Chapter 1. A cool reception.
The storms on Jotunheim were never-ending. They would go on for months, ravaging the land with ice and snow as sharp as knives. The winds were so cold the sweat on a man's skin would freeze instantly. But freezing sweat and storms didn't bother Thor. Jotunheim's worst blizzard wouldn't kill his determination, he would face it, head held high and push through the merciless winds.
But Thor wasn't in Jotunheim to test the blizzards and ice. He wasn't there for the Jotuns either. He sought for someone. Yet his eyes darted around suspiciously, this someone didn't want to be found so it seemed. And Thor knew him well enough to be sure an attack could come.
"Loki!" he shouted.
His words seemed to lose power as the winds raged around him. Nothing but a weak echo came back to him. A chill had filled his chest, one not caused by the cold around him though.
This was useless, Jotunheim was so vast, and he could barely see a few feet ahead through the thick snowfall. But his brother had slipped away from his watch. He'd escaped the cell under the palace. It was foolish to leave someone like Loki alone in a cage. He was too clever; they had been fools to think they could keep him imprisoned. And now he was gone, and there was no way in hell that he would trust Thor now.
But Thor was desperate, he had to try. However, the icy lands of Jotunheim worked in Loki's benefit. Thor knew that if they were to meet that it would be on Loki's terms, not on his….. if they were to meet.
"Please brother! Your crimes do not bother me!" Thor felt a lump in his throat. "I just want you back, I miss you…."
He couldn't bring out the last words as more than a whisper. He sagged on his knees, his legs felt heavy as if they carried his grief as well as his weight. He knew his brother was not bound to him by blood, but still, they had grown up together. And Loki's madness, that was his fault too. He had his words on Midgard burnt in his memory…
'I remember but a shadow.' Loki had snapped to him.
His shadow, if only he had taken a bit of time to care for him, earlier. Now all he could do was try and mend a mind that might be too damaged with pain.
"What a sorry sight you are Thor." A voice as cold as the ice around him rose.
It was burning with despise, yet smooth and controlled as it always had been. So familiar. Thor looked up to lock his gaze in front of him. He stared at Loki's legs, he couldn't bring himself to look to his face. The deep blue of jotun skin both intrigued and spooked him. He knew what exactly Loki was, but he had never seen him like that. His bare feet and legs seemed to not even feel the cold around them.
"Brother." A thankful smile came to his face.
"What do you want?" Loki's voice was cold and hid nothing of his anger.
Thor knew that if he were to look up to Loki's face it would be a mask, calm but his eyes. They would burn with hatred, pain, loathing. He refused to see it, knew it would freeze every word shut in his throat.
"I came to bring you home."
A low snicker came out, there was no amusement in it.
"Like on Midgard? I recall you 'bringing me home' tied and silenced."
"I had no choice. You tried to subjugate the human race." Thor called in defence.
"Not everyone gets a kingdom thrown at their feet for nothing Thor!"
That was a subject he needed to avoid quickly. He looked to Loki's face. It was weird, as if some monster had stolen Loki's face. His eyes were scary, the blood red seemed to flare with fury. Before Thor could tell himself it was all good his hand had already moved to Mjolnir. Loki's eyes darkened as he saw it.
"You are not welcome here." The chill in his voice was back, as was the rest.
"- Go home to Asgard. To YOUR father and friends and leave me be." Loki cut him off.
Apparently he presumed the conversation over because he turned his back on Thor. The man reacted quickly and grasped his wrist. He was worried for Loki, even though his jotun form was alien to Thor he could see Loki was skinny. His body was covered by only two sloppily cut fur hides, one draped over shoulders one around his hips, they were messy and looked like a rushed job for clothes.
"You wouldn't survive here. This isn't you."
Loki let out a chuckle and turned to face Thor again.
"And you would know now? You know nothing about me."
He pulled his hand away.
"Of course I know. You're my brother."
Another chuckle, again it was cold rather than amused.
"I never was your brother, doesn't this prove that for you?" he set a few steps back. "This is my true face Thor, the place I was born. So don't you tell me I don't belong here."
The blond god fell silent at that, what was there to say?
"Do you live with the jotun now? Does this make you happy?"
Loki's face changed for a moment, pain…
"They won't let you live with them do they?"
"Leave Thor, go away and don't come back anymore."
"No brother please!" Thor shouted. "I just want us to be like before, when we were young. I could be the brother I should have been all along."
"We're not children anymore! You're too late!"
He was not far from attacking Thor just to make him go. Thor was cold, the chill climbed up through his knees and left him shivering.
"Is there nothing I can do to make you forgive me?"
Loki looked at him with an expression that betrayed nothing.
"You and Asgard are dead to me. I have given you all up, you should do the same."
"If that is the truth, then why did you come to see me?"
Loki shrugged and shook his head as if all meant nothing.
"Call it a moment of weakness. Some part of me wanted to say goodbye."
Finally Thor came to his feet.
"I will not accept goodbye Loki, I will follow you, come back to find you every day."
"You wouldn't have found me here if I hadn't come to you."
"But I will try. Because I made you a promise!"
His brother's face remained unchanged except for a weak frown.
"We were children then…. "
"I wasn't, not anymore. And I meant it."
Thor took a large step to face Loki. He looked at the patterns on his skin that were so close, the eyes threatened him silently not to come any closer. Slowly, calmly, Thor placed one hand on Loki's chest. The steady strong heartbeat pulsed against his gloved fingers. He sighed in relief.
"What?" Loki asked sharply.
"Your heart. I had feared that you had lost it."
"This isn't farewell brother. Don't you dare to die alone."
Thor's fingers slipped off his cold chest as he turned to leave in the snow. Loki watched the man he'd once called his brother disappear in the mists. A single tear ran over his cheek. Warm, painful, human. All he would give for Thor's words to be true… He wanted to be back in Asgard as if nothing happened. But things had happened, bad things, ones that weren't forgotten.
He'd let jealousy corrupt him, not just corrupt him, it had driven him mad. He had tried to become king when the chance had presented itself, just because it was there suddenly. And falling into the void coldly rejected by your father like he never believed in you anyway hadn't helped a great deal either. So when the Chitauri had presented him with one hell of a chance for sweet revenge, he had taken it with both hands. It had not quite worked out for him. And for such blind greed he would pay alone. And Thor just had it all, it made him boil. But one thing didn't add up. Thor seemed to want him back, no matter what he had done to make the blond god hate him. It wasn't like he had ever mattered in Thor's eyes before. Maybe Thor had changed, became the brother he once had been before the kingdom came in sight for him.
Even if that was true, somehow, there were more people he'd upset.
He couldn't face all the other Asgardians, his father, his mother…..no Thor's father and mother, not his. The Warrior's Three would consider him a traitor, which he was. Sif's temper would have him killed within three seconds of arriving. And he only had himself to blame.
Blindly he looked out over the world. Snow and ice surrounded him, every side of his peripheral vision the very same, cold endless wasteland. Nobody should have been able to find him, not out here. It was a miracle that Thor had, or maybe not, Thor had Heimdall. But it surprised him that the gatekeeper had helped Thor, even he had stood up against him, even though Heimdall was supposed to serve his king. But then again, he hadn't quite been a king. He had only claimed the title, hoping that it would eventually make him one.
That obviously hadn't worked out, for there he was, staggering through the snow to hope he found a cave to spend the night in. He had spotted some peaks from afar, ragged pieces of rock, a hill once maybe. The bits of light that the thick storms let through at day were fading quickly as he crossed the icy slopes. There was a cave, small and with a narrow opening. He approached the entrance carefully though, maybe something else had already taken residence in the cavern. It was pitch black inside, he couldn't even see his own hand anymore as he stuck his arm out first. A small flame appeared on it that cast shadows inside, it was a bigger cave than he'd thought, his light didn't reach the walls. The flame shone brighter. He squeezed himself through the narrow entrance, nothing there, he was alone. A few spiders and other bugs fled away from the light to cracks and corners. Because the opening was so narrow the wind didn't reach him there. It was quiet at last. The flame left his fingers to settle in the middle of the cave, flaring up to cast light everywhere, a green poisonous light. Loki sat down and stared in the dancing fire until his eyes started to hurt. He shifted his gaze to his hands which he had folded around his knees, fingers entwined. The patterns swirled over his steel blue knuckles. Jotun skin was tough, thick. It had to withstand the trenchant winds and snow that turned into projectiles at that speed. He rubbed two fingers together.
Thor was right, it wasn't him. Which was utter nonsense of course, his mind told him, he was born like this. It had always been him. But still, he had gone thousands of years without realizing it, thousands of years in Aesir flesh, nothing compared to these few years that he knew what he was. And even most of that time he had used living in his façade. He hated it, his jotun form. How could he not? As a child he had been taught that Jotuns were treacherous, the enemy, a lower species…. He turned his face again, to the ground beside him. An icicle melted to a puddle below with an almost rhythmic dripping. The clear water reflected his face, the blue skin in his forehead folded together in a frown, red eyes gleaming with a few tears he had felt stinging already. A lower species. Fun to hunt after, because surely they were no match for real warriors…. But he was strong, powerful…. He could take them all on, he was better than them. No, he was rejected by them, born too small. Not even good enough for their standards. He watched himself again, the blue grew greyer, whiter and then to pink, a shade so light it was barely even pink. The patterns sank away to smooth his features again. The red in his eyes faded to the corners and became white, gleaming white, his irises green. At least he recognized himself now. Although this mess reflected was but a shade of the prince he had been. Dirty, dressed in dead animal, hollow eyed, thin, hungry. A sad creature.
He growled in boiling frustration and froze the puddle shut. Just accept that it's you. He wouldn't, he would tell himself he was better than that. Just as he had told himself that he was a king.
'Don't you dare die alone.' Thor's threat spooked in his head.
He was alone though, just not dead…. Yet. The last word in his thoughts cut through him like a knife. Part of him just wanted to cry like he had when the world had seemed against him as a child, part of him had a desperate need to have company right now. And the part he gave in to told him to go to sleep. That maybe the aching would stop and his dreams could give him a temporary illusion of happiness. He curled on his side, knowing that fatigue would get to him sooner than real sleep. He shut his eyes and the flame that gave no warmth died out in front of him. The dark engulfed everything as Loki fell asleep, not as alone as he'd thought.