Odin’s hand is hard on Loki’s arm as he pushes his son into the training area. Thor, practicing alone today, looks up at them in surprise.
Loki does not blame his brother for his trepidation, for Odin’s face is thunderous. He shoves his youngest son towards his eldest. Loki stumbles but does not fall, and Thor reaches out automatically to help him.
“Thor. I want you to train your brother to fight like an Aesir.”
Thor’s eyes widen. “Father, Loki is not a warrior. He would probably do well with some of the tactics Mother uses but he is not - “
“Do not defy me!” Odin roars. They both shrink back. “It is past time your brother learned to defend himself. I will return at the end of the week to check your progress. Do not disappoint me.”
“Brother?” Thor says in a shocked voice once Odin has left. “Brother, why is he angry with you? Did something happen on your research trip?”
“No!” Loki snaps, shoving Thor’s hand away. “I did nothing. I do not know why he is acting this way. Nothing happened on my research trip.”
Thor bites his lip. “You were gone for a very long time, brother,” he says hesitantly.
“Because it was fruitless!” Loki shouts. “Nothing happened! Stop interrogating me about my actions!”
“All right, brother,” Thor says, eyes wide. “All right. I will cease my questioning. Perhaps... perhaps he is merely worried? Perhaps this is merely a new stage in your education? I am sure he will see reason soon, and you can go back to your dusty tomes.” He offers Loki a pleading smile.
Loki scowls, finding his brother’s desperate attempts at optimism irksome. “Does it matter?” he snarls. “You must teach me to be a warrior. I am sorry for both of us.”
Thor tries hard to be patient, and even harder to be understanding, but it is not a situation conducive to either of those things. Loki’s instinct is always to hide behind illusions instead of facing his enemies head-on; his body and his mind want to run and strike from a distance instead of matching strength with strength. Thor borrows many tactics from the lessons the court ladies take, reasoning that they will be better suited to his brother’s lean frame and tendency towards grace and movement instead of sheer might and unyielding force, but Loki finds this insulting and pointless.
Loki is right. When Odin returns at the end of the week, he disarms Loki in seconds and lands him flat on his back, Gugnir at his throat. Odin’s displeasure is lengthy and loud. Caught between his father’s fury and his brother’s sharp tongue, Thor is forced to use the more rigorous regimen of the Einherjar.
Loki grows used to bruises; he comes to expect to be dirty and exhausted and miserable. Thor helps him up at the end of each session, large hands ill-suited to attempts at gentleness, and quietly suggests ice and hot baths. Loki ignores this; there is a certain vindictive satisfaction to making this disastrous idea of his father’s go just as badly as it possibly can, even if he is the one being hurt the most by it.
“There is one good thing, brother,” Thor says bracingly as they sit and drink water for a moment in between sparring sessions. “Now you will be able to come with me on my adventures. That will be good fun, won’t it?”
Loki is tired and sore and couldn’t care less about his brother’s adventures, but Thor’s big honest face is worried and pleading. He sighs.
“Yes, that will be very nice, Thor. I am looking forward to it.”
The relief in Thor’s expression makes him feel a little guilty, but pole-arms practice soon vanquishes the emotion.
He goes once to his mother, reasoning that she has always been a tempering influence on Odin’s cold rages, but there is no help to be had there. She is still very weak, mind softened by illness and strong medicines, and as he sits by her he realises that the flow of her magic has been altered by the attack as well. He holds her frail hand in his own and assures her that he is just fine and is very glad to be home again.
Eir says she will recover in time, but for now it is clear that Loki is on his own.