Title: What the Heart Sees
Summary: A sequel to "A Perfect Victim" wherein Loki copes with the result of his imprisonment. Will he be able to adjust into normality or will he fall deeper into madness? What if his nightmares come back to haunt him, what then? Loki-whump.
Warnings: Psychological & Physical Trauma, Psychological Repression, Psychogenic Amnesia, Psychosis, Paranoia, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Insecurity, Anxiety, Self-harm, Maltreatment, Suicide Attempt, and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Chapter 1 – Empathy
Insanity, it defined madness and irrationality.
And Loki was consumed.
He was mentally ill and utterly adrift. His life had been an emotional journey of heartaches and increasing problems. It had begun from the uncovering of his birth and heritage up to the actions that led to his undoing.
And he had finally reached his limit.
Loki struggled to reenter the world after his attempted suicide in the void. He was beaten up and lost, but he wasn't unknown to pain, and he would be lying if he denied it. In truth, Loki had hoped his misery would have ended after Thor had subdued him at Stark tower during the Chitauri invasion.
Yet even that small mercy didn't happen as he expected it to.
If Loki was honest with himself, nothing had gone according to plan. It never did. He figured it was the world's way of punishing him. Instead of a quick mercy of passing into darkness, he had to endure the pain of living in the aftermath of his own creation. And from there, it bore fruit to his submission to a higher form of evil that was a stretch he made under pressure.
He had hoped for a better ending, but it was probably never meant to be.
Not for him anyway.
Instead, he was dragged into Odin's prison, deep beneath the palace. As Loki waited for his trial and judgment, he endured endless taunts, hunger, and loneliness.
Worst of all, no one cared.
That is where his madness took root.
A year and a half counted to Loki's imprisonment, working his mind into desperation. There, Loki's Seidr acted to ease his eternal suffering and conjured an image of a nearly solid being to lure him away from despair.
That is where Not-Thor came along.
Loki's guilt manifested from his anguish of ever being forgiven by the real Thor. Hence, the madness took form and punished him for the sins he thought he deserved, and mocked him for the very being he became.
And Loki accepted this.
To believe the existence of this copy was the end of Loki's loneliness and suffering. So Not-Thor became real, as real as anything Loki ever believed in. And the mind and will were always more powerful than physical strength.
This kept Loki from the brink of his own destruction.
The concept kept him alive.
But it also killed a part of him.
What was Loki— his snide comments, his wit, confidence, anger, and desperation for love and power— these manifested in Not-Thor. And addicted as Loki was to the comfort Not-Thor offered, no matter how offensive he was, Loki braved it.
Not-Thor became a disease, leaching off energy from Loki, who provided it willingly and unconsciously to keep the concept of him alive.
So why did Not-Thor disappear when he needed him most?
The answer wasn't as complicated as you think.
To save Loki, he had to let that concept go, and so Loki did, but with a price he was unprepared and unwilling to pay for. And for a time, Loki thought himself cured of the madness he was deeply submerged in, but deep down, he knew it was an addiction he couldn't fully explain.
Despite the cruelty he endured, it kept him from the horrors of loneliness.
The torment brought him satisfaction as payment for his crimes, but it also brought him a degree of misery. So when the choice of saneness of mind or companionship from loneliness was offered, Loki made the choice to regain what he once had.
And it nearly killed him.
If not for the untimely rescue of his so-called family, what would have been his bitter end… was now his burden.
And Loki gladly accepted that darkness.
It was… complicated.
Even if he felt a portion of his problems slip away, some of the demons still lingered. What had been done to him was now etched inside of him— a memory not easily forgotten. Loki was submerged, drowning still in his sorrows.
Sorrows they would never understand.
No one could help him now.
"He better be in here."
Frigga gracefully entered Odin's study and stopped at the door to see her beloved husband buried in piles of paperwork. She assumed majority of the letters were from angry citizens looking to seek retribution, and only a small amount of them were trade negotiations, border reports, and warrior training regimes.
The heavy curtains were closed, and the bright orange flames flickered on the braziers by the corners of the room. Another small fire pot sat on Odin's desk and illuminated his work.
Frigga stepped in closer, and Odin paused.
"You look exhausted."
"You look beautiful as always."
"If I wasn't your wife, and didn't know better, then I would've suspected you were a cave dweller." Frigga tersely replied as she looked at him accusingly. "Why in the nine realms are you working in the dark?"
"No particular reason." He smiled. "I'm glad you're here."
"Someone needs to keep you in line." She sighed. "Now remind me again why you're wasting a precious day like this, doing paperwork."
Odin pushed his chair away from his desk and looked at Frigga with longing eyes. He extended his hand to her, and Frigga regarded him with contempt, but eventually gave in to the gentle tug of her heart's answer.
She walked forward, and was gently pulled into his lap.
"How long, Odin?"
"I will be done soon." He proclaimed.
"Not soon enough."
Frigga absently nodded as she fiddled with one of the papers Odin was responding to. She noticed he hadn't even finished the first sentence and there were about twelve others at the bottom, and another twenty more waiting in the corner.
"They are increasing each day." She mumbled.
Eyeing all the papers piling over the desk, Frigga felt Odin's hands quiver just above her hips. He must be very tired and stressed. She lovingly lowered her hands over his to offer comfort.
"When will they realize their aggression means little for actual justice?"
"Their anger will die soon." Odin murmured.
"I will make a public statement, but not until our people have calmed enough to listen." He declared with hesitation. "Tyr is already working twice as hard to sort this awful mess. Already there are talks of Loki's…. experiences in his cell."
He cleared his throat, feeling odd at the sudden tension he felt.
"I plan to address the truth once and for all."
"Think you Loki would appreciate that?"
"I have no choice."
"You always have a choice." She indignantly flipped her hair, and it hit Odin's face. "Must they now have power over his existence? They do not need to know more than what is necessary."
"This is necessary, Frigga."
"You have turned into a miserable old sod, you uncaring cretin." She cursed. "Honestly, it's as if I do not know you anymore."
Odin lowered his head in guilt.
Frigga fumed in silence, and Odin couldn't blame her for her aggression, not after what happened yesterday. Someone had attempted on Loki's life, in his very own chambers (one they thought deemed safe), and had to be moved to Thor's. It was alarming given how guarded the palace was, but now, they couldn't even trust the most loyal of warriors.
Odin eyed Frigga from behind, trying to reach into her thoughts.
Sadly, he was shut off and could only watch as Frigga angrily took his pen and scribbled at a piece of paper. She crumpled it after, and threw it on the desk. No doubt it was the musings of her troubled mind.
After a while, she leaned against him in defeat.
"The people do not trust our warriors," She addressed. "Do they?"
"What half of the former Council members did was not only ruin the trust the Aesir have in our warriors, but also the trust of our neighboring realms. It was only our good luck that we had friends among the Kings and Queens of this world."
"Did Freyr say anything?" Frigga wondered.
"Nothing I don't already know." He tightened his embrace of her. "It is the usual garble about lack of obedience and increase of crime."
"What is new?"
"Statistics say that most of the hate is centered from our people."
"Honestly," She rolled her eyes. "That gives me no assurance. People have always been too greedy and full of opinions they want to force onto others. It's not polite or ethical."
"Do not worry, my love." Odin chuckled. "Even Freyr knows how to be cautious. If he finds anything, he would tell us."
"That doesn't worry me, and you know it."
Frigga pulled away and walked over to the large windows. She pushed the heavy curtains aside and allowed the light to pass through. Odin squinted at the brightness, which amused Frigga. She stayed there, eyeing the scenery from the tiny glass tiles neatly pattered on the window.
Odin could immediately something was still bothering her.
They hadn't spoken of recent events too much, and had avoided confrontation with each other for the awkwardness of it. Perhaps now was the time to have that prolonged conversation.
He could never escape her ire forever.
"We must talk, Frigga."
His voice sounded so sincere and tired, that Frigga almost wept. In the back of her mind, she was glad, for there was much they had to discuss concerning their nearly broken family. However, she felt a foreboding thought… a consequence of their soon-to-be actions.
No doubt their conversation would lead to disaster (everything did, actually), yet she thanked the Norns regardless for the opportunity.
Odin wouldn't escape this.
She made sure of it.
Loki shivered as he lay curled on the bed.
Pale and feverish, pain hit him at the most unexpected of moments. They had to call Eir twice the other day to make sure it wasn't serious. It was a wonder why people were still whispering about Loki's soon to be plot of revenge when he could barely stay alive on his own.
They were obviously fools.
One look at Loki's condition would be enough to negate certain hearsays and dissuade even the most avid of haters, yet there were still those who would rather believe in lies than face the truth.
It was a sad thought.
"We need more blankets for him." Erland murmured.
"I will get them."
The auburn-haired maiden headed over to the chest of drawers and pulled out a thick duvet. She laid it over Loki, who buried comfortably into the warmth. It eased their worries, if only for a little. So Atli sat back on the chair to Loki's left, and waited.
She later looked at the elf standing by the door to the balcony. His long golden hair flowed from the soft breeze outside.
They were in Thor's bed chamber.
Prince Thor and Queen Frigga had been with Loki for four days since the deliberation ended. Each one alternated to care for him. At times, Odin came to see him in the morning or afternoon before returning to his duties.
Today, Queen Frigga had left to speak with the All-Father while Thor spoke to his friends concerning trouble with the citizens of Asgard. Luck had favored the two servants when the Queen asked them to tend to their still recovering young prince.
This duty, they gladly accepted without hesitation.
"He is very still." Atli frowned.
"Of course he is." Erland mumbled miserably. "Why would he not be still? After what was done to him, I'm not surprised."
"I am glad the Queen allowed us to stay with him."
"So am I."
"He is usually so… unsoiled and… organized." Atli paused as she whispered. "I am not used to seeing him this way, Erland."
"None of us are." The elf muttered.
Atli mumbled to herself and stood up from her chair to retrieve a bowl and wet cloth from the bathroom. She later resumed her seat and gently dabbed Loki's forehead with cool water to wipe the sweat from his creased eyebrows.
"Should we call Eir?" Atli asked in concern. "He looks to be in pain."
"Eir said it was going to be a recurring discomfort until his fever passes and his Seidr replenished. He will be like this for a while."
"Think you he will recover?"
"It has only been four days, Atli."
"But he will recover, yes?"
"Physically, we have no doubt." She wet the cloth again and wrung it thoroughly before folding it over Loki's forehead. "I worry about his mind. Will he remember us, do you think?"
"I have no sure answers for you."
She watched as the elf walked over to the bed and sat on the edge. She could tell he was very worried. Erland was usually so composed and spirited, now he was so… dejected.
"Weird elf," Atli smiled.
Erland raised his long fingers and caressed the raven locks away from Loki's face. There was no doubt the elf had a strange relationship with Loki. And his affection for the young prince was something Atli often questioned in their years together in service, but she always knew his intentions were genuine… and more often sweet.
"I am not worried about his memories." Erland closed his cerulean eyes. "I worry about him."
"What do you mean?"
"To have Loki moved to Thor's chambers because people are attempting on his life… it's not to be so, and all for what, because the deliberation ended far from their favor?"
"It is cruel." Atli murmured.
"They will keep him safe." Erland stated. "Thor would not let Loki out of his sight."
"The Queen trusts us enough to care for him, and for that I am glad." He eyed Loki, remembering their fond moments of mischief together. "Sometimes I wish things did not happen the way they did. Mayhaps peace would still linger in this broken, twisted realm."
"I often think the same way." She smiled sadly. "But I do not think anyone could have avoided it."
"If I had the chance," Erland chuckled. "I would have taken Loki to Alfheim in a heartbeat."
"You would have to fight Prince Thor."
"If he could catch me—"
"That would be a sight to see."
They laughed together in silence, comforted by each other's presence.
Both remembered good memories as they watched their wayward prince struggle to survive. They asked the Norns for one small mercy, a miracle. It didn't matter how, only that they would one day see Loki's mischievous emerald eyes and his sly smirk.
But deep in their hearts, they knew it would be a long time before that would happen.
Yet they hoped, and that was all that mattered.
Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three gathered in the palace sitting room with a large open balcony. Thor and Sif stayed by the railing, eyeing the beautiful scenery, while the rest of the company sat on the couches facing a lit brazier.
They drank ale in silence, caught up in melancholy before Hogun interrupted.
"How is Loki?"
Thor turned when he realized he was being addressed to. "How is Loki?" He repeated in his head. Thor wasn't an expert on the extent of Loki's condition, and Eir hasn't had the chance to assess Loki's mentality yet. So Thor remained silent, unsure how to phrase his thoughts about the situation.
"Thor?" Fandral urged.
"He is…" He carefully supplied. "Asleep."
"He wakes confused, and delusional with fever. Mother was with him last, but I was informed Loki's servants are with him now. The elf most likely took over."
They nodded, glad of the news.
Someone attempted Loki's life yesterday afternoon. It was a good thin Thor was there and had emerged from the balcony just in time to save his brother from a dagger straight to the chest. Thor still hasn't forgiven himself for that moment of inattention.
"They had no right." Thor grumbled.
"They are angry," Sif justified
"You side with them."
"I am offended by your accusation." She glared. "Think you I have no heart?"
"You do," He smiled sadly. "But your heart is clouded. The leaders have spoken, and the people of Asgard should consider their decisions and respect it. Loki means no harm in his current condition."
"Even so," Sif muttered. "I doubt anyone would attempt his life again now that we are aware."
"They are bold, and they will try again."
"Some of the guards let the civilians enter." Fandral poked the dying embers with the iron poker. "We cannot trust anyone here. They could have been corrupted into thinking that killing Loki is… the right decision."
"Is Tyr not already on the case?" Volstagg wondered.
"He is." Thor guaranteed. "Tyr's schedule has doubled since, and I heard he is restoring order among our military."
"Define restoring." Sif scowled. "I heard the warriors' use the words threaten."
"What do you mean?"
"Tyr has gone on rounds over the palace, eyeing every warrior should they step out of line and repeat the incident yesterday." She gestured to Fandral, who started to laugh out loud. "We saw Tyr early this morning. He had Ulfar by the neck after a comment he made during training."
"He was paralyzed with fear." Fandral grinned.
Thor grimaced accusingly.
"Nothing short of what Ulfar deserved after that awful comment he made." He amended.
"I am not following, Fandral."
"Tyr was livid when Ulfar made the comment." He continued. "Tyr picked him by the neck and said, 'If I hear you say that again, I would have your limbs tied to a horse!' and then Tyr said other threats about his manhood and creative ways he could do to him with his bare hands."
He nodded as he remembered it so clearly.
"Quite amusing if you think about it."
"He made sure that nonsense talk does not spread like wildfire." Hogun added.
"The tactic worked." Sif huffed.
"What did Ulfar say that was so offensive?" Thor asked.
"You do not want to know."
"You do not need to add more problems to your life, Thor." She insisted. "It is best you leave Tyr to handle the situation."
Thor wasn't convinced, but he let it be.
He knew it was futile to argue an answer off his friends. They were loyal to him, true, but he had enough of bad news. Besides, Tyr was just as loyal. He would eventually gain bearing over the situation and have it under his control. After all, he was the general of Asgard.
He wasn't someone to be trifled with.
Yet, there was a nagging feeling in the pit of Thor's stomach when Sif glared at their friends. Whatever they were hiding, it was probably for the best that he didn't know.
Sif on the other hand, sighed with relief when Thor refused to press further. It wouldn't to him any good should he find out that Ulfar's comment was about Loki's heritage and sexuality. It was awful, and Thor didn't need to know that.
"If we have resorted to putting fear amongst our warriors," Thor began. "It has become far more serious that I originally assumed."
"The King will address such talk personally." Hogun opened.
"Let him." He scowled. "It is the least he could do."
There was tension between father and son, and the warriors needn't any confirmation, as it was plain before them.
"As we are on topic," Thor said. "I wish to ask for your help."
"What kind?" Volstagg asked.
"I know you have your reservations with Loki, but I need your cooperation. Eir has yet to assess Loki's full mental health, and should the worse come—"
"We will be there." Hogun voiced.
"And we will watch him." Fandral added.
"You have our word." Volstagg swore.
Thor was grateful, but there was one other he needed help from. When he turned, Sif was facing the beautiful scenery with closed eyes. Thor waited as she contemplated her answer. If it comes to her loyalty or her morals, Thor would never fault her for disagreeing.
"Sif?" He called.
She then opened her golden brown eyes with a look of determination.
"You know I will always help you." She declared.
"I could not ask for more." Thor smiled. "Thank you, Sif."
"Do not thank me yet."
He nodded, knowing that he had his friends by his side. He refilled his drink and downed it in one go. He couldn't force his friends, especially Sif, to like Loki. They always had their differences, but one day it would work out and they would be friends.
He let the noise of his friends arguing over Sif's hesitation drown his worries away. He had a lot of things to fix, and he knew his actions were still lacking effort, but…
It was enough, for now.
While others were comforted by the presence of their friends, some weren't as lucky. An argument rang in the confines of Odin's study. None bore witness to such boldness between husband and wife as they quarrel their worries away.
"Ever you sway me with your false comfort."
"I don't know what you want."
"We must talk, you said." Frigga looked out the window. "Have we not done so a thousand times and over? What good had it ever done for us?"
"You are angry at me." Odin observed.
"Who would not be?"
"Tell me how I could get back to your good graces then."
"Think you it would be that easy?" She mourned as she choked over her words. "I wonder where the bold, brave man I loved had gone. Where had your courage fled to, Odin?"
"It's still here," He answered. "And if you want me to seek forgiveness, then I shall."
"Then seek it to one who needs it. And do it when you truly mean them."
"My actions have always been for the right reasons, Frigga."
"Right reasons?" She repeated and contemplated. "No matter how right or comforting you think they are, those reasons are never always good or wise. Sometimes, the wrong reasons have their ill effects, but they can also be considered right and wise, or better yet necessary."
"You do not have to be right, Odin."
"I cannot be wrong."
"If you are always so perfect, you would not be the man I married." She declared. "Living as long as we have in our positions has given us wisdom. We have always exercised fair judgment among our people, but do you honestly think we have exercised fairness upon our own family?"
Odin frowned at her brutal lecture.
"You have always chosen Asgard first and foremost," Frigga continued. "Our personal issues always came last, but the man whom I swore to did not take those into consideration and side-stepped the rules for the benefit of all. That includes himself."
"Tell me you took Loki in for the right reasons."
Odin was silenced.
Frigga started to pace around the room.
Her fuming emotions empowered her Seidr and it affected the orange flames in the braziers, turning them green in her anger. Odin rubbed his temples in despair as he felt her anger rising. He allowed her a moment. If they could exhaust whatever frustrations they had, the better they may come to an understanding.
"Could you elaborate?" Odin urged.
"Gladly," She huffed. "If your belief today had any bearing over taking Loki in as a son, then you would have thought it went against your morals. Is that right?"
"Your point, Frigga?"
"A thousand years ago, you exercised what you thought was good and fair judgment. So you took Loki in. Now, you have fooled yourself into thinking that taking in a lost, abandoned child would widen relations between our two realms."
"I stand by my words."
"We both know that is a lie."
Frigga closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Odin was blind, she thought. Not just physically in one eye, but blind about his emotions and his intentions.
"There's no other reason." He insisted.
"You took Loki in because you cared." She carefully said. "You saw an abandoned child, and it moved you. What does that make you?"
"A horrible King," Odin voiced all too quickly. "One that thinks less of his people's safety and more of his own selfishness—"
"A fool, Odin."
"No," Frigga corrected. "It makes you a sentimental fool."
She could see it written on Odin's face.
Odin blames himself for the events that have happened. If he hadn't taken Loki in, the Jotnar wouldn't have ruined Thor's coronation, it wouldn't have led to their family's destruction, and it wouldn't have led Loki into the hands of a mad man.
More importantly, it wouldn't have brought about the destruction of Loki's beautiful mind.
Odin walked towards her, opening his arms to so she could lean into his embrace. Frigga allowed a moment of comfort for them. They both needed support, and it wouldn't do good to argue endlessly, for it was surely to be a miserable future for them.
"The man you remembered," Odin whispered. "He made mistakes that would have endangered his people, and he has long since changed his ways."
"I see nothing good in this change."
"It was for the better."
"Tell that to our sons, Odin."
She smiled sadly, leaning against him when she felt his arms wrap tightly around her waist. Her husband was a sentimental old man, foolish and secretive at times, but she never realized just how much until now.
"You do not have to bare that kind of burden on yourself, Odin."
"I did what I thought I had to do."
"You did," She agreed. "And you have become an old man who allows his people to dictate your actions. You allowed them to override your good sense of judgment, unable to look at the beautiful little boy we took in."
"Think you I let them use me?"
"You avoid what I try to point out, but yes, you have allowed them to corrupt you." She read his mind. "You doubt your morals, as well as the decisions that come with it. And so… you are lost."
"Not when I'm with you."
"Not everything has a balance." Frigga pulled away. "One day, I will not always be here to fight your battles with you."
"Everything has a balance." He gently pulled her back. "In my world there is."
"You are delusional then."
"I am lost."
"Think you that without chaos, there will be order?" She slumped towards him and closed her eyes. "There will always be a modicum of chaos wherever we go, and there will always be a certain degree of carelessness we cannot overrule. It is simply nature."
She cupped his face, and their eyes met.
"You made the right choice."
"You gave us another son," Frigga smiled, remembering those sweet, precious memories. "You gave Thor a little brother. Your selfish decision, Odin, gave us more than what your delusional mind for power and control ever could. Whatever happened next were events none of us could have escaped."
She chuckled sadly.
"It is simply how our story goes."
Odin sighed, "I do blame myself, but…"
"Speak your thoughts so I may bare you my wisdom."
"If I had not taken Loki in—"
"Stop right there, love." Frigga pressed a finger to his lips. "Think you that by not taking Loki in, you would have prevented his downfall? Think you he would not remain broken, and that our people would not rebel?"
"Whose fault was it?"
"Why is that?"
"Maybe things influenced that path. If you hadn't taken Loki in— he would have died." She brutally explained. "If he ever did survive in Jotunheim, someone else would have taken him in. Think you he would be the boy he is now? Someone would have eventually told him of the Great War between Jotunheim and Asgard, of the man who laid siege to waste to his supposed home."
"You are saying that…"
"There is always a side story to another path." She chuckled. "You know this better than anyone."
"Save me." She smiled. "Would Loki be raised an Aesir, a Jotun, or maybe an elf, had the path been open to him? He cannot be the same person he is. And we should be thankful, even if it isn't the outcome we desire."
"You have won." Odin conceded. "You have bested me."
"I did not know this was a contest." Frigga joked.
"You've made your point."
"I know I have."
She kissed his lips ever so sweetly and fell into his embrace.
They allowed themselves a moment of silence to remember what took place in this study. This talk, long in the making, had finally ended. Yet it wasn't as complete as they would have desired. Odin still had doubts, and Frigga would ease them one by one.
"Do not think you are a horrible father." Frigga voiced.
"Am I not?"
"A little, but if you are, then I am an equally horrible mother."
"That is not true."
"Is it not?" She challenged. "Had we raised our children correctly, this would not have happened. Had we looked into their fears and insecurities, and ceased spoiling one son over the other, this might not have come to pass."
"Must I repeat your lecture the same way you did with me?" Odin joked.
"Honestly," She slapped him playfully. "Jests aside, we must let Loki know what he means to this family. We must show him he is loved. I do not think he believes it, and it may prevent him from being tempted by such… actions… again. But we must not forget Thor."
"Yes, well said."
"Yes equally, but with caution."
"Promise me to put this family first."
He grimaced, "I cannot promise you anything."
"I cannot offer you the forgiveness you seek, but I want you to try and that will make amends. But I am not the answer to the hurt upon your heart. Tis not truly me you wish to seek forgiveness from. And until then… try harder."
"You could always read me clearly." Odin caressed her cheek.
"I told you," She smiled. "Someone needs to keep you in line."
A week passed and they made a consensus.
Once Loki wakes, he would need the time to adjust and ease back into his former position as the younger prince of the realm. So a stretch of patience was mandatory should they tolerate Loki's future behaviors.
They had reason to believe Loki's mind was far from destroyed.
They told Eir, their best healer, what they saw concerning Loki's mental health during his isolation. She believes there was hope left to salvage and regain back some normality. From her physical assessment, Loki was going to heal remarkably, but until he wakes, her assessment on his mentality would still be vague at best.
So they waited.
Loki wasn't allowed to sleep alone.
His nightmares and traumatic experiences often surfaced and plagued his dreams, and one of them had to wake him to give him phials of healing elixirs and sleeping draughts to ease his distress.
Some awakenings were indeed memorable and destructive, yet it wasn't long now.
He was going to wake, and they were going to be prepared.
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