It took many days for Thor to gather all his surviving people. He had told Peter Quill that half of his people were dead but when it was all said and done, fewer than half of them had fled Thanos attack in escape pods. Then after Thanos had snapped his fingers many among those survivors had been lost as well. Now Thor found himself to be king of two hundred and thirty seven Asgardians.
The people of earth were willing enough to shelter the people of Asgard and the first night on earth was spent camped out in the gymnasium of the Avengers complex. Rooms were found within the facility for some of the women and children but many of the people were left with nowhere to go but the common areas such as the gymnasium and hallways. Donations of food, blankets, and clothing had been made so at least no one among his people were cold or hungry.
Thor could not sleep. He walked the hallways in the facility as if making rounds to check on his people. Many of them did not sleep but lay awake on cots and wrapped up in blankets where they had space. Sometimes a baby or child would cry and a nearby adult would see to them. The adults hid their tears but they cried as well when no one was watching. Thor made his way down a long corridor. Sleeping people lined one side of the wall. As he reached the end and went to turn a corner he looked down on a familiar looking young woman who sat wrapped in a blanket with her back to the wall. She was not sleeping and looked pale and gaunt and utterly exhausted.
“You do not sleep either?” he asked. The answer was obvious but he asked anyway because he felt responsible to do something for those that were having the most difficulty adjusting.
She shook her head. “I can not sleep my liege. Not with so much lost.”
Thor sat down on the floor across from her, his back to the other side of the narrow hallway. “Forgive me, I can not remember your name in spite of how familiar you look to me.”
“Svadilfari,” she told him.
“Did you lose your family? A parent? A husband?” he continued.
“Neither, but I lost people all the same,” she said sadly. “As did you and you are bearing your losses better than the rest of us.”
“No, I bear them secretly is all,” Thor said sadly.
“Why?” she asked him. “You are allowed to mourn your brother. I know I do.”
“You mourn the loss of Loki?” Thor was a little surprised to hear this. “I cared for him because he was my brother but I did not think he was as well loved by the people as he might have wished.”
“Perhaps he wasn’t, but I mourn him all the same. I loved him,” she said brushing away a few tears she hadn’t wanted to shed.
Thor regarded her curiously for a moment before he remembered why she seemed familiar. “You were the stone mason’s daughter?”
Many years earlier a stone mason had agreed to build fortifying walls for Asgard. As payment he wanted the hand of the goddess Freya in marriage. The price had been agreed on simply because the fortifications were sorely needed but only under the condition that he finish his project before summer. The mason had agreed to those terms if only he could use the help of his horse. The season of summer had nearly arrived and the mason was clearly going to finish his project with the help of his very powerful horse. It had fallen to Loki to foil the efforts of the mason so that Freya would not be given away. Loki had shapeshifted into a horse himself and caused enough distraction to the working horse that the wall was not completed in time. The stone mason had left Asgard and left his daughter behind when he went away.
“I was indeed,” she said, still sad.
“It seems that Loki chased away your father. How is it that you came to care for my brother in that case?”
“It wasn’t like that. He didn’t chase away my father. He freed me from him. You see, like Loki, I can shapeshift as well. The man you call my father was more of a slave holder. He made me work as a horse for many years. Loki helped to end my enslavement. The night that he helped me escape, we ran to the forest and changed to our true forms and...for a little while I could pretend that someone loved me.”
“Did he? Or was he just doing as Odin bade him to do?” Thor asked, concerned.
She met his gaze. “I don’t know. I did not have the chance to see him again until many years later. I tried to see Loki a few weeks after that night. I tried to go and tell him there would be a child. Odin interfered. I never got to see Loki and I did not get to keep our child. Odin made our son stay in his horse form and I was kept as a maid on the south side of the palace, as far from the stables and from Loki as he could keep me while still keeping me close enough to watch.”
“My father took away your child?” Thor bit back the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. He knew it was true. Odin was by no means perfect, his meeting with Hela had taught him that. What he didn’t understand was why. “Did he give you a reason?”
“He said that Sleipnir was born of dark magic and such creatures can not roam free. Maybe he had another reason. If he did, he did not reveal it.”
“And so you have lost your son and not only that you have loved Loki all this time?” Thor asked, understanding the source of her sadness.
She nodded, biting her lip to keep from crying and barely managing to hold back a sob. “I never got to tell him. He never knew about Sleipnir…”
“And he never knew you cared for him,” Thor added.
“Are you sure he is really gone? If you could survive that explosion then maybe…”
“Loki was already gravely injured or even dead when the ship broke apart. Unless it was some trick or someone was able to rescue him, he can not be alive.”
“Well, I for one will miss him.”
“As will I,” Thor agreed. “As will I.”
It was several weeks later before the message came from space. Loki was indeed alive and was on his way to meet his brother. Thor had insisted that Loki be allowed to return and since no one wanted to anger him or the 237 Asgardians who were now settled on earth, the return had been tolerated. The Avengers gathered in a field where Loki’s ship would land. Only one Asgardian stood at Thor’s side, the woman he had come to know as Fari.
Loki exited down the ramp of the ship followed by two SHIELD agents. He accepted Thor’s embrace without a word and hugged his brother in return. When Thor finally let Loki go, Loki stepped back and noticed the woman who stood at Thor’s side.
“Fari?” he asked, both surprised and moved to see her after so many years.
The woman nodded with an almost shy smile. “It is good to see you Loki,” she said.
Thor had been worried that the meeting between Loki and his long lost lover would be an awkward affair. Maybe Loki didn’t care to see her again. Maybe she would be angry that he had not tried to find her. If the look on his brother’s face was any indication, Thor could see that his fears were misplaced. Loki still cared for her. For a moment Loki just stood there and for once he didn’t have a word to say.
Loki came to his senses and moved to hug Fari. He pulled her close and combed his fingers through her hair, rested his chin on top of her head while she molded to him, hugging him tightly. Thor had never seen his brother show such affection to anyone. Not even their mother.
“Where have you been all this time?” Loki asked her when she finally made herself pull away.
“Odin didn’t want me to see you anymore. He said I was nothing but a common serving wench and not worthy of a prince of Asgard. I was forbidden to see you and I never truly had the chance to even try,” she told him sadly.
“I tried to find you. I even complained to Odin once about being unable to find you and he told me that common girls are fickle and it was best to just forget you,” Loki told her. “I never really did…”
“Sorry to cut short the reunion,” Tony spoke up, “But we have questions. A debriefing has to happen and after that we’ll leave the three of you alone.”
“Understood,” Loki said, and he followed Thor and the other Avengers back to the facility. Fari took his hand and walked with him the entire distance.
It was several hours before the Avengers were done debriefing Loki. He had to answer all their questions about where he had been and how he had gotten there as well provide assurances that he was no longer a threat to earth. Thor had agreed to be partially responsible for him and Loki was required to stay at the Avengers facility and not leave without Thor as an escort. He clearly did not like these requirements but had agreed to them all the same.
Loki was expected to share living quarters with Thor. No one trusted him to be left entirely alone. The two of them left the debriefing room and found Fari was waiting for them on a bench further down the hall.
Thor gave his brother a questioning look. “Do you wish her to stay with us, brother?”
“Would you mind terribly?” Loki asked.
Thor shook his head. “I wouldn’t. I think a little happiness would do you good.”
Loki went on ahead and stopped by Fari’s bench. “They are requiring that I remain in Thor’s custody if I am to live on this planet. I am to live in his apartment. I think though, that we are not finished with our earlier conversation. Come have dinner with us?”
“Of course,” Fari took his offered hand and got to her feet.
Once they got back to the apartment Thor had an idea. “I will cook the dinner and the two of you will have the bedroom to speak alone. I am sure after all this time there are things that need to be spoken of.” He knew that Fari wanted to tell Loki about their child and perhaps Loki even had things he wanted to say. Thor took a frozen lasagna from the freezer and turned the box over. “This will take ninety minutes and in the meantime I will make a salad. Go.”
There was so much that he wanted to say that by the time he closed the bedroom door behind them, Loki didn’t know where to begin. Should he tell her he was sorry for not finding her in all these years? Should they talk about relationships that may have happened in their absence? Fari spoke before he could try.
“I have to tell you this before anything else is said,” she began warily. “We had a child.”
“What?” That had not been what he had expected to hear. Not in the least. “What do you mean, had?”
“Odin took him away. Our child took the form of a horse like we once did. Odin kept him in that form and took him from me.”
Not since he had learned he was adopted from Jotunheim had Loki been overcome with so many conflicting emotions. He had thought he had accepted his past and his place in Odin’s home but now…
“Why?” He breathed the word.
“Because he was born of dark magic. That’s what Odin said at the time. Perhaps it was the truth or perhaps it was because you were prince of Jotunheim and he wanted control of the monarchy. I don’t know. I only know that Sleipnir was taken from us and we were kept apart and I have borne it alone for too long.”
Loki said nothing. There was nothing he could say. He simply reached for Fari and he held her. Her closeness was somehow a comfort and he knew that she took solace in him as well. She wept silently but he could feel the wetness of her tears on his shoulder. He bent his head enough to kiss her forehead.
“I have missed you,” she whispered.
He bent a little closer and kissed her lips. It had been years, a lifetime ago, since he kissed her last and yet somehow her kisses felt familiar and comforting. The two of them had once spent all night making love deep in the forest and had done so as horses and as Asgardians in turns. It had been an experience he had been unable to repeat with anyone else. No one had the ability to shapeshift as he did and even if he helped them change with his own magic, no woman would be willing to become a stallion herself while he became a mare. Fari was the only woman he had ever met who could participate in his particular sort of adventures, not only could but wanted to.
Breathless she pulled away from him and met his eyes. “This room is too small,” she said with half a smile.
He almost laughed. She was right. The ceiling was too low to change to horses here. “Exactly what I was thinking,” he agreed. “I don’t know how we will escape Thor long enough…”
She gave him a look. “The god of mischief doesn’t know how to escape?”
“Well...I suppose I could think of something,” he grinned and leaned to rest his forehead against hers for a moment. “I think that first there is more that needs to be said,” he told her.
“What do you want to know?” she asked with a sigh, her arms still around him as she did not want to put distance between them any more than he did.
“It isn’t what I want to know so much as what you should know…” he began.
“Loki, there is no need to explain anything. You were a prince of Asgard. I imagine plenty of women were interested in you. I am not exactly an ugly woman and from time to time there were men interested in me as well. Clearly it didn’t last, for either of us.”
“It did not,” Loki agreed. “And why do you think that is?”
She smiled a little. “Because they were boring. So boring and traditional.”
“They couldn’t do any magic at all and did not care for mischief,” he said both about his partners and hers.
Fari nodded. “I once changed into a squirrel while a man slept in my bed. He awoke and found me there and screamed like a woman. He had no appreciation for mischief at all. None of them ever did.”
Loki smiled and pulled her close to kiss her again. “I truly have missed you,” he said.
“It isn’t just the mischief or the magic though,” she said thoughtfully when the kiss ended and they remained hugging where they stood. “It’s the fact that you were the father of the only child I ever had. I could not forget that and move on like I could with others.”
“Do you know why I never stayed for long with any of the women who took an interest in me?” he asked and didn’t wait for her to reply. “Because even before I knew that I was born on Jotunheim, I knew I was different than other Asgardians and I feared that they would somehow find out. With you I had no such fears. You already knew that I wasn’t like them and you didn’t seem to care.”
“Of course I didn’t. You freed me from slavery. You gave me an experience unlike any I’d had before or after. From the moment you ran past me as that mare I knew you were not the least bit ordinary. Not an ordinary horse or an ordinary man. You still aren’t.”
Loki didn’t know what to say. He was moved by her words. Then he felt her hands move beneath his tunic and rest on his bare skin. “We still have an hour,” he said, huskily.
“I know. I guess we will have to do this as ourselves.”
“Not necessarily. We just need to remain in a form that fits this room,” he teased.
“I like the way you think,” Fari said and she kissed him yet again.
Thor wasn’t surprised when Loki and Fari emerged from the bedroom with their hair askew and their faces flushed. He had given them plenty of time after all, for words and for whatever else they wished. Apparently they had taken advantage of the time.
They ate their meal of lasagna and salad and spoke of times past before Asgard had been destroyed. Thor could see though that his brother and Fari were more interested in each other than in the conversation.
“Were the two of you like this before?” Thor finally asked.
“Like what?” Loki asked. “When?”
“Back when the stonemason came to Asgard and they two of you first met. Were you blind to everything but each other?” he asked. “I was rather preoccupied myself back then with trying to convince Sif that we could be more than friends. I didn’t notice the two of you at all.”
“It didn’t last long back then, brother,” Loki said. “In truth we hardly knew each other.”
“It lasted long enough that the both of you still care. I am glad for that,” Thor told them honestly. “There is something I must tell you both.” he had been unsure how he would reveal this information to them but he had known it needed to wait until they had been given some time alone to sort out their history. Now was the time to tell them. “Three days ago I met someone among our people. He was a lad of perhaps ten or eleven years of age. I found him in a meadow away from the others picking blades of grass and tasting them one by one. It turns out that he has been in the form of a horse for so long that he isn’t quite adjusted to human food just yet.”
“Sleipnir?” Fari asked, dropping her fork.
Thor nodded. “When Odin died, the power keeping him in horse form faded away. It seems that the same magic also kept him from growing to his full age so he is as a lad of ten years old and uneducated. He is an intelligent lad though and I told him I would try to find his parents if I could. Should I tell him I have found them?”
Fari put a hand over her mouth as her eyes welled up with tears. She was unable to speak. It was Loki who finally did the speaking. “Yes. Yes, tell him you have found his parents. I was abandoned by my own father. Nothing could induce me to do the same to my own son.”
“I thought you might say that,” Thor said with a smile as he pushed back his chair and got to his feet. “I will call him on the telephone. He is staying with two ladies in the east wing.” Thor turned and rummaged through a desk drawer and then through a basket of mail on the kitchen counter. “I could have sworn I left the telephone number here…”
“Perhaps the desk in the bedroom,” Loki suggested.
Thor turned and headed to the bedroom. They heard the noise of a drawer opening and papers shuffling. “Here it is!” Thor called out then appeared in the doorway looking confused. “Why is there fur all over the carpet?”
Loki and Fari looked at each other with a knowing grin. “It matters not, brother,” Loki said. “Make your call. I don’t think Fari can wait another moment.”
Thor nodded and stepped out into the hallway to make his call. This one call was about to change everything and change it for the better.