~=Eitho nin=~

~Aid Me~



-Thranduil, Legolas, Tauriel


-Lady Loki

King by Lauren Aquilina

and some awesome reader suggested songs are Hurt by Johnny Cash - Wolf Bite by Owl City - Bird with a Broken Wing by Owl City- Don't Panic (Clairity's cover)- What You Wanted by OneRepublic - A Sky Full of Stars by Coldplay - River by Emeli Sande - Mad World (Adam Lambert's Cover)

"I will do anything for you." Loki grinned at him, playful, tone lightly teasing, a bit lofty. Sometimes it was hard to decided how to take her words. There were so many hidden layers under any statement, any look. The light caught in her eyes with her smile, making them glitter green in too many shades. Sometimes it was just so clear when looking at her that she was different.

There was nothing about her that could be fully understood by a surface look alone. She was far from shallow, vapid was an impossibility for her.

Would that he could read her mind!

"Careful," he warned, equally light, "I might take your offer."

"Feel free! I have nothing better to do, why not put me to work? I've said it before, my family is known for slaying monsters. You need but point me in the right direction, my King, you I might grant your wish."

Thranduil sighed tiredly, letting his head rest back into the chair, tilting his head to see her, "Perhaps, once we are both more adventurous and rested."

Loki laughed, low amused, playful, but also a little hysterical. "Of course, of course, that would be best. For now I shall occupy myself with tormenting your guards, shall I? Perhaps you do not know this, but I am decidedly skilled at hiding. We could start a game of what I've heard humans call 'hide-and-seek' until they are ready to climb the walls looking. It always worked very well when unpleasant relatives visited when I was younger. Maybe of my relatives never saw me until I was an adolescent and my parents learned not to announce guests before hand."

Thranduil found himself smiling wide at the thought, almost considering the offer to hide himself away for a few days. If Elrond did visit, perhaps it would be effective to avoid him for a good portion of the time. Though he was starting to feel the tension more keenly under his skull and he longed to rub it away.

Loki slide from her place and drifted to the table, poring herself a glass. He studied her as she took a sip, eyes fluttering shut in satisfaction, "Hurts to good..." She chuckled, showing teeth in a grin that finally seemed real.

He found himself smiling, letting his head roll nearly to his shoulder the way he usually only would if h was alone. It was a weak sort of position projecting his inner state of weariness. There was no one he trusted enough with a total laps in posture, not normally, but he had never gotten along with another ruler, never trusted one enough to let them see a vulnerability. It might be foolish to do so now but he could not force himself to care.

What surprised him was the sound of the goblet being placed on the table nearest him and her fingers finding their way into his hair to methodically rub at that tightness of pain. He should not let her, should have the dignity to pull himself into a semblance of decorum, yet he did not move. There was too much trust festering inside him for only having known her a short time. This was the kind of trust he had only ever shown with his father or Alandaer, perhaps his uncle while he still lived... his mother... his wife.

Thranduil caught one of her hands, pulling it away, unsure what to do with it once he had it, but he felt he needed to put some end to their exchange. With a friendly squeeze to her fingers, he stood and slid away from her to refill his own glass, that being the only way he could think of to cover the retreat. "It is a personal favorite of mine. Many do not care for it, preferring the smoother, cooler wines that hold not heat or sting."

Loki retrieved her own glad, taking a relished sip, "I find this a better version. Dulls your senses by making you remember you have them. Having something bite back is half the fun. It feels more satisfying."

"The more it burns, the more pleasant it is." He agreed, letting the liquid sear him to ground him.

"It seems we are more alike than expected, my lord." She muttered into the glass.

"Is that a bad thing?" He questioned, unsure what he hoped she would say.

Loki lifted to cup the rest the rim on her chin, looking to the side of him, "More unexpected than anything. When we first met I would never have imagined such a thing."

"I mad an ill mannered host." He agreed.

"You only did what you felt you had to." She was looking at him now and there was no resentment in her eyes, and it stung to see acceptance, "That is what must be done when you rule. Choices must be made swiftly whether or not you foresee the outcome. The world does not wait for you to uncover all the little details and potential pitfalls."

"Would it help if I told you how I regret it? How I wish I had done things differently? Treated you as a friend from the first?" Why he said such a thing was a mystery, for it was bad form to admit such things.

"You needn't both. I hardly seemed the trustworthy sort, now did I? I dare say I would not have trusted myself." She laughed as if she were making a joke, one with barbs that would not harm others but only herself, and the distance in her eyes returned.

Loki set the glass down suddenly, her expression falling, eyes crinkling and shutting as both hands came up to cradle her head. Thranduil was moving instantly, arms around her, holding the back of her head in his palm.

"What is it? What happened?" Thranduil's voice was urgent, tiredness forgotten.

"It's nothing, just dizzy. I imagine drinking now is ill advised."

Thranduil scooped her up instantly, heading for the door, muttering a spell to open it as he rushed into the corridor, "Send for Alandaer!" He snapped to the guards.

He was unprepared for the way she jolted up and threw herself from his arm, landing like a disoriented cat, on her feet but not perfectly, "No! There is no need! I am well."

She was lying, he could tell by the creases at the corner of her eyes, but her jaw was set and determined. "Have Alandaer prepare a tray-"

"I said I am well!" Loki frowned, ire rising, "I have no need of anything." That spark was more like the woman he knew.

"Tell Cíldaer that I wish to dine in my rooms and that the lady will be joining me." He drilled a meaningful look into them, ensuring they knew to report all to the acting Captain of the Guard. As a healer, the young ellon would know what to do, what foods and herbs to add. Cíldaer was highly competent is such subtlety. He would be of great help when the guests arrived. Perhaps it was fortunate Tauriel was not his captain of the guard just now.

"I have no need for coddling!" Loki insisted sharply, "You need not do anything of the sort! I am perfectly capable of sitting at a table-" Thranduil was guiding her behind the doors even as she ranted.

"What makes you think I have any desire to dine with others thins night? I am weary of their company and in no mind to hold such conversation."

Loki cocked her head, birdlike, but she turned on her heel, gown swirling around her angry march as she planted herself petulantly into a chair across from his previous seat, "As you wish." She got up a second time to snatch her cup off the table and return to her chair.

He settled into his seat, relaxing once more as her watched her study him. After a moment she shifted and draped both legs over the arm of the chair and let her head dangle slightly over the other side, cup dangling near the floor in her dangling hand. She was, he surmised, making a point of some nature. It reminded him of the way Legolas used to sit when it was just the two of them in a room. There was a time he would sprawl out in a chair with all pretense thrown aside. It was likely he still sat thus when he was alone but he no longer allowed such postures to be seen by his father, trying now to prove how grown up he was. He missed the days when they were so comfortable with one another.

"Are you angry with me?" Thranduil ventured for lack of a better idea.

"Of course not." She sat up again, draping her upper body over her knees and the chair arm in what looked like an uncomfortable posture, but it let her drink from the goblet so that might have been all she noticed.

"You seem displeased." He countered.

"I do not know what I am." She arched a brow, eyeing him from the side, "It is a woman's right to change her mood and not know why."

His mouth turned up in a wry smile, "I suppose it is."

"So, did you get that troublesome wizard to tell you where he was going before he left?" She sighed as if even thinking of the man was an irritant.

"No, he could be heading to any number of places. All i know is that he sent word to Elrond not long after he left, perhaps the moment he stepped out the door."

"There have been other dragons through your history, but Smaug is nearly the last, if not the very last of them, is that correct?" Loki changed topics like some people breathed.

"He is, yes."

"Do you want me to kill him or try to ensnare him? If I could control him he might be a rather helpful tool."

Thranduil blinked, "Control him?"

She hummed noncommittally, "Such things have been done. Even the humans of my world have been able to... program the mind of another creature so that their will is ensnared. If I could sway him by force or simple bribery, would you want him?"

His jaw tightened, "I could never trust him to obey anyone. Dragons are not simple beasts, they were born of darkness, created for the purpose of destruction."

"Very well, I shall rid you of him, then. It's almost a pity though... dragons are rare in my world as well." She ran a finger over the rim of the glass thoughtfully, still in that odd position.

"If you want him, shrink him down and put him in a cage. Send him somewhere else."

She shifted her feet back to the floor, resuming a more normal position, eyes twinkling, "Of course! Anything for you, my lord! Though I already have an animal friend now and I suspect they would not get along well." As if to punctuate the statement, a little white blur ran between the chairs and vanished again.

He eyes the space the little thing had vanished in, "I should think not. Though who is to say? Our Eaniug have been known to tame our people and bend them to their wills until everyone caters to them, so it might work on a dragon."

Loki smirked, chuckling jovially, "What being could resist subjugation? We were made to be ruled by such a face. At least they have sense enough to seek the immortal, ones that can care for them forever! Brilliant, really."

The Elvenking could not resist joining her laughter just a bit, she had a point anyway. This was more pleasant than the conversation would have been at the table. If they could stay in this room forever, ignoring the rest of the world, he thought that might be peace. Many accused him of shutting the world away as it was, perhaps he should do so. They could all live within their walls, untouched by the horrors of the outside world. Perhaps he had the power to do that and she surely did.

The door opened and he forgot for a moment to subdue his smile. Cíldaer swept into the room with easy steps, golden-brown hair swaying about his shoulders as he nudged the door closed with his hip. It was always interesting to see the way he became suddenly confident if his task involved medicines or care and the way it was utterly lost if he was asked to do anything battle oriented. Yet, he had been by the ellon's side in battle on many occasions and he knew how skilled the young one was with sword or bow. He was the first to step in front if there was hint of danger, eyes intense and focused. Say a world about entrusting him with a troupe, however, and he began to stutter with wide eyes.

One day he would grow into his own skin, find his place, his center of being, and on that day there would be none that could stand against him. He was of Alandaer's blood, after all, but perhaps that was the issue, his need to live up to that name.

The ellon took a swift look at each of them, assessing and mapping details others would doubtlessly miss, sharp mind at work. There were times he wondered if Cíldaer had the sight the way Alandaer did, the ability to see injury in both fëar and hröa. At times he feared what he must see, what those eyes could identify. How ugly and scarred was their fëar? Surely it must look disfigured beyond belief. Perhaps that too was why Cíldaer was so accepting of Loki the way other guards had not been; he could see her pain.

Thranduil shook the thoughts away, "Cíldaer, thank you." and he surprised himself by the warmth trickling into his smile. It must have been the wine.

Cíldaer settled the tray quietly on the table, nodding and looking in that way of his, eyes turning older for a moment before it lifted. "Is there anything else you require?"

Loki was on her feet, snatching the ellon's wrist so fast it clearly shocked both men, "Yes, yes, you should converse with us!" She tugged at his arm and all that confidence went up in smoke.

"Oh, I- that would be most- while it is good of you to think of me-" Cíldaer was wide eyed as she nearly pushed him into a third chair.

"We were speaking of Smaug," she informed him seriously, "what are your thoughts?"

Cíldaer stared at her a long moment, "My thoughts? On the dragon?" She nodded and he continued to stare at her, "What thoughts did you wish to hear?"

Loki dropped herself into her chair, "Well, you all have different perspectives, I should think. I wish to hear what you know of the great Smaug."

The ellon swiftly listed a string of facts, including the tales about the black arrow, which was very thorough of him. She listened with wrapped attention, nodding along.

She leaned forward, sounding serious, "Do you suppose one might train him for a mount? To ride? Do you think that might be suitable?"

"He is extremely large... and highly hostile... I think it might be unwise to attempt such an undertaking." Cíldaer looked so serious, though perhaps Loki honestly was as well, it was hard to tell.

Loki hummed and leaned back in her seat, "Pity." She leaned forward again, "Perhaps we should all have something to eat?"

Was she drunk or simply toying with the ellon, Thranduil wondered and found he could not rightly decide. Loki fixed each of them a plate with a bit of everything she found and both men simply watched her set about it. Watching her was a little like watching a natural disaster; fascinating but frightening. Once she had forced a plate into their hands she settled down with her own, nibbling fist at the cheese. Thranduil had to focus on his own plate once he realized he had been watching her lips a little too long for totally unknown reasons. Perhaps the wine had gone more to his head than he noticed.

"What else were you two talking about?" Cíldaer asked before snapping into a berry.

Loki gave him a bland, relaxed look, "I find I don't recall." She was lying, or simply evading, "Though I believe we spoke of Galadriel."

Both men's attention snapped fully to her and they watched her wiggle a leaf above the floor. It only took a moment for a white ball of fur to appear, snatch the offering and scurry into the chair with Loki. It curled up in her lap, watching the woman's face intently to await any further food sacrifice. If nothing else, Loki looked positively gleeful.

"What of the Lady Galadriel?" Cíldaer delicately prodded, and Thranduil found he also wished to know her answer.

"Well," Loki sucked lightly at the skin of another piece of fruit, "we spoke of her subjugation of your people, I believe."

Thranduil nearly choked and Cíldaer's brows arched high.

"We equally considered the potential of her taming Smaug as she does your people, with her cuteness." Loki's tongue swirled around the fruit and it was highly distracting even if he was not fully sure why.

"Her cuteness?" Thranduil found himself asking aloud, baffled, "I... feel sure I was not party to this conversation."

Loki lifted her eyes to him and pointed at the creature in her lap, "Her cuteness. She was made to rule."

Cíldaer's face lit with amused epiphany, "You call her Galadriel?"

Loki smiled wickedly, "I saw no reason not to."

Somehow that was enough to bring them all into a pitiful moment of laughter that was very near giggling though not one of them would admit it in a hundred or more years. It was a rare moment, to laugh that way. That was a gift and it seemed Loki was capable of offering it when she wished. It was infectious, a playful spirit that drew out the same spirit in others. She knew how to play a crowd, how to work them up to her jokes and ensure they were ready to laugh as she intended. She was not drunk, though perhaps she was freer than normal thanks to the drink, but this was Loki herself. Perhaps this was the truest form of Loki, the base reality that made her who she was if you stripped away the pain.

Loki was a beautiful creature if ever he had seen one. This was beautiful, what she could do, because he could feel the magic laced in this moment. Like Alandaer, her magic could fill up a room; his could calm but hers could bubble up hidden pockets of childishness. She told him once that she was called the goddess of mischief but that hardly seemed the right name for this. Still, they could use such a skill in the bleak days. She would be highly needed if Elrond arrived.

Loki moved her way into a story while they ate, a story of her court shenanigans as a child; snakes and frogs at a ladies luncheon; butterflies swarming in strategical battle techniques class; flooding in a room where a diplomat from a fiery race was staying; purple dye in the bath house water. And they laughed. Cíldaer would know exactly what was happening if things suddenly went awry for the Predhel visitors though no one else would.

It might have been the best night he had spent with anyone in some time. He could not remember the last time his ribs ached from laughter rather than battle. The warm feeling would go away, but it was ice while it lasted.

Thranduil nearly felt guilty when Legolas and Tauriel entered the room. His smile dampened but did not fade entirely, if anything, it might have simply turned fond. They looked so surprised and baffled, but then, the guards at the door did as well. Perhaps one of them had actually called for them in order to have someone go in that might have the ability to bring about order. They clearly noticed the acting Captain of the Guard had not escaped the wizardry so perhaps the ex-Captain could. Why not bring a prince in as well? Was he drunk? How much had he been drinking? At least he had not voiced his thoughts.

Cíldaer had not been drinking but he was still smiling happily. It had to be Loki.

"I informed the king of my new little friend's name!" Loki informed Tauriel brightly, grinning at her the way he never expected to see.

"Oh, did you?" Tauriel seemed cautious, like this was a dangerous place to enter.

Legolas looked over them all and a smile finally bloomed on his lips, lighting his eyes, "You told them her name?" Clearly in on the development no doubt thanks to the elleth at his side. It had been some time since Legolas smiled like that if the king was in the room.

"Oh yes!" Loki nodded regally, "After that I told them a few stories of my youth."

Tauriel's eyes ventured suspiciously to the decanter on the table, taking clear notation of the goblet in Loki's hand and in the king's. "What sort of stories?"

It was Cíldaer that offered the next information, "Releasing snakes and frogs into a luncheon of dignitary's wives."

Legolas perked with interest and shockingly seated himself on the arm of Thranduil's chair. "So you were the bane of court, I assume? A young pariah?"

"Oh, indeed, those ladies never looked fondly on me again. It was really quite helpful later on! Not even one of them ever attempted to throw their sons at me the way they threw their daughters at Thor." She chuckled, "It was highly beneficial to my older self that my younger self made them dread the thought of inviting me to dine."

Legolas seemed to find that more amusing than anyone else, possibly because he understood the sentiment. It was jarring to see the lack of animosity in the room, as if some paradigm shift had occurred without his realizing it. They were tentatively getting along, all of them in one room. That might have been the most groundbreaking thing he had heard or seen in days. The world was a strange place.

After some time, with Loki next telling stories of a young Thor and his blunders, including the goats - Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjostr- at the banquet, which she admitted her involvement, Tauriel found her way onto the other arm of his chair. He was bracketed by his son and his ward. There was a time when they were small when he frequently found himself in a similar position but the had not been for at least three hundred years. He could hardly believe they did this voluntarily. They were happy and without care; if only things could stay that way.

Thranduil reached up and caught a hand from each of them, running his thumb over their knuckles and squeezing lightly before he stood; afraid to stay there much longer or he might never let it end. They could not stay that way forever. He crossed to the table and refilled his cup in hopes of it helping either ground him or make him forget to fear this feeling.

Tauriel stood from her place, watching him as if she could look long enough to understand him. Legolas, however, offered him an impish smile before he slid into the seat, effectively stealing it like he had just won some great battle. The Elvenking could not help grinning, helplessly amused by the ridiculousness of the moment. It was easy to forget they all had a playful side considering there were so few moments they had reason to let it out. Surprisingly, he could not fully stop smiling, so he simply sipped at his wine. He would never let Loki leave if it was she that created this.

Cíldaer rose from his chair, smiling as he said; "It is growing late and i have much yet to accomplish so I will excuse myself."

They offered a few parting words but it seemed the spell was broken.

Tauriel dipped her head, "I too have things I must attend. My squad will soon all be well enough to return to duty so I have much to prepare."

Legolas grinned up at her, "Since I am to be joining you, I suppose I must make ready as well." He turned those glittering eyes on Thranduil and jumped from the chair to move in at his side; he leaned in as if to hug his father goodnight as he had when he was small but aborted it suddenly, realizing what had had been about to do. Instead he slapped a hand on Thranduil's shoulder in a friendly sort of way as squeezed gently. "Goodnight, Adar."

"Goodnight, may your dreams dance in starlight..." It was what he always used to say, a silly assurance for children, but it made Legolas smile again as he backed away.

Once they had gone things moved into silence. Loki offered the Eaniug another leaf and watched it devour it. She seemed to take particular pleasure from feeding it, like it was something new to her. Surely they had similar animals in her world?

"Why did you call her Galadriel?" He found himself asking.

"It was Tauriel's idea first but I kept it because you dislike her. It seemed the thing to do since this is a rodent."

"The lady will never know of your slight to her." He mused.

"It hardly matters. It is the amusement that comes from knowing yourself, not in their finding out." Loki simpered, challenging him to find flaw with her thinking.

"You are wise indeed, my lady." He informed her instead.

"Good of you to finally notice!" She teased, but there was little energy behind it.

"You are tired, Loki. Perhaps you should sleep?" He eyed her, worried, and also remembering his own exhaustion.

She caught up the Eaniug in her arms, lifted herself up, and placed her plate on the table beside his resting hand, "Yes, it would be best for both of us to rest."

Loki smiled, placing a hand delicately on his chest, "Sleep well, your majesty."

He had a feeling he would sleep peacefully that night but he found he had nothing to offer in return, at least not before she slipped away and out the door. He could feel it the moment her magic left the room but he also felt just a little lingering, curling around his chest where she touched him. Perhaps she had done something to him but he the suspicion caused not manner of worry, even not knowing. She was an enigma and she made it hard to keep up with her but he was unsure he could ever fear her. Thranduil needed to sleep before he could think very much more on anything. There would be too many problems by the morning and this haze would not last. If he slept now he might sleep well and awake with enough sanity to endure whatever came next.

Loki prowled, cat-like in a circle, the hem of her robes licking at her heels. Her gate was tight and controlled while Thor's was wide and easy, relaxed in a way that spoke of his usual confidence. Thor was not about control and care the way Loki was, he was about power and impulse reaction. Today he was even more easy, lolling about and shuffling on the balls of his feet. He was like this when he wanted to play, like an overgrown child and she knew it all so well.

This was the brother she loved best, the one that made her forget their differences and rivalry. This was her big, rough and tumble, oaf of a big brother. Over the years she had seen less and less of him, since he became the favored prince rather than her sibling, since he had the warriors three. But he was here now, with her, and just with her. He sought her out rather than anyone else. He had chosen to come find her.

She had been practicing a sword dance the visiting dignitaries from Vanaheim had shown her. Thor watch with glittering eyes as she practiced and he had not criticized her womanly activity, he had instead told her it was 'beautiful' and then suggested she do some 'real and challenging' practice with him.

They used swords, the blunted two she had been using for the dance, since it was what she already had on hand. No war hammer, no staff, just play like they had when they were much younger. They battled like children nearly all forgotten, swinging wide and wild at each other with no intent to harm. They could nearly have been using the wooden swords they had when they were small.

"Come now, sister!" Thor waved the tip of his sword in her direction, a ridiculous, playful grin on his face, "Don't go easy on me just because I am the eldest. Surely that is not all you have in you?"

Were any of the grand band about she would have taken those challenging words to heart and let them degrade her but it was just the two of them and there was no bite to his words. Had others been around, bite intended or merely fun, it would have been cause for jeering. But they were blissfully alone and she found the atmosphere much improved, more relaxed and nothing stung her pride. His words were intended to ignite her playful, competitive side, and they did.

Loki found herself offering up an equally wide, though more cunning grin, "But you are more brittle than I, for your older age. I fear I might break you! Shall I be a little gentle?"

His laugh was a thunder clap in the air and his smile was bright like the sun, the way it always was when he was happy, "I shan't crack just yet."

A mutual forward motion and their swords were locked immobile; normally it would have fanned rage in her gut to see how easy it was for him to hold her in the position while her own arms felt the strain keenly. But today was different, for his eyes glittered and he was not trying to best her, simply being himself, too strong for his own good. The fact that he could already have won might have, should have upset her, but even her ability to feel insulted was slumbering today.

"Do you remember when we were children? And we would play warrior and Bilgesnipe?" Thor asked offhandedly.

Loki snickered, pressing forward with her body weight, "Of course!"

"You always made me play the Bilgesnipe." Thor huffed in feigned insult but his smile betrayed him, "And you always slew the great beast -me- and stood on my chest victoriously."

"I shall treasure those memories, dear brother! They were your most shining moments..." she broke away in a roll to the side and swung for his flank, and he evaded like she knew he would, "I always thought it the most fitting portrayal of your looks anyway."

He was full of laughter once again, "I always tried so hard to convince you to play the fair maiden in the tower that needed rescuing, but I so rarely got my way." He shook his head wistfully.

"I let you rescue me some times!" She defended and also swung out at his head.

He ducked in the usual perfect form of a battle tried expert and followed with an upper cut and swipe, which she also evaded, "Only very rarely. You always won in our debates, letting me have my way only if I grew pouty."

"Someone had to keep you grounded, your royal princely twat! Were I not around to deflate it, your head might not fit through most doors! It is a favor I do you, brother, believe me."

"Ah, ever the caring sister! So careful of my feelings of self worth."

"You need a swift kick more than you need care, Thor! I just happen to be good at it." She emphasized with a kick for his head, which he caught. Loki knew he would, so she used it to launch herself into the air a bit, far enough to leaver herself and sit easily on his shoulder, feet resting gracefully in the crook of his arm.

He tipped his head at a difficult angle to glance side-eyed at her, smiling fondling at her winning smirk, "You do the strangest things, Loki..."

She threw herself to the side, knowing he would catch her. He made an exaggerated noise when he caught her, mumbling about her weight before he set her down. He rubbed at his shoulder, scrunching his face as if badly wounded, to which she punched him playfully. She called him a baby and he laughed like a kid, like he did before his voice dropped low and far from childhood tones; before people told him to act like a man and be just like all the other men of Asgard, gruffly devoid of humor and lacking in levity. Thor had been a sweet boy once, gentle, quick to worry over her or his little friends if they so much as took a tumble. That boy... she could have followed after all her life.

Loki took hold of his arm with both of hers, leaning on him and dragging him at the same time. No reason to think of what had changed when she had something between the two at her side. Thor let himself be dragged and she giggled like a child, grip moving to his had as she walked backwards, dragging him along the way she would have when they were young and on a mission.

They galloped through the halls, avoiding people and dodging being seen. They escaped the palace, using her tricks, and she was breathless with... joy? She let go of his hand and twirled in circles, relishing the tiny bit of freedom they had in the moment, away from all the acidity. His smile was deeply fond when she looked at him, like he remembered too and missed it just as keenly.

"Keep up, big brother!" Without explanation, Loki raced off in a direction and he charged after her without asking questions. They both knew it was more fun if he did not ask, let her lead him into delicious trouble they could laugh about endlessly until they were caught.

They covered their heads with scarfs from a drying line and went about the back streets, causing trouble anywhere they fancied. Nothing terrible, just making general pests of themselves and running away the moment they might have been spotted. Many years ago she had taught Thor how best to evade capture, she always won when they played evasion games in the palace even if the servants rebukes tended to give her away, she still always won. At one point, she taught him how she did it while they dodged the maids entrusted to ready them for a dinner. Loki taught him how to run at the right times and be still at the right times, how to be unpredictable enough to stay ahead even if the enemy; the maids in that instance; was close or had them outnumbered.

Now, running through town, he seemed to remember that old lesson and he stayed right at her heels, attuned to her wild and sudden changes in directions. She was surprised he could still keep up, still knew how to think like she taught him. He never used such methods in battle so she always assumed he had forgotten. Now that she watched him, she understood that it was less about forgetting and more about habit, the lessons of brave, honorable battle tactics they perpetually listened to. Thor was capable of this, capable of unpredictability, of stealth, he just saw no honor in it unless it was for games. Foolish teachers, they were crippling him. He could be more, better than that.

Loki shook her head, banishing serious thoughts. If she thought too much she would have to think of other things as well and she wanted to live in the moment. When they tipped barrels of water over in the street she was less than surprised by the way Thor got down in the mud with the children, rolling around like he could never have been a prince in his life. When she finally pulled him away, keeping him at arms length, he suspected nothing.

At least until she lead him onto a bridge and promptly pushed him off and into the river.

He surfaced with a sputter and an outcry of betrayal. "Sister! What is this treachery? You would drown me?"

"You can stand with your head above the water, you could hardly drown unless you were particularly talented." She crossed her arms, grinning wide and triumphant, "And you looked like a real Bilgesnipe. What could I do? I was saving you from being hunted by the townspeople."

He grabbed the stones of the bridge and easily hefted himself up, water pooling all around him, running off him in rivers. It was at that point that she retreated, quickly.

"Sister! Where are you going?" He bellowed an evil laugh as he chased after her, "Why do you run? I merely wish to embrace you!"

"I am not in the habit of showing such affection to beasts that crawl from the waters!"

"Beasts!" He roared rather comically and doubled his efforts to catch her, "Now you shall taste my vengeance!"

Loki jolted around a corner, her hair whipping in the wind, scarf forgotten and lost, "Only if those stubbly legs can manage to work long enough to match me! You know I have always been faster! I am graceful and fast while you lumber about, lagging behind!"

"If you continue this I do not know that I shall ever hold my head up again!"

"At least you will never trip that way, if your eyes are always on your feet!"

Thor crowed made to grab at her.

"Are you hungry?" She threw over her shoulder. "You generally eat around this time."

"Ah, you are trying to distract me! Are your horse legs getting tired?" Thor tried to cut her off on a street intersection and she surprised even herself by the way she ducked his grabbing arms and skidded under him. "Where did you learn that?" He sounded honestly curious.

"It's one of the motions in the dance I was practicing." She skipped backwards on the tips of her toes so he would be able to see her taunting smirk, "And you say dancing can't be applied outside a ballroom?"

"You teach me something new every day." He conceded, leaning a shoulder against the stone wall. "Though I cannot picture myself looking at all the same doing a dance like that as you."

"Neither can I, but it would be good for amusement." She stopped putting distance between them, content in what was there already to keep her out of his watery reach.

"You made mention of food. Did you have something in mind?"

"Thought we might stop in at a tavern. Quench our thirst, toss about some coin." Loki made a sweeping motion with one hand.

His eyes twinkled, "I believe this to be a proposal most pleasing, even if you are terrible to deal with the next morning if I let you quench your thirst in excess."

Loki offered him a rude gesture and he howled a laugh.

When he suddenly grabbed her up in his arms, holding her tightly and twirling her round and round, flinging the water saturating his clothing all over her to the best of his ability, she yowled her indignation. "Be glad I did not dunk you into a trough! You are only moderately wet now, whereas I am my own rainfall."

She shook water from her hands, fanning her ruined gown, "You are the god that controls storms, you are always your own rainfall."

Thor turned her around and slung a heavy, wet arm over her shoulders, "This is true. Perhaps I should summon the clouds to hover over you for a few days as payment for your treatment of me?"

"Do it and I will crawl into your bed each night while you sleep to plant nests of snakes and I will turn your wine to vinegar every night."

"You are so wicked!" He faked a face of horror before it transformed into a simper. "But I feel it might be worth the trouble."

"Why, by the Norns, was I born you sister? Was offense did I commit as a youth to suffer so at the hands of an older brother with so little regard for my health?"

"Your health?" He jerked his head back to look at her better, "While I an the one drenched in water, you have the nerve to insinuate that I am not mindful for your health? You pushed me into the river!"

"My mental health, brother. That is what you test."

He snickered, tugging her into one of the man taverns. The crowd parted for them instinctively, pretending not to affix their eyes to them the moment they entered. It was by no means unheard of for them to visit local establishments with stock of ale but no one ever seemed to be used to the sight even if they rarely bothered them. The wenches were attentive but never lingered if Loki or Sif were in attendance though she knew they lingered quite a lot when they were absent. The room settled quickly enough into something more normal. The patrons ignored them very pointedly, offering them privacy out of respect and probably fear.

The two were hardly finished with the first tankard before the door banged open to allow multiple palace guards to enter in all their regalia. Thor and Loki slumped in their chairs, knowing they had been caught and ultimately who by. Their father would be looking for them if he sent out the Einherjar. Hard to say what he wanted but he would hardly have been pleased to find them gone when he went looking. Their moment of freedom had come to an end unless they ran but that would only increase the wrath they would face when they inevitably had to return.

Thor lifted his tankard to her in a salute, "Well, it was fun anyway."

"Mmmm, it was," she agreed, "Perhaps we can do it again in the future."

They stood together and walked around the Einherjar without a word, tossing coins on the counter as they left. They knew the way home, they did not particularly need escort. Thor bumped shoulders with her as they walked and she could not help her smile. She nudged him back a moment later, something of a silent, private comradery. Loki snaked her hand under his arm and made him walk as her escort apart from the silent, grim entourage behind them. She could still feel the buzz of happiness vibrating inside her and it was a rare treasure of late.

"We need to get out more." She whispered.

"Perhaps we can linger, dally before returning home on our next mission. There would be none to betray it save our friends, and I think they could be convinced."

Having company along was not quite what she had in mind but it would suffice, maybe.

They kept up a quiet banter, drawing out their time with a slow pace. Neither of them wished to see the spell broken for once the returned things would be less simplistic. What they shared was a rare moment from a time long gone and they both knew it. It was hard to tell if they could get it back, recreate it once it was gone. The palace, for all its warm glow, was a cold place. Unless it originated from a goblet, there was less merriment than one might suppose. Thor made the effort to keep his friend happy but there was only so much anyone could do. Perhaps others did not notice, did not sense it, but she believed she and her brother did. The palace never felt like home even though it also did. It was all they knew but not all that they wanted, either one of them.

Thor, she believed, secretly, deep within, longed for freedom as she did. What they would do with freedom, she had no idea. They were born to rule, Odin always said so. What business did they have outside the palace? They hardly knew how to be anything other than what they had been all their days. They might dream of another life but they were resigned enough to know they would not get it. Perhaps that was why Thor was so wild for battle and adventure. What did she do to counter it? Perhaps it was the little things, the things she did every day that went against the grind. Her mischief was her freedom, perhaps, something to let them know what had a mind all her own.

When the gates came into view, her chest tightened. The cage would be back. The distance would return. Thor would slip back into his typical ways and his little band would smuther them and divide them the way they always did. She hated that, hated them even if she sometimes enjoyed them. She hated them for making Thor hold her at a distance, keeping her away so he could act the proper Aesir model of men.

"I love you, you know." She found herself whispering.

He looked at her, blue eyes warm before he again draped his arm around her shoulders, "Of course! Who in all this realm doesn't?"

"I take it back." Loki muttered. "Only a mother could love you."

Thor snorted, chest rumbling before he squeezed her shoulders, "I love you as well."

"You should. I am easier to get along with then you."

"Somehow I doubt that." For a moment he seemed to be ready to say more, something she could guess at, like referencing the number of her friends to his, but he left the thought to die.

They were marched into the throne room and it was only then that Loki realized something was wrong. The atmosphere was tense, crackling like fire. Odin was in all his finery upon the dais. There were dignitaries clustered to the sides of it like a flock of birds waiting for the larger animal to make the kill so they could scavenge. Something had clearly happened while they were away. Little wonder they were sent for then. Things in town had seemed normal enough so it might have been involving another realm.

"Loki." Odin's voice boomed over the expanse of the room like a blow.

She stilled in her steps and Thor jerked to attention beside her, arm dropping away. She wished he had left it there to give her something to curl into. Her stomach was in knots, already sensing an ill wind blowing her way. Of course she would be blamed for sneaking away, for it was very like her, and in fact true. There was some sense within that warned her it was worse. She swallowed, waiting for him to go on.

"What possesses you, girl?" Odin snarled, "Think you that you are above responsibility? That you have no obligations to the throne to uphold order as one of my heirs?"

Loki could only blink for a moment, "I'm sorry, father, I didn't think-"

"You never think before you act!" the All Father snarled like an animal, "You think only of your own entertainment, not the welfare of others or this land."

Harsh, but not entirely untrue at times. She did have her moments.

"Your tricks can be taken too far! It is dangerous, and now left to drift about the universe! You stole the scabrite sword of Surtur, forged from the ruination of Korbinites! You do not think! You play games and gamble with powerful forces!" Odin looked flustered, controlled rage, yet there was something more, something she could not place.

"What? No!" Loki's eyes were wide and she looked to him, begging for things she could not name, "I didn't!" She turned her eyes to Thor, just to be sure he knew.

Odin did not listen, "You think it amusing to disrupt our dealings with other realms but I will not allow this! You will retrieve it!"

"I know nothing of this! I cannot retrieve what I never had!" Loki felt unbalanced, blindsided, a tingle of fear.

"You lie! You were seen! You were further seen by the Gatekeeper when you used the bridge!" Odin was yelling, but that was little surprise.

That was not possible! Unless it had been committed by another shapeshifter. They were rare in breed but there were more than herself. The last one had stolen Thor's hammer but he was dead, unless he survived by some twist of fate. She knew the sword had been part of some deal or other, to be exchanged for some manner of goods. She kept no attention of those dealings, but she knew of them. The Vanir had something to trade and decided the sword was good enough as a price. Theft of it would result in an end to the deal, of course, but she cared nothing for the trades. What reason would she have to interrupt them? Who else would?

Loki had no idea. Paid no attention. Had no idea she would need to.

Thor stepped up, brows turned drastically down, "No, she has been with me! All day! She could not have done this!"

Odin's voice was sharp, "Do not cover for her!"

Thor took another step, one that put him nearly in front of her, "I am not covering for her! It is the truth! We sparred on the training field this morning and then we-"

"Enough! I know well the way you protect her, I will not have you lie to me for the ill acts of your sister!" Odin was on his feet then, motioning for the guards, and to her horror, they moved on her.

"No, no! Father, I did not do this! You must believe-"

"I said enough!" Odin barked, pounding his staff to the floor.

Loki knew better than to fight when the guards took hold and began to drag her away.

Loki woke clawing her way over smooth sheets, scratching lines in the foot of the bed as she battled to escape the dream. Her face was wet and she wished it could be explained away by sweat but it was of the more humiliating versions. Her lashes were dripping, clumped and clinging enough she could actually see it in the split second before a blink. Maybe it was only fair. She remembered very vividly the way Thor had sat in that chair in that little human hive of makeshift rooms and people, drenched with mud and rain, looking up at her so hopeful until she said what she knew would cut more than blades. There had been tears in his eyes then while she stripped away his hope and the rest of his identity or sense of belonging. At the time, that too had seemed only fair considering her recent encounter in the weapons vault.

It seemed only fair to make him hurt the way she hurt. When had they become that way? So close and yet so very distant with a kill or be killed sort of rivalry? It had not always been there. She remembered... times before that when they were just siblings, when Thor would play games with her when she was younger and he would let her win on purpose, just because he was her big brother. There had not always been spite, not always a bite to their words, not always a lingering poison of resentment. Perhaps it ended when she was named the goddess of Chaos, and Thor became worthy of Mjolner or Megingjarder, Oku-Thor.

She feels sick now and had no desire to move, slumped and draped awkwardly over the bed, uncaring. If she moved she might well be ill though if she did not move she still may. So many things in life are a damned if you do, damned if you don't, double indemnity where nothing done will glean positive results. So she does nothing, closing her eyes and trying to find an inner calm that might make things fall back into place.

She well remembered the punishment and the knowledge of its irony. Convicted of a crime she had no hand in when so many others she was never caught for. Balance, she had supposed then. She learned different later, understood the cold truth only when she found that twice damned sword still in the vault. At the time she felt insulted that Odin would take the word of a smuggler she supposedly pawned the sword to over his own daughter. The truth was far more bitter on her tongue. She said nothing once she knew for it would gain her nothing and none would take her word.

Odin parted with very few things in his vault, he only acquired more, horded the worlds most dangerous items. The Vanir might have known he would never let go of the sword. They did not know the All Father. But before she realized the truth, neither had she. He punished her for stealing from Vanaheimr and even punished Thor more mildly for insisting she was with him. His children did not mean as much to him as his conquests.

But she remembered the way she felt before she knew, remembered walking from the dungeon after she was allowed to clean herself up and scrape back her dignity and pride into something of a working order. She remembered feeling innocent and wronged but resigned.

Loki strolled down the hall, brazen and carefully graceful to hide the telling limp. Her chin was aloft and she sported her bruises like badges of honor because while some would see them as proof of guilt, she knew they were proof of her innocence. It was vindication in its own little way and she would not hide them away out of shame. Once she came to her rooms she heard voices raised in a typical fashion for Volstagg. A peek inside revealed Thor sitting on the edge of her bed in a slumped form. Fandral was posed beside him, tapping his foot but not pacing the way Volstagg was.

"It just isn't right, Thor! We are friends of these people! Hogun's people, your mother's people! But she does this? Steals from them!" The red in his beard flashed in the light as he spoke. They had pulled back her curtains. She hated when people did that.

"No, I am telling you! She was with me!" Thor growled halfheartedly.

She listened by the door, enraged that they had the unmitigated gal to lurk in wait for her within her own chambers, yet she had not the strength to care.

"It was probably one of her clones and you did not notice. You've never been good at catching onto that one." Fandral muttered, seeming more amused than the situation called for.

Loki glided into the room, ignoring each man's gaze even though she could feel their eyes. She flounced past Volstagg as if she did not see him as she eased herself into the chair by her mirror. Grimly, she realized that she really did look terrible, worse than she originally expected under more than a low light. While she could feel them all moving closer she ignored it in favor of picking up her brush and working at her hair. Even her fingers had marks on them. How demoralizing.

"You look terrible." Fandral remarked with a smirk at her in the mirror.

"Always so charming, Fandral. Little wonder you have been less popular in feminine company of late!" Loki found herself smirking darkly at his reflection.

"You wound me, my lady!" She would almost say he was trying to make her smile.

"How could you do it, Loki?" Volstagg ignored whatever it was his comrade had been doing in order to set about scolding her; he did have a few children and it showed at times. "There was no reason for it! Your tricks can be taken too far, you know!"

Loki simply worked at the ends of her hair as if it took great focus.

"This could ruin our trade with them! Do you know how many dishes were serve here that come from our trade with them? Their food is an integral part of our day to day diet, you know! The spices and the cured meats! The-"

Loki laughed and Fandral smothered his chuckle, "Of course that is your greatest worry." Loki clicked her tongue in disapproval.

"It is a concern!" Volstagg insisted more vehemently, "What do you think we are to do when you alienate all or trading markets?"

Loki forced herself to laugh again even though she did not find it funny.

"Loki..." Thor, and he looked like a kicked puppy, catching her eye in the mirror, "Just tell me the truth, I will believe whatever you tell me. Did you do this? Did you have a hand in this?"

She met those blue eyes and held them, tempted to lie just to make him walk away, but she said, "I have been convicted. What does it really matter?"

"It matters." Thor nearly whispered.

Scathing words caught in her throat, lies and cutting words lingered on her tongue but did not fall forth, "I was convicted and punish. The matter is really rather closed at this point."

"Loki... please, tell me plainly!" He looked sad and betrayed and that was what made her answer.

"I didn't. It was not I that stole from them but it matters not. There isn't a soul that would believe me and the matter is settled." She reached for a soft facial brush and her powder, suddenly lacking any interest in showcasing her marks of guilt or innocence. They no longer felt like vindication, just marks of shame. With methodical strokes she dusts the powder over her face and neck as they watch her.

"Why are you content to meekly accept it?" Thor sounded indignant more than sad now.

Loki grinned wide at his reflection, "Brother, dear, the matter is closed and you would do well to let it be. Better to let it be forgotten rather than stir up more anger needlessly. I am a rather easy escape. Even if I produced evidence of my innocence, none would take it." She brushed over her eyes, darkening them into even shades rather than the bruises. It did not take much more to begin to weave a bit of glamor over that, hiding and blending away the sins under a slowly creeping shimmer of green that erased all evidence. "I know this well and I accept it for it is simplest."

"Well, if you could be trusted on a bit more of a regular basis, you would not be so easily used as a target." Volstagg muttered, "Silver tongue or not, you have always been attached to trouble."

When her shoulders tensed her ribs complained but she did not shift in order to make them stop, "If you are all finished with this interrogation, I intend to ready myself for the evening meal." She stood and headed to her wardrobe. Volstagg lumbered out, nearly dragging a downtrodden Thor with him. Fandral strolled to the door with all his charisma but paused just before letting himself out, eyeing her with a more serious and contemplative eye than usual.

"Do you always..." he made a little motion to encompass first his face and then his body, "hide it all away like that? All your injuries concealed under a mask?"

Loki grinned to cover the odd swing inside her the words caused, wondering how deep that question really was, "Wouldn't you like to know!"

She turned away to examine her clothing but not soon enough to avoid seeing the nearly sad look he gave her before leaving. The answer was yes, in every way, but he might have known that to some extent. It was hard to say now what had been in his mind. It mattered little to none now. She was not even in Asgard. They were celebrating her death and rejoicing over Thor. Somehow, while it still burned, the pain was less than she expected.

She had a new world to occupy her mind and someone that trusted her. Without knowing all her history, she finally had someone that looked at her as if she was not evil born. She would protect that and one day earn worthiness of it. If she did as she planned she might blot out the sins of her past. While she regretted little of what she had done, part of her wanted to be worthy of Thranduil's looks of trust. She confused herself at times.


My headcannon is being the goddess of mischief, Loki can actually spread it, spreading joy or the playfulness that she has hidden inside her. Further, she doesn't realize she is doing it, or more, can't always do it on command, but sometimes she can. But if she's feeling it at all, she can pass it on. If she got drunk in Asgard, people were more flamboyant and a lot more wild. Loki, in my mind, is a happy drunk because it lets her give up the things she's holding onto. In Thor 2, he mentions how parties just aren't the same, not as fun, and I just had a random thought that it's because Loki's gone. That's where this headcannon started, so you don't have to accept it, it's just me... but she's the goddess of mischief, there has to be some skill she has that connects to it. Plus, for a change, I thought they needed a little fun, and so did Loki, because she wanted Thranduil to smile. But like, I feel like it might cost her a little when she does it, like for the joy she offers others, she has unpleasant dreams, like she has to sacrifice a little in order to make more than one person happy at a time.

I also just kind of made up crap, as I am wont to do, about the sword in Odin's vault that later gets tied to Loki, or used by Loki. I have no excuse besides the fact that it's in Odin's vault and most of the stuff in there was stolen by Odin or the rest of them, so, there you go. No excuses.

In other news, I have a job. It's terrifying and I don't always know what I'm doing but it's a job. My new boss is terrifying but she's ok, so far. I don't know that I love the job but I'm extatic to have a reliable income. Much less stress in my life. I'm still trying to get myself caught up with some of the bills I had to let slide but I think I'll get it handled now, thankfully!

In other, other news, The second portion of this story is for Sega, I finally worked in a happy memory... even if it kind of didn't stay happy... because I'm evil.