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12 October 2012 @ 02:12 pm
Fic: The Poison Rain 13/14  

Frigga looked at her son held in her husband's arms. Loki was curled up, his head tucked against Odin's shoulder, and his long legs dangling. He was so terribly still.

Everything within felt trapped behind a wall that had formed in her throat, stopping her voice and breath.

This could not be. This was some terrible illusion, some trick of the mind, not real. She had left him, and she must have passed him in the corridor on her way back to the cell and she had sensed nothing. She had not stopped him, and now he was lost.

Odin said in a voice that seemed to be very far away, "It was no trick, Thor. He meant every word he said, felt every torture, and he meant to escape that foul influence in death. But when you opened the barrier, the dark force within him could not resist the opportunity." He glanced down at the still, pale face against his shoulder, and added, "It was well done, my son."

"Well done?" Thor repeated in confusion and rising upset. "How was it well done? He warned me not to enter, and I did not listen. He reached the hall of treasures, he very nearly took the Gauntlet... Did you --" he asked haltingly. "Did you have to kill him to stop him?"

Frigga gasped. It hadn't occurred to her that Odin might have struck the blow instead. Her hands fisted, but Odin forestalled any action.

"I did nothing. He stopped himself. He made sure to spend himself before he reached what he was bidden to take. But if you had not broken the barrier he would be dead. So yes, it was well done."

'Would be dead.' That meant he was not.

Frigga's eyes flew to his with a sudden hope. "You mean--?"

Odin's look suggested she should have known. Which she realized she should have, as the illusion on Loki's appearance had faded but was not broken.

"He sleeps. He has fought this shadow valiantly to its defeat, and he needs to rest."

"Oh, thank the ancestors." Frigga rushed forward and bent her head to kiss Loki's cheek. His skin was so cold under her lips that she knew this was much worse than mere sleep. Holding out her hand, she probed lightly at his aura and found his injury. "He is so hurt. He is fading. Hurry, I will heal --"

"Frigga." Odin's voice roused her from her fear to look up at him and he promised softly, "I will not release him. There is time."

She forced herself to draw breath and calm enough to sense that Odin's powers surrounded Loki, holding him to life. She smoothed Loki's hair before she stepped back with a relieved nod.

"But why?" Thor asked, confused. "Why allow all this to happen, Father?"

Frigga shot him a glance, realizing he was right.

Odin explained, "He needed to choose. I could prevent his choices; I could have strengthened the barrier beyond even Mjolnir's power, but then he would never be free. But this night, he found himself within reach of the tesseract and the Gauntlet and he could have taken them. But he chose death, instead of power."

"No, my husband," Frigga corrected. "He chose us. He chose his family and Asgard."

He nodded his head to her, finally agreeing with what she knew to be true, "Yes. He chose to protect."

Her eyes were sharp on him and she saw what Thor did not. "You drew me away from him, deliberately."

"Yes. If Loki struck you, I thought it likely we would lose him. Nor would he be free to choose, if Thor had been able to stop him."

Which was probably true, but did not consider how terribly guilty she would have felt for abandoning him if she had lost one or both of her sons to this plan. She folded her arms. "You took a great risk, with both our sons' lives, to get your answer."

"I did," he agreed with a glance at Thor then at Loki's pale, sleeping face, and she knew he was also thinking that all might have turned so easily to tragedy had Loki's blade struck either of them more deeply.

But she pushed away the thought, for the horror of it had not happened and now would not happen. Odin seemed possessed of a new understanding and regret as he held his son, both in his arms and in his powers, refusing to relinquish him to death.

So she touched his face, smoothing his beard, and Odin glanced up, surprised at her touch. "He is free and he is alive. I cannot be angry about that result. Though you and I have much to discuss when he is well, this I promise." Then she stepped back and wrapped a hand around Thor's arm. "Let us take Loki home."

They walked in somber procession up the grand steps, as other palace residents stopped and moved aside, bowing their heads to honor them. They continued through the throne room to the family's private quarters, and finally to Loki's own chamber. Frigga and Thor held the doors, ushering Odin in with his burden.

Odin laid Loki to sleep on the soft, rarely used bed and moved out of her way.

Frigga removed Loki's bloodied clothes and handed them to Thor to be burned. Then, kneeling on the bed, she laid her right hand above the deep wound. Odin clasped her left hand in his, offering his strength.

She did not need it, but she did not pull away. It felt right to combine both threads, and use them to bind the flesh together. Loki barely breathed, even when she was finished and the wound was healed. She sponged off the remaining blood from his skin and put him in loose pants, but he slept through all of it, deeply unconscious.

Pulling the coverlet over him, though she knew he didn't need it, she caressed his cheek and hoped he was having better dreams. She sat in the chair that Odin had brought close to the side of the bed for her.

"Now we wait for him to wake and discover what we have wrought."

Frigga watched as Loki stirred. Thor and Odin had left hours ago, but Frigga had waited, knowing he would not sleep for days. But she was glad they were alone, as he awoke. Loki's eyes opened and looked upward for several peaceful minutes before he twitched, as if realizing that the familiar ceiling of his quarters was a place he should not be.

He sat up, seeming anxious, and only relaxed when he saw Frigga. His expression faltered into confusion. "I - Where am - Why am I-?"

She settled on the edge of the bed beside him. "Welcome back."

"But… I… no. This cannot be," he protested, shaking his head as if to get the dreams out of it, or as if he thought he was staring at some other illusion. He touched his stomach, remembering the wound, though it was gone. "I thought… I … I should be dead."

She pushed the hair out of his face. "No. We will not let you go again, my son. And I think you are now ready to come home."

His brow knitted and his eyes widened, before he looked down and shook his head in distress. "No. How could I?" he whispered, shoulders bowing beneath the weight. "I have done such terrible things, betrayed all of you-"

"Hush, little one," she murmured and wrapped her arms around him to pull him close. For all his height, he still fit against her and it felt right to finally give him the comfort he'd been denied in the cell. "You are home. All the rest means little compared to that."

"But I --"

She soothed his shaking shoulders. "It will be well, Loki. Have courage. We will help you."

"I … I never wanted to hurt you." He lifted his head to look into her eyes imploringly, as if he had to make sure she understood that point. "If I ever harmed you, I could not endure it. You need to put me back in that cage, so I cannot be used against you, not ever again."

"You will not," she reassured him. "That shadow is gone, Loki. You are free. And we will mend the rest together, I promise."

The doubt in his face made him look young and fragile, and when he'd lowered his head back to rest on her shoulder, she rubbed his bare back gently.

A soft footfall interrupted and they both looked up, to see Odin enter. She felt Loki stiffen and withdraw, straightening proudly. He swallowed and his eyes flickered in fear of what Odin was planning to do. She patted his shoulder.

Odin drew nearer and Frigga gaped at what he carried: The Casket of Ancient Winters.

Loki's eyes flicked between it and Odin's face, anxious, and he drew up his knees as if he did not want even his feet close to the source of power. "You… should not bring that near me."

"It belongs to you," Odin said, to both her and Loki's surprise. Odin stopped and put the glowing casket on the nearest side table. "I should have given it to you on the same day Thor took Mjolnir, for it is your birthright. You are the only one who can wield it to its full potential."

Frigga dared not shift uneasily or show doubt while Loki was so near, but she wondered why Odin would offer such great temptation so soon. It seemed dangerous to test him when he was barely recovered.

Loki stared at him while his expression traveled from stunned disbelief to hope and uncertainty. He rose and padded barefoot to the table where the casket sat, and it woke for him, the energy levels rising like a breeze on her skin.

She glanced at Odin, feeling anxious that this would be too much for Loki to handle, but Odin held up a hand to keep her still and quiet. He watched Loki with calm intent, ready to step in, if necessary, but he had not brought Gungnir in a gesture of confidence.

"You would give this to me?" Loki asked softly, staring down into the brilliant heart of the power. "Knowing what I could do with it, if I failed again? Knowing I am unworthy of it?"

"You are worthy, Loki," Odin told him.

Loki did not seem to hear, asking with quiet bitterness, "What if I take this to restore Jotunheim to its former glory? And from there, conquer Niflheim and quench the fires of Muspelheim in frost? Then turn against Asgard? Is that not what you believed I would do when I learned the truth? You feared the prophecy of Ragnarök would come to pass because you let your heart soften against your enemies, when you saved what Laufey tried to throw away."

Frigga was surprised that Loki knew of the secret prophecy, because that should have never been in a place he could find it, but that surprise was nothing to her utter astonishment when Odin admitted, "Yes. Every year it seemed the prophecy crept closer to fulfillment, as you withdrew into the pursuit of ever greater power. I thought I knew what you were becoming; that you were forging yourself into the weapon of Asgard's destruction. It seemed… inevitable."

Her gaze went back and forth between Odin and Loki, dismayed by this new revelation. The dreadful prophecy gave no names, or the realm where it would begin, only that it would rise from cold. Odin had said nothing to her of his belief that the end of the realms was approaching, keeping a secret as damaging as the one they had kept together from Loki. At least now she understood better why Odin had tried to harden his heart against the son he thought prophesied to kill him.

"And now?" Loki demanded. "You still fear this?" The illusion on his appearance vanished, so that the bare skin of his upper body was the blue frost shade which Frigga had not seen since his infancy. With crimson eyes, he stared at Odin in challenge, watching him for revulsion or concern.

Frigga held her breath, waiting for Odin's response. Loki tested to see if they meant what they said, or if they feared him still. Perhaps he tested himself as well, since she knew the greater part of loathing Loki felt was for himself.

But Odin did not look away, answering calmly. "No. No longer. I believed in your blood too much and in your love too little. Almost I brought this doom upon us, creating what I feared, but your mother's heart - and yours - was strong enough to turn it aside. You proved it when you chose to die, rather than harm your home or your family. At that moment I knew the time of Ragnarök is not upon us." He hesitated and glanced at the Casket, before adding in a softer, hesitant voice, "I will not stop you if you choose to leave. But I… request that you stay. When Thanos rises against us, it would be my greatest honor to have both of my sons beside me in battle."

For a moment, Loki did not move and Frigga held her breath, hoping it was enough. Odin did not often admit to mistakes but he had the wisdom to admit that he could be blind as any. But she knew this might not assuage Loki's anger which had been growing over centuries.

Loki appeared to be considering the words, eyes hooded and lips pressed together, and then he held out a shaking hand toward the Casket. The power came forth at his call, streaming with a brilliant light around his hand and casting his face white as the frost

The air turned cold, and she bit her lip so she would not utter a protest, and waited. Odin had been right that they could not make Loki's choices for him; he would have to decide himself which path he wanted to tread.

The power gathered around Loki's hand, shining brighter and brighter as he pulled at it, and reflected in his eyes. With that at his command, he could warp reality to his will and plunge Asgard into a fell frost. He could travel the hidden paths between the realms and return to Earth in conquest.

That temptation shone in his face - a hunger for power that had lived in him before Thanos' influence - but then, he lowered his hand. His skin color restored itself to the familiar shade, as the power's brilliance faded, flowing back into the casket. Loki stepped away and let out a sharp breath, as if it was a physical pain to reject it, but then he turned his head to look at Frigga and gave a little tentative smile that seemed young and hopeful again and made her heart glad.

Unexpectedly, another deep voice called, "We are family, Loki. Always."

Frigga glanced toward the entry to see Thor standing there, and he walked forward to join them, but his eyes were all on Loki.

The brothers shared a long look. Loki sank to his knees, head bowed as if overcome, and hid his face with his hands, shaking.

Thor knelt before him and put both hands on Loki's shoulders. "It is good to see you home."

Loki kept his eyes cast down. "I have… I wronged you. So much. Though I do not deserve it, I- I ask--" he started haltingly.

"I forgive you," Thor interrupted. "How could I not? When I know it was I who set you on this path? I was thoughtless and reckless; I did not defend you, and I was blind to your pain. Will you forgive me?" he asked, resting his head against his brother's. "And we will start anew, as brothers again."

"Yes," Loki murmured. "I do. I forgive you, Thor. And yes, we start anew. Stronger than before."

Thor nodded once, and then ordered him sternly with a shake of his shoulders, "Twice you have forced me to watch you die, little brother; swear to me you will never do it again."

Loki clasped Thor's forearms, and lifted his head to meet Thor's eyes. "I swear."

Frigga realized she was smiling, with a sense of utter joy inside. She glanced at Odin, who was watching with satisfied approval. Perhaps now they would have the chance to build the family they should have been - without secrets, without distrust, without pain.

"We will defeat this Thanos creature, together," Thor declared.

Loki's eyes glinted with vengeful fury now directed outward. "We will teach him to fear the royal house of Asgard again."

A grin split Thor's face. "It is good to have you back, brother!" He embraced Loki tightly. Over Thor's shoulder, Loki was first startled and then hugged him back, closing his eyes momentarily in relief.

Then his eyes opened again and he gasped, "Thor. Bones. Need them."

Thor released him, laughing, with a cuff on the shoulder. "A drink! We need drinks to celebrate!"

To the conclusion
hearts_blood on October 13th, 2012 12:42 am (UTC)
"Thor. Bones. Need them."

This is still my favorite line out of the whole piece. <3
lizardbeth: Avengers - Loki-Friggalizardbeth_j on October 13th, 2012 04:23 am (UTC)
*snicker* I like it too. I can picture them so well in that moment! heh

So you can see I only made some minor changes and tweaks after you saw it and yet managed to add a zillion more words somehow. I don't even know..