Pulled on the Harp Strings

Loki has been isolating himself from the family and Thor is asked to speak with him. Loki could just be behaving like his normal, anti-social self... but more troubling matters seem to be plaguing him. What are they?

(Takes place during the events of 'Thor'.)

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2. Chapter Two: The Strike of Lightening

"I grow tired of your insolence, Loki!" Odin thundered; his single, piercing eye boring into that of his son. Loki merely stared impassively into the glossy sheen of the Throne Room tiles; constantly vague in expression.

Thor stood obediently - and rather awkwardly - to his brother's immediate right. He eyed Loki with an air of slight suspicion; Loki always proved unpredictable when confronted. He hoped the young prince would adopt his state of elegant composure, rather than submit to his internal rage.

Obviously he'd never admit such a thing... but his little brother really did frighten him, sometimes.

"I fail to see how the desire of solitude is an act of insolence, father." Loki's voice was as smooth as the serpent's slither; of course - remaining true to the nature of the snake - the air of cunning accompanied it.

"Cease your childish, jibes!" The All-Father snapped, impatiently. Odin's haste to interject informed Loki that he had proven victorious, against his father, regarding that particular verbal battle. Thor could spy the most minute curl of the young God's lips.

"You have caused your mother and I a great deal of concern; exiling yourself from your own family. Pray tell, my son, what was so vastly important for you to do such thing?" Odin attempted to appear concerned - almost sympathetic - but the mind of Loki Odinson was all too accustomed to the crafts of a liar. How dare Odin resort to patronising him with parental spiels; humouring him like a mere child.

The child he would always see in him. Nothing more than that.

Loki clenched his delicate fists inconspicuously; however Thor spied the underlying gleam of his knuckles protrude from the near-transparent skin.

However, Loki's response - thankfully - contrasted greatly with his stance. Forever in a state of Zen, he replied, "I was playing my harp, father."

"You were what?"

Loki dared to raise his voice but a fraction, "I was merely playing the harp, father. I wished to..." He swallowed, awkwardly, before continuing, "...practice. I wished to perfect it, father."

"And what good would have come of that?" Odin responded, sceptically. His solitary eye fixed on the falling locks of ebony which framed his son's bowed head.

Thor noticed a malicious smirk, just concealed beneath the manic mass of charcoal hair. He felt a small pool of dread form in the pit of his stomach.

This wasn't going to end well.

Loki lifted his head slowly, calm gaze fixated on the wrath of his father. His eyes of jade steady and unblinking. Could a smile be playing on his lips?

His speech proved impeccably articulate; voice smooth and cool as a sheet of Jotun ice. His eyes were steady, stance formed with an air of pride and his words like the knives that slit the throat in the silent dead of night:

"What good? Well, a great deal of good, father; not of which you'd comprehend, of course. You see, I have discovered a method of "cathartic release"; one of elegant sophistication. I find it much more rewarding than the typical form of Asgardian emotional relief; which mainly consists of brutally slaying creatures of a different race or "the glory of battle". And - as you may ask - what good comes of that? Well, a wondrous contrast occurs, father. Whilst the burst of suppressed rage is but temporarily diminished via animalistic bloodshed, such murderous actions simultaneously lead to the gluttonous inflation of Asgardian-man's insufferable ego. Oh, what a sweet little cesspool of psychological benefit, yes?"

The soft hiss of his final jibe seeped into the silence, leaving both Odin and Thor in a mild state of shock. The serpent had spoken and he was very pleased with himself, indeed.

Thor could feel the swelling aura of contempt omitted by his brother. Thor's brow furrowed as that horrid feeling of fear swept over his mind.

But fear of what?

Was it the fear of the consequences - enforced by Odin - for his brother's disrespect for his own people? Was it the fear of the dark matter that dwelled inside his little brother: the lies, the deceit, and the malicious sorcery? Or was it the fear of distance; the tether of brotherly compassion between he and Loki - that once seemed indestructible - twisting and fraying under times cruellest spell?

A pang of pain collided with his heart as he realised the third question was - in fact - the answer to his fear.

The feeling was not unfamiliar to him - neither was the current situation - however it always succeeded in lamenting his heavy heart just as much as it did before.

Why did it always end this way?

Loki would defy the authority of their father, their father would then provoke his youngest son and Loki's compulsive need to prove his superiority would claim him. This left Loki back where he started: isolated, cynical and avoided by his own father.

(Not before Odin severely punished Loki, for his actions, of course.)

Thor could see it: his father visibly tensing when in the company of Loki. Even when the younger God behaved pleasantly, there was always an air of unease within the atmosphere; a lack of trust, which proved a constant barrier between father and son.

It truly saddened Thor to see; why couldn't they just be a family, for once? However - now - he knew that dream was foolish; a hopeless ideal.

Ha. He was beginning to sound like, Loki.

Loki - forever the cynic - had most likely known the House of Odin had cracks in the walls from the very beginning; that there was no such thing as a happy family.

His thoughts were interrupted by his father's terrifying outburst:

"How dare you? You dare to spew such words of poison toward your own people; yet, still you feel entitled to their respect? How do you expect to rule them? How can I expect you to rule them?"

That had touched a nerve... or - rather - impaled it; Loki's head snapped upward, his eyes blazing with sudden desperation.

However, Odin continued: "Your contempt sickens me! I am ashamed to name you my son!"

He began to descend the great, stone stairs; his towering wrath becoming ever-more-apparent, as drew ever-closer to Loki:

"You selfish, selfish child!"

And with that, he struck Loki hard across the face.

When the reverberation of the violent collision - of a callous hand with a delicate face - ceased to sound an excruciating silence took its place.

Thor's stare bored into the ground, unable to risk eye contact with either his brother or father. However, as the leaden silence stretched onward, Thor looked up tentatively; curious to see their expressions.

Odin remained statuesque, the hand which forced the strike of lightening still levitated in the air in a freeze-frame; his single eye saturated with guilt as he stared into the ground - with unadulterated shame - as Thor had done before him.

Odin had not wanted to hit his son. He loved Loki. He just hated of what he was capable of.

Thor then turned to Loki.

Loki also remained in a statuesque stance; his skeletal face turned to the side - hair swept over his angular cheekbones - as it was the moment he was struck. Fists clenched - as they were before - and eyes ablaze, he fought back hot tears - boiled by embarrassment and frustration - with every inch of his angered being.

Thor couldn't help but flinch as Loki broke the silence:

"You claim they are my own people, yet they are not of my kind..." His voice tender and solemn as his gaze finally dared to meet that of his father, "...that is not a jibe of contempt but merely an acceptance of what I truly am..." He gave a slight smile, but it became more of a wince, as it failed to combat the pain, "...as cold as ice."

Thor eyed him with confusion. What did Loki mean? How Thor hated his brother's dialect of riddles and mysteries; it made it all-the-more difficult for one brother to understand the other. It proved another contribution to the growing distance between them.

Thor turned to his father, in hope of an explanation or reassurance that Loki's words didn't really mean anything.

Did they?

Odin remained silent but focused his gaze upon his youngest son. Thor looked into that solitary eye of grey and saw the pain of realisation that resided there. The All-Father then bowed his head - which appeared almost as a nod of acceptance - towards his son's words. He then raised his palm to grant his sons permission to leave him; face defeated and tired, in expression.

Thor glared at his brother, pleading for an answer. Loki said nothing. Tears still threatening to cascade down his pale and grim façade, he turned on his heel and stormed from the room, trying to stifle his frantic breathes which were nearing hyperventilation.

Thor watched - gaping, slightly - in silence, as his brother's scrawny form retreated through the ornate doors of the Throne Room.

An extensive silence of contemplation fluttered by; only the Gods knew for how long. Until:

"He does play wonderfully, father."

The blonde looked to his father - apologetically - one last time... and began to approach those same doors in pursuit of his brother.

Of course he did; he had to. Loki was his brother and a man cannot let his brother walk alone. A brother must always follow, no matter where the other may tread.

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