Every time Laufey sent an envoy to Asgard, it upset everything.  Loki didn’t understand their demands, nor why Odin went along with them.  The envoy was sequestered to their own part of the palace, where no women were allowed to enter.  Talks all happened in that part of the palace, while servants had to be shuffled about, guards filling roles where there were not enough men to carry out duties.  For weeks it carried on, sowing chaos in all the worst ways.  And for weeks, Odin tolerated it.  Finally, the talks ended, the envoy returned to Jötunheimr, and the palace returned to normal.

“Why do you think he puts up with it?” Loki asked Thor, watching as Odin escorted Laufey’s cousin over the Rainbow Bridge to the Bifröst.

Thor shrugged.

“They’re backwards savages, Loki,” he said.  “You know that.  If they so much as look at a woman, they turn feral.”

Loki rolled his eyes.  “I’ve seen you after too many drinks, and even you manage to control yourself.”

Thor snorted and clapped Loki on the shoulder so hard he stumbled forward.  By the time he turned to shoot Thor a dirty look, Thor was already halfway through the door, laughing to some joke with himself.  Ignoring it, Loki strode out as well, keen to find some way to occupy his time that didn’t involve politics.  By the time he made his way to banquet, the tables were already being served, with the usual crowd gathering around them.  As Loki took his seat amongst his friends, he caught Odin gazing critically at him, his one eye seeming to pierce right through him.  Shaking it off, he focused his attention on the bottle of wine before him, taking the entire thing for himself.

It was the first time in far too long that women had been present at banquet, and Loki wasn’t the only man there who had missed their presence.  Fandral had one hanging off of each shoulder, and even Hogun had decided to entertain some young blonde thing for the evening.  As the crowd bustled a bit more loudly than usual, it was only a matter of minutes before Loki found himself the centre of someone’s attention.  He didn’t recognise her, and he didn’t care.  She slid up into his space with a horn in one hand, and an apple in the other. 

“Do you intend to share?” Loki asked her.

With a coy smile, she looked at the apple for a moment, before holding it up.  Loki took a bite of it right from her hand, realising he had missed this part of the evening more than he even knew.  The coy flirting and subtle power plays were a large part of the fun, before the evening ever even led back to his chambers.  On some deep, shameful level, Loki knew he could have any woman he wanted and not be refused, and it was on that same deep, shameful level that he found the most fun when the girl on his lap acted like she might try to refuse him anyway.  He quickly forgot all about the meal laid out on the table, letting his hands wander and not caring who saw.  He wasn’t the only man ignoring the meal set before him, and he wasn’t the only man who took a nameless woman to his bed that evening.  Nor was he the only man to wake the next morning to an empty bed and light on silver, and with a bone-deep ache that came from being too distracted to sleep through the night.  But with that itch finally scratched and sated, he drew himself a bath before getting a late and lazy start to his day.

At first, Loki thought he was imagining it; Odin’s hard, critical gaze on him whenever they were in the same room.  He thought he was seeing something that wasn’t there whenever Odin happened to spot him playing his game with the wenches and whores who made themselves frequent guests to the palace in the evenings.  But weeks rolled into months, and still Loki would occasionally find himself being watched; being judged.  Loki took to glaring back, unsure of what transgression he had made to earn such scrutiny.  He stopped pretending he hadn’t noticed, letting Odin know that he was well aware of this new shift in attitude.  It wasn’t enough to stop Odin’s unnerving glare entirely, but it did subside to a tolerable level, allowing Loki to go about his business without the weight of unearned disapproval hanging over him.

He was surprised he wasn’t being followed as well.  For all that Odin clearly didn’t trust him, it seemed almost inevitable.  But he was at least allowed his peace and solitude, and for that much he was thankful.  It meant he was free to pursue his own endeavours without interruption.  For the most part, his own endeavours kept him either locked up in his chambers, or in a hidden part of the library.  But even then, he was never truly left alone.  Servants came and went, quietly making sure he always had fresh ale or wine, and nuts or fruit to nibble on as he worked.  They never spoke to him, and as long as they didn’t disturb his work, he never acknowledged them.

Even as the girl gathered up his used bowls and the empty decanter from the morning, they both worked in silence.  Though as she left, Loki found himself suddenly distracted for another reason entirely as he felt himself stir with sudden arousal.  He hummed in frustration and shifted in his seat, trying to find a way to sit that didn’t agitate things further.  But instead of behaving itself, his cock found itself pressed almost painfully against his own thigh, trapped at an unnatural angle by his leather breeches.  Loki tried to shift again, lifting his leg in hopes it might encourage things to rearrange themselves.  But the situation was too far gone, and his cock was trapped and only growing harder.

He quickly reached down the front of his breeches to rearrange himself to a more natural angle, but he got only as far as releasing it from its prison against his thigh.  Before he was even aware he was doing it, Loki began stroking himself.  Even once he realised he was doing it, Loki struggled to pull his hand away.  He looked around, but his little alcove was hidden from view by rows and rows of shelves.  With his hand still on his cock, he allowed himself to succumb to this strange and sudden urge that had overtaken him.  He worked himself quickly, wanting to get it over with before he was caught, but he found himself faced with a brand new problem on top of everything else.  Even as he tried to finish, he found himself frustratingly unable to.  His arousal only heightened as he worked himself, and soon his own touch wasn’t even pleasurable.  He clenched his jaw tightly as he tried to find relief that never came, switching from using just his fingers to a iron-tight grip along the shaft.  It was better, but still not enough.

He barely heard the approaching footsteps before it was too late.  Loki froze as the servant reappeared, looking into his alcove with concern.  Glad to be hidden behind his desk, Loki still could not pull his hand away.

“Is everything well?” she asked.

Loki barely managed to nod.  Even as the girl stared at him, certainly able to tell what he was doing even with the desk between them, Loki could barely contain the rising lust with him.

“Yes, everything’s fine,” he said, his voice strained as he struggled to control himself.

If he moved a single muscle, it would be to leap up and bend the girl over the desk and take her right there.  Even as the thought flashed through his mind, it horrified him.

“Leave me,” he said, his entire body trembling as he fought against every urge that consumed him in that moment.

For a moment, she stood still, staring at him.  He thought she might never leave, and he feared what he might do if she didn’t.  Finally, she nodded and slowly turned away.  Before her footsteps even faded, Loki’s hand took over, squeezing his cock and working it so hard it nearly hurt.  With his other hand, Loki clamped his own mouth shut, holding back a startled and strained shout as he finally spent inside his breeches.

As he slowly regained his wits and clarity, Loki looked over the entire situation before him.  His hand still down the front of his breeches, and the servant still no doubt nearby, all he could do was flee.  He pulled his hand free and stood, walking through shadows to return to his chambers immediately.  Even though he was half hard again, Loki leaned against his desk and breathed through it.  Slowly, agonisingly, his lust subsided on its own.  He looked down at his hand, covered in a sticky web of his own seed.

“What the hel was that?” he asked himself, still panting.

Looking around his chambers, he decided what he needed most at that moment was a bath, followed by a nap.

Loki avoided the library after that, if only to avoid running into the same servant again.  As tempted as he was to find out who she was and have her dismissed, he knew she hadn’t actually done anything to warrant it.  He was the one who had behaved like an animal, but he certainly wasn’t going to apologise to a servant for anything.

It was far easier to just work from the solitude of his own chambers.

Though whatever had overcome him seemed to be some brief, if bizarre show of nerves or stress, and seemed to have passed.  His work got done, and when he dared to show himself in public again, Odin continued to scrutinise his every action.  For the first time, Odin’s heavy stare wasn’t a source of vexation.  This time, Loki couldn’t help but feel like he’d earned it.  But it soon became clear that if the girl had seen anything, she had kept it to herself.  His lapse of self control went unmentioned, even by Odin.

Loki sat through tedious meetings and listened to impoverished jarls beg for gold, filling his day with a dull tedium that couldn’t end quickly enough.  When banquet was finally served, Loki could not get to the hall fast enough.  He took his usual spot amongst the usual crowd, drinking too much and laughing at jokes that weren’t funny as usual.  But something was different.  Even then, he was distracted by something that pulled not at his mind, but rather stretched it thin so he could focus on nothing at all.  He gave up trying to feign interest in Volstagg’s boastful stories and watched the crowd instead.  Servants came and went, keeping mead and ale flowing, and plates full, while those of status enjoyed their meal and their evening.

He found his attention drifting to Freyja, watching as she laughed with the other women in her circle.  He had never really noticed her before, but now he couldn’t help but notice her.  It took a concentrated effort not to stare, but when he saw her excuse herself and leave, Loki found himself rising to follow her.  He caught up with her after only a few steps, having no idea what he was doing, or why he was doing it.

“Care for an escort?” he asked.

She smiled tightly at him.  The sort of smile that suggested she was too polite to say no.  But when he offered his arm, she took it. 

“What do you want, Loki?” Freyja asked, holding her head high and looking pointedly away from him.

He wanted to fuck her.  He resisted the urge to look down to see how badly he was straining his breeches, worried he might be about to burst right through the laces.  But he didn’t look down, so she didn’t look down.  Instead, she looked up and only focused on his face.

“I thought you might like some company,” he said as he let her lead the way through the corridors to her chambers.

Again, she smiled tightly at him, but said nothing.  Together, they walked in silence until the din from the hall was replaced only by the echo of their shoes on the stone floors.  As they turned around a dimly-lit corridor, Loki turned too sharply, forcing Freyja up against the wall.

“Loki, what do you think you’re doing?” Freyja asked, annoyance replacing her wary politeness.

Loki didn’t know what he was doing.  Even as he caged her against the wall with his arms, he didn’t know what he was doing.  He realised he was nearly panting as he looked down at her body, fighting against everything he wanted to do in that moment.

“Step aside, Loki,” Freyja said. 

She was no longer annoyed.  She was afraid.  Loki wanted to step back.  He wanted to run and hide.  Instead, he shook his head and stepped closer, pinning her against the wall with his body.  She tried to back away, but she was trapped.  Horrified at what he was doing, Loki held her there, their bodies so close he could feel her starting to tremble.  He leaned down, pressing his face against her neck and breathing deep as he began rutting against her through layers of fabric and leather. 

“Loki!” Freyja said, trying to shove him away.  “Get off of me!”

He tried.  He leaned back, intending with everything that remained of his mind to step away.  Instead, he reached for the laces on his breeches and pulled them open.  His cock was hard and aching, and with it in one hand, he used the other to try to find the hem of Freyja’s skirts to expose her cunt.  He used his body to hold her against the wall as he fumbled with his hand.  Once he found his way past her skirts, his fingers found her cunt.  He couldn’t stop himself, still rutting against her even has he forced his fingers inside her.  She screamed and hit him with her fists, even as Loki forced himself between her legs.  Before he could get any farther, Loki was violently pulled back and thrown to the floor.  He watched, confused as Freyja ran away, and then looked up to see a pair of Einherjar above him, along with his father and his ever-present disapproval.

“Take him,” Odin said.

Not even giving him a chance to put himself back together, the guards grabbed him by his arms and hauled him to his feet.  One of them bound his hands behind his back, which he was frankly grateful for, if only to keep him from doing anything else he’d regret.  For just a moment, he was forced to look Odin in the eye, and all he could do was shake his head in confusion.

He expected to be dragged of to the dungeons for what he had done, but was surprised when they took a different route instead.  Instead, he was taken to Odin’s own hall, and led to a chair near the table.  Looking down and realising he was still unlaced, Loki sat, trying to find a way to look even remotely dignified in his state.  One of the guards helpfully picked up a nearby fur and tossed it over Loki, without taking any particular care in his aim.  Loki shook his head as the fur fell over his face, coaxing it to fall down over his chest and lap.  It wasn’t ideal, but at least his prick wasn’t hanging out while his father cast him out of the realm.  It was still hard though, and Loki used every ounce of will he had to keep from rutting against the blanket that covered him.

Finally, Odin nodded and the guards retreated, leaving just the two of them alone in the hall.  But the shouting and screaming never came.  Instead came Odin’s disappointment, which was somehow worse.

“I’d feared this would happen,” he said, looking not at Loki, but to the floor.  “I’d hoped I was wrong, but it was only a matter of time.”

Loki shook his head, having no idea what had just happened, or what his father was talking about.

“I don’t follow,” he said, still straining in his seat.

Odin took a deep breath and leaned against the table.  Loki wished he would scream and shout and get angry.  At the very least, it was what Loki deserved.  But he did none of that.  He stood quiet for a long moment, only managing to frighten Loki, more than anything.

“For years, I have struggled to find the best way to protect you,” Odin said.

This was not the conversation Loki had expected to be having.  All his expectations evaporated, because none of this was going as it should have.  He could only stare up at Odin in confusion, unable to even form a single question to ask.

“I knew I had been too long in coming to a decision when Laufey’s envoy arrived,” Odin said.

Loki still didn’t understand, and shook his head.  Maybe if he did it enough, he might rattle loose some ability to follow this conversation.

“And now I see you have discovered why we must isolate them from the women when they come,” Odin said.

It still wasn’t making sense.

“I don’t understand,” Loki said, finally finding his voice again.

Odin looked down at his hands for a long moment, drawing a silence between them that spanned centuries.  Then, he stepped forward and drew his thumb over Loki’s jaw, bringing with it a harsh burn that drove deep into his flesh.  Loki rarely saw his father perform seiðr, but it was obvious that’s what had just happened.  As Loki looked frantically around the hall for any clue as to what had been done, Odin stepped around behind him and unbound his hands.  At once, Loki brought them in front of him to massage his wrists where the cuffs had dug into his flesh, but stopped short at the sight of them; blue, with raise ridges like scars, and nails as black as ink.

Loki flailed and shouted at the sight of it, flinging himself backwards into his seat, and only stopping as he crashed back onto the floor.  Odin stood over him, looking down at him with that same disappointment that cut straight through Loki.  Not wanting to remain quite so vulnerable, Loki scrambled to his feet, once more remembering his open laces.  He fumbled to tie them as he put distance between himself and Odin, not sure if he should be prepared to fight or flee.

“What is this?” he asked.  “Am I cursed?”

“No,” Odin said. 

Loki looked down at himself once more, his stomach roiling at the sight of his hands.

“I don’t understand,” he said.

Odin stayed where he was, keeping the distance between them. 

“I brought you here.  From Jötunheimr,” he said after a long moment.  “I hid you in hopes of protecting you.  From Asgard, and from yourself.”

His words still made no sense.  Loki looked up at Odin, again shaking his head.  He tried to force the pieces into place, but his mind refused to slow down.  When before he was too dumbstruck to think of a single question, now his mind was full of them.

“Protect me from myself?” he asked.  “What…?”

Then, he remembered the envoy.  The segregation through the entire visit.  The disruption to the entire palace.

If they so much as look at a woman, they turn feral.

He shook his head again.

“What are you saying?” he asked.

“I’m saying,” Odin said, his disappointment now heavier than ever, “that I am no longer certain whether my own son can be trusted.”

Loki tried to argue, but his throat closed around the words before they could even form.  He knew exactly what he had done, as horrible as it was, even if it wasn’t as horrible as it could have been.  He looked down at his hands once again, and found his legs suddenly unable to support his own weight.  He slowly fell as his legs gave way beneath him, sitting hopelessly on the cold floor.

“I’m a monster,” he said.

“No,” Odin said.

To Loki’s surprise, he stepped close to Loki then, dropping his hand onto Loki’s shoulder.

“But you must be caged until you can learn to control yourself,” Odin said.

Loki nodded.  He hated it, but he hated even more the thought of what he would have done had he not been stopped.

“And this?” he asked, looking at his hands still.

Again, Odin took a deep breath.  “I had hoped that in putting you in a different form, it might suppress that part of you.  But I couldn’t know for certain.”

Loki snorted.  “Until I lost my mind, you mean?”

He didn’t like the silence that followed, brief though it was.

“Yes,” Odin said.

Taking a long moment to just breathe and gather his thoughts, Loki continued to stare down at his hands.  His nails weren’t the cracked and chipped nails he might have expected.  They were trimmed and groomed, and his own.  Aside from the colour, his hands were his own.  But he still knew he couldn’t be seen like this.  Because despite everything, he knew Odin was right.

Asgard would eat him alive.

“And this?” he asked, gesturing vaguely to himself.

“You’re a smart boy.  You’ll figure it out,” Odin said.

Loki nodded.  It was a puzzle to solve, but not one he thought he had the fortitude to solve.

“Can I at least trust my son to see his way back to his own chambers?” Odin asked.

Loki wanted to be offended.  He wanted to bitterly resent Odin’s question.  Instead, he shook his head.

“No,” he said.

He didn’t even trust himself.  Not after everything that had already happened.  Not after everything he’d already done.

Odin nodded, stepping away from him.

“Then the guards will escort you,” he said.  “You are not to leave to leave your chambers.  You are not to entertain visitors without a chaperone.  A suitable story will be fabricated, and nothing will be said about your actions tonight.  Am I clear?”

Loki nodded.  “Yes,” he said.

“Good,” said Odin.

He opened the door, even as Loki cried out wordlessly in protest.  A moment later, both guards returned, glaring pure venom at him where he still sat on the floor.  As they hauled him back to his feet, he was surprised that they didn’t restrain him again, though they did hold onto him tightly enough to hurt.

“Return him to his chambers.  Do not let him leave,” Odin said.

Loki didn’t expect to survive the journey through the palace, but the guards at least spared him the risk of being seen and took him through dark and hidden paths.  The simple fear of being caught was punishment enough, and all the convincing Loki need to do as he was told and stay put.  At least until he could figure out this new problem.