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).
The mind of the All-Father was everywhere but on the words of the emissaries from the outside realms that were paraded before him. The Midgardian ambassador was particularly tiresome, constantly inquiring for updates about Loki, with a tone that implied the punishment was not severe enough. Odin’s mind was plagued by regret at his own actions and at his son’s, and he found it impossible to concentrate on any task before him nor did he feel like explaining himself to those around him. Finally having enough of court business, Odin stood from his throne and waved off the genuflecting officials as he strode through the glittering halls of the palace.
Odin knew that he carried some of the blame for Loki’s behavior. Ever since Loki fell from the Bifrost, Odin had combed through an endless ocean of memories, trying to sort out exactly what had happened to his youngest son to make him feel so unloved or that Thor was preferred over him. However, this exercise only produced recollections of the All-Father’s two sons together-- where there was Thor, there was Loki, and where there was Loki, there was Thor. The boys were practically inseparable in their youth, but there was more distance between them as Thor found his own companions, and Loki’s interests strayed into the mystical arts.
Had the All-Father not praised his sons equally for their talents? Reflecting, Odin supposed there had been more opportunity to celebrate Thor’s abilities-- the feasting and banquets for his tournament victories or his bravery in battle. Even without outside praise, Odin knew he had, at least, told his sons that they were both worthy of the throne. Thor had simply entered the world first; had Loki been found before Thor’s birth, Odin would have had no qualms about giving the mantle of power to his adopted son. It was simply fate that Loki was younger. Odin had truly intended that Thor would rule in Asgard while Loki reigned as the King of Jotunheim; as brothers, bonded by something stronger than blood, Odin had envisioned they could create a lasting peace between the realms. However, in the aftermath of the battle, it became difficult to continue to pursue that course, to risk further war, to tell his son the truth. If Loki were to rule as a proper king, he would have to be sent away to manage his kingdom, and Odin would have been unable to ask his son to give up his home and start anew in the desolate cold, so far from everything he had known. Perhaps if Odin had prepared Loki for such a future, his son might not have felt as though he was unworthy. However, lingering doubts left Odin without any definitive answers.
A high-pitched peal of laughter drew Odin’s attention to the gardens. Through the open colonnade, he could see his beautiful wife and Lady Sigyn sitting the grass as Loki ran around them, giggling. Odin smiled softly. Though he had been agitated that Thor had presumed to usurp Loki’s punishment with help from Lady Idunn, the All-Father knew he could not stay angry as this was the perfect way that Loki could be monitored and not remain locked in a cell, alone, beneath the finery of the banquet hall. Though he was not sure if Loki could be restored to a state when he was not filled with such rage and hatred, Odin felt that he must try, for all their sakes.
Loki finally felt some sense of relief as he ran around the garden, staying close to Frigga and Sigyn. His “walking” problem had not, in fact, been a fault of his body, but it was mostly the fault of his footwear. Once the tiny boots had been removed to let him feel the grass under his bare feet, Loki found he could move faster without falling.
“I suppose we’ll have to find something different to cover his feet with,” Frigga said, holding the little boots in her hands. “Though I still believe if he would stop trying to take such long strides, he would not lose his balance so much.”
When Loki did tumble over in the grass, he was pleased that it did not hurt as much as when he fell on the hard marble floors inside the palace. He actually found himself laughing as he picked himself up and began to run again.
“At least he’s enjoying himself,” Sigyn smiled, reaching out her arms to gently hug Loki, giving him a kiss on the cheek before letting him go. “Let’s hope all this activity will make it easier to put him down for his nap.”
Loki made a very disgruntled pout at being kissed, wiping his face with the sleeve of his tunic as he ran towards a row of manicured rose bushes. He hated how easy some people were with their affection simply because he appeared to be a child. Loki felt as though someone was always trying to hug him or stroke his hair. He did not need their pitiful sentiments because of his apparent age.
“Be careful, sweetheart,” Frigga warned as he neared the roses. “Don’t touch the stems.”
I wish Mother would not talk to me as though I am wholly ignorant! I know that she means nothing by it, that it is all part of the ruse, but it is irksome none-the-less! Loki thought to himself as he looked over his shoulder at Frigga and then accidentally smacked into something solid.
Taking a step back, Loki saw nothing but acres of golden cloth before realizing he had run right into the All-Father’s leg. Loki’s eyes went wide, and he started to run back towards Frigga, but he was quickly captured by his father’s hands. Odin held Loki against his chest as the child curled up tightly.
“What’s wrong, my boy?” Odin asked, sensing Loki’s tension and patting his back. Trying for some levity, he added, “You seem to be missing your shoes.”
Loki shut his eyes, covering up his face with his hands. His cheeks were burning with embarrassment. Had Odin seen him running about like a fool? Loki felt ashamed that he had allowed himself to act so much like the child he appeared to be.
Father and son had rarely been in the same room together since the night of Loki’s transformation. After leaving the cell, being cradled in Thor’s arms, Loki’s recollection of that night seemed to be a blur. He remembered Frigga taking him from Thor and everyone talking at once, but that was it. The next time Loki saw his father was when he was presented to the court, his regression announced as part of his punishment. Loki remembered that event much more clearly. The sounds of snickering and covered laughter from some in attendance still stung his ears.
“I’m unaccustomed to you being so quiet, Loki,” Odin said as he lowered himself to the ground next to Frigga.
Frigga wiped some of the grass from Loki’s bare feet and legs, “Darling, aren’t you going to speak to your father?”
Loki shook his head. He was too frightened to say anything, and he did not want to have his words come out wrong or in the wretched squeak of a voice he now possessed, especially not in the presence of Odin.
Though Odin was disheartened by his son’s reluctance, he continued to try to converse with him as he rubbed the boy’s back, “It is all right, Loki. You do not have to speak if you do not wish to.”
Slowly, Loki peeked through the cracks of his fingers, his body trembling. He could not understand the fear that was overwhelming him. The moment Loki looked up at his father’s solemn face he began to cry, covering his face once more. Both Odin and Frigga were taken aback. These were not the angry tears that either of them had heard in the palace walls when the boy fell or could not perform a task as he wished to; these sobs were quieter, sadder. Odin had worried when Loki was first brought to him in this form that the prince would use guile to get his way or subvert his punishment, but the All-Father knew that this crying was not a trick of any sort. His son sounded heart-broken. Odin jogged Loki against his shoulder much as he had done when he first discovered the child abandoned in the ruins of Jotunheim, but it did nothing to ease the boy’s discomfort.
Loki wanted everyone to leave him be, to not look at him as he made himself more of a disgrace than he already was. Odin was holding Loki protectively with one hand behind his head and the other under his bottom, and Frigga was petting his hair while trying to coax him to explain what was wrong. Loki was not sure he could explain. He felt as though his emotions were in upheaval against him.
Why are they being so close now? Where was this before? Loki lamented to himself, finding himself cuddling closer to his father.
A warmth brushed over Loki’s cheek, and he recognized the familiar tingle of magic. He opened his eyes only a sliver to see a pink light flitting near his face. The light first took the shape of a crystalline butterfly before morphing into a rabbit that scampered through the air, leaving behind sparkling wisps of mist in its tracks. Loki glanced over the light to see Sigyn moving her hands to continue the spell.
“Look, Loki!” Sigyn smiled, letting the pink construct hop in the air in the boy’s line of sight. “The bunny doesn’t want you to cry.”
Loki hiccuped, calming slightly, reaching out his hands to touch the translucent form of the rabbit with his pudgy fingers. He could feel the power pulsing from Sigyn’s will into the construct, and he was simultaneously jealous and fascinated by it. It was a simple illusion, but the great strength behind it was palpable.
Feeling uncomfortable with Loki being exposed to the magic he was being deprived of, Odin swiped his thumb over his son’s cheek to push away some of the tears and said somewhat stiffly, “Thank you, Lady Sigyn.”
Sigyn let the shape of the rabbit shift into a little squirrel that gambolled under Loki’s outstretched hand as she spoke, “It’s nothing much, All-Father; I am just glad that it has soothed the prince.”
Growing weary, Loki turned his face into Odin’s golden tabard, “Father...”
Loki was disconcerted with how easily it was for him to become upset or tired in his new body, or his old body rather. He knew it was just another adjustment to how his life would be from then onward, but his resolve towards anything was greatly hindered, even the resolve to allow himself to accept his fate as it was. He was so unsettled by everyone, wanting to take the comfort that they gave but also feeling angered that they remained adults while he did not.
“I think it’s time for Loki to have a nap before supper,” Frigga said as her son yawned.
Odin gave a few more pats to Loki’s back before handing him to Sigyn, “I would like for Loki to attend banquet tonight. A prince should not be stowed away in the nursery away from his family.”
“Of course, my king,” Sigyn nodded, standing, but Loki began to wriggle in her grasp, moving his legs slowly.
Despite his sleepiness, Loki said determinedly, “Wanna walk.”
Placing him on the ground, Sigyn took Loki’s hand and led him back into the palace while Odin and Frigga remained behind, sharing a glance with one another.
“Are you sure we are taking the right course in keeping him this way?” Frigga asked softly, running her fingers over Loki’s tiny leather boots.
Odin did not answer his wife immediately, “I am not certain. Thor came to this idea, for whatever reason, and Loki accepted the bargain. He will now have to live with it, and so will we. We’ll not shield him from the consequences of his actions.”
Loki quite liked the feel of the smooth palace floor beneath his feet, but he did not like being forced to hold Sigyn’s hand. It was not as though he was going to run away; even if he did, he was fairly certain she could catch up to him very easily.
Sigyn squeezed his hand gently as they neared the nursery, “Bath first or nap first, my prince?” After brushing more grass off the back of his tunic, she continued, “I think a bath might be best.”
If you are going to answer your own question, then why would you even bother asking me? Loki thought as he tried to glare at her. He was unaware that his attempt to appear stern only resulted in him looking like the stroppy, overtired toddler that he currently was.
Once entering the nursery, Sigyn called for the servants to prepare a bath. As the small porcelain tub was brought to the center of the nursery and filled with warm water, Sigyn lifted Loki and carried him to his dressing table. Sigyn found her charge to be a strange child. Though he would still rage and bluster in his tantrums, Loki was rather quiet, for the most part. He would do as he was told, though sometimes he would look displeased at being instructed to do something when he was not ready. Loki would sit still when fed or dressed, not fidgeting as some children do. His lovely blue-green eyes, however, disturbed her. His gaze was very alert and intense, almost as though he was trying to memorize every detail of what was going on around him. Though she would never question the word of the All-Father, Sigyn had many doubts that Loki had been rendered wholly unaware of his past.
How horrible, Sigyn thought as she undressed Loki and placed him in the tub, if the little prince can remember and not fully understand what he has done! It is no small wonder that he acts so badly from time to time.
Loki allowed himself to be bathed without incident, actually enjoying having his hair washed by Sigyn’s gentle hands. He was pleased that Frigga had chosen Sigyn as his caregiver. The goddess was kind and patient with a pleasing face and manners, but her hands drew his attention the most. She had the same delicate hands as her elder sister, Idunn, who had given Loki the apples that had brought him to the state he now inhabited. Sigyn’s hands could also wield magic, and Loki’s mind dwelled on the way her fingers danced to make her constructs move one way or another.
While most of the Æsir had the aptitude to perform feats of sorcery, very few ever cultivated those talents into usable skills for battle, relying on brawn and brute strength to bring them victory. Loki hated that he was not allowed to use his magic in the tournaments and thus could never compete. Even when he had stood at Thor’s side in battle and used illusions to cloak their forms to save them all from certain death, there were no thanks given exclusively to Loki for the victory, no banquets specifically in his honor for his bravery and quick-wittedness.
“You are making a rather sour face, Prince Loki. Has the water gotten too cold?” Sigyn asked with concern as she lifted him from the tub and wrapped the boy in a warm towel.
“Sleepy,” Loki managed to say as he was rubbed dry. His silky curls were sticking up in messy tufts as the towel was pulled back from his head.
Sigyn gently rocked the boy in her arms, watching as he nestled against her in the warmth of the towel, his eyelids growing heavy. Falling into a deep, dreamless sleep, Loki relaxed into Sigyn’s embrace, his thumb finding its way to his mouth as his other fingers curled over his nose.
When Loki awoke sometime later, he pulled his thumb from his lips and grimaced at the amount of dried saliva caked on his face. Sitting up in his cradle, surrounded by soft furs, Loki noted that he had been dressed in one of the little gowns he hated so much.
Why must even a child’s sleep-attire be so frilly? There will never be a need for this much lace on anything, Loki thought to himself as he dismissively plucked at the hem of the gown. I suppose I should be more concerned that I could be dressed without waking. If this was the way I was thusly clothed as a child the first time, I wish I had had the good sense to tell someone just how ridiculous I looked.
“Awake already?” Sigyn said, sounding pleasantly surprised. She held back a little giggle as she wiped the drool off Loki’s face with a cloth.
Loki contemplated biting her hand, but he reasoned it would not be very effective given that he still lacked some of his teeth. Prior to his slumber, he had thought further about Sigyn’s magical abilities. He wondered if there was a way to take some of her power away from her. If he could manage it, perhaps he could turn himself back to his normal state. There was also the possibility that he could somehow trick her into turning him back. Sigyn’s sister was Idunn, after all; the sisters could have shared knowledge of a way to reverse the fruit’s effects.
Hoping to further endear himself to her, Loki pointed a tiny finger at Sigyn and said, “Bunny!”
“No, sweetheart, my name is Sigyn, remember?” she said indulgently as she carried him to the dressing table, sitting him down on the smooth surface. She then began pulling several of his tunics from between the heavy sheets of protective paper within the chest of drawers next to the table.
Loki narrowed his eyes. His inability to convey himself properly grated on his nerves almost as much as the stupidity of those around him. He tried to clarify, but his words came out just as stilted as before, “No! Make bunny!”
Sigyn seemed surprised by the request, but, with a bright smile, she conjured the pink mist in her hand. After only a few seconds, the construct took its form. It was perfectly rendered from its whiskers and twitching nose to its fluffy cottontail, translucent as the figure was. Animals were what young practitioners learned first. Loki remembered the first he ever tried to create-- a snake. Even with such a simple form, the puff of smoke Loki brought forth could hardly be called realistic. It took him nearly a hundred years to be able to perfect casting illusions of his own form, and he was practically proud of that skill.
The rabbit playfully hopped around Loki’s legs as he sat on the table. Pretending to try to catch the creature, Loki was secretly keeping an eye on Sigyn. She was able to keep the rabbit’s form with one hand as she looked through his clothes with the other. Her mind actually seemed to be more on picking out his tunic for the banquet than on the animal. Loki was impressed. Every time his fingers grazed through the mist, temporarily disrupting the rabbit’s shape, he could feel the mystical energies pulling it back together. Loki’s body longed for its former powers, feeling somewhat empty without even the simplest spell to crackle between his fingers.
“What about this one?” Sigyn asked holding up a dark green tunic with gold trimmings to the little prince. “Very regal, don’t you think?”
Loki reached out his hand, feeling the material, as he tried to smile to show his approval. As Sigyn quickly pinned him into a fresh nappy (the less spoken of, in Loki’s opinion, the better) and divested him of his nightgown, replacing it with the tunic and tying the small golden sash around his waist, Loki glanced at the polished glass of the mirror beside him and was momentarily stunned. He had been avoiding directly seeing himself, catching only short glimpses, hoping to retain his dignity by not facing the truth, but as he lifted his arms to be dressed, he saw what he feared-- an ordinary-looking child. Loki stared at his reflection, trying to find some hint of his adult face in the pudgy, dimpled cheeks, rounded nose, and large eyes, but the resemblance was tenuous at best. He felt as though he was seeing a different person entirely.
Sigyn was amused by Loki’s sudden fascination with the mirror, taking the opportunity to sweep the child’s curls back away from his face with a soft-bristled brush. As Loki watched the brush rake through his hair, he reached up to touch his brow, seeing the action reflected before him. He suddenly missed his helmet. In his teenaged years, he had chosen the design himself; even though Thor had chosen wings to grace the sides of his helm, Loki wanted horns because that was what decorated the All-Father’s helmet. It was the only time Loki could remember seeing real pride in Odin’s eyes at something he had done.
As Loki continued to rub his brow, almost contemplatively, Sigyn was struck with an idea. From one of the drawers, she drew a length of ribbon and then let it encircle the top of Loki’s head, holding the ends together. Before Loki could huff at having a ribbon tied around his hair, Sigyn transformed the piece of fabric into a circlet of gold with a small emerald at its center. Loki’s eyes widened as he touched the delicately-wrought metal, the curvature of the gold so fine that one would have believed Nature’s own hand had produced it.
“There,” she said, seemingly happy at her handiwork. “A prince should have a crown.” Appearing pleased with herself, she added, “Fortunately, there is enough of my father’s magic in me to do metalworking just as nicely as my half-brothers, if I do say so myself.”
Sigyn’s half-brothers were the dwarves who crafted Gungnir, Mjolnir, and all manner of the mystical objects wielded by the gods, all crafted to be just as beautiful as they were powerful. Loki had been familiar with the dwarves, having dealings with them when he had to find a replacement for Sif’s golden locks. Without enough to pay the sons of the great Iwaldi what they asked, they gave the Gentle Sif hair as black as midnight, as dark as Loki’s own. Loki found the change to be a pleasant one, and Thor had agreed, finding the black tresses more appealing than the blonde had been. After growing up in a family of fair-haired individuals, Loki felt a swell of pride and uplifted vanity at Thor’s admission.
After glancing over Loki’s attire and feeling satisfied that the little prince was suitably presentable, Sigyn asked, “Do you wish to be carried, or do you wish to walk?”
Loki thought for a moment before lifting up his arms and replying, “Carry, please.”
There was a small amount of satisfaction for Loki to glean from having at least one person follow through with his commands, even if it meant being more polite than he would have been to get what he wanted. As Sigyn settled the boy on her hip and headed for the banquet hall, Loki tried to quiet his nervousness, but the noise of all the gods carousing at their meal made him uncomfortable. His tiny hands gripped at Sigyn’s gown as he hid his face in her shoulder.
Sigyn bounced the small prince playfully, “Your mother and father are going to be so pleased to have you dine with them. I know Thor will be happy as well. They have all missed you. You cannot understand, but it means so much to them that you are here, safe and sound.”
As the gilded hall doors were opened to beckon them inside, Loki glanced up at Sigyn, his brow furrowed with uncertainty, How dare you presume to know what they think. They did not mourn me, and if I disappeared at this moment, they would likely celebrate. They care not for me... except for some sense of duty to an accepted burden. Their tolerance will only continue until I mature, at which time I will be banished to some dark corner so that they can forget my existence.
The boisterous chattering around the vast banquet table never ceased entirely as Sigyn entered with Loki in her arms; however, all eyes fell upon the tiny prince as voices were lowered. Loki wanted to keep his head raised, but the pride had been struck out of him. The gods would only smirk at his appearance now and mock him later amongst themselves.
“Here, my lady,” Thor called out to Sigyn. “Bring my baby brother to me.”
Loki was carefully handed to Thor, sitting at the head of the table next to the All-Father. Even perched on Thor’s knee, Loki could barely see over the edge of the table. Thor placed a small pastry into his brother’s hand. Loki nibbled on the sugared bread, not feeling particularly hungry but wanting something to concentrate on besides what might be being said around him.
“Thor, please make sure that Loki eats something other than sweets,” Frigga said good-naturedly, smiling at the sight of her boys together. She took Odin’s hand, squeezing gently, trying to encourage her husband to try to talk to Loki again.
Odin seemed unsure, not wanting a reprisal of the boy’s earlier upset. The All-Father gently stroked Loki’s hair for a moment. His touch was rather tentative, and the child stared at him warily. Thor, however, seemed quite content with his family surrounding him. Bringing his plate closer to the edge of the table, Thor allowed Loki to grab what his tiny hands could grasp-- a few strawberries and a smidgen of cheese.
“Don’t let the little prince get too close to the food, my friend,” Fandral jokingly warned. “Volstagg is likely to mistake the babe for a ham.”
The man in question blustered, stricken, “I would never! If none of my own children have been in peril at my supper table, then I am quite certain the prince is safe!”
Thor laughed heartily, “Well, I am not so sure. You did once eat an entire centerpiece of decorative fruit before you noticed it was all made of wax.”
“Well, it should not have been painted in such a tempting manner!” Volstagg rebutted.
Loki actually smiled, remembering that particular event. Thor noticed his brother’s amusement and playfully tickled the boy under his chin. Thor’s apparent happiness made Loki feel relatively secure. No one would harm him with Thor by his side, defending him. It was everyone else in his life that Loki remained unsure of, however.
Read Previous Parts Here.