Loki kept a tally in his head of the number of days that passed. Frigga did not visit him on the first anniversary of his imprisonment. He waited. Two days later, she appeared.
“Have you been reading the books I sent you?” she asked.
So she had no news for him. It took him a moment to reply. He had ruthlessly cast all hope out of his heart, but it seemed a little had lingered nonetheless.
“How else might I pass the time?” He studied her as he spoke. Her kind, beautiful face. He wanted to remember it.
She lowered her eyes for a moment, disappointed. “You know that it is your own doing that put you here.”
“My own doing? Following in your husband’s footsteps? Replicating the widely revered feats of your son?”
He cut her off, for the first time since he had been confined here. He could not stomach hearing the same platitudes yet again. “Let it rest. You will never admit that your husband has killed tens of thousands as many as I have, or that your son is following the same path. You will never admit that I am here for doing precisely what every other nobleman of Asgard does every week of his life.”
“Do you truly-”
“Has either of them ever asked after me?”
She lowered her eyes for a second. “They are both grieved by your-”
“Unaccountable habit of killing people on other realms? The same habit for which Bor has a statue sixty feet high?” For a fleeting second, Loki remembered his childish daydream - was it really only three years ago? - of Odin praising him for wiping out the dreaded Jotuns. Being proud of him, as he had been proud of Thor for his slaughters on Vanaheim, Alfheim, Haragon, Nidavellir….
He pushed the thoughts down, as he had been doing for so long. There was no use to such thoughts. “Do you know, for the longest time I expected Thor to come here to see me. I knew the day would come.” His tone was bitterly self-mocking. “One day he would be there, standing outside my cell. He would tell me that he now saw what kind of man his father was. That his duty to the realms required that he claim the throne for himself. But he would need the help of a sorcerer to do this. And so he would say, Let us be brothers again. Make me a king and in return I will grant you your freedom.”
“You are speaking treason!”
“Fluently. Have no fear; your son is loyal to the tyrant who spawned him.” He made himself meet her eyes. “You have never asked me what happened after I killed myself.”
She watched him with wide eyes.
“Nor did your husband. I hardly expected him to care, but did it not occur to the king that the Chitauri might perhaps come looking for me? Whether they came to rescue me or to exact retribution for my failure, it would be a threat to Asgard. Is that not something which should concern a king?”
“Are they coming for you?”
“I fell into the clutches of a fiend almost as evil as your husband, difficult as it is to credit. His name is Thanos. He is a more powerful sorcerer than Odin, and almost as cruel. Even when I was a galaxy away, he could torture me with a thought.”
Her brows were knitted together. “Loki, are you trying to claim that you were forced to invade Midgard?”
Despite himself, irritation flared in Loki. “Do you find it easier to believe that I, who spent a thousand years trying to talk your son out of starting wars with other realms, suddenly acquired a taste for it?”
“You wanted a throne-”
“I never wanted a throne!” He mastered himself with difficulty. “It was you who pressed one upon me, my Queen.”
“Have you truly convinced yourself of that, Loki?” Her voice was softly reproachful.
He stared at her. After a long moment he asked, “Have you truly made yourself forget that it was you who had Gungnir put in my hand, and bade me make my ‘father’ proud?”
She shook her head slightly, parted her lips to speak.
“If you have any mercy left in you, say no more. Whatever you say, it will only taint my memory of you, and you are… all that is left to me. And I must tell you all I can of Thanos.
“He is in love with Hel herself, though he calls her by a different name. He has sent millions to her as courting gifts. He wants the Tesseract so that with it, he may travel to faraway realms and slaughter even more to win her favor. Had I not deliberately allowed the humans to foil my invasion of their world, he would have murdered half of them, and then proceeded to the other realms.”
“Do you expect to bargain your way out of this dungeon with these tales?” she reproved.
He replied with a short bark of laughter. “Most assuredly not. I am still amazed that your husband did not at least interrogate me before putting me here. Do you know, for the first few months I did not quite believe that he would not relent. I was once his son.” His voice cracked; he gritted his teeth, steadied it. “I thought that after a time, having made his point, he would summon me and give me some arduous task by which I might make my way back into his good graces. And I swore to myself that however humiliating or painful, I would accept my penance with all the humility I could muster.” He shook his head at his own foolishness.
“Do you really think anything you might do could expunge your crimes?”
“No more than Odin or Thor could expunge theirs. Have you ever counted up how many they have murdered between them? I have. There is little else to occupy myself with here. The number is truly staggering.”
“Do you truly see no difference between their acts and yours?”
“Do you truly see a difference?” His lip twisted. “No matter. If you do not wish to watch the Nine Realms burn, tell your husband of Thanos, convince him that the threat is real. Because it is. For myself, I can waste no more time here.”
“If you mean to try again to kill yourself, I will send guards-"
Loki laughed aloud at this. “Did you truly believe that even Odin could hold Loki Skywalker anywhere I did not wish to stay? I have been giving them a chance. Had Odin or Thor offered me any mercy, any slender chance, I would have served them for the rest of my days. As it is….” He smiled sadly. “Goodbye, Mother.”
With that he vanished. The guards and sorcerers Frigga at once dispatched found nothing in his cell.
In an uninhabited stretch of forest in Alfheim, Loki appeared. He had plans, so many plans. But first, he was going to feel wind on his face and see the sky.