Once upon a time, a small Jotnar boy was born under a lucky star. When the three Norns came to his cradle to weave his destiny, what they saw amazed them so, they presented themselves to the King and Queen to tell them of a prophecy. A prophecy made of their little prince.
By the time the dark sky had cleared to a brightly shining sun, Loki was ready to fall over. His grip on his sceptre loosened, and his next step was more of a stumble. He was tired, and hardly able to comprehend the landscape around him. He knew that people were rushing around to tend to the injured and clasp hands with the rest of the triumphant army more than he saw it. As a matter of fact, he could have very happily dropped onto the ground, curl up on a rock, and fall asleep. But alas, this was not to be.
A loud shout rent the air, and Loki was poised ready by the second, his sceptre glowing with his magic again. A dragon was arising from below the cliff, great wings beating. It was the same beast that had been felled by the prince of the neighbouring kingdom, and was nothing but a pawn in the plans to dominate Yggdrasil, but it clearly didn't consider the day ended yet. Loki was almost ready to sigh; why did these things always have to happen to him? Stupid Norns and their stupid prophecies.
'Are you alright, Brother?' asked Helblindi as he rushed forward with his sword at the ready. 'Can you fight?'
'Of course I can. I am supposed to save the day, am I not?' Loki answered drily. He would definitely faint after this, though. Just drop unconscious, and when he awoke, he would already be washed and dressed in clean clothes, resting in his warm bed in the palace …
'Thor, are you trying to kill yourself?' a woman shrieked, close to Loki's left. Loki looked around, and recognised Sif, an honoured warrior who was part of the troop sent by Jotunheim's ally, Asgard. Then he looked out to where she was shouting, and saw Prince Thor, rushing to the dragon with his sword at the ready.
Loki almost introduced his palm to his face. Trust the arrogant prince to be so stupid. Sticking a large sword into the dragon's neck while the dragon had his head low was one thing – rushing head-on at it was another.
The dragon opened its mouth and let out a long stream of fire aimed at Thor. Thor danced past it as if it was child's play. He was not so lucky with the next shot, however, and it would have roasted him if Loki hadn't leapt towards him and cast a shield over him.
Unfortunately (or quite happily, in Loki's point of view), Loki miscalculated the proximity of his shield, and it knocked Thor backwards. Thor was quite dizzy when he sat up, but by that time, Loki had already thrown a dagger into the dragon's eye and torn its wings with a few magic spells. Loki chased it off the cliff, and without its wings to back it up, it fell onto the plain below with a heavy thud that blew sand up into the faces of everyone above.
Then Loki blacked out.
When he came to, he really was dressed in clean clothes and resting in his large, warm bed. He smiled to himself and rolled over onto his side, thinking leisurely of star charts and magic threads. He was just beginning to feel warm enough to drift off again, when the thought of the prophecy jerked him back into consciousness.
When all hope is lost and the united kingdoms of Yggdrasil are brought to their knees, he will appear, and seem to be not even a candle in the darkness until he has done away with the ultimate of evils and brought light and balance into the world. And there will come to him a young, brash, and selfish man, and he will save him from mortal peril and they will form a bond to tie the branches and the roots of Yggdrasil together.
His mother even made it into a lullaby, so Loki knew every word of it. Bloody Norns and their bloody prophecy. Loki grew up always being petted and pampered and forced to learn from every single tutor in the land, and everyone talked about how he would make his kingdom proud. Few people acknowledged that he didn't want to have a silly prophecy hanging over his head all the time, and though he did enjoy his lessons, he really would love more free time.
Although, as Helblindi pointed out every now and then, it was better than being cast aside and ignored for his abnormally small stature as a Jotnar. The Jotnar were genetically tall, regal people, and Loki was a good five inches shorter than the average. But honestly, one would think that the hero of the land would be allowed more privacy.
Then there was the part about him falling in love with some jerk, etc. etc. In all seriousness, it was nice to know he would be assured of love in the future, but did it have to be a jerk? Because stripped down to simple words, that was who his intended was going to be: a jerk.
At least he had fulfilled the prophecy now. He would be regaled as a hero and remembered for all time, and people would bring him nice things from all over Yggdrasil as thanks. And Loki saving Thor was just the icing on the cake. Asgard had always looked down on Jotunheim for being less superior in climate and economy, but now Jotunheim would certainly be raised to a certain degree in their eyes, thanks to Loki's –
And there will come to him a young, brash, and selfish man …
Prince as he was, it was hard to remember Thor was royalty from how he carried himself, with all the arrogance and pride that belonged to a seasoned soldier. He was a spoilt brat, used to actions with no consequences. Jackass criteria, check.
...and he will save him from mortal peril …
Of course, Thor had been asking from the danger. And, well, of course Loki saved him. It would be considered bad form if their ally's son was killed on their land, when it could have been prevented.
… and they will form a bond to tie the branches and the roots of Yggdrasil together.
Loki was doomed.
Because he really, really did not want to marry Thor.
They had known each other from a young age, from when Laufey and Odin would pay diplomatic visits to each other, and they began to deem their sons worthy of coming along. Thor had a brother, Baldr, and Loki hated them both. But in the very least, Baldr he could tolerate. Loki hated Baldr because he was the very image of perfection, and his kingdom adored him for that reason alone, and Loki was jealous of that. Loki hated Thor because he was a brute who laughed at the Jotnar's preference for magic over weaponry.
Also because Thor hated Loki as much as Loki hated Thor.
Even in front of his own father Thor couldn't behave. As children, this had manifested in Thor pulling Loki's hair and robes and calling him 'Little Princess' for his size (like he was one to talk, the Aesir were even shorter than the Jotnar. Compared to an Aesir, Loki was tall), and as they grew up, progressed to Thor challenging Loki to spars for sole purpose of laughing insultingly when Loki refused. Loki retaliated by saving his meanest tricks for Thor, and even outright ignoring him no matter how much he catcalled.
'Good morning, Loki,' Helblindi said cheerfully when Loki found him in his room. 'Good sleep?'
'No.' Loki entered and shut the door quietly instead of slamming it, as he felt like doing, because a prince never slammed doors, no matter how angry he was feeling. 'I couldn't sleep after thinking of the prophecy.'
'Oh yes.' Judging from Helblindi's smirk, he was thinking along the same lines as Loki, and Loki scowled. 'Should we begin making the preparations now or would you like to get to know your fiancé first?'
'I already know "my fiancé" well enough, thank you very much, and would like to withdraw from the engagement right now,' Loki snapped. 'We are none of us sure that the prophecy refers to Thor.'
'Dear Brother, who could it refer to other than Thor?' Helblindi picked up the cup and saucer on the side table by the door and took a sip, infuriatingly smug smile in place the whole time. 'You would never save one willy-nilly. You saved that boy for a reason, and the reason is simple: you will marry him, and rule Asgard by his side.'
'But I don't want to rule Asgard with Thor!' Loki cried, aware of how childish he sounded. Helblindi was the only person to whom he could whine to without being reprimanded. 'I hate Asgard, and I hate Thor!'
'Surely you mean none of that,' said Helblindi with a frown, replacing his teacup. 'What has Asgard and Thor ever done to you?'
'Do not speak as if you do not know! Thor is a bully, and I have no place in the battle-centric kingdom of Asgard! Of course I had to save Thor, what light would Jotunheim be thrown into if a prince of a neighbouring land was killed in front of our eyes? It means nothing!'
'Okay,' Helblindi said in a sing-song voice. 'As you wish, Brother. Let us go down to breakfast now.'
Loki was not yet finished throwing his tantrum, but he sulkily took his brother's arm anyway and went off with him.
'Hello, Loki, Helblindi!' chirruped Byleistr, the youngest Jotnar prince. 'Was it not a great battle yesterday? Did Loki not carry off his role beautifully?'
'Indeed he did,' Helblindi said, sparing a pat on the head for Byleistr as he passed by into the dining hall.
'Were you watching from the safe-tower?' Loki asked.
'I was a little, until it became too dangerous and Mother pulled me inside. But what I saw was certainly glorious! And when will yours and Thor's wedding be held? Will it be in Jotunheim or Asgard?'
'Byleistr, Thor and I are not getting married,' Loki said firmly. 'Now come along to breakfast.'
'But you fulfilled the part of the prophecy stating you would marry a man who was "brash and selfish" and saved from death!' Byleistr protested with wide, innocent eyes. 'Surely that means Thor, as you saved him from that dragon. You cannot be saving any more brash and selfish men, because if you were, how would we know who you should marry? So in conclusion, it must be Thor!'
Which was actually pretty sound logic. Loki's heart was slowly sinking to his stomach.
'Thor is hardly "brash and selfish" anyway,' he said uneasily. 'He can be kind and gentle when he wishes.'
'Do you not want to marry Prince Thor, Loki?' asked Byleistr, looking scandalised. 'You are both such good friends, I really don't see the harm in it. Who better could you marry anyway?'
'Where do you get the idea that we are "good friends"?'
'Whenever he comes over, you are always together, are you not?'
'O-only because he finds every opportunity to insult me! Enough with this, Brother, go to your place!'
'You needn't be so rude!' Byleistr stormed away, but Loki sat down with a free conscience. Byleistr wouldn't take it to heart.
'Why do you look so distressed, Loki?' said Queen Farbauti when Loki sat next to her. 'You were amazing yesterday, and the prophecy has been fulfilled. I imagined you would be happier.'
'I am happy that I answered the prophecy, Mother,' Loki replied wearily. 'I am slightly less satisfied that everyone believes I am to marry Thor.'
'And what is the matter there?'
'You saved him, child, and I cannot imagine a more fortunate marriage for you. Indeed, I am very glad it is to be Prince Thor. You are both already so close, after all.'
'I do not know where you and Byleistr get the idea that Thor and I are so close,' Loki said grumpily. 'We loathe each other.' He braced himself for the inevitable scolding.
'Loki!' Farbauti reproached. 'How can you say that of our allies?'
'Thor would say the same thing,' said Loki in what he considered a very dignified tone of voice. 'In that our feelings are mutual.'
'Nay, child. Even if it were so, he will surely come to you with an open heart after what you did for him.'
'He cannot think I did that for him,' Loki moaned. 'I did not, and I hope that was clear to everyone.'
'It wasn't, dear.'
To avoid starting an argument over something so trivial (because it was a trivial matter, Loki was not marrying Thor, and that was that), Loki stood down and turned to his food. Several moments later, the hall door opened again, and the noblemen and women of the troop sent by Asgard came in. Loki resolutely ignored them.
Lady Sif sat next to him, and Thor took a seat opposite, next to Helblindi. Refusing to meet Thor's eyes, Loki turned to Sif and wished her a good morning.
'Same to you,' she said, perhaps with some bitterness. 'And we of Asgard are doubly indebted to you, for saving the life of our brash prince.'
Years of growing up with songs being sung of the prophecy he was to fulfil made Loki sensitive to the word 'brash', and he suppressed a wince. He didn't blame her resentment either. He himself resented the fate that everyone assumed was his. 'The kingdoms of Yggdrasil have a duty to each other, Lady Sif, and I have done nothing more than what is my due.'
'You do not believe that Thor is to be your intended, then?' Sif said with the hint of a jesting smirk at the corner of her lips.
'I do not,' Loki said, a bark at the edge of his voice. 'It was instinct that I saved him, and it was hardly out of my way.'
'Of course, of course.' She smiled with mocking assurance.
'Would you wish me to marry Thor?'
She shrugged. 'I am not of his family. I am hardly one to say.'
He raised his gaze and accidentally met Thor's. Miraculously, before Loki could withdraw, Thor flashed his most charming smile. Loki balked. Thor couldn't possibly believe in the notion too, could he? How could he believe in that farce, let alone want it?
Loki excused himself from the table, and slunk off to the library.
Gerda, Byleistr's nurse, was looking for something in the library, and she smiled and bowed to Loki when he came in. 'Why is your face so long on this beautiful morning, Your Highness?' she asked kindly.
'Oh nothing but the fact that everybody expects me to marry Prince Thor,' he threw out acridly. 'Imbeciles the lot of them. They build castles on clouds and expect them to hold.'
'Well now, my Prince,' began Gerda mildly, 'I'd hardly say they're "castles on clouds", you know. We all know that prophecy as if it is tattooed on our mirrors, and it clearly says you will marry one whose life you will save.' She wisely made no allusion to the particulars of the man he was to marry. 'Prince Thor simply fits the description so well, one cannot help make assumptions, you know. You should forgive a little, even if you have no intention of entering the marriage.'
Whether she didn't remark on how it would be inevitable Loki was to marry Thor out of mere respect or on the fact that she thought he was free to choose as he pleased, he didn't know, but he appreciated it all the same.
'Thank you, Gerda,' he said, sitting down on a plush armchair and summoning a book. 'You are very wise. I sometimes think you don't get enough credit from us all.'
'It is my pleasure to serve the house of Laufey, Your Highness,' she said modestly, but flushing up with pleasure all the same. 'Good day, now.' She bowed and left, leaving Loki to curl up contentedly.
An hour later, Thiassi, one of the butlers, entered, bowed, and announced that Prince Thor requested an audience. Loki surveyed the poor man coldly and set down his book.
'Very well, let him in.'
Thiassi bowed and left, and Thor came in a moment later.
'Hello, Loki,' he said, not without an air of nervousness.
'And what do you want?' Loki said coldly.
'Er … merely to thank you for saving me yesterday,' Thor said slowly, not meeting Loki's eyes. Damn them all, but seeing the golden Prince Thor stutter and stumble over his words was well worth the teasing Loki had received in the morning. 'You need not have, and yet you did, despite it being caused by my own rashness. As such, I am very grateful.'
'Yes, yes, that's quite alright,' said Loki loftily, as if dismissing the thanks as unimportant. 'It was only my duty, and hardly a pleasure.'
Thor flushed. 'How comfortable that is for you,' he mumbled bitterly.
'What was that?' Loki shifted in his chair, leaning forward with a frown.
'Of course you would say that,' Thor said more loudly, glaring at a point a foot above Loki's shoulder. '"It was nothing". Of course it was nothing for you. I should have known you would only take it as something to lord over me.'
'After everything you have done to me all these years, you do not honestly expect any less, do you?' said Loki, looking up and trying to catch Thor's eye so he could glower back more effectively. 'You have always tormented me, why should I change after saving your life?'
At that, Thor did look at him, and his expression was not what Loki was expecting. Thor looked upset and angry, but he also looked confused, and hurt. Loki could not think for the life of him what was going on in that thick skull of his, and scowled for it.
'Well I am sorry if I thought we were both men grown past that,' Thor growled.
'Grown past that?' Loki said incredulously. 'When have you ever stopped? Why must I be the one to "grow past that" and offer the olive branch for you to do the same? You have always behaved like a child towards me, and I have a right to do the same to you!'
'Pity. I did think you were better than that,' Thor said bitingly. He then turned and left the room, slamming the door in a very un-princely manner.
Thiassi reappeared immediately. 'Are you quite alright, Prince Loki?' he said anxiously. 'I heard raised voices.'
'Well – that is – I never expected –' Loki spluttered, quite bewildered. What on Earth had Thor been babbling about?
'Is there anything you need, Your Highness?' Thiassi tried again.
'N-no, that will be alright.' Loki knit his brows and withdrew to a farther corner in the library to think quietly by himself.
Unfortunately for him, his peace was not to be had, as Helblindi burst in ten minutes later, puffed up with anger.
'What did you do?' he thundered.
'I did nothing!' Loki said furiously, almost tearing his book in two in vexation. 'It was Thor who came in here all of a sudden to yell nonsense at me!'
'Is that so?' Helblindi shouted. 'From what I heard, he came in to thank you, and you spoilt it for him out of childish spite!'
'And who told you that? Thor, I expect! I did tell you we hated each other, but you refused to believe me!'
Helblindi backed down with a sigh, and dropped down into a chair. 'Why must you both be so hostile towards each other?'
'Perhaps that is a question you should ask him,' Loki said irritably. 'It was he who started it, when we were children.'
'Such difficult children you two insist on being,' Helblindi groaned and rubbed his temples.
'Then it is as well that you are to be king and negotiate with him instead of I.' Loki sprawled out comfortably in his chair. His mother would be mortified. 'I will not stand him another second – at least, not today. He tries my nerves.'
'How are you two to have a happy marriage like this?' grumbled Helblindi. Loki threw a cushion at him.
'We are not getting married. You heard what happened just now; how could we ever overcome our differences to become friends, let alone a couple?' Then Loki sighed, too.
The day was not finished humiliating Loki, however. Helblindi and Loki had just settled into a comfortable silence when Thrym, their father's personal servant, appeared to summon Loki to Laufey.
'No doubt, he wishes to chide you in your behaviour,' mused Helblindi after Thrym left. 'Off you go, Little Brother, you know how Father hates to be kept waiting.'
'Aren't you a great help,' Loki said grumpily, stalking off.
Laufey was alone in his private sitting room, casually reading letters, but his entire countenance changed when Loki entered. He icily directed him to sit on the couch opposite him, and Loki did so, sulking.
'Well boy, how are you today?' Laufey said, regarding Loki with authority.
'Well, thank you, Father,' Loki answered, shoulders bowed, but Laufey was not deceived. Loki had never been close to his father, and his eyes always screamed rebellion when he was in his presence.
'The battle yesterday was grand, was it not?' Laufey went on, looking out the French windows that opened out to Farbauti's personal garden. 'You played your role well, and I am proud of you.'
Loki said nothing to that.
'I am not so proud, however, of your conduct earlier today.' Laufey turned his gaze back to Loki, looking severely at him. 'What is this I hear of you arguing with Prince Thor?'
'Prince Thor and I are always at odds,' Loki said, unable to keep the mutiny out of his voice. 'It was nothing remarkable.'
'But it is different now we know you are to marry him,' Laufey retorted sharply. 'You must make peace with him now, and leave off such feuds. They are not befitting of a prince anyway, and you have no need for them.'
'I am not marrying Thor.' Loki's pout grew. 'I refuse to, and he feels the same way.'
'He does not, and you will. It has been ordained.'
'It has not! The prophecy never mentioned Thor's name, and so there remains room for doubt. Besides that, in thinking the prophecy refers to Thor, we are admitting the prince of Asgard is a brash and selfish person. I think Asgard would agree with this description least of all.'
'You may be surprised yet, Loki,' Laufey shrugged. 'Time will decide that, but either way, I wish to hear no more of these disputes, agreed? And you will apologise to Prince Thor for your conduct.'
'Yes, Father.' Pity Laufey had yet to learn a thing or two about Loki. He would ensure that Laufey wouldn't hear about any more disputes, to be sure.
'Very good. You are dismissed.'
'I don't know, dear,' Farbauti said good-naturedly, checking the cloth over. 'But have you made it up with Thor yet?'
'I did,' Loki said with gritted teeth. 'He merely laughed before giving me a formal pardon. Left to our own devices, however, we would never have come to such a truce.'
'What I do not understand,' began Farbauti, picking up a new colour of thread, 'is why Thor should act in such a manner towards you. He is nothing but kindness and gentility to everyone else. He is rather brash, but selfish he is not.'
'I do not see how that is something to wonder about at all,' said Loki exasperatedly. 'He hates me, is that not enough?'
'I would not say he hates you,' Farbauti said pensively. 'He hates Skyrmir, and he expresses this by ignoring him, and calling other servants when he is there. If Skyrmir is the only one in the vicinity, he would rather go without whatever it is he wishes to have instead. He does not disrespect you so, now.'
'Skyrmir is a servant, Mother. That is an inadequate comparison.'
'Really? I do not think so.'
'However it is, I am determined in not marrying him, Mother. So you shall see.'
'So we shall, my son.'
Loki had been hoping the Aesir troop would leave the next day, but to his chagrin, this was not to be. He attempted to hide from society by withdrawing to Byleistr's nursery and playing with him, but Thor came ambling along, and decided to say hello to Byleistr.
'Hello, Thor,' Byleistr greeted brightly. 'How are your wounds healing?'
'Well, thank you, little one,' Thor smiled, folding himself into a sitting position next to Loki. Loki gave him a suspicious sideways glance, edging away. 'I apologise I did not have the opportunity to speak to you yesterday. Did you watch the entire battle?'
'Not all of it. I only saw the beginning, and the end, when the dragon arose again. Gerda told me everything else, however.'
'Ah, so you saw me fall,' Thor said without a trace of shame. 'Your brother was very valiant, was he not? And so chivalrous to save me so!'
'Oh he was!' Byleistr gushed, while Loki whirled around to stare at Thor. 'He really is clever, but then, he has worked very hard for it!'
'The reason he was chosen to save Yggdrasil was made clear yesterday.' Thor's smile grew. 'I am honoured to be acquainted with him.'
Who was the man sitting next to him and what had he done to Thor Odinson? Loki thought.
Then Byleistr distracted Thor from the subject by asking him to tell a story, and he complied for the next half hour. After which, Thor excused himself to speak to his friends, and left.
When he had gone, Byleistr turned to Loki with a large grin.
'You are too harsh on him, Loki. See, he likes you very much.'
'Er … yes. I must go now too, Bylesitr. Study now.'
'Alright. See you at lunch, Loki.'
Wandering off to he knew not where, Loki reflected on the whole, rather alienating, experience. He had never heard Thor praise him so, but it was even odder that he should do so in front of Loki himself. Perhaps his mother was right after all; Thor's heart might have been opened to Loki due to the battle. That didn't explain their quarrel the day before, however, and Loki turned around in the courtyard, hopelessly confused.
Helblindi sauntered by, holding his sheathed sword slung over his back, clearly back from training. He approached Loki, whistling joyfully.
'What upsets you, Brother? Father did not scold you that badly yesterday, did he?'
'No.' Loki exhaled heavily. 'But Thor has me confused, and I am getting more and more irritated with that insipid man.' He glowered at his fingernails.
'Did he propose to you already?' Helblindi said, guffawing at his own joke. He took a seat on the edge of the stone fountain, resting his sword on his lap.
'Do you like Thor, Brother?' Loki asked, ignoring the slight.
'Hmm? He is alright, I suppose. He is a good sparring partner, and he is kind to the maidservants. That is not something you see often in Jotunheim.'
'Would it pain him so much to direct some of that kindness to me?' huffed Loki.
'No, merely tired of being treated like a child of sub-par education,' said Loki curtly.
'If I never saw for myself how he and you behave towards each other, I would never believe you did not get along,' said Helblindi thoughtfully. 'It is odd; I would think he would get along with you. He is attracted to intelligence, you know.'
'So?' Loki said with a raised eyebrow.
Helblindi shrugged and Loki inhaled deeply to contain himself.
'Why can he not just leave already?' he muttered resentfully.
'There now, Brother, we can hardly chase guests away from the palace,' Helblindi said with amusement. 'And he is an honoured visitor.'
Grumbling under his breath, Loki marched off.
But misery being his close companion as it was, he simply had to bump into Thor on his way.
'Do watch where you're going, oaf,' Loki barked.
'Apologies,' Thor said, wide grin still firmly in place, much to Loki's frustration. 'May I make it up to you, Little Princess?'
That was the wrong thing to say. Loki snapped.
'I am sick and tired of you, Thor!' he shouted, and that, to his satisfaction, wiped the smile right off Thor's face. 'What have I ever done to you that you must always torment me so? Have I wronged you in a previous life? Did I unwittingly say something to offend you that you must carry a grudge all these years? Would you tell me now that I may make amends and you might leave me alone?'
Thor was left reeling, speechless. That wasn't the kind of response Loki wanted at all, and he deflated.
After a moment of Loki watching Thor wearily and Thor scuffing the toes of his boots, Thor spoke up.
'I am sorry,' he said, and Loki felt his anger returning.
'So am I, Thor,' he snarled. 'That fixes nothing.'
'It does not,' Thor acquiesced, 'I realise that. I did not – I never realised my teasing affected you so, however, and for that I truly am sorry.'
'How could you not realise my vexation?' said Loki with aggravation. 'You have been at it for years.'
'Yes, well, I – that is, ah –' Thor blushed, avoiding Loki's gaze. 'I shall take my leave now, and I swear not to bother you anymore.' He quickly made to depart, but Loki stopped him by stepping in front of him.
'You will not leave until you have explained yourself,' Loki said, crossing his arms. He was feeling very confused, but curious as to what Thor had to say for himself. Thor's motives all those years could not be simple fun, not with the way he was acting now, and Loki wanted the whole of it, if only to satisfy his curiosity.
'I – what is there to explain?' Thor said in an uncharacteristically small voice that surprised Loki even more. The only times he had ever seen Thor sheepish was when Queen Frigga reprimanded him.
'You may begin with why everybody I have spoken to sings praises of your good nature when you treat me like I am Byleistr's inferior,' Loki said imperiously.
'Er, perhaps you should confer with them for the answer to that.'
'You are the only one who can explain your designs, Thor.'
There was silence. Loki was feeling impatient, but he waited without either a word of complaint or encouragement.
Finally, Thor looked at Loki with stunning blue eyes and said 'I swear never to speak to you again after I tell you.'
This took Loki by surprise more than anything else, but he still managed to say 'Do not make a promise you cannot keep,' with a wry smile.
Thor returned it with a faint smile of his own.
'Out with it then.'
'I remember – I remember when I first met you,' Thor began haltingly. Loki said nothing. 'I had been told of the prophecy that was made when you were born. At first – I thought it was something … amazing … but then I began to be jealous. If there had been a prophecy about me, I would never have to worry that I would be a – a good king for Asgard, because I should know for sure.'
'But,' Loki interrupted, 'you are loved by default as it is because you are the crown prince. Where do you think I would be had I not had the prophecy? I am a failure by Jotnar standards for my stature. I have my honour only as with the prophecy.'
This had apparently never occurred to Thor before. What a long morning it was turning out.
'Go on,' Loki said, waving a hand.
'Well I met you then, and you were far different than I expected you were. You were not even inclined to fighting. How could a hero save Yggdrasil if he fought with a wand instead of a sword?'
'So you began to mock me because of it.'
'I was young then,' Thor said, his charming smile flickering back onto his face for a moment.
'But you are not now.'
'Ah, well …' Thor squirmed uncomfortably. 'Do you remember your sixteenth birthday feast?'
'Um …' Loki frowned. He did not, which probably meant nothing interesting had happened during the time.
'I do. You wore robes of green and gold, and the most skilled magician in Yggdrasil came to perform tricks. You were very merry as you watched him. It was your birthday, yet you stood apart from everyone and hardly drank or ate. You only sat, watching the magician.'
'Why do you remember this?' Loki asked shrewdly
'You do not know how you looked then,' Thor said softly, looking down at his fidgeting hands. 'You looked so content, as if nothing could destroy your peace. I felt as if – if only I could –'
Realisation was beginning to dawn on Loki at the same time as apprehension settled into his stomach. 'You do not mean to say –'
'I thought – I thought that if I acted selfish and petty to you, I could be the man you would save from death and marry,' Thor said in a rush, not once glancing up at Loki. 'I wished so much – then I could stop pretending when you would do so –and you did, and everyone thought for sure we would wed, yet you were so averse to the idea – I realised that if you had no wish to marry me, you would not, and I never – I never meant to –'
He stopped, taking a deep breath. 'From now on I will honour my oath to –'
But he never finished his sentence. On impulse, Loki threw his arms around Thor's neck and kissed him passionately.
The first thing that occurred to Loki when he kissed Thor was that it was wonderful. Thor was so warm and solid compared to the maidens Loki had previously taken, and it was an amazing contrast. Thor responded in kind, his hands fluttering to rest on Loki''s waist, and Loki had lived his life with confidence in his abilities, yet he had never felt so secure than right then, in Thor's embrace.
'Well, well, well, what do we have here?' came Helblindi's drawling voice, and Thor and Loki broke apart, looking around at him. 'Why Brother, it feels like only yesterday morning you were declaring you could not stand Thor another second! Oh wait, it was yesterday morning.'
'Do be quiet, Helblindi,' Loki said chidingly, but he couldn't keep the smile off his face. 'You know nothing.'
'Perhaps not, but I see plenty.' Helblindi came forward and patted Thor's head, an easy feat from his height. 'I am sure you know all the usual: if you hurt him, I will kill you, etc. etc. I'll tell everyone the wedding is on after all, shall I? You disappointed Mother so when you said you wouldn't marry Thor, Loki. She will be delighted to hear you two are engaged after all. Enjoy yourselves! But don't go too far, now. See you at lunch.' He left, smirking triumphantly.
Loki turned back to Thor. 'I heard you make no oath, do you understand?'
'I understand,' Thor grinned.
Then Loki disentangled himself from Thor and stepped back. 'Thor, you are a worse fool than I first took you for,' he said. 'Have you never heard of self-fulfilling prophecies?'
'Never mind,' Loki sighed. 'Well I suppose I have no choice now.' He took Thor's hand in his own, then looked up at him. 'Thor Odinson, will you marry me?'
Thor raised their intertwined hands and kissed Loki's knuckles. 'Gladly, my Prince.'
And they lived happily ever after.