Leaning against the bark of the tree, Loki sighed deeply, his eyes closed, his hand slowly gliding through dark brown hair. He felt at peace – as crazy as it sounded after all that he had been through – as though he could actually breathe and not fear for surprises, for hands reaching out of the darkness and grabbing a hold of him, pulling him back into the panic and the nothingness. It was nice and it was relaxing and it had everything to do with the woman who was lying beside him, her head cushioned in Loki’s lap. They hadn’t said much to each other. After their tears and Loki’s apologies, they’d just held each other, revelling in the feel and the comfort of one another. Now they were there, sitting in silence, Sif dozing in his lap while Loki tried to figure out where it left the two of them. Biting his bottom lip, Loki opened his eyes and looked down at the woman, at the gentle rises and falls of her chest, of how her features were soft and rested, as though she had not a care in the world. In a way, he was jealous – oh, how he wished he could find that peace, a place where he wasn’t haunted by memories and nightmares of his not so distant past.
They’d been there for hours, sitting against the tree in front of the pond. Loki suspected that he had at least a few more hours before Thor came looking for him. He wondered if his brother would grow fearful if he came to Loki’s room and saw that he wasn’t in there. The mere idea of the panic on Thor’s face when he realised that his brother was gone made Loki’s heart leap slightly in his chest, had him briefly considering waking Sif up and running back to his room, because he didn’t want to be the cause of Thor’s anguish, too. His heart was already heavy enough with Sif – knowing that he would hurt his brother, too, was almost too much for him to bear. But Loki forced himself to calm down, to breathe in and out, and to not allow his thoughts drive him. The whole point of leaving his chambers and coming outside to the pond was to get away from Thor, to get away from mother, to let himself feel and panic and not put up a façade to shield himself from all that he was experiencing, because moving on wasn’t an option, moving on wasn’t something that he could do, because he didn’t know how.
Loki didn’t realise that he had tensed up, that his entire body had frozen and stiffened until Sif stirred, her head lifting from his lap, sending him a puzzled look. The anxiety must have shown on his face, because she was then sitting up. Her movements were too quick, though, and Loki could feel the alarm building within him, causing his breath to hitch and his entire body to lurch up, stumbling to his feet and moving away from the tree. The world started spinning and he wanted to just fall on the ground and sob like the pathetic fool that he was, because of course this would happen now. Exhaling a sharp breath that almost sounded like a whimper, Loki held up his hand when he saw that Sif was getting ready to approach. He couldn’t deal with her concern, couldn’t handle the desperation in her dark brown eyes, because he had to get it together, couldn’t deal with any of it.
“Gods …” Loki gasped out, his voice shaking. He could feel the terror rising, could feel his eyes brimming with tears, and the very thought of getting ready to cry again made him choke up, made a few fall down his face, racing down his cheeks. Who was he kidding? It was bound to happen eventually. Thinking that he had independence … thinking he had a chance to move on and put what happened to him behind, it was an insane thought, insane case of false hope. Loki hated himself all the more. He was changed, broken, ruined, and there was nothing he could do on his own now, because he would always be fearful, would always be on edge, would always be looking over his shoulder, waiting for the moment when the weights around his ankles would give and he would be dragged down, down, down.
“Loki, please, you must relax,” Sif called from where she was. Tears were standing in her eyes, her hands outstretched to him, as though she wanted to close the distance between them and wrap him up, protect him, make him feel as though everything was going to be okay. But it wasn’t, and the thought of her wanting to do that made a surge of anger overwhelm him, because she was seeing this, because she was unknowingly making him feel weaker and more pathetic than he already was. “Please, you’re –”
“Thor – I need Thor,” Loki forced himself to say, trying desperately to rid his voice of the tremble. His hand had gripped a tree that was a few feet from the one they were just leaning against, his knees wobbling, his legs threatening to give out on him. And they did, not a few seconds later. The sob ripped from him then, because Gods how much further could he fall now? He fell right on his bottom, the sudden stop jarring him, making him see shadows jumping and shifting in his peripheral vision, causing his heart to thrum wildly in his chest, beating furiously against his rib-cage.
“Please, I need him! Please get Thor, please, please,” He begged, his knees pulled to his chest. He watched the tears fall from her eyes as she turned around and ran back towards the Palace. And then she was gone and all Loki could think about was the pain and the fear and the utter helplessness that was threatening to smother him.
They were hurting her. Unwanted hands were touching her body and she was pleading with them to stop, but they wouldn’t listen to her, wouldn’t stop touching her, violating her, and he couldn’t stop them from hurting her. Ropes bound him to that cursed rock, wrapped tightly around his limbs, cutting into his skin and keeping him immobile, and he couldn’t see what was happening, but he could hear the scuffle, could hear the whimpers and the sobs and the pleads and her grunts as she tried to fight.
The sound of a fist crashing into a body was heard, the sound of a fight filling the air and he gave a muffled cheer, because he could feel her, knew that she was winning, gaining ground, and then the sound of light footsteps were heard, running, and he knew she was getting away. Growls and hisses and the thunderous sounds of several other sets of feet were running after her and he tried to pick his head up to look, to see if she was okay, but the ropes around his neck and along his forehead kept his head tied down to the rock. He fought for a bit before he tried to search for her from the corner of his eye and then he heard it – the sharp, frightened scream of being tackled to the ground.
Screaming through the gag, he tried to pull their attention away from her and back to him, but they ignored him. Tears were streaming down his face and he thought he would die, because he had no time to breathe through all of the crying and the screaming and the overwhelming sense of panic that was just gripping at him, weighing him down so heavily. He started thrashing against his bindings when he heard fabric being ripped, when he heard the sound of her terrified cries, because they both knew what was going to happen to her, and they both knew that there was nothing at all that could save her from that fate. And that was the scariest part.
Her screaming and the millions of things he wanted to say and do was trapped in his head in a relentless cycle that kept playing and replaying over and over and over and over and over again and nothing could break it, nothing could stop the panic and the fear and the desperation and the stench of utter terror that permeated the air, hot and heavy and thick and so impenetrable that Loki was sure that there was no escaping it ever. And perhaps he never would, because it was so real and he could still hear everything, could sense everything, could remember choking on his tears and he could remember the hisses of laughter that they gave throughout the entire process. He could remember – “Loki” – how they had grabbed a hold of him and wrapped a cloth around his face, the fabric so dark that he couldn’t see through it, but he could smell it and he remembered screaming through the gag, because it was hers – “Loki” – that they used to blind him. She ran and couldn’t get away and they were punishing the both of them and – “Loki!”
Emerald green eyes snapped open, lurching back against the immovable tree that he was sitting against. It took him a moment to gather his surroundings, to blink through the thickness of his tears and the memory that he was fighting to free himself from. But then he saw him – beacon, saviour, brother, brother, brother – and Loki could feel his throat tightening as emotion took over, and he bowed his head and squeezed his eyes shut again when he felt the warmth of Thor’s hand as he gently clasped it over the back of his neck and he couldn’t stop the tears from falling persistently from his face. He shook his head when he heard the soft shushes and grabbed a hold of Thor’s wrist, forcing himself to look into those sparkling blue eyes, because he had to have the answers.
“What is wrong with me?” Loki whimpered, feeling himself rocking back and forth, unable to sit still, unable to calm down and relax against his brother’s warm, comforting presence. Would there ever be a change? Would there ever be a moment when he could relax and not have to worry about pain and suffering? Was it possible to just die, to put an end to all of it? The tears fell and his body shook and Loki didn’t once take his eyes from his brother’s worried, yet confused expression. “Why can’t I stop …” His shoulders shook violently as he broke down and cried and he leaned into Thor’s embrace when those massive arms wrapped around his shoulders, bringing him closer. His brother was safe and Loki cried harder into his chest, because he was shielded and protected and he knew that Thor would look out for him.
“You’ll be fine,” Thor whispered over and over again, pressing a kiss to the side of his head before resting his cheek against it. He gently rocked along with Loki, but while his was out of necessity, to stem the panic, Thor’s was more comforting and his slow motions were enough to ease Loki and all his fears. “I promise, brother, that everything will be well in time.”
And Loki wanted to believe him more than anything, but Thor was oblivious to his cries of help, oblivious to how he screamed when Thor was around and screamed when he was gone, how he yearned for his mother, and needed her smile and loving hands holding onto him. He needed Sif and hated himself for hurting her. He needed her dark brown eyes and her very presence. He needed and wanted and prayed for them, but he couldn’t breathe and he couldn’t think and nothing would ever be the same again and he hated them for hurting him, for breaking him, for making him need and want and pray for their love and safety and affection and protection, because that was the only thing that was keeping him alive now.