he stands, exiting the room, muttering something under his breath that Odin doesn't catch. It doesn't sound fairly nice. Odin clenches his jaw together tightly, attempting to calm himself before he shouts at the boy. He told him to make Thor feel welcome so many days ago when they heard word of his return to them. Loki should have listened.

Calling his brother and idiot isn't going to solve anything, or—

Odin resists the urge to blow out a breath of frustration, and instead turns to the blond, "Are you certain you do not want to see a healer?"

Thor's eyes flick up to him, "Yes. Thank you, All-Father. May I be excused?"

"Not yet," Frigga instructs, and Odin doesn't miss the minuscule slump and tightening in Thor's shoulders. What is it going to take for him to trust them? "Thor, son, you know that if you go that nothing bad will happen, yes?"

Thor hesitates, "Of course. I've been told so." He assures and attempts to give a smile, but it looks more like a pained grimace. "May I leave the table?"

Frigga's eyes tighten around the edges, but she sighs, "Yes."

000o000

"I don't know what to do, Odin," Frigga admits later that night as she brushes her long hair out as they prepare for bed. Odin frowns slightly from where he's cleaning his eyepatch in a chair beside her vanity. "He won't even see a healer. What does he expect to happen?"

Odin shakes his head, "I know not."

Frigga groans and grips at her hair, "I can't get them to get along."

Odin blows out a breath, "This is not the first time, then?"

"No," Frigga says and shakes her head as she thinks of something, "I've been trying to gather them for an eve meal every night, but Loki has spoken such twice now. I believe his tongue is becoming a blade, and I am uncertain how to keep him from using it."

Indeed.

Odin frowns slightly, "Perhaps a spar would settle their problems." Frigga looks up at him, doubtful, and Odin returns her stare. "Hear me, Wife," he requests, "they are both boys. If we had daughters, we could simply let them braid each other's hair, but a good fight will help them pound out their differences."

Frigga nods slowly, chewing on her lower lip before her brow furrows slightly, "Alright. I'll arrange it with their tutors." She then turns to him, expression mirthful, "'Braid each other's hair'?" She mimics, "My sisters and I would throw things at each other."

000o000

Odin is in his office, carefully reading through a document sent by the dwarfs of Nidavellir, petitioning the request for some of the iron in the Dejorunn Mountains when the door is thrown open. He flicks his gaze up, hand coming to the weapon hidden beneath the desk, but it is no threat.

Only Loki.

Odin's brow furrows with confusion at the sight of his youngest son, and even more so at the realization that Loki, who is usually never one to impose, threw open the door without knocking. "Father!" Loki cries, coming up to the other side of the desk and slamming his hands against the surface. "I want a new brother!"

Odin mentally sighs and rests the paper on the desk, "Why do you say that?"

"Thor hit me!" Loki avers sharply. Odin can indeed see the beginnings of a bruise forming along his jaw and concern begins to build. "He hit me hard."

"Frigga said you two were going to spar," Odin points out, "isn't violence a part of that?"

"You do not understand!" Loki snaps, "I hit him there, too, but before we ended, he beat me with his practice sword. Lord Ullr refused to let us use real steel and I'm glad because then he wouldn't have just hit me, he would have cut off my arm or my fingers or—or—" Loki's voice is gaining a hysterical note and Odin reaches across the desk to grip Loki's knuckle.

Thor's actions concern him.

It is hard to see Jotunheim in him when he's shy and stumbles over his words, but this? This is the culture he knows best. The one that Thor cannot keep if Odin is to make him king. If Thor is to recover from the years he spent as Laufey's.

Odin releases a tight breath and squeezes Loki's hand once more, "I'll talk to him."

Loki stares at him for a long moment, but doesn't say anything.

000o000

Odin does not get a chance to for the next week, such is the burden of the throne. One moment Loki has left his office, the next he is sitting in the council room a week later, listening to one of the men speak of the crop failure in the north from the outbreak of bad storms. Thunder and lightning, mostly, according to the reports, but the lightning is striking fields and burning them.

Odin cannot control the weather, so he is not certain what they want him to do about the matter. He's already petitioned to have them send a sum of money to the farmers until they can gain their footing again.

Odin tunes them out as best he is able, only re-entering the conversation when he realizes they have begun to speak of Thor:

"—Ha! You jest!" Lord Arkenson avers loudly, "Thor is not of the age to beat my son in battle. He does not possess the skill."

"Does skill matter when he has the brute strength to pummel him?" Lord Wyson counters. "That boy is a storm among the classes, I've heard."

Thor has an aptitude for battle, then? He hadn't heard much from Frigga, but he hasn't seen his wife more than when she's sleeping for nearly four days.

Sir Utlison's lips tip down slightly, "I cannot believe that he was given a weapon."

Odin looks at him sharply, "And why is that, pray tell?"

Sir Utlison's gaze flicks up to him, almost as if guilty before admitting, lowly: "He's...reckless. Dangerous. You must know this, he is a tool that Laufey created. A intelligencer. Why do you believe he was sent with no escort?"

Because Laufey did not care to.

He wanted Odin to know how little Thor had meant to him.

How much he should regret his decision.

Odin nearly barks out a laugh. "You believe my son, who has barely reached adolescence, is a fifth columnist for Laufey?"

Sir Utlison's eyes lack any humor. His next words are deathly serious: "He's been tainted by the Frost Giants, my king, he'll be blood thirsty and kill us all. It's only a matter of time."

000o000

Time.

Odin hates the word.

Time is a curse upon all existence, and one that is hard to escape from.

It's barely been a few hours since the meeting disbanded, but he cannot stop thinking over what Utlison said. He's attempted work, but finds himself too restless to be successful. The brief time he has spent with his sons over the last two weeks since Thor's return has not been of great importance. A few words where he could and two meals.

Utlison is wrong.

Thor isn't working for Laufey, but if Odin is not careful, he will begin to view Asgard as the enemy. Odin has not given him much of a reason to want to stay here. Frigga has always been better at carving out time for their children, and though that worked with Loki, he needs to do something different for Thor.

Odin drums his fingers along his desk, attempting to find someplace he could take his children for a few hours of quiet. He's broken from his contemplation via a knock at his door. Odin straightens his slumped posture and composes himself mentally before calling the person in.

It's one of Frigga's aids, Gna. "My Lord," she says, her voice breathless, "there's been a skirmish in the training grounds. Frigga requests your aid. Loki and another are in the Healing Wing."

Odin rises to his feet, worry dropping through his feet, "Are they well?"

"They should be," Gna assures, "Lady Eir believes so. Thor...is with them."

Odin pauses, "Did something happen?"

Gna gives a grim face, "Thor is the reason that the other is in the Healing Hall."

000o000

"Why did you hit him?" Odin demands from across the desk, staring at the summoned child with cold exasperation.

Thor refuses to meet his gaze and flinches. "I thought...it…"

"Why?" Odin presses.

Thor curls into himself further and holds his breath as if awaiting something.

Odin barely reigns in the full amount of his wrath, but he does not contain it all. "Thor," Odin starts calmly, but his voice is laced with thick heat, "I cannot tolerate these actions. First your brother and now this boy, you broke six of Fandral's ribs. What is the meaning of this?"

Thor's expression is angered, and though his chin lifts slightly, he doesn't say anything.

Odin does his best to stay his frustration.

He doesn't find much success.

"Thor."

Thor's eyes lose their anger, replaced with a tired defeat. "Fandral hit Loki hard enough to make him bleed. I hit him enough to make him regret it."

Odin stares at him with disbelief. "Thor," Odin sighs and tries not to lose his patience with the child. He will not tolerate mindless violence. He cannot. Fandral will recover completely, Eir has seen to it, but Thor cannot continue this path of violence.

"He's been tainted by the Frost Giants, my king, he'll be blood thirsty and kill us all. It's only a matter of time."

Time.

He waited to talk to Thor about what happened with Loki, and this is where it got them.

Yes, Thor attacked Fandral for his brother, and Odin supposes that is something, but he shouldn't have attacked him at all. If they have a disagreement they should talk about it, not punch each other.

Surely…

No.

Laufey could not have done that. Thor is Asgardian by birth, he knows them. He is one of them.

He's not bloodthirsty.

"This is not acceptable. Jotunheim may have been different, but on Asgard we don't tolerate mindless violence. For your punishment—"

Thor's head whips up and he jerks slightly, "Wait! Please! I lost control of my temper and I'm sorry, I swear on my honour I'm sorry, but please don't lock me in the room!"

Odin pauses.

Then exhales.

Room.

The room.

Laufey. That sick, twisted, mindless—Odin's going to skin him.

"Son," Odin addresses, trying to reign in his temper, "son, be at ease."

Thor isn't.

Odin wishes it didn't sting as much as it does. He does not trust him. (He has no reason to. Not after Odin left him there for a few years of peace. What kind of parent would—!?) "Thor, please, I was going to say you'll help in the stables for a few days. That was all. What room of do you speak?"

Thor stares at him with wide eyes. His fingers twitch before he blinks several times. "It...you don't do that here?" He questions, "You don't lock people away in the cold, dark rooms as punishment?"

The fury demands a release.

Odin stays it.

"No, we don't." He assures, "Did you receive this punishment often?"

Thor gives a reluctant nod, then begins to speak, the longer he goes for the more rapidly he picks up the pace as if assured if he gets it out in less than one breath it will be easier: "...yes. The King was never pleased with anything I did. He was always angry. Sometimes he'd hit me, but I was to small and fast. They were always making fun of me and I hated it. No one liked me, but they pretended they did. I tried to do the things that they wanted, but I was always cold, sick, and they hated me for it. The King—Laufey would punish me by throwing me in the room and I hated it. I didn't like dark. It was always cold, All-Father, and I just wanted to be warm."

Perhaps skinning him alive is to merciful.

Odin can think of many more creative, painful ways for him to die otherwise.

Odin's heart twists with sympathy and he sighs slightly before rising to his feet and rounds the desk, coming to a halt in front of Thor. He gently rests his hands on the blond's shoulders and Thor stares up at him. "I swear to you son, that no one here will do that to you. You shan't be locked in any rooms. We will prove it to you, you are safe here."

Thor's eyes grow wet and he lurches forward, wrapping his arms around Odin's waist tightly. Odin buries his surprise then returns the hug, gripping the blond to reassure him. To calm him. Thor's shoulders heave with desperate sob before he begins to weep; Odin holds him close and allows the child the release.

When Thor has mostly shifted to slight hiccups, he looks up at him, "I wish that...that I had lived here with you my whole life." He admits in a whisper, "F-Frigga does not...she does does not hate me and neither do you...I don't want to go back. Please don't make me go back."

Odin smooths his hair, "You're not going back unless you want to." He reassures, "You're staying here. On Asgard. Where you belong...what made you think otherwise?"

Thor squeezes his eyes shut, "Fandral's gang of idiots. That's-that's why Loki hit him first. Then Fand-ral hit him back and called him the hiccup of the family and that he wouldn't underssstand because of that, and I was so angry. Loki's mean, but he's my brother. All-all of them hate me and they said that you do to and that you want to send me b-b-back."

No.

Not again.

Not ever again.

Odin squeezes his shoulders tightly, "As your king, I reassure you that no one is returning to Jotunheim. Know that it is my deepest regret to have sent you in the first place." If he could take one action back. One moment of stupidity, that would be it. He could have saved Thor from all of this. From a life of—

Thor hiccups slightly before blowing out a breath, "Thank you, Father."

000o000

Odin does not remove the boy's punishment, but assigns the others who taunted them first to help. A group of boys by the names of Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg. They're all members of the nobility, though Hogun is an exchanged student from Vanaheim. Thor is less than thrilled with this arrangement, but complies, if a little moodily.

. The first day ends in a disaster when Volstagg makes some sort of comment, Odin's still not certain what, and Thor smacks him with the butt of the tool he was using. He would have gone further, Odin suspects, if Loki had not dropped by at that moment and reigned his elder brother's temper in.

Startled, but not surprised, Odin assigns Loki to the task as well to keep the four boys from strangling each other.

All five make it to the end of the week with only a few minor disagreements, all their body parts, and only one broken nose and Odin considers it a win. Years as king as taught him to take his victories where he can.

He's managed to find more time after the evening meal to spend with his sons briefly and attempted to help Thor where he can, then listened to Loki for a few minutes. He's on such round of time deviation when he accidentally stumbles upon Thor and Loki in Thor's room. His entrance was quiet, and neither notice him, but he stares at them confused. As far as he's aware, unless forced to do so, neither willingly spends time with each other.

There's a book between their legs from where they're sitting on the floor and Loki points at something on the page.

"What's this letter?"

""E"?" Thor questions, looking up for confirmation.

Loki shakes his head, "No, that's "Æ", this is "E"." He points somewhere else on the book. Thor makes a little humming noise of agreement.

Odin's stomach jerks.

Thor never learned how to read from the Jotunns.

"What about this one?" Loki asks.

""Ậ"" Thor responds confidently. Loki gives him a sincere smile of pride, something that makes his face ease and Odin quietly closes the door to not invade, leaving the two to their lesson.

000o000

Trust between their family does not come easily, but it comes. When Frigga gives Thor a hug he no longer stiffens as if he's being pulled into a choke hold, when Loki suddenly grabs his shoulder he won't nearly decapitate him, if Odin takes him out to the stables, he won't cower away from the horses as if afraid they'll eat him alive.

He gains the weight needed for his frame to file out properly, then happily bothers the head cooks until they show him how to bake. His curiosity is never quelled, but it rarely drifts in the scientific direction. That domain belongs solely to Loki.

Asgard, too, adjusts to their new Crown Prince.

Thor is a sun on his own once he's been dug up from the mess he was hidden behind and Odin finds himself more regretful that ever for his decision to abide by the laws of Laufey's pact. He left Thor there for years and did not even fight it. How much they have all been missing.

Odin is not sure what spawned the friendship, or when it began, he only knows that he walks past the training barracks with Tyr one day to see Fandral, Volstagg, Hogun, and Thor laughing together as Thor attempts to show them a move that is far to advanced for his age level. If there is one thing that Thor has a natural talent for, weaponry is such.

Odin is proud of him.

Proud of how far he has come.

Proud that despite what he did, Laufey did not break him.

He survived.

He thrives now.

And on one rare free evening, Odin is quietly reading in the adjoined communal room as Frigga spins cloth to his left and their two children are settled between the couches, determined to build something or another with wooden blocks they stole from Thor's room.

"No, Thor, you oaf," Loki says and rolls his eyes with irritation as he adjusts his older brother's hand so it will balance the block better, "you have to think about it algebraically, the block cannot hold that weight on that angle. You're going to make the entire tower tip."

Thor flushes slightly, "Sorry." He stutters out.

Loki gives him a look, but it's softer this time, "Worry not," he reassures, releasing Thor's hand, "you should really think about drawing the Dejorunn Mountains, they're beautiful at this time of year. Sir Borison said that he was going to take my class up to see them, but Astrid slipped and got her dress all dirty and she cried for a long time, Brother, it was at least three minutes, and then Brosn fell down and broke his ankle so the trip was cancelled. Do you want to see them with me? Father said he would take me, but he's been busy and he might let us go if you ask—" no, he wouldn't, they're too dangerous. When they're older, maybe, "—and I would love to drink from the Waterfall of Kings. You would, too, I think."

Loki continues to ramble, which eases the tension in Thor's shoulders as he corrects Thor mid-word on occasion with the block tower. The two seem at ease and when they've finished it (a surprisingly detailed replica of the King's Warrior's Tombs), then Thor begins to sketch and Loki continues to talk to him.

Frigga watches from afar with contentment and Odin realizes with a soft ease that his family is finally, at long last, complete.