”Brother, guess what?” Thor says, barging happily into Loki’s bedchamber.
Loki sighs and vanishes the project he was working on; there will be no time to himself today, he can tell, and likely no peace for the foreseeable future. He recognizes the look on Thor’s face. It’s the look that heralded the expedition to Muspelheim that ended with Loki stranded in a desert, and the adventure to Svartalfheim that culminated in Loki having his mouth sewn shut, and the trip to Vanaheim that fortunately none of the others seem to remember at all.
“What, Thor?” he asks obediently.
Thor throws himself down in one of Loki’s chairs. It creaks alarmingly and Loki hastily reinforces it with magic. While it would undoubtedly be amusing to watch Thor fall on his backside, the resulting fit of anger would not do the structural integrity of Loki’s furnishings any good whatsoever.
“It has finally happened, brother,” Thor says, beaming. “Father has set a date for my coronation!”
Loki’s stomach goes cold with foreboding. “Oh?” he says, as neutrally as possible. “And when is that?”
“But a fortnight!” Thor says, jumping up from his seat. “Is it not wonderful, brother?” he claps Loki on the shoulder hard enough to send him stumbling. “We must celebrate!”
“I will join you shortly,” Loki says, forcing a smile. “Truly, it is wonderful news.”
The door slams jubilantly after Thor’s retreating back and Loki allows himself to slump.
Thor crowned prince. He closes his eyes in dread. His brother has inherited their father’s valor and prowess in battle, but he has also gotten the vengeful temper and received none of Odin’s mitigating canniness. When Thor is angry he reacts immediately, without thought or attention paid to consequences or collateral damage. As crown prince he will wield the full power of the throne when Odin goes into the Odinsleep, as he must soon do.
Loki is not frightened of much, but his father’s wrath has the power to utterly undo him. The thought of Thor as acting King, with all of their father’s lesser qualities and none of his greater -
No. No. Loki gasps through the instinctual panic clawing at his chest. That cannot be allowed. Through a lifetime of subtle manipulations he has learned to impose control on Thor from the outside. He knows his brother well, and he knows that the throne will go to Thor’s head. Loki’s control will no longer be enough.
He forces his heart to slow, his hands to steady. He can show no sign of his fear. He has time to plan and as long as he has time to plan he has time to avert disaster. It will be all right as long as he has a plan. He just has to remain calm.
Something must be done. If he is the only one who can see this disaster looming, then he must be the one to act. He must show Odin that Thor is not ready to rule.
He must show everyone. If he shows everyone, he can survive this.