Wowie, you'd think I'd stop cranking out these Avenger/Thor stories in about five day increments but I'm still fighting to be included into the Avengers fandom. I was listening to 'Hide and Seek' by Imogen Heap and suddenly the urge to write for Loki came to my mind and voila, at 1 AM I was writing this piece of work. (I switched songs twice halfway through the story. If you could figure it out I would be forever impressed). Also I read an amazing article in regards to Loki's mindset and internalized racism, which heavily influenced my next time I'll write a Loki that doesn't get whumped so often. Very doubtful. Please enjoy and review~
The God of Mischief was not one to slouch, even if his shoulders and head ached and it took tremendous effort to keep his spine straight. Nor was he one to limp as he and Thor emerged from the dungeon and down the hall, despite his broken leg that took its sweet time to heal; though his magic moved to knit his wounds closed, each step was like a stitch unraveling in his bone. But Loki was not one to show weakness, much less behind a metal gag and the ill pallor of imprisonment.
Thor was as dull as his hammer (in Loki's opinion, anyway) but he was no fool. He kept glancing sideways toward his younger brother, his broad hand poised as if ready to support Loki should he stumble. Loki kept his chin (his metal-encased, scarred chin) high and his eyes looking forward, pretending he did not notice, or at least that he did not care. Despite his efforts, his head felt so heavy even though his hair was shorter. Thor had insisted—and eventually succeeded—in cutting Loki's hair to its original length. Loki reckoned it was because Thor wanted to drag out some fatherly, nostalgic side of Odin when the Allfather would look upon his youngest during his trial and see him as he used to be, before everything fell apart.
"Did you eat today?" Thor said, trying to mask the sound of their echoing footsteps in the barren halls. "I…I made sure that the cooks prepared your favorite meal for you."
The corner of Loki's mouth twitched, only to tear his skin on the muzzle even more. What Thor thought was Loki's favorite meal were roasted boar and honey cakes, a childhood delight he grew out of centuries ago. Foolish Thor who was so sentimental he remembered the dusty golden days of the past better than he could recall yesterday.
The Golden Hall was only several paces away, and it was then that Loki felt his heart (stone, pitted, a block of frozen ice) sink to his stomach. He could hear the voices of the Agardian court and nobles tittering behind the heavy doors, the very same that scolded him for his guiltless magic in his childhood, that giggled in the folds of their silk sleeves when Thor slighted him in spars, that scoffed their doubts when he fought tooth and nail just for Odin to look at him. Here they gathered, letting their essence ooze in the place Loki once considered home (not home, a prison, a jail for ransom, the gallows) as they waited for what they must have yearned for years—to see the wayward, prodigal son in shambles.
Loki didn't notice that his steps faltered until Thor put a hand upon his arm. He wanted to pull away like a petulant child, but he was frozen, forcing his mind to pretend that Thor was not there, that he was alone to face his fate and needed no one at his side to hold his hand as he whimpered in the tailcoats of greater men. He breathed in deeply, fixing his eyes on the door, trying to tap into the well of courage within him to stride forward and accept the shame because he knew he deserved it and he expected it the moment he laid eyes on the Chitauri in the void despite the fact that his breath was hitching and heart beat heavily in his chest like a madman beating his fist against his cell door begging for freedom—for understanding—and all he wanted was to sleep.
"Brother," said Thor, and Loki swallowed hard. "I will be here for you. Always."
No, he wouldn't. Not him, not the golden prince, the future king of Asgard, the defender of Earth. Ten years from now, a century, perhaps a millennia, if Loki was still alive amid his punishment—because his crime was worth at least two thousand years at this rate—he would be nothing but a shadow in Thor's mind, an unneeded responsibility. Thor could not dote upon a lost case for very long, and if Thanos kept his word—and no doubt he would—Loki would not last any longer either.
Click. Loki did not notice Thor's hands upon the back of his head until the gag fell from his lips. He took a heavy breath in surprise and in relief. He could taste the raw metallic aftertaste on his teeth and it made him sick. His light eyes darted to Thor, whose face held raw sadness.
"I would like you to speak to me again," Thor said, his voice soft. "Before we walk in."
"Afraid they'll sew my lips to silence me?" Loki said in a low voice. His worn lips pulled to a wry smile. "You've always had an unhealthy obsession with symbolism."
"I don't know what Father has decided for you," said Thor. "But I—I do not want to think that I would not get a chance to speak to you afterward."
"The mighty Thor is afraid," said Loki. "And more than that, afraid of what is inevitable. How pointless."
"I am," Thor said, and something shattered behind those blue eyes. He lowered his head, gripping Loki's thin shoulders. Loki did not move, and all he could think of was how easy it would be to raise his shackled fist and strike Thor in the mouth, the push him aside and watch him topple like a tower of wooden blocks in a ransacked nursery. It was frightfully easy.
"You have no idea, Loki," Thor said, "how afraid I was, when I had to fight you on Midgard. When I thought the only way to stop this madness was to kill you. It is the last thing I want for you."
"Perhaps you should have," said Loki. Thor made the game too simple, wearing the frays of his strength boldly like a rip in his garments, and all Loki had to do was tug at a single string and watch his brother—no, Thor—break apart. "You really think that you are my keeper?"
"I am your brother, and you are my truest companion," said Thor.
"I am no brother of yours," said Loki. "Not in mind, not in spirit, and most of all, not in blood."
"I do not care that you are adopted," said Thor. "I do not care what family has borne you, only that you and I have been with each other for as long as I can remember, and I regret none of it."
Ah. So the wise and noble Allfather must never have informed Thor about Loki's heritage, of all things. A burning lump formed in his throat at the realization, and wondered if Odin still thought Frost Giants so despicable and inferior that he wouldn't share the truth to his golden child.
"Future king of Asgard, unwilling to kill a threat to the Nine Realms?" Loki said, steering his words away from his thoughts. "How dare you commit such treason? That you would risk the safety of everyone for your selfish love that has only been a lie after all these years."
Thor nearly took a step back, his eyes blinking with confusion and hurt. "Loki, do not speak this way—"
Like tying a lariat around his ankles. Like tugging the rope and watching him trip. It was such a simple game.
"No judgment that the Allfather passes can quell me," said Loki. "I, who only attempted on Midgard what the Allfather did with Jotunheim ages ago, will forever be your curse, and one day, Thor Odinson, you will have to take responsibility over me, and you will kill me. You will be the one to bring the blade down upon my neck, and by then you will hate me—no—you will be so indifferent to me, after centuries of fighting and pain, that when my blood spills and my head falls you will think nothing, and all this poisonous sentiment that festered in your heart will be nothing, and when you toss out my body for the wild beasts to feast on—"
"Stop it, Loki," Thor said, his voice strained. "That shall never happen. I will never stop caring for you."
But behind those plush words was a frustration, an indignation, that pulsed in Thor's voice as Loki's tongue continued to unravel the seemingly sturdy tapestry of Thor's emotions. Loki dared—willed—Thor to shout, to strike him, just to know that even after weeks of silence his words were still in control.
"You shall, Odinson," said Loki, and the surname tasted bitter in his mouth. "I shall compel you to despise me, until your hand so willingly and eagerly ends me, and when that happens, I shall ask what in the Nine Realms took you so damn long."
Thor's grip on Loki's shoulders tightened. Loki wanted to laugh, to bask in his last victory before his fall, but he couldn't. His throat was too tired, too swollen now, to make any more sound.
"King of Lies," whispered Thor. "Are you that gifted that you can so easily lie to yourself?"
Loki felt his blood run cold. Thor lifted his eyes to Loki's and he gave a sigh. Once again, the impulse to hit Thor surged all the greater, but suddenly the shackles on his wrists were too heavy, and standing was more painful than before.
"There's nothing you can do that can stop me from loving you, my brother," said Thor. "Even if it pains me beyond belief."
Lies, Loki thought. Lies, disgusting lies, how dare you even try, how could you?
The roar of voices behind the door strengthened, and Thor's shoulders drooped.
"We must be going," Thor said. He lifted the muzzle from the ground and fastened it on Loki's lips. Loki did not take his eyes off of Thor as if willing his anger and pain to him. Thor could barely meet his gaze, and his hands were so gentle (shaking) as they brushed Loki's hair out of the way to fix on the muzzle.
There were no more defenses Loki could put on anymore as Thor led him to the golden doors and shoved them open with an effortless push. The sight of all the people gathered around them, silencing immediately at the sight of their two princes, made Loki faint in the head. He told himself it was because of the muzzle. He kept his eyes locked on Odin, seated upon his rich throne, as he was led forward, the chains clanking with every step. The onlookers were silent as he passed, but he was not so blind as to not notice their cold glares that would even make a Frost Giant envious, nor was he deaf to the whispers and hisses that began as he walked past them. There he is, the fraudulent ex-prince, the power-hungry monster. Look how he tries to make himself tall!
Thor and Loki stopped at the base of the stairs, just before Odin's throne. Thor rose several steps to Odin, gave a deep bow, and stood aside next to Frigga. Loki could not bear to turn his gaze to Frigga—the thought of her made an unfamiliar pang streak through his heart that made him almost lose his gaze on Odin.
"Loki Odinson," said Odin.
Loki nearly choked on his chuckle. Odinson. So the world did not yet know that after all these years they waited upon Laufey's bastard whelp.
"You have been found guilty of treason, of attempted murders, of causing ruination upon Midgard that we of Asgard are responsible to protect," said Odin. "You have dictated and sought out to ruin one of the Nine Realms unjustly and mercilessly. You are responsible for the tampering and thus destruction of the Bifröst, rendering the Nine Realms disconnected and out of balance."
Don't flatter me, you make me blush, Loki thought bitterly.
"Do you have any words to say to defend yourself?"
There was a ripple of discontent among the crowd at the thought of giving the hated Liesmith a chance to speak. Out of the corner of his eyes, Loki could see Sif shaking her head vigorously at such a suggestion. Odin flicked his wrist and the gag loosened around Loki's jaw, falling to the polished floor with a clatter. Loki raised his head to Odin, his lips pressed together in a thin line of fury. The crowd waited with baited breath, waiting for a derisive laugh, or an exclamation of hatred or vengeance, or even a plea of insanity for a lighter punishment.
Instead, Loki spat toward the Allfather. The crowd immediately gave a roar of outrage until the guards had to raise their weapons to demand order. Thor looked as if his entire world crumbled. Even Odin, with his high and hardened walls and years of indifference, looked all the wearier and pained.
"So be it," Odin said. "By the order of the Allfather, I take away your power and your title, and place you into confinement until I deem you fit—"
The onlookers once again voiced their displeasure. Some demanded Loki use the magic they so hated to fix the Bifröst. Others sought exile for the unworthy prince. Many wanted his blood to be shed.
"Enough!" Thor said, his voice ringing in the great hall until it wracked everyone's ears. "Do not question the Allfather, whose wisdom is more than any of you can imagine."
"My decision is final," said Odin, rising from his throne. Gungnir aloft, he descended the steps toward Loki. Loki willed himself to keep his gaze on Odin, but with every step the Allfather took, the realization that he would be stripped of his power, his being, what made him whole and what had comforted him all these years when no one thought him worth a second thought, shook him to his core. But no amount of worrying could delay what was to come, so he kept his shoulders straight and his gaze piercing as ever, despite his growing fear.
"You will learn to respect those—mortals and immortals alike—who do not possess or abuse their strengths as you have," said Odin. "You will be humbled, and you will understand the gravity of your crimes."
Odin lowered Gungnir until the tip was upon Loki's smooth forehead. Like a fish caught on a hook, something within Loki jerked, dragging its claws inside Loki as it was drawn away. Loki nearly let out a sharp gasp as he felt his energy drain from his limbs, his skin growing colder and colder. For a moment he thought he could positively die on the spot because everything was leaving him—his heart, his mind, his soul, leaving only an empty and worthless shell. He would have screamed, if his voice had not been stolen as well.
But something was very wrong. He suddenly felt freezing cold, as if no life was within him, and every inch of magic was milking away. Too much—too fast—no, something was very wrong. Magic was leaving—no, it cannot leave, it was not supposed to. Magic that was essential, that was important that was vital that was—not his.
Loki's eyes widened when he realized the grave mistake.
He could see it in Odin's eye, which grew wide when he realized his slip. He could hear it in the crowd, which gave cries of horror and disgust. He could feel it in his fingertips, that grew icy cold and almost bloodless.
Odin stepped back immediately, letting Gungnir's tip fall from Loki's head and accidentally cut through his shoulder.
Someone screamed, and Loki was almost certain someone had fainted.
He didn't need to look down to understand, but he forced himself to look upon his hands.
His blue, engraved, Frost Giant hands.
Odin had nearly drawn his own magic out of Loki, and his Asgardian form had melted away.
Suddenly, Loki couldn't breathe. He stumbled back, hands flying to his face, which was just as blue and frigid. The two guards that were at his side gave a cry and stepped back immediately, holding their swords aloft as if he was a beast (but was that not what he was?). The nobles of Asgard shrieked at the sight of their prince in the beast—or the beast in their prince. Fandral's eyes were round with horror, but Sif's were narrowed, as if to say, I knew it. I knew he was vile. I knew it.
"A monster!" someone shouted.
Pain suddenly shot through Loki's head as someone hurled a sheath at him. Someone spat upon him, and more hurled insults at him. Frost Giant. Heartless and mindless beast. Not even an animal. None noticed that his cut shoulder bled red.
"Slay him!" a child yelled, still haunted and driven by the nighttime stories of bloodthirsty Jotuns and heroic Asgardians. "Kill the beast!"
"Kill him! Kill him!" rang the cries. They no longer demanded the execution of a traitorous prince, or a murderer. They demanded the slaughter of a Frost Giant, just because he was there. Loki felt that allegedly cold, ice block of a heart shatter. Here he was, condemned once again not for what he has done, but what he could not—he could not be Æsir.
But it was to Thor that Loki's eyes first lifted toward. Thor, who had so foolishly thought Loki was his brother all these years, who never expected he shared a roof with a beast so contemptible as a Frost Giant, was now looking down upon Loki's hideously blue body and wretched red eyes. His face was that of shock, shattered shock—perhaps as if he never saw anything more loathsome in his life.
When I'm king, I'll hunt down the monsters and slay them all!
Father! We'll finish them together!
Loki fell to his knees, feeling as if everything inside of him shattered into grit, until there was nothing within him and a gust of wind would disperse him. He lowered his head, trying to ward off the jeers, the shouts of hatred for something he could not control, for the realization that this was what he was—this blue-skinned, monstrous being was what he was. He was a Frost Giant, and nothing could change it. He was inferior, he was worthless, he ought to be destroyed. Ought to have been left to die years ago in the ice. He couldn't feel the rubbish that the court threw at him, or the aimed kicks the guards dealt him; all he could see was his inky blue hands. All he could feel was the ice creeping throughout his body like a plague.
And in that roar, when no one could hear, when no one would deign to hear, he let out a sob, shielding his eyes from his own horrid curse—no, being—with his hands. A Frost Giant to ever be the prince of Asgard, to be a son loved and cared for equally by the Allfather—all were lies. All were tempting, painful lies, lies, lies.
Before he knew it, arms wrapped around him. He let out a gasp, thinking that someone had finally taken the initiative to take a hold of him and haul him outside so they could skewer him with a pike and drag him through the streets like a victim of a good hunt, and he tried to back away, but he found himself entangled in an embrace. Holding his breath, he lifted his head to see Frigga, her eyes shining with tears as she tried to hold him with her shaking arms. Her lips moved, but Loki could not hear what she said through the din of the court. He saw the blue of her arms as his touch burned her with frostbite and he immediately broke away, choking back a cry. His own mother could not hold him, not without getting hurt.
(Because that was all that Frost Giants could do, wasn't it? Hurt?)
The Allfather's voice shook the entire room and finally the outcries for Loki's end were quieted. When the room was stilled, save Loki's heavy, choked breathing, Odin lowered himself to Loki's eye level, much like he once did when Loki was barely taller than Odin's hip and begged for a ride on his back. Loki couldn't look at him anymore, not when his blood red eyes were so fixed upon the terror that was his blue hands.
With baited breath, the people watched as Odin reached out his hands and cupped Loki's face, raising it gently so his eyes would meet Loki's. Not long afterward, Loki felt the warmth of Odin's magic flood him again, and his pale form mask over his Jotun skin until every inch of him was as it was before—his disguise. When it was done, Loki pulled himself away from Odin, unable to stop his shaking or the chokes that caught at the top of his throat.
"Everyone, leave the hall," Odin said. When no one moved, Odin rose to his feet and his voice bellowed. "Immediately!"
Silently, everyone filed through the doors, leaving the royal family alone in the grand court. Loki closed his eyes, willing that he would die now, so he would never face Thanos' punishment, never face his family (not family), never face the fact that he was imperfect and inferior in every way ever again. He was fit to be like a pig for slaughter, and the thought made his heart all the more reluctant to return with another beat.
Odin was at his side again, his hand upon Loki's back. Loki jerked out of the way immediately, still hiding his face with one hand despite returning to his Æsir form. He couldn't bear to look at Odin or Frigga, not when he now so desperately wished he had died as a babe cast out into the snow. For ice he was, and to ice he should return.
"I am so sorry," Odin said, his voice shaking.
Loki said nothing. How could he, when it was such a struggle to take another breath?
"My child, please," Frigga whispered, her voice strained with sorrow.
"I am not your son," Loki said, and more than ever before it pained him to say it. "I am nothing to you."
"Oh, Loki," Frigga said, and tears fell from her eyes. "It doesn't matter to us if you were Æsir or of Jotunheim or if you were a mortal. You are loved."
"Lies!" He rose unsteadily to his feet, breathing heavily. "You dare jest, when all of Asgard demands I be drawn and quartered and fed to bilgesnipes. When all these years I've heard of how Frost Giants are bloodthirsty brutes who can only destroy and know nothing of peace. When I am nothing more a stolen relic that lost its worth, and nothing I do will ever make anyone accept me."
He stumbled back, willing the tears to stay in his eyes. "I tried. I tried so hard. I tried to wipe this ice from my ledger, to rise from what has made me, but it is for naught. It is all for naught."
The shock, the heartbreak, the pain—all of it came crashing down on Loki and his knees grew too weak to support him. He fell, but strong arms suddenly held him tight before he fell to the ground. Thor drew Loki close to him, his large shoulders shaking as he held back his own cries. Loki wished to fight back, to run away and find somewhere to belong if it even existed, but he was just so tired, and all he truly wished was to disappear.
"Loki, my brother, my brother," said Thor. "I would refuse all the Æsir kin that the Norns could have possibly given me so long as I would have you as my brother. Please—please, believe me."
Loki tried to shake his head, but he couldn't. He wanted to believe—that raw, trembling part of him that still treasured his family's warm embraces, that part that had been beaten, tortured, and torn out of him as he fell through the void, wanted to believe.
"Never doubt I love you, Loki," said Thor. "I've been a fool for so long, that I've hurt you so much. If I had known you were a Frost Giant since the very beginning, I would have embraced their kind ever since."
"You know not what you say," Loki whispered.
"I do," said Thor. "I love you, Loki. We all love you, when you fall, when you hate us, always. We never stopped."
And there was that word again—love. The word Loki wasn't so sure he understood anymore, when it was that very word that broke the heart whose existence everyone doubted. The meaning that he questioned, the understanding that he lost. He thought it would grate upon his ears, but all it did was give him a very painful ache within him.
"Why does it not matter to you?" said Loki. "Why does none of it matter to you?"
He did not need to see it, but he could feel Odin come beside him and hold his shoulder gently. Frigga—and her soft hand brushing his dark hair from his pale face, her eyes full of love until it gushed in the form of tears. And it dawned upon Loki that Odin had sent away the entire Asgardian court and house of nobles, down to the last guard, out of the room just so he could hold Loki and tell him he loved him.
Loki let out a shuddering sigh before resting his forehead against Thor's shoulder. He was afraid to accept it, as if afraid to grasp upon a delicate dove in case he would shatter it, or chase it away before he could truly look upon it. And he could only wonder, what was he? or truly, what had he become?
"You are loved, forever and always, no matter what," whispered Frigga. "You are loved, my child, even when you fall, and when you doubt us, throughout all your pain and troubles and shame. My son, our love for you is everywhere and forever, and we will never forsake you."
Loki did not feel shame when he let himself cry, nor did he when he let his family cradle him in their arms. And as the shattered remains of what was inside of him were dusted away to make room, he thought—before drifting away into the black oblivion he had longed for—maybe.
Maybe there was hope for this broken soul.