Author's note: Loki and other respective characters are owned by Marvel Comics. Written because the fangirl would not let me alone. XD

Loki descended the stairs swiftly, trying to outrun the memory of what just happened. His intention had been for fun, his way of leaving his mark on his brother's special day. To be noticed without being noticed- an art he had perfected over the years. And it had gone all wrong. So very wrong.

No it didn't, part of him, cool, calculating, argued. This was a long time coming. You said it yourself.

Loki's strides took him past a gilded mirror. He paused, taking stock of his reflection. Pensive. Slightly awed. But I didn't want to see him banished, murmured another part, similar to how he sounded as a child, when he and big brother did everything together. Some of those memories played back, unbidden, and his lips curled into the faintest of smiles.

Look at the opportunity that's before you now. This never would have happened otherwise.

His smile died instantly. Fond memories now darkened with years' worth of envy. Thor had always been first in everything: strength, courage, charm, qualities Loki did not possess. Qualities every Asgardian never let him forget. To make up for his lack, he had studied other arts, notably sorcery and wit. In time, he became more learned than Thor. Thor, whose solution to every problem (much like the rest of Asgard) was to attack it, he thought with a distasteful frown. And with the whole of the city enamored by this common vein of thinking, even his father, Loki had been alone, alienated. These feelings led him to embrace old tales of heroes, men and women who found respect and admiration by vanquishing foes, and retired to a peaceful life of family. Of love.

"And what is that you're reading, brother?" Thor asked, amused. He bent over, gripped the edge of the book. When he attempted to take it Loki quickly jerked it out of reach. Thor's laugh was loud, insincere, causing Loki's teeth to clench and his cheeks to warm. "And what is this color I see?" he commented, poking him in the face. "Could it be you are reading some romantic fantasy? Ah, it is!"

The correct assumption brought forth a furious protest of, "No!" but Thor had already taken the book from him, turned, held it open and started reciting the text. Loki, mortified by Thor's thoughtlessness, humiliated by the snickering and finger-pointing of passersby, had quickly fled the scene. The sound of their laughter followed him for miles.

The old anger came rushing back, and Loki's eyes narrowed. Thor was insensitive, irrational, short-tempered- oafish, really- and entirely unsuitable for the throne of Asgard. Odin hadn't earned the respect of all the realms by arrogant boasting or finding amusement at the expense of others. Thor could never be even half the king Odin was. Loki believed- no, he was certain- that, considering Thor's exile, his father would turn a favorable eye to his second-born. Genuine excitement coursed through Loki, and he smiled, his reflection smiling back. At last, he would emerge from Thor's shadow. Prove he was every bit as worthy, if not more. Hadn't Odin himself said he was born to be a king?

But not the king of Asgard.

Again his smile faded, taking his excitement with it. Loki glanced at his arm, remembered the shock at discovering he was immune to the Frost Giant's touch. Again he thought of the story of King Laufey's defeat, of Odin taking the Casket of Ancient Winters. When Loki lifted his gaze back to the mirror, he saw not himself but another, with red eyes and blue skin. A Frost Giant's face.

Only one of you may ascend, but you were both born to be kings.

Loki stared at himself for a long, long moment. Then, his face contorting into an expression of rage, of betrayal, of disbelief, he wrenched the mirror from the wall and thrust it upon the floor. It shattered into dozens of pieces, each one lying face up to show his fragmented reflection. Again he gripped his forearm. The Frost Giant's hand on him, a touch that initially held ruthless intent, had at last shed light upon all the resentment Loki experienced growing up. His gaze went from the shattered glass to the stairs. His jaw set. There was only one way to find out.

Loki descended the steps, his every thought turned to this new truth. There was no room in his heart for regret, even remorse, concerning Thor's banishment. No, not even opportunity. Now, he was consumed by the simple need to know how, and why.