Chapter 2 – Lies
Unable to get Thor out of his mind, Loki struggled. He believed himself liberated from the hallucinations, yet he knew deep down that Thor was a necessity for his sanity. Did he need him? Yes. Was Thor that important in his life? Of course he was.
Thor, after all, was the brother he grew up with.
As he pondered these ideas, he scratched his wrists, vaguely reminding him that no one cared about his blatant disregard for his health, making the situation all the more realistic.
"Did you honestly believe you could get rid of me?"
Standing before him, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, was Thor in all his glory. And the sadistic grin plastered on Thor's hard-edged face greatly annoyed him.
"Did I not tell you I would return?"
"You're not him." Loki mumbled. "You're not Thor."
"I love your denial, honestly."
"It's not denial." He growled, digging his nails into his wrists. "You're a figment dependent on my Seidr— an extension— an expanded illusion warping my reality."
"You've thought this through." Thor glowered.
Loki was thankful that, if only a moment, his bleeding wrists drowned all his sorrows. He fought the urge to argue with this stranger pretending to be Thor. His brother had always been his source of security and strength, just like his mother is, but he couldn't allow himself to be lulled into this false sense of safety.
"Did you honestly think that pain would send me away?"
"Why would you think that?" Loki looked up.
"You're awfully defensive." He gave him a wolfish grin, so unlike the real Thor's cheerful one that it made Loki cringe. Thor walked over to him and tilted his head, forcefully declaring with an evil look in his eye that— "You need me."
"You most definitely are not, Loki." He snickered. "Do you look sane?"
Loki shifted uncomfortably from his gaze.
"You're in denial." Thor continued. "But I can tell you have a lot of questions."
Provoking him was Thor's first priority, but what was sufficiently easy to ignore was enough to bring Loki unease. Thor started humming, from soft tones to the darker and deeper notes, making Loki feel nervous.
He cautiously looked up to see Thor moving his head in tune with his humming.
"You know," Thor began. "You will always be second best. The lesser— weaker half— a monster that monsters don't want."
"Enough." Loki pleaded.
"But you want to listen to this," He knelt and tapped Loki's forehead in mockery. "You need a voice of reason, and I am giving it to you. I'm part of you and you clearly need me."
"You're not real."
Loki whispered it over and over again until he found himself alone in the cell once more.
He sighed in relief and rubbed his hands, watching the blood drip from his wrists towards the cold white floor. He licked his lips. He hadn't realized how thirsty he was. He ripped a piece of cloth from his tunic and wrapped it around his wrists.
Staring at the dimly lit hallway, Loki waited.
The madness would end, his punishment would cease, he would be pardoned, put in probation, and would be treated like a prince again. Perhaps when all of this was through, Thor would reaccept him as his brother if he was willing.
For now, Loki waited.
Loki cringed as unbearable pain threatened his tongue.
He couldn't eat.
Even carefully placing food in his mouth using two fingers was painful. It happened a few days ago when one of the guards took advantage of his helplessness and poured boiling porridge in his mouth. In all the times they could have done that, it had to be at his most vulnerable.
Loki admitted that he did deserve it after having insulted him, but it was by no means a right to take his anger out on him. His tongue was swollen and blistered making everything very hard to eat.
He was so hungry.
"Are you in pain? Do you need any help?"
Not-Thor, Loki guessed and remained silent. Ever since his first encounter with him, Thor had been popping at the most unexpected moments that Loki gradually ceased to care.
"You should struggle more often, Loki."
"Why should I?" He thought.
"Because I believe you don't deserve such a pitiful end."
"Maybe I do deserve it."
"You would know?" Loki looked up.
"Honestly," Thor shrugged in answer. "But what I do think is that that you should cease this passive-aggressive tactic and perform a more compelling temperament, don't you think? A little change of setting would do you some good."
Loki ignored him.
He was so used to Thor's insults and suggestions that they almost mean nothing. It had become a routine. Thor abused him and Loki let him. Sometimes he argued in defense, yet he always lost in the end.
Yet the reality of the whole situation made Loki accept Thor's believability and with his lack of perception in this augmented reality, Loki had fallen into it so quickly.
"Parasite," Thor teased.
That was the only way.
"Fine, have you rest." Thor sneered. "You will not see me when you wake."
When silence emanated, Loki smiled.
He knew it was a lie.
"What are you going to do, Thor?" Sif inquired.
"You've asked me that so many times."
"We're only worried about you."
"It doesn't matter," Thor slumped on the couch. "I am losing whatever hope I had left."
It had been a year and a half since Loki's imprisonment and his condition was still unknown. Even with the little evidence they had about the events of Loki's time in the void, it would have been enough to set a trial. Yet everyone felt safer denying the truth. Thor hated it, he abhorred Asgard's upbringing of its people.
The Council had won.
Despite everything in Thor's power, they had still overruled his authority. The favor of locking Loki up for life had gone on full effect. Thor tried to go to the prison— asked his friends to do so— he even enlisted bandits to rescue Loki for a hefty price, but they were all thwarted by the All-Father.
All attempts were in vain.
The Council held their ground.
They made more rules regarding Loki's imprisonment and even bound Odin's access, believing he may still hold an age-old affection for his used-to-be-son. You see, Asgard always came first. Whether a crisis laid siege within the very heart of its people, Asgard came second to none, not even to its royal family.
"The Queen and King aren't themselves," Hogun muttered.
"Due to an altercation," Thor finished.
He remembered his crestfallen mother, Frigga. She did what any sane mother would do and tried to overrule the restrictions. Yet any of her attempts to save the little boy she cared for became a jab at the people's trust. She couldn't use her Seidr either let she attract more attention to her already broken family.
There was nothing she could do.
"Ever since Loki returned," Sif belligerently declared. "Things changed."
"Every one of us has changed." Thor proclaimed. "Not just for those reasons."
"I meant no offense."
"I think it was clear you do." Thor chuckled sadly. "I understand your grievances with him, but I do not wish to hear it. Everything is simply too much too soon."
"The Council is partly at fault for that." Volstagg remarked.
"The All-Father is doing everything he can to work around the restrictions." Sif mumbled in compensation for her insult. "For now, whatever the Council says— no matter how much we hate it— we must obey, if only to deceive them."
"A little mischievous for your taste, isn't it, Sif?" Fandral raised his eyebrows in concern.
"I guess you can learn a thing or two from Loki." She sharply muttered.
Thor ignored them.
As they bickered about Loki, the Council, and decisions that might help them along the way, Thor focused on the thought of his subdued father, who moved like a mindless drone in favor of the Council's decree.
He couldn't blame him.
Odin was pushed over the edge between pleasing his people and incurring the wrath of his family. In his worry, he asked Heimdall to watch over Loki, yet even the gate keeper was eluded. Loki was shielded from his sight. Whether Loki did it consciously or unconsciously, there was nothing Odin or Heimdall, nor could anyone in particular do.
However, Odin did assure everyone that the golden barriers in Loki's cell would hold forever.
One thing they outright refused was sealing Loki's Seidr for it would surely kill him. The Council had no say and gave way to this little exception. Despite the guards' frequent report of Loki's condition, it never eased their agitation. There would always be something going on. Besides, the Aesir never took well to defeat and would most likely deal a punishment more severe than what was worth its due.
"Loki may not be innocent in his actions," Thor declared. "But there must be a way to persuade everyone that he isn't completely at fault."
"That's easier said than done, Thor." Fandral despaired.
"He was a pawn!" He continued. "He couldn't have had a choice. We all know how time differed between realms— between rifts in space— so who knows how long he was stuck in the void?"
"I don't think there's a reasonable argument we could give." Sif voiced.
"Heimdall saw something stir in the void which father suspected to be a reason Loki attacked Midgard. Three and a halfyears ago before Loki ended up in the void; he told me he didn't want the throne. I think I have reason to believe he wasn't lying."
"What do you mean?" Hogun urged.
"Why would he want a throne in Midgard?" Thor rationally suggested. "The footage I saw from SHIELD when he first came through the portal showed signs of him bruised and weak."
"You barely survived the dangers of traveling with dark energy," Volstagg declared. "That could also be the reason why he was bedraggled."
"No," He grimaced. "You did not see him a year and a half ago during our battle. He seemed off— angry— he was still himself but his reasons… the way he gave up so easily— his plans were flawed, he knew that, but he didn't care. You saw him when I returned— he was subdued… quiet… observant."
"And Heimdall?" Sif realized.
"He testified having heard this dark Lord speak of Loki's torture. We know not who he is, but my father has his suspicions but wouldn't tell me."
"We'll save Loki somehow, Thor."
"I thank you for trying to sympathize with me, Sif," He sadly smiled. "But I rather you not—" This surprised his friends, but Thor believed it was time to voice out his own opinion on things. "I know how you all feel about him, but it doesn't help me when you falsify your compassion and fondness this way."
"Thor, he's our friend too." Fandral opened.
"I don't think he ever felt like one."
"It— it may be true that we're not completely concerned," Volstagg voiced, earning glares from his other friends, but Thor wanted honesty and he would give it. "But we are worried about you."
Thor smiled, Volstagg was always a softie.
"I think I want to be alone."
Sif grimaced, hoping to give a final word but thought against it and turned away to leave. There was a little resentment behind her actions, but Thor's words were final. The others lingered for a moment before they followed in her footsteps.
They all despaired, all in different intensities.
Thor could never force them to worry.
They never liked Loki.
If they couldn't sympathize, it was better for them to keep quiet.
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