Boltedfruit Archive

The Boy Underneath the Bridge Beside the Palace

Published: 2021-07-17

Category: M/M (gen)

Rating: M

Words: 2,124

Fandom: Thor

Ship: Thor & Loki

Characters: Thor, Loki

Tags: Alternate Universe – Canon Divergence, They’re Kids, References to Norse Religion & Lore

Summary:

There is a boy with long tangled blond hair beneath the bridge beside the palace.

 

He is dirty. And his wrists have scars. And his hair is in dreadful need of a chop, Loki thinks. He is thin too, and Loki thinks on that some nights. Papa had always told him there were no poor people in their kingdom. But what other explanation was there for the boy beneath the bridge beside the palace?

 

Loki has not told anyone his secret.

Author's Note

This one lands in the chunk of writing I did from 2016-2019.

There is a boy beneath the palace. Well not the palace really, the bridge beside the palace. But not thebridge, the one where Heimdall stands and stares at passersby as if he’ll eat them. No, no, that would be ridiculous if a boy was hiding underneath there, for he’d be swept out into the stars on the waves. Silly.

 

There is a boy with long tangled blond hair beneath the bridge beside the palace.

 

He is dirty. And his wrists have scars. And his hair is in dreadful need of a chop, Loki thinks. He is thin too, and Loki thinks on that some nights. Papa had always told him there were no poor people in their kingdom. But what other explanation was there for the boy beneath the bridge beside the palace?

 

Loki has not told anyone his secret.

 

 

Each day, when the maids gather him for the morning meal, handing him off to mama, he looks up at the high ceilings. Likes to pick out the blocks of light sneaking around from pane of glass to pane of glass. There are two boys beside his parents, and he knows the handsome face framed by the large golden halo is his own.

 

But he’s not sure who the other one is. He looks like mama though, whoever he is.

 

 

Mama braids his hair back, calling him her little raven before she sends him off with a kiss and telling him to be good and be cautious. Silly words, for he was always both, was he not?

 

He goes to the bridge to see the boy beneath, sneaking around the side of the palace. He need not dodge many guards, for there are none the farther back you go. He twists beyond pillars and climbs over rocks until the old bridge is visible to him. No one has walked here in years, he thinks.

 

The boy’s little blond head pops up with a small smile when he sees who it is come to see him.

 

“Loki!” he calls, voice small. Small like the rest of him.

 

He skips down the small rocky hill to the pad of dirt the other boy calls his home. He is not sure why he lives here, or why his parents let him. It is so filthy! It is nothing as good as a bed with duck feathers and piled in furs. Surely, any boy, dirty or clean, would much rather sleep in a bed such as his own? Not in this rubbish. He is sure, positively so, that all the boys in the realm have such a bed!

 

He tells the boy as much and he frowns, so Loki keeps on. “I have an announcement, boy!”

 

The boy sighs at the ground and nods his head. “What is it?”

 

“I am ten!” Loki throws back his shoulders and feels very tall indeed, like papa in his war dress.

 

The boy’s eyes close in that happy way Loki likes. “Congratulations. I believe I am as well.”

 

Loki does not think long on the strange comment. Surely any boy should know his own age?

 

“I know what I want from you for it,” Loki tells him, grinning. The boy looks back up at him, his eyes are so blue. Not dirty like the rest of him. And he must be cold, wearing the threadbare rags that he is. The way they hang off his chest and legs must surely not be comfortable when living in such a place with such cruel edges. “I know what I shall ask of you for my nameday!”

 

The boy nods.

 

“Your name!”

 

The boy slouches. He runs a hand through his mass of hair and it catches on a tangle. He grimaces and almost as quickly shushes himself. “I’m not sure I can give that. If I’m allowed, even on a name-day.”

 

“Why ever not, boy?” Loki asks him, because it is a simple request, really.

 

One he’s been asking for a year now.

 

The boy cowers and Loki knows he’s lost the day. He groans in frustration, loudly so the boy can hear him, and stands to leave. Usually they would play after the question, but Loki does not think the boy is in the mood, even though he should be.

 

“Only if you bring me something,” the boy says, voice wavering. He sounds like he needs to nap. Loki naps all the time. Surely a boy with nothing to do and nowhere to be would like to nap now and again! “A golden apple. From the orchards beyond the palace. Up there,” he says, turning his head toward the hills.

 

Loki hums. “Mama does not let me go over there.”

 

The boy slinks away again and Loki leaves, thinking about the odd request.

 

 

The boy asks him for the apple every day for a month. His patience is wearing thin, for he misses the afternoons they would spend playing together. No one else plays with him! The other boys and girls in Asgard all turn their backs, or their parents always tug them away by their arms. He knows they must not be busy all the time? Surely not.

 

He is looking up at the pretty ceiling of his home, at the mystery child on the other side of his parents, when he makes up his mind. He will go to the hills today. He will find the boy an apple. Then surely, he must play with him again!

 

 

Loki sneaks away from mama after they eat, slipping away from her watchful gaze when she turns her back in the gardens. They often eat there, papa always leaving first for business. A lot of talking, papa does, and all day long. Loki cannot begin to understand why anyone would want to talk all day long. Especially to scary people like Heimdall, and Tyr.

 

He finds his way to the hills quickly enough. They are greener than they were some months before, little hidey holes dug out for moles to hide in and sleep away the day. He follows a winding line pushing up through the dirt before he approaches the orchard. It shines from far away, a gold mirage in the later morning light.

 

“Now to avoid Idunn,” he whispers to himself. He finds the closest tree.

 

He peers up and realizes he cannot reach the lowest branch. He huffs and tries to remember the spell mama taught him.

 

He waves his hand and the nearest apple falls, warm and golden in his palm.

 

 

As he’s making to turn for the boy underneath the bridge beside the palace, he hears mama’s voice call out to him from the gardens. She does not sound pleased.

 

He whispers another spell and hides the apple. The boy shall have to wait for the next day.

 

When he approaches he catches sight of mama walking inside the palace. He follows her all the way to papa’s throne and realizes with a start that they are arguing. He hides behind the door, listening.

 

“Where is that boy?” papa asks, voice low.

 

Mama huffs. “I cannot find him. I worry he’s gone to him again.”

 

Loki does not know who she means. Surely she cannot mean the boy underneath the bridge beside the palace, for he has kept the boy a secret. And very well, at that.

 

“Frigga, he cannot know.”

 

Something crashes and then silence. He does not know what it was.

 

“Odin, you’re a fool if you think he’ll never learn. For the sake of Bor, he’s on our damnable ceiling!” mama says, hissing the words out. He’s never heard her sound like that before.

 

Papa mutters something Loki cannot understand. Then, “Wife, you know what’s on your loom.”

 

Loki resists the urge to gasp. He knows no one is allowed to mention mama’s loom. He’s never even been allowed to see it!

 

Husband. I know very well what is to come, just as you do. I fear the knowledge we are privy to will lead to a worse end than simply telling our boys the truth.”

 

Loki feels confused. He is their only boy, he knows. She must be confused herself, he thinks.

 

Papa sounds like he sits down, the familiar sound of his robes rustling against gold clear to Loki’s ears. Mama walks and then they talk so quietly he strains to hear.

 

“Odin, love, he will find out, one way or another. Thor only has so little time left. Let this bitter feud end with Idunn. I want my first born back,” and then mama sounds like she’s crying.

 

Loki leaves, heart racing. He feels like crying too, so he runs all the way back to his chambers. Maybe if he eats the cakes the maids left for him hours earlier it will help him nap until supper.

 

 

Loki goes to the boy the following day, feeling refreshed and happy. He does not think about the strange argument his parents were having. He does not.

 

Loki has to lean close to see if the boy is even there, to his surprise. He does not pop up like he usually does. There is no smile. There is no quiet voice calling out his name in joy. He steps close and sees a lump among the dirt. The boys ribs are easier to see when he is lying down like he is and it roils his stomach to see.

 

Up close, Loki can see the strange scars on his wrists. Like indents. He thought they were bad bruises the first time he saw them. And he knows, since Eir stitched up his arm that one afternoon when he was seven, that they are not from any blade he knows. It’s as if the skin was never pierced in the first place. It is as if the boy had been shackled at some point, like the prisoners papa gives to people on the streets during market day, and he thinks of the great feasts that follow.

 

He reaches out to touch when the boy stirs. It shocks Loki so much he falls back on his haunches. The boy lifts his filthy face, clumps of hair falling to the side.

 

“You look sickly,” Loki tells him, because he does.

 

The boy coughs and struggles to push his quaking arms up. His eyes are grey, nothing like the bright blue they’d been just two days before. “The apple,” is all he says. It comes out quieter than Loki’s ever heard him.

 

Loki conjures the shining thing in his hands and the boy’s mood seems to lift.

 

“I will need help eating it.”

 

Loki shrugs, not commenting on how odd the request is. Surely, a boy his age should be able to feed himself.

 

He brings out his small paring knife and sets about slicing the apple into quarters. He balances them on a rock while he finishes and the boy stares at them, transfixed.

 

“I’ve not much time,” the boy whispers.

 

It sets something off inside Loki, a warning. He feels ill, so he sets the knife down and grabs the boy’s chin in one hand, apple slice in the other. It is soft and warm, as if still freshly picked, the skin bouncy and bitter against his own lips, for of course he plucks one half of a slice for himself first and foremost, for that is how papa has taught him to eat. That and always keep your silverware in their proper places.

 

Papa would surely not be pleased to see how he was eating now, but he pushes the thought away. He places half of the second slice on the boy’s waiting tongue and bids him bite. He does, with some difficulty, as if the act of biting such a soft thing pains him.

 

He chews and swallows after what seems an eternity and then he gasps. When he blinks, Loki sees blue bleed back into his eyes. His hair seems brighter too.

 

He feeds the boy the other two and half slices and he seems much better.

 

“Your name,” Loki reminds him when he’s swallowed the last.

 

The boy opens his mouth to speak when Loki notices his attention drawn to the hill.

 

Loki turns just as he hears the boy whisper, “Thor.”

 

Papa is standing behind them, peering down, Gungnir in hand.

 

And then just as quietly, papa calls down to them, “Come, my sons. There is much to tell you.”

 

Loki feels like crying, but he does not know why.

 

Thor grabs his hand and Loki realizes he is shaking.

 

He turns back and meets the eyes of the boy underneath the bridge beside the palace—Thor, mama’s first born, his brother—and knows nothing will ever be the same again.