Author now declares: I hold no ownership over the quotations taken from Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol which is in public domain, nor do I claim ownership over Thor. This is written for the purpose of fan entertainment only.

Chapter 5
The End of It

Yes! The sheets were his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own.

"Blessed be me... Could it truly be?" He pinched himself, and wept in joy at the pain. It was real! This was all real! And though he knew not how he ended up in bed, he jumped off it like a youngster at Christmas would. Blessed be all, he felt like a youngster at Christmas would! He dashed to the fireplace and gazed upon its mantle. Happy faces gazed back at him, and Odin laughed his first true laugh in years!

Best and happiest of days, the time before him was his own! The Ghosts, may they all be blessed, had given him another chance! A chance to make amends, a change to make it right.

He dashed at the window, the same Laufey's ghost had flew out of, and let his eye savored the beauty of the morning. T'was quite no time like the present, and this time, he would not be a simple bystander. No Christmas was not to pass him unnoticed ever again.

... But was it still Christmas? He could not be certain.

"You, boy!" He called to the child which was passing just then.

"Eh?" Returned the child, startled by the stranger which addressed him so unexpectedly.

"What's today?"

"Huh? I beg your pardon?" Odin was sure the child heard right, but much like he would have done himself were the roles be reversed, found it hard to believe one would inquire such of him.

Surpassing a chuckle, Odin repeated. "What's today, my dear boy?"

"Why, t'is Christmas Day, sir!"

Christmas Day! He was right. He didn't miss it. The Spirits worked their magic in but a night, if it even was a night. But real or not, it mattered little to Odin now. He was given time - he now had to use it wisely.

Hmmm... he should probably begin by restore his image as a respectable person of society to the boy before going about his plan. Just in case, mind you.

"Excellent my dear boy! I thank you." Odin called back to the lad. "You must pardon an old man. Age does funny things to the brain. For a moment, I was under the impression that I was living in yesterday."

That earned a laugh from the child. "T'was no problem, sir!"

"Say... Do you know of Hamidall's, down the next street at the corner?'' Odin inquired.

"Why, I do hopes I do, sir. Few are those who don't." replied the lad.

"Wonderful my boy!" Odin cheered. " I can tell by the wits of you that you're meant to grow into quite the clever sire." The child blush. "I have a request of you my boy, have you the time."

"Time I have, sir!"

"Brilliant, lad! Go pop over old Hamidall's and see if he still has that prize turkey hanging in the window."

"Why, no need for that, sir! If you speak of the bird which 'appens to be as big as me then it's still hanging in the shop window."

"Such a remarkable lad you are, my friend." Odin cried. "Go and buy it for me."

"Aww... y'er pulling my leg, sir!"

"No, no! I speak to you in earnest. Go buy it for me and I'll give you a shilling. Oh no - I'll give you five shillings! Get it here in less than five minutes and you've earned yourself half a crown!"

The boy was gone before Odin even finished speaking, and the old man allowed himself to laugh to himself once more. Again, he turned to the mantle and gazed at the pictures, gazed at his children, gazed at his beloved Frigga.

"My dear..." he said, addressing the portrait of his wife. "I promise you I will make it right." He planted a kiss on the picture, and with another loving glance, moved to make himself presentable. He made haste to dress all in his best, for today was quite a special day.

Not even five minutes later, the boy returned, turkey and all. And oh, what a magnificent specimen it was! Why, the boy could barely lift it. Odin gave him a whole crown for his efforts then made haste with the turkey.

The boy had barely believed his eyes when the old man seemed to manage with the beast with such ease. But then, Odin was not your ordinary old man now was he? No. Old man Odin was old man Odin, whom was a surprisingly merry man that Christmas Day. So merry in fact that he even declared his love to the door knocker. He cared little for the odd looks the lad gave him at that.

"It reminds me greatly of a dear friend of mine, my boy."

Oh, Laufey, sly blue fox which he was... Bless be that cunningness of his! Oh, Odin had not been blind to his motives for one moment. He knew Laufey orchestrated it all, some way or another, but he didn't care.

"I now know who the better of us was. But thank be giving for him being mere general in youth. I dare not think what it could have been were he King!"

He greeted everyone in his path and called to all a Merry Christmas. People who knew him paused to stare upon the miracle, those who did not laughed and greeted him back, then came to whisper of the strange merry old man behind his back. Odin cared not for such, for today he was as happy as any man can ever hope to be.

He stopped to light a candle at church, stopped by the baker and several more shops as well. He must have spent more money than he had in years, yet none complained because of it. Odin least of them all.

He now had stashed in a sack (for he sadly lacked the arms needed to hold everything) the turkey, plum pudding, mince pies and other such goodies. He also had a few positively charming toys in that sack (he himself took a liking to the purple stuffed pony the toymaker said went by the name of Twilight Sparkle). In short, he was ready for everything, yet nothing at the same time.

"But in the end, are we not so always?" he casually asked himself at some point. For indeed, whoever is ever really ready?

In an end he reached the little cottage he had once called home. And he found that he was nervous.

He listened to the sounds of the house. Beyond the door he could hear little Sif singing carols. Little Sif, whom Odin never took the time to meet before. He must passed the door a dozen times before he had the courage to go up and knock. And when he did, it was little Sif who greeted him most joyously.

"Hello, sir! And Marry Christmas!"

"A merry Christmas to you too, little one!" Odin said back, earning a giggle from the little girl in turn. "Tell me, my dear, is your father about? Or your uncle perhaps?" Sif nodded eagerly and called for her uncle before disappearing back into the house.

"Sif? Who is at the door?"

This was it... Odin told himself as he stood his ground. He reminded himself that last night, although felt quite real, had probably been just a dream. But as the door opened fully and he looked upon his youngest son, his heart could not forget the pain it felt when those green eyes which now gazed at his person in pure surprise died so slowly right in front of him.

His heart knew that he could not bear to see such a thing again.

"F... Father?" Loki asked and blinked a few times, as if he were trying to determine if he was dreaming or not. He appeared the same as he did last night, though probably a little pinker in the cheeks. The wine, no doubts, was to blame for that.

"Merry Christmas, Loki" Odin greeted, for truly, what else could he say?

Loki too, though known as Liesmith and Silertongue by some, appeared at a loss of word. "W-... Why are you here?" Loki shuttered to ask at last. But Loki never shutters, Odin knows. Nor does he fidgets with the sleeves of his coat. But today he did.

He had caught him unprepared, Odin soon determined, for even the best trickster needs time to pit on the mask. Loki was certain he would not see him today. Odin being here, on their doorstep, was not something he expected. And though it pained him to notice that mask slowly slipping back upon his youngest son's features, he finally understood the need of it.

"I have been invited for Christmas dinner."

"You have never come before." Indeed, he did not.

"And I knew not what I missed. I had hoped I could perhaps make it up this year. I even brought a peace offering." He motioned at the turkey he had with him. Loki nodded once and tried to bite down on something - be it smile or a cough, Odin hopped it to be the former.

"It is not yet dinnertime." Loki pointed out and now Odin was the one to nod.

"You state your point well, my son -" It was probably the wrong thing to say.

"I am not your son." Loki shot back immediately, body rigid, eyes hard. Odin cursed his own foolishness, yet praised it at the same time. The mask was still not completely on, or Loki would not have reacted on impulsion. Odin was certain of it.

"Yes you are Loki. What I said then... I did not mean it."

"Then why did you say it?"

"I still hurt after the death of your mother..."

"We were mourning too. You had no excuses, father." Indeed, I did not.

"Loki..." He began. "I have wronged you - and your brother - greatly. Words cannot begin to express just how much I regret this. You know the hearts and truths of people well, my son, so you must know that I speak no lies to you." Loki was fidgeting, and chose to look at anything save Odin's eye. He needed time, he needed space, he needed to take on the role of trickster, but Odin wished for none of that. Today, after so many years, he wished to speak at the lad he had seen joke with his brother last night. He wished to see his youngest child.

"Look at me, my son." Odin urged.

"Why do you still call me that?" Loki challenged and Odin was happy to see that he indeed was looking him in the eye.

Visions of a broken body came to mind and Odin let reason leave him for just this once, and chose to let his heart speak freely. His old yet still strong arms opened wide and wrapped themselves around the slender man. He heard Loki gasp, no doubt startled at the unexpected gesture. Odin smiled.

"F-f-father? What are you doing?" Loki sputtered. Odin tightened his hold.

"I have lived to see you walk from me once. I watched you leave and did nothing to stop you. I was wrong." Odin confessed and felt his son slowly grow calm again. "You hid yourself from me and left a trickster to be seen in your stead, a trickster I long believed it was you. All these years, I watched without seeing. But even an old fool such as myself can learn from his mistakes. I have learned not to let go anymore, Loki." He pushed the young man at arm's length afterwards, yet his hands did not let go of his shoulders. "Will you allow me to try a second time, Loki?" Tears sparkled at the corner of Loki's eyes, and Odin felt that for the first time in a long time, he did the right thing.

"I still haven't forgiven you." Loki said at length, brushing unshed tears from his eyes.

"I haven't asked it of you."

"You'll make mistakes again."

"As mortals do, but I will also make amends. I will not ask of your forgiveness, but earn it not much unlike the way I lost it. I only ask of your forgives for even if the turkey reached its destination soundly, I am afraid I could not help myself to try a bit of pudding along the way."

Loki barked a short laugh and Odin's smile grew. He finally did the right thing. But the moment was broken by a cough from the younger of the two men, and Odin found himself asking if he had seen a doctor for that. Loki never had the change to answer.

"Brother!" The booming voice of Thor came from within. "Sif tells me Father Christmas is on our doorstep. What does she..."

Dear heart alive, what a face did the mighty Thor wore upon his face! Both Loki and Odin found themselves laughing at it, though their laughs were not in malice. Who could blame the man though? In front of him was a man whom was both his father and "employer" and as such probably knew not what to do.

Thor asked "Who are you?" To which Odin replied "Your father for today, my son. Your employer for tomorrow, maybe? That in, unless my clerk decides to wear his own skin for a change?"

Loki's eyes were probably unable to grow bigger, and Thor blushed crimson. No doubt none of them ever suspected such words to come from the man they knew was their father. Loki seemed akin to ask something at the time, had Sif's cry of joy at the sight of the pony sticking out of Odin's bag not served as the right distraction the old man needed.

Yes, Odin said to himself, today would be a fine day indeed.

As he believed it would be, the day turned out to be a fine one indeed. Once Sif literally dragged "Father Christmas" inside, everything seemed to set itself in place. They singed and dance and made complete fools of themselves. Jane's scolds were music to Odin ears, Thor's booming laughter warmer than the very fire of the heart, and Loki's harmless pranks came at quite the most unexpected of times. Though uncomfortable at first, their little celebration lasted well into the evening. And as dinnertime came, they all agreed the turkey was tastier than the goose. But if you were to ask Loki, the pudding was testier than both.

As next day came their way, Odin was back at his firm, waiting patiently for his clerk to step in. In an end, the clerk did came, only this time, his clerk was no longer wearing the skin of a tall blond man with sky-green eyes. No, today his clerk wore the skin of a fair-skinned man of less towering height, with raven hair and forest-green eyes. Odin could not be happier.

"Fancy seeing you stop by today, my dear Loki." Odin said, testing his grounds. Loki offered him a smile.

"You see me stopping by every day, sir. As far as I recall, you pay me for doing so."

"Oh? I was under the impression that my clerk was taller, blonder..."

Loki didn't seem to take too kindly to his game. "Does my patron already wish me to go back at being such?"

"Actually, I merely wish for my clerk to inform me of his sudden change of appearance." Odin gave him a challenge.

"Hardly sudden sir. Merely... no longer required." There was a pause, and Odin could no longer fight the smile. "If I may be so bold to ask sir, what gave me away?"

"Oh?" Odin was off his stool in an instant, marching toward the young man as would a general towards his troops. "Give you away? Why... nothing at all! You know your brother better than most. Better than I, that is certain. Your disguise was perfect."

Unused to the praise, Loki merely inclined his head, though for all that's worth, he still did not know what to make of it. Come yesterday, Odin started to add rather far too odd. Thor assured him a couple of times that all was well and that he should enjoy the change, but Loki being Loki knew something was afoot. Men like Odin don't change overnight without a purpose. For that reason, yesterday he chose to watch the old man as closely as he could. Had the old man fallen ill? Apart from the unusual cheer, he could see nothing wrong. Was he losing his mind?

"But today, my good clerk, we must see to some urgent affairs. The first of the lot, my boy, is the re-discussing of your position here. As well as your salary. It is much too small. We must raise it." Loki chocked on air. "And there is also the issue with that caught of yours. I couldn't help you trying to cover it up a few times yesterday. So I've called a doctor to see to you this afternoon. Of course, only if you're up to it. And think not of the expenses. I'm paying for it. As will I for anything the doctor will prescribe you."

Loki had a momentary idea of knocking Odin down with a nearby chair; holding him, and calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat. This was... real?

"Sir, I beg your pardon but... have you been drinking?" Please say yes.

"Haven't had a drop since yesterday."

"I find that hard to believe."

Odin chuckled with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. "I know you still do not believe me, but I give you my word, Loki. Everything will be better - for all of us." Loki would be skeptical for weeks to come, yet the old man didn't mind.

And Odin was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more. For every wrong he ever did, he did two rights to right it back.

He took his eldest son as member of his firm, and thought him all the tools of the trade. For his youngest, he searched out the best healers in the city. Money was not an issue any more for Odin, and while his youngest would refuse charity, Odin took his payment in time and the trust that while under his two sons' administration his old firm will once again flourish.

It did.

By the time the next Christmas came about, the old Odinson cottage glowed with life. Carols were sung and dances were danced, pudding was eaten and wine carefully tasted. An evergreen tree would always shine in the corner as the fire burned in the heart. Odin would smile for he knew Laufey must be proud of himself out there somewhere, but as Odin would watch his youngest run with Sif upon his shoulders, skin now a healthy pink and no longer plagued by coughs, he would just have to be pleased. A life was lived but once, and Odin now lived it with laughter in his heart. And with Thor and Loki as his sons, laughter came much too natural for even his cold, old one.

He also learned not to mind when Loki would occasionally turn him blue for the day.

Ghosts no longer bothered him, though he could swear three of the lads Thor is mates with seem most familiar to him. But as the words on the tombstone of one Ebenezer Scrooge would often remind him, life is too short to worry. One day every day lived to the fullest will just have to be enough.

With past as your teacher make present your future,
for life is but knitted by all, as it is so needed.

And that wraps it! The story is now over! Complete! Finis! End! And all the lovely things. Now we can get back to some proper pudding. Speaking of which, I am a little hungry now. Maybe I'll hunt down some pudding for myself now. But before that, a warm thank you to everyone who asked supported me in this. All your reviews have been wonderful and I love you all! But sadly, nobody tried to guess last chapter's question of the day. "God Rest Ye' Merry, Gentlemen" is a carol for unity and how humanity in a whole becomes one by just one idea. Ever since the beginning I knew this story had to focus a little less on redemption per say and a little more on family, because Odin really wasn't that much of a wonderful father. Emphasis on "father". We don't want the badass Odin to change (warrior, wise man, etc) but the father who... quite frankly wasn't that much of a father.

All that said, thank you once again! God bless you all and a Merry Christmas to all!