When they told him the news, he would have sacrificed anything to be able to reach out through the barrier and strangle the guard who had delivered it. Instead, he drew his face into a disdainful smile and asked:

"I wonder why the Allfather thinks I would be interested in hearing this."

The guard, the usual mask of indifference replaced with grief, turned away with a curse which he did not bother to keep Loki from hearing. How convincing he must be then.

He raised the illusion with hardly any thought, feeling again the pain of the Allfather's cruelty: to allow him access to his powers, but never more than a fraction, never enough to do more than taunt him. It was a whisper meant only for him to hear: it is all out of your reach. And then, worse, you will never see her again.

The illusion remained standing, proud, smiling – and Loki broke the furniture to pieces.

He was not allowed to partake in her funeral ceremony.

All of Asgard were there, he knew, gathered together like the flock of sheep they so often resembled, seeking comfort in each other's sorrow and bereavement, saying their farewells to loved ones. To the Queen.

And here he was, in the dungeons, kept alive because of a woman who no longer existed as anything other than stardust in the vast cosmos of the universe.

His illusion stood tall as Loki sank to the floor, hands to his face, crying for the only mother he had ever known.

When Thor came, Loki had not seen him since their return to Asgard. His brother had looked pained then, now he reminded Loki only of the Allfather, burdened by responsibility, stricken with ageless sorrow – but unlike Odin, not broken by them.

"After all this time, you come to me, brother… Why?"

Why? Why was he not broken? Where had he been, when Frigga was murdered? How could he have failed to protect her, the only woman who meant anything, the only woman who meant the world? More than any world.

"To gloat? To mock?"

"No more illusions, Loki."

He had not planned to do it, but he did. He dropped the illusion, letting his brother see. See him, as he was, as what must appear as nothing more than a broken doll in a broken room. Why was Thor not broken?

"I know you seek vengeance, as much as I do. You help me escape Asgard and I will grant it to you: vengeance, and out of this cell."

Loki cast a glance around the cubicle that had been his lodgings for – how long now? A year? – and back to Thor again. How capable, how unable to surrender, no matter how foolish the mission. He laughed.

"You must be truly desperate to come to me for help. What makes you think you can trust me?"

Thor had turned away but he stopped, instantly, and replied:

"I don't. But mother did. You should know that when we fought each other in the past, I did so with a glimmer of hope that my brother was still in there somewhere. That hope no longer exist to protect you. You betray me, and I will kill you."

There was no jest in Thor's words. Unlike Loki, he had never mastered the art of lying, of making fun with a serious face or tell truths while having them appear as so much silly nonsense. The god of thunder was speaking in earnest, and what he offered was vengeance, and freedom. Release, not only from the palace dungeons, but from the feeling of uselessness, of a debt unpaid. What was it she had said, the agent? I've got red in my ledger, I'd like to wipe it out.

He could not help but smile, and hummed to himself.

"When do we start?"

Revenge is an act of passion; vengeance of justice.

Injuries are revenged; crimes are avenged.

- Samuel Johnson