The words burned his mind before he even spoke them: “And tell me, Heimdall, what of my son?”
“He is well, my lord.” The sentry sipped his mead, gold eyes staring across the cozy room. They kept it dark in the tavern, unlike the golden accents and bright lights that most saw of Asgard. The kingly things they left in the open. “Jane Foster has been called away to her work. In her absence, Thor has gone on an adventure with the one known as Stark and his Avengers.”
Somewhere underneath all the glamour, he frowned, nose wrinkling up. Even the least hateful of them was still too much. “An adventure of what sort?”
“A holiday.” Heimdall glanced over, gold eyes critical, the faintest twitch of a smirk on the corner of his lip. “Thor has always been fond of Midgard. Even in the myths of his boyhood, they speak of him as their protector.”
“I know that, Heimdall,” he snapped.
“Of course.” He smiled the broadest smile, dark skin crinkling up around his eyes. The expression looked warm, even friendly. It suggested the trust shared between the king and his once and again most loyal servant. But that it was not: Loki saw the truth in it, the knowing, the sneering, impetuous arrogance. Still, he could do nothing, at least not yet.
“He goes back to Midgard to his blushing bride, then fast leaves her to make merry with those Avengers.” Loki sipped, careful to tip his glass just the way his father would. “Sometimes I wonder.”
Heimdall simply nodded, taking another drink. Even after weeks of these meetings, still the sight of him without the golden helmet surprised Loki. He looked so small, so frail. The son of nine mothers now looked like the son of one father. Loki reminded himself not to underestimate him.
“I could send Sif and the Warriors Three to ask him to return,” Heimdall offered. “Though you have given him your blessing, no one would begrudge a father the missing of his only son.”
Loki frowned, fire building in his veins as Heimdall’s slight made his bubbling pulse sear his skin. Bile crept up in his words, but he kept steady. He maintained the glamour, softened his voice, and said, “Whatever they might try, it shall not succeed. Such an endeavor is doomed to fail, and risks inflating my son’s ego besides. “ He played it through in his head, listening for his father’s voice in his words as well as sounds. “Thor will return to me when he is ready, or when Asgard is at risk. Not a moment before.”
Heimdall gave a small nod of acknowledgement, leaning back in his chair. A few of his fingers released the tankard in front of him, the others remaining on its curved handle. “May I speak freely, my Lord?”
“He will return to you when you are ready. Laufeyson did not learn his craft from Frigga alone.”
For a moment, Loki could only stare at the broad grin on those dark lips. His thoughts ran through him like a current arcing frantically between doom and hope. Then he smiled. He reached across the table, hooking his fingers around the cold, sweating glass of the tankard his old rival grasped. He pulled it away. “You drink as a boy just learning mead is made of honey, and it loosens your lips.” He paused for effect, adding, “Thor is a bad influence on you. Your holiday has been long enough.”
“Aye, my lord. And yours.”
Loki grinned with practiced serenity through Odin’s face. As they started back toward the Bifrost, he dreamed of Heimdall’s next, final, holiday.