By: Shadow Chaser
They were never going to be friends, that much was certain. But perhaps, in time, they would be allies. Post-Avengers fic, Loki-centric, team-fic, no pairings, movie-verse; AU of Phase 2 of the Avengers Initiative.
Asgard had not changed, Loki thought as he felt the familiar solidity of the Rainbow Bridge under his feet, materializing in the long seconds it had taken for the green-Midgardian hues of their world to finally dissolve. The only difference was that he immediately noticed where they had been teleported to and could not help but instantly let go of the containment cylinder that housed the Tesseract and step away from the jagged edges of the bridge.
It was also unfortunate that his steps brought him closer to the large imposing form of Heimdall, but Loki corrected his skittishness soon enough with a cool glare at the gatekeeper who returned one with equal aplomb. Neither had forgotten what had happened the last time the two had confronted each other on the bridge. And Loki knew that if the Midgardians had not constructed the elaborate cuffs on him, he would have summoned the Casket once more and blasted the gatekeeper just for old time's sake.
He caught Heimdall's golden eyes narrowing a little and only smirked in return, his mouth covered by the infernal muzzle, but it was enough as he suddenly felt Thor take him by the arm and drag him away.
"Come brother," Thor's voice was gruff and Loki allowed himself to be pulled along like a toy, throwing one last wink in Heimdall's direction before righting himself and walked.
The muzzle and cuffs were an ingenious design; he had to give Tony Stark some credit. He knew his brother had provided some of the means to power the subtle magicks within, but it seemed the man of iron knew a lot more about Midgardian-style magic, technology as they called it, than what Barton had told him while under his thrall. He wanted to think that it was a pity he could not control Stark, but Loki decided against it as he lifted his arms a little to study the cuffs. Each thrall under his command before took a great amount of concentration and effort to break through their mental defenses, to twist and to remold their thoughts. Each individual had varying levels of defenses and Loki suspected that if he had tried to control Stark, then perhaps the battle would have gone a little differently…
Not a victory for him, he was sure now, but rather, it would have been an utter defeat.
He sighed quietly behind the muzzle, noting that Thor looked at him for a second, opening his mouth to say something before Loki pinned him with a frosty glare, shutting him up. Thor would only say pitying words and he did not want the man he once thought of as a brother, pitying anyone like him. He did not need anyone's pity.
They continued walking along the great length of the bridge, their arrival so sudden that there were no horses waiting about, only the length of the bridge, waterfalls that fell into abysses none knew where beneath them, and the distant spires of the main halls. Loki supposed that it enabled him to think, but he did not want to. He had a spent nearly a single Midgardian-week thinking, sitting in another cell, this time electrified, vacuum sealed, but thankfully located not on that forsaken helicarrier.
And those thoughts were not pleasant ones either.
He grimaced a little, staring at the spires, trying to think of anything except those dark thoughts that had lingered upon him during his week of captivity. They were not-
"We've begun to rebuild the outer halls," Thor's voice suddenly cut in and while Loki was grateful, he still arched an eyebrow up at him to which Thor ignored. "The inner sanctum was reinforced by Father's magicks and spells…"
As much as he did not want to hear how Odin Allfather was great at casting complex spells and what have not, along with the repairs to the sanctum and elsewhere in the palace, he still allowed Thor to continue – his voice washing away the dark thoughts for now. He knew that they would return as soon as the quiet settled once more, but for now…it kept him occupied as they made the long slow trek towards the palace.
Here Loki perked up a little as he focused on his footsteps. He had last remembered Frigga wounded from a blow to the head, disoriented, confused as Thor had rushed in, declaring him traitor- Loki blew out another quiet sigh…
"…so worried about for a long time that she would come to the edges and ask Heimdall to search for you."
Loki blinked as he looked up at Thor, frowning under his muzzle as he saw his brother with a pensive expression on his face before nodding solemnly. "I do not lie, brother-"
He narrowed his eyes and looked away.
"-but even if she was your adopted mother, she loved you like her own. She misses you-"
He growled and suddenly wanted to already be at the palace, to be under the Allfather's scrutiny not here listening to sentiment from his brother about their mother. Not feeling the slight pangs of heartbreak that he had all but sealed himself up with – not since he had fallen into the abyss- Don't think! – not since…
Loki had enough and ripped his arm out of Thor's grip, sensing his surprise at his move. But before his brother could grab him again, he quickened his steps to put some distance between them and marched forward, all but glaring at the distant spires, the almost never-ending bridge that led to the Courtyard of Wonders. He let the rage, indignation, everything at how he had been treated, had been humiliated at the hands of those puny Midgardians wash over him, driving away the sentiment, driving away all of the guilt he had been feeling away. It drove away the dark memories, the thoughts and he let it wash over him like a soothing balm before wrapping it around himself.
He heard Thor scrambling to catch up behind him, but Loki continued to walk, head held high and heard him catch up falling in step behind him, but did not reach out to grab him once more; and for that, Loki felt a minute sense of gratitude. They continued walking, Thor trailing behind him while Loki led, the two of them silent. He could sense Thor's contemplative thoughts, but resolutely refused to do the same, wrapping his anger and humiliation tighter around him, filling his thoughts with the scenes of the battle that had transpired with the Chitauri, remembering every moment-
"Hold, Loki," Thor's arm suddenly on his shoulder startled him out of his thoughts as he automatically paused and saw that they had arrived at the edges of where the Courtyard of Wonders met the beginnings of the Rainbow Bridge.
Two royal guards, resplendent in their armor bearing the crest of the House of Odin, stood at the edges, both of them glaring at Loki who met their gaze with a sneer that did not quite make it out of the muzzle covering his face.
"You will still show respect to a Prince of Asgard," Thor's voice thundered with authority and Loki saw the guards' eyes widen before they hastily resumed their positions. However, he also saw that both had tightened their grips on the halberds they each bore. It was a command that they could not disobey, but one that also made them angry and Loki only smirked.
He understood that on some level he was supposed to be grateful about this, that he still bore the title of a Prince of Asgard, of all places, but it was meaningless. The guards would only resent such accusations, resent everything after all that had been fought and Thor was exacerbating the situation. Still…he could take whatever pleasure he could from it and continued forward, Thor's arm falling from his shoulder. He knew he could easily convey to Thor what he had done, that he had bred resentment, but the Asgardian was still too oafish, still too narrow-minded to truly believe.
The House of Odin would fall and suddenly Loki was glad that he had interrupted Thor's coronation. It was one thing to be stupid and arrogant; it was another thing that the House of Odin could be continuously stupid by being so noble and heartfelt. No this…this was a level of stupidity that he could, no, he would use.
There were others in the courtyard, courtiers, guards, civilians even as the courtyard was a free marketplace for the populace to congregate and gather. And everyone, every single eye stared at them as he walked past them and towards the inner halls. Whispers erupted around them as people parted like the seas to let them through. He could almost imagine Thor's glare silencing the whispers, straightening the guards and nearly laughed at the sheer resentment and secreted glares he was receiving from those who thought Thor was not looking.
But somehow, he could not make the laugh come out of his lips, even though he knew it would be muffled by the muzzle he wore. Instead, he settled for the mirth in his eyes, hoping it conveyed how much he was enjoying this farce, this parade.
They soon passed through the Courtyard of Wonders and arrived at the entrance to the palace, ascending the steps like they had done so many times. It was only after they had moved passed the Atrium of Champions where Odin Allfather held his public court, and into the inner sanctum of the palaces that Loki finally saw the four faces he had been looking for since his and Thor's arrival on Asgard.
Faendral, Volstagg, Hogun, and Sif were all standing at the foot of the steps to the Allfather's throne. He was not surprised at the stony looks on their faces at his arrival or at the sudden smirks that appeared on Volstagg and Faendral's lips. What did surprise him, though only for a little bit before he passed it as mild annoyance was that Hogun and Sif had not reacted and if anything was possible, Sif's frown had deepened. Loki narrowed his eyes at Sif who returned his equally cool gaze, no longer held back by his temporary title of regent-King while the Allfather had been in Odinsleep.
He would have liked to have said that there had been something between them, but that was sentimentality and wishful thinking on Sif's part and nothing on Loki's part. Ignoring Sif's steady gaze, he instead, focused on Hogun, the exotic warrior whom he knew had an equally exotic past. His people did not believe in mercy when crimes were committed after a child came of age and Loki knew that Hogun had been shown mercy after sentenced to death by his people for a mistake he had made.
It was only Thor who had saved him and so the exotic warrior had constantly fought to not only kill, but also to show mercy. Loki briefly entertained the notion of wondering what Hogun would have made of all this, but then realized, he would not care either way. The man was loyal to Thor, not to Loki.
"Allfather, we have returned," Thor said as Loki stopped a respectful distance to the steps of the throne. He only did so because even if Odin claimed to have loved him as his son, claimed to have saved him from an outcast's death when he was but a babe, claimed everything, he still had a sense of respect for the old warrior. A King, even a brief one, always showed respect to other Kings and Loki counted himself amongst the lines of Kings. Thor…Thor was not a King.
"And so you have," Odin's voice was but a mere whisper, but the acoustics of the hall combined with the magicks Loki felt breathing forth from the Allfather's lips made it even more powerful. He met the Allfather's gaze with his own, letting the person he once called father see all that he was, all that he is right before him.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noted that Odin's wife, Frigga was no where in sight and Loki breathed a quiet sigh of relief. He did not know why, but somehow, he was glad that Frigga was not present. He did not want her to see him in chains and felt a little ashamed at the prospect of the woman he knew as his adopted mother would ever see him like this. Frigga was the only mother he had ever known; even Odin had not mentioned his mother when he had told him of his true origins. In his mind, it meant that either Laufey had his mother killed or did not care for her existence.
That in of itself seared a new line of hatred for the Frost Giant King that had abandoned him in a temple to die. The fact that Laufey had discarded him because he was supposedly too tiny, too weak to be his son angered him, but not so much as the lie that he had been living as an Asgardian instead of a Jotun. He did not really know why, but it hurt more, and perhaps more so that Odin had rejected his efforts to quell Jotunheim, to suppress the rebellion before it could grow. He had done it for Odin, he remembered screaming, did it so that no one could harm Asgard once more and Odin had rejected it with his quiet, "No."
Loki frowned and clenched his teeth together as a wave of anger rolled over him and all but turned his simple gaze into a glare at the Allfather, daring him to see into his mind even though he was sure that Heimdall had told him everything he needed to know. He dared the Allfather to damn him, to condemn him to whatever pits and tortures Asgardians were capable of – to discard him again. In fact, he wanted nothing more than for the Allfather to do so – it would be to vindicate his own feelings. He needed that…needed to be right-
"You do not need these anymore," Odin suddenly waved a few fingers and Loki immediately felt his bindings and muzzle disappear with an electrical-sounding pop. He nearly stumbled back in shock, but only kept his composure thus and was immensely proud of the fact that his face showed no hint of expression. There was nothing of his inner seething and turmoil that he revealed on his face as he stared up at the Allfather who still kept his simple, but all-seeing gaze upon him.
"Father-" Loki felt Thor step up next to him in protest, but fell silent from a simple tilt of the Allfather's head. The corner of his lips curled a little at the satisfaction of seeing that Thor could still be silenced so easily. That stupid oaf…and he was standing so close to him that Loki knew he could easily reach out and stab him again with conjured daggers. But he stilled his hands at his sides – Thor was beneath his efforts.
"My sons have returned to me," Odin said quietly and Loki resisted the urge to scoff at the words, even if he did not know why. He was no son of Odin, not even when Thor had told the palace guards that he was still a Prince of Asgard.
He heard more than saw Thor's surprised movement before turning his head a little to halt his hand from clasping onto his shoulder. His glare was all that conveyed to Thor his displeasure of being touched, much less touched by him before Thor received the message and lowered his hand to his side once more. Turning his head back to stare at the Allfather, he noted with a bit of pleasure that the Lady Sif and the Warriors Three had all but nearly drawn their weapons before somewhat relaxing from perhaps a signal of acquiesce from Thor that he could not see.
"We shall have a feast-"
"Wait, what?" Thor all but spluttered and this time Loki could not help but smirk at the surprise in the thunder god's voice. "F-Father-"
"My sons have returned," Odin Allfather repeated quietly, though this time, there was a hint of simplistic innocence, as if he could not understand why there would be a protest from Thor of all people, "there shall be a feast celebrating their return."
"But father…Loki-…he- He…"
"Yes?" Loki was verily impressed with the way Allfather was keeping his simplistic tone, but there was the undercurrent of power and authority in that voice.
"N-Nothing," Thor sulked and Loki suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. Such a simpleton…it was a miracle that Thor was not named ruler yet. Allfather, however, Loki looked at the Asgardian King's gaze to see if he could find any hint of deception at this so-called 'feast', but surprisingly found none. Just the gentleness and love that made him shudder a little as the Allfather met his gaze once more. He flinched and looked away, unable to meet his gaze anymore.
He had hoped that there was a hint of deception, but it seemed that the Allfather wanted a feast and was joyful that his sons were back – at least a son, the only true son, if not a Jotun with him. There had to be a trick in this and he was pretty sure it would be sprung during this so-called 'feasting.' That was the chance of greatest humiliation and Loki knew that there had to be some punishment deemed by Odin Allfather for his actions. That was where it would happen, he was sure of it.
"Lord Faendral," Odin suddenly called out, his voice now at its normal level instead of its mere powerful whisper and the fair-haired warrior leapt to attention.
"Sire," he called out, straightening.
"Please escort Prince Loki to his quarters for a change of clothing," Loki saw something flash in the Allfather's eyes, and quickly darted a look at Faendral, but saw no change in the man's posture and wondered if a hidden message of sorts had been passed. It would be like the Allfather to say something, perhaps even kill him when his back was turned, but Loki would not be caught off guard so easily… He was cleverer than whatever Allfather could throw at him.
"As you wish," the warrior stepped towards him, but made no move to gesture for him to start walking which puzzled Loki a little as he blinked a few times; assessing what was to be done at this time. It only took him a few seconds to realize that the audience was over and mentally shrugged before sketching a quick bow with his head to the Allfather, not entirely disrespectful, nor respectful, but enough to show that he was done with the audience before turning and leaving.
Even before he took a few steps towards the direction of the royal family's living quarters, he could hear Thor making sounds of protest and even the rest of the Warriors shuffled in confusion. But Loki did not care as he kept himself tense for an attack by Faendral who walked dutifully behind him. But no attack came as the two silently walked down the familiar halls. He even allowed himself to look around at the familiar arched ceilings, the golden majesty that had been his home and sanctuary for all of his life.
It was a contrast to the darkness and cold- Stop it, Loki commanded himself as he tightened his lips in an effort to banish the thoughts away. He immediately thought of Midgard, its seemingly dirty quality, the filth staining everything, including his armor when he was walking around Stuttgard. It would be just like the humans to have none of the majesty the buildings in Asgard commanded. Even the monster Jotuns, Loki gritted his teeth behind his lips in a sneer, lived in seemingly pallid squalor amongst the ice fields and the blue-cold planet they called home.
That cold was nothing like-
Loki clenched a fist to stop that thought right where it was and banished it away as he came upon the familiar set of double doors that led to his personal quarters. Two guards were stationed outside as they normally would have, but Loki saw that both guards looked uncomfortable, if not disgusted, with his approach. He allowed the smirk that had been in his eyes when he had first came upon the royal guards before the Courtyard of Wonders, to appear on his lips before opening the door and stepped in.
However, before he could close the door, it bounced off of Faendral's quick hand that had been stuck between it and Loki turned a bit, staring at the fair-haired warrior, "Does the Allfather distrust me that much?"
"I have been bidden to watch you," Faendral's reply betrayed no hint of anger, nor of disapproval that he knew the Aesir had to have been feeling. He stared at the swordsman, a bit surprised, yet pleased that Faendral met his gaze with a square one of his own – a sign that he was not afraid of Loki. There was no indication that Loki could see or sense with his magic that Faendral had been under a geas by Odin Allfather, but-ah! There it was…the anger, the disbelief, but most of all, the fury that was buried underneath.
"I won't hang myself, if that's what you're so concerned about," Loki jabbed, taking pleasure at seeing the spark of anger that rose to the surface of Faendral's eyes before it was quickly suppressed. He guessed that the fair-haired warrior was needled by the comment.
"Nonetheless," this time there was no mistaking the growl of anger hidden behind the stiff words Faendral spoke, "I have been bidden to watch you."
Loki snorted quietly and stood there for a half-second longer than was necessary before turning and walking into his living quarters, leaving Faendral to close the door behind him. He crossed from the small reception room to the bedroom he had, noting with a somewhat pleased sense of relief that his books, spellbooks, even small experiments with metals and herbs collected in different realms had been untouched since his abrupt departure from Asgard.
When he had ruled over during the Allfather's latest Odinsleep, he had kept his quarters and allowed no one to enter. This was somewhat the case also before, spelling the doors and various windows within his chambers to allow no one, save for himself to enter. However, it seemed his wards were bypassed on occasion by the Allfather himself and Frigga. It did not annoy him as much, if only because he could feel that his wards had prevented Thor from entering. He did not need the oafish bro-Aesir, pawing at his things while he had been gone.
Crossing the initial chambers into a slightly smaller room and heading to a wardrobe, he noted with a cursory look that everything seemed to be in place. He would have to spell the room much more carefully after Odin's so-called feast to make sure that there were not any extra wards the Allfather placed over his or even under them. It would be like the Allfather to trap him in the room, or at least do something to his own sleeping quarters to prevent him from doing anything else.
Flinging the wardrobe open, he picked out a couple of pieces of clothing that were simplistic yet appropriate for one of his station. Contrary to what those humans had seen, he had only cast a strong illusion over his armor, having fallen into the black abyss- Loki jerked his head once in a shake to dispel any thoughts- having left Asgard with his armor on. The illusion of having a set of robes was only to placate their feeble minds and to appeal to them as harmless. He knew what kind of mental power an armored-figure had over those who knew nothing better and it only proved to him that the humans were nothing more than simpleminded…things. The man of iron was even proof of that as well as the soldier himself. Both wore armor, both were symbols.
Loki paused as he saw Faendral stop at the threshold between the two rooms and glanced back to see the other Aesir trying very hard to suppress the look of disgust and something else he could not quite identify at the moment as he surveyed the room. He shook his head; if the Allfather wanted the fight-happy warrior to watch him change then so be it. He had no compulsions against privacy or virtue as Thor sometimes had whenever a fair maiden caught his eye and it was not for the lack of his own virtue. It was because he knew as warriors, all of them, even Loki himself, had seen their fair share of battle injuries, and had seen their fair share of armor pieces fallen, protection disappearing only to receive injuries. Though he himself had managed to keep himself from the worst of it with his magicks, he had seen the others at their worst states. And he knew Faendral thought of the same.
Still, he quickly changed out of his armor, the buckles to the plates taking a little longer than he was used to due to the various dents and damage done by the green monster. If he ever got the chance he would completely humiliate and kill Banner before letting the monster touch him again, the dark thought slipped through his mind as he dropped the pieces of armor across the floor. He knew that the servants would be cleaning them up soon enough and changed into the fresh clothing before straightening himself over the full-length mirror in his room.
A cursory look at himself made his lips thin a little – he was not vain – but he did take great care in his appearance. Image was another way to manipulate the situation and tentatively reached up to touch the head wound that was in the process of healing. He knew he could now easily cast a spell on himself, but Loki decided not to. The still healing wound would serve its purpose for now, as was the cuts on his hands, one on his neck and light scratches on his face. If the Allfather planned to humiliate him at the feast, he would let the scars do their work.
He heard Faendral shift behind him and smiled a little, "Bored already?" He made a couple of unnecessary gestures to pretend he was still preening in front of the mirror and his smile got a little wider as he heard the huff of impatience behind him. "I told you, you do not have to watch-"
"I was bidden to watch," Faendral cut him off roughly, "but by all the Norns-" The curse was cut off short and Loki turned to see the fair-haired warrior clamp his mouth shut, looking extremely frustrated. He blinked a little…this was new. Faendral never had the compulsion to close his mouth once he got started, but… He sent a cautious spell towards the warrior, but got no indication of a geas in return, not even one cast by the Allfather. Curious indeed…
But Loki allowed the smile to appear back on his lips and immediately saw Faendral's eyes narrow as he stiffened. "I'm going to the library," he announced before walking past the warrior and heard the long suffering sigh before footsteps followed reluctantly behind him. Most curious indeed…
Fair warning, this story will be slow on updates. I'm working on this one as well as several others in different fandoms. Thanks for reading and reviewing!