As the Queen of Asgard, Frigga had a lot of business to attend to, despite how much she wished to stay with Loki. She was reluctant to leave, hugging him longer, murmuring how quickly she would handle her business so that she could come back to him, sit with him, and talk with him. Loki appreciated her care and her devotion to him, but he was quite content with walking around the garden on his own. He could let the shield around him drop, could allow the uncertainty and the fear to fall back into place around him, surrounding him, suffocating him, because he was afraid, and he didn’t know exactly what to do to fight the fear and allow things to return to normal. Loki didn’t even know if he wanted things to return back to normal to begin with, but was it not better than what he had dealt with for the past year? He was immortal and the years for him came and went ever so quickly, but there were certain events in his life that slowed down that progression. His lips being sewn shut had been one that had stayed with Loki for a long while after the thread was painfully removed. His past dealings with … Loki leaned against a tree and sighed deeply as he ran a hand through his black hair. He just didn’t know what to do to get past it, didn’t know how to return to a state of normalcy.
He felt as though his sanity was hanging on by hairs and that any wrong move would send him hurtling down a cliff, and he knew that the fall alone would kill him this time, because he wasn’t strong enough to deal with it anymore. A part of him wondered if he should be as terrified as he thought, that he should be seeking help and begging for guidance, because he was so lost, so broken and defeated and pathetic, but he was too numb to feel, too numb to realise that he was heading down a path he couldn’t handle alone. Everything was so different. Only a year had passed since he was gone and Loki felt as though he was in an entirely new world filled with rules and expectations that he couldn’t even begin to understand. This place, Asgard, it was his home, and though he felt comfortable and could feel the ebbs of safety knitting together, becoming slowly stronger, Loki still felt as though he was slipping. And slipping meant losing his balance, falling back into that hell, feeling those thoughts, acting on those emotions, becoming desperate and angry – so angry – and –
Thor’s laughter, of all things, sounded in his ears, breaking him out of the panic that was welling deep within him. Emerald green eyes snapping towards the direction of the laughter, trying to find the face that matched the laugh, but Thor wasn’t close enough to be seen. Glancing up at the sky, Loki deduced that it was past noon, which meant that his brother was probably headed to the training fields to spar. It made him sick, the feeling that slowly grew deep in his heart. It wasn’t jealousy. Loki was above feeling jealous. That thought only lasted a moment before Loki was shaking his head. Nothing had changed – not really. Those feelings still took root deep within him, making him feel small and invisible. He was still that jealous boy, the one that yearned to be in the light with his brother, while hating him at the same time. It couldn’t be, though. Thor was light while Loki was dark. That was how it was to always be.
Loki pushed himself away from the tree he had leaned against and slowly started to make his way back to the Palace, feeling drained and exhausted and vulnerable and pathetic. He had enough of the sun, had enough nature, had enough of walking and thinking and hoping and pretending that things would work themselves out. Things like that didn’t happen for someone like Loki, so Loki took a left that lead him in the direction to the Palace. He noticed briefly how quickly he remembered the way through Frigga’s garden, how he didn’t have to think about where he was going or which direction to take. He banished the thought shortly after. Those thoughts were dangerous and would only lead him to more, and he couldn’t take more, because that would mean realising that he actually missed Asgard, missed his family, missed his home, and he couldn’t miss that. In doing so would reveal his fear and his need and want to be accepted in a world that – he had once thought – despised him.
His pace was quick as he made his way through the garden, pushing and slapping branches and hanging vines out of the way. He needed solitude, a quiet place to sit down, relax, and put together his scattered thoughts. The library seemed like the ideal place – it had always been Loki’s favourite place to be since before he could even read – but for some reason, Loki found the strange desire to lock himself in his room, to wrap himself up in his furs and blankets and just hide. Hiding meant no-one could find him, judge him, and try to understand what happened to him. Hiding meant being alone and that was exactly what he wanted, because population scared him, frightened him, made him uneasy. You’re a coward; an inner voice broke through his weak walls, making him almost jump. His heart leap in his throat and he swallowed down the nausea. Could he truly find no peace, a place where the thoughts in his mind couldn’t and wouldn’t terrorise him, break him down and make him feel like such sorry, fragile excuse of a God?
Control his breathing – that was all he had to do until he could get to his chambers. Take the back hallways, avoid the guards and the servants that littered the halls during the daytime, and he would be all right. He just had – gasping, a sharp, sudden pain took over Loki’s vision, shocking him and –
Black, it was pitch black and freezing cold – not as cold as Jotunheim, but enough to freeze his naked body, filling him with a sense of dread and fear, scarring him deeply, leaving behind a permanent shiver that made his already aching body all the more painful. Bare trees and thorns and rocks were all he could see. They walked through them for miles and miles, getting deeper and deeper into the unknown area. The further they went, the darker it became, the more crowded and clustered it became. The broken branches with sharp pointy ends scraped along his body, cutting open his skin and causing little trails of blood to slowly travel down to the ground beneath him.
The trees were dead, but they were alive, as well, staring down at him, judging him, waiting for the moment when they could swallow him whole. Perhaps it would be better if that were so. He wouldn’t be in pain any longer. But it was a foolish thought. He knew that he would suffer a thousand times over before he was granted with something as merciful as death.
Shoved from behind, he was forced down to his knees, pushed onto his stomach and chest, the rocks and prickly thorns ripping open and slashing at his skin. The branches were shaking and Loki was screaming as the vines were wrapped around his wrists and ankles, the sharp stabs of the thorns easily drawing more blood. They gagged him this time, forcing the vines between his teeth, wrapping it around his head over and over and over and the thorns cut into his cheeks, shredded his tongue and left thorns sticking in his gums –
“Loki,” A voice called. It was female and there was something familiar about it, but Loki couldn’t figure out from where. Her voice was soothing, though, and he found himself slowly drifting towards it. “Open your eyes,” She spoke, and Loki heard the whispering sound of her clothes shifting before he felt the brush of her fingers on his forearm. They were callused and rough, the signs of work on them. The breeze blew gently in his face, her scent meeting his nostrils – gardenia with a hint of leather painting a picture of her face. Loki didn’t know whether to be glad or afraid of her.
Emerald green eyes slowly opened, though, and Loki was met with two terrifying things. The first thing that caught Loki’s attention was the pain shooting up his hand. His hand was clenched tightly around the branch of a flower he was looking at, and he could feel the prickle of thorns that tore into his skin. He couldn’t move, though, no matter how many times he willed it, no matter how many times he screamed at himself to let it go. It was as though he was trapped in his mind, trapped in the memories that refused to relinquish their hold on him. They were hurting him, laughing at him, humiliating him and – but then his gaze snapped to her. She was everything that he had remembered her to be – hair tied and out of her face, dark brown eyes wide and deep and Loki could see himself staring into them. She looked exactly the same, but different, worn, aged almost. There was something about the way that she stared at him; tears veiling her eyes, making them seem brighter.
He pulled himself from the branch and quickly made his way down the path, unable to stand before her in such a state. He was pathetic and ruined and his heart was pounding in his ears and he couldn’t stand there and see such raw emotion in her dark brown eyes. He didn’t deserve that emotion. Blood dripped from his wounded hand, leaving a small trail of blood behind him.
Loki left Sif standing alone.
The sun was long past set when there was a soft knock on Loki’s door, and even though it was quiet and not meant to frighten him, he felt himself shrink even deeper into the warm, safe place underneath his furs and blankets. His behaviour was pathetic and foolish, but Loki had come to the conclusion in those several hours of silence with only his thoughts for company that he was pathetic and foolish – pathetic and foolish enough to think that everything would be okay, pathetic and foolish enough to think that he still had a place within their world. He had not a place nor a home, not a mother nor a brother. He was merely Loki, abandoned bastard, broken and alone, destined to walk the Realms as a shadow. That was his rightful place, his true place. He said nothing, though, to whoever it was that was knocking on his door. He had done the same when Frigga had come. His heart had clenched when he heard his mother cry, when he heard her beg and plead for him to let her in, to not shut him out, but Loki had remained strong. He wouldn’t allow her to become contaminated with his disease, with his sickness. She was more than that.
“Loki?” The door opened a few moments later, and the first thing that Loki saw was a head of blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes easily finding him, despite how he tried to hide underneath a mountain of furs and blankets. It was a useless attempt. Thor could always find him. He stepped into the room and closed the door, slowly, cautiously, making his way to the bed. Loki could see his gaze falling to the floor, taking in the drops of blood that came from his hand. He had yet to clean it and it still bled slowly, staining his clothing, as well as his bedding, but Loki cared not. Emerald green eyes watched closely as Thor neared. “Are you …” He started, but seemed to think better of it. He knew Loki wasn’t well, and asking about it and talking about it wouldn’t do any good. There was no healing his scars. “The Lady Sif told me about what happened in mother’s garden. She was most worried about you. She wishes you would speak with her. She thinks often of you.”
Brown hair cascading down her shoulders, dark brown eyes, a laughter that filled his heart and made him smile, despite himself – Loki closed his eyes and shut those thoughts and feelings away. He had to cut all ties, had to stop everything, because there was no place for it here, not with him anymore. He didn’t move, didn’t open his eyes when he heard Thor moving closer to the bed. His body tensed and he was screaming in his mind when he felt his security blankets being pulled down the bed some, revealing his upper body. A small intake of breath sounded before Thor was gently grasping his wrist, inspecting the wound on his hand. It wasn’t bad – it hurt, but Loki had felt much, much worse – though there were thorns and prickles still in the cut. A part of him didn’t want them removed. They were there as a reminder, refreshing his memory every time he started to feel at ease in Asgard.
Thor didn’t say anything to him as he started cleaning the wound. He left once, going into the washroom to get a bowl of water and linen, as well as a cloth to dress it. He was gentle and he was kind and for just a second, Loki allowed himself to relax. His eyes felt heavy and Thor’s repetitive motions were enough to lull him into a doze. He awoke abruptly, though when he felt Thor moving away, unable to stop the panic from taking over him when he moved. “Where are you going?” He caught himself right after the words left his mouth, and he internally cursed himself for allowing such vulnerability to show. But his heart was racing and his breath was coming out in quick pants and it took everything to stop from reaching out to his brother.
But Thor smiled, sparkling blue eyes revealing nothing but love and adoration. Loki didn’t understand it – not after everything that he had done – but he was grateful when Thor returned to his bedside and sat down upon it. “Fear not, my brother, for I will never leave you again.”