'So is it true you gave birth to a horse?' Natasha asked.
Loki stared. 'Pardon me?'
'The myths say you gave birth to an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir. Is it true?'
'No! How grossly misconstrued are our tales in your myths?' he said incredulously.
She shrugged. 'The story goes that Odin wanted a wall built and in return he'd give his wife to the giant who built it. When it was nearly finished, he didn't want to pay the guy, so you seduced the horse.'
'That is not what happened,' he said loudly, 'and you will tell everyone you come across the fact!'
'So what actually happened?' she said with a raised eyebrow.
He sighed. Stupid Midgardians.
When the Greek first created the Olympics, the Vanir were watching, and they became very excited. They ran to Asgard and proposed they have the very same thing, except between realms. They creatively titled it the Intergalactic Games, and the Aesir agreed to the horrendously stupid name because Loki hadn't been born yet at the time to set them straight.
'Wait, so you're in charge of naming things on Asgard?' Natasha interjected.
'No,' Loki said, miffed at having been interrupted. 'But I would have suggested a much more exciting name.'
'Would they have taken it?'
He paused to contemplate this. 'Thor would, and the rest of the realm would have thusly agreed.'
While the Midgardians would have the sport every four years, the time seemed rather short for the gods and goddesses, so they had it every half century instead. They had sports like running and archery, but then they also had magical displays and head-cracking contests. Each realm took turns holding the games.
By the time Thor and Loki were old enough to participate, Asgard was well-known in the field of archery and fencing, but Jotunheim always outdid everyone else in wrestling. The Vanir had only ever lost magic-displaying contests to each other, and Svartalheim stood above everyone else in swimming. Nidavelir insisted that they would win first in everything if they could only send more athletes. Not that they had anything much to complain about, as they easily won marathons.
Midgard was invited to the games only once, and then Zeus got into such a dreadful argument with Bor, the other realms silently agreed to ignore their existence every time the games rolled around.
Anyway, Thor entered in wrestling and narrowly won over the then-undefeated champion, Skyrmir. (This was why when Thor and Loki later visited Utgard, he determinedly made fools out of them.) Odin was moved to tears, and Laufey gnashed his teeth but said nothing. He only patted Skyrmir's shoulder heavily.
The next day were the five-kilometre and ten-kilometre runs, which Loki initially had nothing to do with. However, that night, Odin, buoyed by Thor's success, drank a little too much and started talking to Laufey.
'My son did very well today,' he said gruffly in an exaggerated display of modesty.
Laufey scowled. 'It is as well; Asgard has been falling behind lately.'
Odin ignored the slight, and looked past Laufey at the magnificent horse tossing his mane and running in little circles, testing his paces.
'Say, who is that fine stallion?' he asked.
Glancing behind him, Laufey answered casually 'That is Svadilfari, our best horse. We are hoping he will win the five-kilometre race tomorrow.'
'Is that so,' Odin muttered. 'And the colt behind him?'
'Sleipnir, his own foal.'
'Ah. Well, what do you think, Laufey?'
'My son, Loki, race against your Svadilfari. He may not look it, but he is a great runner. If I win, I have Sleipnir. If you win, you have Frigga.'
'Yes. He slept in the throne room for a whole year afterwards.'
She laughed. 'So can you run?'
'Well Frigga is still Odin's, isn't she?'
'Then why didn't you run from arrest?'
He smiled. 'Now why would I do that?'
Laufey was excited by the parlay, as he was positive Svadilfari could win. He agreed, and left the bar in high spirits. Then the bartender, understandably alarmed by Odin's wager, told the story to Brock, who told the story to Njord, who told Frey, who told Freyja, who told Loki. Loki heroically did not curse her in his irritation, and told Frigga.
Now you see, Frigga is the queen of marriage etc. etc. and people often take this to mean she is benevolent and kind. She is, on a regular day. On a day that her integrity has been threatened? Yeah, good luck with that.
'ODIN BORSON I AM GOING TO LIVE TO MAKE YOU REGRET THIS!' she bellowed, whipping up a storm as far as Vanaheim (the games were being held in Nidavelir). 'HOW DARE YOU BET YOUR SON AND YOUR OWN WIFE ON A WHIM?!'
'Do not fret, my Queen,' Odin said complacently. 'Have faith in your son.'
She was flabbergasted. 'I hate these games,' she not-pouted regally.
Sure Frigga had to worry about becoming Laufey's concubine, but it would be Loki who would have to live with the knowledge that it would be all his fault. Thor put an arm around Loki and sympathetically said 'It is sure why Father made the bet, Brother. You will easily win.'
Loki glared. 'Thank you, Thor, that must be such a difficult thing to say.'
'Do not be depressed, Loki,' Thor frowned, drawing back. 'I understand your distress, but I know you will win.'
Natasha didn't say anything, but she was sure Loki had been comforted at the time.
The next day, Loki dressed himself in the appropriate attire and spent an hour resolutely not pacing so as to save his strength. Odin had sobered up and was pretending to regard the whole matter nonchalantly, but his family could tell he was nervous, not only at the potential loss of his wife, but also at the dressing down he would get if he didn't lose her.
All the Aesir were present to cheer Loki on and boo Svadilfari, but Loki felt that they no one except maybe Thor actually thought him capable of victory. He wasn't sure whether that made it better or worse. The Jotnar were also in attendance, and their booing was considerably louder, but not for lack of trying on the Aesir's part.
Okay, so Loki was as much the running type as he looked it. Why him? Why did it have to be running? Loki knew for a fact that he could win even against the Vanir in magic, but in running? Against a horse?
He took his position at the starting line and resolutely did not look over at Svadilfari, several places away. At the sound of a large blast, they were off. Loki proved, to his surprise most of all, an adept runner. As he sped past the Nidavelir in fourth place, he made a mental note to persuade Thor to participate in racing next year too. Loki only ever thought he was bad at running because Thor was so good at it.
Soon, he was neck-to-neck with the runner in second place, but he still didn't think he could make it past Svadilfari. Suddenly, Frigga's voice broke through the crowd's clapping, cheering, and booing.
'RUN, LOKI, RUN!' she screamed. 'RUN LIKE THE HORSE IS GOING TO RAPE YOU!
Several spectators stopped cheering to stare at her, and Loki turned to, although without halting.
'RUN, MY SON! YOU CAN DO IT! JUST IMAGINE HIM ON YOUR TAIL, TRYING TO FORCE HIMSELF ONTO YOU!'
This would present a terrifying picture to anyone, and Loki in confusion and fear was spurred on by a burst of speed never before seen in the Intergalactic Games and won by twenty centimetres, which was more than any winner could before claim over a runner-up.
'... so Odin happily won Sleipnir as his steed, and Thor had great fun telling this to the Midgardians. Apparently, Viking women are worst gossips than one would suppose.'
'Oh. That story makes more sense. Once I met you, I didn't think the story could be true since you're a lot cleverer than that.'
He acknowledged the compliment with an inclination of his head.
'Well what about Angrboda? Is it true you had an affair with her?'
Loki sighed. Stupid Midgardians.
'It was the eighteenth Intergalactic Games ...'