title: which way i fly is hel (1/3)
rating: r (for later parts, this one here is a friendly pg-13)
disclaimer: not mine.
word count: 3,800~
summary: There is no journey for love.
notes: After months of writing, re-writing, wine aplenty and numerous hours of Hans Zimmer soundtracks played for a touch of inspiration, finally, I’ve come close to finishing this travesty to a standard my perfectionist sensibilities can agree with. And seeing as it’s ridiculously long (for what was a one-shot), I’ve decided to post it in parts. Next one should, hopefully, be ready in the next few days.
On the pillar of life, someone once wrote:
There is no journey for love.
Love ends when it begins.
The universe begins when he is eight, appearance-wise.
Before the anguish and despair (and the delicate wants and floating hopes) have taken their caustic hold, and Loki sees her.
Sees her first.
Turns his head towards the horizon – over the rim of his book – and sees: a mass of golden locks and peachy skin stretched taught over jutting bones. Wholly beautiful. Wholly unusual – from the rest (the rut), spared not a measly thought. And there is a small sense of triumph bubbling, suddenly, deep in his belly. Now, that he has prevailed before Thor in something.
(He will take his victories where he can find them.)
Perched high on an edge – on the edge of the world – on a tree, willow and tall, she overlooks all (the training grounds). Strains her neck, widens her eyes and parts pinkish lips like a fish glimmering gold and swimming in water. There she sits day after day, noon-to-two-hours-past-noon and the cycle begins anew.
From there her eyes – eyes like burnt bronze (sulfuric) and glittering – feast upon the sight of Asgard’s future defenders. Study, memorise and scream despair, a desperate longing that leaves him baffled and dazed.
Time and time again he hears her dejected call and wonders what she seeks.
A boy turns his head and looks east.
And thinks of a girl (maybe it had been a dream – he’s been dreaming a lot lately). Only it is time the dreams came to a close.
The universe is young and ripe for the picking, and he likes the concept of “opportunity”.
One day, he decides to approach her.
All-of-a-sudden and out-of-the-blue, he climbs the tree without a peep and plants himself on a branch directly behind her. Wily and tricky, slithery and hidden (him and all his intents), Loki catches her by surprise.
“What are you doing here?”
The girl twists, lets out a shriek. Loses her footing and plummets to the ground, but not before reaching for his shirt and taking him down with her.
Loki yelps, feels the hard collision between gravel and bones. Resists the urge to groan, but the pain in his back is already a fading memory. The press of her palms on his chest, the feel of her ragged breaths against a cheek consume his senses entirely.
“Idiot! Just what were you thinking, sneaking up on me like that?!”
He blinks at her words, consumed in a moment of near rapture and overwhelming, excruciating shock. No one has ever dared address him, a Prince of Asgard, in such an impudent manner. No one! And he’s suddenly contemplating the many different ways to punish her for it, all of them oh so macabre and colourful–
off with her head and onto a silver tray.
“I wasn’t sneaking!”
Absent of daggers, he can always resort to words. Stinging, cutting words. Swift, sweep and slice, naturally they hit their mark. The girl scrunches her features into a rictus, on the verge of a verbal-physical assault. He glares at her, schools his face regal and stern thinking it will frighten her into submission: you wouldn’t dare!
It does not. (He feels wounded.)
“Why you… you, snake!” she hisses (ironically), punching him in the arm and pushing off his chest with a resounding, un-ladylike grunt.
At her retreating back, Loki rubs at his abused limb and struggles not to raise an eyebrow in indignant surprise.
He fails spectacularly.
In the summer, he travels with (trails behind) his older brother. Through forests and gardens and lakes enchanted where Loki weaves his magic and Thor boasts of his strength.
One day, he performs a trick with elated glee (wishes Father were there to see) – a flick of the wrist and he vanishes from sight. Thor can scarcely believe it; steps off the path and onto grasses and weeds springing forth from acidic soil. He creates deep marks in the dirt and slowly approaches, eyes wide and flabbergasted.
Loki waits, eager and expecting a word of gallant praise (from The Favourite)–
“Brother! If you spent half as much time on the practice fields as you do with your head in books, you would best even Fandral with a sword!”
(Should have known better all along.)
A good-natured jest – for Thor knows not cruelty – and still his smile wavers at the edge, threatens to topple over and pull him under, until his body runs dry and brittle.
His smile wavers, but does not fall.
For Loki has long acquired the gift of not looking back. No second glances and no self-doubts.
So when the nobles sneer and the other children jeer, he burnishes himself resolute in solitude. Tucks away the emotions drawn from his exhumed clay chest and lets them rest for another day.
He will show them all greatness in the end–
and devour the ashes from their cremated corpses.
A boy turns his head and looks out onto the horizon.
(And dreams of a girl, full of hopes, of hollowness, of hallowedness, of everything he has and is worth not.)
Fate is a precarious thing.
It likes to mock, and its decisions are force-fed, hell-bent, born from fire. From woe.
And so Fate decrees that Thor should meet her too.
In answer to his brother’s invitation to the world for a spar, she dusts herself off and takes him on to win. Thor is astounded (grinning), Loki is resentful (frowning). Wasting no time, his brother invites her to join him in training and her face lights up brighter than a dying star exploding.
In that moment, Loki feels as if he has already lost somehow. Forgotten. Vanquished into thin air. And he can’t help the twist of pain deep in his chest, festering and building momentum.
Because there is no such thing as conscience.
There is no such thing as concession.
There is only a taunting twist of circumstances and envy and more envy.
And when envy is not nearly enough, there is always hate.
So his pranks turn all the more vicious, frighteningly malicious. His tongue is a serpent fork and no one is spared, least of all her. Every bruising name and adjective in his vocabulary is volleyed her way until the world seems less green and her ire is sparked – he so does enjoy seeing her mad. So much so, it becomes like a game to him.
On the seventh day, she throws her practice sword to the ground and advances on him, fuming.
“My name is Sif,” she stresses, pokes every word into his chest with her forefinger.
Sif, she repeats and ingrains into him. Sif. Remember it.
The name sounds heavy and coppery like blood; it drips from the roof of his mouth and onto his tongue. He swallows, but the name remains like a scarred patch of burned flesh.
“Sif,” he tries it out loud, finds he doesn’t mind it so much.
The girl smirks, smug and triumphant and leaves him lost for words. A first.
Ensnared, Loki will never forget.
Unremitting in her praise, love, adoration, one and all, Sif zeroes in on the meaning of devotion.
Loki observes her training with Thor, sees them together more often than not. His brother is a plague, formidable in his devastation. But Sif takes all his brutality in and hones the shards into a sleek, cool blade. She is gaining speed, catching a storm.
Thor only scarcely dodges the blow, grin wide. As wide as her own. And so it goes, into perpetuity and beyond:
Sif-and-Thor, Thor-and-Sif. Sif-and-Thor-minus-him.
And when the blades have long been dropped, they take to reciting old legends and tales of war. Mouths only inches apart, always laughing and happy and deplorably noble in their vows to have the other’s back–
Loki scoffs, makes some offhanded remark on their foolishness.
Still, they persist. Like a nasty, vile thorn in his side. Poking and searing and penetrating the skin. Leaving him wishing he could spell them off to another realm where they won’t annoy him a second more. And yet, he finds himself more and more fascinated.
By the catch of sunlight in her hair and languid battle forms and slivers of chatter sent Thor’s way (the opportune toad). And it’s all he can do not to gravitate towards her. Like a common fly or worse, a bee – Loki hates honey and bees.
Repulsive. Sweet (sweat).
(Sif always smells like honey.)
One day, Thor offers her an apple from Idunn’s new harvest.
Loki watches out of curiosity (as to how she will respond). She takes the fruit awkwardly, bites into the golden flesh and beams.
“This is amazing!”
“I saw it on the tree and thought of you,” Thor confesses, almost bashful.
“Yes, that is, your hair.” And now he is blushing, feverish, a crimson tint crawling across his cheeks.
Sif grins, all flashing teeth and white euphoria.
Loki turns to leave and takes with him a knowing ache.
Today, he will grind him to dust. Victoriously, he will tower over him and smile in that elusive, astute way of his, assured of his worth (basking in a father’s prideful gaze). And all of Asgard will watch as he declares I am your equal.
However, today is not there yet.
Forlorn, exasperated at all around him, Loki sighs and returns to his studies.
Like a shadow slithering across the floor (a charcoal, stifling, creepy thing) he’s somehow managed to lock fingers with hers. And she is surprised, is bug-eyed at this, this advance.
Because it’s something that’s never been implied, never been touched, never let loose.
Her skin is radiating from the sweat of the day’s training, a sun-kissed bronze matted over by anticipation and white. He can see her eyes, hazel and bottomless like a volcanic abyss. And in them, he sees his reflection and mania (a premonition and promise of all too come).
“I can feel your gaze fleet over me.”
“What are you talking about?” she asks, suspicious.
“Don’t you like me, Sif?”
“What are you talking about?” (and this is all-the-more insistent).
“It’s in the blood, I know. But it’s my blood too! Doesn’t that make a difference? Doesn’t that even the odds? I just… I just want an explanation.”
“An explanation of what? I don’t understand what you’re… going on about.”
A denial, a rejection; veiled in perfect ambiguity.
Her fingers slip from his, leave him with a deadened thing in his chest. Loki waits for her to go, to retreat to his brother and dissipate into her comfortable oblivion of sharpened swords and weighty shields, beyond his sight (and reach).
Always just beyond.
Sif does not disappoint.
Loki wishes she would look at him with the same eyes she has for Thor.
Loki wishes she would just look at him.
And then, one day, an idea strikes: he will give her a gift.
Not flowers or measly golden trinkets, the usual and mundane, but something closer to heart. Something sure to bring pause, thought and perhaps even a smile.
For six days and six nights Loki sets about designing and forging a dagger, curved and sharp and a work of art.
All too deadly. All too beautiful.
Sif will positively adore it!
Smiling accomplished and hopeful, he makes his way to Sif’s appointed chambers with an uncharacteristic pep in his step. A jump here, a skip there, a hum rising deep from his chest and then… then he stops. Whispers and gossip ignite like a flame, lick at his ears with all too cruel and crushing intent:
Thor is to marry Sif.
Bloated and stuffed, like popped wheat or rye. So the court’s rumour mill goes (those bumbling peacocks never shut up), and his mind is abuzz, is ablaze. Incredulous and despaired. The illusive wisps of something intangible and unnamed slips from his fingers as he – the entire realm – comes to a screeching halt.
The dagger falls from his hand – makes a reverberating clank as it hits the hard, cold marble floor. Again. Again. Again he is–
To Thor. Always Thor. Alwaysalwaysalways–
Because… because there is something putrid inside him, foreign and frightening, on show for all to see. Debauching his thoughts (aims for the heart). It is the only explanation on why this – the distrust, the automatic dislike – has become ritualistic.
Caustic: like inhaling metallic, acrid dust in the heart of a desert-winter.
Infected with venom, resentment strikes (out of spite). Taints him to the core and he is suddenly running.
Running far and fast with chaos on his mind.
Sometimes, he can feel his heart ascending and aching, the rise and falls of a streamlined cadence.
In the thick of shadows, he travels down winding corridors. Follows the same path he’d set upon earlier in the day, now immersed in a cloak of black. Swathed and choked in residual heat, the air carries the acerbic flakes of retribution ensuing.
He can’t stop it, the movement. One step, two. Creep and crawl, he teeters closer to his target (to spoiling something Thor so sickeningly adores).
The dagger pulses in his hand.
Footsteps from outside his door, Loki turns his attention.
Footfalls from within, he lifts his gaze and meets: a tempest.
Sif storms towards him, picks up in fury. Her face turns livid, is vapid-churning. Golden locks shorn, hazardous cut and close to the scalp – beauty forgone – she paints a wonderfully gruesome picture.
Loki looks away (hides a hideous grin). He couldn’t be more pleased.
“You cut my hair!”
“Your point, Lady Sif?” he asks idly, raises his eyes away from the book spilled open on his lap.
Nonchalance, that is crucial and cemented to heart.
“You cut my hair, Loki! My hair,” Sif emphasises – again, as if that will make a difference (as if that will make him care).
“It’s just hair.”
Just hair. Just an issue of life or death.
A pause, thick with hurt, and her eyes begin to water, gleaming wet like lunar seas. His throat goes dry at the betrayal written plainly in them, but he pays it little heed. Not when she’s looking directly at him. At him.
Loki can scarcely contain the slight spark of excitement as he feels his heart skip a beat, stop, and drop. Giddy and swallowing suddenly, he dares not shift. And when she vise-grips his wrists, he lies back and lets her crush the softened bone-clay beneath death-pale skin.
“You will fix this!”
Demands and unspoken threats made, she releases him – abrupt – and storms off with all her Hel-wrought furies. Takes with her his bones, leaves him paralysed on the spot, malleable, like mushed, gunked up marsh as she burns a long, lonely path away from him.
Weary, a sigh escapes him. Closing his book, he pulls out a small lock of her hair from inside his pocket. It gleams like spun gold as he twirls it around his finger, fiddle and piddle, his mind busily unravelling possibilities. Means and spells with which to remedy this. Inaction would suit him just fine but he knows all too well of mischief and mayhem, and how the two always implode in a glorious shower of sulphur and retribution.
Unfortunately for him, Sif has the ability to skin him alive should she so want to.
(She already claimed his heart – ripped it from his chest – aeons ago.)
The dwarfs, he decides.
Eyes bright and tongue silver, Loki enters their realm and weaves a wager amid a string of calculated and poisoned words: doubt, I do, that you could forge gold so magnificent and fine as to rival the Lady Sif’s golden hair. Why, prove me wrong, and I grant you my head!
The dwarfs, not to be bested, set to work. He sits and waits like a snake coiled and ready to strike – and misses.
No one cares for his cunning when the time for collection comes, how he notes his promise of payment only ever entailed his head.
And not his neck.
Loki tries to run. Fast, lithe, he gains an easy stretch ahead of them. But they catch up quick; a club volleyed to the back of his head, and he’s a-tumbling down.
Rough, burly fingers keep him there, creep about his neck. They grasp (hold-burn) and won't release their clutch. Slowly, he begins to choke.
Feels the life being strangled out of his cold, cold soon-to-be-corpse.
And just as his vision begins to swim, like a miasma stretching forth, bleak and tinted murky black, he sees the outline of a long, rusty needle coming down–
down, right upon his face.
Loki struggles, pulse wild and in a-frenzy. The dwarfs laugh – acerbic, cacophonous – and promise: we’ll make you cry.
Then, he feels it – a slash at his lips. And then, sharp, the smell of ripe blood pollutes the air – carries with it a deluge of white-hot agony.
Without remorse, the dwarf before him brings the needle down again, for a second – third, fourth, fifth – swipe.
What’s wrong, Trickster Prince?
Loki tries to opens his mouth, finds he cannot. Echo, hollow, drowning on spittle, blood and bile, his scream falls and fails.
Are you afraid, boy?
The sun has set upon his return.
Loki observes the bright flashes of yellow and sudden, overwhelming bursts (like a blood cell dying) and feels an infinite swelling of aching and knowing.
That he is alive.
Alive and safe in Asgard, where gods rule unopposed (and sneer as ubiquitous vengeance is brought down upon the wasted, lower worlds, left to rot in filth). And so too Loki vows pain and terror upon those who beat him, scarred him–
will gut them deep and raw, hang them upside-tipsy-side toward the sky.
He almost smiles at the thought, something cruel and rotten, only to feel muscle and skin pull and tug against a brutal criss-cross of leather strips. And quick like his newfound hate spreading, he collapses (hasn’t the strength to disappear from inevitable, prying gazes). On his side, huddled and curled, the nauseating sensations of pain and weariness sap his muscles and arteries dry.
There he remains, brought out of delirium late in the hour by a cutting screech.
And there are hands on him, voices rising. Someone is carrying him, and he scarcely makes out the soft gold planes of Eir’s healing rooms amid a tumult of shouts and cries (muted chuckles and veiled snickers).
Warm fingers sweep over his forehead, his cheeks (mercifully avoid the lips) and there is a searing sensation of tears falling, rolling – dot – right on his face. Loki lifts his eyes and sees–
Feels a swell, just beneath his lungs. Whimpers in her arms and sits up, clutches the folds of her dress in a near death-grip. On the verge of crying, he buries his face in her chest as she holds him tight, the melody of soothing whispers and lulling coos echoing against his ears.
“Hush, little one. All is well now.”
With the easing of his fears and sorrows, he shifts his head to the side… to where… to where Sif stands.
And all Loki does is meet her gaze through glassy eyes. Tries to pour every ounce of loathing and resignation into it (it would be so much easier to hate her). Seethes and fumes until his eyes shriek with caustic ice: go on, say it.
–Say it, I’m wicked. I’m rotten. I deserve this.
As if goading, as if she’ll dare say otherwise.
Sif shifts, hesitant. Her gaze wavers – sees the fury in his and silent screams – and she has the good sense to take a step back. Another, and another before she turns and hastily retreats.
Better this way.
Easier this way.
Loki repeats the words like a mantra, twice, thrice until they sink, deep. Deep into every nook and cranny of his mind.
Where they cannot be removed.
Where they will eternally remain.
They do not speak again after that night (still cannot bear to meet her eye).
Icy and reserved, Loki masters the fine art of avoidance – all good, painless and indifferent.
He tries to forget, again and again only to fail and this, this is torture (the dreams still come, mocking, wound-up like some demonic incantations). In the festering recess crypts of his mind, a scene is cruelly trapped on rewind:
Sif stalking forth.
Sif reaching for–
Twist and tangle, high and dazzled, the images taunt him in synchrony. Drive him to brink of madness and back again. Until, one day, Sif sticks her head through his chamber doors, hawk-eyes searching, neck protruding like the scaly, writhing twist of a dragon about to roar.
An intruder (succubus, lush – hush, not now), he looks her down, cold in pale brutality, pretending not-surprise.
Unflinching, determined, Sif steps toward him.
Heedless she twists her mouth, hardens her gaze. Contorts minds and breaths, and expels a child’s lie–
“I forgive you.”
Plain, simple, absent the finesse of an artful preamble. Unravelled like a gaunt, blunt declaration of war, Sif drowns him in the filth of absolution.
And takes her leave, all said and done, back rigid and heart taut.
Leaves him with his not-thoughts, crippled and shockingly tranquil. He inhales deep and relinquishes a shaky breath, dazed and drugged on the faintest scent of honey and winter pine.
Slowly, his resilience and anger crumble. Like all coiled beasts, so too misshapen desires learn to rebel.
Loki believes her.
And for now, he pretends all is right and joyful.
That night, when she thinks he is asleep, Sif sneaks into his rooms and comes to a pause before a chest.
Curious, he watches her from beneath half-closed lids. Drenched in pale grey starlight, Sif resembles a statue. A small, fallaciously frail statuette, carved not of marble but of faint ivory and jade.
Shoulders squared, she quietly reaches into his wooden sanctuary of relics and pulls something out, silver and metallic and gleaming deathly sharp.
Loki instantly stiffens, expecting the worst – a war cry, a slice of pain. Drenched, crimson sheets and wonders–
if a blade plunged through the heart will be a swift, merciful death, like he always imagined it.
But Sif surprises him entirely when she does naught but leave.
Features slithered into a high, blank wall, stretching out thin, scrawny limbs, Loki pushes back sheets and furs and inspects the extent of her crime.
He opens the chest, inhales sharp and full (dreams of horizons and the end of battle, blood-lust sated with pillage and spoils) and grins.
The dagger is gone.
Floating blithely on aggrandized dreams, Loki awakes to bright sun rays (re-painting his insides, the charred and grim).
He breathes deep and for the first time in centuries knows peace.
When her hair grows back, it is to his surprise – and hidden glee – black. A little less like Thor’s and a little more like his.
The universe is beautiful that day.