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It is dawn and Loki is dragged through the streets of Asgard to meet his punishment before the throne.

He knows his fate before the All-Father even utters it. He knows, because he sees it in the faces of the Aesir. What the gods say becomes; that is what Odin once told him when he was but a young man learning politics. There are many options to think of, many punishments to choose from; but only one seems fit.

Torture is unbecoming of a son of Odin, albeit a false one. Slavery, too, is foolish to begin with; Loki will cause more chaos in chains than in freedom, working his silver tongue to bend whomever thinks they can command him to his own will. Death, on the other hand, is too swift.

And Odin always loved the bright spectacle of banishment.

With the Bifrost ruined, Odin must rely on seidr to transport him to his place of exile. It is dark magic; a spell the mischief-god had learned a long time ago, having slithered in the palace library as a child to quench his thirst of the shadowy unknown. He knows the All-Father flinches at the very thought of conjuring such magic, but there is no other choice. The bridge is broken, and the gods grow angry at every moment wasted with him left unpunished.

The mob gathers around them, shouting insults, howling. Loki grins. The Aesir always were bloodthirsty creatures. Here they stand, accusing him of treason and the mindless slaughter of two worlds, of bringing his rage upon an unsuspecting people, yet the same rage is mirrored in their own eyes; and Loki wonders why they deem themselves worthy to accuse him of such crimes when they, too, are as guilty as he is.

Loki tugs against the shackles. He wants to speak, to tell them what he thinks of their pretentious little lives, but the muzzle holds firm. He tongues the inside of his teeth instead, tries to force it through the small gap there for no reason other than to test the muzzle's strength. It's all futile. His jaw aches. The metal burns where it digs into the flesh of his cheek.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Thor; so melancholic, so deliciously wrecked. Thor has finally learned his lesson now, after all these years, after watching what his selfishness and pride have brought upon the nine realms. Loki regrets none of it. Without the pain, the suffering, Thor would still be blind. 

His so-called friends stand behind him, sneering, laughing. Loki pays no heed to them. These parasites are unworthy of his attention.

The guards drag him through the pushing crowd and make him kneel before the All-Father. He complies, briefly, feigning surrender long enough for them to make their way back to the edge of the crowd. When he rises to his feet again, the rage that flashes across their eyes is nothing but amusing. They move to make him kneel again, but the All-Father waves them away.

Quiet ensues as Odin begins. "Loki Odinson," he says, and Loki's teeth grind behind the muzzle. He is no Odinson. He does not belong here, or anywhere. "You are hereby banished from this realm and all others..."

Loki stops listening. None of this matters. He has always been alone, since the very beginning, and always will be. This banishment is a blessing. Better to be truly isolated than alone in a crowd that will never love or understand. 

As the All-Father finishes, the crowd roars. Half of them howl their approval; others bark demands of further punishment, more cruel and heartless than the last; and some, perhaps lacking in mind, only shout and shriek and bellow, for no reason other than to make noise. They give the appearance of rabid, wild animals. Loki has never been more amused by any other sight.

It is no surprise when someone in the crowd —a fool, certainly, for thinking that his actions would ever be forgiven in the eyes of Loki— dares to spit at him. Disgust coils in Loki's gut; but his grin only stretches wider. He notes the man's face, sears the image into his mind so that he doesn't forget. One day, he thinks, meeting the man's wide eyes. He regrets it now, Loki sees, almost catching the sound of him gulping. One day I will come for you.

It is the last thing he thinks before Odin's spell weaves its way through him. The light burns his eyes. The smell, a raw concoction of metal and ash, makes his stomach churn. He chokes and tries to force himself to swallow down the rising bile, because if he doesn't, the muzzle most certainly will. 

The smell invades his nostrils once again, ten times more potent, and he vomits nonetheless. 

He expects to choke, to suffocate before he even reaches the place of his banishment; but the muzzle is suddenly gone. His chains, too, dissolved. He finds himself kneeling upon a patch of soft, green grass, with the sound of water flowing nearby, the scent of flowers in summer. It's all beautiful, calm, serene.

It's all wrong.



-



Paradise. This is where Odin has chosen to exile him as punishment. 

Why? To mock him, to humiliate him further? After all he's done to the nine realms —destroying half of Jotunheim, wreaking havoc upon Midgard, rendering the Chitauri almost extinct after his failure— and the repercussions of his actions are nothing more than a banishment upon a fertile, virgin planet?

It's a trick, Loki is certain. The All-Father's intentions never show clearly from the very start, but in the end, there is always a plan. But what is it this time? 

Perhaps Odin wishes to have him believe that he is yet his son, that he would never wish to punish him in whatever way Asgard deems fit for him. Perhaps he seeks to keep him docile in this quiet land, the way a farmer keeps an animal at peace before the slaughter. Here, where no horrors truly lie, Loki's mind can finally rest. No lies need weaving when there's no one there to weave them for. 

Perhaps this is how Odin thinks to ruin him; by changing his nature. A God of Mischief has no place in the world without his mischief. Perhaps Odin believes that this truly is a punishment; a place devoid of mortal or divine souls for him to harm, where the madness of his own mind will turn on him and swallow him whole.

Yes, that must be it. Odin seeks to have him destroyed by his own hand.

Loki cannot allow it.

He rises to his feet with a groan of discomfort. His knees burn where he landed, sprawled over a pool of his own bile. The sight is revolting, an impossible antithesis defiling nature's purity. He looks away. 

Looking around, Loki sees a wide expanse of land surrounding him, endless green merging with crystal blue and sandy white. There's sea all around, from the far edges where the meadow clears and the ground turns gold. There's water at the opposite side, Loki is sure of it, behind the mountains with their peaks nestled in a bed of bright, thick clouds. 

The sky it too blue. It almost reminds him of—

Stop, he tells himself. He is no longer yours. He never was.

Something hot flickers at the dip of his palm and he starts, eyes wide. Green flames lick across his hand, icy blue mist folds around his fingers. He still has his magic. It surprises him; after all, the point of banishment is to feel life as a mortal, where all burdens turn a thousand times heavier and the threat of death always hovers close above. 

A strange joy floods through his chest as he toys with the flames; but suddenly, Loki's smile fades. Another trick, he thinks. Just another trick.

He begins to walk. The caves behind the waterfall look promising. That is where he will make his ample bed for the night; and in the morning, when dawn spills the sun's light across the land, he will build.



-



But night never comes.

He lies upon a soft pile of leaves in the cave behind the curtain of water, a makeshift mattress not fit enough for sleep, awaiting the darkness; yet night never comes.

It's certainly been hours since Odin cast him out here, but the sun still burns impossibly bright in the sky. It blinds his eyes, an eternal white that catches in the water and the sand, the grass, the clouds, and turns this realm into nothing short of a beacon. It is unnatural. Night must come. It is written fact.

On closer inspection, Loki realizes that the sun hasn't even moved from its initial spot. He knits his brow in thought. Could it be that time moves slower here? Loki thinks of the possibilities. Their numbers are vast and he has little knowledge of this place to make an accurate decision, no real grasp of nature's effect here. Is this another realm or another dimension? Is time infinite or is it nonexistent? The questions drive him mad. He has no option but to wait, to eliminate his options one by one until only the right remains. He is a god. He can wait forever.

Loki's mind turns. Rest will never come like this, not without shadow and an empty head. He must search; discover what he is truly dealing with here. His hands move to the buckles of his armor quickly, fingers digging through the straps to rid himself of the regalia. It will only slow him down, or drown him as he swims. He has magic. It will protect him if the time comes.

He slides out of the cave swiftly, gracefully, water clinging to the light tunic that now remains. His feet are wet within the boots already, the hard leather soaked through. Loki will not remove them. Ymir knows what the ground beneath him holds, what poison Odin could have sown it with. 

He takes note of his surroundings once more; water, sand, grass, forest, water, mountain, water. The sea stretches far and wide. He sees nothing in the distance. It alarms him greatly.

A lone island in the middle of nowhere, on a planet of water, far into the universe. Loki cannot tell where this realm is while the sun still burns. If night comes, he will see the stars and estimate his position. If night comes, he will know when days change. If night comes, he will count the years that pass and cling onto his sanity.

He circles the island four times; twice across the shore and twice through the forest. It is a strange place. At one point, the forest turns into a jungle, and at the base of the mountain, a shallow vein of sweet water lies. He finds fish there, and soft fruits on the trees. 

He doesn't hunt or gather. He waits for the darkness.

But night never comes.



-



As time passes, Loki realizes that there is no night. No dawn, either; no dusk or twilight or sunrise, no sunset to pinpoint the end of a day. Loki doesn't know how much time has passed. Days, certainly. Weeks, most likely. Months, perhaps. It couldn't be years, could it? 

He stays rooted to the spot beneath the mountains, waiting for something, anything, to signal any change within this wretched inferno. There is no rest here. The animals never sleep, the birds never stop their chirping. Butterflies flicker around endlessly. He tries to distinguish a pattern of sorts, through the eating schedules of the beasts here; but there is none to be found. The great cats eat as they please, whenever they please; the horned cows spend their time gorging themselves in pastures, never stopping, never ceasing to put blade after blade of grass in their bloated stomachs; the rest do the same, and Loki —frightened, shocked Loki— stares, wide-eyed at the sight around him.

There is no rain, yet the grass stays wet and soft, the land fertile and lush green. There is no wind that makes the trees stir, yet they move, dancing with a life of their own. The air is still fresh and cool. 

He starts counting. One, two, three; counting seconds into minutes and minutes into hours, to get a near estimate of time here. He counts for an hour, then two, then a hundred. Time flies by and so do the numbers. He feels truly alone. He feels like he'd rather have the snake dripping venom on his face, in a place where the sun rises and sets and the moon is there to take its place every time, than go through this... this absence.

He thinks he should devise a clock, like the ones he saw on Midgard a few weeks —or years, or centuries— ago. He could build it by memory with magic, keep it ticking so it keeps him sane instead. Or maybe he could make an hourglass, more easier, less waste of magic, using the very sand on this planet. 

He jumps to his feet, eager to see his plan fulfilled. It's been so long since he last moved from his position that his bones creak, pop, grind painfully against each other with every motion. A gasp leaves his pale lips. Not of pain, but of thirst. The small river behind him beckons oh so sweetly, glistening as its waters flow in the most gentle of currents. He doesn't waste a moment of hesitation before he kneels at its very edge and dips his hand in, cupping whatever he can to bring it to his mouth. 

Loki is relieved to find that it isn't poison; and even more relieved to find that it tastes pure and fresh and absolutely divine. He bends forth for more. He doesn't bother hiding his moans of appreciation. At least there's one good thing about this timeless hell.

When he has his fill, he turns to the trees, setting his sharp green gaze far beyond. Sand. Hourglass. Sand. Hourglass. The words become a mantra. He runs to the shore and kneels again. Buries his hands deep within the sand. The incantation pours out of his lips in a low, gentle tone, the words achingly familiar. 

Within a long moment, he has constructed glass. A few more words and it bends to its intended shape. Another spell and the empty hourglass fills with sand. It is complete. He feels exhausted, even though this magic has never been tiresome before. It's the lack of sleep, he thinks. Just the lack of sleep.

The sand pours now, from one end to another, small grains trickling with a faint, rhythmic patter that sounds all too soothing. He falls to his side with his fingers still buried in the sand. 

Sand. Hourglass. Sand. Hourglass.

The words become a mantra; and then they become a lullaby.



-


The light burns bright behind his eyelids, and he wakes, groggy and tired but somehow pleasantly refreshed.

Sand sticks to half his face, digging into his cheek. He regrets sleeping here. He should have crawled back to the jungle where the river flows, to fill his thirst once he woke and given him shade instead of sunlight.

The hourglass glimmers under the burning sun, merely fingertips away. Loki brings himself to a sitting position with a grunt. All is well, he sees. The sand still pours, the neck of the glass thin enough to calculate the time down to the last grain. 

He smiles. Odin must have thought he could break him just by ridding him of time, by taking night away from him. He was a fool to think that Loki would turn mad simply by turning nature against him. Loki's mind never rests, Odin made no mistake at that, but Loki always finds an answer. Odin took time from him, so Loki made time. Odin took his sanity, briefly, but Loki gained it back. Odin sought to...

No. No, please.

The more he watches the glass, the more he notices that the sand does not fill it. It pours, yet; but does only that; pours, endlessly, grain after grain after grain, until Loki has to count again, to make sure that it isn't just another trick.

He counts a thousand. He counts a thousand and two.

He rises to his feet with a snarl, the hourglass nearly shattering in his strong grip, and throws it in the ocean.

It shatters on impact, strangely enough, exploding into thick shards and thin grains and sinking below the surface. Loki feels a momentary pleasure before it, too, disappears —like the broken hourglass, like time itself— and it takes everything he has not to sink to his knees.

Odin has cursed him. Odin has taken what little sanity the mischief-god has left and burned it to the ground. Loki should have know that he would change tactics after all the punishments he had previously burdened him with had been without effect. Physical pain cannot harm him any longer. Neither the needle, nor the snake, not even the fall from that crystalline bridge served as a lesson to his malice. 

This, however, is different. The torture here is not of bodily nature. The harm he has sustained has nothing to do with bloodshed, or broken bones; but with the scarring of his soul and the constant spinning of his mind. 

Odin must be watching now, certainly, his eye fixed on him as all of Loki's efforts prove ineffective. He thinks that he should stop, at least for now; recuperate and then begin again, and think of a better plan. Loki already knows it's all pointless. What difference does it make if the moon does not rise? Darkness or no, he'd still have to spend however long Odin chooses to keep him here in chilling isolation.

But the absence of night drives him to the brink of insanity. It all seems like a very long day; and like all long days, it is tiresome, and full of burning brightness. He wishes it to end. A creature of shadows cannot live in sunlight. A creature of magic cannot navigate without mapping the stars far above into the night sky. He cannot make an escape to another realm without the constellations showing him where to go. Odin has taken everything from him.

He surrenders. Hunger makes his stomach growl and the remnants of sleep still cling to his eyes. Enough, he thinks. He will have plenty of time to devise a plan later on. 

He turns to the jungle and makes his way through vines and moss. Strange creatures cling onto the trees, with wide eyes and long tails and teeth that could certainly be used for more than just biting into fruits. Loki doesn't like the way they look at him. He doesn't shoo them away, however, lest they think to test the sharpness of their fangs on his own flesh. 

Back at the river below the mountains, he hunts. The beasts here barely resist capture, as if Nature herself has lulled them to a stupor. He takes down two wild boars with nothing but a blade of ice magicked by his fingers, and builds a pyre large enough to accommodate three more. Just the two will do. There's plenty of fish to sate his hunger if he still feels famished after this, and he might even try his luck with deer. He won't touch the cows. They have milk, and younglings suckling from their mothers. Taking them would be a waste.

In the end, he eats only the two boars. He puts out the flames of the pyre but leaves the wood there, for the next time. The bones, he buries in the forest, where the soil is wet and soft and easier to dig into. The sun blinds his pale eyes as he works.

Loki sighs. He'll have to build some kind of shelter to hide him from the light. There's no other way he'll find rest here, and sleep will never come with vibrant shades of red swirling behind his closed eyelids. The caves behind the waterfall could do, but the noise there is deafening, and the echo a thousand times worse. 

Here is where he will build. Beneath the shadow, beside the mountain and the river. Here, where he can hunt and fish and drink; without sand sticking to his flesh and the sun roasting his eyes. He looks at the trees. Their bark is strong, impossibly thick. It would take more than just an ice-blade to cut a few down. He uses seidr instead. With a slow turn of his wrist, three trees are all but ripped out of the ground, their roots hovering midair, still clinging onto soil.

In seconds, the wood is cut, sawed, and shaped into perfection. Loki steps back to admire his work. A grin settles on his features as he pieces the rest together. Soon enough, there is a roof of wood above his head, with walls slowly being built by invisible hands; Loki doesn't bother with windows. He cuts a hole big enough for him to crawl in and out of. A door would bring in sunlight. This is all he needs.

Odin has chosen to treat him as a snake, so Loki has become one.

He crawls inside and lies on the earth, knees drawn up to his chest; and briefly wonders if Thor can see him like this, through Heimdall's vision, and if he feels as much shame for his little brother as Loki does now. 



-



The first thing he notices once he wakes is the sun over his head. 

The second thing he notices —though it must be a dream, because no such thing could ever be possible— is that the wooden walls around him have disappeared, leaving him lying bare and unprotected in the middle of the jungle, sunlight beating down on him mercilessly. 

It must be a dream, certainly, because he clearly recalls uprooting trees and cutting them apart to make his meager home. He starts, jumping to his feet with a gasp. There should be a roof over his head. There should be four walls around him, casting shadow, and there should be the evidence of his hard work right where he stands.

But there's nothing. No home, no leaves scattered on the ground where he had devised a makeshift bed to warm him where he lay, not even the branches he'd cut off and tossed aside once he'd carved the wood he needed. 

He looks around. To his shock, the trees he had cut not so long ago are still there, as tall and vast and wide as they were before. This isn't right. Those trees were cut. They were chopped into pieces and relieved of their skin. They were used to build his home. No, this isn't right at all. This is impossible.

Panic floods through him. Could it be that he has truly gone mad? That he has finally surrendered to the twisted games Odin has put him through? It can't be. He still feels the light tingle of his fingers where the seidr had poured from, when he had laid his hands upon the trees' bark and pulled them from the ground. It was no illusion. It was real, was it not?

He tries to remember the events before. He had tossed the hourglass in the water and made his way to the mountain's base. He had hunted, feasted, buried the bones of the boars and put out the fire. Then, he had ventured in the forest, taken no more than three trees, and built his home where the jungle began. And he had fallen asleep.

Perhaps there was something in the meat he'd eaten, or in the water he consumed. Loki runs a hand through his hair, frustrated. He should retrace his steps, he thinks, one by one, to figure out whether it was all a dream or not.

A bitter taste settles at the root of his tongue as he makes his way to the river. He knows not what to expect, only that fate will not be in his favor. Truly, once he reaches there, he finds the place where he had left the pyre wiped clean, as if it never existed. There's no burnt wood to be seen nearby, and the ground holds not even a speck of ash. Loki's fingers shake.

The bones. What of the bones? He runs back into the forest, breath hitching in anxiousness. The bones must be there. He'd stripped the meat clean off the bones as he'd eaten and scattered their remains below the earth. They are the only evidence that remains. He falls to his knees above the location he'd buried them. His hands instantly scramble for purchase, fingers sinking into the ground, clawing, digging, flinging earth aside to ease his way below. They must be here. They must.

He digs forever. At least, that must be how long it's been; because his hands have clawed a pit in the ground. There is still nothing. Confusion makes way for rage. He turns his head to the sky and screams.



-



Loki has a theory. It is simple, easy to comprehend; yet to prove it, he must put this theory to the test.

He stands at the very edge of the shore and gazes into the line of trees not far from the sea. Water licks at his boots, and every time a wave pulls back, it draws him in. The sand below, wet and heavy, parts briefly to let him sink. He takes in a breath. If this fails, he will lose his only source of sustenance as well as shelter.

He lifts a hand and points it towards the trees. They sway gently in the distance, waving at him, toying with the wind. Loki hates to do this, but he must. He has to be sure. He thinks of the peaceful beasts living on the other side of the land and what the flames will do to them. Will they run? Will they hide? Or will they stay there, as always, feeding on Nature's ample garden even as she burns?

He winces. As the thought runs through his mind, he lets the magic run its way to his fingers, a blinding light burning at the tips. He pulls back, then lunges forth; and a vast ball of fire leaves his hand to catapult into the wilderness. The ball disappears into the trees. Then, nothing.

A few moments pass and Loki is certain that it failed, that somehow the giant ball of fire met its end within the river or a small stream, or fallen in the pit he'd so foolishly created with the scratch of his nails. But suddenly, he sees smoke. In its wake, a trail of fire follows, bright red and emerald at the core. Within moments, it spreads everywhere.

He expects to hear the howls of the creatures as they burn, the ungodly screeching that comes with the threat of death. He hears the crackle of wood. He hears the sizzle of water. He hears nothing else. The birds still chirp pleasantly in their nests, as if they care not for the danger that comes. They neither cry nor fly away. As if they have no fear of death. As if Hel has never made her presence known upon this island. Loki doesn't understand.

The smoke rises to blinding heights and blackens the sky. Finally, there is shadow. He steps back and sinks into the water with a sigh. If his theory is right, then he will see it soon. If not, he will starve and die before the banishment is lifted.

Loki hopes that he's right.


-


He starts to count again. One, two, thirty-three; the island burns for five hours, and by the sixth, the realm has turned to ash. A few red embers flicker in the ruins. The air smells of charred wood and burning flesh. Loki is thankful that he hasn't eaten in quite a while.

He stays in the water even after it's done. It is safe to come out now, at least up to the sand, but Loki dares not move. He has no reason to venture there yet —nor ever again, if he is wrong— so he simply lies back in the sea and waits, eyes wide, to prove his theory right. Another hour passes. He begins to regret his choice.

Why would he ever think of doing something so foolish in the first place? What would he have gained, besides proving his theory true? Loki curses himself. He should have never let his thoughts take control of him like so. No matter what he does here, no matter what he tries to do to change Nature into complying to the laws he knows, nothing will ever change. Odin has crafted it this way; and this prison will hold him til the end of time.

The All-Father still watches, probably, from his gold throne in the sky. Perhaps the others, too, watch with him, laughing at Loki's lost efforts, mocking him for all eternity. And what of Thor? Does he still see? Does Thor miss him as Loki does?

Something stirs in the distance and pulls him out of his thoughts. The sky has cleared, the air almost as fresh and clean as it were before; and the land —the charred, ruined land— begins to rise, to mend, to rebuild itself before his eyes. He was right. Loki was right. He stares with wide eyes as the ash is blown away from the ground and swallowed by the sea. The black beach turns golden once more, and the grass grows at impossible speeds, lush and green and too perfect to be real. The trees reforge themselves, the water that evaporated during the fire returns to flood the earth; and Loki only stares, unable to make even a sound. 

He hears the chirping of birds again. He feels the light. He rises from the sea and makes his way back to the jungle, exhausted and confused. Enough tricks. Enough magic. Better to leave this place be.



-



He finds another cave below the mountains, a dark, wide thing that goes too deep yet echoes far too little. He likes it here. There's no moisture clinging to the walls and the light is scarce. He could sleep here. He could rest.

Now that he has finally come to terms with his condition, a sudden feeling of nostalgia washes over him, like a wave, and fills his heart with longing. He misses Thor. It is the same pain he felt when he slipped from the Bifrost into space. After falling in the hands of the Chitauri, he knew that the only option he had to survive was to serve as their ally; otherwise, they would toss him back into the void they had pulled him from.

So he had led them into battle and expected word to reach Asgard soon. Thor would certainly come to him, he knew, once he heard his precious Midgard was in danger; and when he did, Loki would either defeat him long enough to take over Midgard and become the king he so deserved, or he would lose, and return to Asgard with Thor to endure his punishment. Loki had seen no downfall to either choice. A kingdom or Thor. He liked the odds.

But Thor had been none too pleased to know of his return. "Where is the Tesseract?" were the first words Thor spoke to him after so long, after thinking him dead; and Loki had never felt more betrayed in his immortal life. He chose the kingdom over Thor, right then and there, and fought until the battle proved meaningless. He lost. Thor won, as always.

He made no effort to resist as they put the chains on him; only when the muzzle brushed against his lips did he truly feel enraged. Loki allowed himself the pleasure of Thor's broken expression for a while, before Odin cast him out here and put him through this torture. Nostalgia fades away, and in its place, the rage returns. This is Odin's fault. If he hadn't taken him from Jotunheim as a child, if he hadn't lied and tricked him as he did, Loki would still be sane; or better yet, dead.

He thinks of ways to spite Odin even from such distance. If Heimdall watches, then so does he; and Loki knows a thousand ways to ruin a god from the inside. If the All-Father wishes to play games with him, then Loki shall play the most twisted of them all.



-



The main piece of the game is, of course, Thor.

No matter what Loki does to himself or his surroundings —whether he throws himself off the mountaintop or burns this place a thousand times to the ground— Odin will merely laugh at his antics and turn his gaze away when he grows bored. Nothing will ever be important when it comes to Loki. 

Thor, on the other hand —Thor Odinson, Thor the thunder-god, precious Thor with eyes as bright as lightning and a heart of gold— is all that always matters. It is Thor who had the throne from the very beginning, who was given Mjolnir when all Loki ever had was a feathered pen. Thor, whom Odin took under his wing and raised to be king, who kept him as his most prized possession. Thor, the heir, the true son of Asgard, is who Loki needs to ruin in order to destroy the All-Father.

He shuts his eyes in concentration. He knows the incantation all too well, has used the same spell a myriad times to trick so many people that Loki often wonders why they even try. When it comes to mind games, he will always win. He flicks his wrist with practiced ease and something bright shines behind his eyelids. Almost there. This time, the spell must be more powerful. The image must be solid.

Loki only hopes that Mother isn't watching. This is not meant for her. None of it ever was. He sighs, and opens his eyes. The spell has worked. Kneeling at his opposite is a mirror image of his brother, identical down to the last hair. "Thor." he says, and smiles a little. It's rather fitting, he thinks, that the first words he's spoken in months are to a false image of his brother that Loki himself built. This is what isolation does to a god. This is the price Odin now must pay.

Thor is laid bare before him. He has never seen his brother in such detail before; only in the bathing rooms after battle, where the shadows hid him well enough to spare a quick glance, and nothing more. There was longing in his heart, always, for things Loki never truly understood. There were unspoken desires, which Loki never fulfilled out of fear of the All-Father, of Asgard entirely, so he kept his distance. But now, after all that's happened, Loki finally has the chance to take what he has lusted over for half a millennium.

He brings a hand to Thor's face and feels the warm flesh he has constructed. Yes, good, he thinks, licking his lips. There's almost no difference at all from the true thunder-god. Almost, because Loki knows this isn't real. It doesn't matter. This will work all the same.

His hand travels lower to brush against the chiseled chest, the soft, pink nubs hardening under his ministrations. He smiles. This Thor will not resist his advances, nor turn away with disgust at the touch of his lips against his. This Thor will submit to him eagerly and moan out his desire between gasps, and Loki, happy to please, will give all that he has to satisfy him.

A hand slides down between them and settles on Loki's thigh. He chuckles. This Thor is eager indeed.

Loki has outdone himself. The clone even smells like lightning, his eyes a vivid blue that mirror a brewing storm. For a second, the mischief-god tricks himself into thinking that this truly is Thor, his Thor, all golden hair and strong hands and unlimited power; that somehow Loki has conjured not an image of him, but instead has brought the real god down upon his place of exile and bent him to his will. The thought excites him further. He surrenders to it with a groan.

And Thor, whose cheeks have turned as red as his swollen lips, rests his hands on the base of his spine and pulls them flush together, searching for heat. Loki feels Thor's hard length pulsing against his through the thin fabric that separates them. Oh. Oh, I've made you far too good. He throws his head back and laughs; and almost instantly, Thor's lips latch there and suckle, teeth digging into the meat of his neck to claim him. Loki's hand finds itself buried in Thor's locks to press him harder against him. Thor makes no protest, not even as Loki pushes him back onto the ground to settle in between his thighs. 

The skies suddenly darken. A loud rumble echoes across the land, like a protest, a command to cease this blasphemy. Loki starts. He has Odin's attention. Now that the All-Father has come to disturb nature in order to put an end to Loki's mischief, now that he has flooded skies that not once have filled with clouds before, Loki knows he has already won the battle. 

He pulls away from Thor briefly, only to rid himself of garments and whisper a spell to keep his brother warm and open, and then he's sliding into Thor to the hilt with a broken moan. Long, powerful legs wrap around his waist and draw him deeper. It all steals his breath far too soon. He rests his full weight on Thor, knowing he can take it. Even though this is not his brother, he was build by a god, and shares equal power. The legs around his waist squeeze tighter and prove his thoughts right. Thor grunts beneath him, urging him to pick up the pace. 

The sounds that spill from Loki's mouth are nothing short of sinful. Thor echoes them in equal measure, hips bucking up against him; and Loki has no other choice but to thrust back, unable to resist the temptation. I've made you far too good, he repeats, and pounds into Thor's tight heat over and over again. He should have done this sooner. He should have taken Thor right before all of Asgard.

He wonders if his real brother watches him now; if the shame he felt before has now increased a thousandfold. He wonders if the storm outside the cave is not Odin's, but Thor's; and if the golden thunder-god will make his way upon this realm to punish him for what he's done.

Loki laughs, a guttural, shrieking sound, and buries his face in the clone's neck as he comes. His hips snap with a force that isn't his to control. He shivers, collapsing on his finest illusion; and the Thor beneath him —the false, albeit identical Thor— arches like a bow, and spends himself between them with a roar that sounds too much like his true brother's battle cry.

The clouds rumble from above. The clone beneath him vanishes in a flash of green light and Loki falls to meet hard ground. He can't stop laughing. Lightning strikes in the distance.

When the scent of metal and ash reaches him, he knows for certain that he's won. He feels a familiar sensation washing over him, running through his veins as if it were his own blood. "I have won!" he screams at the sky, laughing, and then the light swallows him whole again and burns his eyes a thousand times brighter than before.



-



It is dawn and Loki is dragged through the streets of Asgard to meet his punishment before the throne.

The crowd, unlike the last time, is silent. Thor cannot meet his eyes. Odin wastes not even a moment explaining the nature of his crime, in order to spare Asgard from further shame. Loki doesn't even have the chance to look at Mother, to see if she, too, has finally given up. The light takes him again, bathes him in white rivers and the scent of metal and ash. His fate is still exile, but this time, when the light clears, Loki notices chains around his legs, his arms, his entire form. He realizes that he's tied to a rock.

A large serpent hovers from above, its open mouth dripping with venom, and Loki cannot help but laugh even as he burns.