NOTE: Thank you to everyone who's been reading! It's a somewhat bittersweet ending, but I hope you all enjoy it. In a way, this story was a happy accident, when Frozen fit perfectly into a backstory of another fic I already planned. So yes, the Ice Demon will return, to defend his daughter's kingdom from a familiar evil.
But for now, Loki goes home to Asgard...
As the Bifrost energy faded, Loki shuddered. The buzzing along his skin felt strange after so long without, but he shook it off and lifted his head.
They'd landed in the Observatory, as expected. Heimdall was there, gleaming in his golden armor. Loki remembered the last time they'd seen each other, when Heimdall had tried to stop him from leaving and Loki had attacked him in a rage, needing to escape Asgard.
Heimdall's expression was as dour as ever, neither welcoming nor seeming angered, so Loki forced a grin, trying to force down the anxious dismay that Heimdall was here at all. "I see nothing has changed in my absence. You look well, Heimdall."
Heimdall nodded once. "The king and queen await you in the audience chamber."
Not the great hall, that was a relief. Still he felt uneasy, wondering what the king would do. Surely, despite Thor's words, Odin would still be angry at what had happened. Or angry at Loki for not submitting himself for judgment earlier.
I have already sentenced myself to exile for a century. I have left my only child. What more could he do to me?
That was a foolish protest, as Odin could do a lot. He could announce that Loki forfeited all claim to Asgard. He could strip Loki's power and send him to Jotunheim, sending the useless beast back where it belonged. He could imprison Loki for his attack on the king and the others who had stood in the hall.
His gaze found Heimdall's sword, used to activate the Bifrost, and considered having Heimdall send him back to Midgard. I should not have come back here.
Thor seemed to sense some turmoil, resting his hand on Loki's shoulder. "It will be well."
Loki shook him off with a short laugh. This was Asgard; he had to remember that. Any weakness and they would be on him like a pack of wild dogs. "Of course it will. I expected they might receive me in private; not the audience chamber. But I suppose I should have known there would be some formality."
"You have been gone a long time, brother," Thor reminded him. "Even for us, it was a notable loss."
Loki sniffed skeptically. Maybe his family missed him, but who else would have noticed?
Heimdall added, "Welcome home." Loki's gaze snapped to him, surprised at the additional greeting and that it sounded as if Heimdall meant it.
Loki figured that deserved acknowledgment, and he said, "I did not intend to endanger your life. I only meant to push you out of my way, not throw you from the Bifrost."
"I know." Heimdall's golden gaze focused beyond them and a faint smile curled his lips. "You should hurry into the city. The queen grows anxious."
Loki's smile was more genuine, hearing that. She at least had missed him, as he missed her. He had been wrong to hide himself from contact, and wrong to presume her love must have been a lie. His anger and hurt had discolored everything, but Elsa and Anna had shown him the truth.
He inhaled a long breath to settle his heart and headed for the bridge.
The audience chamber was a smaller space than the great hall, not meant for immense gatherings but still large enough to hold public audience, if the king wished, but mostly it was used for more intimate speech.
Loki expected the room to be mostly empty, holding only Odin and Frigga, and perhaps some of the warriors he had been acquainted with.
He did not expect the great horn to sound when the doors opened and his feet paused altogether when he saw the crowd there, turned toward the doors where he was frozen on the threshold. There was applause, and he reflexively turned, intending to step aside for Thor, since surely this was for him. But Thor didn't move forward.
Thor was shaking his head and grinning at him when Loki glanced at him in confusion. "Take your due, brother."
Thor put a hand on his back and pushed him lightly. "Go."
So Loki went, wishing he'd had more warning so he could have shifted into his helm. He kept his back straight as he headed down the aisle. Odin sat in full regalia in his throne at the end and he gripped Gungnir in one hand. Frigga stood to his right and watched Loki with a smile openly on her face, hands clasped before her.
Distantly, Loki heard applause and even some voices raised in shouts, and it all felt … odd. It was strange to hear any approbation for himself in any case, but the last time he had been at a gathering like this, he had nearly killed them all, his wrath kindled by their pretense that nothing had changed, even though they had just told him he was a creature, and not their son.
Toward the front, long black hair caught his eye, and he turned his head to see Sif. She looked back at him, at first serious, but then a smile glimmered through, as he stared at her.
She was alive. Unharmed. Somehow she was even more beautiful than he remembered.
"Welcome home, Smudge," she murmured, letting him know with the old nickname that all was forgiven.
His voice would barely emerge from his throat, "It is good to see you, Lady War."
He turned from her to keep walking toward the king and queen. He was still a few steps away, when Frigga couldn't wait anymore and she hurried down the two steps of the dais to him. "Loki! You have come home, at long last."
She flung her arms around him, and ordinarily he would never let himself be humiliated in this way in front of so many, but for this moment, he held her tight in return. "Mother," he whispered into her hair, eyes suddenly burning. "I am so, so sorry…."
"Shush," she whispered and her hand touched the side of his face. She was smiling though her eyes were wet. "You're here. Let me look upon you, my son." Her gaze seemed to drink him in hungrily, as she framed his face, and looked into his eyes. "Do you believe that?" she asked, pitching her voice very soft. "You are my son, I raised you, I loved you, always."
He nodded a little and his breath came with difficulty. "I know. I understand now." He glanced to Odin looming behind her and then back to her face. "I - I was angry, and I chose my words and my deeds poorly."
"We chose our words poorly, too. Not all the fault is yours. I am glad you're home. I have missed you so."
She found his hand closed tightly when she tried to grip his hands in her own. "What is this?" she asked. He held out his hand and opened his fingers to show the contents. "Loki, this is beautiful. Did you make this?"
He shook his head once, his gaze fixed to the large snowflake. "I- It was a parting gift," he answered. "From Elsa. My - my-" He couldn't quite bring himself to speak, his once gifted tongue utterly failing him as it hit him that he would probably never see her again.
Thor moved nearer, hand closing on Loki's shoulder, to tell their mother softly, "His daughter."
Her eyes flew to meet Loki's in sudden understanding. "A mortal?"
Loki nodded once, a frosty serpent coiling around his heart of loss. Such little time they'd had together, but how brightly it shone in his memory.
"Oh, little one," she whispered and hugged him again, kissing his cheek. "You are blessed."
His fingers tightened on the snowflake, and he nodded.
"Come, your father grows impatient." She took his free hand and drew him to the dais. Odin looked down on him with a grimmer face than Frigga had done, but Loki didn't think it was his wishful thinking that there was a pleased glint in his eye as he nodded once to Loki.
The king lifted his head and announced, "Let it be known, that Loki Odinson has full pardon and he is restored to his position as a prince of the Realm."
Odinson. Odin still claimed him as his own, even after Loki had viciously rejected him. Odin would not mistake the import of the word. Loki feared his surprise was far too naked on his face, as a great surge of feeling in his chest threatened to escape. He had to clench his jaw and shut his eyes, controlling each breath, one at a time. This was too much in too short a time and surely this much raw emotion would burn him alive.
Odin continued, sparing Loki the need to make any response, "Tonight we shall feast in celebration of his long-overdue return!"
A cheer arose at that, and Loki turned around to face the audience. Thor led the applause, eyes bright and face exuberant that Loki was home.
Loki smiled, knowing it was expected he would be pleased. He tucked away the feeling that he was in the wrong place with people he barely knew anymore.
At the feast, he told a few stories of his time on Midgard, selecting the battle ones that would appeal to his audience. He said nothing of seeking out mortals to push their thinking forward, and nothing of the Ice Demon. He'd tell Frigga the whole of it later, but he kept most of the truth to himself. But it became obvious he was not telling the story they were most interested in hearing.
Volstagg slapped his shoulder and put a new flagon before him. "So tell us of the mother. She must have been something. Was she especially beautiful? For you to make such a mistake with a mortal…"
"It wasn't a mistake," Loki snapped, and Volstagg froze before letting out a laugh.
"Ah, lad, I meant only that we do not woo mortals, so you must have been drawn by something special…"
"Oh yes, do tell us," Fandral demanded, leaning across the table toward Loki. "You have never been one to dally lightly, and now we hear of mortal blossoms… So who was she? Was she very beautiful?"
Loki did not like this prying into his private matters, not when the loss was still so raw. Time for a distraction so he could make his escape. "I am not the only one who comported with mortals. Am I, Fandral?"
Fandral was shocked to have it turned back on him, and guilty. He glanced down at his cup and back at Loki, with an unconvincing smile of confusion. "I don't know what you are talking about. I've never…"
This was too easy. Especially when Fandral couldn't lie worth spit. If Loki hadn't already been sure, the look on Fandral's face was a complete admission of the truth. Loki grinned. "Oh Fandral, I saw him. He's quite the image of you, and his voice is exactly the same; it's uncanny." Their friends stared at Fandral. With great satisfaction, Loki added, "Young Eugene had a rough start in his life - he had no father, and I guess his mother perished as well, because he grew up in an orphanage and became an outlaw."
Fandral looked a bit like a landed fish. "I- I have a son?"
Loki watched him, enjoying how overcome Fandral was. He would not be teasing Loki about Elsa any time soon.
"Don't worry, my friend." He stood up from the table. "Your lad wed the lost princess of Corona. It's quite a romantic tale; you'll like it."
"I have a son?" Fandral repeated. "A mortal boy?"
"When did you sneak off to Midgard without us, you bastard?" Volstagg roared.
Fandral stammered some incoherent protest, and Loki grinned, glad he'd held onto the secret for the right moment.
He decided to go before they remembered he could be teased about this, too, and slipped out of the feast hall.
In his rooms - which had been kept as he had left them - he glanced at the preserved ice sculpture now sitting in its pride of place on the central shelf of his sitting room.
Feeling weary, he let himself fall into the padded chair that faced the shelves. He was home, yet he didn't feel at home. Teasing Fandral had helped - it felt familiar - yet when he looked around this room, he wished it was Elsa's study with the fireplace and the single narrow window above her desk instead.
He sighed. It was terrible to miss it, but far more terrible to know in time he would stop missing it.
A soft knock on his door interrupted his dark musings, and Frigga entered, gliding across the floor soundlessly. She held back his attempt to rise for her, lifting her hand.
She smiled at Loki as she took a seat on the chair across from him and folded her hands in her lap as if she intended to be patient. He knew better from the eager slant of her posture toward him and that smile that would not be suppressed from her lips. "I want you to show me my grand-daughter. And you will tell me everything about her. And where you were and what you did while you were gone."
"I - " He opened his mouth and found no words. How could he tell her of a century of hiding and wandering, doing terrible things in rage before realizing how little of it mattered? Or how loneliness and despair had surrounded him in a cloud he could never escape, until a pale-haired girl who was wiser and more generous than he deserved, had pushed it away? There was so much to say, and yet words were so inadequate.
Frigga reached over to take his hand. Her fingers were warm on his and strong as they gripped his, offering reassurance. "Start with Elsa. Take as long as you need."
He gathered the unspoken 'as long as you start right now', and had to smile. "It's a long tale, Mother."
She let go of his hand and leaned back in her chair, giving the impression she would be happy to sit there until the end of days. "I have nothing more pressing than this, Loki. Leave nothing out. I want to know all of it."
He glanced up at the snowflake and held out a hand, casting the illusion before him, rising up from the floor. She was as he remembered her best: her blue eyes shining, lips smiling at some jest, braid hanging in front of her shoulder. "This is Elsa."
"Ah." Frigga nodded in approval, smiling. "I saw her briefly. You were laughing with her. She's beautiful, and I see such spirit in her. Truly, Loki, I am sorry you had such brief time there."
"She was mortal. It would always have been brief." He said the words flatly and banished the illusion, wishing he could banish the pain so easily. But it was better - it had to be better - to endure it now than to let it linger. He inhaled a deep breath. "But that is the end of the story. It begins when I was too upset to control the path from Vanaheim, and it twisted. I arrived instead on Midgard, in a tiny kingdom named Arendelle…"
He told his story while Frigga listened, and life in Asgard continued.
The ice sculpture on his shelf remained preserved and perfect, always reminding him of the better part of himself he'd found there.
thanks for reading!
comments always welcome