A.N.: This story is firmly movieverse, with characterisation based entirely on the original Thor. (Side note: this does mean that I'm going to write Loki with blue eyes, as they were blue in the film and this is unequivocally the film version of the character.) AU only in that it ignores both The Avengers and the teaser from after the credits, picking up directly from the ending.
"...how everything turns away quite leisurely from the disaster;
the ploughman may have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
but for him it was not an important failure;
and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen something amazing,
a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on."
He had imagined it would be his last act of will in the waking Realms to slide sideways through the void which was real and the void between, then back again some other place entirely. It did not matter where, which stars and darkness consumed him. He travelled at all only so that he would not fall through the ruins of the Bifrost to Jotunheim. Not die there. He had nothing left to want, but he yet did not want, and what he did not want was to suffer the knowledge that Odin's rescue, the whole course of his own life, had made no difference in the manner of his death.
And so he fell.
Time spun outward as he moved through the influence of different worlds: mortal years passed. His grief and rage cooled to a brittle agony. The hopelessness of his love for father, brother, mother, home, grew sharp-edged with certainty. At least that love would not be twisted further, would no longer fuel him forward in recklessness, for he saw now that it could not be mended any more than it could be destroyed. It was almost comforting to know that there had never been anything for him, that he was not passed over as he had so long thought, the injustice of which had so long been working to bring his once-temperate blood to the most violent of boils.
His pain had been in how far his reach exceeded his grasp. Being nothing, he'd deserved nothing. They had done only harm in giving him any more.
He regretted it.
He longed for death and there an end.
He was safe from Valhalla, from meeting his family again over feasting and wine at some distant future date beneath those gleaming halls, his last gasps too dishonoured by cowardice to allow him entry. He would never see them again. And though he was yet very, very young among his people- both his peoples- he felt impossibly ancient under the heavy memory of his last moments with his mother. Her fierce, lovely face white with horror as she watched him cast out his brother with their father's spear.
The spear of kingship which was rightfully his, which- equally rightfully- his unclean hands should never have been permitted to touch. The brother who would have should have destroyed him before he could e'er set foot in Asgard, if he had but known the truth. The brother whose love cut more deeply than his hate.
He regretted both.
Was it the unknowing attempt to be one of them, not realising his nature must be fought, that had lead him to this? Without knowing his strange interests and unwarrior-like disposition portended more than just an unfashionable, atypical, disappointment of a prince. Was it their suppression of the monster- teaching it to think itself a man, letting it believe itself worthy of that fraternity which naturally would not come- which had turned his mind? Or was it only the infinitely futile desire to be the equal of shining Thor?
He knew it was not precisely the original attempt to be what he was not born to be which had consumed him, which had torn worlds; that had only set him high on a precipice, his balance uncertain and the path treacherous. It was the more earnest, desperate, second effort to be what he truly was not which had caused him to fall. Cracks in his patch-work identity had shown throughout his life, but it was in his last violent lunge to be the heir he thought was wanted, his mad scrambling to follow in his father's and his brother's footsteps and therefore prove he also was a worthy son, that horrors had spilled out. The abandonment of his own temperament to pursue an ideal he could never reach.
If he had not tried to be as great a prince as his brother, if he had been content to suit better with lesser company and to never overstep his inglorious talents, might he have lived happily? Might he have never learned the terrible truth of his unbelonging? Had not there been times when he accomplished feats of unquestionable value with the very capacities his brethren scorned, when he was called temperate by his father and it was not the insult but the virtue that was meant? Contentment could come from such things, if one was willing to be satisfied by them. If one abandoned one's ambitions for equality, forgot but both of you were born to be kings.
Second prince of Asgard for all of his life. Could blood be so much stronger than culture? It was not even whispered, but spoken loudly that the blood of Odin once ran thick with that of giants. Whether such a thing could be believed and what it should mean if it were was not a question his generation had devoted any time to pondering. Enemy was enemy and this enemy was monstrous.
'Not for nothing is he called Allfather. All's-Father he is.'
'But he is my father.'
'That is different, Your Highness. There are many sonships. There is blood, there is fealty, there is magic. You are all.'
'Only me. He's my father.'
'And your brother's, Your Highness. Firstborn.'
'I hate that word.'
'Because it is not for you. But you must not be greedy, my prince. Wisdom is not selfish.'
Lessons not listened to, lies not unlearned.
Odin so-called Allfather had said nothing in Loki's lifetime to contradict what all clearly knew about the barbarity of the Jotun. Odin who spoke of peace and joining only when it was beyond reach, when his pet changeling slipped his leash and discovered that he only lived to be a hidden trump card, in case the giants ever tried to crawl from beneath Asgard's boot. As if Odin would have ever willingly tarnished the Eternal Realm by wedding it with that of monsters.
Mother knew and still she knelt to him and called him King and Son and family.
Queen Frigga the Soft-heart, who held a wolf to her breast and called it a lamb.
So much I understand now, so much I never will.
But was he doomed in birth or was he merely broken? Did the poison of his strangeness come from the womb and seed from which he sprang- how could it be said to if Odin himself were likewise tainted- and was his upbringing just, or generous, or as unfair as he had once imagined? If he asked the Norns, would they say it was all in his own hands and he could have walked differently? Could anyone walk another path than they had once chosen?
Could Thor have grown to be a worthy king when he felt the weight of the crown bear down upon his heart? If Loki had not interfered to preserve the realm and gratify his jealousies, would his brother have proven even half as intrinsically worthy as banishment forced him to become?
'No murder is justified, my son. War can be. Conflate them not.'
He saw now his own childishness, as great as Thor's, and wondered if he could have helped it if he had turned inward the same discernment he trained so long on his brother. The crushing, ugly honesty that his envy and resentment had saved for Thor alone- was any man able to see himself so clearly?
Even with the worst poison of his madness washed out by resignation and understanding and terrible new self-awareness, he still could not fathom its ultimate source.
Am I a monster or not?
If not by blood, then by action against that blood. If by blood, then action was irrelevant.
I only tried to finish his work for him, accomplish his final glory. I only endeavoured to belong to him. I only thought...
I don't want it to be my fault.
But would it not be worse to think he had no soul at all?
At least I would have chosen. Is choosing so wrongly better than no choice?
Which truly makes a monster?
His whole being was afire with unspeakable pain. Pain which came from somewhere outside of his mind for the first time in some several eternities. He was entering a heaven, hurtling towards a firmament: soon it would be finished.
Dead and punished, and no one had needed to do it. His unwise passions burned up, his placeless existence extinguished, his sins remembered the only burden that would be left to those who had claimed to love him.
He could not regret that.
He lay, unmoving, in the crater where he had fallen for three days and three nights. Snow drifted over him, the warmth of his own breath forming icy clouds which filled his vision and obscured the dark vista of unfamiliar stars. For three days and three nights he was still and thought of nothing and marvelled at his body's gross failure to break when his heart and his mind had given so easily. An irony for he who had thought his mind so much greater than his might.
At last, he was forced to accept that he had gone on living in spite of his every readiness to die.
And so he rose.