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The Birds are Mocking Me

Author: Leopard
Rating: Moderate
Status: In Progress



An Angel!Asgardians AU. Loosely follows the plot of Thor and Thor 2. Very loosely.

It is with great anticipation that an Asgardian child waits for their wings. For Loki, he watches his brother growing up, getting his wings and whatever he wants. Then again, Thor is the golden one and Loki's the trickster. It can be said for sure that their childhood is not uneventful; or full of tears and heartbreak and pain.

Unlikely to ever be finished!!! probably wip forever

I

Loki was pulled from his sleep by his brother poking him in the side. Why in Valhalla was Thor awake at this hour? Loki grunted and sat up, small hands rubbing tired eyes.

"What is it, Thor?" Thor grinned madly and jumped onto his brother's bed before turning so his back was facing Loki.

"Look!" Loki bent forwards slightly. Sure enough, through Thor's bed-shirt, two lumps protruded from just underneath his shoulder blades. Loki gasped, suddenly understanding Thor's excitement. His wings. Of course, Loki thought. Today Thor turned ten years old (one Asgardian year being equal to five Midgardian ones). And for the Aesir, that was when their wings began to grow.

Loki leant over Thor's shoulder. "Happy Birthday, brother!" He paused and looked at Thor's back again. "Can I touch them?" Thor laughed and looked at his brother over his shoulder.

"Go ahead." Loki reached out and felt the little stubs of Thor's newly formed wings. Loki imagined how they might look once they grew to their full size: large and grand. He knew how he wanted his to be. Middle sized, pointed at the tips and with his favourite shade of green along the top. He expected Thor's would be red somewhere.

Thor jumped up, startling Loki. "Come on Loki! Let's go find mother and father!" Thor was about to race off but Loki stopped him. Thor looked at him, confused. Loki smiled as he gestured for his brother to turn around. He obeyed. With a deep breath, Loki focused on using seidr, thinking about what Frigga had taught him and what he had learned in his classes and then - It had worked! Thor's wings now stuck out of his shirt through little slits Loki had created.

"Woah!" gasped Thor. "That's really weird! Now come on!" Thor grabbed Loki's hand and all but dragged him to the main hall where Odin and Frigga stood waiting. Thor ran over, leaving Loki at the door. Loki didn't mind. Thor was just excited and anyway he had come to Loki first.

"Father, look!" Thor span around several times before jumping in front of his father. Odin looked at Thor fondly, his own wings puffing up with pride. Loki walked quietly over to Frigga while Odin fussed. Loki wrapped his arms around his mother's waist. One of her wings curled around him gently.

"Don't worry." she said to his quietly. "Your time will come soon and I'm sure your father will be just as proud of you as he is of Thor." They looked over to where Odin was helping Thor open his presents. Loki looked away quickly. He knew his father much favoured Thor. That was okay, though, because he was almost sure that when he got his wings Odin would be pleased too. Right?

Frigga looked down at Loki and smiled. There was a sadness in her eyes that Loki could not see. "I'll be proud of you." Loki smiled genuinely at his mother.

Odin interrupted at this point. "And now, time for the most important present of them all." Loki knew exactly what it was because Odin had given him the look. How was he to know that playing a silly prank would get the handle f Thor's new toy forged a bit short? It wasn't like the hammer was un-usable now. Loki looked to the floor as Odin passed Mjolnir to Thor. "Only the finest for my son." he said. Thor's face lit up as he took the hammer. Frigga shot Odin a look that neither of the boys noticed. Odin simply ignored her.

"Come on, Loki!" Thor whined, tugging on Loki's shirt. "Let's play!" Loki reluctantly dodged Thor's terribly aimed swings. Frigga called out for them to take care. Odin announced that the only way for them to learn was to make mistakes. Frigga muttered something under her breath too quietly to be heard.

By the time the big feast came, Loki had been hit in the head more than once. It was the first time Loki had been glad of the warriors three. They all enjoyed being hit a lot more than he did. Sif had been joining in too, but took a moment to talk to Loki.

"We'll get ours soon." she said. Loki smiled thinly. "You sooner than I. I have to wait another whole year." Loki hated the fact he'd been shoved into all of Thor's classes when he was a year younger than everyone else. He might have been clever, but physically he was no match: he was shorter, weaker and preferred magic to fighting. Which of course meant he was mocked constantly. In fact, Sif was the only one who had been at all kind to Loki. She understood what it was like to be the odd one out, being the only female warrior just as Loki was the only male sorcerer. "Don't worry, Loki. A year is hardly anything. You'll see."

~~~

The fact that a year was short in an Aesir lifetime didn't stop Loki's year being like Hel. Thor's wings grew fast and as Loki had predicted they were going to be large and were tipped with deep red just like his cape. Sif's wings also grew, and were a similar shape to Frigga's, though instead of being blue-green and gold, Sif's were a gradient of deep pink-purple to off-white.

Loki, however, still had nothing. After everyone else had their wings, he still had nothing. They were almost cruel, calling him wingless and bare-back and flicking his shoulders every time the passed him. Thor has stepped up in his defence, but Loki was terrified that soon Thor would tire of babysitting and join in. And yet after almost every night of Loki crying himself to sleep next to Thor, Thor never stopped.

On the eve of Loki's birthday, he did not cry once. He didn't go to school either, skiving off and reading of Bor and Malekith. It was far more interesting than being picked on.

As the evening drew in, Thor came to Loki's room, hitting his wings off the door frame. He'd not quite gotten used to navigating with them yet.

"Where were you today?" he asked, sounding concerned.

"Here." answered Loki truthfully. It was obvious that he had been sat there all day, and he hated lying to Thor anyway.

"Sif missed you." Loki sat up at that. Then he sighed. For a moment he had though that she might have wanted to just be nice to him. Why would she though? She was far too 'cool' for him. Everyone was.

"Only to insult me I suppose." said Loki bitterly. Thor sat down next to him on the windowsill, wrapping one wing behind his brother. "Actually, she told me to tell you good luck. She doesn't hate you at all, you know." Loki looked at Thor with mock surprise. "Wow! I thought everyone did!" Loki turned his head away, feeling tears prick his eyes. He was not going to cry now. Thor's wing hugged him even more tightly.

"I do not hate you, Loki. I never could. And neither does Sif. If perhaps you were not so cold all the time-"

"So you're saying I could get more people to like me if I simply laughed off their comments and insults?" Loki stood up, his eyes burning. "Why don't I just join in?" He marched over to his bed and sat, bringing his knees to his chest. Thor said his name half-half-heartedly before going to sit next to him again.

Loki refused to look at him, but Thor's strength could not be matched and soon Loki's arms were pinned to his sides as Thor forced him to turn and make eye contact. He wiped a tear from his brother's cheek, concern written plainly all over his face.

"You know that's not what I meant at all. You know I would defend you every day of eternity from those idiots. What I was saying was actually not to be so cold to Sif because she cares about you a lot, whether you see it or not." Thor released Loki.

"I wish I was more like you." said Loki, quieter than a whisper. If only he was strong and brave and good. If only he was everyone's favourite. If only.

"Aw, Loki." Thor said sadly. "Don't say that." A sudden rage clouded Loki's thoughts. Couldn't Thor see how pathetic he was in comparison?

"Just because it's easy for you, don't assume it is any less hard for me! Everyone loves you! You're the strongest and the bravest and the kindest and the best and I'm just your little brother, the silly little sorcerer boy, the trickster, the stupid liar! It's Thor and Loki, never, ever Loki and Thor. It's- I'm- I'm-" Loki dissolved and became taken over by heaving sobs as he fell against Thor's chest. Thor just held him until the tears finally stopped falling so heavily.

"Norns, Loki, you'd almost think you were wicked. And you're not. You're my brother, and that means I will always be here for you, okay?" Loki nodded. Thor inhaled deeply.

"Can you cope tonight?" Loki nodded again, wiping his eyes. Thor nodded once. "It'll all be better tomorrow."

"It better." As Thor left, Loki smiled a little. Tomorrow would be better. Tomorrow he would get his wings.

II

Loki screamed. A glass cup flew across the room in a delicate arc until its path was abruptly halted by the wall, shattering it into pieces. Raining glass. Loki knelt amongst the shards. Where were they? He was ten now too, where were his wings? He ripped off his shirt to examine his back in the mirror.

Nothing.

Thor's had been clearly visible, where were his? If anything was not fair, this was it. His wings were going to spare him misery, and they didn't even exist. Breathe. Thor would come along soon and be excited. Maybe he could cast an illusion, make it look like he had wings. Loki didn't know if he could. He could try. Lucky him, he wouldn't get a feast or a party and he could probably hide all day. He just had to trick Odin and Thor. He could never trick Frigga; she had taught him all his tricks. But she wouldn't mind.

Loki took several quick breaths and one long deep one before sweeping away the glass. He had to make it look like everything was completely fine. He thought about what Thor's wings had looked like, and Sif's, and focused on making a realistic looking illusion. It worked well enough, he supposed. It would trick those who didn't know what they were look for. That was the aim.

Sure enough, Thor burst into his room not long after with a huge grin on his face.

"Let's look!" Loki forced himself to smile and turned his back to Thor.

"See!" said Thor happily. "I told you!"

"Yeah." murmured Loki, wondering what he'd say if he knew the truth.

"Come on then!" Loki blinked at Thor, not understanding what he meant. Thor frowned.

Loki swore at himself. He was doing a fantastic job of tricking Thor. He forced a smile again.

"Sorry, it's just really weird." Loki lied. He hated lying to his brother, he hated it. Thor, though, was unsuspecting and simply grinned.

They ran together to the great hall, Thor pulling Loki still. Odin and Frigga both stood in wait. Loki noticed a distinct lack of grandeur in the room, unlike how it had looked for Thor. No candles, no decorations, no presents. Typical then.

Loki walked cautiously up to his father, heart racing. He plastered a huge fake smile on his face and turned to show Odin the illusion.

"Look, father!" Odin almost looked impressed.

"Now you have the makings of a real prince."

"Father," Thor started, seeming uncomfortable at the lack of grandeur for Loki's birthday. Loki was surprised Thor had even noticed. Loki's birthday was just before Thor's, and every year it was the same: Loki got overlooked and Thor got over-glorified. "What about Loki's presents? I mean-"

"Loki should be grateful for what he has." Odin cut him off sharply. Thor's silence was full of unsaid words.

Loki turned to Frigga. She had a carefully calculated expression, enough to show she knew but not enough to give him away.

"I'm proud of you." said, producing a box from behind her back and handing it to Loki. With real excitement he opened it. Within lay a dagger. The box fell to the floor as Loki gripped the handle with awe.

"Thank you, mother!" Frigga bent down to kiss his forehead.

"You're welcome, my son." In a low voice, she added "And in time you will learn not to let illusions slip with emotion."

With horror, Loki realised he was no longer casting his illusion. Yet it was still there. Frigga had saved him. They both knew how Odin would be if he found out that Loki's wings had grown. He was already furious about the dagger, glaring at it, Loki and Frigga alternately.

After Thor and Loki had played for a little while, Odin dismissed them without even so much of a happy birthday. Frigga swept Loki up and took him to a room on the far side of the palace. She locked the door.

Loki burst into tears. "Why? Where are they?" Frigga sat him on her knee, allowing him to hug her tightly and weep into her shoulder.

"Sometimes it takes longer for wings to develop." she explained once Loki had calmed down a little. "It is not uncommon for them to grow after a tenth birthday. Of course, you expected them, but it was clever to use your magic. It was not perfect, but it fooled Thor and it fooled your father."

"That was the plan." sniffed Loki.

"I know you are disappointed, and I know you must feel terrible for not having the celebration Thor did – and believe me, I tried to persuade the Allfather into either celebrating Thor's less or yours more – but remember that Thor would not have been as clever as you have been. He wouldn't have coped at all." Loki nodded slightly, imagining what would have happened if Thor's wings hadn't grown straight away. He'd have thrown a tantrum.

"I will make an agreement with you." said Frigga, her tone now serious. "I will cast the illusion for you at your feast and you will act as though nothing is wrong. And then you may skip your classes until they grow, under the act of illness." That sounded like a good deal to Loki. He didn't really want to go to the feast at all, but he hated his schooling even more.

"Deal." said Loki. Frigga smiled with the underlying, hidden sadness. Loki did not notice.

"And you must go and tell Thor." Loki's face dropped as he held the door handle. "He won't mind." Telling Thor was something he was less keen on doing.

~~~

"So you lied." said Thor simply, his voice and face devoid of emotion. Loki looked to the floor, cheeks reddening with shame. He could not look his brother in the eye. Or look at him at all. He said nothing. Thor didn't move.

"I'm sorry." mumbled Loki.

Had Loki been watching Thor, he would have seen him turn away, angry, disappointed, before taking a deep breath – which Loki heard and thought to be a sigh – and stepped forwards. Thor's hand came to rest on Loki's shoulder. Loki looked up in surprise and their eyes met.

"I understand why you did it." said Thor with the same calculatedly little emotion Frigga had used. "But please," Thor moved his hand to grip the back of Loki's neck. "Don't ever lie to me like that again."

Loki felt tears prick his eyes. Angrily, he clenched his fists. "I promise." He meant it, but yet he couldn't help but notice the sickening feeling inside that told him he wouldn't be able to keep his promise. Thor smiled, small but genuine at Loki's words. It definitely was genuine, after all, Thor was a terrible, terrible liar.

"So, we have a feast to get ready for, then?"

Reluctantly, Loki let Thor help him get ready, half-heartedly pushing his brother away every now and again. No matter how hard he tried, Loki could not stop Thor.

Eventually, he gave up all together, knowing that if all the other warriors couldn't beat Thor there was no way that he ever could.

"Shall we go then?" Thor asked when they were ready, although it was more a statement. Loki nodded as Thor opened the door. Thor paused.

"What are you going to… How are you going to- uh- to-" he gestured wildly at Loki.

"Oh, uh, mother's going to cast an illusion. We- we made an agreement." Thor nodded. Loki wondered if Thor could guess that he wasn't going to go to school for the next however long.

"Sif's going to be glad to see you, you know." Thor added as they headed towards the hall where more of the feasts were held.

Loki made a mental note to completely avoid her.

~~~

Loki hated every second of the feast. He was avoiding everyone, but especially Sif and his father to avoid questions, and then also Thor and the warriors three because he really didn't want to get mocked. Really, he wanted to go and sit with Frigga but that wasn't an option either. Why did feasts have to have the milling around and talking to people bit before eating? It was awful.

At last they sat down to eat. Loki decided that in fact, this was worse. Now he couldn't escape at all from being close to all those he really didn't want to talk to. He'd been successful in his efforts to avoid everyone before this. And then, for a second, he expected Odin to stand and make a speech for him like he had for Thor. Instead everyone just started eating. Loki sighed inside. Why did he even bother getting his hopes up?

Loki sat in between Odin and Thor; Odin was at the head of the able. Frigga sat opposite Loki and the warriors three a little further down. Sif, however, was on the other side of Thor. Loki decided it would be easier to lie to his father than even to look at her. Odin seemed preoccupied but Loki tried his luck anyway.

"Father," Odin turned to look at Loki. A start, at least. Usually he couldn't get his father's attention at all.

"What is it, Loki?" Before Loki could say anything else, he was interrupted by Odin's disapproving stare. "Why have you not eaten? You know you'll never be strong like Thor is if you do not eat all your food." Odin looked over at Thor, pride written all over his face. Loki's mouth twitched.

"I know father, I just-" Odin cut him off again, speaking through a mouthful of whatever it was he was eating.

"Speak up boy, we're angels not bats like those filthy Jotuns." Loki repeated himself loudly.

"I said, I know, I'm simply feeling a little ill. That's all."

"Ill? You're not eating enough, that's why. Not enough food or exercise and too much sitting on your lazy bottom reading rubbish. I have half a mind to take your books and ban you from the library until you learn what being a proper Aesir is." Loki couldn't help his mouth opening.

"But father, I-" Odin raised his hand.

"Enough, Loki. If anything, pretend to be enjoying yourself. You look like a miserable goat." Loki looked down, tears threatening to fall again. He would not cry. He would not cry. Not now. Not here. Not in front of Sif. He clenched his fists hard under the table, feeling his nails bit into his palms. Frigga looked across at him. Damn. The tears formed on his eyelashes.

"Why don't you try some of this, Loki?" she said gently, passing a bowl of what looked like stew. He took a deep, quiet breath and forced himself to shove more food into his mouth. And swallow.

He was more than glad when the eating was over. He was less glad that dancing was to follow. He half hoped Sif would still want to dance even near him after he'd ignored her all evening. He frowned angrily. Why did he think about Sif so often? Fortunately, he managed to stay out of everyone's way for the most part. Thor tried to talk to him a few times, but Loki gave only one word or less answers. He eventually gave up.

Sif saved approaching Loki until it was almost time for everyone to depart. Loki was sat alone, thinking about how stupid the whole feast was and how horrible Odin was and Sif. He jumped when she sat next to him. She laughed.

"You're on edge tonight, Loki." He felt his heart jump into his throat. This was not normal.

"I'm just tired." He heard the excuse leave his lips and cringed inside.

"I'm surprised you're not up celebrating. Now Fandral won't be able to pick on you as much, right?" She smiled softly and rested her hand on Loki's knee. He felt like he couldn't breathe.

"Yeah." he said weakly. It would be true if he had his wings. Everything would be better if they'd grown when they were supposed to. Sif embraced him with one of her wings. Loki couldn't help but think they were beautiful; deep ping along the ridge from her shoulder to the tips, fading down into off-white. They were nowhere near full size yet – neither were Thor's – but Loki imagined from a moment how glorious they would be.

"You're less clumsy than Thor is." said Loki. Sif grinned.

"Thor thinks he knows everything and therefore doesn't need to learn or practice. And so he hasn't. So while he's still messing on, crashing into things, I can do this." Sif raised her eyebrows, extended her wings fully and hit Loki on the nose with one of the tips. Loki giggled.

"I hope I can do that soon." he said. Sif pushed her blonde hair from her face, tucking it behind her ear.

"You will. It takes time. What do you think they'll look like?" Loki paused. What did he want them to look like?

"Like Thor's, but green." he said decisively. Sif laughed.

"May I look?" Loki suddenly froze. He couldn't let he see the illusion, what if they weren't the right colour? Sif would know he'd been lying all along if they weren't right. He got up quickly, stumbling. Sif's smile faltered, turning to worry.

"Loki? Are you okay?"

"I-I feel sick, I-" Loki ran off into the crowd without a second look back. He headed straight for his room where he locked the door and ran to his bed.

He sat down heavily. The illusion was gone. His back was bare once more. Sif. Tears pricked his eyes yet again. He cursed under his breath. No doubt she would never speak to him ever, ever again. Why had he run? What use was that? Loki laid down, still fully dressed. In the dark, alone, he couldn't keep the sobs contained any longer.

III

It was another week and a half before Loki's wings really grew. Another week reading alone. Another week listening to Thor's stories of school.

From the moment Loki woke up, he could tell it had happened. A smile spread across his face and he sat up in his bed. He ran to the mirror, unable to contain himself. Sure enough, two tiny stumps protruded from underneath his shoulder blades. They were dark, but Thor's had been too and now even in their not fully formed state they were magnificent. Loki bent his arm around his back to check they were real. Of course they were.

Without a second thought Loki ran to Thor. Loki leapt on top of Thor, waking him with a start. Thor grunted and blinked sleepily.

"What?" he said, more confused than unkind.

"Look!" Loki didn't even bother to hide his excitement as he sat on Thor's chest, pinning him to the bed.

"Your wings!" Thor grinned. "But also, can I please get up? You're squishing me." Loki realised that he was and jumped off his brother with an apology.

"I'm going to go find mother!" he announced. Thor nodded and added

"I suppose this means you'll be coming to training today."

"Yeah." mumbled Loki, his heart dropping as he left. Thor's words were laced with double meaning. More to the point, he was implying that Loki would have face Sif. Loki shook his head as if trying to rid of the thoughts. Maybe Thor didn't mean that at all. He probably didn't. Probably not at all.

Loki found Frigga in the library. He sat on her knee excitedly. She smiled and congratulated him quietly, before indulging him by reading a few pages of an old, old history book to him. It was, however, only a few pages.

"Don't you have school to get ready for?" she said. She meant 'have you forgotten our agreement already?'

"Yes mother." he said, getting up with a sigh. As he was walking away, Frigga called out

"Loki!" He turned to look at her. "Don't forget that I truly am proud of you." Loki's smile was small and once he was out of sight he ran to his room.

No. He would not cry. Not again. Not today. Yes, going and facing Sif and Thor and his friends was the last thing he wanted to do, but more than that he knew if he didn't go he would disappoint Frigga. And he really did not want to do that.

He took a long time getting ready, planning out conversations while he got dressed slowly. I've been ill, Yes, I have wings now. No, I'm not afraid. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

Loki slipped onto the field, late for the start of training. No-one would have missed him or notice his lateness. Or at least, so he thought.

"Look! There he is! The big boy! Hi, Loki!"

"Hello, Fandral." said Loki quietly, looking to the floor.

"Where have you been these last few days? We've all been dying to congratulate you on finally looking like a real Aesir. Or were you too scared of the proper angels?" Loki didn't dare look up.

"I've been ill." Fandral laughed, fake and loud.

"What an excuse! You'd have thought that the little liar would have been able to think of something better, right?" Fandral was stood right in front of Loki, so close Loki's head almost rested on his chest.

"Come on, you little imp, look at me." Fandral grabbed Loki's hair and pulled so Loki was forced to look up. He bit his lip so that no sound escaped him. So they wouldn't hear how much it hurt.

"Fandral, enough." Thor walked up next to him. Fandral just looked at Thor with and almost cruel grin.

"The little witch isn't playing today, are you?" Loki stared Fandral in the eye, feeling the urge to bite a chunk out of his arm.

"I told you, I've been ill." Loki made sure his voice was level. Fandral pulled harder on his hair and grabbed his chin roughly. From the corner of his eye, Loki saw Thor summon Mjolnir.

"I think you're a coward, witch." Loki tasted blood in his mouth.

"Thor said that's enough, Fandral." Sif? Her voice was firm, a cold anger. Loki blinked a few times. Why was she defending him? Fandral sneered and shoved Loki away hard. He fell to the ground. The group that had gathered walked away, laughing. Sif stayed.

"Are you okay?" she asked, offering her hand. Loki took it and stood up, brushing the mud from himself. He suddenly felt a little dizzy.

"I- I'm fine. I think." Loki wiped the blood from his lips.

"If you still feel ill you should go home." Loki shook his head even though it hurt.

"I don't." Sif smiled, placing her hand gently on his shoulder.

"Don't let Fandral do that to you." she said, worry plain in her voice. Loki laughed bitterly.

"It's sort of hard when he's taller and stronger and pulls my hair out of my head."

"Then stay out of his way." Sif said. Loki smiled slightly, knowing she was trying to help. She didn't understand. She got picked on for being the only female warrior, or at least she had. No-one would dare lay a finger on her now. If only it were that easy for Loki. "At least they can't tease you about your wings any more, right?" Loki nodded. That was true. He took a deep breath.

"Look, Sif, I'm sorry about the feast." She waved her hand.

"It's fine, seriously. You looked like you were going to throw up."

"I felt like it." he said simply. It was a bit true.

"May I?" Sif gestured towards Loki's wings, her own curling slightly.

"Uh, yeah." Loki turned around. He felt her fingers brush over them. His heart raced.

"Dark green. Green, just like you wanted." she said softly. Loki's heart was in his mouth now.

"You remember that?" he said, surprised. He'd told her so last week, but he hadn't expected her to have remembered the day after, let alone a week later.

"I think the point is that you do." Sif said. "Come on, then. We have fighting to practice." They walked together, back to everyone else. Loki fought the temptation to reach out for her hand.

For the rest of the class, Loki avoided Fandral successfully, though he couldn't decide whether Thor had told him to back off or not. Either way, it was nice not to be bothered by him. And especially nice that the two strongest warriors were sticking up for him.

Loki took comfort in the fact that Sif was forced to go to classes to learn about seidr much like he was forced to go to training. At least now it would probably be slightly more enjoyable to be a male sorcerer.

IV

Years passed quickly. Loki's eleventh birthday came and went without ceremony. His twelfth and thirteenth and fourteenth birthdays slipped past too without much attention. It was after he turned fifteen - and Thor turned sixteen -that anything beyond the dull and boring normal took place.

Thor's wings, by the time he was sixteen, were stunning. They were the same shape as Odin's: large and rounded and long. Deep red along the top edge, and for the rest what would be a brilliant white if it weren't for an almost golden glow. Thor was royal, there was no doubt about it.

Loki's wings also grey quickly. They were green, just as he had wanted, but green and grey; both darker shades. They weren't as large as Thor's, and wouldn't ever be, and even when they relaxed they were more pointed, more jagged. Loki tried not to be negative, after all, having wings was better than having none. But he couldn't help the sense of overshadowing when he stood next to Thor.

With his wings, Loki had grown more mischievous. He would often play silly pranks on Volstagg and Fandral with his magic. He was still called a witch, but he found that now he didn't care as much, because magic meant he could fight back. He won only small battles, but they were victories nonetheless. The others might have been stronger physically, but Loki took pleasure in the fact that he was the best sorcerer of them all.

It was, however, with disappointment that he realised that Thor was still better at everything else. Better at fighting. Better at talking. Better at being. Even his schoolwork beyond fighting was almost perfect, which Loki resented bitterly because most of it he did for his brother in order to keep up the image of greatness.

They both spent long sessions in the library on days that were not spent at school. Loki would read and work while Thor would work, up until the point of boredom which often came quickly. Usually it would end up with Loki doing both his work and Thor's while Thor chatted almost obnoxiously to whoever was at hand.

During one of these sessions, Loki watched as Thor bragged to some girls about himself. Loki frowned as Thor glanced over at him and winked.

"You're so clever, aren't you?" Loki muttered under his breath spitefully. And even then there was something about the way his wings seemed to glow as they stretched and curled - Loki frowned more deeply. He hated watching his brother. It reminded him of everything he wasn't.

"You shouldn't look at Thor so evilly, you know." Loki whipped his head around to see Frigga stood behind him. He'd been so busy thinking about Thor, he hadn't even noticed her.

"I'm not looking at him evilly." Loki said, defensive. Frigga raised an eyebrow. Loki shrugged. "Maybe more… resentfully." That earned a laugh.

"What reason do you have to resent him?" Loki looked at his mother, almost surprised, his expression briefly of bitterness and disbelief. Did she not see how Loki paled terribly in comparison to Thor? Could she not see how Loki was his shadow, the shadow, under the shadow?

"Well, he is better at almost everything and he does have all the friends and all the favour and all the- all the everything and, and-" Loki released the breath he hadn't realised he was holding. "Mother, why are Thor's wings prettier than mine?" Loki was sincere. For the first time, Loki saw sadness in his mother's smile as she ran her hand along his hair.

"Thor's wings are no prettier than yours, Loki." Loki was about to interrupt bitterly, but she cut him off. "Remember that yours are still not fully grown, and that Thor's wings may be large and bold, but there is still beauty in darkness." Loki knew she was being kind, but it also didn't ease the feeling he got in his stomach every time he saw Thor puff out his wings.

Frigga quickly gave the excuse that she had to meet Odin, kissed the top of Loki's head and left. On her way, she muttered something to Thor which left his cheeks bright red. He left soon after, stumbling over his own feet in embarrassment, making a fool of himself. Loki smiled to himself.

The smile faltered as Sif walked into the library. He'd almost forgotten that today they had agreed to meet.

Over the past years, Sif and Loki had grown closer through their opposite passions. Loki helped to teach Sif sorcery in return for her teaching him to fight better. Every few days they would meet and spend a good few hours training. Today, it was sorcery; the next session would be fighting.

Loki was glad that he'd gotten over the nervousness that he had once had around Sif. She was lovely, that he still thought true, but he soon realised that he was taken a lot more seriously if he acted a lot more seriously. Now, even when Sif stretched he wings or twirled he hard or smiled, Loki buried the nervous boy underneath a more adult self.

Sif sat down net to Loki. With a grin, he produced a small flame on the palm of his hand, flickering gently. He soon extinguished it by closing his hand into a fist. Technically, they weren't supposed to practice in the library, but no-one had ever stopped them. After all, who would try to stop a trickster and a warrior?

They spent several hours going over it. Loki stood behind Sif, bringing one of his arms underneath hers, to show her how to hold her hand. The sudden temptation filled him to rest his head in her shoulder, but he forced it down with a deep breath. Finally, Sif could more or less create the same flame in her hand. She giggled at the illusionary flame, wobbling on her palm. Loki smiled too, glad to be seidr and not get mocked for it. The two things came hand in hand more often than not.

"You know," said Sif suddenly. "You really are pretty when you smile properly." It was a sincere comment, and Loki felt his cheeks flush hot.

"I find I don't often have that much to smile about." he said honestly. Sif brushed a rogue strand of his thick, black hair from his face. "And then you, you are beautiful all the time."

Loki blushed harder realising what he'd said out loud. He bit his lip. Sif half laughed, teasing and took his hand softly.

"Most seem to think that." She looked into his eyes and Loki had to make a conscious effort not to look to the floor. Now he just needed his heart to stop trying to pound out of his chest.

"Mostly because it's true, I reckon." he almost mumbled. Sif's grip on his hand tightened.

"I bet no-one's ever told you that you are too." Unable to stop himself, Loki moved closer.

"No." he whispered. Sif breathed out heavily. Loki felt the hot air roll over his face. With her other hand, Sif touched Loki's cheek, and then his neck, and pulled him towards her, their lips touching, then kissing.

Loki pulled away. Though in his heart he wanted to kiss Sif forever, a part of him whispered that it was probably a trick, a tease. But then Sif looked at him in a way that he couldn't describe. Was it almost loving?

"I've- I- No-one's ever kissed me before." Loki stammered. A smile touched Sif's lips.

"Me neither." Loki's mouth dropped open slightly. Surely that wasn't true. Every Aesir in their class wanted to kiss Sif. She grinned at his shock. "I wouldn't let them." Loki blinked a few times, trying to take in what he had just been told. Before he could fully process the fact that his first kiss was also Sif's, she pulled his to her again. This time it wasn't a surprising kiss. It was expected and it was wonderful.

Even better than all Loki's dreams and imaginings because it was real.

When they finally left the library that evening, Loki had a decidedly large grin all over his face. It was just his luck, then, that he would bump into Thor.

"Who did you kill for that smile, Loki?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Am I not allowed to just feel happy then?" asked Loki, the smile not fading. Sif had asked him not to tell Thor, not yet. Loki was going to respect that request because everyone knew Thor thought he was going to get there first with Sif. Even Loki couldn't predict how he would react.

"You have not smiled like that in years. In fact, I think the last time I saw you with a smile so genuinely big was when you got your wings." Loki flapped his wings once as if to emphasise it. Thor flapped his back, creating a tiny breeze that ruffled Loki's hair and feathers.

"At least I'm not a self-obsessed show off." Loki glared at his brother as Thor patted his shoulder, harder than necessary.

"Go on then, be happy about whatever horrible death you have planned for Volstagg."

"I said that it has nothing to do with some silly plot!" Loki said, exasperated. Thor chuckled.

"Now I'm almost dying to know what's made you so happy." Loki rolled his eyes and tried to shove past Thor. It didn't work.

"Go away, Thor." muttered Loki. With another laugh, Thor let Loki go and went off on his way, winking as he looked back.

Loki took a deep breath and laughed out loud as he entered his room. He knew he'd have no trouble sleeping, no insomnia or crying or nightmares because Sif had kissed him. In real life. First. And not in a dream.

V

Loki didn't have a single nightmare over the following weeks. He smiled a lot more often, he didn't try to avoid school quite as much and he spent a lot more time in the library. Thor quickly picked up on these things, though didn't say anything. He was glad his little brother seemed happy.

"I am almost convinced someone is going to die." Thor stopped Loki in the corridor, noting the large and genuine smile. Loki had just been with Sif in the library and had been very definitely trying to avoid Thor and this confrontation. He had spoken of his fears about Thor finding out to Sif but every time he did, she told him that it would all be fine. The conversation had ended then every time.

"I have said that I'm not planning on killing anyone. Let me pass." Thor didn't budge.

"Not until you tell me what is going on. I want to know." Stupid, stubborn Thor. He just had to make things difficult.

"Why is it your business?" Loki snapped, desperately trying to escape Thor's grasp, but to no avail.

"Why shouldn't it be?" Thor was being frustratingly vague.

"Fine. I'm going to kill you. Let me through." Thor chuckled and wrapped his arm around Loki's shoulders, pinning his arms.

"Nice try. Come on, what is it?"

"Why should I need to tell you everything?" Loki struggled, but he was no match for his brother. He flapped his wings half-heartedly. Thor looked at him seriously.

"You promised you would never lie to me." Loki stopped moving abruptly, becoming almost like a dead weight in Thor's arms. He looked away, feeling the urge to run and hide, or to fly away and never come back.

"Well," Thor said, his whole manner changing as if he were proud of something. Himself, obviously, like usual. His wings always puffed up in a certain way when he was talking about something he was proud of doing. "If you won't tell me what you're up to, I'll tell you what I am. Guess what?" His grip on Loki was unwaveringly strong. Loki grunted, flapping his hands against Thor's arms.

Thor flexed his wings then quietly but proudly announced "Sif kissed me yesterday."

Loki recoiled in horror, mouth dropping open. In surprise, Thor released him and Loki shoved past hard, breaking some of Thor's feathers as he sprinted off down the corridor. He heard Thor shouting his name but didn't care.

He raced into his room, slamming the door and locking it with a flick of his wrist. He sat down heavily next to his bed, mind racing, almost out of control. Was that why Sif hadn't wanted to talk about Thor? Because she was with him the whole time? He'd been played, and played well. He was always going to be seen as a child to pity and never someone to take seriously.

His emotions were a mess. Did he feel rage? Sadness, betrayal, hurt? All of the above? He didn't know nor really care what it was but it was raw and hurt like Hel and was causing hot tears to fall down his face. He hated crying. It was weak. It was childish and weak.

He had truly thought Sif had liked him. He had thought that for once, someone had seen him without Thor's shadow, when in fact Thor had probably orchestrated the entire thing, feeling especially sorry for him one day. Loki could hear them in his mind, planning how to make him feel like he wasn't a sorry child. He was a fool. As if anyone truly loved him.

There was a loud succession of knocks that could only be one person, because there was only one who knocked so loudly. Thor. "Loki, please let me in." There were the noises of the handle being tried.

"Fuck off, Thor." The very last person he wanted to talk to was his stupid, bigger and better brother.

"Loki, please. I'm sorry. Look, just let me in and I'll-"

"You'll what? Treat me like a foolish child? I said, fuck off!" Loki screamed, the words ripping from his mouth like poisonous snakes or knives, intended to wound. "Just once you could have let me be happy, but no, you, the Mighty Thor, you just had to be better again! Well, good for you!" Loki snarled. Thor could probably hear him crying, but he couldn't find it to care.

"Loki, listen. Sif did tell me about you and her. She-" Thor was trying to be gentle and that made Loki angrier. He was twisting the knife and was being kind about it. Loki almost wished his brother was capable of cruelty.

"She what? Told you how stupid and gullible I am? I bet you laugh together about me, don't you? I bet you-"

"Loki, enough." Thor rattled the door handle a few more times before giving up with a quiet grunt. "You know damn well I wouldn't do that to you. And you should know that Sif wouldn't either." Loki made a strangled noise. "Whatever you want to think, she does love you and I should have thought about you first."

Loki laughed bitterly. "It hardly stopped you though, did it." Loki's voice was full of resignation.

"I could say I'm sorry a thousand times but it wouldn't make a difference, would it? I'll come back later when you're less upset." Loki heard Thor stand up. As angry as he felt, he didn't want Thor to leave.

"Wait." he said, unlocking the door without moving. Thor entered tentatively. Loki didn't look up, his head hung and his wings hanging limply by his sides.

"Loki." Thor said, simply. "You should talk to Sif." Loki snapped his head up to look at his brother who had crouched down in front of him. He had almost expected some sort of piteous monologue but this, this was much worse.

"Why would I want to do that?" Loki couldn't muster the rage any more. Instead all he could do was sound defeated.

"Because all of this is my fault. I shouldn't have said anything and I shouldn't have confronted you and not like that." He paused. Loki was about to say something cutting but then Thor asked "Can you forgive me?" Loki stared blankly at Thor's eyes and then closed his eyes for a moment.

"Yes." he sighed. "But I will not talk to Sif."

There was a sudden knock on the door. Both brothers looked up. "Did I hear my name?"

Loki cursed under his breath. Why had Thor left the door open? Why had he spoken so loudly? She had just had to walk past at that moment, hadn't she? She just had to come and make things worse.

Thor sat himself on the floor and invited Sif in. Her smile turned quickly into an unreadable mask. Loki hoped she felt terrible. He hoped she realised this was all her fault and that all he had ever wanted was for her to see him as a real Aesir and not just some little brother of a real angel.

"Shit." she said quietly. "Oh, Norns, Loki, I'm so sorry." She sat on the floor next to Thor, her wings folded tightly. Loki turned his head away, looking down and feeling all his muscles tense.

There was an uncomfortable silence, full of unsaid words. Thor broke it. "Loki, look at us." Us. Hah. Thor had always known how to be condescending, even without meaning it. Loki said nothing and didn't move.

"This is all my fault." said Sif." I should have been sure before-"

"Before what?" snapped Loki, the rage rekindling inside him like a burning ember falling on dry straw. It exploded. "Before you led me on like a fool? Before you decided I was just a silly child? Before you decided you liked Thor better?" He rose to his feet, still staring down at them. "You know what? I don't care. I don't care for your reasons and I don't care about excuse. Go fuck each other."

Sif stood up and tried to step forwards towards him, but he held his hand out, his face cold. "Loki, please listen-"

"No." Loki was quiet now, but the venom was unmistakably lace in his words. "Leave. Both of you. Go be together somewhere else." No-one moved.

"I said, get out!" Loki screamed, hands clenching into fists, wings flaring out, stretched to their full span. He turned away as they left, pretending he didn't hear their whispers. The second they were gone he locked the door and screamed until his voice was gone.

Shards of shattered ornaments littered the floor. Loki dropped to his knees, feeling the fragments slice his skin. He didn't care.

Not a tear fell now. Instead, bitter and cruel revenge flickered into his mind.

~~~

Loki sat in the library alone. He was missing school, therefore avoiding not only Thor and Sif but everyone else as well. No doubt they'd all know now and they'd all laugh at him as usual. Anyway, spell books were more interesting. He was lost in one, and so didn't notice Sif approach until she was stood in front of him.

"Aren't you supposed to be beating people up?" he asked, not looking up from his book.

"Aren't you?" Sif sat down in a seat opposite him. "Look, Loki, listen to me."

"What for?" he was purposefully cold and disinterested. He'd decided that opening up just lead to being hurt.

"Fine. But I'm going to talk at you anyway." Loki smiled at his book, no longer reading but unwilling to act as though he were paying attention. He flipped a page, and Sif took a deep breath. "You'll think what you want to, as usual, but it is not that I hate you that I am with Thor-"

"So you are with Thor? I shall consider myself tossed to the side then." Loki shut the book with a thud, looking up to meet Sif's eyes. He was surprised to see sadness and pain lingering there.

"No. Do you think if I did not love you I would have even been with you at all? That I'd have kissed you? Do you really think that if Thor is so special I'd have given you my heart first? I know you're choosing to forget that we were together for over half a year, and a lot of that was exclusively you. I cannot hate you, Loki. Not at all. But maybe I was impulsive. Maybe my decision was too full of false feeling."

"So in summary, you felt sorry for me. Don't waste your time, darling." Loki said spitefully. Sif's expression hardened as she realised she wasn't going to get anywhere with him.

"You cannot make me change my mind, Loki. I truly love both you and Thor, but-" Loki brought his hands together.

"But I'm too small and bitter and Thor is a lot more tempting. Don't worry, I understand. I was a childish first love, and impulsive feeling, words." Sif looked away. Loki noted that she was almost as bad at hiding her anger as Thor was.

"Loki, stop twisting what I'm saying!"

"Stop telling me lies! Don't let me down gently! Tell me that it is over and leave!" Loki flexed his fingers, trying to hold back the despair.

"If you want to hear it, fine. This is the end of us. But I don't want you to push me away. I don't want to fall out with you." Loki's mouth twitched.

"We 'fell out' the moment you remembered Thor is better than me at- oh, everything! And then you fed me empty words and promises." Loki did a terrible imitation. "I love you, Loki. I can't understand why everyone hates you! Well, now you know." Loki felt his own anger building up. It would be easier if she just walked away now. Then he wouldn't say anything he'd regret and she wouldn't hate him as much. She didn't.

"You just had to make this theatrical, didn't you? You just had to react like you! What can I say that you'll believe?"

"Nothing." Loki snarled, putting his book down, standing up and turning his back on her. "You can say fuck all to me and you can go be with him and you can be happy. Fuck what I think or feel. Give him my love, will you?"

Sif walked over to him and placed her hand tentatively on his shoulder. He whipped around, his wings smacking her hand away. He couldn't stop the anger on his face or his words from tumbling out. "You should go and be with your true love." Sif didn't move.

"I'm not leaving you like this. Please, Loki, calm down." He stared down at her.

"Do I scare you, Sif? All I ever wanted was you, was you to see me, but as if that was going to happen. And then, suddenly, it did! And I was happy! But you know what? I don't know what I ever saw in you." Sif inhaled deeply, his words stabbing. Her hands formed loose fists. Her eyes welled with tears.

She reached out for his face, and her hand brushed his cheek for a second before he turned his head. "I always thought you were beautiful." she whispered almost inaudibly. Inside, Loki screamed that he loved her and don't leave but the words were locked firmly in his mind.

"Loki." She reached out for him again but he raised his hands like they were shields and turned from her again.

"Go. Leave me be." He felt her fingers brush over his feathers and felt a jolt as he remembered all he times she had told him how pretty his wings were. Her hands moved to his shoulders, trying to pull him back.

"Loki, I'm sorry." she whispered as her turned around, her hands falling to her sides. For a second he considered reaching out for her and hugging her, but he couldn't. If she wanted Thor, she'd have to have him by himself.

"No, you're not." he hissed as he shoved past her, feeling their wings brush, and walked away.

VI

Loki paced his room, just like he had been doing for the past two days. Thor had ruined everything. As usual. He could go and rot in Hel. And if Sif wanted him so badly she could rot there too for all he cared. They didn't care about him. No matter what they said, it was probably all some grand scheme to make a fool of him. A trick for the trickster.

He would show them. He would show them not to mess with him. If they though he was weak and stupid then he would prove them wrong once and for all. He could be just as angry and strong as Thor and just as powerful and great as Sif. He could be as cruel and Fandral and as big as Volstagg. He'd show them all what he was capable of. Rage burned in his heart.

All that time he had spent, wasted, obsessing over Sif. Was it worth it? No, of course not. How had he been so stupid as to fall into the trap? It was inevitable that Thor and Sif were going to be together, after all, she was the most desirable being and Thor usually got what he wanted. Loki wouldn't waste any more time on feelings. Not after they'd trampled on his.

Loki created a ball of fire in his hand. He stared at it blankly before throwing it hard at the wall where it exploded into dust. They couldn't do that, could they? But they could do everything else. They didn't care that he could use magic. All they saw was a weak child. Not any more.

He exhaled loudly. He had a plan of revenge. They would hate him for it, but then, they already did hate him so what did it matter? No matter what he did he'd get spat on for it, so he might as well spend his time making mischief and playing tricks. Feeling never did him any good anyway.

He stayed in his room until night fell and darkness took hold. Loki liked the dark. It was scarier than the light. It hid all from sight and contained his deepest secrets and worst nightmares. Revenge lay thickly in it tonight. Loki grinned wickedly.

He wandered over to his bedside table and carefully picked up the scissors from where they rested. Once, twice, he opened them. Snip, snip. Could he really do it?

Yes. He could. He would.

If Loki couldn't have Sif then he'd sure as Hel try to put Thor off.

Loki slipped into the shadowy corridor. Sif lived in the castle most days, why Loki didn't know. And right now, he didn't care. It was probably so she could be closer to Thor. Loki slid past Thor's room, sneering at it, then past the library and along, along until he stood there in front of Sif's door. It seemed huge before him. He could turn away now. He could, but he wasn't going to.

He cracked the door open quietly and stepped inside. Sif slept. Her breathing was heavy and rhythmic, her mouth hung open. Loki wasn't there to watch her though. Not today. He was more interested in her long, golden hair that lay strewn messily across her pillow.

Sif's hair was her most stunning feature. This was a widely acknowledged fact. Thor had often gone on and on about it. Another fact was that Loki was bitter and spiteful. These two facts pressed together were going to result in a firework.

Loki stepped closer until he stood over Sif. He changed his grip on the scissors a few times as if considering what he was doing. His mind was set. Here he would destroy his relationship with Sif once and for all, and with Thor and with everyone. He didn't care. He was well aware, and even pleased with his wickedness and decided then that feeling was no good at all.

Snip. Snip.

Locks of golden hair fell over the bed and onto the floor, separated from the head to which they once belonged. Loki stood back, grinning at his mischief. He let out a quiet sigh of relief, glad it had gone to plan. So far, at least. He had not planned for Sif waking up.

"Loki?" He turned in the doorway, feeling his heart drop. He hadn't wanted to be hated quite yet. "What are you doing here?" She sat up and Loki watched as her face dropped in horror. "What have you done?" Her voice was a strained whisper, on the verge of tears.

She reached up to her head as if to confirm what she feared Loki had done. He noted the slight tremble of her hands. He had frozen still. Her mouth dropped open as it hit her that all her hair really was gone and that it was all Loki's fault.

Then suddenly she was on her feet, a clump of hair clutched in her had. She screamed. Loki took a step back. He should run, he should disappear but he couldn't move. He could only stand and watch Sif as she shook.

"What have you done?" She was hysterical. She advanced on Loki and he snapped back into reality, turning and fleeing. "Come back, Loki! I'm not done with you!" She shouted so loudly he was certain the whole castle would be awake now.

Sif chased him into the corridors and Loki raced towards the door to the outside, suddenly finding it hard to breathe and the inside heat stifling. As he opened the door and ran outside, he heard Thor. Damn him.

Loki slipped around a corner and stopped for a moment, leaning on the wall. He didn't feel remorse for what he'd done. He was more fearful of what Sif and Thor would do him than he was sorry for cutting off all her hair. What did he care for feeling sorry? What were they going to do, ignore him, bully him? That wasn't exactly out of the ordinary. He smirked.

"You're funny now, are you?" Thor. Loki looked up at his brother, still leaning against the wall and bottling his fear.

"I am, sometimes." Thor growled and grabbed Loki's shoulders, pulling him away from the shadows and throwing him into the street. Loki stumbled and tripped with a yelp, falling into the dust. He looked up to see Sif standing above him.

"Hello, my lady." he sneered. "What fine hair you have." Sif threw the hair to the ground near his face. Loki pushed himself to his feet.

"Fuck you, Loki." she hissed, stalking over to him.

"My sentiments exactly." Sif smacked him across the face, hard.

"You deserve that and a hundred times worse, you bastard." Loki turned his head back to her dramatically and grinned.

"Shame about the hair." he said mockingly. Sif smacked him again, her rage overtaking her. She snarled at Loki.

"Loki fucking Odinson, if you ever come near me again I swear I will kill you." Her lip curled with anger as a fat tear rolled down her face. She turned away sharply and strode over to Thor. He embraced her and shot Loki a look of disappointment and sadness and anger.

Loki walked almost proudly back to his room. His plan may have failed slightly, but at least now everyone would properly leave him alone. At least now he had a reason to be hated. At least now he could let Sif go to Thor without too much jealously.

Good.

~~~

Loki did, in fact, come to regret his decision over the weeks that followed - not because he was sorry for what he did but because he had to fix it. Odin had gone completely off it when he found out and neither Thor nor Frigga could calm him down.

The solution was, of course, to send Loki off to fix his 'mistake'. He had almost refused to go but decided he liked his head more than he wanted to defy Odin and enjoy Sif's baldness. He was sent off to the dwarves, tasked with getting them to make Sif new hair and get some trinkets for the Aesir. Not that he wanted to.

Fortunately for Loki, the dwarves seemed co-operative and told him that they would gladly create Sif a headpiece and give the Aesir what they wanted as long as they got what they wanted in return. Loki spent a long time getting them to agree to payment Odin would more or less be alright with, but eventually it was all agreed and fine. Loki proudly returned to Asgard, having sorted out his 'mess'. He would soon discover it was not fixed or sorted out at all. He had been cheated.

Thor burst into his room. Loki didn't look up from his book, slightly annoyed that Thor hadn't knocked. "What do you want now?"

"Why have you given Sif black hair?" Thor demanded. Loki looked up in surprise, forgetting his irritation. That had been unexpected.

"What do you mean black hair?" he asked, genuinely confused. Thor frowned angrily.

"Don't pretend you don't know, Loki. Why couldn't you have just done something without screwing around for once?" Loki put the book down. Thor's wings were spread wide, and for a second Loki was lost thinking about them. Blinking, he curled up his own, feeling suddenly defensive.

"I know you won't believe me, but I did not, in fact, get black hair on purpose." Loki sounded disinterested, though really he was almost glad for the mistake because now Sif would never forget that she crossed him.

"You can't have nice things, can you?" Thor's voice was strained. Loki realised he was at risk of being throttled.

"No, actually, apparently I'm not allowed." Loki said. Thor huffed and flicked his wings several times. "Would you stop doing that?" Loki asked, making gestures with his hands. "I'd prefer not to be blinded by your golden glow." Loki knew he was being bitter and spiteful. He didn't care.

Thor moved his jaw, his eyebrows twitching. He was probably just a little pissed off. "Will you at least apologise to Sif?"

"What for?" Loki shrugged, raising his eyebrows. "Oh, wait, I get it! You want me to apologise so you can both go back to your lovely fluffy thing and pretend I don't exist or have feelings! Thank you!" He wildly over exaggerated his fake sincerity, defining each work with a movement of his hands.

Thor hissed and stepped right up to Loki. Sharply breathing out, he roughly grabbed the back of Loki's neck. "Enough." he said quietly and Loki said nothing, knowing he had pushed too hard. "Just stop it, Loki. I'm sorry, I really am. But you need to get over yourself."

"Bye, Thor." Loki said, smiling sweetly. That was absolutely not going to make Thor any less cross. Thor snorted and walked away. "Have fun with Sif!" called Loki. He was going to regret that later. He considered not even bothering turning up to training.

Yet he did.

He expected that he would simply be ignored more than usual. He was certain that Sif would not even look at him. Good. He didn't want her to. He didn't want any of them to.

"Hey, witch!" Volstagg shouted, advancing on Loki with Fandral and Hogun at his sides. Most of the others trailed behind them. Loki caught a glimpse of Thor. He couldn't tell if he were glad to see him or not.

"Volstagg. Fandral." Loki said, but today he felt rash and brave. "Don't you have people to beat up?"

"Yeah. You." Fandral stepped forwards into Loki's face. Loki raised his eyebrows.

"Hasn't that novelty worn off yet?" Loki, instead of cowering away like he normally would, stood up against Fandral, wings spread slightly. Fandral's wings were thin and long and various shades of light green and turquoise. They were less impressive than Thor's, but still intimidating.

"Would you look at that! The coward is standing up for himself for once!" Volstagg's wings were anything but small.

"Standing for now, at least." said Fandral, shoving Loki backwards softly. Loki threw a gust of wind in his face in retaliation.

"Didn't anyone ever tell you that using seidr is for girls? Girls and cowards and weaklings." Loki was caught off guard for a moment, half expecting Thor or Sif to speak up. Silence. Fandral pushed Loki hard. He stumbled backwards.

"Jealousy doesn't suit you, Fandral." said Loki, trying to sound passive even though all the air had been pushed from his lungs. Fandral laughed. Loki saw Volstagg walk behind him and felt his hair being pulled backwards mercilessly.

"Nor you, witch. Were you trying to make her match you? You know, because you'd never compare normally. Or are you just a vile and wicked mischief maker?" Fandral closed his hand around Loki's neck. Loki struggled, attempting to flap his wings but Volstagg had them trapped. He heard Thor half-heartedly say something but he was more focussed on breathing and not being beaten to death. Even though that seemed a likely option at that moment.

"No-one wants you here, Loki. No-one ever did. You might as well scuttle back off to the library and cry about it." Fandral released Loki's throat but before he could breathe, a sharp slap to his face jolted him. He was powerless, held back by Volstagg.

"Did you honestly think you had a chance with Sif? You're pathetic and useless, how could you?" Loki scowled and Fandral laughed, running the tip of his dagger down Loki's face. He felt beads of blood form in a thin line.

Fandral nodded slightly. Volstagg threw Loki away so he fell to the ground He fell hard, biting his lip to stifle a cry. Volstagg kicked him once, twice to a chorus of witch, witch chanted over and over. Fandral kicked his chest and whispered "You're so useless, you might as well be a mortal, or Jotun monster." Loki didn't look up.

The crowd around him laughed and jeered and kicked and shouted names for a while longer. From the corner of his eye, Loki saw Thor walking away without a second glance. He allowed himself to make a pained noise, a groan of his whole body aching and a quiet plea for help that wouldn't be answered.

Then he noticed Sif linger for a moment as the crowd dispersed. Their eyes met and Sif turned away quickly, leaving Loki alone. Now he knew he really had pushed too far. He was alone for good.

VII

Loki wasn't expecting much of his sixteenth birthday. After all, Thor's was soon after and undoubtedly he would get a huge feat and party and whatever else he desired. Just like he had had for every birthday before. Not that Loki was complaining too much; it was more the principle that Thor got it and he didn't than the fact he actually wanted a party. 

And then, Loki was disappointed with his wings. Now fully grown, they were a lot more pointed and bony than everyone else's. They were dark green and dark grey, shadowy. Spindly, almost. But Thor's, his were huge and puffy and red and majestic and had an almost golden glow and and and...

Enough. Loki wasn't going to waste his time thinking about Thor's perfection. No, instead he was going to go and eavesdrop on Frigga and Odin who were, at that moment, having a 'very serious discussion It was probably about him. It wouldn't be unusual. 

As he wandered along the corridors, he caught a glimpse of Hugin and Munin through a large window. He walked towards it, seeing the birds circling as if waiting for him. He opened the window. 

"What do you want?" he muttered as they flew up to him, flapping noisily. Hugin squawked in his face almost in disgust. Loki held out his hand and both ravens went for it, viciously trying to bite it. 

"Oh, you know you love me really." he said as Munin clawed at his hand. "Come on, you don't really want to eat me. You can't be that hungry, you get fed enough." Loki smiled at them with fake, mocking sweetness before pulling his hand away. 

"Away with you. Go on, shoo. Go find your father." With a duet of screeches and caws and other horrid raven noises, they flew off. Loki despised Odin's ravens, although he did find it almost hysterical the way Thor was afraid of them. He always got a little twitchy when they were around. 

Loki closed the window and continued lurking. It wasn't the first time he had eavesdropped on his parents. Usually when he did, he learnt about Laufey and the sort of shaky truce with Jotunheim, or that there were rumours of an attack on Vanaheim, and he had learnt that Thor was indeed perfect. Often, it was Loki who was discussed, him and his tricks. How he enjoyed his father cursing his name for being wicked. 

Loki roamed the corridors, quietly searching for the room in which the very serious talk was taking place. It would definitely be shielded from prying eyes and ears. Fortunately for Loki, his eyes were very good at prying and he could often see what others could not.

Aha! Loki grinned, pleased with himself. Would they ever learn not to be so obvious? Loki slipped into the next room and locked the door. He walked up to the wall that joined the room he was in to the next. He placed his hands on the wall and muttered an incantation.

A section of the wall shimmered, a large circle. The image of Frigga and Odin appeared, almost like a looking through a slightly clouded window. Loki watched intently as Odin paced the room while Frigga sat completely still, her face stony.

"He is ready to know." Frigga seemed exasperated, even though her voice was a little muffled. Odin stopped abruptly and turned towards her, unknowingly turning his back on Loki.

"He can wait. He has waited all his life, what difference does it make now? He has not even suspected yet that-"

"It is unfair to lie to his face." Who were they talking about? Was it Loki? He wouldn't be surprised if they were keeping secrets. It wasn't exactly not obvious that he wasn't the favourite.

Loki then realised he had stopped paying attention. He blinked as Odin spoke.

"Thor will know when he is seventeen. Then, when he is eighteen he will be king." Loki gasped, clapping his hand over his mouth to stop and noise coming out. His mind reeled with this new information.

Thor would be king. Loki would be nothing. The memory of his father showing the young brothers around his vault of stolen trinkets hit Loki. He had told them they would both be kings. Of course it was only ever going to be Thor. Yet Loki couldn't help but feel envious of his brother.

He turned his attention back to the conversation of his parents again. Frigga was now standing and Odin was once again pacing. "What of Loki?" Frigga asked, quietly.

"What of him? You know perfectly well what role he will play. If he does not ruin my plans, then he shall be king and there will be peace. Do not worry." Now Loki was confused. Odin had just said that Thor would be the king, how could Loki be the king as well? He was missing part of the story, and he intended to find it.

"I'm not sure that lying to them both is the best way to go about this plot." Frigga turned to the door. "But if you think it is for the best, then I'm sure it will work." Odin nodded.

"I do." They both walked towards the door, the talk clearly over.

The window faded and Loki walked backwards, his wings flattening against the far wall. Thor would be king. He shouldn't know this, it was the biggest secret he had ever heard. And now he knew it.

A knock on the door started Loki. He jumped back, hitting his head off the wall with a yelp. He bit his lip and cursed himself for being so loud. He would be in enormous trouble if he were caught spying.

"Loki, open this door. There is no point in hiding or lying to me." Frigga. Shit. He was definitely in trouble now. She would know exactly what he had been doing, and she'd be able to open the door regardless of whether Loki unlocked it or not. He did anyway.

"Mother, I-" he started, about to attempt to explain himself, but he was silenced as Frigga pointed at him and raised her eyebrows, her wings puffed out behind her. She shut the door and walked over to Loki.

"Spying will not make you happier, Loki." He looked away.

"I don't do it to make me happier." he said, almost muttering. His wings were now tightly folded into his back.

"Whatever your reasons, you must stop." Loki stared at her, keeping eye contact.

"What for? It's not like I ever get told anything at all ever and-"

"Some secrets are kept for good reason. I would prefer that no lies were told, but your father does have a good reason for doing so." Loki was almost amazed at how Frigga could sound stern and make him feel like he was being told off without raising her voice at all. He decided to push his luck.

"For example, this grand scheme I am unwillingly - unknowingly a part of?" Loki smiled too sweetly, and now Frigga did look angry. Now he'd gone and done it.

"You must promise me that you will not ever mention that again. Not in front of Thor, and in Bor's name, especially not in front of your father."

"Why?" Loki knew he was just making it worse, but he couldn't help himself.

"Because it will not be in your favour to do so." That didn't answer his question at all, but Loki held his tongue, knowing better than to press the matter any further, and instead asked about the other issue.

"Will Thor really be king?" Frigga's expression softened. She sighed.

"Yes." Loki felt a lump form in his throat. "But that does not mean you are any less important, Loki." Frigga's voice was gentle now, but Loki didn't care for gentleness or niceties. He fought the urge to spread his wings wide.

"It does, though, really, doesn't it? I should have guessed. Thor will ascend to the throne for a big birthday present. Who gives a damn if he's ready or not?" He knew he sounded bitter. He knew he was being petty and childish.

"Loki, listen to me." Frigga placed her hand on his shoulder. "If all goes as planned, you shall receive something large and unexpected when you turn eighteen as well."

"I suppose I'd better not tell Thor, then." Frigga nodded and removed her hand.

"Please, remember that Thor loves you, and at least try to be happy for him." Frigga took a step back and turned to walk towards the door. As an afterthought, she added "And please, no more spying."

Loki smiled as she left. Of course he wouldn't tell Thor and of course he'd be happy. In fact, he was happy. This was the perfect occasion for a little mischief.

~~~

Odin rose to his feet. The feast fell quiet quickly. Thor put his cup down heavily, some of the contents spilling from it. Loki wasn't surprised that he was probably already a bit drunk. 

Odin drew in a breath before beginning his address. "Thor, my son. You have grown into a fine prince and I am proud to be your father. So, it is time that you earned what is rightfully yours. It is with a light and joyful heart that I tell you that you, Thor Odinson, shall ascend to the throne of Asgard with your eighteenth birthday." 

There was a complete silence. Loki looked at Thor. He had known about this for months and months but for Thor, this was a shock. 

He opened his mouth and closed it a few times as if about to say something and realising that it was not a good idea. He then snapped his mouth shut, seeming to realise he looked like an idiot. Loki smirked. Thor glanced at him, and he raised his eyebrows, daring his brother to speak. 

Thor stood. "I- well, I have no idea what to say, other than thank you, father. And, uh, that I hope to be able to serve Asgard well, as her king." A voice called out: 'to Thor!' and the whole feast chanted over and over as Thor sat back down. 

Loki elbowed his brother and raised his cup. "To Thor." he said quietly. Thor smiled, and Loki wondered if that meant he was forgiven, or at least even slightly so. 

"Thank you, Loki." They both took a drink, and then Thor said "I do not wish to fight with you any more." 

"Nor I." It was true. Although Thor was an idiot and, of course, almost flawless, Loki didn't really want to lose Thor's friendship for good.

"Well, that's settled. After all, you are still my brother and I cannot bear to be angry with you for long, even when you do stupid things and don't think about what you're doing and get into trouble for reckless and petty mischeif and act like a petulant child all the time and-" 

"Thor," Loki cut him off. The list could go on and on and on but Loki didn't really feel like hearing all the reasons he was annoying, especially not now. "Why don't we enjoy this feast and think of ways I'm irritating later? It is your birthday. Or did you forget that, being too busy being all kingly?"

Thor chuckled, shifting in his seat and rearranging his wings. "I'm hardly a king yet." 

"You will be." Loki was sincere. As bitter as he was about the fact that his father had told them they would both be kings, and as apprehensive he was of the king Thor would be, he was going to try and be pleased, if only slightly, for his brother. 

Thor said, nothing, only nodded. Unsaid words hung in the air like knives suspended by a thread. They could have had an argument and they could have found reasons for hatred and rage but not now. Thor had given Loki more forgiveness than he had expected to get, and he was hardly going to spoil that now, regardless of the voice inside him questioning whether or not he deserved it. 

"You know, I don't think you've had half enough to drink yet, you still seem to be coherent." Loki said with a grin. Thor didn't need to force a laugh, and he pushed Loki gently, teasing. 

He raised his glass to his brother. "To friendship." he said. Loki nodded.

"To friendship." 

By the time Loki stumbled back to his room, he couldn't even remember his own name. 

VIII

Loki was copying a page from a book with care, detailing how to shield oneself from anyone's eyes. Sat in the library, he plotted and learned about rumours of hidden passages between the realms. From what he could see, it was more or less safe, if it really existed. He intended to go exploring. It was worth the risk, because if Heimdall were to know what he was doing, all his plans would be ruined.

If all did go to plan, and the passages did exist, and he could get this spell to work, the only thing ruined would be Thor's ego. It was turning into something much bigger than he had originally thought, bigger and more complicated. He'd be damned if it worked.

At the same time, he was eavesdropping. on Thor and Sif who were on the other side of the bookshelf he had concealed himself behind. He had only slightly shifted the books to make a gap, and now he had a clear view of the two. It brought him great pleasure to see they were arguing.

"Sif, look, I'm sorry. I know I'm a fool-"

"Do you know what you actually are? You are big headed, self-absorbed and utterly arrogant, Thor!" Sif snapped. Loki could only just see Thor through the books, but he had winced and now looked hurt. She was right, though. Thor was, though often unwittingly, very selfish.

Loki could understand Sif's anger. Thor had almost been ignoring her since his birthday, which had been months ago. Loki didn't know what was going on, but he could guess that it had something to do with Thor's drunkenness on that night. He had often acted like this in the past when he was guilty of something. He avoided the issue until it became so bad he was forced to deal with it.

"I know I am, Sif, I do, I just-"

"Stop. Please, don't make excuses. Just tell me who it was." Loki was now engaged in their conversation, his studies almost completely forgotten. He almost expected Sif to jump on Thor and punch him repeatedly.

"I swear, it wasn't anyone. I- What do you want me to say, Sif?" Thor was playing the pity card now. Loki smirked, knowing that it would be wasted.

"I don't want you to say anything. I want you to listen and I want you to be honest. I thought Loki was the liar, but it seems you are good at keeping secrets too. And until you feel like you can tell me what's going on, it might be best that you stop seeing me."

Hah! Loki sat back, his grin triumphant. Now neither of the Odinsons were worthy of the great Lady Sif. The though almost warmed Loki's heart at the same time as it hurt.

"If you don't stop giggling behind that bookshelf, Loki, I swear I will come and cut your tongue out of your bitter head and force it down your throat." The fact that Sif might have known he had been listening all along made him want to laugh harder. Instead, he gave a dry response.

"My apologies. I'll try not to interrupt further."

"Loki-" Sif cut Thor off as he tried to tell Loki off for his sarcasm.

"This isn't about Loki." she said. Thor was still, wings tense and expression blank.

"Are you sure about that?" Now Sif looked hurt, her face and clenched fists betraying her feelings.

"That is exactly your problem! You always think you have to compete with everyone to be the best. Couldn't you just accept that you don't have to be, for once?"

"But I am." Loki cringed. Thor couldn't have let worse words fall from his mouth. Sif opened her mouth, but then seemed to think better of it, instead choosing to look at Thor in disgust. She stood and walked away, pushing roughly past him. "Sif." Thor called, but his words could make no difference now.

Loki got up and walked around the bookshelf. Thor, glared at him and sat down. "Go away, Loki. Just leave, before I say something else I'll regret."

"I'm sorry, brother. At least you're stuck with me." Loki couldn't decide if he wanted to make fun or say something sincere. "I guess neither of us were good enough."

Thor didn't look up, but a smile touched his lips. "You might wish to be me, but I certainly wish I had your way with words."

"You're right, yours really aren't the best." Loki replied with snark, but behind his smirk he was almost shocked. Was this Thor, the golden and good and perfect Thor wishing he had a skill that his wicked little trickster brother had?

"You're right, you know. I will never understand how you feel, not really. I can never understand. I'm such a fool, Loki. I'm such a terrible fool." Thor sighed and hung his head. "Go on then. Make your cutting remark. Mock. Laugh. Whatever it is you're over here to do."

"I don't want to mock you." Loki decided that it would be in his favour to stay on Thor's good side. As much as he was tempted to laugh at how his brother had been hurt in the same way he had been, he knew that if he didn't stay on Thor's good side now, he definitely wouldn't be later.

"Come on, Loki, you're scaring me now. It's almost worse that you're not making fun." Loki grinned, making Thor smile a little more.

"I must admit, it is nice to see the mighty Thunder God brought low in he same way he did me." That made the smile of the Thunder God widen into a smirk. Loki could think of a hundred other worse things to say, but he refrained and turned to leave.

"Loki, don't do anything stupid. Please." He looked back at Thor.

"I won't. Promise." He smiled and as he walked away, laughed to himself. If only Thor knew how he intended to break that promise.

IX

Loki paced, backwards and forwards, his whole body tense and wings extended. If his plan was working, which it should be, three Jotuns would be making their way to the casket at that exact moment. It would be working as he had planned for almost every going-wrong possible. They were going to die, not that they knew it, regardless of what happened, but with any luck it would be at just the right time to humiliate Thor, because after all, today was his coronation. 

And he wasn't ready for it. That was partly why Loki was doing it. No-one else seemed to be able to see Thor's idiotic, arrogant and reckless tendencies. Of course, showing that to everyone was part two of his plan of utter humiliation, but for now, he just had to keep Thor off the throne. For Asgard's sake. Or, at least, that was the reason Loki had convinced himself of. 

The door flung open without warning. Loki jumped, startled upon another's entry. No-one was supposed to arrive for some time yet. Thor tossed a glass to the side.

"Are you drunk already, brother?" Loki moved out of the way as the to-be king stumbled over, 

"Might have had two or three wine." he slurred. This was exactly the behaviour Loki thought irrisponsible. Had it been his own coronation, he wouldn't allow himself to act in such a way. But, it was not his coronation. 

"You'd best sober up before you make an even bigger fool of yourself." Thor laughed, tipping his head back. Loki allowed a smile, trying to be pleased for Thor and trying not to think about how he was about to ruin the day. 

"Nonsense. If anything, I need more." Loki raised an eyebrow. 

"Are you nervous, brother?" Thor chuckled, running a hand through his hair. 

"When have I ever been nervous?" It was clear that he was by the way he held himself. His wings were tense and curled up tightly, his fists were clenched and his eyebrows lowered. 

"Well...." Thor punched Loki in the arm. 

"Be quiet, Loki. Don't even start." Loki grinned at his brother's failure to keep a straight face. A servant walked up to them, hesitant, and presented Thor with his helmet. 

"More feathers, brother? Don't you have enough?" Thor turned in mock horror, mouth open. 

"Would you like a few less, you cow?" Loki dipped his head, the golden horns on his helmet catching the light. 

"You could do with a few fewer drinks." As he spoke, several Einherjar marched past. Thor visibly tensed up. He was on edge. He turned and put his hand on Loki's shoulder.

"And I think you would be willing to waste good wine in the name of a trick."

"I was being sincere." Loki said, raising an eyebrow.

"Yu are incapable of sincerity." Thor was teasing, but even so Loki found that the comment stung. 

"Oh, am I?" Before his brother could speak again, he continued. "Thor, I have waited for this day as long as you. Sometimes I am envious, but never doubt that I love you." Thor's expression softened.

"Thank you, Loki." He smiled, allowing a  moment of true sincerity before asking "How do I look?" 

Loki paused. He gave what was a mostly truthful answer: "Like a king." Thor mumbled something which was lost in the sudden roar of the crowd beyond. 

"Go on. "I'll be behind." Loki nodded, Thor didn't need to say anything else to show he truly was nervous. As Loki walked away to take his place near the throne, he looked back to see Thor stretching and folding his wings a few times, as if almost trying to prove to himself that he was ready. 

~~~

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