So this was to be his fate. Stretched out in a strip of cloth that felt like nothing after the armor of gods, strapped to a stone with his arms and legs splayed out, cold and alone with his mouth and all of its silver words tied down. For fear of releasing his voice from its prison, so far they hadn't fed him. The one time Thor had insisted on trying, Loki had met his captors with such an onslaught of poisonous words that Odin himself, father of all but him, had ordered him clamped down again, tighter than ever. He couldn't move his jaw. His tongue had begun to swell up in his mouth. But gods –for he was a god- didn't starve, and for all of his discomfort there was no threat to their actions, the petty punishments of a misbehaving child was all that this torture was, for him it just so happened to take the form of bonds and an animal's muzzle. Was that what he was to them, an animal? A cold animal, all blue under the surface? A pet that the next king of Asgard had been given with which to play with in his youth, like a human's boyhood dog? He snarled at them from beneath his mouth's prison, although the sound never made it out. If animal was what they wanted, it was what he was going to give them. He was not mad. He had never been saner. It was the rest of them that had made him the enemy, Thor, the warriors, pretty little doe eyed Sif with her dark, dark hair that had been golden before he'd ruined it so very long ago. Odin. The whore who called herself his mother, who came in to look at him and looked so terribly sad, as if it hurt her that this product of a giantess's womb had been strung up at last. They had made him what he was.

Loki the Trickster, made into Loki the enemy.

Loki the False King.

Loki Laufeyson who'd never had his throne. Loki the murderer. Loki, the god, the GOD of mischief who had somehow tricked himself, who'd lost his golden mind but not his silver longue as he fell and fell, leaking away all of his oxygen to the emptiness of space, trying to breathe with nothing to inhale, nothing to move against, just falling, falling, falling and cursing with silent, bloodless lips the king of Asgard and all his subjects until someone scrapped him out of their own orbit, unlatched him from the first living soul and mind he'd managed to attach to from so many light-years away . . .the scientist who'd shown him the tesseract.

Loki the sad, sad, misguided little brother who'd destroyed everything for nothing. Loki who Thor looked at with pity, with fear and repulsion and confusion. But the pity was the worst.

Loki the lost soul.

Little by little, even he could see how his mind was coming back to him, how it had been lost all along. He was starting to sense what he'd become, but he couldn't make it his fault. He couldn't see it that way. All he'd done he had done for Odin, for Asgard, and then for himself only when he became its rightful ruler. How could he have been wrong? How could they have let him fall so far even if he had been?

Why, in the end, had it been so easy to resign himself to it? It wasn't the mortal's arrow in his face which had done it. It wasn't the green beast and all his beatings. It wasn't any one thing that made it so, but when they had all looked at him; it was so easy to concede. To ask for a drink. To shrug away a loss. To take the end of the tesseract and let Thor take him home, little brother dragged back by the scruff of the neck to be chastised for what he'd done by being chained down to this cold stone with no way to vent all his rage, all the words they deserved to hear. Like an overruled child being prevented from a tantrum, that was all this was. He hated it. He hated it because for all of his self-delusions he had begun to see it this way, as it was, and he could not delude himself out of reality again. He could concede defeat, could concede to insanity. In his forced silence he had begun to grasp this, and all the pain it caused him, all the shame, only made him try harder to force it away. To re-invent reality. To re-create the truth. To reassure himself that he, Loki, was the victim. That the trickster had been never been tricked, that he was not, with every slow passing second, trying to fool himself all over again, that there was no need. That he was right all along. A boy being punished? No. Surely there was more to him than that. He was the reckoning of earth. He had been meant to rule it. He had been strong. He had been Glorious. Surely there had never been anything but righteousness to his purpose . . .

But still, little by little, the old Loki was returning, and he scolded himself as badly as any of them. A rational mind was more deadly than a clever tongue, and as his own mind returned, he turned his best weapon on himself. From the outside he looked as petty and brooding as ever, and those who were sent to care for him (though as of late it seemed that they had given up on even these attempts,) would not look at his cold eyes and would speak of his madness when they thought he could not hear. But on the inside, he was himself again. The brilliant creature which had played Thor into getting himself banished all on his won without a word from Loki to Odin had returned, and the force that had possessed him, the burden of his purpose, the sense that all freedom was a lie, had faded. He had been strapped down for a long time, and finding his mind again had been the only thing there was to do.

But still he could not accept his failure. Surely he had never been wrong, not really. Surely Thor had gone soft and pathetic for humanity, for that ant of a mortal girl. And surely he had never been fit to rule, as Loki had always known. Surely Odin simply couldn't see the infinite value of Loki past the black mark of his parentage, surely that was all, it couldn't be that he had actually failed, that he was in and of himself a failure. He, who had destroyed the thing which had fathered him with his own hands. Who had ever proved themselves more loyal to Asgard than he! He had made no error. He was beyond fault. What more was there to it than that?

And so, Loki retained his anger. He scoffed at those around him with his eyes, since he could not use his mouth. He accepted his captivity but not the demeaning of him personally. He was still a god of Asgard, and anyone who saw him differently was a fool, his brother included. This he knew without a doubt.

Thor, though.

He didn't visit very often anymore. Rumors and whispers since the bringing of the tesseract to Asgard told of his returning often now to earth and, Loki assumed, the piece of ass (as the humans put it) that he kept there. No one visited often. He had writhed and screamed (futilely) and been trouble enough when they tried that had not even taken a healing stone to his face. He could feel the Hulk's gifts to him from their last meeting, his nose and eye and split lip, hardening into inflexible, itching scabs… wounds like a mortal. And somewhere in his torso was a source of constant pain, of every breath discomfort. He had walked on it, writhed around it, ignored it, but it was there. For all of his divinity, Hulk had managed to break or bruise something in the vicinity of his ribcage, and in the long hours of loneliness, he had time to think on it, to notice that he had indeed been hurt. He, Loki. Hurt by a mortal. He would never confess this, no matter how painful it became. He had only the consolation that the monstrosity Banner became was extra-human in a way that none of the others were, more like a troll or a giant (which might actually be considered to be formidable,) than a human. He had been unprepared for that. If he had realized, things would have been different.

Things should have been different.

Loki closed his eyes. Being pulled by wrists and ankles in all directions with cold, smooth stone at his back was not comfortable, none of it was, but there was nothing to do but close ones eyes and try to stop thinking for a while. Just lately, he had begun to do that a lot. As hardly anyone came to see him, so no one had seen this or cared, but he spent most of his time now in a subdued state. Perhaps that's why his mind was returning at last.

What were undoubtedly improving, however, were his senses. Immediately upon losing the tesseract, upon being returned to Asgard, he had felt as if he'd been surrounded by some thick but invisible veil. A fog. But now at last it was clearing, and so he felt and understood the woman who approached before she'd made it as far as the door. He did not immediately acknowledge her, though. Instead he smirked disdainfully behind his muzzle and kept his eyes closed. What did some woman want? When he did open his eyes meet her gaze, his own was hard and threatening, and hers was the opposite. It was gentle, but clever, as if perhaps she'd seen through him just as he could see her. A goddess of little recognition among his brother's warrior entourage around which he had grown, but a goddess all the same. He recognized her, and knew her name. Since he could not open his mouth to address her by it, though, he simply lifted his chin and looked down his nose at her. She was peeking around the door, with intrigue more than fear in her eyes. They were a clear blue, perhaps with a touch of green, and she had the kind of complexion that would have been suited well by a red-touched blonde, but that was not her color. Like him, her hair was as black as the endlessness of space, long and trailing, almost to her waist. He remembered her from somewhere, some gathering, though the long locks had been tied back and hidden from him then. Still, he could recall having desired her before some brawnier man had swept her away, reminding him distastefully of Thor's own way of interacting with Sif (although he had never returned her poorly hidden adoration of him, as opposed to that man, who had been genuinely interested in the woman on his brute's arm). He had inquired, though, once she had gone, and the memory of that night helped him to place her name now. She was called Sigyn.

Sigyn stepped carefully around the frame of the door, keeping close to the wall and watching him carefully, first with wide eyes, then from under her long lashes. There was something very natural and untouched about her complexion, and there was a sun-kissed element in the color of her skin, particularly across her cheekbones. Her dress was dull gold, non-metallic and almost earth toned in its subtlety and her belt was gold and green. For a moment, this angered him; this mirroring of his own colors, but it was pleasing on her. As much as anything could be pleasing on anyone at that moment, that is. He was not greatly consumed by her looks so much as he was consumed by having something new to look at. A beetle crawling on the wall might have been just as pleasing, or so he told himself. Still, her face was . . . captivating. He held his attention, and her expression was one of assessment.

"Loki Laufeyson," she said without much ceremony, "that is your true title, is it not? Or do you prefer Loki of Asgard?"

He glared at her.

"Laufeyson, then," she said, ignoring his obvious preference for the other title, "I have it on good authority that one is as accurate as the other, after all. Regardless. I understand you are rather in need of attention?"

He looked at her without blinking, turning away his own mind's questions regarding this illusive good authority. Her face softened as she watched his reaction.

"Oh, but of course not. You would not think so, or so I have been warned. However," she stepped towards him now, a long and confident stride, "I beg to differ. I have heard whispers that this room," she swept her eyes over the high ceilinged chamber, with its few narrow windows high above, "inhibits the magic which you are said to have mastered. What they did fail to tell me was the condition in which that has left you. Perhaps you should not shun me so quickly. Have you, for example, seen the state of your hair?"

If he could have dropped his jaw, he would have. He was well aware that he was at last beginning to grow greasy and unkempt without any means –conventional or otherwise- of maintain himself, but it was so preposterous to have it commented on he was, for a moment, unsure of what he would have said to her if he could have. She simply kept talking.

"I am here," she said, "if you will have me, to attend to such things for you. It is said you are not easy on those who try to do so, but a god of Asgard is a god of Asgard, and you deserve better than this if you will have it. There are many of us who think this. . ." as she spoke she drew closer and closer to him, till she was looking him in the eye from a very short distance indeed, "in fact, you are not so alone in this realm as you might have imagined."

He threw his head back and glowered at her. She lifted her own chin, a proud and defiant gesture, and shrugged, a delicate and elegant motion even for all its flippancy. It made her collar bone stand out beneath the soft skin and brought the structure of her shoulders to his attention for the first time. Her dress left them uncovered, and he noticed himself studying them as she continued.

"The choice is yours. I have a healing stone in my possession. I am going to use it on your face. If you will hold still for it, I will assume you—" but she stopped then, pursing her lip as if she'd just changed her mind about something. Instead of finishing her sentence, she reached out, and took the muzzle from his face with as much ease as removing a loose thread from fabric. He immediately stretched his mouth wide and breathed heavily through it, just to do so. But he did not immediately say anything. He only looked at her with his hard, cold stare, all his demons hidden beneath it.

"Will you let me heal you?" She said simply. He looked at her for a long moment. Then, slowly, he nodded.

"If you will tell me why you wish to do so."

Perhaps it was because she was a stranger to him, but his desire to be hostile towards her was minimal at that moment. She seemed to realize this, and she almost smiled. Her eyes glimmered as she answered him.

"As I have said, Loki Laufeyson, you are not without allies in this realm. Loyal allies. Whatever you have done, there are some of us that would not see you stand alone in the wake of it."

"You think I need assistance from anyone?" he snapped back at her, suddenly defensive. She only leaned closer to him.

"No. But you require faithfulness. Loyal backing. I am here to offer it to you, as very few others can. It's a . . . specialty of mine."

"You are a goddess of fidelity," he said, meeting her gaze with a lowered chin and raised eyes. She nodded.

"Yes. And I can help you if you will let me."

"How. By healing my face and putting your hands all over me?"

There was something terrifying about the thought of her taking a comb to his head like some helpless child, and it sickened him to his core. He hissed the words at her, half hoping they would frighten her away. But she didn't flinch.

"Better," she said smoothly, "if you will give me time, I can set you free. All I require from you is patience."

He was silent, so she continued:

"Will you or will you not let me aid you?"

He looked into her eyes and searched her, and found, to his surprise, that she was a kindred spirit (if there was truly such a thing for Loki of Asgard,) in more ways than the shared color of their hair. There was something alarmingly familiar about her soul, but there were also qualities which he lacked. She was honest. She was unflinchingly loyal. She was the emblem of conviction.

He nodded to her once again, very slowly, eyes gleaming.

"You may help me."

She dipped her chin approvingly.

"Good. Now close your eyes."

Without another word she reached out, and crushed the healing stone to dust over his face.

A/N: Hey all! I wanted an unresolved ending on this because in my head it's a story that could continue past this point. I don't have much of an outline yet, and I probably won't pursue one unless there is a lot of interest here. If anyone would be interested in reading a full length fic with this as the first chapter, please let me know in the reviews and I'll look into writing one. :)

Also, for Sigyn's hair/eyes and all of that, I went with what I could fish up from Marvel's website. I'm a great lover of comics, but I haven't had a chance (BROKE college student,) to read a great deal of Thor, so if there are any inaccuracies, I apologize. I have some experience with Asgard, Thor, etc, but I am no expert and I don't claim to be. So, if you see something that needs to be changed, please let me know.

As always, thanks for reading!