"Thor, if I may, Loki -- he's not doing what I think he's doing. Is he?"
Thor was unfazed by Fandral's sudden appearance at his side, interrupting his discussion with Volstagg. They all followed Fandral's line of sight through the throngs of people milling around them to pick out Loki and watch him. Watch him doing exactly what Fandral thought he was doing.
Loki caught sight of the three of them staring and rolled his eyes.
"My friends, you'll excuse me. I will have words with my brother."
"Perhaps our night will have life to it after all," Fandral said to Volstagg. Volstagg laughed.
Now it was Thor's turn to roll his eyes. He crossed the room swiftly, dodging courtiers, visiting dignitaries from Vanaheim, and the attentions of many lovely maidens, all of whom smiled at him as he passed. He returned every smile with one befitting a Prince of Asgard and host.
When he finally reached his brother's side, Loki was chatting with one of the Vanir Lords and his wife. Thor politely excused them, nudging Loki to the edge of the crowd. He leaned in close enough to be unheard by others.
"I know what you are doing. Stop it right now!" Thor chided. "Are you mad? If you are caught Father will be furious."
"I know not of what you speak, dear brother," Loki sniffed.
"I saw you lift that dagger off one of the Vanir Ambassador's advisers. Put it back."
"I will. In time."
"Loki," Thor hissed, grasping his brother by the arm and pulling him closer. "If this night ends up like the last Vanir visit to Asgard..."
Loki shot him an amused look. "What? You mean it'll end up in a wild brawl with everyone making spectacles of themselves?" he laughed. "You must admit, it was a glorious party."
"Father didn't think so."
Loki waved a hand dismissively. "Of course he had to say he disapproved, Thor. But anyone could see Father was just as bored as the rest of us. You have to admit the night livened up considerably after Lord Kela's wife punched Tyr in the face. I was helping."
"You were helping?" Thor was incredulous. "By stealing the war crest of Tyr's grandfather right off Tyr's armour and planting it on Lord Kela?"
"Well you have to admit it was funny the way it escalated from there. I did not think his wife would react so fiercely to her husband being accused of petty thievery. I must say, I fell a bit in love with her after that." Loki sighed dramatically and cast a fond look in the lady's direction.
The lady in question, Inga, noticed Loki looking her way and sent him a fond look of her own. Over the years Thor had seen her give similiar looks to her numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. Lady Kela was said to be one of Vanaheim's oldest citizens. No one could remember exactly how many times she'd been married, just that she had outlived every one of her late husbands.Thor once overheard an exchange between his father and uncle trying to guess her exact age, Odin swearing he remembered her being old when he was still a lad.
"Brother, you must stop this. While I would welcome a rampage of bilgesnipe through the hall at this point, you cannot provoke the Vanir, or Father, again."
"Oh yes, this party is truly dreadful," Loki said blithely. "Almost as bad as the last one. I do not understand how the Vanir manage to suck all the fun out of every room they walk into. I wonder if they do it on purpose?"
"I do not know, nor do I care." Thor took hold of Loki's arm again and began steering him into the crowd. Both princes smiled and nodded at people as they walked by.
"What I do care about," Thor continued sweetly, "is my little brother putting an end to his mischief and behaving like the proper prince of the realm I know him to be."
Loki stopped dead and stared at Thor.
"What?" Thor asked.
"Why Thor, I believe you are turning into Mother."
"Shut up." Thor gave him a shove. "Go. Be princely."
"Since you asked so nicely. I would not dream of ruffling your feathers further." Loki aimed a bright smile at the top of Thor's head before melting off into crowd.
"Cow," Thor muttered.
Thor scanned the room for his friends, spying them by a large pillar near one of the exits. Sif and Hogan had joined Volstagg and Fandral in his absence. They were clustered close together, talking amongst themselves. As Thor drew nearer he saw familiar signals and exchanges taking place. He wondered what they were wagering on.
* * * * *
It was some time later before Thor caught sight of Loki again. Thor was in an ongoing discussion of battle tactics amongst his father's war advisers and two Vanir generals when he saw Loki enter his field of vision. He could only stare in disbelief as Loki sauntered up behind one of the generals, pause, and then float away again. Had Loki taken complete leave of his senses? Their father's head was surely going to explode if he caught wind of this!
Thor searched the room for their parents. The king and queen were holding court on a dais at the far end of the room surrounded by Asgardian nobles and Vanir dignitaries. He calculated how quickly he could cut off Loki's current path and hustle him away and began to move, keeping an eye on their father for any sign of rising ire.
He stopped moving after a handful of steps and watched his father more closely. And watched. After a few minutes he was convinced his father knew exactly what Loki was doing. He was sure of it. Odin was determinedly not looking at his younger son as Loki swanned through the room stealing everything he could get his hands on. Thor didn't know where he was putting it all. Looking to his mother, he saw she was no better than his father. Each time Thor was sure Loki had taken something Frigga looked amused.
Thor sighed. He did not understand his parents sometimes. He was certain if he stole from their guests he would be confined to his living quarters until Ragnarok. But when Loki did it their father pretended not to see and mother thought it funny!
In his musings he lost track of Loki. He searched the crowd again, spying his friends first. They made an assortment of gestures, pointing to Loki's location and where each of them would like Thor to steer him.
Yes, the party was boring. If Thor hadn't been sworn to be on his best behavior by his father after the last event -- as if it had been his fault! -- he might have even joined in their wagering. As it was he refused to take part in their game of guessing who will throw the first punch tonight. He certainly wasn't going to help them by steering his brother closer to the person they'd chosen.
Sif made another emphatic gesture. Thor shook his head. He could hardly believe on whom she'd chosen to lay her wager.
As though his mother would do such a thing.
Thor made a gesture of his own at his friends. They laughed. Sif's eyes carried past him and she suddenly looked sheepish. Thor looked over. His father was looking right at him disapprovingly.
Thor made a small gesture of apology to his father and scanned the area for Loki. After failing to pick out horns above the heads of the crowd, Thor went searching in the direction his friends had earlier indicated, finally coming across him sitting and talking with Lady Kela.
"...reminds me of my third, no fourth husband," Lady Kela was saying. "Handsome man, but no fun whatsoever. You'd think he was Asgardian. No offense, dear."
"Oh, none taken," Loki said.
"I don't know what is about your people. You just don't seem to know how to have any fun. This party is dreadfully dull. At least the last one was livelier."
"I agree with you wholeheartedly, my lady."
Thor again interrupted their conversation to drag his brother beyond the earshot of passersby.
"Stop. It. Behave yourself!" Thor said through clenched teeth.
"What?" Loki blinked innocently at him.
Loki laughed. "Why should I?"
"Because these people are our allies and should be respected!"
"Now you sound like Father."
Thor glared. Loki yawned.
"Thor, you worry too much, truly."
"By the way, Brother, did you see the Lady Asa this night?"
Thor was caught off guard by the abrupt change in topic. "I don't think I've seen her yet, no. Why?"
Loki leaned in and nudged him to look to his right. "I'm thinking of starting a betting game regarding at what point her tits fall out of her dress. Think Fandral would be interested?"
Thor looked and had to admit Loki had a point. "Aye, I would put down coin, but as I see her father bearing down on her I think she will be more covered before long."
"Pity. Oh well. I suppose something else will happen to liven things up."
"Don't even think about it!"
"I'm sure I know not to what you are referring."
"Have you always been so very dull? How have I not noticed before now?"
Thor noticed their parents watching them. His mother looked very amused and his father...his father looked resigned. He said something to Frigga that made her laugh. Thor did not know what they found so entertaining.
"If another brawl breaks out during an official occasion because of you I will be blamed for it. Again!"
It still smarted that his father had placed some of the blame for the previous ruckus on Thor while Loki had received none. Thor had been trying to stop one of Vanir delegates from stabbing Baldur with some decorative, leafy branch pulled out of a floral arrangement. Surely some burns and scorching were forgivable under the circumstances?
His father hadn't agreed.
Loki arched an eyebrow. "And?"
"And if I am blamed for your mischief again, you, my dear brother, are going to make it up to me. In the sparring ring. Every day. Even if I must drag you there by your hair."
Loki's expression was a mix of narrow-eyed annoyance, defiance, and resignation. He hated sparring with Thor. It was always ended with Loki flat on his back in the dirt, blinking up at the sky.
"Why must you be so boring?" Loki said, exasperated. "Oh, very well. Since you are determined to spoil all my fun this night I will replace everything."
"You will leave all their possessions in their rooms for them to find when they retire?" Thor prompted, not putting it past Loki to leave everything within the room of someone he disliked.
Loki smirked at him. "Where is the challenge in that? No, I should think I'll put everything back where I found it." With that he turned smartly on his heel and wandered back into the crowd. Thor watched with no small amount of dismay -- as well as admiration -- as his brother casually sauntered through the throngs of guests, crossing the path of each of his former victims.
No one seemed to have noticed any of their possessions had gone astray all evening. They didn't notice Loki returning things any more than they had him taking them.
Thor saw his friends watching him disapprovingly. Sif and Fandral offered him some gestures that clearly indicated they agreed with Loki -- Thor was ruining the fun.
"Satisfied, Brother?" Loki asked some time later as he concluded his tour of the hall.
"You have returned everything you have stolen, then?"
"Borrowed. And yes, I have. Except this, of course."
Thor watched as Loki casually replaced one of the crests to the front of Thor's armor, sliding it easily in place mid-way down his torso. Thor stared in disbelief, he hadn't noticed it had gone missing.
"There now, all finished."
"You...you...I...how...." Thor sputtered.
"You're welcome. Good night, Thor." With a saucy smile, Loki turned away, waved at Lady Kela, and departed.
From across the hall, Thor swore he could hear his mother laughing.