Queen Frigga had been frantic all night. When Loki was absent from supper, she had sent a servant to fetch him, as usual. Thor had been in the middle of telling about the great upper-hand he had on Lady Sif, who tried not to glare back at him, when the servant returned and informed the royalties and nobles that the God of Mischief was not in his room. When further questioned, the servant listed off that he also wasn't in the kitchen, library, any common rooms, or the gardens; but his horse was missing from the stable. Here Thor had perked up and mentioned that the young prince had said he was going to go on a ride, and that he should return at any moment. This was enough to satisfy the table, but now that it the night sky was lightening to a grayish hue of morning, Queen Frigga hugged her night robe tightly to herself as she waited in front of a fire in the common room that linked to her bedroom. Not a sign of Loki, and every hint of tired anxiety etched the Queen's powerful face. She stared into the fire that a servant had only recently been told to stop attending to, and was lost in worry for her missing child when a body stirred from the armchair next to her.
King Odin raised himself from his seat and, stroking his beard, turned his blue eye to his wife and studied her features. When Frigga didn't pass him a fleeting glance, he let out a sigh and turned a quarter to face her.
"It would be wise for us to sleep, dear Frigga," he said quietly. The Queen stirred and looked up at him. She pursed her lips and shook her head, settling back down. Odin tried again, more persuasively, "A servant will notify us if he returns."
"I would like to be the first to speak with him," she replied. After a heartbeat, she looked up and saw that, even though he was so inclined to sleep, Odin hadn't moved an inch. A loving smile quirked her lips, "I am in no need of company, dearest heart. If you wish to retire, I will tell you in the morning what has happened while you were asleep."
Odin sighed as he came forward and kissed her forehead, "You should have said that you would tell me later today, instead of tomorrow."
Her smile failed her, and he gave her a comforting squeeze on the arm before he moved out of the room much slower and less regal than in the eyes of the public. Frigga watched him pass through the doors that lead to their bedroom, and then rested her fingers near her mouth and resumed her tentative watch on the flames. It was an hour more before she was finally turned from her focus to stay awake, and heard the soft thump of riding boots against marble. Sitting straighter, Frigga noticed that the fire was small, little life left in it, but was no longer captivated by it. She glanced over her shoulder at the door to the hallway that she took care to keep slightly ajar. There was no doubt now that she heard it again, getting louder: Footsteps. The Queen sucked in a breath and rose from her seat, tying her robe up tightly as she did so; wanting to keep some of her dignity intact. She moved to the door and, opening it slightly, peered out into the darkened hallway. There was Loki, walking slowly towards his bedroom with his gaze trained down. Frigga huffed out a breath and then gathered up her night robe and gown and began down the hall.
Loki stared at his feet when he heard Frigga shriek his name. He started out of his thoughts as the sound of padded slippers against marble surrounded him, making his throat run dry. After all that happened today, after breaking down in the woods, Loki wasn't in the mood for this. He sighed under his breath and closed his eyes lightly as a familiar voice in his head kicked up again;
"She knows what happened, she knows what happened, she knows what happened."
He tried to silence his thoughts as his eyelids lifted enough to see his mother coming towards him with her expression wrenched in anger, not distraught. Loki's pulsing heart calmed and left a jittery feeling in the pit of his stomach. It would be clear to anyone that his mother was not going to discuss his abuse with him, nor that she even knew, but in his mind there was always the chance of the secret getting out. The door to the common room that was linked to the King's and Queen's bedroom was open and allowing orange light from a fire to spill out. Frigga had come from there when she spotted Loki, and now stood in front of her son and hit him soundly on the chest in a way that could only be described as motherly.
"Where have you been?" she hissed lowly. The Goddess of Love, Destiny, and Marriage looked her son over and conjured a face of rage; something Loki knew it was close to impossible for her to actually be feeling, "You look a mess, child. Where have you been, and why have you returned so late in the hour? I have been sitting up all night for you since the servants reported your horse missing. Your father and brother have been as equally anxious!"
Loki's gaze had fallen to the floor, as if often had whenever he encountered his family nowadays, but now he peeked up at her, "Have they?"
"Yes. Your brother especially has been wanting to go out and seek for you."
"Yes, child! Do not try my patience!"
"Forgive me, mother. Are they awake?"
"They have been all night, and most of the morning; they only just now went to bed. You made them miss a night's rest, Loki; hardly anyone in the castle slept because of you. Thor told me you were out riding, and I see clearly now that you must have been doing it very recklessly indeed, with all this mess in your hair. What has happened that made you so late in returning?"
Loki gazed off to the side, idle, "I was just thinking, honestly."
"About? What could be so capturing a topic to have you loose track of time so severely?"
"Oh, this and that," said Loki quietly. She thumped his chest again, glaring. He started this time when she did so, and unconsciously took a step away, "It is nothing to trouble your mind with, mother. And I am truly sorry for worrying you so."
"That is not sufficient enough," snapped Frigga.
"I honestly have nothing else to say."
When Frigga moved to clap him again, Loki caught her hand with a suddenness that drew his mother to startle inwardly and glance up at him; trying to retain her irked stare. When her brown eyes met with his deep green, her harshness drew off to surprise when she saw that small tinge of sadness he thought his own mother couldn't read. He smiled a brilliant grin,
"Please stop hitting me, mother," he requested softly. He released the grip that had been gentle all along, and Frigga's anger melted at once. She studied her youngest child, confused, and then worried. Carefully, in surrender, she raised her hand so he could see it and touched his face lightly. Loki kept his hands at his sides and reacted little.
"Child, what has been troubling you?" she asked, noticing the wary differences in her playful son.
"It is of no great concern," Loki returned, "I only wish to be left alone about it, if you would please."
"Has something happened to you?"
"You lie to me, child. You have not been yourself."
When all Loki could do was stare back with a light smile, apologetic for not finding words, Frigga let her hand slide. She checked over her shoulder, fingers to her mouth, and then took his hand and lead him into the common room. The fire was still fighting for life in the mantle, and Loki was placed on the floor in front of the couch, which is where is mother took rest. She moved him so that his back was against her knees and then, like she would when he was a child, she began tugging the leaves and thorns from his hair. In solemn silence they sat; Loki knowing what she was wanting from him, and Frigga doting inwardly on her youngest son's wild curls. After a good length of time, Loki stirred,
"I know you want me to speak, mother, but I cannot find anything to say."
"I want you to tell me what has happened to make my youngest child so suddenly sorrowful all the time," she replied softly.
Loki played with his fingers, "Then this conversation will be rather one-sided."
"Why is that?"
"Nothing has happened to make-"
"Child, do not think that I am a fool. I raised you since birth, and took pains to see to it that you were always content. To deny me this information is to insult my position as a mother. You know you can put your trust in me."
Queen Frigga paused in her actions, surprised, and bent to the side in hopes of capturing Loki's eyes. He continued staring at the floor, so she carefully took his chin with her palm and made him keep eye contact, "Yes, Loki. Of course you can. Why would you think otherwise?"
"No reason, mother. Just curious," said Loki, training his gaze away. He broke from her hand and the carpet regained his attention. Frigga took pause, sat upright, and then continued toying with his curls as she started to persuade,
"Who has made you curious, then, about whether or not I am trustworthy?"
Loki looked up, seemingly disinterested, "No one."
"You are certain?"
"Loki," she spoke sternly and with concern.
Loki was silent, and then sighed in his chest. Frigga noticed this, and her hands fell still. Her son watched the fire, waiting for her to either continue or dismiss him, and then felt her gentle hands on either side of his head. She bent down and kissed into his curls softly, and raised only inches to mutter at him;
"Please, child. It is becoming difficult to see you so out of your wonderful oddness."
Loki smiled a true smile, the first in a while. He glanced up and allowed his mother to kiss his forehead. There was no lie needed when he spoke, "I believe if I told the truth it would do you more wrong than good."
"Oh, you know I am made of sterner stuff," said Frigga, cradling his head in her lap as she looked down at him, "No matter what it may be, I am a Queen, and I have no doubt I will be able to handle it. So, child, my dear heart, my sweet Loki, please tell me who has done you wrong?"
Loki stayed her gaze a moment longer, and then lifted his head upright and continued to watch the flames dance, "It was Thor, mother."
Frigga was a little surprised, but tried to hold it in and continued to play with his curls, hoping this would encourage him to go on. She spoke evenly, expecting to hear of a brothers bickering, "Thor? What did he do?"
"He hit me."
She laughed, "He often does."
The soft hair beneath her fingers was suddenly drawn away as Loki looked back at her and gave her a look that could only be described as one of pure hurt and disbelief. It made Frigga's blood go cold with the horrible realization that she said something very, very wrong. She stuttered to speak again, but Loki rose and faced her.
"You laughed," he noted, putting up a smile and dropping it as quickly as it came.
"I did not mean to, Loki, I thought you meant he hit you while you were sparring. Is that not what you were saying?" asked Frigga, holding her hand halfway out as if beckoning him back.
"Am I really just over-reacting, then?"
"Child, you must first tell me the full story. Did he hit you seriously?"
"He was drunk, but apparently that is not serious to you at all. Is it even serious? Is it my fault?"
"Your fault? No, Loki-"
Loki just shook his head and ran his fingers through his curls as he made for the door. Frigga turned in her chair, too stunned to rise, and tried to call after him. When he made his exit, she called his name once more, in vain hope, and then turned and faced the fire again; horrified by what she had done and what had been said. Trying to grasp it, Frigga stared at the ground and mouthed the words;
A sudden rush of understanding overcame her, and she sat upright with mixed emotions in her eyes. A heavy weight dropped in her stomach and her heart began to speed. At once, Frigga found motion in her limbs, and she rose swiftly up from the couch and whisked out of the room.
Thor hadn't changed out of his day clothes for the entire night, and now that the sun was beginning to rise in the distance, he stirred from his seat by the window in his bedroom and inhaled slowly. He was tired, but so far he had heard no news of Loki's return, and therefore he was determined not to rest until his brother was safe at home. He wanted to prove to Loki that he truly was a protector, since the God of Mischief seemed hard-set on believing otherwise. Thor had been awake for many, many hours, and in that time he had much to think about. At first he tried to remember the details of his consistent victories in his sparring matches that day, but soon his mind began to wander to a topic he didn't much care to think about, and at the same time knew he was putting off. The God of Thunder had to think about his encounter with Loki in the garden. All had seemed as if it was fixed and done with, but then Loki vanishes for this long of time? Thor couldn't help but feel like the two were connected, and if he was smarter he would have instantly know that there was no doubt the events were conjoined.
While the God of Thunder mulled over all of Loki's expressions - He remembered them well, for some odd reason - he found himself, in the back of his mind, trying to recall the night when he became so heavily intoxicated. Over the past two weeks he managed to remember blurs and bits of it, but never took care to put effort into gaining the full memory. When the night was halfway through, Thor found himself struggling to bring back every detail of the so-called attack, just so he could contrast Loki's reaction to the actual event. When Thor finally came up with something, he only remembered red glass shattered on the ground, and Loki standing in front of him. His brother didn't look scared, or even wary; just his plain self. Thor didn't know if this was due to faulty memory, or Loki's impossible-to-decipher mask. Either way, nothing horrendous seemed to have happened, so the God of Thunder began preoccupying himself again with the garden scene.
The castle had been completely silent when Thor got up from his seat and stretched his arms over his head. He suddenly became aware of a light knocking on his door, and when he turned to answer, it pushed inward on its own and his mother stood in the doorway. Confused, Thor dropped his arms and swung them to help get out the stiffness.
"Hello, mother. Is Loki home?"
"Yes, he is," she returned gravely, stepping inside. There was a foreboding feeling around her, but Thor couldn't pick out what it was. Frigga turned, looking lost in thought, and closed the door behind herself. It was unusual for the Queen to personally visit her children's bedrooms, but, considering the circumstance, Thor didn't think much on it. He went to sit on his bed and rubbed his hands together.
"He is well, then?"
Frigga didn't answer, still facing away from him. Thor was about to ask her if something was troubling her when she spoke up in a quiet voice, "Thor, have you...spoken with Loki recently?"
Confused, Thor dropped his brows; an action he seemed to be endlessly repeating lately, "Yes, today, in the garden. Why do you ask?"
"What did you discuss?"
"A problem we were having. It is solved now."
"What was the problem?"
Thor drew in a breath and turned his face to the side to scratch his beard, "It seems I have accidentally hit him a fortnight ago, when I was drunk. He appeared to be very upset about it."
"And what did you tell him?"
"I told him it was his fault for crossing me at such a time."
Frigga turned for the first time, and Thor was startled at the expression she had conjured; somewhere between anger and bitter dissapointment.
"You told him it was his fault?" she whispered out.
"Yes. Was that wrong?"
"You have devastated him."
Thor laughed, "I would not go so far as to say that."
"This is not funny!" snapped Frigga, hitting her fists against her sides, "You have damaged him! And then you have tried to mend it with insults, and cruel words!"
"Mother, I think you are playing this be more a deal than-"
"You will not disrespect me," she growled, warning, "You will instead realize what horror you have committed. Loki has spent the past two weeks in fear and sorrow while you paraded about foolishly with your friends and the nobles. Have you no sympathy in you? Have you no heart? The trust between the both of you, the sacred bond I so hoped you would form; it is broken now because of your thoughtless actions!"
"Loki agreed with me that all was fine," said Thor, feeling his anger rise despite his exhaustion.
"He lied, then, because he just now confessed to me-"
"You knew already what had happened between us? Then why did you ask me about it?"
"To hear if you could possibly redeem yourself in your explanation, but you have so far only made matters worse," said Frigga coldly.
"How have I made them worse?" demanded Thor.
"Because true prince would recognize his fault, not pit on that of the victim's."
"Victim? Mother, you act as if I had ruthlessly assaulted him!"
"Is that not what you did?"
"On my honor, no! The both of you are exaggerating what was a small incident!"
"If it were a small incident, child, then your brother would not currently be hiding in his room; distraught and fearful of what you might do to him tomorrow."
Thor burrowed into her with his eyes, "You do not know that."
"You have seen it?"
"No, but if you go speak with him at this moment, you will hear for yourself the treachery you have performed on him."
Frigga bit out her words and Thor grit his teeth, thinking this to be a challenge. He rose up from his bed, passed her on his way to the door, and exited. Frigga stood and tried to collect herself, chin poised upwards in a regal fashion. When the door slammed shut, she suddenly felt fear for what she had done, and her head bowed towards the ground. She realized where Thor was going in a heartbeat and opened the door; jogging indignantly to keep up with her eldest son.
"You will turn back to your room this instant," she demanded of him, lamely trying to make up for what she had unintentionally started.
"Why? You told me to speak with Loki, so that is what I am doing," returned Thor, low and aggravated.
"Do not speak with him now, then. Wait until tomorrow, I was not done speaking with you. Thor, you listen to me this moment. You disrespectful child, listen to your mother! Thor!"
The God of Thunder picked up his pace; one that far outmatched the Queen's. Frigga still didn't yield, even though she knew Thor would reach Loki's bedroom long before she did. She only hoped that her youngest son would forgive her for the inevitable conflict about to occur.
Leaving his mother behind, Thor honed in on his brother's door and pushed in without so much as a knock. He instantly took to looking around, and saw Loki by his window with his long fingers intertwined in his hair; unchanged and unmoving, just as Thor had been not moments before. The elder took a moment to take in the sight, and then closed the door loudly. Loki started, making it apparent that, for the first time in his life, Thor had caught his younger brother off guard. He was in no mood to celebrate, however, and Loki was turning to see who had intruded into his room. The God of Mischief noticeably tensed when he saw who it was, and his brilliant eyes flashed over Thor to pick up his attitude, the scowl on his face, and then the closed door behind his back.
"What?" asked Loki, forgoing a sarcastic greeting that would have come out in any other circumstance.
Thor took a step towards him, and Loki countered it by facing him completely. The God of Thunder looked over his brother, as if in obligation, and then glared daggers at him. Loki's jaw clenched and his eyes grew wider,
"Mother told me that you have not forgiven me," said Thor at length.
"Yes. Is it true, brother? Or am I not, indeed, forgiven?
"Is that not a lie?"
"It is not," Loki assured, wishing he had more room to step back as Thor began to walk towards him.
"Then would I not be correct by telling mother that nothing serious happened between us?"
"You would be."
"So there is no problem?"
"You are positive, brother."
"Then why do you cower from me?"
Loki was pressed against the window even though Thor stood an arms length away. The God of Mischief swallowed dryly, took in the space between them, and then shook his head,
"I do not know."
Thor took a daring step forward, "That is not a good enough answer-"
"Stay away from me."
The God of Thunder stopped in his tracks, his frustration breaking for the first time. He blinked, staying firm in his stance, and then asked slowly,
Loki spoke at a barely audible level, "Because you are going to hit me again."
Thor's baby blue eyes widened. Loki swallowed and turned his head to the floor; his hands fidgeting against the glass of the window. The God of Thunder couldn't find a word in his mouth, and when he did, it came out in shock,
"Loki...No, I am not. I swear to you. Why would you believe that? I was drunk when it happened, you can clearly see that I am sober."
"Yes, you did it when you were drunk," said Loki, looking suddenly back up with that nervous smile that dropped on and off, "But you still did it. It was in your head. There was a part of you that wanted to hit me. And why shouldn't you? It was my fault after all. I should not have called out, you were right. If I had not called out, or if I had been at a different place at a different time, if I had stayed away from you when you were like that, then none of this...There were so many places for me to prevent it, you see, and I can only feel sorry there was not a single thing I did about it."
Thor was hearing what he had been saying all along, but suddenly it sounded wrong. The fear in Loki's tone, the frantic need he seemed to have to please and subdue Thor; it all made his own words sound twisted in his ear. Wanting it to stop repeating in his mind, Thor waved his hand.
"But it is true, is it not? You were right. You were right about it all."
"Yes!" he let out a hysteric laugh, "Yes, it truly is the truth! I am sorry I was so foolish that night, and that I put you in such a position that-"
"Stop it, brother. It was not your fault."
There was a lapse of silence for a heartbeat, and Loki eased himself out of his tension, still alert and still ready to take action,
"I beg your pardon?"
Thor looked at him in the eye, "It was not your fault, I said. What I said in the garden, I realize now how...foolish it sounded. The fault is in the wine, Loki: Neither you nor I am to blame."
Loki's jaw tightened a moment, and then went slack. He watched Thor with mousy eyes as the God of Thunder made a dark, weary sound in his chest and stared at the ground with his hand over his mouth. He was clearly trying to process the weight of the situation he had been passing off as nothing. Cautious, Loki spoke up,
"You are calm?" he asked.
"Yes. Sorrowful, even."
"You are not upset with me for telling mother?"
Thor felt as if he wanted to shout at him for suggesting it, but controlled himself to make his response firmer, "No, Loki."
"Am I forgiven, then?"
"You were never to blame, I told you that."
Thor looked up and shook his head, "Nothing that happened was because of you. I will never hit you again."
"You mean it?" asked Loki, whispering.
"I do. Never again will I allow myself to become so intoxicated."
Loki nodded, silent and still, "Alright."
"You and I are on good terms with one another again?"
"You do not lie this time?" asked Thor, serious. Loki looked at him, considered, and then shook his head.
"I do not lie," he confirmed.
Thor smiled and clapped his hand on his younger brother's shoulder. Loki didn't flinch when he was drawn in for a hug, and hugged Thor back. When the God of Thunder pulled away, he dropped his hand into Loki's mad curls and tussled them lightly.
"I promise I will riddle this all out, Loki. And when I do, I will make it up to you in the grandest fashion I am able."
"Oh, goodie," replied Loki, letting Thor mess with his hair, "A feast consisting solely of meat and ale, then?"
"No ale," returned Thor, letting his hand slide off. He gave Loki a meaningful look, and the God of Mischief smiled in return. Teeming with as much content as he could have, Thor pat his brother on the shoulder gently; treating him as if he were a relic.
"I seem to have much to think over, so you will forgive me for retiring. I will see you on the morrow, Loki. Rather, I will see you when the castle wakes up from the eternal slumber you have no doubt put them in."
Loki laughed breathlessly, "Yes, I might get a few nasty glares for that."
"Sleep well, brother," said Thor, giving him a fond look before he departed from the room; running into Frigga who had been at the other side of the door and had tears in her eyes.
Loki listened to the two talk to one another, thinking they were being quiet, and waited patiently for them to move down the hall and away from his room. After this, he let out a shuddering sigh and faced the window again, hands behind his back and feeling violated. He stared out at nothing, reality crushing down on him. He had, in fact, lied to his brother, but the truth would be pointless to tell. Nothing was going to be the same between them anymore, and it never would be again.