A/N: Thank you everyone who's been here through this story and Cultural Differences, and my attempt to show perhaps some different sides to Thor and Loki. I know that a lot of you wanted Loki to adopt Alexandra, and while I do believe that Loki's redemption is possible, I can't imagine him ever being allowed to adopt a child on Earth. I hope you're satisfied with how Alexandra and her storyline is resolved. And I was tempted to end this story on the last chapter with the proof that Loki is changing, but this tale began long before I started telling it with Thor and Loki side by side, and I couldn't end it any other way.
Loki shakes out his cape and surveys the land before him. To the west of the city there is nothing but ice covered mountains, stretching out past where his eyes can see, but he knows that they end, cut off by a fast flowing river.
It is the river that never freezes, and it winds its way through his kingdom providing hope to the giants of Jotunheim. It proves that not everything in this land is condemned to be cold and frozen, and it is this river that Loki traveled on when he returned to Jotunheim.
When his time on Earth was deemed through, and Loki was permitted to return to space, he stayed in Asgard only long enough to build a ship sturdy enough to carry him and then he set sail. He traveled through the barren lands, docking whenever he saw signs of life, bringing a message of hope to the frost giants.
He was the disgraced son who had returned in glory, and he brought fire and hope to his people, and they welcomed him everywhere he traveled. He regaled them with tales of Midgard and the peculiar creatures called humans, with stories of their strange habits and fascinating customs, and he slowly worked his way toward the capitol city.
The guard was prepared for him when he reached the gates, and they did not let him pass. He was the half-breed, Laufey's mistake, and Laufey's killer, but he was also Laufey's son so Loki did not back down.
He stood before the closed gates of his true home and promised that if they did not open for him then he would rally the people, and they would tear the city down.
The gates did not open, and Loki returned to his boat and began the tough journey of paddling upstream. He went back to the villages and small towns and huddled masses he had visited before, spending a few days in each before moving on so the king's men couldn't find him, and Loki always left them with something; the means to create fire for themselves, patterns for homes that would keep out the wind, the material for roofs that wouldn't collapse under the heavy weight of ice.
Loki spread his name through the barren reaches of Jotunheim until Loki Laufeyson was whispered of late at night beside hot burning fires.
He finally settled down in the mountains, and he lived there for two years gathering support. He spoke of a Jotunheim where unwanted children wouldn't be cast out to the ice die or survive only by some miracle. He laid out plans for multiple cities that could protect the people from the elements and from the beasts that lurked in the snow storms. He patiently outlined a new way of life, a new Jotunheim, and frost giants sought him out, interested in this new life.
It's been five decades since Loki and his army successfully uprooted the old regime, but he still takes time to look out at where he started, a reminder of how far he's come.
Loki turns to the giant behind him. The man gives a deep bow before speaking again. "The King of Asgard is here to see you."
Loki smiles and if his steps are quicker than usual as he goes to find Thor, no one he passes comments on it.
"Loki," Thor greets, a broad smile on his face.
"Thor." Loki's smile matches his and he gives a nod of acknowledgment before turning to his bodyguards. "Please leave us."
Jaufey hesitates even though Loki makes this same request every time Thor comes to visit, but he eventually jerks his head and motions for his men to follow him out, leaving Thor and Loki in the privacy of Loki's throne room.
"Brother." Thor's smile stretches even wider, and he crosses the space between them to give Loki a hug.
Loki grins and bends down to hug Thor back, still not used to the height difference between them when he's in his Jotun form. "Tell me, how is Asgard?"
"Asgard is well. The apple harvest went well, mother and father have embarked on a journey to rekindle their love, and the Bifrost has discovered a new planet. I shall set forth as soon as the Allfather returns. Would you like to accompany me?"
"On a journey through space?" Loki walks towards one of the many windows in his throne room, and looks out over his realm. Right outside his window there are children climbing onto their roofs with sheets of metal so they can slide down and into the street. Their mouths are open, laughing or screaming or perhaps both, the sound doesn't penetrate the palace walls. "I must decline. I am needed here."
"Are afraid you will fall and love and never return?" Thor teases.
"You're the one with the wanderlust," Loki says. "I finally have my home, and I have no desire to leave. Besides, I cannot leave my newest creation."
"Creation?" Thor's eyebrows pull together. "You have given birth again? Why was I not invited?"
Loki laughs and shakes his head. "Creation, not child; though I suppose you could call her the child of my mind. Would you like to meet her?"
The first thing Loki did once he had secured the throne of Jotunheim was invite his children home. He sought them out, explained why they had been separated, how it had pained him to be without them, and he offered them a place on Jotunheim. Some told him to leave and never return, some scoffed at the offer, some accepted.
Jormungandr had wanted to return to Loki, to live in the waters of Jotunheim, but if he released his hold on the Earth then it would fall apart and scatter across the galaxy, and Loki couldn't condemn an entire planet to death so he goes and visits Jormungandr when he has the time, and he's encouraged his other children to keep their brother company.
Loki tells Jorgmungandr stories when he visits. Stories about the humans that Jormungandr's sacrifice is protecting. He tells him about American Presidents and British Prime Ministers. He tells him about the children of India and the mothers of Morocco, and the little Australian boy who grew up to be an Olympic athlete. But Loki always ends his visits with a story about the greatest humans he ever knew. There were five of them, and they joined with Thor and became a group called the Avengers, tasked with defending the Earth from threats.
"I would be honored to meet her," Thor says.
They're standing side by side on a stretch of frozen ground, and all around them there are wisps of grass struggling to grow, struggling to survive. The next snow will trap them, hold them down, but some of them will live to see the next snow melt. Jotunheim is resilient like that. It takes a beating, and yet still holds on.
"She is here?" Thor asks looking around, because all he can see is the ground and a few trees, and nothing that looks alive.
Loki smiles, because Thor still hasn't learned the value of patience, and he points to the distance. Something glints in the sun before vanishing.
"Was that a fairy?"
Loki shakes his head, and he watches Thor's frown wrinkle in his forehead and tug his eyebrows together, and he's pouting the way he did when he was a boy, and Loki can't help but laugh. "She's shy, brother. Give her time."
"Will you at least tell me what she is?"
"She is beautiful," Loki says, and his smile drops off his face as he becomes more serious. "She is imagination and she is hope and she," Loki pauses and looks past Thor's shoulder, "she is here."
Thor whips around, and his mouth falls open as he takes in the creature before him. She looks like a horse, but she is a dark shimmering blue, like the surface of the ocean late at night, a color he has never seen on a horse before. Her neck is long and graceful, and then, protruding from her head is a light blue horn, pointing proudly to the sky.
"How?" Thor breathes when he means to say hundreds of other things. He is viewing the only unicorn in existence, a creature that is of legends and is now of flesh, because his brother has created her. He is staring at beauty and innocence, and when the large brown eyes turn their full weight on him he looks away with tears in his eyes, because he cannot look into such perfection.
"Decades of work," Loki says his voice both reverent and proud. "She is something, isn't she?"
Loki had spent hours theorizing the creation of a unicorn ever since Alexandra's funeral which he attended even though he had to hide in the back, because no one there knew who he was. She had lived to be eighty seven, and at the memorial service her granddaughter had gotten up and talked about her grandmother's love of unicorns. It was something everyone knew but that most people had dismissed as an old woman's obsession.
Only Loki and the granddaughter who clutched a small unicorn figurine in her hands as she talked about her favorite memories of her grandmother knew the truth of Alexandra's belief, and Loki was the only one who could appreciate how her belief had survived even through a rough childhood. She clung to her innocence through everything, through to the very end, and Loki could think of no better way to honor her life and how she changed Loki's then to create a unicorn in her honor.
In the end, the formula was simple; the soul of a believer, the blood of a hero, and the tears of a king.
And now Loki has the universe's only unicorn. A Jotun unicorn at that. He smiles as she sidles up to them, rubbing her head against the back of Thor's hand, looking for affection.
"She wants you to pet her," Loki says. "Apparently she likes you. There must have been a flaw in the creation process."
Thor laughs and lightly runs his hand down the unicorn's head. "What's her name?"
Loki smiles and reaches a hand out for her to lick. "Alexandra Rogers."