He stood in the rain for a long time after everyone left the official funeral proceedings. It was a huge event and all of Asgard had turned out as well as entourages from neighboring realms to convey their sympathy on the loss of the Crown Prince. Loki didn’t think anything like this happened when he’d fallen from the Bifrost and was presumed dead. It was a bitter thought that had no place with his grief but he could still taste the flavor of it ringing the sides of his tongue. If only he could spit out the poison of his own ambition like a seed from a fruit. It was a false fruit, alluring with the promise of sweetness, only to yield suffering. The pain increased the hunger instead of diminished it, resulting in the cycle in which brought Loki here. It seemed everything had a turning point, a fulcrum at which events might have unfolded differently. Silvertongue liked to think his intellect and detailed planning revealed to him where those critical moments might lie so that he could make use of them but what logic granted emotion sometimes took away.
Theories of the multiverse claimed that at every moment, at each juncture, every possible outcome branched out into existence in some parallel universe. Loki wasn't sure that was the case, but it was a small comfort to think that in many possible timelines Frigga, Thor, Kyrmir, Fandral, and Clint all lived. But, like most things that seemed too good to be true, Loki had his doubts. In his experience and by Norse tradition, there were those whose powers and duty it was to manage the threads of fate. They had many names in many cultures and realms but he knew them as The Norns. And he wasn't on the best of terms with them.
He stood until the rain stopped, until the storm passed. In its own way, Loki supposed, the weather mourned the loss of his brother as well. It seemed fitting that Thor’s final voyage be taken under thunderous skies and flashes of lightning. Loki could not have put on a better show for Thor if he’d tried. Winds whipped the flames of the boats, sending them high and bright before they disappeared beyond the lip of the falls into the Sea of Space surrounding Asgard. Hundreds of ships went with them, each a torch of its own. With a pang of ache in his chest, Loki realized this was what Frigga’s funeral would have looked like, too. He hadn’t been allowed to attend that, locked up in Asgard’s dungeons at the time. He would never forgive Odin for that. There was no way to make up for it, no way to grant solace denied on that most important event when they should have stood together as a family.
Some might say that Loki forfeit his right to be a part of that family with his actions on Midgard, but he defied them to explain how they were any different from what Odin himself had done in days past. Or Thor, coming down to Earth to impress the mortals with a couple of flashes of lightning to be worshiped as a god. Loki was just carrying on a family tradition, yet somehow it was wrong when he did it. He knew now that was because he wasn’t family. So much made sense now with that puzzle piece revealed. He was Laufey’s son, stolen at birth from the defeated King of Jotunheim to be raised to hate his own people. Odin no doubt intended him to rule with an iron fist, further subjugating Jotunheim to Asgard’s will. In a thousand years, the icy realm had not recovered from their last battle with Asgard. His hatred now tempered by knowledge, both academic and personal, Loki did not consider them much of a threat. His attempt at destroying the entire realm had been borne of rage and grief, not at the Jotuns, but at his own family for hiding such a secret from him. It was his own loathing of what he was that drove Loki to lure Laufey to Asgard to slay him, to unleash the Bifrost upon Jotunheim in all its destructive glory.
Now, standing next to him, was the father he was trying to desperately to impress with all of that. The father who had killed his own son, been responsible for the deaths of all the others—Clint, Kyrmir, Fandral. And Asgard knew none of it. They’d never even hear Clint or Kyrmir’s names. Loki tried to convince himself that it was better this way, that Asgard needed continuity and a sense of security after the dark elf attack. It had been far beyond anyone’s own memory the last time Asgard had been attacked on her own soil. Faith was shaken, people concerned. A weak monarchy was not what would serve Asgard best. For whatever else he might have done or how his own ego and emotion interfered, Loki did bear in mind the good of the realm and its people. Asgard had done just fine during his admittedly brief rules.
Still, it was Odin Loki wanted on the throne instead of himself. He’d been king, known the burden of the crown and no longer wished to bear it. The weight was not worth the benefit to him any longer. Asgard would never see Loki as their savior, just as an outsider. He might as well make use of that status. All his life he’d been told he was born to be a king. Now Loki didn’t know what his path was to be. It could be anything; it could be nothing. Without Thor, Asgard felt empty. Without Clint and Kyrmir, Midgard would feel empty. Any other realm would just be running from that emptiness, trying to fill it with distractions. It was a technique Loki had often practiced to avoid dealing with his emotions but it felt disrespectful now as if he sought to take the memories of his loved ones and brush them under the carpet like unwanted detritus just for his own comfort. That wasn’t how he felt. That wasn’t how he wanted to feel, either.
He had suffered for noble causes before, at the hands of Thanos. Loki may have eventually bent, but he had not allowed the mad Titan access to any information that would compromise the safety of Asgard. He’d not broken. He felt broken now. This was what it took to render Loki ruined and yet he stood regally alongside Odin staring off into space. He wondered what went through the old man’s mind at moments like this, his face so impassive, his one watery blue eye focused inward or outward, Loki couldn’t tell.
The Asgardian skies hung as beautiful as ever, star speckled watercolors, the flow of nebulae painted over what would otherwise be unrelenting blackness. It gave a unique vista that Loki had missed on Earth, looking up into the hazy yellow-gray skies of New York City. There was too much light pollution there to see stars and even if there wasn’t, their skies did not look like these. Beneath them, Loki felt small again, like a boy, with the whole universe spreading out before him, ripe with possibilities. One by one, his actions had put those stars out. They were paths no longer open to him. Down one of those paths lay Thor, Kyrmir, Fandral, Clint, and Frigga. That was the path Loki wanted.
It wasn’t the path he was going to be able to take, not yet. Sodden, dark curls sticking to the side of his angular face, the sole remaining Prince of Asgard turned to its king. Loki’s voice was rough with emotion when he spoke.
“You will show me all of your workrooms, all of your libraries, all of your supplies. Then you will stay well clear of them. If I so much as catch you looking in their direction, you will regret it. I don’t know how many years you have left in you considering some of the deals you must have made, but I can make sure they are not pleasant years if you defy me. I will be watching.” Loki slicked a hand back through his wet hair, pushing it all back away from his forehead and cheeks. Rivulets ran down his pale skin, mimicking the tears he hadn’t allowed himself this time.
“Asgard needs its king, and that king is not me. I don’t want it to be me. You built this. It is yours. The only way you can make up for your misdeeds is to rule The Nine wisely and fairly. I cannot grant you absolution for what you have done, Father. I don’t know if I will ever be able to forgive.” Loki’s tone had been quiet, somber like the rite before them, but rose as he continued.
“I loved Thor! I loved Fandral. I loved all of them! And you murdered them all. You took what gave the world beauty and meaning in my life and you desecrated it in the name of hubris. That’s all it was! Your pride. How dare your sons defy you!” And they had dared, in more ways than one. With Thor, Loki had finally found the acceptance and love he craved. He finally understood what had been missing for so long. They were so much more than brothers, so much more than lovers. Their fates were entwined and always would be. They would always be the two halves of a whole, sun and shadow, dark and light. Loki saw now that it wasn’t a failure on his part to measure up to Thor; it was a balance between them. They flowed like water, each seeping into the cracks of the other until the tide of them rose together. Always strongest together, but not strong enough this time.
“Your love has always been dependent upon obedience, not only with me, but with Thor, too. And I suspect with Mother as well. I thought I was the monster in the family but I was wrong: All this time it’s been you,” Loki spat, unleashing his serpent’s tongue at last. The potent venom he’d gathered there threatened to corrode the vessel of his mind if he did not release it. Loki knew it would make no difference in the end, would not change the past, but for once in their family, things would be forthright. Frank discussion had never been their forte. Now, there was nothing else left.
If he was going to do this thing he planned after cleansing Odin’s dark magic, Loki did not want to go with unfinished business and unsaid words. He wondered if the dead had regrets or if they felt anything at all. Pain seemed to be the domain of the living. How ironic that attempting to escape that pain through death one should find not only the same agonies, but the inability to do anything to ameliorate them. It was a risk Loki was more and more willing to take. His gaze over the falls bore his desire to disappear into nothingness, ambition deserting him as surely as Thor and Fandral’s bodies had deserted the realm of the living here in Asgard.
To Loki, Asgard was dead.
There were still others he loved—Sif, Dimitri—but how could he tell them of what he’d done? Of what he was planning? Sif would surely lament that she had not been with them to throw her body among the dead as well. Always the warrior and always loyal to Asgard, Sif would have been torn between her vow to the Allfather and the seeming mutiny of the princes. To spare her that, Loki had made sure she stayed well away from the escalating tensions between father and sons.
Dimitri, ancient as he was, would find Loki’s suffering and loss nothing compared to his own. It wasn’t that the dragon didn’t care; he just had a much greater perspective on things. Like the mortals seemed childlike to the Asgardians, so must Loki seem to Dimitri at times. No, he would not find solace with the dragon nor would he trouble him with what was essentially a family squabble gone horribly wrong. It never should have come to this, never should have gone this far.
Loki’s mind looped back on itself in spirals of doubt, searching for the one key moment that might have changed everything, that might have made a difference. He didn’t have the vision to identify it among all the threads of fates. Intellect and planning could only do so much. There were so many possible weavings of the future that it took great skill and ability to foretell or even to read the tellings already made. Frigga had possessed that skill; Loki did not. What he did have was a talent for torturing himself with what ifs. It was these ideas that had circled Loki’s mind endlessly, fixated on blame and finding some escape from a reality in which he did not want to reside. So far, he’d found nothing.
“Do what you must,” Odin replied, his tone resigned. “I never could dissuade you from anything you had your mind set on. Loki must have what Loki wants.”
“You think I wanted this?” Loki bristled at the comment, an arm extending toward where the ships had gone over the falls.
“You always twist my words.”
“Your words are twisted enough without my aid,” Loki snapped back, finally turning away from the view before them. He regarded Odin for a moment, the flash of temper cooling just as the air had done around them in the storm. He looked profoundly sad and though Loki hated it, it tugged at his emotions. Try though he might, he still cared about the only father figure he’d ever known. Despite everything he’d done, Loki still wanted to find some peace with Odin. Thor would have wanted it, and for Loki to ensure the safety of Asgard under him. He put a hand on Odin’s shoulder.
“We are both victims of our own choices. I recognize that. I, of all people, should know what it is like to bear the consequences of intentions and actions that spun beyond control. This is as close as I can come to forgiveness right now. Perhaps understanding is better than forgiveness though?” It was what Loki had always wanted. To be understood and to be valued for what he truly was, despite not knowing the truth of it at the time himself. Now, he wasn’t sure what he truly was other than a mess.
“I will do what I can to right things. To do that fully, you must keep away. I know the lure the dark magic exerts; I feel it too. You are already susceptible to it. If it gets a hold on you again, I do not know if anything can keep it from consuming you.” Loki didn’t have any more vials of the dragon’s blood to spare for additional miracles. He only had what was left in his system and even that would run out soon. Time was of the essence if he wanted to leverage the boon it granted to his power. Loki also didn’t know if it would give him enough for a second fight against Odin. The losses had been devastating enough the first time. If he failed again, all would be lost. Odin would become again that bloodthirsty conqueror Loki had seen revealed in the painting on the throne room ceiling, possibly even with Hela joining him again. If Odin didn’t kill him outright in the battle then, he surely would afterwards. A throne won in that way could not risk a usurper. The only reason Odin hadn’t killed Hela, Loki was certain of it, was because he couldn’t.
If only Thor had been so lucky.
“If you are tainted further…” Loki’s hand dropped and his gaze met Odin’s. Loki’s expression was hard, his eyes steady with resolve, fists clenched at his sides. If the dark magic grew within Odin again, Loki would have no choice.
“I will kill you.”