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Refraction

Title: Refraction
Author: ciaranbochna
Characters: Loki, Thor, mentions of Frigga
Fandom: MCU/Avengers movieverse
Disclaimer: I own neither the characters nor the world.
Warnings: Depictions of grief, mental instability, dysfunctional family dynamics
Length: 1730 words

A/N: This is dedicated to the wondrous person that is caffienekitty for reasons beyond number. All horrendous errors are my own, and due in part to migraines.

“He’s pale as death. Make Loki do it.” Fandral grins and tosses his dagger into the target on the wall.

“He isn’t tall enough. Besides, no one could be threatened by him.” Sif shrugs apologetically in Loki’s direction.

Loki smiles and continues arranging tiny squares of metal in concentric circles.

“There is no game without a foe.” Thor flicks a finger at one of Loki’s tiles and one of the circles falls apart. Loki had eight circles before Thor interfered.

“If it will cause you to leave me alone for a few hours then I agree.” Loki flattens the remaining cards and rises to his feet.

“Find me in an hour and I will play again tomorrow.” Loki vanishes.

It takes two hours to find him, and Sif is first. They leave him alone for three days.

***

“She wants a shield.” Loki braids lengths of bronze and copper wire and knots the ends. He measures once and cuts the entwined strands.

“Why would mother need a shield? I was going to find her an eternal orchid.” Thor leans back in his chair, balancing on its back legs.

“Trust me. She doesn’t want another plant.”

Thor walks around the table and closes his fist over Loki’s hand. He squeezes gently.

Loki doesn’t wince as the twisted metal bites into his palm.

“And you two are so close? Why would you spend so much time here in your rooms, or the library, rather than out with us? What are you hiding?”

Loki rips his hand out from under Thor’s. “You assume I am hiding.  That I have secrets. What if the answer is simpler? I am not you.”

Thor spends a month searching for the flower that he gives Frigga. She says she loves it.

Loki gives her the bracelet. It is his first shield projection. Frigga never takes it off. It is weak, and not enough to protect her.

***
The carved pieces on the board shine in the light of torches on the wall. Loki rolls the frost beast in his hands. He watches the remaining pieces on the board, and surreptitiously, his father.

Loki sets the piece down and leans back, clasping a hand under his chin.

Odin watches him, moving his king without taking his eyes from Loki. Neither of their expressions change as Odin sets the piece down.

“The hunt is done.”

Loki nods. “Indeed. Thank you father.”

“You are light piercing the wellspring, Loki. I wonder where that stillness comes from. And what you see from beneath the water.

“I don’t know.” Loki understands that Odin means his words as an insult.

***
He is fast. Nearly as fast as Thor.

“No magic Loki!” Volstagg coughs, far behind them on the field. Hogun, Sif and Fandrall have pulled up beside Thor and Loki. None of them are winded as they run.

“How long can you last, silver tongue?” Fandral laughs.

Always a barb. A mistrustful glance. An assumed Cheat.

Loki comes in second. He hand slaps the rock two seconds behind Thor.

“It isn’t a fair contest with a sorcerer.” Volstagg gasps, leaning on the rock.

“Keep your games if losing to an ‘inferior’ is too much for you! Find another excuse for your failure.” Loki snaps, and vanishes. He hears the edge of Thor’s voice calling him back. Or imagines he does.

***

To what do I owe the honour of your visit?” Loki faces away from Thor. He hears the barrier spark as Thor leans in.

“What are you doing?”

Loki places another card flat over the completed circle he is working on. He is on his seventh circle now.  It bears a passing resemblance to a stacked version of Stonehenge.  Or the tower of Babylon. He snickers and turns to face Thor.

“How long?” Thor waves a hand at Loki’s creation.

“As you know, there are no clocks here.  So it could be many a wasted day.”

Thor grimaces.

“A few hours my petulant brother.  I can still tell the passage of time by other means.” Loki turns back to the cards.

The cards are mixed. They face up and down throughout his tower.

“Why did you stop playing with us Loki?”

Loki hand wavers above the next level of the tower, an ace of spades in his fingers.

“I never stop playing Thor. Life is a grand game, isn’t it?” He laughs shortly.  Stops before it spirals into something worse.  He has spent two days on the cards.  Perhaps three. So many stops and starts.

“No, Loki. Our games. I know we teased you—“

“Is that what they call it now? You know, this tower is an homage to the circles of hell. I am quite fond of the hell of upside down sinners.” Loki places another card across the first.  There is no magic involved in is work. Balance.

“We didn’t mean—I didn’t. We are family.”

Thor begins pacing in front of Loki’s cell.

“Why so confessional, Thor? I’m sure Odin’s favourite son has no flaws to speak of.”

“It is true that I once though I had no equal. But I am no better than anyone else.”

“I imagine you are the greatest hero ever to-- “

“Loki!”

Loki hums to himself. He turns to watch Thor.

There are streaks of blood or black mud on Thor’s cheeks. Loki sees a trail run down from Thor’s temple. Blood, then.

“You’ve come straight from battle. Why?”

Thor wipes the blood away and flicks it at the barrier. The grid sparks once and the blood vanishes.

“Why are you building that?” Thor points to the tower. “And why are there no jesters in amongst the cards?”

Loki blinks. Thor is more observant than he gives him credit for.

“Whose blood marks you today, besides your own?” Loki picks up the last card.

“Stop avoiding my questions Loki.”

“We are both displaying our best avoidance behavior, aren't we?” Loki waves a hand at the blood dripping down Thor’s cheek.

“There are infinite circles of hell. One for each fragment of time we spend in their absence."

Loki feels Thor’s ragged sigh.

“I was tired of the borders you drew around me. In every contest you decided what role I would play. I was quieter, studious, did not revel in battle as you did. Though I was never a coward. I thought you would react differently than most. But I am ever wrong, yes?”

“Loki, I love you, even in the face of all you have done. Can we not share our grief?”

Loki sings quietly as he sets the last card on its end in the centre at the top of the tower.

“We are brothers, Loki. Our differences aside, nothing will change that.”

Loki turns to face Thor, expressionless. “There are things, brother, that cause irrevocable damage. Do not imagine hope where there is none.”

“I failed our mother. I will not leave you now.”

“I am not a war you can win, Thor. But I may enjoy seeing you destroy yourself trying.” Loki walks away from his tower and lies down on the bed, staring up at the ceiling.

Still, Loki can feel Thor’s jagged smile. “It is enough.”

Loki hears him walk away. “There are circles you have yet to travel, brother. Blood is the easiest coin of all."



***

Loki balances on a railing three stories above the library floor. He alternates between reading and staring out the intricate stained glass windows towards the Bifrost.

He hears the door open and slips off the railing. He moves behind the towering shelves before the visitor can look up.

“Loki?”

It would have to be him. He can just sit here and read until he leaves. Provided—

“LOKI!!”

Difficult to drown out a noise that horrendous. Loki pinches the bridge of his nose and sets down his book.

“Here, Thor. No need to shriek like a tortured bird.”

Loki stares down at Thor’s blonde head. At least his brother isn’t covered in mud for once.

Thor races up the spiraling wooden staircase toward Loki, not stopping for breath.

“Mother told me you were here.”

“Did she? How thoughtful of her.”

“Do you want to play?”

“No. I’m reading. Go find Sif or Hogun.”

“They’re busy. What are you reading?”

“A book about chaos.”

“Does it have any monsters in it?” Thor tries to grab the book. Loki holds it out of reach, noticing Thor’s hands are covered in something purple, and sticky.

“No. But nothing in the universe escapes a black hole. Not even you.” Loki grins.

Thor smiles at him. “Read it to me.”

“I’m sure it’s too dry and boring for a warrior like you.”

“I don’t care. You tell the best stories. Read it.” Thor pouts.

“If you throw a tantrum you get nothing.”

Thor heaves a theatrical sigh. “Fine. Read it. Please?”

Loki considers escaping and leaving Thor behind. But his brother doesn’t usually ask Loki for anything.

“If you don’t interrupt I will.”

Thor thinks for a moment. Then says, solemnly. “I can’t promise that.”

“I suppose you can’t. Very well. Sit down.” Loki starts to bend down.

“No. I want to sit up there where you were.” Thor points at the railing with one purple-streaked finger.

“Just promise you won’t touch the book.”

“I won’t.”

“Black holes don’t care about time. The first thing you learn before you try to speak to them is patience.  Something I am sure you know nothing about, Thor.”

Thor pokes his brother in the side and Loki wavers slightly on the railing.

“If I fall and the book is destroyed, how will you hear the story?” Loki smirks.

“Oh.” Thor leans against him and Loki starts again.

“Black holes do not seek others, and they rarely speak. There is almost no one who know how to talk to them now.”

“But you will.” Thor says.

Loki smirks. “Given enough time, I might.”

“When you do, tell me what they say.” Thor says quietly.

“You don’t want to learn, then?

“It isn’t that. You understand things more than I do.”

Loki pauses with his fingers in the book.

“We understand different things brother. But I will tell you what I learn.


***

Loki’s cell smells faintly of wood dust. It clouds the center of the room where his tower stood.

He remembers his conversations with chaos. Thor will never share that knowledge.


Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
caffienekitty
Mar. 29th, 2014 06:47 am (UTC)
DUDE. THIS. IS. AMAZING.

I'm dumbfounded by this, just the dynamic between them and the family interplay. And the detail! And the repeating imagery and just EVERYTHING! I love it! Thank you so much!

*HUGS YOU*
ciaranbochna
Mar. 29th, 2014 06:34 pm (UTC)
Err. Well, now I am crying and laughing. I am over the moon that you love it (I was worried it made no sense...lol) The dynamic is one of the main things I wasn't sure came across (or was too cliched).

There was a prompt about Loki always being the villain in their games, even though he didn't wish it...but I went rather far from it..lol Even threw in a Big Trouble in Little China reference because I am insane. I was even thinking about the song he was singing to himself, but anyway.

Thrilled that you love it, and glad it helped you during hell:) Hope you head is faring a little better.

On a semi-random note, Blue Stahli's songs Down in Flames and The Fall (both from the Devil EP) are excellent for the noise in my skull. I thought you might like to find them too, considering the hours you work right now;)

Now, enough babbling. You are most welcome. *Hugs, chocolate and tea*


Edited at 2014-03-29 06:38 pm (UTC)
caffienekitty
Mar. 30th, 2014 04:24 am (UTC)
It is an awesome awesome story, and thank you again!

Thanks too for the music recs. I think I may need to go ravage iTunes for a few things. :-)
ciaranbochna
Mar. 30th, 2014 05:30 am (UTC)
You're welcome! I was thinking of playing about in iTunes too.
lurkingwombat
Mar. 29th, 2014 03:27 pm (UTC)
It is common knowledge that the ken of Gods has always been far beyond the ken of mortal men but there are powers beyond even the Gods themselves.
Out in the far reaches of the cosmic multiverse there are Beings that are as far above the Gods as the Gods are above Mortals.
In secret texts and ancient languages lying untouched for millenia, there are whispers of such a being known only as Ciaranbochna.
Recorded sightings only speak of alabaster skin and fire for hair but it is said that she can make even the Gods dance like puppets on strings with but the deft twitch of her fingers.
ciaranbochna
Mar. 29th, 2014 06:35 pm (UTC)
*faceplam* You are a complete nutter, but this was very well done.

Edited at 2014-03-30 08:21 am (UTC)
samalander_dawn
Mar. 30th, 2014 05:53 am (UTC)
:D :D :D :D
ciaranbochna
Mar. 30th, 2014 08:21 am (UTC)
\o/
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )