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To the Fairest

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Loki was sitting on a branch of Yggdrasil that looked like a summer palace in an Arabian desert. He seated himself on one of the leaves that looked like a balcony and watched the sands roll. When Eris approached, he glanced up with a smile and pretended he didn't see the slightly shell-shocked look on her face.

"So," he asked mildly as she sat in the chair opposite him, "did she like it?"

He pushed a glass cup of rose-scented sharbat across the table towards her, to help with the heat. He was having trouble with it himself, not that he would ever say that. Eris could draw her own conclusions from the fact that he was wearing the bare minimum of diaphanous veils to stay decent.

"...Yes," she replied slowly. "She liked it. Everything went according to plan."

This was less effort than most people put into lying to the lie smith. Loki could put that down to disquiet at how spectacularly this plan had not gone according to itself. He sipped from his own melting sharbat.

"I'm glad," he said. "I was only a little worried, because people have been telling me stories... I'm sure they're nothing. So, when you gave it to her, what did she say?"

Eris covered the instinctive grimace by rearranging herself in her seat. Loki obliged by following the motion of her legs with his eyes (they may have had an unspoken agreement to never act on it, but Loki wasn't going to deny that he enjoyed looking). "I thought it would be better if I didn't just walk up and hand it to her," Eris said. "She'd only assume it was some kind of trick."

"From you?" Loki murmured. "Surely not."

Eris ignored him. "So I left it for her in a place I knew she'd find it."

"That seems wise," allowed Loki. "Somewhere only she would find it, I assume?"

As if they didn't both know the answer. Eris gave up pretending and glared at him, which Loki felt was unfair considering that she was the one who had deviated from a perfectly good plan in order to cause chaos. After all the trouble Loki had gone to in procuring one of Idunn's own crop for her - Athena had expressed interest in finding out how they worked, in the link between the apples of Asgard and Olympus' own ambrosia. If Eris could present her with an apple as a gift, it would be one more step towards wriggling her way into Athena's... good graces. And there were plenty of things she could think of to do there.

Instead, Troy had become embroiled in war. Against half the civilised world. Because, try as she might, when Eris got her hands on one of the Apples of Idunn, she couldn't limit herself to following the plan. Loki didn't begrudge her using him to obtain the apple - he abused her trust often enough - but he did feel a little exasperation that she had wasted it. Golden apples were difficult to come by, and if she'd played this properly she could have been back on the level with her pantheon; back where she could scheme in peace without everyone wondering what she was up to. Instead? War.

"Are you telling me, dearest, that something went wrong?" he asked, wide-eyed in mock astonishment. All of a sudden, Eris deflated. Her glare withered and she picked at her sharbat glass.

"So maybe Hera and Aphrodite found it too. And thought it was theirs."

"Maybe?"

"There's a tiny possibility that happened, completely by accident. And it might have turned into an argument."

"Funny how those things happen around you. So, did Athena even get the apple?"

Eris watched the desert sands vaguely. "Aphrodite, I think."

"Outstanding. And after that?"

"There may have been some kind of war involved." Loki said nothing. "Among the mortals." Still nothing. "All of the mortals."

"Well." Loki joined her in observing the horizon as though it was interesting. "That's not what you hoped would happen, is it?"

Eris shook her head, and Loki could pretend not to see the nascent smirk.

"And when you wrote on the apple, to the fairest, that was your attempt to show beyond doubt who the apple was intended for? You didn't think about what the others might have to say about that?" asked Loki flatly.

Eris shook her head firmly. "No."

"You didn't."

"I did not."

"I believe you."

"You should."

"Clearly, you are telling the perfect truth."

Loki watched her toy with her sharbat spoon, avoiding his eye, and let the silence go on just longer than was comfortable. Then-

"Was it funny, at least?"

Eris' face split in a rueful but genuine grin. "Darling, you should have been there."