“You lost the wager, brother,” said Thor, his eyes shining with laughter. “Now you must uphold your end of the deal. As promised.”
The day had ended well for Thor; Loki had failed to sneak into Sleipnir’s stable unnoticed by Heimdall (who had in turn alerted Father of the impending burglary) and it was with bruised pride that Loki found himself sulkily conceding defeat. This time.
Scuffing his foot against the edge of the bifrost bridge, Loki scowled down at the churning water below.
“All right, Thor,” he said finally. “The terms were agreed upon, and I’ll uphold my end of them. I couldn’t steal Father’s horse for you and that means you can…that is, I’ll allow you to…”
Thor’s smile nearly split his face. “To…? Spit it out, Loki.”
Loki’s eye twitched. “To ride me to the feast.”
Thor’s hearty clap on Loki’s shoulder was forceful enough to make him stagger. He really had no idea of his own strength sometimes. Loki eyed him critically. Considering Thor’s size perhaps he should assume the form of a large stallion. If he could manage it, anyway. It had been a long time since he had attempted a shape-shift into a horse.
“Come on, brother,” Thor was saying, gesturing grandly at the palace. “The feast awaits us! Or do you need time to gather your courage?”
The glare Loki levelled him was half-hearted, but still contained enough displeasure to widen Thor’s smile further. A typical reaction, really.
“Give me time to gather my magic, Thor. It’s not easy to shift into a horse, and I’d hate to cast an incomplete spell. Or would you prefer that I break a leg on the way and send us both straight into the water?”
Thor’s eyes darkened with confusion, his smile fading slightly. Then he blinked.
“Oh, you— Oh no, Loki. You don’t understand.”
Thor’s laughter followed that galling statement; deep, rolling amusement that echoed in the evening air. Loki grit his teeth and smoothed his face into an expressionless mask, unsure what had sparked his brother’s amusement and not willing to show it.
“Loki,” Thor wheezed after a fashion, tired with laughter and wiping the corners of his eyes, “when did we agree that you could shape-shift?”
Loki stared at Thor, the colour draining from his face.
“You want…no! I will not suffer this—this indignity, let alone your lumbering body clinging to my back, I— No. Absolutely not. I’ll be a laughingstock.”
“You agreed to the terms, brother. You must abide by them.” Thor was clearly enjoying this far too much.
Loki was torn. He couldn’t have it getting out that he did not honour his deals, whatever else he might do. Damn Thor.
With slow, stiff movements, Loki bent slightly, tucking his mantle back behind his elbows. The glance he shot back at his brother was one of repressed violence and utter constipation. But he gave in.
“Get on, damn it,” he grumbled. “And tell no-one about this or I will personally see to it that Mother finds out about those lewd etchings you keep hidden under your mattress.”
“I’m holding that for Fandral,” Thor replied, offended. He swung his thigh over the small of Loki’s back and felt the catch of his brother’s hand steady him. After a brief fumble of hands and armour Thor soon found himself seated proudly astride his fuming brother.
“You eat too much,” Loki grunted as he hoisted Thor higher. “Hold on.”
Thor was beaming. They hadn’t mucked around like this since they were children. Despite his frankly immature glee in embarrassing his sly younger brother, a small bubble of affection rose in his chest. Loki indulged him too often, usually against his better judgement.
Gripping one of the bronze horns jutting from Loki’s helmet, Thor pointed proudly out to the city.
Loki hung his head a moment, then lifted it and began their slow trek back home.
“For the record, I have never hated you more than I do right now.”