Disclaimer: Nothing from this Marvelous universe is mine.
Summary: "They are innocent. Please, punish me not them," he begs, because he'd never meant for this to happen. He'd never meant for his hated little brother to die.
Set in the same verse as 'Drown'.
Warnings: Moderately graphic torture.
He dreams of frost which creeps into every bone. Of a blue darkness which permeates his very being, reaching deep inside to draw out everything warm, leaving only the bitter cold in its wake.
The first time he'd toddled into his parent's chambers, risking the black terror of the empty halls to find a half remembered golden warmth, the Allfather had drawn him close and whispered that he was safe.
He still says so after Tyr is born, but it is said with a hint of impatience.
After Baldur is born, father tells him he is too old for such fears.
He crawls in next to Thor when they come then. Strong, mighty Thor who never fears anything and who says he is silly for being scared but who pulls the covers up over both of them anyway and says he'll stay awake to keep the monsters at bay.
They are older now, and Baldur dreams of death.
Loki waits for him to be told he is too old.
Instead, mother casts enchantments over him so that nothing will ever be able to hurt him. And Baldur's dreams fade.
And Loki smiles past the bitterness and pretends he is pleased.
He knows he should be.
Sometimes he even manages to convince himself that he is.
He is one hundred and eighty now and Angrboda has been exposed as a Jotun and a traitor.
Which is good.
That had been the plan.
But his children shouldn't have been monsters. His blood should have burned away the disgusting Jotun taint and they should have looked Aesir, even as Odin did.
But they will. They just need time.
Time which, remembering Sleipnir and noting father's mistrustful glances, they may not have.
Which is why he stands now in Baldur's chambers, facing his little brother across the blazing hearth.
"Brother, all I would ask is that you play with them. All Asgard loves what you do, we both know that. If you would but be seen to accept them their mother's memory might fade."
Baldur gives him a look of unleavened pity.
"I am sorry brother. If her blood has beaten yours there is nothing I can do."
Loki catches his arm before he can turn away.
They are my family.
There is a long period of quiet.
"They are not true Aesir, brother. And—they are frightening. I don't think I can. I'm not a good enough liar."
Slowly, slowly, Loki forces himself to release his little brother's arm.
It is not, he tries to tell himself, Baldur's fault.
Most of Asgard is frightened of his sons—Jormungand who at seven years is already many meters in length and Fenris who when little more than a pup had savaged all the dogs the Aesir had been cruel enough to force him he play with. As though mere creatures were his equals.
One month later, Jormungand is cast into the oceans of Midgard.
Thor sits with him while he rages and smashes everything he can and shouldn't in his chambers.
"He was so big. Asgard is flat and he loved the water. He would have been crushed by his own weight or fallen off into the void."
"He was seven, Thor. Seven. And my son."
"It's not your fault, brother."
But it is.
And he can feel the words tearing their way out and he doesn't try to fight them.
"Why? Why was my blood not enough?"
"Maybe she cursed them? Or maybe it was her age," Thor suggests, "She was many centuries old and you are not yet two. It is not you."
Suddenly he just feels tired. So very tired.
He doesn't realise he's crying until Thor is next to him and holding him and promising that for his other children it will be better.
Thor starts helping him then. Visiting. Smashing the nose of any and all who insult his niece. And, shockingly, Tyr, Tyr who he hadn't realised payed enough attention to anything but battle to know about anything, starts taking time away from the practice ring to play and wrestle with Fenris. He declares his nephew to be a cunning warrior and a strong fighter.
"Better than half the fools I waste my time teaching."
'Half those fools' then try to prove they are not so by joining Tyr and Fenris, and suddenly Fenris is no longer alone.
And if Tyr makes no pretence of liking Fenris he does not need to. The mere fact that he treats him as an Aesir, not a mere beast, is enough.
Baldur stays away.
It is just over a century before Odin declares Hela Queen of the dead and Hela herself, barely of age, accepts the post with cool grace. None could guess now that in her true form she was half Aesir, half corpse. Her mastery of the arts arcane is strong.
She looks beautiful.
Loki allows himself to believe his little family is... cared for.
Convinces himself that he was wrong to think the Allfather had anything but their wellbeing in mind for his children. He relaxes his guard.
And then Mother has her vision and, away on Alfheim as he is, there was nothing he can do until far, far too late.
Fenris, Kingsbane, will be bound until the world ends.
When Baldur's firstborn son is welcomed and loved by all of Asgard—when Baldur tells him, laughing, that he thinks Frigga will enjoy having grandchildren she can hold without risking the loss of a limb, a child she can actually care for—Loki thinks he knows what it is to truly hate.
It is the work of years to find the flaw in his brother's defences.
And, clenching his hand about the javelin, he smiles.
His little brother will not die, no.
To kill another Aesir deliberately, especially one so loved as his little brother, is to be given the death penalty.
But if he shows that Baldur—golden, laughing, Baldur who'd smiled and smiled and done nothing when he could have changed everything—that he can bleed, the nightmares will return for him.
And remembering them, remembering the way they made his little brother pale with exhaustion and fear, he decides they will be enough.
Tyr holds his arms behind his back and Thor can't even bear to look at him.
Behind them, Baldur lies on the ground, his face set in a rictus of dawning horror and fear. A brown dart rises from his chest like some twisted flag and the red is pooling and pooling beneath him and why won't it stop?
Why won't his hated little brother just get back up?
Sigyn stands to the side, one arm about each son, her face a white mask of agony and desperation.
Loki's gaze is on his father, and he would clasp his hands if they weren't being held hard enough to bruise. He doesn't need to force the tears into his eyes.
"They are innocent. Please, punish me not them."
In Odin's eye there is only biting disappointment. Contempt.
"Baldur too was innocent, my son. It is fitting that, just as your actions cost me a son, so my actions should cost you the life of yours."
And have your actions not cost me three?
The words burn on his lips but he forces them back. It will do no good to remind his father that he fathered the children destined to destroy him. Instead he says:
"I did not mean to kill him. Father, we all threw weapons at him. It was a game. How was I to know my dart would strike true? Did mother not say he was protected against all things?"
But there is no mercy on the Allfather's face. No mercy on anyone's.
He is known for his mischief and his pranks have grown ever crueller. They think he did know, he realises. That it is true does not make him feel any less wronged. He hadn't meant to kill Baldur. Just to prove that mother's protections were worthless.
Only Baldur hadn't got back up.
"For that reason alone I have not slain you where you stand. You are my son, and for that reason your maliciousness will be corrected that you may once again be seen to be one of us."
Not like this. Please, not like this.
He would grovel if he could.
His gaze slips towards Vali and Narfi.
It isn't fair. They're only half Aesir, but it isn't fair.
They're not yet sixty and they watch, uncomprehending, trying not to cry. Vali holds Narfi's hands tightly enough to squeeze the blood from it and his little knuckles are white. They can sense their mother's terror.
He wonders whether Sigyn will forgive him for what he will say next.
"Father if you do so you will punish only my wife. They are not my sons but Theoric's."
Sigyn sucks in a sharp breath.
"You would claim she played you falsely?" Thor demands.
Idiotic brute that you are, you will allow my sons to be taken and yet you object to that?
"No. She was with child when we were wed. I never... I would not force her and her loyalty was always to her lord, even when he had died. I used magic to prolong the pregnancy. I owed her that much."
Odin's lip curls.
"Heimdall. Is this true?"
His blood freezes.
"Ever has Loki's magic been complex, my King. But the Lord Theoric did lie with his betrothed, as was his right. It is not given to me to know if the children she bore were his or your son's."
He can feel his heart battering away at his chest like a trapped boar.
In that moment, he swears to himself that he will repay Heimdall someday. That he will never forget Heimdall's aid.
Please Sigyn. Do not let them be sacrificed for me.
She meets his gaze, and her face hardens.
"And now that I know what sort of monster my husband is, I would beg leave to take my sons back to Vanaheim and raise them away from his poisonous influence. I have tried to love him. But I cannot. Not after this."
He could have kissed her, even as he allows a single tear to creep down his cheek.
Her pansy blue eyes are cold as ice.
"Very well. I cannot punish those who may be Theoric's sons," Odin says, "You may leave and none shall blame you for so doing. Noble were you to stay with my son for so long."
And then she is gone.
He never gets to say goodbye to his sons.
He doesn't remember when the snake came. Just that it is there and it will not go.
There is no one to hold a bowl for him as he lies there, alone in the darkness, naked and cold.
He doesn't bother to fight back the screams as the first, glistening drop of venom eats into his flesh. Followed by another. And another. They fall on him and he tries to twist out of the way but it's not enough and it trickles down his body even as he tries, and fails, to arch away.
His throat is on fire and it hurts and hurts and he can't do anything. Can't do anything as it eats it's way into him burning the skin away like old paper, leaving just a glistening red mass of exposed muscle and scars in it's wake. Pain. So much-
He just wants it to stop.
Later, there are the boils and sores and oozing scabs. A stomach so empty and a throat so dry all he feels is a hollow dizziness when the venom stills long enough for him to think.
He doesn't know how many eternities he lies there in the darkness screaming at everything and no one and nothing.
Until he can't.
Delirious with pain and starvation he cries for Thor because Thor always chased away the darkness and he can't remember why he shouldn't now.
And then the pain is gone and there's something warm on his shoulder and he leans into it as best he can despite the chains because it's been so long since anything but the venom and the agony touched him.
"Brother," someone chokes out, and he feels something twist inside without knowing why.
Later, when Eir fusses over him, he finds out he was there for six months.
Later, he finds out that his sentence was just being bound to a rock alone in the darkness for as long as it took him to get free.
Later, he learns that Skadi, wife of Njord of Vanaheim, had slipped in with magic and fastened the snake above him. Skadi, the Jotun who had wanted to marry Baldur. He hates her and hates her the worse for knowing that no revenge can be taken on Vanaheim's queen, monster that she is.
Frigga holds his hand gently and tells him that he has served his sentence and is forgiven now.
That he'd never been meant to be away that long under such conditions.
That Odin's threats against his sons were made from grief and temper.
That they understand he didn't mean to kill Baldur.
That they love him and no one knew.
He tells himself it is true.
But he wonders, sometimes, if they cared, why no one ever asked Heimdall to check on him as he lay there alone and screaming in the dark.