On the other line of the phone, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Loki Odinson curled his free hand into a fist at his side. Did he know any other word?
"Why?" His voice was calm and even and completely contradicted the frustration behind it.
"Because I said so," the man who called himself his father for the past decade said definitively. Loki had to take another calming breath.
"Odin…" a soft female voice started, pleading, before being abruptly cut off.
"I've made my decision, Frigga. He's not going to California and that's final. I expect you to return to Richmond with us after your graduation next week and in the fall you will attend college with Thor."
Judging by the sound of a swipe across the phone—the receiver being passed over—Odin was finished discussing the subject. It was quiet for a few seconds, but Loki remained on the line, knowing Frigga would want to properly end the call. "Loki…?"
Loki cleared his throat. "Yes, mother, I'm here."
"I'm sorry. You'll still receive an excellent education at your father's alma mater." Loki's jaw clenched at her words, spoken so softly and full of warmth. Fake warmth, he reminded himself. "And after you graduate you can go to California anytime you want." Because he was so quiet and the air so tense between them, she refrained from asking what was so important in the Golden State that he wanted to move nearly three thousand miles away.
The hand Loki had wrapped around his cordless phone tightened until the joints went white. "Fine," he muttered. "But I'm not coming back to Richmond."
"…What? What do you mean you're not coming back?"
He worried his bottom lip with his teeth. He had no such plan. The words just tumbled from his mouth of their own volition and now he racked his brain for a plausible reason. "I…want to travel," he improvised, "around Europe."
"Oh. Oh! That's a wonderful idea, Loki! You could travel anywhere you want for a couple of months and return in time to move into the dorms. I'll speak to Odin and take care of all the arrangements. Where would you like to start?"
Loki sighed, more in relief that he wouldn't have to spend the summer with The Deceiver than anything else. "I don't know, mother. You choose for me. I must run now. I'll speak to you later."
He could practically see the smile on Frigga's face. "Of course, my love. We shall see you soon. Your brother is very excited to see you, as am I! Have a good day, son."
Loki ended the call and stared at the cordless phone in his hand for a moment before launching it across his room, not even flinching as it shattered against his closet door. Your father. My love. Your brother. Son. These words rolled around in his mind. Deceptions. Fabrications. Lies.
It had been two years since he discovered—no, since he was told the truth. He remembered the sneer on the boy's face, a spoiled brat from New York who had bloodied Loki's nose only moments before, as he spat the truth down at Loki. And laughed. They all laughed at him. And they jeered even more when one of those mongrels pointed out that big brother Thor wasn't around to rescue him this time. But Loki got his revenge. It was one of his best pranks, legendary now, involving a copy of their French final and a surprise room inspection spurred on by an anonymous tip of marijuana being passed around in the dorms. True, it got the boy expelled, but whose fault was that? Certainly not Loki's.
Still, he had been carrying this secret around for two years and it weighed heavily on his heart. He had always been grateful to Odin and Frigga for rescuing him from the horrors of the orphanage he had spent the first eight years of his life in. He did everything they ever asked him to: sit still, Loki. Eat your vegetables, Loki. Be quiet, Loki. Study hard, Loki. Take a cue from Thor, Loki.
Thor. Loki's jaw clenched again at the thought of his would-be brother. He placed the majority of the blame on Odin and Frigga, yes. But Thor…he had to have known the reason behind Loki's adoption. True, he was only ten years old himself at the time, but Thor wasn't the dolt most took him to be. Having had the time to ponder the entire situation, Loki kicked himself for not realizing the lie sooner. He was the Liesmith, after all, wasn't he? Only someone after their own selfish gain would choose to adopt a child with jet black hair and bright green eyes and bring him to a family full of blondes with cool blue eyes. The easier to exploit his "good deed" with. He was no longer grateful.
Fool, he thought of himself and his so-called father again.
He wanted nothing to do with any of them. But he hated to admit he wasn't able to go it alone just yet. He would be happy to go without Thor, but now Odin was set on making them attend the same college. His pale face puckered into a frown at this thought. It was going to be just like the damn boarding school. Everyone loved Thor—he was big, loud and friendly, he had a boisterous laugh that drew attention, and he excelled at sports. Loki was the opposite. He was thin, quiet and withdrawn. He got perfect grades. Tasty bait for the bullies that hounded him his entire life. This only seemed to add to Thor's allure, as he always came to his baby brother's rescue.
Loki set his jaw and his brow furrowed in determination as he grabbed his book and notepad for his next class, heading out into the hall. College was going to be different. He would have his own set of classes, his own set of friends—if he made any. It was a big campus full of thousands of people. Thor would be lost in the crowd.
Or so he could hope.