A/N: When Loki falls, Thor dives after him and snatches him back. Now the Allfather has to decide how to punish his wayward son.
WARNING: (- in all caps, now that I've received a nastygram from a reader who may not have read the warnings carefully.)
The story contains torture. Many chapters are composed entirely of torture, specifically: detailed depictions of severe physical and psychological ouches. Injury and trauma are treated seriously and are warned for, but they are here in abundance. No death, not much gore, but there is torture.
There is also lots of introspection on Loki's part.
There is also Thor/Loki h/c, but it is NOT SLASH. Gotta love fandoms where you have to warn for a *lack* of slash. :o)
Loki let go. Thor was screaming NO above him, wild and desperate, and Loki felt a hot surge of pride at having wrecked him this badly. Then he had no more time to think of Thor, because he was falling.
Some time later his fall was arrested by a jarring metallic thud; armor on armor. He tried to focus his eyes in the disorienting glittering darkness, and made out the gleam of Mjolnir. Thor had dived after him.
Loki started to struggle. "What are you doing?" he screamed at the top of his lungs. He couldn't hear himself; he didn't know if Thor could either. "Let me go. Let me die."
Never, brother. The words echoed in Loki's head and he didn't know if they were really there, or he had imagined them. How could he tell?
"What is that woman's name?" he shouted. He couldn't imagine the answer to that one - he didn't know.
Her name is Jane, and I will kill or die to protect her. Don't you dare threaten her again.
Classic Thor. "Go back to her. Let me fall."
I will never let go. I am bringing you home, brother.
"I don't want to go home, and I'm not your brother. Thor, please – if you truly want to help me, then please just let me go."
The blackness brightened, Asgard in the distance, coming closer and closer and Loki braced for the impact but Thor had never been the most graceful of flyers. Or landers. His head rang and he rolled and bounced fifty feet down the bridge before coming to rest against a pair of armored boots. The Allfather. Wonderful.
He closed his eyes and hoped to pass out.
No such luck. A few moments later Loki was kneeling, next to Thor who was also kneeling, heads bowed as they waited for the Allfather to speak.
First, Odin put out his hand and let it hover in the air over Loki's head. Loki felt a curious emptying, a pouring-out, and knew without asking that he had just been sapped of his magic.
No matter – he had expected that. He would simply have to convince the Allfather to give it back.
"Loki," Odin began. Quiet, ponderous. Loki tried not to flinch visibly. "You have taken lives. Endangered lives. Committed terrible treason. You deserve to be put to death."
Thor spoke up from the ground. "Father, no," he said. Loki wanted to roll his eyes. Couldn't Thor hear the but in what Odin was saying? "I will not have my brother killed. I would sooner die fighting in his defense."
Stupid and misguided as that was, it made Loki's chest hurt a little bit. He reached out along the ground for Thor's hand, and gave it a squeeze.
But he also made his own wishes heard. "Allfather, I know you don't mean to kill me," he said, amazed at the steadiness of his own voice. "But I beg you to reconsider. Everything I loved has been taken from me. My dreams, my friends, my family – even my name. I want to die. Quickly, cleanly, and at once. Please." Finally he looked up.
Odin was staring down at him, and it was impossible not to read compassion in his face. Loki felt his stomach sink. They weren't going to kill him after all. "No, Loki. You will be punished, but not by death."
"Yes! Yes, of course." Thor didn't let go of his hand. "You can banish him, as you banished me, send him down to Midgard, let him learn-"
"No," Odin said quietly. Thor fell silent at once. "He does not need what you needed. His crimes, his failings, are different."
What are you going to do to me? Loki's tongue was stuck to his mouth. He couldn't manage the words.
Thor said it for him. "Then what will his punishment be?"
"Something terrible that he will never forget," Odin answered at once. "Something that will strip away his pride, and his greed, and the lies he tells himself."
Loki swallowed hard. "Something," he repeated. "What?"
"Come to me in one hour. By then everything will be arranged, and I will explain it to you. Loki?" The Allfather's gaze was hard. "Your word as a prince of Asgard that you will appear as commanded."
Loki shook his head. "I… I can't. I told you: I want death."
"I said no." Odin gave an exasperated sigh. "But if you still crave death once your punishment is over, I will give it to you."
"Then I'll come." Not that he had a choice. If he refused, Thor would just-
"I'll make sure, Father." Right on cue, Thor spoke up. "I won't leave Loki's side."
They spent the next hour in silence. Thor stared with wounded eyes and waited for Loki to speak up, to explain, and Loki glared and tried to keep himself too occupied with hatred to feel sorry. When it was time they went together, falling comfortably in step as always, and when they reached Odin's door they made eye contact one last time. "No matter what, Brother, I love you," Thor said, with more stubbornness than affection.
"Shut up." Loki felt his smile waver and did his best to shore it up. "You'll be a king soon. You can't be so naïve."
They walked in together. Odin was not alone. There were two strange-looking warriors standing beside him, blank, obedient, and of some race Loki had never seen before.
"Are those my jailers?"
"They are your keepers for the time being," Odin agreed. He turned to the creatures and said: "These are my instructions. I say them here with my sons as witnesses, so that Loki will know what lies in store for him and Thor will understand what I have done with his brother." He cleared his throat. Loki readied himself for action. Odin would speak words of banishment, he would mouth some servile garbage, drop to his knees, possibly cry. He would say Father and Brother as many times as possible.
"Loki is a prince of Asgard, and my beloved son," Odin began. "Therefore I want him treated with all possible respect and civility. While he is in your custody I expect his treatment to befit his station; he is not to be dishonored or degraded without purpose."
"We understand," one of the creatures said. Its voice was low and even. A drone. Loki named them Drone One and Drone Two immediately. Drone Two stepped up beside its fellow. "What would you have done with him?"
"I would have you take him to your dungeons, and torture him until he breaks."
That was not what Loki had expected to hear. He licked his lips, his mind churning, thinking, assessing, planning. Needing to say the right thing – there was no room for error.
Thor did not wait. "What? Father. You can't be serious. You-"
Odin held up his hand for silence, sharply, and went on as if the interruption had never happened. "I want you to tear him apart body and spirit," he told the Drones. "His mind is his most powerful weapon. He must suffer until he loses it."
That was sickening – obscene. The world rocked and Loki realized he had gone down to one knee, bracing his hands on the floor for support. His mind? Better Odin had ordered them to cut off a limb, put out an eye. At least then he would still be-...
He swallowed down a throatful of acid with determination and spoke up, right words be dammed. He had to say something. "Not that. Father, please, not that. Anything. Death. Anything but my-"
"Father." Thor stood between them and for a few moments Loki felt himself hoping. "I cannot stand by."
Odin only said: "You must trust me."
Thor stood still a moment, and Loki knew what must be running (plodding) through his mind: My banishment worked out so well; surely Father is just as wise in planning for poor wayward little Loki.
Thor moved aside, and Loki suddenly felt a lot less safe cowering on the ground. He rose up, mouth watering against the bile, trying to blink clarity back to his vision. "Father."
Odin's attention was on the Drones again. "I will want him whole again, after," he said. "So do not maim him. I would also prefer that you not subject him to sexual defilement, as I find the thought incredibly distasteful, but I will leave the decision in your hands."
This could not be happening. Loki stared, all his words deserting him.
"Loki." Odin sighed. "You deserve to suffer for what you have done, and I will not have you sitting even near the throne of Asgard until I can trust you better. My son... this is the only way." He stepped close and put a hand on Loki's neck. It was more physical affection than Loki had had from the Allfather since he was six years old, and the surprise helped unfreeze him enough to speak.
"Trust me? How does destroying me make me any more worthy of trust?" he argued desperately. "Trust does not come from torture. Father, what you need to do is-"
"Don't you presume to teach me how to rule." Odin's voice was quiet, but it cut. He removed his hand. "What I need to do is find out where you went wrong, how you could have done what you did. I will put you to the question like any traitor until I am satisfied we have found the truth. Once we understand your false ideas, we can replace them with better ones."
Loki's eyes were blurring. "Father, no."
"Go now, Loki. Go with my love and my blessing."
Loki looked once more to Thor, who was also crying. "I am so sorry for you, brother," he said. "For what you have felt and what you have done. But be glad: Father is not casting you out. I will wait for you and greet you with joy when you return. I will help you heal however I can. I will help you find happiness."
"Did- did you not hear him?" Loki sputtered. "This is madness. Barbaric." He was so panicked he could hardly draw breath and his mind, it seemed, had already slowed. Something he would perhaps have to get used to.
Odin and Thor did not answer him. At last, one of the Drones spoke up. "Prince Loki. Please cross your wrists."
A long, long silence. Prince Loki, it had said. Yes. He would not embarrass himself in front of his f-… in front of Odin and Thor, any more than he already had. He stood up straight and found Thor's gaze. He held it while he crossed his wrists in front of him. He held it when the Drone passed some sort of tingling rod over them, sealing them together by a magic that on any other day would have fascinated him endlessly.
He tugged once; the bond did not hurt, but it was unbreakable. Thor looked away.
"Thor. Allfather. I would ask one thing." Loki was pleased that his voice was holding steady. "If my mind is damaged beyond repair, then I want you to kill me. I do not want to live on as a madman, or an idiot, or a vegetable. Will you grant me that?"
"Brother, I swear it," Thor said, his voice thick.
Odin said: "It will not come to that, my son."
It was cold comfort.
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