This is a sequel of sorts to my fic Lullaby. Reading it isn't necessary to understand this, but you might want to (I'd say because this is a spiritual successor to Lullaby, but that sounds pretentious). Kink meme fill. The lullaby is Icelandic Lullaby by Sissel Kyrkjebo.
As Thor takes him to the park, bound and gagged, he feels overburdened by weariness. His eyes burn with exhaustion. His ears ring. His mouth is dry. Pangs of hunger gnaw at his stomach. He is used to foregoing meals in the pursuit of his studies, but the empty feeling in his stomach born from lack of sleep and fatigue is different. Worse. Instead of a sharp knife against his gut, this is a lingering, pressing fist.
It makes his body feel heavy, a strange juxtaposition to the weightlessness in his head.
Still, he is careful not to show weakness. Each step he executes with precision, and he sends his sharp gaze about the park to leave the Avengers with no doubt that he is as aware as ever. Caged he may be, he refuses to show them he is beaten.
Even though he is.
He is beaten, and soundly, and the simple knowledge of his defeat makes his hands tremble as Thor comes to a stop. He clasps his hands before him to hide their shaking, and he cannot help a fleeting glance toward the sky. A terrible part of him, the part that is as brilliant as it is wicked, knows Thanos could appear at any moment. Surely Thanos can't be happy with the way everything turned out. Surely Thanos will want revenge on Loki for his failures.
Oh, he can twist this to his benefit, Loki is sure. Were he free, he could go to the Other and whisper poisonous words in his ear for Thanos to hear. It isn't so hard to turn defeat into a setback and a setback into a sort of retroactive victory with the right words. But he is bound and gagged, and he can neither speak nor escape.
Dread fills him, a series of sharp, jagged spikes of pain and fear cutting their way down his spine. Combined with his weariness, the sensation leaves him feeling nauseous and on the verge of collapse. So he stands as straight as possible, his head held high.
Thor offers him one end of the device containing the tesseract, and Loki takes it. He does not want to; he would rather sever his own hand from his body with a dull and rusted knife. But he takes it, the metal almost warm under his fingers. It must be chill to Thor for it to feel warm to Loki.
Together, they activate the tesseract, and there is a purely visceral moment where Loki hates himself. He hates every moment of his life, every breath and every thought, from the present to as far back as he can remember. He hates Thor's smiles and jokes, every casual display of affection, and he loathes his place on Odin's knee, and he despises his mother's council and encouragements.
This fierce resentment, this twisted enmity, is the last his body can take. When he appears on the shattered end of the Bifrost, his grip on the device goes slack and he falls to his knees. He cannot support himself, and all that hatred for his false family turns inward as a piercing disgust for himself and his own and many weaknesses.
Cold shivers wrack his body as his vision goes spotty.
His head swims.
In gasps and pants he tries to drag in breaths of air.
He hears his brother's voice as a distant and ringing echo, and he experiences such need for his brother's support that he will hate himself all the more come morning.
His vision fades.
The icy fist of panic wraps around his spine, and he thinks no, no I can't let go now, not now for Thanos is out there, the Chitauri are out there, and both could come at any moment, both could appear and strike against him, and where would he be but vulnerable in a bed, a weak target, easy to cut and quick to die, and he feels terror, genuine terror, not the sweet solace of oblivion that should come with unconsciousness.
He clings desperately to the knowledge that he should hate himself, though he can no longer remember quite why. Panic narrows one's focus like that.
A warm hand touches his shoulder. The hand is attached to a body, of course it is, how could it not be, and that body has a name.
Again, the feeling he will hate himself. He will hate himself for this, for everything, for so many things, come morning.
But morning does not come.
Frigga speaks with a soft voice, not lifting her head. She sits beside Loki as he sleeps, just as she did the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that. For three days, Loki has done little but sleep. From time to time, he rises from his slumber to blurt out nonsense about monsters and death and danger, but she is there to smooth the sweat-slicked hair from his forehead and urge him back to sleep.
Just as she did when he was a child.
Just as she will do until the world crumbles around him.
"Mother. Have you slept?"
She hesitates to answer, but Thor is ever aware of her moods and needs, and she glances at him as he settles on the other side of the bed with a worried frown on his face. "You must sleep," he tells her, so sincere.
Turning away from him, she regards Loki. His skin is so pale that she can see the veins in his eyelids clearly enough to count them. Dark smudges circle his eyes, as though someone pressed their thumb in purple paint and then smeared it across his flesh. His lips are cracked and peeling, his breath wheezing between them, and Frigga can't help but think how much he would hate them to know they saw him in such a vulnerable state.
"I am well," she returns, curling her fingers around Loki's and lifting his hand to her cheek.
She lies too well for Thor, and wonders not for the first time if Loki learned to lie from her. Thor's frown remains for a few seconds more before changing into a tentative smile as he accepts her response.
"Do you think he'll wake soon?" Thor asks, his earnest tone heartbreaking.
"I hope not," she whispers, fear skittering across her skin like one million spiders. Tears burn at her eyes and her stomach turns. But she does not cry – cannot allow herself to cry. Not in front of her children.
Thor wears an expression of confusion and then realization. "He will be punished, of course," he says quietly, and Frigga nods.
"It is not love," she tells him, her voice shaking, "to keep someone from the consequences they courted." She wants to. She wants so badly to wrap Loki in her arms, to shield him with her body and soul from everything Odin will visit upon him, but she knows, absolutely, that she cannot do such a thing. It would be a kind of tyranny, unspeakably cruel.
She realizes she cannot blame herself for all of Loki's actions, but she wonders, especially now, if she protected him too often as a child. She remembers, too, that she gave him the means to protect himself. She handed him his first book of spells, she stayed up with him until the wee hours of the morning to help him learn magic.
Indirectly, she is to blame for all of this.
But, too, she saw it unfold first in her spinning, as she sees all things. Mortals are creatures who, upon seeing the future, attempt to run from it. Gods are creatures who allow the future to come upon them. She knows there is no way to alter her visions; they are what they are. Once had, they will never change and cannot be altered.
Yggdrasil wrote the story of her life, of Loki's life, so very long ago.
Loki jerks suddenly, as if called to awareness by her thoughts, and twists under his sheets. He gasps and goes tense, then limp, then tense again. His legs kick and his lips move though he makes no sound.
Leaning over him, Frigga presses her warm fingers to his cheek. She hesitates. And then she does something she has not done in many years.
"Sleep you now, oh child of mine, sleep you in your manger. Sleep while winter winds will whine. Sleep you safe from danger."
Opening her hand against his cheek, she presses her palm gently to his skin, cool and clammy even for him. She hums the melody of the verse twice more as his eyes flutter and his stirrings cease. She hums the melody of the verse twice more as he settles into a deep sleep.
And then she sings the verse again and again, until she sees Thor's lips move from the corner of her eye.
He wakes in a panic, screaming, hands clawing at the pressure on his chest – fabric, clothes, not a danger, he knows this, but he cannot help himself – and dig into fleshy limbs. Not his limbs.
A flash of gold. A creased brow.
Tender hands twisting out of his grasp.
This touch has a name, and he scrambles for it in his horror, knowing it is necessary to give it name, to recognize it before he does something else he will regret.
"How long?" he demands.
His voice comes out a terrified shriek, and he shoves against the body, pushing at it. Something clatters. He hears a thud.
He does not care as he rolls free of his bed. He hits the floor and his knees scream, but all he can think is that he must escape. He must get away before Thanos finds him and rips him apart for his failure.
He surges to his feet to run, and he—
He collapses, shaking. His cheeks feel wet. His skin is blue. His stomach twists and revolts, and he turns and heaves what little remains in his stomach onto the floor.
As he shakes, far too cold even for him, he waits for the jeering laughter, though he does not know entirely why he expects it. His mind turns in circles as it tries to process the golden arches and shining room around him.
There is a name—
She crouches in front of him, beautiful and fierce, a warrior with no equal. There is a halo about her, not so much visual as emotional, and it wraps about him with tenderness. Not a lover's tenderness, no, but she brings him to her shoulder, holding him, and she is so gentle. So kind. She smells of the earth and of metal. Of storms and leather and strength. Of safety.
Even though he wants to shy away from her, to hide his weakness, he is absolutely sure this is a woman to whom his weakness means nothing. His strength means nothing, either.
Finally – finally – he has a name to put to all of this. To this face. This feeling.
"Mother," he chokes out, and she wraps him in her love and holds him as he sobs.
He can't quite hate himself the tears only because she never would.
Odin puts him in a cell. It is a gilded cell, its opulence overwhelming, but a cell nonetheless, and so Loki resents him.
He paces the room, restless, knowing he will only be in Asgard until Odin decides upon a suitable punishment for him. As he paces, he manufactures the scene in his mind, building it piece by piece. He places Odin on his throne, and Frigga, resplendent in her finery, at his side. Each prominent member of Asgard he puts in their right place in the throne room. Thor and his friends stand on the stairs leading to Odin's dais.
Just Sif and the Warriors Three are on the dais.
Thor stands with the Avengers before the All Father, and they give their testimonies against him.
He pictures Frigga, her impassive face faltering ever so slightly. But she remains regal, the very image of a queen. And Odin, too, his face cut from granite and unmoving – unmovable. Odin is a rock in that room. Emotionless. Cold. Chiller than Jotunheim, no doubt.
Thor will tell how he attempted to persuade Loki to come home. Thor will be the hero, as he always is. His friends will count off Loki's transgressions. Perhaps Heimdall, too, will speak.
They are betrayers, all of them, and Loki is, as he always is, the traitor and the betrayed.
He paces until he is exhausted again, which isn't long at all. Though he slept for nearly a week, he tires easily. Magic is beyond him, leaving him weak and shaking and sick. He has only just managed to relieve himself without assistance. Until just the previous day, the trek from bed to bathing chamber was too arduous to accomplish alone; the return trip was nearly impossible.
He sinks onto a heavily pillowed couch, wiping sweat from his brow, and is surprised to discover his hands are shaking. Pressing the heels of his hands against his squishy eyes, watching colors burst against his eyelids, he fights back rage and loathing and hatred – all of it self directed.
He, of course, is not surprised by this.
He does wonder, though, if those Avengers will understand. Certainly not. Thor won't tell them the whole story. Odin won't think of it. None of them will understand that Loki had no recourse. Even if he had wanted to step back and stop his plan – and he hadn't – had he? – he would not have been able to. The mortals had a saying, didn't they? He dug his own grave and upon realizing it, had only dug deeper, as though no one would notice the growing pile of earth beside the hole.
Foolish. He is foolish, he knows, yet he chooses not to dwell on it. Instead, he turns to his side, curls in on himself, and shuts his eyes. He is asleep within moments – sleep comes so quickly to him even when he tries to fight it for fear of Thanos.
Later, he wakes to the sound of his mother's voice. He keeps his eyes closed, does not change his breathing, though she surely knows he is awake. It is impossible to lie to her. But she keeps singing, her voice sweet and even, soothing and gentle. Her hand rubs the naked skin of his back, and he realizes he is in his bed. He suspects Thor is responsible.
As he listens to his mother's voice, he hears Thor's, too, and he resists a heavy sigh, knowing that would give him away. He remains still and silent, listening attentively in spite of his tiredness, because this is a song he does not remember from his childhood.
"Sleep you when the dark ice groans, frost and fire nearing." It does not take him long to realize this is a warning. This is a promise, from the goddess who sees the future, from the queen of Asgard, from Odin's wife. From his mother. "Sleep you when the silence moans." His mind is quick to concoct horrors from what he knows, intimately, of the nine realms.
Perhaps he shuddered. Perhaps he tensed. Perhaps he did nothing at all. But his mother leans over him, presses a kiss to the side of his head, and sings one last line of song. "Sleep you with no fearing."
When he drifts to sleep not long after, it is with the knowledge that his mother will not let Odin's punishment be unfair or unnecessarily harmful. It will be precisely what he deserves, and it only makes him hate Odin more.
And yet, hatred doesn't quite manage to capture the whirlwind of feelings rioting in Loki's stomach, twisting it up and making him feel ill as he stands with Odin on a barren chunk of frozen rock. In the distance, the sky burns. The fire is too far to hear its crackling, and he's not entirely sure what could be burning.
Beneath their feet, the ice crackles. A sharp blast of wind drags at his insufficient clothing, and his body reacts before he can help it, shifting from Asgardian peach to Jotun blue.
He sees the loathing in Odin's eye – and, perhaps, something else, but mostly the loathing. Or maybe, he thinks to himself later after Odin has gone, it's not that he sees mostly the loathing whenever he looks at Odin but that he chooses to see nothing else.
Loki is nothing if not self-aware. He knows himself. He simply edits that knowledge into something acceptable.
They stand no more than two feet apart, watching each other with wary eyes. The tension in the air makes the hair at the back of Loki's neck stand on end. At least, the shorter bits do.
He wants to say something, but the words are slow to come. When he finally manages to concoct something intelligent and biting in his head, Odin sucks in a breath as though he intends to speak, too. They both hesitate at the same time.
They both turn away from each other.
The silence continues, uninterrupted.
So they stand there. Loki begins counting for sheer boredom. It may be petty, but Loki has no desire to speak first. Let Odin deal with that discomfort.
He counts to 150,031 before Odin speaks.
"This is to be your home for the next century."
A century is a pittance to an immortal, to be sure, but Odin is mad if he thinks Loki will stay locked away for so long. He is sure he'll escape within the year.
"There are no plants here. No animals. There is fire, ice, and silence."
"I thought punishments were to fit the crime. This is a poor choice if you are attempting to correct my behavior," Loki says.
Some part of him, the part that still desperately craves his father's affection and affirmation, dies a little more with those words. But he has dug his grave. He cannot crawl out of it now. He figures he ought to keep going. Eventually, he will discover something worthwhile in the black pit of earth.
Odin is silent but a moment. When he speaks, his voice is taught. Tense. "You who so desperately craves the subjugation of others will find no such opportunities here. You will be alone. Utterly. Completely."
As Loki sits on a frozen rock some two or three hours later, he realizes how truly awful Odin's punishment is. All his life, he thought he was alone. The other, ostracized from Asgardian society. And though he was certainly different, being so entirely cut off makes him reevaluate that thought.
One does not know how alone one is until there is truly no one else at one's side.
Heat warms his left side, and Loki, startled, looks up. He sees the fire advancing, and his eyes widen. It has been some months since his exhausted collapse, but he sees now the edge of cruelty in Odin's punishment. The planet he has been left on is not one that burns continuously on one side while remaining deathly cool on the other.
The fire will chase him across the globe.
With no other option, he rises to his feet. He runs. He plans as he runs. He will be trapped no longer than absolutely necessary. Magic is like a muscle; he will exercise it until it is strong enough to accomplish his freedom.
And so Loki learns to hate Odin all the more
Frigga sits with her spinning wheel. She sits in a courtyard, adorned in her finest gown, wearing a necklace more brilliant than the sun that drapes across the skin of her chest like a spider web glistening with morning dew. Her hair is a golden halo about her head as she bends over her work, inspecting the thread before drawing upright and continuing.
She works mindlessly, for her mind is clearly elsewhere. Perhaps she counts the days until she sees her son again. Perhaps she does not care.
She certainly cares. Because she is Frigga, Loki knows she cares.
And he knows, too, that of all the people of Asgard, she is aware that he has slipped Odin's leash. She is aware he is free. And that is why she sits in her courtyard, dressed in her finery, singing.
Odin has ignored Frigga's prophecy in the past. He will ignore it in the future.
But Loki, hidden in the shadows, hears her words, prophecy or no, and commits them to heart. And when he is lonely and tired, when all the world hates him and sends his brother and the Avengers against him, though he cannot hear her, he sings the words of her lullaby.
"Sleep you well and sleep you long for life will leave you weary. Sleep you still and sleep you strong 'til you no longer hear me."
Even despised and hated and alone, he hears the words of her lullaby. They echo in his mind, and he hides them in his heart.