oOo

Chapter 8 – Boundless

It had been a week of prosperous fortunes and misery.

Loki had accepted Kingship from Frigga the next day and he handled everything the moment he accepted reign. Duties that were prolonged had been taken noticed, the trade in Vanaheim went successful, and the land agreements outside the borders were taken care of. Wages were counted, service was rewarded, and all had gone well or surprisingly better than it had been in years.

Asgard prospered quickly, yet none of the Aesir were willing to admit Loki's rule bordered perfection.

Frigga was proud of him for his beautiful service for the realm, but she barely expressed her thanks because she spent her moments with Odin's sleeping form. Nonetheless, Frigga let it known that Loki had outdone himself.

However, the duties had piled up and even if Loki had finished them quickly, it only took its toll on Loki's mind. Broken as he was on the inside, the depression ate at him till the outside. Loki was exhausted. He barely spoke to anyone, but he went on meeting through meeting. Even the Aesir's who had long thought Loki invisible, somewhat worried for his health.

Odd as it was, it was truth.

"Loki, wake up."

Slender hands shook him awake and softly whispered to his ear. Loki groaned and felt a slowly forming headache. He groggily looked up to see beautiful cerulean eyes staring at him from above, white blonde locks fell down to the sheets.

"Finally," The Elf smiled.

"Erland?"

"The one and only."

"Leave me."

"You are slightly warm, my King."

"Don't call me that."

"I have to abide by the rules," Erland said as he tapped Loki awake. "If you are sick, I could inform Queen Frigga so you may rest for the day."

"No, I'm fine." Loki sat up. "However, I did not ask to be woken."

"That is where I contradict you."

"What hour is it?"

"Early morning, the usual time you wake," Erland checked Loki's temperature. "You asked that I make sure you are present for today's meetings, especially the war council meeting. But I highly advise you not attend. You are warmer now."

"You're my servant," Loki coldly said. "Not an advisor."

Loki plopped back down on the bed and took the sheets with him. And like a child, he hid under the silk covers and lay still, occasionally groaning in annoyance. Erland huffed and waited for Loki to move, but he did not.

"Is he awake?"

A young woman entered the room and held a tray of breakfast, all of which were Loki's favorites. She placed it on the table near the balcony and eyed the lump on the bed. She glared at the Elf standing there doing nothing.

"You said you would wake him."

"I said I would, dear Atli" Erland countered. "And I had."

"And that stopped you?" She snorted.

"Our lovely new King refuses and hides himself under the covers like a child. Oh, and I fear to mention our King is slightly feverish today. I believe it is the lack of care for his health and need to impress everyone with his skills."

"Silence yourself, Erland," Loki's muffled voice came. "Or I'll silence it for you."

"My Lord?" Atli asked.

"I'm fine!"

"He's dramatic today, Atli." The older Elf sighed.

"I plan to work today, not rest!"

"Loki, if you wish to work then at least feast in today's meal. Your duties as King are to present yourself formally to the elder Lords of the Kingdom and to other political guests including impressing the council yet again. Then you must handle all trade shipment agreements, and—what did you call it?"

The Elf turned to the young Aesir.

"New rule declarations," Atli supplied.

"Aye, including the training regime for our new warriors, Lord Tyr is rather insistent upon its approval. And lying in bed will not finish them."

"All of that?" Loki dropped the sheets. "Truly?"

"Aye."

"You noted all of what I said yesterday?"

"How could I not?" Erland smirked. "Tis my duty as your servant."

"Don't tell mother I'm overexerting myself," Loki sat up and slumped forward. "She would not take kindly to it."

"Your clothes," Atli presented them.

Loki pushed himself up from the bed, grabbed the clothes from his servant and groggily walked towards the bathroom and shut it. The two servants stared at each other before they went on with their duties to clean Loki's room.

"How sick is he?" Atli asked worriedly.

"Perhaps a start of a fever," Erland shrugged and opened the thin curtains. "He was not bred for this."

"Erland!"

"Hush, you…" He huffed. "I know him."

Loki walked out of the bathroom, dressed and proper, yet his expression spelled exhaustion. Atli finished up the bed and helped Loki with his meal. Loki poked and nibbled at his food. Erland and Atli remained at the side silently waiting for Loki to finish, but the boy gradually lost his appetite as time went on.

"I truly think you must sit this out," Erland expressed again. "Forgive me for sounding repetitive."

"It's alright," Loki slumped. "You're not wrong."

"Do you wish us to call Lady Eir?" Atli responded.

"No."

"What of your fever?"

"It will go away eventually," Loki stood up. "I won't exert myself."

"Of course, my King,"

He had to get used to being called that.

Now that he thought about Kingship, Loki had decided to go to Jotunheim before, but fear grounded him from leaving Asgard. Another reason was because he wanted to make a name for himself without Thor there. Hence why he tested his reign on Asgard first and let the week past unnoticed. But this cause had not helped his situation and only prolonged the inevitable.

"Tell the council to get ready," Loki ordered. "I'll be there shortly."


oOo

Thor had found Earth strange.

Two weeks had now gone after Jane, Erik and Darcy found him. He stayed there and helped Jane understand a few concepts, but he didn't let much information go. It was only when SHIELD dropped by and confiscated their equipment that Thor agreed to help. Jane and Darcy agreed to take him to the base, in which Erik had to bail Thor out of their make-shift prison. Afterwards was not the pleasant conversation.

"You've been here for days," Erik glared. "You have no place to go and that incident with those men in suits wasn't ordinary. You haven't been honest with us."

"Erik," Jane frowned. "Thor wanted to help."

"Look where that got him and you. He put you in danger!"

"He's right," Thor admitted. "I have not been completely honest with you."

"What?"

"If you give me a chance, I will explain everything."

Thor had opened up to them, all of the truth as to how he came to Earth. He explained as much as he was able. In the end, whether they believe him or not wasn't important, it was whether he was worthy to come back that made it all difficult. But the thing that bothered Thor most wasn't his exile, but Loki.

His little brother hadn't visited him.

Thor knew Loki had ways to communicate, and the only theory Thor had was either his brother was forbidden or he simply hated Thor.

"Are you okay?" Jane asked.

"I'm fine, Jane." He smiled. "You need not worry."

"You look troubled."

"I am."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"My brother," Thor admitted. "I miss him."

Thor proudly spoke to Jane and recalled many stories about him. Jane asked if some myths were true, and Thor laughed at it. He cleared up her confusion and as the day neared its end, Thor counted down his absence from Asgard. He stayed in his room, lay down on the bed and waited for sleep.

Loki still did not come.


oOo

He was a coward.

Loki locked himself in his bathroom and sunk himself in the cold water. Deep in thought was he, debating whether he'd follow through with his plans or not. It was a matter of waiting for Odin to wake, or take chances learning the truth. The guilt in his chest of ruining Thor's coronation also disturbed him.

To make matters worse, Loki's fever had gotten worst.

"My Lord," Atli banged on the door. "You've been in there for hours!"

"Aye!" Erland called. "Come out!"

Loki cursed to himself silently.

"Go away!"

"You cannot stay there, my Lord." Atli banged on the door again. "You are already sick enough as it is!"

"I said leave me alone!"

"It's no use, Atli," Erland whispered. "We need other means to get him out."

It was obvious that no word could ever slip from Frigga's ears. And Loki's appearance only made himself look worse. He had gotten in and out of meetings quickly and got sicker than he should be. The weight of the throne and the secret he held was killing him slowly. But at least he made Asgard better.

That's a first.

Behind the door, Frigga entered Loki's chambers in a hurry.

"Is he still in there?" She asked.

"Aye," Erland said. "He would not come out."

"How long?"

"Three hours," Atli explained.

"Away with the both of you," Frigga ordered. "Get some rest for the night, I'll handle my son. Make sure the doors are locked and the guards away from the door. Whatever is heard is strictly between me and my son. No need for alarm, is that clear?"

"Yes, your majesty."

The two servants sauntered away quickly, as if to get away from a storm. It wasn't just Odin's wrath or Thor's that was to be feared, they were family after all.

And if one has such skill, then the other would have most likely inherited it.

"Loki, open the door!" Frigga shouted.

He submerged himself up to chin in the pool and thought, great, even his servants betrayed him in his solitude. His fever had slightly broken thanks to the cold water, but in his dazed state, he barely heard Frigga's voice yell through the door.

"Loki, I swear by the nine I will—"

He ignored it.

Until a bright green flash and an explosion followed after that Loki had to turn his head to see the door pried off its hinges and on the floor. Frigga stood there in night gown looking regal and fierce. But the moment she stared into pitiful green eyes, her rage diminished and she was back to a mother hen.

"Oh you poor child," Frigga knelt by the edge of her pool. "Look at you!"

"Your dress," Loki pointed out.

"It's just a dress," She said. "I care not if it gets wet."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I was told of your fever. Why had you not told me sooner? We could have gone to Eir."

"I did not want to worry anyone."

"Here you are doing the opposite," Frigga brushed a finger on Loki's cheek. "Get out of there darling, we'll discuss it when you are decent."

"I should murder my servants," Loki cruelly said.

"They were only looking out for you."

"I'm glad you're here, Mother."

"As am I."

Frigga pulled a towel from the cupboard and gave it to Loki. He accepted it and got out of the pool, then wrapped the towel around his shoulders and walked into the room. Frigga allowed Loki to dress up and made him lie down on her lap on the bed. She brushed her son's hair and hummed a song until Loki was calm enough to talk.

"You should rest more," Frigga said. "No more nonsense work."

"It's not nonsense," He debated.

"You've done a lot darling, more than Odin could do in a whole month." She said softly. "Do not try to compete. You have plenty of time and I'm sure what you've done is already appreciated everywhere."

"It's not that."

"Then what troubles you, darling?"

"I'm…" He took a deep breath. "I cannot stay put, I feel like I must do something to make up for…for everything I did... Or will do." He said quietly, but after the silence, he couldn't help it. He had to speak, or else he would go mad.

"I brought the Jotuns into the weapons vault."

Frigga stayed silent.

"I'm sorry," Loki quickly said. "It's treason and—"

"No-no," She shook her head. "You only took me by surprise, dear. Is this why you are acting this way? So you could atone for what you had done to your brother?"

"Yes." He whimpered.

"Oh Loki," Frigga brushed his hair. "I'm sure Thor will understand whatever reason you have. I do not condone what you did, but I am positive you are sorry for it. But this… what you are doing to yourself is not right, putting yourself in harm's way will only cause more trouble than it is worth."

"But Thor will hate me," Loki palmed his face.

"He won't," She said. "Trust in him more, he is smarter than he looks. And if it will make you feel better, I am sorry for neglecting you these past few days in your reign. I knew you would make a fine King if you were given a chance, but your Father is…"

"I know." Loki mumbled. "Mother?"

"Yes, dear?"

"If Father found out, will I be punished for treason?"

"I don't know," Frigga said. "But if he comes to know, which I am sure he will, I will try and convince him to be lenient. He won't take it lightly, but I will do my best to help."

"Alright, but what about Thor?"

"Thor will come back."

"I don't know anymore."

"You need not know, my dear child. Not everything has a solution. You should believe in your brother that he will make it on his own."

"I want to bring him home."

"You and I know you cannot do that."

"I know, Mother."

"He will be fine and you'll fine," She kissed his forehead. "You are my sons, and you'll both be okay."

Loki wished he believed in her.

That very night, Loki thought it was time to stop hiding in fear.


oOo

He will never see Loki again.

Thor almost believed it.

He was alone in his room. And he had not felt like that in a long time. He had no one but his three knew friends to stay with. He lay on the bed, buried in sadness and guilt. Until a familiar surge of magic blossomed around the room. He thought he had been dreaming, and ignored the signs. Apparently, wishes do come true.

"So this is where you live now?"

Thor blinked and thought his ears betrayed him. He sat up and looked at his brother, looking younger and tired than ever. Loki was in his night clothes, and it did not take long for Thor to notice his brother had been crying.

"Loki?"

"Brother."

"Why do you look so sick?" Thor asked.

"Lower your voice," Loki chuckled. "You will wake your people."

"Are you well?"

"Why does everyone keep asking me that?"

"Have you seen yourself in the mirror?" Thor shook his head and reached out. "Never mind, I am glad to see you. Is… is this really you or is it an illusion?"

"Illusion."

"Can you not visit me? Are you not allowed?"

"Norns you have so many questions, Thor." Loki smiled sadly.

"I'm just worried, you look horrible."

"You do not look any better." Loki bit his lips. "I have been plagued with fever as of late and only broke through it a while ago. I am fine. The stress is simply getting to me. With you gone… well…"

"I'm sorry," Thor frowned. "I assumed it was Father's idea?"

"Aye."

"What took you so long?"

"My duties."

Thor nodded at him, believing it was simply his duties as Prince. Thor really had no idea what had been happening for the past two weeks. If only Loki could say it sooner, all would be well. But Thor could sense something different in the atmosphere around them. When he stared into Loki's eyes, there was guilt, panic and exhaustion in them.

"I'm sorry I left you," Thor voiced.

"No don't," Loki raised a finger. "I know you had no choice. I'm just sorry that I cannot break your sentence here. I would send you back home if I could."

"So I am to remain here?"

"I'm sorry."

"It's alright," Thor said. "I have come to terms with it."

"I…" Loki fidgeted. "Thor I…"

Thor stood up and walked towards him, even if Thor knew it was an illusion, Thor still extended a hand to him. Loki looked at it and placed a hand on top of Thor's. The illusion fizzled, but Thor smiled at his little brother. Loki swallowed, and was almost ready to break down.

"Father and Mother made me King."

"What?"

"I'm sorry." He cried. "Please do not hate me."

"What do you mean?" Thor blinked. "Why would that make me hate you? Loki I love you, and if it was our parents' decision, I have no qualms with it. You make a fine King, you know. And I have no doubt."

"You are not angry?"

"No."

"I thought you'd be angry…Mother was right…"

"Loki," Thor smiled sadly. "I'm proud, but I cannot express it so. It pains me to be away from my family. But… but you said that you cannot change my sentence. Why?"

"I was forbidden," Loki looked down. "And I tried, I swear I tried."

"Loki, it's fine."

"But you need to know I tried."

"I know you did."

"I want you back home," Loki mumbled. "I'm so tired, Thor. I am worried if they find out. I have done what I can for Asgard, but it is not enough. I… Father… he had fallen in Odin-sleep. Mother always watches over him, and I am alone here. I have not even seen your friends."

Loki took a deep breath. "I do not want the throne."

"Loki, listen to me."

"You don't understand, I want you home and I cannot undo your sentence. I am King, but I do not want to be. I thought I could… I had and it went well, but… I do not like it. It does not feel right, brother."

"Calm down."

"It's only temporary, Thor. My reign over the crown. Once Father wakes, he'll gain the throne back and even retract your sentence if he sees it fit. But… but I cannot wait that long."

"I love you, brother," Thor smiled. "Try and calm yourself. I will try and come back to Asgard soon."

Loki nodded.

After the strained silence, he said.

"Do you want to know the condition of your sentence?"

"I think I already know." He chuckled. "I found Mjolnir days ago, but I cannot lift it. Father put a spell on it, and only if I was worthy should I be able to wield it. How do I know this? I must've dreamt it somehow. But that hardly matters. At least you are here to visit me."

Thor looked down and whispered.

"I miss you, brother."

"And I… you."

Loki's illusion fizzled.

He looked ready to pass out and Thor immediately went on alert. He stared at Loki with wide eyes as Loki swayed to his side and embraced himself. Thor walked forward but Loki backed away. Thor was confused, and only waited for Loki to compose himself.

"Don't touch it," He said.

"Are you well?" Thor asked hurriedly.

"I think my fever returned," Loki said. "Worry not… I… I should go."

"Loki, try not to exert yourself for my sake."

But it was too late.

The illusion disappeared.

Thor noticed a gap form between them and it wasn't simply physical. That gap would be hard to mend and Thor hoped it was not too late. The conversation was too quick for him and Thor begged the Norns to speak with Loki longer, but when will that next conversation be? Loki collapsed on his knees in his room and rubbed his eyes in exhaustion, he hadn't realized that casting an illusion on Midgard would be physically and emotionally exhausting. He had done so before in more effective ways but he was not sick then.

Jotunheim…

Loki needed to visit Jotunheim soon. It would end all of their problems. Loki knew that was a better solution than waiting around for Odin to wake. He had delayed it for too long. But rest… he really needed to rest before he tried to work.

But he can't get the sad look of Thor's face out of his mind.

"It'll all be worth it," He decided.

He hadn't bothered to cover himself with the sheets as he crawled on the bed. Tired, he curled into a ball and passed out.


oOo

"Where do you think he is going?" Fandral wondered.

"Bifrost," Volstagg said then later expressed. "Word has it that Loki is doing well in his kingship. I had thought he would have messed this up somehow and thrown us all in the dungeons."

"Or made us do dirty work."

"Aye!"

"You're giving him too much credit," Sif sighed. "I admit I was wrong about him."

"Ah, the Lady admits fault!" Fandral grinned.

"Hush," She glared. "I only question why Loki has not retracted Thor's sentence yet."

"I told you," Hogun said. "The King's word is law."

"Loki is king."

"It is temporary."

"Let us hope he does not cause mischief," Sif crossed her arms. "Else I make judgment on his rule."


oOo

Loki had felt slightly better in the morning.

But the thoughts of his reign still bothered him. He couldn't think of a way to get rid of the thoughts. Had the King of Jotunheim ever mourned the loss of his runt of a son? He wondered. Loki knew nothing about Laufey except the tales spread about Asgard. And the questions made him fear the King. What if Laufey demanded him back? The questions went on and on. Would Laufey be proud of him for being King?

"Loki," Heimdall said.

"Gatekeeper," He murmured. "Will you grant me passage to Jotunheim?"

"I can, but I cannot guarantee you will be safe there. You are still not well, and it would suit you ill to travel on your own."

"I'll live, Loki countered.

As soon as Loki set foot on Jotunheim, the fear kept rising in his chest. He felt the soothing cold in his slightly warm skin, and it was relaxing. He didn't have to take a cold bath and cool the fever down. The weather was doing it for him. He had questioned why the cold hadn't bothered him before, and now it made sense. Loki shielded himself from Heimdall's gaze and if something happened, it would take a while before the gatekeeper would realize it. Loki just hoped he wouldn't fail.

When he got to the broken palace and entered through the halls, he noticed a few Jotun's lurking about, but they did not touch him.

They probably knew he was coming.

That was odd.

He walked further and soon, the doors were opened to him by two large Jotuns. Loki blinked as he saw Laufey sitting on the throne. He carefully walked forward and eyed the open ceiling where the snow slowly dropped down. It was rather relaxing to be in a place full of ice. Loki felt fear as he stopped in the middle, red eyes glared at him.

"You," Laufey sneered.

"I assume you were waiting for someone else," Loki replied.

Helblindi growled and was ready to pounce, but Laufey raised a hand to stop him. Helblindi waited with his Byleistr and Thrym. The other Jotuns watched carefully. They had their men ready just in case.

"Tell me why I should not kill you," Laufey approached. "Odinson."

"Not Odinson," Loki glared. "I take it my actions aren't clear enough to you."

It took Laufey a moment.

"You betrayed Odin," He gritted.

"You're welcome."

"You?" Styrmir chuckled. "A boy?"

"Why?" Byleistr questioned. "You're his son."

"A traitor most likely," Thrym muttered.

"Silence!" Laufey hissed and dropped down his throne. The sound echoed. "You… trickster and deceiver, why did you let us into Asgard? You had us where you wanted us, but for what purpose? My men are dead and I still have no casket."

"I had no idea your men would get that far."

"Speak."

"I had other reasons," Loki claimed. "It was not my intention to give you reigns over the Casket, my reasons were purely selfish then. However I offer a bargain…"

"You think we would bargain with you?"

Before Loki realized, Laufey was onto him. He was picked up by the throat and choked him slowly. Loki struggled to release energy, but even he was too shocked at the sudden change of his own skin color. From pale flesh it turned to icy blue. Laufey's grip loosened and the Jotnar's laughter subsided.

Loki fell to the floor, coughing.

"You," Laufey blinked. "You're alive."

"He's Jotun," Thrym expressed. "How is that possible?"

"Did Odin lay with another?" Valgard questioned.

"Fool!" Alrik hissed.

"No," Laufey backed away and glared. "The Bastard son returns."

Loki looked up at Laufey with red eyes. He looked smaller and fragile than he was before. His position did not look threatening either. Loki pushed himself up, minding his aching neck. It was only then did Loki realize he was still warmer than usual.

"Is that what I am to you?" Loki's vision blurred. "Just a bastard?"

The Jotnar stayed silent.

They watched as their King spoke with his runt.

"I thought Odin killed you in the war," Laufey chuckled darkly and bitterly. "I would have done so."

Loki's glare matched Laufey's perfectly.

Valgard signaled the other Jotnar. Helblindi, Byleistr and Thrym noticed this. One of them slowly slipped away into the shadows and waited for the proper moment.

"Someone as weak and small as you were would not have survived the winter." Laufey said.

"Clearly you don't know my strength."

"Unfit as you were, I wanted to end your misery as mercy. Why do you think you were offered to the temple in the first place?"

"This runt survived."

"Only because Odin showed mercy on you."

"The All-Father is in Odin-sleep," Loki regretted answering. "I serve as Asgard's King until he awakens. If you thought me weak before, you're sorely wrong."

"Perhaps leaving you was a wise choice," Laufey grinned. "Why betray Odin though?"

"Because he lied to me."

Tell the truth, hide the lies!

"You did so just to satisfy revenge?" Laufey laughed and the Jotnar joined him. Loki did not feel welcomed here, and his plan seemed to fail him all the more. If he could trick Laufey into agreeing, he would be the winner.

"You will hear me out?" Loki asked, trying to ignore his Jotun skin.

"Mayhaps you will hear me out, Bastard son."

Valgard signaled the Jotun in the shadows and Loki felt magical barriers attack him. He fell to his knees and looked up at Laufey towering over him. Bright red symbols appeared on the floor. The world began to spin and Loki could only hold himself still. The air was thick of Seidr, it was a magic unknown to him, probably the Jotnar magic.

"H-how?" Loki croaked.

"You think we weren't prepared for you?" Laufey shook his head. "We knew the one who let us into Asgard was a magic wielder and he was desperate enough to crawl to us."

"Impossible."

"How else would we have gotten there in the first place?"

"Why?" Loki trembled.

"Why capture you instead of hearing your plan?" Laufey paced. "Simple, we will no longer bow down to Asgard's whims. You are Jotun, boy. They must have told you as you grew up we were nothing but a stupid race. Clearly, they were wrong."

Loki collapsed, panting.

"What would you do with him?" Helblindi wondered.

Loki tried to access his Seidr, but the barrier only weakened him further. He couldn't believe how easy it was to trap him. Loki, who was collapsed to his side, felt the oddly cold floor underneath him. His warm temperature did not help his condition. Too weak to fight it off, he accepted his fate. He knew it was fruitless. Oh, how foolish was he to walk into this one. So careless, and will always be a fool.

"He is useful," Laufey's voice echoed. "Asgard will be ours! This boy is our key to achieve it. They will fall without their King… but of course… we are too smart for them. Aren't we?"

The Jotnar cheered.

"Our plans haven't changed! We will attack Asgard! But first…" Laufey turned to Loki dangerously. "We will get answers."

Loki's memory became hazy after that.

"Take him to a cell," Laufey ordered. "When he wakes he will tell us how to get to Asgard!"


oOo

TBC…

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