Once again, I'm sorry for taking so long and thank you for being there ^_^
"Are you sure about that?" Thor asked, serious. They were in the castle gardens, sitting on the grass, and Loki felt confident enough to talk about his plans to him. Confidence to carry on with them was what was missing.
"I have already lost too much time. I cannot let myself abuse such preciousness, as limited as it is" Loki said, without facing the thunder God. He felt a horrible pain in his stomach but did not want Thor to realize such.
"I still do not understand why would you want to return to such a nasty place..."
"I can turn it into a better place!" Said the son of Laufey, shy "It is foolish to think I'm the only one who disagrees with the actions of our King"
"The Jotuns are violent, brother. Look at what they have done to you!"
"Not all of them did this, Thor!" He replied, thoughtfully. Thor was so stuck to past ideals that he had become blind to reality "I can not believe that you let yourself be carried away by these so petty and childish thoughts."
Thor smiled. "Teach me, oh wise master," he said and Loki rolled his eyes, also smiling. He simply could not bring himself to feel angry with that oaf.
"I already told you. People judge you by your appearance or lineage." Loki said, this time serious and resentful "Some do not belong anywhere, but only to themselves, trapped in their own fears and memories. I want to erase some of that fear that haunts me for so long"
Thor lowered his head, worried "There is no need to hide your anger towards him ... I never did"
"There is no reason to be angry. He made mistakes and so did I" were his words. Despite not understanding the meaning of such words, Thor preferred not to ask anything - Frigga had just approached them.
"And...?" Loki asked as soon as she arrived, trying to hide his anxiety. But she smiled, understanding everything at once in a single look. Loki blushed.
"It's all right, my son. He will call you in a few minutes." Loki nodded, staring at the horizon. He felt strange. He had had many unpleasant experiences and always knew what awaited him. But this time he felt different. Although the reason for talking to Odin was merely informative, there was something inside him that he didn't understand. Goose bumps hit him whenever he thought of the Allfather, as if...
"Did he..." Loki began sheepishly. He closed his eyes to avoid eye contact and said " Did he say something about... About me?"
"Oh, Loki, don't be so mean. You know your father was never good with words" Frigga said tenderly and sat between her two boys, feeling at peace "Although he certainly has shown himself eager to talk to you."
"How do you know?" Loki asked, perhaps a little more aggressive than he wanted. Realizing, he looked away and whispered softly "I'm sorry. I did not-" He started to apologize, but the Queen of Asgard giggled and, stroking his cheek gently, interrupted his speech.
"I saw it in his eyes" she said and Loki saw in her words the purest sincerity. Smiling slightly, he let himself be petted and closed his eyes again, a cool breeze allowing him to relax, the gentle touch of his mother wiping out his tension. While doing so, Frigga pulled Thor close, ruffling his blond hair while kept safe in the arms of her little boys. She wouldn't trade anything for one more moment with her children.
Even playing and laughing, however, she realized how Thor behaved. Something was bothering him and she knew what it was. Nothing but that would leave him so quiet and thoughtful.
Minutes later, the three were heading back to the castle, Thor nervous, Loki apprehensive, but Frigga went ahead, calm and reassuring. They crossed the hallway in silence, the citizens of the Great Asgard observing discreetly. It was no secret that many had suspicions about the actions of the Frost Giant but no one dared to say anything. While their King or Queen said nothing against it, it would be foolish to say or do something. Or so they thought while they prepared themselves for anything that could possibly happen.
After much walking, the sons of Odin encountered a large corridor that would lead to the main chamber. Odin was usually there, solving bureaucratic problems or analyzing the Nine Realms. Huggin and Munnin were at the door when the three approached. As they did, they lifted flight.
"Here we are" Frigga said, trying to ease the uncomfortable feeling that was spreading. "I'll be outside if you need anything," she said and Loki nodded, feeling his heart pounding in his throat. It was as if... Something wanted him to stay away from Odin, as a remnant of a hatred that burned in a blaze. On the other hand, there was the need to prove something, to feel that... Loki sighed, his hands shaking slightly. He was becoming a mere sentimentalist, despite everything he had learned. He felt like a failure.
"This is wrong!" Thor finally said, unable to hold back any longer. Seeing his brother's gaze, he continued "Mother, let me go with him"
"Thor..." She sighed, disappointed.
"I will be silent. It's just... To leave Loki alone with him after so long in such a circumstance is just... Loki, brother, look at me"
But Loki did not look. He did not look at anyone, except the door before him. Thor was right; that was wrong! That was insane! What if he let his instincts take over and hurt the Allfather? What if he could not bring himself to speak, what if he was hurt again? He did not feel prepared. There was much more involved than a simple passing of information. His scars constantly reminded him of that and Thor's hate remembered how he should hate that man. But something kept him from doing so. Something -
"Thor, dear, I know all you want is to be able to help your brother" Frigga said, holding his hands. Thor was trembly "But this is something that neither you nor I can do for him."
"She is right" Loki said, still staring at the door. Thor faced him, confused, and Loki returned his gaze "This... This is something I have to do by myself".
"A... Are you sure?" The Young God asked, apparently as frightened as his brother. The truth was that he couldn't bear to see Loki suffering, not again, not because of Odin. When Loki confirmed, however, Thor understood. He could not protect him forever.
And that hurt.
"Your Majesty awaits" The guard said a few minutes later, leading the way to the son of Laufey. Before he could go, however, he felt Frigga's arms hugging him and she kissed his forehead, assuring him that everything would be alright. Thanking her, he entered the chamber.
Silence took over. Entering with his head down, it took Loki a few seconds to look around, watching the golden details that surrounded the area and the pillars perfectly structured in order to authentically convey the greatness of the King. The guard had left when he entered, which left him even more anxious. Odin wasn't seen anywhere and he did not know whether to wait or call him. As he took his first step, however, he saw the movement ahead and raised his head.
He felt the hair on his neck stand on end and his throat go dry. Before him, stood Allfather Odin, his scepter Gungnir secure in his hand, his one eye cross his soul. Power emanated from him, from his body, from his gaze. Despite the aging features, it would be impossible to confuse him with any other individual. Loki wanted to speak, to move closer, to prove he was stronger than they thought he was. Within himself, he still longed to make his father proud, something he had failed to do with Laufey. And, remembering Laufey and Jotunheim, he remembered his reality and knelt down, his right hand closed over his chest, using this excuse not to face that one so superior to him.
"Your Majesty," he said, unable to say anything else. It was as if all thought had been blocked by his mind. But that did not remain for too long. After a few seconds, he heard a deep voice speak from above, a voice that reached him and touched him in an inexplicable way.
"Please, do not allow yourself to remain this way for so long. You, more than anyone, have the right to look me straight in the eye." Loki stood up, keeping his posture "You, Loki, son of Laufey, should not submit to me."
"Forgive me, Allfather" Loki said, thinking frantically "I'm afraid, though I'm no longer a part of this Realm, I still regard you as my King." Odin was silent.
"I was told you wanted to talk to me about a matter of great importance..." Odin continued, changing the subject. He should not forget his duties "I'm listening".
Loki could barely contain his relief. It was already too hard to talk to Odin; the last thing he needed was for him to talk about sentiment.
"Your Majesty," He began, calmer. "Since they lost the great war against the Aesir in Norway, the Jotuns try to rescue the Casket of Ancient Winters. They have long discovered that they could use dark energy to get through the branches of Yggdrasil and have, since then, worked with sorcerers and creatures of darkness to do so." He made a pause, waiting for a sign, unsure if he should continue. Odin nodded.
He took a deep breath. "I initially helped them. I was the intermediary between the king of Jotunheim and other allied creatures and so I learned about the magical processes involved. After a few... Issues, I ... I used of my position to approach the source and, now a sorcerer myself, I managed to reverse the process, dissipating the gathered energy. That was done and redone for years, until... "
Silence. The consequences of his betrayal still brought him bad feelings and he momentarily lost focus. But Odin, comprising, intervened.
"And, without your intervention, I assume they reached their goal?"
"That is the problem, Allfather. I do not know. But I fear that if they have not already, they will soon. The process became more complex after the death of the masters of magic and those who are alive aren't powerful enough. But that has been some time ago and I fear that my coming will encourage them to invade Asgard. "
Odin looked down thoughtfully. "I knew that the actions of Thor would trigger serious consequences..."
"Thor is a good man... However, he is guided by his feelings and forgets to think about the greater good." Loki said, guilt weighing on his conscience, and Odin looked into his eyes. "Your brother has a difficult personality to deal with," he said and Loki's eyes widened, wondering if he had heard correctly. Did Odin say that he and Thor were brothers?
"Indeed, the threat of war is an important and urgent matter. Thank you for informing me, even without the obligation to do so"
"It is an honor to be useful, my King"
"Anything else I should know?" Asked Odin, Gungnir firm in his hand. Loki thought... What exactly did he know about what had happened in Jotunheim? Had Thor said something?
"I believe I should apologize," he said, taken over by a horrible feeling, as if about to throw all of his hopes away.
"And for what reason? "Asked the king of Asgard. Even though he asked, Loki was sure he already knew.
"For allowing two of my men into the Weapon's Vault" Loki said at once, ashamed. "It was I who showed them the way. It was I who put innocent lives at risk and it was because of me that two of your guards lost their lives".
The Allfather said nothing. He remained quiet, his eye analyzing Loki from head to toe. The jotun trembled, unable to react to such pressure. Odin stood up. "Why?"
Loki swallowed hard. Odin would not be so merciful as Thor was, he would not accept the plans of an exiled Asgardian. Loki knew that his time was running out and, soon enough, he would have to pay for his wrong deeds. But he had to say it...
"It was the only chance I had ... Since I was young, I was instructed to become a sorcerer for that was my father's will. He thought I could be an important ally and could protect the Realm under his orders... They were close to getting more energy and there was nothing I could do to stop them from where I was so I allowed them to come to Asgard and steal the Casket. If they trusted me, I would recover the Casket and return it to Asgard myself, in order to prove my loyalty to you.
"Why didn't you come by yourself on the first time, therefore avoiding any problem?"
Loki sighed wearily. To think about his life tired and ashamed him, and much as he wanted to stay strong, he knew that was impossible. "When... When they found out it was I who kept on dissipating their dark energy, they locked me up in the dungeons. I... I live in the prison since then, being only released when they need me. Since I'm the only one who can control the opening of the portal between the two realms I tried to take advantage of this chance. But I failed"
"Would you be willing to risk your life to protect Asgard?" Odin asked incredulously.
"I have always been loyal to Asgard. I would do it with no second thought."
"Why couldn't I see you? A few years after your departure, I tried numerous times to see you with the help of Heimdall, but I could not"
"I did not want you to" Loki stopped suddenly. "I did not want you to see me in such decay. I would rather to have you find me dead that to be ashamed of me. I... I wanted you to forget me" He finished, looking down, embarassed. This time, Odin was unable to hide his shame and he sighed, closing his eye.
"And for what reason, young man?"
"I... I thought that... That if I was sure I had been forgotten, I-I wouldn't feel any more pain or... Or sadness, or..." Loki held his hands together, hating himself for letting his feelings be shown. He was now vulnerable before the King.
"Loki ..." Odin began, he himself struggling to keep his voice steady. Lifting his head and looking deep into the green eyes, he said "Why? Why do you seek to help us, to help me? Why, in spite of what I did, do you look at me meekly as if nothing had happened? Why-" He stopped, breath taking "Why can I not see hatred in your eyes neither feel it in your words?"
The son of Laufey swallowed hard again, a desperate grip snatching his heart. He could not lie to Odin, he could not! But he also could not demonstrate his need for approval, for affection. A long time had passed, he should have left such childish things behind! But still...
"When... When I comprehended what had hapenned, I... I did not feel disappointment nor hate, only... Only confusion. I-I was too young, I did not want to believe that..." He stopped, feeling his eyes water up. He avoided facing Odin, for he feared his disapproval. By doing that, however, he did not see tears in the King's eye as well "After som time, I forced myself to... To hate you. I told myself, inumerous times, that I should hate those who abandoned me on such a wasteland. B-But... But how could I forget the one that, besides everything, was a better father to me than my real one?" Loki asked, his eyes shining, and met the Allfather's gaze, waiting for an answer "How could I forget the one who made me feel safe, who taught me about life with pacience, who stood with me whenever I felt scared?"
"Loki..." Odin sighed, his suffering becoming stronger. Taking a few steps ahead, Loki felt under pressure and froze, suddenly reminded of the reason that had brought him there.
"I'm so sorry. I'm s-so sorry, I should not have let my feelings control my speech like this" He apologized, trembly, as Odin approached. "I did not mean to disrespect you, your Majesty, I am tuly sorry for-"
before he could continue, however, Loki felt Odin's gaze touch his very soul and went silent. That was not a nervous gaze, nor an aphreensive one. Odin...
Odin was crying. Silently, but crying. Loki swallowed hard.
"Oh, Loki..."The Allfather began, unsure of how to continue. He put his hand on the shoulder of the son of Laufey and looked closely at the scar that marked his face. He remembered perfectly of how the attack struck by the Giants had wounded the young man the day he was taken. He had witnessed the arrival of the boy in Jotunheim and saw him losing consciousness while hallucinating. He knew the boy had suffered, he had seen him suffering but did not do anything! Now, facing him after so many years, he felt guilt pierce his heart "Why did I allow them to take you away?" He asked and Loki, startled by the unexpected question, widened his eyes. "What have I done to you, my son?"
Loki closed his fists, trying to concentrate and stabilize his uncontrolled breathing. He did not understand! That was not what should have happened!
"A... Allfather, I am sure that your decision was well thought and the best one" he said, unsure of his words, but Odin interrupted him with na incredulous smile.
"How is it possible for you to- Oh, my boy..." He sighed and dropped his head wearily. He needed to endure it a little longer...
"O... Odin, are you allright?"
"Loki, your devotion to me... To Asgard, to Thor, this devotion blinds you, child." Odin said, serious. "My decision... I let an innocent child face his own death for trivial reasons!"
"Trivial reasons?" Loki laughed nervously "You did what any king would do: You sacrificed a life in order to save thousands. You thought about the greater good, I understand that now"
"No, you do not!" The King replied, himself nervous "I had the chance to save you, Loki, many, many times! When you were locked up in that cell, without food, without hope, you were only nine years old! Why did I not go to Jotunheim? Why did I not fight for the one I love as much as my own son?"
"You... You watched me?" Loki asked, moved.
"Of course I did! Your mother-" Odin stopped in order to catch his breath "When... When Kvasir was killed, she... She wanted to go to you. We had a fight, I told her not to but she left without my permission"
"F-Frigga... Frigga went to Jotunheim? On that day?" Loki asked, unable to recall seeing her. Everything collapsed after Kvasir's death but if Frigga were there for him, maybe... "I..."
"She ... She took you in her arms in such a way that... Loki, although you had your eyes open you showed no reaction. Thor blamed us for you being on the verge of death and that only teared our family even more apart. Our family had never been the same and only then I understood why! We are incomplete without you, Loki, but I was too coward to admit it and to allow her to bring you home!"
The frost giant closed his eyes, confused. Odin regretted what he had done despite having made the right decision. That sounded wrong but, at the same time, to know he had been observed but not helped... "I think... I think I did the right thing then when I hid myself from the sight of Heimdall... That way, none of you would suffer anymore"
"Nothing brought us more suffering than losing you!" Odin said, sincere, and Loki stared into his eye, unable to see any trace of a lie. "Loki, to approve my action is something you should not do!"
"I do not," he said, serious "I do not approve the way everything happened. If you had explained it all to me, perhaps... Perhaps things could be different. But I approve of your decision. As as King, your mission is to protect your people, even if it costs one life! It is better to exchange one life for a thousands lives than to do the opposite! Thor does not understand this and allows himself to hate you without putting himself in your place! Having to endure their judgement for all this time without showing your pain or your regret only make of you an even better King."
"You understand what I have done, despite having done it wrong?"
Loki nodded. "Yes, your majesty."
Odin smiled incredulously. He believed that suffering would change the young man, but not the way it had. Penalized, he lowered his head. "Loki, my boy... You, in such circumstances, has a greater knowledge of life than your brother or even than me. I come, not to ask for forgiveness, because that I do not deserve."
"I shall not forgive you today, father... For that I have already done long ago," Loki said and, smiling warmly, put his hand over shoulder of the king as he had done. A few seconds passed in silence and Odin spoke "Sit with me, my son"
Reaching the stairs, they sat down. Odin looked quiet, at peace, but Loki was restless: Odin also looked tired.
"It is a shame, my boy, I do not have more time to stay by your side... But I believe that once we are both recovered, we shall see each other again"
"O... Odin, what are you- ? " Loki began but stopped talking when he realized that Odin held his hand, about to lose consciousness. "Father!"
"Stay with me, child. That is all I ask of you" Odin said, tired, and peacefully fell into a deep sleep, his head falling to the side. Loki, scared, let him lay over his lap and, shakily, tried to wake him in vain.
"Father, father, please... " He called, holding the hand of the King, desperate, until he made sure he was breathing. For some time, he remained that way, trembling, wondering what had happened, why it had happened... Until he remembered his days in Asgard and calmed down. The Odinsleep was needed and, right now, he was just glad he could be there for the King.
Minutes later, Frigga entered the hall, approaching the men slowly and quietly. Her gaze met her adopted son's and they smiled at each other. They said nothing for that was not necessary. Instead, Frigga simply approached Loki and hugged him as strong as she could, her family finally reunited again.