Thor waited until he knew the nurse would have her back turned. She always tried to make Loki sleep at the same time every day (and Thor knew that his brother was going to be the best brother, because he never slept when he was told to. Thor hated nap time too.)
But even if Loki didn't feel like sleeping, he was still left alone while the nurse went and did boring adult things, and Thor was fine with that. It meant he could get into the nursery and creep up to the baby's cot. His little brother was wide awake, gazing raptly at the hanging baubles over the cot and Thor beamed at him. Loki was the smartest baby.
"Hi, Loki!" he announced. "Hi, baby!" Loki's face split into a big gummy smile.
"Ba," he told Thor. "Ababa... dah."
"Yes," Thor agreed. "Come on, baby Loki."
He reached into the cot, and Loki giggled as Thor wrestled him out of the blanket and into the straw basket Thor had brought. The baby chattered happily and Thor told him to be very quiet as he closed the handles over his head, and dragged him out into the hall.
"Balder said you got somet'n to show us," said Sif. They'd been waiting in the courtyard, Sif, Fandral, Volstagg and Balder, and Thor gathered up his precious burden into his arms as he staggered over to them. Loki was a tiny baby, but Thor was only little himself and the basket was as heavy as his brother. Sif jumped off the wall where she'd been sitting as he came close. "What is it?"
Thor put his basket down very carefully on the ground, but a little grunt came from inside. Quickly, he opened it and Loki gazed at him reproachfully. Thor patted him on the head, messing up his coal black hair, and turned him around so his friends could see.
They all stared at the baby, then looked at Thor. Thor pointed at Loki proudly, and they all looked back. Balder whispered, "oh no."
Sif looked back at Thor. "What is it?" she asked again.
"Mahmmmah," Loki said grumpily.
"This is my Loki!" Thor said. "Look! I've got a brother!"
"Thor, did you steal him?" asked Balder in a hushed voice. "You're going to get in so much trouble."
"No, I didn't steal 'im." Thor pouted. No one was as impressed as he wanted them to be. Could they not see how great his brother was? "He's mine. My brother."
"He looks weird," said Sif. "Why's his hair the wrong colour?"
"S'not the wrong colour," Thor said, but Sif was leaning over Loki's basket to poke at him. Loki griped, and for a moment Thor thought he was going to start crying. He stepped forward to push Sif over, but then Loki's little baby fist caught in her pretty golden hair and pulled.
"Get off!" Sif cried. Loki just giggled as the poking stopped, and held on. "Get him off! You look stupid, baby. Your hair is stupid!"
"Don't hurt him!" Thor told her, "You're not allowed to hurt him, he's a prince!"
Fandral and Volstagg leapt in to help untangle the baby's hand without hurting him and Sif stormed over to the wall where she glared at Loki and let Balder comfort her. Loki's fist ended up curled around Fandral's thumb.
"I think your hair's lovely," said Fandral quickly. "Don't pull me, baby." Loki reached out a pudgy hand and patted Fandral's face, babbling reassuringly, and Thor laughed.
"See? He's really clever!"
"I think he's stupid," said Sif sullenly. "You have a stupid brother. You should get a better one."
"Nuh-uh! You're the stupid! Loki is the best brother ever, you take it back!"
"Don't fight!" whined Balder, and Sif glared.
"Look, you're upsetting Balder, you're horrible."
"You're horrible," was Thor's brilliant reply, "and you're 'setting Loki!"
Loki, meanwhile, was having the time of his life tugging on Fandral's nose while Volstagg wagged fingers in his face. Thor huffed. The least Loki could do was help him win fights with Sif. "He is really clever," he said anyway. "He can talk an' all!"
At this all his friends exchanged dubious looks. "Can he really?" asked Fandral in a nasal voice.
Thor glared. "Yes! He talks to me all the time. Come on Loki!" He nudged Fandral out of the way and grabbed Loki's arm. Loki looked up at him in silent curiosity. "Say something!"
"I don't think babies talk, Thor," said Volstagg.
"Loki does! Say Thor, Loki! Thoooor."
Loki blinked. Thor pouted. "I don't think he can, Thor," said Volstagg. "He doesn't have teeth. Can't say the th."
Thor ignored him. "Thoooor."
Loki cocked his dark head to one side. "Fo'." He said quietly. Thor beamed.
"Foooow!" Loki giggled in delight as Thor poked his belly.
"Thor!" Balder gasped, and Thor looked up to see him pointing over his shoulder. He turned around to find Loki's nurse standing behind him.
"And what, young highness," she asked, "do you think you're doing? I almost sent a runner to raise the queen!"
"Told you, Thor," whispered Balder, looking mortified. "You shouldn't have stolen him."
"I didn't steal him!" Thor told the nurse. Why did no one realise Thor couldn't steal his own brother. "S'my Loki!"
"Fo'w," agreed Loki. He waved a little hand and the cold look on the nurse's face melted.
"Well..." she said slowly. "I suppose no harm was done." She brushed past Thor to pick Loki up. "Come on, troublemaker." Loki's flailing hand caught Thor's sleeve on the way up, and held on. The nurse laughed as she dislodged him. "And you, bigger troublemaker. You have to carry the basket back. Come on, we'll go and put him down for his nap."
Thor made a face, but Loki yawned hugely and snuggled into the nurse's shoulder. "Fo'w." He said sleepily. Thor gathered up the basket into his arms.
As the nurse led the way back to the nursery, Thor turned back to his friends. "That's my brother!" he reminded them, and then had to trot to catch up.