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Gilded Cages

Chapter Text

Loki was the third child of Laufey. He was unexpected, and very small, and at first no one thought he would live. But the little prince grew nonetheless (if much less than everyone else). And as he did, he also grew increasingly adorable.

He had long dark hair, a rare trait that he shared with his mother, and delicate markings that shimmered in the right light. What he lacked in size, he made up for with cleverness and magic, and soon the people did not care that he was not nearly the height of the brothers. They called him the treasure of Jotunhiem, and all adored him.

His parents and two grown brothers were extremely protective, despite that there were none in Jotunhiem that would hurt him, and also despite that even if there were, he was more than capable of handling it himself. Still, though he was coddled, his childhood was idyllic.

And then Farbauti died. She was killed in an avalanche, buried alive and crushed by rock and ice, when Loki was only ten years old. It was a growing problem since the Casket was taken, this crumbling of their world, and some said Laufey went slightly mad at the loss of his mate—certainly he became even more obsessed with keeping Loki safe.

Loki was rarely allowed out of the palace after that, and never without Laufey or one of his brothers. These restrictions would have been hard on anyone, but they were nearly impossible for Loki. The more restrictions that Laufey placed on him, the better he became at getting around them.

He learned to shape-shift, then he learned to make illusions of himself and to become invisible altogether, or even teleport. Loki managed for years to go off exploring with no one the wiser—he even visited Asgard and Svartálfaheimr, he feasted with the Dark Elves, he competed with the Dwarves.

It was a perfect solution. Laufey thought that Loki was safely sequestered in his room, and Loki got to do whatever he wanted.

And then he got caught.

He was seventeen, and it was the first time he had any interest in the mating season. He was too young to participate by any Jotun standard—they typically did not reach sexual maturity until twenty at least.

But Loki had no interest in 'typically,' and he was curious. So he lured one of his father's young warriors to one of the armory rooms. His name was Bynier, and Loki was so distracted as the larger Jotun pressed him down and kissed him that he forgot to ward the door against any unwanted visitors.

His brother Helbindi walked in just as Bynier was sliding his hands beneath Loki's loincloth. It was very unfortunate timing for Bynier—Helbindi ripped him away from his young brother and then dragged the horrified guard before his father.

Loki was fairly certain his father only banished Bynier, but no one ever saw him again. The message was clear enough. No one was going to dare touch the youngest prince again.

But Laufey knew he could not punish only Bynier. He realized he had been blind to Loki's willfulness—that he had obviously been too lenient.

"I'm sorry, you're going to what?" Loki demanded.

"You will be confined to the palace during the mating season, and fitted with a chastity belt," Laufey said.

"Father, you can't possibly--" Loki started.

"It is for your own protection," Laufey said, watching his son in concern. "Loki, you are much too young for such things. And as it has become clear that you have ways of leaving the palace, I need to make sure you are protected at all times."

"Please, father, don't do this, I will stay in the palace, I swear it!" Loki pleaded.

Loki had always been able to get his father to give in to him, but in this matter he would not be swayed. He called for a metal-worker to be brought at once and would not let Loki out of his sight until he arrived.

Loki was measured and then locked in his room for the night. He had ways around that, of course, but his father would not see reason and running—unless he did not plan to return—would do him no good.

The gilded chastity belt was placed on him and locked early the next day. The front panel cupped his genitals while a thin but strong gold thong wound around the back and then was locked.

Only Laufey had the key.

His loincloth hid the belt well enough, but it was horribly constricting—rubbing against him with every move. It was crafted so he could still relieve himself, but that was about all he could do.

He had thought it would be a simple manner to magic out of it, but his father, it seemed, was wise to him.

It was warded against magic by the Dwarves.

Under the watchful eyes of his father and brothers, Loki was not able to leave to attempt to find a way around it. He ended up spending the next three mating seasons being locked into the dreaded thing before it began and then not allowed out again until it was over.

On the eve of the fourth mating season, however, he got his hands on a book of magic that would help him to bypass the wards on the belt.

And he was ready to make up for lost time.

Chapter Text

Asgard was the only one of the nine realms forbidden to Jotuns (though all of them were forbidden to Loki). So naturally, when Loki first acquired the skill to travel between worlds, Asgard was the very first place that he went.

He was twelve at the time and not yet that proficient at shape shifting, managing only to change the color of his skin and his eyes. Luckily his markings were faint enough that they went largely unnoticed, and Asgard was obviously a culture that valued its children, because they were more than happy to indulge him his curiosity.

And Loki had plenty of questions for them.

He had at first been baffled by the differences between men and women. Jotuns were Jotuns, and some preferred to be called she, and some he, and some either, but the decision was theirs. Loki found it hard to wrap his mind around the idea of that choice being taken from your hands, of being born either one or the other.

He had visited Asgard only seven times in the next few years, always aware that despite the fun of the risk, it was a risk. His father would probably have him put under constant guard if he knew even half of what he got up to, but if he knew he'd gone to Asgard, even once, Loki was fairly certain his father would never trust him again.

The last few times he had gone to Asgard, he had gone as a woman. He did not mind it, but he preferred their male bodies that were closer to his, and for his first experience he wanted to be in a body he could recognize as his own. He stood in front of the mirror, smoothing and coloring his skin pale, painting his red eyes green and then wrapping clothes around himself to match.

He was almost recognizable, he could see himself in this strange mirror image. He did not look much like a Aesir male; where they tended to be golden and drawn with muscles a shade too large, his hair remained dark and his body coiled and slim. But Loki did not concern himself with that—he was not going there to blend in.

Loki considered at first purposely not covering his tracks. There was something very tempting about causing an uproar, about making Laufey and his brothers worry and search for him as revenge for putting up with their over-protectiveness for years.

But Loki covered his tracks nevertheless. He remembered all too well what happened to him the last time he was caught, and the last thing he needed was even more restrictions if they realized he could leave Jotunhiem at will. So he magically warded his doors against entrance, tossed the dreaded chastity belt on the bed and then walked through the air into the gardens of Asgard.

Loki frowned as he glanced around. It looked at first as though the grounds were abandoned, but then he saw a couple walk by dressed in their very best. Loki made some adjustments to his clothes as he moved to follow them, copying some points of their design and adding it to his own, weaving gold in with the green.

It seemed that Loki had arrived right in the midst of a feast. It was about time the Norns had stopped working against him.

Loki followed the couple inside, slipping past the guards with a subtle wave of his hands that made him look so utterly familiar to them they did not bat an eye. Loki had been to the palace before, years ago, though he had been a girl at the time. He had stumbled, by chance, on that arrogant princeling of Odin's that went by the name of Thor.

Thor had been patronizing and ill-mannered and had offered to 'escort' him home. Loki had not returned to the palace again, and he would have to take care to avoid the prince tonight, though there was little chance of him being recognized now, grown man that he was.

The Aesir were every bit as colorful and loud and graceless as he recalled, but they were, or so they claimed, excellent lovers. The Aesir had an attitude towards sex similar to Jotuns during mating season—only they were like that all year round. He had found they did not much care if their partners were women or men, though by necessity they married their opposite in order to produce children.

"You are new here," someone said from behind him, sounding only slightly less drunk than all of those around him.

Loki turned around. The man was slim for an Aesir and attractive, with blond hair and a mustache, silver armor that fit in all the right places. Loki did not have time to be choosy, so he grinned back. "How could you tell?" he asked.

"Well, I would remember you," he said pleasantly, holding out a hand. "I'm Fandral."

"Ikol," Loki said, taking Fandral's hand. Fandral lifted it to his lips, and placed a kiss over his knuckles. Loki raised an eyebrow. "Is that not a custom you reserve for maidens?"

"It is a courtesy I would give to any beautiful thing," Fandral said.

Loki laughed. This Fandral appeared to be as fond of words as he was himself, and likewise seemed to have very little problem twisting them to suit his purposes. "I suppose I should be charmed?" Loki asked.

"You can be whatever you would like," Fandral said obligingly.

Loki grinned slyly and stepped closer. "My dear Fandral, you have no idea how true that is," he said.

Fandral broke out into a huge grin, and then his eyes widened as he was dragged aside. Asgard's Prince had just unceremoniously tossed him out of the way, rather literally, and was glaring down at him. "Fandral, I suggest you seek your entertainment somewhere else."

Fandral recovered quickly, disentangling himself from Thor's grip and smiling winningly. "Yes, of course," he said, before shamelessly looking back at Loki, obviously not cowed in the least despite Thor's general air of menace. "It was a pleasure meeting you."

"Likewise," Loki said, before turning back to Thor, trying to guess at his motivation. "Do you have some purpose for which you require me, my prince?"

Thor grinned at him, all white teeth and sparkling blue eyes, and Loki bets he's used that look before to get people to fall at his feet. Loki just crossed his arms as he waited for an answer, and Thor's smile faded gradually as he picked up on his hostility. "You are obviously a guest here," he said, his forehead scrunching up as he sought the right words. "I wished to save you from Fandral, for you do not know his reputation."

"You were saving me?" Loki asked, amused. "And what made you think I would prefer your company to his? I was having a perfectly pleasant time."

"He wanted only to bed you," Thor said, throwing a glare at where Fandral had moved on to a pair of maidens.

"Well, perhaps in his bed was where I wished to be," Loki replied easily.

Thor gaped at him. "I didn't, I mean, I only—" he broke off, looking adorably confused, and Loki took pity on him.

"It is fine," Loki said with a sigh. "I shall seek the company of another. Enjoy your evening, my prince."

"Wait," Thor said, moving to catch up with him. "You do not wish to speak to me?"

"I do not," Loki agreed, eyes scanning the room for someone suitable. Most were too big—it was ridiculous he should have that problem here as well, but the majority of Aesir men were overgrown oafs. Fandral had been perfect. Stupid entitled prince, barging in where he wasn't wanted, trying to protect his virtue while all Loki wanted to do was give it away.

"Have you been to the palace before?" Thor asked. "You seem very familiar."

"Even your friend Fandral had a better line than that," Loki told him dryly.

Thor frowned. "I meant it truly," he said.

Loki glanced over at him, but could hardly tell him that Thor had harassed him once when he was in the shape of a young girl. "We have not met before," he said, "but now we can say we have and bid each other a good night."

"I do not even know your name," Thor protested.

"It is Ikol," Loki lied, before setting off to find someone more suitable to his plans. He did not meet any others that were as easy to speak with as Fandral, and he began to notice that the men he attempted to speak with seemed nervous around him. He turned around as yet another Aesir excused himself from his company as quickly as possible, and spotted Thor slouched at the head table beside his parents, apparently glaring anyone who got too close to him into submission.

Loki walked over to him, slipping up beside him and careful to stay out of Odin's one-eyed glance. "My prince," he said sweetly, "if I might speak with you?"

They moved to the edge of the room, in the shadows out of view. Thor looked very hopeful and a little smug, and Loki glared at him. Thor was as effective at keeping him from being lain with as his father's horrid belt, just another gilded annoyance.

Loki wrapped a hand in Thor's ridiculous cape and dragged him close. "You have scared away every suitor I might have enjoyed tonight," he snapped. "Do you have some grudge against me that I am unaware of?"

Thor looked, of all things, like he was sulking. "I would be more than happy to keep you company," he offered. "You are obviously too good for those common warriors."

"Oh, but not too good for you?" Loki asked, grinning slyly. "I've yet to see why you're so special."

Thor glared at him. "That is no way to speak to me, I am Prince of Asgard—"

"Yes, it is a lovely title," Loki said dismissively. "But what have you done to deserve it?"

"I have battled many—" Thor began.

"I care nothing for your battles," Loki interrupted. "Any mindless beast can kill."

"You are impossible," Thor snapped.

"And you are dull," Loki told him.

Thor let out a huff of air, crossing his arms. "I truly do not understand what I have done to so offend you," he said.

"You have robbed me of all company," Loki said. "And I cannot stay here much longer. Who knows when I might be able to visit here again?"

Thor deflated, his arms falling back to his sides. "I am sorry," he said after a moment. "I only wished—please, tell me what you would have me do to make amends, and I shall do it."

Loki sighed, grabbing a goblet of wine off the tray of a passing waiter and downing it in one go. "I can think of only one way you can make it up to me," Loki told him.

And so it went that Loki, the treasure of Jotunhiem, ended up in bed with Asgard's own Prince.

Chapter Text

Loki woke up gradually, slowly becoming aware of the strange heat pressed up against his back and wound tightly around him. He blinked his eyes open and looked down at the thick arm that was clamped around his naked waist, and that very much did not belong to him.

Loki woke up pretty quickly after that.

"I am in so much trouble," Loki groaned, working to disentangle himself without waking the other prince up. He leaned down and grabbed his pants, pulling them on quickly. When he leaned back down to grab his shirt, he saw that Thor was awake and watching him with a sleepy grin.

"Where are you going?" he asked, his voice slurred with sleep.

"I'm running very very late," Loki said. "I need to go now, I'm sorry, it was fun, I mean—"

Thor frowned, sitting up sharply. "Did you not enjoy it?" he asked in concern.

"Oh, um, it was amazing," Loki admitted, pausing with his shirt in his hands. "What you lack in finesse with words you more than make up for in…other areas."

Thor laughed and reached out to grab Loki, dragging him back into his arms. "So then stay, Ikol," he whispered in his ear. "And we can do it again."

"I'm afraid that's quite out of the question," Loki said, attempting to wiggle free again. "This can't happen again."

Thor went stiff behind him. "Why not?" he asked. "You are not…not promised to another, are you?"

Loki snorted. "No," he said. "If my problem was that simple it wouldn't be a problem at all."

"Then there is no reason for you to leave," Thor said smugly. "I am Prince of Asgard. Whatever other reasons you have, I can make them go away."

"No, you really can't, and I don't think I can return here," Loki said, but paused, remembering Thor trailing kisses up his collar bone, dragging up his one leg and pressing up to meet him, and— "Well, maybe sometime next year," he allowed, before shaking himself out of the daze and slipping from Thor's grasp.

"A year!" Thor cried in disbelief. "No, I will not stand for that. You can stay here, by my side."

Loki threw his shirt on, before reaching for the overcoat, and raised an eyebrow at him. "Oh?" he said. "As what, your consort? I know very well the ways of Asgard. You cannot take a man for a spouse, we have no future together."

"You are not of Asgard?" Thor asked. "I thought perhaps you were from the outer villages."

"I am…Vanir," Loki said, in a rare stumble over a lie. "I am from Vanaheimr. We do things very differently there, and I'm afraid I really must be getting back."

"Please," Thor said, rising up to his knees. "I have never met anyone like you before. So often people tell me only what they believe I wish to hear, but you always speak your mind."

Loki flashed him a grin. "Sometimes I even tell you exactly the opposite of what I think you wish to hear," he agreed.

Thor laughed. "So you see? I cannot lose you when I have only just found you," he said. "I have searched my entire life for someone that would stand up to me so effortlessly, that could match me in anything. I do not know what future we may have, but I do know I wish you to be in it."

Loki watched him carefully. Thor was always honest, Loki had known that from the start, but now he was stripped of all his arrogance, all of his showy pretense. He really wasn't so disagreeable, underneath all those many layers of armor.

But Laufey would tear the Nine Realms apart if he did not return home, and in any case Loki could not put him or his brothers through that. Not after what had happened to Farbauti.

"I am sorry," Loki said, for once needing to force the words out, instead of having them form naturally on his tongue. "I really have no choice. I must return home."

Thor's blue eyes looked shattered, but he nodded his assent and got to his feet. He stepped up to Loki until they were only inches apart, and then he pulled off the chain around his neck. There was an amulet on the end, a ruby carved in the shape of a bird. Thor raised it up and lowered it over Loki's head.

"Then if this is goodbye, I wish you to have this piece of me," he said solemnly. "Even if you can give me nothing of yourself."

Loki looked down at the amulet in disbelief, lifting it to examine it before shaking his head and moving to take it off. Thor caught his wrists, pulling them free of the chain and holding them trapped between them. "I cannot accept this," Loki insisted.

"Ikol, it is a gift," Thor said. "I gave it freely."

Loki had nothing he could give him in return. His family had given him many trinkets over the years, gems or precious metals, but he had tossed them all away. Loki understood value came from more than simple rarity—things needed a purpose, otherwise there was no reason for them.

This amulet felt like it had a purpose and it hung heavy around his neck, like a promise he was not prepared to make.

"Then I will take it," Loki said, and dragged Thor down for a desperate last kiss, before pulling away still gasping. "Goodbye, my prince."

"Ikol, wait," Thor called hoarsely, reaching out for him.

Loki spun out of reach, pushing through Thor's doors and then disappearing into thin air the moment they closed behind him, before he could hear Thor's voice call him back again. He appeared breathless in his own room on Jotunhiem, and dropped down on his bed, resting his head in his hands.

He was barely able to catch his breath before he became aware of a deep pounding resonating through his room, and he turned to look at the doors.

"I mean it, Loki! You open these doors this instant!"

Loki's eyes widened as he recognized his father's voice, and he started for the doors, but then pulled back, eyes going to the chastity belt on the bed. His clothes dissolved as he turned his skin back to its natural blue. He pulled off Thor's amulet and hid it in the bedding, then he hesitantly forced himself to latch that horrible belt around himself once more before rushing towards the door.

He opened it and tried not to look relaxed. "Yes, father?" he asked sweetly.

Laufey pushed past him into the room, glancing around with narrowed eyes. "What took you so long to answer the door?" he demanded. "You disappeared early at dinner last night and none have seen you since. I feared the worst, child. You know better than to lock those doors."

"I was feeling ill, I simply wished to sleep uninterrupted," Loki said.

Laufey watched him in suspicion. There had been a time when Laufey had believed every word that Loki said, but then came Bynier and the armory room, and it was like Laufey didn't trust him at all anymore.

Laufey stepped up to him, pushing the loincloth to the side and giving the metal belt a tug to make sure it was secure. Loki pulled away, shooting him a glare.

"I have not taken the dreaded thing off," Loki snapped petulantly, and Laufey softened at once.

"It is for your own good, Loki," he said, before crossing his arms and staring him down. "And when I tell you to open the door, you open it. You are not to use that magic again."

"Of course, father," Loki lied easily.

Laufey nodded after a moment, satisfied. He leaned down and pressed a kiss to the top of Loki's head. "I only wish to keep you safe from harm," he said.

"Like a Latnis blossom, encased in ice and put on display," Loki said. "It is a nice arrangement for all except the flower."

"So dramatic, just like your mother," Laufey said, and smiled fondly. "You are young yet, Loki, you will have to indulge me a while longer still."

"I don't see that I have any choice," Loki said, like a good obedient son.

He let out a breath of relief as Laufey nodded and moved back out into the hall. Loki laughed to himself as he closed the doors behind him, locking them once more with his magic. He'd done it—he'd actually gotten away with it, and no one would ever know. Not even Thor, not really.

It was, Loki decided, the perfect crime.

Chapter Text

The sickness started slowly, gradually building as the end of the mating season came and went.

At first, Loki suspected it might be guilt, though he had never been that bothered by such a trivial emotion in the past. He often felt dizzy or weak, and he was sleeping far too much. Considering the close eye his father kept on him, it was not long before Laufey grew concerned.

Loki had managed to talk away Laufey's worries, right up until his powers backfired in full view of everyone. It was the simple task of lighting the candles, which he had done before without so much as a wave of his hand—this time, when he had absentmindedly motioned towards them, the blue flames blazed out uncontrollably, melting all the ice that covered their palace walls.

Laufey had grabbed him and forced him out of the room while the guards put out the fires with their ice, and Loki could not talk this away. He was too shaken himself to even try, because Loki did not make mistakes. His powers came to him naturally, he had barely been taught.

After the fire was contained, an easy enough matter for Jotuns, Laufey dragged Loki straight to the healers. Loki kept trying to cast small, easy spells while they waited—a spell for invisibility pulled everything from the shelves, a simple glamour raised the temperature in the room by forty degrees. Laufey grabbed his wrists to stop him from further attempts, watching him with growing concern.

"Loki," he said, in the voice he always used when Loki was sick, some echo of Farbauti's. "Wait for the healer. We will find out what is wrong."

Bjorg arrived only a moment later, looking rather flustered. Bjorg had been treating Loki since he was a child, and was never less than terrified about it. Loki suspected Laufey had made some vague threat to him years ago about the consequences of anything happening to him,

"Ah, Loki, you are unwell?" Bjorg asked, not quite making eye contact.

"His magic is not responding to his command," Laufey broke in, before Loki could speak. "He casts one spell, and does another. You know very well how skilled my son is, this can be no fault of his. Find out what it is wrong."

"Loki, please lay down," Bjork said, keeping his eyes on the wall even as he pressed one large hand against Loki's abdomen. Laufey paced angrily, caught between wanting Bjork to fix his son and wanting to pull him off of him.

Bjork frowned, stepping back. He nervously ran a hand over his lips.

"Well?" Laufey demanded.

"There is only one reason for a sorcerer of Loki's power to lose control of their abilities to that extent," Bjork said haltingly. "That I know of, of course, I mean—but yes, it does rather appear to be the case."

"Speak clearly," Laufey snapped, while Loki sat up and watched the healer with growing concern.

"The prince is with child," Bjork said, before flinching and stepping away, as though he expected to be struck down.

Laufey, however, had the complete opposite reaction than was expected. He laughed. "You are mistaken," he said simply. "It is something else. Find out what it is, and stop wasting our time with these idle speculations."

Loki felt sick, the possibility swirling into existence from nothing. It was something he hadn't even considered. Aesir men could not have children, and he had been Aesir at the time. He must have merely made cosmetic changes—appeared Aesir, but still Jotun. Loki felt a wave of dizziness, and began listing to the side.

Laufey caught him, and turned to glare at the healer. "Well? What else could it be?"

"I'm afraid it could be nothing else," Bjork said tremulously. "I have confirmed it, it is certain. The baby is three months old, conceived at the end of the mating season."

Loki had to admit, Bjork had more backbone than he had ever given him credit for. He closed his eyes, giving up on trying to find a way to talk his way out of this. A child was a child—Loki's life was never going to be the same again, and there were no words that could be spoken, even by him, that would change a thing.

"It is impossible," Laufey snapped. "I have taken very careful measures that Loki should not have any part in the mating season."

"Father," Loki said wearily, "perhaps the healer and I should speak alone."

Laufey froze, pulling back to force Loki to meet his eyes. They both knew his words were as good as confession. "Loki, no," Laufey said. "What have you done?"

"I—" Loki faltered, and his father looked devastated. It wasn't fair that Loki should be made to feel guilt over this, Loki had only done what everyone his age did. "It is my decision, not yours, whether or not I participate in the mating season. I am of age now."

It was, apparently, the exact wrong thing to say. "You are my child," Laufey roared. "Who was it? Who dared?"

"It does not matter, does it?" Loki asked hopefully. "What is done is done. Many choose to raise their child alone."

"You will not be left to raise a child alone!" Laufey snapped. "You will tell me who it was, and you will be married at once. I hope you liked them well enough, I hope this bit of defiance was worth it!"

"Father—" Loki said, feeling weak and angry and terrified all at once. "Please."

"Tell me who it was!" Laufey yelled.

Loki looked up and met his father's eyes, facing them head on the way only he ever could. He gathered his resolve, and the last of his strength, and did not look away.

"I'd really rather not say," he told him, and things went from bad to worse.

Laufey took off on a rampage, bundling Loki up in a fur-lined cloak and dragging him along with him. He sent a distraught and outraged Helbindi off to do something or other, while Byleistr followed them around, obviously uncertain what he should do.

"You are so much like your mother," Laufey ranted, as he dragged Loki towards the throne room by the wrist. "She never listened to me either, just did whatever she felt like. She wasn't even supposed to be out there that day!"

"You could not just keep me locked up here forever!" Loki cried, trying to twist free. Laufey ignored him, sitting him down on one of the chairs beside the throne before turning around to pace.

Loki considered fleeing, but his father would find him, and it would only make this worse. Where would he go, in any case? Back to Thor? Thor who believed he had a nice night with some strange Vanir, never to be seen again?

No, Loki had nowhere to go.

"I do not understand how you could be so careless," Laufey said.

Loki slouched in his chair. "Byleistr told me it took five attempts at least!" he said sullenly. "And I was a man at the time. I do not see how it happened myself."

"A man?" Laufey asked in confusion, before directing his anger to his middle child. "And Byleistr should not have been discussing such things with you!"

"Father, I am one and twenty!" Loki cried, sitting up again. "Most Jotun my age are already bound."

"You are not most Jotun," Laufey said dryly. "Do not pretend otherwise. Now I will ask you again, Loki, who has done this to you?"

"I do not recall," Loki said, glancing away.

"Then I have no choice but to believe you have been taken against your will," Laufey snapped. "And I will hunt down the guilty party and have his limbs torn from his body!"

"It was not against my will," Loki protested.

"Then tell me who it was," Laufey snapped.

Helbindi stormed into the throne room, still managing to look simultaneously angry and uneasy, as only he could. "Father, I have searched his room. I removed all of his books of magic as you advised, this one in particular was interesting—" He hands the book to Laufey. "And—"

"What?" Loki demanded, looking over at his brother in disbelief. "You've done what?"

"Did you think I would continue to allow you access to your tools of defiance?" Laufey demanded. "I now must worry both for you and the child you carry. From now on you will do as you're told, Loki."

Loki opened his mouth to protest further, when he realized what Helbindi was holding in his hand. Helbindi, while prone to fits of temper, could usually be counted on to be a voice of reason. At the moment he looked angrier than Loki had ever seen him, even more so than the time he caught him with Bynier in the armory.

And dangling from one of his hands was Thor's amulet.

Laufey saw it at the same time, and he let the book drop to the ground as he reached out and snatched it from Helbindi's hand. "This is—but it can't possibly be," he said, turning to look at Loki. "This is the crest of Thor, son of Odin!"

"I stole it," Loki said at once. "It is of no consequence—"

"He kept it under his pillow," Helbindi said lowly, the traitor. "You know he cares nothing for such things. Not usually."

"The son of Odin?" Laufey said in disbelief. He gripped the amulet tightly in his hand, his red eyes blazing as he glanced over at his middle son. "Byleistr, take your brother and confine him to his room. Have Bjork look after him and the child and get the healer whatever he needs. Loki is not to be out of your sight; do you understand?"

"Yes, father," Byleistr said at once, leaning over to gently pull Loki to his feet.

"Father, what are you planning?" Loki demanded, as Byleistr tugged him out the door. "Father!"

Laufey ignored him, staring instead at that amulet. Such things were prized by the Aesir, and not lightly given away. He knew that Loki had not stolen it; it had to have been given to him, because it was enchanted by the All-father. Laufey recognized the feel of his magic.

None could have taken it from around Thor's throat but Thor himself.

"What will we do?" Helbindi asked.

"We will ask for Thor to be given over to us for a punishment suitable to his crime," Laufey said, and leaned down to lift Loki's book from the ground. "Odin will not agree, of course. And there will be war."

Helbindi nodded, glancing curiously at his father. "How did Loki even get there?" he asked. "To Asgard?"

"All the dangers I sought to protect him from," Laufey said dryly, flipping to a page in the book that illustrated a sorcerer moving from one realm to another. "And I never thought to be suspicious of the books."

Chapter Text

Sif frowned as she spotted Thor draped across the bar of the tavern, his head cradled in his arms, one hand outstretched and clutched around a pint.

"What is wrong with him?" Sif asked Fandral, as she took a seat beside them. "I thought perhaps he was distraught over being spurned by some love, but he has been this way for months."

"Oh, he was spurned, alright," Fandral said, smiling widely as he leaned closer to Sif, putting himself half across Thor, so that the Thunderer was sure to hear. "He is still mooning over that green-eyed stranger."

"Oh, do tell," Sif said, returning his grin.

"Well, I saw him first, of course," Fandral said.

"Of course," Sif said amiably. "You have quite the knack for spotting young impressionable godlings."

"I never said he was young and impressionable," Fandral protested. "But, well, he was, or young, anyway. And then Thor comes out of nowhere and pushes me out of the way, I've never seen him like that before—"

"You're exaggerating," Thor protested half-heartedly, though he did not bother to raise his head.

"You know that it is true," Fandral said dismissively. "I saw them leave together before the night was done, but the young rake has not been seen again."

Thor raised his head, blinking over at Sif. "He disappeared," he told her.

Sif frowned. "Well, I'm sure he'll turn up again," she said.

"No, I mean, he disappeared," Thor said. "I followed him out the doors, and I was but a heart's beat behind him, but when I entered the hall he was gone! There was not a sign of him in either direction."

"Perhaps he was a sorcerer?" Sif asked. "Sorcerers are not so very common, and male ones rarer still, he must be known to someone."

"It would not matter if I found him," Thor said miserably. "He does not want to be found, and regardless, I am expected to take a wife."

"Well, don't look at me," Sif snorted.

Thor returned his attention to his beer. "I felt like I already knew him," he said. "Have you ever felt like that? Like you were not complete, until you knew this other? I think I was only half-formed when I met him, and have been torn in half again now that he is gone."

Sif and Fandral were staring at him with varying expressions of disbelief. Fandral carefully pried the tankard from his hand. "I think you've had enough," he said gently.

"You're in love," Sif said in realization, staring at Thor as though she had never seen him before. "For surely this is madness only love could bring."

Thor lay back down on the bar. "And I will never see him again," he said disconsolately. "Except perhaps sometime next year."

Sif and Fandral shared a look over his head, and then Fandral proceeded to drink the rest of Thor's mead.

Sif and Fandral were not the only ones concerned for Asgard's young prince. Odin had been watching his son grow more and more distant over the last months, barely training, uncommonly silent at their feasts and gatherings.

Odin typically tried not to involve himself in Thor's private affairs, but Frigga was insistent that he talk to Thor and find out what was wrong. So naturally Odin decided to talk to Heimdall to find out what was wrong.

"Heimdall," he greeted. "Do you know what ails my son?"

"I fear he has been struck by the greatest sickness there is, and one for which there is no cure," Heimdall said.

Odin paused, his one eye latching onto Heimdall as he interpreted the Gatekeeper's body language and came to the conclusion things were not nearly as grave as the other man would have him think. "Why do I suspect that is a riddle?" Odin asked.

"Your son, my King, is in love," Heimdall elaborated.

"Ah," Odin said. "Is that all?

"It is enough," Heimdall said.

"He will need to be married soon," Odin countered. "I was beginning to worry he would not find a maiden on his own."

"He has not found a maiden at all," Heimdall said.

Odin sighed, and crossed his arms. "I see," he said. "That does complicate things. He must know he cannot be with someone that cannot produce an heir."

"His chosen love presents many problems, it is true," Heimdall agreed. "But the ability to produce an heir is not one of them."

"Heimdall, I tire of these games. I thought he had fallen in love with a man?" Odin said, glancing over at him.

"The one he loves was a man, at the time," Heimdall allowed.

"And what is he now?" Odin asked shrewdly.

"He is Laufey's youngest son, the treasure of Jotunhiem, and he is carrying your grandchild," Heimdall said.

Strangely enough, Odin's reaction was exactly the same as Laufey's: he laughed.

The difference being, of course, that Odin had no trouble believing it.

Thor, however, would perhaps not be as easy to convince. Odin informed Frigga first, and for her part she was quite thrilled. "It is about time," she said. "There has not been a baby in the palace for far too long."

"My wife, the baby is being born to a frost giant, and is currently on Jotunhiem," Odin reminded her. Frigga merely waved him off, dismissing this as irrelevant in the face of gaining a grandchild.

When Thor finally turned up, looking desolate and slightly drunk, they sat him down in private for a talk. This was not as easy as it had appeared to seem in theory, and Odin frowned as he tried to think where he should begin.

"It has been brought to my attention that you are in love," Odin said after a moment.

Thor lowered his head and nodded. "Yes, but, father, I know it cannot be. I have fallen in love with a man, and I know I must marry to produce an heir—"

"Then you do not know?" Frigga asked. "I thought perhaps you must not."

"Know what?" Thor asked.

"What name were you given, for this love of yours?" Odin asked.

"Ikol," Thor said. "His name was Ikol."

"Ah, I'm afraid that it was not," Odin said. "It was Loki, the frost giant prince."

Thor stared at him in disbelief. "Is this some jest?" he asked, turning to look at his mother, who stared back at him serenely, knitting what looked like a miniature helmet made of silvered yarn. "Ikol was smaller than me!"

"He is small for a frost giant, but he is the apple of Laufey's eye, known as the treasure of Jotunhiem," Odin said. "I worry Laufey will not be pleased by these events."

Thor tried to reconcile those beautiful laughing green eyes with the frost giants he had met in battle—their blood red eyes spitting out rage, no sign of humor or reason in their depths. They were, his mind reasoned, as far from Ikol as anything could get. "It cannot be," he said.

"Does it make so much difference?" Odin asked gently. "You may recall, I am half-Jotun myself."

Thor recalled the panicked way Ikol had dressed in the morning, insistent that he could not stay. We do things very differently, he had said. It was possibly one of the few true things that Ikol had said. "Well, I guess that explains why he could not stay," he said after a moment.

Frigga was watching him carefully. "My son, love is not changeable, and so you must decide whether that is what you truly feel for this prince," she said. "Because if it is love then his origin does not matter, and if it is not love then there is nothing that could have made it work."

"I never could have believed I would feel love for a frost giant," Thor said haltingly. "But I have never felt for anyone what I feel for Ikol—I mean, for…Loki. But, father, what does it matter? That he is Jotun complicates things even more than if were simply a Vanir man. I am no better off than before."

"Perhaps," Odin agreed, pleased at his son's mature handling of the situation. "But it also solves the greatest obstacle. Jotuns do not have clear lines between men and women the way that we do. All are capable of bearing children, including Loki. As proven by the fact that he is carrying your child."

Thor's eyes widened, and he jumped up from his seat. "My—my child?" he asked, and his heart was pounding. He recalled his one night with Loki, the way he had felt whole for the first time in his life, and as startled as he was this somehow made perfect sense.

"Yes," Odin agreed. "Though Laufey, I fear, will wish to seek some sort of retribution. He is somewhat overprotective of his youngest son, so this situation will require careful handling."

"What should we do?" Thor asked carefully. He wanted nothing more than to march into Jotunhiem and bring Loki safely back to Asgard—but he had to remind himself, that would be a kidnapping, not a rescue. Loki was not someone he needed to save, and winning him back would require more subtlety than that.

"Laufey will no doubt demand you be turned over to him, either to be executed or forced into servitude," Odin said, though his unconcerned tone implied this threat did not worry him. "I, however, would like to propose a marriage."

"You would approve of a marriage between Loki and I?" Thor asked, not quite daring to hope.

"Approve?" Odin asked in disbelief. "My son, I think it's marvelous."

"We both do!" Frigga agreed. "It's about time you settled down."

Thor watched his parents with bemusement, not sure if he should be excited at gaining a second chance with Loki, or disturbed at the whole bizarre situation and their easy acceptance of it.

"I think a marriage between Jotunhiem and Asgard may bring peace back to the nine realms the like of which has not been seen in eon," Odin continued, his one eye sparkling with the possibilities. "I do not think I could have planned it better myself."

And it was true that it was a beautiful idea—a universe united, wars and violence a distant memory, a thing of stories told instead of made. The trouble was, Odin was not the only one that had plans. Laufey was still set on vengeance, and Loki, as always, had an agenda all his own.

Chapter Text

"Gatekeeper!" Laufey shouted to the sky. "Tell the All-Father that I demand retribution! I will see Asgard's Prince pay for what he has done, or we will have war!"

"Father!" Loki called, moving past the guards surrounding Laufey. "You can not truly want to have war?"

Laufey glared at his son. "I thought you were confined to your room," he snapped.

"I have temporarily lost the proper use of my magic, not my mind," Loki said. "And it was Byleistr you asked guard me."

"I do not think you are in any position to disparage your brother," Laufey chided him. "After all, Byleistr has never come home to me with child from the prince of our enemy."

"Father, you must see reason," Loki said. "We do not have to involve them."

"Are you scared of them, child?" Laufey whispered, tilting Loki's head up to meet his eyes. "Did that Thunderer hurt you? Because I will raze all of Asgard to the ground in your name."

"If he had hurt me there would be nothing of Asgard left," Loki promised. "I would have destroyed it myself."

Laufey laughed fondly. "You probably would have, at that," he said, before shaking his head. "But I cannot allow this to go unanswered for, whether it was of your doing or his or both does not matter. You have been dishonored, and by our greatest enemy."

Laufey motioned to one of his guards. "Take my son back to his room, and this time make sure he stays there," he snapped.

"Odin will wish to speak with you, to try and come to a compromise," Loki said urgently, sidestepping the guard.

"Most likely," Laufey agreed, motioning vaguely for the guard he had assigned to Loki to hold. "In the past we have held our talks on Asgard, as Odin does not trust us. I have gone to show I do not fear them."

"If you go now, you must take me with you," Loki said.

"And why would I do that?" Laufey demanded. "You forget your place, Loki. I have given orders that you are not to leave your room, nevermind leaving Jotunhiem."

"If you do not take me with you, I will attempt to get there on my own," Loki promised. "And with my powers as they are, there is no telling where I might end up."

Laufey's expression tightened, as he examined his son. "Even you would not be that careless," he said after a moment, dismissing him. "In any case I have taken from you those books."

"And you may keep them," Loki said. "I have already taken the words from their pages, and they have inscribed themselves on my mind. You do not know what I am capable of, and you do not know the things I have done, because you are blinded by your fear for me!"

"And what do you hope to accomplish on Asgard?" Laufey demanded. "Or do you simply wish to return to your lover?"

"I wish only to avert a war that I have unwittingly put into motion," Loki pleaded. "Or do you think I should have no say in this, though it is for me that you intend to speak?"

"Loki, I only—" Laufey said, brokenly, starting to reach for him.

He was interrupted by the light of the Bifrost, blinding and endless, blasting downwards, and then exploding outwards to reveal Odin on his eight-legged horse. Laufey dragged Loki behind him as he rose up to his full height to meet Odin's eye.

"All-Father," he greeted.

"You look weary, Laufey," Odin said.

Laufey glared at him, while Odin looked past him to the very small Jotun standing in the center of a circle of guards. At first he thought it might be a child, but he was fully formed, if barely half the size as the rest of them. "And you must be Loki," Odin said.

Loki met Odin's one eye easily, and nodded. "All-father," he greeted.

"You look very different from the last time that I saw you, at my feast," Odin said casually.

"You will address me, not my son," Laufey said darkly. "You know what has happened?"

"I do," Odin said, returning his gaze to Laufey. "I come to offer a truce, and to offer you and Loki passage to Asgard for a summit. My son, now that he knows the circumstances of Prince Loki's visit, would greatly like to see him again."

Laufey balled his hands to fists. "If you think—"

"I will gladly accept, of course," Loki interrupted politely, coming to stand beside his father. "As will my father."

Laufey grabbed Loki by the arm, pulling him away out of Odin's line of sight, though mostly likely not, unfortunately, far enough he could not still hear them. "I have had enough of this willfulness, Loki," Laufey said.

"Would you not do anything to protect me?" Loki demanded.

"You know very well that I would," Laufey snapped.

"Then do not expect me to do any less for my child," Loki said simply. "I will do what I can to prevent a war, will you not do the same?"

"You try my temper, Loki, but very well," Laufey said tiredly. "However, if I allow this, you must leave the negotiations to me."

"Of course, father," Loki said at once, despite having no intention of doing any such thing. "It is in your capable hands."

Laufey returned his attention to Odin. "I wish to bring along two of my personal guard, for our protection," he said. "If this is granted we will come to your summit."

"It is not needed, but you may bring them," Odin allowed.

Laufey motioned two of the guards forward, before turning to another. "Tell Helbindi that Loki has accompanied me to Asgard," he said. "If we have not returned in two days time, he is to declare war on my behalf."

The guard nodded, and then ran off with the others. Odin looked caught between frustration and amusement. "Laufey," he sighed. "I would not break a truce."

"Then my precautions will do you no harm," Laufey countered, reaching out to grab Loki's arm. "We will go to Asgard, but I can promise nothing else."

Odin nodded once, and with one crash of his staff they were dragged up into the light of Asgard and deposited at the edge of their bridge. Loki noted with amusement that Laufey was very nearly too tall for the Bifrost, as were the two guards brought to escort them. They quickly ducked out the doors and Loki followed them, stopping short when he saw that Thor stood waiting for them.

Odin had dismounted and sent a guard off to take his horse to the stables. Odin moved to introduce his son. "Laufey, if I might introduce Prince Thor," he said. "Loki, I do believe you have already met him."

Laufey might have protested Odin's lack of tack, if he had not been so focused on watching the young prince Thor. His eyes were blazing as he ran them over the Asgardian. "So this is the prince that violated my youngest son?" he sneered. "I expected you would be taller."

Thor seemed to have no fear as he returned Laufey's fierce gaze. Loki could not be certain whether it was out of bravery or ignorance that he was so unafraid of the King of Jotunhiem—even Loki knew to be wary of crossing Laufey, though this awareness admittedly never stopped him.

"King Laufey," Thor said, tilting his head in acknowledge. "Welcome to Asgard."

The moment he had paid his respects to the visiting King, Thor turned his gaze to Loki. "So it is Loki, is it?" he asked quietly. He looked like he had not been sleeping well, his bright blue eyes a bit duller than Loki remembered, and ringed with black.

"It is," Loki answered, his voice just as quiet, his confidence dissolving beneath the focus of Thor's blue gaze.

"Let us go to the palace," Odin said, moving between Thor and Laufey. Laufey nodded his agreement, and forced Loki to stay at his side the entire walk. Loki tried to watch Thor as they traveled, but Thor kept his eyes straight ahead the entire time. He had no idea what the other prince might be thinking.

Laufey turned to face Loki when they reached Odin's throne room. "Loki, you stay here with the guards," he said.

"Father?" Loki protested. "I should—"

"This is a matter for Kings," Laufey interrupted. "And we agreed I would handle the negotiations."

Loki bit his lip to keep from further protest and nodded. Beside him, Odin turned to Thor. "I agree," he said. "Thor, you will stay here."

Laufey looked at Thor in distrust, before glancing back at his guards. "Watch over my son," he ordered, and then followed Odin into the throne room.

The doors slammed behind them and Laufey turned his glare on Odin. The other god was much smaller in stature, but Laufey knew very well just how much power his small form held. Another war between them would quite likely end the very same way—but every time Laufey thought of his young son here in the bed of that spoiled prince, he could think of nothing but retribution.

"Laufey," Odin said kindly, speaking just as though they were old friends, the way he always had. Odin had a temperament like a river—calm and clear until his patience was pressed to its end, and then the force of his rage would be brought down upon his enemies like a waterfall. "I do not think you are seeing clearly the very great opportunity that this is."

"Why don't you explain it," Laufey demanded.

"We could bridge our worlds, with a union between our sons," Odin explained softly. "If Loki were to come to live at Asgard—"

"Ah, I see! So you wish to take from me my youngest child, to have him abandoned here by his kind on this world of his enemies?" Laufey sneered. "How, exactly, is this a great opportunity? You do not offer Thor to us."

"Thor is my only child, he must rule here," Odin said. "And you know very well that he could not easily live in the Jotunhiem environment. Loki, however, appears to adapt quite easily."

"I see no reason to make things easy on your son, he has created this problem for himself," Laufey snapped.

"I believe it was your son that came to Asgard," Odin said warningly. "And disguised as an Aesir. If anyone is to blame—"

"You would place the blame on my child?" Laufey roared. "He was innocent! Untouched! He knew not what he did!"

"You give him too little credit," Odin snapped, before sighing and facing Laufey once more. "But however it came about, this could work in both our favors."

"How could it possibly?" Laufey asked. "No, you have left me no choice. If you will not consent to punishing your precious prince, then he will be met on the field of battle."

"That is the more appealing option for you? You would prefer our grandchild to grow up in the midst of a war?" Odin asked. "For its parents to be put against each other on opposite sides? This is an opportunity, Laufey! My son loves your son, he has agreed to a marriage—"

"A marriage!" Laufey cried in disbelief. "My son will not be bound to some spoiled Aesir princeling while I still draw breath."

Odin was about to respond, to try and calm Laufey again, when the matter was taken from his hands as the door slammed open. A sheepish Asgardian guard stepped inside. "My King, I apologize, but—"

"Prince Loki has gone missing," one of the Jotun guards' roared as he ducked inside, pushing past the Asgardian. "My King, I only turned away for a moment, and he was gone."

The Asgardian guard sighed. "They both are," he agreed reluctantly. "The princes have disappeared."

Chapter Text

The guards had been easy enough to distract. Loki's powers may not be working as intended, but now that he knew they weren't, he was able to compensate for it somewhat. Such as, for example, if he wished to light the torches lining the great hall and 'accidentally' set all the tapestries ablaze, he merely need to vaguely wave his hand with a spell for a single small flame.

The Jotun guards quickly moved into action to put out the fires, assisting the Asgardians, and Loki turned and headed down another hall. He did not have to ask, to know that Thor would follow.

Thor caught pace beside him, and gently maneuvered him into an unoccupied room. Loki glanced around it carefully, though more to avoid Thor's gaze than with any real interest in his surroundings.

"Loki," Thor said softly, and with something as simple as speaking his true name, Loki had no choice but to turn and finally face him.

"I like the way you say my name," he said. "My real name, I mean."

"It suits you," Thor said, as he looked Loki over. He never would have thought he could find a frost giant attractive, but Loki was, it seemed, beautiful in any of his forms. His eyes seemed more the color of roses, than of blood, his skin more like the sky than the cold ice it was meant for.

Thor grinned slightly—remembering an old Asgard proverb. Never trust a man in love. Loki could be anything, do anything, and Thor is certain he would have no choice but to love him still.

The question was: what did Loki feel for him?

"I apologize for my deception," Loki said, dragging his gaze away again. "I had not intended for the consequences to be quite this permanent."

"So it is true?" Thor asked desperately. "You are carrying my child?"

"It is true," Loki agreed. "I did not—I never intended for any of this to happen, and now my father means to start a war."

Thor let out a shaken breath. "And what do you want?"

"It does not matter," Loki said.

"It matters to me," Thor insisted. "I will protect you and this child, I swear it—"

Loki's eyes flashed angrily, and he stepped away, watching him with a sudden distain that made Thor's heart clench. "I do not need protecting," he snapped. "I have been protected quite enough."

"Loki—" Thor began.

"I may not have intended this, but do not think for a moment that I am not more than capable of turning it to my advantage on my own," Loki said. "I require nothing from you."

Thor pressed his eyes closed for a moment, nearly discouraged; but he recalled what he had heard of Laufey, and the way he treated his youngest son. Cherished, but hidden away—it was no small wonder that Loki would be determined to avoid moving from one such situation to another.

"I did not mean to imply you required my help," Thor said after a moment. "Only that if you ever wish it, you will have it."

Loki softened, leaning back against the wall with a tired sigh. "Of course," he said. "I'm sorry, I thought—I apologize for my outburst. I blame your child."

Thor approached cautiously. Unlike the rest of the frost giants, Loki was wearing a fur-lined cloak, tied around in the waist to hide him from view. He could not tell if the growing child within in him was making itself known.

"My child," he echoed, still in awe. "I still find it somewhat hard to believe."

Loki reached for the tie on his cloak, and pulled it loose, letting the fur slip away to his sides. His stomach was almost completely flat, just how Thor remembered it, but for the color and the thin raised lines that traced across his skin like a design, though Thor could see the beginnings of a very slight curving.

"May I?" Thor asked, motioning towards him. Loki nodded and Thor dropped to his knees before him, reaching out slowly to touch Loki's stomach. The moment he placed his hands against Loki's skin, color bled out from them, washing the blue away and leaving his skin even paler than Thor's own. Thor looked up, and with a single blink Loki's red eyes turned the vibrant green that he remembered. "What—?"

Loki laughed, seemingly as startled as Thor. "My magic has been a bit unpredictable of late," he admitted. "Our healer has assured me my control will return to me once the child is born. Until then it seems I am at the mercy of our baby's every whim."

Thor felt himself warm at that: our baby. "Loki," he started, rocking back on his heels to look up at Loki's newly green eyes, though he stayed kneeling before him. "Why did you come here? What is it that you want?"

"I want to keep my father from starting a war that we cannot win," Loki said.

"Is that the only reason that you would stop him?" Thor asked sadly. "Because you would not win?"

"Is that not a good enough reason to avoid a war?" Loki asked, as he retied his cloak. "There can be power in surrender, if done right. I have been surrendering to my father's rule for years and it has never stopped me from getting my way, in the end."

"And what of me?" Thor asked. "Do you feel nothing for me?"

Loki lowered himself down, so that he mirrored Thor's pose. "What is it you would have me say?" he asked. "That I have missed you every moment that we have been apart? That I placed your amulet beneath my pillow so that I might keep at least that piece of you close? That even though I am terrified, I know this child is a blessing, because it has brought me back to you?"

"That depends," Thor said, reaching out to gently clasp Loki's neck, and pull their foreheads together. "Would it be the truth?"

"The truth is not so simple as people believe," Loki said. "I cannot give you a better answer than the one I have already given you."

"So then say that you will stay," Thor said, holding Loki closer. "Marry me, and we can all have what we want." Loki let out a shaky laugh, and started to pull away, but Thor pulled him back. "Loki."

"For once I have to think of more than just myself," Loki said, pulling away from him. "Whether I will marry you or not is out of my hands."

"And in your father's," Thor agreed angrily. "Loki, if you—"

"Not my father's, but yours," Loki interrupted. "Odin will decide how this is to end."

Thor frowned, leaning away from Loki to watch him. "But, surely—" he started.

"Loki!" Laufey roared, as he slammed into the room, Odin and the guards right on his heels. Laufey's red eyes narrowed as he took in his son's Aesir glamour, and he stalked over to gently drag him to his feet and away with Thor. "We are leaving, they refuse to offer any acceptable form of compensation."

"Laufey," Odin said gently. "At least stay the night, we have set aside rooms for you all. Let us discuss this again in the morning, after we have rested."

"You will not have changed your mind by then, and neither will I have changed mine," Laufey snapped. "There is no reason to stay."

"Please, father, can we not stay so I might rest?" Loki asked. "I do not think I am strong enough to brave the Bifrost again tonight."

Laufey turned to his son in concern. "Why are you so glamoured?" he asked. "Has that prince harmed you?" Laufey reached and touched his son's cheek, and the contact dissolved the glamour like a tidal wave —Loki's natural blue skin rushed out to cover him once more. Laufey's eyes widened for a moment in realization before turning a glare on Thor, for having dared to touch his son.

Thor returned his gaze defiantly, and Laufey turned to look at Odin angrily. "We will stay the night, All-Father," Laufey agreed resentfully. "But none shall touch my son. I will know if any have."

"Father—" Loki began.

"Silence," Laufey snapped at him, and started to pull him from the room. "You have done enough. You will rest, and we will leave at first light."

"Loki!" Thor called, starting forward, but Odin grabbed his arm, holding him back with a shake of his head.

Laufey ushered Loki along to the chambers Odin's guards directed them to, and left his own Jotun guards to watch the doors. "My son is not to leave this room," he instructed.

"I have told you I need rest," Loki protested.

"You have told me a great many things," Laufey said. "I am sure some of them have even been true, but I am not so skilled as you that I can tell which those may be."

"You are angry with me," Loki said.

"Of course I am angry with you," Laufey snapped. "You defy at me every turn, when all I have done, I have done only to protect you!"

"Do you want a son or do you want a slave?" Loki asked. "Should I have meekly allowed your every restriction? Allowed myself to wither away to nothing in my chambers, all alone? For I was too delicate for contact with others of my kind, is that not true? Better that I see no one at all."

"You know very well there were reasons for those restrictions," Laufey snapped. "You are carrying one of them now within your womb."

"Mistakes are part of life, and sometimes they even turn out for the best," Loki said. "I do not regret what I have done. I would do it all again."

"Why must you make everything a battle? Why can you not just do as you are told?" Laufey demanded.

"That I have not given in to your demands is the only reason I do not resent you," Loki said softly. "Had I allowed you to truly cage me I could not love you as I do, nor, I think, would there be much to love in me."

Laufey laughed, a strange broken sound, and turned away. "I truly hope your child is every bit as maddening as you," he said. "That they will make you miserable and terrified and proud by turns."

Loki reached for Laufey but he had already turned away. "Get some rest, Loki," he said. "We will have much to discuss in the morning."

"Does that mean you will listen?" Loki asked.

"It means I might," Laufey said, before entering one of the bedrooms and closing the door behind him.

Loki sucked in a deep breath, moving to lean his forehead against the wall. He never liked fighting with his father—he was a hard man to disappoint, and it was draining to be loved as much as his father loved him.

"I promise I'll let you be who you want to be," he said to his stomach. "I'll protect you, but so will I teach you to protect yourself. Does that sound fair?"

He received no answer, of course, but this promise was more one he was making to himself.

"But right now, I need to ask something of you," he continued. "I need to use my magic get out of this room, can you let me do that? Can you behave for a few minutes, at least? Or is that too much to ask of a child of mine?"

Loki leaned further against the wall, reaching for his scattered power, and with one well-known spell he appeared in the hallway on the other side of that wall. "Thank you," Loki whispered, before moving off towards Odin's throne room.

He found the room again easily, and slipped inside. Odin was at the other end of it, removing his helmet to place it on the throne.

"How did you manage to slip from your father's sight?" Odin asked, without turning around.

"Years of practice," Loki said wryly. "I think we must talk, you and I."

Odin sighed, and turned around, stepping down the stairway to meet Loki in the middle of the room. "I am afraid there is little too talk about, young prince. Your father will not be swayed. We will go to war."

"I can sway him," Loki said casually. "I am, perhaps, the only one that can."

"But will you?" Odin asked shrewdly.

"I do not think I would be so unhappy here," Loki said. "And a marriage would also have the added benefit of establishing peace between our worlds—but peace, I believe, is born of equality. Where one has power over another, there will always be war. It is merely a matter of time."

"What are you suggesting?" Odin asked.

"I will marry your son. I will give him his heirs," Loki said. "If you will give to me something in return."

"You wish for me to give you the Casket," Odin realized.

"I do," Loki said, smiling in appreciation of Odin's quick intelligence. He was not used to anyone holding pace with him in conversation, and making the same kind of intuitive leaps he was so used to making himself. "If you do not, even were I to marry Thor, it would merely delay the inevitable, or possibly hasten it, as there are those against our match altogether. If I were to stay here, if I were to give my life over to your people—that is an act of faith. It is not something I will do without an act of equal faith from you."

"It is a continuing source of amazement to me that you father seems to believe you are in need of such protecting," Odin said wryly.

Loki tossed him a wicked grin. "It is to my father that I owe my strength," Loki said. "Had he not gone to such lengths to keep me safe, I would never have needed to go to such lengths to seek trouble out."

"And you might never have found your way here," Odin said, smiling fondly. "Which, I believe, would have been our great loss."

"Does that mean that you agree to my terms?" Loki asked.

"It does, but, Loki, I wish to know," Odin said. "Do you care at all for my son?"

"When I came to Asgard, Thor was my absolute last choice," Loki said honestly, but flashed a wry grin. "But I have never been known for choosing what is best for me, as my father will attest."

"That does not answer my question," Odin pointed out.

"Then I will also tell you this," Loki said. "I may not have chosen any of this, but neither would I change it. This is, I believe, where I am meant to be—and Thor is who I am meant to be with."

Odin sighed, fondly exasperated. Loki was known in some circle for his lies, but Odin suspected he relied rather more on arranging his words so they could be interpreted in any number of ways, without confirming anything one way or another. It was a very valuable talent for a politician, and one that would compliment Thor's rather more honest approach to confrontation.

They were a good match, that much was true at least—and Odin chose to believe that he interpreted Loki's words correctly in thinking that the Jotun prince did indeed care for his son.

"Very well. I will give the Casket to you, to do with as you wish, on the day that you marry my son," Odin told him.

"Then we shall have a wedding, instead of a war," Loki said, as he turned to go. "Let us hope there is less blood shed this way."

Chapter Text

"Do you remember," Laufey asked, "the very first time you ran away?"

Loki looked up in surprise. Laufey was leaning against the window. His father had obviously noted his absence and come out into the hall to wait. He was staring now out at the landscape, his eyes shaded by the dark sky outside. Loki couldn't quite gauge his mood.

It seemed their talk would not wait till the morning.

"I never thought of it as running away," Loki said after a moment.

"You were eleven years old," Laufey said. "It was only a year after Farbauti died."

"A year that you had kept me in the palace," Loki said, watching his father carefully, though the other man did not seem to hear him. "I needed to leave it as much for you as for me."

"I had never been so scared in my life as when we found you were gone," he continued. "Helbindi and Byleistr were already grown when she died, they were living their own lives. I had only you."

"You still have me," Loki promised, pushing away from the wall to join him at the window. "And you still have them. Soon you will also have a grandchild that you will get to spoil terribly, but not have to worry over. It'll be my job to worry this time."

Laufey turned around then, meeting his son's eyes. "I still want to grab you up and take you home, leave all this madness behind us," he said. "I do not know how I can be expected to leave here without you."

"I can take care of myself," Loki said quietly. "I always could."

"Yes, you have always managed to survive, despite everything. That first time you ran away, you were miles away from the palace when we finally found you," he said. "You were so small, it took us three hours to walk the distance full grown. I never did know how you made it so far."

"I carved a sleigh from the ice," Loki said. "It was very useful for going downhill, but I had abandoned it by the time you found me."

"Always so clever," he laughed. "But tell me, where were you going? I don't think I ever thought to ask."

"I wanted to see the edge of the world," Loki said.

"And did you not worry you would walk straight off?" Laufey asked.

"No, though I did often wonder what would happen if ever I did," Loki said wryly.

"And then you think I shouldn't worry," Laufey sighed. "Where were you running to just now?"

"I went to see Asgard's King," Loki said, before steeling himself, and taking in a deep breath. "I have agreed to marry Thor."

"Have you now?" Laufey asked dangerously, his red eyes narrowing into slits.

"And in return Odin has agreed to return the Casket of Ancient Winters to Jotunhiem where it belongs," Loki continued.

Laufey gasped, his hand tightening around the edge of the window. "He has agreed to what?" he asked.

"I thought that might perhaps help lesson your worries over my marriage," Loki said. "Jotunhiem can be restored to its former glory, its people safe once more."

"But you're counting on me choosing my people over you," Laufey said tiredly, looking again to the window. "You should know better than anyone what a dangerous gamble that is to make."

"I do not ask that you do this for our people," Loki said calmly. "I ask that you do this for me."

"You truly love this Thor?" Laufey asked, looking angry and bewildered, his hands clenched at his sides. "You wish to live here, in this world of summer and sun?"

"I have been to many worlds," Loki admitted bravely, ignoring Laufey's look of shocked hurt at the revelation. "It is not the landscapes that make them interesting, but the people that they hold. It is why no matter how many times I slipped from the palace, I returned every time."

"But not this time," Laufey said, shutting his eyes in pain, but unable to fight against this any longer.

"No, not this time," Loki agreed.

Laufey reached for a small pouch he kept tied to his belt, and pulled out Thor's amulet. He stood, carefully leaning down to drape it around Loki's neck as he placed a kiss on the top of his head. "I believe this is yours," he said.

Loki looked up at him in disbelief. "Then you will give your blessing?" he asked.

"I will need to speak to Odin, to negotiate the finer details of the alliance, of course," Laufey said.

"Of course," Loki said wryly.

"But if this is truly what you want, then I will do my best to help you make it work," Laufey said. "I will send one of the guards back to Jotunhiem in the morning, to tell Helbindi that we will be staying."

"We?" Loki asked with a frown.

"You do not think I would leave you before the child is born, do you?" Laufey asked. "Now…are you returning to our room?"

Loki could see Laufey waging a war within himself, taking what would have been a command the thousand times before this and trying to twist it into a question. Loki should return with him, to reassure him, but he had not been heading back towards their room when Laufey stopped him.

He needed to see Thor.

He shook his head. "No, I—"

"Then go," Laufey said. "But I want you to know, Loki, no matter how far you wander, you can always come home."

Laufey turned away and returned to their room, and Loki could hardly believe his father was leaving him alone in the hallway unguarded. He let out a shaky laugh. His life was changing so much so fast, and despite that he was continuing to arrange things to his advantage with his usual veneer of confidence—the truth was that he was terrified.

Loki turned away from the chambers he had been given and headed towards Thor's, which was a path he remembered despite having only traveled it once before. Thor, Loki noted, did not have guards posted at his bedroom door.

Loki grinned wryly and slipped inside of the room. Thor was sitting on the edge of the bed, still dressed in his armor. He looked up at Loki with disbelief, and pushed himself to his feet. "Loki!" he cried. "What are you doing here—does your father know you're here?"

For once, Loki could answer that question honestly with a yes. "He does," he said, and then took a deep breath. "Thor, I would like to marry you, if that is still what you want."

Thor grinned brightly, reaching out to grab Loki's wrists and tug him closer. "Truly?" he asked.

"Yes," Loki said, and leaned forward to kiss him. Neither of them noticed when Thor's touch transformed Loki again, so lost were they in each other.

The princes were found in bed together the next morning by one of the palace servants, and Loki made his way rather scandalously into Asgard society.

-

The plans for the wedding moved quickly ahead after that, and Loki let his father make the arrangements on his behalf gladly for once. He wanted nothing to do with the politics of a wedding—whether Loki should wear traditional Jotun clothing or Asgardian armor, whether Odin should preside or Laufey should, whether it should be private or public.

It was not that Loki did not enjoy spectacles, or being part of them, but he was enjoying himself far more spending his time with Thor. His husband-to-be had taken him on a tour of Asgard, and they had seen the enchanted waterfall of Delford, the caves of Morcross, the dragons at Nielien.

"So you have finally parted from that arrogant oaf?" Laufey asked, when Loki stopped by their room to retrieve one of his books. It was a wedding gift from Laufey, allowing them to be brought here: You're going to be living with Thor now, cause as much mischief with them as you'd like, he had said, and Loki had thrown his arms around him in thanks.

Loki laughed. "Yes," he said. "How are your negotiations with Odin going?"

"He is also an arrogant oaf," Laufey said. "But we have finally come to an agreement."

"Oh?" Loki asked in interest.

"You will wear Jotun clothing, but Odin will preside and the ceremony will be public," Laufey said.

Loki took the seat across from his father, and leaned across the table. "So the only concession you managed to get is that I should be dressed only in a loincloth in front of all of Asgard?" he asked in amusement.

Laufey glared at him. "You will be wearing a new green fur-lined cloak, it is being made on Jotunhiem as we speak," he said. "And my concessions, as you say, have been great, they simply extend further than a single ceremony."

Loki frowned. "Father," he said warningly.

Laufey looked entirely too pleased with himself. "Odin has agreed that you and your child will spend three months of the year with me on Jotunhiem," he said.

Loki froze, the statement catching him completely off guard. His breath caught for a moment and then he grinned. "How did you ever get the All-Father to agree to that?" he asked.

"Apparently their ceremonies are extremely important to them, Odin was very adamant that it be public," Laufey said. "Of course I told him that Jotun wedding traditions demanded that the ceremony be extremely private and I could not easily allow my son to be part of such a spectacle."

Loki laughed. "Yes, of course," he said. "Weddings on Jotunheim usually only have a few hundred guests."

Laufey grinned back, but he looked worried. "I just thought that your child should know our world too," he said.

"I think it's a wonderful idea, a child should know where they come from, and I would love to be able to spend some time back home," Loki agreed. "Only I'm not sure how Thor will feel about it."

"It does not matter how he feels about it," Laufey said. "Our alliance depends on it."

"And you wonder where I learned my scheming ways," Loki said in admiration.

"I am trying to let you go, Loki," Laufey said tiredly. "I just cannot bring myself to do so completely."

Loki reached out and grabbed his father's hand. "I never wanted you to let me go completely," he promised.

Odin set the date for the wedding early in the next week. It was an open secret that Loki was already pregnant with Asgard's heir, but Odin would prefer to hold the ceremony before said pregnancy was obvious. The dark green cloak arrived, and it was beautifully made. There were a number of darker straps woven through the waist and arms, making Loki look much slimmer than he currently was.

Nearly all of Asgard attended when the day finally arrived—Odin stood in front of his throne during the ceremony, with Loki and Thor standing beneath him at the bottom of the steps. He made a number of grandiose claims about uniting the two realms for all time, bound as tightly as Thor and Loki were to be bound, equal and opposite.

Laufey docilely allowed the whole charade, for Jotuns cared very little for such ceremonies despite his rather adamant claims otherwise. He had come to terms with his son's choice that night in the hallway, and he would say nothing against it now.

At the close of Odin's speech, when he announced they had been wed, Thor leaned forward and kissed his husband, causing Loki's new instinctive enchantment to make him appear Aesir. The previously sullen and quiet crowd began clapping and cheering. Asgard was apparently won over by their match at the dazzling display of power, and Loki decided it was probably for the best they did not know he had no control over it whatsoever.

"I think our child has your penchant for showmanship," Loki laughed against him.

"And your talents," Thor agreed.

Odin then came down the steps with the Casket of Ancient Winters in his hands, its swirling magic reflecting off the marble stairs, and presented it to Loki. Loki felt the Casket's magic reach out and wrap around him, returning him again to his natural form.

Odin smiled at him. "I can think of no other as worthy as you to rule by Thor's side," he whispered, before stepping back to again address the crowd. "Let this day serve as the beginning of a long and fruitful alliance between Asgard and Jotunhiem!"

The crowd cheered again as Thor and Loki made their way out of the hall. They may have already succeeded in creating an heir for Asgard, but Loki and Thor decided to enjoy their wedding night, nevertheless.

 

-

 

Married life was not quite as freeing as Loki had imagined. Thor, it seemed, was not able to let him out of his sight, Frigga was supportive, and Laufey was hovering. Odin would just gruffly check that he was all right and then disappear into his study for days, for which Loki was incredibly grateful.

Loki would not have minded so much, but Thor and his father were driving him mad. Thor would kiss him or hold his hand, causing the Aesir glamour to take hold. Moments later, Laufey would discreetly touch Loki to return him to Jotun form. This went on to such an extent that one night Loki began to get dizzy and slightly sick from the constant bursts of magic, and so he banished his father and Thor from his company until they could learn to get along.

Frigga obligingly tossed them out of the room on his behalf, as she had adopted Loki pretty much instantly. Loki, in turn, also adored her, and Thor had realized that while Loki was happy enough to lie and slip around promises made to Thor or to Odin and even to Laufey, he would not lie to Frigga and seemed to take all of her suggestions to heart.

Thor had thought to use this to advantage, by asking Frigga speak to his husband on his behalf and to get Loki to allow Thor back into their chambers. Frigga had merely laughed at him, and kissed him on the forehead. "Darling, you're married now," she said. "You're going to have to figure it out for yourself. I suggest you start by doing as your husband instructed, and learning to get along with your father-in-law."

With all other options exhausted, Thor went in search of Laufey and found him in his guest chambers. Laufey reluctantly allowed him in, apparently reaching the same conclusion as Thor—in order to get back in Loki's good graces they were going to have to learn to navigate each other's.

"King Laufey," Thor said politely. "I would hope that we could learn to get along, perhaps even become friends—"

"You have taken my child from me," Laufey sneered. "We will never be friends. And if you ever do the slightest harm to either of them, I will take them away from you, and leave you in pieces behind us."

"I would never hurt them," Thor growled. "I love them, both of them, more than anything in this world."

"And do you love him more than this world?" Laufey asked. "If your places were reversed, would you come to Jotunhiem to be with him?"

Thor paused as he thought about it—he had been to Jotunhiem, and there had been nothing there he wished to see again. But that was before he had known that was the place that had created Loki. He still remembered the months after Loki disappeared, and during that time Asgard had held for him no more appeal than Joturnhiem.

"Yes," Thor said after a moment.

Asgard could always find another King, but Thor could never find another Loki.

Laufey softened almost fractionally. "Then I suppose we are stuck with each other," he said. "I will stop plotting ways to kill you if you will stop kissing my son in front of me."

"It's a deal," Thor agreed gratefully.

 

-

 

Loki's pregnancy was abnormally long for an Aesir, though slightly shorter than what was usual for a Jotun. It was, Loki decided, a wholly unpleasant experience. He was always tired, but could not sleep, he would get strange cravings, but by the time Thor had went in search of them and brought them back they no longer held the least bit of appeal.

And his magic, his favorite pastime, was all but useless.

The whole thing might have been bearable if he were able to just teleport where he needed to go, or transfigure the food he was brought into the food that he actually wanted to eat, but any attempts at magic ended rather disagreeably and it only grew worse and worse the farther along in pregnancy he got.

So Loki, along with the rest of the palace, were all greatly relieved when he finally went into labor. Laufey and Frigga stayed with him, while Thor and Odin waited outside. Laufey held Loki's hand throughout, to prevent a touch from the Aesir healer triggering a transformation to his Aesir form while he was giving birth.

His beautiful baby was not one to do things the easy way, and it was in the thirteenth hour that finally they decided to come out and meet the world. The baby was Aesir in appearance, born a girl, with Loki's dark hair and Thor's startling blue eyes.

When the healer placed the baby in Loki's arms he could hardly believe she belonged to him. Thor and Odin entered the room, coming to stand beside Frigga, both of them quiet as they watched the new life with awe. "What are you going to name her?" Frigga asked softly.

"Hela," Loki said with certainty. "Her name is Hela."

"It is a beautiful name," Frigga said, before turning to the others. "Let us leave the children alone."

Odin nodded, smiling fondly at the baby before exiting the room. Laufey lingered in the doorway, but was gently nudged out the doors by the much smaller form of Frigga. Even Laufey was not immune to Frigga.

"I can't believe she's ours," Thor said in awe, placing a hand behind his baby's head, running a hand through her thick black hair.

Loki laughed tiredly, and patted the empty space behind him on the bed in invitation. Thor crawled in beside him and Loki fell against him tiredly. "Perhaps it might be easier for you to believe it if she had come out of you," Loki said wryly.

"I'm fairly certain that would be harder to believe," Thor laughed, weaving his hand with Loki's. Loki's skin shimmered and turned alabaster once more. "You still turn Aesir when I touch you."

"Do I?" Loki asked, raising a hand and frowning at it. He laughed in disbelief. "I think the enchantment has been woven deeply. I might be able to unwork it, but I don't mind this form so much. I can always be Aesir on Asgard and Jotun on Jutonhiem."

"I'm still not happy about losing you both for three months," Thor said, placing a kiss on Loki's temple.

"Well, providing you can be spared from your duties here, you are welcome to join us," Loki told him.

Thor laughed. "I might do so," he said, still staring at his daughter. "She's so beautiful. I think she takes more after you than me."

"We can only hope," Loki agreed, hearing Thor's answering laugh rumble against his back.

Thor and Loki fell asleep together, content to be with only each other for the night, as in the morning they would need to share their creation. Laufey was the first to join them the next morning, sitting beside Loki's side of the bed as Thor snored obliviously on at the other.

"You're going to be leaving soon," Loki asked sadly. "Aren't you?"

"I have been away too long as it is. I will return to Jotunhiem with the Casket in the morning," Laufey agreed. "But you are going to spend the last three months of the year with me. We will see each other again soon."

Loki nodded, hating being uncertain. For all the times that he had tried to escape his father, the thought of now being without him, left alone with a child to raise on a world that was not his own, was terrifying. But he wasn't alone, Loki reminded himself. He had Odin and Frigga.

And he had Thor.

Loki reached out and took Laufey's large hand, causing himself to turn Jotun. "My child, it seems, is a talented sorcerer already," he explained. "The enchantment seems to have stuck."

"I suggest you monitor her reading materials closely in that case," Laufey said wryly.

Loki laughed. "Would you like to hold her?" he asked.

Laufey nodded anxiously, and he fell irrevocably in love with his tiny granddaughter the moment Loki first placed her into his arms and she flickered blue at his touch—Laufey understood then why Loki said sometimes mistakes turn out for the best, and this one in particular was no longer one he could bring himself to regret.

 

-

 

And so they all lived happily ever after (or at least until Hela turned sixteen).