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08 October 2012 @ 02:32 pm
Fic: The Poison Rain, 10/14  

Frigga found Odin speaking with Fandral and Sif in the hall outside the throne room. Both offered their respects to her, but took their leave swiftly, leaving the king and queen alone.

"You found and destroyed the shadowpath gate?" Odin asked. It was barely a question, as he already knew the palace was not under attack which meant he knew what had happened.

"It was," she confirmed with a smile. "Thor destroyed the anchor and it is unmade."

He glanced at her, recognizing the satisfaction though she kept her tone level, and he answered mildly, "Then I shall tell him well done."

She folded her arms and lifted her chin to confront him. "Loki told us the location. He disguised it in a jest to evade the confines of Thanos' influence, but once I suspected it was a riddle, it was not difficult to solve." She kept her eyes on him, unflinching. "So you were right. I recognized the moment he chose to protect. And so should you."

"He protects himself," Odin corrected.

That was infuriating. "He protects us. Asgard. He fought to tell us that much."

"He remains a shadowed tangle of vengeful thoughts and anger, and has not yet shown that he may free himself from it."

"Yes, he has! He has shown he is within and he fights to free himself."

He reminded her calmly, "But he is not free. Nor will being free change those flaws which he had before Thanos--"

"Flaws we put there," she reminded him sharply. "Flaws you caused, and flaws you can help heal. If you choose."

But before he could reply, he lifted his head to look behind her. "Thor comes."

Frigga turned in time to see Thor come round the corner, hurrying so fast he was in danger of striking the walls with Mjolnir as it lifted him off his feet every other step. His expression was alarmed and even desperate, and he called from down the corridor, "There is something wrong with Loki. He is under attack."

Odin frowned. "I sense nothing…"

But she didn't need to sense an external attack to be alarmed. Loki's most dangerous enemy had already burrowed itself within him. "I will not stand here and do nothing."

She raced toward Thor, and he grabbed her up in one strong arm so they could nearly fly through the halls, as he threw Mjolnir before them. She leaped down the steps herself to the front of the cell.

Loki was curled into a tight ball on the floor, hands pressed to either side of his head.

"Loki!" she called in horror and anguish. This was so much worse than she had expected.

He stirred, his ravaged face holding dismay at the sight of her. "No. No. Go away," he said in a low, raw voice.

She went to her knees on the other side of the barrier from him. "Loki. I am here."

"No," he whispered. "You must leave." He turned over and then struggled to his feet, first pushing himself to his knees, then one foot and then trying to stand. She watched, biting her lip. He stumbled, catching himself on the wall, and leaned against it for a moment, panting. Then he turned around.

He was trying for the illusion that he was well but the image of his face was a poor mask and did not hide that his jaw was clenched or that it was taking every ounce of willpower and strength he had to stand there and pretend nothing was wrong.

"There is nothing to be concerned-" he started, straining for that dismissive politeness he did so well, but then he choked back a gasp, flinching violently. He straightened, still trying to bury what was happening and not show her that he was hurting, even when every angle of his body screamed that something was wrong.

She didn't know if he was more worried that she would try to save him or he was prideful about her seeing him like this, but either way it made no difference. "Loki!" she called, commanding. "Look at me." She waited until he lifted his head and his eyes met hers. "Stop," she told him, more gently. "You need no pretense with me."

As if that was all the permission he needed, he fell back to his knees in front of her. "Do not open it," he requested hoarsely and peering at her with desperate eyes. "No matter what. Please. I … I am so afraid… if you… if you open…" He struggled to speak.

"I know, my son," she said and put a hand on the barrier as if to touch him. "I know."

"But - "

"Hush, little one," she urged him. "Save your strength. Endure and fight him. This is in your mind - dark tendrils he left within you and only you can defeat them."

"No," he protested, groaning, curled up against the barrier. "No… oh, Amma, it hurts…"

The return of a little boy's name for her sent a stabbing ache in her heart, and she had to clench her hands so she wouldn't try to tear the barrier down right then and take him in her arms. This is what the darkness wants, she reminded herself. This is the ploy, no matter how real it is, Loki must fight it off himself. Thanos wants us to open it. Loki does not. Loki wants us to stay outside.

She could barely find her voice. "Hold on, Loki. Cast off the shadow, defeat this poison in your mind and come back to those who love you."

"Please, my brother," Thor urged, resting both hands on the barrier as if he too longed to rip it away. "You are the strongest person I know. You can defeat him."

Within, Loki appeared not to hear them, as he held his head and drew urgent breaths between waves of pain.

"Mother, what do we do?" Thor asked, kneeling at her side.

"Nothing," she answered sadly. "There is nothing we can do but give him strength to endure."

"But he suffers. There must be something-"

She took his hand and held it between hers. "He must fight for himself, son. This is a battle you cannot fight for him."

"This is no fight! This is torture. We must do something," he protested in frustrated anger.

"He is strong, Thor. He will find his way through this thicket home to us. I have faith in him. What occurred that caused this?"

As he related what had happened between them and what he had learned, she had to close her eyes, realizing what Loki had hidden from her.

"Oh, little one. Why did you not tell me?" she whispered, anguish and guilt renewed at the thought of her happy little boy suffering in silence all those years, believing he was especially weak and holding his tongue out of pride. All because everyone else had believed him to be Asgardian. She had known otherwise, but since he had hidden his pain from her, she had believed him as fully invulnerable as Thor, though in hindsight it was obvious that he had been maturing at the slower Jotun rate all along.

She stroked the humming barrier, wishing it was his hair beneath her fingers. "Your ancestry was never meant to be a great shameful secret. I always planned to tell you. But I could never find the moment or the words." She confessed, "I was afraid. Not of you, like you believe, but afraid that you would leave us or you would believe you were somehow less. I did not know you already felt that way. I should have known and I regret so much not telling you and sparing you all that pain. You were not weak, you were only different. And different, my dearest, is not supposed to be a curse, but a blessing."

She was unsure he heard her, as he lay crumpled and trembling. His eyes closed as he drew difficult gasping breaths.

Taking her own deep breath to attempt to settle her anxiety, she threaded power in her voice, to calm and ease him, "Listen to me. I will tell you a story and I hope it will give you strength." As she spoke, she could see he was relaxing a little bit, attention caught by her tale.

"There was once a great warrior who went to war, and when he had the victory, he returned home with a baby he had found in the snow. He intended to foster that baby with strangers, but with one look, the queen knew she could not let him go to be raised by others. He had red eyes and frost blue skin and the sweetest smile she had ever seen, and she loved him in that moment with all her heart. She took him to raise as her own son, as loved as the one she'd borne. She chose him." She couldn't see his face, hidden by his arm, but she knew he was listening. Her voice choked in her throat as tears burned her eyes. "Do you understand, my son? I chose you; You should never believe you were not wanted. I wanted you." He struggled to lift his head to look at her. She added, impatiently wiping the back of her hand across her eyes so she could see him, "I have never regretted that, Loki. I regret not telling you that you were of other blood, and I regret not doing better for you or understanding your feelings as I should have, but I have never regretted the choice of loving you."

He said nothing, probably could say nothing, but his eyes filled with his own tears, of pain and regret and also love. He pressed one trembling hand against the barrier to try to reach her.

She knew she was forgiven.

( Part Eleven )