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 17

Heimdall brought them in, looking as impassive as ever. The control room looked the same as it always had as well, as if it might never have been broken. Loki wondered whether he should apologise to Heimdall for freezing him, or whether the fact that Heimdall had been trying to stab him at the time meant he didn’t need to be sorry. Odin nodded to him and they continued on, walking onto the part of the Bifrost that stretched between Heimdall’s control chamber and Asgard where it was too close to their planet to risk its continual presence as pure energy.

The glittering trail stretched out in front of them, winding a safe way through extra-dimensional space that nothing deadly could approach. The last time Loki had been on the Bifrost he’d been fighting Thor, seeing it smashed, falling. The stars beneath him - not real stars, some of them were planets and others were alive, and he could tell which these days - were the same as the ones he had fallen into then. If he looked down he could almost trace his own fall, the way he had tumbled, terrified, so far off the safe tracks he’d painstakingly mapped out, thoughts a jumble of adult despair and childish once I’m dead they’ll be sorry, before the instinct to live pushed him to catch himself and make his shaken way back to a place he recognised.

Thor’s hand gently took his shoulder and steered him inward and Loki realised he’d been walking almost on the very edge. Falling now wouldn’t have hurt him, he was still wearing an unactivated falconskin, but the gesture of concern was enough to break something and Loki crumpled to kneel on the Bifrost as it became a smudge of light through tear filled eyes.

Thor knelt as well, a blurry presence in front of Loki, and put his hands on Loki’s shoulders. ‘Brother,’ he began.

‘I’m not - I thought I’d have to die to make things right and I’m so relieved I didn’t,’ Loki managed. In the background he could hear Lopt saying something sharp in an undertone. ‘And you were all there.’

Odin’s hand closed over one of Thor’s, resting with it on Loki’s shoulder for a moment before Thor moved away to let Odin take his place, and Loki blinked up at him trying to clear the tears enough to see his Father’s face. ‘I am proud of you,’ said Odin, quietly. ‘For wanting to put things right. And more relieved than I can say that you are still alive.’

Even though Loki knew perfectly well that Lopt had just prodded Odin into saying that he could hear nothing but sincerity in Odin’s voice. Maybe he was just too tired and emotional for cynicism, but he clutched at Odin like a lifeline and when Odin awkwardly put an arm around him Loki pressed his face against his Odin’s shoulder and didn’t try to stop the tears. Everyone else was gathering as well. Frigga stroked his hair, Sleipnir, maybe attempting some horsey comfort of his own, tried to eat it, and gradually Loki’s breathing evened out leaving a calm that was not the earlier numbness of just trying to get through his life’s last moments without breaking down. Now he had broken down, and his life would go on, and none of it had been as bad as he feared.

Loki wiped away the tears and stumbled to his feet, feeling better but even more exhausted. ‘Thank you,’ he croaked.

Frigga put an arm around his waist, possibly for physical support as much as emotional. ‘I think you need to go to bed when we get home,’ she said. ‘You too,’ she added to Lopt, who, when Loki glanced over, was holding tightly to Sigyn and looking as tired as Loki was.

‘Save your maternal instincts for where they’re needed,’ Lopt said, lightly.

‘Does that mean you’ve finally started acting like an adult?’ Frigga teased back.

Lopt grinned, faint but real. ‘I’ve been an exemplary one.’

‘Bed sounds good,’ Loki admitted. It did and tomorrow - well, he didn’t know what he’d do tomorrow. But he could work that out when it arrived.

Bed sounded good to Thor, too, but he had obligations to discharge -- and he probably would have lain awake anyway, had he tried. His nerves were thrumming with a mixture of lightning and jubilation, worry and the awkward standing-down of a crisis resolved without a fight.

He watched his brother all the way off the Bifrost, first. He believed Loki when he assured them he was glad not to have died, and he was grateful for the words and intensely grateful today that Loki liked to explain things, and had done it then. He also knew very well that his brother was now more than a thousand years old, even if the celebration did seem at once yesterday and, with all that had happened, a long time ago -- and Odin having found him explained why they were so close in age, nearly twins by Asgard’s standards, where most parents waited at least a few decades between children.

And the point was, Loki was perfectly capable of walking along a broad bridge, even dead on his feet, and especially with their mother to lean on, but Thor couldn’t stop himself from watching anyway. Even though Loki would probably be exasperated by Thor’s hovering and accuse him of acting like a mother hen, if he were more alert to it. Just about the only person Thor would take that from, too, just as Loki wouldn’t put up with ‘cow’ jokes about his helmet from anybody else. Thor had been surprised at how casual some people on Midgard could be about comparing people’s behavior to that of animals. He’d confused Jane once by asking if there were more shapeshifters around than he’d thought.

When Loki had been seen into bed and the other Loki had gone off with Aunt Sigyn, Thor turned to his parents. ‘I should return to Midgard,’ he said quietly. ‘They should be told of this.’

‘Yes, of course,’ Frigga said, looking puzzled, ‘but is it really that urgent?’

Thor blinked at her, startled, then heard Freya’s musical wry laugh and realized that -- of course -- they had hardly stopped to explain anything, and Loki had been making a point of frustrating Heimdall’s far-seeing. ‘He tried to capture Jane’s notebook. It’s why Nari and I went to Earth in such a hurry. Jane called us.’

Odin grimaced slightly. ‘How bad was it?’

‘Not very,’ said Freya. ‘No one is dead or permanently maimed -- and yes,’ she said, forestalling whatever Odin had opened his mouth again to say, ‘I am accounting for mortal recuperation and medicine. I also performed a few healings before I left.’

Odin inclined his head to her. Frigga looked relieved.

‘I’ll go with you,’ Freya informed Thor, then looked at Nari. ‘Do you want to come?’

‘I am not a diplomat,’ Nari replied, drawing a faint smile from Thor at the echo of Nari’s first meeting with SHIELD. ‘Thank you, but I think I’ll tell the tale to my siblings.’

It was a swift trip back. Heimdall raised an eyebrow under his helmet but didn’t need to ask questions now, so their first real halt was at the SHIELD security check, where Thor apologised for bowling them over in his earlier rushed entrance.

He and Freya took the stairs to the laboratory, where Fury straightened and turned, nearly managing to loom. “Prince Thor of Asgard. Lady Freya of Vanaheim.’ He paused, eye fixing on Freya. ‘I heard a report that I think must have been a misunderstanding. That you’d said something about letting him go?’

‘I did, General.’ Freya smiled formally at him. A muscle in Fury’s temple twitched. ‘All things considered, I thought letting him retreat was the best choice at the time.’

‘Loki is at home now,’ said Thor. ‘He surrendered the Casket of Ancient Winters to Jotunheim’s king and returned voluntarily with us to Asgard. He has abandoned his plans to conquer Earth.’

Fury stared at him. ‘He told you this?’

Thor blinked. ‘He came home.’

Fury rubbed a hand over his face. ‘And I guess that tells you a lot.’

It did. ‘Yes, of course.’ As it apparently told Fury somewhat less, Thor added slowly, ‘He has returned to our family instead of trying to set himself apart from us. He has offered recompense and reconciliation to Jotunheim rather than continuing to protest that the people he was born to are monsters... as I’m afraid we both believed throughout our childhood.’ He looked Fury squarely in the eye. ‘Asgard will not permit Earth to be conquered. And I believe neither Loki nor the Jotun king is likely to try now.’

‘Well, I hope not.’ Fury sighed. ‘And you’re the one who told us he was planning it in the first place, or we might not even have known he was here‘ This was likely true; they hadn’t been able to find him even when they knew to look. Loki had evidently been very quiet about taking apart falconskins and growing impossible trees. ‘But isn’t this an awfully abrupt change of heart?’

‘Less sudden than it seems to you, I think,’ said Freya. ‘How is the scholar?’

Fury frowned at the sudden new topic. ‘Jane?’ He glanced up at Thor. ‘She seems to be all right.’ Back to Freya. ‘She said you healed her. Medical couldn’t find anything wrong, but she was exhausted, so they put her to bed when they were done with the tests. Not that long ago.’

‘May I see her?’

‘Could I stop you?’

Thor paused before answering, at first baffled and then thinking, coming up for air from his preoccupation with family matters. It was a bit of a relief. But of course Fury was on edge. His pride had been stung -- partly Thor’s fault -- and he was worried for his people. ‘Because of the trust I have for you, yes,’ Thor told him. ‘Is there a reason to?’

Fury stared at him for some seconds, chin tilted downward and his one eye rolled up to meet Thor’s. The missing one gave him, to Thor’s mind, an air of longer experience than he probably had. Then he sighed and said, ‘Not really. Although I’ve heard you don’t have the best history with medical facilities.’

Thor rather hoped he wasn’t blushing. ‘Earth’s are somewhat different from the ones I know in Asgard, and I misunderstood the situation. I do not plan to disrupt the one here.’

‘You know where it is, I think?’

Thor nodded and took his leave of Fury. As they set out, Freya murmured, ‘Is there a tale here, and how much mead must I offer to get you to tell it?’

Thor covered his eyes briefly, then gave her a rueful smile. ‘I’ll tell it, but I may ask for the mead later as consolation. My first meeting with Jane and her colleagues was tumultuous. It was when Father had just banished me and made me mortal. I inadvertently alarmed Darcy, and she felled me with one of this realm’s weapons. They took me to the nearest equivalent to a healing room -- but I did not recognise this, and it seemed to me that I’d been attacked and awakened in a strange place where people attempted to manhandle me and spoke of taking my blood.’ He looked away. ‘They subdued me with drugs and tied me down. My second attempt to escape was quieter and somewhat more successful.’

‘I can see why you were concerned,’ Freya said. Her tone was tinged with merriment, but not altogether unsympathetic. ‘Under the circumstances, it sounds as if you did rather well.’

‘Less well if I had not encountered Jane again,’ he said wryly, ‘and if she had not been kind.’

Freya waved a hand. ‘It is one thing to manage the wilderness alone. It’s quite another to manage a city, even a little one, without knowing anyone. Though I am hardly surprised you made friends.’

They had arrived at the medical wing while speaking, and Thor strode up to the desk, offering the official there a warm smile. He could practically feel Freya being dazzling from half a step behind him. ‘Thor Odinson and Freya Njordsdottir,’ he said, ‘to see Dr. Jane Foster, if we may.’

‘You can do that,’ the official told them, frowning slightly. ‘Room M04. She was actually very emphatic about allowing visitors. Especially Thor. But she might be sleeping.’

‘She will sleep a great deal for the next few days,’ said Freya. ‘Perhaps we should ask her if she’d like to do so in Asgard instead. What formalities are required to release her from your care? Would it help that I treated her initial injuries?’

Thor glanced at her in surprise. The official frowned more deeply. ‘Lady Freya,’ she said, ‘I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Dr. Foster isn’t injured.’

‘I know,’ Freya said patiently. ‘I did just say I’d treated her.’

Thor smiled, carefully didn’t laugh, and gestured to indicate his intention before setting off.

He went first to the doctors’ break area and helped himself to a cup of coffee, then went looking for Jane’s room while he sipped it. The medical ward SHIELD maintained here at their scientific facility was a small one, mostly to deal with laboratory accidents, not long-term patients. Room M04 proved to be decorated in slightly warmer colours and held none of the medical equipment that surrounded most of the beds there. Jane lay on a bed less than knee-high from the floor, rather than high enough to work at while standing. Thor looked around and decided this might be where their doctors napped during long days or other periods of high alert. He knelt by the bed; there was just room to sit on the edge, but only because Jane took up little space, and he didn’t want to risk tipping it over. ‘Jane.’

She woke slowly; her eyelids flickered without actually parting several times, and her eyebrows drew together slightly. Thor began to suspect she’d forgotten what she was waking up for, so he called her name again.

This time her eyes opened, although she still looked rather bleary. ‘Wh-- Thor! What happened?’

‘Loki took the casket back to Jotunheim,’ he said. ‘Byleist acknowledged it as a gift of reconciliation, and we left in peace. He’s home now.’

Jane blinked at him a few times, then sniffed. ‘I think I need coffee to process this....’

Thor offered her his cup.

‘Oh, but you’re drinking that....’

‘I can get more. Or get you more.’ He smiled at her as she sat up and decided to take it after all. ‘Besides, it’s customary in Asgard to share cups between guests or couples.’

She took a sip, savored it even though it wasn’t very good coffee, and regarded him bright-eyed over the fragile paper rim. ‘I thought it was customary to throw them around.’

‘It depends on the occasion. Smashing them is mostly for emphasis.’

‘Mm. You’ll have to tell me when it’s appropriate.’ She drank again again and handed the cup back, and Thor put his arm around her. She snuggled into it. ‘So... that’s all okay? Loki’s not trying to take over Earth anymore, Jotunheim’s not starting it up again, we’re all friends now?’

‘Something like that. He is... he is home and acting like part of the family again.’

She rubbed her forehead. ‘Is it just me, or is this really sudden?’

Thor couldn’t help smiling. ‘General Fury said much the same, but less charmingly.’

‘Not just me, then. I mean... he was just here. Attacking people and trying to steal my notes.’

‘True.’ Thor turned the cup in his fingers. ‘He used the casket more expertly and less harshly than on Vanaheim, but I am aware that is only so much help. I could apologise on his behalf, now, but I suspect you would rather hear it from him.’

Jane looked rather intrigued, around a yawn. ‘D’you think that’s likely?’

‘He seems to have decided -- rather abruptly, as you say -- to make everything right. I do not think he can have come here intending to return the casket. When next you speak, it would make sense for him to apologise. Especially if he hopes to discuss your work again.’ A pause. ‘Freya was suggesting that you could sleep as well in Asgard as here, and I could guarantee you a better bed. Would you like to come?’

She hesitated -- he wondered if she had experiments running, but he was fairly sure she shouldn’t be sleeping in laboratories. ‘I wouldn’t be in the way? Of the family stuff?’

‘I would like to have you there,’ he said sincerely.

She looked at him for a moment, then kissed his cheek and took a deep breath. ‘Guess I’d better pretend to be awake long enough to tell SHIELD, then.’

Thor grinned at her. ‘I think Freya is telling them. You need only consent.’

Jane chuckled. ‘And when Freya tells you something, you are told.’

Thor had just put Jane to bed (she’d fallen asleep on the way off the Bifrost) when a messenger sprinted up to tell him the king and queen wanted him because Byleist had established a far-seeing connection. He joined them in the throne room as the formal greetings were ending, to see Byleist, seated now on Jotunheim’s throne with the casket on his knees and his hands resting casually atop it. The image was slightly translucent and a bit glassy, as if seen through ice.

‘Ah,’ said Byleist. ‘Rym.’

Thor bowed shallowly. ‘I regret my lateness. I had an errand in Midgard.’

‘I did not exactly arrange a time in advance.’

‘Nonetheless, this is not so much unexpected as unexpectedly early,’ said Odin. Thor rather expected him to ask why, but he simply left the statement there.

‘I would prefer to go forwards better informed,’ said Byleist. ‘Your younger son has so far been volatile in his motivations and surprisingly effective in his actions. My planet has been nearly destroyed and then saved on his whim. So I think you’ll understand when I wish to know what he is thinking, and what is being done with him.’

Byleist, Thor thought, was not the only one. Although he supposed they could hardly say that.

‘I can understand your concerns, yes. If you want Loki’s own report of what he is thinking, you’ve called too early,’ said Odin. ‘Thus far, we’ve sent him to bed.’

‘Could I trust his own report of what he is thinking?’ asked Byleist. ‘And I doubt sending him to bed can be the whole of your solution.’

Odin paused for a moment, with an air more of thought than of hesitation. ‘I imagine you could, but he might not say much.’ He met Byleist’s gaze squarely for a long moment. ‘What I can tell you,’ he said gravely, ‘is that I had failed to realise how thoroughly the war dominated his perception of Jotunheim, in comparison to the prior millennia of friendlier relations. And that having fully considered his prior actions, his gift was sincere and made with little expectation of survival.’

‘The war dominated the perceptions of all of us born after it. If I hadn’t come to the throne needing your help I might never have discovered it didn’t have to,’ said Byleist. ‘I don’t doubt his sincerity. I doubt his stability.’

‘I admit that he has been very abrupt. I do believe he is calmer now; it may be somewhat more reassuring to you that he is also where we can keep an eye on him. Not to disparage my brother’s efforts in that vein.’

‘That is something,’ said Byleist. He considered Odin for a long moment. ‘I think you should know that many of my people are expecting you to punish him, since we returned him to you. Skadi is one of them, and somewhat imaginative in her suggestions, although I think she would stand up for your right not to.’

Thor stiffened slightly. He wasn’t surprised that there were people on Jotunheim who wanted Loki to suffer, but --

‘I thank you for the information,’ Odin replied. ‘I think it only fair to tell you, in turn, that I am much relieved to have him home,’ which Thor supposed was roughly as surprising as what Byleist had said, ‘and thank you for your forbearance.’

‘For what it’s worth,’ said Byleist, ‘and from a purely practical point of view, I am quite glad he will not be punished. Unless you intended to lock him away permanently I doubt punishment would do more than stir up trouble for all of us.’

‘Then you are wise beyond too many of your elders, on many worlds.’ Odin’s voice was a touch rueful.

‘Becoming king of a world in crisis forces one to be aware of the responsibilities of the role rather quickly,’ said Byleist dryly, then smiled, one hand curling over the casket on his lap. ‘I am looking forward to enjoying some of the privileges.’

‘I remember that.’ Odin didn’t quite smile back, but his expression did lighten. ‘And I do wish you joy of them.’

Bylest bowed his head, returning Odin’s not quite smile. ‘Since I am assured you will keep an eye on him, I think I know all that I could hope for. I will speak with you again, when Loki Odinson is awake.’

‘Until then.’ Odin bowed his head in return. ‘Farewell.’

The image melted away. Thor watched a breath of frost evaporate from the floor. ‘General Fury shares some of his concerns,’ he said, ‘although of course Loki has done rather less to Midgard.’ Aside from intruding on SHIELD’s research facilities, his preparations for conquest had evidently been very quiet.

I share some of his concerns,” said Odin. ‘But I hope that encouraging Loki’s sense of responsibility will help him to be less volatile.’

‘And showing him he is loved,’ Frigga said mildly.

‘That as well.’

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January 2014


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