A/N: Surprise! Sneak update! One-shot.
This does take place directly after Gabrielle Day's and my story "Breath of Life." If you have not read that, you really should before diving into this short. Otherwise you won't understand anything but the happy fluffs which, of course, are fun by themselves, but you won't understand why the fluffs happen. This was really just an excuse to write fluffy goodness. We need a pick-me-up sometimes after all the angst and whump that we write. Co-written, with Gabrielle Day.
The night air was chilled and he felt it. That was, in itself, an testament to the fact that he was not fully back to his usual state after their daring escape from Jotunheim in which he had challenged fate in the use of magic forbidden to him. His skin tingled, the hair on the back of his arms standing up and he rubbed his hands against them, feeling only the slightest bit of comfort in the motion. He'd been released from the healing rooms that morning, instructed by the head healer that he was to remain in his chambers and continue to rest until a full recovery came about. At least in his rooms he would have his books and scrolls to pass the time with until he was released from bed rest, but he hadn't thought about the long stretches of quiet darkness that he would be left to.
Thor had spent much time by his bedside since their return, but upon his release from watchful care the younger prince had encouraged his brother to tend to the things he had neglected. He had thought that he would have preferred the silence to think in, but found that his brother's constant presence seemed to be the only thing keeping the nightmares at bay. He had woken himself screaming, thankful for the thick walls of the palace so that no one might have heard.
Now Loki found himself wandering the outer halls, breeze causing him to shiver and a chill set so deeply within him that he was sure that no amount of warmth could send it away.
He wandered down into one of the smaller gardens. It was called Frigga's Garden by many in the palace, as it was favored by the queen and she was often found there tending to the various plants with care unique to each variety. Her favorites were big, violet blooms that hung heavy in a low growing tree of deep green leaves and bark smooth as silk. His mother had taught him the names of many of the flowers and plants in this small garden when he was young, he being the son of more patience and interest in such things.
It was under one of her favorite trees he came to rest, the journey farther than he'd planned and the air still chill. Loki sank onto the soft ground beneath the tree and leaned against the trunk. He smiled crookedly, wondering if it had been wise to come to rest in a place with so many shadows. In sunlight, the garden glowed with life and laughter and vitality and in the moonlight not all was as it seemed.
Those darkened shapes played havoc on his mind and he wondered, somewhat distantly, how much of himself he had left in that cold cell on Jotunheim. With all the happenings of his life - even more so those of more recent years - that seemed to weight against him as only few events did. Strange, that the land of the Frost Giants always seemed to be what brought him that horrible, sinking feeling that he just couldn't shake. Everything connected with them became filthy and terrible in some form or fashion.
He curled his knees up to his chest, resting his chin on them and wrapping his arms around his legs so that he was sitting as tightly as he might. His eyes flickered to each small movement as the breeze tossed leaves and flowers around gently, causing only a small stir. It was enough. Loki could feel his breath quicken and he grit his teeth, reminding himself of where he was and who he was.
He was on Asgard.
He was in Frigga's favorite garden.
It was night, and there should be nothing that would or could harm him in that place.
He took a deep breath, steadying himself.
He was Loki.
He had lived for over a millennia, seen more than he could have ever imagined, and had proven himself stronger than most believed him to be.
He was a son of Odin, prince of Asgard, and brother to Thor.
His breath caught again and he hugged his knees even closer. Lies. All lies.
He was a son of Laufey.
He was a Frost Giant.
He was a murderer, of strangers and of relation. Despite not being his original intent, he had almost committed patricide and fratricide.
Loki pressed his forehead to his knees and tried to control his breathing. Tears stung his eyes and fell to warm the fabric beneath. It would always come back to this, that he was full of too many truths and spilled too many lies.
He froze, sensing movement on the garden path just beyond. It was dark and the low branches of the tree shielded him from view, he knew, but still he felt fear creep into heart. Surely this was some new terror he had unwittingly invited into Asgard.
"Loki?" The dark haired prince almost wept at the soft call from his brother.
Loki did not move. While he longed for the comforting presence that he hadn't even realized he had become so very accustomed to, his pride would not allow Thor see him like this. If he were to break, he would break alone.
"Brother?" Thor tried again, moving closer. There could be no doubt that he saw him there and was merely trying to gage the younger prince's reaction. He pulled back the final low branch that would have shielded his brother and let out a low sigh. He stopped, still several feet from the other, and took a heavy seat on the ground. To his credit, Thor did not speak, but simply waited.
They sat silently in the shadows, Thor's presence making the air slightly warmer. Loki thought perhaps he should resent that, but found he could not. If he did not know better, he might have guessed that Thor would have made an excellent god of lava, or summer, or fire. Although the last was perhaps an irony he was grateful to live without. Loki swallowed; kept his eyes on the blossoms hanging in the branches above him.
"You should be sleeping." he said, his voice thick.
Thor shrugged, fingers tangled in the grass next to his knee. He was dressed in sleeping clothes, and looked tousled. "So should you." he said.
"How did you find me here of all places?" Loki asked.
The side of Thor's mouth curled in a small smile. "You used to hide here when we were children, do you not remember?"
Loki shook his head. "So here I am, still hiding like a child, then. You had no favorite hiding places."
"No. When I was afraid my first thought was not to hide. It was to find you."
Loki's harsh retort died on his lips as his eyes met Thor's and he saw only bare honesty there. It made him feel vulnerable, somehow, even though it was his brother that was willing to open to all with him. Images flashed in his mind of anger and rage, blue hands wrapped in red cloth. Death and destruction all around. It was not the loss of Jotun life that ripped at him, but the horrible, gut-wrenching feeling that he had felt when he thought he had lost his brother. He still felt that now, and he didn't realize that he had reached out his hand until Thor moved closer to grasp it.
The god of thunder frowned deeply. "Your hands are colder than they should be."
"I fear my body is still acclimating," Loki murmured, feeling his thin hand warm in a much larger one. "I'll burn like a fire one moment and freeze the next. I'm quite ready to simply return to normal."
"It will come, brother. It will come soon." Thor said, shifting slightly so that he too was leaned back against the trunk of the tree. He stared up into the branches, running his thumb against Loki's cold knuckles and remembered all the times he had discovered Loki hiding here. It was rarely as simple as finding him sitting at the base, oh no, Loki would climb nearly to the top and curl around the branches, secure enough to sleep, which Thor had found him doing more than once. Other times, when he began to surpass their tutors in spells and runes he would make himself invisible, part of the world around him as it went on. It mattered not; eventually Thor would find him out. Loki was his beacon, his touchstone.
"I can't shake the bitter cold, even when I feel as if my insides burn," the younger prince confessed quietly. With every word that tumbled from his lips his tongue seemed to loosen a little more. This place was safe. Truth. Thor would always keep confidence of even the strangest of admissions here. Here they had begun to acknowledge that one would someday be chosen over the other. Here vows were made that had long since been broken and reaffirmed again. Perhaps they would be broken again as well because, after all, anything that a Frost Giant touched became filthy and terrible, even a vow.
"What do you mean?" Thor asked patiently, wrapping an arm around Loki's thin shoulders and pulling him in to warm him.
"It's deeper than all that," Loki murmured, letting his head lull on his brother's shoulder. "It touches everything, and I fear I can't break free of it." He felt the rising panic and he looked to Thor's eyes for an anchor. "What if I can't break free of it?"
Thor pressed his lips gently to Loki's forehead. "Do you remember the time we were climbing the tallest tree in the woods beyond the hills? We climbed and climbed and you were light and quick and were far above me in the tree?" he asked softly.
Loki closed his eyes. "Until you tried to catch up and the branch underneath you snapped."
"Yes. It snapped and I would have fallen to my death if you had not raced back down. You told me to take your hand, because the branch I grabbed for would not hold me. I was afraid to take hold of you. I thought I would bring you down with me. It was the first time you ever gave me an order." Thor paused to smile broadly. "So startled was I that I reached for you just as the branch broke. You pulled me to safety. You have always been stronger than anybody gave you credit for, little brother. I should have believed in that strength sooner than I did, and now you must believe it for yourself. You are strong. You are a son of Asgard and my brother and I love you. These are things that will always be true, no matter what else happens."
"It must be true, if you say so, brother," Loki said quietly and he gave a very small smile. "You have always been the worst of liars, after all."
Thor laughed at this, pulling his brother closer to him. Loki allowed it, but not only because he had no way of squirming free. He felt himself warm in his brother's embrace, and not uncomfortably so. It was the kind of warmth of early spring. The kind of warmth that had kept away all the evil as he lay sleeping in the healing rooms with Thor clutching his hand at his bedside. Now it pushed back shadows, blinding them and driving them away with the thunder god's warm light.
He felt Thor shift slightly, head lulling down to rest on his own. "Thor?" he murmured quietly and was greeted back with a small snore. Loki couldn't stop the smile as he cast a small spell that would keep them hidden from sight until they were ready to wake the next morning. He knew that he need not worry about the nightmares any more as he let his eyes drift shut.
A/N: Please let us know what you think! You know we're a bit addicted to reviews. Really, ignore the sign. You may feed the authors. XD