Chapter Five

In the end, Loki did not attend the Christmas Feast after all and was sure that it played out the way he had seen it through the third spirit he'd encountered. He stayed in his room nearly the entire time until the coronation and did not speak to anyone. He was trying to change the course of his destiny and Thor's and all of Asgard's and he did not have very much time in which to shape it and not nearly all of the facts.

He was sure he was worrying everyone to no end and they completely misunderstood the reason but it had to be done. He might even be hurting Thor but ultimately a few bruised feelings he'd never admit to were a small price to pay for a better future.

It was good that the spirits came to him and not Thor. His solution would probably just be swinging Mjolnir at Loki until he promised he'd never end the world or something.

He never did figure out what they were or how any of that had come to be but he supposed he still had time.

Finally, the day of the coronation had arrived and Loki had no more time.

It was okay, however, because he had more or less decided by then anyway.

He had surprised his brother by being in a jovial mood when he met him before the coronation. They reminisced, Loki turned some wine into snakes, and Thor had actually needed reassurance. Loki had even assured Thor that he loved him even if he couldn't keep the moment serious after that.

Loki had done a lot of thinking and had decided that, despite everything he now knew, there was really no better way to stop the coronation than there had been before his ghostly experience and it was no less urgent to keep Odin on the throne.

As to the story about him being from Jotunheim…well, that was just still so difficult to accept but he did know that everyone had tried to reach him far longer than they needed to if they were pretending so perhaps he could at least see what they had to say about it and then go from there.

It was an inconvenient truth that he knew, somewhere in the back of his mind, but as the days passed it became easier to just not think about it and he started to wonder if he could just continue to ignore it throughout the centuries and not go through an evil period that led to Ragnarok itself. He would see.

Of course the truly drastic action of letting the Jotun into Asgard wasn't enough to stop or even significantly delay Thor's coronation even if Thor did get into an argument with Odin about the wisdom of going to Jotunheim and smashing everything up.

Loki wondered if, now that he was aware that he was a Jotun himself, it should bother him to hear Thor speak of his clear desire to wipe every Jotun out of existence. Strangely it did not. Perhaps he hadn't internalized it then.

Even without the benefit of his ghostly visitors, it would be painfully obvious that Thor would be smarting after being denied vengeance by Odin and it took very little to convince Thor it was his own idea to attack Jotunheim. Honestly, if it would have occurred to Thor in the first place then Loki needn't have done anything.

Loki had intended for Heimdall to stop them but, for some reason, he didn't. Loki wondered, as he often did, just how far-seeing Heimdall was anyway. He always claimed he could not see the future but Loki could think of no other purpose for letting them pass besides some good coming from Thor being banished and meeting with those people he had been forced to watch celebrate.

Jotunheim was…problematic. Loki supposed he could at least credit Thor for having the sense to realize that being completely surrounded by a veritable army when there was a mere half-dozen of them and he was fully prepared to leave and pretend the whole thing never happened. Of course, the fact that all it took was a Jotun calling him a little princess to call the whole tactical retreat thing off still meant that Loki was absolutely right about that whole coronation thing. Not that he ever really doubted it.

If Odin hadn't come, they probably would have been killed or at least held prisoner. If Loki did not quickly get out of Jotunheim…he hadn't intended to let that thing touch him but touch him it had. Loki had quickly slain it but they both saw his milky-white skin darken into a deep and monstrous blue. If the Jotun took possession of him, how long would he be able to keep that secret?

Even though Loki had fully expected Odin to be angry and was perhaps not as alarmed by Thor's banishment as he would have been without knowing that it all would work out fine for Thor, it was truly frightening to watch Odin's terrible anger. He hadn't known that Thor would be banished but he had seen him in Asgard in the future. Did that mean that the time when he was to be locked up was a good long time coming or was Asgard's golden boy only cast aside for a short while?

At least the throne was safe for a few years longer.

Still, people were taking the banishment hard. When Frigga found out she trembled though if it were more rage or sorrow Loki wasn't entirely sure. Odin was clearly unhappy but unwilling to go back on his word now that his eyes had been open to the danger Thor's impetuous nature posed with the powers he normally had, let alone the new ones he should have been granted.

And Sif and the Warriors Three, of course, were blaming themselves.

"We should never have let him go," Volstagg said, not eating for once. His appetite would return in time and probably sooner than Fandral thought seemly.

"There was no stopping him," Sif pointed out.

"At least he's only banished not dead which is what we'd all be if that guard hadn't told Odin where we'd gone," Fandral said, an edge in his voice. He missed Thor, certainly, but no one appreciated a needless near-death experience.

"How did the guard even know?" Volstagg wondered.

Loki knew that suspicious would eventually fall on him no matter what he said or didn't say (something he found rather irksome despite the fact that in this instance it was perfectly justified for them to suspect him) and so he decided that he might as well just come out with it and not wait around for their insinuations. "I told him."

The room froze. Clearly they hadn't begun to suspect him yet. Well, what did they think happened? Heimdall chose to let them go and then tattled on them?

"What?" Fandral looked shocked.

"I told him to go to Odin after we'd left," Loki explained. "He should be flogged for taking so long. We should never have reached Jotunheim."

"You told the guard!" Volstagg said accusingly.

"I did just say that," Loki agreed.

"Why would you do such a terrible thing?" Fandral demanded.

Loki rolled his eyes. "Didn't you just say that Thor would have gotten us killed? I saved our lives and now I'm the bad guy?"

"You're twisting our words," Sif complained, the unspoken 'again' obvious to all. "If you knew that this was such a bad idea that you told your father about it and didn't want us to reach Jotunheim then why agree to go at all? Why do this the sneaky way? Why not just talk Thor out of it?"

"I'm sorry," Loki said, blinking, "didn't you just say that there was no stopping him?"

"None of us could have stopped him," Sif agreed, "but you might have-"

"So I'm to be held to a higher standard than the rest of you?" Loki interrupted scornfully. "Blamed for your failings?"

Sif narrowed her eyes at him. "Loki. You know that you have power over him that the rest of us do not. Your words are persuasive."

"I haven't seemed to persuade you all that this wasn't my fault."

"Give it time," Hogun said dryly.

"I didn't say it was your fault but really, Loki? You couldn't have found a way to get a message to Odin about what we were planning? And don't tell me you didn't have an opportunity. We didn't see you instruct the guard so you could have had him leave quicker or sent a message directly to your father," Sif said.

"Maybe I needed Thor not to be saved from the consequences of his own actions for once," Loki said, surprising himself with this sudden bout of almost honesty.

"What's this?" Volstagg asked, stunned. "Loki, we might have died there!"

"No one forced you to go," Loki said, not looking at him. "And I don't mean that completely. We shouldn't have reached Jotunheim but Thor just would not listen. He argued for war and my father explained that he would not plunge us back into war with the Jotun. You know that fighting them is how we are supposed to destroy ourselves one day!"

There was an uneasy silence as they all thought of the prophecy of doom and destruction that constantly hung over all of them. Loki knew that, when it came, it was not Thor's fault but that vision would never come to be.

"He wouldn't listen," Loki repeated. "Father just thought it was his anger speaking and, in a way, it was but he didn't seem to realize that Thor was ready and willing to go spark a war so easily. I wanted Father to just realize how dangerous this was and to address it properly."

"Are you telling me that this has nothing to do with you not wanting Thor to be crowned?" Sif asked seriously.

"I'm telling you that the fact that Thor would have done this so easily means that you can't make this about my jealousy," Loki replied. "I saved our lives. And Thor's. You know that I did. And I really had no idea that Father would banish him for this. This is just so…unbelievable. Tell me that any of you would have expected that he would do this."

"No, we wouldn't," Volstagg admitted.

"Thor banished," Fandral said, shaking his head. "I might have expected some sort of punishment but this does seem a little extreme."

"Loki, you must go to the Allfather and convince him to change his mind," Sif said urgently.

"What makes you think that I could succeed where you have failed?" Loki asked rhetorically.

Sif just gave him a look.

"I didn't seem to make out very well with Heimdall earlier today."

"But earlier today you were actually trying to get us stopped," Fandral reminded him. "So I really don't think that counts."

"What makes you think that bringing him home is even a good idea?" Loki asked.

Sif stared at him. "Thor being banished is a bad thing. You said yourself you didn't want it to happen. How is unbanishing him therefore not obviously a good thing?"

"Thor has been stripped of his powers and will not get them back until he can life Mjolnir again and be worthy," Loki said. "I'm a little puzzled as to how Thor was found worthy up until my Father decided to banish him and he was not found unworthy when he was doing any of those things that he ended up getting banished for but then the concept of worthiness has never really been all that clear."

"He does have a point there," Volstagg said.

"At least he would be in Asgard," Sif said.

"Powerless in Asgard. Frankly that doesn't sound safe," Loki told her.

Sif rolled her eyes. "Protected here by us he wouldn't be safe but helpless and alone down there in Midgard he would be?"

"You're not showing a great deal of confidence in my brother, Sif," Loki noted. "But then again, after today's display I suppose that's not surprising."

Sif looked as though she would dearly have liked to hit him.

"How would he even prove worthy up here? No, I do not see the point in trying to bring him back when he has not regained his powers as it would only end part of the punishment and might very well make the second part impossible."

"And how do you propose he will prove worthy down there?" Hogun asked.

Loki shrugged. "I haven't the faintest idea. Perhaps he will heroically but foolishly charge into danger to save somebody and prove his worthiness there. You know we would never allow him to do that while powerless here and the dangers would be so much more likely to kill him in this state. And who knows? He may even learn something and will be a better king for returning."

Sif threw her arms up in the air. "You cannot possibly tell me that you think doing this to Thor will be for his own benefit!"

Loki shrugged again. "Who can say? But you seem to be forgetting that this was not my doing."

With that, he turned and strode from the room.

More than likely, they still wouldn't be appeased but he really didn't see how – even if he truly had nothing to do with any of this and wanted Thor back as uncomplicatedly as they did – bringing Thor back when he still had to prove his own worthiness would actually help matters any.

He didn't have time to worry about that, though. He had a secret to confront.

He truly did not want to which was why he delayed it as long as he did but something told him it would be better to do this when Thor was not around to make everything all about him.

He went to the weapon's vault and stood in front of the Casket of Ancient Winters for a long time, just staring at it. He knew what would happen if he touched it. When he touched it. He had seen it happen to another him that would never be now and back there on Jotunheim. As a prince not currently in exile, he was free to go to the vault whenever he saw fit but he knew that Odin would hear of it.

And when he sensed the king's approach, he picked up the Casket and let the magic wash over him. It felt wrong especially in how it kept trying to trick him into thinking it felt right. He knew better, though.

"Loki, stop!" Odin shouted from behind him.

He'd been told that many times over the years. Sometimes he ever should have heeded those words although, of course, he never did. He was trying now, trying to stop the future from ever coming to pass. But even so, things kept happening and he was getting caught up and now there were some things that could never be taken back.

Loki turned around slowly and grinned mirthlessly. "It's a little late for that, don't you think?"

There was a strange emotion in Odin's eyes at the sight of his blue son. "Loki…"

"I suppose you've got some perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this."

Odin slowly walked into the room. He looked tired. Banishing Thor had taken a lot out of him emotionally even though he wouldn't change his course now. He and Loki were a lot alike in that way, weren't they? The last thing he needed was more drama on the family front but how could Loki possibly wait until Thor had gotten his act together? The man had been at it for centuries and hadn't gotten it right.

"I do have an explanation, yes, but I do not know how reasonable you will find it," Odin replied. He sighed. "I wish your mother were here for this."

"You could always go get her," Loki suggested.

But Odin shook his head. "There isn't time. You can seek her out after this but you have picked a truly unfortunate time to have this conversation. We must get through it now, though, because otherwise I cannot even begin to imagine the damage that may be done."

Loki could and he swallowed hard. "Very well. What is your explanation?"

"You weren't born here on Asgard, Loki."

Loki fought the almost overpowering urge to say something sarcastic at this point. He had rather gotten that. But it looked like the Odinsleep was approaching and the last thing he wanted was for Odin to escape this conversation by becoming comatose indefinitely.

"No, you were born on Jotunheim," Odin admitted. "It's easy to forget that sometimes."

Loki couldn't help but laugh at that. "Is it really? I hardly fit in here."

"You hardly seek to blend in with everybody else," Odin corrected. "And I believe that you would refuse to do that no matter where you grew up or under what circumstances as that is just who you are. It is who Thor is, too, but he achieves that by being what everyone else is only more so. Being unique doesn't mean you don't belong."

The words were gratifying but Loki wasn't sure he could trust them. They were good words to try and salvage the situation and now that Loki knew something had to be done so he didn't make a complete mess of it. Other than killing him or imprisoning him for discovering the truth, which was a little extreme, what else could Odin do?

"You were the son of Laufey but you had been abandoned," Odin said. "It's a barbaric part of their culture. They leave their infants out in the frozen wasteland and come back later to see if they've survived. They say it is an important part of their culture and how they ensure that only the strongest survive and the weak do not bring them all down but they must kill so many children that way."

"So I was just going to be left there for awhile and then retrieved?" Loki asked, surprised. "That hardly sounds abandoned, Father."

Odin perked up a little at being addressed thus but it was more because Loki didn't have a better word for him than out of any conscious choice. "You would not have survived, my son. You were dying already when I found you. I have no doubt that should they ever learn the truth they will accuse me of interfering and kidnapping you when what I did was save your life and had I left it alone they still would not have had you in their lives so I cannot see that I acted wrongly."

"So I was too weak to survive," Loki muttered distastefully.

"You were an infant placed in a snow bank," Odin said. "Do you really think Thor would have done any better?"

"Thor isn't a frost giant."

"Loki, you may not be able to take as many hits as your brother before being brought down but your fighting style also means you won't have to. If he is in any sort of real fight at all he'll get hit at least once because he is out there exposed for his opponents to attack him and after the first throw of Mjolnir he tends to attack at closer quarters," Odin explained. "I've seen you win difficult fights without once getting hit. It isn't a matter of which fighting style is better but playing to your strengths. If Thor can get hit a dozen times before weakening and you cannot it would be the height of foolishness to fight as he does and yet perfectly sensible for him to do it."

"I feel like that's basically a kind way of saying 'it's alright that you're weak because you're smart'," Loki replied.

Odin shook his head. "Physically being able to get a lot or survive in the frozen snow isn't all that there is to strength and is really only the most limited area. I've seen you fight, as I've said, and I've heard plenty about the fights I wasn't there for. When you were fighting on Jotunheim, I suspect that they must have laid hands on you for you to have come here and yet you were uninjured. Everyone you defeated survived being abandoned where they wouldn't have but their foolish traditions cost them someone brilliant and powerful. And that is even only just addressing strength. Intelligence is not to be discounted and even if you had no particular virtues, which you do, no one deserves to die at birth."

"Not even people who grow to do unspeakable evils?" Loki asked rhetorically.

"It is a bit of a gray area if, should the opportunity arise to kill someone that you for some reason are able to know will always commit these acts and you cannot stop them any other way but killing them, you should kill someone who would grow up to be unspeakably evil," Odin replied. "It would not be moral and they would not deserve to die before they have done anything evil but I could certainly see the argument that it would be for the best."

Loki could, too, in a way that Thor never would and that cheered him somewhat.

"You should never have been left there and any rights that Laufey or his people had to you were terminated when you were left there to die as far as I'm concerned," Odin said.

"But why take me?" Loki asked. "Yes, you said that you did not believe I deserved to die as I was just an infant but there's a pretty big difference between saving my life and raising me as your son."

"I hadn't planned on it, exactly," Odin admitted. "But when I touched you your coloring changed from Jotun to Asgardian and I knew that it would be easier if I didn't tell the realm who had suffered so much as the hands of the Frost Giants that an abandoned prince would be living here among us. And I took you home to show your mother and tried to figure out what to do with you and…well, perhaps there was a reason I never could think of anything."

There were several things that Loki could think of to do. Fostering was not so uncommon and there had been plenty of orphans made by the war. The thought that Odin couldn't come up with anything and what that must mean warmed him.

"You were easier than I thought to get attached to even if I have never been able to understand you as well as your mother does or as easily as I can Thor," Odin said. "And when you were my son you were my son. What does the rest matter?"

Still, there was something bothering him. "But surely there was some other reason. You had an heir to the throne of Jotunheim, albeit an unwanted one, and you had the chance to raise me in Asgard to believe the things that you do. Tell me that there wasn't some sort of plan, an ulterior motive. Tell me why you never told me this until now."

"I did hope, especially when I saw what our war did to people's perceptions of Jotunheim, that one day when either you or Thor were on the throne-"

"You still act as though my becoming king were possible!" Loki couldn't believe it.

"It was. It is, particularly since Thor is banished. I hope that there is hope for him but it is out of my hands now." Odin sounded sincere though that was not strictly true. He could have brought Thor back and probably even taken back whatever he had done to Mjolnir. Loki could not say he didn't understand why Odin wouldn't, though.

"I'm a frost giant," Loki said helplessly.

"You are Asgardian," Odin corrected. "That will never change no matter what else you do. If you wish to claim your other heritage then that is your right."

Loki couldn't speak.

"The truth was never meant to be hidden from you forever. I had hoped that, with as close as you and Thor were growing up, even if Thor were on the throne his love for you would prevent him from dismissing the entire race as monsters and it would be even easier if you were on the throne not to see your own people as irredeemable monsters," Odin said.

That was perhaps a miscalculation. It was always easier for Thor to change his mind and see good things than it was for Loki to stop being suspicious. Thor would look at his brother and decide he must be wrong about Frost Giants sooner than Loki would conclude that he had not been beget of monsters.

"As for why I didn't tell you sooner…you are right," Odin conceded, "it is a little late to be mentioning it now on the day that Thor should have become king and if you were not here now I would not have told you today. If your mother were here she would say that I did not have the heart but, as king of Asgard, I cannot afford to let that sort of sentiment blind me. I should have told you. It just…took awhile to find the words."

Loki tried to imagine a scenario in which Odin could have told him the truth and it wouldn't have hurt him. Perhaps as a child…but no, back then he had been far more insecure of the fact he wasn't like the others and children said far more terrible things about the Frost Giants than did adults. Honestly, if it had to be true he would have preferred to have never known it at all and that was not something Loki would say lightly. Odin couldn't change the fact that he had found out, however. Nothing could.

"Father…" Loki said slowly, hesitantly.

Odin, who had been looking progressively more worn out as the conversation progressed, sank to his knees. "Don't let this change anything, Loki. Your brother has failed me enough today. Do not let me awaken to face disappointment in you, too."

"I won't," Loki promised quietly as Odin's eyes slid shut. "Guards!"

Loki silently joined Frigga's vigil over Odin. He would not be sitting there the whole time and neither would she for who knew how long the Odinsleep would last this time but it felt wrong to leave just yet.

"He told me, you know," Loki said casually.

Frigga understood instantly. "I hope he was able to say what he needed to say before…" She looked over at Odin and took his hand in hers.

"He told me that I was born in Jotunheim," Loki said. "He said that he should have told me earlier."

Frigga nodded. "I asked him to be honest with you from the beginning. There should be no secrets in a family."

It was all so simple for her, wasn't it? It was something she and Thor had in common. Family was family even if they weren't. But perhaps he would find it just as simple if he were not the misfitted one. There was really no way to be sure.

"So what did he lie?" Loki asked. He admitted he shouldn't have but the closest he would come to telling him was saying that Frigga would have said it was not having the heart to.

"He kept the truth from you so that you would never feel different. You are our son, Loki, and we your family. You must know that," Frigga said earnestly.

"I don't feel different," Loki admitted. "I feel like I should. Everything has changed."

"Nothing has changed," Frigga disagreed gently. "No one outside of your father, Heimdall, and myself know but it would not matter to Thor or your friends. You have to know that."

"Do I?" Loki asked rhetorically.

"Do not think so little of them and their loyalty after all these centuries."

"I wish I had known," Loki said.

"You wish it weren't true," Frigga corrected.

Loki smiled wanly. "Can you blame me? Apparently Father wanted me to build a bridge to peace or something."

"We both want to avoid another war and not just because the stories say that a war with Jotunheim will one day destroy us," Frigga said. "But we would not force you to do anything you don't want to do. As long as we can keep Thor from attacking Jotunheim, one way or another, I believe that we should be alright."

"As long as you can keep Thor from attacking?" Loki repeated. "Mother, you do realize that he's banished right now. What makes you think that he'll return?"

"I do not pretend to know how quickly he will be restored to us," Frigga admitted, "but we Aesir tend to live for a very long time. Assuming your brother doesn't get himself outright killed down there, or at least not in a way that doesn't prove him worthy, then I am sure that eventually he will figure it out. He was worthy before this, after all. And if he takes too long maybe your father will just give up and bring him home but I cannot imagine that Thor will be allowed to take the throne after all that."

Loki tried to imagine becoming king if Thor wasn't seen as worthy. He found it hard to believe that, as a Frost Giant, he would be allowed to ever take the throne even if there was no one else but he didn't think he would care for the throne itself. He would want it to prove that he could handle it and be a decent ruler and belonged after all but being king himself? It sounded rather stifling.

"I'm sure it won't come to that," Loki told her. "Thor may be thick-headed but after a few decades even he will get the picture."

Frigga smiled at him. "You are a good brother, Loki, and a good son."

All of this was because he had tried to be both and to protect the realm even if no one knew it and they might be saying some very different things if they had. "I hope so."

"I know so," Frigga said firmly. "I understand that this is a lot to take in. I was always a little relieved that your father took telling you upon himself when he decided this was to be a secret because I was never quite sure how to. I cannot imagine it was any easier for him which is how I was able to forgive him as the centuries went by and he showed no sign of planning to tell you the truth. I am glad that you are taking this so well and trying to understand that we not think any less of your nor was this ever meant to hurt you. And the only thing this had to do with Thor was that we thought it might be nice for him to have a brother. We thought it would be nice for you to have one, as well."

"Thank you."

Frigga smiled at him. "There is no need, Loki, for I am your mother."

"I should…there are things I need to do," Loki said, standing.

"We'll be here," Frigga promised.

Loki was halfway to the door when it flung open and the guards dropped to their knees. A man came forward offering Loki Odin's scepter.

Loki just stared at it dumbly. He knew what it was and could make some educated guesses as to why it was here and yet, somehow, it didn't make any sense.

Frigga spoke up behind him. "Thor is banished. The line of succession falls to you. Until Odin awakens, Asgard is yours."

Loki turned to her. He could feel that there was something pathetically open and vulnerable on his face but he didn't seem to know how to make it stop.

"Even after…"

Frigga nodded. "Even after."

"You've always ruled whenever Father was in the Odinsleep before," Loki reminded her.

"And the time has come for you and your brother to grow into your roles," Frigga replied. "Thor was supposed to be king now anyway. He cannot and so you shall be."

"Does Father know?"

"We didn't discuss it in the short time between Thor's banishment and his going into the Odinsleep," Frigga said and there was something in her voice there. She didn't approve of casting Thor out even if she did fully believe that one day he would return. "But he can hear me now and he would not disapprove."

That, more than anything that either of them had said or that Thor might say in the future, convinced him that what they said was true. He might have been born a Laufeyson but he had been an Odinson since he had first lost his blue coloring that day in the snow.

Loki took the scepter.

"Make your father proud."

He would. He owed it to him, to all of them, for getting them into this mess in the first place. Odin would not approve of his methods, he was sure, or he would have invoked them himself but it had to be done and he would not shy away from his duty.

Loki was sitting on the throne, trying to pretend it wasn't rather discomforting and like a little boy playing dress up, when Sif and the Warriors Three approached, their faces a mask of determination.

His only consolation was that he was sure that Thor would look at least that ridiculous even if his boundless arrogance meant that perhaps he wouldn't feel that way. But then, right before the coronation he had sounded uncharacteristically self-conscious when he asked Loki how he looked.

"Allfather, we must speak with you urgently-" Sif started to say before she caught sight of him and faltered.

Loki could only imagine what they were thinking. Just because he might have said that Thor getting banished wasn't the worst thing in the world (something Fandral had even agreed with!) and had gotten the help that saved their lives was no reason for them to be looking at him like that. "My friends."

Fandral wasted no time getting right to the point. "Where is Odin?"

"Father has fallen into the Odinsleep. It has been quite awhile since the last time he did so if you'll recall."

"We would speak with your mother," Sif said.

"She refuses to leave my father's side but she would probably agree to see you, Sif, if you were to go to her," Loki said consideringly. "Though I really do not see why you would go to her with what you seek since she is not ruling in my father's place this time."

There was a clear horror among the group as this sunk in that Loki found rather insulting. They really shouldn't be left alone without him or even Thor because clearly they started thinking all sorts of mad things. It had been less than half a week!

"I didn't steal the throne if that's what you're thinking," he said sourly.

"It wasn't what we were thinking," Volstagg denied unconvincingly.

"Mother said that Thor and I are old enough to rule when Father is incapacitated like this seeing as how Thor was to become king himself. It's perfectly reasonable, seeing as how Thor is banished and powerless, for me to assume the throne until my father awakens which will probably be any day now," Loki said smoothly.

"It just seems a little convenient, is all," Fandral said slowly. "You did not support us in ending the banishment."

Loki rolled his eyes. "I assume I'm about to find out that I only did that so I could get to have the throne for a week or less while my father recovers from his unexpected Odinsleep."

"I wouldn't go that far-" Fandral started to say.

"Why not? It would certainly work out well for you since, once my nefarious week as king is up, it should mean I would have no problem trying to convince Father to let Thor return," Loki interrupted.

"Loki…" Sif started to say then stopped herself. She gestured to the Warriors Three and the four of them hesitantly kneeled before Loki.

"My King, we would ask that you end Thor's banishment," she entreated.

An appeal to his pride. Well, as far as approaches went that wasn't a bad one. And rather distracting at that.


Sif looked puzzled. "What do you mean 'why'? He is our friend and your brother and he doesn't deserve to be banished."

"I am not my father. I did not take Thor's powers from him and all I could do would be to bring him back to Asgard," Loki pointed out.

"Then bring him back to Asgard as a mortal and let us do the rest," Sif requested.

"Sif, my father exiled him for a reason. You know that Jotunheim is still threatening war and all you want to focus on is the fact Thor's been gone for two days?"

"That's not all I'm focusing on but I can't do anything about Laufey until he declares war and if war comes we will need Thor. Just because we have a bigger problem than the loss of Thor doesn't mean that his loss is still not worthy of note," Sif said heatedly.

Loki sighed. "If I brought him back it would only last for however long it took for my father to wake up and send him back to Midgard and we might all be punished as well. We were fortunate that my father did not see fit to make us face the consequences of following my brother to Jotunheim."

"If he were brought back here then it would be easier to get Odin to change his mind than if Odin had to retrieve him from Midgard," Sif pressed. "And if you would just help convince him! You know you can!"

Loki shook his head. "I just do not understand what your obsession with preventing Thor from becoming a better person down there on Midgard and proving himself worthy is."

"Do not even pretend that is what I am saying," Sif said angrily. "This is not right."

"This whole situation is not right," Loki said. "You may not be able to do anything about Laufey but, as acting king, it is my responsibility to make sure we do not go to war. If you wish to go see Thor then by all means do it but I must trust that Thor proving himself worthy will only benefit everybody, himself included."

"If I may, beg the indulgence of your Majesty, to perhaps reconsider," Volstagg said, forcing a chuckle.

"I've made up my mind and I do not do so lightly," Loki replied. "The way that you're looking at me as if I'm enjoying Thor's punishment! I never wanted him banished. I never thought this could happen. But you have yet to explain to me why, other than we all miss him, he should return and what argument could you possibly ask me to present to my father?"

"He's a prince of Asgard!" Sif burst out. "He should not be treated so!"

Loki nodded. "He is a prince of Asgard. All the more reason that he become worthy and quickly. I hope that your visit will do him some good."

They didn't look happy but they did leave. Loki considered the odds good that, even if he forbade them from going after Thor, they would go to see him anyway. As long as there was no stopping them, he might as well give his blessing and not have to deal with his friends becoming treasonous.

The moment they left, Loki closed his eyes and projected himself down to Midgard where Thor was.

His brother was wearing mortal apparel which made sense but still looked rather strange on him. Thor always looked a little wrong when he wasn't wearing his armor but this wasn't even Asgardian. Loki had decided to appear in Midgardian dress as well despite the fact that no one but Thor would actually see him. Sometimes he just liked to play the part and he rather thought his outfit was more fetching than Thor's.

Thor was sitting on a chair in an all-white room that some mortal had just exited and looking completely defeated. Loki had often despaired of his brother's arrogance and recklessness and thought he had wanted to see him humbled but…not this. Never this.

This hurt to look at.

"Loki. What are you doing here?" Thor asked bluntly.

Loki might have been offended under other circumstances. He supposed his showing up like this was rather unexpected and, while Odin probably hadn't told Thor he could have no visitors, having no visitors during his banishment was kind of expected. "I had to see you."

Thor leaned forward in his chair, clearly expecting the worst. "What's happened? Tell me. Is it Jotunheim? Let me explain to Father-"

"Father has gone into the Odinsleep," Loki interrupted. He was a little surprised that Thor was so concerned where earlier he had not thought through his actions at all despite the seriousness of the situation. Perhaps this exile was doing him some good already.

"Oh." Thor looked shaken. "Right now? With Jotunheim poised to attack?"

"The timing is hardly ideal but we've been keeping news of his incapacitation quiet so they won't be able to take advantage of it," Loki replied. "And I do have a plan for dealing with that anyway."

Thor nodded like that were the most natural thing in the world. "You always did have a gift for strategy, brother."

"I'll try to live up to my reputation."

Thor looked nervous all of a sudden and whetted his lips. "Loki…if you are here now and Father is in the Odinsleep that means that either your or Mother are ruling Asgard. Can I…can I come home?"

Loki looked away. "Thor-"

"I understand now, I really do! I never thought to provoke a war and I don't want to face one," Thor interrupted.

"That's not good enough," Loki said reluctantly. "Father cast the spell, you have to be worthy to wield Mjolnir. You were always worthy before so maybe you have to be extra worthy or something, I don't know. The most we could do would be to bring you back to Asgard a mortal. You must see the folly of that. You have to be worthy here first before your banishment can ever truly be over."

Thor's shoulders slumped. "You're right. I didn't understand before but just now, in the rain…I couldn't lift it, Loki. Mjolnir. It was always so much a part of me, so much a symbol of who I was and now I'm as unworthy as anyone." He suddenly glanced at Loki. "I mean no offense."

"And none is taken," Loki said though, honestly, a little bit was. Thor always was so tactless. At least he was trying. "You'll find a way. Mother believes in you and, though he did not directly address the matter, I believe that Father thinks that it is only a matter of time as well."

"That's a lot of pressure," Thor said unhappily. "I don't even know what to do."

Loki shrugged. "You have time."

Thor gave him a look. "Thank you, as ever, for your kind words of sympathy."

"I feel like I've been perfectly sympathetic," Loki said.

"You would."

They lapsed into a comfortable silence.

"Why did you come here, brother, if things are much the same they were when I left?" Thor asked. "I appreciate being told that Father is in the Odinsleep but it was not necessary to tell me and he will come out of it in time."

Loki smiled sardonically. "Maybe I wanted to get to you before your friends did."

"Our friends, Loki," Thor automatically corrected.

"Not when they're nagging me to bring you back even though this can only be good for you because they miss you and acting like I'm some sort of power-mad monster because I won't try and go against Father in this they aren't," Loki countered.

Thor smiled despite himself. "They've been giving you a hard time? I am sorry to hear that though grateful and relieved at their loyalty even considering what my foolishness nearly cost them."

"Fear not, Thor, they would follow you if you personally started Ragnarok out of boredom," Loki told him. "Though that's not actually a good thing."

"I don't think I'll ever be quite that bored," Thor said, laughing. "Besides, we agreed it was never happening, remember?"

"I do," Loki said quietly. "It won't." He cleared his throat. "They're coming to see you and I didn't want you to hear their highly-biased account of what had happened before I got the chance to see you."

"And I'm sure your highly-biased account is better than theirs," Thor teased.

Loki shrugged. "I think so."

"Well, don't worry. I'll evaluate the two stories together like I always do," Thor promised.

"And then choose me because I'm your brother."

"And then probably choose you because you're my brother unless you're really really in the wrong," Thor corrected. He sobered suddenly. "Do you really believe that I can do this, Loki? I'm trying but I don't even know…I thought all I needed to do would be to find Mjolnir and go home and everything would be the same but it's not working out like that."

"I know you can do it. You're stubborn and don't give up even in the face of all common sense and when things are impossible you're just incapable of understanding it so you do it anyway and-"

Thor held up his hands. "No more praise, brother! My head will not fit through the door."

Loki rolled his eyes tolerantly. "For all your faults, Thor, I've always known that you meant well. You know that you need to change and, even if you don't know how, you'll figure it out. It's just who you are."

"Thank you. It is good to know that you are on my side."

Loki looked away.

"Loki?" Thor asked, concerned.

"There is…something that I should tell you," Loki said hesitantly. For all the proof he had seen in the future that Thor would honestly not care about the 'adoption', he didn't want to tell him now. But surely now that his parents knew that he knew Thor could not be kept in the dark forever and worrying about him finding out would probably be worse than even Thor's worst reaction. After all, it was one thing if a changed Thor after many years decided it wasn't a big deal in the context of Loki deciding to turn against Asgard and bring about Ragnarok because of it but his initial reaction here and now might be something a little different.

But while he may rely on tricks more than foolishly charging straight into battle, he was not a coward and did not intend to become one now.

"Thor, I found out something terrible right after you were sent here," Loki said.

"What is it?"

"I suppose I actually found out on Jotunheim," Loki said, feeling a little more sympathy for Odin never telling him if it were even a fraction this difficult for him to find the words as Loki was now finding it. "Thor, they touched me."

Thor's brow furrowed. "Are you alright? Someone – I do not remember who – was burned by their very touch."

"It did not burn me, Thor, though I wish it did," Loki said bitterly. "It turned my arm blue."

Thor blinked. "…Is that so? Well. I mean, that's rather odd, isn't it? Maybe it has a different reaction to different people who touch it. We only knew it burned one person. Or maybe touching different Jotun does different things to you. It could be because of your magic that it could not hurt you but did change your coloring. Who knows what would have happened if you had kept touching it. You're a shape-shifter; you could have turned into a Jotun!"

Loki just stared at him for a moment. "Are you…are you deliberately not getting it so I have to spell it out?"

"Deliberately not getting what?"

"That's not an answer," Loki grumbled. "Thor, apparently I was born on Jotunheim."

"Why would you be born on Jotunheim?" Thor asked blankly. "I mean, maybe it was just a bad day when we went but it seemed rather cold and unpleasant. Why would anybody want to go? And why Mother go to Jotunheim during the war when she was pregnant? Was Heimdall taking the day off or something?"

"If I weren't intangible right now I would probably stab you," Loki informed him. "Although since you're mortal now, an intangible stab might still do the trick…"

"I don't understand why you're threatening me," Thor said, frowning. "Why don't you just tell me whatever it is I'm apparently not getting."

"I was the son of Laufey."

Thor gasped. "Mother would never!"

Loki's eyes widened. That thought was not one that had entered his head before and he really wished it hadn't. "That's disgusting."

Thor nodded. "I know. How could you say that?"

"I wasn't, trust me," Loki said, grimacing. "I don't actually know who the woman who gave birth to me was but it wasn't Mother."

Thor stared at him. "Are you sure? It all seems a little unlikely."

"Do you really think I'd be here telling you that I'm actually a Frost Giant and, more than that, the son of the king who wants to kill us all, if I wasn't sure?" Loki demanded.

Thor hesitated.


"What? It's just that you do sometimes overreact to things when you get upset and don't stick around to hear all the facts first," Thor told him.

"I do not-But that doesn't matter," Loki said. "I went to the weapon's vault and picked up the Casket of Ancient Winters which made me resemble a Jotun. I asked Father about it before he went into the Odinsleep and then Mother and the pair of them confirmed it."

Thor promptly stood up and then sat right back down again dramatically.

"What was that?"

"I just felt like that was the sort of moment one should sit down for but I was already sitting," Thor explained. "That is…that is really rough, Loki."

"That's it?" Loki couldn't believe it. Odin and Frigga might be calm and full of 'it changes nothing's but they had known the whole time and Thor had been kept just as much in the dark as he had. He was sure of it since Thor simply could not keep a secret to save his life.

"I'm sorry, I'm a little wrung-out right now," Thor apologized. "I know that this must be completely world-changing for you. I don't even know what I would do if it were me." He paused. "Is it me? Am I a Frost Giant, too?"

"Of course you're not a Frost Giant, too."

"Before just now I'd say of course you weren't one either," Thor pointed out. "Did you ask?"

"No I didn't ask," Loki snapped. "I didn't need to."

"Well then you don't know," Thor said. "You're just making assumptions because you want to be different and you think I'm too Asgardian to be a Frost Giant."

This was ridiculous. "Why wouldn't they mention you were a Frost Giant when they told me that I was?"

"Maybe they wanted to tell me first," Thor suggested. "Why didn't they tell you?"

"They said they didn't know how or didn't want me to feel different or something like that," Loki said dismissively. "You're really not a Frost Giant."

Thor crossed his arms. "I might be."

"I will turn into my Jotun form and prove it," Loki threatened.

Thor rolled his eyes. "Nice try but you're not really here so you can't."

He had him there. "Don't you hate Frost Giants? You wanted to kill them all two days ago."

Thor looked embarrassed. "Well that was two days ago. As you recall, I'm changing for the better. Besides, that was before I knew you were one."

"So now that I'm a Frost Giant, they're not all bad," Loki said sarcastically.

"Obviously," Thor said, nodding.

"…That doesn't even make any sense, Brother."

"Sure it does. I had never met any good Frost Giants before and only heard horror stories of the war and pretty much stayed away from them aside from the ones who attacked my coronation and the ones who we fought two days ago," Thor said. "It was pretty easy to see them all as bad. But now you're one – but mostly Asgardian – so obviously they can't all be evil."

"You're taking this very well," Loki said. It was almost an accusation.

"I'm sure if it were me I'd be as upset as you are," Thor was quick to reassure him. "Does anybody else know?"

"No and please don't tell them."

"I won't," Thor promised. He frowned. "I really hope you're telling the truth about me and I didn't just fall for the lamest lie you've ever told."

"I think we can all agree I've told far lamer lies," Loki said. "Like that time I pretended that you were invisible for three years."

Thor nodded. "I cannot believe I fell for it. I didn't at first but you were just so persistent!"

"I'm not lying about this," Loki said sincerely.

"I can hardly just take your word for it, can I?" Thor asked rhetorically.

Wordlessly, Loki turned blue.

"Loki, not that I don't appreciate this attempt to try to prove it to me whether this is real or not, but you're a shape-shifter. And not really here anyway so you could make your projection look like whatever you wanted. It doesn't prove anything."

"Then you'll just have to ask our parents when you get back!" Loki cried. "Which had better be soon."

"Oh, it will be," Thor agreed. He smiled. "I know it hasn't been very long but it has been very…difficult. I'm glad to see you, Loki."

Loki disliked showing sentiment as a general rule but this was a rather special circumstance. "As if you'll even be gone long enough for me to miss you. Can't even get being exiled right…"

He heard Thor's booming laughter as he came back to himself.

While he was making plans to lure Laufey to his doom, Loki was keeping a close eye on his Thor and the day after he had given his blessing for Sif and the others to go find Thor they showed up at his door beaming. Even Hogun was looking thrilled and that was a bit of a strange sight to behold.

Loki wondered what it was that had taken so long. Maybe they didn't trust his acquiescence and so needed to try and figure out if they should really go or not.

"My friends!" Thor had said happily before introducing them to the people he was staying with (Darcy and Jane and some other man Loki had mercifully not been introduced to by those spirits).

"Thor, we've come to bring you home," Fandral informed him.

"You know I can't come home," Thor told them.

"We can convince your father," Sif told him. "He's had time, the threat is cooling down, and banishment is hardly necessary."

Thor shook his head. "Loki said that-"

"Whatever it is, I'm sure it's not true," Volstagg interrupted. "We tried to get him to help us and he wouldn't."

Thor nodded. "I know. Here, let me tell you what my brother told me and you can see if he was lying. He said that my father is in the Odinsleep and my mother named him king until Father awoke. He said Laufey still threatens war but he has a plan to deal with it. He said that I will not be truly myself again until I prove worthy and I'll know when I am because I'll be able to lift Mjolnir again. He said that until I do become worthy it would be best to stay here then to be in Asgard. Is any of that untrue?"

Sif looked very unhappy. "It would not be for the best for you to be away from Asgard."

Thor smiled sadly at her. "You know I would be of no help against our current foes if they do attack. If anything, I would be a hindrance. They could easily capture or kill me in this state. And here I have a chance to be in a place that doesn't know me as their prince. Already I am not who I was. Here I have a chance to prove myself. You know that were I to come home nobody would let me do anything and I would be stuck as a mortal forever."

"You won't come back?" Fandral asked, disappointed.

"I wish that I could. It means the world to me that you came. But one day…" Thor said wistfully.

"This isn't fair," Sif protested.

Thor shrugged. "We could be a lot worse off. By all accounts we should have all died when I led us to Jotunheim."

"It was never your fault alone," Hogun spoke up. "We all made the choice to follow you there, even Loki."

Fandral shook his head. "I still think he's up to something."

"Loki is Loki, I would be terribly surprised and a little disappointed if he wasn't," Thor said simply. "But do you think that what he is up to is designed to hurt me or Asgard?"

Fandral slumped. "No, no I don't."

"Then let's let him be 'up to something' and see if he can't avert this war," Thor suggested. He looked at their disappointed faces. "But just because I'm not coming home yet is no reason why you have to leave so soon."

Loki was, in fact, up to something and – while risky – it was also quite brilliant. He could assassinate King Laufey himself and look like the hero for doing so since Laufey had come to kill Odin while he slept helplessly. Yes Laufey was technically invited to do just that but he didn't have to take Loki up on it, did he? As far as Loki was concerned, Laufey deserved what he was going to get.

The fact he would so easily believe Loki when he claimed that he wanted to murder his own father just for something so craven as power a rankled further. Yes Loki could be very convincing but the idea made him quite ill so he hardly thought he was at his best.

This man, this coward, was the man who sired him but he certainly was no father. Loki would feel nothing when he ended him.

He did get some satisfaction from telling Laufey that he was ended by the son of Laufey.

Loki had specified that his mother was not to be harmed and yet she was so casually thrown across the room. Granted she was attacking them but they were there to kill her slumbering husband so Loki rather thought that she had the right. She was so very grateful to him for saving Odin and not even slightly suspicious. Of course she wasn't. Loki would never let Frost Giants kill Odin.

There was a slight worry that Laufey's cowardly attempt to kill Odin might spark feelings of rage and clamors for war among the Asgardians as it died down among the Jotun but Loki was confident that Odin wouldn't let it come to that. No one wanted to risk Ragnarok.

Maybe this path was the path that he had started down in another life where he had cut his ties with everything and one day became a man who killed kill Thor so casually. It didn't matter because he did not intend to go any further down it. Laufey was dead and Asgard was safe no matter what sort of questionable methods had been used to ensure that.

"You have done well, my son," Odin's voice sounded and Loki looked away from his mother to see that his father had awoken and was sitting up in bed.

Frigga let go of him to run to her husband. "Oh, I was so worried! The sleep was so different this time."

"I should not have put it off for so long," Odin replied. "But I thought that if I could just hold out until Thor was king then it would not matter. I will not delay so in the future."

"How did Laufey even get in here?" Frigga asked.

"Presumably the same way that they were able to breach the palace before," Odin said grimly. "This is a serious security matter and one that will need to be looked into immediately. I do not know how they were able to conceal themselves from Heimdall. It would take powerful sorcery indeed."

Heimdall knew that Loki could cloak himself like that so he might as well admit to that right now.

"I have found ways to travel between the realms that does not involve going through the Bifrost," Loki told them. "I do not know how they were able to conceal themselves from Heimdall but perhaps they used one of the ones I use. I have not found a road that leads to Jotunheim but then I was not looking."

Odin nodded. "I would have you show me."

"Of course."

"I am not pleased to see people die in my bedchamber and even less so to see them cut down moments before they could slay my husband but I am glad that war has been averted," Frigga said, sighing. "It has been averted, has it not? Surely the Frost Giants could not seek retribution for this!"

Odin considered. "I do not believe that they would though our own people may want vengeance. I will have to just remind that them we do not want another war and that the death of the conspirators will have to be enough. It is fortunate in a way that Laufey was among them so we will not have to wonder about whether he was involved. I can only hope the new king will be so pragmatic."

Loki swallowed. "I'm sorry for any part that I might have played to imperiling Asgard, Father."

Odin shook his head. "It's not your fault. Even had you goaded Thor into going to Jotunheim, which I half-suspect since you made plans to alert me before you arrived, he still made his own choices. I trust the consequences of your act will be enough to make you consider your own actions more carefully."

Loki nodded. It was difficult to keep things from the Allfather. "I will."

"I'm sorry that I fell into the Odinsleep before we had truly finished our discussion," Odin told him. "I hope that you have come to terms with your origins."

Loki looked Frigga's way. "It wasn't easy, Father, and I still don't think that I'm entirely comfortable with it. I don't want people to know."

"They won't."

"I'm not ashamed of who I am but…" Loki trailed off, trying to find the right words. "I don't feel like that's me no matter where I came from. And yes, I think I'm more or less alright."

"I'm so glad," Frigga said, smiling at him. "You have no idea how I've worried over this day."

Loki snapped his fingers. "But that reminds me! Sif and the Warriors Three still haven't gotten back from visiting Thor yet and I projected myself down there before that to tell Thor about my…discovery. He wants to know if I'm really absolutely positive that there's no way he's a Frost Giant."

Whatever reaction he had been expecting, Odin bursting into that same booming laughter of Thor's wasn't it. But it really could have been worse, all things considering.

It took months but one day Heimdall called them all to the Bifrost with the news that Thor had been restored to himself and was coming home.

Loki was more pleased than he would have expected to hear it. Things just hadn't been the same without Thor and once Sif and the Warriors Three had gotten back from Midgard Odin had let them know he wanted them to keep away from Thor for awhile so he wouldn't become reliant on them and would seek out worthiness on his own.

Perhaps Loki still peeked in on him here and there but Thor didn't see him and that was what mattered. Thor certainly seemed pleased with Jane Foster and Loki saw that Thor had met most of the other people he had had to look in on all those months ago.

Their friends were very anxious to see Thor but they were respecting the family's right to greet him first.

The moment Thor, dressed in his favorite armor again, appeared in Asgard Frigga pulled him into a hug that seemed like it would never end. Thor didn't look like he minded.

What was more surprising was that when she let go Odin stepped up and hugged him as well and that was a far rarer occurrence. "My son."

"My father," Thor replied. He looked over at Loki.

"What? I'm not going to hug you," he said flippantly.

Thor laughed. "Next time I'll stay gone longer and you'll be begging me for a hug when I return."

"Stay gone longer and I'll move into your room."

"Perfect! Then your room will be unoccupied when I return to reclaim my own," Thor declared.

"Boys," Frigga admonished but she was still smiling. "Thor, what happened?"

"I was contacted by an organization called SHIELD. They were in charge of keeping people safe and handling more specialized threat including people from other realms. I was not a threat nor was in a position to conquer anybody but they still offered me a chance to help. I trained in their way of combat and made adjustments for my lower power level," Thor explained.

"I even joined something called the 'Avengers Initiative' to deal with what my friend Tony Stark calls 'a jumped up pseudo-threat because Fury wants his own personal Justice League.'"

"And then you were proven worthy?" Odin asked.

"Eventually," Thor said, looking a little embarrassed.

"You had to die, didn't you?" Loki asked rhetorically.

Thor coughed. "Yes, well, apparently worthiness demanded that I be willing to lay down my life to protect others. I was doing that the entire time I was there but…evidently it had to be more literal than that."

Frigga looked alarmed. "So what happened?"

"I was helping evacuate small children from a school that was the target of an attack when a foe appeared. He was trying to attack the children and I would not let him so I was shot instead. They tell me I was dead but I don't remember that. I just remember waking up in my armor with Mjolnir and my powers restored. I finished the mission, promised to return, and came here," Thor explained.

"I knew that you would prove yourself," Odin said, pleased. "I am proud of you, my son."

Thor smiled back. "Thank you, Father. I would like to stay for awhile and find out what I have missed in my absence but then I would like to return to Earth and continue protecting its inhabitants."

"Not permanently, I hope," Frigga said, alarmed.

"No, of course not," Thor assured her. "It would not be for more than a few years, I believe, and I would not have to be down there all of the time."

"What about the throne?" Odin asked.

"In a strange way, I believe it may be a blessing that all of this happened," Thor said. "I would have made a terrible king then. I hope to one day make a good one but I think I'm going to need a few decades yet before I'm ready."

"In the meantime, I can continue to fill in when you need to go into the Odinsleep, Father," Loki offered. "Seeing Sif's face when Thor is no longer banished but he still does not take the throne would be worth a great many things."

Thor grew thoughtful. "I have been thinking about you two…"

Loki blinked, mystified. "What about us?"

But Thor just looked mysteriously smug and said nothing.

"I am glad that this ended as well as it did," Odin said. "I was worried at some points that it wouldn't. I'm glad we all learned something but, boys, please promise me no more trips to Jotunheim."

"I promise," they intoned dutifully.

"We can't keep nearly getting into a war and having to kill their kings or sooner or later they'll run out of them," Loki said reasonably.

"And we don't want them to keep trying to invade Asgard, either," Frigga said pointedly. "Your father almost died the last time."

Thor drew back. "Wait, we killed Laufey? And he nearly killed Father? When did this happen? Why didn't anybody tell me?"

"Oh, it's all fine now and that was ages ago. But weren't you listening?" Loki asked. "No more trips to Jotunheim."

"I only went there to nearly start a war one time," Thor complained. "Are you never going to let me live it down?"

"Never," Loki confirmed.

Thor groaned.

Loki did not know where, exactly, they would have been if he had not changed the future but he suspected it would not be anywhere this good. He would have to keep an eye out for this Malekith when he showed up again – if he showed up again and please let that not have been entirely his own fault – but for now things seemed to be going well. He could almost pretend that he had never come from such a hateful place, especially since people weren't talking about it as much.

He still thought he handled the attempted war better than Thor would have but maybe this new wiser and more mature Thor would be better at openly taking advice and Loki wouldn't have to manipulate him so often. Of course he probably would anyway because it was fun and he was who he was but knowing he didn't have to would still be nice.

He was the son of a king and one day he'd be the brother of a king and have his ear. That was all of the benefits of ruling with none of the drawbacks. When the day came for Thor to really become king, Loki thought he might even be okay with it.

After all, he had never really wanted the throne anyway. But he was certain he looked better sitting in it than Thor did and sometimes you had to take your victories where you could.