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).
A light blanket of snow had fallen over Asgardia a few days after Loki’s third birth celebration. Odin and Frigga had picked a new day to mark Loki’s return to Asgard and his “rebirth,” and, though Loki understood the symbolic nature of the gesture, how easily his family cast off the old date made him feel rather sullen. He supposed, however, that since his actual birth was unrecorded, the day he formerly regarded with happiness (in his youth, at least) was just a reminder of the anniversary of Odin’s theft of what meager treasures the Jotuns had left to plunder. It was just another source of resentment that Loki dwelled upon, and he had plenty of time to dwell on all manner of slights.
Every day was a struggle to find a middle ground between the ruse of Loki’s childish appearance and the reality he was desperately hoping to reclaim. Odin knew that Loki’s mind, when left unoccupied, led the prince into either dark moods or mischief, and he and the All-Mother hoped to curb some of their son’s by filling his days with activity. Unfortunately, those activities centered around toys, walks around the palace, and asinine games that would not interfere with the masquerade that Loki was an innocent child. No matter how much Loki desperately wanted to read the books within the library or visit his old chambers there was no chance that his family would allow it nor could he express his desires to Lady Sigyn without revealing his true nature.
One of the few comforts Loki had was that he was growing more independent. His speech and motor functions improved as did his balance. He could feed and dress himself, and he no longer required any of the other babyish items that brought him so much humiliation. Another comfort was having Thor to himself on occasion. Loki relished when his brother would return from Midgard, and he could have all of Thor’s attention. Thor allowed Loki little luxuries, such as reading on his own and speaking without carefully guarding his words, when they were alone together. It felt so natural and calming to Loki to be held aloft on Thor’s shoulders; his big brother had always tried to protect him, and some of Loki’s hate and jealousy melted away as the newly fallen snow would, though he knew he would never be rid of them entirely. Still, Loki found something akin to peace when Thor was around him, and the three-year-old prince would have given up all the gifts bestowed upon him by the other gods in the previous days just to have more time with his big brother.
“Prince Loki, you must hide if you want to play hide and seek,” Gunnhild, one of Volstagg’s innumerable offspring, said as she placed her hand gently on Loki’s shoulder.
Thor had thought it best if Loki spent time around other children, and Volstagg had good-naturedly volunteered his own brood. Loki was not sure how many there actually were in total, but he generally found himself in a group of nearly a dozen during these arranged playdates. Gunnhild, at ten years old, was one of the older children and fancied herself the “Little Mother” over her siblings and Loki as well. Whenever Loki showed reluctance to participate in any of the games the children played, Gunnhild was always quick with a broad smile and gentle encouragement to try to coax Loki to join them, believing him to be either too shy or too young to understand how to play. Today’s games were being held in the garden so that the children could enjoy the sudden appearance of snow. Sigyn was seated on a bench, talking to her sisters while all the while keeping an eye on the children.
Gunnhild checked Loki’s fur-lined cloak to make sure it was fastened properly and then sent him towards a row of hedges dusted with snow. She explained with a soft voice, “Pick a spot and stay there until the seeker finds you. Once you are found, you can come back out in the open.”
Loki could not be angry at the girl for speaking to him as though he were a simpleton. She was kind and only trying to be helpful as she would with one of her own younger brothers or sisters. As Loki wandered towards the hedges, he pondered about how he had been met with much more accepting treatment by the children than by the adults around him. He supposed that had always been the case. When he was very small, the limited feats of natural magic he could perform were a source of amusement for his peers, but later those same sparks were called “cheating” in their games. Thor had scolded Loki for always trying to use veils to avoid detection when they played hide and seek as children, but he was never angry about it as the others were. Now, Loki could not even conjure any force of his will, and he was reduced to hiding in the bushes like a fool.
Sitting on his knees in a small opening in the hedge, Loki was not bothered by the damp snow seeping through the legs of his trousers. He understood the source of his resistance to cold to be due to his Jotun blood, and he was pleased that that aspect of his physiology had not changed with the removal of his magical abilities. For the first few minutes, Loki was content to wait until he was found, but he grew quickly bored. While wondering if he should allow himself to be found, Loki gazed up at the trees whose branches he used to be able to touch and the small plots of flowers he used to tower over. It was like the world had been made new since his transformation.
The sounds of persons speaking beyond the hedge caught Loki’s attention. He drew himself further into the little niche and parted the branches with his gloved hands. Thor and Lady Sif were standing by the fountain, its waters frozen mid-flow out of the mouths of decorative dragons at its center. Thor’s face was almost as stony in appearance as the fountain’s sculptures as Sif reached out to him.
“I do not mean to upset thee,” Sif said, her expression serious, “but I wish you would be honest with your friends.”
Thor broke his gaze with hers, “I am not upset, Sif, but I find myself offended on my brother’s behalf.”
“It is obvious that Loki poses no threat, and no one thinks of him as such,” Sif continued, “but can you vow that Loki does not remain of the mind he used to possess? He does not behave as a child. A child should be happy occasionally, especially after receiving so many gifts. Not once did Loki smile during his own celebration.”
“He was merely confused by all the attention,” Thor responded, still not able to meet her imploring eyes. “He is not as gregarious as he once was. I suspect there are many changes in him that will make him different from the Loki we knew.”
Sif’s brow furrowed, “You are just as horrible a liar as Loki was skilled.” She moved closer to Thor and spoke very quietly, “If you will not tell me the whole of the matter, at least promise that he poses no danger, that he will not attempt to hurt you again.”
Loki found himself holding his breath, waiting for Thor’s reply. A myriad of subdued emotion ran over Thor’s features as he searched for an answer as though he himself needed it more than Sif.
“I love my brother,” Thor said, the words almost lost on a shrill gust of icy wind.
“I have never doubted that--”
Thor shook his head, “No, but he did. We must now repair what was broken. I have to assure him that the trust and love he once bestowed upon me was not in vain and that I have always felt the same way for him. I will not dishonor that bond by making promises to anyone about what Loki will or will not do as he matures. Those choices will be his own, but I will never turn my back on him.”
Sif nodded, wrapping her arms around Thor’s shoulders in a quick hug before pulling away, “I would not have expected anything less from you, Odinson. Had I any brothers I would have been lucky to have one such as you; in that regard, it is Loki who has all the luck.”
Loki let out a shaky breath. He felt a warmth within his chest that he had forgotten, a warmth that had disappeared after centuries of rivalry and anger. It unfurled like the petals of a rose, spreading over his skin pleasantly. He could suddenly recall more of his memories of his family without the taint of his own bitterness. The years when Loki had never doubted his place or his parents’ love returned to him, spilling over his tiny frame, washing away some of the hurt. He wanted to cry and laugh at the same time.
The corners of Loki’s mouth did pull into a small smile as he spoke to himself, “I have a brother.”
Even though Loki had heard Thor’s sentimentality before, something had broken through, and it was powerful. Loki knew there must be a force at work beyond his brother’s words to make him feel this way. His whole form was reacting in a manner that had nothing to do with sibling affection. As his fingers began to tingle, Loki grasped at the snow-covered earth in front of him. A rush of energy seemed to pass from Loki’s body into the ground, causing the snow beneath his palms to melt and twenty or so seedlings to begin sprouting up from the softened dirt. A bubble of laughter sprang from Loki’s throat. His mind raced with thoughts of what it could mean.
Magic, and it is mine. Perhaps I have been granted a slight reprieve! In accepting Thor again, the All-Father may have rescinded some of his restrictions placed upon me... Yet... What if Odin did not mean for this to happen? Heimdall must have seen... They will take my powers from me when I have just gotten them back. I cannot let them. I must find a way to keep myself intact and find a way to return my body to what it was to protect myself.
Lady Sigyn’s voice called out sweetly to him, and Loki looked up, panicking as she neared him. He quickly tried to cover up some of the seedlings with unmelted snow, but everywhere he touched more began to appear. Magic was fickle to control at times, especially for novices.
“There you are, silly boy. You’re very good at hiding, aren’t you?” Sigyn kneeled down in the snow beside Loki.
Deciding to play innocent, Loki touched the ground again, making several small flowers and plants pop up from the dirt. Sigyn gasped and covered up his hands with her own, holding them tightly. She glanced around quickly to make sure no one had seen as she recited a short incantation. Loki felt the power in his hands slip away slightly, but he could still feel it within his body. Sigyn managed to reign in his powers before he covered every patch of earth he came in contact with into nothing but clover and daisies.
Picking up a tiny flower, Loki smiled up at Sigyn as he handed it to her and chirruped, “Pretty!”
“Yes, it’s very pretty,” Sigyn took the flower between her fingers carefully.
The goddess was not sure how to react to the situation. She knew Loki should not be able to use magic as the All-Father had taken away his abilities, and yet there was Loki performing a spell, albeit inadvertently, before her very eyes. She had not agreed with that decision. Magic was inborn and beautiful when it was not warped by malevolent forces. It should not be so unwillingly taken from a person.
“I can make things like you can!” Loki said proudly.
Sigyn felt her heart melt as she scooped Loki into her arms and hugged him tightly, “Yes, you’re such a clever boy, but this means you have to be able to keep what you can do a secret.”
“How come?” Loki asked, even though he knew very well why he could not share the good news with anyone else.
Sigyn kissed his forehead gently, “Because you are very young and very little... And... Would you like to learn to make bunnies and all the animals I can?”
Loki tried to appear only as eager as a child would, “Yes, please!”
“Well, then, we’ll have to keep it a secret because it’ll make a nice surprise for your father, mother, and brother when you can show them all the tricks you can do,” Lady Sigyn’s face had grown very pale as she spoke rapidly and quietly, almost whispering.
This was just what Loki had hoped for. Sigyn possessed the ability to train him in the mystical arts. If Odin had given him back his powers in order for Loki to prove himself capable of controlling himself and using his magic for good, then Loki could certainly try to do that. If, however, Loki’s powers had returned through natural means or some accident, then the young prince would not simply ignore them. He was finally feeling closer to being his complete self.
For good measure, Loki returned Lady Sigyn’s hug, taking a brief moment to stare up at her with his large green eyes, “I hope I can be as talented as you someday.”
“Of course, you will,” Sigyn stroked his hair, still appearing unsure of the bargain she had just struck with a three-year-old, but she cuddled him to her chest just the same and added, reassuringly, “I’m sure you’ll be even more talented than me.”
As Sigyn carried the young prince back into the palace and corralled the rest of the children into the nursery for warm food and drink, she felt in her heart that she was making a very grave mistake. If the All-Father found out of her tutoring Loki to use his powers, she could be banished. However, it was certainly better to try to teach Loki to use his powers responsibly rather than allow him to keep involuntarily casting spells which could possibly lead to him hurting himself or someone else.