Summary: Loki deals with the aftermath of his actions on Midgard.
Notes: Spoilers for the films Thor (plus its deleted scenes) and The Avengers (I have not seen The Avengers, but I've seen enough animated GIFs on Tumblr to have pieced it together). This was also partially inspired by Thor and the Warriors Four #1-4 (these issues can be read online on Marvel.com).
From the very first day Loki began to study magic, he learned that concentration was one of the foremost requirements to mastering any type of spellcraft. Whether memorizing just the right enunciation of a word for an incantation or brewing a draught with its ingredients prepared for maximum potency, one’s mind had to remain focused as sharply as a razor’s edge. The second-most important requirement was patience, and Loki remained in perpetually short supply of it as of late. Loki had resigned himself to relearning basic activities now that his form had been reduced to that of a toddler. As much grace and dignity as he tried to retain, he felt as though he was making a fool of himself.
Mother and son were sitting in the palace nursery at a circular table, laden with food appropriate for a boy Loki’s size-- bowls of warm spiced porridge, small fruits, and meats, breads, and cheeses cut small enough for a child’s fingers to grip. Using both hands, Loki slowly and carefully brought a little golden cup of honeyed goat’s milk to his lips. Just as he got a taste of the milk on his tongue, he accidentally tilted the cup too far backwards, splashing himself in the face. Frigga was quick to take the cup away from him and gently wipe his face with a cloth. Loki sputtered, feeling a few tears well up in his eyes. He was ashamed by how easy it was for every setback to make him cry. He supposed that, as his body regressed, so did his emotions and ability to maintain them.
“It’s all right, darling,” Frigga picked up her child and sat him on her lap, kissing his forehead. When Loki calmed down sufficiently, she handed the golden cup back to him, “Try again.”
Frigga had estimated that Loki’s new age was somewhere between one and two years old. Loki could speak in short bursts of a few words, though sometimes it was obvious that the words that came out of his mouth were not what he wished to say or how he wished to pronounce them. He could walk slowly, but he was prone to falling over himself. As far as outward appearances, none of the other Asgardians had any reason to doubt that Loki was anything other than a normal godling prince, which suited Odin, Frigga, and Thor’s hopes. They had announced to the realm that Loki’s regression was part of the punishment for his misdeeds; however, none, besides themselves and Idunn, knew that the regression only extended to Loki’s body and not his mind. Loki felt that the effect of Idunn’s apples leaving his mind and memories intact was a far worse punishment than simply making him a child, ignorant of the evil that had transpired and the ill-feelings it created in those around him.
Two weeks in his new form and being mostly confined to the nursery had brought Loki no closer to accepting this as his fate, to re-mature and to forget the wrongs done to him by all of Asgard. He allowed himself to be dressed in undignified clothing, the brightly colored tunics and matching boots that his mother picked out for him that made him feel more like a doll than a god. Loki vowed he would get stronger and find a way to get his powers back, but, until then, he had to endure being treated as a small child.
Loki reached out his hands and grasped the cup’s handles. Unsettled by his own thoughts, he held on too tightly, and his arms began to shake, and he had to let Frigga hold it for him as he drank.
“Your body will retrain itself for all the activities that now frustrate you,” Frigga reassured him. “You’ll be able to run and cut your food for yourself, but it will take time.”
“No,” Loki replied sullenly.
What he truly wanted to say was, “No, I believe you will keep me this way forever, useless, powerless, and weak,” yet all that exited his mouth in his tiny voice was a petulant “no.”
Smiling, Frigga put the cup on the table and then wrapped her son in a hug, “You must have some faith in me, Loki. Though much time has passed since your father brought you to me, I remember very clearly the milestones of your life-- your first words, your first steps, everything.”
Loki squirmed against her, trying to slide from under her arms, “Down.”
“Will you have to relearn your manners too?” Frigga admonished, preventing Loki from falling off her lap.
With an annoyed huff, Loki responded, “Down, please!”
Perhaps being more indulgent than she should have been, given the circumstances, Frigga placed Loki on his booted feet by her chair. He wobbled the moment her hands were no longer holding onto him. Catching himself on Frigga’s gown, Loki held himself upright before he was able to take a step away. No matter how many times Frigga tried to coax him not to, Loki refused to stop attempting to walk as he was accustomed, but a toddler’s legs were not meant to perform a regal gait. Loki, who was used to taking long strides, was soon getting too far ahead of himself, stumbling and landing on his hands and knees with a yelp.
Frigga was kneeling beside him before the first tear fell, but the moment she tried to pick him up, the floodgates opened. He thrashed in her arms, wailing and kicking. Loki lost himself in his tantrum, finding it somewhat satisfying to vent his anger physically. He hated the food he had to eat, the clothes he was forced to wear, and the complete and utter lack of respect anyone had for his privacy. He would scream himself mute if that was what it took to make everyone just as miserable as he felt.
In the midst of this display, Lady Sigyn, who had been assigned by Frigga to assist her in caring for Loki, entered the room and smiled, “Oh, someone is not a very happy boy today.”
“No, he most certainly is not,” Frigga held Loki tightly to her, preventing him from waving his arms and legs about, “but one must be patient with children.”
Finally unable to move, Loki ceased struggling, rubbing his face against Frigga’s shoulder. He continued to feel pity for himself, putting his thumb in his mouth for comfort, despite how humiliating he found the action.
Frigga rocked her son and spoke softly to him, “There, I believe the storm has passed.”
Lady Sigyn took a seat next to Frigga, stroking the backs of her fingers over Loki’s damp cheek. Loki, sniffling and sucking his thumb, reached out and carefully took hold of the long plait of Sigyn’s hair that tumbled off of her shoulder. The braid was encased in a cage of delicately crafted golden butterflies, and the shade of her hair flickered between shimmering black and flaxen hues. Loki had always found it intriguing and now watched the colours shifting with fascination, unsure if the fluctuations were caused by Sigyn herself or dwarven magic.
“I hope he is not getting any ideas,” Sigyn said, carefully taking her braid out of Loki’s grasping fingers. “I do not wish to ever be parted with my hair as Gentle Sif was.”
Frigga tried to force a laugh, “Loki is just a baby. I am sure he would never do such a thing.”
“Not a baby,” Loki replied around the thumb in his mouth.
Adopting a faux solemn tone, Sigyn spoke, “You’re a big, brave prince, aren’t you?” as she lovingly pinched his cheek.
Though he tried to control his temper, Loki was seriously considering finding a way to hack Lady Sigyn’s hair off in her sleep, but, luckily for her, Loki snapped out of those darker thoughts when Thor entered the nursery, carrying an armful of parcels that he dropped off by the gilded entrance. The thunder god had travelled back to Midgard at the behest of his mortal companions shortly after Loki’s transformation, and Loki would have loathed to admit just how much he missed his brother.
Wriggling off Frigga’s lap, Loki tried to run towards Thor but, once again, tripped over his own feet. However, Loki was saved from a nasty fall by Thor’s large hands scooping him up and playfully tossing him in the air before catching him again.
“You’re getting bigger already, Brother!” Thor laughed as he sat Loki on the floor next to the pile of wrapped packages. “Here, I’ve brought you some gifts.”
Handing Loki a roundish parcel, Thor helped the boy tear away the wrapping, revealing a stuffed boar with comically large eyes and a bright pink snout.
“We’ll call it Hildisvíni,” Thor said, trying to coax a smile from Loki, and added quietly, “and you can show it to Freyja.”
The thought of Freyja having to hold back her ire, as she watched Loki drag a ridiculously adorable facsimile of one of her lovers around the court, brought a happy burst of laughter to the god of mischief’s lips. Thor looked quite pleased with himself at his choice in gift. The other presents included more stuffed toys of Midgardian animals, including one with spots and a curiously long neck, and several books about Midgard’s various histories and folklore.
“I will read them to you, Loki,” Thor watched as his younger brother ran appreciative hands over the book covers. Pointing to a large volume of Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Thor continued, “I began to read a little of this one already, and I think you’ll enjoy it.”
Loki smiled, reaching up to tug on Thor’s blonde hair, “Brother.”
Loki had meant to thank his brother for the gifts, though the children’s toys really held no interest for him, but acknowledging Thor was all he could muster to do; by the large grin on the oaf’s face, Loki felt that his brother understood his meaning.
“I hope none of those books are going to give him nightmares,” Sigyn said as she watched Thor carry Loki back to the table.
“Nonsense, Loki is a prince of Asgard. No storybook will frighten him,” Thor sat down next to his mother and grabbed a small raspberry cake from the table but paused as he looked at it and the other food before him, “This food is very tiny.”
With that, Thor held the cake out to Loki, letting the boy take a bite out of it as he sat perched on his elder brother’s knee. As Thor began to recount his latest adventure on Midgard, Loki relaxed, feeling less self-conscious about his position, nibbling on the pastry and listening intently to the story. Loki cared nothing to learn of the Man of Iron’s technological wonders or the unmitigated bravery of the Avengers, but Thor did spin a decent yarn for his audience.
When Thor took a pause to down a cupful of sweet wine from a decanter and to feed Loki another pastry, a beautiful smile graced Lady Sigyn’s face as she said, “You look just like the All-Father.”
Thor and Loki both looked up simultaneously.
“Do you agree, my queen?” Sigyn turned to Frigga. “I was simply reminded of when Loki was first born. Odin would carry him to banquet and sit with him just as Thor sits with him now.”
Frigga agreed, seemingly pleased by the memory, “Oh, yes, I concur.”
Loki glanced up at Thor, who was practically glowing with pride at the comparison. Feeling a sudden pang of jealousy, Loki gripped the sugared pastry in his hand and lobbed it at Thor’s face. It hit the thunder god squarely on the chin.
“His aim is improving,” Thor laughed loudly as he wiped away crumbs and powdered sugar from his beard.
“Honestly, Thor, do not praise Loki for throwing food like a common lout,” Frigga tutted. With some regret, she said quietly, “We are not trying our best to discipline him for his bad behavior as we had promised each other.”
Thinking over it for a moment, Thor pinched a morsel from another cake on the table and pressed it gently to the tip of Loki’s tiny nose, “You see, Brother, it’s not nice to put food on other people’s faces.” Then, the blonde wagged his finger at the boy, trying his best to sound stern, “No more throwing food.”
Loki made an indignant squeak and rubbed his nose with his fist. The moment his bottom lip began to quiver, Frigga quickly grabbed him from Thor’s lap before another fit began. The All-Mother grabbed the cloth she had earlier used to wipe Loki’s face and dabbed the powdered sugar from his nose. For his part, Loki turned his head from side to side as he struggled not to let any further tears fall. He grew weary from crying so much; surely, normal children did not cry as he did.
“Loki, do not fuss so!” Thor tried to tickle his brother’s stomach through the soft green tunic he had been dressed in, but all the blonde earned for his effort was a sharp kick to the hand from a tiny boot.
Sigyn held back a sigh at the royal family’s display, as even the All-Mother failed to tame a misbehaving child. Trying to more clearly remember Thor and Loki as children, Sigyn seemed to recall that Thor was more prone to this sort of behavior than his younger brother. Sigyn herself had matured in a brood of goddesses with strengths in the areas of fertility and love, matters that often brought about children, though Sigyn had none yet of her own. She felt that she could potentially give more assistance than being Loki’s maid servant when Frigga took time to rest.
Holding out her hands, Sigyn asked, “May I?”
Frigga seemed surprised. Though Sigyn had assisted her with Loki’s care, the young goddess had not before shown interest in helping with the boy’s temper. Frigga allowed Sigyn to take Loki from her. Letting Loki stand on his own feet, Sigyn clasped his hand in one of hers and grabbed a chair with her other hand. Dragging the chair to the nearest wall, she turned it so that its seat faced the solid expanse of glistening marble. She then placed Loki on it. The young prince blinked as Sigyn kneeling down to look at him directly in the eyes.
“You are behaving very poorly, Prince Loki,” she told him seriously. “You can sit here until you are ready to rejoin us at the table.”
Loki did not understand why he should sit facing a wall while everyone else was across the room. It was not his fault that he had gotten upset. Could Lady Sigyn not understand the precarious state he was in? And how her words had goaded him?
When Sigyn turned to leave him on the chair, Loki slid off the seat and tried to follow her, but the goddess would not be moved. She picked him up and plopped him back on the seat.
“No!” Loki tried to kick at her. In his mind, there were more words he wished to say, How dare you tell me what to do? I am Loki of Asgard! You shall not command me! However, all anyone in the room heard was a toddler repeating, “No-no-no-no-no!”
Sigyn shook her head, “We are not talking about this any longer. You can face the wall.”
When Loki escaped off the seat for a second time, Sigyn held him still until he made himself go limp in her grasp, crumpling to the floor and laying there in a little heap as he whined. She left him where he was, returning to the table and suggesting that it would be best to ignore any further outbursts from the child.
Loki was practically pressing himself flat to the floor, wishing he had his powers back and wishing to be any age but the accursed one he currently was. The high-pitched whining that was emitted from his throat was tinny and annoying even to himself, but he did not try to stop it. After a few minutes, Loki realized no one was coming to pick him up or try to placate him. He peered up from the floor at the table and realized that they were all ignoring him, except for Thor, who kept glancing at him quickly before looking away.
This is insufferable. You dare to make me endure this, and now you ignore my plight? Loki thought as he pushed himself to his feet. Loki refused to let them forget about his presence. He carefully trod to Sigyn’s side and pulled on the hem of her gown. Making his eyes as big and as teary as possible, hoping to appear innocent, Loki pitifully chirruped, “Sorry!”
However, Sigyn turned her face completely away from the child-god, unmoved by his display. Loki actually gasped as she rebuffed his charms. He stared at the floor, unsure of what to do. Figuring that none of them would acknowledge him until he did as he was told, he toddled back to the chair but found that he could not pull himself up to the seat on his own. Loki looked plaintively at the group around the table. When it became clear that no one was moving to help him, Loki sat down on the floor next to the chair, facing the wall as he had been instructed.
They do not love me, Loki thought with a heavy heart. How can they leave me so bereft if they loved me? Can they not see that I cannot even sit in a proper chair by myself? I need their help...
Though he still wished he could banish such sentiments from his mind, Loki could not ignore how truly dependent he was on those around him. It pained him to be forced to remember that he once cared about what his family thought of him, and he hated himself for it more than he hated them.
The boy was so consumed by his own thoughts that he did not hear his mother approach as she lifted him from the floor. Frigga held Loki in the crook of her arm and spoke, “Are you going to behave?”
Loki nodded slowly and repeated in a very hushed tone, “Sorry.”
Frigga gave him a kiss on his cheek, reassuring him that he was a good boy, and returned him to the table, letting him sit between her and Thor. Loki certainly did not feel good. As the “adults” conversed with one another, Loki found himself too tired to follow their words. He rubbed his eye with his fist sleepily, yawning.
Thor ruffled Loki’s hair, “Are you ready for a nap, Brother? After my travels, I could certainly do with some rest as well.”
Crouching beside Loki’s chair, Thor held his arms open for the boy. Loki practically threw himself against Thor, wrapping his tiny arms over his older brother’s shoulders as he was hugged tightly.
“If you continue with a well-manner disposition, I would like to see you sit with me at banquet soon,” Thor said as he settled himself on the soft fur rugs that lined the creche area, pushing a few scattered wooden toys out of his way with his foot. “It saddens me to see your place at the table empty.”
Though Loki wondered how anyone could rest peacefully on a rug on the floor as comfortably as Thor seemed to, he watched his brother swiftly fall into slumber, snoring slightly. Loki let his head lay on Thor’s chest, feeling the soothing warmth of the closeness. He was not positive if he wanted to attend the banquets as he once had. Surely, some of the gods had suspicions that Loki had not truly been returned to a wholly innocent existence, and Loki remained unsure about Odin’s feelings on the matter. Though the All-Father had seemed pleased that Loki’s punishment could continue in some fashion, without his son locked in the dungeon, the god of mischief was not convinced that Odin approved of what had transpired without his knowledge.
As her sons slept, Frigga stared into her own cup of wine, speaking softly to Lady Sigyn, “I am finding it harder to control Loki this time around... and I fear what he will be like when the rest of his teeth come through.”
“If you do not mind me saying, my queen,” Sigyn spoke, “I believe you are simply accustomed to interacting with Loki as an adult, a state that he is no longer in, a state that he cannot remember.”
Frigga mulled over the younger goddess’s words. She had no way to explain why she felt trapped in how to discipline her child without giving away the truth of the situation and exposing Loki to further court ridicule. A normal child could be put in the corner, be denied dessert, or face any other form of age-appropriate punishment for misbehavior, but Frigga could not understand why Loki, with his mind still intact, could not be reasoned with as an adult. It was then that Frigga came to a resolution; if Loki wanted to throw tantrums like a stroppy toddler, then he would be treated as exactly that.
“I think you are correct,” Frigga replied after a few moments of contemplation. “The only way to deal with these problems is to push my old memories aside and start anew with Loki.” Feeling more secure in her course of action, she continued, “Lady Sigyn, I have asked your assistance with Loki in simply watching him for a few hours a day, but I fear that I may need more of your help from this point onward.”
“Of course, my queen. It is an honor to serve Asgard and its youngest prince,” came Sigyn’s reply. The goddess, however, wondered to herself how much turmoil she had just brought upon herself.