Hello again! I give you…the penultimate chapter. Next chapter will be the last, regretfully, although it will be of a decent length in the hope that I will lessen the number of vengeful readers with knives chasing me :) I sincerely hope you all enjoy this chapter, and thank you all for staying with this story for so long. Love you people. XD

Reviews:

Oh Casanovah: Thank you! Loki is going to have some properly cool moments in this chapter when he finally gets a chance to speak out for himself. Hope you like it!

johncorn: Thanks for reviewing, and the encouragement! :)

The Pearl Maiden: Why thank you! Avarin is brilliant, I love him, but that unluckily means that I will mistreat him. I always end up mistreating OCs that I like. Pity. :)

Child of Hermes: Thank you!

Guest: Thank you for the accurate information about Asgard's political system – saved me time thinking overmuch about it XD Thanks and hope you like this chapter!

LiesmithLoki: Thanks! And this chapter is when Loki has to deal with those idiot councilmen, so I hope you like the way he does it :)

Guest: Yes, Odin really gets judged too much. I think he really loves Loki and just doesn't know how to handle a son that feels betrayed. This fic is all about them learning to mend that relationship. Thank you!

** Love Reno: Thank you for both reviews! I hope you didn't mind that I made Loki suffer a bit. But I'm glad you liked it!

Right, don't own Avengers, ladidah, do own OCs, especially Avarin :).

Onwards!

Oh waitwait have any of you watched Henry IV part 1 yet? Part 2 came out BUT I HAD TO WAIT CAUSE I HAD TO FINISH THIS CHAPTER ON TIME gahhhh worst conflicted feels ever =.= Shows how I love you guys too much lol XD

Here is the chamber of the Asgardian High Council.

The chamber resounds with an understated tremble of age and power. The magnificent arches of hewn stone and carved marble sweep high above, flowing with the easy grace reminiscent of a time before time, like the train of an elven empress' sable raiment frozen in a moment of turning in a dance across the starry hosts.

At first glance, the chamber is open to the yawning depth of the dark coverlet of the heavens, but a gleam, a barest hint of refracted light, and sight and perception shift to reveal the dome of unbroken crystal vaulting high above. Muted reds and glowing trails of iridescent fire mark the roots of the ever-existent Yggdrasil, the ancient tree whose branches mark the realms of past, present, and evermore. The stars glimmer in their glory, a dusting on this curtained canvas of ebony.

The floor of this grave chamber is as smooth as mirrored glass, so that as one steps forward into the midst of a half-circle of a dozen stately chairs, the celestial lights reflected dance about one's feet, as if one is walking on the arc of the night sky itself.

A single word reverberates across the breadth and height of the chamber in which the council is in session.

Reinstatement…

Is the word set in stone, proclaimed with a regal head held high, a hand on famed Gungnir, a statement echoed by the ring of acceptance among the dozen high-backed seats?

Nay – more a question. A frail one of rippled unease.

Voices rise and fall in enquiry and answer. The unease is now accompanied by a single tone of rising anger.

And as fiery as the grey eyes are of a father advocating fiercely for his son, the council remains unswayed, albeit in a vaguely embarrassed air.

It is not often that the words of the Allfather fall to nothing.

(~~~)

The main citadel hallway bustles with life, a hundred sounds overlapping and vying for domination, ranging from cultured chatter to highbrow intellectual arguments between academics, servants' gossip and merchants' discussions. The only place of relative quiet is by the oak doorway leading to the apprentice scholar classrooms, where Loki has paused for respite, Thor beside him. The crowd beside them passes unnaturally quickly, with eyes averted and conversations clipped. Whilst Thor only pretends not to notice this slight on his brother, Loki is too tired, and overwhelmed by the revelation of his father's actions to pay attention to the people around him. A slow grin appears upon his pale face and brightens those originally listless green eyes. "Come, brother," he says with a new lightness in his tone, "let us go on."

A pity that this new mood of jubilation is about to be torn away from Loki as fast as it had come.

There is a clatter from far behind the oak doors, a shout of frustration, gales of amused laughter that grow louder as they draw closer to the main hallway. Loki, in the process of shifting his weight for his brother to support, does not realise this, sharp as his ears usually are. A faint call of "Come back, you truanters! Never have I seen such ridiculous behaviour! Come back at once, I say!" A chorus of catcalls answer.

At this, Thor looks up, alarmed, and sees how close Loki is to the door. Fearing that he may be too weak to avoid the movement of the great doors, Thor tries to pull his brother back onto the middle of the corridor.

Too late.

A pair of children no older than fourteen burst running through the oak doors, overflowing with delighted mirth at their escape of what is obviously their apprenticed classes. The finery of their dress show their nobility of birth, and the stains and rips in them betray their lack of discipline. Their master, lean and old with age, with eyes that are hard with that particular kind of wisdom gained not only by study but also too much experience with children of the gentry who are not at all genteel, stumbles a certain distance behind them, shaking his fist with fury.

Loki manages to jerk out of the way of the swinging doors, much to Thor's relief. But the children, heads turned to watch the comical gait of their master of boredom, run full pelt into the hands of the injured prince, outstretched in a vain attempt to shield himself. The boys swivel their heads to find a rush of green and gold, and dig their heels into the ground in a hopeless attempt to decelerate.

Prince and students fall into a tumble on the ground, one of the boys landing on Loki's bandaged right arm.

There is a miniscule crack, as Avarin's masterly work in setting the bone is all undone.

Loki shouts in pain, gritting his teeth. The corridor falls silent with murmured mutterings of inquiry and many a craned head. As such, Thor's rebuke, rashly said and quite unlike his usual restraint, sounds unnaturally loud on account of his fear for Loki. "What have you done?" he roars, leaping forward to help his brother and to inspect his wrist. As Thor touches it, Loki hisses slightly.

If Thor's gaze can ever be described as malevolent, it can be said to be now, as he turns to face the frightened children who have scrambled to their feet, half-poised to run, but frozen in place somehow, as if Thor's eyes are tracker beams made of suppressed anger.

Seeing the prince's expression, most of the gathered crowd carry on, walking fast. The corridor is left uncharacteristically empty. The children wring their hats between their ink-stained fingers, shuffling their feet guiltily. The younger one shivers with fear, cowering under Thor's rage.

The older child stutters, "I – I…"

"Now, now, let them be," comes the soft voice of Loki, who remains sitting on the ground, glancing up at Thor through the black hair that surrounds his face.

This seems to check Thor, who comes back to himself, reminding himself that these are children, not soldiers. Nevertheless, they have hurt his already wounded brother, and that is not easily forgiven.

"Explain yourselves," Thor growls, arranging his features into a marginally less murderous expression.

A pattering of cloth-soled shoes announces the late arrival of the master scholar, who is breathing hard with wheezing gasps. "You miserable excuse for nobility –" he begins, and then stops at the scene before him. Loki cradles his right hand, Thor is crouched over his brother, and the two children are wilting where they stand.

"Oh dear," the scholar says.

"Are you their master?" Thor asks directly.

At the transferal of Thor's attention away from them, the children jolt back into reality and make to sprint away. As they pass by Loki, the younger one whispers, "See? I told you that he wasn't a frost giant."

Thor and the scholar do not hear. But the child suddenly finds a grip of ice fix itself in his forearm. A four fingered hand tethers him there tightly, and the coldness of its touch is mirrored in the eyes of Loki, who has raised his head.

"What did you say?" Loki asks in a voice filled with dreadful uncertainty.

"Nothing, sir," the boy stammers.

"Do not jest with me, child!" Loki says, the fear now apparent in his very face.

"There…are rumours of your lordship being a…" the boy swallows. Loki's stare pushes him on. "Frost giant, sir," the boy squeaks.

Something drains out of Loki's eyes. The remnants of a fragile hope, perhaps. His left hand weakens in its hold on the boy and drops away. Somehow he no longer has any strength left, and he bows his head. "Go," he murmurs.

The children scamper away.

Thor dismisses the scholar with a hurried gesture, and as the oak door slams shut, Loki says in a dead sort of way, "Could you carry me the rest of the way, brother?"

Thor understands that he does not want to talk about it – Loki looks tired to his very soul. Why else would he submit to such an indignity of having to be carried by his brother?

With Loki slung over one shoulder, careful not to jostle his injured hand, Thor walks quickly. Loki only makes a sound of initial discomfort, but then becomes unsettlingly quiet.

"We need Avarin to take another look at your hand in your rooms, brother," Thor says.

"We need to talk to Avarin for other reasons," Loki replies, a hard edge to his voice.

(~~~)

Physician Avarin sits in his office with his head in his hands, trying to block the serious migraine that has developed in lieu of recent events. He is expecting a thunderous entrance from the king at any moment, and an accusation of breaking a sworn vow to the Allfather to keep the prince's secret…well, secret. Trepidation burrows a sick feeling into his stomach, and the measured ticking of his ornate wristwatch makes time seem to trickle and pool into passing infuriatingly slowly.

Sighing, he sits up, trying to convince himself to check on a patient or else just do something other than wait for his impending doom.

Tap.

The knock on the door jerks his heart into a fluttering frenzy, a knock that is amazingly restrained for the king. Avarin would have thought that Odin would have hammered, or broken down the door in these circumstances.

Swallowing, he says weakly, "Enter?"

The head that pokes into view wears a helmet. It takes half a second of wide-eyed staring for Avarin to fully comprehend that it is a citadel guard, not the Allfather, and to calm himself enough to stop the blood from roaring in his ears. Consequently, he only comprehends the second half of whatever the guard says.

" – so come to the prince's chambers now."

Blinking, Avarin splutters, "Could you repeat that? I'm a little tired, sorry."

The guard rolls his eyes, and says with barely restrained impatience, enunciating each word, "The princes require an audience due to complications with Loki's injuries. This is an urgent matter, so come to the prince's chambers now, if you please."

So there it is. Not death on the spot, as Avarin had prepared himself for. Rather a forthcoming death sentence. Oh heavens.

Reaching for his coat, Avarin rises and walks out of his office, dismissing the citadel guard. He sets his face into an expression of humble earnestness – for he doubts that he will have the mindset to prepare himself in the presence of the king – and strides towards what he thinks is his inevitable end.

(~~~)

The should-be-familiar sight of his own chambers is strangely unreal for Loki, as Thor deposits him on his reclining chair as gently as possible. After his time in the dungeons and the blurred days in the medical ward, his own rooms seem abnormally normal. The warm midday air drifts in from an open window, and the walls are lit with a pleasant natural light. Loki would have drifted off to sleep right there and then if not for the stinging pain emanating from his wrist. A glance shows that it has swollen to an angry red.

Thor hurries back to the door, calling a servant to bring iced water and a glass of wine. He also calls for a guard to fetch the Master physician. "The wine may help with the pain, brother," he calls back. Loki only nods, examining the intricate patterns thrown by the golden light on the ceiling with a disinterested air. Thor sees this silence as a mark of Loki's rapidly souring mood. "Do you think father has heard of this?" he ventures.

Loki shrugs, and then winces as the motion translates into a spike of pain. The servant's timely arrival with Thor's requests comes none too soon. Thor brings the iced water to the table beside Loki, and begins to help him lower his hand into the cold liquid. Loki bites his lip, but makes not a sound. He breathes out slowly as his hand settles in the water. Thor makes an apologetic sound.

Thor hands him the glass of wine, and Loki takes a tentative sip, making a face. "Why, it's positively warm," he says.

Thor says, "I can tell someone to bring a new glass."

"Oh no, don't bother," replies Loki with a sarcastic tilt of his head, "It's not really helping to dull the pain anyway." Nevertheless, he continues to drink it, a contemplative look crossing his face. Thor, knowing his brother, frowns and is just about to ask when their father's step is heard outside the door.

The princes can tell just by the angle of Gungnir in Odin's hand and the way his teeth are set that the meeting with the high council did not fare well. Thor asks regardless, "What say the council?"

Odin casts Gungnir aside, and says, "They may have well rejected the proposal completely. They say –" And here he notices the grim mix of pain and anger on Loki's face. "What happened to your hand, my son?" he asks anxiously, coming forward to examine it, although Loki's look prevents him from touching the injured wrist, "It was fine this morning when I left you at the ward."

Loki laughs a bitter, mocking laugh, laced with sorrow and self-loathing. Both Odin and Thor start at the cynicism lining it, even as Loki says in a peculiar tone, "Some children ran straight into me on the way here. By the way my wrist feels, it's been rebroken. The same children were whispering 'frost giant' as they ran. It seems that my history is common knowledge now." He drains the rest of the wine with a gesture, holding the glass out for a refill.

Thor and Odin start back in surprise, for Loki's arm is blue up to the elbow, obviously his answer for the too-warm wine. This small act of rebellion is accompanied by a level glare, as if challenging them to judge him.

Odin is silent momentarily. "I would have that you heard of Avarin's betrayal in a kinder way, my son," he says. "There is no question that the rumours must have originated from the senior medical team. Other than them, only you, I, and your brother know."

"I called for Avarin to come," Thor puts in.

"I will have words with him," Odin says grimly.

Another laugh, this time disturbingly wild, draws their attention back to Loki, who says vehemently, "Oh, why does that even matter?"

Odin's concern for his son increases. "What do you mean, my son?"

"Every man, woman, and child in Asgard already has enough reason to hate my very existence without the fact that I am not Asgardian in addition." There are dark shadows under Loki's eyes.

"That is not true," Thor interjects.

"Oh yes, brother, so their worst suspicions as to who this wicked betrayer of both the king and Asgard are all but confirmed. I always knew that what I had done would never pass me by. You tried to convince me otherwise. I deceived myself in turn. There is no hope for me, is there? Destined to be an emblem of hatred."

Odin opens his mouth to tell him otherwise, but Loki speaks on. "Yes, I am now fixed upon every child's mind as the horror that populates their nightmares. How glorious! I wish I had never been born." The last sentence slips out before he can stop its passage from his lips.

The king's head is bowed in thought. Loki smiles sadly, and bends towards his father, saying softly, "It would have been easier that way."

Odin suddenly snaps his head up. "Silence, child!" he says with such authority that Loki is astonished into quiet. "Stop these words that cause nothing but bitterness to you and pain for your father."

Loki's hand that holds the wine glass trembles.

Odin continues in a kinder tone, "Think before you speak. The situation is not unsolvable. You do not know that the people hate you, and similarly you do not know whether your life is worthless. I tell you now that there are very few things in all existence that are worth more to me than you, perhaps none. So end this nonsense."

Loki stares at the wine in his hand, features unreadable. Thor and Odin wait in hope that he does not explode into another emotional tirade.

Then Loki says, "As you wish, father." The sullen note has gone somewhat from his voice. "Is there a way to convince the council?" he asks, changing the subject.

Sighing, Odin mutters, "They may have been swayed a day ago, as a consequence of your actions to save your brother. But the rumours have touched their ears also, and they will not give me a fixed answer until I have confirmed or denied outright whether you are a frost giant."

Thor says, "You may have well have confirmed it by your refusal to answer immediately, father."

Loki sits up suddenly, and says, "Avarin is here." Thor, by unspoken consent, walks outside to receive him. Odin stands once more, reaching for Gungnir.

"Do you wish me to talk to him elsewhere? If you would like to rest after he treats your arm," Odin queries.

"This subject regards me, and I would like to be present."

His father acknowledges this without a word.

The door opens, and Thor appears, expressionless. Avarin comes after, carrying a bag with what he needs, a curious expression of fear and determination on his face. Unable to discern anything from Thor's face, he only has to look upon Odin's to know that all is known.

Hurrying towards Odin, he casts himself to the ground in front of the king, bowing low in sincere misery. "My king…" he begins, "I do not know how to speak my utmost regret and sorrow."

Odin steps forward until the tips of his boots come into the physician's line of sight, Avarin's head bowed inches from the ground. "I have but one question," Odin says gravely, "Was it you who betrayed the sworn vow to me?"

Avarin shakes his head, but does not dare raise it, saying, "No, sire. But I bear full responsibility nevertheless, as they were my subordinates. My wrong is unpardonable, but I beg your forgiveness, my lord." He waits in tempered fear for Odin's verdict.

The boot tips move away from his vision, as Odin turns away. "Get up," he says. Avarin rises, trembling. "I have no power to forgive you, Avarin, for it was not I that you wronged. Similarly, it is not I who will decide what is to be done. You know what to do." Loki, who has been examining his hand pointedly looks up sharply at this. And Odin steps back for Avarin to pass.

Avarin starts at the blue shade of Loki's left forearm. Loki, seeing this, says in a voice dripping with sarcasm, "Surprised, physician? I was merely being practical. This wine is too warm, and I thought about adding some ice from the bowl here, but that appeared rather unhygienic. Besides, considering that this" and he nods at his arm, "is widely known among Asgard now, why bother with pretenses?" His eyes flare scarlet, seemingly due to his emotional state rather than a conscious decision.

Regardless, it has the effect of intimidating Avarin into an unsettled state. "My lord," he says earnestly, "I know I am accountable for what has passed. Do what you will with me, I have no words in my defence. If the price of my actions be my life, than so be it."

Loki sighs in a rather exasperated way, placing his now empty wine glass on the table beside him and changing his hand back to a normal hue. "Terribly loyal idiots, the lot of you, aren't you? It was such with Damian. I see that you are no different. I know you meant no harm to my father or I, and what has ensued – no matter how you claim responsibility – was not your direct fault. What is done is done. There is no use for more grief. Punishing you certainly would not cause me any pleasure, nor would it solve the quandary that is my place in Asgard. I have not forgotten your attentive care for my recent injuries. So we will talk no more of this. Father, I thank you." The last words are directed at Odin, in thanks for passing Avarin to Loki's jurisdiction.

This singular act of mercy is so unlike Loki's previous personality that even Thor is moderately astounded. The events of the past few days have affected him more than I thought, Thor thinks to himself.

Avarin relaxes, the disappearance of the tension in his features causing him to appear suddenly younger and less careworn. "Thank you, my lord," he says simply.

"I am tired, and in no small amount of pain due to several unruly children in a hurry to escape from class," Loki says with a hint of impatience, "So I would be glad if you did your work quickly, physician."

Slipping gratefully back into his usual demeanor as the master physician, Avarin examines Loki's broken wrist with a careful swiftness that shows his skill. "Pity," he mutters to himself, "was healing perfectly, but I shall have to reset the bone…I am going to have to lay your hand flat, my lord." This he says to Loki, who makes no sign of the pain he must be feeling as Avarin gently manipulates his wrist into the right position.

"I can set it with magic. I can give you something to lessen the pain now, but it would be better to wait until after. It was easier when you were unconscious before."

"It's fine, Avarin. Just do it," Loki says, steeling himself. Odin draws closer and grips his son's shoulder in comfort.

Avarin lays his hands on the injury, taking a deep breath. He looks at Loki for confirmation. Loki nods once, staring straight ahead. Sending ribbons of his magic into Loki's wrist, Avarin wills the fragments of bone to first shift together, and then to meld into a seamless whole.

The bone is set with a crunch that makes Odin flinch in sympathy. Loki cries out, biting his tongue accidentally and tasting the coppery tang of blood in his mouth. Avarin does not pause, but immediately sends another tendril of magic that mutes the pain. This brings Loki considerable relief, and he thanks Avarin for his ministrations.

Loki pokes his wrist gingerly, and smiles when he feels only a twinge in return.

Thor dismisses Avarin, saying, "We have other matters to address."

Avarin takes his leave, indicating that he would come to check on Loki the day after.

The atmosphere in the room darkens considerably after the door closes behind him. "The council still requires an answer, father," Thor says in a matter of fact way, "What are we to tell them? Denial would be futile now that we have missed the chance to reject the rumours on our first realisation of them."

For a while, no one speaks as all think of possible roads of action.

Then a voice breaks the silence. "What path do you wish to take, Loki?" asks Odin, "I will not decide for you. This is your life, and your identity. There are times when even as your father I cannot presume to make a choice for you. The decision is yours."

Loki smiles in acceptance and gratitude. His eyes unfocus, as if contemplating a deep struggle within himself. Then he looks his father and his brother straight.

"We proclaim the truth. We tell the council all," he announces.

Thor cannot help but exclaim, "You are prepared to allow father to tell the council that you are a frost giant? Are you certain that this is a correct judgment? Confirmation of your identity?"

Loki raises a finger. "Forgive me. I should have been clearer in my speech. Father will not inform the council. I will."

Odin says, "They will plague you with many questions, and you have not the strength to answer them. Is it not wiser for me to fight this battle for you, just this once?"

A determined air flickers in Loki's eyes. "I am not a child," he answers, "nor am I now that hapless infant that you, father, brought out of Jotenheim that day. I will not hide behind my father's cloak like a coward when there is no option but to speak the truth. I will walk in front of the high council of Asgard, and defend myself by my own words alone."

There is a hint of pride in Odin's voice when he says, "I am sorry, Loki, for the pain that my decision to withhold your true self from you all these years will still cause. Will you allow Thor and I to be present at the council, to support you if we can?"

"I would like that, father," Loki says.

Thor asks the obvious question. "When then shall we meet with the council?"

Loki groans, and with great effort, hobbles by himself to the bed. "We shall go as soon as I am able. Before the sun is set."

Thor nods, and after grasping Loki's hand once, turns and leaves to inform the council. Loki yawns, smiles at his father, and promptly falls asleep, his injured hand resting beside him.

Odin's mouth is set in a stern line, for he dreads what is, and must, come.

(~~~)

It is immensely interesting how every aspect of the council chambers have been constructed to intimidate. So thinks Loki, as he strides into the midst of the full council. The setting sun is a distant flare past the citadel pinnacle, the skies a glorious spread of starspun fire. The blend of scarlet and orange suffuses down from the crystal arc above the chamber, and the reflective ground is similarly alit with flame the licks the feet of those that walk on the surface, twisting tongues that flicker and surround you in a living hell composed of fire above and fire below.

Maybe sundown isn't the most apt time to face a council session.

Loki, caught by the first glance into this room of flame, pauses at his own reflection on the plane of the ground. He does not remember his face ever before so determined, accentuated somehow by the thin scar of a knife cut across one high cheekbone, nor is he used to seeing his right hand bound and his left with but four fingers twitching with a well-hidden tension that is absent from the hard mask that is his face.

Then he recollects himself, and raises his eyes to see the high council members enthroned on a dozen chairs before him, elevated on a shallow platform so that tall as Loki is, he has to tilt his head ever so slightly upwards, as if addressing a superior. This irks him, but he quells the emotion.

Loki had required Thor's support on the way to the council chambers, but at the door, he had summoned what strength he had and stood tall as his name had been announced and the doors were opened.

And a faintest half-smile touches his face as he looks upon the twelve sombre members of the council, his fingers tapping a gentle, tripping beat on his crossed arms.

If the aged men are surprised that it is Loki who walked first through those doors and not Odin, they do not show it. Prince and council regard each other momentarily. Then the one that sits at the council's zenith shifts, and asks, "Why are you here, Loki Odinson?"

Loki laughs, closing his eyes for a second. "Why, you think that I would not be present at an inquiry whose very subject is myself? You speak the obvious! And so I will not grace that question with an answer." He taps his foot lightly, the very picture of unconcerned calm.

"Do not presume that you have the authority to use that tone. You are not yet prince again by law." A dozen pairs of eyes bore into Loki. Odin, standing behind with Thor, snorts in disgust.

Loki snaps into a dangerous glare, hand touching the long knife by his side. "And you, my dear lords," he says quietly, "should know your place. You all disgraced your position and your age by the way you conducted yourselves this day against my father. You have not given him the respect he deserves. And as his son, I shall in turn give you none."

"But are you his son? That is the question," a man with brown hair streaked with grey, younger than the rest of the council, abruptly asks.

Loki relaxes, passing from a threatening aspect to careless abandon in an instant. "I come before you today with two motives. First, to reassert my claim to be a prince of Asgard. Secondly…" He grins. "To answer my most gracious lord's question."

Holding the unsettlingly pleasant grin on his face, he reaches inside his magical core and flicks the switch that allows him to appear Asgardian.

Navy blue washes over his pale skin, even as his eyes glow scarlet. He hears Thor scoff at his brother's shameless penchant for mischief.

The twelve members of the high council gasp as one, half nearly falling out of their seats, some with eyes wide and mouth gaping, and the head of the council raises a shaking finger at Loki, saying in a shuddering voice, "You…you…"

Loki sighs and with barely an eyeblink, allows the blue to melt away into his usual appearance. "Yes, yes, I am a frost giant by birth," his tone implying that it is of little importance, "but of Asgard by name, heart, and blood. What I look like does not affect the fact that Odin is my father, and I am his son. What else do I need to be granted the position of prince of Asgard?" His eyes seem to dare the council to disagree.

The head councilor shifts his gaze tremblingly to Odin. "You knew about this?" he asks. "You allowed him to grow up in the halls of this ancient citadel?"

Odin takes two steps, and slams the end of Gungnir into the ground. The council flinches. "Watch your words carefully, councilor!" Odin barks, "You are talking about my son. I knew from the moment I found him on Jotenheim. I chose not to make him known, even to himself. He is a prince. That is unquestionable."

An old man with a wispy white beard, brow furrowed, says, "Perhaps. Perhaps he is the prince by argument. But we cannot have a frost giant in line for the throne of the nine realms. It is unfeasible. What you ask is simply impossible."

"But he is not in line for the throne." The voice echoes across the chamber. Thor joins his father and Loki in the center of the room. "I am."

Before they have a chance to answer, Loki continues, "I have lived all my life in Asgard, believing that I am Asgardian. Would that change now, just because my appearance is not so naturally? Asgard is my home. What can you say against this?"

The council emanates silence, unable to think of a logical reason of opposition. With Loki fully admitting his real identity, there is no fallback of inquiry based on suspicion. They are well and truly cornered.

"But – your recent conduct!" fumes a councilor, face reddened and spitting out his words in a whirl of frustration.

Loki says gravely, "Yes. That was my wrong alone. I know what I have done, and I regret my actions deeply. But I have changed now. I am willing to serve my position as prince."

Odin speaks. "My son gave a finger and risked his life to save his brother. Is that not proof enough of his loyalty?"

Another period of tense silence.

Then the younger councilor with greying hair says, "My son speaks highly of you."

Loki tilts his head. "Your son?" he asks, eyes narrowed.

"Yes, I have a son. His name is Aidan."

Loki smiles a true smile, and asks, "Ah, little Aidan! The child who dreams of heroes and knows not that he already is one. How fares he? I did not have a chance to see him after I handed Damian over to his care."

The councilor seems pleased with Loki's reply. "Aidan is well. He speaks of you often. Let me ask you this," and he descends from his chair and walks until he is in front of Loki, "Would Asgard be a safe, happy place for my child with a prince like you? Be truthful with me."

Loki looks him straight in the eye, and for the first time sees traces of Aidan's curious expression in the man. "Yes," he states, clear and uncomplicated.

The councilor smiles ruefully, and throws his hands up. "What more do I have to ask?" He turns to the council. "What more do we have to say?"

The head councilor looks at Loki through the steepled tips of his fingers, and says, "Fine. On one condition."

"Name it," Loki states.

"The knowledge of your identity becomes known to Asgard at large."

It is Thor who steps forward in anger, shouting, "What is this you ask? My brother has told the council everything. It is beneath you to ask this of Loki, to seek to humiliate by brother in this way!"

A restraining hand on his arm stops his outburst. Loki regards the council calmly. "So be it. But my father will be the one to announce it to the people."

Thor turns to Loki with a look of amazement. But he finds not a shred of regret or fear in Loki's visage.

Aidan's father smiles approvingly. "What then say the council on the Allfather's request? All in favour say aye."

Five or six say "aye" straight away, a few others give "ayes" that are more like tentative mumbles, and finally, the head of the council, staring at Odin, too whispers, "aye".

Aidan's father returns to his seat, the head councilor stands, and in a grave tone says, "Therefore the council names you, Loki Odinson, first of that name and second son of Odin, once more prince of Asgard, second of that station, with all the powers and rights that the position requires. Council adjourned." He turns back to his seat with a flick of his cloak.

And as Loki turns to leave the chamber, his father on his right and his brother on his left, he leaves as the reinstated prince of Asgard, with head held high and a contented smile of victory.

Well, there you have it. Prince once more! Next chapter will be up on time in 8 or 9 days, and will be set not only in Asgard…hint hint. I hope you all liked that, and I will now dance crazily off to watch Henry IV part 2. Love you all. Oh and no spoilers please in the comments, but DO tell me how much you love Prince Hal :)