Loki walks on snow and leaves no footprints; nothing to indicate that he has ever even pasted by. It is so cold that the trees groan as the sap freezes in their veins. He doesn't feel it. Cold has never touched him, not truly.
This land feels different under his feet. This land still remembers him as a god. Remembers him as the keeper of fire and bringer of the end. Ships that flew over water, adorned with dragon heads were launched from these shores. Here, more than anywhere else on Midgard, he can feel welcomed and maybe even at home, though a Trickster never truly feels home anywhere.
He walks for a long time because he is in no hurry to reach his destination. It will wait however long it has to. He could take years and still he would meet the same person by the same shore. He doesn't particularly wish to meet this person but meet they must and some things are better to just get over with.
He walks slower as he nears the fire by the frozen sea side. The small fire is nothing spectacular. It is built of mismatched drift wood and sometimes flickers with odd colours – salts taking to flame. There is a man seated by the fire. He is clearly old – it can be seen by the way he is hunched over and by his calk white hair that escapes from under his drawn up hood. The old man is poking idly at the fire with a stick, staring into the flames.
There is a log across from the fire. It has been brushed clean of snow – expectant of company. Loki sits without comment or a word of greeting.
The fire sparkles just a little bit more merrily, shines just a little bit more – happy to have him by its side.
The old man looks up and Loki meets his one-eyed stare. Odin doesn't look very good. He is greyer in the face, more lined and seems terribly tired. Loki feels absolutely no pity for him. His eyes are colder than weather around them.
"My service to you is done," Loki's voice is firm. Final. "He is ready to be a king now."
Odin closes his one good eye and draws a long breath and lets it out slow. He nods. When he looks back up he seems sad, "It was never my intention to lose you in the process."
Loki doesn't know if this is true. He can feel any lie like claws on his back each time he hears one but Odin has ever eluded this sense – the only being who could lie to the Liesmith.
So he says nothing. They are done – Odin and he.
Odin is nodding slightly to himself after seeing Loki's reaction, "Asgard owes you a great debt. One which I do not know how to repay. " He sounds sincere in this, at least. But then, he always has.
"There is nothing I will have of you aside from one thing, Odin All-Father."
Odin meets his eyes again, expectant. "Free me. Seek me not in this life or next. Once-brother."
Odin draws back as if punched, "So you remember. How?"
Loki opens his hand. His palm is marred by a scar – it runs diagonally across and is white and clearly very old. "The Void is a funny place. It destroys you or it remakes you. Depends on your perspective. I forgot a great many things but remembered much once lost."
In Odin's palm there is a scar to match Loki's.
"If this vow of brotherhood that we made ages gone ever meant anything to you, Wodin – blood-brother, then give me peace. Let me be."
Odin curls his hand to a fist around the scar – like it hurts him. "To do what? To meddle with mortals? To let you trick them to your service?" his words are pained.
It is Loki who shakes his head now. "I have never sought to truly harm mortals. And they seek my services. My help."
"Seek? You have led them by their noses all this time. They seek your aid only because you made them think they need it."
"They do need it. And my help is no less sincere for being my own design. I seek not to rule over them but beside them. They have come far and with me can go even further. It is time Asgard let them." Loki, who had leaned forward during his words, now straightens back.
"Midgard is neutral ground. This was agreed upon and I cannot undo that."
Loki laughs, the fire jumps to the sound of his voice, "I am neutral All-Father. This time I will play for Midgard – this breaks no rules."
Odin regards Loki for a long time. Finally he gives in with a nod, "So be it." He stands to leave, Loki remains seated. "And what of Ragnarök?"
Loki doesn't look up but just stares at the fire. His hand reaches out to the flames and they jump up to meet him and dance around his hand. "It can wait," Loki sounds far away, as if remembering something half-forgotten.
Odin reaches down and from a bag previously concealed under the hem of his long grey coat he pulls a package. He hands it to Loki over the fire who clearly hesitates to take it.
"From your mother, if you will still call her that. She sends her love."
Loki reaches out his hand – the pack is heavier than he expected. Odin turns to go. His grey coat blends him into the night and then he is gone.
Loki sits for a long time by the fire. The nights during the winter in this part of Midgard are long and dark. During some point of the night he opens the pack – it contains a single piece of cloth – black as midnight and soft as fresh snow. It flows for Loki and almost dances around the flames that burn now with no need of wood for fuel. Out of the folds of the cloth drops a single green apple. One of Idunn's – green on the outside but golden on the inside.
Loki runs his thumb over the skin of the apple and smiles. He keeps it for a rainy day. The cloth he throws over his shoulders like a cape as he becomes one with the night.
The fire goes with him.
A/N: 1. Thank you to everyone who has read (and reviewed) this story and have encouraged me along the way. Could not have done it without you! And a virtual-hug to by beta reader K, she does a really good job.
2. Sequel… Haven't started one but that doesn't mean it will not happen. Never say never.
3. I never planned to write Loki's therapy sessions, sorry if you hoped for it. I could never do that subject justice and it has already been done in a wonderful story called 'Truthfully' by Salazarfalcon. If you haven't come across it I suggest looking it up.