All it takes is a twist, and we land in my favorite facet of fanfiction: what-ifs. Meaning, what-if Odin and Frigga had been truthful with Loki from the get-go, and he struggled to accept not only his heritage, but that he and Thor would be sharing a throne? This was an idea that seized me with a relentless hold and refused to let go until I created it for NANO. Five-chapters, politics, and a lot of future brother loving if you know what I mean.

Everything belongs to Stan Lee and Kenneth Branagh.


Prologue: Ever have I sought the clue

This great blazing orb he watched in its orange descent had never been an entity that brought him wariness. What fear did he have as to what the day would bring? The day brought with it all of its splendors, the smiles he could wrest from those around him if he tried hard enough, those lessons he would teach himself that would then render his mind an insatiable, roving tunnel, seeking new passage ways and thoughts of treasure, thoughts that rivaled the gold color of all the sights that impressed themselves upon his vision. The night, his blessed night would bring the beauty of velvet, swathing the golden palaces and perpetual halls of twilight in a tender, much-desired embrace, rendering Asgard under the spell of somnolence. As the Aesir slumbered, tucked away from their favored sunlight, he practiced his incantations, green mists twirling around his fingers, eager to arise with the midnight and forge illusions from little more than a partial enchantment and a whispered desire, clones filling his room with his mirror-image. They were soothed, his many forms, as was he, sated by the silence of a world he held dominion over until the gold-fire returned.

The moon had never burned. The shell-white twin was the cool, opposing end to its sibling, a planet he found much in common with in his boyhood, preferring to gaze upon the way the frosted light would dust his home with a pallor the hours of the day could not provide. Both he and the moon knew how to be shades, how to favor the black instead of the blinding, over-stimulating gold. Both knew how to layer themselves in sheets of monochrome, revealing a balance of purity and mayhem, tolerance and spite. Loki always knew that he would have much to hide.

But not once had he thought much would be hidden from him.

This celestial fireball could exploit all in the waking hours, revealing best-laid secrets and plots for sin, coating intimation against the gleaming shade of gold, the glitter of yellow that painted the skies with colors that could awaken in him every long-buried notion of beauty, this evening being no exception. There were wisps of black-blue stippled with feather-softness spreading to show the stars, those white and winking lights so eager to shine with white-fire, to glow against the crevices and shadow-parts that not a one wished the bear the consequence of.

A century's-old secret, the key dissolved in the liquid opulence he had been too blind to look for, much less attempt to seek out.

'And the key is turned, to display what? To show what?' The emptiness of his chambers was his answer, as was the chaos of his thoughts.

Never had he done anything without motive. There was not one motion he followed through on with the course of his life after his boyhood, not one word or inclination of an action that had not been predetermined, thought over, or considered before he placed it out on display. It was a deliberate use of his time and life, the boon of his status and the gifts of all varieties he gleaned from centuries of study and mishaps, of mistakes and hard-won personal glories, all of it gained by careful thought, impulse and reckless behavior replaced for the sagacity many called reluctance, or in a harsher judgment, cowardice.

Not so. There was a true difference between the bravery of the strong-willed, those with valor in their blood and the howl of battle upon their lips and those who sought danger at every whim and turn, all for the sake of proving their worth to those in their company, to those insipid half-wits who were born as children and would die as children, eager to prove themselves warriors and defenders when they had spent no more than a week from their mother's sides. There was also a difference between being reasonable and remaining behind to act as the voice of wisdom that could oft times clear away the madness of a path that looked far too fraught with treachery than charging into full-scale wars with little more than sharpened lances and shields of wood.

Armor had come in many forms he had always believed, as well as strength that could come in multiple nuances of abstraction and of the tangible. It was, as he had always known from the start of his practice in this dark craft, what one chose to do with their armor that determined impetus, the basis of their existence.

But there were forces he had never considered that were scheming against the yearning he held for his life from the moment he had taken his first breath. Even the great orbs had power, power that could pervade their lights and throw out the lividness of the cosmos by vice-tight hands, seeking possessions to fill the Realms with the inarguable tang of the victory of all; the victory of all meant the vile-taste of his own free-fall.

This sickening, slipping yellow-light he watched with an odd sense of finality was a Divine power unto itself, a force that he dared not reckon with yet, not at this state of his mental being, especially when it show-cased a frightening sense of the very word he opposed: truth.

There was a method, he considered grimly as he fixed his gaze to the claret liquid in a chalice of gold and rubies, a foundation that all living creatures were bound to, dictating what they would do and where they would roam, some choosing good, some gripping their perception of what was good, and others submersing themselves fully in darkness, bathing in sin and the suds of slated shadows, this sinister element exposed fully to all lights as being simply that: evil.

Besides, what could be hidden from such a glaring hue, the twinkle that reflected upon the trembling ripples in his goblet, what tryst, what red-passion, what act of thievery and deceit? This light, this sun, this gold indubitably altered all it touched, escape an impossible expectation when dealing with such sentient power, one that he had buckled before without even realizing his knees had bent.

This now ephemeral, honey-dipped veneer that coated itself upon everything his eyes touched held an ability that he in all of his studies and talents could never have even the slightest chance to replicate, for no weaver of spells could turn back the hands of time without suffering an irreparable price, a cost that would not have left the worlds and illusory path-ways he pressed his feet and signature impression upon unscathed. To follow such a resolve would be a blatant display of his own stupidity, for it would be vengeance, an idea he had not yet considered; this would stir nothing good, would develop no tangible conclusion.

An admirable phenomenon had the sun been to him; now it was an adversary created by his own vicious and childish want to push the blame upon something grand, something that no Asgardian would be able to fill the place of.

'Only I would blame the sun for my plight.'

Never, he admitted without shame, had he been so delighted to see the sun set, to watch that ever-glowing eye sink down into the gloom of a cyclops's slumber, nearly encompassing the dip of the valleys and villages, the towers and skyward spires, slipping to hide him from such a golden sight.

The darkness provided no comfort to him, proving that he was an even bigger fool for believing that the night would look the same after such a realization was thrust upon him without warning. The sun, that damned, cursed globe in the heavens changed everything, transforming it into something he could no longer use to bring himself peace. Once, the image of such breathtaking, golden-sights was enough to rob him of thought, leaving him deliciously empty and drunk off of heaven-borne elation, the euphoria that came from witnessing a potency beyond even his control, rendering him filled with the peace of mind he desired every single night before sleep.

Solace, from being shielded by the sun's colors instead of seeing them, his mind chided in the most caustic tone he could muster, was hardly the solution or the way to find an answer. When, Loki wondered absently, twirling his wine with a roving motion of his wrist, had he been so afraid of what traveled across the skies?

Since the rising of such a sky traveler had reshaped his world, and as much as it angered him to concede to the certainty that the sun could change a thing - much less everything he once knew and stood for with every fiber - and transform all into its true image, he found himself once more at a loss, wishing to find the energy to lift his glass and drain its contents, then continue again and again, laughter bubbling up from some bitter and fractured place until he truly knew the song of oblivion.

That void, that nothingness. Maybe then he could forget about the children of the sun, the Aesir who flitted against the edges of his vision like undulating dancers, laughing by their merriments and their hard-won conquests of the challenges of their lives, beauty and grace granted by the day of their birth. Those favored, beautiful, golden things...

How he hated them.

No, he considered with a weak but resolute afterthought. He had never once despised them, knowing that though they wished him ill and did him wrong, it would do no good to loathe, to give in to such paltry, pensive emotions. His head was what mattered; his heart, that elusive and strange thing though it was had no need for such concerns.

Hate, he recognized as he took a sip of his tepid wine, hate and the opium of loathing was a far better, far prettier emotion than the dregs of confusion.

He took another sip, tilting his head back to indulge in the saccharine, mind-numbing poison that was this drink. He had never gotten drunk before, not even in his youth, hence he knew not how long it would take for him to feel anything, for him to feel a lack thereof.

Thinking was important, it was unimportant, the memories would return either way.

For the one called Mischief, for the Odinson with a proceeding reputation for turning the wine he now guzzled without any trace of past dignity into slithering serpentine, for the younger brother of the thundering, all-reaching sunlight known as Thor, he proclaimed himself to know the balance that could tip the Realm this way and that. To know only darkness, he had once thought with a now baffling amount of self-righteousness, would be to have no opinion of what made the light so radiant, would be to blind oneself from the beauty of the world, and to have no knowledge of what made the shadows so tempting he had once deduced with a wry smile, would then stifle any hope of brighter, more benign aromas because one stayed in the places where the life-light refused to dwindle and illuminate, basking purposefully in ignorance's musk.

How dishonorable he was even now, leaning on inebriation's crutch when the truth was seemingly too callous, too thorn-infested to digest properly. That made him refill his chalice, considering his flaw as the liquid passed his lips and threaded down his throat, wondering if losing his self-control would make past events easier to swallow.

His vision of this dutiful dance between the cross-lines of what bred innocence and what spilled forth darkness had been set, the blurring gap and macadam pattern that composed the tango of limbo and apprehension had been ever so unfaltering; after all if he could not tell the difference between what was and what should never be, he would have to eventually reveal that he had learned nothing, but that above all, that because of how much of a fool he had been, he had allowed himself to be used in the entwining web of thrones and politics, the game and cost of rank and birthright.

Never, no matter how drunk he became this night on recollection and wine both, would he allow himself to willingly comply with some greater plan. He would sooner spit in the face of Destiny Herself before he agreed to the debilitating terms of reigning as a puppet in the court. Even now he invested an exhaustive amount of faith in the thought that his own purpose was his own to find; he had been given life for a reason, and there was no other around, not a one to give him more than a gentle or forceful nudge in the right direction. The burden of his life was his own to shoulder and he preferred it that way, for by gritting his teeth and wresting from himself a great strength, he alone could be proud of being self-made; if one chose to suffer by their own means, it made victory all the sweeter to relish.

By that vagary that coerced in utter disharmony with this one, the world that he thought he was well aware of since his early boyhood stood now as nothing more than a false, skeletal playground, touches of gold and gilded towers serving as glimpses only, his vision dulling to the splendor around him. Intentionally, because even in this sorrow-addled state - if that was what this was, some piteous misery - he would never allow for his self-control to be stripped from him, even if it was tragically apparent that he had, and worse off, that he had never been in control from the bitter beginning.

He would not stoop to such low lengths as to lash out, to curse the world openly and with a conniption fit forged from hysteria's mad, wild heart. That would not serve any semblance of dignity he had left, nor would it help his grace, especially since as of now, his very reputation and lineage stood under scrutiny and scandal on a massive, over-reaching level.

There were only a few ways one could get what they yearned for in this life, he ruminated as his tongue snaked out to steal the last drops of his chalice before he filled it once again. One was by taking what they wanted by any and all means necessary, by fire and force and rudimentary methods that left the lesser beings reeling when they were suddenly kneeling before you, baffled by how they had been foiled, underestimation their folly. Another way was to create, to form a mettle around the hands to bind the fingers with thread that would be used to weft the world one longed for, creating majesty and masterpiece alike, forgetting what the old frame-work of a past life used to be, for this was far better suited for living. And the final and oft most hated was to have such desires thrust before you, without that blessed and tantalizing term of choice as the building-block, to have one's entire life planned and paved without considering the will of another.

He had been important all along. If he asked the servants to bring him copious amounts of this acrid tasting wine all night, to wait on every ludicrous request and fanciful whim, they would have to do it; they were serving the next King of Asgard after all, and Kings were denied nothing.
Loki placed the chalice on the table before him, his eyes roving around the room, expecting for it to spin, for it to twirl with him, for the floor to swallow him whole into blessed blackness. Not the gold that he had known for so long, but the night that he found such amity in, the gloom that was not gloom at all, but a cherished, rich shade of fibers and consolation.

Was he so weary now that he leaned on darkness to slake his blurry-eyes and his want to sleep, to fall into something deep and outside of despair; if there was nothing, how could there be hurt or suffering?

Evidently so. Why else would he have wished to shirk his self-control to the side for the sake of losing himself? He had motive for everything, did he not?

Those methods had been used to treat him no differently than Thor, to treat him as an Asgardian with no hope of being labeled as a monster, as a creature that had been born from the icy darkness that was Jotunheim, breeding him to a fine-groomed pinnacle of greatness that he had foolishly believed he had ever had a modicum of an opinion in.

It had been to grant him what he never had, what he might not have had otherwise, for the son of Laufey had been born a runt, placed in a temple and left to die - or roam with wolves and survive off of meat, his maw stained indelibly red - without anything to his name, without the knowledge of the endless hallways of books in the libraries, of the truth of the lavishness of his own royal blood.

His world, beginning with this coming night, was never meant to be anything other than a weaving thread, settled by the needle from the very start, from the moment he had been taken from the artic-lit tundra and placed into his mother's arms, red and quivering, his skin pale-pink instead of the corpse-blue of the Frost Giants, his own embodiment of free-will and loss slicing him deeper still the moment the All-Father made his decision.

Those were truths he knew to be absolute, capsules of veracity that coated the back of his throat with more potent ingredients than his fourth cup of wine, the answers he could have sought outside of drink's clutch, a response he could have found in black and writhing cauldrons, the whispers of a deeper meaning in his crystal, all-seeing orbs. Had he tried to conjure them, they would serve to mock him now, for he was one who had proclaimed himself to know wisdom as a faithful companion, as a devoted partner, and a lover; now he found himself blind and stumbling to his own difference, a divergence that was now as prominent as the stippling of blue that had dotted his palms the moment the All-Father laid his hands upon his own, the way his shamefully tear-rimmed vision had become sharper, tinged with the red of monstrosity, of vileness in full.

The world wobbled then, seeming to shimmer before his eyes as if the very walls sought to either kneel before him or crumble to his feet. The answer laid in his red drink, now did it not?

He had claimed himself to not be one who could ever be used, no matter his competition or rightful foe, and now he found himself to be little more than a pretty little bargaining tool in a world that was now a game and battlefield both, a place where peace was far more essential than self-importance, in understanding who you were, what you were. If he alleged to always have intent, to always have some semblance of dominion over what he chose to do, what he learned, and what he willed himself to act out on, then what was he to do now?

The God of Mischief, the once Odinson and stained Laufeyson, younger brother of Thor, a master of magic and cunning, the Liesmith, rendered as little more than a stultified, pained version of himself by words of knives that would tear him asunder to find the greatness within.

How pathetic. How wretchedly pathetic.

His goblet was filled once more to cease the churning of the walls, of the color-wheel of the gold that filtered through his vision, that mimicking, haunting shade that sought to find his skin, to peel from him some grand mission and purpose, that reason that had been so clear and true to him come the dawn that morning. Twilight blemished all in its gilded coating, stripping him nude to those who wished to scar his flesh, to expunge any thought of finding it within him to seek his choice, whatever that may have been, to tear from him his very right to choose for himself what he wanted.

He had been a prince for centuries, but to be suddenly told that he was to be king, king when the sunlight of a sibling had all but canceled out his own self-wrought inferno was a notion he would need far more than wine to process; acceptance would not be found at the bottom of this cup, for all he saw was gold, glaring, gleaming, garish gold.

There was a difference, he knew now, between resentment and hatred. Resentment was an absinthe that ran thick and visceral through his veins, dripping from his pallet into that once powerful pulse he called his heart, a sedative that hit his blood but was capable of dissipating, fleeing the body by the touch of Time and Her sands, coarse and soothing from any hint of abuse he had suffered, any disparaging comments that had reduced him to raw expressions of his own weakness. Hatred however, was a much more vicious energy, one that if he allowed to simmer in his body for too long could consume him, his ligaments and valves shifting to accommodate the gruesome possession of such a demon, of the capitulation of that balance he had so feverishly desired with everything in him.

It was one that drink would destroy, setting loose the devils that meant to staunch all he had strove to be for centuries, no matter how simple it was to depend upon.

Clarity, such a changeable device, had an amusing habit of revealing itself upon sorrow and confusion's call; but fortune favored ambivalence, causing him to set his chalice down on a cleared surface, meeting with the dizzying world and his repulsing breath, serving as a reminder to him that his little method of coping had not worked to staunch the blooming loss he felt, that very present disorientation that left him with more than the taste of alcohol on his tongue.

He had been told the truth as consequence of being supposedly ready in the eyes of the All-Father, Odin's intuition stating that he had been readily prepared to have the veil torn from his eyes, one that was placed there by those around him alongside himself, illusions that would vanish with the royal shade of the gold that reached for him from the walls, from the floors, from the sun and its black hiding place behind the lands. There was amenity to be found in such claims, some form of reassurance that he could grant himself by holding silent vigil this night, free from the dishonorable notion of drowning his sorrows in carmine, in blistering red that would swallow him whole.

He needed nothing more that would make him lose control. He had lost far too much today to continue to trample on the peeled away fragments of his own being.

How the sun has dispersed, only to bring with it the quiet answers of the darkness. Would he find his answer here? Or perhaps it lay in the heart of more recollection, no matter how unfavorable trailing after that thought proved to be. It had drove him to put the chalice to his lips, an act that disgusted him before, before alteration stole his breath, summoning from him the makings of a habit that he had ever despised.

His eyes focused on a spot on the adjunct wall, fixating on the simple shade of bronze, ever-shining but dull amidst the golden pallor of the rest of the room. This he understood, as he would the glut of memories he had to sift through to find meaning, but more importantly, the serenity to deliver himself from this deplorable state of being.

The morning had brought with it normalcy, but a lingering obligation to a summoning to the throne room after the first meal of the day, an unusual circumstance but one that was not foreign enough to elicit bewilderment from either his brother or himself. Most wicked, wrenching things began that way he would rightfully admit, the realization pinching his heart, a hiss slipping past his lips, his teeth clenching furls of skin in his mouth. Steady thoughts; unstable thoughts would lead to a slip into desire's unfaltering rote.

The assumptions as to what this meeting would garner ran vivid, giving birth to endless scenarios, the most prominent and wrath-inspiring being one such reality where his parents would tell him that Thor was to be crowned as King of Asgard in a short while. His placid smile would be there, a wry slash of his lips and easy tilt of his head, sourness burning bright in his stomach as he congratulated his foolhardy and brash brother for ascending to a position that should have been gained by someone with more self-awareness and foresight than Thor exuded. His access to the control of his expression had been very present then, proving just how transitory everything was when one finally believed that all things pure and cruel in the universe were sedate, ground in concrete.

He was greeted by the sight of his mother and father when he and Thor had fallen into dutiful complacency in the throne room, noting with an unflinching scrutiny that twisted his stomach to consider now in this present reality, noting that their eyes had been filled with indecision, directed concern placed solely on him, anxiety painting their gazes in a way that he had never seen before.

How curious, how odd he had thought in the morning. How blatant, how distinguishable he had thought now in the night. Had he been so used to seeing what others would hide from him instead of what they admitted fully? Whispers of yes danced against his ears, wasting from him the self-made delirium that stated that he had thought he heard all instead of what he had wanted to take note of, what he had observed as the defensive trigger that caught those who tried to usher him into the mold of what others had wanted, of judgments that left him bereft of mastery, especially when those judgments were of his own design.

And then he found himself immersed in a maelstrom, words and terrible truth coasting through the room, echoing around and through the walls like displeased phantoms seeking retribution, settling themselves against the high lofts, in-graining itself in the fibers of the crimson curtains, the luster of the pillars and the simple slice of the closed maw of the door; impossible to flee from, impossible to dismiss.

He found that his hands were shaking then, his fingers trembling with something akin to the side-effects of remembering this principle of fact that made his entire body shudder and wrack with a rueful display. Was there a spreading dot of blue that pervaded through the pale skin of his palm, staining his fingers with thick veins of frost, tinging his very frame with a shape he knew not the form of?

Perhaps if the sun had returned, he could hold his hand up to its light, for it exposed all, showing him the true image of what he was, what he had always been, sheathing him in this golden facade of a walking, breathing untruth.

He was not Odinson, but Laufeyson. He had been found at the end of the war between Jotunheim and Asgard, found when his father was knee-deep in Jotun blood as a war etched itself into history and surely made art in the halls of Valhalla, found and taken into the House of Odin as a defenseless babe. He had, he truly had been told from the start that both he and Thor were bred to be kings, and that had been true. He was taken for a purpose, for a deeper meaning that stated that he was to be the unity that served as eternal levity between the Realms, stilling the eager and roiling waters of war forever, the Frost Giants given command by their wayward prince who wished to end this ceaseless battle, for he was joined with the Aesir, now and evermore.

His purpose was peace, the very opposite of what his character stood for, the diametric of the mayhem and mischief he had layered unto his person for centuries. An interesting choice of words, for it was now akin to the desperate way a nearly-defeated soldier would tear armor and weapons from the dead, simply to seek a way to shield themselves from the onslaught of a gathering barrage, a storm that would do its best to slash their body to meaty ribbons, to steal the life from lungs that still had breath to breathe and words to speak.

How, Loki wondered with a fair amount of calm respite, had he managed to exist this way without thinking it inconsequential? The most careful planning and wicked schemes were oft hidden in plain sight, and intentions, no matter how innocent and pure-born would leave the most lingering ailments upon his flesh, exposed for the Realms to witness.

He remembered how he had bowed his head then, his mind fraught with shock and the gnawing mouth of betrayal that pierced the edges of his thoughts, attempting to infiltrate his armor but failing in its untimely attempts to debilitate him before his King and Queen. He had tried, over the course of several, long drawn-out seconds, to attempt to process and submerse himself in reveling in this turn of events, finding his bearings in his twist of ill-tempered tides that made his hands shake against the sunlight only to do the same by the moon in the night, his wrath repressed with the clench of his fist, his actions suspended and tears held at bay; this was hardly the time for such a show of petty emotion.

There was no desire in him to twist words to suit his world, no fire that ignited his need to demand what he was to be used for, to voice that he considered himself a relic that had been locked up until the gods and Realms entire had use of him.

He expected himself to remain strong, to be as fire, to be burning red and orange, unfaltering by the discernible chill of winter that he found at the heart of a rotted and frostbitten family tree, that ghost-whisper that stilled the torches in the throne room for several momentous seconds. He expected himself to stumble only to seek the path of acceptance, inhibiting metal's patina. It was what a king would do, what he had been ultimately brought up to be, no matter if for the majority of his childhood he had been told stories on how the touch of a Frost Giant could scald the skin of an Asgardian, how the Giants' teeth were sharp as razors and how they bore the scars of ancient, horrific rituals when they came of age, how he would, no matter how prepared he was for the moment to reveal this to the court and whole of Asgard, be considered a monster in the eyes of those he was now expected to rule.

Revelations. Such daunting, overweening actualities.

When he chose to lift his head, he was surprised to be met with the eyes of his family, and instantly chided himself for that in the moment, as well as in the now. If the purpose of calling him into this throne room was to talk about him, why would they not look upon him? He saw no hints of fear that radiated through his mother's eyes, no trace of abhorrence in her gaze when she looked to his face, for since she was so close to him suddenly, there had been no time to steel herself against any verbal backlash he could retort with, any loud accusation as to why he had not been told the truth of his birth and his destiny from the very beginning. He was surprised to see his mother kneeling to his left, her gaze thick with tears that she had never shed around him, not once, a gaze filled with tenderness and all things good and wholesome about this wretched world. His mother, still his mother, a mother who had hurt him, who had betrayed him by keeping him from the truth, a mother that now was at her knees in her best gown, weeping for him, weeping for the past, for this horrific present, and the unknown element of the future. His mother.

Now he took comfort in memories long past, memories of being held to her sweet-smelling neck as she sang to him with a voice of patience and dove-feathers, a legacy of being hushed with a kiss and endless comfort in her embrace, a secure hold that immersed him even now, now when the night's hands threatened to pull him under, to tear him asunder as many times as it took to create a creature that he was fighting with every fiber not to become.

She had touched his arm, his vulnerability giving pause to the makings of an emotion he would not unleash, of an emotion he had thought himself incapable of showing. Not in front of the All-Father, not in front of Thor, not in front of her, especially.

"You are our son. You are my son." The blankets of warmth given by a centuries-old wrap for babes pierced through that dark moment, a moment that should have been filled with him screaming, with vile curses that would have painted the walls thick with bright red, eating at that hated gold until all that was left was the choice, that motive that he had yearned for ever since he was old enough to discern that he wanted nothing more than his own wants. That blanket had draped him in the heat that most likely helped him adapt to the foreign air of Asgard instead of bestowing harm to him, killing him before his first birthday due to sensitive ailments and new, frightening environments, what had most likely helped him survive before his first birthday.

The heat he often associated with his mother washed over him anew, bathing him in the peace she gave him even now, now when everything was changing beneath his feet and within his bones, even now when he knew he did not necessarily deserve this touch of an offered cornerstone, a support that he clung to, white-knuckled until his grip ceased to the call of faltering desires. In her eyes, he was not the disgrace he believed himself to be; he was the opposite of every furious proclivity, of every obsession that granted him tunnel-vision, on dwelling on resentments that needed to be released, lest they gnaw until little more than hate remained.

And hate could always remain.

Frigga had claimed ownership of him then by the resting of her palm against his shoulder, a genuine and true comfort that he indulged in, his silence every word that he needed to speak, her quiet acceptance of who he was becoming far more than he could have ever given voice to. Mothers and their love for their children never faded, no matter what became of their children; and this mother intended to fight for him.

'Thank you, mother.'

His pride had not granted him the ease he needed, not when there was the All-Father to address. His father, the Lord of the Realms and King to All, the one who had gripped him from the snow and raised him to be his own son, protecting him seemingly from a fate that could have been far more warped than the now, a fate that could have been filled with a twisting revulsion for his own spirit, despising everything that he had been born as the cast-out runt of a once grand line of Kings that commanded the heart of winter, his hatred manifesting as a venom he would have used to spit in the faces of all those that wronged him, leaning on base instinct to coast through a life that would have been no life at all.

At least, was that what the All-Father would have him believe? That by making the choice for him, the Mighty Odin could choose who this little spawn of Laufey could be?

Perhaps some worse twist of the wheel could have taken place, but to the creature that stared at him unflinchingly, to this creature whose one-eyed gaze remained ever-clear, Loki had not found it in himself to fashion words of fealty and praise.

Ignorance could be both a shield and a sword, but when he had known only the slits behind the armor plate and only just discovered himself ensconced in the metal of a second-skin, it became even more difficult to distinguish the difference between the waking-world and the world he had formed by the dreams he had been fed. He found himself trapped in the web of a despicable double-standard woven by the hands of gods, by the fingers of those who pushed once un-tethered and buoyant spirits into the permanent mold of a supposed, subjective destiny.

Now he understood why he wished to slip into a drink induced stupor, why he was still reeling from partial inebriation: if he had found himself this lost from the events of the morning that jarred his mind and rattled his world beyond calming recognition, he might be able to find his way back to who he was and what he had attached himself to.

Or, maybe he would uncover something far better than his previous state of living.

If that was the case, then where was it? Where was his mantra? Was it so clouded in the star-dust of the skies that etched beauty against what he could see, see better than his own stand-point of this entire mess? Was it embedded amidst the shadows that permeated through clear-sight, obscuring his clarity? Or was it simply hidden to bide its time until he found his resolution somewhere at the forefront of his mind?

Loki yearned for the sweet, desirable latter. For once, he admitted with a wicked twist to his lips, the Liesmith coveted the truth.

Was he supposed to feel grateful in the throne room, or now as he erected his posture until his body ached, thankful that he had no act of volition in his own upbringing? He could have been many things, many different creatures if he had been left in the snow, his nose seeking the warmth of a mother wolf's belly, his sharp teeth latching onto her nipples and suckling until he was fierce enough to find his own meat, his clarity a savage law that came from being a creature free from the will of another, free from the decisions that had been made without his say. He could have died many ways, and then returned as a member of the un-dead, as those souls who never knew true peace, nursed in the shadows of death and hailing himself as the self-elected guardian of every door he knew the exit and entrance to, simmering in oblivion's colors as a wraith, an omen, a malediction that lingered half-spoken on the tongue of one who wished to invoke what little strength a cast-out Frost Giant babe had within him.

Had it been hesitation he saw in the eye of the All-Father, an inkling of reluctance to look upon his features? Or was it merely his own traitorous vision that betrayed him like those around him, his eyes that to his shame began to mist over with the glaze of tears unshed, held at bay by an anchor that threatened to lose its levity? He would not give in, he could not give in. Or perhaps it was regret, regret that the All-Father had not left him there in the cold to die, to not push a creature who had so apparently been deceived for so long, a creature foolish enough to allow himself to be tricked?

The answers were not in the All-Father's eye, no matter how long he stared with a scrutiny that bordered on blasphemy, with the truth that he was all-but glaring at the All-Father, the one who still reigned as his lord and master; all he felt was hell-fire, a fist of coal burning deep within his breast that smoldered from an anger that was still a true and present entity.

"You could have told me what I was," he remembered himself breathing, his voice a weak thing to his own ears and memory's persistence to recall the minor details "from the beginning." He knew that he had swallowed then, to coat his throat with moisture before he continued, to choke back a fit of sobbing that would never become him. "Why didn't you?" He had nearly gagged then, for swallowing down a fit of dry sobbing came at the price of having a muted voice, one that had lost its glamour and melody, replaced with this aural mockery of a sound he could produce; weakness was everywhere and still remained as such.

"You're my son. I wanted only to protect you from the truth." The truth. The truth had cost him more dearly now in the future, now when he had fully believed moments ago that he was a free creature aside from the jealousy that trailed after him with the pursuit of his own shadow, a crutch that could have been considered what mortals gripped so frantically.

Had he been told from the beginning his mother's eyes told him, her eyes crying because he could not, because his mother wept for him, there would have been the threat of a retaliation at some point in his life, a full-scale rebellion that the fate of the nation could not afford, one that he caused by simply by breathing. How, the pursed and red lips of the Asgardian court would proclaim, could the King and Queen allow a Frost Giant, one who had once threatened humanity with a new ice-age, one who had disturbed their peace, killed their warriors and their balance of everything that the gods stood for roam so freely in their halls, dine on their food, sleep on their furred blankets? The words were phantoms alone, but they echoed against his ears, each turn of phrase and syllable tearing him asunder for his greed for personal pain and the lust for the suffering of those around him, and they were words that became screams, demanding to know how the All-Father could sink so low.

It had been done to save face, to place him in a position where there would be next to no resistance to the idea of the cuckoo nestling himself on the seat of a throne. It had been to protect him, to raise him and grant him the life that he never would have had if not for a last-minute decision from a half-blind king.

All of it had been for him. There would have been strength gained had he learned from the beginning, but there would be no comfort. All of those days in the library, seated at that place by the window that illuminated the script of his books, replaced by obligations to learn everything he could about regicide and assassination plots. All of those times in the stables, grooming his black stallion until his coat shone, substituted for knowing far too much about where to conceal daggers and how to incapacitate those who wished him dead in the House of Odin.

Never, no matter what he had so pridefully believed, had he been forged by such fires. The flame that burned his throat and core was little more than the residue of the cinders of wrath, scattering about to land on his skin, his eyes, his teeth, not the hard-won victory of finding himself on the seat of a throne he had earned by way of a callous upbringing.

What was he then? No more than a selfish, cruel creature? No more than a stolen relic, locked away and never free until the Realms had use for his freedom? What was he, he wondered with an aching head. If this reality was anything to find answers by, he was no more than a volatile spirit, tugged and ripped apart in a myriad of directions, one part wishing to remain in the comforting blackness that would assuage his spirit into acting out to some form of revenge that would grant him no more than a void and an empty room. He was no more than a being who wished for equality when it came to a sibling that outshone him in all things that could cast light and beauty, perfection and the fierce grace Thor emitted, one who had always been his equal when it came to status. What was he? Where, just where did that leave him?

Did it make at least a modicum of sense now that there was blatant favoritism of the golden-son, that his opinions had been shunted to the side amongst a court of twirling gowns and blade-song, simply because such feeble-minds had no need for what he could bring? It was pride that spoke to that theory and answer, but it was one he was willing to accept readily, for he was an outsider, a gust of artic-wind when it came to the land of eternal summer, for he was meant to rule and change and alter, meant to finally know someday what it felt like to have a voice, a true and absolute resonance outside of his tongue of silver.

His tongue was weighed by lead now, his words replaced by a silence that engulfed him, by a crippling sensation that nearly made him succumb to the perplexing notions of the day, so easily leaning on inner-conflict and hostility instead of what could certainly be a benign revelation.

A benign revelation. Time would tell, time and the slip from confusion's grip that he would fight, that he was already fighting tooth and nail.

"What is to be my purpose? What is to be my truth? Unity? Is it to be the peace the Realms need, alongside my..." he knew the acrid taste of ashes when he swallowed, for he understood that he had been competing against a golden stranger for centuries, that Thor had never been a sibling of his in blood "...brother?"

"Yes, you are ready for such a thrust into the depths of a split culpability. Alongside Thor you will rule, and any bride or companion of your choice shall remain at your side until you choose to step down." There was his choice, made for him from the depths of the cosmos, from the words of the All-Father. It was both a binding prison sentence and the key to the shackles of mental imprisonment. After all, he would have the throne, his throne.

He had managed to lift his head then, banishing the chiding voices that proclaimed that he would willingly kneel before those that had betrayed and so abused him, hushing them because it was his decision to do so; he would accept this because it was his will, because though this betrayal was true and aching, it would only be so if he allowed it to remain as such.

"I will be as my birthright proclaims." There was his tongue again, working as a separate device from his heart, crafting words and twisting them to suit his wants, only this time he knew there was more truth than the lies he had spent centuries perfecting. He truly was unrecognizable.
Then, he would choose the light, unbeknownst to what it would mean for his mental state come the setting of it, choosing the sun despite the onslaught of perplexity it would grant him at a later time.

And that was when he remembered that Thor had been in the room the entire time, hearing everything said and unsaid, recognizing by the gestures and everything that passed between him and those who granted him this truth that his brother had remained silent. The silence of thunder, and the obvious conflict it brought him; what would come of this now?

The look on Thor's face would have been hysterical at any other time, for there was no room for jests or laughter here in this somber mood of duty and resignation, the thunderer's mouth fully agape and his mouth open a good inch or two between his teeth, rendering him a stunned embodiment of what it meant to be, for the lack of a better or less pun-wrought phrase, thunderstruck. It rendered the one who was usually so filled with stories of mirth and glories as no more than a reticent, reserved being, one without the easily found ecstatic element in his eyes that Loki had always thought remained as a sparkle in his iris as he slumbered. There was a bewilderment that enveloped the first and true-born of Odin in a cloying embrace that choked any hint of sound from his mouth, every word and phrase and even the grunts of expressive opinion that vanished with the wind that flickered the torch-light, coating the world in a swath of orange-black and a lifetime of questions.

If Loki did not know his brother as well as he did - titles and sentiments continued to linger even after the truth was spilled - he would say that he fell apart before his eyes when their eyes locked. One minute Thor had been sturdy, unyielding and impassive in his sturdy build, and the next he was before him, gripping his shoulder in a warm squeeze, eyes of the purest blue on his face, eyes that roved and shifted as if Thor found Loki's face to be his world now, how Loki would ever be his world.

"This changes not a thing brother. I shall slay any and all who claim that you are not worthy of a split birthright and throne." Slay, he wished to say but he bit his tongue for once, like the Frost Giants who still roamed in Jotunheim, ones that from his mouth he gave voice to the claim that he would hunt down and kill, not knowing that his own playmate who ran with tandem out of the All-Father's weapons' vault was the one he wanted to skin alive.

He could not say another word, no matter how he thought his eloquence had returned to him, but he could move, his head falling to rest against his knees, his mind spinning into panic, wondering if this was the end of everything he had once been. Was this how it felt to be stuck in a stage of rebirth, trapped in his own skin until all he knew was whatever light slipped through the pieces of a self-composed cocoon?

He would not allow himself to break, to display such a shameful show in front of the courts that would inevitably wish him ill, mocking him for not being able to handle the greatness that he had been given, slandering the House of Odin for raising such frail creatures for the position of the throne.

As if he could read his mind, the All-Father placed his hands against his own, the pads of his thumbs smoothing over his knuckles, meaning to give him warmth, to give him comfort and solace in his time of need. At least, that was what Loki had earnestly believed at the time.

Before his eyes his hands turned blue, the color of a pigment of twilight that he always found of exceptional beauty; all he saw now in his mind's eye when his skin transitioned before his very eyes was the revealing of a truth that stuck in his throat. His hands turned cold and he wondered what could be said of his eyes, for in the mirrors of his mother's they were a fierce, arterial red.

The final veil was torn, had been torn and what remained behind the curtain was the daunting, devastating aftermath, the conclusion known only by the Norns and the Nine Realms.

What he had known then was the tumult of a chaos that he could not quite penetrate. He remembered fragments of his voice - a plea - begging for his mother not to touch him, for this form would scald her skin and poison her beauty. He remembered the maelstrom of his brother's words, pieces of pledges to his loyalty on how he would ever remain at his side, lashing his ears with half-formed bits of a fealty of nonsense, words that made Loki want to plug his ears for they were too much all too soon, hurting his head, his urge to flee rising with every ungraceful tumble of phrase from his brother's - from this stranger's - mouth.

And then he remembered one final slice of the morning before he had retreated to his chambers, intent on thinking through everything once and then again, contemplation his ever-capable comrade when it came to sifting through the fibers of an unexpected confusion: he remembered clinging to the notion of choice, clinging until his frame had shook, until his body was seized and placed against Thor's own, sobs coming at last, no matter how unbidden and how shameful they made him feel at the time.

Loki traced his index finger against his right cheek, the pad of his finger seeking the pattern of past tear-tracks, a pursuit for the truth of his untimely show. Sobbing like a newborn in front of his family simply because of disclosure of a family secret; how pathetic.

He had found nothing, had managed to be productive in stirring long-buried inclinations only. His rage still burned behind his throat, threatening to slip past his teeth and lips, unleashing the hell-fire that he distinguished with this volatile abandon, setting fire to everything around him.

How, he wondered, would it feel to watch the world burn? To watch all of that gold melt away, revealing how arrogant the gods considered themselves when they thought they could steer wild souls into creatures of their own mold? There was truth there somewhere, and flame was unforgiving.

'And that longed for destruction would grant you? Reprieve? Serenity?' Throwing tantrums was hardly a habit he entitled to his own anger; that had been Thor, still was Thor.

And if there was one fact Loki knew for certain, it was that the need to destroy would succeed only in unleashing something far too vicious to be bridled once it was released. Certain urges could be quenched, but once a creature had the taste of what it was like to bring ruination, there was no ceasing such a torrent.

Besides, if he had wanted to melt all of the gold, that would reveal only a mirror, reflecting back the horror of what he promised himself until the words drove him mad, a visage with pointed teeth and a permanent scowl, his horns curving to represent the devils that danced eagerly on his shoulders, stating just how easy it could be to turn to revenge, to lean against the hostility that was already within him. All it took was a nudge, a decision, one that could break everything he had ever been or ever would become.

He had been wrong; he still had a choice. What came abruptly revealed the heart's deepest wants, whole natures exposed at the capricious flip of a coin.

Loki knew that this was no more than a feeble attempt at rationalizing what was taking place within his own mind, turning over the details again and again with the quality of deeply-embedded obsession, but he would take this over setting fire to his curtains any day.

Meditation. That was what he should have been doing instead of leaning against drink to sate his frayed nerves. A slip into a transcendence that would clear him from any lingering notion of yearning for an adverse reaction into violence or another shameful act that would further disgrace his household.

After all, he was to rule Asgard alongside Thor; it would suit him ill to lay waste to the very world he had been given before he considered how much of a boon it truly was. Unleashing such a raw display of emotion would classify him as nothing more than a reckless mortal who acted on impulse alone.

He was a god; it was time he began acting like one, no matter the immense confusion he was still grappling to compromise with with every ounce of strength he had.

Loki turned from the view from his window, the image of the whole of Asgard displayed behind his eyes as if it had been projected as a picturesque masterpiece behind his eyelids. There were the stars, burning bright and radiant, winking with splashes of color as flirting and ancient eyes were wont to do. There was that ever-present color of gold, the gold that he had worn for years on his armor without considering the frightful implications of such a shade and what it would mean for his future, the gleaming radiance that even the loss of light could not hope to diminish.

He was surrounded by beauty. Had his own shadow-mired thoughts refused to reveal him that truth, when he had so desperately cast his eyes about his memories and room to seek the clue of what remained as his? Nothing had been stolen aside from the residual elements of his boyhood, that ignorance that had so thoroughly washed itself across his eyes until he was left blind, seeking the true and tangible with wandering, groping hands.

He would prefer to see, whether it was the blackness behind his eyelids or the elation he gained by looking upon the creations the All-Father and the gods before him had made on this Realm.

Now he knew why he had locked himself in his chambers: in order to seek purpose and acceptance, those very concepts had to come from oneself, volition and understanding the twist of the Fates that would only choke and wind if he let them. That very logic had been one of the most basic principles of magic, the inner-training and disorganized mayhem of the beginning, made whole and revealing itself after a trying time with working at the craft, in mastering the most basic of spells, finally seeing the product of a produced flame or a mended bone with the command that came from no other, the prowess that came from the end of the work.

He did not fully understand. But this was certainly a start, fresh from anger.

So long as he remained undisturbed for a long while until he was ready to show his face to...

The sound of heavy footfalls and the loud rapping of knuckles against his door obliterated the thought of a peaceful rest of the evening. Who would wish to speak with him at this hour?

Or...had he been thought so unstable by his own mind that the All-Father saw fit to post guards outside of his door to ensure the safety of the palace, if not the whole of Asgard? The future king, under house-arrest due to a revelation that blind-sighted him if only to put the safety of the Realm first before the one who could bring about amity.

It sounded like a notion a king would readily accept, a notion he might have to partake in one day.

"You may enter." He swallowed several times, finding his throat dry and tongue bitter-tasting in his mouth. It was best to face whomever was on the opposite side of that door with his image instead of his voice; a silver-tongue could only remain his strength for so long before actions had to replace it.

Loki walked across the room, crossing the expanse of his chambers within a few quick footfalls, recognizing the moment his hands reached the handles of his doors that he could have easily opened the door with a flick of his wrist, or placed himself before the entrance with little more than a spoken word. He blamed the dullness of his thoughts on the alcohol consumption and opened the doors, steeling his mind to acknowledge the guards - if that was who was at his door - or whatever manner of visitor happened upon him this night.

Of all the possibilities and assumptions as to who was behind the door, Loki had never expected to see Thor. There was no time to chide himself on forgetting Thor's existence during these troubled hours for that had been necessary contemplation which resulted in a sliver of an overall epiphany, but it did not excuse the reality.

Thor was standing at his door - a doorway mercifully free from any guards - holding a loaded plate of foods. There was a thick leg of roasted pheasant, a colorful array of vegetables and fruits, and even the smell of something sweet. A jug of what might have been mead or ale sloshed with Thor's movements, the thunderer's hand lifting when he noted the opening of the door, his reaction delayed but with its usual amount of geniality.

It was as if nothing had changed. Rather, that Thor believed nothing had been changed.

"Brother, you were missed at the meals. I thought it best to bring you a meal, as I was not sure if you had eaten." A plate of food for him, a concern that was ever-lingering, a labor of love that brothers were acted upon when it came to the resounding note of brotherhood. They were not brothers, or had he forgotten that?

Or perhaps, Loki considered as he gestured for Thor to enter his chambers, Thor simply did not care, for his love for him was so great that no ill-timed truth would change anything between them. If that was the case, Thor's ears must have been plugged the entire time in the throne room or suffered from temporary blindness, for everything was changed now.

"Very thoughtful of you. And appreciated." Thor's smile was the same stretch of lips that never failed to hit his eyes, a certain warmth spreading over his face that knew no hint of wariness or disgust when his gaze held his own. It was a look that screamed of acceptance in the most tender and absolute tones, all without saying a word, a communication through the eyes without the motion of lips. A look passed between brothers, a telepathy that only siblings would be able to understand.

A look that still remained, even after everything that had passed between them this morning.

Thor set the plate of food on the nearest table, placing the sloshing jug to the right of the plate, a minor detail that furthered Loki's claim about the labors of love. Obligations were owed and there was likely some motive behind this, some act of remorse or apology behind bringing him food. "I wished to have words with you. I thought that we could speak with one another." And there it was, true colors exposed, gold to the sunlight and red to the present moon through the window.

Loki took a seat at the table, thanking his brother before delving into the food, not realizing how ravenous his appetite until the first taste of meat slipped upon his tongue. The meat was just as succulent as last night's and the night before, but after such a trying day and such a dawning discovery, he was not one to forsake a feast. Especially when it had been delivered with the purest of intentions by a brother who still remained as such, even when blood and lies saw fit to destroy what they had been for centuries, altered with the light of the sun.

It seemed as if there was much he had unintentionally taken for granted, one of which being Thor's unshakable devotion to those around him. Of course Thor would see fit to check up on him - not for his own peace of mind, but for the peace of mind of whoever had been affected -
because that was just who he was. A loud creature filled with an energy that never dispersed, a spirit with an untamed sense of adventure and constant sense of celebrating the simple wonders, a creation of the sun and gold-fire that he had spent so much of this evening despising until his vision glazed over in red.

Thor waited patiently until he finished his last bite of food with a swallow of water from the jug - not mead or ale, thank the Realms - before he opened his mouth. Loki wondered if this was to reveal a second reason as to his brother's company this night, a hidden motive if there could ever be such a thing with Thor, the most guileless creature in all the Realms. For this one time, Loki yearned for a sedate nature in the world, a break from the devices that strove to separate him from the clarity and state of living he had been comfortable with for centuries, a constancy that would steady him, keeping him alive and buoyed in a shifting, ever-changing world.

"Brother, what happened this morning was eye-opening. It revealed my mistreatment of you, for many years now." Loki blinked several times, resisting the urge to see if there was something blocking his ears, if there was anything keeping him from hearing properly. Thor had come here to be absolved of any guilt he had leftover in his heart from the slights of childhood, of the boyhood where scars were without avoidance and necessary to the development of adult minds, of sentience and everything that would be austerity? "Had I...if I had known that you and I were to be bound in such a way, in the manner that our mother and father speak, I would have strove to be better towards you."

There was a painful clench in his gut the moment those words became corporeal, words of snake-bellies and twisting vines, words that had been said with only the most earnest of intents in mind but words that had transformed into something ugly, something that, had he not eaten before Thor began speaking, would have made him lose his appetite entirely.

The labors of love, he contemplated with a slow-forming twist of his lips, came at a lofty price indeed. Sometimes to the speaker, for they were the ones orating a monologue that could elicit a strong and incensed reaction to the listener, and sometimes to the one the words were directed towards. There was a cost to everything, and this price reeked with the odor of obligation.

Duty. What a wretched word. Culpability, when it came before the intimacy of siblings, had a tendency to replace the principle of sentiment.

It was just him reading far too deeply into word placement, in his natural tendency to become offended at the slightest misuse of a term or phrase, made even more so this night because his anger had not fully dissipated, only left for a short while. But that did not excuse what he had heard, how Thor had just revealed to him that if he had known sooner that he was of Jotun descent, if he had known from the beginning of their brotherhood, that he would have been given different treatment.

Loki felt the gatherings of a poisonous retort against the back of his throat, a venom he willed to remain compliant. Thor was not as good a word-smith as most, and he was not yet done speaking. By the Norns, he begged for patience with him, especially since this had begun so nicely.

"All that I have done shames me deeply. I placed the lives of others before you when I should have paid you more attention, given you more of my time instead of thinking it wise to let you remain away from my side. What sort of brother would let his younger sibling find solace alone when it was obvious to any outsider, to any eye that he wished only to play with him?"

Loki resisted the urge to cradle his head in his hands, keeping his fingers still when he wanted nothing more than to pinch the furrowed knot of skin between his eyes. Their childhood? What was done had been done, and there was no going back to change it. He was a creature still bound by the grudges and ill-treatment he had been received, yes, but none of that mattered when it came to the future he would have no matter his blood. If anything, had he not bested the odds time and again? One only became stronger by casting aside the weaknesses of yore into the past where they rightfully belonged, those dusty parchments of fading silver script compensated for an amiable future.

Though, not everyone saw as he did; he had barely come to that conclusion himself.

Thor's tone was of genuine distress, an edge of rising hysteria in his voice that made Loki want to lift his hands and place them upon Thor's shoulders if only to calm him, if only to soothe and say that there was no need to bring up the past, not when they had to be ever-ready for their future as kings of the Nine Realms. If they kept living where there was no life, how were they to exist in the here and now, in the now when there was so much to address, so much to seek and do right by?

Do right. He sincerely hoped so, with everything in him, that he would be worthy enough to rule Asgard. If that meant relentlessly seeking personal vindication for everything he saw fit to right, then that was what he would do. A king had to come onto the throne with a clear conscience. Or in his case, breathe life into his long-deceased one or create a new voice for himself, one that carried no mention of old titles, in learning how to be someone that the people of Asgard could trust. Especially, especially since he was not one of them nor would he ever be.

That was his responsibility to himself.

"I resolve to include you in all, to be far better than before, and above all, to treat you as a cherished brother." Loki had always known his brother to be affectionate, but when Thor bent at the waist, bowing fully to him in the way that he never had before outside of gatherings and places where there were sure to be eyes, and not stopping there, but dropping to his knees only to grip his hands, he found himself overwrought with more confusion than ever before. Was this what they had come to? Gaudy, overzealous displays while they were in private with one another?

"Earlier declarations alter nothing: not my perception of you as a brother, as my dearest friend even though my actions as of late and of the past would dictate otherwise, nor how I view you. This changes nothing."

Loki knew all about lies: how to craft them, how to weave in an iota of truth to make the lie seem as a permissible answer, and above all, how to note when someone was being fairly dishonest. There was no need to ever have to display this talent with Thor, for his brother was physically and mentally incapable of forging a lie, of being anything other than his usual extroverted, radiant self, a self so filled with inner and outer strength he had no need to lean on lies or inaction to prove himself.

The best sort of lies were the sort that were earnestly believed by the speaker. Thor took back everything he once stood for, no matter if brutish natures remained and past proclivities seeped into the unmerciful present, and that was a statement unto itself.

It was one instance to state a declaration and another entirely to prove it in the waking world, the world outside of his chambers and outside of the hiding shades of night, of this first night of a realization that had thoroughly jarred him. If Thor was being truthful with him was yet to be determined; Time had a hold on all creatures, and even those of the Aesir sunlight were of no exception.

Loki took a long moment to look at his brother, to cast his eyes about Thor's face in the way that he had not done in a long while. There were those bright blues, alight with the fires of ancient oceans when he smiled, his head tossed by and streaked by the sunlight that filtered in past the pillars, capturing him in an image of soul-stirring beauty, the handsome features of the gods made outside of the archetype into breathing, living form, walking about on long muscled legs, his arms raising in greeting to his friends and always, always to him. Even if Thor believed he had ignored him, never did he not acknowledge him, never did he not at least make the attempt to include him if he knew that the situation could potentially give him pleasure.

There was his hair, those wisps of sun woven to create a blinding glimmer when his body was fully encompassed in the rising warmth of the day, granting him at a complete advantage in battle. Struck by the beauty of gods, one with armor plated against his chest and shoulders, his bulging arms raised to bring Mjolnir down to add another victory to his tabulation throughout the centuries; it was no wonder that Thor had won tirelessly, time and again by his own might and strength. A shining beacon, a powerhouse of a creature, one who he had managed to bring to his knees before him, a god that had crumbled before his eyes into a state of vulnerability that Loki had rarely witnessed before this morning. Thor sought his council many times over the centuries, yes, but this was a different matter entirely, for it involved their interwoven destiny together as a double-bodied entity that would rule the land of sun and gold-fire, affecting them more deeply than they could have ever considered when they rose from their beds this morning.

These actions, when they were met with such sincere words, impacted Loki. Impacting and truly believing them were different matters entirely.

Loki squeezed Thor's hands as firmly as he could, lifting his eyes to see just what he had done to his brother, just what the truth had done to the both of them. There were those aforementioned eyes, colored in splashes of blue, so bright and limpid in their own right, made even more brilliant by this naked show of emotion, eyes that shimmered with purpose. Thor had, in all of his loud and oft times barbaric ways that made his skin crawl and struck him with a note of clear annoyance throughout the years, took it upon himself to pledge his abilities in such a way, to try and help him through the trap of his own black solitude. He might still have been cursing color schemes had Thor not knocked upon his door, entering into a world where Loki could have cast him out, scolded him for his ill-treatment of the past, declaring until the walls shook and the very frames of everything they were split only to shatter; Thor entrusted his faith to everything that he was, all of his poison words and honed talent for crafting deception, believing in earnest that he could help him, that he could make up for whatever had occurred in their past.

He was not a creature of forgiveness in the same way that Thor would never be a creature of well-taught grace. But that did not mean that he could not make the attempt, to hold his tongue at bay or bite clear through it if it meant that this golden stranger, that his golden brother was sated.

Envy oft times cast the most unimportant of details in the most unfavorable light, a light that could blind the eyes and dull the mind from all else. He had spent far too long writhing in the pool of his own jealousy for these creatures, for those with sunlight that raced through their veins in a celestial blood-flow, wasting precious hours wondering how he could possibly measure up to echelons that he could have never amounted to no matter how long he had tried.

The truth was set up to protect him, yes. But it was also a hindrance in his own development, for he could have known the dangers of his post far before this bittersweet flavor that coated his mouth, the amalgam of water and wine foul upon his tongue.

It mattered not now. There was no need to cater to his own selfish needs, to the tireless way he had tried to prove himself, that spite that he leeched strength from until it left him bone-dry, fatigued and aching in the most tragic way: he had not understood until now what a doomed mission it had been from the start.

He was not Aesir but Jotun. He was not the little shade of a son who preferred to play in the shadows aside from lingering in the light like so many others chose but one part in a duality that would render his world whole, firmly sedate as he ruled, grasping from his own experiences and the wisdom he was still attempting to make sense of now as he leaned forward, brushing his lips upon his brother's brow.

"Had you known of this outcome before, you would have acted and adhered to the call of obligation; your will would have had little to do with it." Thor's protests slipped through his ribs, his heart heavy and empty both with his own dispersing innocence of the naivete he had known as a training guide only; he was completely on his own now, left with a ruler who he had believed before this dawn to be the security of a sibling.

He was alone. That was the truth of the matter. Now he knew why he had leant on lies for eons: it was much easier to stomach than the unfaltering responsibility of what it meant to have a heart filled with veracious burdens.

The furrow etched into Thor's brow should have been comical, should have inspired devious glee from him at imagining Thor scrambling to find appropriate words, pretty words, healing words. But Loki could not find it in himself to question why he found no comfort in his oafish brother's - in this oafish stranger's - fumbling, could not find it in himself to consider why this reality that would have made his past self, the Wrecker and Trickster in him overjoyed; all he felt was a misdirected sense of vexatious truth, an utter divulge in self-loathing as to how disillusioned he had been to this great game from the very start.

It was no wonder he had reached for the goblet; obviously, he had wanted to lose himself, perhaps to begin the process of building afresh, of finding it in himself to start again, or to latch himself onto the roving wheel of mad, inner-destruction, one that coiled all in his path with wriggling arms, putting them into strangle-holds if they refused his questions and choking them when their voices brought him displeasure.

Choice, like freedom, was life's greatest lie.

He gazed upon his brother and stranger both, besot with a curious sense of wonderment as to how immoderate his desperation was to be found, to find the answer to his own worth and the clue to his own solace, how over-reaching his desire was when he knew that it would tear another asunder with the words he spoke. How monstrous was he? He certainly had the poison-tipped teeth for such an accusation to ring true.

Confusion made beasts of all. But he would be no monstrosity.

After all, was it not he who spoke of the forewarning of vision, of those who fixated their gazes upon shadows alone and how those who acted upon that would know not how it felt to gaze upon the light?

He knew not balance, not any longer. But that would not prevent him from seeking it with every fiber in him.

Beginning with resolving matters with this tender stranger, with his gentle brother.

"Thor, it has been done. Let not the affairs of the past trouble your heart so. Look to me: do I appear at ease?" Thor's brow remained as a gathering of raised skin, his eyes searching his own, seeking any implication of ease.

"You appear...aged. As if sorrow has graced its presence upon you this night." So that was how he would have appeared to others this hour, as no more than a being consumed with the colors of misery's ashen pallor. What would it take, he wondered as he took his brother's chin in his hand, to feel like himself, to feel whole again?

"Do I? I had not noticed. I've been...self-detained this afternoon, and this night. That was why you didn't see me at meals. Much to think about, much to consider." He brushed his fingers across the well-trimmed stubble of his brother's chin, remembering only as his fingers began their ascent - merely to pat Thor's cheek and reaffirm his belief that he would be quite alright with given time - that his touch could potentially burn his brother's face. It would be unsightly to do such a thing, to scar one of the future kings of Asgard.

How many would believe that it was intentional? That he meant to mar the handsome face of the well-favored future king?

Loki dropped his hands and chose to rest them on his knees, his gaze falling to the carpet, not wishing to meet the surely confused eyes of the one he had nearly by the sudden loss of contact.

"Do you fear me, brother? My past spoken words haunt me, words of slaying all of the Frost Giants. Had I known that my playmate, that my brother was one such creature, I would have held my tongue."

Fear. That was what Thor believed, that he held constant trepidation over the golden-son of Odin raising Mjolnir against the blue cuckoo in a nest of dazzling song-birds and toss him from the palace, ushering him to the BiFrost dome to be taken back to Jotunheim where he surely belonged.

"Your reasoning is misguided. I don't fear you. I never have." When crafting words Loki always found, he knew that it was just as important to reveal an air of unspoken intimation, assumptions that could be gathered for the sake of uncovering malice without truly stating it. In this case, it was for the sake of comfort; if his own colors were changing before his eyes, could he not transition his verbal pattern also?

It took immense command to master one's own language and he still retained his sense of pride over his control of words. This time was no different, for Thor was smiling then, a smile that was easily classified as a beam.

"Ah, there's your radiance. Creatures of the sun should expel such light at all times." What had not been said was that he never would fear him, never would feel afraid in the presence of someone who risked limb and pride at dealing with his ill-timed barbs, ones that had been known to his deep chagrin, at reducing a younger version of Thor to tears. Thor had his strength, his friends; he had only his wit and sharp-tongue to craft insults that tore into the too-large heart Thor emitted with every smile.

Thor reached for his hands once more, getting met with an automatic clench to his fists. "If you do not fear me, then why do you shy from my touch?"

Loki wished there was a way he could find it within himself to craft an insult, to spit the truth with venom-laced words. Instead, all he could do was give Thor a slanted smile, one that gave the earlier claim of him appearing woeful weight.

"I am Jotun, you an Aesir. Even by combining our names in the vows of the throne, there is no keeping from the truth of what I could do to you. The Mighty Thor, frost-bitten?"

Awareness, Loki considered with a wry smile, was a dawn indeed, washing over Thor's features with the slanted light of the room, the moon playing tricks upon the shadows of his expression, showing the parted line of his lips, the shock that hit his eyes.

He could not help but think that it was typical for Thor to forget the most rudiment and important details, the flags that were waved in his face when danger exuded from those around him even when it appeared as the face of familiarity.

That meant that Thor had not grabbed his hands in defiance of the truth, of any rebellion to his safety or heritage; he had simply forgotten, which gave Loki no comfort.

"Brother, I cared not the first time I gripped your hands. You burned not me, and even if you had, I would have gripped harder."

Perhaps there was something to be said for biting off the head of his mental voice, one that gave birth to assumptions that would only cause him grief in the end. Thor had remembered all along and yet he risked his own safe-keeping to hold his hands as he had; he underestimated not only the light of the sun this day, but the stranger that was born from such resplendence.

Loki swallowed, acerbic flavors filling his throat. This was what it felt like to swallow - or, to choke? - on one's own venom. "I just thought that you had forgotten."

There was something akin to a glare in Thor's eyes, one that might have been self-directed or intended for him, a slant of vicious natures that could have razed anyone from his path with little more than a look.

"Never. I could not misplace such important truths."

Before, one would sooner have to forcefully wrench his lips into an affable smile before the words of an apology would touch his lips. At least, that was how it used to be, the comfortable absolution he had known once before his world had become ensnared once and then again, mired until the colors were tossed away, the resplendent gold of the walls corroding with a black, diffusive patina.

Ever had he been waiting for a defining moment, keeping purposeful distance from the sun that hid nothing. Perhaps this was his time to not only stand in the light, but to be forged by it.

"I had only assumed that you had quite forgotten that the touch of a Frost Giant could be most harming. Your words rang quite hollow then. After all, you are just as surprised as I."

Thor gripping his hands a second time should not have surprised him quite as much as it did, but there was no disguising the barely audile gasp that slipped past his lips when his fingers were held, thick pads of warm fingers rubbing his knuckles with genuine affection.

"I'm not sure what I can do now, how I can possibly comfort you. I have given you my words, a never-ending fealty that will remain boundless against any who oppose what is to take place in one year. I will rectify any harm I have bestowed you through the centuries, making it up in ways that will grant you pleasure. I will do anything to ensure your happiness, Loki."

He knew that. There was no way such an authentic speech could be forged by the instruments of antipathy, for he still remained the master of such a craft. He just could not understand how Thor could be content with sharing a throne, especially since he had been groomed for a single rule.

Perhaps more had changed with the setting sun than he had thought.

Loki managed as true a smile as he could, knowing it would appear as more of a grimace to any who it was given to. "You have been my only visitor. I have been confused, and my time was spent attempting to seek answers, to grapple with the understanding of what I must do. You owe me nothing, because we are not brothers of blood."

A certain graveness impressed itself upon Thor's brow, his eyes narrowed with more intensity than he used to harness a gathering storm. Was he brooding about what made a brother, the components of blood, of the throne that tore more than status from others?

"Aye, we share not one drop. But centuries of being with you has altered no degree from a timed truth that came with the morning." Thor dropped his hands only to reach for his face, his fingers splayed across his cheeks, touching his ears and nearly entwining themselves in his hair with the sheer length of his fingertips. "But that changes not a thing, not how I feel for you and not what I will grant you. Let the snakes come, for I will flatten them; there will not be one being who will sway my belief."

The truth about Thor was that if he wanted you to hear something, he was not going to let you disperse or shy away until you not only listened, but understood. The same could be said for the way he locked his gaze onto his own, blue pupils burning with an impassioned flame that would not be stifled by any word said unto them, especially not anything Loki would be able to say against himself.

They were eyes that missed nothing, that had missed nothing: all of the disheartened, frightening revelations Loki found himself considering, all of the confusion he drank to dismiss, every self-aimed word of ill-intent, everything was gently revealed, reflected back into Thor's own gaze. And not only reflected, but washed away in the color of his eyes, in the way Thor carded his fingers through his hair, gentle and unconditional comfort pouring from his hands.

He had not realized those healing hands had moved, fingers shifting to wipe away the tears that filled his eyes, those tears that he had barely been able to shed upon the early hour. Tears that he had not been able to shed until Thor gripped him as he was now, holding him against his chest until he could tell no difference from his own skin and the pulsating heat of his brother's, of his brother's and not a stranger.

The sounds that he produced were both animalistic and piteous, his teeth gnashing together with his breath that came out as a hiss, and the whimpers that his throat produced, his body reduced to little more than a quivering, trembling heap in the arms of the one being who cared enough to check up on him.

Vulnerable to the sun's light and to all those that basked in it; when it came to the one whose arms circled around his shoulders, one who placed his head on top of his own to encompass his entire being, Loki could not find it in himself to mind.

"This changes nothing."

Thor had not meant to lie, for everything was changed now, the earth shifting beneath their feet to an unfamiliar soil, frost and summer colliding to create an eternal land ruled by what they were expected to embody, expectations that never would he have been able to face alone much to the expense of his ego, that vindictive face that taunted him from the blackness.

He would rule not alone, for he was not alone. The arms that were unyielding and gentle in their grip of his body were proof enough of that claim.

At last they were able to see one another outside of illusions, and instead of despising what they saw behind the veil, there was recognition that seeped from the cracks, the fractures met with a wall of warmth that skewered any thought of being left barren, aching and without guidance.

After all, he had not been the only one affected.

With this one, with this creature of the light Loki adhered to with a half-asleep thought, he found his answer, his very solace.

What that would grant him was to be determined by the one deity he would bow to, for not even gods were exempt from the touch of Time.

Time, after all, brought him reprieve from his chaos-strewn thoughts in the form of the very thing he had spent hours - if not centuries - despising: one who could help him find his answer.


"...Though the pressure's hard to take

It's the only way I can escape

It seems a heavy choice to make

And now I am under all..."