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The Beer Adventures

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“He’s agreed!”

Thor sped into the training grounds as if he were flying, barely managing to stop before crashing straight into Fandral. The other teenagers had all arrived before Thor, but thankfully Frømund was still absent and they had a little time to discuss this new development.

“He did? Yes! When? Was he drunk?” Fandral grasped his friend’s shoulders, eager to determine how definite the agreement was.

“No,” Thor said. “I ran into him in the corridor. That’s why I’m late. He finally agreed! We go tomorrow night.”

“Yes!”

He was referring, of course, to Volstagg. A week and a half ago, Volstagg had drunkenly promised to take Thor and Fandral to his favourite tavern, Ǫlfúss’s Inn. When the boys brought it up the next day, he had refused, much to their disappointment. They harassed him every day since, pleading, negotiating, threatening, charming, anything they could think of, until finally, today, Volstagg got tired of them. Finally, he had agreed. Thor and Fandral jumped up and down like a pair of girls who had just been asked to a dance. Sif cheered, Loki beamed, and Hogun – well, Hogun was Hogun.

“There are conditions, though,” Thor said. “We cannot tell a soul or he’ll get in trouble, he’s limiting us to two ales each, Hogun has to come because he’s the most responsible, and we have to promise not to start a fight. Oh, and Loki can’t come.”

“What! Why?” Loki looked stricken.

Thor put an apologetic hand on his shoulder. “Because you are too young, brother. He said you could come next year.”

“Next year?”

Fandral was a little pleased with this and immediately felt guilty. “Cheer up,” he mirrored Thor’s hand-on-shoulder gesture on Loki’s other side. “We’ll probably all make fools of ourselves anyway.”

“We’re almost the same age,” Loki argued, but the others were too excited to worry about him.

“The other conditions are fine, though,” Sif said. “Hogun was coming anyway and I’m sure once we get there he’ll forget about this two drinks rule.”

“I have heard good things about Asgardian ale,” Hogun said, breaking his silence. Fandral supposed Hogun had been to taverns before on Vanaheim. He wasn’t much older than them, but the age gap was wide enough. Still, half the fun was going with friends, not just going. Fandral and Sif both had older siblings who might have taken them if they were that eager, but that wasn’t the point.

Before they could discuss it any further, Frømund appeared. It would be a long wait until tomorrow night.

 

***

 

The wait was interminable. Fandral lay awake that night imagining what it would be like. In his mind, he and his friends threw open the door and the whole bar watched them open-mouthed as they entered in formation – he and Thor at the front, Sif and Hogun flanking them, and Volstagg standing at the back, visible over their heads. In reality, they wouldn’t be able to fit through the door in that arrangement, and Volstagg was no longer that much taller than them, but Fandral didn’t let reality interfere with his imaginings.

The next day, he paid hardly any attention in his studies and might as well not have been in training for all the effort he put in, though at least here he wasn’t the only one. Afterwards, he, Thor, Sif and Hogun had spent a very long time eating lunch and being excited together. Loki had skulked away immediately when Frømund excused them, clearly still upset that he was being excluded. Fandral didn’t really see what they were supposed to do about it, though. He was the youngest, and it hadn’t been their decision.

They had agreed to meet Volstagg just before the sun went down, and the day stretched on and on as if it would last forever. They had all gone home to change, and Fandral had selected his outfit carefully – crisp white under grass-green leather and his smart black boots. They reconvened for more food and the moment Sif looked out of a window and exclaimed that the sky was starting to darken, they leapt to their feet and hurried away.

They met Volstagg near the kitchens. They weren’t leaving through the main doors of the palace – too conspicuous – and Volstagg’s friends in the kitchen often let him use their staff entrance, so it was a natural fit. He had been hurriedly consuming a pie when they arrived, but quickly brushed away the crumbs and welcomed them.

“At last we are all met,” he said. “You needn’t all have dressed so finely. You’ll stand out.”

“Why, standing out is my aim,” Fandral declared, striking a theatrical pose.

Sif gave him a sharp shove and he lost his footing, nearly toppling to the ground. “Just don’t embarrass us, all right?”

Sif was likely to stand out the most, Fandral thought. Her clothes were well fitted, but they were men’s styles. Her friends were all used to seeing her like this, but she would probably attract quite a bit of attention from the general public, particularly as she was growing more beautiful by the day. More deadly, too, as anyone who dared to bother her would find out.

“Shall we depart?” Thor eagerly reminded them of their purpose and Volstagg shepherded them through the exit.

It was a fantastic feeling, flying through the streets in the sunset glow, lit up with amber light reflected by the canals, laughing and joking, feeling so grown up. The tavern wasn’t in the city centre, so they had to walk for a little while to get there and every step they took added to their anticipation.

When they arrived, the crowds on the streets had thinned significantly and the sun had set in earnest. The tavern was an old stone building, a little run down but inviting. Its name was painted over the door and a grubby wooden sign stuck out so that anyone approaching from the side could spot it easily. Volstagg turned to them.

“All right, best behaviour, ok?”

He opened the door and let them in before following himself.

There was no dramatic pause, no cessation of movement or gaping mouths from the punters already enjoying their drinks. The tavern barely acknowledged their arrival, and in fact, it wasn’t very busy. A few grizzled warriors and workmen sat around the place, sipping from steins and chatting in low voices. There were round tables of varying sizes and candles floating at strategic intervals, lighting the place dimly but warmly.

“Volstagg!” The man behind the bar greeted warmly, clasping arms with their large friend. “I see you’ve brought some friends.”

“Yes,” Volstagg replied, encouraging the teenagers to the bar. “Thor, Sif, Fandral and Hogun,” he said, indicating each of them in turn.

“An honour to meet you,” the barman said, bowing. “I’m Óspakr Ǫlfúss, the landlord of this establishment. What can I get for you?”

Sif, Thor and Fandral chattered animatedly, trying to decide what they wanted.

“My usual, please,” Volstagg said while they dithered.

He was quickly handed a foaming tankard.

Hogun was next to receive his drink, having quietly decided and ordered after Volstagg. Eventually, the remaining three decided to each get something different, so they could sample each other’s beverages. Fandral chose his based on the only thing he could judge – the label – and once they all had something in their hands, Volstagg led them to a round table in the corner, where they sat on a round bench that encircled it.

As it happened, the drinks were pretty gross, at least in Fandral’s opinion, but they drank anyway. Volstagg was much quicker than the others and the barman brought him a second drink before anyone else had finished. Much to the young friends’ disappointment, Volstagg did insist on sticking to his two drinks rule, but they felt themselves growing giddy and silly, laughing more loudly and talking more carelessly. It was brilliant fun, but got cut short rather quickly. After they had two drinks each, Volstagg herded them out and walked them each back home.

Fandral’s house was first, much to his annoyance, and his mother was still awake. Drifa opened the door at Volstagg’s knocking and thanked him for taking her son out, and it was then, with a jolt, that Fandral realised what the evening had really been. It hadn’t been a group of friends sneaking out to go drinking – Volstagg had asked their parents for permission! He had been their babysitter!

As soon as he got to his room he wrote a letter to Thor explaining his revelation and asking what he thought of it, sending it out on a raven immediately. Some time later, he got a reply. His friends had all come to the same realisation. All except Hogun, who had been in on it the whole time. They were outraged! Not only had Volstagg informed their parents, but he had been given money to pay and a curfew to hold to as well! Soon after Thor’s raven, another tapped at his window. This letter was from Sif.

“My friends,” she wrote, her handwriting a hurried scrawl. “We must put this right. Tomorrow night we go out again. Tell no one!”

 

***

 

The next day he didn’t have training or studies, thankfully, and could meet his friends straight away. He ate breakfast hurriedly, dodging his mother’s questions about his evening. He needed to get out and start plotting as soon as he could. He shoved his savings in his pocket and opened the door to go out when he felt a sharp tap on his shoulder. He turned around. Svala, his sister, stood behind him.

“Can I come?” she asked. He frowned.

“To what?”

“You’re going to another tavern, aren’t you? I just saw you taking your money with you.” She gave a smug little smile and he felt a stab of spite.

“Mind your own business,” he replied. “And no, you can’t come. You’re too young.”

She looked annoyed. “I’m the same age as Loki.”

“Yes, and he can’t come either.”

“That’s so unfair!”

“Too bad,” he threw her a mocking version of her own smug smile and left.

He sped to the palace, running into Sif along the way. They complained together as they went, deeply offended by Volstagg’s misleading. They went straight to Thor’s rooms, knocking on the door a little more violently than necessary.

He opened it, and upon seeing them, matched their outraged expressions with one of his own.

“Unbelievable, isn’t it?” he said, stepping aside for them to enter. “Our own friends.”

Fandral threw himself onto a chaise longue and Thor sat down on some nearby cushions. Sif remained standing.

“I have a plan,” she said. The boys sat up to attention to listen. “There’s a tavern in the city centre that my brothers go to. They won’t be there tonight, but I know it’s a good one. We have to dress to blend in, but it will be busy and no one will question us.”

“Excellent, Sif,” Thor said. “If it is loud and busy I think we shall have more fun, anyway. We may make some new friends.” With this he grinned at Fandral and received a grin in return. Fandral understood his suggestion – in a busy city-centre tavern they could meet girls.

Sif continued: “I think we should invite Hogun, too. I don’t think he meant to deceive us and I’d like to have him there.”

“We can bring Loki this time too!” Thor moved to stand up, as if he was going to run to his brother’s room and get him, but Fandral stopped him.

“No, Thor,” he said, “I told my sister she was too young to come, and if we bring Loki I will have to invite her after all or she’ll find out I lied.” He imagined Svala’s smug expression and it doubled his determination.

Thor looked a little pained. “But–“

“I agree with Fandral,” Sif said. “Loki can come next time.”

Sif and Fandral exchanged a glance. They both felt a bit guilty, but not enough to change their minds. Thor didn’t bring it up again.

 

***

 

They snuck out after nightfall and made their way through the streets. This time, their excitement came from the thrill of breaking the rules. Of course, while they might have felt very rebellious, they weren’t doing anything out of the ordinary for the average Asgardian teenager. As wealthy and important children, they had always been under a greater level of protection than ordinary Asgardian youths, and in reality, there was nothing unusual or dangerous about what they were doing – but it felt dangerous, and that’s what mattered.

They slipped into the tavern and swept their eyes across the crowd, checking for familiar faces, and, finding none, walked to the bar. This time they didn’t dither excitedly. This time they each picked the first thing they saw and ordered with confidence, as if they had been drinking that one specific ale for hundreds of years.

Drinks now in hands, they realised there was nowhere to sit. Fandral and Sif floundered momentarily.

“Worry not,” Thor said, drawing himself up to his full height. “I am the son of Odin! I will just ask one of these parties to stand for us.”

He made a move to approach a nearby table, but Hogun stopped him with a hand on his chest. “Don’t,” he said. “We can stand.”

Hogun led them to a spot at the back of the tavern where, though there were no seats, there were a few small tables – well, ledges more than tables – where they could rest their drinks as they stood.

“This is much better” Fandral exclaimed. “It’s bustling, it’s loud, there are girls here…”

“There was a girl at the other place too,” Sif reminded him, gesturing to herself.

“Yeah, but you don’t count,” Thor said, and Fandral saw Sif looking hurt in his peripheral vision. He wasn’t too concerned about that, though. Not when there was so much else to see.

Groups of friends laughed and drank, revelling in the laid-back atmosphere and the warm light. He saw couples romancing each other and potential future couples flirting. The beer foamed and sloshed, the wine glittered and platters of snacks were brought round by large-bosomed barmaids in flattering dresses. Yes, this certainly was better than the other place, and he realised Volstagg must have brought them to Ǫlfúss’s Inn for that exact reason – it was a bar for drinkers, not a bar for revellers. Far less temptation when all a bar contained was gnarled old men and ale.

They drank. And drank more. And drank more. Eventually they were able to get a table, stumbling over when a group of friends decided to leave. Then they drank more again. Fandral was finding the whole thing pretty hilarious. He didn’t think he was that drunk, but the others were. Thor was talking very loudly about something to do with being the prince and Sif leaned on him heavily, responding as if she were much more interested in what he was saying than she actually was. Even Hogun, though still quiet, was wearing a goofy smile and leaning on their table for support. Fandral went to take another swig of his mead, but when he tipped the stein over his mouth, not a drop came out.

“I’m empty!” he cried. “Thor. I’m out of gold. Gimmesum.” He stretched his hand over the table, waggling his fingers.

“There!” A bag of gold dropped into his hand. “Get me some too.”

“And me!” Sif pointed at his face unnecessarily.

Fandral frowned at the bag. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, I don’t need this.” He fumbled with the bag and took out a few coins before shoving it back.

It came straight back to him. “Takeitall.” Thor slurred.

“No,” Fandral protested.

A hand reached out for the bag. It was Hogun. “I will look after it,” he said, putting his other hand on Fandral’s arm and leaning in. “I will give it back to him tomorrow when he is sober.”

Fandral rose to his feet and leaned down onto Hogun’s shoulder. “You are a good friend, my friend. A very friend. Good. Drink?”

Hogun nodded and Fandral lurched to the bar.

When he got there, the barmaid smirked at him. In actuality, she was trying not to laugh at the way his eyes couldn’t focus and he had to grip the bar in a vice grip to avoid falling over, but in Fandral’s mind, she was flirting with him most shamelessly.

“Hello, my beauty. My flame-haired goddess,” he said, attempting a seductive smile. “I would have two of your finest meads and two of your finest ales.”

“One for you and three for your friends, I presume?” the woman did an excellent job keeping a relatively straight face.

“That’s right, my rose… bush…” Hmmm. He could tell he hadn’t quite hit the mark with that endearment, but he wasn’t sure where it had gone wrong.

A minute or two later and he had his drinks.

“I’d make two trips if I were you,” the barmaid said. “You don’t want to drop anything.”

“Nonsense!” He carefully inserted his fingers through the handles of the steins – two per hand – and lifted. It didn’t go perfectly, and a fair amount of liquid sloshed over his hands, but they were off the bar, which was a success in his book. He dipped his head to the barmaid and returned to his friends, spilling only some additional liquid on the way.

“I think she likes me,” he said, jerking his head back at the barmaid.

“Of course you do,” Sif said with a snort. Fandral wasn’t sure if he just hadn’t noticed before, but Sif seemed to have moved even closer to Thor and had not only her head on his shoulder, but a hand on his bicep, too. Fandral narrowed his eyes, examining his friends’ posture, but was soon distracted by a trio of young women sweeping past their table.

At the end of the evening, when the tavern kicked them out, Fandral had to find his own way home. Hogun and Thor both lived in the palace and Sif’s house was on the way. They were all too drunk and tired to plan a route back that worked for them all, so he had been waved off in the general direction of his house and the others stumbled off without him.

He stopped to rest and to gaze at the moonlight playing on the surface of the canals a few times, but made it back without incident. Once he had thought he’d seen his sister darting down the streets ahead of him, but he reasoned that there were plenty of blonde girls in Asgard and the likelihood of it being Svala was really quite negligible. He tried to be as quiet as he could on his street, hoping that his mother hadn’t noticed his absence and that he wouldn’t inadvertently wake her.

If he woke anyone going in, they didn’t make it apparent. He pulled off his shoes and overcoat and climbed into bed, falling asleep the moment his head hit the pillow.

 

***

 

The next day in training they were all very groggy, but it wasn’t as bad as they’d expected. Hogun informed them that it was well-known that younger people didn’t suffer as much from the after-effects of alcohol, and that they should all make the most of it while it lasted. They ran through a few drills while they were still Frømund-free, giving themselves a bit of an extra warm-up so that their exhaustion might not be so evident.

Fandral noticed that a nervous Thor was glancing repeatedly at the entrance.

“What is it? Scared old Frømund will see you struggling?” he needled his friend.

Thor shook his head. “I haven’t seen Loki since our last training session. I think he’s angry with me.”

Fandral shook his head. “If he’s angry that’s no concern of yours. You don’t have to bring him everywhere you go.”

He could tell Thor didn’t agree, but he wasn’t going to waste his energy dealing with it. He was tired enough as it was.

Frømund arrived soon after this exchange, and Thor’s worry increased, but Loki arrived a little way into their warm-up, looking distinctly chipper, and had a short word with Frømund. Fandral didn’t catch what they spoke about, but he guessed it was the reason for his tardiness because Frømund wasn’t angry and didn’t make Loki do any extra push-ups.

It was a long session – or rather, it felt long because they were so worn out after their long night. Well, most of them were. Frømund seemed baffled to suddenly have his least-favourite student performing best and all the others looking like they wanted to curl up and sleep. The exercise did help, though, and by the end they were feeling much more energised and ready to face the day.

When Frømund released them, Thor and Loki had to go to their tutor, so the friends parted ways, making plans to eat together that night. When they reconvened, Sif had a suggestion.

“There’s another tavern,” she said, “near the last one. It specialises in mead. I think we should go.”

“What, today?” Fandral asked around a mouthful of chicken.

“Why? Don’t you want to?” she responded, eyebrows raised.

When he stopped to think about it, he would be perfectly happy to go again tonight. Maybe he wouldn’t drink quite so much this time.

“All right, I’m in.”

“I am in,” Hogun added.

“You know I am,” Thor said before nudging his brother. “Do you want to come tonight? I regretted leaving you behind last time.”

Loki glanced around as if he hadn’t been listening to their conversation. “Sorry? Oh, no. I have plans.”

“What plans?” Thor frowned.

“Personal plans.”

“Well, suit yourself,” Fandral interrupted the conversation before Thor could convince his brother to change his mind. He felt another stab of guilt, but waved it away. Loki didn’t want to come, and besides, it wasn’t that he had anything personally against Thor’s brother – it was only that his presence changed the dynamic and they’d had so much fun last night. He didn’t want it to be different. Or at least that’s what he said to make himself feel better.

 

***

 

They went out that night, and the next night, and the night after that. Fandral had long ago run out of pocket money, but the advantage of going out with a prince in your group was that his gold never ran out. They learned some better ways to look after themselves, too. Drink lots of water, eat something, drink more water, eat some more. Apart from being a bit tired, they found they could go out in the evening and be able to perform decently in training without too much effort. It became routine.

What was less easy was keeping it all secret from his mother. There were a few times when he was nearly caught entering the house, or she checked on him and he had to pretend not to be drunk. Thor’s solution to this was that he stayed with him in the palace – he could tell his mother he would be staying there before he left in the morning, and she would be none the wiser. Sif had similar problems, but her youngest brother, Halli, had offered to help her. He let her in through the window when she came home, laughing at her various states of drunkenness. Hogun had commented that it was a testament to the friendship that Sif’s brother trusted her friends to keep her safe, and Fandral agreed. He didn’t tend to think of Sif as a girl or a sister, but when he compared her family to his, he had to admit that he would never help Svala sneak into the house if she was out drinking with a load of boys every night. He would turn her in immediately.

They all knew that eventually this would have to stop. Not drinking in general, but this habit of going every night. It wasn’t sustainable. At some point they would be too tired, too ill, or they would get caught. In the end, though, it wasn’t any of those things that stopped them.

On the night that ended their bingeing streak, they went to that first tavern again. The busy one with the busty barmaids. They were quite drunk, but Fandral was holding back tonight. He had had enough of watching the pretty girls go by and being too drunk for his flirting to be successful.

“Yeah, so I’m one of prince Thor’s closest friends. We train together. I’m going to be a warrior of the realm,” he was saying to a chestnut-haired girl in a pale blue dress. She seemed to be responding well, leaning in a little bit, asking questions.

“What’s your weapon of choice?” she purred.

“Why, my mighty sword!” he pretended to draw one from his belt, eliciting a laugh.

“Mmmm, I’d like to see it,” the girl responded and Fandral suddenly felt very out of his depth. The girl took a step closer and brushed her lips on his. He felt quite lightheaded.

“Fandral,” Hogun’s voice came from behind him.

He could have smacked him. “Yes, Hogun?”

“We may have a problem.”

Fandral turned so he could see where Hogun was pointing and he nearly retched. Thor and Sif were sat at a table on the far end of the room, kissing. Passionately. It was like watching two of his relatives. Horrified, Fandral turned back to Hogun.

“Why would you show me that? I didn’t want to see that.”

“What should I do?” Hogun seemed genuinely lost.

Fandral gave a frustrated sound. “I don’t know. Maybe we should leave them to it?”

“They do seem to be enjoying themselves,” the girl said. Fandral realised she still had her hands on him. His disgust started to wane as his mind came back to what he was doing.

“You know what, Hogun, you do what you think is best,” he said, turning back to the girl.

Some time later, a little while after he and the girl had found their own corner to kiss in, Hogun appeared again.

“Fandral,” he said, looking more worried.

“Odin’s beard, Hogun, what?” The girl’s hand had been migrating down his chest and it stopped immediately when they were interrupted.

“Thor…”

Fandral followed Hogun’s pointed finger. Sif was nowhere to be seen now and Thor had acquired a new partner – a blonde girl in a turquoise dress.

“What happened to Sif? Did they finally realise what they were doing?”

“No, she went outside for air,” Hogun said, and as he did, time seemed to slow down. Fandral saw the doors open and Sif walk in. Then he saw Sif looking around for Thor.

“Sif!” he called, desperately. “Sif, over here! Hogun, stop him.”

But it was too late. Sif had spotted the blonde girl and her face grew thunderous.

Before he or Hogun could to anything else, Sif had marched over to them and wrenched the girl away by her hair. The poor thing didn’t know what was happening before Sif’s fist hit her square on the cheekbone. The bar erupted.

The blonde girl’s friends ran to her, then some of them rounded on Sif. Poor drunk Thor was only able to process that his friend was being threatened and stood in the way, making himself a target as well. Thor and Sif fought clumsily, but they were excellently trained and were doing far more damage to the other group than they received themselves. This brought more strangers into the fight, as people tried to defend what they saw as the innocent party – after all, Sif had started it – and soon it was chaos. Fandral quickly apologised to the girl he was with and he and Hogun raced to their friends, hoping to pull them out. It was no use, however, and the fighting only ended when a particularly burly man employed behind the bar came forward and plucked Thor and Sif out of the fray and threw them out of the door. Fandral and Hogun, as friends of the troublemakers, were promptly thrown out after them.

“How DARE you!” Sif bellowed at Thor not even five seconds after their removal.

“How dare I what?” he defended, matching her volume.

“I was gone for two minutes!”

“You’re not my wife, Sif. I can do what I want.”

Fandral threw himself between his friends. “Come on, you two. No need to fight. It was a misunderstanding.”

“No, it wasn’t,” Sif hissed. “He just can’t be trusted if there’s some stupid bimbo in the room!”

Thor snorted. “I suppose you count yourself among my stupid bimbos then, do you?”

“Don’t!” Sif yelled, drawing close enough to hit him.

“Stop it!” Fandral roared. Sif and Thor stopped and stared at him. He suddenly felt under a lot of pressure to say something helpful. “Let’s go home.”

“Yes,” Hogun agreed, stepping next to Fandral. He was glad of the support.

“I’ll go to the palace with you, Thor. Sif can go with Hogun,” Fandral said.

Sif and Thor were still fuming, and Sif still looked like she was going to put her fist in his mouth, but they conceded. Hogun squeezed Fandral’s shoulder and they parted ways.

Thor and Fandral walked at first in silence. They were halfway there when Thor spoke.

“That was my fault, wasn’t it?” he said. Fandral looked at him. He seemed pretty ashamed.

“I think it was,” Fandral replied, hoping his agreement wouldn’t make Thor angry again. “But I didn’t know you had anything with Sif. When did that happen?”

“I don’t,” Thor said. “It only happened tonight. I don’t think it will continue though.”

Fandral laughed. “Really? You don’t?”

The tension was easing. “It was uncomfortable, anyway,” Thor said.

“I was nearly sick when I saw you.”

“Really?”

Fandral nodded. “It was like watching cousins.”

Thor laughed now, a full belly laugh. They still felt the weight of what had happened, but the laughter calmed them, and they started feeling normal again. Fandral was sure it would all be fine tomorrow. A little awkward at first, maybe, but once they were all sober and in the light of day this would all seem trivial – and if it didn’t, Sif could take her anger out on Thor in training.

The walk sobered them up significantly, but they still took a snack from the kitchens on the way back. They were nearly at Thor’s rooms, now, snacking and feeling much better, when a sudden sound in the corridor froze them to the spot. At first they couldn’t tell what it was and thought they might be discovered, but as they stood still and listened they realised it was a choked sob. They listened a little longer before Thor carried on, peering into the alcoves that lined the corridor to find the source of the sobbing.

Fandral hadn’t quite caught up with him when Thor stopped.

“Loki?”

What? Fandral sped up a little to see for himself, and sure enough when he reached the alcove Thor was looking into, he saw the younger prince there, trying to hide his face from his brother.

“What is it? Why are you crying? Why are you here?” Thor sat down next to Loki, reaching out a hand to touch his shoulder.

The younger boy pulled away. “Nothing. I’m fine. You can leave.”

“You are not fine,” Thor pressed. “Talk to me.”

Fandral felt very uncomfortable. He took a step back. “I’ll go on ahead,” he said. “This looks like a brothers thing.”

Thor nodded to him and handed him the keys he would need to get into his rooms.

Fandral walked away, Thor’s voice growing quieter as he went. He wouldn’t find out what had happened to Loki for another year and a half, but that’s a whole other story.

 

***

 

The next day, as Fandral predicted, things were a bit awkward. Sif couldn’t look at any of them, clearly not only upset about what happened but embarrassed by her reaction to it. All of Loki’s cheerful energy was gone now, and Thor stood a little nearer to him than usual. Not that the younger prince appreciated this protectiveness. He was repeatedly scooting away from Thor, only to have his brother move closer again. Hogun just looked tired, and Fandral didn’t know how he himself looked, but he felt rough.

It was two more days before things started getting back to normal. Sif was able to look at them, and even to talk to Thor without scowling, which had been a struggle so far. They all recharged their batteries a bit, becoming less groggy and more like their usual selves. After nearly a week, Loki cracked a smile. Yes, it had been because Fandral had accidentally smacked himself in the face with his own sword, but a smile was a smile. A little while later, they had all eaten lunch together without incident and within two weeks, Sif and Thor were as good friends as they ever were.

This wasn’t the end of sneaking out to taverns – not by a long shot – but they knew now how far they could push it before something snapped, and they made sure not to let it go that far. They expanded their group to include Loki, who actually improved the dynamic, much to Fandral’s surprise, and occasionally Sif’s brothers joined them too. There was, thankfully, no repeat of the incident that had caused them all that trouble.

In fact, it was a good year and a half before the next fight broke out.