Music: Set Fire to the Rain

A/N: Okay, next chapter of Present Past is ¾ written. Until then, here's a short piece from the universe of the 2nd prompt I'm working on (Thor has eaten my brain). Do not own anything, because then Loki would get his happy ending (although he still will here, if I have anything to say about it ^_^).

The illusion hangs from the edge of nothing. It distracts his brother, and Loki almost laughs at the absurdity – because he hasn't been afraid of dying in years, and his brother really doesn't know him at all if he thinks Loki would ever beg when he knows quite well what he's done. Why ask for less than what he's already given? All of Jotunheim will perish this day, and he's almost grateful of that fact. (It's always been the living that terrifies him).

Well, what Thor doesn't know can hurt him. Or, so Loki hopes – if it wasn't all a lie. (Just in case, he would have been much happier leaving his brother on Earth. But with all the protections he's woven into his own skin over the years, Mjolnir wielded by his brother really is one of the only things that can get the job done right – he'd never thought he'd need to weave protections against the hammer, luckily enough). It stings, he admits this freely: that even for this he is forced to rely on his older brother (and Thor will always be 'brother', even if Loki will never be so again). Yet Loki has never been but thorough, and if he can't even diewithout his brother's aid then at least he'll still be dead. He'd like to see them wrest anything else from his corpse. (Father might try; he always did hate it when his tools broke). But he'll have paid all the blood in a world - and if that's not enough then he doesn't know what will ever be. Which might just be the most comical thing of all. (But it would be (almost) ever so much more hilarious, if his brother ruins this). Enough to make Loki truly want to kill him.

Besides, that's how this all started, isn't it? He should have known better than to base a plan on what he thought Thor would do. Should have known Thor would be stupid enough to start a warinstead of merely an argument (although in the doing so he did prove Loki's point, the point he has tried to make his entire life and failed. He doesn't want to be king; he spoke the truth. But Thor is not ready). And it would be sheer irony for Thor to start believing in monsters now. (Of course, his big brother hasn't even noticed Loki's been holding back; keeping this fight simple in a way he hasn't since he first picked up a knife (mostly – he does have to make this look real. His brother has always had problems fighting those he considers weaker than him and no matter how many times Loki slips through his guard in training or saves his life in battle, Loki will always be the "weaker" one and Thor will act accordingly)). Thor always holds back. Loki, never: he's always had to go all out to merely make a dentin that smug armor that is his brother's second skin. So maybe it's not so surprising that Thor doesn't recognize what Loki is leading him towards, hasn't yet figured out the grand finale of this wholestupid farce. It just makes things that much more difficult (and if nothing else, Thor is always difficult).

And he's almost forgotten, in the years since he's been little more than a shadow to Thor's triumph against the world, how pig-headed his brother can be. By rights, Loki should be dead by now. The Bifrost can no longer be stopped, and there's nothing left to wait for - it's not even as if he's really been trying; there have been plenty of holes in his defense that his brother should have made use of. Which means Thor's still holding back on him. And no matter how many times he does, no matter how used to it Loki should be, his brother's stubborn refusal to see him always hits Loki right where it hurts the most. And as his rage rises, Loki silently swears that Thor will win this fight, even if Loki has to cram the win down his throat. (Winning's never done a damn bit of good against Thor anyways). Thor will take this battle, and when he does Loki will have engineered the end to their private war (no rematches allowed). It's the best he's going to get, and he'll take it.

Besides, even if he wanted to try and win this straight out, it's unlikely he could: his thoughts keep scattering and shifting, the possibilities refusing to settle into that strategy that the part of his mind that isn't still in denial (and any idiot can tell you what denial can do to a mind that's used to manipulating the very fabric of reality on a day-to-day basis. It isn't pretty, any more than this is - you need something stable, something that cannot change and will not melt away no matter what words you speak) can use. His sorcery is the same, swimming through his head in random whorls and eddies - elusive and (except for those few short bursts) as unreachable as the first fog when he was nine and still grasping for what he knew but had not known. So he hasn't gone for the easy wins (spearwork is speed above all else – the sniper of the great weapons. But apparently Thor thinks he's too cowardly and distraught to even remember his forms, and he's not going to think of how much that hurts), and instead waits for the opportune moment to lose. (It's sneaky, it's underhanded, and it's everything they've tried to beat out of him over the years but never (quite) succeeded. It's Loki, and he wonders if Thor will ever figure out the punch line to the joke).

Yes, Thor still hasn't noticed, bless his stubborn heart. Still trying to save him – and how he's any different than any of the other "monsters" they've killed over the years, the ones he's killing now (he's even going to beat Thor's record with this last stunt) and that Thor would have gloried over just days prior, he'd like someone to tell him. He really would. (He's even considered dropping the glamour, just to see Thor's face when he realizes the truth. Forcing him to come face to face with the trickster once and for all stripped of everything but the truth and to see how they like him then). Still, the whole pointis to die as an Asgardian - to make his not- father see. Because whatever he was born as, he is Odin'sson now. (He's sorry for getting angry – he's sorry for everything, and if Odin will just wake up then maybe he'll see what Loki has done and it will be enough (he has nothing more to give)). It would be a good thing, if there were no more monsters, right? Thor has told him that often enough, and if no one likes Loki then he can still try being someone different, try being Thor instead (even if he can't). (If he can keep on telling himself that for just all little longer, he'll never have to believe it ever again). This will show them all (he hopes), show them in the only way he has been able think up (Loki is a liar and a thief, a shadow-skulker who prefers (reasonably, he would have said) to avoid honorable combat; and they might be right not to trust his words when he's just a monster but he still needs them to know). He's still one of them (even if he never was). He has to be.

And so he can't quite bring himself to do this last thing: the God of Lies finds himself bound at last - and by a chain of his own forging. The irony alone should be enough to kill him, you might think. (Maybe Odin will never tell Thor, maybe Thor will never have to know and maybe that hope freezes in Loki's veins; but it is that, the traitorous part of his soul that refuses to live in a world where brother is a lie and jotun (no, not even that; a monster even the other monsters refused) is a truth, that part begs at least for death by Thor's hand). If his brother will just stop being an idiot and act already (usually the problem is getting him to stop). He's actually about ready to stop hamming it up and start really threatening his brother when Thor finally takes advantage of his distraction and Loki finds himself flat on his back, limbs and ears ringing from Mjolnir's thunder. And I thought you were getting slow, brother dearest. He's almost temped to make time for a quip; something about Thor and his old age. But that would completely ruin the mood he's taken such pains to create (he wants to do the thing right, and just because Thor can't appreciate it doesn't mean Loki should ignore the aesthetics in what will have to become his magnum opus, hasty though it has been in the planning), and Loki finds he would prefer to (just this once) stay silent. (He's always said he would go down laughing – after all, if he's dead, the game's over and as long as he's laughing he's still won. But it appears that was just another lie he told himself (and he never expected to be courting Mjolnir in quite this fashion).

But then Thor stays his hand. Which was not part of the plan. And the idea that he might actually live through this terrifies him; freezes in his soul until the very words needed to goad his brother into finishing things once and for all (he's always been so easy to manipulate in some regards) fall unspoken from his lips. (Thor will win after all. Even this, he will take). Instead, he lies there, waiting for a blow that never comes; with his brother's hammer (a gift, one Loki had paid blood in the crafting of, but he had never cared and he wonders if Thor remembers but thinks he does not) on his chest and knows that if his brother had planned this he could not have been more cruel.

But he speaks far too soon. Thor does worse: face set, he turns his back on Loki (safely pinned, everyone and their pet horse knows he's not worthy to pick up the damn hammer, and at any other time Loki would be applauding his strategy (because for Thor, it is a masterpiece of thought, maybe the dolt will survive without him yet)) and walks back towards Jotenheim. Loki's breath catches, and he tells himself it's the weight of the hammer but knows it is a lie. He is more insignificant even then he had feared, then – worth less even than jotun in his brother's eyes (and that is little enough that it might not be counted at all). 'Loki' does not (perhaps has never) mattered to Thor, and he wonders absently why it hurts when it's only the truth. So Thor turns away, and something in Loki's chest breaks with a shuddering *snap*- but it does not hurt nearly as much as the look of dismissal in his bro-in Thor's eyes when his brother calls back the hammer and leaves him alive behind him.

Loki loses track of what happens next. Thor never has learned how to watch his back, he really should one of these days (Loki thought he had more time to teach him, he'll have to leave that to Sif and hope she doesn't screw it up). He thinks he charges his brother, and then an explosion tears the world away from him. He has just time to curse Thor for a fool (Asgard needs one heir left alive, his brother never thinks about these things), and then Loki is hanging over the edge of eternity with his brother's grip on Gungnir the only thing keeping him (again) from all but certain death. Time speeds up as Loki looks at his father, so suddenly alive and before them (he came for Thor, he always does and Loki was counting on it but he still wishes he'd been wrong), and cries something desperate (he does not know what). The abyss steals his father's reply, but now Loki can see himself (the liar) reflected in that familiar eye and it changes everything. He could be saved, he thinks (despair sharpening into something useful, something to pry and prod and find).

Odin might still have some use for his jotun bastard; Loki could go back. He could continue the deception – his silver tongue has to be good for something. All he would have to do is just has to pretend that everything is fine, that his sudden ascension to the throne has driven him temporarily insane. (But Loki is a liar, and the truth sits bitter on his tongue). He can have them all again - at least as much as he has ever had them. And in this moment he realizes: thatis the one thing he will not (cannot) give them. Besides, the cataclysm he has created (and that his brother has stopped; hero as always (even a hero to the monsters and maybe Thor couldn't help it any more than Loki could but it still hurts) will surely be more than enough to finish this. Is it not most fitting, if he is not even worthy of death dealt by one of the few people (liars) he would have died for? (It is poetic, at least, and Odin is the God of (among other things) poetry; perhaps he will find it pleasing).

So Loki falls. He watches his brother's face, waits for the moment when Thor realizes (slowly, dim as ever but he's trying and that counts for something) that something's wrong; as that foolish, giddy grin starts to fade. Loki tries to convey (without words; he used those up long ago, and if his brother refuses to see past the illusions of reality that Thor has cast within his own mind (they have ever been stronger even than those Loki could conjure with his spells), it has never been as important a failing as it is right now) that this time, Loki will not let him save them all; that he might have nothing else, but he will take nothing else either. (He would rather die than be saved (again) by the one person who has always beaten him (and always will)). And he will not let Thor take that from him and carry them all off into some distant sunset only to be forgotten in the shadows again when the adrenaline fades. And for once, Thor even seems to get it. (His brother gets a silver chalice for effort, Loki decides, saved from gold only by the fact that his sudden understanding is still far, far too late to do any good). This will be a good object lesson for when Thor is king; a final gift to the one who could have been his brother. And the best gifts always seem to have blood attached to them, so this will be a particularly fine one, worthy to be his coronation present to the man who could yet one day become Asgard's finest king.

Perhaps he even means something to the oaf after all. Loki hasn't heard Thor make quite that category of sound since the day he'd discovered someonehad melted the head of his brand new (first ever) battleaxe to the wall with a few well-placed fireballs. That is a fine memory - he almost smiles. It had been the first time Thor had declared he was a warrior grown and no longer needed to play with girly, weakling little brothers ever again; Loki had been perhaps a trifle overset. (It had also - if he recalls correctly, and he does - been the reason for commissioning Mjolnir. And everything had been worth it, when Thor had seen his present (and started speaking to him again)). Funny, though: he'd always planned on getting a more suitable version made when Thor was ready for the throne. (For reasons of their own, the dwarves had taken his childish drawing at face valuedespite that he had obviously had no idea whatsoever for proper proportions of such a tool; it had made it even more enjoyable to cheat them of their prize, but he'd still truly wanted it to be a proper present). He'd even been planning to pay this time – he had the money (or could get it easily enough) and the dwarves would have been enjoyably twitchy for years wondering what his game was (which would have been the game and well worth the price).

Well, it can't be helped now. The gift he can give will have to be enough – and since all his life he's reached past his limits for them, just this once he will give what he has instead of what he can get. The thought makes him smile for real, face stretching oddly even for the God of Mischief (they call him that, but he suspects that that, too, is simply a lie: when he laughs, he is always alone). Thor will have to get his own hammer when he grows tired of Mjolnir. (But there's something inside of Loki that feels as if he's no longer (quite) made of ice; and he has a memory to take with him into the darkness. It will be enough, more than repayment (he wishes he'd gotten the new hammer made after all)). It is past time for this curtain to drop, and Loki is tired of staying where he is not welcome. He has found the key to what he had thought long misplaced, which will make this next part (without Thor) so much easier. He sinks himself into his memories; sends himself back, back to being (almost, Thor! Almost-) three hundred (when the most important thing in the universe was making his big brother smile (at him)). And even if his face no longer remembers the motions, his heart still smiles at his brother's laughter. Warm for the first time in centuries, Loki lets go. He uncurls his fingers from the spear, and holds onto his memories through the eternity of time and space - until at long last he hits the vortex and the only thing he can keep is his scream.