Odin has not stood upon Jotunheim's shattered plains in nearly ten turnings, ten long, long years; he had not thought exile would be such a wound upon his heart, for all the blood he had shed upon these great plains.
Oh, oh it has been so long, so long away.
Odin stands within the scar of the Bifrost and simply breathes, deep and true and still, all that he has cut from himself, from his heart and mind; the memories shiver across his skin like the touch of a Shade. He thinks of his mother, of Mimir, of how once he stood here, a young man and a fool, a hopelessly naive fool, and thought this place a great adventure and nothing more.
Till he had laid eyes on the King's lean, wolfish third-born son.
Then, oh then it had become a conquest.
Now such a simple, selfish thing is so far gone from him Odin cannot help but wish it were the only road open to him, to ride down upon the gleaming tjald he can see thrust against the grey, pensive horizon like a knife wound, and take what has always been denied to him.
Alas, that is beyond his reach now, not with his newly tenderhearted son at his side, waiting to have the boy he does not know is a Jotun as his bride. Thor will learn soon enough, no matter what Odin wishes. Thor will wed his little starling and Odin shall once more be robbed of Laufey's child, of their child.
“Come,” Odin barks, the wind tearing at his words, “there is no time to waste.”
Oh how right he is.
~ * ~
They are alone.
They have not been alone in so many, many years there is nothing of their old familiarity left, nothing left to them but ash and hate and that dim memory of what once burned between them.
“And what, Ginnarr, would you accept in exchange for the heart of my Realm?”
“Anything.” Odin breathes, half a ragged sigh and half a gasp of pain. He had not thought, old fool, that it would be so costly to him, to stand before Laufey and see the cost of their war upon his body. Oh how they have wounded one another, and so deeply. He carries no lie on his tongue. He would truly accept anything, any little scrap.
Laufey snarls, thinking to break the Aesir's spine and be done with it, no matter the carnage, no matter that it would mean the utter ruin of Jotunheim, of his own children. “Anything, Ginnarr?”
Odin nods, though he feels as if his neck shall snap, brittle and over-taxed by the weight of his guilt, of his desire, of that old, old pride he cannot be rid of no matter the Sight those nine days gifted to him. He wants what he wants, and there is no force in this universe, no shame great enough to rob him of his desires.
The King of Jotunheim is his only desire.
Laufey smiles, a wicked twist of his lips that does nothing to hide just how sharp are his teeth, and slips his shape into something familiar, something Odin will remember well. When Laufey opens his eyes again he is staring into Odin's face, and no more does he tower over the Aesir. He knows what a sight he is to Odin: white skin and long pink scars, fine hair coloured like sand and earth; bright eyes a vicious, prideful yellow. Lean and sure, and an Aesir in all but heart.
If he must, Odin will bite his own tongue out afore he gives one inch in this contest of cutting each other newer and greater wounds; he will not play Laufey's game. He will not, no matter how he longs to have what he has not had in so long even the memories are faded, layered over by his own wishes and a false sentimentality. To touch, to claim, to have in vengeance and in pleasure.
“If the Vertljos is the price, you may have me as payment.”
As quickly as a snake may strike Odin has twisted Laufey's arm behind, holding him in his bruising grip; Odin's fingers, like talons, wrap round the King's neck, and not one little inch of space is there between them. “Do not offer what you cannot give.”
Laufey laughs, though it is more a bitter mimic of some unspeakable emotion. “What is not mine to give, Viðurr? My body is mine to do with as I please.”
“Nál.” Odin snarls; the King's skin is warm beneath his palms and there is something terrible stalking in the heat of his breath. A dragon. He has not touched Laufey since the war grew to such profligate slaughter there was nothing left in their hearts but each other's destruction. “Nál you are cruel.” Odin whispers, his lips against one finely pointed ear.
“Return to my son the casket, forsake my Realm as long as this universe endures, and I will go with you to Asgard.” This is the only other Road, the only choice that will leave Loki free, leave his son to be King, to be happy, to be forever beyond the reach of the Aesir. For these things Laufey would submit himself to Odin, to Odin's touch, to Odin's heat and Odin's Realm.
A war-prize. A concubine. A whore.
Better than enduring even one hundred ages of life, knowing his son suffered in his place, as nothing more than the wife of his own brother – as if the Aesir would ever allow a Jotun to sit upon the throne of Asgard.