"My Prince?" Heimdall questioned when Loki appeared to remain behind after he had sent the party on to Jotunheim.
"A very detailed clone of magic," Loki explained. "My true self is on Jotunheim. Someone has to be the voice of diplomacy when Thor would start a new war. You wanted to know how it could be possible for the Frost Giants to pass you, to enter Asgard without your notice."
"You know such a way?" Heimdall asked lowly.
"I do," Loki answered. "I did not believe that the Frost Giants also knew, or I would have spoken of the matter to you and my father. I could not in good conscience speak of this in Thor's presence, however. He would wage war on Jotunheim by himself without having to pass by your guard."
"How did you come to know of such a way?" Heimdall asked.
Loki snorted. "Every time Thor was being unbearably arrogant, thoughtlessly unkind, or displaying any of his other numerous, undesirable personality traits and I could not bear to be in his company... I... sought out different company. I travelled through secret ways to other realms, learned about their peoples, returned when I felt I could bear my brother's insensitivity again," he explained.
"My Prince, did you bring the Frost Giants to Asgard?" Heimdall asked dangerously.
Loki snorted again. "No," he answered. "Though granted, they certainly had timing. I have no desire to have anything to do with Frost Giants. When I found the secret way to Jotunheim, I returned as soon as I recognised where I was, locked the door of the room, and left instead to Midgard. Still, I follow my brother. Someone has to keep him out of trouble."
Heimdall actually smiled a tiny bit then. "A task that is a great deal harder than most are given to believe," he commented.
Loki groaned. "Something just happened in Jotunheim, didn't it?" he asked, then sighed when Heimdall nodded. "I will go to my father and order for Sliepnir to be saddled."
"A wise decision," Heimdall agreed.
The clone of magic groaned again, mounted one of the horses that had been left on the bridge – Loki's own – and rode as fast as he could back to Asgard.
"Father," Loki called softly, tentatively, when Thor had been banished to Midgard. "May I speak now?"
Odin huffed. "I am not well pleased with you either Loki," he said sternly, "but yes, you may speak now."
"One of the Jotuns took hold of my arm while we fought... I... did not burn from the cold as Volstagg did, but... I... my arm, my hand, turned blue. The same blue as a Jotun," Loki said.
"The Casket of Winter was not all that your father took from the Jotun Temple," Heimdall offered lowly. "He also brought back a babe that had been abandoned for being too small."
"Why?" Loki asked, the beginnings of desperate tears rimming his eyes as he looked from Heimdall, who saw all, to his father – the only one who knew his reasoning. "You were knee-deep in the blood of Jotuns! Why would you save me?"
"Because you were innocent," Odin said, "and you were beautiful, and your mother and I had always wanted more children. I had thought, for a moment, to unite Asgard and Jotunheim through you, but Heimdall told me why you had been abandoned, and I knew such a plan would not work. By then, it didn't matter. By then, Loki, with your smile and your bright eyes and your baby's laughter, you were already in my heart."
Loki swallowed tightly. "And Mother?" he asked.
Odin chuckled. "Oh, she scolded me for even thinking, however briefly, of a baby as a political tool and said if I ever treated her baby – you, Loki – as such, then she would spank me."
"That was an amusing day," Heimdall recalled, and lay a hand on Loki's shoulder. "You are my Prince. I would not call you such, if you were not."
"Thank you, Heimdall," Loki said softly. "I... I need some time to think on this though... and... I do not think I could bear to be here while I do that thinking."
Odin nodded in tired acceptance. "I have been a poor father," he said. "To both you and Thor, while I was busy as a king. I should have censured him more, praised you more, but fatherhood falls by the wayside when one has a duty to all the people of Asgard, not just his family. Know, Loki, that I do love you. Heimdall," he said, and with a nod he left the observatory tiredly, mounted Sleipnir and rode slowly back to the palace.
"My Prince," Heimdall said. "Would you travel with the Bifrost, or take one of your secret ways?"
"I... the Bifrost, please Heimdall. The secret ways... to travel to Midgard I must leave from a particular corner deep within the royal library. If I saw Mother on my way... I..."
"I understand, my Prince," Heimdall said. "Though before you leave, may I ask where the secret way to Jotunheim opens in Asgard?"
"There is a store room between the Throne Room and the Vault. It comes out there," Loki answered. "Of course, such things are not simply stumbled into. It requires magic. A mastery of magic I had not suspected the Frost Giants of having. Or, as I said, I would have told you and my father before now. I would have done more than merely lock the door of the room that day, had I even suspected such."
Heimdall nodded in grave acceptance, and opened the Bifrost to Midgard for Loki. He had indicated that to be where he wished to go.
"Thank you, Heimdall."
"I wish you a safe journey, my Prince."
Loki blinked in mild surprise to see those present when he arrived on Midgard. He blinked again to see that Thor was unconscious at his feet with two thin wires that extended from clips at his chest to a plastic thing held by a young woman. He couldn't help but smile as he walked over to her.
"May I know the name of the woman who, I believe, electrocuted my brother?" he asked, gently taking her hand and raising it so that he could press his lips to her knuckles when she answered.
"Darcy Lewis," she answered.
"Lady Darcy," Loki said, and kissed her hand. "I thank you. Thor was long overdue a humbling."
"He was freaking me out," Darcy admitted even as she started to blush.
"Excuse me! Excuse me, where did you come from? You weren't here a second ago, and then suddenly you just... appeared out of nowhere!" exclaimed the second woman.
"I came from Asgard, through the Bifrost. This idiot," Loki added, absently kicking the unconscious Thor in the thigh, "would have landed on his feet as I did, except that he was stripped of his powers and immortality and banished from Asgard. I am here by choice."
"Actually, he might have landed on his feet," Darcy put in. "Jane hit him with the van before I tased him."
"It was an accident!" the blonde woman – Jane, presumably – hissed.
Loki just laughed and released Darcy's hand at last. With a wave, he caused the wires of her taser to re-curl themselves back into place, the clips no longer attached to Thor's shirt.
"Thank you," Darcy said, blinking in surprise.
"How'd you do that?" Jane asked, nearly demanded. "No, never mind right now. Erik, we've got data to collect. Darcy, can you get the man you made unconscious out of the way please?"
"Aye-aye, Boss-lady," Darcy answered with a sigh, and started to tuck away her taser and her torch so that she'd have both hands for dragging the big guy.
Loki beat her to it, hauling his brother up over his shoulder.
"I'm used to it," he said.
"Oh, well, thank you, again," Darcy answered. Then she blinked in surprise as she noticed something over Loki's shoulder. "Um..." she hesitated.
Loki turned to look. "Probably just Mjolnir," he said as he saw the trail of something entering the atmosphere at great speed. "Father would not banish his heir without also giving him a way back, though I am surprised I got to Midgard before it, since it was thrown into the Bifrost before I left." Loki shook his head, dismissing the matter, and turned back to Darcy. "Where shall I put him?"
"Um, I guess you can dump him in the back of the van for now," she suggested, jerking her eyes away from the falling whatever and her thumb towards the truck.
Loki nodded and walked around the vehicle where he waited at the back for Darcy to open the door.
"Scientists or storm-chasers?" Loki asked as he looked around the inside of the van.
"Scientists," Darcy answered. "Though she acts a hell of a lot like a storm-chaser. Jane and Erik are astrophysicists. I'm studying political science at college. I got the gig as Jane's intern because I'm the only one who applied."
Loki smiled. "And why did you apply? If it's not your field of study?"
"Six college credits, for one thing," Darcy answered with an easy shrug, "and, ya know, work experience is always useful when it comes to applying for jobs later."
Loki nodded in understanding. Thor wouldn't understand, but Loki had been coming to Midgard for centuries when he needed to get away from his brother. Now here he was, with his brother on Midgard. This... could be interesting. Thor hadn't been to Midgard since he'd convinced the Vikings he was a god, and already sitting on his father's throne.
"So, uh... You said you're here by choice, while this guy -" she nudged Thor with her foot, "- was banished. Can I ask... what led to you both being here?" Darcy asked.
"Thor was being a particularly spectacular idiot," Loki answered. "He would re-start a war with Jotunheim after thousands of years of peace. As a child, he talked about slaying all the Frost Giants in Jotunheim... and then a few of them managed to sneak into Asgard and interrupt his coronation. He proceeded to go against our father's edicts and travel to Jotunheim, dragging me, the Lady Sif, and the Warriors Three along with him. He was then confrontational and stupid, and caused the peace treaty we have lived safely under all our lives to be broken. Father banished him from Asgard. Thor cannot return until he proves himself worthy of Mjolnir again. But, my big brother is an arrogant toe-rag, so that's not going to be easily done, or done soon without an intervention."
Darcy giggled. "And what about you?" she asked.
Loki's smile – the one that had been fondly mocking his brother – melted off his face. "After Thor was banished, I had to speak with our father on a matter that had disturbed me in Jotunheim. Lady Darcy, forgive me, but I would not speak of it," he implored. "I still do not know what to think of it."
Darcy smiled a little. "Hey, whatever you like," she answered, and twitched her mouth to the side in thought. "Want a hug?" Darcy offered.
Loki blinked in surprise as he looked back up at her. Then he smiled, shifted closer to the young mortal woman, and was hugged. Gratefully, he hugged back.
"So, do we take him to the hospital?" Erik asked when he and Jane returned to the van.
"No," Loki said quickly. "Definitely not. Thor hasn't been on Midgard for centuries. He'd be more likely to view standard hospital procedures as an attack on his royal person."
"Right, no hospitals," Jane agreed. "So, what do we do about his probable concussion and definite electrocution?"
"I know enough healing for this. He'll be fine when he comes around," Loki said with a deriding shake of his head. "After the day I have had though, I am more than ready to find a bed."
"So, what do we do with him?" Jane asked. "I mean, until he wakes up. I know I've got questions for him once that happens, but..."
"Miss Jane, I have been my brother's keeper for centuries. Whatever room you have free to put me in, he can stay there as well," Loki answered.
"Sounds like a plan to me," Erik agreed. "Though I'm curious why Jane's only 'Miss' Jane, and Darcy is 'Lady' Darcy."
"The Lady Darcy tased Thor," Loki answered with a smile. "And I haven't actually been properly introduced to either of you," he added with a pointedly raised eyebrow.
"I'm Doctor Erik Selvig, astrophysicist. This is Doctor Jane Foster, also an astrophysicist," Erik supplied.
"I'm researching Einstein-Rosen Bridges," Jane added.
"What's an Einstein-Rosen Bridge?" Darcy asked.
"I thought you were a science major," Erik quipped with a confused frown.
"Political science," Darcy countered.
"She was the only applicant for the intern-ship," Jane added. "It's a wormhole, Darcy."
"Right. Wasn't that easier to say?"