Final Chapter: A Misplaced Heart.

Jenna helped with much of this story, especially this chapter. She ever remains my muse! =D

Seasons came and went within the halls of Asgard, and Loki came to know a sense of family that he had not even dreamed of having before. It was Jane; she had changed everything for him, and Loki came to understand that his unwanted affection for her was certainly based on her role in bringing the change that Loki had convinced himself only Ragnarok could conjure. Loki realized he himself also changed, and the new him more readily and happily accepted his father's new attitude toward his adopted son. Loki was happy for the most part, only feeling the tendrils of doubt when he was alone. So he tried never to be alone with such dark thoughts, and his parent's willingness to provide him company lifted Loki up like nothing ever had.

Loki stared at his latest artwork; a mountain scape, one such as his father would certainly enjoy. Odin had always remarked his fondness for the strength and majesty of the mountains of Asgard, so Loki was certain that a portrait of such would please the All-Father. He poured his heart into his work; something else Jane had given him... the ability to create gave him ways to express how he felt in a manner that always left him feeling proud. Pride was something Loki had always pretended at, but never genuinely felt.

Loki smiled as he examined the frost-covered sweeping range of peaks he had illustrated. He felt it now, Jane had shown him real pride, and not pretending anymore had filled much of that regretful void in his heart. His brow drew down as he considered the events that had led to his self discoveries. She had been hard on him, but Loki supposed that was the only way he would have had any response. Humiliation had been key... Loki had been punished in many creative ways over the millennium, but spanking him like a child had directly confronted the child that had lingered spitefully in his heart.

Loki shook his head, clearing it of the past; he did not like to think of those spankings... Loki glanced around his quarters. Almost every available space was filled with paintings stacked one atop the other. Many of his original paintings had been morbid: him expressing his unresolved anger and frustration over being thwarted so thoroughly by Jane on levels he had not even known existed. Gradually, though, Jane had taught him empathy in painting, and the icing on the cake had been when he realized that he could please her by painting things she liked.

So it was that many paintings depicted ballrooms and scenery from Midgard... and of course, a painting Jane had made him of a Sundae. Loki took the painting by each side and lifted it as he smiled. He had been amazed at the calming change in Odin's demeanor since Jane had arrived in Asgard, but now was his chance; he was truly within Odin's good graces, through no trick or deceit. If he was to earn the attention he had craved since he was a child, Loki would need to impress Odin.

Jane had given him the firepower he needed. Loki had not the skill or might to win Odin's favor through the traditional events that Thor regularly bested, and though Loki had tried his best, Thor had always stayed ahead of him by no small margin regardless of how hard Loki trained. Loki clenched his teeth as he thought of this, but pushed it out of his mind as he shifted his focus back to the painting. This... this was how he would win his father's love, let Thor do as he would, Loki had another way.

Loki wanted to paint, but thoughts of his brother continued to surface, and he slammed his brush down in irritation. He was far too upset to paint Odin's picture now; he needed clarity to make the work with the quality he desired. Loki glanced at the closed door to his room nervously, and then shuffled off to his bed, pulling a large canvas out from under it. He smiled as he took in the picture painted there, and hurried to place it upon his easel. Taking brush in hand, Loki allowed himself to vent his frustration...

Loki saw the door to his room was open when he returned from supper later that evening. He realized it must be Jane; she was the only one who ever entered his chamber unasked... undoubtedly a rude mortal trait that she had failed to leave behind when she had ascended to godhood. Loki had a pleasant greeting still upon his lips as he strode in, but it died there and his eyes widened in shock to see Jane had found the painting that was under his bed and now sat upon his bed holding it aloft to see it better.

Loki took a few steps forward then stopped, scratching the back of his neck as his eyes found the floor. "I... uh... I knew the tournament was coming up, so I..."

Jane turned the painting so that he could also see it and Loki cringed. The picture depicted Thor upon the ground of the Tournament Arena, broken and defeated, a victorious Volstagg standing over him and lifting his weapon high in celebration of his victory. Loki had drawn Volstagg as an afterthought; being defeated by that buffoon would be the greatest insult he could muster. Jane surprised him by smiling. "This is very well done! I see you certainly took your time painting it... I'm sorry, were you hiding it as a surprise? I was curious when I saw it jutting from under your bed..."

Loki breathed a mental sigh of relief as he took the portrait from her, trying to return it to it's place under the bed. "Erm, yes. I was waiting to unveil it once it was finished..."

Jane's eyes lit up excitedly as she clapped her hands together. "It really is your best work so far, I think! Were you planning on showing it to everyone at once, or was it a gift for Volstagg? I'm sure he would..."

A rough voice bellowed from just outside. "Volstagg? Did I happen upon mine name as I walked past yon door?" A huge man with a large bristling beard opened the door the rest of the way as he squeezed himself into Loki's chambers. Loki glared; he supposed this sort of rudeness was not reserved to mortals... Volstagg barreled over to where the two of them were, glancing at the painting before Loki could think to hide it. The enormous man let out a rumble of laughter. "Ho! What is this? Already I see that Loki must have used his magics to divine the result of next week's tourney!"

Loki stared in horrified shock. Now Odin would most certainly hear of the blasphemous piece; Volstagg would undoubtedly speak of nothing but the painting now! Jane smiled up at Volstagg, but waggled her finger up at him. "Now, now, Volstagg. You went and ruined Loki's surprise for you, he wasn't done with it yet..."

A lilting voice interrupted and Fandral popped out from behind Volstagg. "Surprise? What surprise do we speak of?" Loki slapped his face with his palm; how many people were going to barge into his room?

As if to answer his question, Loki observed the last member of the Warriors Three enter the room and walk up to look at the painting, which Loki had given up trying to hide. Hogun scratched his mustache with his finger and thumb and surprised Loki with a small smile. "Well done, trickster. I think this a fine display of your unique gift and personality." With that Hogan nodded to Jane and took his leave, Loki staring after him in slack-jawed awe. Of all in Asgard, Hogan the Grim was the last he would ever expect to receive a compliment from...

Fandral was quick to balance Hogan's assessment of Loki's work with his own remark. "I had never thought thee such a child of fantasy, Loki... but I suppose this may be the only way you will ever defeat your brother."

Loki's eyes flashed with immediate anger. Fandral had assessed the reason Loki had drawn the work, and his words had cut home. Before the trickster could reply Volstagg cut him off with bellowing laughter, nearly knocking Fandral from his feet with a friendly slap upon the back. "Oh! So thee doth not think Volstagg could win in such fashion, eh? Get thee off, varlet, and leave me with those that appreciate mine might!"

Fandral laughed in reply and winked at Loki before leaving the seething trickster alone with Volstagg and Jane once more. Volstagg took his helmet from his head and bent at the waist as he held it before him, a pleading look upon his face. "Dost thee think that yon painting would be ready in time for the tourney?"

Loki glanced at Jane, who looked at him expectantly. "I... I suppose..."

Volstagg grinned from ear to ear and swept Loki up in a huge hug, driving the air from Loki's lungs. "Thank you, Loki! I look forward to showing it to the others before we begin, I am certain it will remind them of whom the victor shall be!" Volstagg stomped from the room, and Loki's mind raced on what had just happened.

He had been planning on finishing Odin's piece before the Tournament... he certainly didn't want to compete with Thor by presenting his gift at the Tourney, but neither did he want Thor to present his gift of victory in the ring first... but now he would need to finish this piece for Volstagg... Not to mention that he wasn't sure what Odin would think once he also laid eyes upon a picture of Thor's defeat...

Jane saw his look of concern and placed a hand upon his arm, smiling at him. "Don't worry, Loki, I'm sure you are going to do a wonderful job."

Loki could not help but feel better when he saw the encouragement in her face. "Yes, mother, I think it will all work out."'

Loki worked almost non-stop on the painting that he would give Volstagg, wanting to hurry it along so that he could also finish Odin's gift in time. A fact started to distract him, though; Jane started to miss more and more painting sessions with him. Finally Loki set his brushes aside after the third day of this and approached Odin within his vast throne room. Once those who had needed to speak with the All-Father had filed out, Loki stepped forward. "Father... why has Queen Jane been staying to her room so often... is she well?"

Odin smiled down at Loki, glad to hear his son's interest in Jane's health. "She is well, son. It is a matter of the heart that causes her ever increasing trips to Midgard, which is where she is now."

Loki looked a little surprised before realization dawned on him. "Midgard? Yes... I had forgotten that her mother was deathly ill."

Odin simply nodded to Loki's words, his face sad.

Loki looked up quickly then, speaking fast. "But... you are All-Father... can you not simply cure her mother?"

Odin shook his head. "It is not true illness that claims her, but her own old age."

Loki kneaded his own hands as he thought. This would not do! It made Jane sad, and with all the time she spent on Midgard, she had none left for him! "Then why not grant this woman immortality?"

Odin frowned at his son. "You do not know what you ask, Loki?"

Loki blurted his thoughts out quickly, not wanting Odin to disregard his line of thought. "I do! Queen Jane is very sad without her mother, and if you let this link to her past slip away, she may forever mourn!"

Odin studied Loki for long moments, a sad look upon his face, and Loki shifted from one foot to the other as he anxiously awaited Odin's final answer. At last Odin gave him a small smile and spoke. "Son, I would never have considered this before, but your earnest supplication of the heart moves me..." Odin held a hand up to Loki's happy smile of victory, "...this does not mean she will join us. I must see and judge this woman before I allow her passage into our sacred halls."

Loki nodded eagerly. He was certain that Odin would allow her in. Jane had told him many stories of her mother as they had painted, and he had no doubts that she would be found worthy of Odin's standards. "Thank you, father."

Odin stood and nodded before setting off to Bi-Frost, the Rainbow Bridge, to begin his travel to earth in person.

Jane sat at her mother's side in a hospital in New York city, watching the lights on the machines and hearing the air that traveled into the respirator on her mother's face. The woman was pale and thin, her chest barely rising in ragged breaths as she laid upon the bed. Jane felt tears flowing down her face at the sight of her mother's pain, and Cynthia opened her eyes to look at her daughter. "Jane... don't cry for me, Jane."

Jane wiped the tears from her eyes as she replied, her breath hitching. "I'm sorry, mom. I just..."

Both of them turned to see a man that had appeared in their room. Not walked in; simply appeared. He was tall and broad shouldered and a grim face stared out with one eye from a tangle of long gray hair with an equally long gray beard. "So this is thy mother, Jane?"

Jane rose, looking shocked to see him. "Odin...?"

Cynthia was sick but this was still surprising. She supposed that even here at the end of a long life she still had strange things to see. The stranger wore very odd clothing, and Cynthia looked him up and down before speaking as well as she could, even chuckling a little. "So this is the new man...*cough* ...no wonder you never wanted to talk about him... are you treating my little girl alright?"

Odin moved to the bed and smiled down at Cynthia. "I behold my Presence hath less affect on thee than most mortals. Thy courage is great, Cynthia of the Fosters."

Cynthia raised an eyebrow and glanced over at Jane, who still stood stunned. "Does he always speak this way or is he just trying to impress me?"

Jane shook her head. "He takes on a more modern dialect at times, I think we rub off on him... though sometimes I catch myself talking like him too, so I suppose it works both ways."

Odin nodded. "Indeed, it does. The mortals owe much to us and we owe much of what we are to them as well."

Cynthia turned her questioning look to Odin now. "You keep saying mortals... when she said Odin... you are really him, aren't you?" Odin only nodded in response, and though Cynthia normally would have shrugged off such a claim, what she saw in this man's face and voice gave credence to his words. He fairly radiated power; perhaps it was because she was close to death, but Cynthia could almost see a vibrant force emanating from him. She laughed as she looked over at her daughter. "Well, that explains the scene between you and that guy you called 'Loki' a while back."

Jane blushed. "Well, that was complicated..."

Cynthia laughed again. "You have nothing to be ashamed of, sweety. You seem to have married an all-powerful god and spend your spare time telling other gods off... *cough* ...good for you." Cynthia smiled weakly.

Odin smiled at the strength in Cynthia's voice despite her failing body. "I have come to offer you a place in Asgard if you would have it. You will be a goddess, and enjoy the wonders of my lands with your daughter forever."

Jane gasped and Cynthia's eyes widened at Odin's words. After a moment she only smiled and shook her head at him, however. "That's very kind of you Mr. Odin, but if I go with you to this place, will I see my husband Howard again?"

Odin shook his head, a sad look on his lined face. "Nay, he does not belong to Asgard."

Cynthia nodded, still smiling. "Then neither do I. As much as I love you, Jane..." Cynthia took her tearful daughter's hand in her own as she spoke. "...I have been waiting far too long to see Howard again to give up now... *cough* ...besides, I have lived a full and rich life, and raised a beautiful girl who has become no less than a goddess; it is time I moved on to whatever is next for me."

Jane only nodded as she cried silently, too choked up to speak.

Odin smiled and reached out to take Cynthia's hand tenderly within his own large hand. "I wish thee good journey, Cynthia Foster."

Cynthia's eyes widened a bit at his touch; he had taken her pain away. She smiled up at Odin, speaking clearly now, free from the pain. "You seem nice enough, even if you are a bit old for her."

Jane's face was set in a pout in response to that, "Mom!"

"Take care of my Jane, she deserves only the best." Odin nodded to her and Cynthia closed her eyes, taking one last breath before becoming still, her smiling face a picture of peace. Jane began to cry in earnest and Odin took her into his arms, the two of them standing there silent but for Jane's sobs.

Loki did his best to focus his effort upon the piece he painted for Volstagg, but the absence of both his parents divided his attention, and he took to pacing. He was still pacing in this fashion when he heard the trumpets bellow the arrival of Odin to his keep. Loki hurried out to see them and froze when he saw Odin walked Jane slowly to their own chambers, her face a picture of sadness. Loki stormed over without thinking, overcome with a burst of anger as he shouted at Odin. "You said you would grant her immortality!"

Odin glanced at Loki in annoyance and shooed his away with the wave of an arm "Not now, Loki."

Loki shook with the injustice of it. "You said you would! Why would you choose for Jane to be sad instead!"

Jane put a hand on Odin's shoulder, seeing that the All-Father's temper was being tested as she stepped forward. "Loki, you asked Odin to grant my mother immortality?"

Loki stopped in his tracks, his anger dissolving before Jane's innocent question, and he glanced down as he wrung his hands behind his back. "Well... yes. Did... Did I make a mistake in doing so?"

Jane smiled and kissed him on the cheek. "No, Loki. I am very happy that you did your best for my mother. She decided not to come with us, though." Jane could see the confusion in Loki's face and realized that it must be hard for him to imagine someone choosing death over immortality. She gently cupped his face in her hands and let him see the gratitude in her eyes. "Don't worry, Loki. I'm sad now, but I'm also happy; happy for her for where she is going and happy to be here; this is my home now."

Loki nodded, feeling suddenly awkward for having shouted at his father. He bid them good night and scurried off quickly.

Odin shook his head as they watched Loki retreat. "I still don't understand him, even after all this time."

Jane leaned in and kissed him lightly, smiling. "You will." Odin smiled back, and the two of them headed off to retire for the evening.

Loki brought Volstagg's painting to the Tournament Arena, per Volstagg's request, but as nervous as he was about what those assembled might think of the painting, his mind was preoccupied with thoughts of the portrait he was going to gift Odin... it still wasn't finished! Loki had precious little left to fill in, but his promise in front of Jane to the blundering fool Volstagg required he come to the Arena before the event started, which meant there was now a chance that the whole Tournament would end before Loki could show Odin his work!

Loki shook himself of his concerns; he would beat Thor to the punch, he would just have to hurry. Loki walked quickly, closing the distance to the combatants-to-be as they limbered themselves up for the matches ahead. He picked out Volstagg (he was hard to miss) and took the painting to the large warrior with a quick word, turning with the intent on leaving before he could even see what spectacle Volstagg would now surely make.

As fast as he walked, however, Loki could not outrun Volstagg's enthusiasm, as the rotund man held the picture aloft for everyone to see, his voice bellowing so that there could be none that did not hear it. "Look! Look what outcome Loki had painted, that all may see the soon to be result of today's tourney!"

A few scant moments passed after Volstagg's jovial pronouncement passed in which Loki realized he was holding his breath, and then the Arena burst into riotous laughter, the sons and daughters of Asgard all responding as one with humor from the vast stands that surrounded them. Loki burned with humiliation, and he glanced up at the box where the All-Father would sit to observe the tourney, grateful to see that Odin was not present. Loki sped up his pace, the continuing laughter burning his ears.

Once back at his chambers, Loki worked with a furious focus, going as fast as he could without ruining the end result of his work. It did not take long; it had been nearly completed, and Loki took his time in the final stage of making adjustments to make the scene just right. He then summoned his magic to blow a gentle breeze across the canvas to more quickly dry the paint, and once satisfied that it was dry enough, he gathered it up and rushed off once more to the ring, Odin's gift tucked under his arm.

Once ringside Loki saw that Thor was in the ring now, and the trickster began to run for Odin's box high above the spectators. Thor only ever fought in the final round of the tourney, since Odin's prize son was ever the winner and champion of each competition: that meant Loki had scant moments left to show Odin the gift before it was lost in a shower of praise for Thor... which, as usual, would all but obscure Loki's own doings. Loki saw that Thor fought Balder now, and Balder wielded a powerful mace and shield, blocking Thor's savage attacks with the stout metal before attacking methodically at potential weak points in Thor's defense.

Balder would find no such weak spots though, thought Loki. Thor always won, he was perfect. As Loki ran up the steps leading to the place where Odin sat next to Jane and watched the spectacle, he shouted. "Father, I bring you a gift!"

Jane looked over as Loki approached them, a startled look on her face at his wild expression. "Loki, perhaps this is not the best time..."

Odin ignored him, however, instead cheering loudly at something Thor must have done. "Yes! Thor wins again, that all Asgard may see why he is my favored!"

Loki felt crushed at Odin's words, and distracted, he tripped on the last step leading up, falling on top of his painting and crushing it beneath him. Loki stood up quickly but it was too late, and the piece had been damaged irreparably. He looked up with watery eyes and saw that Jane wished to walk over, but Odin had stood up to shout victory down to the ring, still oblivious to Loki, and the trickster turned and ran down the stairs instead, clutching the ruined gift to his chest as he fought back tears of intense jealousy.

Odin glanced over when Jane called out for Loki, but the trickster was long gone, and he only looked confused as she shoved past him. Jane ran down the stairs but could not find Loki, and when she searched his room she found him there, sitting upon his bed with his hands in his lap. She sat next to him and told him how sorry she was that his work had been broken, and he nodded, telling her that it was fine; accidents happened.

Loki figured that once he convinced Jane that he had 'recovered' from his humiliation back at the arena she would leave him be, and sure enough, after a few more words, her attempts to make him feel better ended and she wished him good night before leaving. Loki looked around his room, wanting to tear every painting apart, wanting to burn it all. But he couldn't do that; if he was to have his revenge on Thor, he would have to use his considerable intelligence this time. He needed to play smart, and show no emotional investment.

Loki moved over to his scrying crystal, taking the cloth cover from it. He would spy on Thor, and take his time... he would make them all feel that he no longer had a grudge against Thor. Then he would strike in subtle ways. He would not harm Thor physically; that never worked. No, he would destroy Thor's reputation, perhaps even to the point of getting him banished. Loki smiled at that thought; he would certainly like that, then Thor would not spend any time in Asgard, and Loki would no longer have to see his perfect face.

So Loki watched Thor for months, observing Thor's interaction with many different forms of villainous creatures and people down on Midgard. Many times Loki felt the urge to empower one of those villains, or strike when Thor seemed in a weakened state... but Loki stayed his hand: he would stick to his plan. Loki shuddered as he unconsciously rubbed his rear. He had too much to lose if he were caught. And he didn't want Jane to find out. For some reason, it was imperative that she never knew what Loki was up to.

Loki spent the time he did not use scrying on Thor watching audiences his father held, making his presence near Odin in the throne room a natural thing. Odin always smiled to see him, and seemed happy to see Loki's apparent interest in the goings on of the court. Loki always made certain to feign interest when Odin spoke of the various peoples they spoke to from other lands.

Then one day Loki saw something perfect. Thor had made a mistake; to save the lives of a measly few hundred mortals from Midgard, he agreed to serve one day under some mortal from the future whom threatened them with advanced technology that even Thor could not hope to keep up with in it's raw killing power. Of course, this man knew all about Thor, and knew that the Asgardian would never break his vow, and once having him under his thrall, stated that Thor would conquer the future world he had come from with him!

Loki's face lit up at the sight of the sad look upon Thor's face. Thor, champion of justice was about to aid a tyrant in establishing his rule over a peaceful people from a world that certainly had no quarrel with Asgard. It was just what he was looking for! Loki snatched up his crystal ball and scurried off to find Odin in his throne room. Once he drew near he father his slowed his gait and did his best to appear casual. He refrained from saying anything for a long few minutes, fighting his impulses to rush in with his news; it all had to seem natural.

Once Odin had dismissed his latest guest the All-Father smiled and bid him a late greeting which Loki returned. "It is a wonderful day, father. Say... have you seen Thor about? I had wanted to have word with him... it has been sometime since last we spoke."

Odin scratched his beard a moment. "Nay, if my memory serves me, Thor be upon Midgard still at this time. I also miss his presence, it has been some time since last he graced our halls." Odin eyed Loki. "It is good to see you speak so amiably of your brother, I assume the two of you have finally worked out your differences?"

Loki smiled, doing his best to make it seem genuine. "Aye, we had a long talk after the tourney and things have become much better between us," he lied.

Odin smiled widely. "Good! You do not know how glad that makes my heart to know you have each others confidence!"

Loki hesitated a moment. He liked Odin's reaction, liked that his father was pleased... perhaps this was a bad idea? No... Odin was only happy because Odin wanted everyone to love Thor the way he did... Loki gnashed his teeth and then smiled pleasantly. "Actually, father, I was taking my crystal down to the alchemist to get a larger one... why do we two not scry upon Thor a moment and see what he is about since we are otherwise unoccupied with matters of state?"

Odin's smile broadened further. "Aye! Let us have a look! I have yet to see your talent in this field, after all, and wish to see how you are coming along!"

Loki smiled and held his crystal aloft where both of them could see it, muttering his spell of second sight. He hoped fervently that his timing had been well placed, and that Thor would be caught doing something incriminating...

Odin leaned forward as the mists cleared, showing Thor in battle with an army of strange machines. "Well done, son! It is crystal clear, as if I were there in person... your skill in scrying has come far, indeed!"

Loki swelled with pride even as his heart leaped at the sight of what Thor was doing. Those machines looked menacing enough, but Odin would not go long before he wondered what Thor was at.

As if to affirm Loki's thoughts, Odin leaned even closer to the orb as he squinted, the smile dropping from his face. "Whatever is my son doing? These creatures have no taint of evil upon them... and look, he crushes a vehicle containing an innocent, whose heart is only set on defense of his lands!" Odin's temperament changed quickly, a veritable storm brewing in his eyes as his voice shook with rage. "What madness is this? My son tarnishes my name by wielding his power in such a way!"

Loki could have danced for joy. It could not have gone any better, he thought, as he watched Thor summon a great gust of wind and disarm a legion of soldiers as they attempted to guard their fortress, only to have a smaller group of armed men mow them down with laser fire while they stood helpless. The man whom had claimed Thor's allegiance through threats followed these men, and laughed at Thor as the god of thunder looked away, not wanting to see what he had done. Loki would have to thank this man later, and find the name behind him who had unknowingly helped him best Thor.

Odin ranted. "That is enough! My son is errant, and I shall stand for no more!" The All-Father smashed a huge fist into the arm of his throne, shattering the stone there, and at the same time his power summoned Thor, who suddenly appeared in the throne room, looking confused. "Son! Your deeds have turned vile, and I have seen enough! I strip you of my power and sentence you to stay within the prison below our keep, until you have had some period of time to think on your betrayal!"

Thor stepped forward, lifting his hand as a pained expression played across his face. "Wait, father. I have done terrible things, but please reconsider your punishment for the time being! I must return to where I was!"

Odin frothed as he raged. "Nay! You have done enough harm! Your brother has never been granted forgiveness for such blatant acts, and neither will you."

Loki saw tears fall from Thor's eyes as the thunder god seemed confused on what to say in his defense, perhaps feeling guilt for the situation he had gotten himself into, and the deaths he had now caused, and Loki felt a small twinge of regret. The trickster snarled as he pushed it aside; Thor did not require his pity... Odin would likely not even keep him long in the dungeon. Thor was his favorite, after all.

Odin slammed his hand down again as he spoke, and Thor disappeared again, likely to enter chains below within Odin's prison. The All-Father turned to Loki, who was doing his best to look shocked by the event. "Leave me be awhile, son. I am sick with grief..."

Loki nodded, not having to pretend his frown; he had not meant for his father to be saddened, and in this way he supposed he had once again failed to plan ahead. "Yes, father. I am sorry." Loki hesitated a moment, his eyes wide as he realized that he meant what he had just said, and then he shook his head and rushed off to his room, hoping to absorb himself in his painting and lose this horrible feeling that crept over him like a cancer.

Loki kicked over his latest painting, furious over the way he felt. Why should he worry or feel guilty? Thor always had everything, could the favored son of Odin not suffer even this once? Loki fumed a bit until his anger cooled, leaving him only with the gnawing worry and sense of responsibility. Those people from the future; they would suffer now Loki was certain. Likely Thor had been planning to turn on the man who had controlled him once that one day of servitude had ended, and set things right again. Now Thor was in chains, and the tyrant would do as he pleased after having had Thor's help.

Loki sat upon his bed for some time, staring at all the works that he and Jane had created. It all had offered him a sort of release, but that feeling was suddenly hollow now...

Jane hurried down the corridors that made up the labyrinth of prison tunnels beneath Asgard castle, following a guard who led her. She had requested to visit Thor, not bothering to question her husband directly about what had happened after seeing the dark look on his brooding face. Eventually the guard stopped and unlocked a heavy iron door, opening it to reveal Thor, covered in heavy chains and standing by the far wall, his eyes upon the floor.

Jane dismissed the reluctant guard and stepped inside, walking over to Thor and laying a comforting hand on his shoulder. Thor looked up with miserable tired eyes and Jane began to question him, trying to find out where the misunderstanding had started. Thor, of course, was open as always about everything that had happened, and when he explained his actions to her, she gave him a fierce hug and told him that he had done the best he could. She explained that Odin just didn't know what had started it all and that she would make sure he did.

Jane stood outside of Thor's cell for a time, Thor still brooding within, and she thought. The chances that Odin, who rarely ever peeked in on Thor's whereabouts, would have just happened to see such a disastrous display of seeming evil on the behalf of Thor seemed far too unlikely to have been an accident. Jane headed off to speak to Odin, already feeling like she knew what might have happened here.

Loki returned to his room tired, his thoughts focused on getting himself a nice hot bath before retiring for the evening when he halted in his tracks, frozen in place and staring at his parents, who stood within his room waiting for him. His eyes were wide and he gulped to see the looks upon their faces. Both of them wore the same expression that each had worn when spanking him all that time ago. Despite the amount of time between the present and that punishment, Loki's fear surged just as powerfully as if it had been yesterday. ''Father... Jane... ?"

Jane moved to close his room door and Loki felt his heart leap in his chest. "We need to have a talk, Loki."

Loki backed away from the two of them instinctively. "T-talk? What about?" Loki knew what about, and cursed himself for being unable to hide his immense terror at the spiraling events before him. It was like every other time he had been spanked by them; he had no real escape, only futile attempts that made things worse.

Odin sat upon the bed, sighing heavily. He did not appear at all angry, and for some reason this scared Loki more than if he were. Perhaps because it most likely meant that Odin had already decided on Loki's discipline, and his lack of haste hinted at the inevitability of it. "Loki, your mother and I are very disappointed in you."

Loki reeled. He would rather Odin had snatched him up and began smacking him right away than say that. Loki did his best to turn the hurt created by Odin's words into anger. "What? What for... I have done nothing wrong. Are you here to sentence me without proof yet again?"

Jane shook her head sadly at Loki, and the trickster felt very sorry to have her look at him in such a way. "Then where were you just now, Loki? What were you doing, and why?"

Loki thoroughly trembled with his entire body now. The slender hope that the two of them had not known enough to incriminate him slipped away, though he had already known from the looks on their faces when he entered what was going to happen here; he had just been trying to fool himself, holding onto false hope. He released his emotions in a wave instead, hoping that they would take pity on him. "I-I'm sorry, mother." Loki hung his head, feeling tears crop into his eyes, then glanced at Odin as well. "I am sorry, father. I was so angry that you ignored me so completely in favor of Thor..."

Odin shook his head at Loki as his brow furrowed. "Being angry does not give you the right to betray family as you have. Come here, son. Do not make me ask you twice." Odin stood and walked over to sit upon a couch, crooking his finger at Loki to beckon him over and patting his leg with his other hand to remove all doubt of where Loki was meant to go.

Loki felt tears stream down his eyes and he opened his mouth to speak then closed it again at the reaction he saw in his father's face. Odin wasn't going to let him argue this time, everything about the All-Father's body language suggested that Loki would be ill advised to do anything other than exactly as he was told, and quickly. Loki felt the sudden panicked notion to flee, but remembered Jane's strength, and could only see such a pointless gesture as also making things worse.

There was no turning back; they knew what he had been up to, and all was left now was the all too familiar penance. Loki could only be grateful that they chose to come to his room instead of spanking him in the throne room or somewhere else where others could see. Loki inched forward, apprehensive, until Odin shifted in irritation so that Loki closed the remaining distance in a short few steps. He stopped directly in front of Odin and could not help but offer some form of protest, regardless of his own wish to simply go along and get it all over with. "Mi-lord... maybe if you will allow me to..."

Odin grunted in annoyance and did not allow Loki to stall any longer, grabbing his sons wrist and pulling him onto the couch over his lap. Loki began to squirm immediately, all his bravery lost in the face of his instinctual response to the pain he knew this position always afforded. Odin put a hand on his back to hold him down and slapped him hard across the ass. "Be still!"

Loki tried to best to hold himself still, but shook with dread and felt himself both clenching and swaying his rear from side to side as if trying to avoid the eventual swat to come. "O-okay, father. But please, hear me out!"

Odin started to swat him in rhythm now, and Loki squirmed more in remembered pain and anticipation of what was still to come than the actual dull sting of the slaps Odin now delivered. He spoke loud and quickly, still trying to dissuade despite knowing his parents never responded to such. His watery eyes shifted between Jane and Odin as he spoke. "Please, I feel awful for what I have done, you must believe me, I had already found regret on my own, without the need of this discipline!"

Jane nodded to him. "Don't think for a moment that we aren't pleased that you've grown in this way, Loki. But it doesn't make what you did go away, either. You need to take responsibility for what you've done."

Odin added. "And right now, that means time spent over my knee."

Loki squalled as Odin pulled his britches down so that the round curve of his ass was fully exposed, swatting him hard and fast with his heavy callused hand. "Wait! I was going to set everything right! I was taking responsibility!"

Odin nodded to this as he continued to slap Loki's reddening ass, the trickster's cries growing louder and his tears running hotly down his face as the real pain of the spanking started to set in. "You are going to set things right, in addition to your punishment. Part of taking responsibility is the realization that you don't decide how you pay for your mistakes."

Jane chimed in. "After Odin has spanked you thoroughly so you won't soon forget your place in this family, you are going to go release Thor from his cell below and apologize not only for what you have put him through today but everything you have ever done to wrong him."

Loki felt a surge of anger that raised bile in his throat. "I will release him if you command, but I will not apologize! I owe Thor nothing!"

Odin's hand began to come down harder, and Loki squealed as he twisted left and right on the couch under those hard slaps, Odin brushing his hand aside when he attempted to cover his own ass. Odin raised his voice in irritation and he pushed down harder to keep Loki from rolling off of his lap. "Keep your hand in front of you, or you will find out how easy I am yet going upon you!"

Loki sobbed as he put his hand in front of himself balled into a fist, and his body jumped and his arm twitched it's desire to shoot back again as Odin's hand continued to fall upon his now bright red ass. Loki looked back at that rear and saw that it was already quite welted, and that beyond that Jane stood looking sorry for him. Loki turned his gaze away from her pity, sobbing quietly to himself as he struggled to make his hand stay forward.

A few more swats and Loki could not help himself; the pain stacked upon itself with each smart slap upon his tender buttocks, and after a quick glance back to see how his red cheeks bounced under that palm, Loki shot his hand back again, sobbing loudly as he did so. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry, I can't take any more!"

Odin replied by taking Loki's arm in the large hand that had been holding the trickster down and pushing it into the couch arm before Loki, so that the trickster could neither rise nor make any further attempts to block himself. Odin knew Loki was past the point his slender body could tolerate, so he didn't get angry, only secured his son so that the squirming trickster could not interfere with the punishment anymore. Once Odin had slapped Loki a few more times Loki's feet now kicked into the way, the trickster crying loudly and pleading now for Odin to stop. The trapped feeling of his arm made him wild with the need for the slapping to stop.

Odin slapped around the kicking legs a few times in exasperation as he sighed heavily at his flailing son until Jane came over, taking hold of Loki's feet and pushing them into the couch as well. Loki's voice trebled as his feet were locked into place, and his face became panicked as the All-Father now slapped him with no option for the trickster to lessen his punishment in any way. Loki had known it would come to this, and had wished to avoid it. "P-please, I will hold my own feet in check, please!"

Jane only shook her head at him as Odin replied. "Too late for that, best to continue this way until your discipline is ended." Loki screamed pitiful objection as Odin's hand came down harder, the All-Father striking more surely now that there was no chance of interference. Loki turned his head back to look past his own shoulder and saw that Odin's hand had also started to grow red with the heat of the spanking. For whatever reason, this caused him even more shame, especially with Jane there to see it; it was as if Odin's palm now reflected a physical representation of Loki's humiliation.

A few more slaps and Loki felt his convictions crumble in the face of his torment. "O-okay! I will apologize to Thor... I will tell him I am sorry!" Loki blinked heavy tears from his eyes and sobbed loudly as he spoke. The inevitable breaking point; where the two of them always took him, whether together or separately. It made him feel weak even as a part of him accepted it as what he deserved.

Jane gave him a small smile. "That is good to hear, Loki."

Odin also spoke. "Perhaps we will stop soon, then. I am pleased to hear you more agreeable, I only wish I did not have to apply my hand to afford it from you..."

Loki writhed under the barrage as Odin continued without slowing. "I-it's for the best! I would have done it anyways... eventually... I... I was just afraid to tell Thor how I...!" Loki's words trailed off into unintelligible shouts as he lost his ability to focus on speech, unable to do anything but twist and scream as the sharp sting in his ass became beyond unbearable.

Jane nodded, the smile still in place. "We know, Loki. You will feel much better once you tell Thor how you feel, though, I promise."

Loki had hoped that they would begin a count down or something as before, but Odin just kept slapping him powerfully, that rough hand coming down on Loki;s soft underside all that dominated his pain streaked mind. Oh how he regretted not listening to his gut on this! Lashing out against Thor had cost him dearly... With no way to know how much longer Odin and Jane wished to continue his punishment, Loki could only writhe about upon his father's lap as the steady sound of the spanking filled the room with it's slapping noise, and he felt the maddeningly slow passage of time, especially each moment between each slap, when he would for a moment clench his tortured cheeks involuntarily and hold his breath before screaming out with the next slap.

Loki wasn't certain when he gave up even his feeble efforts to escape, but at some point he supposed his weak attempts had given way only to sobbing and laying limply across Odin upon the couch, mind trying vainly to focus on something other that the welted pain in his ass and the way it made him feel to have his parents hold and spank him upon his couch. Odin's voice pierced the fog of his mind sharply. "Fifty more for you, son. And mind you, next time it will be one hundred, so think hard on the worth of your next mischief."

Loki only wept more loudly in response to Odin's words as Jane began to count out slaps that seemed far too slow. He had felt a mixture of relief and anxiety at hearing those words, and though he wished to thank Odin for nearing the end of his punishment, his throat was too dry and sore from screaming, so he only nodded and did his best to hold on as the swats continued. Loki felt that familiar feeling return, that timelessness between each slap that could only be attributed to the fact that he knew how many were left, and that gave him a sense of how many unbearable pains he yet had left to bear.

Loki kept his face buried in the couch, his muffled shouts coming raggedly through as he forced himself not to look back; he had learned from previous experience that it only made things worse for him to see Odin's hand raise and lower upon his sore ass. Not that not seeing was much better, as not knowing when the palm would strike his clenching buttocks bore it's own special brand of fear.

After Loki heard Jane count twenty-four swats he could not help himself, and having rested upon the relatively comfortable couch all this time so that his muscles were once more ready to struggle, he began to twist and squirm once more. It didn't matter that he knew he could not escape, he had to make some act of defiance physical or otherwise against his pain or go mad. Not even half way done yet!

Loki's bucking and sawing made no difference against the pain Odin's hand continued to inflict, however, and it came down again and again, regardless of how the trickster twitched or arched, or gashed his teeth. In some way, struggling made it worse too, since it only put a physical proof that he could not escape in his face, but still Loki could not help himself, and lay trapped within a circle of his own making he could not escape in several ways.

Finally Jane began to count out the last ten swats and Loki sobbed loudly in joy at nearing the end of his punishment, both to end the pain and to try to put how humiliating the scene he had just made was behind him. He could only hope that one day his childish writhing and whining could become a faded memory...

With the last slap Odin pulled Loki's britches back up to secure them on his waist and Jane released his feet. Loki got up off the couch shakily on trembling knees, wiping at the tears staining his face with his sleeve. Odin stood once Loki had moved to the side. "Please, son. Let us make this the last time we need to deem such necessary."

Loki nodded, not making eye contact. Jane opened the door and gestured for Loki to exit. "Go on. Tell Thor what you know you must."

Loki looked at her sharply and then glanced at Odin before stalking out. He supposed there was no avoiding this.

Thor looked up when Loki came in and his mouth made a hard line as his brow drew down. "Come to gloat, Loki?"

Loki bristled at Thor's reaction, but pushed his feelings down, asserting the control he knew he had always lacked when it came to Thor. For once, he was being the bigger man, and perhaps it was self-righteous to feel so, but Loki found he liked the feeling. "Nay. I have come to release you."

Thor looked taken aback a second, then growled at Loki. "Nay! You mean to free me so as to anger Odin against me. I shall instead stay here, trickster, I do not wish your help."

Loki sighed, rubbing his temple a moment before speaking. "Odin knows why you did what you did now, Thor."

Thor perked up. "So Queen Jane has told him?" Loki nodded affirmation. Thor's eyes narrowed at Loki. "So why did she not come to release me herself... why would you be here instead? My..." Thor trailed off as he looked at the floor, his face pained. "My actions were still evil ones, Odin's judgment that I be punished must still stand, and I cannot fault him for that."

Loki felt a twinge of guilt at seeing how thoroughly defeated Thor looked. He had always thought that he had wanted to see Thor this way, had lived for it... but... "I never really knew what I wanted..."

Thor looked up at him. "What?"

Loki stepped forward. "I thought I wanted to hurt you, but I really only wanted to punish myself. I've always known you would win, and if I had ever actually won over you, I would not have known what to do next."

Thor looked confused. "What are you speaking of, Loki?"

It was Loki's turn to look pained. "Everything. All the horrible things I did to you, they were all a misguided anger and confused jealousy... I'm sorry."

Thor looked shocked. "You are apologizing to me, Loki?"

Loki nodded, feeling tears tug at his eyes. "Aye. No tricks. It was I who showed Odin what you were doing in that future world; I sought to make you less favorable to him... but now I feel only regret."

Thor's stunned expression switched to one of rage and he lunged forward, the chains holding him snapping at he grabbed Loki by the collar and slammed the trickster into the far wall. "You did this!" Loki realized that Thor could have broken free of this dungeon anytime he had wished and the trickster chuckled at the thought of it. Thor growled at him, shaking Loki as he spoke. "You think this funny, trickster? How many lives are now lost because you brought Odin down upon me with your deceit!"

Loki shook his head. "Nay. I went to that world myself. The people there are now safe from that tyrant forever."

Thor's face fell. "You... you acted on behalf of those innocents... why?"

Loki felt tears course down his cheeks as he smiled at his brother. "Because I have always wanted to be you, Thor. I spurned you because you were too perfect, too righteous, everything I wanted to be and never could. I have always felt myself to live in your shadow....but..."

Thor looked in Loki's eyes, searching. Was this a trick? "But what, Loki?"

Loki's smile widened. "Jane happened. She accepted me like father never did, for who I am. Though I still retained my desire to be your bane, my views of our family truly changed when I realized through her that not only did father love me for who I am as well, he always did."

Thor gritted his teeth at Loki. "Congratulations, Loki. I am glad you feel loved now. Do you think that now that you realize how wrong you have been everything is going to be alright between us?"

Loki shook his head sadly, and when Thor released his hold of him Loki surprised him by dropping to his knees, hands clasped before him in a furtive plea, head bowed. "Brother, I do not expect thee to forgive me, but I do beg you allow me another chance, a fresh start. To be a family is the only good dream I have ever had..."

Loki looked up through tearful eyes to see Thor's outstretched hand extended toward him, compassion playing across the thunder god's face. "I have only ever wanted the same, Loki. Let us return to the happiness we once knew as children, before our young hearts could know such rivalry."

Loki took Thor's hand, a broad smile brushing the tears aside. "I think I will start our new life by painting a portrait that embraces our new found unity."

Thor smiled back. "I have seen your painting of my 'loss' at the Arena." Thor grinned as Loki looked down sheepishly at the mention of that portrait. "It is good to see you are still the trickster, every family needs one."

Loki smiled back. "Aye. That's the trick of it, I will be certain to express our differences in the painting as well. After all, that is how you paint a beautiful picture."