So…Uh…This is a thing.
Don't know why it's a thing, but it is. I know I should be updating my other fic (I'm on it, I swear!) but this wouldn't leave me alone until it was written.
It's a bit weird (yes, even by my standards) and contains mpreg and birth secene (hey, at least I'm warning you this time! It's also not graphic in the least), character death, mentions of torture/rape and (hopefully) some big feels!
I know this throws cannon out of the window (much like Tony Stark) so please don't tell me that – I've already beaten myself up over it.
Also; do you think I own these guys? Technically they're deities so they own themselves but in this respect Marvel has dibs on them.
I will love you all forever for reviews and faves!
There was simply no way to make him look anything less than the prince he was.
Bound, gagged and being hauled along by the scruff of his neck and Loki still exuded an aura of supreme arrogance and haughtiness. He was sure in his footing, even though Thor was dragging him at a far faster pace than was warranted, and the sparkle in his eyes was pure malice.
Odin was already standing infront of his throne when the two brothers entered the hall. Loki was thrown unceremoniously to his knees, the chain connecting his manacled wrists clattering on the floor. He shot Thor a glare of dark poison at the rough handling, settling back on his heels with a superior toss of the head.
"Welcome back, Thor. You have done well." Odin glanced at his eldest briefly before his single eye met Loki's stubborn gaze head on. "I can see it wasn't an easy task."
The trickster sneered, clearly unimpressed. Thor tried to rest a hand on his shoulder and he shook it off with an inarticulate snarl.
"Allfather, I beg leniency-" The Thunder God began predictably, but was silenced by a stern look and the dismissive wave of Odin's hand.
"There is no leniency in this, Thor."
The look on the King's face was unreadable. Odin had mourned as much as the rest of the royal family when Loki had fallen, as everyone knew, but this didn't look like the mien of a man welcoming home the prodigal son. Thor's hand fell back to Loki's shoulder again, gripping this time so that the irate trickster couldn't shake him off again.
"Father, there are things that need to be taken into consideration-"
"Things have been taken into consideration." Odin effortlessly brushed the younger God's protests aside. "Namely that Loki almost succeeded in destroying one planet and tried to overthrow a second. The death-toll for both acts has been catastrophic."
Thor felt his insides slowly freezing. The lack of formal audience, the lack of the council, the lack of sheer bloody empathy. Odin had already made a decision. The younger God flickered his gaze to the only other occupant in the formal room.
Frigga stood back from the throne, almost hidden in the shadow of one of the pillars. She wasn't crying. If anything there was even less emotion on her face than there was on Odin's as she stared at her two sons. She also steadfastly refused to meet Thor's gaze.
"You won't even give him a trial…?" The thunder God heard Loki snort softly with derision and felt shame wash over him. This was officially the first time he had ever cared for such formal court workings. Usually he had been too impatient, calling the justice system too slow and out-dated.
Figured that he'd only demand that the formal procedures were followed when it was his brother playing the part of the accused.
"There is no need for a trial, Thor. His crimes speak for themselves." Odin levelled his eldest with a stern glare. "There is only one outcome this can have."
"Be silent boy!" The king struck the butt of Gungnir against the ground and the reverberating echo silenced Thor as well as making Loki visibly jump. "You know our laws, as does Loki. All that he did, he did in the full knowledge of what would befall him come his failure." It was obvious that Odin knew his eldest far too well because he held up a hand to halt Thor's inevitable protest. "There is nothing that you can do or say against this. These are our laws and as future king you must learn to respect them and understand that no-one is exempt. Do you understand me?!"
Thor wanted to refuse. He wanted to shout that, no! He didn't understand why he had to stand idly by and simply allow his brother to face the harsh Asgardian justice system alone. Not his little brother whom he had sworn to protect throughout everything.
However, Odin's comment about his future kingship had also hit it's mark. The thunder God was well aware of how much he still had to prove when it came to his suitability to rule and to be brutally honest, what had he expected when he had dragged the trickster back home in chains?
He closed his mouth, anger and regret warring on his face.
"Loki Laufeyarsson." Odin's gaze grew cold as he glared down on the bound God. The name spoke volumes; the trickster wasn't welcome in the house of Odin. "Through both your actions and your words you have caused unspeakable harm across two separate worlds as well as trying to rip apart the harmony of our own realm. Countless lives have been lost and the repercussions of this will still be felt many years into the future. You have lied, murdered, usurped and destroyed and all for your own gain. By our laws there is only one fit punishment for your many and varied crimes."
Loki tilted his head to one side, his expression mocking as he feigned polite curiosity. He knew damn well what was coming.
"Therefore there is no other course of action than to announce your immediate execution. Your death will be ignominious, without pomp or circumstance. You shall not be accorded any of the dignities of a noble passing, and you shall bear no weaponry. This is the fate that you have brought upon yourself."
Thor couldn't have made a sound even if he'd wanted too. He stood still as a statue, pale and horrified. The terms of the sentence would have sounded lenient to an outsider – a quick death was surely far too good for Loki – but an Asgardian knew the true repercussions. To die outside of a battle or without having a weapon by your side was to deny the soul entry to Valhalla and to condemn it to the icy darkness of Hel. It meant that even in the next life Loki would forever be cut off from the people he loved. He and Thor would never see each other again.
The thunder God's horrified attention was caught by soft footfalls as Frigga moved forwards to stand besides her husband. For a moment he hoped that his mother would speak on the trickster's behalf, but her closed-off expression dashed that hope to pieces.
"Does the accused have anything he wishes to say before his sentence is carried out?" She sounded if not bored, then at least uncaring. As if this wasn't her youngest son that she was talking about.
Loki's poisonous gaze met hers for a moment before he nodded, just once. The confirmation along with the queen's permission triggered one of the spells holding the gag as the catches on the back unlatched and the thick piece of metal fell to the ground. Loki coughed, blood and saliva dripping from his mouth as he worked his jaw and tried to accustom it to moving again.
"If you have something to say then get it done with." Odin snapped.
The trickster laughed harshly. "Of course, forgive me for standing on ceremony. It's not as if I have anything better to be doing." He paused and spat out a mouthful of blood before raising his head to meet the king's gaze unflinchingly. "Allfather; I respectively-" The word was sneered, "Ask for a final request."
"You presume much to ask for such a thing."
"Presume? No. Hope for? Maybe. It will cost you nothing. All I ask for is time."
Odin's expression turned to haughty derision. "And what would you do with 'time' considering that you would spend it in a dungeon and with your tongue silenced."
For the first time since arriving Loki suddenly looked something other than cock-sure and confident. An expression of sudden concern crossed his face, as if this was the only thing he had to worry about and his execution was a mere annoyance. It was more than worry infact; not quite fear but the expression certainly contained far more trepidation than he had ever shown during his failed attack on Earth.
"I…I find myself in a position that I had not intended." He finally managed. When Odin just raised a sceptical eyebrow at him, entirely unimpressed, he sighed shakily. The length of chain between his manacled hands allowed him enough movement to unbuckle the straps on the armoured tunic he wore under his coat and pull it open enough to reveal his fitted undershirt.
"Oh!" Thor's exclamation of shock echoed around the suddenly silent hall.
Loki's hand automatically moved to the gently rounded curve of his stomach – something small enough that his leather outer-wear had easily hidden it, but large enough to be obvious when said armour was removed. His gesture was instinctive; a protective movement.
Odin closed his eye with a pained sigh. "How far along?" His voice was dark, filled with anger and disappointment.
"Eight months." The trickster tossed his head and the vulnerability he had briefly shown was quickly masked again with arrogance. "Of course, you are well within your power to kill me regardless of the child I carry."
"Or at eight months it could be considered viable and I could rip it straight from your belly here and now." Odin countered.
Loki didn't deign to respond to that but Thor was standing close enough to hear the quiet in-take of breath. When the trickster did speak again it was with a steady and measured tone.
"I dare say you could, and such an act would still result in my death, so that would indeed be a win-all situation for you. Is that what you will do then?" He asked carefully.
Odin stared down at the young man for a long time. There was no give-away on his face, no way to determine what he could possibly be thinking as he gazed at the one he had once called son.
"No. The child would suffer for it." He said finally. "I would not condemn a babe for the sins of its parents, no matter how heinous the crimes."
"I would ask how there is a child at all." Frigga's gaze was impenetrable as she stared at Loki. "You have borne children before, trickster, but why now? Why take the risk whilst fighting a battle?"
Loki laughed: a twisted and bitter sound. "Oh, you say that as if I had a choice in the matter!" He sneered. "Did you truly think the chitauri were kind? Is that the illusion you've all painted for yourselves?" He shook his head with a mocking huff of amusement. "They were anything but kind. This pregnancy was not something I either asked for or wanted, but I would not kill my own child, no matter how it was begot. At least from the violence and pain they ended up gifting me with something that is yet good and pure."
"You speak of being forced…?" Thor asked quietly. The younger God glanced back to sneer at him.
"Forced, tortured, raped. I care not what you call it, Thor. It hardly changes the nature of the whole business, does it?"
Thor ignored the scornful tone and stared at the Allfather askance. "Father! Surely this changes things-!"
"This changes nothing." Odin spoke over his son, his hand gripping Gungnir so tight that his knuckles were white. "The sentence stands. Loki Laufeyarsson, you will have a period of grace until your child is born and then you will be executed with no further delay."
Loki raised his hands to his face with a shocked gasp as the gag rematerialized back across his mouth, the metal bit pressing hard down on his tongue once more. He glared up at the king, emotions of relief and anger warring on his face.
"Father, please. If he was coerced into the war then-" Thor was never one to give up, but this time his pleas were worthless. It was Frigga who silenced him, her disappointed gaze doing more to stop him talking than angry words could ever do.
"The Allfather has made his decision." She said icily. "You would do well to heed his example should you ever find yourself in this position as king."
Loki just laughed silently at the look of utter despair on the face of the man he'd once called brother.
The trickster was confined in one of the tiny dungeon cells underneath the place. It was dark, dirty and damp. Other than a stone ledge along one wall, barely a foot and a half wide and only knee high there was nothing else – no window, no chains, nothing. The only light source was from between the thick bars of the grill on the door; too high to really do any good.
Loki didn't appear to care.
Thor came to visit – of course Thor came to visit – spilling out long soliloquies on his love for his little brother, how his attempts at an appeal were going and mostly just pleading with Loki to at least acknowledge him. That in itself would have been a feat since the gag had not been removed, but even so the trickster took a perverse pleasure in how emotional the thunder God could get just by purely being ignored. It was a small thing, hardly something to be deemed a victory, but Loki took his victories where he could find them.
So he sat, silent and unmoving, ignoring the guards, ignoring Thor and ignoring his own predicament. The small bulge of his stomach didn't seem to grow, and if anyone had cared to check they might have noted that it was incredibly small for a child near full-term. However, Loki appeared not to be concerned about the diminished size, not as far as any could tell. He just sat there, silent and staring.
Even Thor was unnerved.
And then, of course, nature finally decided to play it's inevitable role.
Loki had known it was coming – well, what else was going to happen? Sitting in the dark with his back aching and the uneasy feeling deep in his belly. It was hardly something he could not notice, and not expect. All pregnancies have to come to an end at some point after all.
And all he could do with his hands chained and his tongue silenced was lay back on the damp hard stone and hope that this would be an uncomplicated birth – a survivable one.
But damn it all he had his pride still!
Lying in the dark, alone and in terrible pain the only control Loki had over the situation was to hide his condition from the guard outside the door. It would seem counter-intuitive – surely he needed help – but the trickster had no trust in others anymore and certainly not in his gaoler. Why should he rely on help from one who hated him, after all?
So he kept silent, teeth grinding down on the metal compressing his tongue.
Childbirth is painful. It's a fact of life that every child-bearing creature has to come to terms with at some point in its existence. It's painful and terrifying and unstoppable once fully begun.
Loki knew this. He had done it before and he knew what to expect, yet that could hardly make it any easier. The intense, deep agony that cramped his abdomen and sent shooting pains down his thighs were all things he had endured before, and that still didn't help him to feel any less hopeless and terrified.
When the pains had first started in earnest he had thought that it was bearable, that he would be able to deliver the child without anyone even realising. Now, though – after so many hours of getting nowhere – it was beginning to look less feasible. The gag helped somewhat in stifling the low sounds of agony that escaped his tight control on his vocal chords, but wouldn't do so for much longer the way things were progressing.
He couldn't lose control.
Couldn't be seen to be weak in the eyes of that pathetic Aesir standing guard outside the door.
And he couldn't stay silent for much longer.
He didn't want to admit it, but it hurt.
There was a hand on the young God's forehead, cool against his feverish skin. He hadn't realised how contained his own little world of agony had been, so contained that he hadn't heard someone enter the cell.
"Raise your head." The voice was soft, almost sounding like it cared – if such a thing could still be true regarding Loki. He mindlessly did as he was asked and vaguely registered the lock on the gag clicking open, then the whole contraption being lifted away. There was a clatter as it fell to the floor, and his head would have thumped straight back onto the unforgiving rock if it hadn't been for a firm hand cradling the back of his skull and preventing that from happening.
For a very long moment all Loki could do was take deep gulping breaths through his mouth, his chest heaving. After nearly a month of wearing the gag his mouth felt strange, and his jaw swollen and tender.
"You should have attracted the guard's attention once this started." His companion admonished, although their voice remained quiet. Not angry, just worried. "It was Heimdall who had to alert me."
Of course it was. The trickster would have sneered if another bout of agony hadn't pulled his expression into a pained grimace. In acknowledgement the hand moved back to his forehead, brushing his sweat-soaked hair back away from his face as he strained to stay silent.
"I sent the guard away; it is only the two of us now."
"Why?" His voice was a low growl; both from disuse and from fighting to speak over the intense pain. "Why are you here at all, Allfather?" He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself down infront of the one person he most definitely did not want to see. "Come to mock me?"
"I'm here to help you, Loki." Odin sounded sincere, but Loki still tried to twist his head away from the contact. "Despite what you tell yourself you are still my son and I still love you. I was never going to leave you to suffer through this alone. I helped you through the others; I am here to help you with this one."
"And…If I don't want your help?" The trickster hissed, turning his face away to glare at the stone wall.
"What makes you think you have a choice in the matter? You are still bound and fully dressed. How were you intending to safely birth this child?"
There was no reply to that – not one that Loki could immediately think of at any rate. He tensed again with a near-silent groan, his chained hands coming down to rest on the small swell of his stomach.
There was a pressure on his wrists, then the trickster felt the manacles loosen and slip off, freeing his arms. The sudden lightness was almost unfamiliar.
"Why?" He spat the single word out, turning back to seek out Odin's gaze. To both his fury and his confusion the older God merely smiled.
"For all your cleverness, you can be such a silly boy sometimes, my son." He said fondly.
"I am not your son! I am the bastard child of your enemy that you stole! I am a condemned criminal waiting for his execution!" He wanted, needed, the words to find their mark, to hurt, but instead he was just rewarded with a soft chuckle.
"You are the little baby I soothed in the night when you refused to be settled. You are the toddler who followed me everywhere and whom I allowed to ride on my shoulders when you couldn't keep up." Odin's voice had none of the hurt that the younger God so desperately wanted to hear. "You are the curious child who would stand by my side all night to learn the names of the stars. You are the worried boy who came to me in tears because of the hurtful words of others, and who left smiling again. You are the ecstatic young man who learnt he had magic and took every opportunity to prove to me how strong he was. You are the son that has made me proud every day of my life and who has never given me cause to regret finding him in the snow."
Loki swallowed thickly. He was the God of Lies, and could detect nothing but truth in the burning words.
"Never?" He rasped.
"Never. I am your father; any faults that you have are faults that I caused. Your mistakes were made because I didn't teach you as well as I should have done. Now." He gently rested a hand on top of Loki's own on the trickster's stomach. "Will you let me help you?"
The trickster closed his eyes, face creasing with pain as agony shot through his body again. It hurt and as much as he hated to admit it, he was frightened.
So he nodded, just the once.
"Thank you." Odin sounded almost amused and Loki glared at him again. "Now, how long has it been since the pain started."
"Don't pretend you know anything about childbirth." The younger God snarled in response. "You may have been there for Sleipnir, but I did all the work." The Allfather didn't reply and merely looked inquisitive until Loki groaned in infuriation. "It's been about seven hours, give or take."
If Odin was distressed at the thought of how long his son had been hiding the labour he didn't let it show. "So this isn't going to take much longer then."
"I know." The second word was drawn out as Loki thumped his head back against the stone with a low moan of agony. It was quite obvious that he wasn't going to be able to carry a conversation for much longer as the pain mounted again.
As much as the trickster God was furious at having the Allfather there he only offered a few token protests as Odin helped him to settle back more comfortably against the rough stone once the latest pain abated enough for him to move. However, he was far less acquiescing about removing any clothing, even though he was well aware that at least his trousers were going to have to come off. He accepted the help in the end, but grudgingly.
It wasn't truly modesty that was the problem – Odin had raised him, after all – but the strange sick shame of baring the scars that covered his legs. There were the marks of torture littering most of his body, but so far his clothing had hidden them. Betraying just how weak he had been wasn't part of the plan.
Odin – full credit to him – didn't comment on the thick knots of scar tissue banding Loki's thighs and calves that spoke of the unspeakable torture the chitauri must have inflicted. Instead, to the trickster's surprise, he pulled his own heavy red cloak off and carefully draped it over the prisoner to cover the wounds up once more.
"Don't…" Loki had turned his face to the wall again, unwilling to look up at the elder God.
"Don't….Kindness. Don't pretend this kindness. Not after all that has transpired."
Odin gently gripped Loki's shoulder, the way he had when he used to find his youngest sulking after being out-fought in the practice ring. "You die tomorrow. Forgive a father for wishing to show his affection to the son he is about to lose."
"…I'm not your son."
"You have always been my son."
The younger God refused to acknowledge that painful truth or the reminder of his impending execution. He didn't try to throw off the hand on his shoulder, though.
"Your mother has stated that she wishes us to raise this child." Odin changed the subject with more tact than he usually showed. "I have agreed to this."
"Why would you? It's not like you even know what it is."
That was true, at least. Loki didn't have the best track record with having children, and most were barely classed as humanoid. There was no knowing what the results of crossing Jötunn and chitauri genetics would result in. Usually it would be assumed that species couldn't cross in such a manner, but the trickster's magic always threw in an unknown variable that had resulted in such off-spring as Fenrir and Jormangandr. It was anyone's guess what the curling tendrils of magic would have done to a technically non-viable embryo with chitauri characteristics.
"Do you know what it is yet?" The king asked quietly. He received a tense shake of the head in reply.
"I have hardly had the energy to spare to find out, I – Ah!" Loki clamped his mouth tight shut as the sudden yelp of pain escaped and he turned his face back to the wall in shame. It hurt, it hurt, it hurt!
"Well, it appears that we won't be waiting long before we find out." Odin said mildly. For all of his seemingly uncaring tone there was concern hidden in his gaze as his son choked back another sound of agony. When he offered his hand to the younger God, Loki grabbed it blindly; holding on like his life depended on it.
For a moment the trickster had the presence of mind to consider the shame of his sudden dependence on the Allfather.
And then all presence of mind was lost and there was just pain and hurt and when will this end?
Time slipped past unmeasured. Loki was still too proud to fully give voice to the agony running through him, but enough of the sounds were escaping to make it all too clear that things were beginning to progress rapidly. The small part of his brain that was separate from the rest – a part that merely watched and observed – was able to make the comparison that as bad as it was, he had had a far worse time with Sleipnir. At least this labour seemed normal, albeit very painful.
And then dull agony became blinding and hot.
He was pretty certain that he had screamed. The rawness in his throat attested to that. Infact, maybe he was still screaming; shrieking as blood began to run down his thighs and he felt muscles reach breaking point and tear.
Why was this always so much worse than he remembered?!
Then there was that moment – the point where it felt like he had to be dying because surely a person shouldn't be able to live through this – before the all-encompassing demands his body was making all faded away.
Still hurt like Hel though.
"Loki." There was a hand on his shoulder, a grounding point that made him wearily try to open his eyes. "Loki, it's over."
For a long moment the words didn't really register. He was still in more than enough pain to not be able to believe that it had actually finished. Something did manage to creep through his consciousness though.
"It's not crying…Why isn't it crying…?"
"A lack of correct vocal chords. Don't worry; he's fine." Odin's voice was soft and curiously tender.
"He…?" Loki managed to raise his head enough to see the Allfather cradling a squirming bundle wrapped up in a torn part of the red cloak. "A boy?"
"A boy." The wriggling armful made a curious chirruping noise and Odin smiled down at it before glancing back up at the weary trickster. "How do you fare?"
Loki let his head fall back against the stone again. "I have been through worse…" He stared up at the dark ceiling. "Is the child…? Will he live?"
"He's healthy. Unusual. Possibly unique. But healthy."
That was something familiar at least. The younger God was used to hearing such things about his off-spring so it didn't cause worry, just curiosity. Slowly and painfully he struggled upright, pulling the tattered remains of the cloak around his lower body as if the material were a shield. Everything hurt.
"May I see him?" He whispered. It was unsurprising to admit that he expected a firm refusal. However, Odin gently passed the bundle to the trickster without a word.
Loki folded back a corner of the torn cloth, blinking rapidly as tears – sudden and shameful – filled his eyes and he stroked a single finger down the new-born's chest. A tiny set of claws reached out to curl around the finger.
The fusion of Jötunn and chitauri genetics shouldn't have been possible, but Loki's natural magic had twisted and wriggled through the chromosomes until it had produced something that was part of both and yet also a completely independent race in its own right. The magical product of a Frost Giant and a reptilian species that had long been lost to mythology.
Odin gave voice to the name they were both thinking.
"It's a dragon."
Loki smiled as the tiny lizard huffed cold air over his fingers. "An ice dragon." Then his expression crumpled as tears began making steady tracks down his cheeks.
The little creature was the same dusky grey that the chitauri had been, tiny wings tucked close to its back as it blinked large red eyes sleepily.
"I don't even know who the father is." The trickster whispered miserably. "So many of them…There were so many that I don't have any way of knowing."
Odin didn't comment on that, but there was a shrouded emotion in his eyes at the mention of just what his youngest had had to go through. When Loki began sobbing in earnest the king didn't think twice. The younger God might well have been a convicted criminal due to be executed, but that didn't stop the Allfather from wrapping an arm around his son's thin shoulders. The age-old familiar gesture came as a surprise, but Loki was more shocked at his own reaction as he simply lent into the comforting embrace of his parent, tears of pain and heartbreak etching deep paths through the grime on his cheeks.
"There may still be another way, Loki…" Odin didn't finish his statement, but the trickster was already shaking his head.
"No. This is how it has to be." Loki kissed the top of his son's scaly head before thrusting the new-born back into Odin's arms with a bitter sob. "This is how it goes."
"Don't make this any harder than it has to be. Please."
The Allfather watched the young God pull away, curling into himself. Carefully rearranging the tiny dragon – that appeared to be falling asleep – Odin reached out to rest a hand on Loki's shoulder. "I'm sorry." He whispered.
Loki shuddered. "As am I." The three words were so soft that the king almost didn't hear them. "I…I think I need to be alone now." He added.
"My son, you can afford to rest for a few-" Odin was silenced as Loki pressed a finger against his lips in the manner that he would usually silence Thor.
"No, Allfather. I die tomorrow. I will have more than enough rest then." He said gently. His gaze moved back to his sleeping new-born and he ignored the fresh tears that followed the old ones. "Please allow me these last few hours to compose myself appropriately."
For a moment it looked like Odin was going to say something, but the expression on the trickster's face – pleading for understanding – stopped him and he nodded slightly. He reached down to the floor and picked up the discarded manacles.
Loki took a moment to pull his clothing back to rights before holding out his wrists with a defeated slump in his shoulders. The thick metal was heavy and wrenched his arms down as the chains clicked back into place and he dropped his hands back down to his lap. However, he jerked back as Odin held the gag out to him.
"I…A moment please." There was fear in his eyes now; after all, the thing was hardly comfortable to wear. However it was the knowledge that once it was on it would never come off again that really made him ask for the pause. Anything he said now would be his last words.
Odin waited patiently for the younger God to collect his thoughts together.
"Look after my son for me?" Loki finally whispered.
"You know I will."
"And…Tell him who he is. What he is. Don't let him be ashamed of his ancestry." He looked down at his bound hands. "Let him know that I love him. I'll always love him."
The king merely nodded in response, not wanting to break Loki's quiet request.
"And Thor. I….He's not going to accept this quietly. He's going to ask for answers and you're going to give them to him. Can I just ask that you let him know that what I said to him just before I let the Jötunn's into Asgard I meant with all my heart. If he is to remember anything of me, please let it be that conversation."
"I will make sure he knows." The king didn't know the details of said conversation, but it was quite obvious the sort of things that might have been spoken of. "And I want you to know that you are my son. No matter what you think, what you believe; we have always loved you."
Loki looked away at the wall for a long moment, his breath hitching in his throat.
"One final thing…" He whispered. "Please, make it quick tomorrow…Father."
Not waiting for a reply from the king, he glanced down at the metal gag; making it clear that he was ready to have it put back on.
His last words were the plea of a broken man, but most importantly he had used them to finally acknowledge Odin as family.
The faint click of metal was the only sound in the cell as the gag was locked back into place. Loki raised his head again, his expression now half-hidden by the contraption. Reaching out he gently ran his fingers over his son's sleeping head, the gesture full of all the love he now couldn't speak.
"Loki…" Odin pulled the trickster into a tight one-armed embrace, Loki's chained hands coming up to grasp the front of the king's tunic for a brief moment. "Be brave, my son. Remember that you are a Prince of Asgard." He lent back enough to brush the prisoner's way-ward hair back from Loki's eyes. "Give them a show." There was a faint smile on his face as he said it and the younger God's eyes mirrored the expression, along with a single nod.
If there was one thing Loki knew how to do, it was command an audience's attention.
As Odin left the cell, carrying the new-born, Loki sat back against the rough wall. The Allfather's magic had cleaned away the blood and grime left from the birth, but he still ached all over – more so than usual – and he was intent on gathering together every single scrap of energy. He wouldn't need to do much beyond walk down the length of the hall to the throne, but he'd be damned if he was going to look weak whilst doing so.
The next day dawned bright, with the sun warming the palace. That did not last long, however, once Thor was summoned to witness the execution that – up until the summoning – he hadn't realised was going to be that morning.
Perhaps he had been working on the assumption that when Loki's child was born, Odin would change his mind and go with a life sentence instead. Perhaps he had secretly hoped Loki would escape when the time came. Or perhaps he had just been in denial for the time that Loki had been incarcerated.
It seemed surreal to be standing in the throne room, waiting to see his brother for the last time.
There wasn't a large crowd. Odin had not given any reason as to why Loki had been jailed for a period of time before his execution, and since there had been no way to schedule a set date he had made the decision not to make it a public affair. This meant that only such people as the council, a handful of dignitaries and some of Loki's once-friends were present. Frigga was also in her customary place beside the king, although she held a bundle of blankets in her arms that occasionally wriggled slightly.
Odin hadn't worked out what to tell people about the child yet – even whether to acknowledge that it was Loki's son – so didn't draw anyone's attention to it.
The doors at the end of the hall were thrown open and two guards marched in, their prisoner between them.
Loki looked….Well, like a king.
He walked straight-backed and head held high, eyes focussed on the royal family at the end of the long throne room. If he was in pain he didn't let it show, moving with the usual confidence and easy grace that everyone remembered.
And he looked vicious.
It was the same expression Thor remembered from the battle in New York. That uncaring light in the green eyes that said that he really didn't give a damn about any of them.
The thunder God wanted to call out, to say something, to appeal to his father. He wanted to do something.
But he didn't.
If Odin hadn't changed his mind by this point then nothing would stop him. And Thor was not enough of an idiot to publically fight his father for a brother who would rather see him dead than accept his help. Yes, he did still love Loki – he always would – but he loved the little brother he had grown up with and fought besides. Not this psychotic madman.
"Loki Laufeyarsson, you have been condemned to death, and now as the king of Asgard I will uphold that penalty." Odin spoke without emotion, glaring down at the shackled God. "You have killed, maimed and committed treason without care or thought for any beyond yourself. As such you shall be executed forthwith and may your tortured soul find some peace in Hel."
Loki tipped his head back with an imperious snort, glaring disdainfully at the Allfather. At the hissed whispers following the insulting gesture he swept his poisonous gaze across the rest of the small crowd with an obvious smirk lighting his gaze.
"Enough!" Odin stalked forwards, Gungnir in hand as he came up to stand before the man he had once called son. "On your knees." He snarled.
Their gazes met for a brief moment, and the glance that passed – too quick for any of the watchers to catch it – spoke the words that they weren't saying.
Then Loki gracefully dropped to his knees, head bowed.
If his obedience was surprising, then it was nothing compared to when Odin placed the point of Gungnir on the back of his son's exposed neck.
The normal and expected method of execution was to use the spear's blade to take a prisoner's head off at the shoulders. Messy, painful and quite often requiring more than one swing to do so. The method that Odin had chosen now could be considered far too merciful when applied to one like Loki. A well placed thrust would send the blade between two vertebrate of the neck, severing the spinal cord and trachea instantly. Clean, quick and as painless as it could ever be.
Silence fell across the hall as Odin lifted the spear in his hands.
Frigga was refusing to watch, instead focussing down on the fussing new-born in her arms so that she didn't need to see the blow. On the other hand Thor couldn't have looked away if he'd wanted to – trying hopelessly to capture every single last moment of his brother's life. The way Loki's back rose and fell with his steady breathing, the stillness of his hair as it hid his face and the resigned slump to his shoulders. Everything.
The spear slammed down.
A soundless concussion wave erupted outwards from the point of impact between blade and flesh, washing over the audience in a silent blast that caught in hair and clothes like a hurricane. The departure of magic.
Thor didn't hear himself shout, didn't hear himself scream his brother's name, didn't realise that he had left his place beside the throne until he was at the trickster's side. Odin stepped away, allowing the thunder God to throw himself down onto the marble flagstones besides his brother.
In the terrible silence of the throne room the little 'click' as the gag unlocked itself and fell away was clearly heard.
Loki's eyes were partially open, a small smile playing around his lips. He looked for all the world that he was just about to glance up at the older God and whisper 'fooled you'.
The green eyes weren't focussed on anything – staring blankly into space – and the smile was frozen. He was gone.
Loki was gone.
And thunder rattled the skies of Asgard.
"You called for me, Father?"
Thor's voice was rough from the tears he had shed over the past two days and his eyes were ringed with dark circles.
He looked almost as bad as he felt.
"Yes, yes I did." They were on the end of the repaired Bifrost – Odin staring out into the endless stars. "We need to talk, Thor."
"I have already spoken to Mother, the funeral arrangements have been made."
"It's not the funeral I wish to talk about." The king had sat himself on the step that ran around the edge of the observatory – unusually informal. He glanced away from the sight of the void when his son came to sit beside him.
Thor grimly looked out into the darkness. "Why are we out here? This is…" He swallowed back the fresh pain and glanced down at his hands. "This is where we lost him."
The despair on Loki's face as he'd stared up at the two people he had always believed would stand by him. The two people he had tried so desperately to please and impress and who were refusing him all of that.
"No, Thor. He was lost long before that."
The younger God turned sharply to glare at his father. "How can you say that?! He-"
"Did you really believe that Loki could draw a blade on you and miss his target?" The interruption was bland; not responding to Thor's anger.
It also made a valid point.
Loki had had Thor at point-blank range on Stark Tower and rather than killing him had only inflicted a superfluous flesh wound that neither hampered Thor nor helped the trickster's plans. It had been pointless, thinking about it, but at the time the thunder God had only seen it as a move in combat and had treated it as such.
Loki never missed a target.
He hadn't aimed to kill.
"What are you telling me?" He asked. "I have no mind for riddles right now. I am mourning my brother – I don't need you to remind me of how I failed him enough for him to want to kill me."
"He never wanted to kill you." Odin said softly.
"Just…Listen for a moment, Thor. There are things that you don't know about this, factors that you have yet to consider."
The king looked so old as he stared out across the endless void.
"…What factors? That he had just found out his heritage? I know about that."
Odin sighed heavily, steepling his fingers and setting his chin on them. "Loki hadn't just found out his heritage. He had long known of it."
Thor stared at the older God for a long moment, trying to process what he was being told.
"Father…What's going on?"
"I'm sorry, Thor. I'm afraid what I'm going to tell you will be neither easy nor pleasant to hear, but Loki insisted that I wasn't to speak of it until his death." Odin held up a hand to silence the obvious questions and protests that came at that statement. "Just…Listen. I need to tell you a story about your brother that will hopefully put things into a little more clarity. Can you promise me that you will refrain from interrupting until I have finished?"
When Thor nodded shakily the king seemed to relax slightly.
"Then listen well:
"Loki was told of his ancestry the day after he came into his majority. Myself and your mother sat down with him and explained the circumstances surrounding his fostering and his true species. He was, admittedly, upset at the time but we talked to him and reassured him that he was just as much our son as ever and he gradually came to accept that he was not truly Aesir. We initially asked if he wished to tell others; you in particular, but he decided not to. Even at that young age he was well aware that such information could be of great use if kept a secret. Which is what we therefore did.
"Loki's magic grew over the years – as well you know – and he and I would often work together on various projects. It was your brother who designed the protective shields that hide us from enemy eyes, although he never took the credit for it. We would also scry for potential magical threats to the realm that Heimdall would not be able to pick up on. And it was searching in such a manner that we discovered what could be termed the biggest threat Asgard has ever encountered.
"A Titan of tremendous power and pure insanity.
"He was just beyond the Yggdrasil's branches and had succeeded in consuming the entirety of the World Tree that he originated from. There was no rhyme or reason to his choice of victims – he had just slaughtered everything and anything in his quest for Death. And with the last realm around him falling he was beginning to turn his attention to our own World Tree.
"We would never have been able to stand against such power. We call ourselves Gods, but Thanos….There was no limit to his abilities, nor to his blood-lust. Should he have invaded Asgard, we would have fallen with barely a fight. Something had to be done.
"We didn't make the threat known – didn't want the mass hysteria that would have resulted. To begin with Loki and myself kept the knowledge to ourselves, endeavouring to find a way to hold back or eliminate the danger. All we really found was that Thanos was technically immortal, and that nothing we knew of would be able to hold him back, let alone kill him.
"In the end it was your clever brother who came across something of an answer.
"Loki had been searching through the restricted books of Alfheim's library when he came across something that he believed would help. It was an ancient and forbidden piece of sorcery that had been lost from memory; even I had never heard of it.
"A soul bond.
"It was a method to link two souls together in such a way that they would be impossible to part. Death to one would mean death to the other. It was a terrible spell and required a great deal of time to cast correctly.
"In the beginning I was so against it that I would not even allow him to mention it in my presence. But – eventually – as the years went on and Thanos drew closer and reached the void between our two worlds I realised that in all our searching we had turned up nothing else which could possibly stop him.
"Loki began to work on the spell. He adapted it, built on it until the casting and presence would be entirely undetectable. However, it would still take a considerable amount of time to cast and he discovered – to our dismay – that the caster would need to be in close proximity to Thanos to do so.
"Not only would it mean the magician to create the spell would have to die, but they would also have to find a way to come close to the Mad Titan.
"I was at a loss.
"And, once again, Loki wasn't. He had already decided at that point that he would be the one to sacrifice himself for the good of the nine realms, and so had spent a considerable amount of time planning out the process. He knew that his own powers were such that only Gungnir or Mjolnir would be able to take his life and he never hesitated in his choice that he could never ask you to kill him.
"At the same time he also needed to physically get close to Thanos in the void and to do that would require breaking the Bifrost. Neither he nor I could do such a thing – the bridge is impervious to magic – but there was one person with the pure strength to do it, and that was you.
"We needed to set everything up so that not only was the bridge broken, but was done in such a way that Loki was portrayed as the villain. He needed to be the enemy so that he could be sentenced to death and therefore killed by Gungnir. And so he decided to bring out his great secret.
"After all, he technically already was one of Asgard's greatest enemy's. He acted out discovering his heritage as the set-piece to start the ball rolling, since even Heimdall didn't know what we were doing. Only he, myself and Frigga knew the truth. We…We agreed not to tell you, Thor, because we knew that you would fight it at every turn. That's why we made sure to remove you from Asgard as Loki set the stage. Even then your answer to everything was to fight. We would never have been able to convince you that trickery, cunning and your brother's death were the only way.
"Loki cast himself into the void after you broke the Bifrost, as you know, and from then I can only speculate as to what happened.
"We know that the chitauri tortured him; and that he had to allow it. The whole plan hinged on Thanos believing him to be too weak to be worth worrying about, so Loki had to allow them to demonstrate their strength on him when in truth he could have easily fought them off.
"The spell itself took longer to cast than he thought, which is why he had to act along and pretend to work for Thanos. My guess is that he suggested the Tesseract because it is a worthwhile prize in its own right, but also because he knew that Midgard has enough power to fight back. And your team didn't disappoint, Thor.
"Loki was relying on you to be able to stop the army from harming too many and once he finally finished the spell he allowed himself to be defeated and captured.
"You brought him back here as the regicidal war-criminal that he had portrayed himself as and I had to sentence him to death as per our plan.
"Other than his brief hiatus in the cells until the child was born, everything went to plan. I killed my son, and in doing so killed Thanos."
Odin came to a gentle finish with his story, a hand now resting on Thor's shoulder.
The younger God was shaking, gulping sobs wracking his body as he tried to make sense of what he had just been told.
"He was a hero, Thor, he saved us all."
"Why…Why did you…did he never tell me..? There must…must have been another way…"
Odin tightened his hold on his son, resting his forehead against Thor's. "I asked him the same thing, many times. There was no other way. To rid ourselves of Thanos, someone had to die and Loki chose it to be himself."
"But…" Thor just shook his head in despair.
"Thor, your brother risked everything in order to make sure this worked, and sacrificed everything to finish it. If had been another way don't you think I would have done anything to spare him from that?"
"You condemned him to Hel…"
Odin had to smile sadly at that. "It was his choice. Why would he want to go to Valhalla when his daughter is in Nilfheim?"
The younger God tried to wipe his eyes ineffectively, staring back out at the void. "And all…all that time that…that he spat such hatred at me…"
"He never meant a word of it." Odin followed his son's gaze out into the darkness that Loki had once thrown himself into. "And I know that because he asked me to tell you that what he spoke just before your coronation, he meant with all his heart."
And Thor broke.
In a way it had been easier to think of his brother as a psychotic madman who had wanted him dead, rather than the lonely hero who had had to save the nine realms whilst cast as the villain. Loki had done it all alone and had asked for nothing in return.
Those much beloved words that he had treasured since hearing them.
Loki's final message to him.
"I was being sincere." Loki sounded almost annoyed that Thor hadn't picked up on that fact, turning to face the thunder God.
"You are incapable of sincerity." Thor's answer was almost too fast, too well versed in tripping off his tongue, and it was countered just as swiftly.
"Oh am I?!"
Loki's confrontational demeanour softened and a gentle smile crossed his face as he easily swerved away from what could have quickly become a heated row.
"I've looked forward to this day for as long as you have." He said almost conspiratorially and for a moment Thor assumed that he was still joking around. "You are my friend and…sometimes I'm envious…"
He dipped his gaze and the little tell made the thunder God realise in sudden clarity that for once his trickster brother was telling the truth. And not only the truth, but a deep heartfelt one that he almost seemed to regret confessing. And then Loki's gaze darted back up to meet wide blue eyes, his expression open and honest.
"But never doubt that I love you."
For a moment they stood there; two brothers who weren't brothers by blood, but through war and pain and laughter and love had become brothers by heart and soul.
And when Loki broke the tender moment with a joke Thor forgot his nerves for a moment. After all, he had his brother by his side to watch out for him
"Really…How do I look?"
Loki turned and appraised him before nodding, suddenly solemn again. "Like a king." He met Thor's gaze openly and honestly so that the thunder God couldn't disbelieve or deny the words.
And for a final moment everything was completely perfect.