That Someday I Will Show Your Same Courage
"Do you remember a time before, brother?"
Loki looks up from where he is tying their horse's reins to the low hung branch of a tree. He smiles thinly at his brother, stood some fifteen paces away, where he is preparing the stakes to hold down their tent for the night.
"What a curious thing to ask me Thor." He replies, his voice soft but carrying well to the other god, and Thor does nothing to question the strangeness of it.
Loki is strangeness defined, he thinks. His name should mean strangeness, if it does not already inspire such thoughts in the minds of men and gods alike.
And in any case, he reasons further, magic.
Loki is also magic, and such oddities as his voice carrying as a shout when spoken a whisper should hardly ever come into question.
The god of trickery, lies and chaos cocks his head in thought, and then replies further…
"What inspires the inquiry?"
Thor smiles in return, banging a stake fully into the ground with one, smooth stroke of his hammer.
"Your hair Loki." He answers. "You wear it red today. And was not the Loki of our legends possessed of hair like flame?"
Indeed, where his brother's hair is usually dark of shade, today he wears it the color of fire, curled loosely where normally it hangs straight and long. His ears, too, have taken up pointed ends, his pale green eyes flashing a gem red clear round the rims of the irises.
Loki's smile stretches to a grin, and there is something of mischief and ancient time in his eyes.
Thor has noticed this before.
Though he is the elder of the two, and Loki is possessed of beautiful youth in his features, his eyes have always shown an oldness very well beyond his years.
It is not the first Thor has felt, against all reason, somehow the younger here.
There is something in his little brother which moves him to, at times, feel very childish indeed.
"Ah." Loki at last answers, continuing with his eyes on the reins as he ties them off. "But then would not Odin be my brother by vow, and not my father? And too would I not be old as Odin All-Father, and one of the three to walk the shores of existence when they were new?"
Thor laughs heartily at this.
"I sometimes wonder if you haven't Loki, your knowledge seems so broad and far reaching."
Loki begins towards him them, grinning still.
"I see you are being generous today brother. You would find yourself surprised with what you can learn simply by reading a book now and again."
"And you are sly as ever with your insults Loki." Thor chuckles back. "Though one must admit your grasp of obscure and dusty tomes exceeds that of any regular scholar. You undermine your own intellect in suggesting I could be as you were I simply to read more." Thor waves a dismissive hand. "What use have I for books and scrolls anyhow?"
The smile melts from Loki's features at that, and he shakes his head reprovingly.
"None are above the pursuit of knowledge Thor." He says, voice at once stern and without mirth. "One should never stop or balk at the notion of learning."
"Ah, and there he is. My too serious little brother!" Thor laughs, moving swiftly as he suddenly throws his arms around Loki and wrestles him into a headlock, mussing his hair vigorously.
Loki sputters angrily, trying vainly to break free of Thor's hold.
"Thor!" He cries, all smooth sureness gone, and like that, their roles are reversed, Thor again the elder brother, again the leader. "You insufferable oaf, let me go!"
With a bellowing laugh, the Thunder god does, his mirth only increasing at the way Loki fumes, stepping back and making a show of straightening out his now rumpled clothes and hair.
When he seems satisfied with his appearance, the Trickster glares at him, frown deep set along his face.
"Oh, it isn't that funny Thor!" He snaps, though there isn't any real anger in the tone, just a slight annoyance.
"It is, Loki!" Thor laughs in return. "You are, after all, so fastidious with your appearance. Even when we are questing!"
"Oh, feh!" Loki waves him off, crossing his arms over his thin chest and turning his face away.
"Oh, come now brother!" Thor implores, worried a moment he might have actually upset his at times over-sensitive sibling. "I only jest!"
Relief kindles in Thor's heart when he sees Loki turn back to him, a slight smirk across his lips.
"Indeed." Loki says, frustration gone out of his voice. "You're still an ass." He points then at Thor, nothing less than a threatening stance. "And you know very well what becomes of those who attempt to trade pranks with a prankster. As they call me the king of fools Thor, I'll soon enough make a fool out of you."
Thor smiles tightly at the remark, feeling a sudden and unpleasant lurch in his chest. Not for the threat. Loki is nothing if not mischief, the very notion being his domain absolute, the one who gave the gift of such to mankind itself. Only the most obtuse would find surprise in Loki's having played a trick on them, though when and of what nature those tricks would be was anyone's guess.
No, it was that Loki referred to himself as a fool. Thor could think of no being for whom such a title was more unfit. Loki was nobody's fool, and yet that was what most in the court called him, and Thor had even heard such mutterings swirling viciously about the commoners in the city. They thought of Loki as some sort of jester, it seemed, some sort of idiot to amuse and entertain them, and Thor was not so dense as to not realize that Loki had embraced the title as a means of defending against the pain of it.
It hurt his brother to hear such words, to be labeled a buffoon, especially given his level of astute intellect and scholarly endeavor. Those who called him fool possessed not even the smallest fraction of his learned knowledge and whip fast wit.
But Loki was unlike the other Aesir, in every way truly. And he more enjoyed fanciful things like dancing and singing and reading than he did the rigors of warrior combat and weapons training.
It wasn't to say that Loki was not a skilled warrior either. Thor knew of none better with a blade than his brother. And what Loki may have lacked in physical strength, he more than made up for in speed and agility. The Thunderer can remember more than a few times he and Loki had become entangled in wrestling matches, and despite being vastly superior in matched strength, Thor had rarely ever been able to keep the Trickster god pinned to the ground, so slippery and almost effervescent was he.
But then, Loki too was prone to sensitivity. At times even shy, doing well when speaking before an assembled crowd, but far less sure in his confidence in smaller social interactions.
He cried, at times often. Not great, heaving sobs. But tears were no strangers to his eyes, and they would slip silent down his face when they came. He was mercilessly mocked by the other gods for such frailty. So too was he derided for his sorcery. Many cried that such dark arts were meant only for women, and no, true man of the Aesir would debase himself by practicing such. Their own father, even, had looked upon Loki's magic with disapproving eyes and words.
Some even, though not to Loki's face, called him ager, and for that slight alone, Thor had smote his fair share of wretches. He never told Loki of those things though. He didn't want to upset a brother who, more and more these days, seemed less and less to smile.
Most troubling to Thor, perhaps, was the increasing inclination the other gods had to blame Loki whenever anything went awry. From small, inconsequential mishaps, to lately very serious and endangering accidents and bad decision making.
The Thunderer knew that such accusations came from Loki's domain as god of Mischief, and also because he served as Odin's chief advisor. But while Loki's tricks were frequent and for many often embarrassing, they had never been malicious in intent, only playful. Thor knew he would never, intentionally endanger anybody. And if the god's were not perfect beings, Thor knew also perhaps their greatest fault lay in their refusal to take responsibility for their own mistakes.
Attitudes in Asgard towards his brother had seemed to grow as late from cold dislike but grudging acceptance to sometimes outright and unkind hostility, and it sat ill with Thor. Worried at his brain like some disease.
He found himself more and more frequently fearing for Loki.
"You are no fool Loki." Thor tells him, all mirth gone from his own voice.
At that, Loki only smiles, small and forced.
"And you are a good brother Thor." He says.
Thor's mouth continues in its downward slant. He wants to say something more, something to reassure his brother, for he can hear in his voice he believes nothing of Thor's own words, believes them only to be spoken in pity.
But before the Thunder god can move again to speak, Loki has beaten him to it.
"Now," he begins, changing the subject and clapping his long, thin hands together. "Let us finish the task of pitching that tent, and then I'll go into the woods and catch us our dinner."