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26 September 2012 @ 09:26 am
Fic: The Poison Rain 3/10?  
MCU-verse, Asgardian Family Shenanigans fic

Full header at Chapter One





After handing the tray off to return to the kitchens, Frigga trudged upstairs to find Odin. He stood next to the display table in his work room, examining an image of the palace interior shining above the table. The map rotated, displaying the locations of the tesseract, hall of treasures, Loki, and everywhere the Jotun had been seen, including the royal chambers, as he searched for the hidden gate.

"You are still angered at me," Odin declared without turning.

"I am," she agreed, pacing inside. "But for now I am more weary." She leaned against his broad back and curled an arm around his waist, resting her head against his shoulder.

He took her hand and held it against his chest. "How is he?"

She hesitated to give voice to all she had learned. "Erratic. He has always been emotional, but now he is unbalanced. One moment calm, the next lashes out. He is open with his intent to conquer, aggressively so, yet his words lack conviction."

"Because he failed on Midgard, or because they are words given to him to say?" he asked.

She shook her head, uncertain. "Both, perhaps. He does not lack for ambition, I know, yet he makes no true attempt to achieve it."

"He waits for an attack to free him. It worked for him before."

"It worked on Earth because the attack was a surprise. Here, he taunts us with it, knowing that you and Thor will prepare against it." She straightened and pulled her hand free to gesture at the map. "It will be harder fought without surprise."

Odin glanced at her. "You assume Loki wants Thanos to win. If he is as conflicted as you say, it may be that he hopes to arise after both sides weaken each other in battle."

"Perhaps," she allowed, but that answer didn't feel quite right either. "It still seems a risky tactic whose most likely result is that he is not freed at all."

"An aversion to risk is not one of his flaws," Odin observed dryly.

Which was true, but Frigga knew they were still not assembling the puzzle properly. Letting out a frustrated sigh, she took out the pins that held up her hair and began loosening the long braid with her fingers. After a moment she felt strong hands close over hers. "Let me," Odin requested and she pulled her hands away, closing her eyes. He combed his fingers through her hair with a gentleness at odds with his great strength.

"Put it down for tonight, Frigga," he advised. "Loki will still be there tomorrow. You cannot resolve his tangles in a day."

"Would that I could."

He smoothed her hair down her back. "That is to your credit. But do not take his deceits too much to heart, when they are meant to cause you pain. He does not speak the truth."

"And if it is the truth that hurts the most?" she asked softly. "The mirror he holds up may have some distortions, but it is not a lie, husband. His anger and resentments are rooted in truth."

Odin pulled his hands from her. "He has ever been envious of Thor," Odin said dismissively, and though she was tired, she could not let that stand unchallenged.

She faced him. "Has he no cause for complaint? How many times did you celebrate a victory of Thor's without so much as asking what Loki had done in the battle?"

He turned away from her to examine the defenses around the tesseract again. "Thor led, Loki followed, as was his duty. We should not laud those who do what they should."

She circled the table to stand opposite. Odin's beard turned pinkish by the red lighting of the image that glowed between them. "By that reasoning, Thor rarely did his duty," she pointed out. "He rushed into danger, putting himself, his brother, his allies, and even the realm at risk."

"Behavior I punished."

"Once. You punished it once. And it nearly killed you to force him into exile. Once does not mitigate the many, many times you and I - I do not exempt myself - glorified Thor, ignoring or dismissing Loki's contributions."

She was ashamed of that now, letting her excitement overcome her sense. A few times would have been understandable, but it had become habit, a presumption that Loki would do as he always did, to help his brother pull victory out of what should have been defeat, without acknowledgment.

"Thor is my son," he said, as if in explanation.

She grew still and felt cold at the proof that Loki was right. "And Loki is not?"

His hands clenched. "That was not my --"

She didn't need to let him finish. "That is exactly what you meant: Thor is your blood, and Loki is not."

His eye glowered at her, a look that made lesser beings cower. The air crackled with his anger, but she held her place and glared back. He growled, "You twist my words as much as Loki does, to take your own meaning from them."

"I know the truth when I hear it." She called up a different image from the archive, having seen the image on the display in Loki's bedchamber. It was young Loki, then standing half the height of his father's spear, holding Gungnir proudly. "Do you remember this?" she demanded, watching the image slowly spin to show both of them the bright-eyed eagerness, yet unmarred by doubt or resentment. "Do you remember this boy and how much he loved you? He would have died before he let an enemy take one step into this realm. His warrior skills grew, his power grew even more, as he tried to find a path that would gain him your approval, but you took the gold of his loyalty and his love and you spent it all on Thor. For that mistake I fear this realm will pay in blood, and Loki will go to his death hating us all. Again."

She flung the words at him and left the chamber, the image still rotating slowly behind her in silence. She hoped Odin was considering her words, but she could not bear the thought that he was not. As she walked she twirled her hair into a thick rope and knotted it on itself, heading for the outer gardens.

The main garden was too formal for her anger, too pristine and clean and peaceful. The sounds of metal clashing furiously on the terrace drew her attention and seemed more promising. She saw Sif and Freyr were dueling, but they had gathered a small audience and her mood was too dark for court niceties. She left again before anyone saw her, drawing illusion around herself like a cloak to avoid notice as she left the palace gates.

She ended up at the edge of the Bifrost. It was a long walk, but shorter than it had once been, to join Heimdall. He was a gleaming figure, resting both hands on the pommel of his great sword, as he stared off into the nothing beyond the edge, seeing everything. As soon as she stood next to him, he spoke. "You should not be here, my queen. It is not safe."

She smiled a little. "If I am not safe here with you, old friend, I am not safe anywhere."

He didn't object again, but he told her, "The Bifrost grows for you."

She glanced down, to see the energies of the bridge swirling beneath her feet and extending out beyond them, rebuilding the path with a bright eagerness. "Why is it I can heal the Bifrost, yet not two I love so dearly?" she murmured with a sigh. "I saw the distance growing between them, but I did not believe it was so deep. Now it is an impassable abyss, and I know not how to bridge it. If it is even possible."

He did not turn his eyes to look at her but his deep voice held a comfort to it. "Odin Allfather looked at the image long after you left. He is grieved as well."

She hoped that was true, and he was reflecting on where he had failed his son and was planning to repair it. She was not going to expect it though, since Odin often refused to acknowledge mistakes. "And Loki? Does he shield himself from your sight?"

"No. He attempted to sleep, but woke abruptly. He walks the perimeter."

She didn't like the sound of that. "Dreams?"

"It appeared so."

"Appearances," she murmured, "they are often so deceiving, especially when Loki is involved." She folded her arms around herself, looking out into the void, imagining Loki falling into that chasm between worlds, life force dimming, until a hidden hand had gathered him up. Strange to think that if Thanos had returned him to her, she would have been grateful. Milennia of enmity might have been put aside for celebration. But his acts declared him still their enemy. His return might have remained hidden, but for her sensing the shadow lingering in her son's eyes. And now Loki paced a cage, trapped in a thicket of pain and resentment, his desires poisoned.

"He speaks much," Heimdall said. "But his words have no more substance than shadows."

"And always the same: conquest and death and hatred like Thanos reborn," she murmured. "He is so lost in it, he cannot think to take a softer, more beguiling approach, which might achieve his ends better. Instead, he has achieved more defenses and a stronger shield around himself and the tesseract."

"Achievements that will not please Thanos," Heimdall commented. "Perhaps that causes Loki's lack of rest."

Struck by that observation, she raised her head and frowned. "Thanos will be angry, yes. Loki already failed to deliver the tesseract, and now he has made it more difficult, trapping himself ever more deeply here. He has revealed Thanos' return to us prematurely. Loki was terrified, when he was free from influence." She recalled that look on his face, and his words at that moment, and shook her head once. "But it was not punishment he feared; he feared what he will do. It was the most true moment I have seen of him. If that is what is truly in his heart… perhaps… he is not as lost as I think."

Now Heimdall glanced at her, not understanding the direction of her thoughts. "My queen?"

She turned around to face the gleaming towers of Asgard. "He hates this place, but he loves it, too. It is his home. Whatever he may claim, his heart rebels against the idea of destroying it, and he knows that is what Thanos will bring." She took a deep breath, and felt the strengthening of true hope. This idea was the first that felt right, and she needed to discover its truth. "I must return."

She had a key to understand his contradictory behavior; now to test whether the key fit into the lock.



( Part Four )