Chapter 1: Intra muros
"Intra muros" is Latin for "within the walls".
Thor bit his finger until a bit of blood flowed and drew a short line on the wall, parallel to the one from the day before. It was the last one in a long row of similar marks, stacked under several other long rows, counting the eight years and three months that had passed since the day the doors of the Room of Repentance closed after him.
Thor turned around and smiled. Loki was still sleeping soundly in their nest of blankets, his blue skin a stark contrast to the infinite whiteness of the Room. A familiar warmth spread through Thor’s chest at the sight, an elation he had yet to get used to. It had been only recently that Thor had managed to convince Loki to spend time in his true skin, to try to overcome his ingrained self hate. Just last night, he’d spent several hours tracing the raised lines on Loki's body, worshiping every centimeter of skin before settling himself between Loki's legs and proceeding to relearn the unique taste of Loki's hidden sweetness, bringing him to release several times before slipping inside and joining him in oblivion. As much as he's enjoyed Loki's manhood all these years, there was something addictive about the juices that flowed from his female core that made him spend hours there, until his jaw ached and his beard was drenched. He may need another eight years to get enough of it. Or maybe more.
Thor went to the toilet cubicle and relieved himself. The breakfast has already appeared on the food shelf, but he hesitated. Loki was sleeping so peacefully that he decided against waking him up. Instead, he bounced back to their makeshift bed and pulled his brother into his arms. Loki immediately burrowed into him with a drowsy noise. Eight years and three months and Thor didn't regret a single second. He fell asleep with a smile on his face.
“Are you feeling sick again?” He asked, and received in response a patented Loki glare that made him wince. “Sorry, dumb question.” He fetched a glass of fresh water and frowned when he saw that the small medicine shelf next to the basin was empty. “Still no medicine and it's the fifth day in a row you’ve awoken like this. The Room is supposed to give you what you need. Maybe the magic is failing?”
“No, the magic works fine” Loki answered after he drained the water. “It's just not prepared to deal with this.”
“With what?” Thor inquired. Loki took Thor's hand and brought it up to rest on his belly, then sent a pulse of magic through their joined hands, and received a small echo in response. Thor gasped.
“This is no place for a child. No place to grow up, no place to live, no place to dream.” Loki shuddered, arms crossed protectively over his belly. “We can't condemn her...”
“Her?” Thor interrupted. Loki just smiled.
“Yes, it's a girl. I can feel it.” Thor gently caressed Loki's belly, still amazed of the miracle they have created.
“I hope she looks like you.” Thor admitted. “And has your brilliant mind and wit.”
“And your heart. Your capacity to love. Then she’d be really lucky.” Loki whispered. “We can't condemn her to a life in this damned place, Thor. We have... we have to find a way to get her out there.”
“We will, my love, we will” Thor assured him, laying a kiss upon his hair.
Loki started showing in his fourth month. For the Room, however, it seemed the baby didn't exist, for they got the same amount of food they always had: two servings of baked bread and plain cheese for breakfast, chicken or deer stew at midday and two bowls of vegetable soup with boiled mead or smoked fish for supper. Today it was salmon, and Thor cut Loki a bigger portion, forestalling Loki’s protests with a pointed look at Loki’s rounded belly. His brother sighed and started to eat. It was a discussion he’d lost too many times already.
At night, Thor spent long hours making slow, sweet love to Loki. Afterwards, he spooned behind him, unable to sleep even after Loki was resting, too consumed with the thoughts racing through his mind. He could imagine their future daughter growing up inside the Room, never knowing the warmth of the sun on a summer day, the smell of earth after a storm, the beauty of a field of flowers in bloom, the melody of birdsongs in spring, the companionship of a friend, the joy of first love or the elation of winning a tough battle. He slowly caressed Loki’s growing belly while whispering reassurances to his unborn daughter.
“We’ll find a way, my princess, I promise.”
Thor's hands were bloody and raw but he kept hitting the Room's doors with all his strength, the sound of his fists hammering the door reverberating inside the closed room. His muscles strained from the effort and his skin glistened with a thin sheet of sweat. The previously spotless white panels were painted red with his blood but they had not even a scratch. Mjolnir lay bloodied and useless on the polished granite floor, for even the mighty hammer had been impotent against the magically reinforced metallic doors.
Suddenly, Loki’s arms encircled him from behind, trapping his arms against his body.
“Enough, Thor. It’s enough,” he pleaded.
He could feel the swell of Loki’s belly against his back, and that made him stop. He fell to his knees, taking Loki with him, hot tears of rage cascading down his face.
“I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry... I can't get her out there,” he sobbed.
“Don't worry” Loki comforted him. “We'll find a way.” But Thor could feel the moist warmth of Loki’s tears on his neck.
It was on his seventh month of pregnancy that Loki realized the solution.
“For the Room, the baby doesn't exist,” he explained, from the safety of Thor's arms. “The magic of the Room is latched onto our heartbeats, because we were the only ones inside when the doors closed. The Room doesn't know what to do with another heartbeat that has originated inside, so it ignores it. That's why we don't get extra food or anything for the baby.”
“At that means...”
“That means that when our heartbeats stop, the Room will think its mission is accomplished and the doors will open.”
They both stayed in silence for a long time.
“Mom will love to raise her. She'll adore her.” Thor afirmed, tightening his hold on Loki.
“Yes, she will.” Loki acknowledged, pressing his lips together and burrowing further into Thor’s chest.
They stayed like that for a long time afterwards, Loki rubbing his rounded stomach while Thor’s tears fell on his hair for hours even after the Room’s lights dimmed for the night.
“Shit, it hurts!” Loki hollered. “I hate you so much right now!” It had been six hours since Loki’s water broke, his body was covered in sweat, he ached all over and he just wanted to meet his daughter already.
“I know and I'm sorry” Thor winced when Loki squeezed his hand strong enough to break something. “But I can see her! Just one more push and she’ll be with us!”
Loki screamed as the contraction hit and he pushed one last time, their daughter sliding out of him safely into Thor's waiting hands. She was crumpled and bathed in birthing fluids, yet it was the most beautiful thing Thor had ever seen in his long life. She squirmed on his hands and let out a strong wail, as if she wanted to announce the whole Nine Realms that she had arrived.
Thor cleaned her up gently with a towel and wrapped her in clean one. He pulled her to his chest, and cooed at her while trying to swallow through the lump in his throat.
“Let me see her.” Loki demanded. Thor laid her softly on his brother's breast, smiling at them both. She calmed down almost immediately when Loki caressed her pale check, traced her button nose and counted her fingers and toes, his eyes bright with unshed tears. “She's perfect.”
“Have you decided on a name?” Thor asked. They had shortened their list to three names, but Thor had left the final decision to Loki.
“Kára. Her name is Kára.”
The stormy one. Thor smiled approvingly.
They stayed with her for three days, each second making their decision weigh more heavily inside their chests. While not nursing, Loki spent hours putting protective spells on her and signing the nursery rhymes they remembered from their own childhood. Thor just kept them both in his protective embrace as much as he could, watching her sleep safely in Loki’s arms, unable the get the words he needed past through the lump in his throat.
On the third day, after nursing her one last time, Loki made a cradle with the blankets, and laid her here. She fell asleep almost immediately. Thor laid beside Loki, and they made love for a last time, slowly, savoring each other, each moment, each touch for they knew it would not come again. They would be together in Hel, but souls could not share this kind of carnal intimacy. They spent hours kissing breathlessly, touching, licking, biting and relearning every part of the other for the thousand time, and mouthing promises of forever into each other’s skin. When Thor finally slid inside Loki, he paused, savoring it and looking straight into Loki’s eyes. His brother smiled softly, raising a hand to caress his face, then crossed long legs around his hips and pulled him in further. Thor began to rock slowly, slower than ever, trying to make the moment last, to delay the inevitable end as much as possible. And when they finally came, it was with the greatest pleasure and the sweetest sorrow of all.
Afterwards, they both kissed their daughter’s brow softly, taking care to not wake her, and laid together on the floor. Thor spooned against Loki who curled protectively around their sleeping child.
“I love you, and I don't regret a single thing.” Thor whispered to Loki's ear.
“Nor do I,” he answered, squeezing Thor's hand.
Loki then pronounced the spell, and their hearts stopped gently, without pain. The lock on the Room of Repentance clicked open with a loud bang and the doors opened with a dull clank that reverberated through the stone-carved passage.
An armor-clad valkyrie materialized in the Room, her golden tresses framing an understanding face. She gently pulled their souls from their bodies until they were standing in front of her. Thor took Loki’s hand on his and, with one lingering look towards their child, their souls followed the valkyrie to Hela’s realm.
Chapter 2: Sons of the Mother
Frigga finds her sons and makes a life-changing decision.
Every morning since that fatal day when she’d lost both of her sons, Frigga had walked down to the Room and knelt before the doors for hours. Over the long years, she had gone over everything that happened in her head many times, trying to discern where things had gone wrong and if she could have done something different, hoping against hope to find a way to get her sons out of there.
That morning, she descended the stairs with a torch in her hand, like all the days before. She wore a plain white dress that highlighted the paleness of her skin, for she barely saw the sun nowadays, and her hair was pinned up in a simple unadorned bun. At the bottom of the stairs, she saw the usually dark passage illuminated by a white light and her heart skipped a beat. Throwing away the torch, Frigga ran to the Room, where her fears were confirmed: the doors were open, spilling the Room’s blinding light into the hallway.
“No!” She cried as she ran into the Room with tears falling from her eyes. She found her sons spooned together, naked, the signs of lovemaking still on their skin. They were pale and still, their lips frozen in eternal smiles. She fell to her knees, embracing her sons desperately, and sobbed.
And then she heard a wail. Turning around, Frigga approached the nest of blankets and saw her. A baby, with bright blue eyes and a halo of black hair, flailing her tiny fists, Mjolnir laid protectively at her side. Frigga took her from her improvised cradle and the baby calmed in her arms. There was a note tucked in the blankets that covered her, written haphazardly on a piece of cloth:
Her name is Kára.
Mom, take care of her, please.
T & L
Rocking her granddaughter, Frigga wept, cursing Odin to Hel. His stubbornness, his lack of foresight, his thrice-dammed schemes, had cursed her sons to this. And she hadn't been strong enough to oppose him before. But no more. Her granddaughter would not pay for his mistakes, nor for hers.
She stood up and walked out of the room with calm but precise steps, casting a simple mist spell after her. She knew what she had to do.
She returned not long after, accompanied by her twelve loyal handmaidens, all of them in mourning attire. Two of her handmaidens, combat-trained Saga and Var, stood at the top of the stairs, preventing anyone from coming down to the Room. While the news of the princes’ demise spread through the realm, no one was allowed to come near them. Frigga’s handmaidens prepared her sons, cleaned their bodies carefully and dressed them in their finest armor while she cared for her orphaned granddaughter. Only Odin dared to defy the Queen’s will, and she threw him out with a fury that shocked everyone present. Turning around, she ordered Saga and Var to close the stairs’ door, banishing a speechless Odin from her sight.
Everything was ready at the dawn of the next day. Frigga approached Mjolnir hesitantly and bent over to grasp its handle. To her relief, she could lift it from the floor, though with some difficulty due to the weight. She then led the procession out of the Room, with Kára sleeping on her right arm and Mjolnir clutched in her left hand. Her handmaidens carried Thor and Loki's bodies out of the Room, up the stairwell and out of the golden palace. If they were heavy, there were no complains.
Outside, the Asgardians mourned. They stood on both sides of the road, the warriors with their weapons drawn to form an honor guard for the procession to pass through, with the rest of the sorrowful Aesir behind them. Some were weeping, all were grim. Thor’s friends where the first on right out the portal, Fandral and Volstagg on one side, Sif and Hogun in the other. But Frigga didn't look at them. She kept walking steadily forwards, with her head held high and her jaw set, bypassing the ship with the funeral pyre that had been arranged by the seaside.
“What are you doing?” Odin shouted, outraged. “Would you deny our son the funeral of a warrior?”
Frigga stopped and turned icy eyes on him.
“You lost any right over our sons, both of them, a long time ago. You hurt them beyond anything I can forgive. I'm not letting you dictate their destinies anymore, in this life or the next. And you won’t destroy my granddaughter like you destroyed them.”
Dismissing his outraged spluttering, Frigga and her handmaidens advanced to the end of the Bifrost, were Heimdall stood.
“Long ago, you made a promise to me in exchange for a favor. Today, I'm asking for it. Open the Bifrost to Niflheim, but tell no one where we have gone. With that, your debt to me will be paid.” She spoke and Heimdall nodded. They entered the dome, and Heimdall introduced his sword into the mechanism, opening the rainbow bridge to the dark realm.
“Farewell, my Queen.”
“Farewell, my friend.”
Frigga and her entourage disappeared through the bridge, with young Kára and the bodies of the princes, never to be seen in Asgard again.
Odin asked, demanded, ordered and threatened Heimdall to tell him where they had gone, but Heimdall never told.
Hel was a desolate place, with only dark tortured rocks breaking through the shining ice and barren of all life. Six of Hela’s valkyries were expecting them on the Bifrost landing site and escorted them to their queen’s palace, their torches illuminating a narrow road among the grey curling mists. The queen was seated on her throne, dressed in a dark green satin gown, with a horned headpiece that framed her shining, pupil-less eyes.
“Greetings Frigga, Queen of Asgard. To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?”
“Greetings Hela, Queen of Niflheim. I come here in this sad hour to beg you for a favor.”
Hela eyed the bodies of the two princes, which Frigga's handmaidens had carefully laid out on the floor.
“I can imagine what you wish to ask of me. However, I envision nothing you could offer me that would induce me to part with the souls of two gods as powerful as your sons. The God of Thunder and the God of Mischief are truly a prize in my realm. They make such a fine addition to my ranks. I'd be loathe to see them leave.”
“Not even for the one thing you desire above all others?”
Hela arched a brow. “And what do you think that is?” She goaded.
“A child” Frigga answered, and Hela’s eyes widened.
“What could have possibly made you think that...?”
“Hela, please, don’t. I am not in the mood to play this game.” Frigga interrupted her, kindly but firmly. “I am aware that you long for a child of your own, though I can assure you Odin does not. But you cannot create life in the realm of the dead. That is beyond your power. But I am the goddess of childbirth, and it is not beyond mine. So this is my deal, Queen Hela: let the souls of my sons return to their bodies, let them live again and leave your realm unharmed, and I shall stay here, willingly and forever, and I will make sure you can conceive as many children as you wish with whomever you choose. You have my word.”
Hela scrutinized her intensely, her mouth set in a thin line. She reclined on her ebony throne, tapping her finger against her lips. Her eyes darted to the princes’ bodies and then back to Frigga, the red flash of her eerie eyes becoming deeper as they narrowed. Saga and Var palmed their daggers discretely as the tension thickened, while Hela’s valkyries straightened. Finally, Hela let her hands fall on the arms of the throne and nodded crisply.
“You have your deal, Queen of Asgard,” she agreed. “But what about your loyal handmaidens?”
“We stay with our mistress,” Saga spoke up before Frigga could answer.
“No!” The queen denied. “You don't have to! I free you from your oath of service!”
“We freely choose to stay with you, my lady. We will serve you until the end.”
“I do not deserve such dedication,” she admitted with a strangled voice.
“You do,” Saga sentenced. Knowing them, and seeing that she could not change their mind, Frigga relented.
“Very well. If that's settled, let's take care of your sons.” Hela said, nodding to one of her valkyries. “Bring them up.”
A few minutes later, Thor and Loki’s souls appeared in the throne room, escorted by three valkyries on each side.
“Mother? What are you...?” Thor inquired, but Hela cut him off.
“Your dear mother has approached me with a deal for your souls,” she smiled, “one that I have seen wise to accept.”
“Mother, what have you done?” Loki asked, and Frigga informed them.
“No!” Thor bellowed. “No, mother, you can't! We made our choice, for Kára. We can't allow you to- ”
“And I have made mine, for the both of you and for her.” She cut him off, softly rocking a suddenly awake Kára. “You are parents now. You should understand that there is nothing a mother would not do for her children. You sacrificed yourselves for your child, but she needs you more than she needs me. This is my choice and my gift to you, for everything I have done wrong, for all the times I have failed you-”
“You did not fail us! It was not your fault.”
“Yes, it was. There were times I did not agree with your father, yet I allowed him to continue. If I had spoken, maybe things would not have ended this way.”
“No, mother, it was my fault -”
“Enough, Loki.” She ordered him, and turned towards Hela. “Do it now.”
The Queen of Hel rose from her throne and walked toward the still arguing princes, her cape trailing after her. They gasped when she gripped their souls in her frigid hands, suddenly unable to speak anymore. She approached their bodies and pushed each soul inside its respective vessel, holding them in until they caught purchase and couldn’t leave. She then pressed her palms over their hearts, willing them to start beating again. Slowly, their heartbeat sped up to normal and the blood flowed through their bodies once more, making their skin lose its deathly pallor.
Minutes later, Thor gasped and sat up, breathing heavily. Mjolnir flew towards his accidentally raised hand but he caught it with ease, its weight comfortingly familiar. He turned upon hearing Loki's gasp and knelt by his side. Loki's eyes opened and he shook his head to clear it. Thor took Loki's face between his hands and bent down to place a lingering kiss on his beloved’s lips. Warmth spread through their chest at the contact, infusing them with renewed life, until their kiss was interrupted by Kára’s wail. They blinked up at her, and then rose up to approach their mother.
“I think she knows you’re back,” Frigga pressed a tender kiss to Kára's forehead, before giving her to Loki. He took his daughter and cooed at her. Kára grasped his middle finger in her tiny fist and refused to let him go. Thor encircled Loki’s waist with his left arm, pulling them both closer to him, and gently caressed his daughter’s baby hair before turning his resolute gaze towards Frigga.
“Mother, we cannot let you do this! I’m sure there has to be another way.”
“You can, and you will.” Frigga rebuffed him. “Kára is the one who matters now. Love her, and love each other. Do not commit the mistakes your father and I did. Live your life as you see fit, not by anyone else's wishes or anyone else’s rules.” She waved to her handmaiden Fulla, who came up and gave her a wooden box. She opened it to reveal a small tree sprout. “This is a sapling of one of Idunn's trees. Plant it in fertile soil and it will grow into a full tree that will give you all the apples you and your children may ever need.” She forced the box into Thor's hands. “This is my wish, my choice and my decision. This is my gift as your mother. Do not belittle it.”
“But mother- ”
“Leave it be, Thor” Loki interrupted him in a choked voice, looking sadly at their mother. “We must honor her wishes.”
Frigga embraced them both and kissed their foreheads, like she'd done many times when they were children.
“Go, my loves. Go and be happy. That is the only thing I wish.”
Thor and Loki nodded reluctantly in acceptance.
Chapter 3: Epilogue
Thor rinsed the plates and put them to dry. Though the house Tony had found for them had most modern amenities ̶- including a dishwasher ̶- he preferred to do them by hand. His Avenger friends had been surprised to see him again, to say the least, but they had been very understanding. Stark had taught them how to turn their Asgardian gold into Midgard's currency, and had helped them find some place to settle down. Iceland was a good choice for both of them: cold enough that Loki would be comfortable but not so cold that Thor couldn’t stand it. Also, its Scandinavian roots, despite the late Christian layering, made it easier for them to relate and the landscape reminded them of the Asgardian mountains in which they used to hunt.
The house was isolated, but there was a village less than an hour away. It had plenty of space and they could hear the waves crashing against the seashore from their bedroom. It was the ideal place to raise a child.
Thor was entering the living room when he heard Kára’s delighted squeal.
“He kicked! Magni kicked!” Kára laid her small head against Loki's round belly, where her future brother was growing. Loki smiled indulgently at her, but he winced at their son's next kick.
“He is going to be a warrior like you.” He scowled at Thor, who chuckled while sitting on the couch. Thor laid his arms around his lover’s extended waist, and Loki settled against him. Kára was admonishing her brother to not hurt their mother, as seriously as only a three year-old could.
They had not renounced to free their mother from her deal with Hela, but leverage against someone as powerful as the Queen of Niflheim didn't come along easily or often. With enough time, they would find something, and thanks to their mother’s gift, they had a long time ahead of them. But until then, they would honor their mother's wishes.
Loki dozed against Thor’s shoulder, while slowly caressing their daughter's black hair. She had settled against her mother's stomach, humming softly to her unborn brother.
Thor hugged Loki tighter and smiled. For the first time in his very long life, he was truly at peace.
- END -