Loki Swap Chapter (6,886 words) by LokiOfSassgaard

Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Thor (Movies), Thor (Comics), Loki (Comics)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Loki (Marvel), Thor (Marvel)

Summary: The swap chapter from Second Rite, in which another version of Loki wakes up in this one’s body and has no idea what’s going on. For the Loki Swap event.


Loki woke, immediately sensing something had gone wrong.  He hadn’t gone to sleep.  Had he?

He couldn’t remember.  He wouldn’t have gone to sleep.  He was doing something important, but the fog in his mind would not allow him to recall what, exactly.

He’d been in New York.  Of that much, he was certain.

Slowly, his senses returned to him.  A heavy weight on top of him, and soft furs beneath him.  One side of his face was exposed to air, just on the wrong side of pleasantly cool.  A slight nip in the air signalled something else that was wrong.  Something else that was just a little off.

He could hear the wind, howling outside while the building he was in creaked and moaned against it, shifting and buffeting in strong gales that kicked up.  There was breathing as well; breathing that wasn’t his.  Breathing, he realised, that came from the weight on top of him.  Loki tried to shift beneath it, finding it a massive, immovable bulk.  The thing above him shifted then, and dragged its tongue over his face.  Its tongue, which covered his face and still had room to scrape against his hair.  Loki shoved again, and the beast moved off of him, slow and languid.

It wasn’t just any beast.  It was a fully grown Jötunn wolf that whined like a puppy as it stretched its back and legs before finding a new place to lie on the packed dirt floor.  Loki stared at it, trying to keep as still as possible before it saw him.  Perhaps if he held his breath, the beast wouldn’t see him as a snack.  But it had no interest in spilling his blood and tearing his intestines from his belly.  It simply yawned and went back to sleep at the foot of an enormous bed against a near wall.  One of three beds in the room, Loki realised.  All overly large, while he slept on a pile of furs and blankets on the floor.

And then he saw it.  He saw himself as he gazed around the room—a flash of dark colour that caught the corner of his eye.  A bruise, he thought.

No.  Not a bruise.  Him.  He saw himself, bare-chested, his skin scarred and mangled and blue.  He saw his hands, his nails ink black and cracked.  His knuckles scarred and abused.  He wore rings he didn’t recognise on his fingers, and bracelets that weren’t his on his wrists.  He ran his hand over his chest, and the terrible, grotesque set of scars that ran across him.  Four long, jagged lines that told a terrifying story Loki did not remember.  Others as well, small but in great numbers, peppered him.  And one more on his shoulder, long and narrow and still healing from something recent.  Something Loki at least recognised, even if he did not know how he had come to be stabbed by the energy of a Cosmic Stone. 

Loki felt the bile rising in his stomach as he saw all of it, bare and laid out in the open as if he had no shame at all.  He wanted to scream.  He wanted to wail and thrash and destroy everything in reach.  But he didn’t dare.  Loki knew not where he was, or what his captors would do to him if they found him awake.  Trying to calm himself, Loki ran his hands over his face and to his hair.  But his hands were stopped before they got that far.  Stopped by something he had not expected, protruding from his forehead, just above his brow.  Loki froze completely at the sensation of bone in his fingers.  Bone, erupting from his skull, through his skin, and curving toward the sky. 

Horns.

He had horns.

Not the horns he wore on his helm.  Horns growing from his own skull.  A hot tightness roiled in his belly as his treacherous fingers followed the cursed things along their length, finding them curving up and slightly back before ending in dull, rounded points.  He choked back a noise that started to form in the back of his throat, terrified to make a single sound, lest he be noticed by his captors, or the beast beside him woke and realised there was a convenient meal before it.

It wasn’t possible.  How had this been done to him?

Loki was a shapeshifter.  He would simply shift back and gather his wits.  Then, he could escape.  Shifting back to himself was easy.  Should have been easy.  Instead, it came with a blinding white pain that exploded from between his eyes and went straight through him.  The tightness in his belly turned sour, and Loki fell forward to his hands and knees, panting through his teeth and trying not to vomit onto his own hands.  His hands, which were still blue, still scarred and abused, and adorned with jewellery he’d never seen before.  Still not his.  He screwed his eyes shut to not have to look at them and just tried to breathe, slow and metered until he felt as though he might be able to move again.  When he opened his eyes and looked up, he found the wolf looking at him from across the floor.  It held its ears high, watching him not with hunger, but curiosity.  It wuffed lowly, and a moment later, whined.

“Hush,” Loki hissed at it.

To his surprise, the wolf laid its head on its paws and quieted itself.

Loki looked around the room again, finding something that did look familiar.  A buckskin sack rested against the wall, with a familiar mended tear down one side.  Loki slowly crawled toward it and pulled it close to him.  There was a map inside, marked with smudged handwriting he did not recognise.  Asgardian runes, but marking a map of Jötunheimr.  Another look around the room, and Loki realised that must have been where he found himself.  The sizes of everything were so large, and the air so cool, he wondered why he had not thought of Jötunheimr sooner.  A moment later, he wondered how anything still stood on Jötunheimr at all.

He dug through the pack to find anything else.  He found some clothing he recognised.  Old tunics, leather breeches.  A pair of tall boots were against the wall, which he recognised as his own as well.  He quickly dressed to cover as much of his skin as he could, and continued digging through the pack.  Midgardian money littered the bottom.  A shaving kit that definitely was not of Asgard.  A dagger he recognised, on a belt he did not.  Scraps of older clothes that had been torn apart.  None of it made sense.

He opened the shaving kit to see what other clues he might find inside.  A straight razor with a synthetic handle—definitely not Asgardian—and a glass mirror.  Loki steeled himself and picked up the mirror.  He couldn’t bear to look into it, but he needed to see the horned monster he’d become.  Taking a deep breath, he tilted it to see his reflection, and barely recognised the face he saw.  The face that looked back at him was his own, but it wasn’t his own at all.  Blue skin with raised ridges.  Black lines that came from behind his ears and swirled across his forehead, almost perfectly framing the dark blue horns that cut through his skin.  Red eyes that almost glowed they were so bright, made even brighter by the faded kohl smeared around them.  His ears had been pierced as well, each one holding a modest silver hoop.  Tight braids had been woven into his hair on the sides of his scalp, pulling his hair off his unnervingly pointed ears so it hung loose behind his shoulders, so long it began curling at the ends.

And his teeth, which surprised him.  He’d seen frost giant teeth, sharp and gnarled like some savage beast.  His were flat, and nearly perfect.  Except for the one that was missing, which he hadn’t even noticed for all the other panic.  Now that he saw it, his tongue went to the place where his tooth should have been, finding it tender; recently, but not freshly lost.  Pulled out, rather than a broken and jagged root remaining in place.

He also needed to shave.  How long had he been here that he had gone ungroomed for so long?  But even that was wrong.  The hair on his chin and jaw was not the beard of a man, but the scraggly, patchwork attempt of a boy.

Loki shoved the mirror back into the kit and slammed the whole thing shut before shoving it back into the sack.  The sack that was his, though he recognised little inside it.  He stood carefully and strapped the belt around his waist, finding it an uncomfortable loose fit that hung off his hip.  It also hung backwards, with the dagger on the wrong hip.  He tried to shift it over to hang off his right side, but the leather was too tight and didn’t want to move easily.  He quickly gave up, deciding there were more important things to worry about.  As he pulled on his boots, Loki noticed an unstrung bow, and a quiver of arrows amongst the pile of belongings he didn’t recognise.  It wasn’t his bow, but he could use one, and would surely find it useful.  He checked the quiver for extra strings, finding that whoever had left it at least had been prepared.  Extra strings, arrowheads, twine, and even a small block of resin, wrapped in hide, were in the lower side pouch.  All that was missing was extra fletching.  He stuffed the map into his quiver and swung it over his shoulder, electing to leave the sack.  It had nothing in it he needed.  Then he took a quick moment to string the bow, certain he’d need it for his escape.  Why he had been left with a dagger and bow, he had no idea, and wasn’t foolish enough to question it.

He carefully drew the curtain back, peering into the rest of the house.  Loki hadn’t been sure what he should expect, but an entire family of frost giants wasn’t it.  None of them seemed to have seen him yet, at least.  Loki let the curtain drop back into place and tried to just breathe. 

What the hel was he doing on this realm of monsters?  He thought he’d destroyed it, and everything on it.  But he looked around again, and realised he wasn’t in Utgard.  The house he was in was built of stacked stone and timber poles, with a sod roof that bucked and rippled in the wind.  The Bifröst had been aimed at Utgard, but it had likely not been active long enough to tear the entire realm to pieces as intended.

It still did not answer what he was doing there, or why he had been forced into this vile form. 

Again, he peered out to the house, this time spotting something else he recognised.  An Álfar cloak hung on a post near the door.  If he could get to the door, he could get his cloak and get out.  Getting out would be easy, assuming he could still access his magic.  Trying to shift his form had brought an unexpected wave of pain he still didn’t know what to do with.  Instead, he pulled a different cloak around him; one of seiðr that enveloped him and hid him from view.  He could feel it wrapping around him, embedding in his skin.  It didn’t make him invisible.  But it would make him unseen.

Except, apparently, by the wolf.  As Loki started to step out to the fire room, the wolf sprang to its feet and stepped toward Loki.  Standing, the thing was enormous.  The size of a small horse, with teeth as long as his fingers.

“No,” Loki said, holding a hand out and praying it would be enough.

Again, to his surprise, the wolf sat back down.

“Stay,” Loki told it.

As he stepped out to the fire room, the wolf stayed.  He would have to unpack that later.  Now, there was simply no time.

Loki carefully walked along the dark edges of the fire room, watching the the giants as they sat around the table.  He realised they were playing some sort of game, which was fortunate.  It kept them occupied, and allowed Loki to grab his cloak and slip quietly out the door into the howling storm.

His cloak, he realised, had also not been as he’d left it.  A thick caribou hide had been sewn on as a lining, and the silver clasp was different.  Not serpents, but a hippogryph.  But the cloak was his.  Even with the new lining, it fit him like it was made for him.  It smelled of the dragon’s blood he burned in his chambers, and had the same familiar hard patch along one of the edges, where ink had spilled.

On the wrong edge, he realised.  On the left, and not the right.

Loki quickly shuffled his belongings around, moving his quiver so it sat over his cloak, and not under.  His bow did not attach where he expected it to, but to his belt at his side.  On the right side, opposite the dagger.  The wrong side.

Without the cube, Loki could not leave easily.  But he could leave.  He knew how to find the lines where the realms overlapped; the little spaces that would let him slip between Yggdrasil’s branches.  If he could return to Asgard, return to his chambers, he could break this curse.

There was one such line not far west of Utgard.  The line he had used to ruin Thor’s big day.  Though Loki had no idea where he was, he was fortunate enough to have found himself with a map.  He quickly consulted it, finding that whoever had left it for him had been courteous enough to mark it in great detail.  He was already close, in a village called Hvítá.  He’d never heard of it, but Jötunheimr had never been an object of his attention.  Which was a shame, because he realised he needed to find north.  He looked up to the sky, finding it completely blotted out by swirling snow and ice.  Whether it was night or day, Loki could not tell.

He tried to look around the landscape for any landmarks, but all he saw was a swirl of white, covering the village like a fog so that he could barely see a few meters ahead of him.  The shadows of buildings loomed in the near distance, hazy and faint like enormous spirits.  His only choice was to pick a direction, hope he kept in a straight line, and orientate himself as soon as he found a landmark.  Taking a deep breath, Loki began the slow trudge through the snow.  As he walked through the village, he drew his cloak around him as tight as he could, hunching into the caribou fur to hide from the stiff wind.  He was surprised to find that the cold affected him.  Were frost giants not made of ice themselves, impervious to the harsh conditions of their realm?  But Loki definitely felt the cold.  He felt it on his skin, biting and sinking into him where the wind drove into the exposed skin of his face and hands.  He tried to pull his hood down farther, but the damned disgusting horns on his head prevented it.  Still, he was grateful for whoever had elected to line the cloak with a pelt.  Without it, he thought he might quickly freeze to death, forgotten and unknown in that rotten, hateful realm.

He walked until he came to the edge of the village, finding himself stepping into an endless white void.  A treacherous thought sprang to him, that he should have brought the wolf.  He had only a dagger and a bow on him for protection against whatever the realm might throw at him.  Having little choice, he kept walking, deeper into the storm.  After about an hour of trudging through waist-deep snow, the winds began to calm, and the sky cleared as snow was no longer carried through the air on the currents.  Loki realised abruptly that the sky was dark and full of stars, and yet he could see across the tundra as if it were day.  He did not want to think about why he was able to so easily see in the dark, and trudged ever onward.  Eventually, he could see mountains in the distance, and stopped to pull his map from his quiver.  It took only a few moments of studying it for him to find his bearings.  Somehow, miraculously, he was heading more or less in the same direction.  He shifted to walk slightly eastward, and continued his trudge.

Loki didn’t know how long he’d dragged himself across a festering Jötunn tundra, but he eventually came toward the area he knew to find a line.  He followed the path along a small, frozen river, trailing it upstream until it came to a rocky outcropping.  Loki left the river and walked toward the rocks.  He could feel the energy coming from the spot, found it quickly, and slipped through.  It wasn’t a single step to get through to Asgard, but it was an easy path.  Frozen stone shifted and buzzed beneath him, eventually becoming something warm and living, covered in lush moss.  Loki stepped out onto the other side, finding a realm bathed in sunlight and summer foliage.

The light from Asgard’s sun burned his eyes with a sudden intensity Loki hadn’t expected.  Everything was too bright and too hot for the time of year.  Shielding his eyes with his hand, Loki peered around the area to gather his bearings once more.

From there, it was easy.  He kept himself cloaked and walked hidden paths back to the palace.  Loki quickly made it to his chambers, expecting to find them locked and guarded.  But he found no such thing.  The door to the antechamber swung open easily, and Loki stepped inside, finding it empty.  A fresh wave of panic began to rise within him as he rushed from chamber to chamber, finding each one empty.  And freshly emptied.  Dust had barely had a chance to settle, and the buzz of energy still hung in the air.  The energy needed to move everything not on the backs of servants, but through magic.  Loki was able to trace that magic, finding it taking him deeper into the palace, beneath the throne room, by the vaults. 

It led him to a large hall, where two guards stood vigilant.  Loki slipped past them unseen, and stepped into the hall.  It was definitely his.

It wasn’t his at all.

It smelled of his chambers.  The dragon’s blood he burned, the ink and parchment, the faint whiff of sulphur from spells he practised.  He could feel his own magic in the air, familiar but not at the same time.  But he recognised nothing in the hall.  The furniture was all different—the bed entirely too large, the desk enormous and new, mismatched sofas in an array of colours, instead of the carefully chosen set that should have matched everything else.  Shelves lined the hall, and took up space in the empty areas.  Some books he recognised and knew, many he did not.  Midgardian books, he realised.  And trinkets from all over Yggdrasil.

Loki removed his gear and cloak, setting it all on the floor as he began to explore the hall that was not his.  At the same moment, he dropped his concealment, hoping to conserve his energy should he need to make a hasty escape.  In one of the side chambers, Loki found a wine store.  It had much more than just wine, however.  Meads and ales and liquors and spirits from all over the Nine Realms.  Glass bottles with red labels he recognised from Midgard.  A soft drink his thralls had favoured.

None of it made sense.

Loki pushed it all from his mind and went to the bookshelves.  The organisation at least made sense, and he quickly found what he needed, as well as much he didn’t recognise.  Ancient Dökkálfar tomes, Jötunn and Eldjötnar scrolls.  Magic he recoiled at even the thought of practising.  But the spells he needed were seiðr and inoffensive, and he seemed to know precisely where to find the books he needed.  He took them all to the desk and spread everything out.  Despite the desk being enormous, it seemed to fit him far better than he expected it to.  It was long and deep, with plenty of room to spread out, while sitting at a height that he could pore over the pages without cramping his neck.

He reached for an empty scroll and a pen, finding them on the wrong side of the desk.  The ink wells and quills were all on the left side, instead of the right, where they would be convenient.  He slid everything around and dipped the pen into the inkwell, ready to build his spell.  As he brought the quill to the page, he found it unwilling to move where he wanted it.  His hand felt slow and sluggish, with the quill sitting uncomfortably in his fingers.  He thought it might be the quill itself, and tried another, but his strokes were uneven and blotted heavily as the nib seemed to twist awkwardly on the page.

A thought slowly crept into Loki’s head.  One that should have been obvious from the start.  The smudged writing on the map, the backwards placement on his belt, the layout of the desk.

Loki cautiously shifted the book and parchment, swapping their places before he moved the quill to his left hand.  It was an unfamiliar thing to lean to his right to read, but his body seemed more comfortable with it.  As he brought the quill to the parchment again, his mind told him it was wrong.  But his hand knew precisely what to do, and his runes came out neat and tidy enough, though in a style that was not his own.  He realised he had to hold his hand at an odd angle, or else he would drag his palm across the fresh ink and smudge it.  This was something his body already knew how to do, though it seemed prone to forgetting at the same time.

He tried to ignore it, just like he ignored the blue hue of his skin against the quill.  Loki focused on flipping through pages and building a spell that would at the very least conceal the twisted form he’d found himself in.  Unbinding or breaking the curse upon him would take time he did not have at the moment.  At uneven intervals, he reached inward to himself, trying to feel where the spell had been anchored.  Infuriatingly, he found nothing.  He sensed no trace of any curse or binding that would keep him from shifting into a better form.  But something was deeply wrong, on a fundamental level.  He could not stay in this cursed form, living like some monster in a body that didn’t even behave how it was supposed to.

With growing frustration, Loki tried to cradle his head in his hands, only to be violently reminded of the horns there.  He recoiled sharply from their touch, biting down on the rage that threatened to burst forth.  This was not his hall, and he knew not how well it had been warded against intrusion.  And he did not care to find out the consequences of being caught there.  For a moment, he just breathed, trying not to become aware of the extra weight just above his eyes.  His eyes, which felt uncomfortably strained from the effort of reading page after page of text.  If he could just focus, and ignore the physicality of the problem at hand, he might actually be able to find a solution to it.

He pored through the tome, copying down everything he could find that was even remotely relevant.  When he exhausted the first tome, Loki shifted to start paging through the next one.  Ink stained his fingers, smudging up the side of his palm and into the cuff of his tunic, spreading into the woven fabric.  Loki frowned, rubbing his thumb into the stain as if to lift it out.  He noticed the entire cuff bore the hallmarks of previous stains, laundered and stained again countless times over.  This wasn’t how he lived.  This wasn’t even acceptable.  What vile creature had ruined and defiled his belongings?  Why was he stuck in this form, unable to change back?  Why couldn’t he work out what was used to bind him?  Why did reading, of all things, cause him physical discomfort behind his eyes?

Loki grit his teeth, acutely aware that they were not even his own, and flipped through the pages until he found something useful.  He copied all of it down, building a spell in smeared ink that couldn’t dry fast enough before his hand pressed against his runes and messed up his work.  He could feel the ink on his cuff start to dry and stiffen along the edges of the stain, scratching against the sensitive lines along his wrist.  He ignored that as well, determined to figure out the best way to hide himself again.

He was broken from his concentration at the sound of the doors opening.  Before Loki could conceal himself again, Thor walked into the hall.  He paused in his step upon seeing Loki, before rushing over to him.  Loki reached for a knife that wasn’t there, because it was hanging from the wrong side of his belt.  He reached for other knives, hidden away out of sight, and found none of them where he had stashed them.

Then, it was too late.  Thor was upon him, leaning over the edge of the desk with a wide grin Loki did not know what to do with.

“I did not know you had returned,” Thor said.  “Did you find what you were looking for on Jötunheimr?”

Loki had willingly gone to Jötunheimr then.  He could not fathom why he would have done such a thing.

“I did,” he said, not knowing what else to say.

He waited for something that never came.  Waited for Thor to finally notice him and recoil in horror at the sight of the beast sitting before him.  Instead, Thor turned his gaze down to the open tome on the desk, and the parchment next to it.

“Who are you building spells for?” he asked, picking up the parchment to inspect it.

Finally, Thor frowned, his brow furrowed at the sight of what Loki was working on.  That, at least, was expected, for Thor to see his work and belittle it somehow. 

“No one,” Loki said, going with the truth for lack of a foundation to form a lie.

Thor’s frown deepened.  “You mastered this stuff when we were four years old,” he said.

Loki understood every word Thor said individually, but comprehended none of it together. 

“Yes, well,” he said, taking the page back before anything could happen to it.  “I wanted to make a record of everything I know.”

Thor nodded, instantly accepting this answer.  His attention shifted back to Loki, with his gaze lingering on the horns growing from his head.  Thor reached out to one of them, and Loki’s entire body tensed as his brother pressed his fingers against one of them, tilting Loki’s head ever so slightly up.

“It’s a good look on you,” he said, sounding so utterly sincere.  “But you always did wear horns well.”

“Did I?” Loki asked. 

He studied Thor’s face, unable to puzzle out the game he was playing.  Unable to puzzle out why Thor had known to look for him in this strange hall, surrounded by strange items Loki didn’t even recognise.  But Thor didn’t hide deception well, and Loki saw none of it written across his features then. 

“Are you able to put your makeup on, or are you still stuck down here?” Thor asked.

Again, Loki understood the words individually, but it took him a moment to work out the actual meaning.  He remembered the kohl around his eyes, but realised quickly that wasn’t what Thor was talking about.  The pain Loki had felt when he tried to change his shape and assume an Æsir form had been almost unbearable.  And Thor knew about it.

“I appear to still be stuck down here,” Loki said, realising at once that his efforts might be completely in vain.  Had this been Odin’s doing?  Some cruel punishment meant to keep him in check?

Thor seemed disappointed at this news.  He frowned again and moved away from the desk, toward a shelf behind Loki.  Loki turned to watch him as he carded through a rather large collection of things that were not books, too tall and thin.  Thor picked out about a dozen of them, stacking them carefully in one arm and giving Loki a view of the covers.  They were a variety of bright and vibrant colours, with pictures drawn in an almost lifelike quality.  Faces of people Loki didn’t recognise, and names he had never heard of.  Once Thor had gathered up enough, he moved them over to the bed on the opposite wall.  Keeping one, he set the rest of the stack down gently, with a sort of respect Loki was not aware Thor was capable.  He took the item over to the hearth, and opened a squat black box that sat on the mantelpiece.  Loki watched him, trying not to seem too curious as he fiddled with the mechanism inside the box before pulling a shiny black disk from its parchment container.  With just a little more fiddling from Thor, the box suddenly began to play music, as loud and as clear as if an orchestra sat in that very hall with them.

“Then we shall make our own fun,” Thor said.  “What new things have you brought from your travels?”

Loki looked around the hall again, realising immediately what Thor meant.  Every flat surface, from the shelves to the rafters, was home to some bizarre and foreign trinket.  Some shelves held not books, like Loki had previously thought, but colourful boxes stacked haphazardly and almost carelessly.  Others held jars of items, or stacks of small trinkets in a set.  Still, Loki recognised none of it.

Loki shook his head, having no idea where to start.  “Nothing new,” he said.  “It wasn’t that sort of journey.”

Thor made a little noise Loki didn’t understand, as if he had expected a wholly different answer.  As if he had expected Loki to have brought him something, when Loki could not recall a single time he had returned from anywhere and brought Thor a gift.  But what had Thor expected him to find on Jötunheimr, besides snow and ice, and the rotting corpses of those left to die in their destroyed city?

He watched Thor as he walked to the wine stores, helping himself to the multitude of bottles kept in there.  He came out with two separate bottles, one full of a golden amber liquid, and another with a liquid so dark and opaque it looked almost black.  On his way over to the low table between the wine stores and the desk, Thor picked up two mismatched mugs from a shelf.  Mugs which Loki was certain belonged to no set at all, and had been stolen from the mead hall instead.  He had proper wine glasses.  Why Thor had gone for the first vessel he saw, Loki could not fathom.

Biting his tongue against it, Loki rose to his feet to join Thor.  The mismatched sofas sat in a square, facing inward toward a low table that matched nothing else in the hall.  It was almost as if the entire place had been furnished through petty theft, pilfering here and there what wouldn’t be missed.  The hall would have been comfortable, if not for the juvenile nature of its décor.  It wasn’t the hall of a prince, regal and orderly.  It was the hall of a child with sticky fingers and a drinking problem.

As he sat, he watched Thor fill both mugs, each from its own bottle.  Up close, Loki saw what the bottle of dark liquid was, and looked up to Thor, searching for any hint of intention.

It was wine from Jötunheimr.  Jötunn wine, which Thor had poured as if it were water, and handed to Loki.  Even holding it, Loki could smell the heavy spice of the wine.  It overwhelmed his senses, so strong it nearly made his eyes water. 

“Are you certain you don’t want some for yourself?” he asked, holding out the mug as if to offer it to Thor.

To his surprise, Thor laughed.  Though there was something stiff about it, almost misplaced.  “Yes, and spend the next month puking in Eir’s chambers.  No thank you, Loki.  It is all yours.”

Thor drank his own mead and leaned back in his seat.  He was comfortable, relaxed, entirely at ease in a way that screamed against everything Loki knew.  Thor should have been at his throat, shouting about this crime or that wrongdoing.  He should have been trying to murder the monster that sat before him.  But he acted as if there were no crimes at all.  No monster.  He acted as if it were perfectly natural for Loki to look this way, grotesque and deformed.  As if it were perfectly normal for Thor to see him this way, and to share a drink and a casual chat with Asgard’s worst enemy.

Against his better judgement, Loki drank from the wine in his cup.  It was heavy and strong, hitting him right behind his face as it entered his mouth.  Worse, he found it rather enjoyable.  Loki rarely got sloppy drunk, but he feared too much of this wine too quickly would easily do the job.

Now was not the time to get drunk.  Loki put the cup down and leaned back in his seat, mirroring Thor’s mood.  A moment later, the music from the box above the hearth stopped with a click, and the room went silent.  Loki looked back at it and frowned.  He realised he was supposed to be doing something to it, but without the first clue as to what, he didn’t dare get up and give himself away.

“Fine then, I’ll do it,” Thor said, getting up with a chuckle.  “I don’t know how a man who travels so much can be so lazy.”

“Perhaps I’m lazy because I’m tired from travelling,” Loki said.

Whoever lived in this hall certainly did no end of travelling though.  Loki could see it from where he sat.  The more he looked around, the more he realised he recognised quite a lot of the items on display, though not as being his.  Stones, amulets, and idols from other realms, along with books in languages from all across Yggdrasil.  A giant polar bear pelt hung on one of the walls, along with multiple game racks, including a pair of hippogryph horns.  The man who lived in this space was clearly a hunter, as well as a fighter.  Knives and daggers from all over Yggdrasil sat on display, and Loki spotted an empty mount on the wall that had been placed for a sword.  He wondered vaguely where the sword was.

Music filled the hall once again, and Loki realised abruptly that it was not music from Asgard, or any other higher realm.  It was in a mortal tongue.  Loki soured at the thought of it, wondering how he had found himself surrounded by Midgardian relics.  Loki picked up his mug and drank again, hoping for something familiar and finding only frost giant wine.

Frost giant wine, which Loki knew to be toxic, and yet he drank anyway.  Perhaps if he drank enough he might vomit out whatever had cursed him.  He waited for the inevitable migraine and tightness in his gut, but even as he drank more, it never came.  Ruefully, Loki realised he knew why.  Frost giant wine was toxic to the Æsir, which he was clearly not.

“You don’t have to stay down here on my account,” he said, not even bothering to face Thor.

Thor laughed quietly behind him.  “I must confess, I did not come down here to find you,” he said.  “I had every intention of raiding your stores.”

Loki flushed with a heat deep beneath his skin.  This hall was not even his, but Thor’s brazen honesty about taking what wasn’t his set a fire alight within Loki. 

“Have you thought to ask permission first?” Loki asked, finally turning to face Thor.

Thor frowned again, clearly caught off-guard by the question.  “I thought you weren’t here to ask.  And you’ve never cared before,” he said.  “I thought that’s why you collected it all.”

“Well, perhaps I care now,” Loki said.

He’d wounded Thor, and could see it plainly from across the room.  It felt good to know that this imposter of a brother was still capable of being hurt, and didn’t just trundle through life while everything thrown at him rolled off his back.  Then that hurt was replaced with something darker; something with a weight behind it Loki did not understand.

“Loki, it was an accident.  I know that,” Thor said.  “But what’s done is done.  You cannot live as if you are afraid of the past.”

Loki turned the words over in his head, unsure how Thor had managed to say so much without making a single ounce of sense.  It was something Loki was expected to unquestioningly know.  Something Thor seemed to think he wore around his neck like a lodestone.

“What the hel are you talking about?” he asked before he could stop himself.  “Stay out of my belongings.”

Thor shifted, standing straighter and more alert in a fluid motion.  He studied Loki, looking for something Loki could not guess at.  Then, with a slow nod, he began to step forward again, making his way back to the sofa.

“Of course,” he said slowly, sitting heavily.  “It was unfortunate, but you had nothing to do with it.”

Loki still had no idea what he was talking about, but didn’t dare probe further.  He also could not help but notice that Thor had ignored the demand to leave his possessions alone, whether or not they truly belonged to him.

The cube had done this to him.  Loki knew that now.  How or why, he still wasn’t sure.  Stark was involved somehow, though he still could not figure out the infuriating mortal’s connection.

Again, the machine on the mantelpiece clicked into silence, dropping a rough tension over the hall.

“Who says I didn’t?” Loki asked, knowing better but unable to control his tongue.

He did not even know what he was incriminating himself over, but Thor was being so infuriatingly tacit that Loki felt the need to test the bounds of how much the great ape would accept before snapping.

And indeed, Thor’s expression darkened further.  “Do you not think it’s dangerous enough for you right now as it is?  You may think you are protected, but if you go around boasting of murder, even father will not be able to stand in the way of the law.”

Murder was hardly surprising.  Of everything Loki could be accused of, a single murder was fairly low on the list of crimes he had actually committed.

“If you believe Odin would act as if to protect me, you’re more stupid than I thought,” Loki said.

He had pushed too far, and Loki realised it the moment the words left his mouth.  Thor’s ire had been risen and now he was no longer frowning.  He was scowling, accusatory and furious.

“After all he has done for you since you returned from Midgard, and you still behave as if it were nothing?” Thor said, slamming his mug to the table as he stood.  “Did you think the bounties on your head have vanished, and not that father had to work his own twisted plans to allow you to travel to Jötunheimr in safety?”

Murder and bounties.  That sounded more like it, though Loki was hardly pleased to hear it.

“Did you not think I am perfectly capable fo keeping myself safe without his help?” Loki asked, rising to meet him in the eye.

For a moment, he thought Thor meant to strike him.  For a moment, he thought he wanted Thor to do so.  Instead, Thor pushed past him, shoving hard against his shoulder as he stormed off toward the doors.  Loki stood in his place, listening to silence that fell over the hall.  A moment later, he sat back down on the sofa that wasn’t his, and reached for a bottle of wine he would have never thought to touch before that day.  He looked at the label, hand-written, and gave the contents a light swirl before bringing it to his mouth and drinking.

Perhaps he could drink the whole thing and put himself out of his misery.