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A Wound in Heart

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One


 

Fandral rubbed at his aching jaw for a moment, bracing himself for what he needed to do next. He carefully put his hands over his face and grunted as he cracked his broken nose back into place as best he could. He breathed carefully through his mouth and tried not to vomit with the pain as the throbbing increased and then eased. The water in the stream in front of him was running red, and he gasped in a shaking breath at the sight of his reflection. Blood caked his lower face, his left eye was purple and swollen, and his jaw along that side was a motley assortment of purples and greens as the bruising and stiffness set in.

Being punched by a god full in the face… he supposed that he was lucky Loki had pulled his punch.

Fenris whined and nudged at his knee, and Fandral let his hand come to rest on the wolf’s head, the other taking a corner of his cape to dip in the stream and try to clean some of the blood from his face. There was something white and blue caught in his hair, and Fandral’s stomach flopped when he realised it was a leftover petal.

He’d been so stupid .

Idunn’s Mabon Festival had seemed like the perfect setting to act on his feelings. Feelings he’d been absolutely positive were returned. Loki was a constant fixture by his side, whether it be to travel or to learn, or simply a shoulder to lean on when he was tired. He’d caught the trickster watching him, only to look away when he was caught. There were the whispered encouragements from Healer Eir as she told him how Loki had refused to leave his side. How he’d held Fandral’s hand and stroked at his hair as he slept.

But it had all obviously just been wishful thinking.

He’d waited and spent the day at Loki’s side. Shared wine and fruits, and they’d even danced together when all the ladies were taken - Thor had laughed and Sif had winked. He had known Thor didn’t… approve, exactly, of the fact that Fandral didn’t like women, but… but he’d not known how deeply that sentiment went.

Idunn had been singing the prayers to the Old Ones, the sun had been setting and the golden trees of her sacred orchard had been lit up. It had been beautiful.

Perfect.

He and Loki had been standing beneath a tree decked with garlands of eternal lights, flowers in whites and blues and pinks… and Loki had been more beautiful still. It had seemed…

Perfect .

Fandral let the corner of his cape drop away, nose and eye too tender to try and clean. “C’mon boy,” he said, and cleared his throat to try and clear his voice, ignoring the sharp ache in his chest. He sounded like he’d been screaming for hours. He couldn’t remember if maybe he had been. “We can’t stay here.” He gave the great Golden City beyond the stream a last look and whistled Fen to his side. “We’ve got stuff to collect.”

Asgard could keep what he’d left behind. He knew that to go back now, to think himself welcome in Odin’s halls, was tantamount to suicide. He was a mortal.

A man .

And he’d dared to whisper his love to the Prince of Asgard before he kissed him in public.

He’d been lucky to get away with only a broken nose.


Loki slammed his bedroom door shut behind him and bolted into his washroom. He only made it to the tub before he hit his knees and leaned over the edge, retching into the deep basin.

Grasping the edge of the tub, the metal bit into his hands. Loki vomited what he had eaten during the festival, tasting bile and strawberries, and sobbed hard as he let himself fall to the floor on his side.

Fandral had kissed him. He had kissed him in front of everyone. The whole of Asgard, and worse, his brother, his parents. He had no doubt his parents had been watching. He’d seen the way his father’s eye had been tracking them when he and Fandral were dancing together. It had only been a bit of fun, he’d reminded himself. Nothing to be concerned with. It was just that all the ladies were taken except Sif and she was terrifying and would have hit him if he asked.

Instead, he’d hit Fandral.

Loki looked at his hand in horror. He had. He’d punched Fandral in the face, and he remembered the feeling of bones shifting and breaking beneath his knuckles. He hadn’t thought of it then, too concerned with fleeing, but he remembered now.

The least he had probably done was break Fandral’s nose.

Broken Fandral’s nose after he’d told Loki he loved him.

Thor had been watching. Loki had seen the change in his brother’s expression, knew there would be nothing but disgust there. Disgust and rage. How many times had Thor whispered to him about how it was a good thing that Fandral wasn’t of Asgard, that no Asgardian would act in such a way. Always with a sound of revulsion in his tone. The same sort of revulsion he would regard Loki with if he ever realized that Loki…

Something tickled in his hair and he reached up to brush it away. His fingers found the crown of flowers Fandral had made for him early in the festival, twisting it together in expert fingers and dropping it onto Loki’s head with a laugh.

Loki stared at the crown. Tiny white and blue flowers, all twisted together with clever hands that Loki liked to hold when he could get away with it. Fingers that always closed over his, even when Fandral was unconscious - an easy reminder that he was okay.

Loki shoved himself to his feet, wiping his mouth. He stared at the flower crown.

He’d been having so much fun. It had been a wonderful time, a wonderful festival, and he’d spent the whole of it with Fandral. Just the perfect day.

And then Fandral had kissed him and Loki had panicked because all of Asgard was there, the whole of Asgard, and how would they look at him with Fandral’s lips on his?

He’d been a coward. And he’d hit Fandral.

His stomach threatened to rebel again, but Loki shoved it down. He moved into his room and left the flower crown on his bed before slipping out into the hall. He knocked on Fandral’s door but wasn’t surprised not to receive an answer. He’d hit Fandral hard. Harder than he should have. He was surely in the Healing Halls.

Eir was going to be so mad.

Loki hurried anyway.


Thor watched the thief as he put his hands on Loki’s cheeks. Saw the way Loki’s eyes had gone big as saucers over his shoulder, his cheeks flushed with colour. And then he’d seen Fandral lean in and kiss him. Thor hadn’t been able to help the disgusted expression on his face.

It was wrong .

And then Loki had shoved Fandral away and Thor had cheered him on when he punched the thief in the face. Cheered loudly as he heard the crunch of Fandral’s nose breaking. He’d felt a little bad for his friend when he’d stumbled back, because Loki had just barely pulled his strength, and Thor would have been sad to lose Fandral. But there hadn’t been any cheering louder than his own, he’d noticed.

Fandral had stood there for a moment, eyes glazed and blood pouring down his face, and Thor had thought he looked… lost.

Like someone had snatched the earth from beneath his feet and the stars from above his head. His expression had twisted something in Thor’s gut, but he’d simply vanished from the orchard between one blink and the next, nothing but a few sprays of blood on the ground to show he’d been there. That, and Loki’s bloodied fist.

And then Loki had just… walked away, the ridiculous crown of flowers still on his head. Sif had stood there staring for a long time before she stalked over to him and slapped him.

Hard .

She hadn’t said a word to him, just spat at his feet and taken off after Loki. His mother and father were gone when he turned, and Idunn had asked him to leave. Volstagg and Hogun were already long gone, home with their new families.

It was only now, sitting alone in the kitchens, that he wondered if maybe he should have gone after Loki? Reassured his brother that he had acted in a way that made Asgard proud? Made sure he hadn’t hurt his hand, perhaps. If Fandral were smart, and Thor knew that even though his brain worked wrong , he was in fact smart, he wouldn’t come back to the palace. Or if he did, he’d have gone to Eir and then to his rooms.

Thor sighed and shoved himself to his feet.

He’d go and bathe, he decided. And then sort this mess in the morning. Perhaps someone had simply… given Fandral something to make him think it was alright to lay his hands on the Prince. To… to kiss him before the All-Mother and All-Father.

Before Asgard .

Thor could give him the benefit of the doubt this once.


He’d put thought into it.

Had spent years - decades -  if he was being honest, making sure he wasn’t projecting his own feelings onto what was purely friendship but he’d had Eir in his ear telling him about Loki staying by his side in her halls. Of his hand being held and his hair brushed… that he’d never been left alone for long.

Sif whispering to him about secret glances and flushed cheeks.

And then Thor…

Thor reminding him, loudly , in every place they visited, to keep his distasteful activities as discreet as he could before pointing loudly to every samkynhneigðra hús they passed.

It was humiliating but Fandral had always just grinned and born it. He had never visited a single one. If he wanted a lover for a night, he would go and meet someone. There were dozens of worlds in the realms where being… being like him wasn’t wrong.

The Midgardians were proud of it. They cheered and wore bright colours. Declared themselves “Queer and Here!”

The Alfheim Elves were simply themselves. They loved who they loved. There were no notions of marriage or pledges between them. They simply loved one another, whether it be for a short time, or their entire lifetime.

Vanaheim, Svartalfheim and Nidavellir didn’t seem to mind either. They had couples, and groupings, of all genders that were simply as accepted as someone who chose to be alone. There was little to no judgement, because that was just the way it had always been.

But Asgard… Asgard seemed to be stuck in its way of thinking that men like Fandral were wrong somehow. That loving another man made him weaker, or diseased somehow. But he’d always, always , managed to let it roll off his shoulders in public.

He had had more than his fair share of breakdowns in private, and just as many if not more with Eir to keep him from leaving. She’d always just accepted him, and he even thought she might love him a little. And it had always been for Loki that he stayed.

And now… what did he have to stay for? Loki had made it painfully clear how he felt. Thor had fucking cheered when Fandral had staggered back, hands holding his shattered and gushing nose. Sif had been out of his line of sight, but he trusted she would have been supportive of him at first. She was loyal to her realm though. Loyal to Asgard.

He didn’t think he would ever feel loyalty like that to a place again.

Or a person.

He honestly wasn’t sure if he had it left in him to do it.

And even if he did… where would he go within the Nine Realms? Fandral sighed and stepped out of the shadows with Fenris at his side into the warm sunlight on Svartalfheim.

“C’mon boy,” he patted at his thigh and tried to smile at the only true friend he had left. His face ached far too much to smile or speak anymore though, and he sighed when he blinked and couldn’t open his left eye again.

Loki had barely pulled his punch at all. He touched a cautious finger to his eye and had to bite down a pained shout as his finger brushed bruises and caked and dried blood. If Loki had hit him even a little harder…

The wolf-pup at his side whined and pressed his cold, wet nose into Fandral’s other hand and huffed, big brown eyes meeting his. He scratched gently at the floppy ears and murmured a soft, “On an’ up, boy,” trying to ignore how slurred his words sounded. The wolf barked once and then trotted off, stopping every few steps, with his tail wagging so hard that Fandral thought he might just take flight, as he waited for Fandral to catch him up before taking off again.

Fenris was a good companion. His absolute best friend. He could be trusted completely. Fandral had found him abandoned and dying on Midgard two winters ago, barely old enough to have opened his eyes, and brought him home. He’d nursed him back from death’s door and been rewarded with the most loving little friend. Watching the little pup as he stopped again and turned back to wait, Fandral was so glad he’d found him. And so glad he’d taken him with him to the Mabon Festival.

They walked quickly, but not as fast as usual because Fandral couldn’t without his entire head and neck throbbing with every step. He needed to rest, but not yet. It wasn’t safe yet. If he laid down and slept now, there was a very good chance he wouldn’t wake up again. He had no idea the true amount of damage Loki’s fist had done, but he wouldn’t stop yet to find out. He planned to empty his boltholes on the Realms, and then take the first ship off Nidavellir to Knowhere. Then maybe Sakaar or Hala.

Or maybe he’d just… go to Midgard. Live out his life as a true mortal.

Somewhere he could just… lose himself.

Somewhere he could heal his heart and live out what was left of his life.

Somewhere that maybe, one day, he might meet someone who actually loved him. Who didn’t care so much what the people thought of them. Maybe he’d meet another nameless orphan like himself.

Fandral tipped his head back and sighed before he whistled softly to Fenris. Walking was too painful - and too slow. He couldn’t take the risk that Thor or Odin might yet come after him to seek retribution for him daring to have taken liberties with their brother and son. The shadows opened as easily as always for him, and Fenris trotted along beside him, the only other living creature he knew of that could walk them without harm.

They stepped out into the small cave he’d hidden with his seidr so many years ago now, and Fandral shivered faintly in the cool air. Fenris simply flopped down into the dirt by the doorway, content to wriggle and then wait as Fandral moved slowly to the back where the small chest was hidden. A small, battered old thing, but it held his treasures well.

He opened it and had to fight down the urge to cry.

Fuck he was weak. He’d put too much thought into what he’d let himself dream would be between he and Loki one day. He took the small box that held the only thing of his mothers that he owned - a small silver ring, beat up and bent out of shape, that she’d left on a string around his neck - and slipped it into the leather bag he pulled out next. The other things, a small notebook he knew was filled with terrible poetry that he’d written for Loki and a collection of extremely rare herbs and spices used in intricate spell work, he left behind.

They were courting gifts.

Ymir’s tits, he’d been a fool.

The sun had caught his hair and given it golden, burning highlights and made the green in his eyes just glow. And it had suddenly been perfect. The crown of tiny flowers he’d woven that morning was still on his head, Loki’s cheeks were flushed still from their spin around the dancefloor and Idunn was calling out to lovers and stars for blessings. It had been… perfect. And so easy to murmur Loki’s name. Wait for those glowing green eyes to land on his, to reach up and cup his face. To boldly whisper, “Loki, I love you. For so long, minn silfur einn.”

To press his lips to ones that had parted slightly in what he’d thought had been reciprocation. A brief taste of the wine Loki had been drinking and the blueberries he always snacked on. And then his face had exploded in absolute, unending agony. He’d brought his hands up to the shattered pieces of his nose, tried to catch the pouring blood, his ears ringing so hard he could barely hear his own heartbeat. But he’d heard Thor’s booming laughter as he cheered his brother. And he’d felt, beneath the agony of his face and the ache in his chest, the boiling hot shame that had flooded him.

His heart had skipped and jumped, his lungs seized and he knew he was close to passing out from pain and humiliation. Loki was staring at him, but he hadn’t been able to focus on his face. All he could feel was the ground beneath him moving like ocean waves as shame, rejection and the feeling of being smashed apart from the inside taking him over. He’d blinked, and winced at the feeling of burning tears like acid dripping from his left eye.

Fenris had been at his side, and Fandral had just… let it go. Tried to swallow the blood in his mouth, and coughed it out instead, watched the droplets hit the grass and then let the shadows swallow he and his wolf, eyes finally focused on Loki’s bloodied fist.

It had felt like years and not just seconds that he stood broken and humiliated in front of all of Asgard. In front of the All-Mother and All-Father. Of Thor and Sif.

Of Loki.

He left the chest open, the notebook and the ingredients where they were and hobbled back over to where Fenris was. His whole body was beginning to ache and throb. “Up boy,” he whispered. “Next.”

Vanaheim.

Chapter Text

Two


 

Loki walked away from the Observatory, feeling like the world was spinning in the wrong direction.

Fandral wasn’t here. Fandral wasn’t on Asgard.

He’d gone to Eir first, expecting to find the thief getting his nose fixed by the healer, only to find that Fandral hadn’t been there at all. He hadn’t been there, but Eir had been at the festival, and she’d had a thing or two to say about how Loki had acted.

He’d seen her angry before. He thought he preferred that to the disappointment she had shown him today. She’d sent him off to clean himself up, and only then had he realized he had blood on his hand from punching Fandral.

Just how badly had he hit him?

Instead of going to the washroom, he’d gone to Heimdall, to ask the Gatekeeper where Fandral was. Loki would go get him from wherever he was hiding, take him to Eir to be looked at, and spend the rest of the night apologizing.

But Fandral wasn’t on Asgard. He’d left. And Heimdall was having trouble seeing where he was gone, because Fandral’s shadows were impossible to track, even for the Gatekeeper’s magical gaze. He’d seen enough to tell Loki that Fandral was stopping at different worlds to gather his things from different hiding places.

Because he was leaving. Because he was running.

Loki knew it. He and Fandral were a lot alike in that way. They both tended to run when things got hard.

Fandral, though, hadn’t broken Loki’s nose before taking off.

Running. And Fandral was talented enough, and powerful enough, that if he ran, if he got far enough away, Loki wouldn’t be able to find him. He’d be gone. Forever.

He was an idiot. Eir was right. He was a selfish, cowardly idiot.

Loki hurried back to his room.

Part of him wished that Fandral had kissed him in private, but he wasn’t sure his reaction would have been any different. He was a coward. And Fandral was running.

The idea of him disappearing, of Asgard being a place devoid of the thief, was inconceivable. Loki couldn’t do it.

He slipped out of his party clothes, throwing them into the corner and pulling on a set of traveling clothes. He slipped on his boots and grabbed his cloak, before turning to his desk. He pulled a piece of parchment from the drawer and grabbed a pen. His note was quick and to the point.

‘I’ve gone after Fandral.’

He tossed his pen down, took a single moment to decide if he needed anything else, and then leapt upon one of Yggdrasil’s branches.

“Vanaheim,” he told the tree, even though she was already moving. Heimdall had last seen Fandral on Vanaheim.  

Loki had to catch him. If he got too far ahead, or went somewhere Loki couldn’t follow, he may never find him again. That was unacceptable. He owed Fandral one hell of an apology. A million apologies. And a kiss.


Vanaheim had been a quick stop, in the end. He’d simply stepped out of the shadows right in front of the ledge where his next bundle sat. Wrapped in oiled leather and seidr to keep the elements out, he’d left the portraits he’d drawn and simply taken the bag of gemstones.

Gemstones could be traded for the units that the common areas of the universe used - that the captains of ships used - and the portraits could rot, for all he cared.

Fandral had swayed and coughed viciously, not bothering to clean up the blood that spattered the floor as he did. What was the point?

He sighed and rolled over, let his face bury into Fenris’s soft fur and winced at the pressure on his face. They were on Svartalfheim now, hidden away in a small cabin that he’d found years ago, caught out by the abrupt thunderstorm that was still raging outside.

It didn’t feel like one of Thor’s - there was no undercurrent of emotion in it - it was just a natural storm. The thunder rolled again, and Fenris whuffed and wriggled closer to the fire. They had two places left to go, but Fandral wasn’t moving from here until the storm ended. Muspelheim would be the very last place he went to, and there was no way he was going to Midgard yet. He was going to lay here and enjoy the last Svartalfheim storm he would ever hear.

“Whacha th’nk boy?” he tried to whisper. Fandral was exhausted, and he was fairly sure it was safe to sleep now. The left side of his face had kept steadily swelling throughout the day, and he could barely stand to touch it all, though Fenris’ fur seemed more a comfort than pain. “M’be we’ll stay’n Midgard.”

He wished he’d been able to see Eir. He had a sinking feeling that his cheekbone was broken or cracked somewhere.

Fenris didn’t answer except to whine softly, and Fandral let his unswollen eye close. “Jus’ g’na nap,” he mumbled. “Th’n ‘gard.”

Fenris’s fur was soft, the rhythm of his heartbeat was steady, and Fandral let sleep take him down quickly.


Yggdrasil made her opinion on Loki’s actions very clear very quickly.

He took one step on her branch and went sprawling in an empty stall in the stable. He just laid there for a moment, the breath knocked out of him, staring at the small pile of horseshit inches from his face.

He could hear the angry groaning of her branches. Yggdrasil liked Fandral, though he always got a headache whenever he came along her branches with Loki. Still, she was clearly angry with him.

“I’m going after him,” Loki said, pushing himself to his feet. He pushed open the stall door and stepped outside, brushing the straw and dirt from his clothes. “Are you going to help me?”

There was a snort from behind him and Loki turned around to see Sleipnir poking his head out of his stall. A large stallion with a gorgeous white coat and silver mane and tail, Loki had raised him from when he was just a foal. He’d been bred from Odin’s stallion, a magical horse with eight legs that had been a gift from a visiting prince. All of his descendants retained some manner of magic in their bloodstream. As far as Loki knew, Sleipnir was the only one of them able to walk Yggdrasil’s branches, as Loki was.

“I see.”

Sleipnir tossed his head and pulled back into the stall, and Loki opened the latch. The stallion stepped out, snuffling at his hair as he passed, and Loki sighed. “Has she been telling you all about it, then?”

The horse nodded his head up and down, his mane tossing heavily. Asgardian horses were smarter than those on, say, Midgard. They also lived for centuries. The descendants of Odin’s stallion, Eldfjall, were a little bit more on all sides. Long-lived, though no one knew how long, but Eldfjall had been given to Odin when he was still just a prince. Sleipnir may not have been as smart as Loki (though sometimes Loki was certain he must be), but he was at least as smart as some of the courtiers.

Loki moved to where he kept his tack, saddling Sleipnir with the ease of long-practice. The stallion stood perfectly still and when he had finished, Loki stuck his foot in the stirrup and climbed into the saddle. He didn’t ever use a bridle on Sleipnir, so his fingers twisted in the long silver hair.

He was unsurprised to see a doorway open in front of them.

“All right, then,” he said, as Sleipnir moved forward without prompting. “I guess you’re leading.”

He didn’t know why it was important that Sleipnir come with him, but apparently Yggdrasil was determined and Loki wasn’t really in a position to argue.

“Just help me find him, okay?”

Sleipnir snorted and Yggdrasil’s branches shifted, forming new paths and Loki was unsurprised when the doorway they stepped through opened up outside a small cave.

Loki recognized it. He’d never been inside, but Fandral had brought him here once when he needed to stop and get something.

He slid out of the saddle and moved into the cave. It had been long enough, he really wasn’t expecting Fandral to still be here, and he wasn’t. But the cave wasn’t empty.

There was a chest, old and worn, left open in the back of the small cave. Loki peered inside, confused why Fandral hadn’t taken everything. He knew how to create seidr pockets to hold things, as Loki did, so space wasn’t an issue.

Loki picked up the small bag, opening it to look inside. He jerked his face away from the bag with a snort at the pungent smell of so many herbs. Too many to sort through at the moment, but it seemed a strange thing to leave behind, and a stranger thing to keep in a chest in a hidden cave.

The other thing was a small notebook. Possibly a journal. Loki didn’t want to invade Fandral’s privacy anymore than he already was, but if Fandral was going through and clearing out his boltholes, Loki didn’t know if there had been wards he removed or what had kept people or creatures from invading the cave and destroying his things.

He called up a seidr pocket and--

He tried to call up another seidr pocket. It flickered into being for a moment before vanishing with the sound of shivering leaves. “Yggdrasiiiiil,” Loki groaned. “What are you doing?” He tried to call up another seidr pocket, but she shook her branches and destroyed it again. Loki growled low in his throat. “Fine.” He slipped the small bag of herbs and the journal in his pockets, moving out of the cave and climbing back into Sleipnir’s saddle.

“Come on, Slip. He’s not here.”

The horse snorted and stepped onto Yggdrasil’s branches. Loki sighed. How far ahead of him had Fandral gotten? He hoped not too far.


Thor had the distinct feeling he was being ignored by… well, everyone. Sif hadn’t spoken a word to him at all, Eir had only told him to bugger off out of her sight, and his parents had been locked away in discussions since the festival ended the night before.

He wandered through the halls and came to a stop outside of Fandral’s door. A gentle push had it swinging open, and Thor realised as he looked around that it was the first time in years he’d stepped foot in there.

Beautiful drawings were hung on all the walls, and Thor felt a sick jolt in his stomach when he realised they were all places that they’d been. There were smaller ones grouped beneath them - animals and plants, landmarks… their faces.

Everywhere he turned there were portraits of them. Of Sif laughing, of Volstagg with the massive deer-like creature he’d caught on Svartalfheim. Hogun watching a storm. Thor laughing, yelling and smiling.

And everywhere, Loki. Smiling, staring, watching something. His hands gesturing, body tensed to strike with daggers drawn.

Thor stepped in further and frowned. It wasn’t… right, to see so much of Fandral’s obsession in such an obvious place. What would he have said if it had been the All-Father or the All-Mother who saw this? If it had been Loki ?

He shook his head and turned to leave, pausing by the door to look back. There was something… off about the room. Not a single thing seemed to be out of its usual place and yet… the room felt empty . The door clicked closed behind him and Thor moved across the hall and down to Loki’s rooms. He knocked, unsurprised when he didn’t receive an answer. The door was unlocked, and Loki’s rooms were empty too.

Thor sighed and rubbed at his face. Fandral was causing drama and tension everywhere, and no one would tell Thor where he’d gone so he could just sort it out. He supposed an apology for cheering at Loki’s punch would be enough to soothe the ruffled feathers, but how was he to deliver it when no one was here ?

He stomped over to Loki’s desk and slammed a fist down in frustration. “How am I to fix this if you keep fleeing! Cowards,” he muttered. “Ergi filth has been influencing you, Loki.”

A piece of paper caught under the edge of the desk caught his eye, and Thor pulled it out. “I’ve gone after Fandral,” he read. “You cannot be serious, Loki.” Thor rolled his eyes and tossed the note back down. “Utterly ridiculous.”

He sat heavily in Loki’s desk chair and leant his head back against the wall. This whole situation was ridiculous. Fandral took advantage of Loki’s friendship with him to try and press his own wrongness onto Loki, and was dealt with as he should have been. The thief was lucky Loki hadn’t killed him.

He sighed, and then yelped in pain when a book fell from… somewhere , the corner of it barely missing his eye. “Damnit!” He turned it over, admiring the soft, worn leather cover. It was clearly a journal. Thor moved to set it back on the desk, but the pages fluttered open, and no matter how hard he tried, they wouldn’t close.

Sif is terrifying.

I knew this already, but it was put into perspective today when I met her sister. Sif has a sister. She’s even more terrifying than Sif. I think it’s because she’s a mother.

Her name is Sigyn and she lives in the lower town. She’s a seamstress - a very talented one. I think she may be better than the clothier that Mother uses. She has two children and is pregnant with a third. I got shuffled into babysitting duty while the two went off to do whatever women do when they’re alone together.

Her children are adorable, though. They liked my stories about Alfheim. I promised to bring a nagdýr köttur with me next time I visited. They didn’t believe me that they can glide. I shall have to convince Fandral and Thor to go to Alfheim for hunting on our upcoming trip. It should be fun.

Thor blinked hard. It was Loki’s journal. He tried to set it down again, but the book was almost stuck to his skin. “Alright,” he muttered. “I’ll take it.

Some kind of trick of Loki’s no doubt, designed to make him feel guilty over some imagined slight over the years, Thor muttered to himself as he left Loki’s rooms and headed to his own.


Sif studied the heavily decorated walls. Shelves filled with trophies of various hunts, courting gifts given to him in public and in secret that were never answered or reciprocated. They were placed in prime view of the doorway, trophies.

Sif had things in her room, too. Souvenirs from their adventures, pictures that Fandral had given her shortly into their friendship. Presents from Loki that had meant so much for how rarely he showed his affections. Pictures of family.

But not like this. Thor’s rooms were ostentatious. Things were put out to show off, to himself and visitors. It was disgusting.

The muffled sound of a door shutting told her that Thor was finally finished snooping around in Fandral’s and Loki’s rooms. She moved toward the door as the knob turned.

Sif spared a quick glance to make sure it was Thor, and then she swung.

It fucking hurt. Ymir’s teeth, it fucking hurt, but she bit back the pain of what she was pretty sure was a couple broken fingers. Thor had staggered back and Sif took great joy in it, even if it was from nothing more than shock.

Fuck, her hand hurt.

“I’ll give you a moment to get the cheering out of your system,” she spat. “Fucking falskur vinur.”

Chapter Text

Three


Fandral woke slowly to the feeling of something wet on his face. He couldn’t open his left eye still, and the entirety of his face was nothing but a dull, throbbing ache. But Fenris was gently licking his not-broken side to wake him up, and Fandral could hear his pup’s growling stomach.

“B’fst,” he mumbled, forcing the words out of the side of his mouth as best he could. Slowly, he pulled himself up to sitting upright and looked out the small window. Clear blue skies and fluffy clouds. “We go.”

He rummaged in one of his seidr pockets for the bag of emergency food he always kept there. Fenris was easily taken care of with a few of the disgusting dried sausages he bought from the dwarves, but he himself had no appetite. He prodded his face gently, and bit down on his tears. He wouldn’t be able to eat anyway.

“‘S go,” he petted Fenris’ head as soon as the pup was done, and they took the shortest route through the shadows to the next bolthole. He’d hidden this one behind a waterfall. He’d had… stupid hopes and dreams for this one.

This had always been where he’d pictured bringing Loki at the end of their courting. He’d painted carefully on the walls a mural of Loki’s favourite view of the Great Ocean on Vanaheim, it’s white cliffs visible and the spray of the waves hitting them. It had been his biggest project in years, and it had taken him weeks to complete.

A trip to Midgard for what the mortals called ‘string-lights’ that he’d enchanted to never die out had been hung up all around, and he’d hunted every fur that filled the ridiculous bed frame in the corner. He ran a hand over the carvings he’d made in it and sighed. He’d been a sentimental, arrogant fool. Loki’s name, etched in beside his own, their constellations carefully marked out with small gemstones he’d collected from the Crystal Lakes of Asgard.

It took all his willpower not to simply bring the cave crashing down, but he thought that if some other young lovers found it maybe they’d use it. Take care of it.

The big wooden box in the corner was his goal here, and Fenris sat quietly, panting and whining at his feet as he unpacked the contents. Clothes mostly, in both his and Loki’s preferred styles and their sizes. He tossed them all into a pile beside the box. He’d have no need of fancy styled Asgardian clothes now. No need for soft cloaks or silken vests. The tiny box at the bottom was what he was after.

Filled with papers that would get him anywhere he wanted. Anywhere that units and gemstones wouldn’t grease the way for.

“N’xt,” he tried to say, but Fenris seemed to understand anyway. The shadows rose up to swallow them both, and Fandral gave the cave one last, sad look.

The sign above the entrance winked in the light as he turned away.

Heimili fyrir Loki.

Gjöf frá Fandral.


Fandral’s hideaway on Svartalfheim was a place Loki had been in before. The thief had brought him here a few times when they went off on adventures together, usually because Loki wanted to work a bit of magic away from Asgard. Fandral was always a pleasure to have along because he wasn’t a giant asshole about Loki using his seidr.

He never really understood Thor’s disgust with it. Their father used seidr. Frigga herself had trained Loki. Thor used seidr, though Loki suspected he had no idea that was what his storms were.

But that was an old conversation. One hashed about in his head many times, and as unproductive as always.

Loki pushed the door open, kicking wet leaves from his boots. Everything was soaked from a recent rain, but the weather had clearly broken and the skies were blue and Fandral wasn’t here.

The hearth was still warm, though.

“We just missed them,” he muttered, turning to go back outside.

He shrieked when he came face-to-face with Sleipnir. “What are you doing inside?”

The stallion snorted at him and tossed his head. And was that an eye roll?

“Sleipnir! Out!”

A tail slapped hard into his face and Loki spit out hair. “Lovely.”

He wiped his mouth. “There better not have been any shit on your tail.” Sleipnir whickered brightly, clearly teasing, and danced further into the small cabin. “You are a menace.”

He gripped Sleipnir’s nose lightly, guiding him toward the door. The stallion stamped his hoof and pulled out of Loki’s grip, nudging him hard in the back.

“Hey!” Sleipnir shoved him again. “What? Stop it!”

Sleipnir kept nudging him until he ended up back at the fireplace, hands clenched into fists and fuming. “What?!” He looked around, trying to see what had so much of the stallion’s attention. The fire was still warm, more logs and kindling nearby, and a long hardened stick that had been fashioned into a makeshift fire poker. There was a large rug in front of the fire and blankets, a warm place to curl up and just talk and nothing new, and blood—

Loki paused, his mind flailing for an instant before he dropped down to his heels for a closer look.

Just a little. More a smear from some wound rubbing against the carpet but...

Loki stood and shoved at Sleipnir’s hindquarters. “Outside!” He shoved at the horse again, knowing perfectly well that when Slip moved, it was because he wanted to.

He climbed into the saddle. “He’s not here, Sleipnir. We just missed him.” The doorway to Yggdrasil opened before them both. “Go!”


“I would rather gouge my remaining eye out with a feather, then listen to anymore of this inane drivel,” Odin muttered, grinning faintly when Frigga tried to pass off a most unladylike snort of laughter as a cough. “Hush now dearest,” he murmured fondly. “Mustn’t let them know we aren’t listening.”

Frigga swatted him on the shoulder, and straightened up as the courtier looked like he might finally be winding down. Odin sighed with her at the sight of two of the oldest members of the Thing standing up after him. They were older than he was, and had served his father. He’d been trying for centuries to be rid of them. These two men were, for the most part, the reason his son was gone and the one he’d always thought of as a son had fled.

And why Thor, his eldest, thought that the appropriate response had been to laugh .

“All-Father,” the older one wheezed, and he had to bite down on another sigh. He was old, but compared to these blithering twits he felt almost a thousand years younger. “We must speak about the events at Idunn’s most sacred Festival.”  

There was a loud snort from the crowd, and Odin didn’t try to hold back his sigh this time. Idunn had never been one to follow or respect the ways of the courts, and many many arguments had been started when she decided to grace their halls with her presence.

“There is nothing sacred about it, you pompous old windbags,” she said airily, and smiled cheerfully at everyone she passed as she made her way to lean against the side of Frigga’s throne. “All-Parents,” she grinned at them. “Always a pleasure.”

“Hello Idunn, darling,” Frigga said with a soft sigh. “Must we do this today?”

Idunn glared at the two old men who were frowning so hard at her Odin was concerned for their health. “Oh, we must,” she murmured. “So, gentlemen!” Odin sighed, again , as she leaned slightly forward, “Tell me what it is you really want to discuss? Because I think it’s got more to do with the beautiful act and confession of love we were all lucky to see, before it was ruined by Loki’s fear of you ,” she spat.

Odin rubbed a tired hand over his face, and gave up. “Ráðugr and Akaz, you are both dismissed. You have been repeatedly informed of the forward direction we wish to take Asgard. To put us on an even keel with the rest of the Realms. We can no longer afford to ignore the wishes of the worlds we pledge to protect.” He got to his feet and sighed - again . “We are losing trade, and treaties, by refusing those who love a little differently to be among us. And we have now lost our family. It is time Asgard was as open as we once were.” He banged Gungnir firmly on the ground. “This is no longer Bor’s Asgard,” he said loudly. “This is our Asgard. And it’s time we were better .”


 

Sif stormed down the hall, taking notice of the servants and guards she passed only insofar as she hoped they got a good look at the head full of hair she had wrapped in her fist and the man still attached to it. 

She veered a little too close to the corners she had to turn, and if Thor bumped his titanic biceps against them because he couldn’t see where they were going, he was blessed with quick healing as well as superior strength.

She kicked the door to the healing halls open, barely pausing, and stormed in. The waiting area was as warm and comforting as always, a fire crackling cheerfully in the hearth.

“Healer Eir!” she shouted. She knew for a fact that Eir had no patients, unless something had changed in the past half hour. She’d checked. “The Prince of Fair Weather needs your medical expertise.”

She heard Thor sigh and tightened her grip on his hair, giving it a good yank.

Eir came out of her office, looking at the spectacle they made in advance. “Lady Sif, what are you doing?”

“Oh good, you’re here.” Sif pulled a dagger from her belt and gave it a flourish.

“Lady Sif, what are you doing?” Eir snapped.

Sif swung the blade upward in an arc, slicing through the mere half-inch of hair between her knuckles and Thor’s scalp. The sudden loss of her pulling unbalanced him and let Sif move away before he could stop her.

“What should have been done already!” she snapped, and threw his hair into the fire. She grinned sharply as it caught light immediately, blackening and curling into ash. The putrid smell of burnt hair filled the room.

Sif turned to him with a glare, sheathing her dagger in her belt. “That suits you better, pig.”


His hair was gone. Burnt and gone . He was shamed .

“You would dare, ” he growled, but the burning rage dimmed a little when he caught sight of both Eir and Sif’s faces. “How dare you!”

“Oh, how dare I ?” Sif spat, but Eir put a hand on her arm before she could speak further.

“You will stay here ,” Eir said firmly. “I will return.”

Thor watched as she led Sif over to her small office and set her in the chair before she came back to stand over him. “You,” she said, and Thor winced at the disappointment in her tone. “You have a lot to learn, you little fool.”


Fandral and Fenris didn’t linger on Muspelheim. They stopped at his hiding place, retrieved the enormous metal chest, and Fandral had taken what he wanted from it.

The dragonhide could stay. Let the planet take it back. All he wanted from this one was a weapon. A sword he’d stolen from the man who trained him. The sword he’d killed him with and used to take his freedom.

Fandral’s face was nothing but aching agony with every beat of his heart, and if he’d had any doubts that something was broken in his cheekbone, those doubts were gone now. He couldn’t move his mouth at all. His vision was blurry out of his right eye, the left still swollen closed. He thought vaguely of finding a healer somewhere, but decided against it just as quickly. He’d finish emptying his hiding places first, then find a healer on whatever ship took him away from the Nine Realms.

He blinked and winced at the feeling of tears burning their way down his cheek from his swollen eye. Fenris barked, just once, and the shadows opened beneath them, catching them both gently. Fandral groaned at the sensation, and wondered if maybe there was something more than just a broken cheekbone wrong with him.

He sighed and the shadows seemed to sigh with him.

Are you lost, beloved walker?

Yeah, he thought and wished he could smile. I’m lost again.

Chapter Text

FOUR


Vanaheim. The smell of the air here was unmistakable, though Loki was mildly nervous about stepping out of the doorway. Sleipnir had stopped on Yggdrasil’s branch and refused to move through. 

But Fandral could be here - they had been so close. And Yggdrasil wouldn’t let him get hurt, even if she was angry with him.

Loki stepped through, startling a little when he realized he was on one of the cliffs that overlooked the Vanir Sea. No wonder Sleipnir hadn’t wanted to come out. The ledge was almost too narrow to hold him.

There was little here, too. Loki could see a patch of discolored stone where something that had long been present had recently been removed.

He moved over to the thick rolls of paper he could see had been left behind. Unrolling one slightly, he got a glimpse of his own face, done in exquisite detail. He stared at the candid image of him caught mid-laughter, at the detail. Loki wasn’t an artist, but even he could tell a lot of time had been put into this.

And they’d been left behind, because Fandral didn’t want reminders.

He had made such a mistake. He never should have bothered with what anyone else said. He should have kissed Fandral back and damn them all. He could’ve left Asgard if they didn’t like it. He could’ve...

He carefully rolled the portrait back up before he twisted the edges and ruined it. He wouldn’t have left Asgard. He wouldn’t have ever kissed Fandral back. He was a coward.

Would he do it differently now, if he could go back?

“I don’t know,” he whispered. The thought of being brave enough to go against Asgard was thrilling, but terrifying. Loki wasn’t sure he would ever have the guts.

He looked down at the portraits, running his seidr carefully over each of them to keep them closed and protected.

He might never be brave enough to kiss Fandral in front of all of Asgard, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to tell him that he felt the same way. He just... maybe quietly?

He moved to stand but caught sight of something wet and red on the stone by his feet. He ran his finger through it but knew before he brought it to his nose that it was blood. Fandral’s, his senses told him, and he felt the growl rumble up from his chest at the knowledge that Fandral was hurt. Worse than he had thought.  

I didn’t hit him that hard, surely.

But Loki thought he may have. He thought he may have barely held back at all, and the idea made something sick twist inside him. Fandral was hurt, which he’d known. But he might be hurt badly.

“You stupid bastard,” he hissed at himself, leaping back through the doorway and onto Sleipnir’s back. He dropped the portraits into the pocket Yggdrasil opened for him and slid his fingers through the stallion’s mane. “He’s not here. We need to find him, Slip! Hurry!”


Thor sat in silence as Eir tidied what was left of his hair, and told him in a quiet no-nonsense tone about how hard life had been for Fandral since he’d come to live here. That for all that he’d finally found friends - a family, she’d said - who cared for him, he’d never felt loved. Never felt truly accepted. And all because he was wrong in Asgard’s eyes.

And all the times he’d come to her, begging for her to use her skills to fix what was obviously broken so that he could be loved , she’d talked him out of it. Told him that there was nothing to fix, that he was perfect and loved.

Thor listened, his stomach burning with guilt and shame, as she told him very simply of how often she had sat at Fandral’s bedside and held his hands still with seidr so he wouldn’t try to fix himself. So he wouldn’t run .

“He stayed for you, stupid boy, and for Sif. For your parents and for me,” she said and stepped away, dusting her hands free of loose hair. “But mostly, Thor, he stayed always for Loki. Because we could see . He was never alone when he was here. Loki’s hand never left his till Fandral woke up. He never woke with untidy hair because Loki would comb it. And we… encouraged him,” she whispered. “Told him of these things and I told him to be brave.”

Thor turned his head to meet her eye, but she was staring at an empty bed towards the back of the hall, underneath the biggest window. The bed that Fandral was always taken to. “If he’s hurt the way I think he is,” she said softly, “you will bring him here.” Her eyes finally met his, and Thor flinched at the ice in them. “Bring him home, idiot boy.”


Sif stepped back into the waiting area, ignoring Eir’s warning glance. The healer clearly worried about her getting another good punch off into Thor’s face, and to be fair, it was tempting.

“He might not have run if he’d thought anyone would still stand by him,” she said, and thought her words worked just as well as her fist. Perhaps better. “He ran because you cheered. He was hurt and you cheered.”

She turned to Eir before Thor could answer. “I want to take some supplies with me, in case he refuses to come back.”

Eir pursed her lips at the thought but nodded. “Just a moment.”

Sif watched her walk away. She didn’t bother looking over at Thor, just stood there and waited until Eir returned with a small pouch.

“Some ointment for bruising and some for pain. A few other odds and ends. Everything is labeled.” She eyed Sif narrowly. “There’s also a vial of a potion that will put him to sleep, if he is truly in need of medical assistance but refusing it. It will keep him still long enough for Heimdall to bring you all back here.” She looked conflicted, pursing her lips. “I’d advise not using it unless it’s necessary.”

Sif nodded. Fandral’s trust was a hard thing to earn and an easy thing to lose. Drugging him and forcing him back to Asgard could see him running the moment he woke up.

But at least he’d be healed.

“Only if it’s necessary.” She turned to Thor, her glare immediately coming back. “Move your ass, Prince. We’re leaving.”


Wake up, little love. You are here.

Fandral sighed and blinked his eye open slowly, the shadows of his pathways prodding him softly to wake him. He waved a hand in their direction, and then pointed to Fenris.

We will guard him.

A small doorway opened, and he staggered out, bringing a hand up to shield his eyes from the bright sunlight. The ocean was crashing loudly, there were birds wheeling and screaming in the air above it, and he took a minute to just stand at the top of the cliffs and let the wind rush around him.

He loved Norway. Loved the way it was always green and cool, always so much like he imagined home would be. The small indent in the rock face hidden with seidr had been partially buried beneath a rockslide and he spent some time moving them by hand until he couldn’t stay upright. The shadows moved then, tendrils pressing in and around the fallen stone to move it out of the way and pile it to the side. Fandral coughed and gagged, choking faintly on the blood he brought up and groaned at the sight of it on the rocks.

You need help, my walker.

I’m fine, he thought back tiredly. I’ll fix it soon. It’s just from my nose. Think it’s still broken.

It’s in your chest. It’s broken.

Broken? Fandral paused a moment in dragging out the tiny ring box he’d hidden here. The only thing broken in there was what was left of his heart.

Broken, my walker. Sweet shadow thief, broken.

Oh. Right. Loki had shoved him before he was punched. Fandral stood up straight and tried to raise his arm above his head and nearly passed out from the pain.

You meant literally, huh.

Broken.

He left the box with the two golden bands in it behind, tossed back into the indent for some other lucky couple to find, and took the scrap of paper he’d folded into it for safe keeping.

Taneleer Tivan, it said in a dainty and unfamiliar scrawl. Memory Taker of Knowhere.

He’d won it in a gambling match somewhere. Tucked it away for a rainy day.  

Fandral sighed and let his shadows catch him again, curling around Fenris to rest until they reached Nidavellir. It was slower, travelling with them and not through them, but he didn’t have the strength anymore.

I wanna come back here, he thought as the doorway closed. A small house in Norway. A mortal life.


Sleipnir’s hooves clattered as they hit stone, his steps slowing to a halt, and for a moment both of them just stared at the waterfall.

It was massive, tall, roaring down from the heavens and crashing into a small pool surrounded by dark stone.

“Is it... in the water?” Fandral did enjoy diving. He might have hidden whatever he kept here in the pond.

But then Sleipnir was moving again, trotting along the edge of the water, then up a slope and...

Loki stared at the narrow ledge that continued on behind the waterfall. He slid out of the saddle, ducking under Sleipnir’s head and walking along the ledge. It was damp but something kept it from being too slippery, whether that was the stone itself or a ward.

Loki didn’t know what he had been expecting when he looked at the room, but it wasn’t what he found.

The place was beautiful. But it was also horrible. Beautiful for all of the thought and care and love put into it, and horrible because it showed Loki exactly how badly he had messed up. It wasn’t the beautiful painting on the wall, the landscape design of his favorite place to visit on Vanaheim. It wasn’t the bed or even the evidence that this was to be a courting gift.

There was clothes strewn about haphazardly, things tossed aside with carelessness that didn’t suit Fandral. Like they meant nothing, when this place spoke of something very different.

Loki moved over to the chest, carefully folding the clothes and placing them back inside. There was too much here for him to take with him. The place itself was a treasure. But he could make sure it stayed safe.

So he tidied the clothes and studied the place for a long moment, before turning and slipping back out from behind the waterfall.

He cast a spell on the rock to hide the place from view, to keep anyone but he and Fandral from entering, and climbed back onto Sleipnir’s back. The stallion stepped out onto the World Tree.

“Yggdrasil, please, he said quietly, “I know he loves me. No more games. Take me to Fandral.”


Heimdall had given Thor a long look that made him feel an inch tall, carefully dragging his eyes over him from his toes to his shorn head.

“You will wait on Midgard,” he’d rumbled eventually. “Wait by the cliffs. He will come. You will watch.” Golden eyes had shifted to Sif then. “You will need to do it, to bring him home.”

Sif had sighed but nodded.

He looked back out over the ocean, and peered straight down the cliff face to the churning waters at the base. Sif was setting up their tent, and he sat, letting his legs dangle over the edge.

Heimdall had dropped them here without a word. But he’d advised them to sit silent and wait.

And because he was sitting in silence, his thoughts wandered.

He thought of his brother. Of Loki’s eyes wide and happy, before terror had flooded them over Fandral’s shoulder. He thought of the way he’d brought a finger up to press against his lips briefly. Of the devastation he’d so fleetingly seen before Loki had turned to walk away after Fandral had left.

And he thought of Eir’s words. Of Fandral wanting to fix himself just to be loved and accepted.

“I think,” he said quietly as Sif moved to stand beside him. “I think I may need to spend some time apologising, and learning.”

She snorted and cuffed him over the back of the head. “No shit,” she muttered.

Thor was content as she moved away again, to sit and watch the water and let his mind try to work through centuries of what was… wrong .

Chapter Text

FIVE


 

Sleipnir stepped out onto Muspelheim and Loki could see that Fandral wasn’t here. There was very little here at all. Just a small hole in the ground and a cured dragonhide lying out for the elements to take.

“You’re not going to take me to him, are you?”

Yggdrasil’s branches didn’t make a sound. Her leaves didn’t rustle. Loki wasn’t sure he had ever heard such silence.

“I thought you were trying to show me he meant it, but I knew he meant it. I’ve never doubted him.” He stared at the dragonhide. Was it the Midgardian one, the one Fandral had made his boots from? Or a new one?

“But he’s trying to flee, and you’re letting him. You’re letting him stay ahead. Why?” The harsh wind blew heat in their direction and Sleipnir snorted in discomfort, shaking his head. Loki saw the dragonhide shift, trying to catch wind, and slid from Slip’s back. He jogged over and grabbed it.

He didn’t know why Fandral left it. It was an impressive kill.

Loki rolled the hide up and fastened it to the rear of Sleipnir’s saddle. He gripped the saddle horn for a moment, thinking.

“I didn’t doubt him. The moment he said it, I knew he was telling the truth. I should have kissed him back. I wanted to.”

Yggdrasil’s branches finally creaked, groaning in disbelief.

“I’ve loved him for years!” Loki screamed. Sleipnir snorted and jolted away in fright. “You know that! I’ve loved him for decades, but it’s not allowed. It’s not... it’s wrong.”

He’d heard their words, the members of Odin’s council, the courtiers, the people in the higher town. They spoke of the other realms with disgust, spoke of how unnatural they were, of how revolting. He’d heard the merchants telling of how they’d had to move their shops to avoid “their kind,” speaking as though it was not people they discussed, but some sort of diseased beasts.

And he’d heard Thor speak of Fandral, taunting the thief for preferences he had made clear early on. He’d heard the disgust on Thor’s voice, and what he thought bordered on hatred. And when he’d realized his own preferences didn’t match what was right, he’d realized he only had two options. He could either hide or he could choose.

The thing was, both were destructive. Hiding destroyed who he was. Choosing abandoned a piece of him that he loved. Loki had thought it better to destroy himself, though, than risk losing his family and home, or losing Fandral. He’d planned to hide forever.

And then Fandral had kissed him, and Loki had chosen home.

It was the wrong choice.

But Loki didn’t think choosing Fandral would have been right.

He didn’t know what was right. He only knew letting Fandral go was wrong.

“Yggdrasil, please. You know I love him. Now let me go tell him that.”

There was a long moment of silence where all he could hear was the harsh wind, and then a doorway slid open. Yggdrasil’s branches creaked sadly, an apology.

“I know,” he said quietly. “I hurt him and you’re trying to protect him. I know. Now let me help.”

Her branches twisted, shifting place, and Sleipnir began to walk along them. He hoped she was actually listening this time.


“You sure you’re well enough to travel, dude?” Fandral blinked blearily at the man in front of him, focusing on the red of his coat and on nothing else. “Yo, man, I don’t usually take passengers as cargo. ‘Specially not if they’re gonna up and drop dead on me mid-flight.”

Fandral sighed and forced his words out. “G’t hit b’ As’gr’dn,” he mumbled, and the man’s face softened in sympathy.

“Aw shit, no wonder you look like you’re dyin’. Frigging Asgardians. Those bastards’re tough. Alright my dude. Step aboard the Milano and we’ll be at Knowhere in a few hours, tops.”

Fandral just gave a tiny nod, and let the scary green woman and another woman with antenna that kept wiggling, help him aboard. Fenris and the talking… thing were staring each other down, but Fenris eventually yapped happily, and the talking-thing climbed onto his back. He watched the flora colossus board and the scarred man that followed, bickering good-naturedly with the captain.

The ship was small, but comfortable, and the woman, Gamora, settled him into a spare cabin for the trip. She offered to look at his face, but Fandral had waved her off and pointed to the pillow. She’d given him a strange look before she left, but the other stayed behind. She fussed with his pillows, tucked his blankets around him, and then kissed his uninjured cheek very gently.

“You’ve been hurt in more than just the physical sense,” she murmured. “Your soul screams with it. But you’ll find peace.” He watched the little antenna on her head glow briefly, and a sense of calm washed over him for the first time in days. “Sleep, Fandral the Courageous,” she said softly. “Mantis will watch you.”

Fandral wanted to thank her. To speak and tell her that he finally felt like his heart wasn’t being constantly torn to pieces with every beat, but from the smile she gave him… she knew.

“You are welcome,” Mantis murmured. Fandral was grateful when tiny, soft fingers threaded through his and he clutched them to his chest. “I know who you seek,” her hand tightened on his. “He will help you. He is a good man.”

The room was swimming and blurring around him, and Fandral blinked tiredly and fell asleep to the sounds of the ship humming around him, and Mantis’ soft fingers in his.


I like the shops in the lower town best. I wish I could go there more often. The upper town is all right, but everyone there seems to be a high member of the court, and their wares don’t always seem worth the price. Like the money they charge is more for the fact that it came from the upper town than that it is well-made.

There is a man in the lower town, Lykkjur. He makes the loveliest boots I have ever worn. They’re so soft and they fit me perfectly. Far better than anything the upper town cobbler has ever done for me. His boots always pinch in the worst places.

I have this lovely pair of leather boots now with otter fur lining the interior. They’re so soft and warm. I know Fandral adores that place he went to on Vanaheim that did his dragonhide boots, but I think he might like what Lykkjur can do. Perhaps I’ll steal one of his pairs of boots and bring them to Lykkjur for sizing. I can surprise Fandral with a pair for Yule.

That might make a fair gift for Thor, as well. And maybe Sif won’t kill me for raiding her room if I give her nice boots. Or I’ll just as Sigyn for her size. That seems safer.

Thor snorted and ignored the weird look he got from Sif. He huddled down further into his thick cloak, and stretched his feet out to warm by the fire. The boots that were on his feet were sturdy and warm, lined with otter fur. Just as Sif’s were.

And Fandral’s too.

The small burst of humour he’d felt at reading the last line of Loki’s entry faded quickly, and he shifted his weight on the log he was sitting on with a sigh. Each entry, every word, was something new.

The pages flipped again and he simply let it. Whatever magic this was, it was showing him entries of its choice. If he tried to simply read on, or turn the page, the book would become like a stone in his hands.

Sif was sitting still as a statue and staring at the stars, her hands twisting constantly around a small, dark blue square of fabric that he recognised as being one of Fandral’s old cloaks. Thor was certain he could remember the thief complaining that it had abruptly vanished, and Sif had teased him about his fading mortal memory.

The pages fell still, and Thor shifted his gaze back to the pages.

There was a hjartahundur on Alfheim. A hjartahundur. I didn’t even think any were still alive. I thought they’d all been wiped out centuries ago.

We were just expecting wolves. Just a simple pack of wolves. Easy enough to deal with. They’d been attacking the nearby farmlands, killing herd beasts, and they needed to be stopped.

It was just supposed to be wolves.

I should have been paying better attention. I think I was telling a joke? Or a story? I don’t even remember. I hadn’t be paying attention! And Fandral

Thor frowned at the harshly crossed out lines in the entry, but no matter the angle he tilted the book to, no words came clear. Out of curiosity he tried to turn the page, surprised when the magic let him. Loki had crossed the words out so hard that the page had torn, and the ink had gone quite through to the page beneath it.

“That’s cheating,” he grumbled. “You’ll let me turn the pages if they’re blank afterwards.” He sighed and turned it back to finish reading.

Eir says the hjartahundur is venomous. She says it’s bite can kill a god if not gotten too quickly enough, and Fandral is not a god.

He should have let the thing bite me. He shouldn’t have gotten in the way. Stupid bastard. Stupid stupid bastard.

The hjartahundur ? He remembered that.

They’d answered a plea for help on a farm that traded directly with the palace on Alfheim. Wolves that had been killing their stock. But what they’d flushed out of the caves had been hjartahundur. Enormous, deadly beasts that moved so quickly that they were often described as nothing more than a blur in battles. And he remembered that Loki had been in the midst of telling them of his latest prank, some visiting dignitary that would have awoken with brightly coloured hair growing all over his body for offending Sif. They’d all been laughing loudly and then…

And then Fandral had come from literally nowhere, shoved Loki hard out of the way and taken the full force of an attacking hjartahundur and it’s bite to the stomach. He’d managed to stay on his feet as they slayed the pack, but Thor had clapped him on the shoulder to congratulate him after and Fandral had collapsed like a puppet with its strings cut.

He remembered Eir and his mother quietly discussing karves and ceremonies in the days after as Fandral’s physical state worsened.

And he remembered his own… almost disinterest. He’d been sad, yes, but also aware of the fact that Fandral was a mortal with eccentricities that meant he wasn’t truly Asgardian.

He had to swallow hard against the bile that rose in his throat when he remembered thinking that he was unworthy of an Asgardian funeral. That maybe it was a blessing in disguise if he passed. That it might spare Loki from his - his influence .

Thor let the book flutter closed, and his head dropped forward to land in his hands.

Shame was curdling his gut and crawling like burning insects up his spine.

“I am… sorry,” he whispered.

Almost believe you .

He blinked and looked up slowly for the source of the voice, but it was just he and Sif.

Almost, godling. Almost.

Thor shook his head lightly and let it rest in his hands again.

“Almost,” he agreed. He almost meant it.


“You know what it is that I do then?” Fandral stared wearily up at the man with the weird glasses and gave the tiniest nod he could manage. “And you’ve sought me out for this?” Another minuscule nod. Taneleer Tivan sighed softly and lifted his chin with a gentle finger. “Darling boy,” he murmured. “Oh, you are quite broken, aren’t you. It’s no wonder Mantis kept you under.”

Not broken, he thought tiredly. Just need to rest . Out loud he tried to agree, but Taneleer shook his head.

“I don’t deal in lies,” he admonished gently. “Come now. Let me read what you’ve got in there, and we’ll see if a clean canvas is truly what you desire. A painting can always be covered over with something new, after all. But a blank canvas is so very difficult to begin to fill.” Fenris barked and jumped up at him, and Taneleer beamed at him. “Such a marvelous little companion! Come now, precious pup. Let’s get him inside.”

Fandral could only watch as Mantis and Gamora waved farewell to him, and then plodded slowly after Taneleer. His chest was aching, as though the shadows reveal of the damage to it had been permission for it to start making itself known too.

“You’ll refuse a healing pod,” Taneleer asked him, but Fandral understood his tone. It hadn’t been a question, but he gave his tiny nod anyway. “Fool,” Taneleer muttered. “Nevermind.” He was ushered into a small room, dark and warm, lit only by a few floating crystals around the walls. “Sit.”

Fandral sat in the softest chair he’d ever sat in and had to fight to stay awake again. Taneleer didn’t wait to ask, or bother to let him know he intended to begin. He simply perched on the armrest beside Fandral and clapped his hands to his temples.

A cacophony of sound and bright images filled his mind in an instant and Fandral couldn’t help the pained noise he made.

“Yes, yes, I know,” Taneleer soothed him quietly. Fandral let his eye close, and the Memory Taker work.

Flashes of his life - tiny, naked and afraid, being whipped for stealing an apple. A little older and being plucked from the street by his former master. The first time the shadows had taken him away, when he was only a day old. Being left in a warm bed in a Midgardian church. Being kicked out when he was three and war broke out. Shadows again.

He felt a tugging in his mind, and followed it.

Thor, chasing down the clever shadow walker and demanding he come to Asgard.

Thor, threatening to make him leave the first time he caught Fandral with a lover.

Thor, laughing. Fighting yelling hurting him with words and actions.

“So much love and respect for one who has so little for you,” Taneleer murmured. The tugging again.

Frigga and a beloved warm blanket.

Odin and a quietly shared glass of Midgardian liquor under the twin moons of Asgard’s winter sky.

Healer Eir. Warmth. Understanding. Encouragement. Whispers of a secret love. Gentle restraints as he shook, and cried and begged her to fix him.

“Tut tut,” the Memory Taker rubbed his thumbs gently over Fandral’s head, and the tugging came again.

Loki.

Smiling. Laughing. A sketch. A secret room behind a waterfall. Whispered conversations with Eir. Quiet encouragement.

“Be brave, darling boy! He loves you as well. What better occasion than Iðunn's  festivals? Choose one, and be brave!”

A flushed and beautiful face turning towards the soft whisper of his name. Cheeks like velvet in his hands and the words had come so easily .

“Loki, I love you. For so long, minn silfur einn.”

Green eyes widened with surprise. Lips as soft as he’d always imagined them to be. A taste of wine and blueberries.

Agony.

Pain.

Rejection.

Shame.

An ache so deep in his chest he’d passed it off as in his mind. A face ruined by the barely controlled strength of a god.

Taneleer let go of his head, and Fandral left his eye closed, trying to ignore the way his breath was hitching, the burning sting of the tears.

“My poor love,” the Memory Taker said kindly. “Darling. This is your choice. I can give you a blank canvas. You can start anew. Or you can take this pain, and you can change your composition. Fill the broken places with new paint. Change what is killing you, to the thing that makes you stronger .”

Fandral felt himself tugged forward into a gentle embrace. “I will not take this from you,” Taneleer whispered, and hands carded carefully through his hair. “I will take you to your Norway. I know a small place there. Abandoned by the Midgardians. Isolated and perfect to heal in.”

Please, Fandral begged him in his mind. Please take it.

“You will heal.” A kiss pressed gently to his lips and Fandral opened his eye to the feel of cold wind catching his cape and hair. Fenris was scratching and yapping at the door of a small wooden home in front of them, the cliffs he so loved to stand on within his sight behind the house.

Heal, my love, my walker. Soon everything will be healed.

Fandral staggered up the stairs and pushed the door open, unsurprised to see it furnished and he moved to the bed at the back. Fenris closed the door with a well-aimed kick and settled on his feet as soon as he was comfortable.

“H’me,” he mumbled, and let sleep and exhaustion drag him down again.


"Wait, not yet. Stay."

Sif rarely heard Yggdrasil speak. The World Tree kept her peace unless something dire was at stake. The exception was Loki, of course. She knew the trickster could hear Yggdrasil constantly. She had watched him tilt his head a thousand times, listen to words meant only for him, laugh at jokes told for his ears alone.

She had never walked her branches and she suspected she never would. She had only heard the tree’s voice once before, when she and the others had been separated due to a cave-in and she had been trapped and lost. Yggdrasil had stayed with her, guiding her from the unstable part of the cave she had woken up in to a safer area, and whispered reassurances that she was not forgotten until Fandral had found her and guided her out on his shadows.

Her eyes studied the small cabin set into the mountainside. The door did not open again after Fandral stepped through. She watched it carefully nonetheless, rubbing the soft, worn fabric of Fandral’s cloak in her fingers.

She had sat near the edge of the cliffs for the view, mostly. She liked high places and being able to see for long distances. Loki always called her a silver hawk, but fondly in that way of his. He seemed to enjoy equating people with animals. She wondered if it had something to do with his shapeshifting.

She hadn’t seen the cabin when she sat down. Not until Fandral had appeared suddenly, the movement catching her attention, and the door opening before his touch.

She wanted to go to him. She knew he was hurt. She knew he was foolish enough to try and punish himself with continued hurt, her stupid heart-brother.

“Wait. Not yet.”

Sif exhaled softly and agreed with a small nod. She was glad that Thor was sitting back from the cliffs, that he could not see from the angle of the mountain. She feared what he would do.

“Protect our thief.”

You better, Sif thought, keeping her eyes on the door. And so will I.


Thor glanced around for Sif, but the book fluttered again and he dropped his gaze back to it. “Again already?” he asked quietly. His head was aching with the things he’d already read, and he was silently cursing Loki’s tiny printing. Would it have killed him to write a little bigger?

The pages stilled and the book sat still and open in his lap.

Fandral is very pale. I’ve never seen him so pale. Nor so still. It doesn’t suit him. He’s always moving, flitting about like a hummingbird. It looks wrong to have him lying here.

Thor keeps telling me I should go back to my own rooms, that Fandral will be fine. He doesn’t know. He hasn’t been here. I’m not going to tell him.

Fandral will get better. They’re just going to have to use the karve for someone else. Fandral will get better. He has to.

He sighed and rubbed a hand over his mouth.

Had he been so… callous? Truly?

Was he still?

The page flicked over.

I wonder, if I ask, if Thor will go with me to hunt down all the hjartahundur and do away with them. We’d be doing the Realms a service.

Fandral has fallen into a coma. Eir says it’s his body trying to conserve energy to fight the venom in his bloodstream. She says if he wakes up within three days, there is hope. If not...

I don’t know if I can sit here for three days and wait to see if he will live or die. He’s stopped curling his fingers around mine. He doesn’t know I’m here anymore.

Thor traced a finger over the words, and tapped lightly at the faintly smudged letters. Tiny drops of hardened paper wrinkled faintly. Like water had been dripped on and left to dry in the air.

Or tears.

He wondered what Loki meant by Fandral’s fingers not curling about his any longer. A thing between them, perhaps? Was it something… something wrong between them? Was it comfort?

Is it wrong to give comfort and love to another, godling?

Thor shuddered at the venom in the voice. “I’ve heard you before,” he murmured back. “You’re not Yggdrasil.”

We are more.

He swallowed hard, and nodded. “I see,” he bit at his lip and sighed softly. “I think I have been… wrong.”

There was no answer this time, but somehow the silence seemed all the louder.

I don’t think he’s going to wake back up.

What am I supposed to do if he dies? He’s my best friend.

I shouldn’t leave him. I should stay. I should be here for him, so he’s not alone. When everything is over, then Thor and I can hunt down the hjartahundur. I am going to kill them all.

Tears were burning his eyes, and Thor tipped his head back to the stars, letting them run down his face and into his hair and beard. The fire popped and crackled, but he couldn’t hear much over the sound of his brother’s voice in his head.

“Thor? Will you hunt with me?”

Fandral had been awake for days, Thor had visited him and told him to heal quickly. That he would teach him to wield a sword like a true Asgardian man so he wouldn’t be so easily hurt again. He’d ignored the flash of hurt in Fandral’s eyes and left. Loki had tugged at his sleeve and asked him on a hunt, and Thor had brushed him off.

Let him go alone, because there were bigger and better things to hunt.

His stomach rolled with guilt and shame, and he let his head fall forwards again. The book hadn’t changed its pages, and he was grateful. He needed a break. To see the proof of his sins against his brother, against his friend , written in stark black and white was eating at him. He was wondering, for the first time in his life, if perhaps he hadn’t been acting in the interests of Asgard after all. If maybe the views taught to him in his lessons by Ráðugr and Akaz had been just that.

Ráðugr’s and Akaz’s views.

He’d never heard his mother or father speak in agreement with what they called the wrongness.

Only himself.

“Ymir’s balls,” he muttered. “Everything made sense until it suddenly didn’t and now everything is - is changed . And I am… lost,” he whispered. “I am lost.”

Chapter Text

SIX


 

Loki stepped out of Yggdrasil’s doorway, leaving Sleipnir behind on her branches again. He found himself outside of a door, standing in a long hall that had nothing else for decoration. Just a rolling carpet down the center and dim lighting.

There was something dangerous here, he thought. Something that could be deadly, if he wasn’t careful. Like waking up in a snake pit and staring down a coiled mass of sleepy rattlesnakes.

Loki looked around, but there was nothing except the door. He gripped the handle - cold, like ice, it was cold - and pushed it open, stepping inside.

Yggdrasil was not silent, but her words seemed different here. Less the groaning of branches and the shaking of leaves. There was something cold and dark in her tone, like deep shadows beneath overhanging branches. Cool places where sleepy prey and insects lay down to rest.

Whatever she was saying, the words were too low for him to hear. There was only the feeling that this place was important, and dangerous.

“Hello?”

His voice echoed in the room and he wanted more than anything to run, to tuck his tail between his legs and scurry away. But Yggdrasil had brought him here because Fandral was here, or had been, and this place was important.

There was no sound, no warning shift. Just a feeling. A sudden presence at his back and Loki stiffened at the feeling of eyes on him, at someone else being there.

“Hello? I’m... looking for someone.”


“So many interesting little visitors all in one day,” Taneleer murmured. “Quite fascinating.”

He could hear the Great Tree, listened as she explained to him that this one was seeking a lost thief. Important, she kept repeating. Take care of him.

"I know who it is you seek, Asgardian,” he moved to stand before the man and looked him over. “And I know who you are.”

Those green eyes widened a fraction and he saw the light tracing of magic beneath his skin. This one was powerful too, though not broken like his little thief. This one, he decided, would need to earn the right to visit his darling. That thief was special. He very rarely got ones with magic - and a mortal no less! - that were as broken as he.

“You will follow me,” Taneleer decided, and spun on his heel, leading the way down the hallway and trusting that the Asgardian would follow. The sharp clicking of his heels indicated he was. “We will have tea, and you will tell me why I ought to tell you anything at all, hm?”

Yggdrasil groaned in frustration at him, and Taneleer grinned. “Now now, lovely lady,” he said quietly and pressed his hand to an empty section of wall, calling up a door and a small room set up for tea. “We mustn’t rush. The thief has time.”

Not enough.

“He has enough for this one to understand his own heart,” Taneleer said firmly. “I’ll not let him find him otherwise. He is undecided.”


Loki followed the man as he moved down the hall. He watched him call up doors out of nothing, but he couldn’t sense whether the magic was in the man or in the place.

It was very unsettling. There was a kind of blankness over everything. A veil. Loki knew there were answers there, but he couldn’t see them without pulling the veil back, and that would bare him as much as it would the truth of this place.

He didn’t want to bare himself to this place.

So he left the veil alone, let the magic hide itself. He followed the man into a room, noting the tea already waiting. It made his magic flicker inside him nervously and he resisted calling up a doorway and throwing himself inside.

What sort of man was this that he knew Loki was coming?

He took the seat he was motioned toward quietly, hesitantly, watching the man carefully. He could feel his magic curling inside him, pressing deeper, away from the prying eyes of this place. So very many eyes, constantly watching.

“You mentioned interesting visitors,” Loki said, trying to put all his diplomatic skill forward to hide the tremble in his voice. In his guts. “Was there a thief here earlier, named Fandral? He would have been hurt.”


Taneleer fussed about with his teapot, pouring carefully and adding both sugar and honey to the cup he passed to the Asgardian. He could hear the tremble in his voice, could feel the tension and fear in his magic. He passed him the teacup and then settled back into his chair with a cup of his own.

“So,” he took a sip and then gazed steadily at the trembling young man before him. “Loki Odinson. Tell me." He set his teacup down and crossed an ankle over his knee. “What is it you want with my thief? He was, as you said, hurt. Badly, both physically and in his mind and spirit. Why is it that I should tell you where to find my little love?”

Be nice, Yggdrasil’s branches whipped out and flicked him on the ear, and Taneleer brushed them away.

He was being nice. He kept his gaze on Loki as he picked his cup back up and sipped at his tea. No one blended tea as well as the Midgardians.


 

Eir sent me back to my rooms.

It’s been three days and Fandral hasn’t moved or woken. She has this perpetual look of sadness on her face now, and there’s just this feeling of waiting in the air. Sif has visited the halls. She knows. She left crying yesterday. I guess they’ve finished the karve. Or perhaps they were gathering his things in preparation. I wasn’t really listening. Everything sounds like falling water, just this roaring sound. Useless noise.

I don’t want Fandral to die. He’s not supposed to. He’s supposed to stay with me forever. I always thought he’d get an apple from Iðunn for doing something clever and then never leave.

I don’t think Thor knows. I should tell him. He should get a chance to say goodbye. I know he doesn’t agree with Fandral’s choices but they are friends and he would wa— 

“He wanted Fandral to have immortality?” Thor muttered. “Whatever for?”

Stupid godling. You were doing so well.

The pages flicked themselves so hard and fast that Thor barely moved his fingers in time to avoid them being shredded.

 

I always knew that Fandral was talented at mapmaking. I caught him working on a map of Alfheim when we were younger. He’s very skilled with his hands and seeing how he designed the mountain ranges and forests... it’s beautiful. But I didn’t realize he could draw.

He’d been working on a landscape of Vanaheim, one of the places where we camp when we go hunting there. I startled him and he looked so embarrassed about being seen with it, but it was beautiful. I was glad I got to see it.

Fandral has a lot of hidden talents I don’t think he shares. Asgard isn’t really the place where some of his talents are appreciated. Like his seidr. If people understood, if they knew how powerful Fandral was, if they could see it as the weapon it can be, sword and paintbrush both. They’d never look at him as less.

He’s fucking impressive. I’ve never had someone who could match me before. When I use my magic and my weapons against him, sparring, I never know which of us is going to win. It’s amazing. And now this. Art.

He’s like a treasure trove of secrets. I’m want to dig up every one.

Thor stared stupidly at the page.

Fandral was that even a match for Loki? A mortal was able to best him as frequently as he did? “Why were you not ashamed?”

Thor sighed. “That wasn’t the right thing to ask,” he said quietly. “He wasn’t ashamed because it was the only chance he got to truly test his skills. I w-would never have… never have let him use seidr and daggers against me.”

Understanding. You are doing better. So far to go.

"I will keep trying.”

You will be better for it.

Thor let his hand rest over the page, blocking Loki’s handwriting and focusing on himself for a moment. His entire universe felt like it had been suddenly turned inside out and upside down, and he was being left to try and keep his head above water. The journal’s pages fluttered and the book closed beneath his hand.

Rest, and think and learn, Godling.

“I think I will heed your advice,” he whispered back. “I feel as though I’m drowning.” The voice didn’t answer him again, and Thor tucked Loki’s journal away in his pocket again, laying back on his bedroll to admire the stars as he tried to let his mind work through the avalanche of information he was buried under.


Loki stared at the teacup like it was a coiled snake, and it felt like it was just as dangerous.

The man had made his tea exactly as he liked it. Exactly. Because he knew somehow, and he knew Loki’s name, and he knew Fandral, and

Calm down.

He trembled at Yggdrasil’s voice, at the curl of branches in his hair. Keep you safe, my trickster. Be calm. You are safe.

Loki swallowed hard. The curl of branches stayed at his back and he took a few breaths, forcing himself to settle.

The teacup tugged toward him and he grabbed it before Yggdrasil dumped it in his lap. “Okay,” he whispered. “Okay.”

He took a sip of the tea (Yggdrasil wouldn’t let him get poisoned) and set the cup back down in the saucer. He looked up at the man, his magic cringing away.

It was strange. It was like there were two layers. Loki normally saw people’s seidr lying inside them as he looked at them, just another part of them. The veil over this place hid this man’s magic from view, though. Loki could see him, and he could see the veil, and behind it, movement as his magic rolled and twisted and shifted. But he couldn’t see it.

Powerful, he knew that. Powerful. Far more powerful than Loki could ever hope to be. And old. Older than Odin.

Fandral, Yggdrasil whispered gently. Don’t get lost, my trickster.

Loki blinked. “He’s mine,” he said, and shook his head. “No, wait. Not... not like that.” He shoved at his magic. It was too tight. Curled too close. It was messing with his perspective. Stop it. I need my mind, not Wolf’s. Stop.

His magic uncurled a little, reluctantly. He felt it reach back toward Yggdrasil and curl among her branches, pulling away from him and this place. Fine. That was fine. Yggdrasil said he was safe.

“Fandral is my best friend,” he told the man, looking at him again. With his magic pulled away, it was easier to ignore the veil and the magic hidden underneath. Just a man. “He’s... family. He means a lot to me. And he’s hurt.” Which the man already knew. “It was my fault. I... I hurt him. And I need to find him, to help him and tell him he wasn’t wrong. That I do... um...” He frowned at the man. Deceptively easy to talk to. That was probably a spell.

“I don’t want to lose him.”


 

Taneleer watched his magic dissipate from within, saw the way it curled and reached back into itself, and he knew it was resting within the branches of their World Tree. He sipped at his tea in silence for a few minutes, and when his cup was empty he set it down gently on the side table. Hands steepled beneath his chin, Taneleer let his chin rest on his fingertips as he stared at Loki.

Without his magic clamouring for attention he was… simple to read. More so than he already was.

He stared, took in the faint traces of scars on his lips, the wariness in his eyes and the tenseness in his posture.

“Bit of a liar, aren’t you?” he said casually, and let his hands fall away to rest on the armrests as he sat back in his chair, ankles crossed. “He’s more than that. Why do you lie and hide to yourself?” Taneleer frowned. “I won’t let you get to him. Fandral is under my protection now, Loki Odinson. He may be your best friend, but he’s my little love. A treasure in my… collection. He is barely holding together as it is.”

He picked up his teacup, and eyed it for a moment, then twisted slightly and threw it at the wall. Loki jumped as it shattered and then turned wide, frightened eyes on him.

“You cannot repair it with words,” Taneleer said softly. “You must use action. Tell me. How do you plan to fix him?”


Loki watched the man. He was... he didn’t know what he was. Who he was. Terrifying. He was terrifying.

But he said Fandral was under his protection, and Yggdrasil didn’t seem to find fault with him, so...

“I don’t know,” he said, because he didn’t. “He’s hurt, so I want him to come back to Asgard, to see Eir. He trusts her and she would fix his... what I did. I punched him.” His shoulders dropped. “I hit him a lot harder than I should have.” He shook his head, muttering to himself, “Shouldn’t have hit him at all.”

What else? Yggdrasil whispered. How will you fix the rest?

He didn’t know, though. How could he fix the rest? Fandral was notoriously distrustful, hard to get close to and easy to lose. And it wasn’t like Loki had pushed him away and told him no. He’d hit Fandral. He’d hurt him badly. Not just physically either.

“I do love him,” he said, meeting the man’s eyes. “I do. I have for years. I’m just... a coward.” He looked away, shame curling in his stomach. “I didn’t want to have to choose. And then I did, and it was wrong, and I have to tell him. It... I’m sorry. I need to tell him I’m sorry and I do love him too.” And kiss him back. And hold him. And take him back to Asgard...

And what? Hide him away in your rooms and never let him be seen? If he goes back, people will notice. If he is around you, people will notice. It won’t be like it was. It can’t. It’s different. You have to choose. Fandral or hiding. Anonymity or Fandral.

Terrifying. It was all terrifying.

But it was a little less terrifying with someone in his corner. Everything seemed a little less frightening with Fandral there.

“Oh,” he whispered. Maybe Asgard could be less frightening too.

“I don’t know if he’ll want anything to do with me,” he said quietly. “He might just tell me to fuck off.” And rightly so. Loki had hurt him, had barely pulled his punch, and all out of fear. Coward. “I have to try, though. I’d like... what he offered. I’d like to give it back, too.” He shuffled uncomfortably, embarrassed. “I’d like to court him too.”


 

Taneleer hummed. “I saw it all you know,” he said quietly. “The gifts he’d made and left on all the realms. He spread them out to keep them safe.”

He leaned forwards then, and waited till Loki’s eyes met his. “Do you know who I am, Loki Odinson?” The dark head gave a single shake and he nodded in return.

“I am Taneleer Tivan, the Memory Taker of Knowhere,” he said. “And I have taken Fandral under my protection. Very rarely do I meet one like him. So completely shattered all apart that he allowed me into the very deep dark places. I know him, Loki Odinson, inside and out. I know his every secret. I know the very minute he realised he was in love with you. I know how many times he’s tried not to be.” Taneleer pushed himself up out of his chair and sighed.

“I will send you along,” he turned away from Loki and clasped his hands together. “There is one more thing to retrieve, under the bloody stones. Then you will take the Lady Sif’s hand and she will take you to my Fandral. She will get him home. And you,” he glanced back over his shoulder at Loki. “You have much work to do. He doesn’t trust easily, and you’ve shattered more than just his face and heart, boy.”

Taneleer flicked his fingers and sent the lad sprawling onto the ground in front of the small rock pile. “Ta ta for now!” he said cheerfully, and let the portal close.

“Someone have mercy on me,” he muttered and made a beeline for the liquor cabinet that shimmered into existence. “I am not a relationship expert.”


Loki blinked stupidly at the rocks. He... apparently he was not the only one who could create doorways.

Yggdrasil hummed behind him, branches creaking. Loki pushed himself to his knees, taking in the shifted stones he had been dropped in front of.

Bloody stones, the man had said. The Memory Taker. And they were bloody. Loki stared at the blood splattered on them and swallowed hard.

The box.

Loki looked past the stones. There was a small box in the back of the hole the stones must have been covering. He grabbed it and pulled it out, opening it to look inside.

He closed it after a moment and slipped it into his pocket. Fandral had planned for a lot. He’d expected for things to go differently. Clearly. Loki had destroyed so much by acting like a coward. He should have kissed Fandral back. He should have stopped caring what Asgard thought a long time ago.

Fandral had, apparently. Or he’d just been brave enough he didn’t need anyone’s approval.

Yggdrasil prodded him in the shoulder as he turned away from the piles of stone, and he followed her directions. The small tent on the edge of the cliffs overlooking an incredible view did little to distract him from the fact that his brother was here.

Loki looked at Thor for a moment, but he could still hear his brother’s cheering, the gleeful sound of his cries at what Loki had done. At what he never should have done.

He turned away.

“Sif.”

The woman looked at him and held out her hand. “Come on. I know where he is."


There was someone knocking at his door. He could hear it, could feel the echo of every vibration in his cheek, in his head and his chest. His entire body ached fiercely, and he was comfortable.

Warm. So very, very warm. Almost too warm, but kicking off the blankets he was sure must be piled on would simply take far too much energy. Much easier to just lay here and wait for the door knockers to grow bored and leave him alone.

Fenris though, the little traitor, leaped down from the bed and barked and scratched at the door. Fandral groaned as it swung open on faintly creaking hinges and wished he had the strength to move. To leave .

“Fandral?” He knew that voice. That was - was Sif.

He tried to open his eye, and managed to almost focus on her face when he did. “You look… you look awful. Have you eaten? Bathed? Slept?”

He nodded as best he could to the last one. Slept. Sleeping. Yes. He’d done that.

“Fandral?”

It was like ice water suddenly washed over him. He knew that voice.

“Are you… alright?”

Loki, I love you. For so long…

He blinked hard with his right eye and tried to focus. His tongue darted out to dampen the corner of his mouth as best he could.

“F’k off,” he tried to say but knew he sounded like a toothless old drunk. He wanted to say more - so much more, but then Sif was there and she was dripping something into his mouth and the struggling he hadn’t realised he was doing stopped as darkness crept in and stole him away.

Bitch!


Fandral looked terrible. Loki had known he wouldn’t look well, that at least his nose was broken, but he looked far worse than Loki had expected. The whole left side of his face was swollen, covered in deep black and blue bruises. His hair was also damp and stuck to his face with sweat.

“What did you give him?” he asked, moving closer to Fandral as the man’s eyes slipped closed and he went limp on the bed.

“A sleeping draught,” Sif said, as she tucked the small vial back inside her bag. “He’ll throw a fit about it and you can remind him that I’m the one that shoved it down his throat. But he needs Eir.”

Loki nodded quietly. Fandral’s skin was hot. Loki was careful not to touch his face. He didn’t want to hurt the man anymore than he already had.

Sif gasped behind him and he heard her stumble. “Loki?”

He looked back to see Yggdrasil’s branches creeping out of nothing, reaching for the bed, and Sif drawing her sword.

“It’s all right, Sif,” he said, motioning at her with a hand. “It’s only Yggdrasil.”

The woman stared at him for a moment, then looked at the branches. “Yggdrasil. She can…”

Loki nodded. Yggdrasil could reach into the realms if she wanted to. He was fairly certain she could do anything she wanted to.

Sif let go of her sword with some obvious reluctance. Loki could understand that a little. Yggdrasil was an incredible sight, large and imposing and terrifying the first time you saw her. Loki’s first step onto her branches had been accidental, at least on his part, and he’d been a mess from the experience. It was one of the first times he had stayed away from Asgard on his on for longer than a day, and in the end, Heimdall had needed to come and get him, in person, because Loki had been too frightened to move and risk falling back into that place between worlds.

He’d been walking her branches for so many centuries now, though, that there was no fear of her left in his heart. But he had the benefit of seidr, too, to see her. Perhaps what Sif saw was different. He didn’t know.

The branches curled around him, a vine wrapping around his waist with a gentle squeeze. Loki petted the leaves softly as Yggdrasil’s branches creaked.

“We will take him. We will be gentle. The Bifrost will be too rough. He is badly hurt, my trickster. Broken. In his chest.”

Loki swallowed. His chest. Yggdrasil would have said heart if that was what she meant. Loki tried to think of what else had happened. He remembered hitting Fandral, of course. His knuckles had been covered in blood, but what else…

“You pushed him. Too hard, my trickster. You are too strong. Let him go now. He must come with us.”

“All right.” The vines uncurled from around him and Loki ducked beneath Yggdrasil’s branches, stepping away from the bed. The branches reached out and curled around Fandral, leaves forming and flowers blooming to cushion him as he was lifted from the bed.

“We will take her. She has been watching.”

Sif? “She can’t walk your branches alone, Yggdrasil.”

“You did not come alone, my trickster.”

Sleipnir stepped out of another doorway, looking over at them with a whicker and a toss of his head. Ah. So that was why Yggdrasil had demanded he come.

“Sif, Sleipnir will take you back with Fandral.”

Sif stared at him with wide eyes. “On… on Yggdrasil?” She looked at Sleipnir. “She…”

“Sleipnir won’t let you fall,” Loki said quietly. He was watching as Yggdrasil pulled Fandral through the doorway, cradling him carefully in her branches. “Yggdrasil wants you to come.” He watched Fenris leap through the doorway after the branches. “I’ll help Thor get everything packed up. Heimdall can take us home.”

“I will take you,” Yggdrasil whispered. “When you are ready, you will guide the Storm on my branches. He needs to see.”

Loki turned to Sif with a sigh. “Go, Sif. Fandral needs you.”

She nodded, still looking nervous at the idea, but he watched her climb into Sleipnir’s saddle. The stallion whickered cheerfully and stepped back through the doorway. They all closed up behind him.

Loki stood in the center of the cabin, suddenly surrounded by silence, and just stared at the bed where Fandral had been laying. He felt like all of his emotions had fled him and he was empty, nothing more than a shell.

Hurt in his chest.

“We will take care of our thief. Go, my trickster. You have work to do yet.”

Loki nodded. He took a look around the cabin to see if there was anything that had been left behind, but anything that Fandral had with him must have been tucked away in pockets or hidden where he couldn’t find it. With a last glance, he turned and left the cabin, heading back up the hill toward his brother.

Chapter Text

SEVEN


 

Fandral woke up! He woke up! Three stupid days in a coma and he just opens his eyes and asks what all the fuss is about. At least that’s what Eir said he asked, she might have been exaggerating. One of her assistants came to get me and by the time I got to the healing halls, Eir was crying over Fandral. It frightened me. I thought maybe he had died after all.

I’ve never seen Eir cry before. It was a little terrifying. She always seemed unflappable, unless she’s angry.

She says Fandral needs sleep. He’s slept enough. Asshole. I yelled at him for saving my life and he just grinned at me like the idiot he is. Stupid asshole. I 

The scratched out lines had been done so heavy-handedly there that they’d gone through almost three pages.

He’s going to be okay. I might murder him for scaring me, but he’ll be fine. He’s not going to die.

I’m still going to kill every single hjartahundur in all the Realms.

Had he ever, Thor wondered. Had Loki ventured out and hunted them all?

Hunted any?

Best put that away now, godling.

He could hear the faint crunching of light footsteps coming up the hill towards him and closed his eyes briefly to ask for strength, and patience from Loki, that he wouldn’t make more of a mess of things.

Thor patted at his pocket to make sure the journal was out of sight, and turned to greet his brother. Loki looked awful . He was pale, even for him, and he looked utterly exhausted. Thor was grateful that he’d taken the time since Sif left to dismantle the unused tent and put out their fire.

A part of him wanted to reach out, to pull his brother in for an easy embrace, much as he always had.

But a larger part of him knew that would go down about as well as a bilgesnipe in a brewery.

“Hello Loki,” he settled on. “Did you find Fandral?”

Loki’s eyes narrowed at him, but he nodded. He didn’t, Thor noted sadly, move any closer.

“I see.” He pushed himself up off the log he’d claimed and dusted the back of his pants free from dirt and dust and sighed. “Shall we be going back to Asgard then? Will I call for the Bifrost?” He let his hand come to rest on Mjolnir’s handle, but Loki shook his head.

“No,” he said quietly. “You’ll be walking Yggdrasil with me. She wants to… to show you something.”

Thor blinked at him. “I… see.”

Not yet. But you will see. See everything.

“Very well. Lead on, Loki,” he smiled, and sighed softly again when his smile wasn’t returned. He hadn’t walked Yggdrasil often, and though his brother was furious with him, Thor knew he wouldn’t let him fall into the space between the Realms. He was surprised, however, when Loki’s clever fingers found his and threaded themselves through.

“This way,” Loki said, and turned his head away. Thor tried to follow what happened next, but between one moment and the next he was suddenly gone from the cliffs and standing on a gently swaying branch of the World Tree. She was… enormous. Terrifying and beautiful and wonderful all at once. He felt insignificant and puny before her.

He reached a tentative hand out to rest on a nearby bough, relieved when it wasn’t punished, and whispered his greetings to her. The tree creaked something he couldn’t understand, but it brought a small smile to Loki’s face.

“Come on Thor,” he nodded with his head towards a small doorway that had opened. “Through here.”

He let Loki lead him through, and felt as his eyes widened and his mouth dropped open.

This was… was Midgard?

But everywhere he looked there were bright colours, loud noises and…

And the ones he’d been brought up to think were wrong .

Men were dancing and touching one another, openly sharing embraces and affection. Women were with women. They were in bright, barely there costumes, their skin glittered and reflected the light like they were covered in diamond dust. People danced past with flags and banners, with feathers and streamers. Men and women proudly supporting the ones dancing and riding enormous… things .

“What…” Thor’s head was spinning, pounding in time with the steady thumping of the music blaring from all around them. “I don’t understand.”

A man danced past in little more than underwear, and draped an enormous garland of feathers and flowers around his neck. “Cool costume!” he shouted. “Happy Pride!”

Pride ? Thor thought, and stared around him in bewilderment. They were… proud? Of this?

“It’s not wrong here,” Loki said quietly, fingers tracing through his own garland. “It is, of course, in some places on Midgard. There are areas where it is still considered a crime even. But for the most part, they are just like everyone else. They can get married, have families and own property.”

Thor put a hand to his aching head and rubbed his temple. “Okay,” he said quietly. “Can we, uh… go somewhere quieter?”


Yggdrasil made a sly, amused noise and Loki felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. What are you planning?

“We are only teaching, my trickster. Do not fear. But he must see. You are all so very small.”

Loki felt Thor’s hand tighten around his as they were moved again, shifting the bough that they stood on. He could see the other branches moving and turning, but Thor stood like a statue next to him, and he was grateful that Yggdrasil was not overwhelming his brother with the enormity of her full presence.

“In time. He will know me, as you know me, but not yet. His eyes must be opened first, but he is trying. Be proud of him, my trickster. He wants to learn.”

Loki felt his shoulders relax lightly. He was still quite angry with Thor, but the fact that his brother wanted to learn was… a very large step. Perhaps the largest of all of them. He wasn’t fighting the truth. He simply didn’t understand yet.

He felt the spell of stillness beside him fade, time restarting over Thor, as Yggdrasil settled her bough over a massive expanse of nothingness. Thor stiffened next to him, and Loki’s heart even picked up speed at the darkness that stretched on forever beneath them.

“Yggdrasil,” he whispered, “what are you doing?”

She hummed, her branches creaking. The leaves around their feet shimmered and trembled in an unfelt wind and clouds formed in the emptiness before them, colors filling them as they took shape. Familiar shape.

Loki shifted uncomfortably as Ráðugr’s and Akaz’s eyes turned on them. The two oldest men on Odin’s council always seemed to have perpetual looks of disappointment on their faces, at least while Loki was around. He felt Thor shift next to him, uncomfortable or uncertain at the purpose of this, or perhaps still anxious over the long, endless fall of nothing beneath them, he didn’t know.

“You know them,” Yggdrasil whispered gently, her branches groaning. Loki felt the magic of her voice curl around the both of them and knew from the tightening of his fingers that Thor could hear her, too. He wondered what she sounded like to his brother. “Ráðugr. Akaz. Purveyor’s of Bor’s ideas, even as he rests among my roots in Niflheim. They are ancient, are they not, Storm? Old and filled with knowledge?”

Her branches groaned in quiet, rumbling laughter. “Old.” The images of the two councilors vanished into wisps of clouds that faded in the darkness. “They are so small, Storm. So very, very small, with minds that do not see.” They watched more clouds form, thicker, bright gold and deep red and dark blue and green. “Watch. Let me show you how very, very young you are.”

The multicolored clouds swirled together, seeming to both tighten and flatten, like a dense ball of color ringed in a fin of swirling clouds. Loki watched as darkness formed in the center of the mass, shadows cast by the clouds against the others. Lightning flickered behind the clouds, deep inside the heart of the mass, and the whole thing began to spin, slowly as first, and then faster. Loki watched stars appear in the air and explode and burn out and disappear and more stars appear as the clouds spun and thickened, hardened. He watched clouds become hard brown earth, watched the play of shadows on a new, unfounded world. Watched clouds move around it still, lightning dancing between the brown earth and the circling clouds. He watched as the clouds called the rain, and as blue filled the deep areas in the world, and the brown became green.

Time seemed to speed up, the world moving quickly, changing. Storms and the shifting darkness and rains and the green lands breaking apart, coming together, breaking apart again and moving outward through the blue seas.

“It’s Midgard,” Loki said suddenly, staring at the planet he could recognize from pictures the Midgardians had shown the first time the mortals had taken a photo of their own planet from space.

“She was my first,” Yggdrasil said, sounding like a proud mother. “I held her close and watched her grow.”

The realm moved closer, until Loki and Thor could see as massive creatures moved around, the lords of Midgard in their own right, for their size. But time moved quickly as they watched, the world was swept over with ice and snow, and the massive creatures became massive skeletons, as the world was changed. Men, far different from what they were now, roamed the world dressed in skins, bearing weapons made of sticks, and killed and tamed the massive beasts that remained.

Loki watched as they came together into tribes, as they gathered close in the cold of night for warmth and protection, and as time changed and their caves became huts, and their huts became villages. Time moved quickly, and the world shifted in flashes of blue-white light, people vanishing to be replaced by others. Huts becoming houses, houses becoming homes, and people moving together: men and women, women and women, men and men, sometimes just two, and other times more.

They watched as the people spread, filling the world, even the places that should have been uninhabitable. And they watched as peace became war, and life became death, and the love that was once so freely shared was attacked, and the lovers that remained hid in darkness, coming together in secret, as in the light, there was only men and women, and anything else was attacked and beaten until it hid away or died.

“Everywhere has those who think one way is the truth,” Yggdrasil said, and the creaking of her branches sounded so sad. “Valhalla is filled with those who died fighting not in an army, but battling against those who would tell them they were wrong.

They watched as houses and fields gave way to towering skyscrapers, as villages became cities, as those hidden in the darkness were brought again and again to light. As they finally pushed back, pushed out of the shadows, and held each other despite the hands that pushed them down again and again.

“They are mine. All of you are mine, and I did not make one of you wrong.” The world shifted again, until they were watching again the parade they had appeared in the first time, bright colors and people dancing, cheering as men came together, as women shared a kiss, as people laughed and delighted in love. “You are beginning to see that, I think.”

The image of Midgard faded. Loki felt his legs give out beneath him, and felt Thor sink down next to him, at the sight that remained in its place.

Yggdrasil’s branches stretched across their vision, constantly moving here and there, trailing along at a sedate pace or swinging swiftly, some vanishing and dropping what they held, others appearing to catch the world plummeting into darkness. Pathways that curved and looped and twisted back upon themselves, others that moved straight and firm, and still others that vanished out of their sight, not into darkness but simply beyond the strength of their vision, so massive was the tree that they could never have seen all of her no matter how long they watched, no matter how she carried them. They were too small, and Loki knew both of them would be gone, by whatever means, long before Loki could have counted all the worlds that hung along her branches, cradled like babes in her leaves.

“You are so small,” she said gently, as Loki started to cry. She was so beautiful. She was so huge and beautiful. “But I love you all, because you are mine.”

Her branches shifted, leaves coming down to curl around them, to hide her from view. Loki felt them shifting, and felt as firm stone settled beneath them. Leaves pulled away and he realized they were in his rooms, the tips of Yggdrasil’s branches curling through his hair.

“Thor?” he asked, seeing that his brother was not there next to him. His hand was empty.

“He is in his rooms. He will come to you when he is ready.” Her branches played at his pockets, where the journal and the bag of ingredients he had found were kept. “Go to our thief, my trickster.”

Loki nodded shakily, pulling the items he had taken from Fandral’s hiding places and slipping them into his chest. He shucked his leathers, tossing them onto the floor, and pulled open the door.

He only stumbled a little when he found himself in the healing halls and heard Yggdrasil’s gentle laughter as she finally pulled away. But then he was in the room where Fandral was lying stretched out on the bed, and Eir was there with her seidr playing against the wound on the thief’s face.

“Sit down and shut up,” the healer snapped at him.

Loki didn’t need to be told a second time. He had expected to be thrown out instead. But there was a chair at Fandral’s bedside waiting for him and he slipped into, reaching out immediately to slide his hand into Fandral’s and entwine their fingers together. And he didn’t care who came in. He wasn’t letting go.


 

“Thank you, my dear lady, for bringing them home safely,” Odin murmured and ran a hand over the small branch that was winding it way up and over his arm. “Clever old thing.”

He waited until the branch had shifted away, and then he left the dining hall, moving slowly but steadily to the healing halls.

“They’re home?” He turned and held an arm out to his wife with a smile and a nod, humming happily as she thread hers through. “I’m glad.”

“As am I, Frigga.”

They stood in silence together, and watched as Loki stumbled into the halls out of nowhere. They heard Eir snap at him, and Odin felt pride in his heart when Loki didn’t hesitate to slide into the chair beside the bed the poor thief was laying on, and he smiled when Loki took his hand.

“I think,” he said softly, “that they’ve both had their eyes opened to how deeply someone can love another. To the lengths that a person will go to in order to show that love. I heard what he said you know, at the Festival.” Frigga turned a curious look at him and Odin nodded to Fandral. “He told Loki nothing but truth. Spoke of his love with honesty and so much hope, my love. He called Loki his silver one.”

“He is different,” Frigga said quietly. “But he’s always been what Asgard needs. What Loki needs.”  

Odin nodded, “I agree. I just hope it’s not too late to fix the pieces back together.”


He was hot, and uncomfortable.

His mouth tasted like bitter herbs and something sweet, and he was tired but sleep wasn’t helping and he just wanted to go… somewhere.

Where? Where would he go?

Asgard was closed to him. He was wrong. Bad.

Stupid.

He’d dared to kiss their prince. Been fool enough to think his pathetic courting gifts would have ever been enough. His waterfall room had been a waste of time. The gold he’d made into the rings would have been better served as a belt buckle. His art was pathetic. And Loki could have found or bought all the herbs and spices on his own.

Fandral groaned at the feeling of something - seidr? - brushing over his cheek and his eye and he wanted to push it away. It hurt. Everything hurt. There was something broken and wrong inside of him. Not just in his chest, but in him . In who he was as a person. Loki…

There was a hand in his. He could feel his own fingers as they slowly curled over them. Familiar and wonderfully safe.

“Loki, I love you. For so long, minn silfur einn.”

Loki.

Loki’s fingers. He tried to open his eyes, used what was left of his own seidr to push away the one tickling at his face, making it ache and burn as it healed. He heard someone cuss loudly, a familiar voice - “Be brave, darling boy! He loves you as well. What better occasion than Iðunn's festivals? Choose one, and be brave!” - that he ignored and refused to let the seidr back in.

“No.” It hurt, it burned and it tore at his throat and his face but got it out. “ NO.”

His eyes wouldn’t open though. So he let his hand go limp and snatched it away.

He didn’t want Loki’s hand on him again. He was still broken from the last time he’d dared to touch him. There would be no way he was going to let Loki break him again. He would never dare to touch him again. Not in public, not in private.

He wanted to go back to the cabin in Norway. Quiet, cool and alone.

No ashamed Gods to hit him, or cruel Gods to mock him.

“No,” he whispered again and wished he could open his eyes. “H’me. Go… my h’me.”


 

Loki thought about reaching out and taking Fandral’s hand back, but decided against it. He curled his fingers together in his lap instead. “You are home, Fandral. You’re on Asgard, where you belong.”

The man shook his head.

“Stop moving. You’ll hurt yourself, and I already did enough of that for a fucking lifetime.” He clenched his fingers in his lap, before reaching out and gripping the edge of the bed.

“I won’t make you hold my hand if you don’t want to. And you don’t have to try to look at me. I know your face hurts and I am so sorry. I am more sorry than I can possibly ever make up for. I never should have hit you. There is no excuse, and I’m sorry.”

He stared at Fandral’s face, or what he could see of it, turned away from him as it was. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do here. He didn’t really think this was fixable. He had hurt Fandral in a way he never should have, and it would be his due payment if the man refused to ever be around him again.

“I’m a coward,” he said quietly. “You know this. You like to tell me differently, but the truth is I’m a terrible coward and I run whenever I’m faced against something that frightens me. I’ve been running from you for years. I’ve been running from myself.” He reached out and tentatively ran his fingers along a lock of Fandral’s hair. “I’d kiss you back, but I think it would hurt you, and I don’t think you would appreciate it anyway. I don’t want you to leave, though. You belong here, on Asgard. This is your home. And I love you, even if you don’t believe me. That’s… understandable. I do, though. I love you and I want you to stay.”


Pretty words. Such pretty, wonderful words.

And all of it lies.

Loki didn’t love him. Loki just didn’t want to lose his friend. The only other seidr user he knew that could keep up with him.

He could feel the soft touch of fingers on his hair, and he hated that he loved it. Hated that it gave him hope . He’d had hope, and it had ruined him. He’d been stupid enough to believe that he had a chance. Had spent decades collecting his gifts. Painting murals, hunting beasts, learning gold craft to forge their rings. He had been arrogant, stupid and naive to think that Loki would have ever chosen him or accepted him.

The fingers brushed his hair again and he jerked as best he could out of their reach, barely aware of the pained yell it made him give. Those hands wouldn’t touch him. Not when his face was nothing but unending pain, and something in his chest was like acid, burning and spreading and grinding against his heart.

Loki had always told everyone he was a coward. Fandral had always believed otherwise.

Always .

When everyone else had been so ready and willing to believe the worst of him, he’d always believed the best. Always stood at his side and fought for him.

And he’d thought… thought that the looks he caught Loki giving him, thought that the gentle touches and lingering embraces between them meant something to Loki too. He’d been so stupid, so inconceivably confident in what they meant that he’d wasted a good portion of his stupid, mortal life on it.

“Liar.” He wasn’t sure if he’d managed to get the word out at all, but he felt better for trying. His seidr was almost gone, but he shoved back at the familiar white of Eir’s where it was trying to fix him again. “No. H’me.”

He wanted his wolf. Wanted his cabin.

He wasn’t home . Asgard wasn’t home. Not to him.

Asgard was home to liars. To tricksters and false friends. To people who gave him false hope, who told him to be brave .

He took as deep a breath as he could and forced his eye open through sheer willpower. Loki was no more than a pale blob with dark on top, but he tried to glare. “ Lie ,” he hissed. “No… y’don’... wan’me. Don’ - - love. Lie. All As’gd… LIES.


Eir was making that face, the one that meant things weren’t good. It was the hjartahundur face and Loki didn’t like it.

He could feel how weak Fandral’s seidr was from the tiny tendrils of his own he had flicking like a snake’s tongue at his. He knew Fandral would be furious if he realized, but Loki was being as careful as possible. The thief was very badly injured, though. Eir had mentioned swelling in his brain being the greater danger than the broken ribs in his chest, but both were deadly if not dealt with.

Not that Fandral would let Eir heal him, though.

“I’m a liar, yes,” he said quietly, and gently touched the tears that slid down the uninjured side of Fandral’s face. “I’ve been telling myself for years that I don’t really love you. Never could make myself believe it. I was just a coward. And look what being a coward did. I hurt the man I love.” He cupped the side of Fandral’s face, studying his hazy eye. “No more lies.”

He leaned forward and pressed his lips gently against Fandral’s, just a soft kiss, but it still seemed too much, because Fandral made a pained noise and Loki pulled away.

“Sorry,” he whispered, and wiped at Fandral’s tears. “I don’t want to hurt you. We’ll talk when you wake up. When you’re better.”

He pushed his seidr in through his fingertips, curling it as gently as his could around Fandral’s mind. He felt the blue fight him, and normally, he might have struggled. Fandral was his match in this, but not now. He was too weak, and it was easy to push him down, to fold his seidr over Fandral’s and soothe his mind into sleep.

“I love you,” he whispered, running fingers through Fandral’s hair as he fed bits of his seidr into the thief’s. “Now rest. And get better.”

He felt Eir’s seidr slide in past his and begin to work on Fandral’s wounds again, and he carefully picked up Fandral’s hand and slid their fingers together. He kept his seidr entwined with the thief’s, watching him sleep as he fed his own magic into Fandral’s to supplement what had been lost. Somewhere between tracing his fingertips over Fandral’s hands and Eir moving to work on Fandral’s chest, he laid his head down on the bed next to his thief.

He didn’t remember falling asleep.

Chapter Text

EIGHT


 

Fandral slept for three days. Thor went to visit just once. The bruises and swelling had been healed, but he still looked… wrong. Like there were pieces of him missing and Thor could see through the empty gaps to the inside places that were usually hidden. It made his stomach and his heart ache with guilt and ache for his brother and his friend. 

Sif had taken the seat on the other side of Fandral’s bed, and refused to leave. She didn’t speak much to either he nor Loki, but she did as Eir asked. Loki slept for a day and a half, and then when he woke, he was promptly kicked out for a bath.

Thor stayed though, and helped Eir to bathe Fandral in his bed. It was when she was carefully wiping the last of the dried blood from beneath his healed nose and eye that he finally dared to break the silence.

“Eir? Why… I mean. You were, were here when Bor ruled?”

“I was,” she said shortly. Thor swallowed nervously.

“So… he truly believed this to be so wrong?” he gestured at Fandral with the damp cloth in his hand. “That to love another of your gender was… was enough to slam Valhalla’s doors in your face?”

“Bor,” Eir said bluntly, and dropped her cloth into the basin, “was a fucking moron.”  

He blinked at her and set his own washcloth down. “You know your father had two brothers,” she said softly, and Thor nodded. “Vé had a lover,” she handed him a soft dry towel and motioned to Fandral’s legs. He began to gently dry them off as she rubbed down his arms and hands. “A male lover on Alfheim. Their love was… fierce. Beautiful.

"And it was of no consequence, no one looked twice at them. Until Bor was suddenly thrust onto the throne of Asgard, and all the quiet disgust he’d held onto was thrust into the spotlight along with him.

“Vé wanted to bring him here. Wed him in our ways before Iðunn. And Bor wouldn’t allow it. He declared it a sin against Asgard. Called it wrong. Called it dirty.” She threw her towel onto the floor and sighed angrily. “ Ergi ,” she spat. “Vé fought him, of course. Vili refused to accept it. Odin… Odin was too small to fight or agree. He was still a babe in our eyes. Vili left to Nidavellir to collect a new sword and never came home.” She waited until Thor managed to drag his horrified and frozen gaze from Fandral’s leg to her face before she gave a single, slow nod.

“A frightful accident,” she whispered. “And without Vili to protect him… Vé was ambushed. His lover was slain before his eyes and Vé…” She paused, and Thor dropped his towel to move to her side.

“Bor was mad, Thor,” she said softly. “Mad with the power that was meant to be shared, and he was mad from the constant force on him. All his vices and his prejudices were amplified. Vé was taken to the Pillars of Asgard,” she swayed slightly and he set her down in the chair, turning to draw a sheet over Fandral’s body.

“Eir,” he murmured. “Don’t.”

“He burned him,” she said softly. “Chained his son to a pillar and let him burn until not even his Apple could save him. Because he loved one that Bor thought wrong. And lessons like those… you see them a few times, Thor… and they stick. They become truth .”

Thor had left her side then to fetch her a glass of water, and dressed Fandral gently himself, fighting down his nausea the entire time.

That was who’s beliefs he’d been echoing? A man who had killed the sons who had fought him, and spared the one who was too small to do anything?

He’d gone back to his rooms then and taken the longest, hottest bath he could, refusing to get out until his skin had reddened and blistered with the heat and the force he scrubbed himself with.

He felt filthy , inside and out.

And now he was sitting silently in Eir’s office, out of sight of Fandral’s bed, as she and Loki woke him up.

He wanted to run in, to apologise and beg forgiveness… but he couldn’t. Not yet.

Not until he meant it for more than guilt.

Almost believe it, godling. You almost believe it.


Eir was doing another check over Fandral’s wounds, even though she had only done one an hour ago. Loki didn’t say anything, though. He knew how protective she was of people under her care. He’d been one of them often enough.

His own seidr teased at Fandral’s, gently nudging him into wakefulness. He’d been sleeping long enough, it was better they pull him out of it slowly, and as he had been the one to push Fandral under, Eir was leaving him to pull him back.

He’d found himself at the head of Fandral’s bed quite without meaning to go there. Fandral’s hair was still damp from a gentle wash someone had given it. He had vague memories of his own hair being dipped lock-by-lock into a basin of warm water, washed and gently rinsed. It would need a better wash once Fandral was ready for it, but it had at least cleaned the dirt and blood from the man’s hair.

It hadn’t been brushed, though, and the locks would tangle ferociously if left the dry as they were. It was easy to summon the comb he used when Fandral was in here, he had always seen it as Fandral’s comb, even before he’d bought it from the merchant on Vanaheim. Carved from a single piece of cherry wood, it was a lovely dark red-brown color, the handle carved into the shape of daffodils. It made him think of something bright and cheerful, and that always made him think of Fandral.

He teased his seidr against Fandral’s, feeling the blue of the thief’s magic stirring as he woke. With his hands, he ran the comb through his hair, carefully brushing out the knots and tangles. He loved doing this. Sometimes he couldn’t keep still anymore, even when it meant holding Fandral’s hand in his, but brushing out his hair always gave him the sense that he was doing something to help. And Fandral’s hair was so lovely, golden brown like warm biscuits fresh from the oven, or the feel of waking outside to the touch of sunshine on your skin.

“Fandral,” he whispered, as he felt the lazy curl of seidr around his. His own curled back, grateful for the welcome, even if it was done sleepily and before Fandral’s mind was engaged. “Time to wake up. Eir has promised there is coffee.”

“I have not,” the healer said, sounding affronted. Loki sent her his best pleading look and she sighed. “But a cup won’t hurt him. Bossy little shit.” She turned and walked off, muttering, to get coffee, and Loki bent down, pressing his lips briefly to Fandral’s forehead before pulling away. He wasn’t sure the man was going to let Loki continue to touch him, or even be in the same room, so he would enjoy every moment he got until the other man woke up completely.

He returned to brushing through Fandral’s hair, even though he’d long since smoothed out all of the tangles. “How do you feel?”


Coffee. Fandral hummed happily. He was warm and not meltingly hot anymore. There was a comb being brushed through his hair and he felt… well . And then there was a soft press of lips to his forehead and a question and the universe came crashing back down on top of him.

Iðunn's festival.

I love you .

Pain, in his chest and in his face. In his mind .

Travelling. No answers. Nothing left. Gems and papers and gifts left behind. A home in Norway with Fenris. Alone. No lying tricksters with silver tongues and laughing golden oafs. No false friends and hurt.

He shifted his weight slightly and moved his head away from the comb.

“Hello, my prince,” he said stiffly. “Thank you for your… care. I’m well enough.”


Thor sighed silently to himself at the cold words and colder tone in Fandral’s voice. He leaned his head back and glared up at the ceiling.

This was going to take time .

“Eir,” he murmured as she walked in with a heavy sigh of her own. “Can they fix this?”

“They’ll fix it,” she threatened. “Or I will.”


Loki curled his fingers around the comb, staring at Fandral’s hair stretched out over the pillow. He wanted to press his fingers back into it, to keep brushing it, but he knew that wouldn’t be appreciated.

The tines began to creak and Loki loosened his grip before he broke the comb, tucking it back in his seidr pocket. He fiddled his hands in the hem of his tunic. “I’m glad you’re better,” he said quietly. “I was worried.”

Fandral snorted and Loki flinched at the obvious disbelief. He had been worried, and would have been even if he hadn’t loved Fandral back. He’d been badly injured and that was completely Loki’s fault.

He moved down from the head of the bed, to Fandral's right side, even though the left side of his face was far improved, if still carrying the dulled green and yellow of healing bruises.

“I am sorry,” he said softly, pressing his fingers together when Fandral looked sharply away from him. “I know that’s not enough, that words are useless after how much pain I caused you. But I am.” He wished he could go back, do things differently, go and punch himself in the face before he ever laid hands on Fandral. Kiss him back. Tell him he loved him, too.

“I, um… you left a lot of stuff behind.” He looked down at Fandral’s hands, resting on his stomach. He wished he could pick one up, hold it, curl their fingers together. He wondered if Fandral’s fingers would still curl around his.

Probably not, now that he was awake.

“When you were clearing out your safe houses. I didn’t know if you’d had protections or if it got left because you didn’t… want it. I gathered everything up, though. It’s in your room. Except the dragonhide. I guess that’s still on Sleipnir’s saddle.”

Fandral still wasn’t looking at him and Loki had the sinking sensation that the man would feel better if Loki just… went away. “I’ll get it later and take it to your room or… or give it to a servant to take. I, um… I won’t invade your privacy anymore. I’m sorry.” He sank his teeth into his bottom lip, furious at the burning he could feel behind his eyes. He wanted to hold Fandral’s hand. He wanted Fandral to look at him. He wanted to fix things, but he didn’t think this could be fixed. He’d hurt him.

“F-Fen’s with Sif. She’s making him fat. But she brings him in here with her when she visits so he can stay, since you’re awake now. Or… I guess you’ll go back to your room.” Or just disappear. Run again and leave and go somewhere Loki can’t find him.

He felt the tears slip down his cheeks and brushed them away furiously. “I’m… I’m glad you’re better.” That was what was important. Even if Fandral left, at least he was healed. He’d be okay. He’d probably be more okay away from this place. “I’m sorry,” he whispered again, but it felt as empty and useless as any other time he had said it. Pointless. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t have anything to give Fandral to show him how much Loki had loved him, the way that all of Fandral’s things told an endless story of his feelings. He didn’t know how to fix what he’d broken.

“I’m gonna go see… um, the coffee. I’m… coffee.” He turned and tripped over the chair, scrubbing at his eyes as he bolted from the room before he could really start crying in earnest. He’d broken everything. He’d hurt Fandral so much and now he couldn’t fix it. He felt selfish wanting Fandral to stay. He felt selfish for crying. He wasn’t the one who had been hurt! So why was he crying?


Thor watched Loki leave, saw how he tripped on the chair and heard the tears that escaped as soon as he was clear of the room. And then he turned his gaze back to Fandral. He hadn’t moved. His expression was still closed off and cold.

“He’s… why?” Thor asked. It didn’t make sense to him. Loki had been honest, painfully and brutally so. Confessed his feelings and apologised more sincerely than Thor had ever heard from him. And yet Fandral hadn’t moved. Hadn’t reached to hold him or take his hand.

Hadn’t said a word.

“Trust is the easiest thing in the world to lose, and the hardest thing in the world to get back,”Eir said softly. “And Loki broke more than Fandral’s nose and cheek at the Festival.” She turned and put a hand on his cheek. “And so did you.”

She stood slowly and sighed. “Sometimes, it can’t be earned back. Sometimes the divide is too great. But I think… those two stand a chance.”

Thor followed her as her hand slid from his cheek and she motioned him out the door. “You’re going to have to work just as hard, boyo. And you can start by going and fetching his pup. Take Fenris for a walk, hm? Clear your mind.”

Thor nodded dumbly and slipped from the healing halls, not daring to look over at Fandral’s bed. He could hear Eir bustling about, heard her voice speaking quietly to Fandral and the thief’s clipped and terse response.

Asgard… they , had not been kind to him. And now he was broken in more than just his body. He made his way slowly to the training ring and called Fenris over. The wolf glared at him and snapped his teeth when he barked, but he followed.

“I don’t deserve your loyalty, I know,” Thor said to the pup as they walked Frigga’s gardens. “Maybe one day you’ll like me again.”

“A bone or steak would probably go a long way to ease the pup’s feelings.” Thor turned his head and smiled at his mother. “'Tis a shame people are not so simple, hm?”


Fandral didn’t move until they were all gone again. Then he pushed himself up slowly to sit upright and ran a hand through his hair. It was… clean. Soft and longer than it usually ever was.

He stared at the chair, still tipped over on its side where Loki had stumbled into it as he fled. He’d been honest, Fandral could tell that. But honesty wasn’t… enough.

He sighed and let his head fall back to the pillows. He needed to apologise to Eir. She’d not done anything to wrong him. She’d only ever encouraged him to be brave.

“I was brave,” he muttered. “And look what it got me.”

The only friends - family - he’d ever had and they would all leave him behind. He was wrong. He was samkynhneigð in a place it wasn’t allowed. He was the one that was mocked for his choice in company. Teased about his clear lack of a cock when he’d drunkenly admitted that women just didn’t arouse him. Told that he would eventually have to leave if he wanted happiness.

And then Loki had started to look back. To hold his hand and brush his hair. To give him hope .

Decades spent preparing gifts that he hoped were rotting and ruined. Decades waiting to make sure he wasn’t projecting his feelings onto a platonic relationship. All ruined in a few seconds of bravery .

Fandral sat back up slowly and swung his feet over the side of the bed.

He couldn’t stay here. Loki had seen his gifts. Seen that they were not something he’d just bundled together. He knew . Fandral scoffed at the thought of Loki’s face when he’d seen the waterfall room and it’s sign.

“Heimili fyrir Loki. Gjöf frá Fandral,” he muttered bitterly. “I hope it’s gone.”

His feet touched the cold floor of the hall and he shivered. “Will you help me then?” he asked quietly and called out with his seidr to the shadows. He waited and for the first time in his life… they didn’t respond. “Fine,” he spat. “I’ll go on foot.”

He’d go and clear out his rooms, apologise to Eir and get gone. Loki could apologise till he was blue in the face, but he would never understand how it had felt to have his heart torn out and spat on in front of all of Asgard. To hold the broken pieces of his face together while one he thought of as a friend laughed.

Fandral ignored the tiny part of him that wished he would .


Sif raised an eyebrow at Fandral as he stepped from the Healing Halls and watched the look of stubbornness that settled over his face. She’d planned on giving him the benefit of the doubt about being an idiot, but nevermind. That was unnecessary.

“You’re an idiot,” she said fondly, slipping over to wrap an arm around his waist and help him walk. He tried to jerk away from her anyway. “Stop that, asshole. To your rooms, yeah?”

He stopped fighting her, which was good, because he still looked like shit. Instead, he hobbled along next to her as she helped brace him. He really should still be lying down in bed, but trust Fandral to run the moment no one was looking.

“I wasn’t cheering, I want you to know,” she said quietly. “Not for the punch, anyway. I cheered for the kiss.”

Fandral turned his head away from her, trying to pull away, and Sif rolled her eyes. “Ymir’s hairy tits, you are thick.” She tugged him toward her and planted a kiss on his temple. “Asshole. You do know you’re not the only one Asgard thinks is wrong, don’t you? We could solve both our problems if I spread my legs for you and you fucked me until I was as big as Volstagg, but it wouldn’t make either of us happy. You’re like my brother, Fandral, and you almost fucking died. And if you pull away from me one more time, I’m going to pick you up and carry you to your room.”

“That would be disgusting and we both know it. Sex with you would be gross. And you can’t lift me,” he muttered, but let Sif draw him in closer. “It hurt, Sif,” he whispered and wiped hard at his eyes. “I have never felt a pain like that before.”

She didn’t answer, and he was grateful for it. He just leant his head on her shoulder and tried to make his stupid eyes stop crying as they so slowly made their way through the halls.


Fandral was gone.

Loki supposed he had expected the thief to leave, he just… hoped he wouldn’t. He’d hoped he would have a chance to prove to Fandral that he was sorry, and that he’d meant it, that he loved him.

Loki set the cup of coffee down on the table beside the bed and stared at the bedsheets. He trailed his fingers over the space where Fandral had been laying, not surprised to find them still warm.

Pointless, then, bringing him back here.

Yggdrasil smacked him in the back of the head. “Ow…”

“He would have died within a day if you hadn’t found him,” she told him firmly. “He is alive. That should be enough for you.”

Loki cringed. It was. It was enough. He was glad that Fandral was all right. Horrified that he had hurt him that badly (hurt him at all). It was enough.

Except it didn’t feel like it was enough at the same time. It felt like a missed chance. Like having a new branch of Yggdrasil offered to him and turning away for a moment to find it gone when he looked back.

Except he never would have punched Yggdrasil.

“It’s probably better, anyway,” he murmured. “I’d only hurt him again.”

Yggdrasil’s leaves shook in a sigh. “You left the dragonhide on Sleipnir’s saddle. It will be stolen if it remains untended in the stables.”

Loki shrugged. Not that the person it belonged to was around anymore, but… she was right. He wasn’t sure which of them opened the doorway, but he stepped through and found himself in the stables, the dragonhide still strapped to the back of Sleipnir’s saddle where it was draped over a bench. He unhooked it and picked it up, momentarily startled at the weight of it. He hadn’t realized it was quite so heavy on Muspelheim. But then, he’d been angry and distracted.

He stopped at Sleipnir’s stall to pet the horse on his nose and whisper a thank you for taking care of Sif. Then he climbed back onto Yggdrasil’s branches and let her branches twist around, guiding his way. His fingers played over the hide, running up and down the scales. He wondered if Fandral had slain it himself. He wouldn’t get to ask now. He wouldn’t get to ask anything.

Broke and gone.


Sif was quietly pulling Fandral’s tunics from his wardrobe one by one and rolling them up, sliding them into a bag. She didn’t want him to leave, but if he was going to, she’d feel better if he had things with him to make his life easier. Clothes, what money he had stashed away here, the gifts she had given him over the course of their friendship.

She was also rather hoping her presence might delay him a little. She knew for a fact that Loki was in love with him, and both of them were idiots. Loki the greater idiot, of course, but that was nothing new. She was hoping maybe tall, dark, and stupid would walk through the door and kiss Fandral on the mouth and--

She made a sound of surprise when Loki was abruptly there in the room, his arms tightening around the thick black roll of some sort of hide he was holding as her noise made him look up. His eyes slid over her like she wasn’t even there and focused right on Fandral.

“I’m going to go see where Fen is,” she said shortly, sliding the last of Fandral’s tunics into the bag. “I’ll be back!” She beat a hasty retreat out the door, closing it behind her. She sighed as she walked across the hall and leaned against the wall so she could watch. If he did leave, Fandral wasn’t going without his things, and a horse.

And hopefully Loki himself.

Idiots.


Fandral stared at the door and then looked slowly over at Loki and what he was holding.

Huh. “I haven’t seen that in years,” he took a half-step forward to reach out and touch it, before he changed his mind and turned back to his things. “You can keep it, Prince Loki. Think of it as a -” courting gift that I hunted down for you because you have always admired my boots. I thought to make you battle leathers from it. “- thank you. For your years of hospitality,” he finished.

Loki made an odd noise behind him, but Fandral ignored it. Sif had been taking her sweet fucking time rolling all his things and fiddling about with his trinkets, and he’d let her. But she was gone - gone to lurk and wait no doubt - and he didn’t want to be here alone with Loki.

Didn’t want to take the risk that one wrong move or wrongly spoken word would see him holding himself back together again. He opened his drawer and shoved a handful of leggings and trousers in, and then sat on the bed to tug his dragonhide boots on. His favourite pair, the soft leather ones lined with otter fur, he left by the door where they’d been since before the festival.

He tugged his bag up and over his shoulder, grunting in pain as the lingering feeling of his healed ribs protested it. “If you’ll excuse me, sire,” he muttered. “I have outstayed my welcome in Odin’s Halls.”

He hobbled to the door and thumped his head against the wood hard when it refused to open.

Not leaving , the shadows taunted him. Not this time. You will heal.


Loki clutched the dragonhide to him, his fingernails digging under the edges of the dark scales. Fandral’s words hurt, but, well, he rather deserved them.

He stared at the door that refused to open and sighed at the sight of Yggdrasil’s branches curling around the edges, preventing it from opening.

That wasn’t fair. If Fandral wanted to go, she should let him go.

“No. He is important.”

Of course he’s important, Loki thought sadly. He’s also free to leave.

She stubbornly ignored him, though, her branches seeming to grow and thicken over the door, casting odd shadows against the wood that seemed to curl and dance.

Loki sank down on the end of Fandral’s bed, laying the dragonhide over his lap and watching Fandral as he stayed leaning against the door. “Where will you go?”

The thief made a sound halfway between a snort and a growl, and Loki looked down at the dragonhide again. He picked at one of the scales, wiggling it back and forth.

“I wish you’d stay,” he whispered. “Stay with me.”


Fandral laughed. “Oh yes,” he snapped. “I do so want to stay where I know I’ll be endlessly mocked and persecuted for having been stupid enough to think that I was worthy to touch the prince!” He scoffed and shoved himself off the door, away from the thick tendrils of shadow curling over it and limped back to the bed.

He sat down gingerly and threw his bag to the floor, ignoring the ominous tinkling that spoke of something broken. Sif was going to bite him for that.

He gestured at the dragonhide. “So, you’ve seen it all then. Seen the depths of my confidence and arrogance?” Fandral turned his head away. “Did you laugh, Prince Loki? Were my pathetic attempts at a courting gift worthy of you amusing to your highness?”

He scuffed his toe on the floor, well aware he was being cruel and well beyond caring enough to stop. “I almost died,” he muttered and then sighed. “Do you like the dragonhide? I killed it. Alone. Eight days on Muspelheim to track it down and four more to take it. Eir had to almost stitch my leg back on when I got home. But all I could think of was that if you liked my boots so, you’d surely appreciate battle leathers made from it.” Fandral wiggled his toes in his boots. “So keep it. I’d rather it used then left to rot like the rest.”


The dragon scales were biting into the flesh under his fingernails, he was gripping the hide so hard, but he didn’t loosen his hold. Couldn’t.

“It wasn’t the boots,” he said, not really thinking about it. “It was the story.” He looked away, back toward the door. “Whenever I mentioned the boots, you always looked so delighted, and then you’d tell the story about hunting the dragon on Midgard. The last Midgardian dragon, and you were sad to kill it, but it was him or you, and you’re rather fond of you.”

He shrugged, feeling self-conscious, and curled a leg around the hide, knocking his heel against the scales. “I liked hearing you tell it, so I commented on your boots whenever I could, when we were around someone new, and you’d usually tell the story and I’d… get to hear it again.”

He always sounded so proud when he told it, and rightfully so. Bright eyes shining, dancing about as he reenacted the swish of his rapier, how he took the beast, grinning dashingly and looking so… perfect. Just perfect. Softening the tale a bit when it was children he was telling it for, but always ending with his showing off his boots, because he showed the beast, didn’t he?

“You’re not stupid. And you’re not unworthy to touch me. We’ve always been free with our touches and I’m the one who always grabs your hand when you’re unconscious, anyway. If anything, I’m the one who takes liberties.” His shoulders fell. “And I’m the one that hit you. And pushed you. If it weren’t… if you were the sort, and if it wouldn’t hurt you, I’d tell you to hit me in return, but you’re not like that. You’ve never been like that. It’s what… made you easy to f-fall in love with. You were kind.”

He heard Fandral scoff and push himself off the bed, and the door rattled as he tried to open it. He heard a thump, presumably as Fandral kicked the door, but didn’t look up. He pulled at the scales on the hide, trying to yank them out with his fingernails, but they were stuck in deep and the edges only bit into his skin. He supposed that was why they were so deadly. Very strong hides, dragons. Hard to get a weapon through their scales.

“I didn’t laugh.” He blinked hard and ducked his head further. “And they weren’t pathetic. Everything was… more than I expected. ‘Specially the waterfall. It… I wish I had reacted differently. Not for the things. Not for…” He sighed and laid the dragonhide on the bed beside him, pushing it away. “They were lovely. They were… beautiful, Fandral. But you were the thing I was looking for, not things, and you were gone because I was a fucking piece of shit and I didn’t want them to all see I was wrong, too.” He shook his head. “Not wrong. Just… different. But not alone.” He picked at the blood under his fingernails. “But I hit you and let you leave. And I’m sorry. I don’t know how to fix it.” He looked up at Fandral. “Can I fix it?”


 

“More than you expected, and still not enough,” Fandral muttered, and gave the door one last futile kick. He turned slowly and leant back against the door.

Loki was still in the same place, fingers picking relentlessly at the scales of the dragonhide. “You won’t move them. That’s sort of the point. It’s why they’re so fucking hard to kill.”

He shoved himself upright and hobbled back to sit down. It was still too painful to stand for too long. He leaned over and nabbed a leather band from his bedside and roughly tugged his hair back into a half-tied bun.

“Loki,” he sighed. “I don’t even know if you want to fix it. I don’t know how to fix it.” He shrugged, and let his hands fall to rub at the soft blankets on his bed. “I’m not… saying this to be cruel,” he said softly. “But the fact that you still seem to think you’re wrong … tells me that even if we did fix things… you’re not ready for what it means to be samkynhneigð . To live as I have. To be taunted and beaten for a choice you never made.” He blinked and was unsurprised to feel tears scalding his cheeks. “I have never, in my life, loved someone the way I did - do - love you. I don’t… I don’t know what to do here,” he confessed quietly.

“I spent… decades. Learning new crafts. Hunting. Building. Painting. I spent decades being told to be brave. To act. To not be ashamed of who I am.” Fandral rubbed the tears roughly from his cheeks, and ignored the feeling of Loki sitting beside him. “But I ended up hating myself. More than you, or Thor. More than Eir for telling me to be brave. I hated myself because I was different.”

“You won’t survive it,” he whispered. “The knowledge that you are scorned. That you are different. Samkynhneigð. I made you a home, because I was so… so sure that I was seeing something . I learned to carve wood to make you a bed. To smelt and forge gold to make you a ring, because you often said how wonderful it was that the Midgardians wore such an obvious token. And all of it… I hope that whoever finds them now has someone who isn’t ashamed of being loved by someone like me .”


Loki shifted for a moment, uncertain. He had told Fandral that he’d followed him, had gathered up all the things he left behind, but the other man must not have understood it at the time. Too much pain, maybe, or too tired. It didn’t matter.

He opened one of his seidr pockets and stuck his hand it, pulling out the small box. He’d tucked everything into his seidr pockets, except for the dragonhide, when he’d gone back to his rooms for a bath.

His fingers played over the box and he opened it, peering at the rings inside. “I didn’t realize you’d made them yourself.” They were beautiful. perfectly designed, really. He would have thought a master jeweler had made them. Fandral, a treasure trove of secrets.

He closed the box and held it out to Fandral. The other man was staring at it wide-eyed.

“I told you,” Loki said quietly, “you left things behind. In the cave, the book and the pouch of herbs. On the Vanaheim cliffs, the portraits. Muspelheim was where I found the dragonhide. I didn’t find anything at the cabin on Svartfleheim except blankets and the remains of your fire.” And blood. That had been the start of seeing the blood. “And the waterfall. I put the clothes back in their chest and warded the place. I didn’t want anyone to destroy it.”

He felt the box plucked carefully from his hand and pulled his arm back, returning his fingers to the dragon’s scales. “You aren’t wrong. And I’m not wrong. It’s not wrong.” He picked at the scales relentlessly. “I don’t care if they hate me. I don’t…” Stupid scale. “That’s a lie. I do care. Can’t seem to stop. But I love you anyway, so… so that’s… it just is. I’m afraid, but I’d kiss you anyway in front of all of them, because it’s you.”


 

Fandral stared down at the rings and tipped them out into his hand, and turned the smaller one over. “There’s an inscription,” he said quietly. “ Hugrakkur einn. Brave one.” He looked up at Loki, took in the weird expression on his face and the way he was still trying to get the scale loose and felt some of his bitterness fade. “It won’t come loose,” he smiled faintly. “That’s the point.”

Be brave. “I put it on yours because I thought… of both of us, you were really the only one with anything to lose.” He flicked it back over and looked at the inscription in his own.

Ég er hugrakkur . I am brave.

He set the rings down carefully on the bed and sighed. He hurt . In his heart, in his mind. Even his seidr ached.

“I’m going back to my cabin,” he said softly. “I… I appreciate and understand that you think you’re ready and okay with this. But, Loki… I know you. And your hands are shaking, your heart is racing and when you spoke of kissing me in public your voice wavered. You may love me,” he wiped at his eyes and got to his feet. The shadows sighed and pulled away, leaving the frame free and clear. “But you need to do some thinking. You need to - to think. Can you live the way I have? Could you stand to hear the hatred and disgust in Thor’s voice when he speaks to you the way I always have? Could you stand to have your mother and father never approve of us? To never be allowed to stand with me before Iðunn?”

Fandral got shakily to his feet, pulled his bag over his shoulder and moved slowly. He cupped Loki’s face, just like he had at the festival. And he prayed silently to leave without a broken face.

He smiled sadly, and felt more tears drip down his cheeks. “Loki,” he murmured. “I love you. For so long, minn silfur einn. ” Fandral leaned in and pressed his lips gently to Loki’s. And Loki… Loki kissed him back. Dropped the dragonhide and tangled his fingers in Fandral’s hair and kissed him back .

Fandral could feel his heart hurting. Was it because they were in private this time? Because there was no one to see ? He pulled away and carefully untangled the fingers in his hair, and gave them a squeeze.

He stepped back and let his shadows tug him away before Loki could speak and change his mind.

The cabin was the same, and Fenris was sitting on the small front porch waiting. He sighed and whistled sharply. “C’mon Fen,” he called. “Gotta hunt dinner down first.”