Ana and Thor sat in the garden.
She didn't know what to say. There was no easy way out of this. There wasn't a circumstance where she wasn't hurting him. Perhaps she didn't care for Thor like she did for Loki…but she still cared about Thor. She didn't want to lose him completely. So how was she supposed to tell him? She wished desperately there was some way where they all came out happier…but that wasn't how life worked. Ana knew hurting Thor was inevitable, but she wanted to put it off as long as possible.
Besides, she hated confrontation. She was horrible at it.
So, they sat in silence. The tension was palpable. Even Thor wasn't completely oblivious to it, this time. Ana twisted her hands together.
"Is there something wrong, Lady Ana?" Thor asked. "Have I done something to upset you?"
Ana felt even worse upon hearing his assumption of blame. "No," she said quickly, "no, it's not like that. You've done nothing wrong, Thor." She smiled sadly. He returned her smile, and it killed her inside to not know if she'd ever see it again, or that she would be the one to take it away.
Maybe she was wrong. Maybe he'd be alright. She knew he would, eventually, anyway. But…she didn't know if they would. And she hated that. Ana just wanted to go back to how things were before. She loved Thor. She couldn't stand to lose him.
Furthermore, she cringed to think of the damage it might do to Thor and Loki's relationship. The last thing she wanted to do was cause a rift between the two princes. Even though much of the time, Loki acted slightly put off by Thor, she knew better. She'd seen them when he thought no one was watching. It was actually quite adorable. They had a much better relationship than Loki had ever led her to believe. And although it was obvious there was some resentment on Loki's behalf, what with Thor constantly overshadowing him, Loki loved him all the same.
Ana certainly didn't want to ruin that.
She sighed and looked at Thor. Just do it, she told herself. Get it over with. What if he hated her? He probably would. Was it worth losing such a close friend over?
Yes. Yes, it was. Her mind turned to Loki—his bright green eyes, his gleaming smile, his pale skin, strong jaw—and she knew it was worth it. She knew that what she felt for Loki was incomparable to anything she would ever feel for anyone else. She thought about the way he held her in his arms when she was upset, or the way he would throw pebbles at her when she was reading, or the way he'd pull her braids when they were younger. She remembered the times he'd make a fool of himself when she was down, just to make her smile. And the times she'd rant about her mother for hours upon end, and somehow he always had a consoling word to offer, or some sort of advice. And he'd listen to her—that was something. He never passively let her speak. She knew just by looking at him that he was analyzing every word that came from her mouth. When he gave her his opinion, he never indulged her—he said what he thought, even if it was hard for her to hear, because he wanted what was best for her.
And sometimes, he'd say nothing at all. Sometimes, he didn't have to.
Ana looked at Thor, knowing full well what she had to do. But she couldn't do it…not yet. It was too soon. She had to figure out a way to ease out of the situation. So she excused herself and walked inside the castle, fleeing to the bathroom like the coward she was.
When she closed the door, she jumped. Loki was standing behind it. Her hand flew to her chest. "Don't do that!"
He stepped closer—much closer. His hand twined with hers. It was strange; she wasn't used to his affection. But it was also very contagious. She wanted it. "Did you speak with Thor?" he asked, stepping even closer, if it was possible.
Ana backed against the wall instinctively. He moved closer. His lips hovered over hers. "Well…" she began, but leaned forward to kiss him instead.
He pulled back before their lips could touch. She hated how quickly and smoothly he moved. It was vastly unfair. A crease formed between his eyebrows. "Did you?"
Ana looked down. "I couldn't!" she said defensively. "I can't."
Loki mulled this over for a moment. Ana wanted desperately to hear his thoughts. His eyes flickered back and forth in thought until they settled back on her, accusingly. "Can't or won't?" he asked quietly.
Ana sighed. "I will. I just need to find the right way."
Loki nodded slowly. Then he looked at her and arched a brow. "Well, better sooner than later," he said, dark voice laced with mischief. The corners of his lips curved upward.
Ana frowned, confused, until he stepped closer and kissed her—briefly but passionately. When she caught her breath and opened her eyes, he was gone.