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30 October 2014 @ 04:10 pm
A Crocus in the Snow 9/?  

The narrow passage opened up into a hemispherical cavern, as if scooped out and smoothed by a master carver. The layers were visible - blue and white and grey, some clear as water, that reflected the light like huge jewels. She turned amazed. "This is beautiful."

He launched the little light to float at the top. "Ice is easy to manipulate. I suppose I know why now," he said with a wry twist to his lips.

She glanced back down the passage where the snow was falling faster again and the wind howled until Loki closed the outer entrance with a twist of his fingers. He rubbed his hands together briskly, blowing on them. Being out of the wind felt warmer already.

"You could change form," she suggested. "I bet you wouldn't feel cold."

His jaw tightened, but he shrugged. "Possibly, but where's the fun of that?" His smirk was somewhat forced.

"Or," she moved two steps nearer to him, slowly. "We could share some body heat and enjoy our time while we wait for the storm to pass…"

That seemed more welcome to him, and he drawled, "And to think it was only a few hours ago you wanted me dead."

He said it lightly as a tease, but it reminded her of Malekith and Loki's plan. She shook her head in amazement.

"You knew the Svartalfen grievance against us," Sif said. "You knew it was impossible that Malekith would change his mind, and so did the Allfather."

Loki corrected, "Not impossible. But it never seemed likely, no."

She cocked her head to regard him, remembering how he'd claimed that Odin had sent him on this mission to atone and die. He was speaking now as if that wasn't true, and yet how had the two of them expected this quest to succeed? She shook her head. "Asgard killed his entire race, Loki. How would he ever turn aside from vengeance once it was in his grasp?"

Avoiding her eyes, Loki looked down, cupping his hands together to create another glowing sphere. "I knew he was after the aether. I merely had to trick him into going somewhere else for it."

Merely. "Risky. What would you have done if he'd agreed with you to go to Asgard first?"

"Stabbed him to death and we would have both died." Loki shrugged. "But I doubted he would. I knew he'd be blinded by the idea of getting what he wanted. Everyone always is."

She shook her head at him. She'd known he liked dangerous games, but this was beyond his usual fare. "Obviously it's not here on Jotunheim. Is it in Asgard then, after all?"

He let the sphere go and it floated up to the ceiling to join its sibling, casting a brighter light on their ice cave. "You cannot reveal what you don't know."

Her mouth opened in offense. "I would never--!"

He raised a quelling hand. "Not willingly, Sif. But there are… methods, and spells that might wrench such information from you." He glanced away, troubled. "I wish I didn't know. The Allfather should not have let me see."

"He wanted to trust you."

Loki's eyes cut to her and away again. "As you did not."

She folded her arms, not willing to take the blame for falling for his trickery. "You didn't trust me!" she returned. "You should have let me in on the plan. I could have played traitor, too."

"You?" Loki laughed a little. "You could never pretend to betray Asgard, Sif. The words would get stuck in your throat and you would probably choke and die."

His mood was too light and she was too irritated for this, stuck in this cave where his lights gave off no warmth, only chill. "Would that it had been true of you, too! And never made any of this necessary!"

He turned to her, snarling in a burst of rage, "They betrayed me first."

"Is that your justification for everything?" she demanded. "For murder and betrayal and treason?"

His face went ashen and he stilled as if she'd struck him with a weapon. His eyes flickered from her, as his throat fluttered. His cheekbones seemed sharp as knives by the icy light of his magic, as the expression drained out of his face, leaving a cold mask. "If that's what you feel, I wonder that you came with me in the first place."

He turned and headed straight for the entrance of the cave. "Loki--" she started, though she didn't know what more to say. She wasn't really sorry she'd said it, since it had been true, but it wasn't the right time. If he left, she didn't know where he would go. Back to Malekith? Surely not. But probably not home, either. "Where are you going?"

He didn't answer her. He probably had no answer, besides 'out'. Without looking at her, he said, "When the storm passes, call to Heimdall; he will bring you back to Asgard."

"You can't go out in the storm."

"Actually I can. This is, after all, my homeland." The bitterness in his voice could have cut granite. "With the other irredeemable monsters."

"Loki, wait." She searched for other words, better words. She wished she had a better tongue for this, not her rough warrior's bluntness. "That's not true."

"No? I save Asgard, I turn Malekith aside, I strand him here, but it makes no difference, does it? There is nothing I can do to change who I am, or what I did." He stood still as a statue, and even though he was right there, only two steps away, she thought he looked lost. As though this was only one of his illusions and the real Loki was somewhere far away from her. After a moment, he admitted in a voice that started soft, but grew filled with vicious loathing, "What I want to do. What I said to Malekith was no lie. Even now I want to watch Asgard burn. I hate all of them. I hate their perfect bright lives and their ignorance and their strength. I want to tear it all down, shred it, and let the shadows take them."

Unspoken but she knew; he hated them so fiercely because he envied them for things he had lost. All those known smaller envies of Thor's acclaim and the throne, those were symptoms of the deeper wound, kept secret and yet never healed. It had infected his heart with resentment and anger, fear and pain, until there was scarce any light left in it.

More softly, he added, "You should doubt me. Never believe I don't want it all to be consumed by the void, because I do. I will always be that monster."

Her hand felt the ghostly imprint of his throat beneath it again, and she remembered his voice telling her to end him. As one of the "irredeemable monsters". But she wouldn't believe that, not knowing the truth now. Tyr's monstrous deeds had made a monster, but surely what was made could be unmade.

"When I found you crying with Fenrir that time when we were young, I should have found out what was wrong," she said. She'd done little but think of that moment, knowing she could have shifted everything. "I should have been a better friend. I am sorry."

The words seemed to take him by surprise, blurted out like that without warning and no doubt reminding him of things he'd wished forgotten. Without turning to look at her, his hands fisted at his sides, he answered, "It makes no difference. I would never have told you."

"I should have told the queen there was something wrong. I knew you weren't crying over some stupid lost duel or whatever excuse I made up. And later, when we were together, you reacted so… oddly sometimes…"

"Oddly?" he asked distantly curious. "You never told me that."

"Not in a bad way, just… different. Like how you always tell me I don't have to put my mouth on you." She wanted to slap herself now for being so stupid. That hadn't been simple respect, but a near compulsion to remind her that she had a choice. "I was blinded by my righteousness." She approached him, cautiously feeling her way with the words. "I am not so blind, now, Loki. The Allfather is not perfect, nor always right. I do not deny there is truth to your bitterness and anger – that those who should have kept you safe, failed you. But to make other innocents suffer instead? Where is the justice in that?"

He gave a sharp laugh. "I never claimed it was justice. But any who expect justice out of Asgard are fools."

Parsing that was easy enough. "You... don't believe the Allfather will punish Tyr?"

He shrugged and moved away, pacing along the circumference of the cave even though there was nowhere to go. "No. How can he, Sif? He can never reveal this happened under his nose centuries ago and it went uncaught. His pride will never allow a public airing of such weakness in his omniscience," he sneered the last word.

"You think the queen will let him do that? Thor?" Sif asked quietly. "They will demand more."

"Odin let me go, in spite of all I've done. I cannot see how Tyr will face greater punishment than I do, for something that happened so long ago."

He'd obviously thought about it and come to what seemed to be reasoned conclusions, but there was a hint that he was forcing himself to believe that, perhaps because he'd been disappointed before. She might ordinarily agree with his conclusion, but this time, she shook her head. "I think you underestimate the Allfather's anger that Tyr betrayed him and you in this way."

"Fenrir took his hand. What more should there be?" he asked, with a bit of a shrug.

She was disturbed that he didn't want more vengeance, when she wanted to shove a blade through Tyr's throat, but Loki had been suppressing and sublimating his anger at Tyr for a long time now, so perhaps it wasn't a surprise.

"What more? Exposure," she answered incisively. "Exile, banishment, execution -- I don't know, it is not for me to decide, but it is not something that should stay hidden. And I will kill him myself before I let him near any child again."

Loki twitched as if the blunt words struck a memory. He scratched his fingers across the surface of their cave wall, dislodging bits of ice that he watched fall with a greater intensity than they deserved. "We'll see. It matters little now. Ancient history. I barely remember any of it. It was so long ago." He said it dismissively, as if it no longer mattered, attempting to push the memories back in the hole where he kept them.

She might have let him bury them again, but she knew that was no answer. "You remember all of it perfectly," she murmured.

Suddenly he held one of his daggers and plunged it into the packed snow up to the hilt. She started with surprise at the sharp sound. "No," he denied. "No. I do not."

"You do," she insisted. "You try to pretend nothing happened, but it's poisoning you, Loki. All this darkness, this rage--"

"What do you know about it?" he shouted, pulling the blade sideways so that a sheet of ice dislodged and shattered on his boots. He slammed the knife again into the wall. "You don't know! You don't know anything!" The dagger went flying from his hand and he attacked the wall, clawing at the ice with both hands. His words turned to screams, heart-rending shrieks, as his fingers tore at the wall in blind fury.

Making that terrible sound, he slammed into the wall, again and again, as if he could somehow dig himself out from under all the layers of pain and memories. The complete loss of control stunned her to see; this was a deep crack running all the way to his soul. She felt helpless, in the face of the depth of this breakdown. What could she do to help this?

She put one foot out to go to him and see if she could stop him, when abruptly, his voice died away. Panting for breath, he collapsed to his knees in the pile of snow and icy shards, slumped over and shaking.

That spurred her to movement and she threw herself down to his side. "Loki."

She wrapped an arm around his back, but he twisted his body, jerking out from under her touch. "Don't."

"Sorry." Pulling her hand back, she stayed near, without touching him. "I don't know, what?" she prompted softly. "I don't know what it was like for you, no. But you can tell me. I will hold it safe, I promise."

He shook his head, hair hanging loose around his face.

"Please, don't you think you've held it in long enough?" she asked. "All these centuries of anger and misery? Lying to yourself as much as to everyone else?" Hesitantly, she reached out and darted a touch to the back of his hand. His skin was so cold from digging in the ice, and she wanted to take both his hands and warm them, but didn't dare touch him more yet. "Haven't you learned yet that lies and secrets are a prison, Loki? They fence you in as surely as that barrier in the dungeons did. Take hold of the truth and set it free."

He didn't speak at first, chest heaving for breath, as he stared at his pale hands, curled limp on his thighs.

"For years I didn't think of it at all," he whispered. "But the Allfather made me relive it all again, and I can't… I can't put it away. I want it gone."

It was a small thing but she thought it was a victory, when he let himself lean into her shoulder. "Of course you do. No one wants to remember that horror, Loki. But putting it in a hole didn't help, did it? It's like putting the tesseract in a box; it's still there, it still influences everything around it. This truth is an infected wound, poisoning your blood and your heart. Share it with me, let me help you carry it."

He shook his head, wearily. But since he didn't speak or move away, she stayed where she was, offering as much silent support as she could.

Finally he stirred, to whisper, "The truth is, it was my own fault."

She lifted her head sharply, confused and alarmed by what he was referring to. There were many things that were his fault, but not that. "What was your fault?" she prompted with soft care.

"I was weak," he confessed, turning his shoulder to her as if he could only speak if he could pretend there was no one around. "I could have fought, I could have told someone, I could have done something. But instead I cried in Fenrir's fur like a baby," he added with a savage self-loathing. "I never resisted. I let it all happen."

Her heart was leaden in her chest, at what he was blaming himself for. "No, no, stop." She rested a hand on his back, stricken when he flinched as if she'd struck him. "Loki, no, that is not so. It was not your fault, never yours."

"I could have stopped him," he insisted. His voice choked in his throat, pale eyes bleak and unseeing. "I could have - I could -"

"No, no, hush." It was a careful, slow process, drawing him to rest his head against hers, with her arms around him. "You were a child," she reminded him. "It was never your fault; you didn't deserve it, or want it, or let it happen. Any thoughts like that are ones he forced on you. You had no choice, no choice at all, against a warrior full-grown and willing to do evil in pursuit of his own twisted desires. He hurt you, and he made you feel helpless and alone. None of that is your fault, Loki." She pressed her lips to his hair and shut her eyes, trying to hold back the sudden wet heat burning there. "None of it," she promised. "You're not alone."

He slumped into her, breath ragged and his body trembling beneath her grip. She held tightly, not willing to let go.

"We'll get through," she whispered. "There will be redemption, and there will be peace. We will find it, I swear." He shook his head against her, in despairing denial, and she hushed him, smoothing his hair. "Yes, yes, there will be."

It took a few minutes for him to gather himself together, but when she felt him tense and start to pull away, she let him go. He turned away, and probably thought she couldn't see him wiping his eyes, before he inhaled a deep breath and let it out slowly.

He climbed to his feet, his eyes carefully looking everywhere but where they might meet hers, and he forced a laugh. "Well, that was fun. Let's never do it again."

"Loki..." she protested.

"It's been a long day. The storm is passing and we still need to get rid of Malekith and the ship. Indulging myself in this old drama is wasting our time."

She hesitated, unsure if she should let him get away with putting his walls back up. But she glimpsed his profile, sharp and gaunt in this light, and the lingering slump to his shoulders. He was tired, and as he said, there was still much to do.

"It's important," she murmured. "You're important. Helping you isn't a waste of time. But... you're right, we need to focus on Malekith. Know that I'm with you," she promised and reached out to touch his hand.

He turned his hand to grip her fingers, and she was relieved that he returned the touch. He turned his eyes finally to look at her. "I … am glad of it."

There was more genuine emotion in his hesitant little smile than there had been on his face the entire time between the announcement of Thor's upcoming coronation and his time in the dungeon cell. This was the Loki she remembered from their youth, and she smiled back, pleased to see him return.

"We don't have to go out right this minute," she told him. "We could stay here? Just you and me?" she invited, slanting a look at him and her best flirtatious smile that she knew he enjoyed.

He let go of her hand, and even though he smiled back and raised his brows at her as if intrigued, he shook his head negative. "You are quite a temptress," he murmured. "But… no. I worry that if we give them time to think, they will realize they share an enemy."

"Us." She grimaced. "So you want to make sure they keep fighting each other. How? Find some Frost Giants and ask them politely to help us?"

His smile widened to a smirk and then light flashed over his body, and suddenly a Dark Elf stood there. His voice was still the same, though. "Not politely, no."

She couldn't help grinning. "Now that is the best idea you've had in ages."

The Dark Elf illusion of Loki grinned back. "Don't be so hard on yourself. You were a far better idea."

She laughed, and for a moment everything felt perfect.