“An infant, cast out onto a frozen rock. Left to die.”
Odin’s words had echoed in his head all night long: during dinner, during the celebrations and speeches, and now, as he stared into the inky blackness of the Asgardian sky upon the balcony that extended from a hidden part of the library. This was his private place. A place to read, to think. A refuge. Yet, on this night, despite it being effective in allowing him to free himself of the crowds and boisterous noises, it could not shield him from what he was really hiding from: the truth.
Looking at the stars provided some solace though. He knew nearly every inch of the sky, having studied astronomy avidly as a youth. It was the exactly the same as always. Constant and unchanging, it was what he needed when it seemed like his existence was coming undone.
Ever since Odin had called him to his personal study and had revealed Loki’s true heritage to him, his emotions began to cycle through various stages. At first it was denial. This must have been Odin’s idea of a cruel joke; a way to spoil the one day dedicated to him. Then it was anger. Why did Odin wait so long to reveal the truth? Why pretend as if he had just an equal claim to the throne as Thor? Why did Odin hate him so much to reveal it on a day that Loki should have felt joyful for? Disgust always followed. He was the monster of the stories told to him when he was a child. The antagonist to nearly all Asgardian tales he was raised with. He was taught to fear Frost Giants ever since he could remember. He was taught to fear who he was. This of course, inspired another wave of anger. He never thought Odin could be capable of such cruelty- to teach him as a child so he would hate himself when he was older.
However, his dominant state of being for the last couple of hours had been a feeling of emptiness. He felt hollow. Devoid of emotion or cares. He didn’t even bother to mask his indifference during the feast. He got some peculiar stares from the guests, and some pity glances from Frigga, but he couldn’t give a damn. Nothing felt quite real- it was all dream like. Even amongst the gregarious laughter and shrieks, the bright lights of the chandeliers of the ballroom, it all felt insubstantial. As soon as he could without making a scene, he had retreated to his balcony.
“I should have known you would be here.”
He jumped at the sudden noise and quickly turned around to discern who had interrupted his reverie.
“Why are you here Asa?”
The young women leaning against the doorway to the outside looked slightly affronted and shocked at the cold tone in her childhood friend’s voice.
“Why am I here? That’s what you choose to say to me first? Loki, we haven’t seen each other in 6 months. At our last reunion you gave me a bone crushing hug in welcome.” Asa giggled as she recalled the memory. Then her face reverted to it’s previous stoic set. “Loki, what on earth is wrong? Why did you leave your own feast?” Asa asked.
Loki made an incomprehensive grumble and turned back, leaning on the balcony and turning his sights once again to the night, hoping that Asa would just leave him alone. He really had been excitedly anticipating seeing her tonight, but after the day’s earlier revelations, all he sought was solitude.
Asa approached her friend and stood next to him, her forearms resting on the rail of the balcony and staring into the night sky. The two stood there for several minutes in silence, both looking off into the distance.
“It’s beautiful. And scary, in a way.”
“What is?” Asked Loki.
Loki turned to face her. “How are they scary?”
“I don’t know…” She said, still looking up. “I guess it just shows how big the universe is. And how insignificant we are.” She sighed. “We think of ourselves as gods, we call the midgardians mortal, but we too, live, die, and are eventually forgotten. In the grand scheme of things, we really mean nothing. And the stars just remind me of the big picture.”
“Hmph.” Loki turned his gaze back to the firmament and seemingly got lost in a trance. He contemplated her words. Yes, in a way gazing at the stars is a frightening reminder of one's unimportance in the grand scheme of things. Yet, for some reason, while that thought would normally frighten him, it now seemed comforting. Perhaps it’s because it made his current burdens seem superfluous and trivial too.
After a minute Asa continued. “Whenever I return to the palace, I am always bombarded with the court gossip, which while amusing, is mostly saddening to me. Why do people care about such superficial and petty things? It doesn’t matter. But I suppose those who do partake in such prattle really don’t live with much purpose. That’s always confused me. How can someone go about everyday living without knowing what they are living for? I mean, I suppose I don’t know exactly what I’m living for, but at least I am constantly searching for purpose. They, on the other hand, are completely fine living without a clue.”
Loki gave another incoherent grumbling, but no further reaction at her words.
The two stood there in comfortable silence, side by side, gazing into the heavens above for what felt like hours. Asa eventually broke the silence, her voice so soft it was nearly a whisper.
“Loki. Will you please tell me what’s going on. You don’t have to of course, but frankly, Loki, you are scaring me.” She turned to face him. “I hate to see you like this and would do anything to cheer you up.”
Loki said nothing and didn’t move. However, as Asa examined him, she noticed there were tears in his eyes. Now she really was concerned- Loki hardly ever cried. However, she knew her friend hated showing emotion, preferring to build a stoic alter ego to hide his true feelings, so she didn’t acknowledge Loki’s tears and turned back to the sky and waited in silence to see if he would start speaking to her. He didn’t, however.
“Loki.” she softly mumbled. “Please”
Finally, he spoke, his voice low and rough. “I can’t. You’d hate me if I told you.”
“Oh, Loki.” In an act of boldness, Asa tentatively brought her hand up to his cheek, where she caressed the wet line that marked the path of his tears. “You’re my best friend. Nothing could make me hate you.”
For the first time in that night, Loki turned and made eye contact with Asa. He looked completely vulnerable. “Please Asa. Please don’t ask me to tell you.” .
“Please, Loki. Just tell me. Like I said, there isn’t anything that would change my mind about you. I care about you. Tell me. Please.”
Loki suddenly changed, and he gave a small, mirthless laugh. “You care about me do you. Well, there were other people I thought cared about me too, but I was wrong,” Loki said, his voice not quite a shout, emotion dripping from every syllable.
Asa furrowed her brows in confusion. “What? Who are you talking ab-”
“You’re probably like them too. Pretending to care about me when really you don’t.”
“Stop it Loki!”
“No. Go away Asa.” Loki’s voice softened, and shifted so he was leaning on the balcony once again, no longer facing her.
“God dammit Loki!” Asa roared. “How dare you say that I don’t care about you. You think almost a thousand years of friendship means nothing! God, you’re thick. If I didn’t care about you, why in the world would I be right here trying to help you?” Her voice cracked on the last word In a much quieter voice she continued. “Loki, I meant what I said, you are my best friend. You matter a lot to me. And whatever I did to make you think otherwise, I sincerely apologize for.”
Loki remained silent for a heavy few seconds.
“Why would you be friends with a monster?” Loki whispered.
“I’m a monster.”
“What does that mean?”
Loki quickly pivoted his body and stepped closer to her, her face now inches away from his. His mouth contorted into a deranged grin, and Asa eyes widened in fear.
“What does that mean? What that means my dear Asa is that your supposed best friend is a Jotunn,” Loki yelled at the top of his lungs.
Asa’s eyes widened even further if that was possible, her gaze shifting between both of Loki’s eyes. “What?” She whispered.
“A Jotunn Asa. I am a Jotunn,” he sneered. “I’m the monster parents tell their kids about. I’m a being from your nightmares. I’m from the barbaric race that-” before Loki could finish, Asa brought her hand back and then slapped him across the face, the sound of her palm hitting his cheek cracking through the air.
Loki was shocked. He had expected her to run when she told her of his heritage, not resort to violence. And man, who knew she had so much strength, his cheek burned.
“Stop it!” Asa demanded.
Now Loki was confused. “Stop what?”
“Stop talking about yourself in such a way!” Her voice was quieter, but still had anger embedded in it.
“What?” Loki’s voice was quiet.
“I don’t care. I don’t care if your Jotunn! Hell, I wouldn’t care if you were part bilgesnipe. It doesn’t matter, Loki, so stop talking about yourself in such a demeaning way. It doesn’t matter, and don’t you dare push me away because of it!” Tears were forming in her eyes and she was slightly out of breath from shouting.
Loki couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He had just revealed to her that he was literally a monster, and yet her only reaction was to chastise him for self-deprecation.
“I… I don’t understand,” Loki said, his voice rough yet delicate.
“Oh, Loki.” Asa suddenly threw her arms around Loki, engulfing him in bone crushing hug. Loki stiffened, but made no move to extricate himself from her hold. After it seemed like she wasn’t going to let go any time soon, Loki relaxed, melting so he their bodies fit together. His tears began to fall freely again.
“Were you not listening to me earlier?” Asa said, her speech muffled as her head was pressed against his chest.
“When I was talking about the stars and court gossip. Loki, don’t you see, your ancestry is unimportant, irrelevant.’
Loki grunted. “Sure doesn’t feel like it right now.”
“Of course it doesn’t. Maybe unimportant isn’t the right word choice. What I mean Loki, is you may be Jotunn, but that has no affect on who you truly are. You’re still a passionate, intelligent, kind hearted yet mischievous man. That is what defines you. Not your heritage.” Asa moved, so she could look into his eyes while still remaining in the embrace. “And no matter what, you’re still my friend.”
Loki’s breath hitched and he puller her tighter to him. They stood their, leaning against each other for a few minutes, simply listening to each others heartbeat and taking comfort in one another.
“Loki,” Asa gently mumbled. “It’s cold outside. Can we go back into the library and sit in front of the fire?”
Loki nodded in agreement, so Asa slowly removed herself from his arms, took his hand and led him back inside. They settled on the large burgundy couch that was placed in front of a large fireplace with a beautiful ornately carved mantel. The two of them sat side by side, and Asa rested her head on Loki’s shoulder. Taking one of his hands in both of hers, she began to gently caress his knuckles.
“When did you find out?” Asa whispered.
“When were you told of your heritage?”
“Oh, earlier today. Odin called me into his quarters. Stated that since I am of age now, he felt he should know the truth?”
“Why didn’t he tell you earlier?”
“I honestly don’t know. He claims because he thought I wouldn’t be able to handle the truth when I was younger.”
“It seems cruel that he chose today, a day that is supposed to be a celebration for you, to reveal it to you.”
“I suppose,” Loki muttered. Silence followed his answer, Loki staring into the flickering fire while Asa continued to examine his hand while she gently rubbed it.
“Why did Odin decide to raise you?” Asa asked eventually.
“I was found abandoned as an infant during the war with Jotunheim. I guess he thought I could play a role in establishing peace between Jotunheim and Asgard.”
Asa leaned in closer to Loki as she processed what he said.
“Loki… I know I said it before, but I can’t stress it enough. I don’t care what the circumstances of your birth were.You’re my best friend, and you mean so much to me. Nothing can change that. Please remember that.”
Loki didn’t verbally reply. Instead he took the arm that was not in Asa’s grasp and placed it around her, bringing her even closer.
It was very late in the night, and as the two of them snuggled close together on the plush couch in front of the cackling, radiant hearth, their eyes began to droop and the urge to sleep began to overcome them. Asa fell asleep first, and Loki listened to her breathing, amazed at this incredible woman in his arms and how he could be deserving of her friendship.
Asa’s acceptance of Loki’s origins didn’t completely placate his own troubles. He still felt a degree of disgust and self hatred for himself. But the last thought he had before sleep claimed him was that if his mother and his best friend, the two women he admired the most, were able to accept his heritage, maybe in time he would be able to also.