wordsworn: My clockwork heart counts the seconds; I have no time for anyone but myself. (Vibrant [colours & imagination.])
★ Writing Journal for Alory Shannon ★ ([personal profile] wordsworn) wrote2011-11-26 03:05 am

"Growing Pains" - Loki + Thor (AU movie!Marvelverse) - {Chapter X}


[A/N: MAJOR APOLOGIES FOR SLOWNESS, NO THIS FIC IS NOT DEAD. I’ve just been very busy with work, class, and RL, and before that I had to focus all my attentions on getting this little number ready for Dragon*Con 2011. :3 (…Uh, I’m the one on the left, in case you were wondering, haha. And yes, I am a huge geek, but if you’ve read this far then I don’t doubt you already know that full well.) /ALL THE REGULAR LAME-ASS EXCUSES, orz

Anyway, just two more chapters after this one, then it’s on to a few other (probably mostly one-shot) Thor-fics for me! I can only hope that my writing has found favour enough with you, gentle readers, that you’ll give my further attempts an equal chance. :]

Also…the way this chapter ends is admittedly a little silly, but the mental image made it too funny for me to resist.

Link to this cross-posted in the comments of Round 1 @ [livejournal.com profile] norsekink.]

{ .X. } {In Which Loki Is Shown To Be A Momma’s Boy & Thor Insists On Being His Brother’s Keeper, With Predictable Results}

- ♦ ♈ ♦ -

Since that late-night discussion with Thor a fortnight gone, that settling of accounts, as it were, things had improved between the brothers somewhat. Two days after that conversation, Loki had made his return to the practise hall, and had proceeded to calmly and systematically demolish anyone who sought to take arms against him. Fandral and Volstagg hadn’t stood a chance, and Hogan had been taken down with a similar sort of ease, but all things considered, they couldn’t find it in them to begrudge him the victories. Interestingly enough, instead of practically humming with a perceptible sort of rage on being forced to accept any sort of defeat, this time Sif had grinned a fierce, wolfish grin on finding herself bested by the younger prince (though there was yet a steely look in her eyes that warned him that this didn’t change anything, that next time she would come at him just as ferociously as she had this time and all the times before). Even Thor had taken a decent beating, though he’d still won out in the end, and he’d practically glowed with delight during the entire match.

In addition, Loki had attended the feasts more regularly, and stayed at them much longer than was his wont. He didn’t join in the dancing or the more raucous celebrations, but he made an obvious sort of effort to regularly put in an appearance, to at least be present for if not partake in the merriment.

He’d hidden himself away less. He’d walked about with Thor more, so much so that they were nearly as inseparable as they’d been as boys. And yet, Asgard’s younger prince had still seemed oddly reserved or restrained, not at all his usual sharp-tongued, mischief-loving self…

…Because the truth of the matter was, as well as things seemed to be going superficially, inwardly things hadn’t changed for Loki at all.

He still couldn’t sleep through the night so he was still always tired, and he was nearly always uncomfortable, both physically and mentally. Exhaustion and the distress caused by the continuous see-sawing between extremes where his internal temperature was concerned was taxing his body nearly to the breaking point, and the psychological effect was little better. Every time that all-consuming heat swallowed him, every time that bone-numbing and blood-freezing chill encased him, every time he warily removed himself from an Asgardian’s easy reach, all he could think about was his biggest secret. How his whole life, all of it, every single thing, was nothing more than an elaborate lie. How he wasn’t really and truly accepted by Thor or any of the people around him save his foster parents.

And that more than anything else ate away at him, until at long last he finds that he simply cannot bear it any longer.

He will change himself, Loki decides late one night as he leaves the most recent banquet, stumbling a bit from the regrettable combination of fatigue and one (or three) too many cups of mead. He’s so worn down from his constant hyper-vigilance, from trying to hold himself back and yet throw himself forward at the same time that at this moment, he is willing to attempt nearly anything, so long as there is the slightest chance of some sort of reprieve.

On reaching his rooms, he moves to a small stack of books he’d tucked away beneath one of his work-tables, spreading them out before paging through them with an intense sort of focus. He’d looked through them all before, of course, but he’d previously considered most of the spells they contained too old, too unpredictable, or too strange to be worthwhile. But now, now he’s desperate, and even if he doesn’t understand everything in those books, their power is undeniable. In any case, nothing else has worked, so perhaps it’s time to try something drastic, to take a chance and embrace the unknown.

At that very moment, one of those horrible hot-flashes engulfs him, and he only just manages to jerk his hands away from the dusty old tome he’s flipping through in time to keep from freezing the book’s pages together into one solid block; and just like that, he has his answer. If only I could put a stop to these accursed temperature changes, he thinks as he doffs his heavy leather outer-tunic and stretches himself out on his back on the cool stone floor. The sweat beading on his brow and staining his under-tunic is proof of how ineffective both actions are, and yet it’s better than doing nothing. If only he didn’t have these constant, painful reminders of what he really is, how different he is, who his blood-father is, then perhaps he could simply allow himself to forget the Truth. He’d nearly done so when he was younger, and really, what was there to be gained by revealing the past? If he could mostly-forget again, he could throw himself more wholeheartedly into being more like Thor (which had never worked at all well when he was a child, so there was little enough hope of it succeeding now, but for the moment those memories were far from Loki’s mind).

Still, partly-muddled as his thoughts are, Loki remains self-possessed enough to take proper care in handling his magicks. Some other time he might enjoy finding himself in the shape of a horse or a gadfly or a salmon, but at the moment such a change would be less than amusing and far from helpful. Settling on the spell that sounds the most appropriate given the present circumstances, Loki gathers the necessary material components, reads the spell over once again to be certain he understands it (he does--it’s just a precaution, since he is on just the wrong side of tipsy and is well aware of that fact), and falls to casting.

It proves to be more complex a working than he’d quite expected, but he manages. Now that there’s no danger of his magic suddenly sputtering out or slipping away and sending everything swiftly sideways, Loki tends to feel that there’s little he can’t do (magically speaking) if he puts his mind to it. Still, his control isn’t perfect, and he expends far more energy than he really should have had to for something like this, complicated as it is and weary as he already feels. After half an hour, he’s begun straining over working with such constantly-high levels of power; a quarter of an hour later, there’s a fuzzy sort of blackness edging his vision, and he has to struggle to keep his eyes open and maintain his focus, his grasp on the spell he’s working. As the minutes inch on towards a full hour, Loki grits his teeth and forces himself to finish what he’d started...and the moment, the very second the hour strikes and the spell is complete, he finds himself lying face-down on the floor, unable to so much as twitch a finger, much less push himself upright once more.

He doesn’t feel any different, is the younger prince’s last hazy thought before all the many strains he’s been under take their toll by force, and he loses his grip on consciousness.

- ♦ ♈ ♦ -

He discovers the next day that, in a way, it had worked.

He is finally free of those constant hot-flashes…but as with all magic, there is a cost. The cold-flashes have grown more regular and more intense than ever, and now just about everything Loki touches freezes, oftentimes even if he’s wearing gloves or his skin is covered. His first thought is to undo the spell, but that proves impossible: the threads of magic surrounding himself are too tangled to allow much room for maneuvering. Additionally, the spell he’d cast the night before must have tapped into his Frost Giant nature somehow; already it’s solid, smooth, and inexorable as a glacier, a huge unmovable weight frozen in place.

As before, Loki’s only real choice is to do his best to live with it.

That proves a great deal more difficult than he’d first thought, however. It’s almost a toss-up as to whether or not something will freeze solid the instant he touches it, which makes getting dressed hard, eating difficult, and bathing nigh-on impossible—every time he tries to dip his toes in the bath, the water freezes beneath him. His only remaining options when it comes to keeping himself clean are the sauna (which he exits in well under a minute, coated in ice and only slightly cleaner) and the use of spices and sweet oils to mask the scent of his unwashed body.

Loki knows with a sinking sort of trepidation that if he looks at things from Thor’s (admittedly rather limited) point of view, their situation is worse now than ever before.

Sparring is, of course, out of the question, and not only because it makes him perspire freely; Loki can’t risk what an accidental touch would mean for his friends, or even worse what it would mean for himself. Additionally, he knows that Thor would be on him in an instant about those missed sparring sessions the second they made eye contact, so Loki has no choice but to avoid both his brother and their friends entirely…and his powers being what they are, Loki is more than up to that task.

Now his brother and his friends can go for days and weeks at a time without catching more than a brief glimpse of Asgard’s second prince, even at meals. He doesn’t respond to their summons or to any written messages, and never answers when they knock on the doors to his chambers; forcing those doors open (as Thor had done on one occasion) revealed nothing but an empty, atypically messy-looking room. Heimdall’s lips thin when asked for the status and whereabouts of the younger prince, and he refuses to say much of anything save a gruff, “Loki is Loki. And Loki is wherever he wants to be--which for the moment is wherever you are not.” Thor doesn’t pay it any heed, but Fandral wonders if perhaps for once there’s the faintest hint of approval in the Guardian’s tone as he speaks the latter half of that second sentence.

Those fleeting glimpses they do manage to get of him offer little relief. Loki looks nothing short of terrible: his hair and skin are greasy, his hands are stained with ink, and the hollows under his eyes and beneath his cheekbones make him look almost skeletal. He won’t meet their eyes, won’t acknowledge them in the least, disappearing in a puff of smoke the instant they call his name.

- ♦ ♈ ♦ -

Thor is brooding.

As the second month of Loki’s strange behaviour passes, the Warriors and Sif grow more and more concerned, about Thor as much as Loki, for the elder prince is clearly taking this turn of events hard. In his own way, Thor is trying to understand, trying to respect his brother’s obvious desire for solitude, and yet…it simply feels wrong to leave him alone like this, to not have Loki at his shoulder whenever he turns around, present and perpetually prepared to offer counsel and criticism in equal measure. Still, Thor is determined to defer to Loki’s wishes as much as possible, though it goes against his very nature to do so.

Thus, the brooding.

Which of course, eventually leads him to yet another consultation--and confrontation--with Odin.

“He is acting NOTHING like himself, Father! In times past, Loki could spend hours in the bath, and he has always been beyond meticulous when it comes to his appearance, and now…!” Thor shakes his head, blonde hair flying as words, never his strong point, temporarily fail him. “Surely you’ve seen him, Father! To show such a change in his aspect, surely there must be something terribly wrong—”

“Thor,” Odin breaks in with a snap, his single grey eye blazing. “A hundred times already we have had this very conversation, and a hundred times I gave you the same advice. There will be no one hundred and first time.”

Thor’s jaw squares at the underlying threat in that tone, and an almost visible crackle of energy flickers around him as he bares his teeth at the All-father. “Do you not care for him at all?” he snarls, already well on his way to shouting. “Loki is your son, just as I am, and yet you turn your gaze from him! What secret, unforgiveable act is he guilty of that gives you just cause stand by and refuse to offer him any aid whatsoever? You, who are the only being in all of Asgard who might have the slightest chance of being able to help him—”

“Thor.” Frigga’s voice, gentle and yet utterly unyielding for all that softness, breaks in on the elder prince’s tirade, and Thor’s rising wrath is dispelled in an instant. “Your brother is just a late bloomer. All that you can give him,” she says, with perhaps the slightest stress on that you, and a split-second’s plainly disapproving glance toward Odin, “is time, patience, and your continued love and acceptance.”

“Mother…” A stream of conflicting emotions flows across the elder prince’s face, worry, uncertainty, and frustration chief among them, but eventually he bows his head in acceptance, though the dejection in his bearing is far from subtle. He knows that Frigga does not involve herself in things needlessly, and when it comes to sensitive matters such as these, Thor trusts her judgment above all others; many a time her advice had staved off childhood conflicts and mended youthful fallings-out. “…I understand.”

Looking decidedly diminished, he bows and leaves, even his brightly-coloured cloak’s swirling around him somehow subdued. Frigga watches him go with a sad sort of smile, though as the door shuts, that smile fades completely. Rising from her seat beside her lord husband, she gives Odin a Look before sweeping across the room and out the door herself, with no less speed than the elder of her two adopted sons.

- ♦ ♈ ♦ -

Paying a visit to her younger son in his chambers isn’t unheard of, but Frigga’s unannounced arrival is still out-of-the-ordinary enough that it puts Loki even further on edge. He eyes her warily as she sweeps into his rooms, as if expecting (and perhaps almost half-wanting) some sort of embrace, but she’s careful not to come too near, and makes no move to touch him as of yet. “Mother,” he says, slowly and with equal caution, mostly-polite but still-pointed questions deftly woven into that single word. Why have you made such a point of coming here? And why now? Do you not fear the danger my very presence might well signify for you? Knowing how I would feel if I were to harm you, how I would blame myself, what would bring you to place yourself within harm’s reach?

Unspoken though those questions are, Frigga seems to catch and understand them nonetheless; in many ways Loki’s mind works more like hers than Odin’s or Thor’s, particularly when it comes to reading people, to sensing what they’re thinking. They are both more delicate, more finely-tuned and sensitive to subtle shifts in atmosphere and ambiance, though Loki is more focused on logic, probabilities, and the push-and-pull of cause and effect, while Frigga’s intuition hinges on sheer emotions.

Which is why the Queen of the Aesir simply smiles as she meets her younger son’s haunted, sunken-eyed gaze, her voice and expression warm and soothing. “Be at peace, Loki. I shall not stay overlong.”

Loki watches her a lengthy moment more, then nods slightly, easing back down into his chair as she settles herself on one of the couches halfway across the room.

“Your father and I agree on most things,” she says without preamble, “but there is one thing, at least, that we have always disagreed on.” Her gaze is tender, and it is empathy, not pity, that she turns on him alongside that all-consuming, all-comforting mother’s love. “I have always thought that your lord father was wrong to hide the truth of your birth from the rest of Asgard, particularly for as long as he has. And while I know there is a purpose to everything your father does, I do not believe that the ends always justify the means; I cannot accept what he has knowingly put you through. He had to have known that as a young boy, you would be too frightened to tell anyone, and now…rather than ease or erase the memories of past misdeeds, time has only deepened the bitterness between Asgard and Jotunheim, though even so, he still holds the power and authority to—” Frigga stops herself, concern and passion and even a hint of frustration subsiding once more beneath her calm, even-keeled personality. “But he cannot. Not now. For the All-father is already thrice-sworn to leave this decision up to you, and nothing can be done about that.” She hesitates, then continues on, speaking even more gently now. “Know that I seek only to counsel, not to command you in this. I know it will be a difficult matter, however and whenever you choose to reveal the truth…but perhaps now that all of Asgard has heard of your grand adventure on Svartalfheim, how you saved your brother and your friends time and again with no thought for yourself…perhaps now that all know that you are every bit the hero that Thor is—”

“No.” Loki winces at the sharpness in his tone, his gaze falling away from his adoptive mother, but he can’t find it in himself to explain or expand upon that too-adamant rejection.

There is a space of protracted silence during which neither moves nor speaks. Frigga doesn’t react at first, though she doesn’t look away from her second son either, but then she nods her acceptance.

“I will stand with you and behind you whatever you decide, Loki,” she says, coming up off the couch with a smooth grace that hints at her past as a shield-maiden of the All-father. “But I do believe that this will go easier for you if you can find it within yourself to acknowledge and accept yourself, and if you truly learn who you are.”

“I have,” he says, and though he tries to bite it back, he can’t keep the snappishly irritable tone from his voice. “I learned that when I was but a child, Mother—you know that.”

“No,” Frigga says, the word soft but incontestable just the same. “You know what you are. It is not so easy to understand or accept who you are. Never make the mistake of believing that they are one and the same.”

Loki stares at her a moment, lips pressed tightly together in a thin line; then he shakes his head, turning his gaze aside. “I am not in the mood for these meaningless word-games.”

Frigga can’t help but smile in response. “Skilled as you are with words, I had thought you would better understand what I was saying.” He turns his face towards her ever so slightly, a subtle motion but an obvious indicator of his interest nonetheless, and she explains. “What you are is how you are born, something you have no control over. What you are is a Jotun, a frost-giant. But who you are is something you become, something you find for yourself, and something that only you can decide. Who you are is Loki Odinson, Prince of Asgard, and my cherished, dearly beloved second child.”

She’s drifted closer over the course of their conversation, and at that last, she carefully reaches out to pat his shoulder with one gloved hand. The endlessly steady love and affection in her smile temporarily melt all his icy defences, and Loki looks up at the only mother he’s ever known with the wide eyes of a frightened boy. And though in that instant he wants nothing more than to throw his arms around her waist and bury his face against her middle like a small child, breathing in the well-remembered scent of her perfume, he doesn’t dare touch her; of all the many people in his life, she is the one that he truly could not stand to cause any sort of physical harm, accidental or not.

So instead he breathes out a long, slow sigh, letting his eyes fall closed (one of the ultimate expressions of trust), and leans ever so slightly into her touch.

- ♦ ♈ ♦ -

Thor is still brooding. The only difference is, now he’s attempting in turns to either hide it or to not brood, which really only makes it all the more obvious.

He has been struggling to accept what both of his parents have told him (and in his father’s case, have told him time and again), but the stubbornness of Asgard’s first prince is legendary, a foe that even he himself is hard put to contain. Much as he wants to believe that Loki is fine, that everything is fine, that everything will continue to be fine, every time he catches a glimpse of his brother’s pale face and too-thin figure, all his misgivings return in force and his worries descend on him again with the furor of starving wolves presented with fresh meat.

This is, in part, due to his nature, which is one of action and not words. Thor can be told something is a mistake a hundred times, but until he has actually made the mistake and learned for himself firsthand why it is a mistake, the lesson only rarely comes home to roost. His parents have told him that there is nothing wrong with Loki, but even though he only catches sight of him for a few brief seconds every few days, Thor can still see his brother’s suffering quite plainly. And in the face of that obvious misery and distress, words held little to no meaning for Thor, regardless of who had spoken them.

Thor reaches his breaking point at a time and in a way that is wholly unexpected to anyone. He and the Warriors Three are intent on relaxing in the baths after a particularly grueling morning in the practise hall, and all of them are unusually quiet as they step into the caldarium (Thor because he’s focusing so intently on his not-brooding; Volstagg because he has a mouthful of grapes; Fandral because Sif had managed to catch him in the jaw with the hilt of her sword not once but twice, and he’s still cautiously probing the resulting bruises since he’s not entirely certain she didn’t break it both times; and Hogun because that’s simply how he always is). All four come to a startled stop on finding Loki, still fully-dressed and heavy swathed in towels, sitting close beside the steaming water, his eyes glazed and unfocused; he evidently hadn’t heard them come in, and was still as of yet unaware of their presence.

Even wrapped in towels, Loki looks small and sickly, and though he’s right next to the water, his skin is still deathly pale; Thor feels his heart wrench and his stomach drop as he looks at him. “How poorly he looks,” the blonde warrior murmurs softly, almost to himself.

“Well then,” Volstagg manages to say around his latest mouthful of fruit, “ask him to join us. A soak would likely do him good.”

“No no, that clearly won’t work. The instant he saw us coming toward him, he’d simply vanish into thin air again, like usual.” Fandral starts to grin, winces as it sends a sharp pang through his jaw, and settles for a lopsided smile instead. “Reticent as Loki has been of late, you’d be likely to have better luck surprising him and simply tossing him into the—Thor?”

Loki sits as if in a daze, thinking of nothing and everything and letting the steam and the soothing sound of the water wash over him, lingering close by but never touching it, a largely vain attempt to soak up some small fraction of its warmth. He is so absolutely and entirely withdrawn into himself and the labyrinthine corridors of his own mind that he doesn’t notice Thor’s swift approach at all; only as his older brother’s arms clamp around him tightly, scooping him up like a child, does he come out of his reverie with a violent start.

“Thor!” he snarls shrilly, his voice cracking and sounding far weaker than either of them remembers it being. “Unhand me at once—!”

“Brother! Enough of this skulking about in dark corners! Join us for a bath!” Thor’s voice booms out over the water, far louder than necessary, a transparent attempt to use volume to conceal the falseness of his forced cheer. And with a rough bark of laughter, Asgard’s first prince gives a mighty heave, and does just as Fandral had (jokingly) suggested: he tosses his still-fully-clothed brother out into the bathwater.

The very second Loki’s far-too-light body leaves his arms, Thor regrets it, but by then it’s already too late. The deed is done, and there’s nothing he can do to take it back or alter his impulsive action, though that certainly doesn’t keep him from trying. Thor takes two lunging steps after Loki before he realises the utter uselessness of his actions, and the waist-deep water of the hot springs drags him to a stop.

Which is just as well, because Loki never hits the water. Thor had surprised him, to be sure, but the younger prince had recovered his wits near-instantly; as often as he’d used that spell now, it is second nature to simply magick himself away before he hits the water and subsequently turns the whole caldarium into a single block of ice.

…But even so, the spot where Loki had almost hit is frozen solid, though none of the warriors notice that sizeable chunk of ice before it melts back into the surrounding hot water.

- ♦ ♈ ♦ -

{Chapter XI}

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