persephone_kore: (write on fire)
[personal profile] persephone_kore
Title: A Tale of Two Lokis
Authors: Khilari and Persephone_Kore
Summary: Thor and Loki were not the first of Odin's loved ones to bear those names. After the events of the movie, Loki is planning his next moves when he discovers a frost giant imprisoned in a volcano, who proves to be both the uncle he was named for and Laufey's first child. Soon Loki has a new mentor, Asgard is shaking off isolationist tendencies, Jotunheim is receiving foreign aid, and Earth is suddenly and vividly reacquainted with the existence of aliens....

Chapter 11

The Bifrost project was proceeding well and speedily, or so Thor was informed. It was certainly keeping a good portion of Asgard's magicians busy, including both of his parents and Sigyn. It was occupying Jane as well; given the time and energy she had spent pursuing both the Bifrost and the lesser natural phenomena it was based on, Thor couldn't be surprised that she divided most of her time between her magic lessons and using them to watch the process in fascination.

It was a little odd for Thor himself, though, especially as his usual closest companions were all on Midgard... for one reason or another. He found other ones easily enough, though it wasn't quite the same. And he flew out every day to watch for at least a little while. He wasn't the only one; it was a magnificent project, and much of the populace either remembered the first building or had never seen quite such a momentous undertaking. So they would come out as they had time, by horse or on foot, to where the rainbow stretched out flat instead of arching and the turbulent sea curved away beneath it.

Admittedly, it wasn't always much to look at from his perspective -- 'speedily' was perhaps a relative term, and naturally part of the work was actually going on in extradimensional space, although the younger magicians had had to be taught how to find it first. Frequently, from a normal perspective, it looked like Heimdall calling out incomprehensible instructions while everyone else stood around and stared at empty space and muttered at each other. Thor found it more interesting to watch Jane, rapt and chewing on her pen. (One evening, he drew back from an odd-tasting kiss and lit a lamp to find that there were four colours of ink staining her mouth.)

...Still, he wished Loki were there to see it too.

A fortnight after he and Sigyn had dragged the last largest pieces back into Asgard's space and the true work of rebuilding began, Thor turned restlessly away to return to the city and found Nari gazing at the workers too. 'Good afternoon, Cousin,' he said.

Nari started slightly at being addressed, which made Thor feel slightly better about not having noticed his arrival, and then smiled. 'And to you. Are you going?'

'I was. But not for anything urgent.'

Nari half-smiled. 'Do you feel awkward watching the repairs when you did the breaking?'

Thor blinked in surprise. 'Not particularly. Why should I? It was necessary at the time, and I would do the same again if I had to.' A frown. 'Although I might do something differently with Loki. What amuses you so?'

Nari was laughing softly. 'I suppose that's reasonable.'

Thor looked at him thoughtfully. 'Now that I think of it, I'm surprised not to have seen you alongside your mother in the building.'

'It's not my area,' said Nari. 'I can world-walk, yes, but I would only be so much help in creating devices for it. And I might be distracting to some of the people with more useful skills.'

Thor glanced back. 'Perhaps so,' he allowed.

'That, and I needed a rest after Jotunheim. It's easier to do ice magic there than here, but there was so much of it.' A wry look. 'Mother should have rested more than she did, but then, she had been working on her endurance for quite some time. And apparently there is some invigorating drink brought back from Midgard?'

'Coffee!' Thor said happily. 'Yes, it's excellent. You should try it!' He paused, slightly doubtful. 'Well, perhaps you should try it cold. I hear they make an iced version, though I am not sure it would be improved by dilution.'

'It could be made stronger to start with, maybe?' Nari suggested. 'And I am half Asgardian genetically, and phenotypically only mostly Jotun.' At Thor's slightly blank look, he filled in, 'I handle heat better than my father, and he handles it better than the average frost giant.'

'Ah.' That seemed to make sense.

'Actually, I was going to ask...' Nari's smile held a certain secretive mischief, of a kind that meant I'm not telling you what I'm up to just yet, but it's going to be good. It made Thor suddenly and sharply homesick even though he was, in fact, at home. 'How are your temperature tolerances?'

'Reasonably wide.' Recalling one of Nari's remarks the day they'd met, Thor added, 'I was not too badly chilled on Jotunheim before.'

'Vigorous physical activity can make a difference,' Nari observed, a little dryly. 'As can weather magic. Shall we go see how the Vanir's efforts are going?'

Nari, of course, took a shortcut off the Bifrost. He made a brief stop just outside the treasure room so Thor could leave Mjolnir there, where it was generally supposed to stay whenever Thor didn't have it. (And Odin hadn't dropped it on Midgard to make a point.) Thor took a sword instead -- it was less recognisable, and by this point he would be surprised if nothing tried to eat them on the way.

'Was it courtesy that kept you from entering the vault directly,' he asked, back in extradimensional space and thinking suddenly of the invasion that had started all this, 'or could you not?'

'That room is well defended against world-walkers. Odin may have rediscovered it independently, as your brother did, but he certainly remembers learning more of it from Jotuns. Having you along and approving might have been enough, but I didn't care to count on it.' A wry look. 'Especially after what your brother did. I find it curious that he could still free my father as son of Odin so long afterward.'

'He was hiding from Heimdall,' said Thor. 'We thought he was dead.' He wanted to say He is still my father's son, but under the circumstances, that was not exactly a good reason to allow him to run around freeing dangerous prisoners. Even if this one had turned out to be innocent. Relatively speaking. Innocent of wanting to destroy Asgard, anyway.

'I suppose that would do it. Speaking of hiding,' Nari added, 'if we're trying to be subtle, I had better glamour you. Hold still.'

Thor obligingly stilled. Nari's magic felt like a dip in ice water, where Loki's had tended to prickle and Odin's banishment had felt like being scoured from the inside out. Thor had no idea whether this was because of the person casting it on him or the type of spell -- Loki was more a frost giant than Nari, by birth, so that probably wasn't it. When Nari nodded a few seconds later, Thor looked down at his hands and found that they were blue -- touched his forehead and felt faint ridges under his fingertips.

'Yes, it's a tactile illusion too,' Nari said. 'Your body temperature is the same, but anyone who happens to touch you will find you as cold as they might expect.' He grinned. 'You'll still feel the cold, so don't jump too much.'

A little way onward they emerged into a blaze of dazzling white and promptly dropped several inches. Thor blinked -- he'd been expecting darkness -- and waited a few seconds for his eyes to adjust, then bent down and swiped a hand across the snow he'd just sunk into. It came up damp, and he flicked the droplets off his hand. They stood in a field of snow crusted with wet ice. The mountainside nearby was coated only with ice, also damp. The shape of the rocks was familiar: this was near where the Bifrost had placed them.

'It's warmer than before,' Thor said quietly, not sure how sound would carry, or who might be nearby. 'And much brighter.'

Nari didn't quite stop looking grim, but he snorted. 'The second part is because you arrived in the middle of the night before. The first... turn around.'

Thor turned.

They were very near where the Bifrost had opened before, but the ledge where they'd landed last time was gone. The gap revealed that it had been part of an ice sheet over a cavern, which explained the icedrake disappearing under the ice and then emerging to menace his friends and brother.

Far below, there was now a yawning pit, shallow at the edges and strewn with rocks and chunks of ice, funneling in toward a steep neck punched into the center. Cracks led back outward, in some places disappearing under the uppermost layer of snow as they reached level ground. Thor suspected that in the depths of the hole there would still be traces of the Bifrost mark.

'And this is making it warmer?' he asked.

'Not the hole in the ground as such,' said Nari, 'but the excess of energy that degenerated into heat as it struck, yes.' He grimaced. 'Come. I'll show you what it's doing.'

Nari took him into the town and the fields nearest the palace, which meant the walk was half-familiar. Thor thought the ensuing tour would have been more informative if he'd known what Jotunheim was meant to be like. It had looked dark, looming and decrepit before. Now it looked daylit, looming and decrepit, and partially melted. Nearly everyone was a few feet taller than he was and blue, which was stranger when he wasn't fighting them. Most of them seemed to be scowling, although a few offered Nari a civil nod or other greeting. Many shot the two of them exasperated glances and then looked pointedly away. And as Thor paid closer attention, he realized nearly all of them looked exhausted.

It occurred to Thor to wonder about Nari's decision to walk into the Jotun capital on what he'd thought was to be a low-profile trip about the time Nari walked up onto a hummock of ice that grew out of the street as he mounted it, then cupped his hands around his mouth and called, 'I'm looking for ice mages who aren't completely exhausted--'

'Good luck,' someone shouted back.

Nari smiled in much the way Thor himself did when anticipating a battle, and then Thor had to catch his balance as the ground heaved him up beside Nari. 'This is Rym.' Thor looked at him at that. It was a nickname -- strictly speaking, his older brother's nickname. It meant noise; it could refer to thunder; and it sounded marginally like rime. He supposed Nari could hardly introduce him as Thor, but he hadn't been expecting an alias. 'A weather-worker who hasn't had much time with ice mages who are good at working off storms. Anyone want to give it a try, or are we on our own here?'

There was a hopeful stir in a few spots, and Thor offered them a warm -- well, perhaps that wasn't the right word -- an encouraging smile.

Then there was a mutter, not quite soft enough to have been meant to go unheard, of 'More half-Asgardian runts?' in a tone ugly enough that Thor's fingers flexed around where Mjolnir's handle wasn't.

Nari kicked him in the ankle, hard enough that Thor felt it through an armoured boot even though Nari was barefoot. 'Rym isn't half-Asgardian,' he said, in an exaggeratedly reasonable tone of voice, but his red eyes burned. 'And enough of you have seen me work to know that when Asgard sent you the children of the runt King Laufey discarded, we did better for you than all but a handful of your own.' His voice sharpened. 'Now, do you want to spit insults and have a fight, or do you want to help cool things down?'

Thor folded his arms, watching them. And what Nari had done for them earlier must have made an impression, because even the complainers didn't volunteer for a fight. Some of them even came along. Grumpily.

Nari led them out of the city and then gestured to Thor. 'Call your storm.'

'If you can,' someone muttered snidely from a few feet up.

Thor shot him a look and then lowered his head -- not out of shame, whatever the Jotun might think, but to concentrate. It had been a long time since he called a storm without Mjolnir. The smolder of anger simplified it, though, and he could feel the charge building in the air already.

Remembering his purpose here, he swept together all the warmer bits of air he could feel within miles into the nearest larger mass, separating it, pressing it down and trapping it around them along with all the moisture hanging in it, before letting it try to rise. Clouds boiled and lowered above them, pressing up into an anvil and spreading out for miles around.

The humidity Thor hadn't packed into the clouds yet was condensing on the frost giants, running down their skin. One of them scowled and wiped at his forehead. He began, 'Lokisget, I don't think your little weather-mage is much--'

Thor let go, punching his air mass upward, a fist slamming into the palm of his other hand in lieu of swinging Mjolnir. The grey sky lit blue-white and the end of the Jotun's sentence was lost in the crack of thunder. Thor had the satisfaction of watching everyone else jump, even Nari, before a frigid wind screamed down around them and he could see nothing but pelting sleet.

Nari let out a shout of triumphant laughter, barely audible over the wind, and Thor hauled the rising air into a wide upright spiral and kept feeding it. It was invigorating -- more effort than with Mjolnir, but for all his temper, it had been centuries since he'd really cut loose with a storm. He'd built this one so that left alone, it should keep going for hours, maybe even a few days. But he found he could actually feel the ice mages using it, spending it faster. He swept in warm wet air from farther off, as he was fairly sure nobody actually wanted it there, and he kept pushing, exulting in the feel of wind in his lungs and lightning in his nerves.

Lightning laced the clouds above them and peppered the ground; thunder played an endless drumroll; and Thor had to shake himself free of snow and climb several times to keep from being buried in his own blizzard.

Cold hands finally found him and shook him by the shoulder; Thor started to shove them away, then remembered where he was and with whom and why and cleared the air around him to find Nari. A puff of wind brought the shouted words to his ears. 'I think that's enough for now. Aren't you tired?'

Thor blinked. 'Not really,' he said. The storm fed him in return, after all; it would have been more effort to keep it short-term and narrowly confined. 'Why, how long has it been?' His words sounded a little strange and his mouth felt stiff; he realised his face and hands and feet had gone numb. An affinity for weather made him harder to freeze than the average Asgardian, especially in a personally created storm, but there were limits. Perhaps it was time for a break.

'Nine hours!' said Nari. Oh. That explained why it was dark again. 'Leave the storm, unless it's likely to come and start knocking over buildings, and we'll go have some dinner.'

'If I let go of it, it will just drift that way,' Thor said, after taking a moment to think about the prevailing winds. He pointed.

'Shouldn't be a problem.' Nari inspected Thor's hands, presumably looking past his own glamour, and then towed him back toward the city.

'Should we not go home to eat?' Thor asked, thinking of the agricultural problems Nari assured him were there. That was why the Vanir had come. He wondered a second later if he should have been referring to Asgard as Nari's home, then remembered that he'd been right the first time as, appearances to the contrary, Nari had never actually lived on Jotunheim.

'You might prefer the cooking there,' Nari said, 'but if I'm asked why I've had you gone this long, I'd rather it not be on an empty stomach. I'll try to dodge our companions' hospitality and get a chance to thaw you out -- if we find the right restaurant and claim to be in a hurry, we can get food to go that will still be warm.'

Thor laughed, trying to keep it quiet. 'I won't complain about that.'

It was a reasonable plan. It fell apart just outside the city, when a billow of snow blew aside to reveal a looming blue form just in front of them. Nari halted abruptly and bowed, which cued Thor to do the same, a little late. 'King Byleist.'

'Nari.' Byleist stared down at them. 'You keep interesting company.'

'Famed for it, once,' Nari replied. This was true, for all the story had been told less in recent centuries. Thor's elder brother and namesake had fought his way past Jormungand a few times; Nari had somehow decided to stop for a chat, leading to the somewhat mixed blessing of easy passage to and from Midgard. Jormungand had not been interested in the wars.

'I heard word you had come back here with an unknown and unusually short weather-worker.' Byleist gazed over their heads at the clouds, where lightning still flickered. 'And now that in nine hours with a handful of exhausted ice mages you've measurably altered the average temperature on this continent and cleared up a few floods.'

'You have skilled monitors,' Nari told him.

'One might wonder where he's been all this time.' Thor knew perfectly well that Byleist was younger than Loki, born some years after the war ended; he'd been old enough to remember making snide comments about Laufey's new son, and being told firmly that he should expect to meet the Jotun prince on equal footing one day. He'd been sceptical. In spite of his relative youth, Byleist was apparently nearly as good as Odin at being sternly sarcastic. The height advantage might be helping.

Thor lifted his chin and said, 'And yet I don't think you do.' (Beside him, Nari sighed.)

Red eyes flickered. 'This is a change from your previous visit to our capital, isn't it.'

'The circumstances are different.' No recent raiding parties. Less temper. Thor would admit to Odin that he'd been in the wrong that time, disobedient and imprudent; he wasn't saying anything of the kind to Byleist.

'So they are.' A long look at each of them. 'I don't wish to catch you at this again.' And the Jotun king turned his back on them and left.

Nari rubbed a hand over his face. 'That could have gone worse. We don't do subtle well, do we?'

'I never have,' Thor admitted readily. 'But I do speak it well enough to know he as good as invited me back so long as he can pretend I'm not here. We must have impressed him.’

Nari looked over at him and laughed. ‘Oh, don't be modest. Of course we impressed him.’

Thor smirked. 'Now, weren't we going to get dinner?'

The food was... strange. They carried it away freshly cooked, penguin meat and unidentifiable vegetables wrapped loosely in something that was not quite like bread, and Thor ate it hot, preserved from burning his numbed mouth by the fact that nothing stayed too warm for long in this climate. The least unusual part of it was the meat, but he thought he could tell the unfamiliar flavours had been meant to be at their best after being chilled together for a while.

There was less fuss when they got back than there could have been. Heimdall asked, very dryly, if they'd had a good time. (Thor said yes.)

Nari and 'Rym' made a few more visits to Jotunheim, which Byleist and Odin both pretended to ignore. Freya came back and forth from Jotunheim now and then herself and pretended not to be nosy about the Bifrost or what Sigyn was teaching her apprentice. Thor told Jane where he'd been, when she emerged from her own work long enough to notice he'd been missing, and was for some reason soundly kissed over it.

Their next return to Earth came after Sif informed Heimdall that SHIELD had recently located both a missing hero and another small frost giant. The journey took longer than usual because Nari and Jane stopped to commune with Jormungand, and they arrived on Earth (in New York City, where both SHIELD and the ambassadors conducted much of their official business) with Jane still talking excitedly about laboratory facilities and Nari looking both intrigued and slightly confused. The main thing Thor got out of the entire conversation was that Jormungand wanted company and liked Jane, which seemed a reasonable attitude.

Agent Coulson greeted them with an air of suppressed glee, which was outside Thor's previous experience of the man, and barely did a double-take upon being introduced to Nari. 'You want to meet him, don't you?'

'Probably,' said Jane, without missing a beat. 'Who?'

'The man who's been frozen in a block of ice for seventy years and survived it?' Coulson was grinning.

'The new frost giant?' Thor asked, somewhat confused.

'That would be unusual even for a frost giant,' Nari murmured. 'We do have to eat and breathe.'

'What? No.' Coulson shook his head. 'No, that's Jack Frost. We've known where he is. Although not the frost giant part.'

Jane blinked. 'Seriously?'

'He was amnesiac and wandering around on a glacier when they found him and started calling him Jack for lack of any better ideas. The surname's a joke, but he picked it out himself.' Coulson grinned again. It was a strange sight. 'But he actually came to see an old friend. Steve Rogers. We found Captain America!'

Jane's eyes widened. 'Oh my God.'

Thor caught Nari glancing at him for an explanation and shrugged slightly. He had asked for tales of some of Midgard's great warriors, but so far he'd missed this one.

'I think Jane is free to meet him,' Thor said politely, 'though she may also want to talk to you about attaching a laboratory to Jormungand--'

Coulson was distracted enough to look stunned instead of smiling, and Jane squeaked, 'I haven't even written up a proposal yet!'

'However,' Thor went on, 'I should greet the new ambassadors, and Nari wants to meet the new... er, other frost giant.'

'They're supposed to be meeting each other shortly,' Coulson began.

'Excellent! We shall join them.'

Coulson was silent for a few seconds. 'You know, I'm going to assume you know the Nine-Worlds protocol for inviting yourself to other ambassadors' appointments. Follow me, please.' They did. Jane looked around, shrugged a bit, and followed as well.

'More flexible than you might think,' said Nari, clearly trying not to laugh. Thor didn't see Coulson's problem -- they all had reason to speak with each other, even if some of them didn't know about it yet. 'At least when you're either on good terms or holding a significant power advantage.'

Agent Coulson turned to give him an appraising look. 'And which is it with Jotunheim?'

'All parties involved will assure you earnestly that it's good terms.' For just a second there, Nari sounded like Loki, when he was only pretending to be subtle.

Coulson raised his eyebrows. 'Are you not involved?'

'I'm not a diplomat.' Nari smiled. 'It's not false, just not entirely complete.'

'Well, I'd already heard enough to gather that.' Coulson opened a door on what appeared to be a sitting room, whereupon Nari proved that somebody was on good terms, at least, by getting a cry of 'Nari!' and a sudden hug from the Jotun ambassador.

Thor went over to clasp hands with Frey. 'Ambassador. May I present Dr. Jane Foster of Midgard, a physicist and... very dear friend.' He tilted his head toward the two Jotuns embracing and talking over one another. 'They are previously acquainted, I take it.' He'd actually never met Frey before, but aside from the regalia marking him as Vanaheim's ambassador, the man looked like a male version of Freya (a concept which, up until about nine seconds ago, Thor would have classified as unimaginable).

'Lady scholar.' Frey kissed Jane's hand lightly; Jane took this with less flustering than when Thor had first done it. 'And yes, since before she ever went to Alfheim.' He looked up with a fond smile. 'Prince Thor, allow me to introduce my wife Gerd, ambassador from Jotunheim.'

Thor tilted his head back to meet red eyes in an unexpectedly breathtaking cobalt face. He'd heard that Gerd was beautiful -- granted, until recently it had never really struck home that she was supposed to be a beautiful frost giant. (And lately, he'd been spending so much time on Jotunheim that the greatest incongruity was not the towering height or blue skin, but that they were accompanied by a softly draped dress, the elegant angles of her features framed by an elaborately feminine hairstyle and dangling earrings like a string of white bells.) His first impression when she'd flown at Nari had been mostly a rush of white silk; up close and still and smiling, she was rather overwhelming. She smelled, improbably, like an autumn forest. Probably a perfume from Alfheim.

'Charmed,' he said, taking her chilly hand and kissing it.

'Likewise.' She gave him a brilliant smile.

Thor returned it. 'I'm afraid I had limited patience for love stories in my youth, but I see your beauty was not exaggerated.' He straightened and stepped back. It was probably not polite to either Gerd or Frey to stand too close when his face was at the level of her decolletage. 'I don't doubt their account of your abilities as a diplomat, either, but I confess some surprise at learning Jotunheim had sent an ambassador to Earth at all.'

'I was surprised myself at being recalled from Alfheim, but Jotunheim does have interests here.' Gerd cast her eyes down for a moment, then swept them upward, bronze lashes glinting in the light. 'I was also surprised to hear of your visits to Jotunheim.'

Thor opened his mouth, then caught himself short of saying that might have been ill-advised. More than one visit meant she had heard of his more recent ones. 'And here I thought those were not officially acknowledged.'

Gerd smiled. 'They are not. But an ambassador must sometimes hear from her king.'

'Indeed.' Thor wasn't sure if that meant conversations at a distance in this case, or if someone had been back and forth. Interesting, anyway. He hoped their interests here didn't include a quiet effort at tracking down Loki. 'Well, then. I will also admit that I've been wondering where Jotunheim's women are hiding. It's one thing not to meet shieldmaidens among the guards, but among your towns--' He broke off. Gerd was looking off to the side at Nari, and Frey's mouth was twitching. 'All right. What have I said that's so amusing?'

'I think I'd better explain,' Nari said, 'at risk of Frey proposing an educational demonstration, that generally speaking frost giants only have one sex, which can both beget and bear children.'

Thor blinked. So Gerd... So Loki....

'That's fascinating,' Jane said. 'Like... flowers, some of them anyway, or earthworms....' As Gerd smiled and Nari started to laugh, she went pink. 'Oh, God, that sounded bad, didn't it?'

'Don't worry,' Gerd said, grinning. 'I've known Freya for a long time. I am used to sorceresses and scientists.'

'Oh. Still.' Jane looked relieved.

Thor tried to block out the elaborately feminine presentation (which was much in Freya's style, come to think of it) and look Gerd over without being rude about it. The low contralto could be a tenor, the features would require less alteration than Freya's to be taken for male, the dress was the sort lean and straight-bodied women wore to create the illusion of curves. Assume they were all illusory, imagine her dressed as everyone else had been on Jotunheim, and maybe he would have only thought Gerd would be popular with women, not that she was one.

...This was still not translating easily to his brother.

Helpfully, Gerd added, 'The nearest equivalent to earthworms on Jotunheim comes in two separate sexes. We tend to adopt whichever pronoun is most convenient, which is frequently male for social reasons and because in most cases the secondary sexual characteristics--'

Someone cleared his throat, rather loudly. Gerd looked away from Jane and past Thor with a fleetingly startled expression. Thor turned to look at the door, where another frost giant -- this one shorter than he was, and wearing Midgardian clothing -- and a probably-human blond man were both staring fixedly at the opposite wall. The human looked rather red in the face. The frost giant coughed somewhat less noisily and said, 'I thought I had an appointment, but if I'm interrupting a... uh, personal conversation....'

Gerd said, 'I beg your pardon. I've been living with a Vane for a long time. You must be Jack Frost. And your friend would be Captain... Rogers?'

'Yes, ma'am,' said the human. Then, 'Er....'

''Ma'am' is fine,' she said. 'Or Ambassador. Or Gerd, if it would make you more comfortable with the forays into alien biology.'

Captain Rogers, or America, cracked a smile. 'Ambassador Gerd. I didn't plan to intrude -- I was just walking with Jack on the way. It's been a while since we saw each other.'

'You're welcome to stay, if you prefer,' said Gerd. Thor thought perhaps she'd read the same thing he had in Jack Frost's quick glance at his companion -- he wasn't precisely daunted, but he'd just as soon have a friend present. If, in this case, a friend who had for most practical purposes just returned from the dead. 'How do the two of you know each other?'

'Steve is one of the first people I can remember meeting,' said Jack.

'I was on a mission in the Arctic.' Rogers's mouth quirked. 'That didn't involve crashing a plane. And we found this guy wandering around up there, mostly naked and obviously disoriented -- we were amazed he was alive.' He looked over at Jack. 'We caused a couple cases of frostbite and I'm afraid we half killed him trying to warm him up. Then he encased himself in ice and we realized there was something weird going on.'

'I don't remember that part very clearly,' Jack said. 'I remember being surprised by them.'

Rogers chuckled. 'You were a bit of a surprise yourself.'

Jack smiled, then looked over at Nari and Gerd again. He looked a little stunned by Gerd, which Thor thought was an understandable reaction. 'Up until recently,' he said slowly, 'I assumed I was an unusual human.'

Gerd nodded. 'And then Earth suddenly received an alien visitor with blue skin and ice magic.'

'And apparently a few other less unheard-of things in common that I would just as soon not start discussing again.' Jack paused. Courteously, nobody attempted to discuss them while he was thinking. 'I'm not sure there's a delicate way to put this,' he said, 'but does my presence here have anything to do with past attempts to conquer Earth? Could anyone have been, ah, left here?'

'No.' Gerd's response was unhesitating. 'I assume you've noticed you aren't aging as fast as the humans around you, but you're definitely too young to have been here since the war.'

Jane glanced questioningly at Thor; he shook his head slightly. He had been alive since the war over Earth, though he'd been born near the end of it, and Jack Frost did look somewhat older. But Thor was of Asgard and had Idunn's apples, and while he wasn't sure what was normal for frost giants, there had never been anything noticeably odd about Loki in that respect. Anyway, presumably Gerd knew what she was talking about... and if for some reason she was lying, Nari would probably say so eventually.

'What about descent? Could I be part frost giant and part human?' A pause. 'If that's actually possible.'

'I'm part Asgardian myself,' said Nari. 'Gerd and Frey have children. There are some biological challenges, but it's conceivable --'

'The puns are hereditary, aren't they?' Frey said under his breath.

'--And the traits could even have come out after several apparently human generations.' Nari hesitated, looking at Gerd. 'But that wouldn't explain the amnesia.'

Gerd sighed. 'No.'

There was an awkward pause. Frost frowned; Rogers looked between them. 'You have a theory that you don't really want to tell him,' he said, 'and are probably going to anyway.'

Gerd closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them and said, 'I notice Captain Rogers made no mention of a head injury?' When Rogers shook his head, she continued, 'You may have been outcast on Jotunheim.'

Frost took a half-step back. 'Why?' he asked, a bit sharply. 'Are you suggesting I was a criminal? Or would this be because I'm human-sized?'

'More likely the latter. I have no reason to think ill of you.' She sighed again, heavily, and stepped back from him. 'Every so often, for various reasons, there are small frost giants. Runts, if you will. It is an ugly side of our culture that they are often treated poorly and regarded as an embarrassment to their families. Those with exceptional talents have a higher chance of making a place and role for themselves, but it doesn't always happen.' A breath. 'And most of us have some talent for world-walking -- crossing out of the three dimensions of our planet and going elsewhere. Someone who'd been driven out, or grown fed up with their home, might go seeking somewhere else to be. But there are hazards between worlds.'

'There are traces of Ratatosk on you,' said Nari.

Frost's fixed expression faded into bewilderment. 'Isn't that a mythical squirrel?'

'...Squirrel?' Gerd now looked nearly as confused.

'Frenetic. Large teeth. Loves to chatter and carry information,' said Nari. 'Cracks thoughts instead of nutshells. He's actually one of the more dangerous creatures out there in extradimensional space, but fortunately distractable.'

'Well, that sounds pleasant,' said Frost, scowling. 'You think I was either driven away from home or ran off on my own, and got... partially eaten? By a squirrel.'

Rogers put a hand consolingly on Frost's shoulder and said, 'We always knew you were a nut.' (Frost snorted and smacked his hand away, but the frown was gone.)

'I'm afraid it seems like the most likely explanation.' Nari looked sympathetic. 'I doubt it was what you were hoping to hear.'

Frost rubbed at his forehead. 'Can't say that it was. I find I haven't developed an urge to visit, anyway. Not that everybody on Earth necessarily wants me and my abnormalities around, but all the friends and memories I do have are here. And as far as exceptional talents go, I doubt I'd stand out on Jotunheim in polar research.'

'If you're still curious,' said Nari, 'I can answer questions. Or just tell stories. It does have its good points, although it's currently in the middle of a climatic emergency and not a great time to visit.'

Frost blinked. '...Well, now I definitely have questions.'

From which point, they all ended up talking about the weather.

Eventually, the conversation broke up, as the people who'd originally been invited to it all had other commitments. As Thor, Jane, and Nari were in no particular rush, Thor stopped a few random people to ask for tavern recommendations. They were joined at their booth by a short series of hopeful reporters, whom Thor invited to drink with him. He answered questions amiably until the last staggered off without being replaced. At that point, they finally ordered food. Jane spread out some papers and started designing something that occasionally made her flicker briefly out of normal space, and Thor and Nari settled in to sample a wider variety of Midgardian drinks than had been stocked in Puente Antiguo.

'A day of many revelations,' Thor said at last, after many samples. 'Were you expecting what you had to tell him, Nari?'

Nari swirled his drink and swallowed the rest of it before answering. 'There are only so many possibilities to explain a stray human-sized frost giant on Midgard. I had not realised he didn't remember.' He glanced up. 'I didn't plan to surprise you, though.'

Thor snorted. 'It's difficult to imagine Loki as, uh, also a sister....'

'If it helps, my father claims some areas of Jotunheim still refer to yours -- well, as of a thousand years ago -- as a great sorceress.' Thor and Jane both blinked at Nari for that. 'Gerd did mention the role-based pronouns.'

Thor paused. 'It does not.' At all. Teasing Loki for his magic was one thing; the thought of an actual mix-up, especially as Odin was not a Jotun, was... wait. Hiding Loki's true physical nature from most of Asgard would be simple enough, but there were surely times it would have been impractical. Although, granted, unlike Jack Frost he didn't think anyone had ever believed Loki in danger of freezing to death. He frowned into his drink. 'Actually, Nari, how in Hel.... Even aside from that part, would all the doctors have to have been in on it?'

'What?' Nari blinked. 'Oh. Your Loki. Yes, of course, giving them a glamoured patient would be foolish. I suppose Odin could have let Eir in on it, although that might be uncharacteristically forthcoming of him, or Loki could actually be shapeshifted into an Asgardian male.'

'Shapeshifting,' Jane said, 'sounds oddly fascinating, but it makes my brain hurt.'

'Not my area,' said Nari. 'You want Vali for that. He turns into dragons.'

Thor looked up again, intrigued. Vali had certainly looked ready to fight when he'd turned up at the palace, but he'd shown no signs of turning into a dragon. (Let alone more than one. Would that be different types of dragon for different occasions, or more than one dragon at a time along the lines of Loki's doubles?) 'Really. Do you think he'd care to spar sometime?'

Nari chuckled. 'I think he'd love to.' He turned his head. 'Jane, you're flickering. I'll come find you if you disappear, but hasn't Mother been teaching you not to do that?'

'Yes she has.' Jane held up a finger. 'But first, I need to see what I'm doing. I am trying to design an extradimensional lab.' Her other hand tapped the sketches on the table. 'And second, I am very drunk at this point. You notice, I am still coming back on my own.'

'You haven't had that much to drink, have you?' Nari asked doubtfully, then, 'Oh, but you're tiny.'

'And human,' Jane said. 'Although even reduced to mortal, Thor has really shocking alcohol tolerance.' As Thor and Nari exchanged a shrug, she added, 'Does that have anything to do with Jotunheim trying to take over Earth before? That we're at most the size of their "runts"?'

'Well,' said Nari, 'you're hardly the only ones. Jotunheim had been in contact with other worlds for some time by that point. From what my father said, the treatment of runts... improved somewhat after encountering Asgard. Mostly.'

'Thor didn't seem surprised by hearing about it.' Jane looked sideways at him.

Thor shrugged. 'I heard what Laufey did to two of his sons. And I have been spending much time on Jotunheim lately. It was not their faults that surprised me.'

'I can't say it had nothing to do with the decision,' Nari said, 'but it was probably more that you seemed weak enough in other ways to be conquered with a minimum of fuss. Fragile, short-lived, inadequate weapons, less mobility.'

'Ouch,' Jane muttered. 'That hasn't changed, has it?'

'Well,' said Nari, 'no. Or maybe. Both planets have been isolated of late, but you've grown, technologically, while Jotunheim has mostly been licking its wounds.'

'What does that mean for diplomatic relations? I mean... they sent Gerd, I know, but....' Jane rubbed a hand across her face. 'I feel like these should be Darcy's questions.'

'You can tell her about them,' Thor suggested.

Nari drained his glass. 'Sending Gerd means that the kid they've got on the throne now knows he's better off playing nicely.'

Jane raised her eyebrows. 'Kid?'

'Byleist is young,' Thor explained. 'Very young, to be king with none to guide him.'

Nari's mouth quirked. 'Maybe that's why he listened to my mother.'

Date: 2012-05-15 10:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm very happy to find both you and coneycat have updated your stories. :) The culture you're building for the Jötunn is very fascinating, and I find myself wanting to learn more. I'm happy to see Thor taking an active role in helping Jötunnheim rebuild, and I'm hoping for more extensive talks with King Byleist in the future.

I was confused about the appearance of Jack Frost - is he a comics character, or have I missed something?

Date: 2012-05-15 11:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hello and thank you! I'm happy to have finally finished the scene I was hung up on. *g* Most of the worldbuilding for Jotunheim is actually Khilari's, so I wind up watching it admiringly and sometimes springboarding, but we've had all kinds of fun brainstorming adaptations and references. ...And while it works well for characterization, plot, and thematic reasons, I believe Thor's visits to Jotunheim in this chapter were originally inspired by the idea of his brother's shock at the idea of Thor wandering around disguised as a frost giant. *g*

Jack Frost is indeed a comics character. The one here is based on the Golden Age one described here - - and I couldn't resist working in an appearance. Possibly I should add a note about that.

Edited Date: 2012-05-15 11:33 pm (UTC)

Date: 2012-05-22 12:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Frequently, from a normal perspective, it looked like Heimdall calling out incomprehensible instructions while everyone else stood around and stared at empty space and muttered at each other. Thor found it more interesting to watch Jane, rapt and chewing on her pen. (One evening, he drew back from an odd-tasting kiss and lit a lamp to find that there were four colours of ink staining her mouth.)

*laughs and laughs*

Date: 2012-05-22 04:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*grin* Glad to amuse.


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