Brooding 48

After forcing himself to eat everything on his lunch tray, Loki continued to mull over what Odin had told him earlier. The growing presence of his own child prompted him to think about his birth mother – the female Frost Giant who had hidden her Midgardian heritage in order to become Laufey’s Queen – and wonder whether she had been exiled or executed for deceiving the Jötun King. He was tempted to ask Odin if he had learned anything more of her, but with a derisive snort Loki shot down his own idea.

“Of course Odin would not have thought to ask about her,” Loki thought bitterly. “He never cared about how I felt, even though he claimed to be my father; I was nothing more than one of his many spoils of war. Why, then, would he care about a Jötun female of ignoble ancestry?”

Loki lay down on his bed and curled up again, grateful for the curtains that shielded him now from prying eyes. Learning that he had Midgardian blood in him – no matter how slight in proportion to the Jötun – was a shock from which he had not yet fully recovered.

“Does it mean I will not live as long as most Frost Giants? For that matter, how long do the Jötnar live, anyway? I had always assumed they lived as long as the Æsir, and as a child I grew at a similar rate as Thor, but I’ve never read anything definitive about it. Laufey lived for at least three millennia, though… Strange to think he was my father. I suppose that makes me guilty of patricide… but he tried to kill me first, so we’re actually even.”

Loki continued to rub his protruding stomach, wondering how his biology would affect his offspring. He wished with all his heart for long life and happiness for his child; however, when he thought of how soon Clint’s Human life would end in comparison to that of his own or, more precisely, that of the Æsir, Loki hoped that the one-sixteenth of Midgardian heritage he possessed would serve to cut his life short, for he could not bear to contemplate living without his lover.

“I will stay alive as long as my child needs me,” he decided, “but if he is doing well enough on his own, I will ask to be sent to Valhalla – or wherever Human souls go after death – to join Clint there. Thor may be King by then, in which case he would be more likely to grant my plea for leniency…”

Thor had never loved him as a lover, Loki was now certain, but as a boisterous young Prince he must have felt some fondness for the one he believed to be his brother. Thor had preferred the company of his own friends as he had grown older, of course, but he had allowed Loki to tag along on their adventures – perhaps out of a sense of duty, since Frigga would have scolded Thor and reminded him of his responsibility as the elder brother, but Loki knew the thunder god had some of Frigga’s kindness in him as well.

“He is her son, after all,” Loki thought morosely. “She carried him in her body, like this, for months… felt his every move as he grew… no doubt spoke to him every day, longing for the time when she could hold him in her arms…”

The pain that seized his chest was sharp and deep. He had believed himself to be as much Frigga’s son as Thor until that illusion had been ripped from him by Odin in the worst moment of his life. The Asgardian Queen had never borne him, had never nurtured him as her own flesh and blood, but had deceived him into believing that beautiful and unattainable lie. In this as in so many other things, Thor had preeminence over him; Thor was Frigga’s true son, entitled by blood to inherit her many good qualities, while Loki had no hope of receiving any of her traits which he did not strive to emulate. And right now, knowing that he had no natural claim to any of them, he did not have the will or the energy to even try.

It seemed so patently unfair. As a boy, Loki had always felt like he had to work twice as hard as Thor to garner Odin’s attention and approval, and then it was hardly equal to the lavish praises heaped upon the older Prince for every little achievement. Thus there were many occasions when Loki did not bother to gain the All-Father’s approval – simply his attention was enough – and got into mischief, craving even the negative attention it earned him. The more creative, clever, and intricate the mischief the better, for then the younger Prince had a chance of seeing Odin’s eyes twinkle in merriment even as the King meted out his punishment. Regardless of how high the cost, if it gained him a moment of contemplation (albeit grudging and disapproving) from the man he thought was his father, Loki had considered the effort well worthwhile.

He ached now at the memory of his own pathetic attempts to impress the All-Father. He could see, in hindsight, that they had been acts of desperation. He wished he could inform his younger self that it was all useless – that he would never attain the same status as Thor in Odin’s heart, not being his true son. And he wished more than ever that he could undo his greatest scheme which had, ultimately, led him to be locked in this cell. For Loki was not so deluded as to believe he had done any of it – delaying Thor’s coronation, tricking Laufey into a trap, and nearly destroying Jötunheim – for Odin. No, his erstwhile father had been right to refute that claim: Loki had done it for himself. He had done it to receive the praise and glory he had so often seen showered upon Thor. He had done it to show that he could be just as courageous as his brother and even more cunning. He had done it to prove that he could be as mighty a conqueror and ruler as Odin himself, or even his ancestors.

He had done it because he had not known then that nothing would ever be enough. And when Odin had quietly, correctly, and devastatingly told him “No” as he dangled over the Void – that he had not done any of it for Odin’s sake, but rather for his own – Loki had felt the weight of that truth. Odin had seen through him, seen through his lies to his true motives, until Loki could not argue against him anymore. But what had caused him to release his hold on life had been the realization that, despite knowing how desperate Loki had been for his love and approval, Odin had not done anything to help him – that the All-Father could not love Loki as he loved Thor, for the simple reason that he was not his son by blood. And by withholding that very knowledge, Odin had kept Loki on his maddening course of self-destruction.

“Had I only known what I was… I would have chosen another path. I would have understood the futility of attempting to equal Thor. I would not have wasted my time and energy… I would not have wasted my entire life.” Loki sighed and fought against his rising emotions. “If I had known from the time I was a child that I was not his son, I would have at least understood why I was treated so differently… Even if it had been common knowledge and the Æsir had harassed or shunned me for being a Frost Giant, that still would have been better than not knowing – expecting to be treated like a true Prince of Asgard, only to be so disappointed! Even if he had not adopted me but… kept me as a Jötun war trophy and slave, to work in the palace as a drudge… that, still, would have been preferable to all the years I spent trying to earn something I could never hope to achieve. Almost any other situation would have been better than being kept in the dark about my own parentage – about what I really am.”

Agitated, Loki arose from the bed and began pacing the room.

“Why didn’t they tell me truth? Did they hope to take the monster and tame it? To make me an example of what my race could ‘aspire’ to? To become more like the Æsir?”

He knocked a chair over as he stalked past it.

“And then what? Put me on the throne of Jötunheim to teach the other monsters how to behave in a civilized manner? So that they could all be tamed to submit to Asgard’s rule?”

He backhanded a vase, taking vicious pleasure in the sound it made as it shattered against the wall.

“Of course, that’s only if Odin was speaking the truth about making me King of Jötunheim – and I should know better than anyone else: never trust a liar! He lied to me for all those years that I was his son; why should I believe him now? And even if that had been his intention, he no doubt would have expected me to grovel at his feet for approval, always hoping to rival Thor as a ruler. Faugh! I am above such puerile folly now. I need no sanction from Odin to rule – it is my birthright! I would have proven, on Jötunheim as on Midgard, that I am a King, the son of a King, to be feared and revered as the greatest of kings! I would have wrested the authority and usurped the crown if need be… after all, what have I ever gotten that I did not fight for? Nobody ever gave me anything – even when Mother gave me the rule of Asgard, it was only because her precious, only son was exiled. No, I must take for myself what I want, as I have always had to do. Why should Odin fault me for plotting my ascension to the throne? Is that not what true rulers do? Not simply inherit a throne as Thor will, without striving for it and earning it.”

A surge of anger coursed through Loki’s veins as he halted in the middle of the room, his face contorted in a sneer, his expression hard, and his eyes glittering with dangerous fury.

“They never believed me to be capable of greatness, but I have proven them all wrong! And I will again if only I could seize the opportunity… find some chance to escape this insult to my noble purpose! I will show them what the son of Laufey is capable of! They clamor for Thor as their hero, but I shall crush their foolish champion and teach them what true power looks like!”

In his building frenzy, Loki cast his eyes about for something to destroy. His powers had been restrained by the manacles for too long and he needed to release them, along with his wrath, on some object to prove that his magic was still as potent as ever, ready to do his bidding and wreak havoc upon anything unfortunate enough to spark his ire.

And then he saw the StarkTunes 3000 unit sitting on the bedside table, where Frigga had placed it earlier. The selfless gift from his lover. Loki slowly stepped toward it, his fury dissipating the nearer he approached, until he had almost forgotten his former train of thought by the time he stretched out his hand to touch the machine.

Clint loved him. This device, along with the shirt the archer had peeled off his back, was tangible proof of that. While everyone else (in Loki’s mind) had ever only regarded him as second best to Thor, Clint had made him his first priority. The Human had left his entire world – everything and everybody he held dear – just to be close to him… and their child. Loki was first in his heart.

Loki knelt before the small device on the nightstand and turned it on. A blast of noise startled him as well as the guards in the corridors before he fumbled to reduce the volume. When it was down to a manageable decibel level, he saw that the small viewscreen spelled out the title of the song and the musician as well as the lyrics. The current one was entitled “Whole Lotta Love – Mukul & MetroGnome Remix” by Led Zeppelin and pulsed with an energy that recalled Loki’s earlier mood. However, when he read the lyrics as they were indicated by the bouncing ball, he realized that it was actually a love song of sorts – though not even subtle in its sexual innuendo – and he also noted that the singer was referring to his lover as “Baby,” just like Clint preferred to call him. So, his curiosity piqued, he lay back down on the bed and prepared to familiarize himself with Midgardian music.

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