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A true mark of any good Aesir was their honour, loyalty and willingness to do anything for their King or their Prince.

Loki, despite being a prince and a far better tactician than his fool of a brother, rarely gained the respect and obedience deserving of his rank.

He was disliked and second best and that meant he had to work harder. He also had to trick in order to gain what he wanted.

It was why, when Loki spotted the handsome weaponsmith and warrior Anthony Stark, he set about capturing his interest. It was difficult, but not impossible, and Loki got exactly what he wanted in the end; the other man in his bed.

The problem occurred when Loki wanted him there more frequently. He wanted the Aesir to follow him into battle and be a firm presence at his side. A friend, confidant and lover; Loki wanted the Aesir as his.

Loki worked slowly, letting their association build over months. He offered the other Aesir moments of trust and small rewards. He carefully pulled the man in, ever wary about losing Anthony’s interest and gaining his suspicion.

Loki could never win through honesty and honour. His only chance was underhanded tactics and the slow grind of persistence.

He could make this man loyal to him, it would just take time.

But time was something Loki suddenly did not have.

Loki had taken to inviting his weaponsmith on the adventures he was forced to attend with Thor. It gave him pleasant company and hinted at all Loki could offer if Anthony only swore loyalty to him.

Loki had known it was a risk to allow Anthony near Thor, but the benefits far outweighed the potential dangers – or, so he had assumed.

He had not expected Anthony to be so proficient and heroic in battle. He saved Thor, he fought with tricks but still with honour and when the battle was won, Thor threw an arm around Anthony’s shoulders and thrust Mjölnir into the sky with a battle cry.

Anthony was surrounded by Thor’s friends who were praising him. Loki stood to the side, scowling and crossing his arms. Anthony was smiling under the bombardment of affection; he didn’t notice Loki.

No one ever noticed Loki, not when blinded by the light and attention from Thor.

Loki seethed the entire walk back to the camp. His fury only increased when Thor pulled Anthony to sit beside him at the fire while they ate. Loki had every plan to make his displeasure known to Anthony the moment they were out of sight.

He was picking at a bread roll and glaring at the fire. They were finally winding down for the night when Thor spoke and made Loki’s blood turn to ice.

“You need not spend your night alone, Anthony. Come to my tent, we shall celebrate into the evening!”

Loki jerked his eyes to his brother and Anthony. They were sitting close and Thor’s arm was a heavy weight around the weaponsmith’s shoulders.

Thor had never discriminated in who he took as lovers; Fandral and Sif were frequently invited into his tent, but more often than not, he preferred a pretty maid from the village. The truth, however, was that unlike Loki, Thor merely had to gesture and any man or woman would come running.

Everyone wanted to be bedded by the Crown Prince.

Anthony would want to be bedded by the Crown Prince and solidify a far greater position than the bedmate of Prince Loki.

Loki could only stare, his heart tightening by bitterness and hurt. He kept his face blank, and it was good that he did because Anthony flicked his gaze to Loki’s only a moment later. His eyes were unreadable, but Loki held them regardless.

Did Anthony feel a moment of regret for his choice? Did he think he could accept Thor and still hope to bed Loki in the future?

It was a laughable idea that Anthony would want to return, but even if he did, Loki would not accept his brother’s cast offs. If Anthony chose Thor now, he would lose Loki in the same breath.

He had no idea if his expression conveyed his thoughts (but he doubted it, his mask was nothing if not perfect) but when Anthony turned back to Thor, Loki braced himself for what was to come.

“Thank you for the offer, my prince,” Anthony began, “but I am already spending this evening with Prince Loki.”

Loki’s breath caught in his throat and his eyes widened. The campfire fell silent as all eyes landed on Anthony. Thor looked completely stunned. It was the only reason Anthony could shake his arm off so easily.

Anthony stood and gave a polite bow to Thor, but pointedly made his way over to Loki and took a seat on the log beside him. He sat so close that their sides were touching. He was making his place, his preference, his loyalty clear.

Loki stared at him with astonishment and the first flames of sharp desire and aching affection.

He reached out and placed his own arm around Anthony’s shoulders, a mirror of Thor’s embrace and all the more startling in how Anthony leant into the touch. It showed a stark difference to how he had sat with Thor.

Loki grinned. It was an expression full of triumph and glee as he looked at his weaponsmith – not Odin’s, not Thor’s, but his.

For the first time in his life, Loki had the loyalty and willingness of an Aesir he wanted, and he hadn’t needed to lie or fight for it.